Friday, August 07, 2009

THE WAR OF THE -ISMS PART 2 :: Government Band-Aids

EDIT: I misidentified health care as health insurance. Below, when I am talking about health insurance, please understand I mean health care.


Socialism.

Socialized medicine.

Obama's plan is taking us down a dark path.

Obama is a socialist.

Socialists hate freedom.

Obama hates the United States of America.




It's all over the news. It never goes away.

I just don't get it.


Socialized programs mean bigger government. Socialized programs mean higher taxes. Socialized programs mean less control. Socialized programs mean no freedom. Not only that, but the government is a clusterf&*ck waiting to happen. You can't trust the government to do anything, especially something as important as maintain your health insurance. I mean, my God, look at what has happened to Welfare....


That's the message out there on the idiot box. But is it true?

What I don't understand is how we reconcile the fact that a socialized police force is acceptable. Wouldn't police privatization be better? Wouldn't it ensure quality service regulated by the free market?

And sure, before anyone brings it up, we have to buy life insurance. But having no life insurance doesn't stop the police department from intervening in order to save your life or property.

What I don't understand is how we reconcile the fact that a socialized fire department is acceptable. Wouldn't privatized fire protection be better? Sort of like personal home insurance? Wouldn't it ensure quality service regulated by the free market?

And sure, before anyone brings it up, we have to buy fire insurance. But having no insurance doesn't stop the fire department from coming to try to save what you have. Fire insurance only replaces what you've lost.

What I don't understand is how we reconcile the fact that a socialized military is acceptable. Wouldn't privatized mercenaries protect and serve the interests of our nation's security at home and abroad better than a broken, bogged-down bureaucratic mess of government regulation? Wouldn't it be regulated by the free market? After all, once those Al-Quaeda terrorists get in and bomb someone, wouldn't they contract shift to someone else?

What I don't understand is how we reconcile the fact that social security is acceptable. Isn't it broken? Aren't we delaying the inevitable? Shouldn't we privatize it? Is it as sacred and untouchable as those receiving it want us to believe?

What I don't understand is why we refuse to address Medicare. It is socialized. Isn't it broken? Wouldn't the elderly be better off seeking privatized insurance?

What I don't understand is why automobile regulations are socialized (in this case, dictated and enforced by the government). Wouldn't it be better, cheaper, and much safer for us, if we let the manufacturers themselves decide if their autos are safe? Wouldn't competition in the free market ensure they give us the best work they can do? Wouldn't we be safer?

What I don't understand is why Food Processing companies aren't allowed to regulate the conditions of their own food. Wouldn't it be better, cheaper, and safer for us, if we let them decide for themselves the quality and safety of the food we eat? Surely the competition of capitalism would keep us healthy. Why do we need the government?

Am I being ridiculous? You might think so. But all I ask is that you think about it.

Why are all the services that protect our lives and property socialized, except for medicine?

Have you ever thought about that?

Many of the above suggestions were actually done during the late 1800's and early 1900's. Privatized fire departments resulted in gangs setting rival departments' protected houses on fire. Privatized police evolved into cops walking past people being mugged or murdered who weren't on their list. Socialized military? It's been done. Just ask your friendly ancient Roman what happened with that.

Why do we mistrust our government to such a degree, always throwing up long lines, bureaucracy, broken, misused programs, and that end-all-be-all-you'll-pay-more-taxes argument when it comes to socialized health programs?

Why?

Can you explain this to me?

Why is it so important for us as citizens to ensure all of these above things are protected by our government, but yet the most important, the most critical to our survival, our very health insurance (care), is thrown out to dogs, placed on the auction-block as the quintessential case for proof that capitalism is sacred? Especially when it obviously IS NOT WORKING?

What medical care is needed is not determined by the patient. It isn't even determined by the doctor or nurse. It is determined by the insurance companies. This is not a parallel to house insurance or life insurance. House insurance does not determine where you buy your house or what house you can buy. Life insurance does not determine how long you will live, although, it is not without its problems. Most life insurance companies are just like the health insurance companies in that they will refuse coverage based on the most insignificant detail of your past history.

But for me, I see the shadow health insurance (care) providers as their own class of evil.

They decide whether you can be treated or not.

They decide whether or not your condition was "pre-existing."

They decide whether or not you have had a lapse in coverage, which will make you ineligible for future coverage.

They decide what medicines you can afford.

And they answer to their stockholders, not you.

They aren't in it to help you.

They're in it to make money.

Is this horrifying?

The police, fire, and military are subsidized by the government. You could argue that they aren't in it for the money. The government makes no money off these services. The people make no tangible profit off these services. There is no mysterious stockholder out there getting a good return because Officer Smith responded to your house after there was a report of a break-in.

But when that doctor sits looking at your file, knowing you have cancer, knowing he can't treat you because of the phone call he just finished with the underwriter, you can bet your soft butt cheek on the fact that someone, somewhere, just made a nice fat bonus check off that refusal.

Capitalism is a good thing. If I want to try to sell a knick-knack widget that I think is better than someone else's, i'm glad I can design it, make it, and sell it. I'm glad I can gain wealth and ensure that my family members can have an easier life.

But I'll be damned before I think my personal health is less important than whether my house burns, my homeland gets invaded, or I get back a stolen car.

Let's keep most things in the private theater. I'm not against that.

But only an idiot would think that health insurance belongs there. That is, unless you're making money off it all. But then again that's capitalism.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Innocent Extraordinaire

Playing hide and seek with a 2.7 year old isn't that exciting. Unless, of course, you enjoy asking "where are you?" only to be answered with "I'm right here."

It's like playing Clue with only 2 people.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Color Coordination


For those of you who have never experienced it, this is what happens when you let a 2-year-old pick out his own clothes.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Our Independence Day Festivities



Vincent attended his first fireworks display. With a mix of strategy and sheer luck, we ended up with the best seats for the show. We had gone about 3 hours early, took a picnic dinner, spread the blanket out and waited.

Vincent discovered the root beer in the cooler and became a total petrochemical lush.

Once one root beer was gone, he tried his best to get his hands on another. The funny thing was we had a bottle sitting out and one of the police on patrol came over and asked us if it was a beer.

Of course we were compelled to tell him it was a root beer. I don't know if he saw Vinny with the bottle turned up or not, but he was satisfied, and returned to his official use only golf cart, joking to his comrades.





And then the stumbling intoxicated toddler found himself drowning his sorrows at the bottom of a bottle yet again.


We don't normally let him drink this stuff because we think it is quite bad for him. Well it was a holiday, and he was really in the mood for it, so we just let him have it.

We won't lose any sleep over it, that's for sure.

Well darkness came, and to our surprise the fireworks were being launched right across Melton Lake from us. Melton lake is a long narrow channel, the Clinch River dammed on either end, used for boating and rowing competitions.

I'd wanted us as close to the fireworks as possible so Vincent could actually feel the vibrations of the explosions in his ribcage; I think that is the ONLY way to see fireworks. We couldn't have had it better.

The display was long and beautiful. At first, after about one minute of detonations, it was obvious that Vinny was getting uncomfortable. He had that "do I want to cry or laugh" tone to his voice, and with each successive blast he tended to sway more to the crying end.

It was inevitable, and we could see it clear as day.

His mom took her hands and covered his ears throughout the remainder of the display, which lasted a good thirty-five minutes. By the end her arms were killing her, but we had one very happy boy. Many times he would exclaim "wow", or "pretty", or "fireworks". It was obvious he was enjoying himself immensely, and was good reinforcement for us. We had made the right decision bringing him.

Shell after shell discharged, and I was quite impressed at the extent of the display put on by this small town.

I'm glad I took my camera along; there were a plethora of photo opportunities and I snatched as many of them as I possibly could. I've always been the sentimental sort and I thought that maybe, just maybe, Vinny would like to see pictures of his first display.

On the other hand, he might not even care. But did I really do it for him? Probably not. It sure made me happy, and that's what is important.

As the display drew on, the wind began to shift and the smoke from the detonations began to cloud the actual colored bursts. I think that the reflections of the smoke and the river below created an eerie atmosphere for the pictures.

As you can see the picture on the left and the picture below, the color erupting cast its glow on the surrounding area quite well.

As expected, most of the shells were detonated during the finale. The funny thing was, there were several times during this display that could have been the finale, but after a pause the fireworks continued. It wasn't long before the entire sky was brought to light by dozens upon dozens of detonations.






This is my favorite picture of the evening. It isn't the most colorful; there are many pictures taken depicting reds, blues, purples, greens, and others. I like this picture because of how well it reflects off the river in between us and the display. The wide shots in which the pictures were taken suggest that we were farther away than we really were.

I love fireworks. I always have. There's just something about it that makes my bones tingle.


For anyone interested, here's a video some of the fireworks, again taken by me :) It's not the finale; I was too busy taking stills of the finale to take any video. Many of the explosions are a little blurry because of the smoke that had drifted toward us after the wind shifted, but the sound is good. Enjoy!

again, all the photos and the video are copyrighted and the property of my wonderful self and may not be used anywhere else without my written permission :)

Ghost Baby In the Mirror??


