Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RTT: Triumph of reason! Social networking failure! Hunger Games hypocrisy


I'm back on the random wagon!  After you read below, click above and go to Keely's new and improved site to see more random.

I'm trying to watch the kids, paint the nursery (the "real" nursery, not the walk-in closet the girls currently sleep in), and prepare for my final class at the digital arts vo-tech where I'm teaching English Lit to four pretty nice guys. So I'll be brief and prosaic.

Item 1: Three weeks after I called for the final inspection on the addition I started building several months before the twins were born, I finally passed!  Now we can legally move into the addition (in which we have been living for a year.)

The big issue, which I dramatically illustrated here, was that my AC unit is too close to the property line.  So after weeks of negotiating with inspectors, I finally got the supervisor of the whole department to come out with a couple of guys who work for the city dealing with noise complaints and check out the situation.  They were all very cool and, even though according to their decibel-measuring machinery I would be out of compliance with the acceptable nighttime noise levels, agreed that there was really no way the neighbor would ever hear the AC, what with the high ambient noise levels, his double-paned windows, the six-foot tall concrete wall and 20-ft wide driveway between us, and the fact that his bedroom is clear on the other side of the house.  Plus, the neighbor's AC (like everyone else's in the neighborhood) is out of compliance as well, so he has no room to complain.

Yeah.  That's what I've been saying.

So now I have to finish up some painting and make everything look nice for the appraiser, who's coming tomorrow to determine whether we'll be able to refinance.

Item 2:  I bumped into a woman that I used to often see at the dog park, when my previous dog, Beautiful Perfect Greta, was alive.  This woman and I had always had great conversations, and I always hoped we would start hanging out socially outside of the park.  But Greta died, our dog park habits changed, we had kids, and I hardly ever saw my would-be friend anymore.

I had seen her walking her dogs about a month ago, and we briefly caught up, promising to contact each other via the interwebs for some proper conversation.  But I couldn't find her on Facebook and didn't have an email address for her.  Plus, who wants to talk to people on boring, old-fashioned email?

So when we saw each other last night walking our dogs at the park, we slowed down, removed our respective ear buds and re-committed to our future online communication:

Her: I found your blog...

Me: I looked for you on facebook, but there are a lot of people with your name...

Her: Did you spell it right? [spells name]

Me: I tried every permutation...

Her: I'll look you up then.  How do you spell your name?

Me: [spells name]

Her: Okay, I'll find you...[gets dragged away by her four dogs]

I realized that she might not recognize me by my Facebook profile since it's a picture of me playing in a punk rock band approximately 25 years ago.  I think I look pretty much the same, but other people fail to see much similarity.  I guess I could update the picture.  Or I suppose I could walk over to her house, which is about two blocks from mine.

Item the third:  One of my many sisters-in-law stayed with us for the last couple days.  She's a cinematographer, photographer, foodsnob, obsessive gardener, and Cobra's godmother.  (A film she shot recently, called "Girlfriend," is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, so if you're in the neighborhood, check it out.)  Anyway, while she was here, my wife turned her on to this series of young adult books called The Hunger Games.  I'm sure you've heard of it.  Everyone, from Mama Pop to Slate.com, is talking about it.  So my sis-in-law--we'll call her Zi Q--spent pretty much all of her visit reading, talking about, or thinking about these books.

Here's the conversation the three of us had last night:

Zi Q: This should totally be made into a movie...

Dr. Mom: I know!

Zi Q: We should write a screenplay for it!

Dr. Mom: Yeah!!

Me: Phhht...

Dr. Mom: What?

Me: Yeah...because who's more qualified to adapt a series of novels into a screenplay than a doctor and a cinematographer?

Dr. Mom: You and I could write it.  You've written a screenplay.

Me: But then I would have to read it...

Dr. Mom: It's really good.  You should read it anyway...

Me: It's beneath me...

