Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The less meta the betta'

"Limit blogging about blogging."
One lesson I've learned about blogging is that it takes more time than I think it will. It's not unusual for Mama to go to bed at 10, when I've just started writing a post, and for me to tell her that I'll be in bed shortly. Usually, I don't make it into bed until after midnight. I could blame part of that on the slow iBook that I'm using, but what really takes so long is the writing. And the re-reading. And the rewriting.

And, for all of that, I usually re-read the post in the morning, make a few more tweaks, grimace, remember that deleting posts is bad blog etiquette, and then give up and go to work, where I tend to forget about my blog.

By skipping all the blogging and just going to work for a week, I freed up a mess of time, most of which I spent either hanging out with Mama and 3B or with them and Anthropapa, who was visiting at the time. What I didn't do was spend time thinking about blogging, which struck me, when I realized it, as a bit odd. This blog takes up enough time to be a part-time job, and yet in a few days, it was as though it had never existed.

Why do I continue to do it then?

I tell myself that I still blog for the same reasons that I got started on this venture, but that's not true. I first experimented with blogging because I thought that it might be a good way for me to keep in touch with my family. Primarily, I thought that it might be a good way to keep Mom updated on what's going on with us, but that motivation left me last September when she left all of us.

Then, when we knew we were soon to be expecting 3B, I started to think that this might be a good way to share pictures of our pregnancy and life with 3B. Turns out that Blogger's not so good at pictures, hence our Flickr account.

As our pregnancy progressed, I found myself talking to Mom more, asking questions about what her pregnancies were like, asking what we were like as kids, and so forth. She ended up sending me my baby book, which she never assembled--it was the book in a box with all the memorabilia that's supposed to go in the book, like a lock of my hair from my first haircut. I used to give her a hard time because she finished the other five kids' baby books, but I was always just kidding--by the time she got to mine, she did have six kids to wrangle, after all.

Mom did keep detailed records, however, of all my major and minor milestones in a little blue notebook. Thanks to her notebook, I can tell you exactly where I was when I got my first freckle or pulled myself up to stand or took my first step. I can tell you when I started sleeping through the night, when I was saying "Daddy" clearly, and how I jabbered during visits to the doctor's office. I can tell you my weight and length at each visit, what shots I got, when I started what foods, and when I got sick.

I was, and I still am, touched by the tremendous love and care that I could see in each of her notes, and in all the memorabilia that she collected. I thought that I'd like to pass on something like that to my child, but I knew that I lacked the discipline to write all that out by hand. Besides, I wanted to share the journey not only with my son, but also with my Mom and family. Unsure how to proceed, I looked around to see if there was anybody else doing something similar and I found two blogs that set me off on my journey:
Zygote Daddy, who hooked me with his self-description, "nascent ecologist. left coast transplant. baby daddy." I started reading even before he was kissing frogs, back after he and Dear Wife had lost their first zygote. I was touched that his gentle optimism, compassion, and humor were still so clear in his writing at such a difficult time, and I remember holding my breath every time I checked his blog, hoping that he and DW would make the announcement that they finally did.

MetroDad, who hooked me with his unbridled openness and his humor. Who else would tell the world that he fed his daughter out of the dog's bowl? Or that he likes chick flicks--even if he has to pee twice during them--and that his feet smell like ass? Really, he said all that, and made me laugh out loud as I was reading it. He still makes me laugh out loud and wonder why I'm not a little more open in my writing.
More than anything, both of them show tremendous respect, love, and compassion for their families. They let me believe that it was possible to use a blog the same way that Mom used her little blue notebook. Except it turns out that I lack discipline in my blog writing too. I can't seem to stay on topic. And then there's my knack for pissing on all my readers while I'm trying to apologize, in an admittedly obtuse manner, for being a dick to one of the bloggers who inspired me, in part through his compassion, to begin this whole journey.

Which brings me back to wondering why I continue to do this at all.

I do think that I've started to figure out why, thanks in part to the rules about how not to blog that Zero Boss, Tuna Girl, and MetroDad laid down and that I alluded to in the first installment of this series on self-doubt. But you'll have to wait for the next installment to find out why because I've certainly gone on too long here.

