Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Where have you gone. . .

While a nation hasn't turned its lonely eyes to me, I have been gone for a little bit. And while I'm no Joe, I did learn a lesson on the diamond at our softball game tonight.

Where have we been? We've been busy with some things, like this


. . .which was held here, on Saturday evening

I'd tell you where this is, but I'm not allowed to take any pictures of the place, as it turns out. The ushers were vigilantly issuing cease-and-desist orders throughout the night throughout the crowd. Perhaps this is where they're keeping Dick Cheney, or his heart, on ice, and they don't want anyone to know what the place looks like. Just imagine what the enemy would do if they knew what the Will Call windows looked like.

Somehow, in addition to these pictures that someone must have taken with my phone while I wasn't looking, two pictures of the place ended up on our camera, but I haven't loaded them up yet. Suffice it to say that if you've seen one live radio show set, you've probably seen this one.

The exciting news is that this means that 3B has been to his first live radio show. I can't say that he's been to watch one, since he was in an obstructed view seat, but he's been to one; and, at 34 weeks, he could probably hear it about as well as we could. So that's something that, if he begs us to take him to, we can say, "You've already been to one."

Right?

Although we got to ride up to the place from the parking lot on the fun little motorized cart, what with Mama being at 34 weeks now, we did come prepared to hoof it in style.


Those are Mama's new sneaks, as the doctor ordered. Last time we were in, she mentioned this back pain--stabbing, lower right-hand side--that she started getting. Sounded to me like her sciatic nerve was getting irritated from the way she described it, but we don't pay for my medical opinion. He looked at her shoes--this is the mohel--and asked, "These are the shoes that you wear?"

"Yes."

"You have running shoes?"

"Yes."

"You need to wear them all the time from now on. The pain will go away in three. . .maybe four days."

"All the time?"

"All the time."

I could see the gears turning in Mama's mind. She's no Imelda Marcos, but she doesn't even like to wear her sneakers during her commute, even if they are more comfortable. And, to be fair, when the doc looked, she was wearing flat shoes that match her work clothes that she bought to wear until 3B's arrival, but the doc wanted her to have good shoes with strong support and nice cushioning. Turns out he was right; her pain is mostly gone.

As for me, I still wasn't sure how I would get Mama to wear sneaks all the time. Turns out her coworkers had me covered. After hearing Mama's account of the appointment, one of them declared herself Mama's "Sneaker Police." She will report any infractions to me. She and one other coworker also took Mama out to buy these fly numbers at a place up the street from their office. I told Mama to get two pairs of new ones--whatever keeps them on her feet--although I think she just got this pair. So far.

However, not all of us were busy with show watching and shoe buying. Some of us were busy like this
Good thing we keep the a/c running so he can lay in the sun to warm up.

Man, do I sound like a dad, or what?

There was also the long-awaited completion of our registry and purchase of some final essentials, like a going home outfit and a changing table. The changing table is actually the three-drawer Emsen dresser from IKEA, bolted to the wall, with a changing pad on top of it--also bolted to the wall, so we can use it elsewhere, if needed, after we're done with it as a changing table.

I've been wanting a dresser for a long time, and I'm sort of coveting the Emsen, but Mama gave me one of those, "No, you won't." looks when I called dibs on it--in advance, I admit--for when 3B goes to college. "He can take it with him, " she claimed. Already she takes his side.

Speaking of sniffing armpits and taking sides, how about tonight's softball game? I won't bore you with the details of all the bad or missed calls, or the ump's lack of knowledge of the league rules, it's what I did while all of that was resolved that was instructive.

As the game ended, our coach, who I'll call Iceman for reasons better left unexplained here, checked the rules that we were given at the beginning of the season, and showed the ump the passage that stated he had called the game an inning early. Perhaps the ump was already having a bad night, since the players from the other team had already told us aloud that the calls against us were wrong--to be fair, the other team was on the receiving end of some sketchy officiating themselves. Perhaps the ump took a bit of offense when Iceman offered his opinion that this was "bush league officiating." Perhaps that home run shot that our big man hit into the parking lot did hit the ump's car.

Who knows? What happened next is that the ump--rather than walking away--started coming after Iceman, who was giving at least as good as he got, verbally. I actually had Iceman up 15-12 on my card at the end of round three, especially given that he was right and the ump was wrong. Anyway, suddenly there we were, on the verge of a real confrontation.

There was no time to ponder, muse, or deliberate; everything was happening now. I stepped in front of Iceman, waved my arms nice and high, and shoved him back. Once he was back by the bench, I went over to the ump, who was still yelling at us, and got people away from him, and got him turned around so he was facing away and could walk away from us. Then, of course, my cube neighbor had gotten into a quiet, but heated, discussion with the scorekeeper from the other side, who wouldn't concede that the game was called early, in spite of agreeing with our interpretation of the rules. We waved around some shiny things to distract them, then split them up and got them going in opposite directions.

Walking away, there were players who congratulated Iceman for sticking up for the team, for going to bat for us. I wondered if I should have let him go. Maybe sometimes what is needed is a strong advocate. Maybe he and the ump would have realized that all the shouting wasn't getting us anywhere, and backed down to a discussion and an agreement to disagree--both were entrenched, so there wasn't much hope of a rapprochement. What purpose did I serve, interjecting myself like that? What kind of person does that? Am I that kind of person?

I don't normally see myself as a peacemaker, since I'm a bit of a hothead; that red beard's got some roots in my temperament. However, I know that I've always hated conflict, either that I'm involved in or that I'm witnessing. I'm not sure if that was in play tonight, or if I just thought that arguing with the ump, trying to convince him to restart the game while he pulled up the bases, was a waste of time.

