Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam is Dead, Iraq on Life Support

I don't approve of capital punishment, but if anyone deserves the death penalty, it would be a mass-murdering dictator such as Saddam. That being said, I cannot condone his execution. The trial was a farce, with changing judges and defense lawyers and circus-like atmosphere, that seemed concerned only with the result. By being a party to this process, what we're showing is that we don’t respect due process, i.e., the rule of law, when it’s "inconvenient." I suppose this is consistent with what the Bush Administration has done with the detainees in Guantanamo and secret prisons in Europe. Nevertheless, I believe that if we were truly comfortable with the process, the Bush Administration would have been inclined to make a spectacle out of it rather than rushing to hold an execution at dawn with no notice. After all, what from its perspective could be better than showing the Butcher of Baghdad being brought to justice?

In reading some discussion of the appropriateness of the execution, I came across the blog of an Iraqi woman, and her post on this subject. Her blog is amazing, and I have begun to comb her archives to see the change of perspective discussed in this post --
Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?
Right now Bush is considering what next to do in Iraq, but his plan almost certainly will include an increase in the number of troops sent there. I would like to believe that the new Democratic majority would tell him to forget it, but with people like Lieberman giving the Democrats their majority, I'm not optimistic. This analysis reflects my view on the subject -- why does the focus seem to be on figuring out what to do with more troops, a suggestion opposed by most of the military experts, rather than figuring out the best step to take next? Then again, I should know better than to hold any expectations of reasonableness from this Administration -- starting with the invasion in the first place, I have yet to see any sign that said reasonableness exists with respect to its Iraq policies.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

55 Minutes of Hell

[Updated 9:30pm] Though I'm biased and have little to compare her to, I think that all things considered, Emelia is a pretty easy baby. That being said, like all babies, she has sleep issues. I'm not talking about sleeping through the night (though that would be nice). The biggest problem sleepwise that she has is that other than occasionally falling asleep in her swing or during a long car ride, Emelia doesn't fall sleep unless she's being held or fed (in which case she's also sort of being held). We believe this is a problem, but we've been reluctant to do anything about it because we don't like her crying when she doesn't have to.

On Saturday night, I got Emelia to sleep about 2 hours after the getting her to sleep process had started (though I succeeded, it was Kathy who had been put in most of the time trying), but when I put her down, she awoke and started crying. Frustrated as I was, I decided that right then and there, we would let her "cry herself out," and fall to sleep on her own. After several minutes of this, with no sign that Emelia would be letting up anytime soon, Kathy interceded, because Friday night had been a late night and her folks needed sleep. So I rocked her to sleep again, she woke up again shortly after I put her down, and Kathy got her to sleep about an hour after that.

Yesterday, during the daytime, we decided to try putting Emelia down when she clearly was in need of a nap but wasn't asleep. When we put her down, she cried almost immediately, and continued for about 25 minutes. Then she quieted down, and stayed quiet for about five minutes before she resumed crying. Kathy and I were clueless about how long we should let her be on her own, and got increasingly concerned. But Kathy's Dad seemed comfortable with leaving her alone, and neither of us wanted to be the one to give in. After another 25 minutes, however, I caved, and got her down. She had kicked all her covers off, and she seemed quite shaken. She also seemed somewhat hoarse, though that might have been my imagination. It took a few hours before she seemed her usual self, but by nighttime she seemed in good spirits again, ready to stay up as usual.

So we're not sure where to go from here. Do we try again, for as long or longer? Do we try today or let a few days go by? Did we wait too long to begin "weaning" her from being held to sleep, and now will have to wait months before we can try again? Honestly we have no idea. In the meantime, however, here's a picture from Christmas Day, while she was in the kitchen as the turkey dinner was being prepared.



Kathy went up this afternoon and put an overtired Emelia down. Kathy stayed in the room to shake the crib, to let Emelia know she was there (consistent with Rebecca's suggestion in the comments). Emelia never cried, and after 15 minutes or so, went to sleep. Seems like there's hope, which is something good to keep in mind given that Emelia's wide awake right now and shows little sign of wanting to go to bed in the next couple of hours.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Yesterday was a Long Day

Worked a half day, then metro'd to the airport to pick up the SUV we're renting. Then back to the house, Kathy and I loaded the car up to the gills, added Emelia and our dogs, and we're on our way by 2:30. Emelia is screaming up a storm from the get-go, it's raining, and traffic is going nowhere. One hour on the road, and we're still inside the DC Beltway, but at least Emelia has settled down. Two hours in, and we've gotten just past Baltimore. Finally, just before 5pm, we start moving in earnest, though with the rain, fog, traffic, we still can't go very fast. We stop briefly around 7pm, to let the dogs go to the bathroom, then press onward for another hour for a stop in a Northern New Jersey brewpub. We stay there for about 90 minutes, enough time to relax and enjoy a surprisingly good meal (and a sampler of beers). Back on the road, traffic creeps along on the rotten New York roads, rain still falling steadily, Emelia crying occasionally but generally ok. Arrive in Grandma's and Grandpa's house around 1:30, unload the car, head to bed around 2:30, Kathy stays up another hour with a wound-up daughter.

But now we're here, and we can enjoy our week up here. It even makes yesterday worth it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hello Giggly Girl!

Here's Emelia this evening, at six weeks old. I also just weighed her, comparing my weight while holding her to my weight alone -- assuming that gave a reasonably accurate number, she weighed 12.5 pounds clothed (and in need of changing), so figure she's at least 11.5 pounds. Wow, she's getting big!



Monday, December 18, 2006

I Couldn't Get By Like This, Could I?

An article in today's Washington Post discusses a group of friends who decided not to buy anything new for a full year, and who, now that they've done it once, have pledged to go another year. I'm mildly anti-stuff -- I try to figure out whether something I'm considering buying is something I want or something I need. If it's the latter, no problem, but when it's the former I've been known to agonize over the purchase. For example, my mp3 player isn't in the best of shape, and I've been considering for several months whether to replace it, or to keep using it until I run it into the ground (also influenced by the knowledge that technology will only get better and cheaper the longer I wait). The bulk of my purchases are things to be experienced rather than things to hold onto, e.g., food, beer, travel, soccer games. But I'll still buy "stuff," mostly music. I never buy used clothes, but then again, I generally only buy clothes when what I have has worn out.

These people have taken my general approach to a whole new level. This year, for example, we bought items to replace things that broke (CD player, computer, toaster), and never considered buying used. It might have been beneficial to have done so, and certainly would have from the perspective of the landfill, but what if the used items had only lasted a few months? I have so little confidence in consumer electronics lasting for any length of time that I'd rather spend the extra few bucks on getting it new, with warranty, than risk used.

Do they own homes? When we needed ties for my downspout, would their compact have allowed the purchase of them new, or would I have to have looked for them on a scrap heap?

So many questions unanswered, but at the very least it gives me an aspirational goal, and it makes my anti-consumerist bent seem just a little less crazy.

*****

Just a little note to wish my folks happy anniversary -- 41 years and counting, hooray!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So about that Parenting Thing...

I realize that while I've posted some pics, and mentioned what we've been up to with Emelia, I haven't really discussed much of how I'm adjusting to the whole notion of parenting. The quick answer is that I'm truly enjoying being a parent -- sometimes I feel like I could hold Emelia forever, singing her songs with made-up lyrics and silly rhymes.

Given that Kathy is nursing, she's the one who currently carries the bulk of the burden. She's the one who has to get up for the nighttime feedings -- after the first week, Kathy's been sending me into another bedroom so I can get some sleep, and she gets up for the feedings on her own. I've encouraged her to pump, and while she's started to do that, she hasn't been doing it consistently. When she does, I'll be able to pitch in on this front more.

My role has been as assistant, and as soother -- I seem to do a better job of getting E settled when feeding isn't involved. This may be due in part to the fact that I haven't been able to soothe using milk, so I've had to develop alternate methods. The most common position for me to hold her has been over my shoulder while I walk or rock her. Unless she's hungry, most of the time she settles down quickly when I do that, and often falls asleep that way.