Besides, I need some time to come up with the answer.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Needle and the Damage Done

Calvin: It says here that "religion is the opiate of the masses." What do you suppose that means?
TV: It means Karl Marx hadn't seen anything yet.
This Friday I was again reclined with a needle in my arm, as I have been regularly since high school. Although I can't say that I have given blood every eight weeks since then, I have done my best to do so. Generally, it's not a big deal--we all give what we can, and I can easily spare a pint--at times, however, it becomes a harrowing ordeal, as it did on Friday.

Friday was likely the first time that I'd been tempted to rip the needle out of my arm and stab someone with it. I restrained myself because it would have been to no avail--the people I wanted to stab were the hollow heads and screaming teeth who pass themselves off as journalists on Fox News. After years of avoiding the unfair and unbalanced network, someone found a way to make me a captive audience of it--pin me down.

What I saw made me realize why so many Americans have forgotten that we're at war, or that an unbalanced dictator has built several nuclear warheads within easy range of thousands of American military personnel, or that millions of working Americans are still internally displaced refugees as a result of Shrub's failure to respond to a catastrophic natural disaster. What Americans who watch Fox can't forget is that there are white women in trouble, like Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. In fact, Fox must have a There are White Women in Trouble bureau working on these stories, which explains why they don't have any money to spend on fluff pieces like war, nuclear war, or natural disasters. Screw the humanity, Blondie's lost in Aruba!

The TWWIT bureau appears to have money for an army of well-dressed pundits with obscured credibility. One member of their army of suits--legal experts who looked more like screaming paralegals dropped onto the set of L.A. Law than lawyers--stated that Smith was the goose who laid the golden egg and that the egg was her son. That has to be about the most fair and balanced way I can think of to describe both childbirth and the straits that a child finds himself in shortly after the death of his mother. All I could think is that this kid needs King Solomon and he got Uncurious George.

I don't mean to belittle the crises that Smith, Spears, Holloway, et al. are forced to confront, but a national news organization should spend more time on events that affect the course of history or the success or demise of their own nation than they do chasing hearses and rubbing elbows with the paparazzi. These days, however, I can't name one news outlet that does. The media, particularly the visual media, has the power to focus public attention and deliver a large volume of information with startling efficiency and effect, which is a great power, especially when so many of us seem to have little time for gathering and parsing information on the larger issues of our day.

And if the media attempts to claim that they don't have an effect on their viewers, I'd ask them to explain why companies are willing to spend millions per minute for advertising time on TV if those ads will have no effect on their viewers.

So when TV media outlets fritter away their days on petty dramas and fear mongering and ignore the tremendous and terrifying sacrifices that thousands make, they promote the superficial over the meaningful, they promote the selfish individual over the collective good, and they are helping to develop a culture that is, for example, less concerned with the intellect or character of women than it is about their skin color and weight. And perhaps this is why, now that Mama and I are considering giving up our satellite dish, relying on the 'net and Netflix for our video entertainment, that I don't feel like I'm going to miss anything. Or maybe the reason is that it's likely better that 3B grows up without this influence. Or maybe the reason is that, because for the last seven months, we haven't had time to watch any TV.

We've given ourselves until Friday to think about it, but if we can't come up with a compelling reason to hang on to our dish by then, we're cutting the cord. What about you? What do you do for your video fix? And is there a downside to us killing our television?

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Cuteness offset: 3B stands up for himself

I've heard from some of my loyal six readers that my previous post might have been a bit abrupt and graphic.

To offset the image of 100 dogs locked into a steel cage, likely tearing each other apart in their panic, and being lowered into the East River only to be pulled to the surface six minutes later, all drowned, gouts of water draining from the lumpy mass of limp flesh and fur that blanketed the bottom of the cage, I give you this unabashed display of gratuitous cuteness:

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

This one goes out to the dog I love

The world steadily grows better because the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. . . . Most of these long-haired belittlers can't drive a nail or use a slide rule, I'd like to . . . ship them back to the twelfth century--then let them enjoy it.
--Robert Heinlein, The Door Into Summer

I had a college roomie--other than Anthropapa--who was a computer science/drama double-major. This was back in the late 80s, and when he said "computer science," everyone said, "Wow. That's cool."

He always replied, "Cool, sure. But when the lights go out, it's useless."

It was a good reminder that what's really important hasn't changed: food and protection from the elements. We've just become accustomed to those services being so reliable that we take them for granted. As Gulf Coast residents found out, however, food and protection from the elements are not a right and they're not a given. And they found out that all of those computerized and electronic devices like computers and cell phones and GPSs don't work when the lights go out.

