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Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Composer of Unrivalled Skill and Inspiration

"Twinkle twinkle little star
Let's go Red Wings let's go Red Wings.
Hockey hockey hockey dude.
What you what you what you are.
What's your name what's your name.
There it is; the other one.
Where did that dinosaur go?"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Let’s Go Red Wings!

This is the key to victory:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Supreme Court: “Do we contradict ourselves? Very well then, we contradict ourselves, (We are large. We contain multitudes.)”

In what can only be interpreted as a “punt” the California Supreme Court today ruled both that Proposition 8, which amended the Constitution to read that marriage is only between a man and a woman, did not violate the California Constitution and that despite what the definition of marriage in California is there are still 18,000 gay couples who are “married.”


I’m offended.

I’m offended as a philosopher.

The Court effectively created three classes of citizens in California today (Bonus! Extra class! There used to be just two in the “marriage” discussion.) There are heterosexual couples, who are the only couples who can be married in California and whose domestic partnerships can be called “marriages.” There are homosexual couples, who cannot be married in California and whose domestic partnerships cannot be called “marriages.” And there are other homosexual couples who are married and whose domestic partnerships can be called “marriages.”

The Court has declared that the Constitution of California recognizes more inequality than even Proposition 8 would have introduced to it.

What the Court hasn’t done is settle the matter. The voters of California want marriage defined a certain way; the California Constitution now protects that definition; but it is also clear that California does recognize gay marriage. So, what about recognizing gay marriages performed in other states? Should the rest of California’s gay couples who want to marry do so in Vermont then dare the California government to refuse to recognize those marriages? Should a challenge be immediately issued in the Federal courts under the Equal Protection clause? (Because really? The only difference between legitimate and illegitimate gay marriage in California is calendar date? Rights don’t evaporate when Monday becomes Tuesday.)

Even more annoying: California’s Constitutional Amendment process that requires only a 50% majority has been demonstrated to be the process that holds sway on questions of marriage rights. Proposition 8, the Court ruled, was not a revision of the Constitution, which would have required legislative approval before being put to the voters. Proposition “To Hell With 8” in 2010, then, will not be a revision either, so it will only require a 50% majority to change the Constitution to explicitly recognize gay marriages. And the direction of the support for gay marriage in California has been up over the years, not down, so the likelihood of an amendment recognizing gay marriage is higher than it would have been ten years ago. Maybe it can be passed.

And around and around and around it will go. This either ends with the U.S. Supreme Court or it never ends.

The California Supreme Court made no decision at all today, except that they didn’t want to be called “activist” again. Well, congratulations, Court.

You are inactivist judges.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Childbirth Doesn’t Break Your Funny Bone or Your Sappiness Ligament

I handed an ibuprofen to my charming, beautiful, intelligent, saint of a wife who less than a week earlier had squozen my son from her Woomba® and asked her what I, a mere male mortal, might procure for her in order to slake her thirst and wash down the only comfort afforded her.

“Oh, just a Vitamin Water®. I think there’s a half-drunk one in the fridge.”

I immediately thought up my witty hand-off remark and prepared it as I grabbed the beverage from the fridge and carried it over to the chair in which my glorious, perfect wife was sitting.

“Well, this one was stumbling around a bit and yelling at cops.”

“That’s awesome. But is that really half-drunk?”

“Yeah, I guess not. That’s all the way drunk.”

“This one was talking to girls who were totally out of his league.”

Me too, lady. You’ve always been out of my league.

Number 1!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


After a week of teasing, slow contractions, Adrian arrived with sudden and surprising alacrity. There is a long story about Emily’s induction being pushed back and back and back and the room being unavailable, then available, then unavailable, and finally available for good. The story also introduces Backpacking Dad’s delivery room snack regimen, the Irish nurse from Belfast, the room next door to the one Erin was delivered in, and lots of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares streaming over the free wifi the hospital offered.

