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Monday, June 29, 2009

They played jump rope but the rope it broke…

I drift into semi-senile codgery more often as I watch my daughter sponge the world’s cultural scum, or as I see it creeping toward us in the temporal distance: Pink! Hannah! Montana! Everything!

“Back in my day, we had decent cartoons on Saturday mornings like Superfriends and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and G.I. Joe and we learned about storytelling and heroism and how to only fight half the battle and get out of the pool when a thunderstorm came up. Now, kids these days. They don’t even have the buddy cop show Simon and Simon to sneak up past their bedtime to watch. Or Moonlighting. Instead they have a wash of pink vapidness. Who will save them from stranger danger? Or teach them to eat their veggies? Or tell them about the magic of the conjunction (junction, what’s your function?)”

Back in my day we also had the best in non-commercialized educational programming, pre-Elmo Sesame Street.

Growing up along the Canada-U.S. border I would receive both PBS and CBC broadcasts of Sesame Street, and I watched a lot of it. (It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized the Americans didn’t get all of the segments in French, or that Canadians didn’t get the segments in Spanish. This ignorance on my part was akin to another border-ignorance I had: until I was 18, yes 18, I thought you could walk into any place in the U.S. and give them Canadian money and they would take it at the daily exchange rate. I walked into a Safeway in San Jose and tried to buy a Pepsi with some Canadian change and the cashier looked at me like I was insane. He looked at me like I was dangerously insane when I met his incredulity with “What do you mean you don’t take it? It’s Canadian.”)

Ten years ago Erin would have been doomed to some marketed, packaged hell that had neither 80’s cartoons nor classic pre-Elmo Sesame Street. But now we have the internet, and the internet provides.

This was my favourite Sesame Street clip growing up, and it’s Erin’s favourite too. Across the span of decades my daughter and I are joined in our learning to count to 12. Tiny Shawn looks into the future and knows he must learn the lyrics to this song because his daughter will one day demand not only that he play the clip at every opportunity, but that he sing the song to her. And when he gets to the part where they stand around and tell knock-knock jokes she grins and knocks on her own head.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Sale at the mall

We're at the mall on a Saturday because it's 93 degrees today and my apartment has whatever the opposite of air conditioning is, and it's on all the time, except in winter when I will suddenly have whatever the opposite of heat is.

Wandering away from the Baby Mosh Pit to reclaim some hearing I was led by my lovely daughter straight to one of those gimmicky photo booths.

Five dollars later (five dollars!) I was the proud owner of a Fold-It-Your-Damned-Self Foto Cube.

The instructions were simple: peel here, tear at perforation, fold here, stick together, voila! Foto Cube!

But the "peel here" instructions, so convenient and necessary, were, as it turned out, printed on the side of the paper that one would not, in fact, wish to peel off. Moreover, the paper was only perforated on the side that, ha ha, you would not wish to tear off.

So I am now the proud owner of a Fold-It-Your-Damned-Self Foto Cube. And three small rectangular stickers. Rather, Erin is the owner of the stickers.

I would be disgusted and disappointed and annoyed at my fortune in this matter, but for the 30 seconds of distilled joy Erin and I drank while making stupid faces for the camera. Five dollars.

Only five dollars?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to Attend BlogHer As a Dude

In the next month you will read post after post about OMG BlogHer I Can’t Wait To Go! or Damn BlogHer I Hate Those People Why Can’t They Shut Up About It?

You will read tips on how to interpret apparent standoffishness as shyness, snobbery as insecurity, hilarity as drunkenness. You will read about all the parties you will rock or feel outcast at. You will read…no, maybe you’ll just delete these posts, because they will become boring and repetitive.

But only here at Backpacking Dad will the MEN get the insight they’re looking for. Only here will the MEN attending BlogHer receive the reassurance they need to engage comfortably in a setting of a thousand women.

So, a list.

1. Figure out why you are there. Seriously, why are you there? Why? It’s called BlogHER, man, so what the hell are you doing there? And no, it isn’t enough that you take it seriously as a social media conference, or that you are interested in pro tips from the panelists, or meeting up with readers or friends or networking with powerful and influential people who happen to have vaginas. No. You are a dude. You have no business going to BlogHer despite how open and lovely everyone in the BlogHer organization is about including men. You have no business because someone in that room you are standing in will think you are a skeevy perv. So, unless you really are a skeevy perv you are going to have to do some thinking about yourself: Are you comfortable with your reasons for attending? If you are not, then the terrorists win. Fuck the terrorists.