But I don't think that we should live as electrical existentialists, as though today were our last day with electricity. I'm with Heinlein; progress does make the world a better place, even if it does lead some of us to forget how to take care of basic needs, like growing food and building shelter and creating clothing.

My hope is that those who don't need to spend time on providing basic needs will spend their time trying to resolve larger problems, such as how to better predict the weather for farmers, how to build structures that we can rely on, and how to design clothes that will make any vapid billionaire look like a five-dollar hooker.

OK, not that last one, but you get the point.

History proves that this system pretty much works that way and that, in addition to solving problems revolving around our basic needs, those with more spare time also devote themselves to exploring and finding solutions to other problems, such as retention of knowledge and education, preventing needless suffering and death through disease prevention and eradication, and the advancement of our collective morality so that we all continually develop into more compassionate people, kinder people, happier people.

If you don't believe me, take a look at how society dealt with stray dogs in the 1870s:
The dog pound had two sections--one divided into individual compartments for "the better class of dogs" and the other a large pen for "curs of low degree." Owners had 48 hours to rescue their dogs and pay a $3 fine. The unclaimed dogs, up to 100 at a time, were put in a large iron cage and lowered into the East River by a derrick. After six minutes, the cage was hoisted up again.

Three years later, in 1880, more than 8,000 dogs were put to death in New York. "And there," opined one editor, "was thus destroyed more intelligence, more faithfulness and more common sense than ever bothered some of their persecutors.
Reading that makes my stomach flip-flop as if it were John McCain running for president, maybe because Barky was stuck in a shelter for six months and then had to be taken in by a beagle rescue league so he wouldn't be killed. So just because I bitch and whine about modern conveniences like plastics, I'm certainly not opposed to progress, especially the kind that brings us pet rescue organizations. And, for the record, just because I bitch and whine about skanky, callow billionaires, I'm certainly not opposed to them--they guarantee that web editors won't be the most useless members of society when the lights go out, which might save my ass for a few days.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Let's talk about sex, baby. Let's talk about libraries.

Can someone please explain to me why librarians, who often position themselves as defenders of literacy, are scared of a word?

Do we really have to go into the libraries and play George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" aloud, so they can hear his reminder that there are no bad words? As Carlin points out, there are plenty of bad intentions and bad deeds, but words? Words are used to convey a person's intention or describe their deeds, but the word itself is just shadows scratched on a page.

To say that certain words are bad is the same as saying that booze is bad--people may do bad things as a result of drinking booze, but the booze is just a chemical compound. The booze is not the criminal--the person who committed the crime is. Similarly, words are not the source of hatred, intolerance, and Penthouse Forum letters--people are.

Declaring that a word--one word--renders an entire book unfit for reading is an absurd response. After all, if that's your approach, you should remove Moby Dick from library shelves. Fercryinoutloud! It's got the word right there on the spine of the book!

A rational response would be for these librarians, whom we trust to teach our children about language, among other topics, to use this as a teachable moment. I'm not naive enough to believe that there won't be some tittering and snickering from the students as they do this, but the librarians could at least make the effort. Because if they don't explain it, someone else will. Ideally that someone else would be children's parents, but it will likely be other kids on the playground, who aren't renowned for their depth of biological and medical knowledge.

And when your little Timmy or Johnny or Lance grows up and has swelling and pain in his scrotum, indicating testicular cancer, which could very well kill him if he doesn't attend to it, do you want him relying on what the librarian told him or what his friend Bobby yelled over his shoulder as he ran back to the classroom after recess?

In an age when ignorance about sex and your sexual organs can kill you, it should be socially unacceptable for professional educators to avoid the topic and any words related to the topic because--and let's face it, this is the real reason the librarians don't want to talk about a scrotum--sex makes them squeamish. I wonder how they propose I talk to 3B about his orchiopexy, or explain to 3B what Lance came back from, or why Melissa Etheridge was bald at the Grammys.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

Mea freakin' culpa. Looking at my own blog, I realize that it's been a week since I last posted anything. I hope that you, my loyal six readers, found some meaningful way to spend the time that you would have devoted to my daily profound, witty, timely and yet timeless missives. That is, if you even noticed that I was on hiatus.

"Don’t mistake snark for intelligence. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in three years of blogging, it’s that being a postmodern wiseass wears thin. Alternate your bitching with facts and balanced arguments; contribute something more to the conversation than just attitude."

