Thursday, December 15, 2011

The most wonderful time of the year

It's one week till Christmas, which means it's time to dust off my Grinch t-shirt, which I love because that's precisely how deep my grumpiness at Christmas goes, even on a day like today when I've got a persistent migraine and have had what you might call an unsatisfactory shopping experience. My wife tells me she wants me to put up the lights, and I grumble and groan about being able to see the house from space, and then as soon as the garage door closes behind me, I'm whistling Christmas carols while plotting on where to put the giant inflatable polar bear (in a Santa cap).

And when I come inside, I  set up the nativity scene on the mantle, and smile as I settle the little pewter baby Jesus in his mother's arms.

Did I mention I'm an atheist?

It's true that I was raised Lutheran, but my love for Christmas isn't backsliding. And I'm not celebrating Solstice or Winter-Een-Mas or Festivus or anything else. I am celebrating Christmas. No, I don't go to church, but I do recognize that I am part of a non-religious minority living in a majority Christian country, and I'm okay with it. I am no more harmed by their faith than they are by my lack of faith. And then, of course, there is my family, which is more devout than not. And because I love and respect them, I love and respect their faith.  I just don't happen to share it.

And besides, how cool is the Christmas story? No, I don't buy it all as fact. But the story of Jesus being born in a barn is so different from the origin myths of most religious leaders that I do wonder if there might be some truth to it. Regardless of its truth value, though, as a father, I love the idea of a foundational myth that says that every child, regardless of circumstances, has the potential to save the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I have this theory that the Republicans actually know that their platform of tax cuts for the rich and massive cuts to gov't spending would totally destroy the middle class and/or plunge us into a depression. Which is why the sensible, responsible Republicans are not running for president right now, and are waiting for 2016.

But then I really can't come up with any names that would go on that list of sensible, responsible Republicans in gov't, so maybe it's just that they keep drumming out the reasonable ones for lack of fidelity to their currently insane suite of ideas.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

French Toast Casserole

If you're having guests for Sunday brunch, you'll need to start this Friday night.  This is what you'll need:

Remote temperature probe
1 good sized loaf of crusty bread, or two baguettes.
7 eggs
3 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup of brown sugar
2 tblsp. of cinnamon
1 tsp. fresh-grated nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Cut the bread into 3/4 inch slices on Friday night, and leave it out to dry. At some point on Saturday, lay the bread out on a baking sheet and bake it in a 150 degree oven for 5-6 hours to dry it out very thoroughly. Let the bread cool while you mix the eggs, milk, 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, the cinnamon and nutmeg. Arrange the bread in a casserole dish, pour the mixture over the bread, cover and refrigerate over night. There should still be some liquid in the dish, waiting to be absorbed into the bread. If not, you can add more eggs and milk. Just be sure to mix them well and maintain a ratio of 1 egg to 1/2 cup milk.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a microwave-safe bowl and mix with the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Pour over the top of the casserole and scatter the pecans on top. Insert the temperature probe in the middle of the casserole (be sure it's not touching the bottom of the dish) and set the alarm for 170 degrees (should take about 40 minutes).  When the alarm goes off, turn the oven up to 400 degrees and set the alarm for 190.

Serve warm.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Honey Laundering

I'm just a bit skeptical of the Honey Laundering story that's running around.  First of all, the story raises the scary specter that Chinese honey that's contaminated with antibiotics is being sold in the US, but doesn't actually say that. What it really says is that the honey they tested might be Chinese because it has no impurities that could be used to determine its country of origin.  That's not the same thing. Did they test for antibiotics? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?

In fact, the article says that the industry does its own tests for a variety of hazardous materials. This is just about the presence or lack of pollen in honey.  Why does pollen matter? Well, there are a lot of quotes from the American Honey Producers Association saying that pollen is essential to the quality of honey, but the only thing close to an actual reason we're given is some vague notions on health benefits from the staff nutritionist at a school of 2,800 students in New England, and the assertion that local honey can help with seasonal allergies, which studies have not found to be the case, probably because the pollen that causes allergies is wind-born, not bee-born.