But I won’t tell that story. I keep looking for something funny and all I end up with is something amazing.


My son, Adrian Cashel Burns, was born at 8:44pm on May 16th, 2009. He was over a pound heavier than his sister, but scored lower on his Apgars. His feet and hands were less wrinkled rubber than his sister’s, but so was his head less hairy. And that’s all the comparing I want to do between Adrian and Erin. Erin has been stunning me for two years, and I don’t want to water that down; Adrian has been stunning me for two days, and I don’t want to treat him as Second and only Second.


He sounds like a kitten when he cries.

He slept in the crook of my arm for part of his first night in the world.


His diapers are so small; his pants are so big.


Erin loves him already. She assures us that he’s sleeping, assures him that “It’s okay, Adrian,” and keeps trying to grab his face so she can look at it.


Emily thinks she screamed during labour. She didn’t; not once.

It’s all gone tiny hands and tiny toes.

DSC01931 DSC01932

This is my son, Adrian.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Nesting Again

We’ve been dealing with off-and-on labour pains for a week. Emily’s had a hard time sleeping, we’ve passed our official due date with no sign of my son. I was certain he would show up during Game 7 of the Detroit-Anaheim series because the universe (in the tradition of things which commit actions being described by those actions, like one who commits felonies being called a felon) is an iron.

I am very aware that “ironic” is not something that can properly describe events in the world, but only events a writer conjures up for the purposes of literary effect. Nonetheless, had my son showed up during the Game I’d have yelled along with Alannis that things merely badly timed or predictably perverse were IRONIC. And I’d have punched you in the neck if you’d offered, during my expression, that I was using “irony” incorrectly. You would have felt awesome. (See that one? That one is ironic. You wouldn’t really have felt awesome and I was not intending that you should think you really would have felt awesome. You know that I meant “awesome” ironically. And that’s the key. Irony is participatory.)

In preparation for my son’s arrival we moved Erin out of our bedroom, into the spare bedroom filled with books for big people and a desk for big people and the cat, the poor, fat, diabetic, scared-y cat. So long as Erin spent most of her time out of that room he was content to just hid in the chest his litter box sits in (it’s a pretty cool custom wooden chest with a lid on hinges and a hole cut in the side that looks like furniture and traps a lot of the smell), and being worried about him ever getting used to Erin we figured just tossing them in a room together would allow him to get more used to her and eventually not care so much that she squeals when she sees him and tries to pet him like a pugilist pets his opponent. (Another use of irony.)

It has actually worked, to some degree. Our fat, diabetic, scared-y cat has ventured out of that room with more and more frequency, and he isn’t afraid to eat even when Erin is in her crib and staring at him.

But sometimes, in the dark as she falls asleep, she’ll hear him eating and wake up. And she’ll cry for daddy then explain her distress: “Kitty eating; kitty eating, daddy. Dat not scare you. Kitty hiding inna box; kitty hiding. It’s okay. It’s okay daddy.” And I’ll hold her a little, and explain that the kitty is just eating (which she knows) and that she is safe (which she knows) and that it’s time to sleep (which she also knows).

Even worse, though, is when he cries. He doesn’t cry because he’s afraid of Erin and her breathing in the dark, but because he’s about to vomit or shit a river all over the fucking carpet. He woke Erin up at 5:30 this morning with his wailing and gnashing of teeth and taking of craps on the carpet outside his litter box. He also dropped a nice one in his litter box, but he’s a decade old and still has no idea that the purpose of scratching is to cover the shit. Being an imbecile he just scratches the wall and hopes things will all work out. His scratching, crying, crapping, and vomiting at 5:30 in the morning were not well received. But this is life with a diabetic scared-y cat.

I suspect he was just after a little vengeance, tormenting the child who wants to pull his ears and who yells “No hitting kitty!” when he finally swipes at her after being cornered and getting his forehead awkwardly, but firmly, stroked.