Fine, I'll stop being a wiseass. The truth is that, while I did enjoy all the spare time that not writing gave me, I did miss all of you, because just as I wasn't writing for my blog, I wasn't reading any blogs. I had an excellent reason (excuse is such a vulgar word) for breaking the cardinal rule of blogging--post often, post regularly--Anthropapa was visiting.

AP and I were college and postcollege roomies, so hanging out with him was a homecoming in certain ways. He knows me better now, after not having seen me for 10 years, than many of my current friends, which likely says more about who I've become than about the quality of my friends' characters. And, although AP and I usually email infrequently rather than talk, and although we were talking about everything new in our lives--OK, not everything, just our kids--our conversations seemed to be picking up from where we left off, rather than starting again. To make up for lost time, we stayed up 'til all hours: midnight. Yeah, we're parents. So I ended up not having much time to write.

In addition, I read The Zero Boss' post on how not to blog, and it got me to questioning this whole blogging enterprise. And with a whole week full of spare time, which would have otherwise been spent blogging, to contemplate blogging itself, what conclusions did I reach? You'll have to read future posts to find out, but I will whet your appetite with this revelation that came to me when I returned to blogging and happened to check my counter stats:
When one of the largest parenting blogs in the world links to your blog, you might not want to take a week off from blogging starting the next day.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Papa's Clutch Purse o' Mail

With only six loyal readers, I don't get nearly as much mail as the dad bloggers who know how to write. I do, however, get some comments that I either can't respond to directly because I don't have that reader's email address, or that I think deserve a public response, but perhaps not a full post. I've collected the most recent examples here for a little feature called Papa's Mail Bag.

Actually, with only six readers, it's more like a small sack. Sort of a satchel. Really, they'd all fit in a clutch purse.

OK, so on with Papa's Clutch Purse o' Mail . . .

Phthalate Haters

samantha jo campen commented:
So all plastic stuff messes with hormones? And that's why you think 3B only had one descended testicle? I had no idea. Thanks for the 411! Let me know what you think of the sippy cup.
That's a good question. I don't think that I was clear enough in my previous discussions of phthalates, cryptorchidism, and orchiopexy.

It's not the case that if a moth farts in China, a hurricane will hit Hawaii. There are a few steps between the moth's ass and Maui. Similarly, I don't think that it's likely that a single dose of phthlates caused 3B to have an undescended testicle.

There are other factors to consider, such as genetic predisposition, hormone level changes from other causes, and so on. However, what if it turns out that we're all exposed to a never-ending stream of phthalate doses--from shampoo, cosmetics, shower curtains, water bottles, and a myriad of other sources--such that we always have them in our system at a significant level? (In fact, there are some who claim that it's impossible to run a study showing differences between people with phthalates in their system and a control group without them in their system because it's impossible to find anyone without phthalates in their system.) And what if phthalates are linked to male genital abnormalities, specifically undescended testicles?

That brings the moth's ass a little closer to Maui for me.

Moses supposes his toeses are frozen peas
Mitch McDad commented:
Are you insane? That's all I have to say. Thank God I'm comfortably sedentary.

Boutros also commented:
I would only ride a bike in this weather if I were encased in a pleasant heated plastic bubble, like a big gerbil ball. How long does it take you to unfreeze (or thaw, as some might say) when you get to work or home?
Mitch: Probably, although I haven't found a psychologist who I find of sound enough mind to reliably declare me so. I also find that I get cabin fever as a result of spending my life in a series of little boxes: condo, car, cube, reverse and repeat. I'm not sure that cabin fever is listed in DSM, but it's as close to insanity as I'd like to get, so I ride my bike. Besides, this has been a cold week, to be sure, but this is nothing compared to my days in Colorado, when I would swap out my regular tires for studded snow tires in the winter. In those days, I could tell you the temperature within five degrees, depending on the sound the snow made under my tires. And I'm glad that you're comfortably sedentary too; as an editor, I've had to master the ability to stay comfortably sedentary for hours on end--it's a required job skill.

Boutros: You would have to have one big ball for that. Speaking of balls, how long it takes me to thaw all depends on your definition of "thawed." I'm never shivering--actually, I often break a sweat on the way to work--they do put windstopping material in many and strategic locations on those tights and jacket that we bicyclists wear. It's a short ride, but the hills are pretty serious. I only really lose touch with my toes--because I'm too cheap to get new shoe covers--and it takes just a few minutes for me to regain feeling in them. I admit that I don't really feel warm again, however, until I've been in a hot shower for a few minutes.

