Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Now I'm sort of wishing that we had decorated the baby's room like a pirate ship, but only because I'd like to have a changing table with a rustic-style sign over it that says "Poop Deck."

Monday, September 29, 2008

The baby's slept for at least 6 consecutive hours every night since Thursday.

Now if we could just get them to be the same 6 hours...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend Update

Yeah, I watched the debates Friday night, and my first reaction was that it was a nice, boring debate that honestly showed where two very different candidates diverge in how they would run things. My second reaction was that both candidates accomplished things they needed to. McCain successfully left his "crazy old man" persona in Washington, except for one brief flash, when he threw out he idea of a spending freeze just so Jim Lehrer would stop asking him questions. Not a great moment for him. Obama not only demonstrated his seriousness and sanity, which he had to do for those viewer who only know him from Limbaugh's crap spewing, but he also reminded everyone of the crazy stuff John's been saying and doing on the campaign trail, like singing "Bomb, bomb Iran" and insulting Spain.

Christie thought McCain's reactions were kind of, well, dickish, and I was willing to give him a pass on that, but the pundits seem to agree. I think it's a fair assessment, if trivial.

Yesterday, though was a whole 'nother thing. We spent the morning and the spud's school, doing yardwork, and we not only met some of the other parents, but I got to climb a tree! Then there was a long, nappy afternoon, followed by a long walk around downtown, art fair, and dinner in the park with Kate and Mara. Pretty much a perfect Saturday, I'd say.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The NYtimes has a great and detailed story on how the bailout deal fell apart, and I've got to say, having read it, that I agree with Mark Kleiman's take. There was a deal, and McCain, with help from House Republicans, torpedoed it for political reasons.

Over lunch, I heard Krugman on the radio, and he dismissed the Republican plan for a capital gains tax holiday as "insane, if true". That seems about right.

Oh, and McCain's going to debate now. Consider that bluff called, I guess. Not a huge surprise, given that his "suspended" campaign was still spewing bile, running ads, and raising money, while he was still giving interviews as a candidate.
According to Travelocity, it's cheaper to fly from Columbia to New Orleans, with a layover in Memphis, than it is to just fly from Columbia to Memphis. I wonder what they'd do if I booked a flight to New Orleans and just skipped the second leg of the trip.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the way to daycare this morning, I discovered that hearing George Bush's voice on the radio saying, "You need to trust me, I know how to fix the economy" makes my daughter shit her pants.

I'm sure she's not the only one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Of course, Truman came out of the Pendergast machine in Kansas City, so the possibility that McCain got his start in politics via mob money is not particularly surprising, nor particularly relevant. But it does undercut his attacks on Obama re: Rezko. Or maybe it explains them.
Matt Yglesias does a better job than I would of explaining my objections to the bailout. First off, there's the fact that Paulson's been one of the people insisting that everything was fine, up until the point where he announced that we were in a total crisis and needed to act immediately. That's not the sort of thing that makes me think he should be given $700 billion to do with as he sees fit.

And then there's his transparent lie about the lack of oversight in his proposal.

If I were a political cartoonist, I'd draw a picture of a burning house, with Paulson standing in front of it, holding a can of gas, his hand out, saying, "I'm the only one who can fix it, but don't ask me for the details."

Meanwhile, you have people saying things like "the patient has been hit by a car, and is lying on the ground bleeding" in part of their rush to get Congress to sign off on this plan. I'm no expert, admittedly, but I do know a little first aid, and I know that if the patient is lying on the ground bleeding, throwing a bucket of blood on top of them won't help, and starting CPR will probably kill them.

Acting quickly is important, but so is acting correctly.
Worth a quick read: Troopergate from the perspective of an Alaskan attorney.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What the hell? According to White House spokesperson Tony Fratto, "You have to remember, these are not all weak or troubled firms that own mortgage-backed securities. A lot of them are very successful banks and investment houses that have done very well, have been responsible, are holding performing assets that have value. They were not necessarily irresponsible players, and so you have to be careful about how you deal with them."

So they expect us to spend $700 billion dollars to bail out successful companies?

