Friday, June 29, 2007

Kick out the jams mother ... er ... and father

Today is the anniversary of the first musical recording, which was made on a paraffin cylinder in London's Crystal Palace. I can't think of a more appropriate gift to mark this anniversary for someone who really likes bikes and music than this slightly updated version of that first musical cylinder.
Yes, that's a bike-mounted iPod dock. No, it doesn't recharge the iPod from pedaling power. Bummer about that.

Advantages of the new cylinder: plays more than one song, flecks of dirt don't become embedded in it when you endo your bike, and it doesn't melt in the sun.

Advantages of the old cylinder: if you didn't like the recording, you could run a piece of string through it and use it as a candle.

Also, as Engadget says

"Sure, you might have the soundtrack of a bustling city or the quiet calm of the countryside to provide background music for your biking trips, but every once in awhile you're bound to want to seriously shred to Ride the Lightning."
I'm not sure that I'd go with Ride the Lightning. I'd prefer to think of my bike seat in more positive terms. I was thinking of perhaps Master of Puppets or, of course, Damage, Inc.

Then again, before long, we'll be trailering 3B behind us, so we may want to rock his favorites, although I'm not sure how far we'd get with Sound of Da Police or [Help] Da Police thumping out from our bottle cage.

So if you're in NoVa and see some dad getting cuffed while NWA rocks his bike and his baby sleeps in his bike trailer, please call a bail bondsman for me.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

You're roughly 11 months old now

Dearest 3B,

Every morning you wake up to the sound of your hound, who seems to only be able to travel across our carpets by scootering. The rest of the time, he's clattering his claws across our Pergoesque floor, raising a racket akin to a drunken Ginger Rogers demonstrating softshoe in baseball spikes. If he can't rouse you with that, he flaps his mudflap ears back and forth, making a sound like automatic weapons firing. It appears that the only suitable place in the house to do this is in the hallway, in front of your bedroom door. When you get older, we'll let you try to train him to do that somewhere else. We gave up on training him not to do that long ago.

Fortunately, for all concerned, you always wake up happy. You have a smile on your face that brightens even the darkest of early mornings, which is good, since you've been waking up at 5:15 or so every morning for the past several weeks. I think that we finally got you out of that habit this weekend, by exhausting you with dinners at friends' houses until all hours of the night--8:30. At those dinners, you were certainly the center of attention, showing off all of your favorite tricks: clapping, raising your hands, eating with your hands, tossing food with your hands, and finding various parts of your body when we ask you where they are: ears, hair, head, tongue, and your belly, which you love to pat like a drum.

Speaking of drumming, ever since you could pull yourself upright, you've loved to bounce and dance as best you can to music, especially drum- and beat-heavy music. Just this last weekend, I held you on my hip and we bounced, shimmied, and danced around the living room to Baladi We Hetta twice, after which I had to lay down and sweat for five minutes, while you amused yourself by banging on your empty coffee can. In fact, you love to bang on most things that are in front of you. Sometimes, you'll even smack the side of your head several times in a row. We're not sure what that's about. Maybe there's a loose wire in there--but hey, easy on the noggin. You only get one.

When you do smack your head, you seem to only do it with your left hand. You most often find your ear with your right hand. Banging on your high chair tray, the couch, Mama, myself, Barky, or any other surface seems to require both hands. Eating is primarily a right-handed operation for you, although you do switch off at times. Turning pages in books is almost exclusively a left-hand task, although that may be because you're almost always sucking your thumb as you read, and you only suck your right thumb. As a southpaw myself, I'm perhaps too keenly aware of this, but it's fascinating to watch as you develop different skills, and the same skills, on different sides of your body.

As for your body, it's getting bigger and stronger in every way. Even your fingernails continue to grow at a prodigious rate, which didn't matter much until you recently started hating it whenever we cut your nails--make that whenever Mama cuts your nails, since I never cut your nails or pick your nose. Your growing strength, which you use in your attempts to wrest the sliding glass closet doors from their tracks and topple CD racks and bookshelves, makes this task even harder. Just yesterday, when I couldn't hold you still, I finally had to resort to singing endless choruses from Sound of Da Police, one of your favorite songs; you just can't get enough of that "woop woop, that's the sound of da police." I can't wait to see what happens when we try to cut your hair. Will I have to break out the NWA?

Speaking of which, your hair is longer--over your ears, curling up at your neck, and almost in your eyes--and your first freckle, which showed up the Saturday before your six-month appointment, is getting darker and more clearly defined. I have a mark like that too, which also showed up a little while after I was born, that Mom always called my birthmark, even though it didn't show up until after I was born. Mine showed up when I was sleeping out in the sun. I'm not sure what caused yours to show up, but it's there, and it's one more thing that makes you so adorable that it breaks my heart to leave every morning.