Hot date in a cold snap
Henitsirk commented:
Google came up with zilch for that quote. I don't need any burp diapers anyway, I've still got a huge stash. We had that sushi book too, it was a favorite. The dim sum and jewish food ones are cool too!

Steve also commented:
But Yahoo says it's Bruce Springsteen. We really don't need the burp diapers either. Buy me a drink someday instead.

Dad_to_Be also commented:
It's entirely unimportant, but "Pictures of Matchstick Men" is by Status Quo, one of the UK's longest working bands; in fact, it was their first single and is regarded as a classic of the psychedelic-era. Quo went on to write repetitive 12 bar blues and have been long derided (somewhat ironically, given the name) for having a back catalogue of songs that all sound the same.
So, we've found the gap in Google's armor: they don't love The Boss. If only the Yahooligans can figure out a way to exploit this weakness, they'll become the new internet Borg.

Steve did get the correct answer, even if he had to Google it up, unlike MetroDad who, although late, recalled the quote from his vast, scotch-soaked memory, and so I will be buying Steve a drink somewhere as soon as our children allow us to schedule some time to do so.

And, yes, Dad_to_Be, I'm aware that Camper Van's version of "Matchstick Men" is a cover--a freaking brilliant cover, I might add. One worth rolling all the windows down, turning up the volume to 11, and blowing out the woofers. I wasn't aware of the depth, as it were, of Status Quo's work, so I'll have to look into (listen into?) that. However, I doubt that their version of "Matchstick Men" would inspire the head-banging mosh pit that Camper Van's version did at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on a balmy summer eve in . . . well, many years ago. I have to believe that Camper Van's version is superior to the original, just as (cover your eyes, MetroDad) Manfred Mann's version of "Blinded by the Light" is far superior to Bruuuce's version.

Until Next Time
As soon as I get off my lazy, gin-soaked, diaper-changing ass, I'm sure that I will do this again. Until then, hold your breath for a reply to your comments and send me a picture of the color your face turns right before you pass out. But seriously, I'm not ignoring you if I don't reply, I'm just suffering from daddybrain.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mama and Papa can't date anymore

Mama and I both came to this sad realization this weekend, when friends babysat 3B while we went out on a hot date. It was to be a fun day for everyone, since the friends are parents in 3B's monthly playgroup, which means that they would be bringing along 3B's friend.

Did I mention that 3B's friend's parents are cool, fun, and organized parents? They showed up at exactly 10 in the morning, and we all had a fun brunch together, talking about the kids, laughing about the kids, and actually talking about ourselves some, which was nice, since we're all still getting to know each other somewhat. The more Mama and I get to know them, the more we like them. This makes us a little sad, because they're taking 3B's friend off to live in China this summer, where his daddy will be starting a new job. But that's months away, right? So, we're just going to ignore that and continue hanging out and having fun for as long as we can.

We got so caught up in talking that, after kissing 3B goodbye, Mama and I were running out the door and down the hall, tapping our feet waiting for the monkey to bring up our elevator, and then squealing the tires around the corners on our way to the movie matinee that we had picked out the night before.

Even though we were running late, we were excited because we were going to the Cinema Drafthouse, where we could catch a movie and get lunch--OK, it's fried bar food, but it's still eating out--and have a beer--and I don't mean just like in no paper cup, I'm talking about a glass of beer. There's never any parking at the Cinema Drafthouse, so it took us a frantic minute to find a spot up the street. Then we had to dig up enough quarters to feed the meter and run down to the theater, where we stumbled into the lobby, breathless.

Even though we were 10 minutes late, and even though I hate missing the trailers, much less the beginning of the movie, and even though we were going to have to drive straight back home after the movie, it was all going to be worth it for this one hot date. So we were practically laughing with glee as we asked for tickets.

"Two for For Your Consideration, please."

"We don't start selling tickets until around showtime."

"Right. Showtime is 11:55. It's 12:05. Is the movie full or something?"

"No. Showtime is 11:55 p.m."


(a somewhat medium-length, Mametesque pause)

"Well, what are you showing right now?"

"A kids' movie."

We thanked her and walked out laughing--we went to all this trouble to inadvertently show up for a kids' movie? Clearly mommy and daddy brain were in full effect the night before when we were looking up showtimes.