I have made a pretty fun hobby of mocking the books that my wife reads.  She likes a lot of fluffy fantasy, romance, sci-fi, and YA fiction.  Honestly, I can understand her not wanting to read serious stuff after spending her days dealing with people who are often sick, usually poor, and sometimes crazy.  But nonetheless, it's fun to act superior to her, and she doesn't really seem to mind my little game.

But she could have easily called me out on hypocrisy charges for last night's mockery by reminding me what I've been reading.  Currently on my nightstand is a wacky YA story involving mechanical birds, shadow creatures, water genies, and floating gardeners fighting over the fate of a body of water from which all stories originate.  I'm reading Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which I bought not realizing that it was meant for younger readers. At least I think it's meant for younger readers.  Or maybe its deceptively simple language and whimsical plot has made me think that it's for kids, but I'm just too dense to get the conceit.  Anyway, it's Rushdie, which makes it legitimate.  Not like some ridiculous fluff about a dystopian future where children have to fight each other to the death to win food for their communities.  That's just silly.

Here are some pics Zi Q took while taking a break from her silly books:

     Cobra shy smile

Butterbean: Do I dare eat a pea?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Yes, I have my children on leashes. You got a problem with that?

I'm practicing responses for the public debut of the Eddie Bauer* Harness Buddies that arrived here from Amazon earlier this week. 

I'm sure you've seen these things before.  They are totally adorable little plush animals (we got monkeys), that ride on the backs of toddlers and have a pouch just big enough for an hour's supply of Cheerios or a much smaller stuffed monkey.  But make no mistake, these hella-cute accessories are restraining devices first and foremost.  Leashes, if I may speak frankly.

This cuddly fellow's detachable tail functions as the business end of the leash, allowing parents to keep their children close by while they stroll across busy streets sipping cappuccino and texting.  Or it can be tied to a tree in the front yard when Daddy needs some "me time."

With older children, parents can even use the monkey leash to have their kids pull them around on skateboards, or tie the tail to their bicycles and let the kids burn off some energy by running alongside the pedaling parent.

Who could object to such a fun and ingenious safety device?

I have some difficulty imagining that anyone would make judgmental comments on my use of baby leashes because, a) most people in my neighborhood are pretty polite; and, b) Anyone who thinks for two seconds about the challenges of wrangling toddler twins in public will see the wisdom of our decision.

On the other hand, I encounter a lot of misapprehension and unsolicited comments about the Halti-Lead I use on my humongous dog.  This is a halter that goes over the dog's head and loops over her snout, leading her by gently guiding her head in the desired direction rather than dragging her (or being dragged) by her massive neck.

A lot of people think that the halter is a muzzle (or "muffle"), and assume that she is vicious.  And sometimes even after I explain how it works, they still go "awww..." as if to say, "Poor doggy is out of control and Daddy makes you wear a snout-strangling muffle instead of training you..."  To which I respond, "Gotta go now...c'mon Stelly-booger," by which I mean, "I'm not going to waste my breath explaining that it's in Stella's DNA to pull things since she's a drafting dog, and she would happily asphyxiate herself on a choke chain or collapse her windpipe on a regular collar if I didn't keep her on 'heel' at all times--which she would do if I told her to but I prefer to give her some freedom while she's on leash, and if you think this loose fitting halter could keep her from biting your face off if she felt like it you are a complete moron and I'd just as soon you continue to think she is dangerous and give us both a wide berth.  Have a nice day."

So based on the frequency of the above exchange, I guess it's conceivable that strangers would express their disapproval of my baby-leashing.

Also, I had an interesting conversation on this topic in a class I was teaching before our twins were even born.  It was a college composition class that I was teaching to a bunch of Marines and sailors (one of my favorite teaching experiences ever, btw), and I have no idea how we went from discussing the typical rhetorical moves in academic writing to looking at a projected image of a Harness Buddy monkey backpack leash and discussing our feelings about it.  Because digression is just not in my nature.

