Thursday, March 12, 2015

Parenting Declaration: Nine Years Old Is Old Enough To Feed They Own Damn Selves

Every culture seems to have their own emphasis on food.  Food brings families together.  We see restaurants of every ethnicity spring up on Pinterest and Yelp each day.  Networks are clamoring over the next competition episode - pitting one's culinary background against another.

Italians pride themselves on sacred recipes spanning many generations.  French have elevated cooking into an art form.  Say what you will about British cuisine, they have their fair share of kitchen celebrities.  Chinese is no different.

Walk into any Chinese restaurant and we'll show you food before you get in the door.  Food will be swimming in tanks and hanging from hooks.  The menu is several pages in two languages and you should also consider what's posted on the interior walls before ordering.  Dim-Sum isn't necessarily a civilized brunch on a Sunday - it's more like full-contact food ordering.  There's less chaos at a demolition derby.  You see a dish you want, you lock-on to that steam cart and pounce when it comes within range of your table.  Leave some for the next guy?  I don't think so.  Last har-gow is best har-gow.

Clearly, we enjoy staying well-fed.  It physically hurts me when I hear my kid say "I'M HUNGRYYYYY!!!!" - mainly because my mom is hitting me with her shoe, wondering why I am depriving her granddaughter of nourishment.  But I have come upon a revelation.  It's a discovery that has freed me in so many ways.

Nine Years Old Is Old Enough To Feed They Own Damn Selves.

 I'm smiling just typing that again.  I've stopped preparing the daily breakfasts for my children.  They have adapted and are now fixing enough food for breakfast and lunch to survive the school days.  It has allowed me to start a workout routine.  I'm more awake at the office, my knees are stronger, I have more ENERGY, and I have lost fifteen pounds.  My next physical should also verify my bloodwork is healthier - fingers crossed.

I know there are kids who are nine and, for that matter, adults who are forty-nine, that cannot prepare their own foods.   I can understand that there are moms AND dads who just want to keep cooking.  They've been blessed by the Kitchen Gods.  They can make delicious meals - no big.  They see every swallowed forkful as affirmation of love - it's validating in a sense.  It's like a runner's high but with a lot of spatulas.

But I'm determined to end that.  I've gotten enough praise over eight years of breakfasts and lunches (I'll still make dinners - I'm not releasing them into the wild here), and it's time to pass that creme-brulee torch.  THEY are now the recipients of MY praise when they're walking out the door with a balanced lunch in their backpacks.

Ma, stop hitting me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Trying to understand

The 2015 Presidential State of the Union Address was last night.  A wonderfully delivered speech by Barack Obama.  Natasha barked through some of it.

This morning, Maria wrote a Mommyish post about Obama's initiative to increase the child tax credit.  She stressed how embarrassing it is that it's taken the government this long to recognize how crucial child-care is for the nation and that, while notable, tripling the credit still is a drop-in-the-bucket for many struggling families.

...and how has this mentality persevered for this long.

So, that got me thinking about my next exercise.  Those of you familiar with partisan politics may view child-care tax benefits as a liberal democratic idea, with conservative republicans sneering at yet another crutch-program that adds to our ballooning national deficit.

That was just a guess on my part - I don't uphold the conservative republican mindset by any stretch of the imagination.  But I wanted to gain some more accuracy in my portrayal of a Republican and last night provided that opportunity.

During the President's speech, there are many breaks and pauses for applause.  Also, not everyone claps for the same things.  Logically, one could assume a person claps only for those things that they support, and conversely, withhold clapping for things they are against.

Also during the President's speech, there are many cameras focused on President Obama as well as the two politicians behind him, Vice-President Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House John Boehner.  With this, I could identify the topics that Speaker Boehner did and did not clap for, giving me an overall picture of what a Republican mindset consists of.

Here are my findings.  These were obtained by viewing an archived copy of the State of the Union Address on YouTube:

Did clap Did not clap
economy growing fastest since 1999 kids graduating more than ever
free from foreign oil more Americans insured than ever
state of union is strong misison in Afghanistan over
generates chances for everyone who makes effort alternative energies
businesses created 11million new jobs CFPB and health coverage
salute military 9/11 generation improved economy, deficit down 2/3
families save approx 750 through lower gas prices "I will veto it"
more kids finish college than ever Everyone plays by the same set of rules
restore link between hard work and growth for every American lowering taxes of middle class families
program by Michelle and Jill help vets and spouses get new jobs we need high quality affordable child-care more than ever
"hire a veteran" It is a national economic priority for ALL of us
we want the workers here in America tax cut up up to 3000 per child per year
Protect American workers with new trade deals paid sick days.  Send me a bill.
right treatment at the right time - medicine woman is paid the same as a man
access to medical information - stoppping disease overtime pay for overtime work
space mission - year in space raise minimum wage.  "Try it"
hunt down terrorists that threaten us and our allies strengthen unions - give workers a voice
Oppose Russian aggression help americans upgrade their skills
Alan Gross - Cuba Prisoner released back to U.S. lower cost of community college to zero
protecting companies from cyberterrorism make it free proven in Tennessee ® and Chicago
protect children's information and prevent cyber attacks US leads in job creation than all other nations combined
stopping the spread of ebola infrastructure - more than just a pipeline
speak out against anti-semitism (one clap) free and open internet
We are still one people scientific breakthroughs - prosthetics
gotcha moments that have nothing to do with people's lives close corporate tax loopholes
teen pregnancies and abortions are low - women's access to healthcare overseas tax dodging
I will work with you to make this country strong small business taxed by bank statement not by the number of accountants they can afford
we are the UNITED States of America middle class getting a leg up in the new economy