We weren't going to let this three-hour window close without us getting out and having some fun, however, so we drove down to Olde Towne--yes, they write it that way and take it seriously--looking for some hot date kind of fun. You know, midday on a Saturday hot date kind of fun. On the way, we decided that we'd find some good food then just kick around in and out of the shops, which isn't something that we can easily do with 3B along. We did find some good Thai food overlooking the water, and then we wandered up the street, poking in and out of shops.

We ended up in this brilliant toy and clothing store for kids, Why Not?, where we bought 3B his own Curious George to sleep with, just as I had growing up. We also got him some other non-boop-boop toys, and got 3B's friend a wooden toy as well. All in all, it was a fun time shopping, with Mama and I reminiscing over various toys that we had, or that we had always wanted, when we were growing up.

As we drove home we, of course, called home to check in. After we told her how our hot date turned out, 3B's friend's mama laughed, "You ended up spending your hot date away from your baby in a store for kids?"

And that's when we realized that we just can't date anymore. It's not that we don't want to, or that 3B will keep us from it, or that we didn't put plenty of thought into planning this--it's just that we're no longer capable of dating.

Holy baby, Batman, I think that we might be becoming parents.

Update: I just wrote this in an email to Dear Wife, and I figured that I should write it here, since this blog is the only semblance of a listing of 3B's developmental milestones that we have.
Tonight, 3B stood up in his crib unassisted for the first time. I'm sure that he would've done it earlier, but we haven't been able to put him in it until we lowered the mattress, knowing that he would just stand up and climb out otherwise.

Once all the babyproofing is done, it is exciting to see the little bean stand up. I mean, just six months ago, he didn't know how to eat.
And so we've gone from his not knowing how to eat to our not knowing how to date. And yes, King, now that we have a place where 3B will reliably, and somewhat safely, stand up, we'll get some video of that. Until now, we've been spotting him too attentively to grab the camera.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Get up, stand up

From the paper of record in what I consider to be the home of the straphanger comes this report, which explains that British straphangers are constantly packed like sardines into trains, so tightly that some have to stand three to a lavatory--so tightly, in fact, that the drink cart can't make its way down the aisle.

OK, hold it right there, Brits. You have drink carts on your commuter trains? I thought it was bad enough that we have carpet on the DC Metro trains, but drink carts? Hell, I'd definitely give up the bike ride if I could get a hot toddy in the morning and an dry martini (up, olives, clean, please) on the way home.

Then again, you are paying hundreds of dollars (or pounds, or euros, or stones, or whatever you people use over there) more than we are. If I was paying as much as you are, however, the drink cart wouldn't be my main concern--in those crowds I'd be pissed off that the masseuse wouldn't get through for my reflexology session.

Although they can't sit down, the good news is that British straphangers are packed in so tightly, they don't have to worry about having enough straps and poles to hang onto, since they hold each other upright. "Straps and poles"? God, that makes the trains sound like some sort of strip club. OK, did I just mention straps, poles, and strip clubs on my daddy blog? I'll just wait by the phone for Child Protective Services to call.

Why my sudden concern, on a daddy blog, about standing on trains? Because 3B's going to need those straps and poles as of today, when, for the first time ever, he pulled himself up from a seated to a standing position without any assistance. He's been building up to it all week; it was just a matter of time. The motivator this morning was his Casino Royale, which he pulled himself up on, making it a slightly more impressive feat, since that whole thing is spring loaded and therefore as wobbly as Foster Brooks on a bender.

After letting 3B savor the moment, I did grab him and drop him into the casino seat to avoid the bad kind of headbanging--the kind that requires neurosurgery, not the kind that results from scoring Metallica tickets. As he gets better at defying gravity, however, his Casino Royale, with all of its bouncing and swaying, will be a great place for him to perfect his subway surfing skills.

And he won't even have to mind the gap.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

How it's hanging in DC

Now DCers can be straphangers too.

If we could only get them to move all of those seats that stick out into the cars, taking up valuable space, out to the walls of the car, then perhaps there would be room enough for people to stand to reach the handles. (And, as JYoun88 points out, perhaps they would then allow bikes on Metro during rush hour.)

Not that any of this will ever make Metro as cool as the NY Subway--for that, they'd have to at least ditch the Taco Bell color scheme--but at least moving the seats would be more functional than pretty.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hot date in a cold snap

I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.
I said that.
--Bob Dylan

Between our dreams and actions lies this world.
--Who said that?*
To keep warm during the recent cold snap, which the WaPo finally discovered today, Mama and I went on a hot date this weekend. We booked our friends D&D to babysit while we went to dinner and the symphony--I know, sorta' pushing the parental freedom envelope.

