Friday, May 27, 2011

Month 5

Where to begin?  How about guy time out on the deck?
You have gotten pretty good at hanging out with us wherever we are, at least for a while.  You are still on a schedule to eat every two hours or so during the day, and so there is a steady rise and fall of your mood on a 120 minute cycle, from a post-prandial satisfied stupor, to amiable, to playful, to aware of the growing gap since your last meal...

Luckily, Dad knows how to make Mai Tais and is happy to entertain you in the outside sunny warmth while Mom takes a break from the nursing.

You have yet to pop out any teeth, but the constant sucking on everything and continuous stream of drool falling from your face suggests that your bark will soon be joined by your bite.  In relation to that every 2 hours feeding cycle, I can tell you that Mom is none too excited to experience first hand the gnashing and weeping concurrent to the introduction of teeth to the nursing environment.

I love it when you are awake, but those moments when you conk out, especially the rare afternoon naps, are so sweet.  5 months in, you have gotten pretty consistent at sleeping for nice long stretches at night, and while I still feel constantly tired, I am markedly less delirious now.  But...most of our FWK (friends with kids) tells us that their sweet little devils take multiple long naps every day.  You?  Not so much.

Instead, we get huge chunks of this adorableness, interspersed with the occasional burst of inconsolable, the world is going to end, break out the whiskey and the ear plugs screaming drama...I have a video of such that I will refrain from sharing with the world, to protect them from the mental scars, not to save you the legacy of embarrassment.

I have, now, as of this writing, successfully fed you maybe 6 ounces total of your mother's milk.  Since a normal mealtime dose should be around 4 ounces, and my 6 were spread over 4+ attempts, it should be apparent that my success in giving you a bottle is nothing to boast about.  However, this month has brought a nanny into your life, and she has been far more successful than Dad at getting you to take a bottle.  She's got skills.  And a bag with endless surprises, and she sings, and just the other day a chimney sweep came by to call on her...

Sometimes you act like you know we are taking your picture.  And look at those toes!  Hopefully, for you, learning to run barefoot will not require unlearning how to run in foot-tanks.

This shot, taken at your aunt's bridal shower, captures a moment about 6 minutes removed from a full on demonic possession - note the joy evident in your face at having raised Dad's blood pressure 15%.  So adorable...the joy of a short memory.

The day after the aforementioned out of town shower, when we got back to the homestead, you and Mom (see her elbow?) crashed in the big people bed for a nice long nap.  I love how you assume the position: hands behind your head, legs all star-fished out, like you own the place.  And according to about 2/3 of the household, you DO own the place now.

Drinking problem?  It is fun to watch you learn how to solve problems.  Mind, you tend to forget the solution from last time you faced the same obstacle, but the time to resolution is shrinking each iteration.  Soon you will be ready to escape the Matrix.

See?  And now for a series of representative scenes that need no commentary:

This sunny shot came during what has become the best part of our family day; in the early morning, just after your long sleep and first feeding, you are so sweet.  You smile a lot, you are calm, you're patient with us, and Mom and I have yet to jump into the adult world of deadlines and computer screens.  It's awesome, even though I could have slept 15 minutes longer.

See you next month!

technical notes: I did a batch upload of pics directly from Picasa this month, selecting all of these shots and hitting "Blog This" - the upload settings must use a lower resolution version of the shots, with the result of more pixelation than I like to see.  I'm going to have to work on that before next month.

Monday, May 23, 2011

rapturous weekend fun

Did you, just for a minute on Saturday, think what if the world as we know it does end today?

more free riders

It occurred to me this weekend that those who fail to tip appropriately at restaurants are free riders.

I am not a fan of the food service compensation scheme as it is now, but I'm aware of the system and recognize the role I am supposed to play.

Tip your servers, people!

non-experts and non-charlatans

Are there any real experts any more?  What does it mean to be an expert when a naif plus internet can find more and better information than that contained in the expert's mind?

Set "expert" aside for the moment, and lower the threshold to just "competent" - all of my friends who have ever shared with me their thoughts of work and success have shown some degree of concern that they are just not good at their jobs (at least on some days).  I know that there are times when I feel woefully inept, at even the most basic of my job functions.