coalition to degrade and dismantle ISIL

use of force against ISIL

America leads with persistent, steady resolve


All the Cuba

veto any actions that degrade the controls placed on Iran

Climate change

Pentagon says climate poses a risk to our security

America drives international action regarding climate

prohibit torture.  Constrain use of drones

fight discrimination against LGBT - ultimately makes us safer

closing Guantanamo

Gay marriage

The right to vote is sacred

make voting easier for every single American

reform the criminal justice system so it protects and serves all of us

every life matters -
end statement
N.B.  The video does cut-away from the main camera, so there are instances of where applause or lack thereof is ambiguous.

You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Random post: Scorpion vs. Stooge

This probably qualifies as fan-fiction - I don't really know because I don't really do that sort of thing.

Anyway, is anyone watching "Scorpion"?  Network television drama.  The Scorpion team is comprised of geniuses and they assist the C.I.A in solving crimes.  It's a rag-tag fugitive group - like a hyper-Mensa bus crashes into the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine.

After watching a few episodes of this, the formula seems pretty straightforward:  Genius crime-fighters deserve genius crime-committers.  In the end, the good guys manage to outthink their opponent with logic and grace.

So I thought it was time to upset this balance.

I've watched my own genius at home - he's now thirteen.  He is able to figure out complex algebraic equations, navigate his way through a cookbook recipe, construct virtual worlds out of digital bricks, and make sense of his universe each day.

With one exception.

His little sister is the antithesis of logic and order.  If he is Science officer Spock, she undoubtedly is the loud, brash Klingon.  His attempts to apply sensible boundaries continue to go unheard like a Tazmanian Devil through cotton candy.

It is this exact scenario that I would like the Scorpion team to encounter - and ultimately fail at.

In the show, there is Happy Quinn.  She is an Asian-american engineering savant.  Show her a mechanical device and she can understand it and make it obey.  She draws strength from the engineers' design.  She is confident because she can rely on her tools.

How then, would she fare when faced with the plumbing job that Curly had wrought?

Toby Curtis is a genius at reading people.  His ability to deduce someone's behavior based on subtle clues and tells has him at a distinct advantage against an unknown adversary.

But we already know everything we need to know about Stooges.  They fight amongst themselves.  Trying to deduce why they fight is futile - they just do.

Sylvester Dodd is an obsessive-compulsive mathematical anomaly.  His eiditic memory allows him to create order from numbers and probabilities.  His weaknesses are a paralyzing fear of germs, chaotic randomness, and driving.  You put this guy in a cream-pie fight and it's game over.

The founder of the group is Walter O'Brien.  He doesn't exhibit any obvious personality deficiencies except for perhaps an overbearing need to succeed with a side-order of hubris.  He is THE wise-guy.  We all know how Stooges react to wise-guys.

Paige Dineen is the handler.  She represents the link between the geniuses and the rest of the world.  She is also, understandably, attractive.  She may be the only weakness that the Stooges have.  They aren't too concerned with people smarter than they are, because, frankly, EVERYONE is smarter than they are.  Yet they always seem to find a way to one-up everybody else.  They're the idiot-underdogs that payoff on a million-to-one odds.

Anyway, whenever the writers of this show start running out of ideas, I'd really like them to consider this one.  And make the Stooges female:  Maureen, Laurie, and Curly.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Halloween is Happy

Online relationships.  IKR?  Hear me out.

About 2 years ago, I joined this online community called "Mommyish".  They dig parenting.  I dig parenting.  We dug each other.  It was great.

We splintered off into a Facebook group that I called "The Taco Belles".  Yes, I commandeered that logo, what else is my Photoshop good for?  This group, I have to say, is just an incredible collection of like-minded moms that I'm proud to be a part of.

So, Eve (you all know Eve) sets up a gift-exchange for Halloween.  We draw names and have ~$20.00 to gift each other.

I drew Jennifer Mahoney-Sty.  She lives in Arizona.  She likes bubble baths.  I get to work.