Friday night we had our annual holiday beer party, and Emelia was completely overstimulated -- really tired, but too wound up to go to sleep. Kathy took E upstairs to get away from the chaos, and I played host. I knew that this was the most effective combination, partly for Emelia, and partly because I'm the more social one, but still I felt awful that I wasn't up there helping to calm E down. Finally, after most of the company had left and it was safe to bring Emelia back downstairs, I held her for nearly an hour, soothing her until she fell asleep. It didn't make up for the rest of the evening, but at least I was able to help.

I have two minds on where Emelia is now in her development -- I love the moment, her being so small, the amazement that I'm a parent still completely fresh. The fact that she's now smiling regularly, as well as able to focus on us, just adds to how wonderful it is right now. At the same time, I can't wait to see her sit up, to crawl, to talk, etc., even though I know these milestones will come soon enough, and in fact too quickly.

Being a parent hasn't yet become a part of my self-identity. D-A-D needs to be added to (and moved near the top of) the list that includes Aaron, husband, son, brother, friend, government attorney, and liberal, among others. Nevertheless, after five weeks in the role of father, it still feels like a vacation, or something similarly temporary, rather than as the life-altering shift that it is. I guess that I'm still in transition.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just Give Me $100,000

That's all I'm asking from whoever decides to take this great idea for an invention and run with it. It's really very simple.
  • Babies like motion -- parents across the millennia have had to rock and pace their babies for hours upon end to get them to sleep.
  • Babies are soothed by the sound of a vacuum cleaner. The loud white noise calms them very effectively.
  • Parents have little desire to carry their babies while vacuuming every evening.
Thus, there needs to be a Roomba with a cradle on top of it. It should definitely have the feature that's now standard on most Roombas of returning to its base every evening. There's going to be massive demand for a product that enables parents to relax while their floors are cleaned and their babies are gently put to sleep, which will make someone a millionaire. Unfortunately, being a new parent leaves me with little time to promote and market this product, so I need to let someone else get rich -- all I'm asking for is $100,000.

* * *

Speaking of businesses, in my last post, I dissed Pfizer, and on the very next trading day, its stock declined over 10%. I had no idea that I had such a significant readership, but now that I know, I need to learn how to harness the power of this blog.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Three More Pills

Do you have allergies? Have you ever tried to find an antihistamine that works well but doesn't make you drowsy? For me, the allergy medicine of choice for roughly two decades has been Actifed -- not only has it worked well for seasonal allergies, but it's been my preferred cold medicine as well. And now I'm down to my last three pills of it. I've been hoarding the last of my stash, reluctant to use them for situations I wouldn't have hesitated to in the past, saving them for REALLY BAD TIMES.

I'm sure many of you are asking yourself at this point, why doesn't he stop complaining about it on his blog and go to the pharmacy and buy more Actifed? You might even be asking this question using language not suitable for print in a family-friendly blog (though that's not my concern). Honestly, there is an explanation -- Actifed contains pseudoephedrine, and apparently pseudoephedrine can be used to make crystal meth. So the powers that be no longer allow medicines with pseudoephedrine to be readily available on drugstore shelves (though Bunsen Burner sales continue to be unregulated), and the makers of Actifed decided that it would be foolish to keep Actifed behind the counter, given that its popularity has declined over the years as Claritin and other medicines have become available. Thus, they reformulated Actifed so that it no longer contains pseudoephedrine, which means Actifed, or a new medicine with the same name, remains on the shelves, but that I have no idea how well it'll work for me.

This isn't a case like when Mars reformulated 3 Musketeers, and suddenly my favorite candy bar no longer tasted the same. I mean, that was bad, but there were reasonable alternatives that allowed me to get my chocolate fix. And other than a temporary upsurge in caloric intake, there wasn't a downside to trying lots more chocolate bars in order to find the best among acceptable ones (I settled on Snickers). No, this is far more serious -- chocolate may make you feel better when your head is blocked up, but no matter how much you eat you're still more congested than downtown DC during rush hour.

So I'm pretty annoyed, not only with the people who make crystal meth, but also with the efforts to limit access to pseudoephedrine, and with Pfizer (the makers of Actifed). As to the latter, the thing that really bugs me is how they've chosen to spin the reformulation -- the new package proudly asserts, "Does Not Contain Pseudoephedrine," as though the many allergy sufferers using Actifed will be overjoyed to hear that the product that they've relied on is no longer the same. As though there have been millions of people who have been reluctant to use Actifed because it contained pseudoephedrine, and who will now flock to the new Actifed.

So if any of you see me in the next few weeks and I'm completely out of it and perhaps only semi-functional (even more so than usual), you're on notice that it may be for a reason other than that I'm a new parent. You've been warned.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Give the People What They Want

Two photos of Emelia from last week in Dallas, courtesy of my sister-in-law Kim (the second one is the new background for my computer):



Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Announcing a New Blog

People who know Kathy and me know that Kathy is the quiet one (not that I'm necessarily loud). She won't answer the phone if she can help it, and my family doesn't always feel like they know what she's thinking. Well no longer! Today Kathy officially joins the ranks of the blogosphere, so now everyone will be able to read her thoughts on lots of things, at least those related to being a parent. Whether she maintains her four-posts-in-a-day output remains to be seen, but I for one hope she continues writing in some capacity. And while I encourage everyone to check her blog out, don't abandon me -- neither of us has so much to say that there isn't time to read us both. I've added her to my blogroll, but I didn't put her first -- not because she isn't number one in my heart, but because I don't want to put needless pressure on her (and because it won't be so embarrassing if she decides to stop writing in a couple of days).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Fear

Fear is a funny thing.

On 9/11, I had just gotten to work when a co-worker told me about the first plane striking the World Trade Center, and together we were watching live TV when the second struck. I was just across the river from the Pentagon when it was hit -- I could see the smoke from my building. When we were told to go home, I walked rather than take the Metro, because if I were a terrorist, that would be an obvious target. But I walked several blocks South of the most direct route, in case the Capitol was targeted.

In the wake of what transpired that day, I wasn't afraid. Even though I live about a mile from the Capitol, and so am at a proverbial Ground Zero, I don't worry about the next strike -- I just want to live my life. Still, fear has affected me -- Kathy's fear is what led us to buying a car after 9/11 (at the time we didn't have one). It's certainly come in handy, but many times I've joked with her about how, should we need to flee the city, getting the car will enable us to be stuck in endless traffic with everyone else. And that's another part of living in DC -- you can either cower in fear of the next attack, or live your life -- an attack either will come or it won't, but worrying about it is of little help.

I guess I can't understand why people are so afraid. Six imams were forced off a plane because of the fears of other passengers, and even though nothing was found, they were refunded their money and refused access to another flight from the airline. Why would a group of terrorists be the equivalent of penguins in Bermuda shorts in drawing attention to themselves as was alleged? Fear can make people incredibly paranoid, and I expect that it was such fear that led to the accusations in the first place -- some people are predisposed to assume the worst about Muslims.

On a more personal level, this past week during Thanksgiving, I thought it perfectly reasonable to let an average 9-year-old go to the bathroom in a restaurant without adult accompaniment (this was a hypothetical -- the 4-year-old was the one who had to go). I don't mean to suggest that it's not possible for a kidnapping to take place at a steakhouse, but it seems so unlikely to me as to not be worth adjusting your behavior for. It seems akin to not driving because there's the possibility of a carjacking. Admittedly, the cost-benefit analysis is skewed between these two (very little cost to escort a kid to the bathroom, very great cost to give up driving), but I just don't see the point of worrying about remote dangers. I acknowledge that I may feel differently when my daughter is nine, but I doubt it. Strangely, one of the people concerned about unaccompanied children seemed wholly unconcerned with the much greater risk associated when the next day someone climbed up an unsteady 30-foot ladder to hang Christmas lights.