It's all kind of a muddle. I'm still not sure what all happened or why. I'm not even sure what all I did in the midst of all that. But I am sure that two or three years ago I wouldn't have been asking myself what my reaction says about who I am. I am sure that even a year ago I wouldn't have been asking myself if I would want my son to see the way I behave, knowing that he would likely model it.

It's a good reminder of how much I've changed in a short time, and of how far I have to go. I wouldn't mind if 3B grows up to be a peacemaker, if that's what I was modeling tonight. On the other hand, he's not going to be much of a peacemaker if he talks to other drivers the way that his Papa does, so I've still got some work to do.

And that's a good lesson to learn--that I need to keep working on improving myself. Good enough that it's been worth learning several times throughout my life.

I'm sure that it's good enough to learn a few more times.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Long distance isn't just for the Vanderbilts anymore


After 108 years, the guvmint is repealing the excise tax on long-distance phone calls, and will refund the taxes paid under the law for the past three years.

As the son of a former manager at AT&T, back when it was a good ol' fashioned benevolent monopoly, I can only chuckle and shake my head at how our government keeps up with technology. Dad used to struggle with the government regulators, mostly at the state level, but certainly the Feds got in on it too, which was understandable when AT&T was the only game in town.

I think he knew that the regulators were good to have, to protect the customers. I think he was also a bit put off by the insinuation that he didn't have the best interests of his customers at heart. After all, he was one of his own customers, as was his wife, mother, sister, and as were all of his kids. What I recall--although I was pretty young at the time, so my memories are faded--was his frustration at the slow pace of change, development, and approval from government agencies when AT&T was trying to bring something to market.

He died many years ago, so I don't know what he would say about repealing this tax; I can only imagine, based on my memories. I do know, however, that if he were still here, I would call him on Father's Day, excise tax or no, and if you're lucky enough to still have a dad to call, you would be wise to do the same.

By now, Father's Day has become lost in my mind. I can't recall when it is, and I don't really remember that there is such a day until someone asks what my plans are for it. I haven't had anyone to call or any reason to celebrate the day for 22 years now. Next year, however, I'll have a reason to celebrate, even if 3B will be a little too young to place a call--and too close to need to call. Maybe we'll slide in the one videotape we have of Dad, so 3B can see his grandfather, and then maybe give Mom a call to keep her company--as I probably should have been doing all these years.

As for this weekend, to honor my memories of Dad, I'll make a big bowl of popcorn--perhaps splurge and get some potato chips--and park myself on the couch to watch the Indy 500, as we used to do when I was growing up. It's a little different now that I'm all grown up, and all by myself--Mama tolerates my eccentricities well, but she doesn't participate in all of them, although Barky will probably join me for a nap on my lap for a little while. I'm not as deeply engrossed in the race as I was as a kid, but it's a good time to sit still and think about what we would talk about, maybe, if he were still here.

We'd probably talk about how I never bought him that Aston Martin that he claimed I owed him. Or maybe we'd just sit, eating potato chips, petting the dog, watching the race.

Who knows?

Papa Gets Fired for Funkin' Up at Work

I couldn't help myself. The purple one made me do it, I swear. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Actually, I'm just rehearsing it, since I haven't been canned yet, but I've got to be ready.

Why?

Because, ever since two women at work cornered me in the break room and berated me for not watching Prince on American Idol, I went to YouTube and checked it out. And then I played it again.

And again.

OK, maybe just one or three or twelve more times.

Coincidentally, I was also listening to his new CD, 3121, which was causing me to chair dance in my cube, even occasionally flinging the chair across the cube and breaking out into full-fledged, on my feet, flinging the headphones off my head dancing.

Except that I can't really dance.

But, man, if I could, I'd want to dance like him, although I think I'd forego the stilletto heels. I'd be afraid of breaking my ankles, pelvis, neck, something, anything, everything if I tried to so much as stand up in those.

As I was panting and preening, whispering and screaming my way around my cube, I had an epiphany. I've often wondered why women's magazines are full of pictures of women with unattainable looks. Shouldn't they be full of pictures of beautiful men, to lure women into reading the magazine?

In the middle of my transition from a toe spin to a slide--not easy on the industrial cube carpet, but I was on fire, baby--it hit me: they put those pictures in because the women who read want to be the women in the pictures, just like I want to be Prince.

Or dance like him, anyway.

OK, and dress like him, although I might draw the line at the eyeshadow. Hard to find a shade that matches my beard, although I will admit that I did try to find the perfect eyeliner and mascara combo back in the androgynous 80s, even if I never did find a Louis XIV cravat that matched my jeans.

Yeah, there's a whole Prince thing that goes way back with me--back to having to call Mom to ask if I could go see the late show of Purple Rain because it ended after my curfew. Back to seeing the Purple Rain tour at the Cow Palace in San Francisco with Jeremy and Donna.

Yes, I still have the poster from the show. It's the full length shot of the purple one, who is in full purple regalia, surrounded by all those wildflowers. It's rolled up with the David Bowie poster from the Serious Moonlight tour so that I can someday bequeath them to 3B, who will then proceed to mock me for the rest of my days--and curse me for his uncontrollable love of 80s music.

And here I am, again this morning, rhyming "courage" with "urge," (check it out in "The Word") spelling "forever" with a "4," back under the spell of the purple one, too busy dancing to work. That's why I'm rehearsing my story, "I couldn't help myself. The purple one made me do it, I swear."

So, when you see me on the street corner next week, holding my "Will Try to Dance for Food," please have pity on me and drop a few coins in my cup. I'm not asking you to stick around and watch me flail about atop my purple suede, button to the knee, spike heel boots, just have some mercy on a man who can't escape the purple spell.

(And carry some extra change in your pocket; I'm not the only one that Prince has funked up.)