Many of the students did not have strong feelings about the harness.  But several of them were absolutely dead set against it for reasons that they could not fully express but amounted to, "that's just wrong!  Treating your child like a dog?  Wrong, wrong, wrong."

What fascinated me about this conversation was the demographic breakdown of opinions.  Not to be racist or anything,* but every one of the African-American students (33% of the class--but like you, I'm totally colorblind in this respect so who's counting?), were absolutely against the leash, while Latinos (21%), Whites (38%), and Others (whatevernumberisleft%), thought it was a pretty good idea or really didn't care.

This turned into a discussion about disciplining children in general, and the African-Americans (90% parents themselves), to a person, agreed that it was necessary to spank kids, while everyone else disagreed or didn't care.  Then it turned into a discussion about race, because, unlike me, these students were not colorblind, and were in fact quite comfortable talking about what they saw as racial or cultural differences.  And this is one of the things I loved about this particular group of students.  As military people, they were used to working with folks from all walks of life, and were happy to give each other shit about anything without concern for offending one another.  "White people always think this...,"  "Black people always say that...," "Army guys are such retards...," "Coast Guard guys are so lazy..."  And not once did anyone get angry!

What was I talking about?

Oh yeah.  Monkeybackpackbabyleashes.

So I am more or less prepared to respond to anyone who gets judgey about the leashes.  I will simply say, "Well, the kids love to wear them [totally true--watch the video], and it keeps them close to me instead of running into the street."

By which I will mean: "What do you want me to do, asshole?  Jerk them around by the arm and yell at them all the time?  Is that more humane?  You would probably chastise me for not having my dog leashed, if she wasn't, but she always is [as far as you know].  You know why my dog is on a leash?  To keep her safe and out of trouble.  Because I care about her.  So I'm supposed to just let my precious miracle angels run loose?  Yeah?  Here--I'll take the leashes off and let you show me how to properly care for two toddlers at once!  No?  Don't want to give it a shot?  That's what I thought.  Also, stop being so racist against my half-breed children and my vicious Swiss dog."     

*I was surprised to find that Eddie Bauer still exists.  I thought they had disappeared with the first generation of Ford Explorers.

*I always teach my students that the use of this phrase serves the rhetorical purpose of excusing the racist comments that inevitably follow.

I'm doing the "Blog Hop" thing again through Dad at the Chalkboard.  Click on the links below to see what my competition the rest of the daddyblogging community is up to!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh yeah. That's right. I'm a teacher.

I haven't been sharing much about my current teaching gig lately.  With anyone.  My wife asks me how class went, and I reply, "fine," just as I used to do when my mom asked her sullen teenage son how school was.  Nothing bad, nothing great, just "fine." 

This lack of response is odd to my wife because she is used to me being, when I'm teaching, completely consumed by it.  In my past teaching lives, I would spend entire weekends in my "office" (chaise strewn with laptop and papers), muttering, cursing, clickity-clacking out pointed yet encouraging comments, and periodically sharing a ridiculous turn of phrase or malapropism.  (Dr. Mom's standard response to my announcing these gaffes was to shout, "GOLDDIGGER!!!!!!!," a verbatim quote of a one-word sentence in an essay I received from a student in 12th grade AP English about the "Wife of Bath's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.)

The reason I haven't been consumed with my current class is that it's just so easy--for my students as well as for me--that I sometimes forget about it.  I preside over a classroom of four students.  There used to be five, but one dropped the class, supposedly because of a financial aid issue.  Curiously, she was the one student who consistently complained about the workload.

This "workload" (based on the template given to me by the dean of the college) consists mostly of me reading short stories and poems aloud, giving a little lecture about certain literary elements, and then conducting a class discussion.  I require students to contribute to a class blog twice a week, and there is a weekly assignment wherein the students write something in the style of whatever we have been reading in class (i.e., short story, epic poem, dramatic monologue.)  And after six weeks of this, they receive General Ed credit toward their bachelor's degrees.     