Fear is a funny thing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thank You to Someone

When we returned from our Thanksgiving in Dallas, we found a package from Barnes & Noble. Inside was a gift for Emelia -- four Sandra Boynton board books. The package appeared to have been opened at some point prior to its arrival to us, and for this reason, we believe that the dirty pair of ladies underwear that had been enclosed was not part of the intended gift. Sadly, we know not who to thank for the books, as the underwear seems to have replaced the invoice in the package, and Barnes & Noble says that they will neither tell us who sent the package, nor notify the sender that the present arrived sans intended message. In the event that the sender is a reader of my blog, Emelia, Kathy and I say thank you for the books -- we expect them to provide much entertainment in the coming months. If you also sent the underwear, you may want to seek professional help.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On the Road

In a couple of hours, we begin our journey to Dallas for Thanksgiving at my brother's. Kathy has been instructed not to lift more than 10 pounds for another couple of weeks. She'll be carrying Emelia, who at yesterday's 2-week doctor's appointment weighed in at 8lbs, 14oz. This leaves a pound and change of Kathy's weight allowance with which we can clothe and diaper Emelia. I will be bringing the remainder of what we'll be bringing, i.e., all the luggage for the five-day trip. The plan is for us to get to the airport via Metro. There may be a fine line between bravery and stupidity, but it's pretty obvious which side of the line this falls on.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Louise, Inc.

Emelia's middle name of Louise is a family name. It's Kathy's middle name, her mother's middle name, and her grandmother's first name. It was also Kathy's great-grandmother's name, though she was the mother-in-law of Kathy's grandmother. Confused though you may be, today we drove up to Wilmington to get together with Emelia's sole surviving great-grandparent, and commemorated the occasion with a picture of the four generations of Louises.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Three Months Later

Was it really less than three months ago that Kathy and Shizuka showed off their oh-so-pregnant bellies, days before Shizuka had her baby? My how time flies!

People keep telling us that it goes by so fast, and here's the proof of it. Before too long, Kazumi and Emelia will be considered the same age, but right now Kazumi at 12 weeks is a giant compared with Emelia at 9 days. Of course they were too young to interact during Shizuka's visit, but there'll be plenty of time for that in the months and years to come.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

For the Love of Beer

When I found Ratebeer, I was introduced to a community of people, who, like me, love beer and learning about it. It has led to nearly five years of unmitigated exploration for new beers, and resulting discoveries of some fantastic beers that I never would have found otherwise. But what it also did, or rather, what I did after joining, is leave behind many favorites, simply because I lack the liver and caloric capacity to try so many new beers and keep enjoying the old ones. Since I've joined Ratebeer, with very few exceptions, my beer drinking has been focused on beers I can rate. And consequently, I'm closing in on 5000 ratings, and am one of the top raters at Ratebeer. But now, I'm ready to rate less and return to some of my favorites more, especially now that I have such an enormous list of favorites.

Last night, Tom, Gary, and I were supposed to go to a "Wet Hop" beer tasting, but it unfortunately was canceled (a wet hop beer uses moist hops straight off the vines, whereas most beers use hops that are first dried, and sometimes even reduced to pellet form). So instead, we went to the Brickskeller, and I got to serve as the beer "sommelier" for a flight of hoppy beers.* We started off with a couple of pints of Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale, a long-time favorite of mine. Harvest Ale is the most readily available wet hop beer, and in fact, one of the only wet hop beers that makes it off the West Coast (outside of special tastings). It's one of my favorite seasonal beers, and it isn't bottled, so there's only a month or so that I can get it. Next up was another hoppy beer, Victory Hop Wallop, which has a bitterness that blows away the Harvest Ale. We finished with Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA (Simcoe is a hop varietal), which has enough hoppiness to overcome the light coating of resin that had formed on our hop-addled tongues. These are all beers I love (I've given each of these beers a rating of at least 4), and it was great to enjoy them rather than pick out beers I wouldn't like as much, or to analyze them for rating purposes.

I still plan on rating beers, because wonderful beers are being introduced all the time, and because I'll travel to places where I can try beers I've never had. It's just that rather than rate 9 out of every 10 beers I drink, I expect it'll be closer to 3 out of every 10. At this point, it seems like a better balance.

--
* -- Some of you may be asking what I was doing going out while poor Kathy had to stay home with the baby. Kathy wasn't left alone -- her folks are in town. FWIW, I've encouraged her to leave me with Emelia right after a feeding, so she can get out some, but so far she's declined.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Making Way for Reality

For roughly the first year of our marriage, at random points one of us would turn to the other and say, with more than a trace of disbelief, "We're married." To some extent our good fortune at having found such a wonderful mate hadn't fully registered. As implied in my last post on Emelia, at present we seem to be undergoing a similar experience -- in fact, we turn to each other now and again and exclaim, "We're parents," with the same element of disbelief that we shared seven years ago. With our difficulties in getting pregnant, and then staying pregnant, the very notion that we would become parents took quite some time to take root, though we ventured a thought now and again after we saw the heartbeat for the first time. Only in the third trimester did Kathy begin to accept that it really was going to happen this time. And now, with an eight-day-old in tow, we're still coming to grips with our new reality.

Reality, however, has a way of making itself felt, regardless of one's acceptance of it. It does so in gentle ways, such as when the eight pounds of Emelia are sleeping on one of us. And it does so in rougher ways, such as at 2:30 this morning, when Kathy's changing of Emelia on our bed was interrupted by a large flow of pee that displayed no desire to stay on the portable changing pad on which Emelia writhed. But regardless of the particular method by which the reality that is Emelia injects itself into our lives, it does so inexorably, one incident at a time, leaving us with less and less doubt that once again we have been visited by good fortune.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

As Obvious as the Nose on Your Face

Today's Washington Post has an article on the growing concern over internet addiction. The article includes the observation that "scores of online discussion boards have popped up on which people discuss negative experiences tied to too much time on the Web."

What's next, a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous at Dunkin Donuts?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Every Day is a New Day

We have a child who is four days old, and all is right in our world. It's a wonder to have in my life someone who's so small and so dependent on me. Who can make me feel elated just by sleeping in my arms or by looking at me, and can make me feel crushed when she cries. A friend asked me whether it feels real yet, and I admitted that it still doesn't. As he chased after his two daughters I asked when it will, and he said it'll happen gradually.

I suppose the unreality of being a parent is exacerbated by time having become messed up -- clocks have no meaning to an infant, which means that they have no meaning to an infant's parents. The fact that I'll be off work for another two weeks will keep me out of time. We're both tired but in good spirits. Kathy is getting less sore and more mobile each day. The joke is that she's looked one month less pregnant with each passing day, but we're skeptical that she can keep that pace over the next five days. Currently my folks are with us, and they've been a big help during their stay. Dad's many years as a pediatrician are being put to good use in answering the dozens of questions we're barraging him with. The weather here has been great, so that many of the visitors who have popped in have been greeted while we've been sitting on our steps outside.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Apologies If This Post Isn't As Coherent As I'd Like

Yesterday we went to the hospital on a false alarm first thing in the morning. Yesterday evening we checked in for the real thing, and after 20 hours of labor, Emelia Louise was born at 2:02pm this afternoon. So many things I could say about the progression, but at the risk of sounding trite, it was an event that meant at least as much to me as any other event in my life. I was involved in the whole process, right up to helping to coach the pushes, and holding Kathy's left leg as she pushed the baby out (with her sister Suzie holding the right). No queasiness, just sheer amazement, as I watched the baby get pushed out over the course of a couple of hours.

Mother and child are doing well, though both mother and father (and Suzie, who also was there for the duration) are exhausted from the minimal amount of sleep they've had over the past 40 hours (plus for Kathy, the incredible amount of work she did in delivering the baby). That, combined with the fact that it would have been very difficult for both Suz and me to sleep in Kathy's little room (with one fold out seat/bed), led to our returning back to the house to get a decent night's sleep tonight. I think having Emelia today was enough of a vote for change, but because I got back home in time, I was able to register another such vote in the general election.


The Proud Father minutes after the birth


Emelia took to suckling right away

Saturday, November 04, 2006

How to Successfully Induce Labor

Rub homeopathic balm on the belly
Raspberry Tea
Eggplant Parmesan
Spicy Food
Sex & Nipple Stimulation
Double Dose of Milk of Magnesia


Let enough time pass

Let the Doctor do it on Thursday

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Cause For Optimism?