But leave you I must, most days of the week. It is the heartbreak of that departure that focuses me more clearly than ever at work now, so that I will always be able to leave as soon as possible to get back to you. The joy of returning, of knowing that as soon as you hear my key in the door, you start saying, "Da da da da," until I walk in the door, of knowing how your face lights up when you see me, and of finally hearing the slapping of your hands on the floor as you crawl over to greet me--all of that fills my heart to the breaking point. I love you with all of my overflowing heart, tiger, and I can't wait to see what the rest of our months together bring.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gee, officer Krupke

One of the reasons that I haven't been posting regularly recently has to do with a recent diagnosis of a psychological disorder that I'm suffering from. I'm still waiting for the results of the tests that will determine how far along the continuum between neurosis and psychosis I am.

Until those results come in, here's a description of this newly defined disorder, to help you determine if you're afflicted:

Narcissistic Blog Disorder

This disorder is characterized by the creation of a blog in which the individual consistently denigrates not only the opinions of others, but the very fact that others have opinions, saying things like "nobody cares what some overpaid starlet has to say about global warming" and "nobody cares what some crusty career politician thinks is wrong with society today." Simultaneously, the individual assumes that people do care about what he or she has to say, in spite of the individual's only political or activist experience being watching the movie Dave twice.

It's coming soon to a DSM IV near you, along with Bookmark Loop Disorder, Pugilistic Discussion Syndrome, Amusement Identity Disorder. Or not.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

One more thing

You should really check out what is now Bikeu & Hikeu--not so much for my Bikeus, but for my brother and sister's pieces.

Both were contributing sublime morsels on their own blogs or in the comments on Bikeu, so I finally got around to opening up the blog so that both of them could post there. I had to expand the name, since my sister mostly writes on her morning walks, which sound like a beautiful way to start a day.

My brother writes after riding along the beach and up Arastradero, and other places that make me jealous--but at least he takes some family along.

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Out of my brain on the 5.15

"I just finished my third bike ride of the day, after getting nowhere--literally. I started in our bedroom, and I ended in our bedroom. In fact, the whole ride took place in our bedroom."
That's as far as I got last week in writing a post. Part of that has to do with 3B deciding that 5.15 is a perfectly good time to be awake every single morning of the week.

There have been a number of other things keeping me from writing here, including my ever-fattening ass, my sore ass, Barky's ass, and dumb asses . . . so finish your cotton candy and get onto the Tilt-A-Whirl that was last week in the Bradstein Household:

Pitter Patter on Pater's Day (Hop on Pop Day)
Father's Day started late on FD eve, when Mama took a late-night shopping trip and then spent what sounded like a whirlwind hour in the kitchen while I was banished to the bedroom, where I was forced to lay against pillows and flip through magazines.

All of Mama's efforts were worthwhile; on FD, I woke up to a Spinach, Red Pepper, and Artichoke Strata from one of our favorite vegetarian cookbooks. It was an amazingly delicious, melt-in-your-mouth treat. After 3B's morning nap--OK, and our morning nap--we headed to the biggest room full of shiny, colorful, flying things that I know of. It was more than enough to entertain Mama's two little boys for several hours, and Mama was patient enough to hang around and listen to me talk about rotary versus inline engines, which I had diagrammed even before my 6th grade aeronautics unit.

And you thought the typography lesson was geeky. (You gotta admit, though, that the comments were even geekier than the post, right?) If you want to geek around yourself, check out these virtual reality tours of cockpits, like the Concorde, SR-71 Blackbird, and the Bell XV-15 tilt rotor that I used to see fly at Moffett Field air shows when I was a kid.

Between debating the merits of the Enola Gay display, being shocked by the jet-powered kamikaze bomber that was not much more than a bomb with a cockpit, looking in vain for the VW bus on the CE3K mother ship model, and being awed by the space shuttle, we did stop to feed 3B, and get ourselves something to eat at the cafe, which is monopolized by McD's. Turns out that the only thing that didn't have some form of beef fat injected into it, as far as we could tell, was the McFlurry--good thing we're not vegans, right? As far as we could tell, each one has enough fat in it not to need any additional lard, plus enough sugar to feed all the world's hummingbirds for a week. Tasty, but it didn't make us like McD's.

After all that, which meant skipping 3B's--and our--afternoon nap, we didn't get a chance to use the martini set that Mama and 3B got for me--shaker, glasses, vermouth (we already have the gin and olives). But we'll use that soon, I'm sure.

Man, I really made out on Father's Day. I'm gonna' have to step it up next year for Mother's Day.

Pedaling to Where?
Now that she had me fattened up like Hansel, Mama announced that she wants to ride a century this October, to give her a fitness goal. (What's a century, you ask? It's a one-day, 100-mile bike ride. Why? Because beating yourself in the head with a baseball bat doesn't hurt as much, and doesn't make you as fit. Although after an hour with the bat, you're mentally fit to ride a century.)

I tell Mama, as does everyone else, that she looks great, but she still wants to get into better shape to finish recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. I could stand to lose the pregnancy weight that I gained too, and I love to ride my bike, so I'm behind this goal 100 percent. If you count my fat ass, I'm behind it 110 percent.

This means that in addition to my bike commute, I'm also riding on the trainer some nights when I get home. Although I'm past the sore ass phase of road riding, which took about a week to get through when I started bike commuting again, there's something about riding on a trainer--different position, not changing position enough, being as boring as a bike ride in a box--that makes it uncomfortable to stay on the saddle for too long. But at least I'm not scootering my ass across the neighbor's driveway, like Barky is.

