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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Slipped my mind

I think I'm supposed to write something about Happy Holidays and cherishing family and joyous wonder, peace and equality and respect and resist consumerism and do good works and what are my hopes for the New Year.

Suck it I'm going to Disneyland for Christmas. In fact, I'm next door right now and if it weren't for the whole "you have to spend time with family at Christmas, so go visit relatives" thing (which I am completley okay with and enthusiastic about, seriously, because I love these people, but Disneyland has Star Tours) taking up time today, I'd be at Disneyland right this very second as well.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sunday, December 21, 2008


That place, that well-spring of violence and condescension, of fevers, earaches, scratches, bruises, tears, blood, and No, God Please Don't Bring Any Juice, is, after all, not entirely evil.

Erin is actually learning some things in the daycare environment that are not pounded into her by older kids or grown from the seeds sown by her slightly-negligent father. She has learned how to put her baby doll down for a nap. And she has also learned how to save her dad some quarters at the laundromat.

Our first couple of weeks at daycare were Shakespearian tragedies starring Erin's accoutrements. The teachers refused to put bibs on the kids, and expected them to sit in their little tiny chairs at their little tiny tables with open cups of milk and bowls of yogurt, and like the asylum inmate confirming everyone's suspicions, they expected different results from the same actions every day.

And we washed. Erin went through two or three changes of clothes every day.

And while I was there during snack time to co-op each week Erin was standing up every two minutes to take a lap, trailing her yogurt spoon behind or dropping pieces of whole wheat (No God Please Don't Bring Anything with Eggs) bagels on the floor. It was utterly demoralizing to see that she just wasn't as polite or patient as some of the other kids. It had everything to do with me as a parent. I never enforced sitting down, staying still, not-wandering-off time at home and now everyone was paying the price because I sent a wild monkey to daycare. She was getting her first "F" in life, and it was at "Manners."

Now, though, as if to deliberately thumb their collective noses at all of those people who define insanity as "doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results", the daycare teachers have succeeded. Erin comes home now in the same outfit she was sent in. She sits through her entire snack. She drinks from open cups and wields her spoon with surgical dexterity. And her cute factor has increased exponentially.

"Mo' pease," she says. Or "mo' mik pease." And now that she is a fully developed little adult, tossing her mature requests about, I suddenly can't keep up.

I used to feel like she was changing and maturing no faster than I could adapt; that I was growing as a father as quickly as she was growing as a child. But now she's shifting gears. She is speeding up to take the green flag and I'm the pace car leaving the track after a couple of laps. (Cars has been on all day today. This post does not exist in a temporal or cultural vacuum. Disney owns part of my soul.)

I know I ought to be learning how to decline requests just as quickly as she is learning how to make them; that when she asks for her 80th oz of milk in the day that I should say no. But her casual "mo' pease" is like a tunnel under the fence: it breaches my defenses before I even realize I'm under siege. (I was also remembering my Caesar and Vercingetorix and you can bet the Romans are thankful that the Gauls didn't try using cuteness to break the Siege of Alesia.)

What makes it even more irresistible is that she signs her requests; she is more emotive and compelling when she puts her fingertips together for "more" and then swoops her hand around her chest for "please". I feel like I might be able to keep up, to fend her off, if she weren't also assaulting me with her cute little gestures.

And so she's been getting a lot of milk lately. Dad can't say no.

Today for some reason her language exploded again and she started putting even more polite requests together. "Mo' tota pease" when her grandmother called; "Mo' juice pease"; "Mo' piggy pease".

"Mo' kiss pease," just before bed as we were kissing her goodnight.

"Mo' kiss pease," and she urged us to delay the end of day.

"Mo' kiss pease," and her mother obliged over and over and over, like any sane person expecting the same result each time.

But Erin's daycare teachers have made us question what we know about sanity: Erin can drink from a cup and only wears one shirt each day. And she's outpacing her mother too.

"No mo' kiss. Night-night."

That's how you have to be when mom won't stop kissing you goodnight and just let you go to sleep already even though you're the one who started it. And that's how you get an "A++" in "Manners."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rez Stories: Christmas Wheels

One of the great recreational activities for kids on the Island, and on much of the Rez it seemed, was to ride ATVs. Four-wheelers and three-wheelers seemed to be everywhere. The kid down the road from me had a full-on Fat Cat motorcycle.

I had a ten-speed. Someone else's ten-speed. I think it was my aunt's.

I used to take my borrowed ten-speed and pedal my way up and over the Seaway International Bridge (not quite as long as the Golden Gate Bridge, but not much shorter), inexplicably fearless of the traffic on the bridge and the lack of a bike lane. I pedaled across the bridge at 10, 11, and 12 to get to the smelly little industrial town on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River; the town where my skate-rat friends lived and my middle school used to be.

I was pretty envious of the kids and cousins who had full-sized and miniature ATVs to sport around the Island; to take the back trails down by the river or to ride the paved road from one side of the Canadian Customs Crossroads to the other. To an adolescent with a ten-speed the ATVs were ubiquitous. And fast. And awesome. They were an escape that didn't involve a ride over a terrifying bridge hoping that today wouldn't be the day a car spun you over the safety rail into the St. Lawrence below.

It never crossed my mind that we were poor, even by rez standards; that we just couldn't afford the kinds of toys some of the other families could, or that no one (apart from me) put much value in those big outdoor toys when compared to things like making the bathroom in the house safe for human use. I don't think we were poor. But I don't know. I had a Nintendo. And a Power Glove. And a tv in my room. But maybe we really were poor. One Christmas the Basket Wagon showed up with a food and gift basket for us. That was weird and unexpected, and my mom wasn't home when they arrived so when my sister and I opened the two gifts in the basket I ended up with a pink plastic doll set and she ended up with, I think, a bunch of cars. That one Christmas may do a lot to account for how I am now.

Another Christmas my grandfather, my tota, showed up with a gift for me that I could never have imagined. He was always taking a special interest in me, or so I felt; my sister and I lived off the rez for most of our childhood, but he was a fixture in our lives even off the rez: he was a legendary lacrosse player, and he taught me how to play well enough that I was moved up a couple of levels in the Nepean Knights lacrosse organization as a kid; seeing how scrawny I was he tried to teach me how to box, because there was authority in violence on the rez; noting my interest in pool he helped teach me in his bar and his basement; discovering that I was thinking about delaying my entrance to the University of Toronto for lack of funding (I didn't apply for any student loans until late) he brought me back to the rez and pressed a roll of hundred dollar bills into my hand and told me I was going to school; I was supposed to be the first Burns with a college degree (despite his efforts I still managed to drop out after a year, move in with a girl, and stay out of school for a long time; my sister was the first, and she's the writer of the family). I never felt like anything except his grandson when I was around him. I never felt like the white kid in an alien world.

That Christmas he brought me outside and opened the garage door, the garage door to the house my family was living in, the house he had built decades earlier to house his own growing family. He revealed, behind that door, my very own motorized vehicle. He must have heard my bitching and moaning about the other kids and their ATVs; he must have known that I was feeling, once again, like a bit of an alien on the rez. I was the kid without a four-wheeler; the kid who flipped three-wheelers over on himself; the kid who didn't understand how to ride one while owning the throttle. I was the kid who biked off the rez, over the bridge into the smelly little industrial town at every opportunity, to play with skate-rats and smokers, non-Indians and white-trash, because I never felt at home on the rez.

But being a grandfather he could hardly be expected to understand that bringing me a mo-ped wasn't exactly going to make me one of the cool kids on the Island. It was orange. It had pedals. It ran on some mixture of gasoline and oil that I never did figure out.

I was miserable in my gratitude. I understood what he had done, but I also understood precisely how he had gotten it all wrong.

I feigned enthusiasm, and I rode the mo-ped. I used it like a bike (being between ten-speeds at the time), but it didn't have the kind of pedal power to take me over the bridge. Being young and underappreciative I never tried to fill the tank with the gas/oil mixture it required to run; I would use it as a bike, but I'd never embarrass myself by trying to out-motor the kids who had real ATVs.

When I wiped out on the ice the first time and bent the right pedal arm far enough that it struck the motor housing every time I pushed, I was certain my days of riding it were over. But I had no other transportation. So I rode it, pedal-click, pedal-bink, pedal-rattle, pedal-crack. When I wiped out on the ice the second time (I kept taking it on the back trails as I would a bike, but it wasn't a bike) and broke the hand-brakes off the handlebars I had to stop riding it. I had no way to brake. So not only was my propulsion impeded by the clicking pedal and the lack of multiple pedaling gears, but my braking was at an end. I could neither go nor stop on this orange geek-maker.