The article also says that the "Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey." But just two months ago, the same newsletter, Food Safety News, complained that "the honey industry and Congress can't get the FDA to even come up with a legal definition of what honey is."

I love good artisanal honey. That's always my preference. And food safety in this country is currently a joke.  Given the fact that there are stiff tariffs in place against Chinese honey, this sounds like it's more about tax evasion than food safety. Which is still a good story, but not quite the same thing.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Customer Service Fail

A Mediacom rep rings our doorbell on Saturday afternoon: So how's your Internet connection? Mediacom's sending a bunch of us out to see how our customers are doing.

Me: Well, actually, I've been having to release and renew the DHCP pretty regularly lately. Had a service guy out last week, but it's still happening. It's kind of annoying.

Rep: But it's actually working right now?

Me: Well, yeah.

Rep: Great! Can I interest you in putting in a phone line?

Me: No, not really.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Both kids finally slept through the night last night

Me: I finally got a full night's sleep. I feel like Wolverine!
Her: Yeah?
Me: Yeah. I've got a ton of energy and I feel really strong, but my memory is shot, and I'm kind of vague on who I am and what I'm supposed to be doing.

3 yr old, meet Siri

My daughter was pretty bummed about waking up in the dark this morning, so with her on my lap, I got out my 4S and fired up Siri.

Me: When is daylight savings?

Siri: Daylight savings begins March 6, 2012.

Me: When does daylight savings end?

Siri: I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by "when does daylight savings end."

Me: When do we turn our clocks back in the fall?

Siri: I'm sorry, I can't access your world clock right now.

Daughter: No fair! Tell her no fair, daddy! *presses Siri's talk button* No fair!

Siri: I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by "no fair."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Middle Class Midwestern Middle Aged White Guy Talks about privilege

A recent tweet sent me to this cartoon, in which a gesticulating praying mantis explains that there's not such thing as female privilege, because what people call 'female privilege' is contingent upon fulfilling sexist social norms. Crying your way out of a speeding ticket is a pretty classic example of a 'benefit' that's not available to men in our society, but is open to women. The point of the cartoon is that it's not actually available to all women, just women that look and act in the ways that fulfill certain sexist stereotypes. And it's a valid point, although I'm not sure that a praying mantis is the best spokesman for feminism.

But those of you who never took a _____-studies class in college may well be wondering what I mean when I talk about 'privilege'.  Defined most broadly, it's the benefits you get because of the groups you belong to, not because of your character or achievements.  The tricky part is that our own privilege is often invisible to us, and is frequently defined negatively.

For example, I was driving through my neighborhood a while back and noticed a police car parked across the street from my house. I pulled up next to him, rolled down my window, and said, "Afternoon, officer. This is my house. Anything I need to be worried about?" and he replied, with a smile, "Nope. Just doing some paper work." I didn't have to worry about getting shot, getting hassled, or even getting a dirty look. If your first thought on hearing that story is "What's the big deal?" then you have the same middle class white privilege that I do.

A common question I see online is from young people who just learned about this concept and run home to tell their boyfriend, dad, roommate, cousin, or what-have-you, "You have all these privileges that you aren't aware of and didn't earn!" only to discover that people are rarely happy to hear that they get undeserved special treatment. And it seems to be a biological reality that we are more attuned to unfairness that hurts us than unfairness that benefits us.

My solution, of course, is to talk about my own privilege first. That's easy to do because I'm a middle class middle aged midwestern straight white guy. I am, basically, the poster guy for privilege, and if I have any trouble thinking of ways in which I have privilege, entire books have been written on the topic. That might, in fact, be another bit of privilege.