I happened to notice something odd in my mirror today after I took my morning shower. I didn't see these things last night after I took my shower after working in the yard. Granted, I don't normally believe in this sort of thing, but I must admit, this is seriously odd.

One could say these are the handprints of my toddler son, but he wasn't in the bathroom at the time. He'd have had to climb up on the sink and reach up onto the mirror to leave these marks, and as I said, he wasn't in the bathroom at all from the time I took my shower last night and when I took my shower this morning, except to brush his teeth. When he brushed his teeth he was held by his mother; he didn't climb up on the sink.

My wife has also stated that he sometimes climbs up on the sink when he's around her, yet I state again that these handprints were not there last night. They are easily visible and I would have noticed them had they been there.

Our son has always carried on conversations with someone or something since he was first verbal. We always attributed it to either his imagination or his acting out conversations he had overheard and remembered.

I have two other pictures that look like someone placed their hand on the wet mirror and left a dry spot, and even though they look like handprints, they are nowhere near as compelling as these two. I can show those upon request. The only thing odd about them is they appear to show a six-fingered hand.

These pictures, however, send chills up my spine.

Again, I don't normally believe in this sort of thing. What do you think?


By the way, these pics are my property, and I'd best not see them anywhere else, without my written permission and proper credit.

Monday, July 06, 2009

More Vinny Wisdom

Last night, after Becca put Vincent to bed, he screamed and wailed for an hour at least. As of late he's gotten pretty responsive to me going into his room and discussing with him why he's having a fit, so I took it upon myself to head up the steps and have another of our discussions.

I went into the bedroom and asked him what was wrong. He was obviously happy to see me. He stood up and pointed to his eye. "It's my eye," he said.

"What's wrong with your eye?" I asked.

"It's got all sad in it," was his reply.

And to make his aunt jody happy, today, while playing with this little phone thing that does shapes and colors and speaks in two languages, he did his best to repeat the words he was hearing.

"You need to ask your aunt Jody about that, what that means," I told him. "Aunt Jody speaks Spanish."

"Aunt Jody speaks Spinach," he replied.

Again, these little things make my day. Maybe I'm pathetic. Who cares.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Feehery: A Few Meters Off the Mark

John Feehery wrote a commentary today for CNN.com concerning the dastardly downward direction our congress would take now that Senator Al Franken, a comedian, is Senator.

The entire diatribe centers on the lying liberals and all of the plans they have to force-feed their agenda into the starving mouths of the politically desperate.

We are fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have threats from North Korea and Iran, Unemployment is too damn high and kids are going hungry, have no access to badly needed health services and public utilities, and all you can think about is whining about the METRIC SYSTEM?

What kind of arrogant, ignorant asshat are you?

So you go and start playing fear politics by telling everyone they need to learn that a kilo is 2.2 pounds, that a kilometer is .62 miles, and an inch is 2.54 centimeters?

Does white American arrogance have no end? Not only are Americans above the need to learn secondary languages, but now we exhibit our lack of need to conform to world standards? Sure, let's continue to play in our corner of the sandbox with our own toys as they rust and break.

We are the only civilized nation that I can think of that doesn't use the metric system. Sure, England still uses the imperial system of weights and measures, like us, but at least they are exposed to metrics enough to know they need to know how to convert!

The metric system isn't only for nerds in white coats, beakers of bubbling blue fluids in hand.

The metric system is easier, more sensible, and consistent. But this isn't all that was said.

Mr Feehery, you state in your article that, just as Republicans rebounded from Watergate, so too will they recover now. You say it is a matter of time before the democratic house collapses in on itself.

I disagree. This is no simple crime of breaking and entering. Sure there was fraud in watergate, but this is fraud on a much grander scale. People are tired of the Republican brand. That's one thing you got right in your article. Conservatism needs a return to its roots if you are going to have any survivability. People have grown tired of your do-as-i-say, not-as-i-do politics.

You go on and on talking about how the democrats (liberals) are forcing unwanted agendas on the US population:

"When they passed a so-called stimulus bill that Republicans branded as pork-filled, they lost their credibility on fiscal responsibility..." you say.

Mr. Feehery, I'm sure you probably don't know this because you most likely have undocumented help workers keeping your house, but cleaning up a mess usually takes more effort and energy than making the mess in the first place. It's going to take us a hell of a lot of expense to get us out of the hole YOUR party created with its PORK-BARREL spending.

Fiscal responsibility? DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH. Pot, kettle, black? Idiot.

"When the president assumed control over General Motors, dictated terms to Chrysler, and then refused to allow some banks to pay back their TARP loans, independent voters grew nervous about the government's stepped-up intervention in the private sector..." you say.

Yeah he dictated some terms. Assumed control? I wouldn't go that far, fear-mongerer. And you know why? They were given YEARS to clean their mess up. YEARS. They said in their own words that the people create the market, that they create what the people want, and just like ALL CONSERVATIVES who believe in CAPITALISM and the FREE MARKET scream to the tops of their lungs, the market will decide. People will decide with their dollars. And they did. Unfortunately due to the ineptitude of the management of these companies, millions of people faced other unemployment. The government gave the loans to save the companies, and dictated terms of those loans. Our government didn't want to give all this money just so they could take it and get their personal jets polished and their daughters a new BMW.

When your bank gives you a mortgage (loan), the bank owns your property. NOT YOU. You pay it off.

I'm not the least bit upset that Obama dictated something similar with our government's loan to the failed auto industry.

"And last week, when Democrats passed a climate change bill that Republicans insist will sharply raise energy prices for middle-class families, moderate Democrats started to jump ship. In fact, 44 Democrats defied intense pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and voted no..." you say.

House bill 219-212 passed with 44 democrats opposed and eight republicans in favor.

211 democrats were in favor and 168 republicans were opposed. I'd hardly call the 44 democratic votes against to be "jumping ship." Good lord, you spin this so hard and fast I think my unborn kids will be born dizzy.

The energy bill is bad news for anyone in the "rust belt." Anyone representing the "rust belt" would be hard-pressed to be for this bill and keep their seat in the House.

"Democrats are now making plans to intervene in the health care marketplace, with some liberals insisting on a government-run "public option" health insurer. In any event, many won't be satisfied until the government basically sets prices for health insurance and prescription drugs."

I don't know where you're getting your news, Mr. Feehery, but according to the forums, articles, and polls that I read, most people don't think this is a bad thing. Republicans and Democrats alike. There are those on both sides who are opposed to it, but they are by far a minority.

"Another poll showed that while 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative, only 21 percent think of themselves as liberal. The American people voted for change. They didn't vote for a liberal orthodoxy that promises more government, higher taxes, slower growth, more pork and a liberal social agenda."

"They didn't vote for a liberal orthodoxy that promises more government [STARTED BY YOUR PARTY], higher taxes [STARTED BY YOUR PARTY], slower growth [AGAIN A DIRECT CONSEQUENCE TO ACTIONS OF YOUR PARTY], more pork [AGAIN, IN RECENT NEWS BEGUN IN EARNEST BY YOUR PARTY] and a liberal social agenda."

Let's just throw all the things people hate with one thing actually desired by liberals and see how many people believe it.

And by the way, Democrat =/= liberal. I know most if not all liberals are democrats, but there are many democrats who aren't "liberals." I know it's hard to put your brain around this fact, but it's true. So please stop throwing this word around with every new argument with which you disagree, attempting to incite the moderates and conservatives with your lies. We're getting tired of it. Thing is, when we start flinging monkey shit back at you, you always come back at us with self-righteous attitudes. Get over it.

What you need to do, Mr. Feehery, is stop spitting venom, stop wafting smoke, stop spinning facts like you learned in the no-spin zone, and accept the fact that a comedian, someone people KNOW they aren't supposed to take seriously, had more credibility than your candidate. A COMEDIAN. Your politician was beaten by a fool. How does that taste? Are the American voters idiots? I'd say no. I'd say they're on to your bullshit, and they don't like the smell.

I'd also like to repost a comment to this CNN news article. Digger, if I knew your name and city, I'd post it, but I don't have it. What you said, in my opinion, was pure magic:

By Digger
I think your column is hilariously ironic. Here, you wonder aloud why Republicans are being voted out of congress while at the same time railing against a liberal social agenda that includes such offensive and anti-American ideas as . . . oh no . . . . THE METRIC SYSTEM!

Wanna know why your party stinks right now? Because m0r0ns like you can think of nothing better to do than throw old tired labels around that add up to nothing. If you're against it, it's "liberal" and "socialist." Problem for you is that people are not buying that junk anymore. People want healthcare reform, and you have nothing to offer. While the majority of us have enough brain cells to realize that fossil fuels are bankrupting us while destroying the planet and strengthening our enemies, you guys just can't stand to let your rich buddies down by moving in another direction. While the country is rapidly changing demographically and is ready to move on from the hatred and bigotry of the past, your senators are out there equating a mainstream and legitimate Latino organization to the KKK. While you'll stand on your head to "defend marriage" and stand on your morals to impeach Bill Clinton, you're out having multiple affairs (gay and straight), and meeting high priced call girls in hotel rooms. You're preaching abstinence only while standing next to your pregnant 18-year old for goodness sake! I could keep going.