For dinner, we decided on sushi, and not just so we could quote one of 3B's favorite books, but because we love sushi. We might have also had a sushi jones going since a coworker came over this week and picked Mama's brain about Japan. Mama visited Japan with her Mom a few years back--I know, is there nowhere that Mama hasn't been?--and my coworker is going for the first time in a month or so. We made some quick miso soup and grabbed some sushi rolls from Trader Joe's for the occasion, but it just made us hungry for fresh sushi. Honestly, I was also hoping for some noodles, because the one other time I'd been to this place, I was able to get a great bowl of yakisoba. Unfortunately, yakisoba must only be on their lunch menu, but we still had a good meal and a great time talking to each other alone for more than five minutes.

The drive to the concert hall was illuminated by a fat moon, hanging low among the skeletal trees and glowing amber through the city air. The three selections of the concert all illuminated a common subject from various angles: A Midsummer Night's Dream--the play in which yours truly played Oberon in 6th grade, treading in the footsteps of Brother #2, who had played the same role on the same elementary school stage four years prior. The concert started off well, with Britten's piece, although it hit a lull for us during the Korngold/Mendelssohn version. What was exciting and captivating for us came after the intermission: Elvis Costello's Il Sogno.

We were fascinated by Elvis' rich and beautiful melodies, but we weren't surprised by how much we liked them. Ever since I heard the subdued first notes of "Beyond Belief" on a mix tape from John Yearley, I've loved Elvis' tunes and lyrics. Who better, really, to interpret in music this play about flawed love, deception, casual cruelty, and working class stiffs? This performance was also part of DC's Shakespeare Festival, so an actor sat beside the conductor, filling the brief pauses between movements with dramatic readings from the play.

Mama and I were quite nervous about this arrangement, since we had suffered through a similar performance last year that combined the orchestra with actors performing scenes from Shakespeare. The differences between the performances were vast and a great relief to us. While last year's actors appeared to be effervescent slumber-party escapees, complete with pajamas, who went on for pages at a time, dragging out the symphony and bringing us too, too short excerpts from the play, this year's actor was talented, and his excerpts were brief. This year's version brought the best of both pieces together, making for a transcendent performance.

However, we were still glad to return to a slumbering 3B and vaguely neurotic Barky after the concert. There is no place like home and no place I'd rather be than here with my family. I did have to venture out once more, however, since one of the D's was sick and could only drop off the other D to babysit. After rejoining D&D by dropping D at home, where she could tend to sick D, I drove back home to the thumping rhythm and chiming fiddle of Camper Van Beethoven's "Pictures of Matchstick Men."
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve;
Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
--Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream
When I look up to the sky
I see your eyes, a funny kind of yellow
Rush home to bed, I soak my head
I see your face underneath my pillow
--Camper Van Beethoven

I'd offer a prize for the correct answer, but other than some old burp diapers, I don't have much that's worth sending off. Besides, MetroDad will beat you all to it, unless you can Google faster than he can read.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Moses supposes his toeses are frozen peas

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
--Jim Croce

As a bicyclist, I know all about the spit into the wind bit and its corollary: shoot snot rockets to the leeward side of the bike. Given my experience with bikes and my extensive knowledge of all forms of expectorating from them, you would think that I'd also be familiar with common knowledge about bikes.

You would think so. And you would be wrong.

Because, if I were familiar with said common knowledge, then I would have never written that "I'd rather ride in the cold," because I would know that writing something like that would be a challenge to the gods of cycling weather. And I would know that they would take up that challenge with a vengance and bring about a cold that I haven't felt since I lived at an altitude of 6,700 feet.

This morning, when I left for work, according to the innernets, it was 12 degrees, with a windchill bringing the temperature down to -1 degree (all temperatures in Farenheit). This means that the wind was approximately 7 mph, if my reading of the NWS wind chill chart is correct. The innernets were reporting a windspeed of 11 mph, which would have brought the temperature down to -4 degrees. Neither number includes my speed, which as I rode into the wind, would increase the wind chill effect on me. On a windy, bitterly cold day such as today, I'd estimate my speed at 12 mph, which brings the wind chill temperature down to -8 to -10 degrees.