But there are a number of non-mantis scholars who claim that privilege is the exclusive domain of the top of the heap, and that there is no, for example, 'female privilege'. In fact, some of them get downright angry if you try and tell them they do, in fact, have privilege. So, are they right, or are they just having the same reaction that the rest of us have when we hear that we have benefited from unearned special treatment?

I don't know.

But I do know that there are places I can't go and things I can't do purely because of circumstances beyond my control.  And there are even more places and things that I can do, but the social or financial cost is higher for me than it would be for someone else. Every in-group has some sort of privilege that's not accessible to outsiders.

Please don't think I'm whining that there are bars where I don't feel like I fit in, or places overseas where I'd be forced to pay in dollars rather than get a cheaper meal in the local currency. Actually, I'm trying to get at a larger point about privilege.

Let's go back to the praying mantis, and her angry insistence that female privilege is really just a reward for fitting in with the sexist norms of a dysfunctional society.  She's right. But is male privilege that different? If I grow out my hair and my beard, throw on a floral dress, and put a flower in my hair, I would lose a lot of the male privilege that I otherwise have access to.  The classic argument is that the privilege is always there, waiting for me to pick it back up, but that's also true of minority group privileges.

So this is my big idea: privilege is a group's way of encouraging compliance and punishing variance, and as such, it's something that every group has, though the value of the privilege on offer is directly proportional to the amount that the group in question has.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Whitney and the commodification of sex

I watched NBC's new show Whitney, and I'm stuck on the fact that a major plot point is that heroine goes looking through her closet for sexy, and discovers that they're all out of sexy, and need to go to the sexy store to get some more.

I can see that the big comedic payoff is Whitney at the hospital in her sexy nurse costume, and that this is gets her there. Maybe in a previous era, she'd have gone to her priest (which could have also been very funny), or a female friend. Instead, she goes to her friends, and her friends take her to a store, where the help, advice, and costume are all handed out by a sales clerk in latex.

So what's going on here? Is the main character so out of touch with her own sexuality and the intimacy that should be the backbone of any romantic relationship that she has to go shopping for it? Or have we as a culture outsourced romance completely to the retail sector?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Writing it out

Seth Godin reminds me that I really should be writing every day. So here's my daily brain dump, so I can relax and think about something else.

1. Work - I'm in the beginning stages of testing a new system that might be awesome, if it'll do everything we want it to. I need to make that call, but am trying to glean the info I need without full training in the system, and with only a small subset of the data that I really want to put in there. So it's exciting, boring, and frustrating, all at the same time, which is a hard cocktail to swim in.

2. Kids - Both our kids are finally sleeping in their own rooms. Thing One has been in her own room for years now, but Thing Two has been in our room basically since he was born. We've been sleep training him this month (he's 8 months old), using a modified version of the info in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which has worked really well. He wasn't really sleeping through the night, but we moved him anyway, and as soon as we moved him, he started sleeping through. I think being in our room meant that if he stirred and/or woke slightly during a light part of the sleep cycle, then our reaction would wake him further, leading to multiple wakings in the night. But now that he's alone, he's down to just 1 or 2 wakings, generally at 10 and 4. It's been a huge boost to everyone's quality of life.

And Thing One's having her tonsils out in a couple of weeks. We're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

3. House - The yard's a bit neglected, but I've been cleaning the garage on my lunch hours this week, which is a load off my mind. They say a cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind, and I have found that being surrounded by clutter increases my stress level. To extend the metaphor, having a cluttered garage/workshop that I walk through several times a day leaves me creatively blocked, and stressed out on an unconscious level. So it's nice to be getting that cleaned up. It might even have profound effects.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Up All Night feels real enough for TV

Let's be honest: Sitcoms usually suck. And Saturday Night Live alums tend to not be very good at playing realistic human beings. But the early clips of NBC's new sitcom Up All Night made me think/hope it might not suck, and might actually pull some decent humor out of being a new parent. My wife and I have two small kids, and I can vouch that there is a lot to laugh at in our situation. There's also a lot to cry at, and a lot to yell about, but I'd rather laugh than do either of those, so Yay For Comedy! (as long as the dad's not an idiot and the relationship looks like they actually love each other, etc., etc.)