Bottom line is this: Ronald Reagan is not going to crawl out of the grave anytime soon, and if you keep moving in the direction of obstruction and tired, hackneyed ideas, by the next election you're simply going to be a bunch of angry, anti-gay, anti-anyreligionbutyourown, gun toting, anti-intellectual, anti-science, morally hypocritical white people who, thank goodness, will be represented by a permanent minority in congress.

Come up with some ideas of your own. Come back to the table with them. Debate their merits, and the merits of the opposition with honesty, openness, and integrity. Listen to some other points of view and welcome them to your party, and then maybe you'll get somewhere. Until then, you and all your buddies are a joke.

Obama, the Illegal Kenyan Communist President

First off, let me just say that I've been good. I haven't gotten mad at too much lately. Deep breaths in, deep breaths out, slowly count to ten, and let it all go.

I've been good. I've been very good.

There is no emotion, there is only peace....

But good things never last. I don't think I can keep my mouth shut on this one.

What's it been? Nine months? Ten months? Do these people ever stop?

Today while reading a forum for one of my favorite video blogger posts, someone commented, yet again, just out of the blue, about Obama's birth certificate.

It had context. It wasn't a troll, for sure, despite it coming from left field. It was obviously yet again someone still smarting from the smack of last November's presidential election.

The comment went something like "obama the illegal Kenyan Muslim communist President.." oh throw in liberals there for good measure. He actually said something about liberals in the next sentence, but I can't really remember what it was.

People, breathe in, breathe out, slowly count to ten, and try to let it go. LET IT GO.

If you hadn't heard, the argument was that Obama was not eligible for the office of President because he was not legally an American citizen. The evidence? A strange birth certificate from the state of Hawaii that seemed odd. Some said it was missing a border common to all certificates. Some said there was no watermark. I even heard an argument once that said the dye used in the ink for printing the certificate was the wrong color.

Sooooo..... some loonies on the conservative side start screaming that the election was a fraud. Obama wasn't a citizen because his father was Kenyan and his birth certificate was a forgery. They claimed the election was stolen. Imagine that! Conservatives complaining an election was stolen? I guess they know what to look for.

Let's get something straight for all you people who obviously played hooky when you should have been in eighth grade civics class.

It doesn't matter what nationality Obama's father was. Obama's father doesn't even have to be human. He's an American citizen because he was born to an American citizen. It doesn't matter where he was born. It doesn't matter if he had a birth certificate or not. He was born to an American citizen. And more importantly, he was born within the United States.

Even if both parents are illegals, the child born to them, if born within the borders of the United States, is a United States citizen.

It is a misunderstanding of the wording of the Constitution of the United States when people claim that because he wasn't born in the contiguous United States he isn't "natural-born." They say that if he wasn't born in the United States, then he isn't qualified to be President.

Natural-born means more than this. Natural-born means either born in the United States or US territories and/or born TO a citizen of the United States. Obama was in Hawaii, and Hawaii was a state at the time.

The thing that gets me is the people who claim this last part seem to be blind to the fact that McCain was born in Panama. By their own logic, the candidate they wanted to win, the candidate they say should've won, had it not been stolen by an illegal participant, was himself illegal.

So, like it or not, Obama was eligible to be President. It doesn't matter if he were born in Hawaii, Kenya, or on the moon. It doesn't matter if he had a birth certificate or not (unless, of course, there were no other records that indicated that Obama actually came out of the woman he claimed to be his mother). Obama was a natural-born American citizen. To not be natural-born and be a citizen requires naturalization. If you aren't naturalized, you are a natural-born citizen. End of argument.

Yet I'm sure there are people who still claim the world is flat...

So. We've knocked down illegal and Kenyan. He's a MUSLIM!

And? This matters because? Has he signed an executive order tearing down all churches and requiring citizens to not shave their beards and attend mosques? I didn't think so.

It shouldn't matter if he's Christian, Muslim, a Noodler or a Jedi. Separation of Church and State, remember? If you agree that even if he were a Muslim and it were a bad thing, then I'm sure you don't. You're probably the same people who waved flags and rang bells when Bush Jr. stated he was going to put God and his faith in front of his Presidential decisions. You want people to be religious and put religion first, that is, until it isn't your religion.

How many times are we going to have to deal with this? Till death do we part? I sure as hell hope not.

Communist? Give me a break. There is a difference between communism and socialism. Jeez, read a book. Wait? What's that tingling? Deja Vu? Yeah, we've discussed this before too. Several times. Don't burn books. It's bad for your mental health.

Socialism isn't bad either. Not all socialism. Just because we want equal health care for all doesn't make us hell-bent socialists. If our bodies are important enough to us to have socialized police protection and fire protection, then health protection is a no-brainer. Especially when you save money in the long-run.

President? Well at least they got one thing right.

This whole charade over his citizenship is bad. It looks bad, and smells worse. If I were a paranoid person I'd think that the people claiming this were liberal moles doing their best to discredit conservatives. Just make them stop, guys. Each one who opens his or her mouth makes all conservatives look dumb.


P.S. For all of you who know from where the line there is no emotion comes, you get ten points to spend on the Fatbody Shopping Network.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Law of THREES

It seems the law of threes struck again lately. There is this, urban legend perhaps, that states when a celebrity or well-known individual dies, two more will die within X days. Sometimes it's 3 days. Sometimes is 7. Sometimes it's 21, although that one is a bit of a stretch. 21 days is a large window of time for three famous people known to you to die.

This week we had the law of threes slap us hard. It wasn't a law of three deaths within a week. It was the law of threes of three deaths within three days. Coincidence? Yeah. But it sure makes for a good fireside story to claim the connection between them all.

R.I.P.
Ed McMahon June 23, 2009, no formal cause of death but tons of health issues
Farrah Fawcett June 25, 2009, ~9:30 a.m., victim of cancer
Michael Jackson June 25, 2009, ~2:30 p.m., cause of death as of yet unreleased

People have been wondering about how much air time each of these deaths have received. I will admit just as quickly as anyone else that anyone who said they were receiving equal treatment was off their rocker. It is obvious that the news media has dug its claws into the Michael Jackson story and is dragging it along for ratings. But why? Well, there are a few reasons for this.

These reasons are sad and offensive, but they are true reasons, and cannot be denied. I do not agree with the reasoning behind who's death gets what time, but this is just the way it is, in my eyes. Perhaps if these reasons are discussed, we can change the monster that drives our news media -- exploitation of tragedy.

First of all, people are complaining that with the advent of the death of Michael Jackson, no one is hearing about the death of Farrah Fawcett. I have one thing to ask. Remember Ed McMahon? I didn't think so.

Ed McMahon was famous in his own right, but he was viewed as old by the media powers-that-be. To them, he was well past his prime. He was death-warmed-over and just waiting to be buried. Old people die. That's a fact of life. Who's going to care?

Media thoughts: Old guy died. He was famous. The old people who watch cable news will remember him. People who know the name of Johnny Carson will remember him. People who did the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes will remember him. Oh, and people who watch those weird commercials on T.V. during the day that cater to old people (e.g. advertising medicines, advertising investment in gold, advertising purchase of Franklin Mint knick-knacks and non-circulating Liberian memorial coinage, etc.) will remember him. It's two generations maybe back from the popular in-the-know youth hipsters of today, but let's do a story anyway.

Farrah Fawcett died of cancer. We've been hearing about Farrah Fawcett's battle with cancer for quite some time. We knew she was going to die. She also was famous. Many of us still remember her for her looks, charm, and roles she played. But she was sick. We knew she was only going to be around for a while. It was tragic, but that's the way of cancer.

Media thoughts: How tragic. A beautiful actress has passed after her battle with cancer. Everyone remembers Charlie's Angels. Everyone remembers her curly hair and broad, white-toothed smile. She was a sex icon: beautiful, strong, ....and somewhat ditzy. Middle-America, personified. Viewers love tragedy and suffering. They like to see things that make them feel better about themselves. Let's help them with that "thank god it wasn't me or someone I love" feeling and do a story. Lots of people remember this lady. Aging people, yes, perhaps the parents of our hipster youth, but they still spend money on our commercialized products. Be sure to get a hybrid vehicle ad somewhere in there. We need to sell more of those. And don't forget Oil of Olay.

Michael Jackson died of unknown causes, hours after Farrah Fawcett. I think, of the three, he is not only the undisputed king of the popularity/fame contest, but also his death was the least expected. People around the world know his name. Ask kids in Germany or Japan if they know Ed McMahon. Try Farrah Fawcett too.

Media thoughts: OH MY F^%&ING GOD! This is a tragedy goldmine! That geezer McMahon was just plain old. Old people die. Farrah who? Oh yeah, the lady with cancer. Sad, but cancer victims die. Michael Jackson? Who would have thought? He was sick earlier in the year but...... OH MY F^%&ING GOD! Everyone, EVERYONE wants to hear about Michael Jackson.

The reasons are clear. Of the three who died he was the shocker. He was no doubt the most famous. He was also the one to climb into the clouds, only to fall so very far. His life, and his death, were a tragedy that surpassed any inkling of a story you could write about Ed McWho and Farrah. GET THIS ON THE TUBE/(S)! People will eat this up. People who love him and say "Oh no! He's dead!" will tune in. People who hate him and say "Bout damn time that pedophile went to hell" will tune in. People surprised by the shock of the death will tune in just because of the WTF principle.

