Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What's Up, Fatty?

It seems that the best lessons are worth learning several times.

We have forgotten the lesson of Reefer Madness: that the true madness was the overblown hysteria of the parents in reaction to a substance that

  • probably wasn't, at that time, part of their children's lives
  • research proved to be a relatively minor threat
  • turned out to be downright safe in comparison with heroin, coke, crack, meth, and so on
So, in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, the fat principal who doesn't understand MySpace or students' rights to free speech, banished an honor's student to a remedial class where he had to stack paper clips to learn about teamwork.


I'm going to skip over the paper clip curriculum, assuming for the time being that it's a valid exercise with measurable goals, and not just another program that wastes the time and talent of students who are hard to educate.

The article is worth reading because Kevin Poulsen, the writer, does cover all of the angles, and allows everyone to rebut each other without allowing anyone to get away with spouting unsubstantiated propaganda. I particularly appreciate his debunking of the "rash of cases" statistics. I thought at first that he was going to follow the traditional American media template, stating that there were a certain number of cases recently and then declare a crisis. My bad. I forgot that I was reading Wired.

I also found it thoughtful of him to include a primer on constitutional law as it affects public schools. I would have thought that such a topic might have come up in the professional development of a high school prinicipal once or twice. You know, something like, "S'up Fatty? Ever hear of this Constitution thing?" Apparently not, which is why it's good that Poulsen included it here, so Fatty can bone up on all that legal-type stuff.

Another good suggestion comes from the educator who points out that this could be a teachable moment, rather than an excuse for a crackdown. As that educator says, however, crackdowns are easy, teaching is hard. It would have been a good opportunity to teach everyone about how hard it is to get along peacefully in a free society, in which even hurtful speech is tolerated. Perhaps Fatty could have educated everyone about why he's large. Does he just love to eat? Have a medical condition? Aspire to be a sumo wrestler? Grind the bones of smart-ass honors students to make his bread?

Now that everyone has retreated to their legal bunkers and is busy lobbing rounds at each other, we'll never know what could have been learned from this. We're left with these unlearned lessons:
  • Overblown, unsubstantiated hysteria does not lead to good education or public policy.
  • A handful of exceptions out of millions of cases doesn't constitute a crisis, disaster, or failure.
  • Any site that's on the Web, particularly one with 57 million subscribers is not a "cyber secret," or any other kind of secret, for that matter.
  • Stacking paper clips has nothing to do with education or teamwork, no matter how remedial the students.
There is one lesson we did learn: John Belushi, Chris Farley, and Horatio Sanz notwithstanding, not all fat people are funny or have a sense of humor.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Either it's the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party and Barky's celebrating, or he just wanted to show off his new found skill: opening kitchen drawers.

Or, perhaps, Barky's helping out Baby Boy Bradstein by pointing out that we need to childproof these drawers.

Guess what...

..I found when I came home today? An open drawer in the kitchen. What could this mean?

Not Groovy, But Safe

We must really be having a baby, because this weekend we bought a car seat, which is our first item that is undeniably for the baby. All of our other prep work, such as painting the house, we could write off to general home improvements, but there's no reason for us to get a car seat unless we're having a baby. (Or to take space away from Barky, whose preferred position in the backseat is stretched out with the tip of his nose touching one door and the tip of his tail touching the opposite door--but that would just be mean, and we're not mean.)

Following the advice from Baby Bargains (if you're expecting and you don't have this book, you really need to get one today...two, if you're prone to losing books), we got an infant-only seat, which means that when Baby Boy is over 22" long or 50 (I think) pounds, we have to get a new seat. There are seats that are convertible, so you can use the same one for a longer time, but Mama did all kinds of reading and determined that this is the best one for us because it fits our car, our budget, our needs, etc.

We didn't intend to get the fancy print on the fabric, but Target is out of the generic version (navy blue fabric with some little pattern on it), so we got this, which is $10 more, due to the added cuteness. Or something.

What I would have paid more for is a really groovy seat like the one that DaddyTypes found in an old VW catalog. Of course I would; my parents got a VW bus because my porta-crib would fit in the back, so I could hang out in my crib while we drove around. Hey, I survived.

On the other hand, our Baby Boy Bradstein has a much better chance of surviving a wreck, including one at the end of a high-speed police chase, in the car seat we got him. (Yes, that is our model that they're pulling out of that car.)

How can car seats do that? Who makes them? What are they made of? Find out, Curious George.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"deep in the hurt locker"

Phrases heard while watching the Tour of California (which Brother #2 has been able to catch in person, although I haven't had a chance to hear him gloat in person, although he did leave a message):

"His own personal purgatory"
"Go into the suffering tank"
"I'm not sure if he can get enough oxygen in his carcass [in that position]"
"He really pulled himself inside out yesterday"

While I laugh at the terminology, they are evocative of the efforts that the riders are putting out. We're a coupla' days behind in the coverage, watching the time trial around San Jose, in which the riders, each on their own on the road, hit speeds over 30 miles per hour.

The only way that I could go that fast is going downhill, with a hurricane tailwind, and a pack of rabid greyhounds chasing me.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Latex? Silicone? Orthodontic?

Pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child are all complex by nature. Just looking at Baby Boy's tiny little bones, brain, and organs during the ultrasound was overwhelming. It's almost unbelievable that all of those parts could form and arrange themselves so perfectly.

But it's not enough that we have to keep track of Baby himself; product manufacturers have endeavored to make selecting even the most basic of products as difficult as possible. For example, I just turned the page in the Babies R Us catalog and I found this list:

* Naturally Shaped Nipples
* Orthodontic Nipples
* Traditional Nipples
* Anti-Vacuum Nipples
* Multi-Flow Nipples
* Slotted, Multi-Flow Nipples
* Silicone Nipples
* Latex Nipples

Ever wonder why it seems like we don't have as much free time as our parents did? It's because we spend that time trying to figure out what the difference is between an Anti-Vacuum Nipple and a Slotted, Multi-Flow Nipple.

No wonder the first sentence of their catalog reads, "You're expecting a baby, and while you're overjoyed you may also be a bit overwhelmed."

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes

Those ultrasound pictures don't tell the whole story of that day or what life has been like since.

We were both excited for the ultrasound, but we were both nervous as well. The nervousness was, I think, from knowing that we would finally know so much about Baby Boy. It was easier in many ways to only know that his heart was beating and that he was growing and moving. After the ultrasound, we would know if his heart was working well and if he had all his parts in all the right places. The worry came from the knowledge that we might find out that everything wasn't right, and that the ultrasound would be the beginning of more worrying. Beyond that, I wasn't sure how I would handle any unexpected news.

As it turned out, there was no unexpected news--although the doctors still have to review all the images--so I'm still not sure how I'll handle that. The big change since the ultrasound has come unexpectedly from what we were excited about: seeing Baby Boy.

As we were watching, we were so mesmerized by the images that we weren't aware of how quickly and deeply they were affecting us. We did get a hint of the scope of their effects from Mama's bladder, actually.