And so I returned my moped to the garage attached to the house my grandfather built to house his growing family, the house now occupied by his daughter and her two children, and I hoped another bike would come along. Because in the realm of ATVs I couldn't be seen on an orange mo-ped with a bent pedal and no brakes. That would be wearing not only my geekiness, but my poverty on my sleeve for everyone to see.

I did have a Nintendo and straight A's. But I couldn't ride a four-wheeler to save my life.

And when a bike came along I once again returned to the smelly little town across the river, and forgot about the orange mo-ped in the garage with the bent pedal and broken hand brakes. And about the effort my tota once made to try to make me feel at home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Entirely True Ghost Story

The hotel looks gothic, and then Southern Gothic, and then like a Catskills resort. It spins through incarnations of hotelier fantasies, and my back tires spin in the ditch.

I resign myself to approaching an obviously haunted hotel because, as the wheel turns, there is nothing to the world beyond the short stretch of road I've managed to evacuate. The world emerges from fog behind me, and disappears into fog ahead.

Why is it always fog that confounds existence in terrifying stories? Makes us doubt the reality of the world beyond? Fog is a metaphor: Recollections are hazy, drinking clouds the mind. Fog is a good metaphor, because in the real world fog is more occluding than nightfall. In the dark at least there is no illusion of reality, just certainty of solitude. In the fog the world taunts with its absence. Fog offers hope of reality just outside of view, hope where there is none.

Hope that there is a world beyond the hotel. The creepy, eerie hotel coalescing out of the fog as I approach.

And why are hotels such eerie edifices? Is it that they are by nature waystations, places of waiting with no permanent residents, un-homes full of the un-homed and therefore easily associated with sad spirits. Is it that hotels are metaphors, metaphors as good as fog but precisely opposite? Fog wards existence round; hotels are existence, writ small and manic.

This hotel in particular is eerie just because of its appearance. It looks like a trap.

Of course it's a trap. It is a building with no distinct shape rising out of a shifting fog on a road to nowhere from nowhen. But it is irresistible. 

I cross a threshold exposed by slowly swinging doors, and step onto a carpet worn thin by use rather than mystic age. The foyer of the hotel is cold, and hallways disappear into the darkness to the left and right. The carpet leads to a wide staircase with wooden banisters. But as I step onto the stairs to begin a necessary ascent they writhe beneath my feet and transform into a dank stone spiral. I use the now-stone wall to support me in my climb to the distant top.

As my eyeline crests the ultimate stair I take in the expected scene: an endless hallway lit by ensconced torches. It is so predictable that I can't even muster nervousness, much less the quaking fear it seems the hotel hopes to inspire. I begin a routine stroll down a hallway free of dust and cobwebs but completely obstructed by cliche.

And then the hotel reveals its bait, a diaphanous, glowing form with an ageless face but ancient eyes. She waves me forward and I comply, sighing inwardly at the cloying tradition of it all.

"So. Now we spend eternity together in a spinning dance of hopelessness?" I ask, knowing the answer will only confirm the suspicions I have had ever since my car found the muddy ditch in the fog.

"No, there is no dancing. There is no touching. I cannot touch you. That is not why you are here."

"Ah. So, perhaps I am here because I am a striking copy of your long-dead lover who betrayed you and only now joins you in your damnation?" I've seen too many movies to not be able to eventually figure out what the future holds for me in this in-between place.

"No. You are not here for me. You cannot save me, or join me. You are not here for me. You are here for him." And she points her insubstantial but lovely chin over my shoulder. I turn and there is another glowing form standing in the hallway, this one apparently male, but completely nondescript, forgettable.

"What do you want, ghostly form exuding menace?" He doesn't answer. So I ask the other, "What does he want?"

"Food," comes her sad reply.

"Food? I'd prefer to stay here and dance." Turning back to face the diner I mock, "And besides. You can't even touch me. You're a ghost in an eerie hotel. You can't touch me."

"Yes," he ripostes, "I can."

And he can. He's worn the carpet down, and I am another victim of the lying fog.


Sometimes I hate waking up in the morning. But not that morning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Discipline and Manipulation

The Terrible Two's have come early. I'm going to blame daycare rather than my particular brand of lax parenting during Erin's first year and a half. I'll say that the increasing incidents of biting, pushing, and hitting have everything to do with what Erin is learning from a slightly older, out-of-control girl at daycare and nothing to do with me doing everything possible in her first year and a half to ensure that she always felt like she owned the world.

I have experimented a little with different forms of behaviour modification. Once, when Erin persisted in standing up in the bath tub I unleashed my Dog Voice on her. This isn't a yell. It's a bark: a sharp, loud, clipped delivery that grew out of years of living with dogs. It works perfectly on them.

"ER!!-in. SIT. DOWN."

She sat. And she cried. Betrayed.

What an unfair dilemma. I have a way of inspiring canine obedience in her, but it also destroys her innocent soul. The Dog Voice is an Apple from the Tree, and if I offer it to her she learns too much, too early, about the world.

Another method I've tried is Outlast Mode. Emily has really lucked out in in marrying someone who is as childish as her toddler. I've won lots of games of "Down?"--"No. I love you" that involve me holding a squirming Erin who wants to run around in some unsafe environment. As many times as she can say "down" in a row, I can keep going on "No. I love you" autopilot forever. Eventually, she gives up. But Outlast Mode really only works for verbal behaviour that needs to be changed. I can't play the "Stand up" "No. Sit down" game forever in a situation like tub-standing. I need her to know that it isn't okay to stand up in the tub, and I need her to know it immediately.

But without making her cry. I think. I think I need her to know it without making her cry. But as she gets older I get less nervous about just throwing that Apple at her.

There are other situations that seem to warrant Apple-throwing, and since daycare has entered our lives these situations are multiplying. She wants to hit, now. And she wants to push. Pushing is a weird game with her. She'll ask, "pu-ush?" while she grabs my hand and pulls until she lets go and then drifts backward, arms flailing in a Horizontal Vertigo. She's framing me for pushing her.

Her hitting and pushing of other kids looks so detached, so unemotional, that I almost worry that she lacks empathy. "It's not that I think she's a psychopath," I assured Emily one morning after dropping Erin off and watching her little games at daycare, "it's that I think these are the things psychopaths never outgrow." (That was a joke, folks. I made a baby-psychopath joke. It's okay to laugh. It's okay not to laugh. I'm not really funny.)

But then she'll spend even more time consoling hurt toddlers, patting them, wondering what made them so sad (if it wasn't her, that is, since in that case she knows perfectly well what made them so sad), that I'm certain she doesn't lack empathy at all: she's a font of it. She loves to hug and kiss, and if these weren't also usually unwelcome by nervous toddlers she'd have a reputation as the friendliest kid in town.

She could be faking it, though. She could be a brilliant manipulator. In addition to the pushing (mostly of the girls, mostly of a smaller girl just as she is pushed and hit by a larger girl, and mostly of a smaller girl who also gets most of her positive attention), when she has seen that pushing is not approved by her victim or her teachers, she'll start to offer kisses. And it's usually the boys who get those kisses. And it's usually the boys who have something she wants who get those kisses. (Shoot me.)

While I'm more and more motivated, recently, to unleash the Dog Voice when I see behaviour like pushing or hitting, it isn't going to work with more subtle behaviour like being manipulative. And shifting into Outlast Mode doesn't seem right here either.

The last weapon in my arsenal is the Telepathic Staredown. Once, when she was rocking a glider ottoman too fast and violently, about to knock her snack plate off (why was the snack plate even on the ottoman, dad? Oh, right. You were too lazy to put her into her high chair for snack. You brought this on yourself, you know.), I started a contest of wills with her. I froze her with a Telepathic Stare and I used every ounce of strength I had to not crack a smile, because I knew smiling meant defeat.

She smiled first.

But I didn't immediately relinquish my control of her soul; I kept staring, sending her the silent message that it was not okay to push that ottoman over, and eventually her smile faded and she looked contrite. I had won! I had won a battle of wills with a wilful toddler!

And for the next fifteen or twenty minutes it really seemed to have changed her behaviour in a genuine way. She started looking to me for permission to do things, assurance that it was okay. It was such a drastic difference from the effect of the Dog Voice, which was immediate compliance accompanied by intolerable distress, that I banked it for later use.