Three Poops in the Morning (to the tune of Three Coins in the Fountain, loosely . . . er . . . so to speak)
Every six weeks or so, Barky starts scootering around our place--scootering being propulsion by front legs only whilst dragging his ass across the ground. He generally does this only on our nicest rugs--which is our inspiration to make him an appointment at the vet.
(Meal spoiler warning: Reading the next sentence may spoil any meal you plan to have this week.)
The vet takes just a few minutes to fix what is a common problem in smaller dogs--full anal glands. (I warned you.) Recently, Barky started scootering again, but this was only a few weeks after he had been to the vet. And, he was doing it everywhere--not just on our nice rugs, but in the elevator ("Hi, how are you? Nice weather we're having, isn't it? Oops. Watch your shoes!"), across our neighbor's driveway (yes, it's concrete--yes, ow!).

The vet couldn't find anything wrong, but said that "the area," as she referred to it, was raw and swollen from being dragged around so much, so she prescribed an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory medicine that we have to apply to "the area" twice a day. Of course, Barky doesn't want us to apply this stuff--not that we want to do it, either--which means that one of us has to hold him upright while the other applies the goo as Barky bucks around like a rodeo bull. When we let him go, the first thing that he tries to do is scrape it off by scootering, so the holder has to dart out the door and down the stairs with him, since if we took him in the elevator he would just scooter it off in there. The good news about whatever is a pain in Barky's ass is that it's not tapeworms.

Hey, I'm going to find the silver lining, even if it takes two hands and a flashlight.

Dumb Asses
Speaking of asses, I found this comment in my inbox this morning. Seeing that it was placed on this post, it made me think of one of my favorite quotes from my favorite smartass, Eeyore: "They haven't got Brains, any of them, only grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake, and they don't Think."
Anonymous said...
Hi, Nice stuff. I found a cool news widget for our blogs at www.widgetmate.ass. Now I can show the latest news on my blog. Worked like a breeze.
9:05 AM
I suppose that his spambot didn't read my earlier comment on that post.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Geekin' Full Stop

I've got several far more interesting things to write about, like our afternoon in the pool, last night's bike ride in our bedroom, and our upcoming century, which we'll spin through in one day in October . . . but all that I've got time for now is a more complete explanation for DenverDad, Knucklehead Marketing, and amateur font geeks. It's a piece that I've written a few times since the advent of desktop publishing, in the early 90s, but it's still kind of fun . . . if you're a geek.

DenverDad isn't alone in his training, which ingrained the habit of tapping the space bar twice after each period--or any other punctuation mark, for that matter. Many of us, myself included, were taught in typing class to always tap that thing twice.

Why were we taught that?

In typing class--in my day, anyway--we used typewriters, which have monospaced fonts. This means that every character takes up the same amount of space. Even though an O is much wider than an i, both are given the same amount of space by a typewriter, which means that the i sits in the middle of lots of white space, because the typewriter doesn't know if you've typed an O or an i in that space. Similarly, a period, the smallest character, is surrounded by a gulf of white space.

A period, unlike letters, signals a break between two thoughts. To signal these breaks to readers, typographers have long adjusted the spacing around periods, moving the period closer to the character before it, so that there is a noticeable gap after the period. These gaps are important, because readers see a little ahead of where they are reading, and seeing the gap coming signals to readers that the end of the sentence is approaching.

On a typewriter, there is no way to move a period closer to a character. The only way to provide a noticeable gap after a period, which is already engulfed in white space, is to add a second space after it.

Why don't we still have to tap that thing twice?

Computers are more clever than typewriters and generally use proportional fonts (although you can still use monospace fonts, like Courier). As a result, computers take care of spacing just like typographers used to, moving the period in close to create a visible gap after it. When you set them side-by-side, it's easy to see the difference between monospace and proportional font spacing.

In addition, computers automatically break lines, and having two spaces after a sentence can play havoc with that feature, leaving a space at the beginning of a line, which unintentionally indents the line after a period. The Chicago Manual of Style Web site describes the other problems using two spaces after a period can create, all of which I've encountered in one place or another.

And yes, these are the kinds of issues that fill my day. This is what I'm paid to sort out. (But I'm not the only one, so there. It is so a valid way to earn a living.) So when the average air temperature at the North Pole is 110 F and we're all digging estivation burrows to survive, I might not be so handy with the shovel. But if you need someone to properly punctuate and layout instructions for burrow digging, I'm your man. Until then, I'll be over here, in the shade of this Arctic date palm, fanning myself with a frond and sucking the last drops of fresh water from the remains of the polar ice cap that we're keeping in the picnic cooler.

(Come to think of it, this whole idea of digging burrows to escape the killing heat resulting from our own activities seems to be a familiar one. I wonder where I've encountered it before. Oh, that's right, it was here.)

OK, talk amongst yourselves while I try to find time to write a post that even nongeeks can enjoy.