But he is a cat with no concept of causation, so he scratches at walls instead of covering his shit, and this plan for revenge only means that I get to clean the carpets. Sure, Erin’s sleep is a little disturbed, and her mom wakes up and entertains her in the early morning by baking muffins (nesting, folks, means muffins out of nowhere), but the real victim of his vengeance is me.

I walked out to the living room in the morning to discover this lovely sight:


Those are all puddles of projectile vomit. The shit was in the bedroom, and somewhat contained. But he fired off bile into the pile like he was a gunner in a turret charged with mowing down Nazi infantrymen.

As I was drawn into the living room by the smell of fortunately fresh muffins and unfortunately fresh puke I caught Emily’s eye. “We’re getting a carpet cleaner,” she announced, lips in a firm, tight line. “Get this one.”


That’s the Bissell “SpotBot” with blah blah blah and blah blah blah. You set it down on a spot and then go away. (It is not cordless. This picture is just a far shot and not an action shot. You have to plug it in. Which is fine with me because we also have a battery-operated Bissell that doesn’t last long enough to clean anything worthwhile in a house with a diabetic cat, so I’m done with cordless.)


Or, if you’re a real gamer you can use the hose and nozzle thing to clean the spot yourself. Unfortunately unless your spot is less than about 8 inches in diameter you probably won’t get much use out of the automatic cleaning feature. For instance, if your cat projectile vomits in a stream 10 inches long you are going to be stuck using the hose.


However, the results using either the automatic or manual settings are pretty decent. Better than I get by just sitting there scrubbing or blotting.



Once again, Emily’s nesting takes the form of baking, and mine takes the form of dealing with bodily fluids and waste. Seems fair to me. (Hey, look, another use of irony as a literary device. Because it does not in fact seem fair to me. However, I don’t have to gestate, contract, push, scream, or enslave my nipples to a little organism that will slowly develop teeth. So maybe it really is a fair trade. Or, I suppose, it probably remains an unfair trade but unfair from Emily’s perspective now and I’m no longer certain if I’ve actually used irony.)

(In the interests of full disclosure I should admit that I have never been approached by Bissell to review their product, been sent any product by Bissell or anyone representing Bissell, or been paid or compensated to write this mini-review. In fact, if Bissell had contacted me to do a review in exchange for a cleaner or money or something I’d have probably declined. If, however, Bissell wants to compensate me in some way NOW for the lovely things I’ve said about their product, well, I wouldn’t immediately tell them to fuck off. I could use some of the cleaning solution now, since I used basically an entire bottle of it to clean all of the vomit and shit my cat vengefully left all over my apartment.)

Still no baby. But we’re having labour induced at 9am tomorrow (Saturday May 16th). Hopefully my son will be born and I’ll have pictures by Sunday. Also, hopefully, the pictures will be less disgusting than shots of chunky cat vomit.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Son Gets Two Minutes For Delay of Game

Friday was upon me before I really had a chance to realize how little work I’d done during the week. I was anxious, awake late into the night with a racing heart awake too early in the morning when my daughter would make her presence known, and, if she had a toy within reach, felt.

A new dresser purchased at Ikea lay on the bedroom floor, awaiting assemblage. It’s for the baby’s clothes, and Erin’s clothes, since for the moment (if “moment” can mean “two years”) Erin’s clothes are in our dresser. There are six drawers in our dresser, and we each have two of them. I’d like three. Emily would like three. Without a new dresser Emily and I would be down to one each. So, a new dresser purchased at Ikea lay on the bedroom floor, awaiting assemblage.

Emily has been on maternity leave for a week or so, taking advantage of the pre-baby time to see some movies, get some pedicures, have some lunches with friends, and in no way advise anyone about trademarks. She’s also preparing for the baby, nesting (in that weird “I’m going to bake at 2am” way that she has developed).