Request from a boy on a toilet

After a frustrating condo association board meeting last night, I came home and was ranting and raving to Mama about the goings on when I got this message from my college roomie:
Papa,

Duncan and I were sitting in the bathroom today, working on the whole potty training thing, and he asked me to tell him a story. So... I told him about how I had just gotten back in touch with my friend Papa, and that you were going to have a new baby boy, and that you had a dog named Barky and a turtle. I had to explain to him that email was something we did on the computer, and he connects the computer with pictures. (Google image search is great for little kids. "Papa, can I see pictures of a jaguar? Sure, Duncan...") So Duncan asked me if I had pictures of you on the computer, and I told him that I didn't and I would ask you to post pictures of you and Mama and Barky and your turtle.

It would be nice to see pictures...

Chris
How could I turn down such a nice request. . .from a boy on a toilet. . .? So, I obliged, with this new page of pics.

I kept the captions simple for a few reasons. First, there's a character limit. Second, there's not much to say about some of these, except to point out that the one of Barky sleeping on the lawn is at Grandmother's (Papa's mom's) house; our condo did not sprout a yard. Finally, I didn't want to stick Chris with having to explain "hangover" in regards to that picture of me in NYC, which Mama took after our night at Commonwealth. A p.s. to that night--Fred and Emilia, who we were visiting with, had their baby. A beautiful little girl, born right on her due date.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My new crack


Thanks to Daddy Types for getting me hooked, again, on this video crack: music videos from the 80s.

The timing is perfect, since we were starting to get all jittery and itchy since our previous video crack supply ran out on Sunday with the final episode of West Wing. These videos should cut down on the tourettesque outbursts and quiet, constant mutterings.

DT points out the White Lines video, and rightly so. Did you know there was one? Did you know that it was directed by Spike Lee? And, for bonus points, did you know that it stars Laurence Fishburne?

See, video crack is edumacational too. Good for you. That's why we need more of it. More. Now. More! Now! MORE! NOW!

Mmm. . .better now.

[Updated: My bad. . .added link to Daddy Types. . .as if you weren't reading it anyway, but lo siento, DT.]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Snips and snails and--hey! that's not a puppy dog's tail!

Over at Blogging Baby, Kristin writes about a piece in the Ottowa Citizen entitled "We're not born needing repairs," which is an anti-circumcision piece. But it's not the writer's stance on circumcision that caught my eye, it's his stance on nudity.

To begin by digressing, this seems to be circumcision day at the Bradstein household. First, we had our latest biweekly doctor/midwife visit which went well. This was with a doctor who we hadn't met before and he asked us if we knew what sex our baby is. When we told him that 3B is a boy, he asked if we had considered whether to circumcise him or not.

Although we've pretty much made up our mind to circumcise 3B, we're open to all possibilities, so we asked the doctor what he thought. He admitted that he's biased, since he's a Mohel who has performed over 4,500 circumcisions both in religious ceremonies and medical procedures. That said, he gave us the advantages and disadvantages and told us that there is no standard or recommendation; it's entirely up to us.

Perhaps to show us that it's not a difficult procedure and set our minds at ease, he told us of his son's bris, to which the Mohel arrived with his wife. The Mohel explained, "She has to come with me. I can't see well enough to drive."

Hm. I wonder how long that awkward pause lasted.

"But," our doctor said with a wry smile, "everything was fine. He's 29 now and very popular with his girlfriends."

I think that we may know more about his son than he knows about us and 3B. But that's one reason that I like this practice--I really feel like we've gotten to know who the doctors and midwives are as people.

Then we went to visit the pediatric practice that we're considering using. I admit, we're the ones who asked about circumcision, as much to hear how they addressed it as what their opinion is on it. But again, we spend a good 10 minutes discussing it.

May 22. Circumcision Day. Think of all the money Hallmark can make off of this holiday.

But, back to the original piece in the Ottowa Citizen about circumcision. The writer projects onto mankind his childhood experiences:

Most men, I'd venture to guess, have no memory of seeing their fathers naked. I know I don't.

I remember, on occasion, seeing my dad shuffle toward the bathroom wearing only a pair of droopy, powder-blue briefs. But if he walked around the house in the buff when I was a toddler, I don't recall it (thank goodness).

Starting at the end, I'm not sure why he's so thankful to goodness for never having seen his dad in the buff. What is wrong with nudity--especially among family?

Perhaps it was growing up in Northern California that made me this way, but I don't see why a son should care so deeply about seeing his dad naked. My parents never sought to hide or flaunt their bodies from us, which I'm still impressed by, since it left me with the abiding feeling that there's nothing wrong about nudity. After all, they saw all of us kids naked regularly--all too regularly when it was associated with a diaper, I'm sure.

Or perhaps it was growing up in the shadow of Stanford, where streakers were a dime a dozen in the 70's, my early formative years. I do recall once, as a young lad, running out from the bathtub to find my parents to tell them some fascinating, amazing, supercool thing about stuff and things, only to find that when I entered the room in the buff, it sure stopped the conversation they were having with their guests.

Someone, it could have been either Mom or Dad, made some suitably dry observation that made us all laugh, and then I went back and put on my pajamas before rejoining them. It wasn't traumatic, but it was when I realized that I could no longer just run around naked whenever I wanted--a sad moment for Papa.

To this day, I'll tolerate most clothes, some more than others, although I'm not a big fan of the oeuvre. And I really don't like most shoes, although I do have this thing for hats. I'm sure that these are the results of being raised barefoot and naked, which is something that I want to do with 3B for the most part. Although I'll have to allow Mama to keep him in some of his cute little outfits from time to time, judging by her reaction to just the outfits without a cute little baby in them.

But will I be scarring the kid for life--after actually scarring, according to the Ottowa Citizen, him for life? Or are our penises, our bodies, our nudity not anxiety and anguish inducing, but rather natural parts of growing up naturally?

What do you think?