I've been eagerly following the mid-term Congressional elections, scouring polls daily as we pull ever closer to November 7. In some ways, paying attention to the muck and mire that passes for our political process these days is akin to the rubbernecking I so dislike when I'm driving, but in this case I can't seem to help myself. It looks like the Democrats will retake the House, and have an outside shot of claiming the Senate. I see this happening not just because of the political tide shifting, but also because Democrats have successfully sought out moderates to run for election in areas which are more conservative, and perhaps most significantly, Republicans have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.

The Senate race going on next door to me in Virginia is a great example of the latter, where Senator George Allen, a man thought to be considering a presidential run in 2008, may not even get re-elected in a generally Republican state. First there was the 'macaca' incident, and Allen's response to it. Then there was his berating a reporter after she asked a question about whether his mother was Jewish, followed by an explanation that included the remark that he "still had a ham sandwich for lunch." On the heels of this were reports of his racism, and people who refuted his assertion that he never used the "N-word." A minor ethics violation that involved a failure to report stock options he owned followed. Over the course of the past few days, polls show his Democratic opponent, former Republican Jim Webb, the Secretary of Navy under Reagan, having taken a small lead, despite trailing by over 20 points in the Spring. Allen's efforts to retake the lead can only be hurt by events like this one (follow-up letter by the man who was wrestled to the floor here).

The foot-shooting seems to be happening all over the place, and goes beyond the Abramoff scandal and the Foley cover-up that actually happened within the walls of Congress. It's taking place not just in areas where there's a slight Republican edge, but even in some of the reddest states in the country. Wyoming is strongly Republican, yet the incumbent Congresswoman, Barbara Cubin, is in a dogfight with a Democratic challenger, in part because because after a three-way debate that included a Libertarian candidate in a wheelchair, Cubin went over to the Libertarian and told him, "If you weren't sitting in that chair, I'd slap you across the face." In Idaho, about as Republican as they come, the Democrat running for an open seat is running neck-and-neck with his opponent, because the Republican who garnered the most votes in a 5-way race in the primary is reviled even by many Republicans who work with him in the state legislature. I expect that both of these races will be won by the Republican, but the fact that these races are close gives me hope that finally a Congress will provide some oversight of what the administration is doing, and prevent future versions of the outrageous pieces of legislation that have been enacted the last few years.

Monday, October 30, 2006

DC United Playoffs, Round 1

Have you ever gone to a sporting event thinking that your team deserved to lose, but you'll take the good result? D.C. United is in the playoffs, thanks to its stellar performance in the early part of the season and despite its wretched finish. Our first-round opponent was Red Bull New York, a team we beat three of the five times we faced them, tying them the other two games. An interesting wrinkle is that New York hired a new coach late in the season, former United (and U.S. National Team) head coach, Bruce Arena.

The first-round playoff format is two games, with aggregate goals the determinant of who advances. So if Team A wins the first game 1-0, but Team B wins the second 2-0, Team A is knocked out. If the two teams are tied in aggregate goals after the two games, there's a 30-minute overtime, and if they're still tied, the winner is decided by penalty kicks. The first game was played in New York -- we were at Flugtag, so I didn't get to watch it, but from what I know United won a fairly even match, 1-0, getting a beautiful goal from our team's, and possibly the league's, most valuable player, Christian Gomez (video highlights can be found here). So in last night's second game, all we needed was a tie to advance to the next round.

With no baby in sight, I went to the game, and the atmosphere was great. We were jumping and chanting, loud and enthusiastic.

From the opening kickoff, New York controlled the game. They were attacking, and they were physical. To some degree United looked content to sit back, but in other ways United simply looked out of sorts. Several players were underperforming, while one player in particular, defender Facundo Erpen, was simply bad, despite normally being one of our better players. At halftime we were content to find ourselves in a scoreless draw, as Red Bull had looked far more dangerous. In the second half, we looked somewhat better, but we were giving New York far too many opportunities. Shortly after we nearly scored, Red Bull converted a free kick from just outside the penalty box, and took a 1-0 lead.

With only a few minutes left, however, Gomez got the ball on the left side of the goal, and calmly shot it past the goalie to make it 1-1. The crowd went absolutely nuts, all of the evening's frustration overcome in that one moment. We held on for the remainder and got the needed tie.

Our next opponent will be the New England Revolution, a team that beat us in DC toward the end of the season, and one of the hottest teams in the league. The Conference Final is determined by a single game, this Sunday here. We were fortunate to get past New York, but if we play the Revs like we played yesterday, I can't see the team getting lucky for a second time in a row.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

When are we going back?

In a time before we knew of RateBeer and before there was mapquest, there was Coop's, a set of maps that purported to include the addresses of all the breweries in a particular region. And when we embarked on a two-week Northern California brewery tour in the Fall of 2000, there certainly were more than enough breweries to keep us tipsy, or worse. The only trick was figuring out where each one was without a streetmap. At each brewery I took notes on each beer, for the first time in my life, never realizing that someday I'd enter all of them into a giant web database. You had let your driver's license lapse, so I had to do all the driving (grumble grumble).

Was it only six years ago that we waited in a state park outside of Boonville for a brewery tour, and sat in Sierra Nevada's beer garden in Chico? Walked among the redwoods and along the coast, saw El Capitan and the potheads on the town square in Arcata? To pass the time on the long drives in those days before digital jukeboxes, we played word games, sang songs to each other, and argued whether religion had done more good or bad in the world. In the Russian River Valley, famous for its wineries, I offered to take you to them rather than the area's breweries -- you've always loved wine, and this was a golden opportunity. You replied, "No, we're here to drink beer." Always we visited breweries. Some of them are long gone, others have beers I had just the other day.

I saw your grandfather for the only time in my life on that trip, pushing 90 years old and riding his motorized scooter, living by himself because he didn't want to be dependent on others. We stayed with all three of your father's siblings, including the teetotaler and her husband, who were more than a little bemused by one of the functions of our travels. We had bought little gifts along the way, but didn't fully consider the recipients -- she assured herself that the preserves made with beer must have had all the alcohol burned off. We were awed by the simple beauty of your uncle's timber-frame house, where he and his wife had retired just half an hour from Yosemite. He had been to Fresno just before we arrived, and had bought a growler so we could try something from their local brewery.

There was a newness to those adventures. It was our first big vacation after our honeymoon, and we learned as much about each other as we probably had in the six months prior. And from those two weeks, our friendship bloomed ever more colorfully, and our love deepened to a level far beyond where it was at our wedding one-and-a-half years earlier, even if it was but a fraction of where it has gone since.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Housekeeping

Been making a few changes to the blog over the past few days, adding tags, updating some of my lists, and installing a favicon (I'm not certain I'll keep this one, but I had to start somewhere). Could be a couple of other minor tweaks upcoming, but nothing major.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Larry Coryell and Paco de Lucia

Updated (thanks Kat!)



Here's a classical guitar duet by Larry Coryell and Paco de Lucia, a couple of decades old, and absolutely wonderful.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Flugtag

Possibly the hardest part of this stage of the pregnancy is the inability to do much except sit around and wait. Going out to dinner is nice, but no travel (so no DC United playoff game in New York), and Kathy's not up for much activity. And we shouldn't venture too far, because Kathy could go into labor. That's why I was delighted when in the early hours of yesterday morning I stumbled across something that looked fun to do -- Flugtag, i.e., Flying Day, an event created by the makers of Red Bull, in keeping with their slogan "Red Bull gives you wings." Neither of us had heard of Flugtag, but it turned out to be a perfect day to soak up the sun and observe some crazy contraptions up in Baltimore. That being said, it wasn't until we got there that we learned that most participants are more concerned with style points rather than actual distance traveled. Consequently, most of the entries dropped right into the water as soon as they traveled the distance of the "runway."

The beehive 'do is perfect for an event taking place in John Waters' hometown, right hon?



It was a one-eyed, one-horn, flying purple people eater. Or something like that.



A couple had trouble making it even that far:

Back Back Back Back Back


Gone.



Leading off with a rap and cranking P-Funk during the skit was cool.


Falling apart before getting within 20 feet of the edge of the runway wasn't so cool.


Still, one of the entrants did in fact set the record for furthest distance traveled during an American flugtag (81 feet), and the other involved a very large paper airplane.