[Credit where credit is due: all that talk of tapping came from a coworker's piece--er, so to speak--on this topic. I also mention this so you don't think that my mind drags in the gutter behind me wherever I go. Because now that I'm a dad, I'm all righteous indignation and sanctimonious bullshit and . . . oh, crap . . . never mind.]

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The personal touch

UPDATE: Please read Arabella's comment below and my subsequent post about this.

Hi [Name],

I read many blogs, and it's always great to come across a well written Dad's take on life.

My name is Arabella and I'm from Knucklehead Marketing, a marketing agency based in Los Angeles.

I'm looking for influential writers like yourself to review the new Wisk 3x Multi-Action Laundry Detergent. I'd like to send you a full-size bottle for review on your site,

We're looking for your honest, journalistic opinion and feedback and hope that such a review would be of interest to your readers.

Please let me know if you're interested, and I will follow-up with you soon about this opportunity.

Knucklehead Marketing

Here's my "honest, journalistic opinion and feedback," Arabella
  • Modern typefaces no longer require two spaces after periods for clarity.
  • "Follow up" as a noun or an adjective requires a hyphen, but as a verb, it has no hyphen.
  • Form letters are far more effective when you replace "[Name]" with the actual name of the person you are writing to.
And a happy Father's Day to everyone at Knucklehead Marketing.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

3B: Baby Bodhisattva Bradstein

In the robin's egg blue evening sky, I'm looking at the pinprick diamond light of Venus shine as the rose light fades from the clouds scattered across the horizon like fallen leaves; the blush of seeming life draining from them as they dissipate in the whispering evening breeze. The moon is as thin as a thread, her beaming face turned away from the night falling here, gazing across the void of space.

The sangria in my glass is cool and sweet, with just enough tartness underneath. It's all that remains of a delicious and delightful brunch we had this morning with a coworker and mutual friend; we made, as always, the sourdough waffles; they brought the sweet fruit and the sangria. It was a nice way to start our day--OK, let's be honest, shall we? Our day started, as have the past several, before 6 a.m.

3B is, we believe, cutting his first molars, and he's been up before his usual 6 a.m. wake-up time. I believe this morning was 5:22 a.m. Or was this the 5:17 a.m. morning? Whichever it was, between that and the sangria, the entire Bradstein household took a nap this afternoon when 3B went down for his snooze. Gone were our plans to . . . well . . . do anything but eat and sleep today.

We did take another trip down to the pool, but since it was 5 p.m., the water was too cool for 3B to want to take a dip. He did have a good time playing with the water, visiting the pine trees alongside the pool, and crab-walking around on the concrete (he's got to protect those delicate baby knees). When we came home from that, we grabbed Barky and turned around and went straight back outside for his evening walk. Then it was home again, home again, jiggety jig, and dinner time for all of us, then bath time for 3B, then bedtime, then kitchen clean up time and now Mama's out doing some last minute Father's Day shopping before bedtime for us big kids.

At the end of days like this I sometimes muse on this chaos that is fatherhood, but I usually doze off before I have a chance to record any of my reflections. But tonight, being the eve of a great Hallmark holiday that commemorates this position that I've held for almost 11 months, I thought that I'd try to get them down before I fade away.

My first observation about parenthood is one that Mama and I keep coming back to: there's not much to it. It's more accurate, I suppose, to say that there's as much to it as you want there to be. We have days like today, during which our attention is split between our friends and 3B, and days that are all about 3B. Both are good for him, in their own ways, but there's nothing to stop us from having nothing but days in which our attention is divided. Or even having nothing but days when we hardly pay any attention to him at all. There are no parenting police (I'm ignoring the snarking parents of the blogosphere for the time being) watching us. We're not even close enough to family that they would know. (Except, of course, all of them who read this blog.)

There is nobody who will flog us if we don't play with 3B enough, or read to him enough, or pick him up for snuggles whenever he wants it, or fly him through the air just to make him laugh, or help him practice walking, or sing him songs, or any of those other things we do because we have to. And we do have to do them--not because we're scared of any consequences for not doing them, but because we are driven by internal motions--compulsions, desires, and an overwhelming love--that we are all too glad to run along with. Nobody could pay us enough to do all of this. That is in part because no sum of money could make up for all of the efforts we sustain on 3B's behalf, but it's also because there is no reward richer to us than our son's smile, or the sound of his silly laugh, or the feeling of his arms wrapping around our necks and squeezing tight for comfort, for love, and for the joy of friendship. And that reward is continuously compounding, it grows every time we receive it.

But there is nothing that compels us to reach this reward but ourselves. So it is that there isn't much to this parenting thing, except ourselves. At the same time, there is nothing but ourselves, because if parenting does nothing else, it lays bare a parent's true nature.

I recall making proclamations, when I was young and still knew everything, about what kind of parent I would be. "I'll always . . ." and "I'll never . . ." and so on. It turns out, however, that as a dad, I'll always be who I am, and that will never change. That's not to say that I'll never change, but I mean that, as a father, I'm going to be who I am as a person. If I don't drag my fat, hairy ass out of bed every morning to do sun salutations, I'm not going to suddenly start doing that now that I'm a father, so my kid will become a three-year-old yogi. And I'm not going to start sewing all of my child's clothes from sustainably harvested (by unionized labor) organic fair-trade fibers when I can't even get it together to replace the buttons that popped off of all my pairs of shorts when I gained 15 pounds during pregnancy.