Again, I don't believe that any of the reasons behind why which death receives however much time is ethical or moral. This is the truth as I see it. The media wants the biggest story, the biggest tragedy, akin to some earthquake or tsunami that kills thousands upon thousands of.. some other... maybe brown... people far far away. Therefore, McMahon is brushed under the carpet, Fawcett is taken off the stove, and we are force-fed a Michael Jackson sandwich.

People realize, and the news media doesn't, that all three of these individuals were loved; they all had friends, family, and fans. They all touched lives in their own communities equally and as passionately as each other. They will ALL be missed.

And get Ed McMahon back on T.V. I want to see Barbara Walters' report on him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The End?

This weekend marks the final transition from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting. As I'm sure you know, the transition day was delayed because many people complained. It seems they thought they hadn't enough time, or enough money, to by conversion boxes, if they needed them. Many people stated that the transition would abandon many elderly who depend on broadcast TV for... entertainment and news I guess... and since they were on fixed incomes they couldn't afford the boxes with such short notice.

That was a crap excuse. Maybe it was different in other areas, but I used to work in the industry, and I know for a fact that we started warning our customers as early as 2002. Could have been earlier, but the first time I can remember telling a customer was shortly after the attacks in New York and DC. It could even have been later... maybe 2003 or 2004, and I'm getting my memories confused. It doesn't matter anyway, because the point is they had between 4 and 8 years to prepare, not a matter of months. That's enough time, I think.

My real question is what is said about the transition. It's allegedly going to "free up that part of the broadcast spectrum for other uses."

The official take on these "other uses" is that it will be used for public safety communications. These are communications for fire departments, police departments, civil defense, etc.

I wonder, are they going to broadcast visually for these communications? Why is there the need for it? I don't work in that industry, so I'm not aware. Has the band reserved for this sort of thing become cluttered?

If you remember your old TVs, they have UHF (ultra high frequency 300-3000MHz) and VHF (very high frequency 30-300MHz).

There are many other radio frequencies used for communication. You have low frequencies, super low frequencies, medium, high, super high, extremely high... pretty much all you'd imagine.

Interestingly enough there are some designations for things one doesn't normally think about, but are necessary: satellite reception, military countermeasures, and ..you guessed it... traffic radar.

The photo radar comes to mind. This is where they build the little stands with cameras on them at the intersections of streets or public crosswalks that take pictures of people who "violate" the law.

The band reserved for photo radar is currently around the 33 to 35 GHz range. I'm trying to figure this out. We've had new cameras installed, and I actually support the reasons behind putting them up, at least I did, until I finally heard a good argument against it.

We have speeders that come down our hill too fast to slow down for the light at the bottom or the school crosswalk next to it. It makes it near impossible to pull out onto the main road from our side street because the speeders crest the blind hill and fly toward you at least 20mph over the posted limit, or more. They put cameras (all over town too) at this intersection, and it has slowed the traffic. I am all for this.

The argument I heard against it was that the operation of our cameras may be contracted out to a third party, a private for-profit institution that may or may not, depending on the honorable nature of the company, seek profits over my rights. They can do any manner of things to the photos before handing them to the police, including but not limited to using photoshop to alter times, speeds, license plates, entire cars even...

Sadly, I must admit that this has, while not convincing me of the evils of traffic cameras, made me more wary of them.

If you're interested, click here for information on how to beat a ticket received from a traffic camera. You can even have it not appear on your record.

But this isn't what I'm really concerned about.

They are freeing up 30-3000MHz for public safety communications.

Since I don't believe the traffic band for radio communication for fire, police, and hospital are cluttered, the only logical thing I can think of would be communications for visual devices. Perhaps broadcast TV, like camera phones, from dispatch to police cars, trucks, and fire. Perhaps communication between a hub or chief to individual officers on the beat or firefighters in a structural fire. Perhaps even cameras on their hats/helmets that broadcast in real-time what they see. I think that usage of these bands is more than justified.

What I don't think is justified, and what I worry about considerably, is the usage of these bands for the broadcast of "big brother" cameras. As London, England, is currently plagued, are we destined to be swarmed by masses of "public safety" cameras on every street corner and alley?

Cameras used to spy on our every-day lives?

This is not a societal step in the right direction, in my opinion. I hope that this is not the intended use of these newly "freed" bands.

I don't want cameras spying on me. I don't need the government watching everything I do. Government is a necessary evil used to mitigate grievances between individuals, groups, or states. Assault, robbery, transport of goods, civil rights cases, even taxes, are all grievances between groups.

What I don't need is a camera shoved in my face, surveying my surroundings in order to keep me safe. It is good to be protected. I'm not denying that. I'm saying that the risk of abuse of this system far outweighs any benefit received.

Could spy cameras on street corners have prevented the terrorist attacks of 1993? 1995? 2001? Could they have found who sent the mysterious anthrax? Perhaps.

Could spy cameras, especially ones that can penetrate your clothing, stop people from planting devices in towns or on airplanes? Probably.

Does this justify the usage of those cameras? I think not.

I am a fervent believer in the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." I even have it cross-stitched into my pillow.

Perhaps these traffic cameras were the beginning. Perhaps I should protest them. I definitely will reject any public spy cameras on my street corners.

Some say it's the end of analog transmission. Is it also an end to freedom? You decide.


As a side note, while researching radio frequencies, I was reminded of numbers stations. These are stations on shortwave used to transmit streams of numbers to a target. The numbers are believed to be encrypted communications to spies in foreign countries. You can hear an example here and see an example here. These files are the property of their respective owners and I have used them without their permission. If they so choose, I will remove them from this post.

Could this be what the "new uses" for these freed broadcast bands will be? More spy communication? With or without cameras?

I am most intrigued by the comment in the video by the reporter, referring to a British official who stated, "People shouldn't be interested in numbers stations, because people shouldn't be listening to them, because they are illegal to listen to."

Maybe I'm just paranoid.....

Friday, June 05, 2009

Reasoning, Take 1:

Last night Vincent and I were watching a movie, and during this movie it began to snow quite heavily. There was at most four feet of snow on the ground, and the snow continued to fall. Vincent looked at the television and exclaimed proudly, "Look at all the snow!" He then followed with, "It's snowing BRAN flakes!" Realizing something wasn't quite right with what he said, he placed his finger to his chin, thought for a moment, then said, "No, It's snowing SNOW flakes!"

Vinny loves to eat bran flakes. Typical 2-year-old again, but entertaining just the same.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Silent Hill On the Wii?

Nintendo announced recently that a new Silent Hill game will premiere on the Wii. There have been many responses to this on the internet already. There are many for it and many just right off dead against it.

Briefly, Silent Hill is a survivor horror game. It basically involves a protagonist getting dumped into a mysterious town, deserted and enshrouded with fog, and he needs to find his way to some goal, whether it be locate a missing family member, or simply to make sense of what he/she's stepped into and escape. Throughout the game a complex storyline develops, revealing the history of the town and how it relates to their lives. As you progress through the game, you enter various areas of a horrific nightmare, a parallel universe of the town that may closest be described as hell. There are many twisted creations that wander both realms. All are deadly.

The announcement of a Silent Hill coming to the Wii is very exciting. So why are there people upset?

Well, for one, the nightmarish world that for several games has been depicted as an iron and steel industrial hell painted in blood has become an "ice" world. This is a refreshing change, in my opinion, and I anticipate seeing how they make it work. For some it's an immediate turnoff. I understand why -- the steel and blood industrial hell of the previous games is what defines Silent Hill. Regardless, I think this new Ice world deserves a chance. Let's see what they do with it before we lambaste Team Silent into annihilation.

The second change to the Silent Hill universe, as ranted by many loyal base members, is the decreased role weapons will play in the game.

I think they are mistaken. Many people play Silent Hill on easy and/or normal difficulty levels. In these levels, weapons and ammunition are prevalent, and it is quite easy to progress through the game effortlessly blowing all of your enemies to smithereens.

However, if you play any Silent Hill game, all the way back to the original in 1999, on a hard difficulty, you will see that weapons are almost useless. On those levels, ammunition is very rare and monsters take too many hits to take down. It's best you run like the wind when you see them and save your ammo for the boss battles.

This is made even more difficult in Silent Hill for the Wii by having the AI improved so that the creatures use strategy in taking you down, and will pursue you as far as they can. They will flank you, trap you, feint, and mob you.

I think this is the true mission of Silent Hill: horror in which the protagonist is a normal person, weak, untrained, afraid, and simply trying to survive. This is what Silent Hill was meant to be. Running away is intended. Turning the game into a shooter was not.

Harry Mason of Silent Hill was not a warrior. James Sunderland of Silent Hill 2 was a little bit stronger. In Silent Hill 3 Heather Mason, the series' first female protagonist, had become stronger. When she gets her hands on the katana, watch out! I'd have to say that Henry Townshend in Silent Hill 4 was about the same as Heather. Travis, in Silent Hill Origins (zero), took a great leap into the toughguy protagonist role. He goes through the game carring a plethora of weapons, including items such as TVs, desk lamps, and furniture, in which to bash creatures over the head. He's also pretty darn good with his fists. Silent Hill Homecoming is even worse. Alex Shephard, the protagonist, is a trained soldier.