She had to drink 32 ounces of water one hour before the appointment, which was already asking a lot, given how big Baby Boy is. When we got to the office, we had to wait 45 minutes to get seen. I tried to distract Mama with solitaire on the Treo, but it's pretty hard to distract from an overfull bladder with a boy practicing his ap chagi on it. On our way in, the tech asked how we were doing, and all Mama could say by then was, "I've gotta pee."

Perhaps the reason for all the water: to distract us from all of our worries.

As soon as the first images came on the screen, though, and for the next 45 minutes, Mama forgot altogether about her bladder. Both of us forgot about everything outside of that room. When we were done, the tech pointed Mama toward the bathroom next door.

"I forgot that I had to pee," said Mama.

"Everyone does," replied the tech.

We're still distracted by everything that happened in that room. Just today, I printed out all 97 images from the exam. 97.

Don't worry, I won't subject you to all of them. Most of the ones from the exam portion aren't much to look at, although the ones of him sucking his thumb are unbearably cute. The four that I put up here are from after the exam, when the tech just looks around for good pictures to take and share.

And while we haven't had a chance to scan them in and share them outside our humble home, we have been looking them over and sharing with each other our perspectives on all of the moments from that small room. We keep coming back to the unexpected change: that Baby is no longer just a baby, he is a he, with all of his tiny fingers and toes, with his head and his heart, his kidneys, liver, and spine. He's a little--very little--boy, rubbing his eyes, sucking his thumb, spinning around.

Baby Boy is no longer just a pregnancy, or the idea of a baby. He is a boy who we couldn't take our eyes off of, whose pictures we can't stop looking at, and who we can't wait to meet. That seems so simple when I write it down, but it's a fundamental change to everything we do and to who we are.

That change is, I think, the answer to one of our worries--that we won't know what to do, that we won't know how to be parents. I'll be the first to admit that I still don't know what's going on now, and that I'm sure to make mistakes as a parent, but from now on, I am changed too; from now on, I am a dad, a papa, a parent.

I can't help but care less, or not at all, about much of the pettiness around us--mine and that of others. I can't help but care more profoundly about those serious and pressing difficulties that we confront. And I can't help but be a proud papa. I'm proud of our son for all the things that he's done so far. They're all the things that he wasn't doing consciously, that we just chalk up to development, but it was him who was developing, him who was doing all of those things, unconsciously or not. Well, him with a lot of support from Mama.

It's a change and a pride unlike anything I've experienced. I imagine that it's somewhat similar to what I experienced when, as an infant, I discovered my own hands. It's as if I can now feel my connection to elements of myself that have always been a part of me, but which I haven't been conscious of. Too, it's a change that I didn't set out to make, that I didn't craft in any way. The difference is that, while Baby Boy and I are forever connected, we are not attached, as my hands are to me.

As Mama and I continue to relive our first look at Baby Boy, and as we continue to realize all of the changes that we made upon seeing his perfect little form, it's clear to us that no matter what happens, from here on, everything is different.

Friday, February 24, 2006

My Peeps

Those are the Dutch, my peeps, representin' at the Olympics.

Yo, my peeps, s'up with the orange feather boas, bathrobes, and floppy hat with birds? Have you no shame?

Apparently not.

I get the drink, yell, repeat cycle. I'm a big fan of that--I was raised watching that at Stanford games. But the orange? I mean, I get it with the history and all, but why couldn't we have had Erik the Red? I like red.

Besides, your flag is now red, white, and blue. My beard is red. Well, the parts that haven't turned white are still red. Although it's more of a copper color, to be honest. I suppose you could say that it's a bit orangish. There's just no escaping history and heritage, is there?

I suppose that orange it is, my peeps. I'll be here, on the couch, representin' with my beard.

How to Stay Warm in Fog City

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but the city's estimated 240,000 cats and dogs leave calling cards of their own.
"What's wonderful about dog manure is that it is very high in energy because of the rich diets we feed our pets," Brinton said.
I'm glad that there's something wonderful about dog manure. Turns out that it's so wonderful that Fog City will be collecting it, then collecting the methane it produces as it decomposes, and using that gas for power.

It is pretty cool, if unusual. Now, will utilities pay those of us who are dog owners for our dog manure, just like they pay for coal, oil, and other fuels? I didn't think so.

And "dog manure"?

What happened to "poop"?

NY Times Goes Back to the Future

"Some corporate and individual users of the Blackberry service have purchased other devices made by Handspring, Nokia and Motorola, but many were expected to rely on R.I.M.'s workaround. Analysts question how quickly R.I.M. would be able to move users to the alternate system, details of which the company has refused to share, and whether it would be as fast and hardy as the company's current technology."
Read the article.
Uh, Handspring?

You mean the company that in 2003 the NY Times reported had been bought and absorbed by Palm?

Yeah, that one.

Good to know that their tech writers are on top of things.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Clue #4--Antici ... ... ... pation.

My, what a nice spine.

That looks like a boy's spine.

Or a girl's spine.

Who knew they looked so alike, right?

Can't tell? Have a guess? Question in the back? Let me know what your guesses are.

No prizes for the winner, but the sooner you guess, the sooner I may...or may not...let you know.

Clue #3

Wow, look at the extension on that leg stretch.

Got the toes all the way to the middle of the forehead--that's a big head, eh? If that was me, my toes would be way over my head...provided, of course, I could stretch like that.

But I digress.

With flexibility like that, what do you think?



Bradsteinette? Bradsteiner?


Clue #2

OK, I lied again.

No clue #2.

But those are five cute toes, eh?

Clue #1

Actually, there are no clues here, but it's a cool picture, eh?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

(Almost) baby pictures!

We got pictures today at the ultrasound. I'm scanning them in right now and I'll post them as soon as they're ready. Meantime, here's Mama modeling her Valentine's Day gift (she gave me two more beautiful hats--a Borsalino sisal hat for summer and a black Argentinian hat, both beautiful)--a Dutailier rocker glider. Actually, Mama's will be the model that's right next to the one she's in--the blue one in this pic, but it will be the same auburn color as Barky, meaning that all that fur won't show as much--if Barky will even sit in a rocker. He hasn't touched the Cracker Barrel rocker we got from my cube farm neighbor Laura, but it's a traditional rocker--no padding.

Back to the ultrasound--the best news was that Baby's heart works perfectly, and that Baby has all the right parts in all the right places--fingers, toes, eyes, nose, spine, heart, kidneys, liver, and so forth. There was a great shot of Baby's little foot and toes. We'll see if it comes through well in the scan. We also got a CD with files, but it's burned only for toy computers, so our Mac spit it out. We'll have to wait to see those tomorrow--they were captured during the exam, while the ones that I'm scanning she grabbed after the exam.

Oh, speaking of parts...yeah, we did find out what Baby is. Wanna know?


We're going for our ultrasound in a few hours. We will probably find out with some certainty Baby's sex and see if there's anything to worry about. We're mostly hoping for 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 ears, 2 eyes, and a nose. . .and all that other stuff.

Here's hoping that it doesn't turn out like this (although it would give us good reason to make all the games):

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This one's for you, Baby.

This just in from the DC self-governance movement:

We need your help to take a stand for our rights and strike a blow for democracy in the District of Columbia.