My students don't take much work home with them, and neither do I.  They're not "bad" students, and I hope I'm not a bad teacher: it's just that the culture of these particular hallowed halls does not include notions of "studying," or "doing homework." 

Let me explain.  I'm teaching this class at a tiny, for-profit college that specializes in computer graphics, animation, and web design.  I think of it as a digital trade school, but it's actually accredited, and offers associate's, bachelor's, and even master's degrees.  Most of the students work full time and take between two and five classes per six-week "module," which is ostensibly intensive enough to be equivalent to a traditional college semester.  Each class meets for about five hours a week, so you can see that it would be difficult for anyone to find time to squeeze homework into their schedule if they were working and taking a full load.

Despite the snobbery you surely detect in the above description, I'm actually ambivalent about these kinds of institutions.  On one hand, it irks me that someone can get college credit for an English class that includes no reading and a total of about ten pages of unrevised reflective and creative writing, when I had to typically read a thousand pages or so of difficult text and write 25 pages of polished analysis to earn that credit.

On the other hand, I'm all for technical and vocational schools.  If I had been an academic counselor in the high school where I used to teach, I would have pushed about half of my students toward vocational school, instead of insisting that a four-year college was the only route worth pursuing, which is what the counselors actually do.  In fact, if I were on the school board, I would campaign to change many of the schools in the district to vocational/technical high schools.

As a guy who made a living building houses for fifteen years before I got my teaching credential and eventually my MA, I was--and continue to be--a little appalled by young adults who don't know how to drive a nail, twist a wrench, or read a tape measure.  Many of my high school students would have been better served with classes that taught them to weld, fix engines, or wire houses than to write about their feelings.

So I'm okay with the idea that the place where I'm teaching is not a "real" university.  It's a great alternative to a traditional liberal arts education and it's probably more likely to lead to gainful employment in a relatively healthy sector of the economy.  And I'm okay with my role as a cultural ambassador, providing enrichment in the area of arts and letters.  And I'm definitely okay with the tiny class size and paucity of essay-grading responsibility, which translates into a decent wage for me.

But despite my populist sensibilities, the idea that someone who completes this kind of program ends up with the same degree that took my peers and me four (or more *cough*) years of full time (minus keg parties, road trips, despondent inertia, etc.) studying still sticks in my craw.

It's a truism that the BA is the new high school diploma, and the MA is the new BA, but do the labels we use really matter?  Should a BA from a technical college have an asterisk next to it?  Do employers care whether your bachelor's came from Ivy U, Very Large State College, or Turnpike Tech?  Should they?  Or is it only snobs like me who think about these things?   

Friday, August 20, 2010

Emasculation Accomplished?

Yesterday I had to speak harshly to poor little Butterbean.  The resulting cryfest pretty much melted the crusty old lump of coal in my chest cavity.

The reason for the stern tone from the old man?  Butterbean and her sister were in real danger of being urinated on.  By yours truly.

It was mid-morning, long before the twins' first nap, and shortly after my first half-gallon of coffee.  I thought I would discreetly pop into the bathroom, leaving the door open so I could keep an eye on the girls.  But the toddlers have been fascinated by toilets lately, and they raced in to investigate.

I was able to block Cobra with one leg, and in any case she got distracted by something shiny in the bathtub.  But Butterbean would not be dissuaded.  I shifted side to side to thwart her approach, but she proved quite deft at slipping around my leg and grabbing for the rim of the bowl.  Meanwhile, I was trying to maintain my aim and pressure control, with limited success.  Finally, I hissed something like "BACK OFF" at her, which spurred abject anguish on her part and corresponding waves of guilt on mine.

In a world in which gender roles have become less and less relevant, men have always felt that we could count on our one inalienable birthright--standing up while peeing.