To paraphrase a conversation I had with a friend this very weekend, sometimes it seems to me that success at work could be defined as failing very slowly.  That may seem cynical, but I suspect there may be a little chunk of truth to the sentiment.

At any rate, some days I want to be an expert and some days I just want not to be a charlatan.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Danger - Danger

Another reminder that our society is not yet "post racial":,0

I don't even know how to comment in a way that wouldn't be incendiary to someone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Arts and the free loader problem

I will get around to writing about Cheers! in the coming days, but when framing up my thoughts on the show and some other media ideas bouncing around in my head, I realized that the current state of media is going to bring the free loader problem to the fore.

Basically put, the model for originating, distributing, and consuming new media has changed materially in recent years.  I'm going to write from my own perspective, but I suspect that my experience is generally common.

If I hear new music (meaning, newly created music, not new to me alone) it is via Pandora assigning something new that happens to match my perceived preferences.  Or possibly that I'm listening to the news on NPR and they review a new disc.  Contrast this scenario with the 1990s model, where most music delivery came via the radio and a DJ introducing new tracks that either sounded interesting or that the station was payed to play.  As a radio listening, I was implicitly paying for that distribution model by listening to ads.  There was a revenue channel that could be studied and manipulated, directly or indirectly leading back to the artists who were available to create new art.  Under the current system, I'm not sure how new artists are motivated.

Similarly, consider the TV media model for consumers such as I; I watched the Wire, but when the series was over, and on DVD from Netflix.  I watched the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation, but on Netflix Instant after those seasons were in the past.  I am, essentially, a free loader in this system.  I'm allowing other consumers to show the initial interest that gets the show created and on the air, and I allow other consumers to support the show through it's toddlerhood, and I wait around to pick off the choice bits of media that survive.

The problem I see on the horizon is when the balance of the consumer community shifts to match my behavior.  If most consumers are waiting around for others to vet the quality of new offerings, the supply of new offerings may dry up.  One possible, positive, outcome could be a new wave of experimentation in the area of origination and distribution.  YouTube and smaller cable channels definitely have the potential to try out concepts in a lower cost environment...maybe that model is roughly equivalent for an off-off-Broadway show finding a following and moving to the big stage.

Just thinking out loud over here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I've been watching the 1st season pretty much nonstop on Netflix Instant...I've really been enjoying it and I may very well write up some reflections on the series.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

great life advice from 80/20 author

hit the link:

"Worry is never useful. When you find yourself worrying, stop it instantly. You do this by posing a choice to yourself - either you act and don't worry; or you decide not to act and not worry."

"You enrich the world and yourself, and can spend your time doing what you want for the rest of your life. If you fail you learn and if you succeed, well, that's okay!"

Volatility, continued (and perhaps done for now)

The marbles have continued to rattle around in my brain, and last night settled briefly in an interesting pattern.

If I may state my premise succinctly: Nature, and life by extension, is inherently volatile.  Human nature desires to constrain volatility, but is better off accepting core volatility and hedging peripheral volatility.

for no real reason, just to mix it up.  And isn't it cute when he laughs?!

In more words: there exists an intersection of volatility and control, chaos and order that is ideal for human existence.  Too much control leads to a undeserved complacency; too little leads to, well, chaos.

Consider the difference between a politically democratic system and an autocratic regime; the former is superficially volatile, with the masses expressing their cacophanous views, but with an ex post policy trajectory that exhibits little volatility.  In contrast, the autocracy promises stability on the surface, but generally leads to periodic expressions of high volatility.

The economic systems often associated with those two political systems exhibit similar characteristics.  A command economy is nominally stable, but actually subject to extraordinary volatility (one could argue that command economies and autocratic regimes often act to mask the unpleasant outcomes of the systems in place); in a free economy, the opposite trend generally rules.  In a completely free economy / open market, the succession of data points can be extremely volatile, but the trends that emerge exhibit robust stability.