So Not Lovin' It

Reasons 1 and 2 why 3B will never eat at McDonald's while we have something to say about it:

One:
(courtesy of Daddy Types)

Two:
(courtesy of Boing Boing)

Do we really need to provide a third reason? OK. Here, read this.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Papa Sees Kos at St. Elmo's

Yesterday, Mama and I went to our weekly yoga in Del Ray with Deborah and Dave, which was both helpful for dealing with our recent loss and more difficult, particularly during meditation, because of it.

Afterward, Dave and I headed down the street to St. Elmo's for some food and coffee, and to await the arrival of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of Daily Kos, who was speaking along with the coauthor of Crashing the Gate, Jerome Armstrong. They're on a book tour, and this event was put together by several local groups, including Raising Kaine, a progressive Virginia blog, and Brian Moran.

Kos and Armstrong, knowing I was shooting with my phone, stood almost on top of us.

Moran, whom Mama and I volunteered for throughout the last election, is the Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the Virginia House of Delegates, and he's also our local delegate.

Moran introduces Kos and Armstrong, reading from the book.

We got the notice from Jim Turner, Moran's volunteer coordinator during the campaign, and who is now on Moran's staff. Jim told us that Audra, who had headed up Moran's campaign was now one of the first staffers at Mark Warner's office in New Hampshire.

Interesting.

I figured that I'd better pay close attention and report on anything of interest, particularly since the local Del Ray blogger, DelRayder of the DelRadius blog, had just thrown in the towel. He has since retracted said towel, but in the ensuing gap in coverage, he still appeared to miss this event. There were several other bloggers there, however, including Josh and Dan from Raising Kaine, Teacher Ken, and Ben from Not Larry Sabato, and I'm sure that you can get a substantive report from one of those places. (Update: I've checked all of them and none seem to have a report yet. So just remember that when you want your breaking Virginia political news fix, come to Papa.)

There's not much to my report other than to say that Markos and Jerome are out spreading the word in person just as they do online. The word of the day was that "we need to get away from single-issue campaigns," according to Markos. (read about the results of the Chafee endorsement)

Kos explains that you can change the world while wearing your pajamas, but eventually you have to go out for staples, like coffee and beer.

In addition, Armstrong said that it's important to engage in ongoing activities at the grassroots, with an eye toward how those efforts tie in to larger progressive movements and causes. Another way of saying "think globally, act locally."

Being in Del Ray, they were preaching to the choir, but a little churchin' up never hurt nobody's spirit. It was good to see that so many people took the time to come out and hear what they had to say, and heartening to see that they are still fighting the good fight, in spite of becoming big names--at least in the political arena.

The assembled masses, who didn't know I was shooting with my phone.

I was excited to see Markos, although I don't read Daily Kos often now. Back when People-Powered Howard was actually people-powered, and Kos was one of the people who empowered him, I read it fairly regularly. What's important to me now is not the blog, or the community that it's become, it's their message, which is that we'd all better get together and get going if we're going to get anywhere.

Kos. How can you tell? He's the one who hasn't got shit all over him, plus he's got the best lighting in the place.

To be sure, their message is not the only thing--the tool that conveys their message also interests and propels me. You're reading one result of that interest, the other results include the blogs that I've created at work (which got me and Mama a free trip to Chicago) and the top secret new ones that we're working on, and the friendships that I've formed and deepened using this tool--including with family members.

In 10 years, I think that blogs won't be mentioned outside of "whatever happened to. . ." infographic features in USA Today, but we will still be communicating online, coming closer together from great distances. That's something else that's important to me, if only because without email, Mama and I probably would have never gotten married.

That's me...

This came in the mail this week from my Mom.

Wanna guess where I was born?

Mama's question was, "Does that apply to the babies of the babies born at Sequoia?"

Of course. Some traits are dominant; they don't skip generations.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A passing in the Bradstein household

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
--John Donne
Some people, sweet and attractive, strong and healthy, happen to die young. They are masters in disguise teaching us about impermanence.
--H.H. Dalai Lama

Yesterday, our beautiful, vivacious companion, she of the brilliant eyes and resplendent carpace, Mama's turtle, passed away.

On a bright and clear day around seven years ago, Mama and I made our way to Denver from our home in the mountains to find a companion for my turtle, who I've had since the summer after 6th grade--26 years now. Mama also wanted a pet of her own, and we found a lively girl with a beautiful shell who captured Mama's heart. This little girl was an ornate box turtle, as is my old boy, but unlike him, she was none too fond of socializing with us, retreating into and closing her shell when we picked her up and tried to talk to her. When we let her loose around the pet store, however, she showed her fierce spirit, sprinting--yes, turtles do that--down the aisles, seeking an escape route.

Back home, we put our two terrapins together with the one that we'd gotten Buddy, Mama's best friend, who was our roommate at the time. They all shared a large pen in the garage, with multiple basking lamps, plants, heated rocks, baths, and burrows to explore and enjoy. It was a luxurious life. In the brief summer, we would take her out to the flower bed beside our room, where we had planted sunflowers that shot up past our picture window over the roof of our house, so we could only see their fat, seed-heavy heads from outside the house.

We would flood the bed to both water the sunflowers and drive all the bugs out of the dirt. Mama's little girl would chase every insect down, swallowing most in one bite, often going after the next victim while still swallowing the previous one. She was a merciless hunter who never tired of the chase.

Accommodations have been a bit more constrained for our two carpace-bound companions since we moved here--there's no affording a garage here in the DC area for us--but they've done all right together. Although, for short periods we moved my old boy out when he was persistently hassling Mama's girl for mating privileges, which to the best of our knowledge, she never granted. She was always of her own mind.