So today when she insisted on pulling a drawer out of the small table in the hallway, a drawer at head height that can possibly be pulled out enough to land on her head and leave her in a slobbering puddle, I initiated the Telepathic Staredown.

And proving that I'm not he only one who is learning how to handle unwelcome behaviours my Little Innocent came running at me with pursed lips, promising a kiss. And when, surprised and pleased, I broke the stare and ceased sending the telepathic signals to her brain I pursed my own lips and opened my arms wide, she stopped, smiled an evil little grin, and went back to pulling the drawer out.

"I win, guys."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Little Guru

It is easy to forget, in the middle of the night when she insists that she is certainly no longer tired and that she would like some water, milk, pizza, a Nintendo Wii, or Australia, that she is an adorable little guru, teaching deep lessons deeply at the same time that she is learning deep lessons deeply.

I infer that one of the routines at daycare, one of her lessons in childhood, is a naptime ritual. They will pull the mats out, lay the kids out on them (though not with a left hook), cover them with blankets, and then use a series of soft pats and back rubs accompanied by "shhh. shhh," to put the kids to sleep (though not in the Sending to a Farm in Upstate New York sense).

I infer this because she will, on occasion (every day, six or twenty times), pull a "mat" out (in actuality a seat back pocket storage bag for the car), lay her baby doll out on it (though not with an uppercut), cover it with a blanket, and then use a series of soft pats and back rubs accompanied by "shhh. shhh," to put the baby doll to sleep (though not in the Goldfish Toilet Funeral sense).

She has learned this lesson deeply.

This morning as I sat her in her high chair for breakfast, buckling her in for safety before setting down her plate of eggs, buttered whole wheat mini-bagel and banana, I was arrested in my progress by the most distressing sight I can imagine.

She had pulled the mat out, lain her baby doll out on it...

...and then nothing. Because dad swooped her up and buckled her in her high chair for safety before setting down her plate of eggs, buttered whole wheat mini-bagel and banana.

But she teaches her lessons deeply, my guru. Because without so much as an imploring gaze or whimpering mewl about an incomplete routine, without any indication at all that she was interested in the world beyond her plate of eggs, buttered whole wheat mini-bagel and banana, I reached down and covered her baby doll with a blanket, and then used a series of soft pats and back rubs accompanied by "shhh. shhh," to put her baby doll to sleep (in the Kid, You Made Me Dad sense).

I am not just her dad because of her. I am Dad, overflowing with Dadness.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mortality and Murder

The small spider in brown inched across the carpet, and the small toddler in brown followed behind.

"I want to know what you are doing, Mr. Spider. What is it you are doing? Hey guys, what is Mr. Spider doing?"

As she peered at him, and crouched to take a closer look, the tall woman in blue interrupted. "Oh, baby, let's get a piece of paper and put the...."

And the tall man in black pressed his foot in Nike down, sponging the carpet but not enough to save the spider, victim of a father's casual over-protective murderous instinct.

"Pidey?" "Mr. Spider? Guys? Where is Mr. Spider guys?"

"I was going to say "Let's get a piece of paper and put the spider outside.""

"Oh. Sorry. I didn't hear you." Stifled laughter in spurts erupted out of the tall man in black, casual murderer of small spiders in brown.

"Pidey? Buh-bye pidey."

Occasionally, when she is feeling unusually patriotic the tall woman in blue will ask the tall man in black if he would like, in addition to whatever questionable activity he is enjoying, to go club some baby seals. This is her way of noting that he is originally from that miserable tundra north of the Lakes and River and Parallel known as "The Village", or "gu-NA-da" where his aboriginal cousins supplement their annual incomes with seal hunts on the ice flows in Labrador. Baby seals are particularly prized, and not because of their cuteness. He usually laughs it off, and remarks that it's the baby seals who make the best coats, and not because of their work ethic.

He is a murderer, and not to be trusted. His murderous ways are bound to influence and transform his innocent daughter into a casual Shiva, an indiscriminate assassin, a Sweater-unraveling un-Knitter. She is doomed to destroy.

The small toddler in brown returned to the tiny chalk outline over and over. "Buh bye pidey. Pidey? Pidey? Ba-bye!"

Eventually the tall woman in blue realized that the small toddler in brown was still in brown, her brown, as-yet-not-unraveled Sweater.

"Hey, take off your Sweater and stay a while, kid."

"No." The small toddler in brown is perfectly articulate in defiance.

"Baby, don't you want to take your Sweater off?"

"No. Pidey?"

"Are you going out? Do you want to go out?"


"Are you all dressed up? Do you want to go clubbing?"


And the tall man in black pounced on the moment like a toddler in brown pouncing on a pidey, or a pidey pouncing on a fly.

"Baby, do you want to go clubbin' seals?"


And there was no denying whose casually murderous daughter she was. She was dressed in brown, but cloaked in black, just like her father.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008



"No, baby. We can't call grandma right now."

She lifts the receiver from its cradle and listens, laughing at the solid tone she hears.

"Pap-pa?" she asks.

"No, baby. That's not grandma."

"If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and try again..."

"Pap-pa!!" she announces triumphantly.

"No, baby, "that's definitely not grandma."


"Oh, sweetie, that's too loud. Let me turn it off."

Eep. Op. Ork.

"Pap-pa?!?" she inquires, confused by the intermittent beeping that's replaced the frustratingly loud, angry tone of the unconnected call.

"No, baby. That's not grandma. Can you turn it off?"

eep. op. ork.

"Almost, baby. You turned it down. We need to turn it off."

eep. op. ork.

"Almost, kid. More. Can you turn it off? Let me have it. I'll turn it off."

She shies away from my outstretched hand, protecting the receiver from me. She is certain there is someone worth talking to on the other end of the line.


I saved them all: A linkbait post

I bet when you had those business cards made you thought they'd just be thrown out by 95% of the people you gave them to. I bet you thought they'd be thrown out within days of handing them out. I bet you thought they'd definitely be thrown out by that dude skeeving out all the women, and you thought "Why the hell am I even bothering to give this dude a card?"

I came home each night during BlogHer '08 and added those cards to a growing pile, and eventually moved them to a zip top bag. I've been staring at them in that bag since July, saying to myself "Self, you will eventually get around to writing about each and every one of those things and the people responsible for them. You will do this because you are a loser with an abundance of free time suddenly and feel no guilt about blogging while your daughter is in daycare today instead of home with you and you need to kill some time before going to the movies in the middle of the day, again, while your daughter is in daycare responsible blogger, and each one of them, in their own way, was responsible for the great time you had and this is the least you can do."

But, memories being what they are, and my memory for names and people and faces being what it is, frankly I don't remember each and every person who gave me a card. And I've been surprised at how often I won't remember the person but I'll remember where I was standing, or who I was with. So yeah, sometimes I won't be able to write anything too personal, and you (the person who gave me the card) might think "That bastard. I talked to him for like 4 hours and he doesn't even remember me enough to say I had nice hair or told a great joke or asked him to please stop hitting on me?" and so, preemptively, for those I don't remember clearly and who are going to be ill-treated a little by this: you had awesome hair. It's kind of the reason I was hitting on you. That and the joke you told about the nun and the pastry chef; that was killer. I couldn't help myself. But I was way out of line, I agree.

Although this post is full of a lot of names and links to other people, always keep in mind that it's about me. I write about me. Even when doing so reveals how much of an ass I am.

The List, in a particular order (not of awesomeness or anything, just in the way I organized the cards: I put all the little ones together, all the regular sized ones together, all the over sized ones together, and all of the cards-that-aren't-cards together. So I'm starting with the non-cards, then the big cards, then the regular cards, then the little cards. No. Actually, I'm going to go the opposite way so that the little cards come first because I really believe it when everyone says "size doesn't matter" in that really patronizing way and I want to recognize the people with the little cards first. Not, though, because of any deep psychological reason. Stop laughing.) is as follows:

Jessica Spiegel and Sara Rosso: I was standing around talking to *name drop alert* Mike and Graham, forming a little Triangle of Bay Area Dad Blogging Fabulousness, when we were scythed by these two who stand out in my mind mostly because of (apart from the hair and the joke and the hitting on) the fact that they were both Italy bloggers/travel bloggers. Italy is cool.

Charlene from Crazed Parent: This is where I embarrassedly insert a comment about your hair and that joke about the wallaby and the kangaroo in the ass-kicking contest.