Okay, sometimes the dad, played by Will Arnett, is kind of an idiot. But it's more the kind of idiocy that we all exhibit when we're sleep deprived and frustrated. His reaction to his own inability to find cheese in the grocery store rang true to me. I have those same "What the hell? I used to be smart!" kind of moments just about every day.

And, yes, the couple snaps at each other over stupid stuff. Which is exactly what you do when you're tired and frustrated. The "I got less sleep than you did, because I was watching you sleep while I took care of the baby!" argument is such a regular feature in our house that I'm thinking of just giving it a number to save time, as is the "How is it that a baby is stronger than me?" fight with the kid over a diaper change.

So, yeah, I give it my dad stamp of approval. It's funny, and it feels real.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Outside Jericho

Woke up thinking of grandpa's funeral
where one by one my cousins stood 
and told of a warm funny man
and I sat in a pew
holding my father's hand
because I never saw that man 
until the last few years
when his brain fell apart 
and the walls came down
and he forgot himself
or was it me?

It's funny what can trigger a series of thoughts.  A friend tweeted a link to a clip from the new Planet of the Apes flick which turned out to revolve around the ape lead defending a character with Alzheimer's. I couldn't get through it, which was kind of a surprise to me. My grandfather died 9 years ago, and his senility had been building for 6 years at that point.  I guess I thought I was done with all those feelings, but clearly I was wrong.

Maybe it's having kids. Christie's grandmother is still alive, and my daughter (age 3) is a huge fan of all 4 of her grandparents. So she's naturally curious about mine. How to explain that I was flat out scared of one grandfather, and never met the other? And that's not even getting into the question of how to explain death to a three year old.  I think that's going to have to wait a couple of years.

So, anyway, an idea popped in my head while I was in the shower, and I wrote a draft, showed it to Christie, and we talked about it. I said I worried that it was trite, and she said, "Well, anytime you end a poem with a question, you're taking a risk, but if it's how you feel..." which didn't exactly assuage my worries. But I've only writtem one poem since becoming a father, and I really wanted to take the time to craft some lines, so I revised, and revised until it's something a little more ambivalent and ambiguous, something with a clearer voice, something I like a little better.

Of course, talking about poetry in public always makes me feel like a Vogon, and reminds me of the Heinlein quote, "A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits." And then there's the central problem of the poem, that the version of my grandfather that I knew was not the version that everyone else seemed to know.  

Luckily, nobody reads my blog anymore anyway.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Third draft

Woke up thinking of grandpa's funeral
where one by one my cousins stood 
and told of a warm funny man
and I sat in a pew
holding my father's hand
because I never knew that man 
until the last few years
when his brain fell apart 
until the walls came down
and he forgot himself
or was it me?

Second draft

I woke up this morning thinking about my grandfather's funeral
how one by one my cousins stood and told of a warm funny man
and I stayed in my pew, holding my father's hand
because I never knew that man until the last few years
until his brain fell apart and the walls came down
and he forgot who he was, or was it me?

First draft

I woke up this morning thinking about my grandfathers funeral
How one by one my cousins stood and told of a warm funny man
And I stayed in my pew, holding my fathers hand
Because I never knew that man until the last few years
Until his brain fell apart and the walls came down
But was it because he forgot who he was, or who I am?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Linux on a Netbook

We bought a HP Mini netbook a few years ago for Christie to take a-traveling, but it's got issues. It was never fast, but Windows is a bio-degradable operating system, so it's been getting slower with every update. And speaking of updates, it seems like every time I opened the damn thing, it would try to update something, or run some sort of diagnostic, and because it was so slow, it would take forever to close the window or turn off the virus scan, or otherwise get back to the thing I was trying to do in the first place, at which point it would restart itself because Microsoft apparently doesn't think I actually want to do anything with the computer except maintain their buggy, bloated OS.