2. Do your best not to hang out with other dudes. It’s BlogHer, man, and the point really is to interact with, and learn from and about, women. No matter how tempting it might be to form a circle of guy friends and hang out with them for three days in a sea of female writers and PR folks, this is a recipe for disaster. First, because guys have a tendency to reinforce guy-ness when they are around guys, and that inevitably means that your attempt at finding a safety zone will result in creating a permanent Dome of Awesome Hotness that the women won’t be able to breach. And then you’ll have spent all weekend in a Dome of Awesome Hotness and you could have done that at a bar at home. Also, guys in a Dome of Awesome Hotness have a tendency to start to whip ‘em out and pee on each other to reduce the hotness. You will start showboating, peacocking, competing, and generally turn into a dick, Shawn. Find female friends to hang out with and engage with other men as opportunity allows, but do not rely on them for comfort and inclusion.

3. Bring a nice shirt.

4. Make sure you really really really have something valuable and original to add to a conversation before asking for a microphone during a panel and putting in your two cents and your balls. Maybe the room has something to learn from you, but be certain that you aren’t just talking to hear yourself speak and to look cool in front of everyone, Shawn.

5. Take lots of pictures, but do not allow pictures to be taken of yourself. You look terrible, and you don’t need those memories.

6. Always be more sober than the person next to you. Because it’s completely awesome to let them go on and on and start to say insane things, but odds are there is a video camera around somewhere and you don’t want to be the star of Dudes At BlogHer Gone Wild.

7. Do not wear your cargo shorts, Shawn.

8. You will be memorable. You will not be able to remember everyone. The disparity will fuel your ego while also spiraling you into despair. Forget about it. It’s not about you. That is, you aren’t memorable because of how awesome you are, but because of how male you are. You might also be awesome. But so are a thousand women in the room and I’ll give you odds that you get more attention than 75% of them. Don’t let it go to your head. Also, don’t let it go to your head. And don’t let it go to your head. Behave like someone who deserves to be a rock star, not like someone who is a rock star. Be cool, man. Just be cool. It’s not up to you to be the life of the party. Find someone else to pressure into being the life of the party.

9. Do your utmost to give unsolicited advice to other male BlogHer attendees. It will endear you to them and they will want to be your friend. They don’t have any influence, though, so make sure you spurn them for someone who does at the first opportunity.

10. Write a post-BlogHer post about all the people you met, but wait until six or seven months have gone by so that you can really strain your memory.

Any other advice for the guys going this year?

Ladies, feel free to offer up your “skeevy dude” stories and then feel utterly remorseful about assuming that about him. But yeah, I saw that guy. What a perv.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Site Stuff

So, apparently Blogger has broken things and the fancy URL I’ve just begun redirecting my blog to is not being found in Safari or Internet Explorer, and works only with a click through some warning page in Firefox. This is a system-wide Blogger problem with custom domain redirects.

(Did I sound smart and tech-y there?)

I own the site, and well I should. I’ve been planning a whole redesign and move from Blogger to Wordpress and in anticipation of that I starting redirecting to, just to get people used to the address. It was timed with this awesome Blogger failure and now I think I’ve also ended up breaking my feed because I’m an idiot.

So I temporarily switched back to the blogspot address to post this. I’m all done with breaking things for now. But know that in the very, very near future I’ll be switching to my own domain, and breaking my feed again, then burning the house down and quitting the internet in frustration.

See you later.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I love my kids.



Emily turns to me every now and then to say “We have kids. We are ‘Emily and Shawn and the kids.’” I gently correct her: “Shawn and Emily and the kids.” And then she rolls her eyes at me so hard she sprains her forehead.

My son hasn’t pooped in a day.

My daughter, who drifted off to sleep while I played soft songs on my guitar last night, shouted at me to put my guitar away and belted out “Itsy Bitsy Spider” at the top of her lungs over my version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” tonight. Eventually I gave up and started accompanying her with a blues riff.

My son is sleeping with his mouth open in a still swing, thinking hard about soft and how good it will feel when he finally get this one out.

My daughter is sleeping now, exhausted from endless solos performances of “Row Row Row Your Boat” in the dark.

When Erin removed her diaper yesterday in the swimming pool locker room and demanded to go pee on the potty I gave her three gummi bears instead of the two she usually gets after a swimming lesson. It was a Three Gummi Bear Pee. When she ran away from me on the sidewalk in the morning while I was pushing Adrian in his stroller outside the Tech Museum I chased her down and put the fear of Car into her. “No runnin’ naway from daddy,” she repeated over and over again all morning, “my bonka my head. Onlee wocking, slowee.”