That's why when my wife, upon hearing of yesterday's traumatic events, suggested that I pee sitting down, thereby leaving my hands free and eliminating the dangerous freefall zone that so entices the children, I sputtered.  I have known European guys who sit while peeing, but that hardly make it any less effeminate.  I might as well wear clogs and manpris.

As unsanitary and dangerous as it can be, upright bi-pedal urination is a hallmark of masculinity celebrated by American boys and men from the moment we acquire the necessary skills.  Unlike our female counterparts, we can pee virtually anywhere, unencumbered by the need for facilities or even camouflage.  Being on our feet, we are less vulnerable than sitters, ready for immediate fight or flight if necessary.

Every visit to a public urinal (the horror of doing so in flip-flops notwithstanding) is a tribute to our rough-and-ready forefathers: the soldiers, frontiersmen, cowboys, and farmers that made this country the superpower it still is today.  Not by daintily lounging on a cushy commode, but by boldly inscribing the letters U-S-A into the snowbanks of history.

Nonetheless, for the sake of my children, I am considering compromising my values.  If the situation arises again, where the levees, as it were, are crumbling against the force of the rising riverbank, I will assume the position of shame.  But as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I have embarked on a regimen of mind-over-matter willpower exercises, and daily kegling, to obviate the complete surrender of my masculinity.

Check this out.  I'm playing a game called "Blog Hop," sponsored by Brian H at Dad at the Chalkboard.  You should click below and try it too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

RTT: FIRST WORD--ON VIDEO (didn't bury the lede that time), Kafkaesque bureaucracy-butting, Asian market fun


Read below.  Click above.  Random it up.  Thanks Keely, who is, as I have mentioned previously, the best.

It seems like it was just last Tuesday that I was saying how I shouldn't be playing blog because I was getting ready for the building inspector to come by for the final inspection on my addition.  Well, he came by.  And gave me an arm-long list of items to address.  I took care of all the issues, except for the one that I have been fighting ever since: my air-conditioner condenser (the big machine that sits outside of the house and makes a lot of noise when the a.c. comes on) is too close to the property line, per article blah blah point blah in the 2008 Mechanical Building Code of the state of California. 

Here is the condensed (pun alert) version of the conversations I have had with the three inspectors since then [my inner monologue in brackets]:

Tuesday 8/10 and Thursday 8/12

Inspector 1: De problem is dat your condenser is too close to de property line.

Me: But...but two inspectors have already signed off on all my mechanical and electrical...how was I supposed to know?

Insp 1: Your contractor should have known...

Me:  Well, my buddy is an HVAC guy and he helped me install it...[did my buddy say something about property lines?  I can't remember]...

Insp 1: You have to move it...your neighbor can sue de city for de noise...

Me:  But there's nowhere to move it to...your guys said it was okay...I'm just an ignorant homeowner-builder [don't mention your contractor's license, bigmouth]...there's a twenty-foot wide driveway and a six-foot high block wall between the unit and the neighbor's house...my neighbor? complain about noise?--are you kidding me?--we have fire trucks and ghetto birds and dogs and rock bands and traffic on this street 24/7...we don't have any money to move this thing even if there was a spot for it...we need to get this final inspection so we can refinance so we can pay off our construction loan...WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN DID YOU NOT SEE THE CHILDREN GRANDMA BRING OUT THE CHILDREN AGAIN!!!

Insp:  *robot heart begins to soften* I will talk to my supervisor, but he will enforce de code.  Dat's just de way he is.

Insp and Me: chit chat blah blah..

Insp: Nice neighborhood, how long have you been here?

Me: Blah blah where do you live, oh, nice neighborhood...where did you live before that?  Oh--Eritrea?  Blah blah never been to Africa, blah blah civil war blah Ethiopia blah blah Somalia,

Insp 1: Only honest politician in Africa is Mandela...

Me: Indeed

Insp 1:  I don't know if you read the Bible...

Me: *

Insp 1:  The only true kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven...

Me:  Word to the Little Baby Jesus.