Taking as an example the recent housing market brouhaha, one might incorrectly believe that the meltdown was a free market failure; in fact, the prime actors were operating under significant non-open market motivations and their actions flourished under a scheme of collective market interventions.  To be clear, a non-interventionist policy (true laissez faire) would undoubtedly see serious episodes of volatility, but possibly of lesser magnitude and quicker to self-correct than in the intervention scheme.

et cetera and et cetera

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

in defense of _Knocked Up_ and in attack of lazy journalism

So maybe you are all right and a blog focused on poor journalism would not be that entertaining, but maybe just one or two posts would be ok. this morning has a "review" of the new comedy Bridesmaids.  I use scare quotes because it is less a review than a platform for beating the dead horse cliche` of "Judd Apatow doesn't care about women".  Let's put this to rest here, and in the process sketch out how bad journalism happens.

Read, if you will, the Slate article and meet me back here.  Go on, I'll wait.

First off, as my wife would say, it's a just a movie.  There is not necessarily a need to get out our freshmen year philosophy textbooks to prepare to analyze a movie, particularly a comedy.  Second, is this a review of Bridesmaids or a criticism of Knocked Up?  Surely the "darkly hilarious comedy" deserves more copy than a movie that came out 4 years ago...

But since the journalist brought it up: Knocked Up is not misogynist, it does not diminish the female roles, and it actually offers a fairly robust perspective on modern relationships, gender roles, and maturity.

My chief criticism of the Slate piece is that the journalist is exhibiting a tendency to "herding"; the term describes that phenomenon where subsequent opinion pieces tend to "herd" around any early and strongly expressed ideas.  And apart from the abortion debate prompted by KU, this discussion of Judd Apatow's supposed misogyny seemed to be the common theme of the media coverage at the time.

Today's journalist trots out the often voiced perspective that the female characters in KU are thinly drawn and "stereotypical" and are effectively downers as opposed to the male characters.  I can't help but notice that the journalist, in describing the "bunch of merry fools" that surround the Seth Rogen character in KU, fails to mention the part played by Charlyne Yi - she may have been just one of the guys, but she was definitely a woman, and in that general state of arrested development that defined the group.

Sorry - a brief detour here.  Another example of the herd instinct among movie reviewers of late is this persistent harangue against the "man child, arrested development, can't grow up" theme in current comedy film offerings.  This straw man is so easy to knock down, it's almost not worth it.  Even a cursory survey of the history of the comedy genre will reveal that movies about people (not men, solely, but both genders) struggling with matriculation into the "mature" strata of society have been prevalent in every generation.  Apatow did not invent the genre, did not perfect it, and is not exploiting it to any novel heights.  If the 2000s featured Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller, the 1990s featured Adam Sandler.  Stretching my memory back to the '80s and earlier the examples might include Animal House or the original Arthur.  And yes, most of those best examples featured men, but what was the Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller if not ensemble pieces showing men AND women struggling with that transition to adulthood?  It seems to me that assimilation into polite society is one of the oldest and most persistent themes in the arts.

Back to Knocked Up and the criticism about the women characters.  We have already discussed the fact that there is a woman in the mix of the pot smoking porn mongers back at the "boys'" house; the most oft-referenced example of Apatow's poorly drawn women is "Debbie", the character played by Leslie Mann and married to Paul Rudd's character in the film.  Not to be too pro hominem here, but it should be pointed out that Leslie Mann is Judd Apatow's real life wife and baby mama.  That doesn't imply that he can't write a stereotypical shrew part for this character, but I would suggest the possibility that the actress had more than passing input on the characterization.  I would also that her character is roundly drawn, with a fair amount of depth to her motivations and concerns.  And how can the audience miss the "man child" echo in Debbie's own desire to hold on to the carefree days of being able to go out clubbing and the subsequent harsh intrusion of adult reality?

The primary female role in KU, played by Katherine Heigl, further deconstructs this male v female notion of the movie.  After Allison and Ben start their relationship in earnest, she is shown to adopt pieces of his lifestyle, hanging out on the couch and indexing porn for the website.  She enjoys the company of his merry band.  And her character's journey is essentially designed to parallel Ben's; they both are caught unawares by the pregnancy, both of them have to reevaluate their life and way forward in light of the baby development, and for both this challenge is meant to highlight that core struggle of accepting adulthood and its constituent responsibilities.