I call bullshit.

decisions, decisions, decisions

When we first got home from the hospital, we had all of these free disposables, and the diapers were too big for newborns, and would have covered up the umbilical, anyway. So, in spite of our best intentions, we weren't able to use the gdiapers that we'd bought. Then she got diaper rash, which combined synergistically with the colic in a fairly explosive way. So we did no diapers as much as possible, and disposables at night, at the doctor's recommendation.

Somewhere in there, we bought a big box of disposables because we thought we'd be sending spud to a daycare that only did disposables, and diapers are cheaper in bulk. Next thing you know, she's 12 weeks old, and we've been doing disposables the whole time. But we still had that gdiapers starter kit on the shelf.

I finally busted them out last week. If you don't know, gdiapers are sort of like cloth diaper covers, but with a flushable lining. They're very environmentally friendly, especially if you consider the odor in your house to be a part of the environment. The environmental benefit is even higher if you have sewage treatment processes like Columbia does.

They're not terribly expensive, but the refills are about 50 cents per, whereas Sam's Club has disposables for about 17 cents each. And they're not widely available. The local health food store carries them somewhat sporadically, and other than that, they're only available online.

I'd like to say "Damn the expense!" but I ran the numbers, and it's costing us about $10 a week to keep our little girl's butt covered. If we used gdiapers just part time, evenings and weekends, it would double our costs. If we kept using disposables at night (they're more absorbent) and did gdiapers the rest of the time, we'd be talking at least $30 a week.

To be honest, we could swing that. Any maybe someday we will. But we've just started paying for daycare, Alimentum isn't cheap, and that extra $20 a week would pay for C. and I to go on dates twice a month, which is much more important to me than environmentalism, I have to admit. Sorry, planet. Wife comes first.

The thing is, I remember when we bought that first big box of disposables. We were at Sam's stocking up on groceries, and we were exhausted, and the baby had just puked all over herself and had her outfit changed, and we were trying to get all our shopping needs taken care of in one trip, before another colicky crying jag came, and Christie said 'diapers', and I grabbed, and we were out of there and on our way home before it even occurred to me that we'd been planning on doing the gdiaper thing.

That's parenting, though, right? We make the best decisions we can at the moment, with the information we've got and the brains we've got, at that moment, and then later, when we're more awake, or better informed, or less emotionally ragged, we second guess and wonder if we could've done better.

And what I'm finally figuring out, is this: If we could've done better, we would've done better.

Regret being one of those nasty emotions that steals your present and traps it in the past, and being present in the present being my number one goal as a dad, I'm going to have to work on spending less time worrying about what I might have done differently, because if I'm driving myself this nuts at 3 months, lord knows what I'll be like at 3 years.
I'm not sure how much energy goes up our chimney in the winter, but this "chimney balloon" might actually be worth the money, and it's certainly the easiest way I've ever seen to insulation a chimney.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I keep getting emails from Twitter, alerting me to the fact that someone is now "following" me on Twitter. Creepy, yes, but also, why? I use Twitter to make myself feel guilty for not working out. I haven't updated in almost a month, and when I do, it's going to be something boring like "30 minutes on rowing machine, misc. weights".

Why do people care? Of course, you read this blog, so maybe I'm asking the wrong people.
If you haven't heard of McCain's Spain gaffe, the basic summary is that he was doing an interview with a Spanish news organization and, if you go by the transcript, it seems like he doesn't know who the Spanish Prime Minister is, or even that Spain is in Europe.

Listening to the audio, it's pretty clear that he was either not paying attention, misunderstood the interviewer, or simply couldn't hear her, so he decided to bluff with some boilerplate about our friends and our enemies.

Which is fine, really. I mean, yeah, I'd rather his first instinct wasn't to bluff like a pleb caught napping in class, but whatever. But as Matthew Yglesias points out, he seems to be willing to piss off a long-term ally rather than admit to a mistake.

That's definitely a problem.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Palin. Sigh.

Are you as tired of Palin scandals as I am? And yet they keep coming. They're like American Idol contestants at this point, but in reverse. Every week, another batch!