Please take a minute, and use the form to the left to send a message to the International Olympic Committee. We need them to support our efforts to field an Olympic team for the District of Columia. They've approved teams for the other territories of the United States, like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, why not DC?

Please support democracy. Take a minute now, and send a message to the IOC. Tell them to officially recognize us. Tell them to: LET DC PLAY!
That's right. Curling is how DC is going to show Congress that it's ready for full self-governance.

I have to admit, this is easier than setting up and maintaining an actual government that provides basic services. Like, for example, a police department that, when recovering remains, can determine if, after an exhaustive search, they missed something.

But doing that would just take energy away from the real progress that DC is making toward independence by sliding rocks on ice.

And, while this is perhaps amusing on the surface, it distracts us from the real, serious problems that exist in DC. Those are problems that, while they don't affect me directly over here in Virginia, do affect me indirectly. For example, there is a part of me that likes being in DC, right on top of everything that it has to offer. But there's no way that I'm going to have Baby growing up in a jurisdiction where it takes 35 minutes for an ambulance to show up to tend to an officer critically burned in an explosion.

That's how, I believe, I've gotten sidetracked from my original purposes here--keeping family and friends up-to-date on us, and writing down a little record for us and for Baby of what having Baby is like. The closer we get to having Baby here with us as a separate person, the more that I find myself mulling over and caring about these issues. I'm still able to chuckle at the good humor of the DC democracy movement for setting up a curling team and trying to use the IOC to grant them legitimacy, but at the same time, I'm asking myself--again, "How do we create a responsible government in DC? In this region? Across the country?" This time, I'm looking for an answer that I can give to Baby when he or she asks me those questions.

I want have an answer when Baby asks
"Why do we let bigots keep people from working due to the color of their skin or the language that they speak?"
Or, "How many times must we learn this lesson?"
Or, "How many times will we stand by while mobs are incited, while churches burn, and while "traditional American ideals" are used as an excuse for the vicious cowardice of louts, dullards, and dunces?"
The answers are not easy, the solutions are not quick, and these are problems that are woven together with many others like them. But, "what good am I, if I'm like all the rest?" What good are we if we just laugh about stones on ice while a burned DC corrections officer lies in the street, dependent on the kindess of strangers? If stand idly by while fear festers into hatred, and when that hatred once again rules over us?

I'm neither going to solve these problems by writing about them here, nor answer these questions tonight, no matter how late I stay awake turning them over in my mind. But I can't ignore these questions--they have tied me to the tracks, the train is coming, the clock is ticking--nor do I want to. I do want to be able to look Baby in the eye and say, "We did the best we could."

Will I be able to do that? That's what keeps me writing about these things. That's what keeps me up at night.

(Tomorrow, however, there will be the ultrasound, so you'll have to find your own social issues to fret over for a day.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Two Words: Strunk, White

Reading Zygote Daddy's blog late one night is what motivated me to get serious about this blog. There were several elements of his blog that struck a chord with me as I read it, and then, when I read his bio, I had a feeling that I knew why. I read his bio to see just who this guy was, and to make sure that I wan't pointing dear readers to and boosting the Google ranking of a nascent Rush Limbaugh. That, of course, wasn't the case, so I added him to my feed subscription, and have been a regular reader ever since. I think that you might like ZD too; he's a nascent ecologist, left coast transplant, future dad (cue Rush, ". . .and a neeeeeeew woooooooorld man"), and a man after my own heart.

This trend must run in dad bloggers, for while I am in no way a grammar nerd like MetroDad is, there is something inherently beautiful to me about elegant writing. I consider Billy Collins the high priest of what Strunk & White preached. There is a beautiful restraint in what he writes. Try, for example, his account of chopping parsley, or learn why he doesn't keep a gun in his house.

Mama and I both love his work, having seen him at his Poet Laureate reading at the Library of Congress, where he signed a book to Mama. She insisted that he sign it to me, but I have some of those already, from the dusty days of college, when Prof. Peters introduced me to Collins and his work.

It's got a backbeat, you can hear it...

It's Baby's heartbeat again, and you can barely hear the doctor--Gena, this time--and I in the background, discussing what you can hear too--the extra little bump in the heartbeat. She said that usually it's hiccups, although it could be an arrhythmia, but that it's nothing to worry about. Even if it were an arrhythmia, she said that they usually just work themselves out by delivery or soon after.

I tried to tell Baby to hold its breath and swallow three times to get rid of the hiccups, but it didn't listen to me. It already favors its mother.

Smart Baby; Mama's the nice one.

Other than that, things are fine. Mama and baby are the right size for where we are, and we'll go for our ultrasound on February 22. Unless they find anything unusual, that will be our only ultrasound. We'll share pictures if we get them, but it may take a day or so to scan them in if we get printouts. We'll see how geeked out they are and if we can get digital files.

On the good advice of Sister #1, I called the ultrasound place, and they will videotape the whole thing if we bring in a VHS tape. They can digitize it and get it to us on CD within a few days. We'll post that in addition to any still pics if we can.

Apologies for posting this so late--this appointment was on February 10. I sent the file out to family right after the appointment, but forgot the three of you who read this who aren't family.

I'll try to be better about the pics and video.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ironic Curtain Encircles DC

Please tell me that I'm not the only one choking on the hypocrisy of all the Congresspeople who are stampeding to crucify Google, Yahoo, et al. for destroying Chinese civil liberties by doing business in China, while these same Congresspeople are themselves destroying civil liberties here in the United States without cause, shame, or apology.

Perhaps members of Congress are unaware of the movement of the United States' policy in regards to China from hostility to engagement. Or, perhaps they are unaware that a majority of Americans are in favor of at least limited engagement with China in diplomacy and trade. Most likely, Congresspeople are unaware that the internet and web do not have national borders, and that, even if Google, Yahoo, and others did not engage the Chinese government, they would be doing business in China as people there used their sites.

Just as the U.S. government engages in relations with the Chinese government, even after that government massacred its citizen as they rallied in favor of democracy, in the hopes of influencing the Chinese toward democracy, so do Google, Yahoo, and others prefer to engage the Chinese government.

I'm not sure if this "constructive engagement," to use a Reaganesque phrase, does greater good than a policy of divestment, sanctions, and other direct action. When I was younger and knew everything with great certainty, I would have demanded divestment, as I did when the subject of the debate was apartheid. Now, however, I see that most issues have more than two sides, that the world is a collection of complex systems that interact imperfectly, and that change usually comes slowly rather than erupting abruptly. I also see that we all sometimes lose sight of our goals as we pursue and get lost in the means to those ends.

So, my question is this: if our goal is civil liberties for all, and if charity begins at home, what is Congress doing to guarantee my civil liberties?

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Ghost Particle

You know how I wrote that weird post about Picasso and the Probability of Particles? Yeah, don't remind me either. By the time I got around to writing that post, it was several days after the ideas had all floated through my mind so clearly, and they had melted from icy clear crystals into shallow muddy puddles. I'm still not sure what I was getting at there, but I've given up being frustrated at being unable to capture ephemera in writing.