Thurs 8/12-Tues 8/17 (on phone)

Me: So the nice inspector tells me you can't make an exception for my a.c. condenser even though it's over twenty feet from my neighbor's house, separated by a block wall, and you guys signed off on it during two previous inspections...

Supervisor: That is correct.  We talked about it in our meeting and my supervisor said we must enforce the code.  We can get sued, you know...

Me:  Can I have your supervisor's number?

Supervisor: Sure.  He won't make an exception though.

Me: What's that number?

Supervisor: He's a very busy man...

Me: Number, please...

Supervisor:  It'll be a waste of your time...

Me: Phone number.  Give.  Now.

One hour ago

Me: *recounts entire story, including birth of twins, their first steps, etc.*

Superdupervisor: Yeah...that sounds familiar.  Someone brought it up in the meeting yesterday.  So there's a six-foot wall between the unit and the neighbor?

Me: Yup.

Superdupervisor: And a driveway?

Me: Roger that...

Superdupervisor: Hmm...can you send me an email with photos and information about the decibel level of the unit?

Me: 10-4, good buddy.

So that's what I should be working on right now.  But before I go, some cute video.

Butterbean's First Word!

Well, her first common noun, anyway.  Both of the girls have been saying mamamadadadaddada for a long time.

You may remember from last Tuesday my discussing the twins' footwear fetish.  It is not surprising, then, what Butterbean's first word would be.  (Listen very carefully)

Fun at the Asian Market


Cobra in the jackfruit

 That's a really good price for pork bung

Random cute video:

I put this on YouTube a couple weeks ago just so I could send it to some friends, and now a bunch of people have found it and watched it.  Maybe it will go bacterial or whatever.  Anyway, it's the twins laughing their fool heads off at an episode of "Hyperbole and a Half, " with which of course you are familiar.  If you're not, you have been denying yourself one of life's great pleasures.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Follicles for Algernon: One Man's Struggle with Male Pattern Baldness

Clark Kent’s Lunchbox Badge

Today I'm guest posting over at Clark Kent's Lunchbox.  Ron Mattocks, the proprietor of the blog, is one of the OG's of Daddy Blogging, as well as an honest-to-God author with a book--Sugar Milk--that I am currently enjoying and you should rush out and buy immediately, and a regular writing gig at Houston Family Magazine, among a million other projects.  And with his recent appointment as Carnival Cruise Ship Ambassador, he is also a diplomat of the high seas!

Although Ron can be as funny and ironic as anyone in the blogosphere, he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, and his essential nice guyness comes through in every post and every page of his book.  I think that's the secret of his massive popularity among readers and other bloggers.  Don't tell Ron this, but whenever I mention something from one of his posts, or from our correspondence, my wife says, "He's the earnest guy, right?"  And I say "yeah."  Usually I would say "earnest" with a hint of snark in my voice, but in Ron's case, I say it with admiration.  

In addition to being a wonderful writer and an all around mensch, he's got great hair, and for that I can never forgive him.  Thanks, Ron, for all your encouragement, and for this opportunity to post on your esteemed blog! 


I’ve gotten to the point in my life where, like a lot of men, I need to make a decision about my hair. The options, however, are limited. I guess it would be more accurate to say that the reasonable options are limited. I could always go for something like the look rocked by one of the cashiers at my local Home Depot: kind of a William Shakespeare thing, curling under at the jawline, with the few remaining wisps on top swept back like the gossamer wings of a dragonfly. Or I could spend hours each day maintaining an elaborate comb-over like the guy who sits in the old K-Car filled with newspapers and plastic hangers in the parking lot by the tennis courts.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RTT: Inspection, Shoe Fetish, ATV's, Breasts


The last thing I should be doing right now is, to use my mom's excellent phrase, playing blog.  In a few hours, the inspector comes over to do the final inspection of the addition I have been building on our house for, oh, about a year and a half.  I actually was mostly finished almost a year ago, but we ran out of money and my wife had to go back to work and I had to watch the kids, so it was a little tough to get around to doing some of the small but important stuff like putting handrails on the deck.  Nonetheless, we have been happily living in the remodeled house--which, like our family, is twice the size it was a couple years ago--since last September.  Without the benefit of a final inspection or Certificate of Occupancy.  So, if the inspector, who I have not yet met, is a ballbuster, I suppose he could inflict all kinds of bureaucratic and financial pain on us.