Then again, Mama and I are consciously making every effort to be good role models for eating a wide range of healthy foods, brushing our teeth, wearing sunscreen, being nice to people, and innumerable other small things throughout our days and lives. Those are all things that we wanted to do before, for ourselves, but that having 3B around has motivated us to finally follow through on because, while we're not so concerned about the long-term effects on us--we're big kids, after all--we are concerned about 3B's long-term welfare, and we know that he is most likely to follow our lead. And, honestly, I think that it's these small changes that may be the hardest to make because they require tiny sustained efforts.

Big dramatic flourishes, like moving to the south of France so your child can study the play of light on sunflowers to become the most accomplished oil painter in history by the time he's 11, are easy, in a way. It's harder to sustain the small, silent, almost invisible motions that bring no immediate reward--nutrition, dental hygiene, and skin protection are all actions that provide no positive feedback. If you succeed, the best you can hope for is a lack of negative feedback--no health complications, no cavities, no skin cancer. And, as a wise man once told me, it is in those small things we do when nobody is watching that our true nature is revealed.

As I said, there is nobody watching us parent. Except 3B, that is. Even when we aren't taking these tiny steps for his sake, he's still learning from us. At the same time, he's teaching us.

I become more convinced with every parent I meet and every parent's blog that I read, that our children are tiny Buddha masters sent to teach us the lessons we cannot learn ourselves. I have many that I still need to learn--my temper is too strong, my patience is too thin, my cynicism is too deep--but there are others that I feel that I almost have the answers for, thanks to our little resident red-headed bohdisattva. The biggest of these answers is that, like that fat-armed sailor, I yam what I yam, and that what I yam isn't as bad as I thought. That's the answer to the lesson that 3B continues to teach me about worry, particularly self-worry.

I'm that guy who sees a perfectly beautiful day, with a clear blue sky and looks around to see if he can spy the contrails of ICBMs streaking in across the northern horizon from Russia. Part of that is the result of having my formative years fall during the Reagan regime, but most of that is just me. I could worry a hole through a silver dollar. Fortunately for everyone around me, most of that worry is self-directed: can I do this? what if I fail? what if I succeed? won't success be worse? has anybody already noticed that I don't know what the hell I'm doing? Really, it's a regular nihilists' cocktail party in my head, most of the time.

That can be immobilizing at times, so I've got handy coping mechanisms to get me through the paralysis of worry that I can fall into. None of them, however, are as good as the cure of self-confidence, which is what 3B, even as a tiny bean, has been able to teach me. I clearly recall taking him from Mama after a night feeding, when he was still squealing and squirming, trying to kick his way out of his swaddle and go to sleep at the same time. It was past 3 a.m., and it wasn't the first time we had been up in the night. In fact, I knew that I only had three hours before he would be up to eat again, so every minute that we were awake was another precious minute of sleep lost. And man, were those minutes precious. While Mama dropped back into slumber, I tipped the glider as far back as I could and lay with 3B on my chest, gently rocking, holding his swaddle tightly together, and exhaling sussurations into his ears. It was all so comforting that I slowly started to drift off myself. I knew that I couldn't, because if I fell asleep, I would lose my grip on 3B, causing him to slip down and at least wake up, if not hit the floor. But I had never been this bone-tired in my life; I truly thought myself incapable of remaining conscious. And I recall thinking to myself, "I have to be able to stay awake." 3B saw to it that there was no way for me to worry that I couldn't stay awake--I simply had to succeed. He fell asleep on my chest, knowing my true nature, knowing that I would hold him, knowing that I would stay awake. And in so doing, he revealed me to myself.

That was just one of many small moments through which 3B has taught me that I don't need to worry so much about who I am. Every time he laughs when I fling him in the air, or listens raptly while I read him a story, or reaches his arms out for me to hold him against my chest as he curls in for comfort, 3B lets me know that there's not much to this parenting thing, but that there is something to it, and not to worry--that I've got that something. And every time he does that--every time he teaches me that it's OK to wake up without a care in the world, with a smile and a hug for everyone you meet, even the dog--I have to thank him for teaching me how to be a father.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

The perfect Father's Day gift: guilt

Because, as a working dad, there's nothing I need more than to be reminded--by an insurance company, no less--that the welfare of my family is dependent on my income.

Never mind that they might miss me if I died, because it's not about playing catch in front of the house until the streetlight goes on, or getting a helping hand with some math problems at the dining room table, or even a cozy snuggle on a rainy weekend morning.

No, it's all about the Benjamins, Dad. And if you're not man enough to provide them, even after you die, what good are you as a dad anyway?

Oh, and happy Father's Day.

Or whatever.

[originally displayed on . . . if you want to see it in its native habitat, keep refreshing until it comes up]

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Snow can burn your eyes . . .

This morning, when I got to my desk, I started up my computer, went to get some coffee, returned, and fired up iTunes, so I could tune out the world while I worked.