1.  I decided on a Lush bath bomb.  Not just a bath bomb, though.  I wanted a spooky bath bomb.  In the past, Lush offered Halloween-themed items.  However, as luck would have it, nothing this year (times be tight, yo).  So, while a normal-brained person would just fixate on some other gift, I was not so normal-brained and decided to MAKE IT SPOOKY.

I really like Dia De Los Muertos Calaveras (sugar skulls).  They are just so colorful and vibrant on an otherwise grim and deathly concept.  Why not combine Day of the Dead with Bath Bomb?

I had plenty of patterns and footage to design from.  The only real considerations were:  what ink or paint to use and how to carve it out.  I could choose between acrylic paint, watercolor, and Sharpie marker.  In the end, the Sharpie ink won because it was highly controllable, non-toxic, and wouldn't dissolve the bath bomb as I worked on it.  After some X-Acto blade work, I had a really nice present.

But I needed more.

Eve (you all know Eve) had mentioned a wonderland of a candy store in New York.  Dylan's Candy Bar, it is called.  Those of you who are not familiar with Dylan's - I'll just say it's the only candy shop that I've been to where you can get drunk.  It just so happened that I was taking my family to New York City to vacation for an extended weekend.  Timing could not have been better.  There was really only one choice for this gift, though - that would be Dylan's collection of Dia De Los Muertos chocolate bars.  Maintaining the theme, right?

It was at this point I started conceptualizing the packaging.  I had to ship these gifts so they would arrive intact.  Chocolate - in Arizona.  I actually looked up a company online that provided free samples of water-activated freezer packs to keep food cold.  That combined with a styrofoam wrapper should be enough, I decided.  I had a really nice stockpile of foam packaging to keep everything stable and lots of cardboard to fashion boxes out of.  Logistics aside, now it's time to design.

I had one Treat.  Might as well make the other a Trick.  Throughout this planning, I started collecting boxes of all shapes and forms.  The hobby store had pre-made boxes with lids for $2.99 each but, again, abby-normal me rallied against it.  I did pick up a spool of black ribbon, a spool of orange ribbon, and an orange vinyl tablecloth.  This stuff is really cheap after coupons.  You really want to know how deep this rabbit hole went?  I considered making the treat box (with the chocolates inside) not-black to keep it that one-degree cooler.  Anyway, I found two box patterns that would hold my items and enough foam insulation to work comfortably.  Gloss black spray paint for "Trick" and Orange vinyl with spray adhesive for "Treat".  Contrasting ribbon work on each along with hand-made bows and chevroned tips.

I really like Victorian scrollwork and antiquated typewriter fonts for this.  Out of the myriad of fonts freely available online, I found one called "Underwood".  PERFECT - because I just finished watching "House of Cards".  Not satisfied with defaults, I customized the Victorian border with a skull.  Photoshop allowed me to match the contrast levels so it produced a fairly seamless design.

I felt I should also include a note inside the boxes - sort of like that Whitman's sampler map they give you.  Just so everybody is on the same page.  More Underwood font and tentacles.  Because cephalopods are so sexy.

That was it.  I really loved putting all this together.  It really is my favorite holiday of the year.  Jennifer was also very, very pleased.

Oh, one other thing.  During all this, Jennifer gave birth to a beautiful daughter.  I really wrestled with trying to find something for the baby but, in the end, I decided that this box would be totally hers.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Another Botched Execution and Horror

News Radio gives me stuff to think and write about.

Last night, Arizona tried a new drug combination to carry out the execution of inmate Joseph Wood.  The process required 117 minutes before Wood was finally pronounced dead.

I have written about botched executions before and, while other executions have been done without incident, it is still disturbing that there are so many recent failures.  I believe it is because we no longer have a source for obtaining the drugs that are known to work - and now states are now left with trying new and unproven methods for lethal injection.

All this I can understand.

But what really got my jaw on the floor was the statement by Richard Brown, brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz' (the victim whom Mr. Wood murdered)  He is quoted as saying:

“This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let’s worry about the drugs.  Why didn’t they give him a bullet, why didn’t we give him Drano?”

I understand the pain of loss.  That senseless murder.  The need for justice.  I know there are masochistic monsters inside us.

But we have to evolve beyond that and we have to be better than the murderers.   We develop lethal injection because, in the view of U.S Court, it is legally acceptable.  When it deviates outside of the normal is when the law must take notice and take action.  It has yet to be determined whether the process that happened last night was a violation of Mr. Wood's Eighth Amendment Constitutional Right (where a government cannot impose cruel or unusual punishment or torture).

Should we even consider those who are wrongfully-imprisoned?  A recent study says we get it wrong more than four out of one-hundred times.  Does an innocent man deserve Drano?

Ask yourself, if you were to be murdered, would you want your kids to avenge you - risking their own futures?  Or would you want them to forgive and live on?  If they were murdered, do you think they would want you to seek blood in return?  How much blood do you think they would want?  Or would they rather see you better than their own killer?