Shoe Fetish
The babies have shoe fetishes.  We have a big bag of baby shoes that people have given us, and every morning, the girls march over to it and select their shoes.  This is one of their first orders of business.  I don't know if this is a normal aspect of child development or if something in their genes is endowing them with advanced shoe aptitude, but they stick their little 13-month-old feet right in them.  They also stick their feet (shod or bare) into any grown-up shoes that are lying around, and can get quite upset if said shoes are taken away from them.
At least they come by it honest, as my dad would say.  Dr. Mom easily owns 150 pairs of shoes, many of them in boxes in the garage and in bins stuffed under beds.  And, according to her dad, there are more boxes at her parents' house.  I'm pretty sure the last time she got rid of a pair of shoes was when we moved to California ten years ago.  It's not an expensive habit--she loves a bargain--but it takes up a lot of room.  
And lest you be tempted to say, "Hah!  So, Mr. I'm-going-to-raise-my-girls-in-a-gender-neutral-environment!  There you have it!  Incontrovertible proof that gender roles are hardwired and not socially constructed!" let me admit that the shoe fetish gene runs strong in both parents.  I have at times owned upwards of twenty pairs of shoes, which I think is quite a few for a male who is not Kanye West.  However, I rationalized this seeming excess by thinking about many of my shoes as technical footwear--not just "shoes," but "gear."  Shoes for walking, running, hiking, biking, water sports, etc.  And some activities call for multiple pairs.  Biking, for instance requires at least one pair for each kind of bike; and for hiking, one should be prepared for different climates, loads, lengths of hike, and colors of technical pantwear.
If you still think Butterbean and Cobra are destined by their chromosomes to love shoes, princess paraphernalia, and hunky vampires, observe the following video of Cobra shredding on the ATV she inherited from her boy cousins:

I learned from a lactivist Facebook friend that not only was last week World Breastfeeding Week, but that all of August is breastfeeding month!  So my piece on Daddy Dialectic will be relevant for another couple weeks, after which point, people will forget all about boobies until next year.


Okay.  I better go do some last minute cable-tightening, circuit-labeling, and hatch-battening before Herr Inspektor arrives.  Also, I better find outfits for the girls that are most likely to soften his cold, cold heart.

Update/Buzzkill:  Herr Inspektor's heart was cold indeed.  I have a list of twelve items I need to take care of before he will sign off on the inspection, some of them small, and some of them potentially a big headache.  Many of these items were passed by other inspectors along the way, but that doesn't matter.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A dad's take on the breastfeeding wars

Today I'm posting on Daddy Dialectic, Jeremy Adam Smith (author of Daddy Shift and spokesdad for modern American parents)'s group blog.  


As World Breastfeeding Week winds down and the streamers and buntings are removed from city streets, the breast-shaped floats are garaged until next year, fountains in plazas once again feature cascades of chlorinated water instead of spurting milk, and the piped-in mamo-centric music at the mall fades out, I find myself reflecting on how fundamentalists on both sides of the breastfeeding war have misdirected their ire and played into the respective hands of two powerful corporate cartels: Big Formula and Big Breast Pump
To continue, follow this link...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

RTT: Stuff I thought about while walking the dog


Read below.  Click above.  Go see Keely and the gang at The Un Mom for random fun.