When I was on my bike, these calculations were not at the forefront of my mind. My thoughts revolved around questions such as, "Can I walk if I can't ever feel my toes again?" and "If I wipe my nose, will my glove stick to my moustache?" and "Do I still have toes?" and "Should I ride faster to increase my exertion, raising my body temperature, or will that just make me freeze faster by increasing the wind chill effect?" and "Did I leave my toes in my other shoes?"

I used to ride in these conditions every day without a problem, but there were several differences, including neoprene shoe covers, dual layers of tights, a four-season parka shell, my youth, and the fact that I hadn't dared taunt the biking gods. What can I say? Mea culpa. Now, can I have my toes back?

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Friday, February 02, 2007

$10,000 for your name, dignity, and reputation. No? How about $10,500?

Just what is the American Enterprise Institute? A group of aging Trekkies, studying how to optimize the remaining supply of dilithium crystals to allow their beloved starship to make one final warp-speed exploration of the galaxy to search for a younger humanoid population to lure into their cult?

No, although AEI is a cult of sorts. Here's how the Guardian described AEI:

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.
And from someone who's not even attempting to preserve a veneer of impartiality, here's a description more to my liking:
Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."

So I'm sure that you were as shocked--shocked!--to discover that they offered scientists $10,000 to write reports that criticize the report on climate change from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I learned what precious little I know about running a business from Dan "The Hatchet Man," who was nothing if not brutally honest and brilliantly profane.

The Hatchet always said, "For me to commit a crime, the payoff would have to be so big that I could retire to a safe country with no extradition treaties and live like a king until I was 100." Amen, brother. The scientists appear to be at least as smart as The Hatchet, since they all appear to have turned down the blood--er--oil money.

And really, I know that scientists are underpaid and all, but $10K to become a turncoat? Are the flaks at AEI so humorless that they haven't seen Austin Powers?
Dr. Evil: Okay, here's the plan. We get the warhead and then hold the world ransom for... 1 MILLION dollars!
Number Two: [clears throat] Sir, strictly speaking, a million dollars will not go very far these days. Virtucon alone makes over 9 billion dollars a year.
Dr. Evil: Really? Okay then... we hold the world ransom for 1... hundred... BILLION dollars!
But hey, AEI is saving all their pennies for the 2008 elections, so perhaps their useless propaganda budget has been scaled back.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Snapshots: How your parents dressed you, selling this blog, Chris Rock as Nostradamus

Threadbared: How your parents dressed you.

You read that right--"Tie 'em in and keep 'em warm." There's nothing I can say about this that they didn't already say better over on the 40's page at Threadbared, where I lifted this from. But maybe you don't find bondage between a mother and child amusing. Fair enough. But how can you resist the allure of the 80's page?

The entire site is brilliant and addictive, and I've been keeping it all to myself in the last few months, since our friend (whose name is also, confusingly, Mama, so we'll call her Mountain Mama) sent me the link. Apologies for keeping it to myself so long and for all the deadlines you'll miss today because you just can't stop yourself.

Who are you kidding? As if you have deadlines on a Friday.

That's it! I'm selling this blog and retiring.

My blog is worth $8,468.10.
How much is your blog worth?

OK, so the money would only be good for a coupla' weeks of retirement, and I have no idea how this guy came up with this figure--I'm still sticking with his conclusion.

Go and find out how little all of that spare time that you pour into your blog is really worth, but take his calculation for what it's worth. This fun little toy is a fifth-generation hand-me-down, and the research that backs it up is over a year old, which in innernets years is like 17 years.

Chris Rock As Nostradamus
Few people can make me laugh harder than Chris Rock. OK, there's Chapelle, but since he split the scene, all that we're left with is reruns. The Daily Show is funny, particularly Samantha B., who makes me laugh out loud, but since Colbert left, there aren't many busta-gut laughs there.

And let's take the nightly digression here . . . While I can sorta understand what Colbert did, it's too bad, since he went from being hilarious in the Daily Show format to a consistent, if regularly unamusing, one-note parody in a show that has moments of hope and long spans of awkwardness. . . .

But back to the people who make me laugh so hard that I cry--check out the title of the OJ video that Chris Rock pulls out at the end of this clip and tell me that he's not a modern Nostradamus.

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Phthalate haters

Y'all know that we're phthalate haters, and so y'all will know how happy we were to see this phthalate free sippy cup (also Bisphenol-A-free) over on Daddy Types.

Bottoms up, y'all.

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