I haven't, however, given up on particles, which is why I'm anxious to see, as any geek would be, this episode of NOVA (which we record weekly, natch):

In this program, NOVA probes the secret ingredient of the cosmos:
swarms of invisible particles that fill every cubic inch of space
and just may explain how the universe was created. Trillions of
ghostly neutrinos move through our bodies every second without us
noticing a thing. Yet without them the sun wouldn't shine and the
elements that make up our world wouldn't exist. This program
explores the 70-year struggle so far to understand the most elusive
of all elementary particles, the neutrino. NOVA accompanies
scientists into the laboratory, revealing astonishing footage of
bizarre experiments.
Love, love, love PBS. Check it out, yo:

Broadcast: February 21, 2006 at 8 p.m. ET/PT
(NOVA airs Tuesdays on PBS at 8 p.m. Check your local listings as
dates and times may vary.)

Sunset in Everett, WA

No, we didn't head west this weekend. This is from another on the road report from Brother #2. He's been to see Sisters #1 and #2 as well as to visit with a cousin, her husband, and their dogs, who look even more mellow than Barky. Yeah. It is hard to believe, but it appears to be true.

I'm not sure why I'm moblogging for my bro, but perhaps I'm instinctively preparing myself to live vicariously through family and friends who aren't conducting sleep deprivation experiments directed by a two-foot-long, drooling, poop machine.

Don't get me wrong. I already love our baby, and I'm sure that I'll only love it more when it's out here with us, but it will be a drooling poop machine. A cute one, but still...anyway, enjoy the vicarious scenery wtih us.

This is not a joke. Were this a joke, there would be something funny about it.

A female employee was told that her pregnancy was costing her company too much money and that it would pay for her to have an abortion. It's an extreme example, but advocates say the workplace is still tough on pregnant women.
That someone could not only consider such a proposition but also propose it to a woman is an indictment of those in our society who believe that we live to work, who cannot understand that we work only so that we may live. I wonder how the man who proposed this--and it must have been a man--would react if someone proposed the same to his wife.

This story is just one example of how hard it is to be pregnant and working. We're lucky that Mama and I work for the good guys.

Yes. Yes they do, Mr. Yeti.

Yeti Don't Dance asks, in light of their new assertion that copying music from a CD to an iPod is copyright infringement, if the RIAA eats babies.

I don't know for a fact if they eat their young, so I can't deny or confirm that. However, from my observations, they appear to be on a scorched earth campaign to cheat, bankrupt, and abuse their customer base. Otherwise, why would they conspire to charge $20 for a product that costs $10 elsewhere, then sue, sue, sue anyone who buys it from them and attempts to use it?

If the RIAA is watching all of us, who is watching them? Turns out that it's not just Dick Cheney's band of thieves that's watching, everyone is, including the NY Attorney General.

Ironic Curtain Divides America

Many people opined that 9/11 would cause the death of irony in America. Little did they know that Bush and Cheney had a secret plan to keep the irony economy growing.

While on the smirking face of it, it appears that the GOP has no understanding of irony, Cheney's accident proves that such is not the case, and confirms that he is truly against gun control.

After all, if he was for gun control, he would have hit the birds, not his buddy.

Stanford Tree Gets the Axe

"She wasn't doing anything offensive,'' Urmy said. "She was just jumping and dancing. The tree's movement is usually consistent with that of someone who's had something to drink.''
I didn't go to Stanford, but I grew up in Palo Alto, so it's my hometown team. And it's stories like this one that remind me why I love them so much . . . and remind me that Stanford is my mother's alma mater.

Personally, I think it's a no small victory for LSJUMB--the band, that is--that she wasn't doing anything offensive.

The Collective Unconscious, or Government Wiretapping?

Brother #2 and I have been swapping tales of coincidences when playing music on the shuffle setting.

For example, as he's driving up past Mono Lake:

In 10+ hours of music yesterday, two coincidences I remember, which of course means it's a whole big conspiracy:
  1. How could iTunes know that Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss are old buds? And yet it plays "Murder in the Red Barn" right after "Jimmy Would," which I believe Tom even produced for Mr. Weiss.
  2. How did iTunes know I'd just finished a cell phone call with Sister #1? (Separate question: Do you hang up a cell phone?) As soon as I did, the player switched to Harry Chapin's "30,000 Pounds of Bananas," which is on the live album that I believe she had. At least I remember hearing it from her album first. Maybe it's my memory that's fuzzy.
Well, I could add another: Right after a Sarah McLachlan tune, iTunes plays the Pretenders "Every Day Is Like Sunday," which is from the "Boys on the Side" soundtrack, which also has Sarah McLachlan doing Tom Waits' "Ol' 55." (Everybody knows Kevin Bacon.)

I'm deliberately ignoring the times when iTunes puts Rickie Lee Jones right next to her old beau Mr. Waits. Or next to Norah Jones, which is a cheap coincidence and not worthy of iTunes.
For my part, this morning, I got to work, fired up RealPlayer, clicked Play and got
Bill Cosby's Ray Charles shaving in the dark bit
backed up with
Makin' Whoopee, Parts 1 & 2, by Ray himself
Both are live recordings, so it's like they were doing a show together . . . which is exactly what Cos was describing in his bit. It gets too self reflexive for me to parse until I get to the bottom of my cappuccino.

And that's RealPlayer . . . we know that iTunes is that much smarter than RP . . . I'm thinking that wiretapping thing has gone a little too far when they're programming my playlists like that.

Not that the feds would be clever enough to do that.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Getting the monkey off our back, going off the deep end

"a 40-year old building with an elevator that I'm pretty sure is operated by a monkey in a shaft using a pulley system."

That's a perfect description of the elevators in our building. They were installed when the building was constructed in 1966, and haven't been significantly improved since then. It's not uncommon for them to stop working altogether, although they tend to have the decency to fail one at a time, so Grandma Rose and Millie and all the others who really rely on the elevators can get in and out of the building.

They're probably the favorite complaint topic around the building because they are like taxes:
  • they benefit us all
  • they're not going away
  • they're a pain for everyone
  • they seem to be out of our control

There was a minor improvement a few years ago when we switched maintenance contractors to a company that responded in an emergency--a time when both elevators did go out at the same time--when our then current contractor wouldn't even return our calls. Turns out that not only is the new contractor cheaper, the elevators fail much less frequently now. However, there's no getting around the fact that replacement parts, if they exist, are harder to find and more expensive to buy. In addition, the mechanics of the elevator are getting more and more touchy, like an old toaster. So we have to baby them, by putting a space heater in the elevator control room in the winter, for example.

It's not easy or fun, and it costs us all time and money.

Last year, however, we--the board of directors, that is--commissioned a replacement reserve study, as required by Virginia law. One is required every five years, and it had been seven or eight since our last one. Apparently nobody was aware of this requirement, including our management company, but that's another story unto itself. Once I brought it to the board's attention, we got right on it and had the study completed by late summer. In reviewing the assets of the association, the largest of which is the building itself that we all live in, the study reveals assets and liabilities with the goal of ensuring--as best it can--a stable financial future for the association.