Perhaps because of my recent brush with death and flirtation with narcotics, I have had some contemplative moments lately.  Last night, for instance, while walking Stella at the park (blasting ipod, avoiding sprinklers and eye contact with cruisers), I fell into deep reverie.  Here are the things I thought about

Walking past the tennis courts
it occurred to me once again that lot of bands become more conventional (i.e. commercially viable) over the years, but Radiohead seems to get less conventional even as they get more popular.  Their first album, "Pablo Honey" was a pretty blatant homage to (i.e. ripoff of) R.E.M., except for the song "Creep" which was a brilliant teen-angst anthem that didn't sound like any other band that came before them.

They found their legs on their sophomore album (traditionally the suckiest for most bands), "The Bends," which lived up to the promise of "Creep" and is still my favorite.  I love every track on that album, except for the last one, "Street Spirit" which sounds a little too much like "Dust in the Wind."

Their next album, "OK Computer," has some great songs on it, but doesn't hang together the way "The Bends" does.  Same goes for every album after that.  It's funny that "In Rainbows" would be the album that marked the apogee of their critical and commercial success, even though it's much less accessible than "The Bends."

Although "The Bends" is one of my favorite albums of all time, I'm glad that Radiohead have continued to experiment with different sounds and concepts, even if the songs that result are "difficult" or even annoying.  "The Bends" is as close to perfect as an album can get, and trying to recreate it would sully that achievement.

Near the velodrome
I caught a whiff of death, and it made me recoil a little and call Stella before she caught wind of it and went to explore.

When I lived in Virginia, I was used to smelling roadkill, or the festering carcasses of woodland creatures in the subtropical forest; but in arid SoCal, dead things become petrified before they decay, so the smell last night startled me.

Back in Virginia, I would ride variations on a 20-mile bike route with a couple friends about three times a week, and it was not unusual to find a decapitated deer alongside the road where a "sportsman" had tossed it after removing his trophy.  Therefore it didn't faze us when, one week in August, the same quarter mile stretch of country road smelled like overripe flesh every day, causing us to hold our breath as we passed.

Only later, after the newspaper reported that a woman's body had been found under eight inches of leaves just off the pavement, did we start talking about how there had been something different--sweeter--about the smell we had been avoiding all week.  

Rounding the corner by the baseball field
I wondered why we bother making literature a required subject in high school and college.  I love literature and enjoy teaching it, but more and more, it strikes me as a bit frivolous.  I have tried pitching it to students several ways: "this is how we learn to empathize," or "there's this thing called 'cultural literacy'," or "reading the stories of different cultures gives us insight into human nature."  Students who are inclined to read can get a lot out of these classes, but for others, it doesn't stick.  As a high school teacher, I was shocked that many of my students seemed to have never read a book before.  Now I'm teaching college classes and I have students who can't name a novel they have read.  Seriously.

The class I'm teaching now, at a kind of digital art trade school, ends up being more of a literature "appreciation" class than a real college lit class.  And that's fine with me.  It's fun to teach and there is very little pressure on the students and virtually none on me (except for what I create for myself).  But if the idea is for the students to improve their understanding of the written word (which is kind of a prerequisite for "appreciation" as far as I'm concerned), what they really need is a few reading/writing/linguistics (rhetoric) classes, rather than a touchy-feely lit class.

We're now reading selections from Beowulf in the easiest translation I've ever encountered, and I still need to translate it for them.  They don't know words like "spawn" and "moor."  I'm supposed to teach them prose, poetry, and drama in fifteen class sessions, and they're not expected to do any reading at home.  I could spend the entire semester (or "module" as it's called here) teaching one short story. 

On my way home
I thought about a family friend who passed away recently.  She was younger than me by about eight years and had some shitty kind of cancer.  I was good friends with her older brother and had a crush on their older sister.  The only memory I have of her is playing with her when she was about two years old.  My friend and I put her in the little battery-operated swing and then later played "airplane" with her by lying on our backs and holding her up with our feet.  I think that was the first time I enjoyed playing with a baby.  It's hard to imagine that her life is already over.  

Bummed?  Sorry.  Maybe this will help:


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