That's why it came to us as a surprise when she laid her first eggs three years ago. We had missed the laying of them, and they weren't viable by the time we discovered them. Curious, we did some reading and found that it appears that she could have laid these without having mated, or she could have fertilized them before laying with sperm that she had stored from a previous mating. Store sperm? Turtles' will to survive and procreate never ceases to amaze me. We passed it off as a strange fluke until it happened again last year. She laid them in the water dish that time, and by the time we found them in the morning they were certainly not viable.

This year, Mama had been doing more reading about it, in anticipation of another clutch of eggs, and she had become more concerned about the risk of her little girl becoming eggbound. Call it a mother's intuition, because that's what appears to have happened this year when she attempted to lay eggs again, resulting in her death. We both feel terrible because we feel like we might have been able to do something if only we had known, and we feel terrible for not keeping closer tabs on them, although even if we had, we might not have seen any warning signs.

I feel especially bad because Mama has been banned from terrapin contact during pregnancy to avoid contracting any of the nasties, particularly salmonella, that they can carry, so it was really on me to spot this and do something about it. Let me tell you, it's not a confidence booster for an expectant father to discover that he can't even provide adequate care for a turtle just a few weeks before his son is born.

On the flip side, my old boy is still around (knocking on wood as I type), so I must either be doing something right, or have been blessed with good ol' fashioned dumb luck when I got him. My vote is for dumb luck.

Whether we chalk it up to bad luck or bad animal husbandry doesn't matter. After all these years with the beautiful little girl as a companion wherever we go--we even took them to Grandma's for Christmas one year; I'm sure that the loved going somewhere even colder to celebrate--losing her is hard to take. While it seems a small thing, a pet turtle's death, that it came so unexpectedly was part of what made it hard to take. After all, she was younger than my old boy, so we figured that she would be with us for many years to come, especially given her robust health and her year-round liveliness.

And perhaps it's just our pregnancy hormones that are amplifying our feelings, or it could be that it's especially hard to take, knowing that she died in what was, for her, childbirth when we are facing the birth of our own child so soon. There is also the truth that Donne wrote about, that the death of any one of us diminishes each of us because we are all part of the whole. I found that her death reminded me of the mortality of everyone around me and that my sadness seemed to reach out from the present like a clasping shadow to grasp and bring back to my present self all of the deaths that have crossed my heart before. So perhaps it's the shades of deaths past that are making my thoughts dwell on this one so long.

I don't want to make it sound as though we are laying immobile in bed, wailing our days away, but her passing has certainly colored our perceptions of the past day, and it's still hard to talk about; we have yet to tell our parents about it, although I'll be calling my mom to tell her tomorrow. Happy Sunday. After all, Mama's resplendent reptile was a steady companion for many years, who depended on us for sustenance and shelter, and who we could not save. At a time when we're asking many questions, the Dalai Lama's words are a good reminder of both the wisdom of the unknown and the difficulty of impermanence. As each day passes, and we can see this with greater perpsective, it will become easier to talk about.

At the end of they day yesterday, we took her down to the river that we often walk along with Barky, who also came with us. Mama selected a serene spot next to a small waterfall, with a view into the silent, glassy pool below it that reflects the soft grass, the trees, and the sky above. We dug a deep burrow, just as Mama's beautiful little girl would have for herself, returning her to the earth from which she had been born.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
--Psalm 23:2

We love her, and we shall miss her. And when we think of her passing, we shall remember how deeply we cherish life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mugged at Work


I was mugged at work today by a mom who almost didn't survive her most recent delivery a few months ago.

This pregnancy mug has been passed to each successive expectant parent over the last 20 years at my office. The flowers are silk, so they might be as old as the mug. It's considered a good luck charm to the point that the coworkers in my unit were nervous that I wouldn't get it before the arrival of 3B.

There were several other babies due just before 3B is, and one of those expectant mothers announced her pregnancy before I announced ours, so she had the mug. As it turns out, she needed all the good luck and outstanding medical care that she could get, so while I'm glad to have the mug now, I'm glad that she had the mug when she did.

She and her husband, who both work here, found out at their 20-week ultrasound that she had complete placenta previa, which meant that she was on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. They also went in at least every other week for ultrasounds to check the placenta and the baby's development. He was able to continue working because her family came over from Korea to live with them while this was going on, which meant that we were able to get regular updates on her condition.

Being a nervous expectant father, I was stopping by his cube every day with little questions about how to do this or that--this is their second child--and also asking how his wife was doing. Everything looked fine and the baby got old enough that they were providing it steroids to speed up lung development. They got to and past the date the doctors had told them that the baby would be viable, given the accelerated lung development, and things were still looking good, but they knew that birth was going to require critical care, given the position of the placenta.

One Friday, they got a referral for a Monday appointment with a doctor who had successfully handled cases like this before who delivers at a hospital that could provide that care. Of course, the baby came over the weekend. I won't go into all of the details here, in part because I don't want to reveal more of their private story than I already have, but at one point they had the dad leave the room because they weren't sure that his wife would survive the next few minutes.

Suffice it to say that we're lucky that both mom and baby came through alive and well, and that she was back at work yesterday to hand me this mug.

For Mama and me, it was a reminder that we can't take anything for granted. If our pregnancy, labor, and delivery go well, we are lucky. If we're lucky, our labor and delivery will be run by the midwife, with assistance from the doctor, if needed, just as they've described in our childbirth classes. Ours is a collaborative practice, with six or so doctors and nine or so midwives, with an emphasis on pregnancy being a normal event, not an illness--unless something about the pregnancy is a health risk. Mama and I have met with each of the practitioners through our prenatal visits, so we know all of them somewhat, meaning that it won't be a stranger delivering 3B.

If we're not so lucky with labor and delivery, I'm glad to know that we're using the same practice that my coworkers have used--it's close to the office, so many of them have gone there--and delivering at the same hospital, which by all accounts, is an excellent facility. I'm also glad that we live 10 minutes from the hospital. Seven minutes when I speed through lights and cut corners. Yes, I've practiced.