First off, according to the AP, her Attorney General has told the troopergate investigative committee that her employees won't be honoring the subpoenas they were issued. His explanation is that "the employees are caught between their respect for the Legislature and their loyalty to the governor".

I feel bad for them, I guess, but that's not exactly a legal justification for ignoring a subpoena. This freedom to ignore subpoenas is just one more relic of the Bush administration we can't afford to hang on to.

Of course, the whole investigation is bogus anyway, according to the campaign. The real reason (this is new, by the way) that she fired Monegan was that he was going to go over her head to Washington seeking funding to fight sexual assault, which is an epidemic in Alaska, and which Palin had refused to make a priority. Specifically, it was a federal program to fight the sexual abuse of children.

So, according to the campaign, Monegan was fired because he wanted to fight sexual abuse of children, and Palin didn't. And this is their defense of Palin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What I've learned about colic, and babies

I was never an "oh, let me hold the baby" kind of guy. I just wasn't. Frankly, I wasn't much interested in infants until language acquisition started, at which point I could at least get academically interested. Which ended up meaning that I pretty much knew bupkis about babies before Christie got pregnant, at which point I started reading everything I could get my hands on. How ignorant was I? Well, I changed my first diaper in the hospital.

I still wouldn't say I'm good with babies. But as the colic specialist said, I'm good with this one. As I've written about colic, I've noticed that I get a fair number of people coming to my blog from searches on "baby won't stop crying" or "baby cries when I lay her down" and so on. I've done a lot of those searches myself, and my heart goes out over the wires to anyone doing late night googling to find out if their baby is really okay.

For those people, here's a catalog of what I now know about colic:

What it is: I've already given the basic definition, which is uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. Most doctor's seem to think it's a gut thing, but the specialist we went to is actually a gastroenterologist, and he thinks differently, based on something like 40 years of experience. His take is that these are babies with a fiery temperament who aren't good at self-calming, and don't deal well with the variety of experiences that the world outside the womb provides them with. They're particularly bad with transitions (awake to sleeping, daytime to nighttime, etc.). They tend to have a lot of gas because they swallow air when they're crying, but the gas isn't what causes the colic.

What about pain? He had me lay the baby down, at which point she would start crying, then pick her up, and she would calm. That kind of on/off crying, he said, is textbook colic, and he sees it as proof there's no pain. Heartburn is a frequent suspect thrown up for colic (I know we've pointed a finger in that direction many times), but think about when you have heartburn. Lying down makes it worse, but it doesn't just go away when you sit up. It hangs around for a while. But medicine makes it go away completely. The results we saw when we gave our baby Zantac (maybe less crying, but still some) vs. what we saw when we picked her up (able to completely calm her) were the exact opposite of what you'd expect if it were heartburn.

Why did it get better when we did _____? Babies mature out of colic. Sometimes that's all that happens. As more than one expert has pointed out, if you keep trying stuff, eventually the colic will go away on its own, and you'll think the last thing you tried is what worked. In our case, switching from breastmilk to hypoallergenic formula meant a lot less gas, and gas pain was one of the things that would trigger a hellacious crying jag. We weren't fixing the colic, really, just reducing one of her triggers, which left her free to be a happy baby every now and again. Christie kept pumping, and now she's reintroducing breast milk, with much better results.

Accept the fact that you're nuts: Your baby is screaming at you, and you're fantasizing about sleep, and thinking of new experiments to perform, trying to figure out what in the hell is wrong. That's normal. You will go a little crazy, people will say very not helpful things, and ideas will come to you at 2 in the morning that will not, thank god, survive the light of day. For instance, when Christie was first reintroducing breastmilk, we both had middle of the night moments when we were convinced the problem was her milk. Of course, I'd had the same thoughts about formula, just a few weeks before. You are sleep deprived and under enormous stress, so make allowances for your own emotional state.

Look her in the eye I lamented to Christie once that I spent so much time thinking of Spud as a problem to manage that I sometimes forgot that she was a person. It's easy to do that when all you see are gums and uvula. But one night, about two in the morning, I was staring at her in total bewilderment, wishing I knew what the problem was so I could fix it, and she stopped screaming, opened her eyes and looked at me with that same look of total confusion. Now, maybe she was just mirroring my expression, but it was my first person-to-person connection with my daughter, and it was over the fact that neither of us had the slightest idea why she was crying.