Forgiving a killer does not lessen your love for those around you.

This is why cease-fires are so difficult to attain.  Right now, the death toll in Gaza is over six-hundred.  That's six-hundred individual instances where they have to put their bloodthirst aside for peace.  Six-hundred individuals must unanimously decide for forgiveness.

It's just about unfathomable.  Especially if the social-constructs that bind people together, be it government or religion, don't foster the idea of forgiveness or, worse yet, proclaim revenge-killing as acceptable.

It's very hard to forgive, I won't deny that.  And if some radical comes around saying "it's OK to kill your killer." that's pretty enticing to someone who has just lost their entire world.  But we should try to retain that little voice that tells us something's not-quite-right about that.  Something we realized in kindergarten.

We'd have more time to play on the swings if we weren't so consumed with revenge.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Daddy Issue: Drug-Sniffing Dog Services

Here's another one from an NPR snippet:

Parents can now hire the services of a drug-sniffing dog to search their homes for illicit substances.  During the interview, a dog and handler were able to locate a private stash of heroin that was hidden inside a family recliner.  The quantity was, in the handler's opinion, not enough to warrant police involvement and the father's mood changed from immediate disownment to wanting to help his daughter get clean.

I can understand the recent popularity of these types of services - parents become more and more distant to their aging teenagers and communication breaks down quite easily.  Teenage independence gives way to invasion of privacy - which the article also touches upon.  I can just imagine that calling for a drug search means you have a suspicion of what is going on in the house, but you somehow need that final confirmation to act upon.  Moms and dads start looking for EVIDENCE and talks become defensive and confrontational - if there's even a talk to begin with.

We can all become out-of-our-element when dealing with our own children.  I think the key is to earn the respect of our kids - talking becomes easier when both parties are seen as equals.  Especially if illegal drugs are involved, then we're way past grounding or spankings.  Know that heroin in the home is a reflection of the entire family - and blame should be acknowledged equally.  Try to reach that common ground on why drugs were tried in the first place and progress from there.  Show your child that you have that unlimited amount of love and forgiveness, no matter what they've done or how bad the situation is.  If they need rehabilitation, they're going to need your strength as well as their own to get through it successfully.

Ignoring it makes it worse.  Incarceration makes it worse.  Turning them away altogether makes it worse. 

Make it better.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Daddy Issue: Male Birth-Control Research

Right now, there's a company called the Parsemus Foundation that is working on (still in animal trials in the U.S) a very important product.  It is a form of reversible male birth control called Vasalgel.

A little bit of history, male birth-control similar to Vasalgel has already been in use in India under the name RISUG for fifteen years.  The U.S has not adopted RISUG because of stringent FDA regulations, hence the market for Vasalgel.  How, exactly, does Vasalgel work? 

1.  A chemical is injected into the vas deferens where it stays active for between TEN and FIFTEEN YEARS.
2.  The chemical's positive charge, in effect, shreds the spermatozoa as they travel through the gel.
3.  To reverse the control, another opposite-charged solution is injected.


Yes, dudebros are now clutching their Ed Hardy necklines, bemoaning the fact that they have ANOTHER thing to be responsible for - not to mention they may be averse to anybody injecting anything with any kind of needle anywhere near whatever a vas deferens is.

But, as my hero Bill Nye would say, "Consider the Following":

1.  This renders you seedless like a grape*
2.  No more unwanted requests to be on "Maury"
3.  This is totally reversible*
4.  It only has to be done once and will probably outlast your procreative years*
5.  It gives you EVEN MORE control of your own fertility - no more relying on her daily pills or norplants or copper wires or vampire-bat-blood
6.  Bro, it don't even hurt*
7.  No side-effects for her anymore
8.  No side-effects for you*  The gel does not impede the flow of other fluids through the vas deferens.
9.  The drug costs less than the needle they use to administer it
10.  Hobby Lobby most-likely will allow it under their health insurance plan

I am ALL DONE having kids, so I've subscribed to their newsletter in the rare chance they need test-subjects in the New England area.  I do regret not getting a vasectomy when presented the chance.  Men, it's time to man-up and take the shot.  Give her what she wants and don't give her what she doesn't want.

Currently, the Parsemus Foundation has successfully completed tests on rabbits and are now seeking funding for tests on baboons.  Once that phase is successful, then human trials begin.  The Parsemus Foundation is a charity, not a for-profit organization, so public fundraising is currently underway and donations are gratefully accepted and desperately needed on their homepage.

Caveat:  This is only, I repeat, ONLY for contraception.  This will NOT PREVENT the transmission of any sexually-transmitted disease.  That is not what this is designed for.  Please practice safe sex every time.

Can I just say vas deferens one more time?  No?  okay.

*-pending test results