You can see how the game has degraded into a ramboesque survival shooter. This, I think, has been the detrimental change to Silent Hill.

There was another game that came out in those days that has also become a staple to survival horror fans. It's called Resident Evil. Let's leave all the gunfighting to Chris Redfield, Claire Redfield, Leon Kennedy, and Jill Valentine. However, one can also argue that Resident Evil, when played on Hard levels, gives little ammunition, forcing you to flee past creatures instead of fighting them.

My protagonist in Silent Hill will be played on hard difficulty, and he/she's going to be running away from everything. That is how I play, at night, in the dark, with the sound volume up. And yes, I pee my pants.

Ingenuity, Take 1

A quick post so I won't forget. This afternoon I caught Vincent trying to bite through an electric cord. It was attached to a fan, plugged in, and the fan was on.

Remembering what happened to the cat in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when it bit through the Christmas light wires, I jumped into action.

"What are you doing to that wire," I calmly asked.

"I'm turning off the fan, daddy," he replied.

"That's a good idea," I responded. "But there are better ways to do it."

2-year-old problem solving skills never cease to make my day.

To Protect and Serve; Police Chronicles, Part 1

Yesterday I took Vinny to the park to play. It was getting quite late; the sun had set and the sky was darkening. This park to which I took him is behind the public library, off away from prying eyes from the street, but next to the police station. As part of his customary patrol, I assume, a police officer was doing his rounds in the library parking lot. Vincent had pooped his pants while standing atop the slide, and I was leading him back to our car for a quick change.

As anyone with a 2-year-old knows, you can take the boy away from the park but you can't take the park from the boy. He was not happy, and he was making sure everyone knew it.

Well, we have a Toyota Highlander, and most of the time I use the back as a platform for emergency diaper changing. The police officer circled around the parking lot as I approached my car, eyeing me and my unhappy son.

I guess he was quite surprised when I threw open the back door of the SUV and put Vincent in. He came to a stop not fifty feet from me, and watched me like a hawk.

It took a few minutes to change Vinny, and all the while the cop never took his eyes off me.

When we were finished, I had Vincent stand up, he jumped down from the back, and I led him to his car seat and he climbed in. By the time I had buckled him in and returned to shut the back door, the cop had pulled around and was slowly driving past.

I looked at him, smiled, and held up the poopie mess. "Diaper," I said. He smiled, nodded, and drove off.

Thank you, Mr. policeman, for watching out for my kid. Your protective services are appreciated more than you'll ever know.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Perils of Fairness

When you declare yourself a free state that ensures equal rights under the law to all persons within your society, you enter some perilous waters.

Why? Because you have to give the same rights to all members of your society. No kidding, eh? You'd be surprised how many people still don't get it.

For example, I participated in an online poll on a famous internet society website concerning whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. I, of course, voted yes, and added the comment "Either do that or take away all of the legal benefits of heterosexual marriages."

It wasn't long at all before I received a message stating "Why would you do that?"

Again, I don't see this as difficult to figure out, but I'll state my reasoning just the same.

Because...that's....what....marriage....is.....

Marriage is a legal contract between two people that ensures right of transfer of property and responsibility over the well being of family member, among other things. There is no legal reason to deny this right to anyone. The only reason at all to deny this equality can only be rooted in philosophy, and in the case of our nation, religious philosophy. Even though I discussed this some time ago, the issue, to no surprise, is still dominating our every day lives.

I have no argument against anyone citing philosophy to deny someone any right whatsoever. That's the whole point of having free thought and free expression in a free society.

What I can't stand is a person or a group of people justifying legal discrimination in our society. That is not what our society claims to represent, yet people within our society wish it. That is what this entire issue concerns.

Let me restate. There is no legal reason to deny the right of marriage to anyone. No reason.

People who are married only gain legal and secular benefits. According to the Office of the General Counsel of the United States General Accounting Office, there are 1,138 benefits given legally married couples by the United States government. 1,138!

These include, but are in no way limited to, Social Security survivor benefits, spousal survivor benefits, employee survivors benefits, general retirement benefits, pension benefits, immigration rights, bereavement leave, medical power of attorney, tax benefits, insurance breaks and benefits, visitation rights (in hospital and of child), veteran's benefits (discounts and access), etc.

States also offer benefits such as joint bank accounts, divorce protection, tax exemptions on partner death, property rights, bankruptcy rights, adoption rights, etc.

There is no sacred benefit to being married whatsoever.

Marriage is not performed by a religious organization. It hasn't been handled by the church for hundreds upon hundreds of years.

Ministers of religion must petition the state for the right to place couples into the marriage contract. The state does not petition the clergy. End of argument. There is no if, and, but, or, or anything. End of argument.

The naysayers stand up and scream "What will they do now? Legalize marriage to your dog?" That is not only ridiculous but also proves how much of an uncaring, arrogant, selfish idiot the person saying it truly is. You're equating another human being to a dog? Do you realize what you just said?

I also hate it when people say that the discrimination should stay in effect because it is simply that, a religious rule. "Though shalt not murder is a commandment," they claim, "and it's law. Marriage being between a man and a woman should be the same."

At the risk of sounding really agitated, I just need to say, the ignorance of people astounds me. It seems to never end.

Murdering someone infringes on their personal rights. Giving someone else the secular benefit you get when you marry isn't infringing on anyone's rights... that is... unless you say giving someone something you have access to is infringing on your rights.... which leads to.... you thinking you deserve something they do not.... which leads to... you think you're superior.

Murder is illegal across the board. There is no cast in our society that is given the right to murder. Murder is an all-or-nothing concept. Marital benefits should be the same. All-or-nothing.

So give this right to those seeking same-sex marriage. Or take it away from heterosexual marriages. I prefer that they take it away. Maybe then people will understand what they've lost. Maybe then they'll understand what they've been keeping from their fellow human beings all this time.

To All The Future Dads Out There

A friend recently asked me what I thought it was like being a father. It seems the question of whether he and his wife were going to have a child had come up. I wrote him a letter in response, and decided to post it (it has no personal information other than my own). Perhaps other future fathers or men pondering the child question will find it helpful. I think this is perhaps the longest blog post I've ever posted.

*********

You asked me what I thought of fatherhood. I could easily answer, “it is great,” or “It has changed my life,” or “it has its ups and downs.” I could even give a couple of examples to support what I said, but without helping you see the grit and joy as I have seen it, I feel that answering in such a manner would be totally unfair to you.

I also know that it would be terribly unfair to you to expect you to read page after page of things that you might not have wanted to read. Perhaps you want that summary.
So, to compromise, I am offering a summary and a detailed explanation of how things have changed me, or what I felt about them.

SUMMARY
What do I think of fatherhood? I was scared to death of the prospect. I wanted to have a child, sure, but did I want the commitment of keeping the child? The responsibility? Did I really want to put my life, my desires, my expectations on the backburner in order to foster the growth of a child?

Perhaps I’m biased, but since I’ve taken that step I look back to those thoughts and think, yes, yes I do. Yes I did. I’m glad I did.

It’s not easy. Nothing like this ever is. I think what sums it up most is fatherhood (or parenthood for that matter) is a long list of mistakes pushing toward a positive outcome. There is no “getting it right.” There is no “right” way to be a parent, despite the existence of clearly the well-known “wrong” way.

What is most important is that you “want” the child. If you have a child you do not really want, you will hurt the child in some way, at some time, some how, either mentally or physically.
Life with a child under your governance will be scary at times, happy at times, frustrating, and rewarding. As I said before, there is no easy path. There will be many times that you’ll get it wrong. You might think “oh my god what have I done,” or “I’m such a terrible parent.” The good thing to remember is that when you grow from these mistakes, you’ll see that you, as well as the child, are learning. This is what is most important to me.
I thought I had seen it all. I didn’t think there was much more for me to learn about being human. But I had it wrong. I have learned so much from my son, maybe more than I’ve even taught him.

I think that the experience of having a child is a blessing. If it is in your ability, financially and emotionally, I think it best for you to do it. But you must remember, you are no longer you. As when you got married, you became a husband and wife. With a child, the dynamics are further complicated.

For example, as a bachelor you could go wherever you wanted, whenever you wanted, for as long as you wanted.

As a married man you had to go places you and your wife wanted to go (e.g. for vacation), when you and your wife could both afford the time to go, and for however long you could afford and/or could take the time.

Factoring in a child only makes those times you can go more seldom.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to email them to me. I’d be happy to answer.


THE LONG TALK
I know this is very long. Don’t try to read it all at once. Finish it, if you can, and if you have any questions, please ask.

The path through fatherhood, as I have experienced it, is paved with fear, doubt, and regret. This is not to dissuade you, however, because as I see it, the fear fades away, the doubt turns to confidence, and you learn from the regret. I think it is an experience all men should have. I have learned, grown, and changed as a human being considerably—all, I believe, for the better. I’ll do my best to take you down that path as I saw it.