When Adrian started offering small smiles with his eyes and mouth the other day I entered that 37th stage of New Fatherhood: Reflection. Instead of looking to him for signs that he was seeing the world and reacting to it I started grinning right back at him, my own eyes shining into his, my deep laugh lines presaging where his will be someday, letting him show me what a smile ought to look like and then showing it right back to him.

Being a parent is hard even when it’s easy. It’s hard because there is an entire life of non-parenting out there, somewhere, in my memory and when I look back on it I can see how radical this change has been, how much attention I pay now to a hundred items a day in time that I could have been sleeping or leveling that paladin up.

But being a dad…being a dad is easy, even when it’s hard.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

LL Cool Dad

Some days are better than others for the ego. Not that I have much difficulty in the self-esteem department, but even someone with as over-inflated an opinion of himself as me can have his spirits buoyed even higher by the right interactions with people.

First came the e-mail from Carla, @babyjidesign on Twitter, who is a local photographer. She’ll be at BlogHer as a photographer and she was looking for some bloggers to feature on her business cards to demonstrate her work and asked me if I’d like to pose. In other words, I’m so beautiful that I could be a part. time. model.

Who turns that down? Not this guy. Not this guy whose Smurf name would be Vanity Smurf if there wasn’t already a Vanity Smurf and so he’ll instead have to settle for Vain-but-Envious Smurf.

Carla took some really fantastic shots of me and Erin, and a bunch of terrific ones of Erin herself. It was a fun shoot out at a park with plenty of “okay, now walk like you’re just walking but turn when I say and look like you’re just being casual” and I was all “I can do that. I can be fake-casual like nobody’s business.” Erin also managed to look fake-casual, although I suppose one might confuse that look for constipation.


She’s getting pretty big for that backpack. I remember when she was small enough for me to zip up the sides of my Deuter with her legs inside.

The secret to a great photo, I learned, is a ladder. This is my favourite Backpacking Dad photo now:


See? You can’t see the innertube around my waist or my neck fat or anything. Carla rules.

Emily and I went to the movies (again, always, and forever going to movies with a baby. We’re very, very good at it) on Monday. After the movie was over Emily went to the restroom to change Adrian’s diaper and I waited in the hallway with the stroller. A pair of lovely older women approached me to get a peek at the baby, who wasn’t there. They gushed a bit about being grandparents and great-grand-parents and then they walked away. One of them came back a few moments later:

“Can I tell you something? My friend and I were just talking and…who do you look like? Do you know? Who do people tell you you look like?”

“Uh, well, that depends on if they like me or not I suppose.”

“If they don’t?”

“Robert Goulet.”

“Yes! That’s it. That’s just what we were saying. Something about the eyes!”



I can only hope they had the younger Goulet in mind. The Goulet who was hot when they were hot.

Robert Goulet (tux)

I’m choosing to believe this is what she meant. Not bad. And hey! I have that outfit.


Although mine looks way sweeter with the corsage on my lapel. Yes, that’s a corsage. I was pinned with the wrong accoutrement when I arrived for my wedding. It snuck into a few photos before the bouttoniere was found to replace it.

Emily arrived during the Robert Goulet remark and the ladies cooed appropriately over Adrian. I noticed that he was missing a sock and went back into the theater to find it. When I returned the old ladies were gone, but another woman had approached Emily.

“I was just telling your wife that I’d overheard the Robert Goulet comment. How could you be expected to know what he looked like when he was younger? Anyway, I was saying that you look like someone else entirely.”

Ah, who will it be, I wonder. Robert the Bruce? That’s one I’ve gotten before. I basically look like everyone with a goatee.


No, it was the one people offer up if they like me: Leonardo DiCaprio


However, I’d like to point out that I was rockin’ the facial hair long before he was.

So, that’s how my ego-inflating weekend was. I’m off to star in my next Hollywood blockbuster: Backpacking Dad Is On A Boat.

Although I’m changing my name to OLL Cool BPDBHLLRG. (Old Ladies Love Cool Backpacking Dad Because He Looks Like Robert Goulet)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Congratulations Mahmoud

It’s not every day that someone so obviously well-loved by his people gets re-elected in a complete landslide so crushing that it reeks of election fraud. Hooray for freedom!

