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.