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.

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 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.


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.

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.

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…


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:


Welcome to the world Vincent.



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

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:

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.