Pretend to be calm Everybody told us that we needed to be calm, because babies take their emotional cues from their care givers. That's so true, but telling the parent of a colicky baby to be calm is like telling a man falling out of an airplane to pop his chute. Believe me, if we could have been calm, we would already be calm. So I'm telling you to fake it. When she cries, smile. When she screams, smile. Don't oversmile, or you'll end up looking like the cryptkeeper. Just think of something that makes you happy. Like silence. And smile just enough that she'll know what one looks like when it's time to make one. Count your breaths. Think of what calm people look like, and try to make your outside look like that. Don't worry about what's going on inside, because you can't really do anything about it. Just let it go.

Expectations and aspirations: Speaking of letting go, you'll be doing a lot of that. You might have goals of sleep training. Or breastfeeding exclusively, or not exposing your baby to polka music. But you're not in charge anymore. You've got a little tyrant running things now, and if you're going to ever get any rest, you'd better learn to appease her needs. There's a reason why they play tapes of crying babies at Guantanamo. It. Is. Torture. You need to have compassion for yourself, or else you will break. Get help. Find a good babysitter and hire them for as much time as you can. We had a woman come in four hours a day, five days a week, for a month. If you can at all arrange it, go on a date. You'll feel guilty as hell, but you need to see the rest of the world every now and again. Set clear shifts with your partner. When you're on, you have two responsibilities: the baby and letting your partner rest. When you're off, you're off. Read a book, take a nap, whatever. It's your time. Be selfish. At shift change, do some prepwork, like cleaning bottles, picking up blankets, or whatever needs doing that takes two hands.

Tricks for Calming the Baby:

Colic hold: Billie calls it "monkey on a branch", and that's kind of what it looks like. The baby is lying on top of your forearm, limbs hanging on either side. You can do it like this, with the baby's head in your hands, or, when they're smaller, turned the other way, with her head in the crook of your elbow. Lately, Spud's gotten so big I can barely reach her head if I try to do it one handed, so I need to use my other hand to support her head. When she's really cranky, I do a move I call the "tommy gun", where I jiggle her and move her back and forth, like Al Capone strafing a room. Christie has her own techniques, and Spud seems to like different things from different people. She actually gets mad when I sing Christie's special calming song.

White Noise: Spud likes the vacuum so much we've considered changing her name to Dyson. It works when nothing else does. Rain sounds work pretty well, too. Another bright side is that white noice drowns out voices, which makes it harder for you to hear the baby, which helps with your nerves. And if your partner is trying to sleep, it'll help them as well.

Occam's Razor: I've been 45 minutes into a horrific crying jag before I realized she might need her diaper changed. Duh. And the clock can help guide you about hunger, but babies do go on growth spurts that leave them more or less constantly hungry. Do the same check for yourself. Are you hungry? Have you had anything to drink lately? Take care of your body as best you can. This time period is going to be hard on you, physically, but do what you can.

Music: Dancing with the baby is often very calming.

Boredom: Sometimes they want to see something new, look out the window, play on the playmat, etc. Try it and see.

Overstimulation: Sometimes the opposite is true.

Swinging: Get the baby in a good, firm hold, and yourself in a solid stance, and twist back and forth at the waist. It's good for your abs, and it's often very calming for the baby. Oddly enough, I found that if I positioned myself with a light behind me so that she was in light, then dark, then light as I swung with her, it sort of hypnotised her into calmness. I don't know why, but it worked. Sometimes.

Nothing works all the time and sometimes you're just in for a long ass night of screaming baby. They suck. I have no wisdom to offer on this point except to say that sometimes life sucks. Sorry about that. House rules, I guess.