Depending on which time it was announced, this was either the world's largest paper airplane, or the world's largest manned paper airplane (which makes a lot more sense).


The longest distance was covered by a team that had no style, Victims of Soi-cumstance, performing as The Three Stooges:

Their run is part of the videos at the top of the page here.

We stayed through the first 17 entrants (out of 23), enough to get a taste of the event, and enough to believe that we could set the record on our own. So if a giant, yummy-looking bottle of beer someday travels over 100 feet off a barge before falling into some water below, the odds are good that we'll be involved.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Can't Blog, Gotta Blog

I have nothing to say that isn't pregnancy related, and I'm sick of talking about the pregnancy. But I know some people read this blog and wonder what the latest pregnancy news is, so all I can say is that it all was a hoax -- there never was a pregnancy, Kathy's been putting larger and larger pillows under her outfits in a desperate cry for help. She's being treated for her condition (Fake Pregnancy Syndrome, or FPS) -- fortunately our insurance covers in-house psychiatric treatment. At first, I didn't want to go along with it, but she seemed so sad that I felt that I had little choice. And then, once we began lying about it, it became harder and harder to come clean. I really thought it would have been obvious long before now, but people believe what they want to believe. At our third baby shower, I finally confessed. One couple, friends of ours for over six years, grabbed their already-opened present and walked out in a huff -- I have a feeling that we'll never see them again. Kathy broke down in a puddle of tears, and while one friend did attempt to console her, most of the others kind of snuck out, leaving the hosts in a very awkward situation. I've taken down all the sheep in the "nursery," and am hopeful that Kathy will be back home in a week or two. The doctors say she's making good progress, that sometimes she even remembers she's not pregnant without prompting.

Ok, I feel better now. They say confession is good for the soul, and if I believed in the soul, I might be inclined to agree. But a fake confession is good for relieving stress, and we need that quite a bit right now.

So the truth is, Kathy had some contractions this morning. They were irregular and stopped after a few hours. Coincidentally she had an OB appointment this morning, and we were able to confirm that nothing appears to be imminent. We called Kathy's sister back up and let her know that she didn't need to catch the next flight, but it was good to know that she's ready to drop everything on a moment's notice.

And in the meantime, we wait. Because she really is pregnant.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

W_a__i___t____i_____n______g

All of a sudden we can't call anyone without them thinking, you know.... Yesterday one friend interrupted her shrink appointment to take our call, because she thought it might be a birth announcement. Then Kathy's sister switched lines to take our call last night, with her first words being a panicked, "Are you in labor?" Given that she's ready to drop everything to come down here for the delivery, I can understand her reaction, but still, I wish there were a way to have a "special announcement ring," so people could know whether or not we had a baby to announce. Because we're getting anxious enough over here and don't need everyone else's reactions to amplify the effect.

That's right, I'm getting excited, with all the connotations that word can bring -- happy, nervous, anxious, agitated. I'm sleeping poorly, and that's only partly because of the dogs -- they sense something too. It's pretty bad when your concerns about not getting enough sleep causes you to not get enough sleep.

My folks are so nervous that they left the country to escape the stress. I can't think why else they'd be on an Asian cruise, can you? They won't be back until the 27th, so there's a very good chance they won't know about the baby until a couple of days after it's been born. Before they left, Dad sent an e-mail letting us know that a birth announcement is one of the three things warranting an e-mail to them. I offered to just let him know when he got back, figuring the last thing I want to do is intrude on their tranquility, but Dad insisted. So I'll try to work in an e-mail to them within 72 hours of the birth, or maybe I'll ask one of my siblings to e-mail him when I speak with them.

As for baby names, this morning I suggested we name the baby after DC's biggest celebrity, but Kathy didn't go for it. Truth is, while it's always subject to change, she's pretty much settled on a name (assuming it's a girl), and since she's carrying (and delivering) the critter, I'm fine with her making the final decision (though I wouldn't hesitate to speak up if I really disliked her selection).

Enough rambling for tonight. The pygmy elephants need their sleep as much as chicken needs its parmesan.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nursery

Two weeks after the baby dropped, Kathy's still waddling around, waiting for the final drop. There are a million things that "need" to get done before then, and it's a given that we'll only get to a fraction of those. One thing that's pretty much done is the nursery.

The nursery is one of the most overdone of the projects that expecting parents can overdo. Given how many opportunities expecting parents are given to overdo baby projects, this is a pretty bold statement. The room we'd designated for the baby was painted a drab shade of white, and Kathy really wanted to liven it up. Early on, I indicated my lack of interest in such a project ("if you want it done, you do it"), so other than pulling up the hideous bubblgum shag carpet left over from the mid-1970s, I was prepared to leave it for Kathy. But Kathy waited and waited, and given how pregnancy makes it a bad idea to put off labor-intensive projects, this wasn't really a good idea. Ultimately, she enlisted our dogwalker/friend Bryce in the project, and away they (mostly Bryce) went.

Labor Day weekend, while we were taking a long weekend to Richmond and Charlottesville, Bryce started painting the room while we were out of town. The East/West walls were to be apple green, the North/South walls to be baby blue, and the ceiling would get a fresh coat of white. When we came back from taking our future president to Monticello and Montpelier to see the plantations her predecessors owned, we discovered that Bryce had decided to paint the ceiling blue, and out of contact paper was constructing clouds.

Those clouds reminded me of the bodies of sheep, so I threw out the idea of having the clouds morph into sheep on the walls. Bryce liked it, and we introduced her to our favorite sheep, Shaun, from Wallace and Gromit's "A Close Shave." Bryce took the idea and made it her own, not only making great sheep, but also making birds out of the same template as the sheep's head and placing them in the clouds. Kathy and Bryce made decoration decisions, and I mostly stayed out of the way.

Then, a week ago Friday, when the project was mostly completed, Bryce broke her ankle, leaving some unfinished business. So Kathy and I took care of some odds and ends, including painting the dresser. Let it be noted that I did not select orange as the color to paint the dresser, and in fact I suggested that we leave it the dark stained wood color that it had been. By this stage in the pregnancy, however, I have learned that other than a minor gripe now and again, the best course I can take is along the "yes dear" route (fortunately, Kathy really isn't abusing this power, though I've heard that such power has been known to serve as a corrupting influence). I also have to admit tht seeing it completed, it actually complements the room pretty nicely. Then I installed the bookshelves, and we undertook the cleanup. All that really remains is for the crib to arrive (a hand-me-down from Kathy's boss), but we've got a basinet, so even that isn't necessary until a couple of months after the critter's born.


Sheep on the Wall


The Crib Space


Bird and Cloud on the Ceiling


The Dresser in the Closet


Kathy and Nora on the Bed

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The Changing Station

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I Was Never So Scared of Terrorism as I am of this Law

As a follow-up to my post last week about the torture bill, I note that the compromise that was worked out between Bush and McCain gave the president pretty much everything he wanted, and then additional changes subsequent to that made the law even worse. Now that the bill has passed both the House and Senate, and the President is poised to sign it, we are at a crossroads, where I truly fear for the existence of our Republic -- this quite possibly is the most dangerous law Congress has ever passed. This law "authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights." It is left to the government to decide who is an enemy combatant, and anyone so designated can be "detained" indefinitely, and tortured during that detainment. As I noted in my earlier post, even when acting in good faith the government can make mistakes, and this legislation removes some of the vital safeguards that could limit the harm inflicted on such innocent people.

I don't expect to one day vanish at the hands of our government, my employer, but until today I never considered it even a remote possibility.

Tonight I can't help but feel that America is anything but the Land of the Free or the Home of the Brave. To pass such legislation, collectively we are afraid of our own shadows and so we yield some of our basic freedoms.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Counting Down

We're a little over five weeks away from Kathy's due date, and Friday and Saturday we did "The Berthing Class." I hadn't realized that someone could assemble a 10-hour class on how to stow your baby on a ship, but it seems that everything about expecting your first child is focused on preparing yourself for that for which you can't prepare. Let's face it -- when someone tells me, "You're whole life is going to change," all I can do is say, "Yes, I know that (and try to avoid any snippiness in that response), but I don't know what that means." Still, there are classes out there on everything -- seriously, the instructor over the weekend told us that they were going to be offering a class on Infants and Pets.