It found that not only were the elevators 10 years past their regular lifespan, they had not been treated with great care over those 40 years, and so were well past due for replacement. It also found that the masonry on our building, including that on the terraces of the eighth floor (one of which Mama, Barky, and I live under) was failing to keep water out of the interior of the building, which was leading to rapid decay of both the masonry exterior and the structural element on the interior of the building. In addition to those two and other minor failures, it also found that our exterior doors and windows are "functionally obsolete."

In response to this last finding, one man told us that his doors and windows work "just fine." Yes, well, he's on the leeward side of the building, so his curtains don't blow back and forth when the wind is heavy, as they do in our unit. He also doesn't see the building's heating and cooling bill (there aren't individual meters for each unit), so he can't see how much money blows out the windows and doors that are both single paned and no longer adequately weatherstripped.

Although he does love to complain about rising fees that result from all that hot and cold air that pours through his "just fine" windows and doors.

To fix all of these elements at once--and the architect who conducted the study told us that they all have to be fixed immediately to prevent further damage and losses--the board had to recommend a $600,000 assessment, which is a one time charge, shared proportionately by all co-owners, above and beyond the regular monthly fees that we all pay. Admittedly, the board didn't handle the announcement of the proposed assessment well--we were rushing to get the word out and get started on the projects--but there was an violent backlash from the same owners who just the day before were grousing about the elevators and high energy costs/monthly fees.

Board members wanted to get to the work as soon as possible, based on the dire warnings of the study--like, that the elevators could both fail completely at any time--however, the co-owners wanted to put off the work for as long as possible. Many suggested for five years. Funny, that's not what you said early Sunday morning when you had to walk down eight flights of steps to get to church. Or later Sunday night when you had to carry your groceries up those same eight flights--fixing the elevators seemed a more pressing need at that time.

Most of them hadn't been at the previous meeting when I asked the architect if, when the masonry failed, we might see parts of it falling off. He replied that, yes, bricks and mortar would eventually begin to fall from the building if we didn't start repairs on them immediately. Do you want to catch a brick from the eighth floor on your head? I didn't think so. And they aren't going to get fixed for free.

My favorite neighborly moment was when one co-owner said that if the assessment passed, he was going to "call his lawyer and sue each of you [board members] personally."

Perhaps you could pay your lawyer to read you the sections of the Virginia Condominium Act and our association's bylaws that state in no uncertain terms that the board would be negligent to not act on such expert advice as a replacement reserve study that was conducted as required by the VA Condo Act itself. Your suit would last about at long in court as a snowball on the face of the sun. You would only prevail if we didn't do everything in our power, once we confirmed the validity of the study's findings, to get the assessment passed and the repairs completed as soon as possible.

It's not like board members are exempt from the bills either, or that we have more money than anyone else in the building to pay our share. It hurts us just as much as it does our neighbors, but it will also help us as much as it does our neighbors. To be honest, it would cost us more than our neighbors in the time we have to spend through the contracting and construction projects that the repairs would require.

In the end, the assessment passed. It took a heroic effort of our neighbor, the board president, who went door-to-door to answer everyone's questions about the study, the repairs, and their payments, but in the end, it passed 71-9.

Everyone who has advised the board along the way has predicted not only lower energy usage (which, with rising energy costs, might not lead to reduced energy bills) and faster, more reliable elevators, but also an increase in property values of several thousand dollars per unit. This is based on their experience with similar projects in other locations in our area. There are no guarantees, of course, but I am waiting for the day when someone has the temerity to actually thank the board for passing the assessment.

I'm waiting, but I'm not holding my breath.

Now that it's all over and I had some time to let all the heated debates--and my reactions to them--fade in intensity a bit, I wanted to let y'all know about it, since that's been weighing on my mind and taking up quite a bit of time. In another year, I'm sure that I'll be writing a similar post about how the contracting and construction process went...there's something to look forward to.

But seriously, this was a good lesson to me about going off half-cocked about what I see as a screwball scheme by a legislator, manager, or other authority. I hope that before I do that the next time, I spend some time asking questions, getting the facts, and understanding the issues...before I go off the deep end.

Portrait of Mama and Baby

Due to popular demand--a coupla' requests--here's a picture of Mama and Baby. We'll get a closer look at Baby on the 22nd, when we go for our first and possibly only ultrasound. Yes, we'll post those too, if we can get them in any decent resolution.

If not, we'll take some pics of snow on the TV and post those. How would you know the difference?

I took that yesterday, I think, so that's at exactly 19 weeks, which is exactly halfway through a typical term. Sort of. A typical pregnancy is 38-40 weeks--yes, nine months is another falsehood we all learned together in health class--so either this is the halfway point, or one week from now is the halfway point. Only Baby knows, and Baby's not talking.

Although, Baby is moving around more, particularly in the evening, when Mama gets home from work and sits down. Apparently, this is fairly common. People think it might have something to do with Baby getting rocked to sleep by her motion through the day, then waking up when she finally stops moving when she gets home. We'll see what happens tonight in yoga. Baby apparently is also rockin' and rollin' at other times. Just yesterday I got this message:

On the metro...baby is getting more active...
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Now, if I get one from Baby's BlackBerry I'll be a little worried. Or proud, as a geekish sort of Papa.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Update from Brother #2

He did hit snow around Mono Lake.

Well, it's what Californians call snow. It looks more like some of the desert dirt got bleached by the sun, but fine, call it snow if it makes you feel like it's winter.

Regardless of the snow, that is a beautiful spot, and how cool is that stitched together panorama? I don't know if he did it in the new camera or on the computer (I'm sure he'll let us know), but it's cool either way.

We have the older version of his camera, which came with some software that allows stitching together like that. . .if you have a PC. However, we don't traffic in those toy computers, so unless they've released software that we can use with our camera and our real computer (read: Mac), we can't have this kind of fun.

I also took a picture of some snow. This was Monday morning, when Barky and I walked down to the veterans' park near our house. It's hard to see the snowmen, but there were two out there. The morning light was pretty, reflecting off the frozen puddles, but man, it was cold.
I was pretty impressed with Barky; he didn't mark the snowmen or get scared by them. Mama had him down in the neighborhood one day and they came across a snowman about this height--two feet tall--and he put up his hackles, barked, backed away, lunged, and generally raised a racket until he saw that he was safe and resumed sniffing around.

To his credit, he generally remembers these things for a few weeks or months, which is, I'm sure, why he didn't hassle these two little guys, who weren't long for this earth anyway. We're back to daytime temps in the mid 50s, with some rain perhaps due soon. It's almost a winter that a Californian like me can enjoy.

Things that are broken

After struggling--again--last night to get various elements of technology to work so that I could post some new entries I just gave up and went to bed. I really wanted to write a long ranting post about all the broken parts of all the items that are broken, but I couldn't, of course, because I had no way to do so.

Ah, the sweet ironies of life.

Given that

  • it would take too long (read: something would break before I was done with the rant)
  • rants are a dime a dozen and in somewhat poor form
  • karma is indeed instant (see previous posts for details)
I have decided to simply list, periodically, those items that are letdowns. I hope that this will serve the cathartic function of the rant without taking up all the time or generating all the negative vibes that a rant does. Did I write "negative vibes"? Yes, yes I did. I'm a Californian. I'm allowed.