Christina from A Mommy Story: we were talking to *name drop* Liz from Mom101 in one of the conference rooms. Christina and I both write for Savvy Source (she's the City Editor for Columbus) and I gave her a chocolate bar. Because I am awesome.

Kim from Simply Me and Kim Orlandini Photography gave me her card, probably at Macy's. I don't remember if she told a joke because I'm pretty sure I was just too busy hitting on her despite everything *namedrop* Casey could do to stop me. The eyes.

Heather Spohr gave a card to me at one of the times I took a picture with her. For some not inexplicable reasons, I have more pictures with her than with anyone else. One reason? Her husband *namedrop* Mike wasn't around to stop me (although he was there, somewhere). Also, wine. I kept forgetting if I'd taken a picture with her already or not. Every day.

Graham, already mentioned in this post, gave me the best card of the weekend: Under his name it just says "dad". What he wants people to know about him the most is that he is a dad. Graham also writes for Savvy Source now, although at the time Mike was holding down that fort in San Francisco. And now Graham is a dad twice over.

Jen from One Plus Two has lovely hair, told awesome jokes, and was saved from me hitting on her by her chaperone, Tanis. Jen and I tried bonding over geography and political issues but Tanis just kept smuggling her off out of my clutches.

Heather from Desperately Seeking Sanity was the very first person to recognize me. We both wrote chapters of the Novel-in-progress at ChapterBytes, and we bonded over that and then later bonded over me embarrassing the hell out of her for personal amusement. I'm sure she's forgiven me by now. Maybe.

Victoria from VDog & Little Man gave me her card. And then I noticed how great her hair was and she told a fabulous joke about a woodpecker and Jerry Orbach, but I really wasn't listening because, you know, hitting on her. And although that's all I remember about our meeting we have subsequently become acquainted better (because Twitter has done what none of the business cards could, which is make me pay attention on a daily basis) and also she now writes for Savvy Source. And I think she really could tell a wicked joke about a woodpecker and Jerry Orbach.

Nadine from Martinis for Milk slipped me a card, and then gave me the slip before I could tell her how great her hair looked. As she was running away she shouted back "and then the horse says to the veterinarian..." and the rest was lost to carpeted corridors of the Westin.

Tanis, The Redneck Mommy gave me a card. Once it became clear she wasn't going to let me hit on Jen I tried hitting on her instead, because her hair was great, but she told a joke about me and that time I tried out for the high school basketball team, and I had to go find some wine to try to recover.

Marie Millard gave me a card and then I went a-rhyming. I am confused by the other name on the card: Nancy. Could it be that her name is not, in fact, Marie Millard? Another example of Twitter's superiority over physical business cards: I actually read a post about menopause over on her blog the other day just because she Tweeted the link.

Carmen of Mom to the Screaming Masses gave me a card and Headless Mom gave me a muffin that Carmen had made her walk all over San Francisco to go buy. Carmen also gave me a Zwaggle t-shirt. Carmen kicks ass. Really. She could kick my ass.

Casey from Moosh in Indy gave me a card, and it may have been while we were lounging on couches upstairs at Macy's. She has fabulous hair, but it was her friend I was hitting on. Casey also writes for Savvy Source; she's the City Editor for Indianapolis.

Let me just say this about The Weirdgirl: She has weird hair. It freaks me out. But, that didn't stop me from hitting on her while she tried to distract me with a joke about George Bush and Rasputin.

I have a card from Zip 'n' Tizzy. I can't remember her hair, because apparently she wears a box on her head while she walks around. Yeah, I think I remember someone walking around with a box on her head the whole weekend. And I definitely remember hitting on that box.

Christine at Watch Me, No Watch Me! (which is probably the best name for a blog I've ever seen and cracks me the hell up) handed me a card then used her hair like a kung fu master's braid to whip me in the face so I'd stop hitting on her. And she just inspired me to go check out my Safeway Club Card points to see if I can get gas for .38/gallon.

Average Jane handed me a card at the BlogHims session that *namedrop* Karl was chairing and Brian attended, bringing the total of dad bloggers in the room to two. I don't remember much of that session, but I did mention my reluctance to talk during any of the other sessions because it didn't seem like my place to do so. One of the ladies in the room (possibly Average Jane, but I honestly don't remember) disagreed very strongly with that. And now I butt in everywhere and damn the "appropriateness" of it.

Schmutzie handed me a card in the lobby of the Westin as she was being maneuvered through the hall by a group of handlers. Or so it seems to me in my foggy memory. No time to chat! But she did stop for a second to say hi. I think she was going to the Cheeseburger Party. I never did make it up the elevator to that before it got shut down.

Michele from Sparks and Butterflies gave me a card and told a very off-colour joke about a monk and a weasel and said "touch my hair!" and I did because it is amazing.

I have a card with a dog tag on it from Military Mama. I'm pretty sure her hair kicked ass, her joke kicked ass, and she would have kicked my ass if I tried to hit on her. Dog tags are awesome.

Adrienne of Adrienne's House gave me a card, and then watched from her Macy's couch perch as I embarrassed myself posing for a picture. Then she called me cute on Twitter.

Lucretia of Geekmommy was sitting with Adrienne, I think, and was also there on Thursday night when I was walking around with a bottle of vodka and making people take shots in honour of Aunt Becky who couldn't be there.

I have a cool spiral graphic card from Shannon of Shannon Sez So. Her hair was amazing: it was like a red, orange, yellow, and purple...uh...spiral. And not only did I hit on her: I chimed in on the punchline to the "How many nuclear physicists....?" joke. "Not if we don't get him down from there we won't!"

I met Jenny of Absolutely Bananas and Seattle Mom Blogs at the People's Party and it was remembering that there was a Seattle Mom Blogs site that helped streamline the planning for our weekend in Seattle in early September. So, thanks Jenny :}

I met Lawyer Mama?? So, I know most of my "I don't remember this but here's some hair funny" entries are annoying. And I would do another one here, but here is a person I knew of before BlogHer, met, continue to follow after BlogHer, and I have no memory of meeting her. It's like someone else gave me her card. What the hell? Oh, and nice hair; lawyers are hot; and that "how many philosophers does it take to screw-in a lightbulb" was hilarious.

Diane from Of the Princess and the Pea (another fabulous blog name) made me beg her for a card. Like I was going to just throw it away if she gave me one. I can understand her reluctance, though, because it is a striking card. The graphic, a pea with a tiara on it, in black and white, is just perfect. When I tried to hit on her she looked down her nose at me and said "Peasant! Hast thou heard'st the one about the three-legged astronaut and the robot from 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'?"

And another Momocrat that I really ought to remember meeting because I knew who she was before BlogHer rolled around: Glennia Campbell. Where the hell was I while all of this meeting was going on? It would be like going to a Star Trek convention and meeting Brent Spiner and then getting home to discover Brent Spiner's autograph on your forehead and having no recollection of ever meeting Brent Spiner. (Sorry, I like Data.)

Missy from Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, an Aussie visiting from, uh, Australia, sat down with me while I was sitting at a big lonely table in the big hall during the BlogHer keynote. She gave me a card and a pencil I believe and her enthusiasm about meeting me really made my day. Because really? It's like I'm famous in Australia. Or so I will tell my grandkids someday: "Kids, gramps is pretty sure he is famous in Australia. Let's ask Missy."

Anne from Tales from My Tiny Kingdom left me her card and with a broken heart. Her perfect hair, her excellent dirty limericks. They were overwhelming and I certainly behaved in a most uncouth way. So, I'm sorry for that. But I DON'T REGRET IT!!

Oh, The Joys is smart and all, but she's a total fangirl. I didn't even have time to hit on her for her awesome hair before she was hitting on me for my awesome hair. And where did that leave us? Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria. That's where.

Sarah, of Sarah and the Goon Squad and her awesome bottle opener non-card. It's been used to open a Stella Artois. She also went off with that bottle of vodka I brought and I've no idea what became of it because she claims not to like vodka.

Elizabeth of Table 4 Five gave me a card that is actually a refrigerator magnet. Which is good because I need something to hold up that note on the fridge that says "Nice try. I know how great my hair looks. But let's stay friends. Hey, what's the difference between a microwave and a Snicker's bar?"

Digital Sista slipped me a note. She had run out of cards but insisted that I take her note with her info on it anyway. And I did. So, Digitial Sista, you did not waste your time by hand writing a note to me. I saved it!