This mug is also a reminder of the good fortune we enjoy living in a country with enough good doctors and hospitals. Just before my coworkers went through this delivery, one of Mama's coworkers came back from a reproductive health fact-finding trip to Ethiopia, where there is one OB for 3 million women. That would be like having three OBs for all of Los Angeles. Of the women he has time to see, he reported in an off-handed way that three or four die every day. There's no accounting for how many die that he never sees.

As the fact-finding group departed, the doctor was leaving to go look for transfusion bags in Mogadishu--which was a day's drive away. One woman stuffed his hand full of cash, after hearing that the bags cost about two dollars each. "That's nice," he said. "And, I'll keep your money. The problem is that I don't know if there are any transfusion bags to buy, but thank you."

Hearing this on the heels of my coworkers' account of their delivery, which required more transfusions than he could count, reminded me not only of our luck, but that, whenever possible, we need to share our good fortune with those who aren't so lucky.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bad Dads, No Biscuit

Mark Morford explains why real dads have real balls, not purity balls:

"Let's just say it: There is no sacredness in the virgin. There is only the fear, were she to be educated and empowered and really let loose, of what she could become." Read on. . .
How true that is. One of the church's biggest fears about The DaVinci Code is that it explores the possibility that Jesus wasn't a virgin. As if he couldn't be divine if he weren't a virgin.

It would be easy for us to ignore this now, since 3B is going to be a boy, and not subject to this socialization, which is really just a public social female genital mutilation. Just because we don't do the physical deed doesn't make it any less of an injury to the girl; in fact, it may make it worse, because the invisible wound more easily remains unseen or ignored.

We can't really ignore this, however, because 3B is going to be subject to similar socialization pressures as a boy. Which raises the obvious question: why aren't their purity balls for boys? Why, because real boys use their real balls, and that's the way our society likes it. We like our men unrestrained and libidinous, and our women modest and virginal.

Just as girls are forced into purity balls, the greatest effect of which seems to be mollifying their dads' fears, given the 88 percent failure rate of the vows, boys are too often pushed into "macho" activities that they don't want to pursue, many of which also can have dire consequences.

While we won't be the ones pushing toward these activities, it's frightening to think that social and peer pressure might have the same effect on 3B. And frightening to think of how we're all going to deal with these girls who have been publicly subjugated to the will of their fathers. Will they ever believe in themselves again? Will they ever be capable of believing in their own capacity for self-determination again? Will they ever see their own capacity for divinity again?

Thanks again to Zygote Daddy for reminding me of the goodness that is Mark Morford's column on SFGate.

A Dog's Life


I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who believes in tormenting his hound. Mama always claims that when we wrestle, I'm too rough with Barky. It doesn't help my defense--"He started it."--when Barky yipes.

"He's yiping because he's excited/happy/having fun," I say.

She then snatches him away from me and mutters about "that mean man over there." Yeah, Barky plays both sides.

And Barky will put up with pretty much anything, even if a treat isn't on offer. If a treat is on offer, however, I think that I could dangle him off the balcony like Michael Jackson's child and he wouldn't complain. Not that I ever would, of course. I'm just sayin' that I could.

Stacking toys on him is also good. Using him as a remote control holder is only fair, if he's going to curl up on the couch to watch TV with us. Picking him up and slinging him around, curled up in my arms like a baby--a big baby--is also fair, since he gets a belly rub while I do that.

What probably isn't fair is subjecting him to one more day of sawing, sanding, routing, hammering and general chaos that accompanies kitchen construction, but that's what he's getting today. The good news, for him and for us, is that he's just going to have to suffer through this one more day. Our countertops came in a week early, so his favorite contractor--she takes him out for walks in the middle of the day, as he reminds us when she's gone--will be there today to install the countertops, the sink, hook up the dishwasher, seal the grout, and add all the finishing touches before we hand over to her 3B's college fund for all her trouble.

I'm sure that it's not costing as much as the inadvertent swimming pool that Dooce had installed in her driveway, but it's still enough. We're not too worried, though. How much can a baby possibly need? All that gear probably isn't necessary, right?

I'm sure that Barky will make room in his crate for 3B--as if Barky sleeps in it anymore. 3B can have the crate to himself while Barky nestles in on the couch. Or, if it doesn't scare him, Barky can catch his Z's on my Valentine's Day gift to Mama, which also arrives today: the Dutailier glider rocker (although ours will be a handsome--one might even say valentine--red).


Barky's not so big on unexpected motion, though, so my guess is that the Dutailier is the one seat that we'll have all to ourselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What he said. . .

Reasons I read the San Francisco Chronicle. . .wait, I don't actually read it, I read SFGate. And, I don't even read that regularly, or even subscribe to their feeds anymore because the local news feed is mostly obits of people I don't care about. That's not a news feed. That's an obit feed.

Moving on, or going back to the reasons I would read the Chron if I did read it:

To be fair, it's not just Carroll--it's all of the columnists, but mostly it's Carroll. I grew up on Art Hoppe and Herb Caen. I never got that much into Stanton Delaplane, but I would browse through them all.

They're all gone now, but the Chron still keeps hiring great columnists.

Perhaps it's the sign of a serious paper that they shed all their ink on serious stories, written in a serious style for serious readers. I, however, like a paper that puts issues in perspective, and maybe even allows us to laugh at them, at ourselves, or just laugh with joy. This may be the result of growing up with a father who called the comics, "the heart of the paper," and who loved James Thurber and Ogden Nash as well as the New Yorker.

The most recent Carroll column I read, about the secrets that we keep and that our government keeps from us is a fine example of this. His is an SFGate feed worth subscribing to.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Set the Wayback Machine to 2002 and gas up the DeLorean--we're goin' back to the future!