The first fear I had, when we were contemplating having a child, was whether I would be a good parent or not. This fear, of course, was ridiculous, because there was no point in worrying over something like this until the child was born. It did, however, give me time to ponder what methods I would use to parent the child – methods which may or may not manifest. What I mean is you can always aspire toward an ideal, but in times of anger, you may regress to other less desirable methods. For example, I was struck as a child. We didn’t want to raise our children using spanking as punishment, but I’ve already slipped and swatted him several times. But each time it happens, after I’m filled with the above-mentioned regret, I try to educate myself on how that happened and try to steer interactions away from reaching that point again.
After conception another fear was added. What if the child miscarried? What if the child was stillborn? What if the child had birth defects?

These are all things that are out of your control but may occupy your time. What I can say is that I did my best to realize that these things happen, and when they happen, you adjust. It’s your duty to the child. When people asked me, as time went on, if I wanted a boy or a girl, I would always say, “I don’t care what it is as long as it has all of its fingers and toes.” I clung to that until the 4D scans indicated he had no defects.

I made all sorts of plans while he was in utero. I knew we’d do all sorts of things, from fishing to hiking, to making music with blades of grass and digging tunnels. Many of the things I planned have happened, and many haven’t. I jumped the gun a bit, I guess. Some things are better left unplanned for quite some time.

My biggest fear during gestation turned into fear of what I would do during the act of labor, how I would react, and how I would support my wife up to that point and beyond.

The best thing we did, and I would advise anyone to do this, was take the pre-pregnancy classes at the hospital. You learn many, many things; you learn breathing/coaching/calming techniques for labor; you learn how to detect problems with your infant by studying things like body temperature, fecal color, smell, and consistency; you learn how to judge motor and psychological development; you learn how to avoid common infant maladies such as cradle-cap, diaper rash, and bottle-mouth; you learn strategies to minimize SIDS and most importantly, infant CPR. You will also witness a live birth on video. Many men usually view this as gross, but if you are going to be in the labor room, you need to prepare for this. I saw some things I thought I’d never see in my life, and I’ll mention them shortly.

What followed was simply general excitement and anticipation. The scheduled due date came and went. A few days passed, and then it happened. I made a blog post on my wife’s “Dear Vinny” blog – the only post I’ve made to that blog – that describes the event, as I saw it, in good memory.

***
Friday, October 20, 2006
The Road Least Traveled

Well Vincent you were two weeks old yesterday, and I tell you, what an adventure you and I and your mother have been on. I’ll recap the highlights for you.

For the past two months before your birthday I have not slept. I have been anxious with worry, having questions boggle my mind.

What do we do when the water breaks? How do I help your mother get through labor? Will I survive labor? Will your mom go into a bad transition and use her karate on me and hurtle me out the window? What will Vincent be like? Will we harvest the cord blood properly? Do we have all we need to start raising a kid? Will we sleep?

For several weeks before you were born, your mother would wake up and go to the bathroom near dawn. In the end it was getting painful – she would gasp, whine, whimper, and sigh as she battled her way to the toilet. Hearing these sounds, from within whatever slumber I had managed to work myself into, I would start up in bed, asking, “Is everything all right?”

Everything was always fine. It was the waiting game, and we were playing it.

I had originally bet my money on you being born on September 23rd. This is because, being the steadfast record keepers that we are, we knew the probable date of your conception, and working the math, determined the latter half of September to be the target date. The doctors disagreed, stating that all first babies are late, and nailed the date down at October 4th.

I was further reinforced in my belief you would be born in September when we had your 4d pictures made. We, thinking you were at 34 weeks, went in for the ultrasound. The nurse performing the operation looked at you and determined you were not 34 weeks, but 36 weeks, and labeled your pictures such. At that time, if you were 36 weeks, the suggested target birth date for a full 40-week term would be, you guessed it, the end of September.

But September 23rd came and went. Your mom’s target date, September 25th, also came and went.

Every morning I continued to hear the grunts, moans, and sighs. But nothing.

September became October, and the two of us were getting excited. It was an “any-day-now” situation. I think it is kind of like getting on a roller coaster ride. When you’re standing in line, you worry about the ride. You worry if it will scare you, or if you will get sick. You think about jumping the rails and running away. You think about how nice it would be to sit at one of the boring street cafés and spend an hour watching people walk past. But you stay the course, getting closer to the ride dock, and berating yourself the entire way. Then it comes. You climb in, get strapped in, and off you go. There is no turning back. And, then, you start to climb the big hill.

We were going up that hill for several days. October 4th came. You decided it must’ve been too cold outside, and as the sun set, your mother again told me to give you a stern talking to. It seems your aunt Rachel and uncle Scott were concerned about your cousin Byron tarrying in the womb, and Scott gave him a “stern talking to,” after which Byron popped right out.
So I did it. “Vincent, if you don’t come out of there this instant, you’ll be grounded.”

Well it wasn’t that instant. But when the sun came up on the morning of October 5th, I heard from the bathroom…

“Oops.”

No sighs. No whimpers. No scream of pain. Just an “oops.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“I think my water just broke,” your mother replied.

So I looked at the sheets. There was a big, round wet spot and some dripping on the floor, but nothing that couldn’t be explained away as a momentary lapse of control. There were a few drops of liquid on your mom’s leg that looked like strawberry kool-aid. It was nothing gushing like we were told happened on average.

Neither of us were sure what to do. Yeah we had six birthing classes. Maybe in one they told us what to do, but standing there in the bathroom at seven-thirty in the morning, our minds were as still as an empty room.

So I did the best thing I knew to do. I called John Hartman.

If you were coming, they needed to know. Marvis was support person number 2. She had an idea, but wasn’t really told I think, that she was coming primarily to support me and not your mother. Odd, yes, but I was afraid I would freeze in labor, and I didn’t want Becca to feel alone.

But I digress.

“We think her water just broke.” I told your Grandpa Hartman on the phone. I must’ve been on speakerphone, which is often the case when you call the Hartman house, because I heard Grandma Marvis scream with delight.

As the scientists we all were, I felt compelled to provide evidence that would support my hypothesis.

“There’s this red liquid dripping down her leg.”

“Call the doctor and see what they say to do,” said Marvis, “but you probably should go to the hospital.”

So we called. They said they’d get back with us, and we waited.

“Oh wow,” I heard your mother exclaim. “I think that’s my mucous plug.” So I looked, and called John Hartman again.

“There’s this snotty stuff all over the place now.”

“Yes,” said Grandma Marvis. “You really need to go to the hospital now. “

So we were reassured. The time had come. I went and jumped in the shower. As I got my clothes off, the phone rang. The doctors, having finally decided to give us a return call, told us that there was no time to lose, that to keep you at the lowest risk of infection, we had to leave for the hospital, right then, right now. So I dressed, and off we went.

People ask me about that drive to the hospital. I was nervous, yes, but I was not on edge. I drove calmly and carefully. We chatted about you finally coming, and how anxious we were to see you. We talked briefly about breathing, focusing, and working through the pain. I also did my best to avoid the bumps and potholes in the road, because as you may discover one day, potholes, speed-bumps, and laboring women do not get along.

I pulled up to ER, helped your mom to the registration/admittance counter, and showed them our proof of pre-registration.

“So how far along are your contractions?” they asked.

“Three minutes.” Your mom was timing them before we left. They were three minutes as soon as the water broke.

“So what exactly makes you think the baby is coming soon?” they asked. That wasn’t their exact words, but being the lazy bureaucratic desk-jockeys they were, that is how I took it.

“I dunno, but it might be something to do with the fact that her water broke forty minutes ago,” I said. I remember saying this, but again, I don’t remember what elicited this response. I do remember, however, they looking over the desk at the red dripping on your mother’s leg, then they, wide-eyed, exclaiming, “this baby is coming, we need to get her to the triage.”
So I went to park the car.

It seems while I was gone the gushing water happened. Your mom decided the floor in front of the lazy bureaucrat’s desk needed a good polishing.

By the time I got to the birthing unit they were wheeling your mom into triage. Then the nurse looked down, saw the big swath of water behind the wheelchair, and said, “you don’t need triage, I didn’t realize your water was broke,” so they immediately moved us to a birthing room.
And that’s where it happened. We had some really good nurses. Deb was in charge; she did her best to keep the humor. Amanda was a trainee, and after she nearly drained your mom’s blood from a good jab for an IV she became one of the best helpers that was there. Your mom, too, was in good spirits. Deb told her that if your mom was still cracking jokes at this stage, the labor would come, and be easy.

Once things settled down I did my job. I’m not the best breather in the world, so I couldn’t coach by breathing. When the contractions came, I used gentle pressure on your mom’s hand as I held it to keep her focused on when to breathe in and out. I also reminded her to relax her jaw. It became a joke, but the best way she could do it was stick out her tongue. So for the next nine hours when I said, “relax that jaw,” your mom’s tongue would shoot out.

Around ten or eleven a.m. Grandpa John and Grandma Marvis showed up. Marvis was a good breathing coach, although because she couldn’t see my hands, didn’t realize that her breathing was off key to my rhythm of pressure and was causing some confusion. But your mom is a trooper and she worked her way through it.