Without further ado, here's the first list of everything that is broken:
  • Blogger: photo uploads from the phone
  • Blogger: photo uploads directly through the online editor.
  • Blogger: publishing engine.
  • Blogger: API (Rather than using a standard API, as Six Apart does, they have their own, which prevents development of software that would bypass their online editor.)
  • Treo 650: headphone jack.
  • PalmOne infrared (universal) keyboard: everything.
  • PalmOne HotSync: everything.
See, I feel better already, and now that I look at the list, I realize that there really aren't that many things that are broken. . .it's just that all the items I need to continue moblogging are broken. As a result, I may
  • not be posting as often as before
  • switch the blog to another service (meaning that you'll have to update your bookmarks and feed reader settings)
  • have to buy a new keyboard
My only other keyboard option right now is a bluetooth keyboard, which is more money, but we'll be able to use it with our new iMac when we get that, so we can blog without even having to get out of bed. . .and as the bloggers slogan goes, less work is more time to slack.

If the keyboard's not broken, that is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Brother #2, such a nice guy

What would a nice guy do after reading about my travails attempting to post my snow photos over the weekend?

I'm sure that you're thinking, "Why, he would send you an e-mail describing the spectacular 80 degree weather that he's enjoying out in California, where it's so hot and dry that they're having trouble with forest fires."

OK, let's be clear about something: they can call these forest fires if they want to, but we all know that there are no trees in the OC.

Strip malls, yes.
Freeways, yes.
Cookie cutter houses, yes.

Trees? No.

Sure, there are the palm trees that they rip out of the desert and use to decorate the entrances and fringes of gated communities and malls, but even if they all burst into flames at once, it wouldn't be a forest fire. It would be an interesting news item, but not a forest fire.

Oh, and that nice brother would probably also drop in a mention of his Dashboard temperature widget, which points out that while I'm typing on a folding keyboard attached to a phone that's smaller than a Chiclet, he's using a real computer. A new one. Relatively speaking, I suppose, but still...newer than our old iBook, which struggles to respond when we've got iPhoto and iTunes going at the same time.

Yeah, that's what a nice guy, like Brother #2 would do. I'm sure that the snow karma isn't gonna get him as he drives through the Siskyous this weekend. Nope. Never happen.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tell me why...

I hate Mondays.

It has something to do with

  • writing a half dozen posts (painstakingly on the phone, with the dysfunctional keyboard, by the way) that include a dozen or so photos that I took while walking Barky through the early morning blizzard
  • posting them to Blogger
  • getting confirmations that they were all successfully posted
  • finding this morning that they weren't successfully posted
  • and that 90 percent of the photos never made it onto the blog
  • and that Palm's software that claims to back up images from the Treo to the PC doesn't do that all the time (except when it makes 110 copies of a series of images that have to be deleted manually)
  • and that now Blogger's photo upload software is broken, although they don't know it
  • as is Blogger's publishing software
You might say that I shouldn't bite the hand--Blogger--that feeds--or publishes--me, but they're not coming through with the food, so I'm not really losing anything. My frustration can't last that long, since I know that it's a free service.

You pay for what you get.

Makes me think about switching to a Six Apart blog solution, although they've had their problems too, even for their paying customers.

Sometimes, you pay for what you don't get.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Our covered balcony

Although our balcony is covered by the one above it, that doesn't matter when the snow comes down as heavy and blows around as much as it did during Saturday night.

So, it's still a covered balcony--covered by snow.

And, yeah, we know. We should cover the bikes. We should also ride the bikes, and keep them tuned, and...yeah.

We know.

Alright, already

Barky got a little fed up with all the picture taking. It would have been bad enough on a regular walk, but it was unbearable when there was a whole new world waiting just down the hill.

I did, however, have to wait for him at the door to the vet at the bottom of the hill. He even sat down, convinced, as he usually is, that if he waits long enough someone will let him in. Not too likely on a Sunday, when they're closed. The sitting wasn't as uncomfortable as it might have been, since there's an awning over the door. Eventually, I pulled him away from there, and we made some tracks together through the 'hood and back home.

Our house, in the middle of the trees

That's our place--the second balcony down from the top.

That's all.

Now, when you come to visit Baby, you'll know where to find us.

The best laid plans of mice, men, and bloggers...this was meant to be posted before the balcony post, which I meant to be the last post in this series about our snow day...ah well...

[UPDATED: Corrected time of post.]

It's a nice day for a white winter

By this afternoon, much of the snow had slipped off of the trees, the walks were cleared, and even the big plow piles were shrinking down under the bright sun, but this morning, it looked for a few hours as if it had been a long white winter, instead of the spring-like season we've been enjoying so far.

Dog days

Barky had great time in the new snow, even though it was up to his...belly for most of the walk. He loves snuffling down through the snow for whatever smells are underneath, bounding along, and exploring a new world.

The walks hadn't been shoveled when we were out, but nobody else was out except the occasional bus and private snowplow, so we just walked in the road, which was a big hit with Barky, who always wants to spring out into the road.

He was a little disappointed that I didn't unclip the leash and let him run wild in the street, but he's always disappointed that we only unclip the leash at home.

Mama took him out later, when the walks were cleared, and went around the lake down in the park, which was a big hit, according to Mama.

Tomorrow will be another story, since Barky is a real powder hound. He doesn't like iced over, crusty, or packed crunchy snow--no groomers for Barky. Fortunately, the walks and roads are clear, so he'll have somewhere to walk.

A full night of snow...

..left trees full of snow.

As you'll see in some of the other pictures from our morning walk, three or four inches of snow balanced on all of the branches, while there were six to eight inches of fresh on the ground.

Almost a powder day--if only the base wasn't solid asphalt.

Good Morning?

Usually when we go out for our morning walk on a weekend day, the sun is up and it's getting warm.

This morning, Barky had to stop in the doorway to consider if it was worth going out when he saw this.

It wasn't so cold, but the snow was still dumping down and the wind was whipping it around.

Picasso and the probability of particles

We went to see Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the Little Theatre of
Alexandria last week. If you haven't already seen it, I don't think it ruins anything to tell you that it involves Picasso and Einstein in the Lapin Agile, discussing the significance and beauty of art and science.

The subjects that Einstein expounds on include probability and the nature of observation. Using a Picasso drawing, Al demonstrates that there can be many divergent observations of one object, but that they don't change the object.

This is essentially the story of the blind men and the elephant retold in a French cafe at previous turn of the century by one of the greatest minds in history. As I was walking Barky around the bowling alley the next morning (the fun never ends around here), I got to thinking about what Einstein said about the importance of the perspective of the observer. Then I realized that in the case of the blind men and the elephant, there was one observer whose perspective was never accounted for: the elephant.

While the blind men were busy categorizing the elephant by his or her parts, the elephant was probably busy thinking that this was a pretty strange deal. Or perhaps the elephant was having a bad day and was wondering when all these people would leave. In the case of the elephant, it might not have made much difference, but say a person was being observed by a doctor. Does the patient's mood affect the doctor's observations?