Kaiser Alex gave me what looks like just a picture of her boobs in a tank top. It's not even a card. It's on Kodak paper. It is also dated on the back and the date is my birthday, so I'm just going to go ahead and pretend this was a birthday present for me and that no one else got one.

And last, but not least, is the best card I was given all weekend (Sorry Kaiser Alex, but this one wins): Naked Jen's "I Got Naked at BlogHer08" card that is just a picture of her. Topless. Her hair? Smokin' hot dreads. Her joke? "Here, have a 'card'." Hit on her? I think I'm still hitting on her just by looking at the card.


And that, folks, is the longest entry I've ever written. It was filled with lies, but they ought to be easy to figure out. It was filled with truths, but also, they ought to be easy to figure out.

It was also the most topical entry I've ever written. Because BlogHer only happened, what, five months ago?

If you think you gave me a card and you wonder why you aren't on the list here, it's because (a) I accidentally dropped it somewhere or (b) NO YOU DIDN'T BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT THIS LIST. I KEPT THEM ALL.


As I was going through these cards I was flipping them over (many were double-sided) and I came across one very special one. On the back this person had written their telephone number.

Someone slipped me their digits! And I didn't even notice until today!

I won't tell you who it was. Because it's awesome to not know. Suspect everyone! Ask your friends if it was them, then don't believe them because it totally was! What's this? This is me starting trouble for my own amusement!

Have a nice day. :}

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Seven things to do

If you tell a joke and nobody gets it, but a tree falls on a mime, is it a good day?


So "Buy this vacuum" wasn't the most obvious of references. And  nobody got it (although a couple of people got the concept right without knowing the origin). Someone still gets a calendar, because I'm not going to punish YOU for the fact that I'M fond of obscure references. So a winner was chosen at random. The winner of her very own copy of the Hot Blogger Calendar 2009 (Guys), modified by me in any way she wishes, is:

Mama Smurf! (Please contact me at your earliest convenience with address/request information).

In other news, I've decided that I'll be donating the money raised through your clicks through the "Click Here" button on the sidebar to families staying at the Ronald McDonald house at Stanford Hospital in the form of gift certificates to places like Target, Wal-Mart, and Longs. Every charity is worthwhile. But Erin was born at Stanford and I bike past the Ronald McDonald house all the time and the house families are especially needy of the flexibility these cards afford them while they are away from home for extended, stressful periods of time.

So, that's it for today's edition of Obscure Reference Blogging. Congratulations again to Mama Smurf. I'll write something non-Calendary related later. And maybe it'll be funny. Or maybe it'll be a lecture about something. Exciting right? You never know what's in store for you when you stop by Backpacking Dad.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Buy This Vacuum

I still can't quite believe that it ever happened. I kind of remember the flight to JFK, and walking around New York, and taking my shirt off a couple of times in what they assured me was a photographer's studio.

My surreal memories notwithstanding I have confirmation that I really did go to New York one weekend in the fall of 2008. And I don't just mean my annoying Tweeting about it. No, the Hot Blogger Calendar (2009) is shipping out and you can order yours now!

There is a calendar full of crazy Hot Ladies, like Amy (Permission to Peruse), Jill Notkin (The Daily Grind), Miss Britt, Chic Shopper Chick, Katja Presnal, and Casey (Moosh in Indy), to name just a few of the ladies I know in real life.

But the one you'll be wanting to get your squeeing little hands on (because I know who reads this y'ere blog) is the one full of crazy Hot Guys, like Jim (Busy Dad), Peter Shankman, and NYC Watchdog (again, namedropping people I've met in real life, although I've also met Wil Wheaton in real life and he totally isn't in the calendar).

Oh, and me. I'm heating up September. My number is 9, folks, and 9 is the number of the month whence I'll be staring at you. And my page is special, because it comes with a tiny, tiny, tiny webcam that will let me see into whatever room my page is in. That's right. Just as your dog is staring at me, I'll be staring right back. It's a special feature only available to the calendars purchased by first clicking on the link over on the right where it says "Click Here". (Editor's Note: None of that is true. There is no camera. Relax and/or stop posing in front of the picture and/or stop trying to make me look at what your kid threw up into that cup.)

I think I'll donate all proceeds from this to charity. Because that's what you do with this sort of thing, right? So here I'm accepting nominations for charities to donate the money to (I'm going to make you do-gooders fight it out over who dos the goodest). I'll decide by this Saturday at 11:59pm PST which charity/cause the money will go to (and I may trump all of you and pick one on my own).

Further, I will be using the calendars as a giveaway. I don't know how many I'll give away, but I'll do at least one, starting right now!

What the hell does the title of this post mean/refer to?

Answer that question in the comments (in the same comment you recommend a charity or in a different one; your choice) and you will be entered into a random drawing for your very own 2009 Hot Blogger Calendar (The Guys). And I'll autograph it for you if you want. Or write a poem for you. Or draw a moustache on Jim's picture. Whatever you want to have happen (within reason, of course). Contest ends on Saturday December 6th at 11:59pm PST.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Speech (shelved)

"When you disparage, demean, trivialize, mock, or patronize the parenting of fathers, whether from afar or in the very act of their parenting, you are resuscitating the stilling world of damaged gender role stereotyping that ought to vanish into history. Ma'am, respect male parents as parents, refrain from the cheap humour made available by our cultural immersion in sitcom fatherhood, or in exchange you must not only accept the diminished role you will see fathers take in the lives of their children, with all of the attendant costs associated with that absence, but you must also remain silent in the face of those workplace jokes about your "emotional" nature. Because that is the world you are endorsing. Is it worth it? Is it right?"


A lot of the world can be contained in, and expressed by, an inflection.

Erin climbed the jungle gym reserved for 5-12 year olds with her usual derring-do, and I followed close behind. She charged past the two emaciated adult forms at the top on her way to the 10-foot slide. If they weren't at a park at the top of a jungle gym I might have taken them for a starving homeless couple. But given our geography, the time of day, and the presence of three miniature versions of themselves I hastily concluded that they were yippies (hippies who owe their yuppie income to the organic food/alt. lifestyle pop culture movement rooted in the Bay Area).

Erin crouched and moved her legs into position to begin her ride down to her smiling mother's open, encouraging arms. A small ridge at the top of the slide impeded a smooth transition from a crouching position to a seated one, and Erin started moving forward with her feet slightly beneath her as her shoes caught this ridge. Her awkward pose quickly turned into a more elegant but less slide-appropriate kneeling position, which in turn transformed into a full belly-flop as she gained momentum traveling down the ten feet to the bottom. Her mother caught her in case her inertia would have carried her face-first off the end of the slide onto the wood chips carpeting the ground.

Unnerved by her unanticipated Olympic Skeleton qualifier and poked in the face a little while being rescued at high speed Erin expressed her discontent with some pathetic wails as her mother consoled her.

And from the yippie mom standing next to me at the top of the jungle gym came a startling "Da-ad." It was a mixture of disapproval and humour, both an assignment of blame and an attempt to soften the blow with a joke. I was supposed to be in on the "da-ad", and recognize my role as the bumbling, unaware male who was incautious and slightly incompetent; I was supposed to be an enlightened token of a ridiculous stereotype: a sitcom dad who was aware of the nature of the sitcom and who was invested in the success of the show.

I was embarrassed that I hadn't seen Erin catch her foot on the top of the slide in time to stop her from tumbling. I was embarrassed as a parent. But it wasn't until I heard "Da-ad" that I realized I was supposed to be embarrassed because I was a father. That is, it wasn't the fact that Erin had tumbled and I hadn't caught her that was of concern; nor was it the fact that as a parent I had given her the headway to take on her own challenges; it was the fact that I was a father and, per stereotype, the expectations for me were lower and I had met them. And having met them I could be boxed up and delivered back to my wife, her surrogate-in-momhood at the top of the slide having done her part.

I am more embarrassed at my response than I was at Erin's fall. I slipped all-too-easily into the role of a sitcom dad. Instead of letting myself show any distress at all that my daughter had just gone face first down a slide and might not feel that great about it I let the "Da-ad" admonition corral my genuine feelings and I offered up a sterilized model to the world. Or I let it goad me into being unfeeling so that it wouldn't look like I cared what the yippie had to say, so that I wouldn't let her win. I'm not sure which is the truth. But I let Emily do the comforting while I grinned a defeated rictus grin from the top of the slide and asked Erin if she wanted to go again while she sobbed on her mother's shoulder.