As time went on, there was a clear problem happening. “Very bizarre,” as Doctor Peters put it. It seems your mom’s cervix was ripe and more than 80% effaced, but there was no dilation. After six hours of this they finally gave your mom a new IV with pitocin, a drug that somehow seems to speed up the process but as a side effect makes the pain during contractions more intense.
And that’s what happened. Soon, by 2:00 pm, your mother was in such pain that she was doubled over, moaning in agony, and pressing her face hard into the grip-bars on the side of the bed. It was time for the epidural. We had previously placed in our birth plan that she wanted to avoid an epidural if at all possible, but now, after the pain, she wanted it. So she got it. And she relaxed.

Life was different after the epidural. Your mom sat on the bed again, relaxed, cracked jokes, and dozed in and out. Finally Marvis and I went down to the café to get a bite to eat. When we got back, Becca was having trouble again.

“I feel like I really need to push,” she would say. She had dilated after the epidural/pitocin to 4cm, and we thought there was still time. So Amanda the nurse came in and we asked, and she checked.

“I think she’s at six or so,” was the response, and she called in Deb to confirm. Deb confirmed, but by the time she did, she added, “she’s complete now.”

So it was quick. Deb looked at your mother and said, “if you want to have this baby, let’s push it out now.”

I want to take one second to say that those nurses in that room really know what they are doing. They know how to take over when the time comes, keep you focused, and get that baby out of you.

And that’s what they did. Doctor Peters was attending a birth in an adjacent room that had complications, and you weren’t willing to wait on him. Deb, Amanda, Grandma Marvis, and I helped bring you in this world. I cradled your mom up in my arms and helped her scrunch up together and push. Marvis held your mother’s opposite leg and helped push, and Deb and Amanda got you out.

Words can’t exclaim the rush of emotion or the miraculous wonder I saw. I could never do it justice. But I will say that when your head was partially out, and your face turned up, you looked right at me. I don’t know if you saw me, but I know it was your first sight of the outside world, and I can only hope I was part of what you saw.

I told your mom repeatedly that I could see you – She needed the support. She was working hard and didn’t think she was making any progress. And then BAM the head was out. After that it was a quick turn of the shoulder and you came dropping out into the world. Doctor Peters came in just in time to hear you crying.

They cleaned you up, sewed up your mother, and collected the cord blood. Things were calming down. Happy Birthday was sung to you, and then you just sat there and looked at us.
One thing though I think I’ll always hear in my head though, to the end of time, is:

“Okay deep breath now! ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT NINE AND TEN!”

Welcome to the world Vincent.

Dad

***


There are two things from that blog post that stand out to me as things I absolutely must tell
you.

First, contact CBR technologies and use them to collect and store your baby’s cord blood. This is to insure that his stem cells will be frozen and stored and will be used in the future if your child develops one of many diseases or conditions. Think of it like an insurance policy. It is worth it. And with all the advances happening in the field, more diseases (e.g. diabetes) are getting closer to being treatable/curable. The initial cost was not cheap, and then you pay yearly for 18 years. I think we pay around 500$ a year for the service.

The downside is if you want to cut the cord, you can’t. The doctor cuts it and collects the blood.
The second is to be sure you pre-register at your hospital for admittance. This will save you a hell of a lot of time when delivery comes. Please, please, do that.

Ok, back to my story.

Because our family roles are a bit different, I ended up the stay-at-home parent. My wife was off work for eight weeks, but she had to go back. Her earning potential was always three or more times mine, so this was a no-brainer, who would work and who would stay at home.
That being said, my experience may be a bit different from what yours may be, so I’ll try to stick more with the internalization of thoughts and feelings than not.

I was afraid to hold him, of course. I thought I’d break him, or drop him. But I finally did it, and then I didn’t want to let him go.

As for my wife and the strangest things I saw, well… I was worried when I saw some things. I’m going to be a bit graphic, but to reassure you that weird things can happen and people can be ok, I need to share this.

First off was the IV. The nurse missed the IV, cut the vein, and blood dripped down my wife’s arm onto the floor and formed quite a puddle. I never thought I’d see that much blood unless someone had lost a limb or something. That’s usually what you see in the movies. I’m sure the blood loss affected her but she was so out of it with labor and all I doubt she ever missed it.

The second thing was seeing her in all that pain. I think that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to experience in my life. She was in such pain that she was literally going to break her teeth or her nose on the metal rail of the bed. So much pain, and there’s not a damn thing in the world that
you can do to ease it or make it go away.

Third was the epidural. This is a very dangerous procedure. You have to hold your wife in such a way that her back is greatly arched, like an angry cat, and they pop this huge needle in-between vertebra and inject the drug. It makes a sickening pop sound. It’s one of those times where you hold tight and make sure you don’t move.

The last thing about the delivery that nearly made me swoon was afterward. After the baby was delivered, my wife’s canal was opened wide. Her hips had separated. Purely natural, I reminded myself, but I couldn’t shake the fact how it resembled a thanksgiving turkey salted and ripe for stuffing. It was a huge cavern. I never thought I’d ever see a hole in someone that big and have him/her not die. I’d say it was big enough to stick a soccer ball in. And then the part you never hear about, helping the delivery of the afterbirth, came. You rub on the belly and gently push, and after a while, out comes this big piece of meat that looks like fresh pot roast and a clear sheen of fat, sautéed in its own blood juices. It wasn’t pleasant. But you’re going to see this, and you need to be prepared.

To me, it was all worth it. I would gladly have undergone any disgusting or gross condition to see him turn and look at me that first time. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. Knowing that, I don’t think these things will ever have the power on me they had before and during the birth.

Moving on, as any parent knows, that first few weeks is important. Many changes are happening to the child, and you MUST be vigilant.

If you guys choose to breast feed, be aware that your wife is going to go through absolute hell if she doesn’t choose to pump. Not pumping is very intimate for the mother and child, allows them to bond, but also means that since no one else can help with the feedings, she’s going to have to be up every two hours or so, all day, all night, for however long it takes. There will be no rest. We tried this at first. Our son was having a hard time latching on and no matter what we tried, not much milk was coming. The baby was born at 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and dropped to about 6 pounds 8 or 6 pounds 9. Many babies lose weight at birth, but this had become a concern.

So rest assured, for the first weeks there will be constant crying, no sleep, no time for yourself, worry over every little detail (e.g. is the baby laying on its back, is the bath water too hot, is the temperature of the milk ok ( formula or pumped breastmilk), etc.) You’ll also start wondering about the diapers. Is the baby peeing enough? Pooping enough? Poop starts slowly and its color/consistency varies depending on whether the baby is breastfed or bottle-fed with formula. As for pee, there are a certain number of wet diapers per day, based on how many days old. You’ll get this data in your birthing classes.

If you are going to work and she is going to stay at home, I cannot stress how much help you can be if you can find a way to stay at home with her and help her for a week or two. If you can’t, get someone else -- your mom, her mom, a sister -- it doesn’t matter who. She can’t do it alone. No matter what she says, she can’t do it alone and she’ll thank you for it later.

And brace yourself for what can happen.

At one week old we went to a lactation consultation at which Vincent stopped breathing. He was rushed to the E.R., and from there to Children’s Hospital.

I nearly broke down when the nurses took me to the E.R. with Vincent as they prepared his mom, and I had to hold an oxygen mask that was way too big to his week-old face.

He was then transported to the Children’s Hospital, where they contaminated his blood samples with meningitis, which led to them performing spinal taps on him, and we waited for three days.
As expected, he did not have meningitis. The hypothesis of why he stopped breathing is that he regurgitated/refluxed food during the feeding and choked on it.

We did our best to minimize the trauma our son would experience upon his delivery. For that reason, we chose not to have him circumcised (which is going to have to be a decision you and your wife make, and you must research it – the video of it in our birthing class was enough to convince me it was unnecessary).

Yet after one week of life, he had been constantly pricked, prodded, had three catheters, a spinal tap, IVs in his arms, and one in his head. He was tangled in wires that were connected to what seemed dozens of different sensors. With the IV in his head and all the wires connected to his body, he looked to me as if he were being assimilated into the Borg.

And he was suffering. He constantly yanked and scratched at his IVs, especially the one in his head.

And we worried. We didn’t know how it was going to turn out. A week old child with meningitis? That isn’t pretty.

I’m not much of a praying person, but I will admit, I did then. I didn’t pray for him to get better, I prayed for strength to accept what would be. I was very scared.

But it all turned out ok. We went home, and didn’t have any other problems for a while. For a long while after the hospital incident he would withdraw when you tried to pick him up. He also wouldn’t wear a hat for more than six or eight months. That was very hard to deal with, the withdrawal and knowing why he wouldn’t wear the hat – he remembered what had happened.

We chose to get a pump so we could bottle as much breast milk as we could. I got to feed the baby more often, and my wife got the rest she desperately needed.

Time went on. Vincent grew and changed. I had gotten a camera for father’s day and took picture after picture. I wrote down how he changed on his baby calendar. I also kept a book, a journal, in which I wrote to him about how I felt, things he and I did, and what I wanted him to know in case I didn’t survive into his teen years. I think this is very important, and ask that you try to understand why and maybe do the same. I haven’t written near as much as I wanted to, but it is still something useful that he can have, and will treasure.