But on Friday afternoon, when her contractions started with regularity if not severity, we were still unprepared. Her suitcase wasn’t packed, the birth plan wasn’t printed, the champagne and glasses weren’t in a bag, nor was the iGroove dock. I had no playlist of relaxing ocean sounds ready, nor a “welcome to the world, son” playlist. Cameras were strewn about the apartment. Infant car seat bases remained uninstalled in our cars. Friday afternoon, for an hour before we had to leave to go to Erin’s swimming class, we packed and prepped furiously. And we did it all, and we got it all into the car, and drove to swimming and called Emily’s mom and told her to get on a plane, and after swimming we had dinner with our friends (with whom we had shared a party a couple of weeks ago, since their daughter is Erin’s best friend and one day older) and told them to be ready for a late night phone call. They had volunteered to watch Erin while we were in the hospital, which is why we love them.

After dinner the contractions grew more regular, and I picked up Emily’s mother at the airport and I made calls to my mother, father, and sister letting them know that the kid looked like he was making an appearance. I drove Erin over to our friends’ house and put her down for the night, then stopped at Target to buy a plunger.

This may take some explaining. “Shawn, you idiot, your wife is in labour and you are stopping at Target to buy a plunger? Are you, perhaps, less smart than a monkey? An armadillo? A golden retriever eating his own shit?”

Late on Friday afternoon, while Emily and I were packing furiously, Erin was busy (a) using one of her plastic blocks to drink water out of the toilet bowl, which was a fantastic parenting moment for us and (2) flushing that block down the toilet.

If you know anything about plastic blocks you probably know this: they don’t dissolve in water.

So, knowing we’d have company over the weekend, or at the very least that we’d have to use the toilet once or twice before going to the hospital, I determined to get the block out. Because my nesting takes the particular form of needing to fix things.

The plunger was ineffective. It lacked the penis part and was instead just a plunging vagina, so there was nothing to insert into the opening at the bottom of the toilet and so I couldn’t create a seal and then suck the water back out of the flushed toilet by drawing the plunger back up. All I could do was push things further in. Vaginas are good for pushing, not sucking.

So, what do I do at 11pm on a Friday night while my wife is in labour, my mother-in-law waits in the living room, and my daughter sleeps over at a friend’s house? My wife says “How about a coat hanger? Can you unbend a coat hanger and then use it to catch the block?”

Apparently what I can do is unbend a coat hanger and get it stuck in the toilet. Now what?

I took the damned toilet apart, flipped it upside down, and pushed the blocked into the bowl from the other end of the pipe. I was very manly and strong and there were tools and sweat and probably urine involved. Then I grabbed some needle-nosed pliers to twist the wire hanger out of the toilet, and emerged from the bathroom completely victorious (although covered in what I think wasn’t urine, but I can’t tell for sure so you probably shouldn’t hug me).

Despite all of my efforts, my dedicated nesting and the packing and driving around and picking people up and dropping them off and going to Target…my son refused to show up. Emily’s contractions got a bit worse, then she fell asleep. She woke up, they got a bit worse, then she fell asleep. They never reached a “damn damn damn damn damn ooh eeh ooh eeh” stage.

But on Saturday morning she hadn’t felt the baby move in a little while, and had been in labour for 15 hours, so we went to the hospital just to check things out.

Our uncooperative son was there, fine, and the contractions were 5 minutes apart, but only going halfway up the little graph thingy on the printout. The nurse said “Could be today, could be next week.” Thanks, nurse.

We picked Erin up after her fun-but-unnecessary sleep over, then met grandma for lunch. Emily’s contractions persisted, but we said “Screw It” and sent grandma home with Erin while we went to see Star Trek.

Star Trek was great. It was a great Star Trek movie and a really good action film. It’s also heavy on the fatherhood angle, and I appreciated that.

What Emily didn’t want was to be in the hospital on Mother’s Day. “Oh, how great! You’re here on Mother’s Day and you have a new baby! That’s so great!” The thought of enduring person after person saying something stupid like that to her was enough, I think, to convince my son not to poke his head out for a look the rest of the weekend.