2011 Update:

Kid #2 actually does have reflux, and it is so, so different from colic.  I mean, really.  If he hasn't had his Zantac, he fusses every time he spits up, and cries for almost half an hour after every feeding, but if he's had his Zantac, nothing.
Count the Lies - McCainPedia

Yes, this site is from the Democrats. But it's the best resource I can find that catalogs the many and various lies coming out of the McCain camp. As Steve Benen has observed, these people even lie when the truth would suffice. And I say lie, because that's what they are. When you say something that's not true once, it might be a misstatement. But when it's been pointed out to you that it's not true, and you keep repeating it anyway, well, that's a lie.

I got a master's in English at a time when Postmodernism was ascendant, and one of the things that drove me out of the field was the stubborn insistence that all truth is contingent at best, and arbitrary at worst. I've done the reading, and I acknowledge that actually knowing the 100% sure and certain truth is damn near impossible in most situations, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I've certainly bumped my head against it enough times to know. My dislike of absolute relativism was one of the few things I had in common with the conservatives of that era.

If you'd told me then that twelve years later we'd have Republicans running for President on a platform of "the truth is whatever we say it is", I'd never have believed you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Have you seen those AIG ads? The ones with little kids pestering their parents about money, cataloging all the things they ought to be worried about, until the parents say, "It's okay, we're with AIG. It's taken care of."?

Yeah, not so much.

Over the last eight years, my mind has turned time and again to a George Will column I read back in 1988, when George H.W. Bush got the Republican nomination, and Will, who was not a fan, wrote, "How much damage can a bad president do, anyway?"

I think we're starting to get a fairly clear picture of that, and there are two categories of damage we're seeing.

Iraq is a sin of commission, a war we didn't need to be in, driven by the passions of a man given too much power by the circumstances, namely by the events of September 11th.

Which leads me to the second class of fuckups, the sins of omission. What's the difference? For the non-theologically inclined, let's boil it down: A sin of commission is your buddy driving your boat into a log because he thought he could jump it. A sin of omission is the moron who turns on the cruise control of his RV, then goes in the back to make a sandwich.

I think it's clear by now that Bush and his gang of "government never did anyone any good" conservatives had no interest in doing the job of government. They wanted the power, and the nice offices, but either didn't understand the responsibility, or didn't care.

9/11: Those who took Bin Laden's threats seriously were sidelined, and when they finally got a meeting with the boss to talk about it, they were told, "You've covered your ass, now." That quote says so much, doesn't it?

Katrina: The same crew who claimed to be the only ones capable of handling a terrorist attack had three days warning that a major catastrophe was coming, and they did nothing to prepare, and little to respond until they turned on CNN and realized that their asses were not, as it were, covered.

The housing/credit crisis: Phil Gramm actually laid the foundation for this back in December of 2000 by inserting radical deregulation of the banking industry into a 262-page, last-minute spending bill. Not knowing what was in it, Clinton signed it, and passed the problem to his successor, whose free-market ideology and legendary lack of attention to detail meant he would never re-regulate.

To revise my earlier analogy, I guess you could say that Phil Gramm turned off the auto-pilot, and Bush turned the pilot's seat around so he could schmooze with the first-class passengers.

My point, I guess, is that 8 years ago, we could be forgiven for thinking of politics as a kind of sporting event, where the Royals are heroes and the Yankees villains no matter who the actual players are, or how they're playing. Even 4 years ago, I could see that.

But our nation has serious problems right now, and of the two people running for president, only one of them is putting forth serious solutions. The other has no plan for the housing crisis, no policies on lending, no interest in regulation, and no economic plan beyond cutting taxes for the richest of the rich (which includes himself), and taxing your health insurance benefits.

As Molly Ivins used to say, policies have effects, and people's lives are really touched by what happens in Washington.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An Obama/Les Miserables crossover:

Of course, this is right before almost everyone dies in an aborted revolution that, historically speaking, goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing. But, hey, great song.

Friday, September 12, 2008

You know I love a good conspiracy theory, right? But Roald Dahl sleeping with Clare Booth Luce at the behest of the British Government? Too crazy to be believed.