In summary, about 90% of all media coverage of the arts is BS, and today's example is pretty egregious in the laziness exhibited.  It's almost as if the new movie simply has to be viewed through the lens of the earlier work, and not on it's own merits.

really digging this lately

fighting the malaise!

Monday, May 9, 2011

more volatility: pain in transition

I have a theory about the social order, and the generally glacial pace of change in societal institutions that need change.  I would posit that most people in the US believe the public education system needs reworking, and that the same people would agree that health care / insurance is broken in the current model; it is not a stretch to claim that many people find the tax regime in need of accelerated evolution.

The problem with changing any of these macro level societal constructions is not necessarily with the alternative version (let's call it the "end point" of the change) but in the transition period.  Take the tax regime change as an example.

Tax assessment and collection policies affect every last bit of the economy, in varying degrees of explicit visibility.  A wholesale change of those policies would have severe immediate and long term effects, some of which would necessarily be unexpected.  But consider a circumstance where sufficient political will and public support rallied behind an idea to change the US tax regime from the current multi-tiered, highly stratified and nuanced set of rules to a fixed percentage flat tax on net worth accretion (I'm not advocating for this system, just making an example.)

I have come to believe that one huge obstacle to making this sort of change, even as an experiment, is that we cannot stomach the volatility, or the pain in the transition from the status quo to the new end point.  It's a fear of the unknown, on a societal scale.  If the tax example is too impersonal in its effects to make a good example, consider the debate over reworking social security.

The upshot of that argument is that the economics of the current system are unsustainable and that if some of the mechanics are not tweaked, the system will go "bankrupt" in the near future.  Opponents to change tend to argue that changes in medias res are not fair to those who have been paying into the system under a given set of assumptions; further arguments might suggest that we cannot know the ultimate effects of changes for those most in need of the safety net provided by social security.  The solution to the problem at hand may be clear, but we are hemmed in by fear of the volatility in the transition.

I'm still working through these thoughts and trying to form a cogent and coherent narrative about humans and volatility.

Friday, May 6, 2011

all in the cards

I bought an economy pack of unlined index cards from Amazon and suggested to my beautiful and creative wife that we create our own "flash cards" for sharing bits of learning with our son.

Mom rocked this one!  We also have 26 of these suckers featuring the alphabet.  And the best part, is if the kid gets them dirty or covered in slobber, we can just make new ones!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

can the arts "mark to market"?

Generically speaking, an investment should be continuously evaluated based on evolving circumstances.  I'm wondering if the same sort of approach should apply to appreciation of the arts.

Here's a specific example: should Led Zeppelin's music be evaluated in relation to current rock&roll, or i it's original, historical context?  Put another way, if there had never been a Led Zeppelin, and then in the midst of your 2011 media consumption you heard Dazed and Confused or Stairway to Heaven...what would you think?

I'm curious about TV as well...I caught a bit of an All in the Family episode recently, and it struck me as a reasonably good chunk of entertainment, with a good mix of social commentary (some of it dated, but not all), and some explorations of more universal themes (gender relations, husband/wife dynamics, working class struggles).  But the show is SO different from current sitcoms (and dramas, depending on which category you drop AITF into)...say, for example, if you wanted to compare AITF to 30 Rock...both shows use some exaggerated caricatures to make fun of our society, but the plot lines of a typical Liz Lemon episode are generally going to cover many narrative threads, where I would suspect that the Archie Bunker episodes generally dealt with one or two.  So would today's audiences consider AITF a "good" show?

It's irresponsible to have this conversation and not acknowledge the influence of earlier art on what comes after...would there be a Coldplay if not for U2?  But still, as consumers of art and media, we have options on how we allocate that consumption, and that leads back to the initial question.

This post was inspired by me listening to Stairway to Heaven and realizing that, while I enjoyed it, the song could also be taken as grandiose and maybe a bit cheesy.

Monday, May 2, 2011