It seems possible. What if the patient is depressed, and his or her heart rate is lower than normal? Or agitated, which raises the patient's heart rate above normal? In either case, the doctor's observations are likely to be affected by the perspective of the observed.

Which leads to the obvious question: do particles have perspectives?

And, if they do, how does that affect our observations of them? Given that we extrapolate from those observations into the larger world around us, how do the intentions of these particles affect how we view our world?

These questions relate--in my mind, anyway--to the opening general session of the conference that I also went to last week, in which the speaker, Thornton May, challenged us to think about the future. It was difficult for any of us to do much more than project present trends into the future. May observed that most of us have this difficulty because we're stuck in our current mental models.

A classic example of mental model shifting is the story of Tom Sawyer painting the fence. Although it was work, and Tom knew that it was work, he changed the mental models of the kids around him so that they saw it as something worth paying him for. Most of us, however, can't or don't make those shifts, which would allow us to make our own futures rather than carrying the present into the future.

But, what if the particles that we're observing are shifting their mental models and making their own futures? Will we be able to keep up with them? And, if we could keep up and shift ahead with them, what would we see? And, are there particles that we are missing, because we can't, or aren't, taking into account their perspectives?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Some not so breaking news about baby

[UPDATED: Added link to MetroDad post.]
A coupla' days ago, let's say Monday, was the first time that Mama definitely felt Baby moving around for an extended period of time. Although she had felt baby move previously, it had always just been a bump here or a bump there, but this was an extended series of taps. I had just left to walk Barky and Mama was laying in bed when Baby got busy with the kicks, or the punches, or combinations, if she or he takes after Mama's mad Tae Kwon Do skills.

It was exciting and relieving to know that baby's in there and well enough to move around. Our monthly appointment is this Friday, but we probably won't do much more than ask some questions and listen to the heartbeat. Then we'll schedule our ultrasound appointment, which should be in the next few weeks, and is when we find out if Baby is ready for prime time.

We should probably ask about the parenting class that, at our first appointment, they said they would hook us up with, and that will include, I think, a tour of the hospital. I suppose that we should also get on this stuff thing--as in, Baby will need some stuff--too. I know that I've written about it before, and that we're a little slackin' in that department, but I have been reading up on it, if that counts.

There's a lot more to it than one might expect, including the bizarre traditions that persist, such as cribs and crib mattresses being sold separately. Sure, adult beds are sold that way too, but we don't suffocate if the fit between the two isn't perfect. Since that is the case with cribs, you might think that a savvy manufacturer would sell a crib and mattress that are guaranteed to fit each other.

You might think, but they wouldn't.

Sometimes it's easy for me to get caught up in the anxiety of impending (some might say current, even though Baby's not our yet) fatherhood: will I be any good at this? What, exactly, is "this"? What will baby be like? What will baby need? What don't I have? What am I forgetting? What if I screw up toilet training and Baby turns out to be a Republican? Or doesn't like Bob Dylan?

OK, maybe I can't blame myself for that last one, but still. There's a lot to worry about, even before baby is around, as MetroDad wrote about.

I was sure that I was the only one who was worried if my swimmers were Mark Spitzs or Leonardo DiCaprios (from Titanic--that is, drowners, not swimmers). My worry stemmed, or so I thought, from my late bout of chicken pox--my freshman year of college. I don't know who pointed it out at the time, but I was made aware that one of the potential side effects of late age chicken pox is sterility. I think that may only be if you get a persistent high fever, but rather than check it out, I just let my worry fester, like a boy is liable to do. Ever since then I wondered if I had swimmers or drowners, but never really wanted to test the issue until I met Mama and we were ready for Baby. Of course, as we all know by now, I have at least one swimmer, but there were some pretty gripping moments of doubt in there. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to wait nearly as long as MetroDad to find out.

And now we have another swimmer, or kicker, or boxer, who's growing every day.


Monday, February 06, 2006

OK, I get it

I think that I've learned my lesson--again--about hubris. I understand now that my post about clothing manufacturers was perhaps a bit too much. I got that when, within minutes of posting it, I pulled the tiny tunic that was Mama's new maternity blouse from the dryer. I got it again when my frustration over that led me to squabble with Mama over it, as if my mistake was somehow her fault.

I got it again this morning when the alarm didn't go off, meaning that we woke up an hour late today. Actually, we'll never know if it did or not, since the volume on the radio was turned all the way down. I don't know how or when that happened, but since I'm the one who sets the alarm, and the radio is on my side of the bed, it must have been me that did that at some point.

I got it again when I got to work and realized that I hadn't put on a belt. I was able to go to the backup belt in my locker that is still there from my bike commuting days--which will hopefully be coming back soon.

I got it again when I heard that our website was down this morning.

I got it again when I realized that Blogger had eaten one of my posts (that may be in the "get what you pay for category," but just to be on the safe side, I'm including it in the "hubris" category).

At this point, I'm too busy catching up to place one of those St. Jude ads asking for help, but I'm hoping that this post has a similar effect. Just to be sure, let me recap:

  • I get it.
  • Too much hubris.
  • Duly noted.
  • It won't happen again.
Yes, the best lessons are worth learning many times, but I think I'm reaching my limit for how many times I can learn this one in a 24-hour period. Mea freakin' culpa, already.

Quiz Time!

What comes with

  • 5-1/2 in. shock-absorbing front swivel wheels.
  • 3-point quick release buckle.
  • Adjustable canopy.
  • Reclining padded seat back.
  • Extra wide frame.
  • Cup holder, and rear storage bag.
  • Quick umbrella fold.
  • Comfort grip foam padded handle.
  • iPod pocket holder.

You win if you guessed a

"Reclining umbrella stroller with an iPod adapter that allows parents and baby to enjoy their tunes anywhere. Works with iPod or iPod Mini."

That's right. Give your kids a head start on hearing loss.

But, really, what papa doesn't want that? I mean, hook up a little electric motor and you hardly have to do any work, just walk along behind it, listening to your tunes, sipping your latte. Hook up a remote control steering rig from a radio-controlled car, and you could practically walk your kid from your porch (depending on the range of the r-c controller, of course).

Now, does it come in a more manly color?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Into every life...

..a little humility must fall.

In my case, humility bit me in the ass. More specifically, this shirt did.

Remember how I said that papas shop with mamas and that we read the tags? Yeah, well, this papa doesn't read all the tags all the time, it turns out. And, unfortunately, I didn't read this tag before tossing this new maternity shirt in the dryer, where it shrunk to a tiny tunic. On the upside, perhaps we could use it as an outfit for our infant.

Yes, it's that small.

The sad truth is that I had read the tag before I tossed it into the washing machine, but I forgot before tossing it into the dryer.

Note to self: instant karma's gonna get ya'.

Yes it is.

Coming Clean About Maternity Wear

Now then, let's talk about maternity wear. Specifically, let's talk about washing maternity wear. Let's start by talking about who washes maternity wear: dads. More specifically, me.