On Friday night, we only covered a few things, most notably a couple of birth videos. After the last video, right before class finished up, the instructor informed us that the video was several years old, and that the loving and caring environment surrounding the mothers-to-be doesn't really exist anymore. The nurse won't be there the whole time, though she'll still check in with the Mom every half hour or so. And don't expect the doctor in much at all. So you need all the support you can get, and did I mention we offer doula services? She wasn't quite that direct, but the men in the class all could see that connection drawn pretty clearly (the women, being bathed in pregnancy hormone stew, were still all teary from watching the births and refused to acknowledge even the slightest link). For those of you who haven't dealt with the whole pregnancy thing in a few years, doulas are all the rage -- a doula is a non-medical person you hire to be there with you throughout the labor process (even before you get to the hospital), who is there for support, advice, and calmness when the nervous father-to-be is a bucket of jelly.

So on the way out to the car, Kathy was rather distressed. Her sister is planning to come down and be with us, serving as an unofficial doula, but it wasn't clear that she'd be down at the right time, or that she'd even get down here in time. Her doctor has sort of bailed on her (the doc is a high-risk pregnancy specialist, and we don't know if Kathy not having any problems is the reason why, but the fact is that she has no appointments available until the week before Kathy's due date). And if the nurse won't be there the whole time, then there's only me, and what if I become a bucket of jelly.

"Kathy my love," I do my best to explain, "I will be there, focused 100% on you -- it's all about you, and I promise not to be all queasy in the corner while you're having contractions that make Joe Theismann's broken leg seem like a mosquito bite. Until you're at the delivery stage, there's no blood or gore, so even if I'm susceptible to faintness then, you'll have the nurse and doctor with you for that final stretch. So you see, you'll have someone looking out for you the whole time. I even promise to pee in between contractions."

Somehow this bit of spontaneous logic got through the haze caused by the instructor showing those damned birthing videos before she covered pain management techniques (I still think that was deliberate).

One of the things covered on Saturday was the fact that more women than ever before are having babies early. And the three factors that seem to contribute to the likelihood of an early delivery is age (35+), whether IVF was used, and if you have a short cycle. Kathy fits all three, plus her mother delivered her six weeks early (though admittedly we have no idea if there's a genetic tie to this). But just in case that's not enough, we've determined that based on the descriptions provided in the rest of the class (confirmed by the instructor), Kathy has gone through lightening, i.e., the baby's head has dropped into the pelvis. That's not a sure sign of anything, but it makes it likely that the birth is only 2-3 weeks away.

On one level, that's fine by me -- I'd much rather an early (but not too early) birth than a late one. On another, however, it makes the reality of the situation that much more palpable -- the imminence is a bit daunting. We have lots scheduled in the next few weeks, and I guess we won't be able to do it all. At last night's DC United game (which United won), I couldn't help but think that I was saying goodbye instead of good night to my friends at evening's end -- the next home game is in two weeks, and by then I may have had to call it a season. Not that I'm complaining!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Turn It On, Turn It On Again

After beating the Columbus Crew on July 15, D.C. United's record stood at 13 wins, five ties, and one loss. Since that time, however, United has only won once in nine league games, tying five and losing three. Having jumped out to such a great record in the first half of the season, the team is still all-but-assured of winning the Eastern Conference and having home field advantage in the playoffs, but it's not clear which set of results is the correct reflection of the team.

Early in the season, I recall thinking that we were getting much better than deserved results -- we tied games where we deserved to lose, and won games which easily could have ended in ties. But as the season unfolded, United began earning its wins. Either the team was gelling, or it gained confidence from the early good fortune. Before our record turned south, we had won seven consecutive games. At the same time, however, the team beat the weak foes in its conference -- we played all four of our games against both last place Columbus and fourth place Kansas City in our first 19 games, and had won seven of them, tying the other. Take away the games against those clearly inferior opponents, as well as our three games against the 5th place Red Bull New York (a win and 2 ties), and our record against the rest of the league is 6 wins, 7 ties and 4 losses -- better than average, but nothing special.

Then again, we've had injuries to several of our top offensive players in recent weeks, and knowing that the regular season isn't very important, Coach Nowak has exercised caution with the injuries. Similarly, we've had several stretches where we've had midweek games, and Nowak has rested some of the starters in order to ensure they'll be fresh at the end of the season. In an important game, the best players would be on the field if they're able to be.

And I guess that's really where we sit right now -- the recent slide seems due to not being as good as our record indicates, and a mentality that at this point, each game isn't critical. One of the enduring questions in sports is whether a team, having taken the foot off the pedal, can regain its edge when it wants to. Often this is a matter of a team having clinched a playoff spot with a couple of weeks to go, and so they want to rest their starters -- the last five games of an 82-game NBA season means little to a team that won its division with eight games to go. The difference, however, is that in the case of D.C. United, the resting up involves the most recent 9 games in a 32-game schedule -- over 25 percent of the season -- during a stretch of over two months. I have trouble believing that it's as easy as turning on a light switch after such a long period of suckitude.

United has four games left in the regular season. Hopefully its next game, Saturday against likely first-round playoff opponent Red Bull, shows a return to the early season form as the team gears up for the playoffs. Best regular season record or not, I don't see this team making it to the championship game, much less winning it, if it doesn't get its act together soon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How Can We Even Be Having this Debate?

I can't believe that anyone can seriously advocate the use of torture in interrogation. Were it just a single nutcase it would be bad enough, but that its use is advocated by the President and a significant number of members of Congress is a sad reflection on our country. It's fine that a group of Republican senators led by John McCain are concerned about the precedent that it sets for the treatment of captured American soldiers, but their concern should go well beyond that:

1. The people being tortured have rarely (if ever) been charged with any crime, much less convicted of one. In other words, they're being treated as guilty until proven innocent (in the rare instance where they get the opportunity to show their innocence). And evidence is mounting that many detainees have done nothing wrong other than to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or to be named by unreliable "witnesses."

2. People die from torture.

3. Torture doesn't work.

a. Despite a claim from the Administration, not substantiated, no one has stepped forth with evidence that torture produces reliable intelligence. Given how eager the Administration is to continue its torturing, it doesn't take a great leap to make an reasonable assumption -- if the Administration had any proof whatsoever to support this naked assertion, it would be trumpeting it.

b. As the article in today's Washington Post about a Canadian sent to Syria (admittedly he was under suspicion based on a tip from Canadian authorities) under "extraordinary rendition" (yet another behavior the U.S. shouldn't engage in) demonstrates, torture induces the victim to say anything necessary to make the torture stop.

He was beaten, forced to confess to having trained in Afghanistan -- where he never has been -- and then kept in a coffin-size dungeon for 10 months before he was released, the Canadian inquiry commission found.

O'Connor concluded that "categorically there is no evidence" that Arar did anything wrong or was a security threat.

Let's keep in mind that the information provided by the Canadian government was probably more reliable than some of the "evidence" used to keep detainees in Guantanamo and the secret prisons in Europe. It also bears noting that this is one of the very few cases we can examine, and only because Canada decided to investigate (the U.S. refused to particpate or cooperate with the investigation). How many more innocent people have confessed to crimes they didn't commit, only to get the torture to stop?

c. Then let's consider the broader picture --

Exhibit A is the torture-extracted confession of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al Qaeda captive who told the CIA in 2001, having been "rendered" to the tender mercies of Egypt, that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda to use WMD. It appears that this confession was the only information upon which, in late 2002, the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state repeatedly claimed that "credible evidence" supported that claim, even though a now-declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report from February 2002 questioned the reliability of the confession because it was likely obtained under torture. In January 2004, al-Libi recanted his "confession," and a month later, the CIA recalled all intelligence reports based on his statements.

Talk about a spectacular failure -- one could argue that rather than saving lives, this confession has contributed to every casualty from Iraq.

4. Any effort to "win the hearts and minds" of Muslims around the world is meaningless as long as the talk about our freedoms, constitution, and justice system are belied by our actions that stand in complete disregard of our principles. As Colin Powell noted in an understated letter, "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention] would add to those doubts."