On Sunday we waited, and the contractions seemed to be gone. We spent the day coddling Erin and eating frozen yoghurt and (me) watching the Wings-Ducks game before taking Emily’s mother back to the airport in the evening.

Overnight, Emily’s contractions grew stronger, strong enough to keep her awake most of the night, and then she fell asleep. They were consistently strong most of the morning, but in the afternoon they settled down again.

So we went for massages.

And now here I sit watching hockey and making a roast as we wait another evening for this kid to show up.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


A mom is running down a sidewalk that lies adjacent to a quiet parking lot. She carries a purse and a small backpack in her hands, flouncing at the ends of her arms. She looks like she was sheveled at some point, but that point is not dis one.

She is trailing behind a small boy who glances back at her every few strides. He is having the time of his life.

"Evan STOP!" she shouts. "Stop. You stop right now."

She finally catches up to him and snags a trailing limb. His joy turns to sorrow in her grip. Shame follows.

"When mommy tells you to stop you need to stop!" mom growls, teeth grit and jaw clamped as though to keep her from barking madly into his face.

She looks ridiculous and over-cautious and too emotional and more than a little terrified. Too scared, given that he was only two steps away on a sidewalk next to a quiet parking lot.


Been there.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Using My Powers for Good

Emily joked the other day that maybe now there are three choices. We can use our powers for Good, for Evil, or for Social Media.

I think mostly I use mine for Social Media.

But today I’d like to try to do some good. And it’s something that will cost you nothing, except for a little time (a very little) and the payoff is objectively small, but subjectively huge.

Chez Bez is a dad. He’s a blogger. He is a father of four kids, including a newborn, and with only one working vehicle in the family he is often forced to beg for rides or walk to work. It’s a 6.6 mile walk.

I’ve done my share of walking, with and without Erin in the backpack, and 6.6 miles isn’t a horrible distance, but it’s not easy either. And it’s especially not easy if you are running even a little bit late for work. Imagine running late for work for 2 hours, worrying the entire time about making it.

A fellow blogger, Jeffreham, is trying to help out. He is trying to win Chez Bez a scooter by entering a video contest. You can help him do this simply by registering at the contest website and voting his video up on this page (and the other videos down on their pages). Look for “Jeffreham Prestonian”.

I don’t know Chez Bez. I don’t know Jeffreham. I don’t know this contest website ( I am choosing to believe that Chez Bez needs a scooter, that Jeffreham will give the scooter to him if he wins, and that If.Net is not a useless spam-site. I choose to act as though these things are true because I went over a year with only one vehicle, walking or taking public transit to most places while I was home with Erin, and I have extraordinary sympathy for a dad who is in that situation and who also has to work. I never had to be anywhere at a regular time. I lived without pressure. He doesn’t.

So, help if you want. I’m using my powers for Good today rather than just for Social Media. (I only rarely use them for Evil.)

And a special thanks to MonsterMash40 for brining this dad, his need, his benefactor, and this opportunity to my attention.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Against Beauty Pageants

I was reading this thing on the Huffington Post about how the Miss California pageant organization helped or encouraged or arranged or paid for Miss California to get breast implants before the Miss U.S.A. pageant. But the weird thing for me was that while the official being interviewed about the breast implants was defending the help to Miss California (“Oh, we are concerned with her overall self-esteem….”) he also listed off other things contestants do to get an edge, especially during the swimsuit competition.

The interviewer asked, pointedly, “Wouldn’t she have a better chance of winning if she were more proportioned?” That is, wouldn’t she have a better shot if she didn’t have implants?

To which the official replied: “Well of course she does. But there’s plenty of ways of getting to more proportion without doing breast implants.”

I want to leave aside how confusing this answer is for a second because the very next thing the official said really threw me for a loop.

“Many of the girls use chicken cutlets.”