Some mornings, iTunes' song selection is so frustrating--it's always on shuffle, due to my faith in serendipity--that I have to tear off the headphones, but not this morning.

This morning, iTunes was on fire. It started off my day with these songs:

Verdi Cries (10K Maniacs)

"Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries.
I'm hearing opera through the door.
The souls of men and women, impassioned all.
Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call.
I fill the bath and climb inside, singing."

Solomon Sang (Cassandra Wilson)
"He was praying for grace,
Ravens pray for rain,
And when he stood before the altar,
Solomon sang."

Don't Toss Us Away (Lone Justice)
"Don't toss us away, there's no reason why
Just because we're not perfect
Oh, you know, we still try
I still love you
I want you to stay"

Willin' (Little Feat, live)
"Out on the road late at night,
Seen my pretty Alice in every headlight
Alice, Dallas Alice.
I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah"

Alice-Tom Waits
"A murder of silhouette crows I saw
And the tears on my face
And the skates on the pond
They spell Alice . . .
Somewhere across the sea
There's a wreck of a ship
Your hair is like meadow grass on the tide
And the raindrops on my window
And the ice in my drink"
Ah. There's something about slow, sad songs in the morning . . . or maybe I only feel that way when I'm at work, when I've had to leave Mama and 3B behind at home. Maybe it's the way 3B smiles at me, or waves goodbye, or chases me to the door as fast as he can crawl, or the way his muffled cries cut through the door after it closes between us.

This morning, Mama brought him out and they walked me down the hall to the elevator. But I still had to leave them behind and go down. And on the way down, I wondered if maybe Mom and Dad ever talked about this--what it's like to leave every morning--and if maybe I would call Mom, just to ask, and if maybe she would know just what to say to me about it.

Maybe I would.

If I could.

There's something about slow, sad songs in the morning . . .

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

River, Swimming, Rolling Thunder

That's the title not only of this blog post, but also of the latest indie movie on YouTube. This low budget flick features

  • a Mother's Day trip to the river, including nutritional tips from a young vegetarian
  • 3Bs first trip to the swimming pool, including a big, balding (yet hairy in all the wrong ways), white whale--that would be me--holding an adorable lad, as well as a hot Mama
  • a trip to DC to see, and hear, Rolling Thunder, a ride for vets that apparently matches the sound of its namesake, according to vets who know--check out the passing shadow of the airplane, which was flying just a few hundred feet above us on final approach to National Airport, and which you can't hear over the motorcycles
Check it out--it gets two big thumbs up, plus one small thumb up (or being sucked, depending on his mood), and a dewclaw up too!

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Snips & Snails

Puppy Dog Tales
From the "Because We Need One More Reason to Wash Our Hands" file: Barky has an eye infection. Yummy. His eye started watering last Thursday, so we made an appointment for him to get some routine maintenance done--trust me when I say that you don't want to know what's involved--and have the vet look at his eye. She confirmed that it's an eye infection, and asked if he'd been to the dog park or hanging out with other dogs, since the infection comes from direct contact. We told Barky not to kiss strange dogs--as if he would listen to us--and now we're squirting goop into Barky's eye twice a day to kill the other goop. And giving him pills twice a day, since the infection is so bad. Yippee. It did keep Barky from meeting his cousin Spud, however.

This Spud's for You
Who's Spud? Spud is Auntie Banana's new dog, who came over to visit today. It's been far too long since we've seen Auntie B, and while we walked down to our favorite local java shack*, we chattered away to each other about everything that's happened in the last several months. Auntie B is enjoying her new job, new digs (living with Boyfriend), gardening, and especially hanging out with Spud. We hope to have Auntie B and Boyfriend here for a swim soon, and if you want to know more about whassup wit' Auntie B--you get her to restart her blog. I can't.

*Why our favorite? Not only can we walk to it, but it has a changing table and diaper garbage can in the bathroom; an armada of toys, including an exersaucer; and a high chair, and I'm not talking about no wooden tower with a lap strap that a rock could squirm out of, I'm talking about a full on Graco high chair with a Nascar-approved five-point harness.

BabyCenter recently invited me to join their exclusive alpha mom club (read: "survey group of chumps"). Hey, I kind of like that . . . alpha mom . . . I get it--that's kind of like "alpha dog."

Waitaminnit--did BabyCenter just call me a queen bitch?

Anyway, even though I updated my registration with them, BabyCenter insists that I'm a mom:

BabyCenter would like to invite you to join The BabyCenter Alpha Moms Panel!

What is The BabyCenter Alpha Moms Panel?
It's an online community of active moms who are passionate about sharing their opinions on topics related to parenting from expecting your first to choosing a preschool.

So far they've asked for my opinion on topics ranging from my age to my gender to my income level.

That's OK, I have my own sources to find out what alpha moms do. According to inquiring minds who have checked it out, they spend their days ROTFLAO while debating which mascara makes their lashes longer and debating whether 10-year-olds should wear lip gloss on the shooting range.