And, why is that? Because moms are asleep, that's why (as Mama is just now). Just kidding--sort of--but also, when Mama isn't sleeping, she's at least as busy at I am. She's actually got less time at home because she's got more after hours work activity and a longer commute. I'm sure that we're not the only ones in this situation.

In addition, I don't know if clothing designers and manufacturers have noticed that not only have the first and second waves of feminism washed over us--as well as all those that have followed...although I've lost count of them--but that men have been surfing these waves for some time now. We're not doing it just to keep from drowning in the undertow, we're doing it because we enjoy the ride. We love watching the women in our lives achieve their dreams, and enjoy freedom and its rewards--including the freedom to relax, even sleep, while their husband does the laundry.

I'm not just talking about during pregnancy, either. As we've learned how to live together, we've learned that there are certain things that each of us doesn't do. Sometimes it's things that we don't want to do--one of mine is taking out the trash, sometimes it's things that we forget--you mean we haven't vacuumed for a month? Who knew? Sometimes it's a bit of both; the things that we don't want to do slip more easily from our minds. I don't know about other couples, but we mesh pretty well, covering for what each other doesn't, or doesn't like to, do.

So it is that I'm the washerman. For most of our relationship it's been this way, although it's not as straightforward as that. I have a nasty tendency to get everything washed and dried, but not folded and put away. Nonetheless, it's me, Papa, in the laundry room most of the time, whether we're expecting or not.

Now that I've taken apart a few gender role stereotypes, let me lay one down: guys are simple, and we like simple things--like simple clothes. Especially when we're expecting a baby. Even though I'm not the one in this couple with the after hours work schedule and the long commute, both of us are busy when we're not expecting, and now that we are expecting, with doctor's appointments, extra home projects, shopping, and studying for what we need to know, do, and buy--we're busier.

This means that the odds of us getting clothes to the dry cleaner approach zero. Hand washing? Not so much. Line dry? I don't think so. (By the way, are clothing manufacturers aware of how many of us live in managed communities that don't allow line drying these days? Seems that there's a lot that they're missing.) But today's pet peeve: dry flat.

Look, do you think that we all live in 12,000 square foot houses, with an entire floor dedicated to drying clothes flat? Line drying is somewhat possible, although with all the items that require line drying now, we need to get another laundry rack. Drying flat, however, takes up space--lots of space. And, not to be indelicate, but drying maternity clothes flat takes up more space.

Another safety tip for clothing manufacturers: papas shop with their mamas, and we read tags.

Friday, February 03, 2006

One Fact, Two Questions

According to the Discovery Channel, Odors Trigger Memory in Squirrels.

Two questions:

  • Why do we need to know this?
  • Aren't you glad that you aren't the one who had to get the squirrel urine samples?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

There might just be something to this blogging thing...

As you know, since you are reading this, I have a personal blog. What most of you probably don't know is that the first blog that I created and wrote for was a blog for work, specifically for our annual conference last year. It was pretty well received, and we ended up creating blogs for each of our other two conferences, which were also pretty well received, each slightly more successful than the previous. Primarily as a result of this, I was recently named employee of the year or, as Mamasutra puts it, fruitneck of the year.

It's a nice recognition to get, but really the credit is due to all the other people who did the hard work of running the conferences, writing content for the blogs, and covering for me while I was trying to figure these things out and setting them up and maintaining them. My work was mostly done on the side, during nights and weekends, sitting in our living room, wearing sweats.

To answer both Mom's and Mamasutra's question: yes, there is a better parking space involved. The one right next to the executive director. Now I need to make sure I don't ding his doors.

As soon as this was announced, my boss and I were sent to a conference on technology for associations, which is where I've spent my last two days, hanging with association geeks from across the country. And yes, I did notice that as soon as you get an award, you get booted out of the office, but this conference worked out well since it was in DC.

It started at 8 a.m., which meant getting up an hour earlier than we usually do, which was hard on both of us, but especially on Mama. She was a champ, though. The benefit of getting an early start was that I got out early enough to visit Mama at work both days. Today we came home and drove to pick up Barky at daycare together. Last night, Mama had the annual NARAL dinner to go to, so I came home and took care of Barky myself after leaving her office.

I suppose it's also good that I picked up several interesting ideas that I can apply when I'm back at work, since work did pay for the conference. And yes, technology for associations can be interesting. Even though lightly mocked the crowd for being all geeks, the truth is more complex--my presence there is evidence of that. Even though I'm an editor, ostensibly concerned only with the content that is delivered by the technology, the dependence of content workers, like me, on the technology that delivers the content, means that almost everything that was discussed applied to my daily work. It is a bit geeky, for example, to plumb the technical depths of wikis--what their capabilities and characteristics are--but if someone takes that knowledge back to their association and uses it it implement a wiki that allows surgeons to share knowledge, data, and techniques, which results in improved health care and a longer life for you, all of a sudden, it's not so geeky. It's very pra
ctical and relevant.

And, that's how I see it. The more that I know about the tools that are available to us, the more likely it is that I will be able to meet our readers' needs, provide them with the information they need to succeed at their work, and help them serve the public, which includes you and me. Just trying to use my geek and grammar powers for good.

DSLimbo, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate Verizon

Hate is probably too strong a word for the persistent feeling that Verizon has cultivated in me toward them. It vacillates between deep apathy and deep, malignant dislike and irritation.

And I wasn't going to gripe about our current state of DSLimbo since we brought it on ourselves--and that's not what I'm griping about here. What has raised my malignant dislike to a festering sore is how Verizon did business with us when it comes to DSL, which isn't that different from how they conduct the rest of their business with us.

Did I mention that we're switching back to Earthlink, even though it's more expensive?

My observations thus far:
1. Verizon office hours closely approximate banker's hours. If you want to talk to someone, you're going to have to take time out of your work day to do it. Have a question that you need answered before you buy a product such as, say, DSL? You'll have to get it answered on their schedule, not at your convenience.
2. Verizon has as many phone numbers, it appears, as there are grains of sand on all the beaches throughout the world, and if you call the wrong one, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get transferred from one to the next.
3. Verizon has as many websites, it appears, as there are grains of sand on all the beaches throughout the world, and each one has different features, navigation, and features, and offers different services. They do not, as a rule, link to one another.
4. Verizon has an unswavering faith in technology, such as voice recognition and phone menus. Unfortunately for Verizon and any potential customers, that technology is not as unswavering in its support of Verizon. For example, stating that your interest is "DSL" will lead you to information on wireless services. And, if you follow through all the layers of their voice menus at a time when all of the customer service representatives are busy with other customers, the voice menu system will tell you so, tell you that they don't have the time to answer your questions right now, and then hang up on you.
5. Verizon offers DSL for about half of what other ISPs offer it for, but they don't have enough ports in certain areas, like the one that our house is in, to provide DSL to everyone who wants it. It's a reminder that you get what you pay for and that Verizon is cheap.

I'm sure that I've learned more than this from these experiences, although I never seem to learn the true lesson: once burned, twice shy.

Or, in this case, as a customer, trapped in the burning lake of fire that is Verizon customer relations, there's no need to open the window to see how hot it is outside.