The most recent sign that shuffle play is proof of intelligent design came this morning, when the second movement (largo) from Dvorak's "New World Symphony"--the version from Paradise Road--was followed by Liam Lynch's "United States of Whatever."

It made me think of how far we've come in this new world, about progress, about evolution, and--of course--about our almost complete kitchen.

Right now, while we're in a holding pattern, waiting for the arrival of our countertop, I thought that it might be nice to take a look back at where we started, to better see how far we've come.

That photo at the top is the middle layer of wallpaper. Earlier, I posted a shot of the bottom layer of wallpaper. There's no way to show the top layer of wallpaper, since it was painted over. Yes, getting down to the drywall was a bit like playing Heinrich Schliemann in Troy.

Then, there's the original range. In that whole monstrosity, only one burner worked. No, neither oven worked, just the one burner, which didn't even work that well, go figure.

Looking back, toward the dining area, there are those louvered sliding (if the rollers worked, and if they weren't nailed in place) doors that blocked half of the original entrance to the kitchen. They also served as a handy place to hang potholders and dishtowels. I took those out about five seconds after we walked in the first day, which is why there aren't more pictures of them.

And there's the overall effect--yes, the fluorescent cover was really that color. The horror is mostly hidden in a photo, because you can't see the cracked and failing drawers, the warped cabinet doors that never fully close, the gummy layer of grease that covered the walls and ceiling, the electrical outlets that had been sealed with paint, or the hideousness of the vinyl floor. But, I think you get a good idea.


And somehow, here's where we are today . . .

Monday, May 08, 2006

What kills twice as many as malaria, and can be stopped for 1/100 the cost?


This is good, because I don't have to write. I can just fill in the blanks.

I haven't had the time to write about all the posts from others that I've bookmarked, like the one over on the Blogfathers about somebody's child. I was so happy to read that, because it's this effort and so many like it that Mama spends her days working on. Which makes it all the more frustrating when Bush, Cheney, and their cabal of compassionate conservatives refuse to fund the U.N.

I guess that preventing the needless death of children is not a family value.

While we're at it, and since parents never stop talking about poop, let's talk about diarrhea, which kills 2.2 million people every year--twice as many people as malaria does. Eighty percent of those killed by diarrhea are under two years old. Malaria nets are a worthwhile investment at $10 per net; for a mere 10 cents per dose, oral rehydration salts (ORS) can prevent deaths due to diarhhea.

In fact, I have ORS to thank for Mama's safe return from Nigeria, which she visited last year to check on the status of grants and programs relating to basic sanitation and preventitive health care. She traveled with doctors from the World Health Organization and the U.N., going from village to village over about a week, before returning to Abuja for a few days of conferences. On the last day in the field, one of her Nigerian traveling partners stopped and got Mama some roasted food from a roadside stand. Mama figured that it was safe, given the circumstances and she ate it and enjoyed it.

Later that night, however, she started getting sick, but she thought that she would just tough it out through the night. However, she was getting weaker--to the point that she was having difficulty moving around. Fortunately, one of the WHO doctors called to check on her. When he heard her voice, he immediately asked about her health, asking specific details that I won't go into here. Fortune again smiled on her because the doctor had just stocked an emergency kit for his family because, in Nigeria, healthcare is not reliable, even for a doctor, and getting medicine is difficult at best, and impossible at night, even in the capital city.

He raced over and gave her medicine and had her start on ORS. By morning, she was feeling better--good enough to call home again, and let me know that she was through the worst of it, at which I breathed a sigh of relief. However, I don't think that either of us knew, while she was going through this or immediately afterward, how bad it had been. Based on what the doctors said in the following days, however, I think we're fortunate that Mama was travelling with the WHO and U.N., that they checked up on her regularly, and that she didn't try to tough it out through the night (lesson to all the boys who might just try to suck it up). Without any one of those elements, including the vital ORS, this quickly would have become a dire medical emergency for Mama with tragic results.

Imagine how a mother and father in a Nigerian village--without doctors, without medicine, and without ORS must feel when their infant or toddler develops diarhhea due to poor sanitation. They must know that it is likely that their child will die shortly, and that there is nothing they can do to prevent it. I cannot imagine what their despair and panic must feel like.

So, yes. By all means, contribute to the bed net campaign. They are desperately needed. If you are looking for something else to do, and still have some change jingling in your pocket, consider giving to support clean water and ORS. The UK chapter of UNICEF has a site where you can contribute to their campaign to provide ORS. If you would rather donate to the U.S. chapter of UNICEF, you can donate to their Water and Sanitation Programs.

And now, back to the tagback.

More of the same:

Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. Copy boy at IBM.
2. Office boy at EPRI
3. Customer service phone boy at Verifone
4. Temp boy at the Palm Springs Follies (where I later became the SM)

Four movies you would watch over and over (in no specific order):
1. "What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert?" "It's clean." (cheating by using Bro #2's #1 answer for places--but it really is at the top of my list . . . it's like we're related or something)
2. "Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?" (cheating again by recycling Brother #2's #2 answer, which brings us to my #3 . . .)
3. "Your boss is quite a card player. How does he do it?" "He cheats."
4. La Jetee

Four places you have lived:
1. Glendale, California
2. Mad Creek Ranger Station, Mad Creek, Colorado
3. Yucca Valley, California
4. Many Glacier Hotel, Montana

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. West Wing
2. Daily Show
3. Twin Peaks
4. NOVA

Six places you have been on vacation:
1. Many Glacier Hotel, Montana
2. Tehachapi, California
3. Marrakesh, Morocco
4. Barcelona, Spain
5. Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon
6. Benson, Vermont

Four Websites you visit daily:
1. Google News
2. Gmail
3. Bloglines
4. Cycling News