I seethed. I seethed at this woman's ignorant inflection. I seethed at my own response. I seethed at the playground equipment designer who had included a tripping ridge at the top of the slide. I seethed out of irrational embarrassment and out of righteous indignation. And while I seethed I wrote a speech in my head.

I never did deliver it. I decided that I was reading a lot into an inflection and that maybe with the benefit of the doubt "Da-ad" might have simply been the interjection of a friendly do-gooder park parent; maybe she would have offered an equally disapproving but humourous "Mo-om" if Emily had been the one at the top of the stairs. And while this might mean that she deserved some kind of reply I only had the one speech written. So I shelved it.

And Erin climbed the stairs and slid down the slide for 5-12 year olds over and over again while the yippie kids played around her.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It was unexpectedly good

The four tween girls blocking the theater door, giggling, and dancing over the threshold in some weird game that only makes sense to tween girls should have been my omen: I had made the choice that was bound to make me the most uncomfortable.

Earlier in the day I had announced my boredom with Holocaust movies and asked which of Twilight or Bolt was less creepy to see by myself. Replies were mixed, but definitely skewed toward seeing Bolt.

I should have listened to this slight majority.

But no, instead I "excuse me'd" past the girls and walked up the stairs to the back row of the theater and settled in for the "clueless kid meets another kid, an "other", a foil, with unhealthily pale skin and messed up teeth and together they challenge the oppressive blond enemy and teach him a lesson" flick.



Surprisingly, I found their fantastical relationship really believable. I didn't expect to. There were a lot of ways the director and the actors could have failed, and they just didn't. Every detail, like the pale kid's obsession with his food, made everyone seem more human, not less. It worked. I bought it all. And I was really, really invested in their relationship, and affected by the stress their being together brought into not only their own lives but into the lives of those around them. As I said, it was the uncomfortable choice.



Holocaust movies always are.


P.S. As I was watching it I kept thinking "this is really a movie that ought to be watched in conjunction with Pan's Labyrinth." And there are a lot of reasons why that is the case, and I thought about writing this post as a compare/contrast/argument review of both movies. But this was more fun.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


This is the label from a package of bowls we just bought at Target.


They seem to be fine bowls. Nice picture of a kid there on the right.


There are many things written on the back of this label, among them:

  • "Fun design lets your child eat from a fish bowl."
  • "Great for mom to feed baby or child to use at mealtime."

I'll ignore the obvious problem of Munchkin amputating their market and offering a tacit insult to dads in general, involved dads a little less generally, and at-home dads in particular. Well, I'll ignore it starting now. No, now. Now? (#munchkindads)

I ignore it because I need to move on to that circle in the upper right corner of the label, just next to the "Munchkin" logo.


Yeah. That says "Munchkin's pet division."

So...I understand that the bowls haven't actually been used by pets before I bought them. And that just because they are designed with pets in mind has nothing to do with whether or not they are just as good at containing kid food as kitty food. And that Munchkin is definitely not suggesting that parents should or ought to treat their kids like animals (#munchkindads).

But come on. At least lie to me and tell me the bowls were made in the Happy Rainbow Children's Dinnerware Kingdom by magic elves or something. At least tell me that someone didn't see sales of dog dishes falling off and think "You know who would buy the hell out of these things? Parents."


Here kiddie kiddie.

Or puppy puppy.


"Grrrr, guys. Grr and woof woof."

The Slick Wrench

These are notes I've jotted down and meant to go back to but I have little intention of doing so. And in some cases I don't even remember why I was making the notes to begin with. This is what a writer's/writers' block purge looks like.



Green Fairy: adolescent, drunken-ness. Perpetual childhood (Tinkerbell, absinthe)

Blue Fairy: reality, growing up, responsibility (Pinocchio's angel, Glinda the Good witch)


Plato for Preschoolers

This is Plato. He looks like Santa.

Plato likes smart people.

Plato does not like the dark.

Plato thinks if  you know what is good you can't be bad.


And then, like a flash, he was gone....

Dawn dawned, as dawns tend to dawn, over Portland that dawn. As the city awoke its citizens pumped through the cosmopolitan arteries, little realizing that a hero was walking among them...

I have a Latin teacher who really deserves to written into a character in a novel, because he is just so unusual and confident at the same time. He likes to use examples of academic prowess and moments of revealed character to inspire his students to study and work hard to achieve something, but he has no modesty in his small frame so his examples all involve himself: He is the world's leading James Joyce scholar, he will say; he once killed a water moccasin that was sneaking up on Clarence Thomas; as he would walk down the cobbled streets in Oxford people would trail after him, fans of some quiz show he had appeared on.

He must be rubbing off on me a little because I've had this overwhelming urge to tell one story in particular over the last couple of days.


Six Quirky Things

iMommy tagged me to write six quirky things about myself.

(Editor's Note: FAIL)


Worst Marketing Campaign Ever

"Enter to win a FREE CREMATION!"


Tiger Tiger

When he was 17 he lied about his age and joined the army, to serve his country in Vietnam. Or so I'll suppose. Blah blah blah...what's up with the huge tattoo of a tiger's head on your engorged abdomen, dude? And why do you have to be lying on that particular grassy knoll with your pants undone, Flashing the Tiger while you doze?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Parts of this poem are good

Ruminate on expectations, drudge cogitating snot.

Exsanguinate crimson corpuscles, suck chuck-muck.

Porous veil, lacy gently wafting; Gottado Watta.

Reveal the cellar door, abort the slick wrench.

Illuminate, intimate, procreate. Vomit, belching, bile.

Accomplished. Final.

Final, this Curate's Egg.


(This inexplicable post is a writer's/writers' block alleviation that owes itself to the #goodwordsbadwords challenge on Twitter from Her Bad Mother. Although I ignored her word choices because I was in the middle of writing this when I received her suggestions.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

McStepford: A lesson in Cool

One of Erin's baby friends, whose name I will change to Froggy for no nefarious purpose but merely because he was dressed as a frog for Halloween last year, moved into the neighbourhood across the street a few months ago.

It is an intimidating neighbourhood. That is, when Froggy's mom was greeted with welcome baskets of cookies and muffins and frankincense and myrrh she was also greeted with the ominous: "We go all out for Halloween here."

She wasn't quite sure what to make of this, but she heard it over and over again from neighbour after neighbour: "We go all out for Halloween." Veiled behind this description was an instruction: "You will go all out for Halloween here."

"All out" meant decorating and giving out candy on an enormous, four Costco bags scale; no matter that Froggy is too young to go trick-or-treating himself: "Don't disappoint the neighbours by failing to fully participate in Halloween." It meant that one family set up a haunted house, while another one was known as the "water station" for the parents, where "water" means "definitely not water." Playtime at the park with other families new to the area was filled with conversations beginning with "Have they come by to tell you about Halloween yet?"

As Halloween approached and the decorations and candy were purchased Froggy's parents grew bored with the idea of answering the door every 30 seconds to dish out a handful of candy to the kids who were coming from all over (some were dropped off in cabs. I'm not joking.) Halloween can be tedious if you let it be. The neighbourhood's reputation was built on opulence: impressive decorative displays and magnanimous distribution of candy. Froggy's parents had the candy but the decorations weren't keeping-up-with-the-Joneses. And they didn't care. They were going to insert themselves into the neighbourhood and stamp it with their idea of fun rather than let the community mold them into the perfect McStepford household.

A table was set up on the front porch. A hand-scrawled sign was made that read "American Idol Auditions", and a toy microphone and speaker set were brought outside. And then, with the help of some friends who came over for the evening, Froggy's parents played "American Idol" judges for hours and hours while forcing the kids in the neighbourhood to sing for their Costco candy. They stayed in character (Simon, Paula, and Randy) whenever there were kids around and the line to sing sometimes stretched down to the street.

You'd think the kids would have been shy. In fact, Froggy's parents figured no one would sing and this experiment in scrounged conceptualization and personal enthusiasm would be an epic fail. But the kids sang.

The adults sang. The grandparents sang. The preschoolers sang. Even, toward the end of the evening, the teenagers. The self-conscious, easily embarrassed teens stepped out of their cocoons of faux-coolness to sing songs of their own choosing in front of total strangers, risking that fate worse than death to a teen: mockery. But just as the teens were uncharacteristically brave, so too were their contemporaries uncharacteristically joyous and encouraging. There was no room for cynicism on the porch.