P.S. I know someone who has a crush on you. Do you want to go out with him? Check one:




For the Canadians here's an audio only version of the video from YouTube. Sorry Hulu hates you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How to watch Disney-Pixar’s ‘Up’

When you see Up, or the next time you think about it if you’ve seen it already, imagine that when Carl goes inside his house after being dropped off by the police that he goes upstairs and dies quietly in his sleep.

Then you won’t be watching a fairly good adventure film, but a really good movie about the journey to Heaven.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Just so you know, Dad, they didn't win the year Erin was born either."

Well kid, you're wiser and more at peace about this than I am. I think the term is "equanimity" and you've got it in spades.

But just so you know, kid, we're watching every Red Wings game together next year. Your sister and I did that last year and I'm pretty sure that was the difference maker.
And you know what? I'm still pretty happy. Happy to see you every day. Happy to hold you when you cry. Happy to bounce you to sleep in my arms.

See you after your nap, kid.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


There aren’t too many dramatic things going on in my life right now. It’s all routine. I wake up, take Erin to school, come home, take Adrian somewhere so Emily can sleep, spend the afternoon at home or on my bike, pick Erin up from school, come home, make dinner, put Erin to bed, wait out Adrian’s four hour spazfest, bail, go to sleep and hope Emily doesn’t wake me up before 6am. She almost never does. I don’t know what that’s about.

I’ve managed to go to the movies with Adrian, once with Emily to see Land of the Lost, and once without Emily to see Dance Flick. Adrian did pretty well at the movies, but I’m no novice at this. For those who care: Dance Flick was a lot funnier than Land of the Lost. Not that it was all that funny, but Land of the Lost was as boring as The Barefoot Contessa. I don’t know what that’s about.

One thing that never seems to be part of my routine, but always arises as some kind of surprise, last-minute chore, is doing the dishes. Although I wash them every day it always seems like there’s a pile in the sink and I’m always playing catch up. I don’t know what that’s about.

Adrian has some reflux, and we just started him on medication tonight. His nightly spazfests are at least in part due to his reflux. But Erin was also a spaz during the early evening hours, so I don’t know how much of his annoyance has to do with it. He is not having any trouble gaining weight though: he has put on almost three pounds in three and a half weeks. I don’t know what that’s about.

I’ve been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched the entire series for the first time in the months leading up to Erin’s birth. I started again in the weeks leading up to Adrian’s. I don’t know what that’s about.

I’m not directing my days at anything except being, although I should be working on a dissertation. I have books to read, and things to write, and I know I’ll be dragging my feet about it. I don’t know what that’s about.

I’ve been watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs with almost religious devotion, although I should say that in all honesty I’ve devoted more time, thought, effort, argument, and attention to hockey than I ever have to any of the various forms of Christianity friends and family have offered up to me. I don’t know what that’s about.

Despite my apparent indolence I’ve still managed to fall days, and maybe even weeks behind on e-mail correspondence. If I owe you an e-mail I’ll get to it. Eventually. Maybe after a bike ride. I was riding my bike with underinflated tires for a long time, and it was slowing me down but I just couldn’t be bothered to inflate them to pressure until yesterday. I don’t know what that’s about.

So. How’s your day?

Friday, June 5, 2009


It’s about that time, summertime, when kids transition from school to home, and that means that some parents will notice their kids around more often, and that will spark a small flame of interest in the question of whether it’s better to work or stay home with the kids. And that small flame will spread from the parents with school-aged kids to parents in general, until several small conflagrations dot the parental landscape and Smokey the Bear starts tromping everywhere saying “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” It’s the most fun time of the year.

Basically, the “debate”, when it reaches martyr pyre status (which is not to say there isn’t a legitimate question about what’s best for kids overall, but that level of reasonable discussion isn’t what I’m talking about here) looks like this:

From the Stay at Home Parents: Parents who work and rely on daycare instead of raising their own kids have no soul!

From the Work Out of the Home Parents: Parents who sacrifice income and their kids’ quality of life and futures have no brains!

I’ve seen this debate before.

Liberals: Conservatives don’t care about anyone. Their policies are heartless. Conservatives have no soul!

Conservatives: Liberals are bleeding-hearts who can’t see that their policies are disastrously stupid. Liberals have no brains!

And I’ve seen yet another version of this debate:

Zombies: Vampires are demons inhabiting the undead and reanimated corpses of real people. Vampires have no soul!

Vampires: Zombies are shuffling, decaying undead and reanimated corpses of real people. Zombies have no brains!

Guess what? These criticisms only work against zombies and vampires. Because they’re not real.