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Saturday, June 09, 2007

It's not all about Bugaboos

Greg, who posts about once a minute on the coolest daddy schwag you can find (not that you can always afford, however) and who lets me shamelessly flog my blog on his blog, posted this photo this evening, which makes me want to cry:

I want to cry for this man, for his son, for the soldier who cut this man's hands free so he could hold his son, for the soldiers who had to arrest a four-year-old, and for my country.

If DickBush still believes that we're spreading democracy rather than fomenting hatred of the country that I love, perhaps we should ziptie their hands behind their backs and sit them down in the sand with black sacks over their heads. See how much they love us after a few days of that.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Snap, Creak, Popup

The little signs of my increasing age are hard to miss: something snapping when I bend over to pick up 3B, something else creaking when I lift him up, and nothing being worth leaving the house for after 9 p.m.--especially not something that starts at 9 p.m., as our weekly city league softball game did tonight. But rather than stay at home and knit an afghan while watching Golden Girls reruns and waiting for my AARP card to arrive, I decided to go to the game.

And it was worth every sore muscle--or is that one a tendon? ligament? is that one connected to anything?--that I'm feeling now, and that will stiffen up like cured fiberglass tomorrow.

For once, either we were brilliant, or we were matched against a team that is as desperately bad as we are, because we got our first nonforfeit win of the season. I choose to believe that we were flipping brilliant.

And because this blog is a historic record that 3B can look back on, I'm going to record my brilliance for posterity, or until the lights go out in Blogger's server farms. This is so that 3B will know that, at one time, Papa wasn't just that bald guy asleep in the LaZBoy with the reading glasses on his forehead and the remote laying on top of his paunch:

Papa's Stats for May 5, 2007
  • Batting average: 1.000
  • Inside the park home runs: 1
  • RBIs: too many to count (really, I just don't have the scorecard with me)
  • Putouts: too many to count, but myself (shortstop) and my coeditor (3rd) were a machine, fielding line drives, sizzling grounders, and sky-high popups in a pouring rain
  • Assists: see previous
  • Errors: 1 (trying to keep it real, people)
  • . . . which yields a fielding percentage damn near as pure as Ivory soap, baby.
Added benefit of going out to the game tonight: nothing in my body will snap or creak tomorrow, since nothing in my body will be capable of bending.

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Semper fidelis, pater.

I recently mentioned that fatherhood role models come in all shapes and sizes, including whatever shape and size you become after pitching yourself off the balcony in a spitting contest with your child.

Fortunately, for those of us looking around for role models worth emulating, there are far better examples out there, like this father of a Marine in Iraq, George Somjen, who got to hang out in Gene Simmons' mother's basement, which was filled--of course--with Kiss memorabilia. How cool is that, right?

But, rather than being blinded by celebrity, Somjen keeps things in perspective:

He keeps a file, part dopey celebrity news, part scandal and bad behavior, part painful slices of life from the war.

He pulled out a clip. It was about Britney Spears. “Recently I was sent to this very humbling place called rehab,” she was quoted as saying. “I truly hit rock bottom.” Mr. Somjen rolled his eyes. “You know what, Britney? Iraq’s a humbling place. Why do we hear about these people? Sure, we’ll always have celebrities. Where are the Jimmy Stewarts and the Gary Coopers? Where are the good people?"
And Somjen keeps his eye on his goal, writing to Gene Simmons after seeing him on TV:
“In that show, you cried when speaking with a veteran,” Mr. Somjen wrote. “We cry every day.” . . . He went on. “I beg you, implore you to use your fame, power and presence to help our military. I will do whatever I can to help but can never reach the multitude that you can.”
What is Somjen's goal?
What does he want? He wants to know why military personnel pay for their own uniforms and haircuts and other essentials. Why parents who can afford it have to send boxes and boxes of food and supplies overseas.
Amen, brother.

UPDATE: Wired has been reporting the inability of the Marines' bureaucracy to serve the Marines, like Somjen's son and Mama's cousin, who are in the field, doing the fighting. The series of reports includes this one:
Beginning in 2005, Marine commanders in Al Anbar began begging for thousands of heavily armored trucks, in production at several U.S. firms, to replace Humvees that were being demolished in roadside bombings. Quantico sat on the requests for nearly two years, and during that period around a thousand Americans -- including an estimated 200 Marines -- died in attacks on Humvees.

The Marine Corps did purchase approximately 60 of the 15-ton blast-proof trucks on an experimental basis for around $1 million apiece. Those trucks were hit 300 times without a single fatality.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Papa Scoops the NY Times

Try to keep up, people . . . today, the NY Times has an article about the jukebox pollster candidate who would rather hear about what's in your iPod than hear what you think about Iraq.

I'll give it to them, the article has a sweet closing:

Rob Sheffield, author of the book “Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time,” said he wished that Mrs. Clinton would choose a song she personally liked rather than deferring to the tastes of strangers. “I’m more interested in hearing what Hillary is rocking in the crib, you know?” he said. (full article)
I'm with you, Rob.

But, NY Times, where were you three days ago? Huh?