Once, as one crowd of singers and groupies dissipated three figures materialized out of the darkness, stepping forward into the porchlight.

Figure 1: "You have done the neighbourhood proud."

Figure 2: "Very proud."

Figure 3: "Too proud."

All Together: "Ha. Ha. Ha."

Figure 1: "You have set the bar high for next year."

Figure 2: "Very high."

Figure 3: "Too high."

All together: "Ha. Ha. Ha."

And with that the Wyrd Neighbours cloaked themselves in darkness once again and returned to the "water" house.

Coolness, the teens realized and Froggy's parents demonstrated, is what happens when you embrace even your meager resources with enthusiasm. It is giving a shit, completely, about what you give a shit about, not pretending that you don't. It is not keeping up. It is remaining yourself, and thrusting yourself into the world, not like it belongs to you, but like you don't belong to those around you.

Froggy's parents offered the best, most enduring Halloween experience for everyone who came by, and it wasn't because they spent the most on candy or decorations, but because they spent the most of themselves. And doing it because they thought it would be fun and hoping it would entertain the kids meant that even that cost was minimal: a little laryngitis the next day; a dead battery in the scrounged mic-and-speaker set.

Next year they're going to make the kids dance too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Speechless Wednesday

Baby #2 Ultrasound

May 15th, 2009

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hugs and Cuddles and Things That Make You Feel Sick

I don't quite remember when Erin started giving hugs voluntarily instead of out of self-defense as her mom or I tried to squeeze her joy into the world. And I don't remember when she started running up to us and hugging our legs just below the knees.

There was a gap, a long period in which she was no longer helpless (and so couldn't struggle away from us), but too excited about exploring the world to remember to return to us, her lifegivers, and reward us with some spontaneous affection.

She does offer up the occasional hug now. And she'll lean in with a kiss and a loud "mah!" When she hugs she says "awww" and pats my shoulder as if to reassure me: "You are doing a good job, guys." But she still isn't a stay-at-home-kid. She isn't one to sit in a lap and watch the world.

She owns the world, and she needs to explore her fiefdom as often as possible.

We know other toddlers who are much more willing to sit with mom or dad. Erin is wriggly. She learned the word "down" and she isn't afraid to use it. We wonder sometimes what the world is like for parents who have stay-close kids. Who, when they put their toddler down in the middle of a patch of grass she doesn't immediately run to the edge and try to leap into the street. Do they feel more rested? My legs get tired chasing that kid around.

Her daycare teachers described her as "busy" after her first day. I think that was polite code for "what are you feeding her?" or possibly "You will have to teach her to settle down and eat her snack or she will always come home with milk on her shirt."

As of this weekend though, proving that parents are rewarded for patience, we've figured out what slows Erin down and turns her into a cuddling homebody: a fever of 102.

She developed a fever over the weekend and she's been adorably, uncharacteristically needy. Emily wanted to keep her up late just to get in more hug time, because Erin has been laying out on our chests like she hasn't done since she was a squalling infant. She'll rest up a little, then get playful again, then get tired and crawl up into a lap. And today was the first time in months that she has fallen asleep in my arms.

I miss that, so much. I'm not sure I miss it "watch a fever of 102 for a couple of days and listen to the occasional miserable whimper" much. But a lot.

I love that kid. I don't want her to be sick. I want her to go off and own the world again. But those spans of time when she forgets to dish out some spontaneous affection had better abbreviate. I don't want to have to carry a vial of flu virus around with me when she's in high school just to make sure I get a hug before prom.

(Editor's Note: I figured that I kind of owed a daddy blogger post. Especially since this site was inexplicably included in Sweetney's 10 Favorite Dad Blogs and On Teens Today's Top 50 Dad Blogs list. Sweetney's list I understand because I can and will quote from Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog at the drop of a hat and that makes me objectively awesome. But the On Teen's Today list was a real surprise. Teens care what dads think? I hope that stays true for at least 18 more years.)

Circumlocuting Thanks

This is the most awkwardly expressed post I can remember writing. I know that because I've trashed four versions of it. It's important that I say what I'm saying, but I just don't know how to do it properly, so I end up writing incoherent, babbling, sentences that are barely related to each other. Ever happen to you? Also, it's all wrapped up in this "I just want girls to like me" meme that has been reproducing itself and directing my actions since high school, and it's hard to look that right in the face, but I have to if I'm going to understand all of the reasons this needs to be written.


I don't think I voted in the state election immediately prior to this last one. It was utter laziness. When we moved to the Bay Area I never updated my voter registration. It took someone literally shoving a clipboard into my hands at WonderCon this year for me to finally register. And even then I might not have done it if the line I was standing in hadn't been so long.

Before this year I was a fairly apathetic voter. I've had periods of high interest and low interest, but mostly I just didn't care. I could talk about politics as much as any other suburbanite driving an hour to get to work in the morning and listening to talk radio could do. But I didn't really care. Not enough to update my voter registration when I changed my address.

Maybe it took having a daughter who was growing up in a world affected by public policy for me to really start caring. Enough to fill out a piece of paper while standing in line to do other things, at least.

But I can't credit Erin with all of the interest I've had in this most recent, most historic election. And I don't think it has much to do with me.

It's them; not the big red ants; but the big red (and blue) bloghers, who have generated and maintained my interest in politics and who have inspired me to participate and think about what is going on around me instead of remaining at a cynical distance. Their earnestness and effort shamed me into activity. And the bullshit they have to put up with for not only writing about politics, but presuming to do so in an environment that mantles itself in misogyny when arguments fail, spurred me to be better than the anachronistic reactionaries permeating the political ether.

It isn't that there aren't male bloggers out there who could have inspired this same kind of attention in me; but for whatever the reason (*cough* I want girls to like me *cough*) I just don't read them. And if I did I can't be sure that they would have had the same effect on my political psyche. I did listen to male talk radio hosts for years without ever experiencing the same kind of excitement about politics. Of course most of them were insane blowhards, because that's who gets to host radio shows. But still, I've never cared as much as I do now.

So, Erin, Liz, Julie, Dana, Stefania, Jill, Joanne, Debbie, the Momocrats and BlogHers who have not sat idly by while other people decide what kind of world my daughter will inherit:


you know.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


This is why we never buy toys.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proposition 8: A Glimmer, A Glimpse, of Hope

Acting with a swiftness that suggests, to the ironically-minded, a Boy Scout's preparedness, the ACLU very quickly filed a petition with the court today that provides a small ray of hope to the thousands of same-sex couples in California who face having their right to marry stripped from them by a ballot proposition amending the California Constitution.

The issue? Proposition 8 was an inappropriate vehicle for eliminating the right to marry. Instead of an amendment, approved by a majority of the voting population, the ACLU alleges that what is required to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry is a revision.

What the hell is the difference between an amendment and a revision and why does it matter?

The ACLU petition asserts that Proposition 8 "would work a dramatic, substantive change to our Constitution's "underlying principles" of individual equality...[prohibiting] California courts from exercising their core, traditional, constitutional role of protecting the established equality rights of a minority defined by a suspect classification...[effecting] a far reaching change in the nature of our basic governmental plan.""

This, the ACLU thinks, is enough to call what Prop 8 does to the Constitution a "revision" rather than a mere amendment. That is, it does more than insert a line of text that only affects the laws of the state: the insertion of that text changes the relationship of core components of the makeup of the state, in particular the courts' ability to apply the principle of equal protection to an identifiable minority group. To make this change is a revision, not an amendment.

A revision, according to Article 18 of the California Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature just to call for approval of a convention of electors (voters) to decide the fate of the revision. An amendment, according to the same article, may be enacted by the electors themselves by simple initiative (like Proposition 8). That is, while an amendment only takes one act of decision-making, a revision requires three (legislature, voters, convention).

If the argument is successful then Prop 8 is dead because it was never the right vehicle for the elimination of the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Ironically, had Prop 8 been proposed years ago, instead of the overturned Prop 22 (which was a simple law and not an amendment) then this challenge to the Proposition might not even exist. It is because marriage is recognized by the courts as a fundamental right, and because it was recently ruled to apply to same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples, that the bold argument that what Prop 8 attempts to do is revise the Constitution can even be made. Before the courts' overturned Prop 22 it was not nearly as evident that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was denying them a fundamental right. It is that judicial history now that leaves the door open for the challenge from the ACLU.