I’d have to say that the two biggest things in my life that changed upon becoming a father were how I handled my own fears and how I decided to spend my free time.

When there is a defenseless life form under your care, things that had previously frightened you don’t anymore. For example, a wasp landed very near him, I picked it up by the wings and put it outside. Would I have ever picked up a wasp before? Hell no.

You lose what life you had. You will never be the same person. But the good side is, you get this wonderful chance to make a new life with someone who is part you, that you helped create.

I am not the same person I was, definitely.

As for spending time with your wife, that may decrease considerably. The “divide-and-conquer” method really takes root. When she’s resting, you’ll be parenting. When you’re parenting, she’s probably asleep. You won’t get to spend real quality time with only her until the baby is old enough to be left with a sitter. You can do it then if you have a trustworthy family member or friend who knows what they’re doing keep the baby. We were fortunate to have that. We had a literal cascade of sisters arriving at different weeks in the first month all to help out. We were very grateful. Even today my wife and I don’t have very much time, between work and child rearing, to spend much time together. It is best to include Vincent in our plans as much as we can. We have gotten to take a vacation by ourselves, leaving Vinny with his grandparents for a week, which was very nice, but yet he still occupied my mind. As the traditional mom, it was the first I was away from him. Fortunately for my wife she broke that bond when she went back to work.

She works a lot. She leaves around 9 or 10 in the morning and returns after 6. She spends at most 3 hours with us in the evening before bed. I try to allow her as much time as she can with Vinny. They’ll play, read books, do bedtime routines, and maybe get a bath. When that’s done, she’s drop dead tired. This, I think, is the plight of the principal breadwinning parent, one which I have fortunately avoided – never enough time with your child(ren). As you can probably guess, this leaves little time for my wife and I to actually spend on each other.

Communication is important here. Knowing each other’s wants and needs is important here. Many parents encounter relationship problems during this period simply because one isn’t getting what one needs from the other. I’m not talking about sex, either. With a new baby, what sex life you had is probably gone for quite a while. And don’t guilt her into it either. I’m talking about rest, housework (chores), lawn care, cooking, cleaning, etc. Make sure there’s enough help for all of this.

That being said, remember that the first few months are going to be absolute hell. Not only is there the lack of rest but also there is little reinforcement / reward for all the work. Aside from crying, eating, and pooping, the baby isn’t going to do much for quite a while. You and your wife will hover constantly hoping to catch a glimpse of that first smile or see the child lift its head the first time. I guess it’s like a person sitting at a slot machine, sinking every nickel of his/her hard earned money in the bandit hoping to see flashing lights and hear the bells.

If you stay at home, there’s no rest. If you work, there’s no rest. Displacement of anger becomes quite possible. Relationship deterioration is almost a near certainty, based on the national averages. If you can weather all of this, you will both come out ahead. You will have the blessing of the child and a stronger relationship bond with each other.

If I could ever hope to sum two and a half years into a few more paragraphs and give it all justice I would. Unfortunately I’m bound to miss something important. Of those things you will surely discover and work through.

I know that I wouldn’t exchange anything for the experience I’ve had with my child. Nothing can compare. You love him/her more than you’ve ever loved anything. I know it sounds hokey but it seems to be a different kind of love than you’ve felt for your wife, or friends and family. The “companionate” and “passionate” and “agape” kind of love don’t cover it.

It also seems to bring with it a level of understanding that goes beyond the superficial matter we call reality. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like now I can “see between the frames” of the life I see around me. Maybe I’m just imaging it. Maybe I’m not. I know I’ve achieved a new level of awareness, and despite not knowing if it is truly tied to having a child or not, I am immensely grateful.

You can view a few entries on my blog about further fatherhood experiences, if you like:

http://fatbody.blogspot.com/2007/09/experts-gypies-tramps-and-thieves.html

http://fatbody.blogspot.com/2008/10/rants-and-relaxation.html

http://fatbody.blogspot.com/2009/05/religion-and-paulitics-part-2-wwjd.html

I really don’t know what more I can say other than it seems to be that old cliché about being the path and not the destination. The path is wrought with heartache and frustration, but as you go you’ll see how you learn, and grow, and the path becomes wider and wider.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interlude 2: Over-boiling The Melting Pot

I'm not sure if many of you are aware of this, but I volunteer to help an Iraqi refugee family acclimate to life inside the United States. The family is large: the family consists of a father, a mother, and several children. They arrived in February of 2009. Upon arrival, the father spoke little English, the mother none at all, and the two older children could say simple words like "yes," "no," and "hello."

Why'd they come? The father is an engineer, and he helped the United States armed forces throughout their liberation of Iraq. He was such an asset to their plans that they awarded him a medal and granted him legal status in the United States. Moving to the United States would also lessen the chance of he and his family being murdered, as they now were targets.

Since their arrival the family has done what they can to get on the fast track for citizenship. Our group got them a place to live, modestly furnished their apartment, helped them get their government heath care, get them their food subsidies, get them their required health inspections and vaccinations, get their children into school, get the mother English lessons, get them a bank account, and transport them around the city for errands and shopping.

The father has been studying the rules of the road and the time had come for him to get his driver's license. He already knew how to drive; he drove in his home country. However, he had to go through our process which involved getting a driver's permit and taking the written and road tests.

I have spent many, many hours with this family. Our family has had them over for lunch. We've taken them to the park for fun. We've been treated to the finest home-cooked Iraqi dishes at their apartment. During my many hours helping them outside the home in the real world I've seen many rolled eyes, shaking heads, stares, and clutched purses. You know, I expected that.

For example, when he starts talking on the phone, in Arabic, to his family, in the milk section of Kroger, people scatter. It would be almost humorous if it wasn't completely sad. You'd think they thought a bomb was about to go off or something. Useful, maybe, in an elevator or a line to see a movie, but sad nonetheless.

I sat in a chair along the wall while the Iraqi father spoke to people at the counters of the DMV in town. He was bounced from clerk to clerk, either because they were having problems with his documents (which is highly unlikely, as all his documents are in order) or they couldn't understand him. Granted he has an accent, but honestly his accent is more understandable than most east-Tennessean accents. He has a problem with acronyms and obscure words. That's about it. He continued to be tossed around like a hot potato. No one else was being tossed around, I noticed. They went to one counter, got what they needed, and took their tests. I think he was tossed around because of his accent paired with no one really knowing what to do. Supervisors, or at least people I assume were supervisors, were called several times.

He finally ended up at one counter with a gentleman who, after the father spoke (in understandable English, to me), sighed, glared at the Iraqi gentleman, and said "Sir, if you can't speak English I can't help you."

By this point I was near fuming. Whatever business he needed at that counter was finally completed, and he moved to yet another counter. At this counter the woman began to ask him, and I heard it clearly, "Do you want the split test or do you want a permit test? For the split test you have to pay and you walk away with nothing."

You'll walk away with nothing.

He told her to explain, that he didn't understand, and she gave her explanation: a verbatim repeat of her previous statement.

Again he asked for an explanation, and again she gave her customary explanation, although this time she said it louder. I used to always think those jokes about saying things loudly would help someone who didn't speak the language to understand were sort of humorous, but now that I've seen it used in a serious context, i see it for what it truly is.

Finally he looked up to me and waved me over. He told the woman that I would help him. By this time, I must admit, I was quite angry.

She looked at me and asked something along the lines of "Are you going to translate for him? Do you speak his language?"

To which I replied, "Yes, I speak English." She gave me a puzzled look - I feared that we would see sparks fly from her ears and watch her head explode.

She explained to me what she was asking, and I, using English, explained to him what she was asking. The problem was not that he couldn't understand her words, it was because he couldn't understand what she was saying. And who wouldn't? You'll walk away with nothing. And to be honest, I don't know who else would. I surely didn't. I just don't understand why she didn't even give one ounce of effort toward explaining the choices to him as she did to me. Well, no, that's not right. I do understand.

We all know why. It reminds me of my previous post where I discussed a story similar to this. People just assume. And you know what the old adage says about making assumptions.

This man sacrificed everything. His family was in danger. They had to leave everything behind: their life, their livelihood, the belongings they'd worked a lifetime to achieve. Their kids left their toys, their clothing, their friends. They left their memories (what good ones they had). They left other family members.

I will not deny that soldiers in combat sacrifice. However, I feel that the families left behind make a greater sacrifice. Soldiers who live and return were doing their job. I respect their job, but I don't see it as a sacrifice. That is the job they wanted. I see it no more a sacrifice as police officer taking down a suspect, a fire fighter dousing a fire, or nurse wiping poop off a wall. The soldiers who live and die are said to pay the ultimate price, but I disagree. They sacrifice, yes, but they are dead. They don't have to go on living like their families back in the states. The families that have to find new ways to survive. They are paying the ultimate price.

Why do I say this? Because I'm tired of hearing people say that this Iraqi family didn't sacrifice anything by coming to the United States. They left a war-torn unsafe country for the safety of the US and a better life.

Yes. A better life. They were heros for the United States while in Iraq. While in the United States, most view them as common dogs.

They were hunted at home, and are hated by the civil majority of their new land. A better life...

One step up the ladder, but still in the septic tank.