City that never sleeps, my ass.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

3B's coming out, Papa's staying in

Weeks ago, our friends D&D offered to host a coming out party of sorts for 3B, since we're clearly too busy, disorganized, or absent minded to do so ourselves. They pointed out that 3B hadn't met a number of local friends yet, and he's almost a year old.

A year, dude? It was just a year ago that we were freely going to movies, eating out, sleeping in, and doing less than three loads of laundry a day? Holy crap. Time flies.

We decided to have a brunch party today at noon, which was the mostly likely day on everyone's calendar, and a pretty good time in 3B's two-nap-a-day schedule. It made a somewhat busy weekend for us, since we just had our favorite photographer and his family over for dinner last night, but since we weren't hosting today's brunch, we figured that we could swing it.

And we were doing fine, until our neighbor from downstairs knocked on our door at 6:30 this morning and said that water was coming down through their bathroom ceiling. Their bathroom is right below our bathroom, which means that the leak was coming from our bathroom. Specifically, from our toilet. Hey, good morning, sorry about flushing our toilet into your bathroom ceiling. They were very nice about everything, and we had a pleasant conversation in their bathroom as the water from our toilet dripped out of their ceiling and exhaust fan.

We called the plumber, Karl, who recently fixed the pipes under our kitchen sink, which rotted away just months after our kitchen remodeling contractor installed them. Fortunately, he said that he could be here at noon, and that he was pretty sure, from our description, that it would be a quick fix of a broken flange.

Good news for us, but it kind of put a damper on our party plans. Specifically, on my party plans, since we decided that I'd wait here with the plumber while Mama and 3B went to the party. Mama tried to convince me that I should go, but I pointed out my lack of lactation capability, which pretty much closed the conversation.

Since we had some time on our hands, and since we had both just chugged our iced coffees, we headed right out to Brugger's to make a pit stop and to pick up some bagels for the party as well as one for 3B to eat as we drove to Giant to pick up some fruit for a salad. After we got home, we put 3B down for his nap and waited for Karl to arrive and for 3B to wake up. Karl got here right at noon, and eventually we decided to wake 3B up at 12:20. We'd rather he got up on his own, but he'd been down for three hours, which is a pretty good stretch.

So, now I'm hanging out here with an open sewer pipe and Karl, who says that it's much worse than he thought--there was no flange on the pipe at all, the previous owner had just mounted the toilet directly to the drain pipe. Eventually, the wax ring had worn away and been flushed down the pipe. "I'm sorry to say it, but the previous owner knew what they were doing. They stiffed you." I explained that it wasn't the first time we found that out. He's drilling holes for the new flange now, and should be done soon. After I sign over 3B's freshman year college tuition to Karl for coming out on a Sunday, I'll be headed down to the party myself. You think that I'll get a reduced weekend rate, since it's a rainy, muggy day?

All we have to do after that is replace our downstairs neighbor's bathroom ceiling--looks like community college for 3B's first two years. And continue genuflecting in their general direction every time we see them.

Sorry again about flushing our toilet on your heads and all.

Woo hoo. Party.

P.S. In the meantime, I'm reading today's NYTimes magazine article about my favorite jukebox pollster candidate. Sure, I could be reading the articles about dangerous games for boys or starting ages for kindergarten, but that would take all the surprise out of parenting. What's the fun in that?

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Role Models

Role models come in all shapes and sizes. I, for example, will get to explain to 3B why one might be willin' after some weed, whites, and wine. And Sarah will get to explain hermaphrodite midget porn to her kids.

And this man will get to explain . . . well, he has a lot to explain:

Fri Jun 1, 2:29 PM ET

BERLIN (Reuters) - A 43-year-old German man was taken to hospital in critical condition after he fell off a second story balcony during a spitting contest with his 12-year-old son, police said Friday.

A spokesman for the police in the eastern town of Cottbus said the man in Forst had apparently lost his balance after thrusting too far forward in his attempt to outspit his son.

He tumbled over the ledge and landed on a balcony of the ground floor apartment, police said. He was taken to hospital in a rescue helicopter.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

We can see through your masks

Seriously, she can't pick a song without a focus group of 10,000 of her closest friends?

Funny . . . I didn't see this song on the ballot.

Not that she's hanging on my every scrap of wisdom for guidance--she's too busy blanketing the country with spam asking for any scrap of wisdom to do that--but this doesn't stand a chance of engaging me with her campaign, or with her. This just makes me think that she couldn't even pick songs from a jukebox, much less positions on issues to create a platform, without making sure that her choices were OK with every person in the bar.

What a way to demonstrate leadership. And to avoid asking real questions like, "How do you like my vote on Iraq now?" Or, "What story would you believe about my vote this week?"

I would maybe cut her some more slack if she wasn't so tone deaf all the freakin' time. Or if she wasn't the only smart, cutthroat, roughly liberal candidate who could possibly keep the country from being run by a man as slimy as a salamander--and with the name to prove it, no less. But she is tone deaf, and she's not the smartest kid in the room.

Welcome to the show, Senator. Take a seat, if you can find one; everyone else has been here awhile and made themselves comfortable. We can smell a poser from a mile upwind, and we play for keeps, so I hope, for your sake, that this email isn't your A game.

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