Last night the Bush Administration offered a compromise to McCain and the other "rebel" Republicans, and it's unclear how the proposal (or future ones) will be greeted. Anyone with senators (unlike those of us in DC), I urge you to contact them and express your opposition to any legislation that will permit torture.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On Becoming a Man

Twenty-five years ago today, I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah, and so was declared a man in the Jewish religion. Even at age 13, I recognized the absurdity of calling myself an adult in any real way, but that didn't mean that I didn't appreciate the presents. Still, this rite of passage required months of preparation toward the achievement of the goal. Between that effort and the fact that Aaron and "man" were first associated with each other at that event, I recognize that my Bar Mitzvah began my slow journey into adulthood. How slow? Well, consider:

  • Twenty-two years ago I got my first job that didn't involve yardwork, babysitting, or a position my Dad got me. Not that it would have paid the bills or anything.
  • Twenty-one years ago I went off to college, meaning I was responsible for how I lived my life, but I still didn't need to support myself.
  • Twenty years ago, I was allowed to vote.
  • Seventeen years ago I went to law school, meaning that in many ways I stayed just as I had been the preceding four years. Except that I was legally able to drink, so maybe you could call this a period of regression.
  • Sixteen years ago I got engaged and started the process of learning how to live with someone in a relationship.
  • Fourteen years ago I graduated law school and finally started supporting myself financially.
  • Twelve years ago I paid off my college loans.
  • Seven years ago I got married, and together, we bought a house.
  • Six years ago I had to put my dog with cancer to sleep.
  • Five years ago I became a manager at work.
  • If all goes well, in two months I will be a parent, and for the first time will be responsible for another human life. Perhaps that event will be the first in a thread 25 years from now entitled "On Becoming an Old Man."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Baby

[Updated below; updated again] It'd be one thing if our pregnancy were the only one going on in our lives, but it hasn't been. We got together this past Sunday with Shizuka and Eric, the former being one of Kathy's best friends from college, and the latter being Shizuka's husband and the man with whom I made our celebratory beer. Shizuka was due the day after we got together. As the picture shows, she was VERY pregnant.

I wonder if our children will ever understand how wonderful this picture is, the end of an era for two close friends, and the cusp of a new one. Not to mention that they're in the shot too, plainly visible in the fabric of their mothers' clothes.

Kathy's really been enjoying having Shizuka nearby. Both Shizuka and Eric are college professors, and while Eric works at the University of Maryland, Shizuka had been living in Northampton, Massachusetts until a month ago. She had already scheduled a Sabbatical and was going to be living with Eric for this upcoming academic term even before they knew she was pregnant. I have trouble imagining being in a marriage where I lived hundreds of miles from my spouse, but it's worked for them. In fact, there was probably at least as much anxiety with how they'd get along being in the same house full-time as there was over the baby coming into their lives.

Speaking of a baby coming into their lives, Shizuka was induced on Wednesday. There had been no sign that she was ever going to go into labor by herself, and her doctor was concerned about needing a C-section if the baby grew much more. It took a while, and there were concerns that a C-section would be needed after all, but ultimately she dilated, and out came little Kazumi.

We were able to visit the next evening, and Kathy was on Cloud Nine as she held Kazumi -- I think she could have stayed in that position forever, but for the fact that visiting hours ended at nine (and that Kazumi needed feeding). We also partook of one of Eric's bottles of the Soft Spot Stout we brewed, and I must say, it's quite a tasty brew, although not quite as hoppy as we thought it might get.

Shizuka and Kazumi got out of the hospital yesterday, and we're going to try to visit them (and Eric) soon, perhaps even today -- Kathy's cooking up a storm to bring over a few dishes that Eric and Shizuka can eat over the next couple of weeks. Update, 5:15pm -- I made a bad assumption. While both were scheduled to get out yesterday, Kazumi turned blue for about a minute on Friday morning and has been admitted to NICU. The doctors don't believe it's a heart problem, but they don't know exactly why it happened (and it's happened a second time), so she remains in NICU. Kathy and I are both anxiously awaiting news that everything is ok.

It may have been an external one, but this baby was certainly a milestone for us in measuring the progress of our own pregnancy. The next one will be in another week or so, when another of Kathy's (and Shizuka's) good friends from college, Brenna, has her first child. Update, 10:20pm -- we found out this evening that Brenna had her baby Friday morning, and all is well. Brenna's out in Minneapolis, however, so we'll have to wait a bit to see him in person.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Kathy's the Pregnant One, Right?

My morning was an anxiety-filled one, as I discovered when I got to work that I had lost my keys. I checked with the security guard downstairs to see if anyone had turned in keys, but no luck. I retraced my steps back to the Metro, with no luck. I even had building maintenance check the bottom of the elevator shaft, in case my keys had fallen silently (well, I did have my headphones on) through the small space between the inside and outside elevator doors, and still no luck. Finally, around 2pm, Kathy called to tell me that our dogwalker had found my keys, still in the lock of our gate.

Good thing Capitol Hill is generally a decent neighborhood these days.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Quote me

A man who can lie to himself is no man. But he may be a politician.

Please note that in keeping with my general approach, I tried to make this gender neutral. Despite my best efforts, and consultation with someone else, I saw no clean way to do so. My apologies.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I am Not Going Through a Mid-Life Crisis

What inspires someone to get up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning? More importantly, what inspires someone to get up at 5:30 on a Saturday to go skydiving?

Tom really wanted to go, and invited me. I can't say that it was something I was passionate about, but I was interested. And although Kathy had her doubts, after I examined the activity's safety record and showed it to her, she said ok (though still she'd punctuate e-mails with phrases like "don't die tomorrow"). (Speaking of which, she had breakfast with a friend of hers yesterday and told him what I was doing today -- he was flabbergasted, not believing that I would do such a thing while expecting a child. For some reason he had trouble remembering that right after his wife told him she was pregnant, he quit his job to run a start-up company.) Our neighbor Bruce is an adrenaline junkie (he's raced cars, among other activities), so when Tom mentioned it to him, we had a threesome. We were going tandem, which means that an instructor is strapped to your back (connected at 4 different points), and he's the one with the parachute.

Our schedules were such that we had to pick a weekend two months in advance, but it was certainly worth the wait. Any of the previous five weekends would have left us sweltering and sticky, but today was a fantastic day -- it was actually cool in the morning, and the sky was a perfect blue. There also was very little humidity.

I really wasn't that scared when we drove over there, but my first moment of doubt came when we signed waiver forms agreeing not to hold the company liable if anything went wrong. Anything included negligence and even pilot error. The guy on the video (with a beard that made the ZZ Top guys look tame) explained that it's because, well, shit happens. After a moment's hesitation, I realized that no one had any interest in anything going wrong -- my tandem instructor had it in his best interest to be safe and make sure everything went well. Once I got past that initial fear, I was fine as we received our 15 minutes of training, got our gear together, got on the plane, and began the ascent. It was only after we'd reached our altitude of 13,500 feet and the door to the plane opened, the people before me jumping out while we're sliding into position that I really started getting nervous.

When we jumped out the plane, the brief lesson I was taught vanished from my brain as we began picking up speed. After a second or two, I remembered what I needed to do to properly orient my body, and then we were all set. Free fall is an amazing experience -- we were hurtling toward the ground, but we still were so far up that once I was properly oriented, the fear of smacking the ground never really entered my mind, even though I don't think I ever took my eyes off the ground. We were in free fall for about a minute, before my instructor signaled to me to reach around him to pull the rip cord. I had a bit of trouble, and he decided not to wait before pulling it himself, which was ok by me -- I have a much greater sense of survival than I do of independence.