Backpacking Dad is not an attorney but he sure has seen a lot of Law and Order episodes.

Monday, November 3, 2008


"Sing a song for me," the boy demanded of Coyote.

"You will have to catch me first," replied Coyote.

And the boy chased Coyote around and around, through furrows and sorrows and marrows. And when he thought he could run no longer the boy saw Coyote look back over his shoulder, and saw Coyote's tail slow its recession. With one finger the boy touched Coyote, and Coyote sang a song for him.

"That's a good song," the boy said to Coyote.

"It is a song, like other songs," replied Coyote. "But with that one ringing your ears your mind is sifted. Now hear this song. It is a special song."

And the song chased the boy around and around, through furrows and sorrows and marrows. And when it sang that it was coming to an end it caught up the boy's mind. With one note the song touched the boy, and the boy spoke a word for it.

"That's a good word," Coyote said to the boy.

"It's a word, like other words," replied the boy.

"No," said Coyote, "it is a special word. It is a story word."

"What does a story word say that other words do not?" asked the boy of Coyote.

"There are three: the argument word, the poem word, and the story word. You have said the story word. The story word says what is."

"How have I said this story word when before I said only words like other words?" asked the boy of Coyote.

"The song," replied Coyote. "When your mind is prepared through sifting, when it hears this song it surrenders the story word."

"What is the name of this song?" asked the boy of Coyote.

"It is the World Song," replied Coyote. "But now that you know you must say the story word and be forgotten."

And the boy said his story word and was forgotten.

And Coyote laughed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I've been a terrible citizen lately, and I've been called on it. I have been taking, and doing a lot of shouting, but doing very little conversing and interacting. The strength of a society lies in the coordination of its members; the coordination of interests, the accommodation of radically different interests; the identification of incompatible interests. And that coordination takes interaction, communication.

And I haven't been doing my share.

But, hell. Maybe it only seems like I haven't been doing my share lately because I was so over-participatory before. You could hardly go anywhere without seeing a little bit of graffiti that I'd left behind, declaring my favour or disfavour toward something somebody said in the society. Maybe I've cut back to normal levels for a member of society.

Or maybe I am just inconsiderate.

In any case I don't see being any better about it in the near future. I can't participate at the level that I used to, and I can't bring myself to tailor my participation to the needs of the individual members of the community.

I can and will only operate whimsically and opportunistically, not strategically.

In case I'm being too cryptic I'm talking about blogs, blogging, commenting, etc....I haven't even been as good about replying to comments on my own blog as I used to be, and I've been much, much worse about commenting on the blogs I have on my blogroll, and I've been much, much, much worse about commenting on blogs written by people who stop by here. I participate as time and fancy co-ordinate.

So. I'm a bad blog citizen right now. I don't know what else to tell you.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

BBQ Sauce

On the way home from Baby Loves Disco tonight it was requested of me by my lovely wife that I stop at the market to get some baked beans and some barbecue sauce to make some chicken breasts that tasted like barbecue sauce.

I was inclined to acquiesce to her request.

My grill is out for the count, so I did a quick broil job on the chicken. I made a rub, rubbed my meat, and then broiled the chicken for ten minutes. Then I mopped it with some sauce: Stubb's Barbecue Sauce. I let the chicken go for another couple of minutes, turned it over and mopped the other side and broiled it for another couple of minutes to finish it off.

The chicken breasts that tasted like barbecue sauce were a hit. Erin loved it. Emily almost made me swear never to make anything else ever again. And I thought they turned out to be pretty tasty.

As we were eating we flipped over to Back to the Future because Emily has requested that we institute a new "no shows that are too severe" rule in the house as Erin has grown older and seems to understand more of what is going on. CSI was right out.

We intercepted the BttF broadcast just as the "Enchantment Under the Sea Dance" was starting. We watched the incestuous make-out session between Marty and his mom. We watched the attempted date-rape of Marty's mom by Biff. We watched the gang-violence assault on Marty by Biff's cronies. And we watched those same cronies call one of the Marvin Berry band a "spook" and then refer to them all as "reefer addicts." And we watched George slug Biff so hard that the 200 lbs bully was spun right around and knocked unconscious.

Our other option was The Wedding Singer, but we had tuned in just as one of the kids was calling Sandler's ex-fiancee a bitch.

I'm not wagging an ironic finger at Emily. It only occurs to me, now, just how mature the scenes in BttF are. Well, I'm not wagging an ironic finger at her yet.

Back to the past: As dinner was cooking I was flipping through the channel guide and I saw the details of a show or mini-series or something called "Legend of the Seeker", and when I saw that it was a television adaptation of Terry Goodkind's fantasy novels I exclaimed, quite uncontrollably and disgustedly, "Oh shit!" Because Goodkind has menaced geeky fantasy readers with badly argued Libertarian political philosophy for years. Heinlein at least did it well, and passionately. Goodkind abuses his readers. He also wrote himself into a horrible corner and had to turn his hero into a god in the last twenty pages of a series that ran in the thousands of pages. And yes, I own all of the books. I am large.

Anyway, I exclaimed, quite loudly, "Oh, shit!" And Emily, understandably, said "Watch your language!" and indicated Erin, who looked just as disgusted as I was about Goodkind's show.

Back to the future: we settled on Back to the Future, and started in on our chicken breasts that tasted like barbecue sauce. And Emily exclaimed, quite uncontrollably and disgustedly, "Oh fuck!" because she had just spilled some of Stubb's barbecue sauce onto her shirt.

I turned to Erin and asked "Did you catch that?" Wag, wag, wag.

Future to the future: As George wound up for his gigantic punch to Biff's head a thought occurred to me. And like so many of the thoughts that occur to me, I believed in my heart that Emily needed to know this right now.

"You know, this story isn't a fantasy about a kid traveling back to the 50's and changing his future by changing what happens in his parents' high school. This story is a fantasy about an adult changing what happens to him in high school, and his future. This is George McFly's story. Marty is just a tool of time travel. He is like a human DeLorean."

And Emily exclaimed, quite uncontrollably and disgustedly, "Did you use the Philosophical Barbecue Sauce? Because mine hasn't kicked in yet."

So it goes.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Harmonic Insomniac Journey

Or, reason number 143 why you shouldn't click on any Twitter links after 11pm.

@karlerikson, aka Secondhand Karl, tweeted a link to this pretty daunting video. On Youtube. I'm sure you've all wandered down Youtubian roads and ended up in unexpected places. But dammit, I had to go to sleep. Nevertheless, I clicked. And watched.

How had I never heard of this multi-tracking self-recording phenomenon before? I needed to check out some basic works after that; some ground floor stuff.

And scruffy haired/bearded guy was pretty good. Also? He had recorded a couple from "The Music Man". Because if you are at all interested in barbershop type stuff you know "The Music Man". I was in the barbershop quartet in "The Music Man" myself.

But then the lingo started dropping. This is the guy who introduced me to the term "tag". He hasn't dropped any phat multi-tracking tags in a while though. Because he has a part in "The Music Man" that's keeping him busy.

I saw a couple of names crop up here and there, "FineyLee" and "VancePerry" so I went looking for them. This right here is a fantastic tag, if I understand what "tag" means, by FineyLee.

And this is an overtone.

But then someone in the comments was all "I just find it easier to hear overtones when I listen to bhsnerd's tags." And I was all "Oh snap!" So, still not really knowing what an "overtone" was I clicked over onto a bhsnerd clip.

And figuring I'd learn about overtones through osmosis I just kept clicking.

Although, to me, bhsnerd sounds overproduced. Nice, but it's not "street". You know? So what about VancePerry?

This was a little more "street", because dude is rockin' his girth like nobody's business. But still a little too studio. Like he's selling out. Just keep it real, yo.

This was more like it. Just a bunch of guys who can't afford a webcam singing some barbershop. And I realized that's really what I was after. Not multi-tracking or single tags. But full-on barbershop. Multi-voiced rather than multi-tracked. And video. Because honestly who knows if that last one was different guys. It kind of sounds like the same guy, but with a picture of four guys up to trick you. No more tricks.

So I found a barbershop quartet.

But there, leaping out at me from the sidebar, was a fabulous word:


And once you've toked a quartet and snorted an octet there's nothing left for it but to mainline a whole chorus.

But I felt like I was going to OD. So I did a simple search for "barbershop quartet", just so I could take the edge off and go to sleep.

Stop dancing. It doesn't make it less racist.