I don’t understand why this is even an option in a beauty pageant. Why doesn’t anyone say anything? Are they really that much of a joke that women can stuff poultry down their tops and saunter onto the stage with a Hey, look at my perfectly proportioned totally-not-enhanced-by-poultry torso?

I mentioned this statement by the pageant official to Emily, and her reply was nowhere near as outraged as I was. In fact, she seemed to think it was funny that I cared at all that the pageant enforce some kind of standard.

“Where do you draw the line?” she asked. “Do you tell contestants they can’t dye their hair?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess…”

But, really? It sure seems like this is a clear case in which we should just say no. No to the chicken cutlets. No meat products allowed during a beauty pageant. No murdering helpless animals and stuffing them down bikini tops.

Just no. It makes beauty pageants even more of a joke than they are.


I pressed Emily again on this whole abuse of poultry thing. “But look, even though we can’t draw a line I think we should just keep the poultry out of the pageant.”

“It’s not chicken. Dumbass.”

Guys, apparently “chicken cutlet” is a euphemism for a gel-insert or something.

The more you know. *rainbow*

Saturday, May 2, 2009

There’s no crying in hockey.

My darling monkey, climber of reckless, jumper of daring.

She clambered up the back of her high chair, purposed to dive headlong into the seat. I watched hockey, attending the flying bodies and brutal hits and players getting to their feet with blood streaming from their foreheads and waving off trainers. “I’m fine,” I can see them mutter before getting ten stitches and returning to the game.

Her foot lost its footing on a foothold, and down tumbling she came, tiny butt cushioning her collapse, lollipop head snapping backward to ring off the glass door leading out to the patio.

It was a dull ring, a low tone, but louder than the cheers and whistles and slapshot sounds coming from the television. I turned my head to examine her predicament with every corner of my eyes.

Face scrunched. Certain that crying was warranted. “Dat scare you?” she asked.

“Did that scare you?” I repeated, clarifying.

Yeah,” came her breaking reply. Taking my comprehension as confirmation, she let the tears come. “Are you cwying?”

Often, usually, her hurts are scripted: Did that scare you? Are you okay? Are you sad? Are you crying? Let me see. You’re okay. Dust yourself off. Let me kiss it. You’re okay. You’re okay.

This time I watched her tear up and I did not offer to examine her gaping wound.

She stared into all the corners of my eyes, replacing conviction with hesitation. Then she turned into a hockey player.

I want TRY AGAIN!”

Friday, May 1, 2009


I don’t really understand the link between hormones, brains, and behaviour.

I don’t understand what it is about the change in brain chemistry during pregnancy that makes a woman like my wife suddenly need to make CD jewel case covers at two in the morning. I mean that although I understand that the chemical change is supposed to be responsible for this sudden craftiness I don’t understand the mechanism at all. How does the brain figure out that what it needs in order to satisfy it’s new chemical overlords (Hail Chemicals!) is to decorate things.

I also don’t understand the connection between pregnancy and sudden midnight acts of baking (with Rice Crispies, a delicious cereal product made by Kellogg, as someone pointed out on my last post and really what that means is that I owe Safeway a dollar because they mistakenly gave me a dollar off the Rice Crispies with my General Mills Buy 3 Get $1 Off each coupon.) I also don’t understand the connection between chemistry and inspiration. She baked Rice Crispy Treats with regular marshmallows (Air-puffed) and the Yellow Moons, Purple Goats, Green Broccoli, and Blue Shamrocks from Lucky Charms (a General Mills cereal that I’ve enjoyed since I was a wee lad. Best when accompanied by a cup of Lucerne Vitamin D milk and eaten out of bowls purchased from IKEA.)


But I especially don’t understand the connection between chemistry and cleaning (with Seventh Generation cleaning products purchased at Target).

In particular, I don’t understand the connection between her hormone levels fluctuating and my sudden need to clean the kitchen.

(Editor's Note: Yes, I cannot spell "Rice Krispies." This is yet another reason that I will never actually get paid to do product placement posts.)