And, apparently, true.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This may be belaboring the obvious, but all of my posts about Palin are really about John McCain, in that he picked her with little to no vetting, with the result that all of these scandals are coming out now. It's a reflection of his impetuousness, cynicism, and lack of respect for the office.
One case where Palin really did cut the spending of taxpayer dollars, but she's not exactly bragging about it: the police chief she appointed forced rape victims to pay for their own rape kits until the state legislature explicitly outlawed the practice.

Update: Just for contrasts, you might be interested to know that Alaska made it illegal so that they could qualify for funding under the Violence Against Women Act, which was sponsored by Joe Biden, and opposed by John McCain. Amazing how the three of them come together on this one issue.

It's worth pointing out

that John McCain's plan for an America where insurance premiums go up every year is to tax those benefits if you get them from your work.

I'm confused by this on so many levels. It certainly seems like bad policy, but more than that, it seems like bad politics. People like me who get their health insurance through work are about the only ones outside of veterans who are even remotely happy with their health care coverage. And his big idea for improving our health care system is to take the "haves" and make their health insurance more expensive?

I guess spreading the misery around must be defensible from some perspective, but I can't imagine why a politician would propose it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's now official: John McCain is a sleazebag.

Update: I finally got off my ass and gave Obama some money. Thanks, Senator McCain, for showing me how important it is to keep you out of the White House.
I stand by my assertion the colic is not a diagnosis when it's thrown out by a resident in response to a crying baby and a stressed mom. But now that I've seen how a specialist diagnoses colic, I'm convinced.

Of course, he didn't just yell "colic" and send us home, either. He talked with us for almost an hour, tell stories and listening to ours, giving equal parts tips for coping and commendations for how well we've done. And he left us with a real sense of hope for the next couple of weeks. And he gave us his home number. Well, he gave us a number that he said was his home number.

So, good doctor's visit.

Oh, and she's up to 27 inches long and 13 lbs, 10 oz. No wonder my back hurts all the time. Jeesh.

Monday, September 08, 2008

This is what I think the world needs to know about McCain/Palin: Palin ran for governor on platform of supporting the bridge to nowhere. When the US Congress removed the earmark for it, with national media scrutiny suddenly in the picture, Palin kept the money, but distributed it to other projects instead of building the bridge, although she did build the road that would have led to the bridge. This chain of events is well known, but the campaign continues to run ads claiming she "stopped the bridge to nowhere". The most charitable name I can come up with for this claim is "bullshit", but I think it's also safe to call it a lie.
Worth a read: The Los Angeles Times on Sarah Palin's leadership style.

via Steve Benen, who points out how much her style resembles that of Bush: incurious and ineffective.

Friday, September 05, 2008

This is just weird.

If you watched McCain's speech (I didn't), you might have thought he was speaking in front of a green screen, until they pulled out to a shot of some big, Georgian-looking building. What was it? A mansion? A government building? No, it was a middle school in North Hollywood that happens to be named "Walter Reed Middle School".

Why was it up on the screen? No answer yet from the McCain camp, but Josh Marshall wonders if they told some flack to find a picture of Walter Reed Army Hospital, this is what they found, and nobody caught the mistake. At the moment, that seems to be the most reasonable explanation.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I'm gradually coming to believe that Palin was the perfect pick for McCain, because she so perfectly represents today's Republican Party. As noted below, she's fiscally irresponsible and vindictive, and is apparently a fan of library censorship to boot. And now we find out that not only does she want to make abortion illegal no matter what, including in cases of rape or incest, but she used her line-item veto to cut funding for transitional housing for unwed teen mothers.

Obama's right. The Republican attitude to everything really is "You're on your own."
I downloaded Google's new browser, Chrome, and you can really tell it's a beta. It's stable as heck, but pages are very slow to load, and some never seem to load at all. Ironically, it's Google's own pages (gmail most particularly) that most often have this problem.

I'm looking forward to the next version, but sticking with Firefox for now.

Update: It's much, much better in Vista, and the transition from Firefox was seamless.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A native Wasillan gives us the skinny on Palin's executive experience.

By the time she was done being mayor, she'd taken a town of 6,000 with a budget surplus and given them a $22 million debt.

Sounds like a Republican to me.
Just dropped off the little one for her first day at daycare.

Wow, that was hard.