Four of your favorite foods:
1. Mom's macaroni and cheese
2. Eggs florentine
3. Whatever they're serving at the Green Zebra
4. Roasted eggplant over couscous in Djemaa el-Fna

Four places you would rather be right now:
1. "What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert?" "It's clean."
2. Mad Creek Ranger Station, Mad Creek, Colorado
3. On the road to Hautacam
4. Roasted eggplant over couscous in Djemaa el-Fna



Four people you are tagging who I think might respond:
1. Zygote Daddy, because what he needs right now is another writing assignment
2. Chris Hunt, former roommate . . . I suppose I should tell him that I have a blog first, eh?
3. Butch
4. Sundance
5. Alias

Four things I always carry with me:
1. "If I get an apartment, that's two keys; if I get a job, you know, um, I might have to open or close; that's more keys."
2. Earrings
3. Wedding ring
4. Watch

Friday, May 05, 2006

What he said. . .and what she said

He's funny and insightful, and he writes moving pieces like this one.

If you're still waiting, you should go read MetroDad's blog now.

You should also go read Zygote Daddy, and not just because he has 20/20 fashion hindsight.

I'm not sure how the 80s managed to give us both skintight jeans and parachute pants, but that's the kind of decade it was: a time of bounty, a time when anything was possible, especially when it came to fashion, thanks to designers who obliged our every infantile "I'm old enough to dress myself" whim.
MetroDad is right. We should have listened to our mothers' fashion advice.

Feel the Power


. . .or total lack of power, in our case.

Right now, there's no power in our condo because we're having our breaker box swapped out for a new one. Why the whole box? Originally, we thought we could just put in new breakers, which are required for the 220 outlet for our new dryer. Turns out, however, that our breaker box, manufactured by the not-so-fine Federal Pacific Electric Company is a fire hazard that has been banned most everywhere, if not everywhere, in the U.S.

We decided that replacing it was cheaper than a house fire. Go figure.

Because the units in our building are not wired separately, however, turning off our power means turning off power to many of our neighbors. And, because the management company doesn't know exactly what switch controls each part of the building, they played Russian Electricity Roulette this morning through the whole building, until they found the switch that killed power to our unit.

"Hey, everybody, let's play 'Rolling Blackout'! We'll be Enron, you'll all be California, with horses, carriages, and kerosene lamps. It'll be fun." Yeah, our neighbors love us.

The building manager explained that, "We have to go through this every time we shut off the power to one unit." I was going to suggest that perhaps this time they might want to label some of those switches, so that they wouldn't have to do this every time, but usually such suggestions are met with the boilerplate reply, which starts, "Well see, we can't because. . ."

I decided to save my breath, and just let it go.

The good news out of all this: we get to use our dryer tonight--if (knock on wood) everything gets reconnected. We already ran a load in the washing machine last night, which explains the bucket of laundry detergent on our new beech countertops. Mmm. Countertops.

So, we're getting close, but we'll have to wait until IKEA gets the final countertop in stock before we can install the sink, connect the dishwasher, and finish up the rest of the kitchen. Before that happens, we'll be able to move all the dishes, pots and pans, and food from 3B's room back into the kitchen, but only after they're done with drywall sanding and we've washed away all that dust.

So close. . .

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Plate o' Shrimp


Because sometimes someone will say something like, "People ask me if I ride the unicycle."

Then, the next day, as you're driving to work, you see someone on a unicycle, waiting for a light to change.

It's like a plate o' shrimp.

And if you have to watch Repo Man to understand why, you'll be a better person for it.

The altar where we worship (or wash up)

Happy Mama

After childbirth class last night, we came home and tested the washing machine. We wanted to start small, in case there were problems, so we ran a Quick cycle. BTW, this thing has about 12,000 cycles to choose from, each of which can be customized with several different options, each of which has several different settings, meaning that I need a three-dimensional relational database to figure out the settings for each load.

Success: water came in, water went out.

We sat there watching the water come in, slosh around, then go out, which brought to mind the Pretenders song--perhaps because it was too sad to think about what this says about our social life.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Long Distance Dedication


This one goes out from me to Brother #2, who was the bad influence in my life that caused me to like some Billy Joel songs. To pay him back, I played my Styx albums really loud until he was convinced that he likes them.

Payback is hell.

Anyway, here's the dedication: I send him the Beastie Boys' new kids book/classic song, via Sweet Juniper!

Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars, brolio.

[UPDATE: Added link to Bro #2's tag reply, so you could understand the depth of his Billy Joel thing. The Tom Waits bit almost redeems him.]

Monday, May 01, 2006

Papa's Got a Brand New Toy


"You suburbanites may now laugh."

It turns out that even those of us suburbanites who live in high-rise buildings may get to laugh too, as we enjoy the ultimate luxury.

Or, it will fill every unit below us with suds, forcing us to sell this luxury, leaving us with a very plush pantry, appointed with hot and cold running water, a drain and a 220 outlet.

We'll let you know who laughs last as soon as we the dryer outlet is connected to power and the drain pipes are completed. The drain is complete from the washer, but it's got an open end by the kitchen sink because we can't connect the kitchen sink until we have countertops, and every countertop that we've tried to buy is on backorder.

The ankle bone is connected to the neck bone, eventually, as it turns out.


In other exciting news, the microwave got hung today, although, thanks to an unfortunately placed standpipe in the ceiling, the duct has to run cattywampus through the cabinet above. We're not that bothered by it, since we'll probably not be getting into that cabinet much. While we're on the subject: is there anything in this building that is not unfortunately placed?

Note: I changed the name of our photo pages, after figuring out how, which broke the old link to them, I believe. Anyway, to see all of our kitchen photos, including surreptitious shots of Mama's belly, and regal beagle poses from Barky, check out O Kitchen, My Kitchen.