With the chute opened we slowed our descent, and finally I was able to bring myself to look around at the gorgeous views. We also could have a conversation, once the wind was no longer screaming in our ears. After a little while where we just let gravity take hold, the instructor showed me how we could steer, and then he took me in a spiral, i.e., a rapid descent while turning in a tight radius. A couple of turns of that, and I begged off, my stomach not really agreeing with continuing. He then went into a sashay, which involved big 90-degree turns back and forth. That wasn't quite as nauseating, so I rode it out. Finally we started our final descent back to where we started. He led us right in, and I put my feet down to complete the touch down. My legs were shaky, but held firm. I had made it through intact, though my stomach remained queasy for a couple of hours -- not sure whether it was the jump/adrenaline, the fact that I only had orange juice and a banana in my stomach, the exhaustion of a short night's sleep, or some combination of these factors. Once I handed in the equipment I called Kathy to let her know I'd made it (she wasn't there because dogs aren't allowed, we'd be away too long to leave them behind, and no one was available to dogsit).


Tom's Instructor Shane, Tom, Me, and Bruce

Tom is ready to start doing this all the time, and Bruce definitely wants to go again. Me, I don't think so. I enjoyed it, and I'm really glad I went, but I didn't enjoy it so much to justify the high cost. I do, however, plan to go with Tom on the next adventure, rafting through Class V rapids.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gay Marriage Gone Bad

Stories like this one bug me. In this case, I'm bothered on several different levels.

First, there's the fact that a child is being denied access to one of her parents. One can argue against gay marriage, but the fact remains that this child has known two people as her parents, and now she's being deprived access to one of them. As always in the case of custody dispute, it's terrible when one (or both) of the adults decide to put the child(ren) in the middle.

Second, to call Lisa a hypocrite doesn't do her justice. She was willing to go to Vermont because her state didn't recognize the union she wanted. But when she didn't like that union, or the decision of Vermont in how to terminate it, she ran back to Virginia, the state that refused to embrace her relationship, in the hope of getting a decision more to her liking.

Third, on the matter of the legal case, if I'm reading it (and this editorial) correctly, I think the Virginia judge made a horrendous decision and I hope a state appeals court reverses it. This isn't just a matter of the rights of homosexuals, but of respect for the Vermont court's decision. These women were married in Vermont and lived there at the time of divorce. The fact that this woman left there after the divorce (and unfavorable ruling) shouldn't give a Virginia court jurisdiction to disregard the Vermont court's ruling.

If Virginia wants to disregard gay unions/marriages that's one thing. But Vermont was the residency of the two parties to the dispute at the time of the dispute, so it's appropriate that a Vermont court has adjudicated the dispute. This seems little different from a child custody case between biological parents who never married -- in such a case no court would look to disregard what another state's courts had done even in the absence of a marriage. Instead, it defers to the other state's court that considered what's best for a child.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Things I Learned This Week

1. Kathy and I went to Cornell Adult University this past week, where we went non-stop between our classes and the various activities when class was out of session. We had a fantastic time, and fully intend to go back in the future (not likely in the next couple of years, as its children's program requires that the child be toilet trained). We were two of the younger attendees, but there were plenty of people in their 40s and early 50s, so we didn't feel out of place. It really was a treat being in an environment where we had the chance to talk with intelligent people in a hot house setting, just like college was the first time around. Not needing to cram or even take an exam, and being treated especially well (we might not be big donors, but we were among them), were just bonuses. In other words, I learned that even years later,

College still rocks.

2. I was worried about not remembering where anything is on campus or in town. I hadn't been back to Cornell since 1990, and aside from there having been many changes and additions to campus, and a few changes to the town off campus, the fact is that Ithaca's roads had often given me trouble, even when I lived there. So I was relieved that when I got back, it didn't take me too long to regain a comfort with stuff on campus. Sure there had been plenty of changes, but there were more than enough buildings I remembered for me to find my way with minimal difficulty. Off-campus, however, was a different story. I managed ok using a map, but I pretty much always needed one to get anywhere. I guess what I'm saying is that I learned that

No one in Ithaca will ever mistake me for a local.

3. Kathy's instructor announced the evening before class began that she has shingles, which meant that anyone in class who had not had chicken pox was at risk of contracting the disease. Kathy thought that she had had them, but then she wasn't sure. So she called her mother (on Mom's birthday, which she had forgotten (pregnancy is causing her to forget everything but her own name)), but her Mom didn't remember her having had chicken pox either. We called my Dad for his medical expertise, and found out that although the risk of transmission would be small, there could be serious complications if Kathy were to contract chicken pox as an adult, and risk of harm to the fetus. Kathy had pretty much decided to take the class, when my Mom called while we were on our way to breakfast, hysterical over concern for Kathy and the fetus. And while I'm not one who normally would use the word hysterical, when someone says she didn't sleep the night before due to worry, and that she has no new information but is happy to throw out her unsupported fears onto the situation, I feel that the word is warranted. So Kathy began to have second thoughts, because she didn't want my Mom to be all stressed for the week. Kathy related her concerns to a classmate we saw at breakfast, a former public health nurse who, by some strange quirk of fate, as a hobby likes to look at people's faces to spot the scars from chicken pox. So after the seven seconds Carol took to examine Kathy's face, we learned

Kathy has had chicken pox.

4. Cornell has some of the best food college campuses have to offer. And while that's not a source of pride on behalf of my alma mater, it means that I acquired my freshman 15 in a tastier fashion than did the average college student. And actually, there was nothing wrong with acquiring a freshman 15 all those years ago, given that there were only 125 pounds on my six-foot frame when I enrolled. These days, however, I have no need for any weight gain, which was a problem when confronted with all-you-can-eat meals, free morning, afternoon and late-night snacks, and free wine in the adult lounge all afternoon and evening. Plus a couple of afternoons Kathy brought back food from her cooking class. Plus a few trips to brewpubs up there and to-and-from Ithaca. If the weather had cooperated, I'm sure I could have exercised away at least one-tenth of my caloric intake for the week, but the heat forced modifications to my class to make it less strenuous. And so, after confirming the obvious by weighing myself this morning, I have learned

I need to lose a few pounds.

5. My class was called "Underground Ithaca" -- it was a potpourri, and a veritable cornucopia of information. The instructor is a paleobiologist, and so we examined rocks, earth layers, the earth's history, fossils, and collected rocks, fossils, and fossilized mastodon poop. We also visited a mine that sits atop one of the largest salt deposits in the world (the deposit extends past Cleveland). But so much more happens underground, so we learned about lake source cooling, which uses cold water at the bottom of Cayuga Lake to cool the air at Cornell and Ithaca High School. We visited a waste water facility and learned about treating wastewater. We visited several places that were part of the Underground Railroad. We checked out the Cornell synchotron, located below a large part of the campus. We received a lecture from a dendrochronologist, located in the sub-basement of a campus building, and in the same building got to examine to various antuquities and plasters thereof. We got a lecture from someone who fights against toxic waste in the ground. We examined a site where a house blew up from gas in the basement. But the instructor took underground in additional directions. We went to Babbage's Basement, which is a used computer store that's really on the top floor of its building. We visited Mark Twain's grave, in nearby Elmira. We saw a documentary on Robert Moog, who invented the Moog synthesizer while living in nearby Trumansburg. The instructor also discussed and showed us additional tidbits of the area's history (for example, that the Oregon Trail had its origins in Ithaca), and took us to a Hortorium, where we learned how to press plants and looked at several interesting plants in its collection (such as a specimen of the world's largest seed). In other words, I learned

Tons of stuff.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Getting There

Warning -- Corniness alert!

Chamber of echoes,
Moonshine melody,
Multitude of poets,
Mariners at sea.
Close my eyes and wonder,
At a child growing near,
The future holds I know not what,
But that child I'll hold dear.
Imagine tiny hand
Reaching up to mine
A high voice calling "Daddy,"
Angels ne'er so divine.
I cannot call her yet,
I do not know her name,
But already I love her so,
I hope she'll feel the same.
--
Back on the road tomorrow, be back in a week or so.
--
Winner of Name My Beer is posted on the right column. When the actual brewer of the beer (rather than just the apprentice) picks a favorite, we've got ourselves a winner.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Myrtle Beach Family Vacation

Perhaps most pictures are worth 1000 words, but vacation photos are lazy -- you can caption them in less than 20, usually much less, but the 980+ missing words tell the real story of the vacation. Especially when it's a family vacation.


The Beach House


Me with Kathy at 25 weeks


My sister Shari with our nieces, Leynie (age 2) and Lauren (age 3)

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Sunrise over the pier up the beach (photo by my Mom)