Although I do like Windows 7 well enough on the bigger laptop. So maybe my beef is really with HP.

It does, however, come with a HP Quickweb, a streamlined OS that's supposed to make it easier to open the netbook and start surfing the web. But I don't really like Quickweb. It feels like playing in the kiddie pool, and it steers me heavily toward its anointed solutions, which aren't always what I'm interested in. I would, for instance, rather use Gchat than Skype. Unfortunately, putting Linux on a netbook is not always super-simple, so here's a breakdown of how I got around and/or over the various hurdles.

Hurdle One:  Which OS?
I picked Ubuntu because it seems to be the one that requires the least fiddling with it. I have enough to do in my life, and I don't feel like spending my weekends tweaking my OS (no, that is not a euphemism).

Hurdle Two: No Optical Drive
This one was pretty easy. has easy to follow instructions on how to create a thumb drive with all the info on it for installing Linux, and the software to build the bootable thumb drive is free for download.

Hurdle Three: How do I boot from a thumb drive?
Normally, there's a screen that shows briefly telling you which key to hit to get into the setup so you can change the boot order of the computer. The HP Mini doesn't do that; it just goes straight into Quickweb. But a bit of Googling got me the solution: While the netbook is booting up, just keep hitting F9, and you'll see a screen giving you a choice of boot disks including your flash drive.

Hurdle Four: "No Root File System Is Defined"
All the instructions for the installation package showed three options:

  1. Install alongside another OS
  2. Wipe the HD clean and install Ubuntu
  3. Do something else. 
All I was seeing were options 2 and 3 from that list, and I couldn't figure out the problem. I didn't want to completely wipe out Windows, but I couldn't get the "Do Something Else" menus to work for me. It would show me partitions, but I couldn't do anything with them, and if I tried to continue the install, I got a "No Root File System Is Defined" error.
Eventually, I figured out that I could only have a total of 4 partitions on the hard drive, and HP had already put 4 on there. There was the Quickweb partition, the main Windows partition, a Recovery partition, and a fourth partition that I think is just there to make it harder to install Linux, because there really doesn't seem to be any good reason for it. led me to Partition Magic, which wouldn't let me merge partitions in the free version, but would let me delete and move things, so I took everything off that useless 4th partition and shrank the Windows partition, aka the C: drive.  I was tempted to get rid of the Recovery partition because they aren't particularly useful (especially if you experience hard drive failure), but chickened out. Resizing the Windows partition from within Windows is not exactly trivial, but it's not exactly rocket science, and the software does most of the work:
  1. Tell Partition Magic to resize the C: drive. Click Apply, and restart when it tells you to.
  2. Tell Partition Magic to delete the 4th partition.
  3. Move the partitions around so that the unallocated space is contiguous.
And now you're ready to install Ubuntu. Restart the netbook, hit F9 a bunch, boot from the thumb drive, then follow the onscreen prompts.

Hurdle Five: How do I pronounce Ubuntu?
No idea.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Testing Google+

Well, I got my Google+ invite, and so I'm seeing how I like it. I use Facebook quite a bit to interact with old friends, but I live most of my life in the Google ecosystem (Gmail, Blogger, Picasa, etc.) so I'm really curious how this is going to work out. I'll admit that a big part of my desire for a Google+ invite is the increased photo storage it comes with. I wonder if this is going to kill my Flickr membership?

Of course, my main reason for writing this post is to see if posting on my blog has any affect on my Google+ profile.  Google+ knows about this blog, but does it do anything with that knowledge?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Computer Love

I'm a big fan of Buzz Out Loud from CNet, and here's the text of a letter I sent them recently for their Computer Love segment:

Ten years ago I was freshly divorced and looking for love. Based on my experience, this is my guide to finding geek love:
1. Get Real. I had a couple of internet dates, and while my wife and I met in real life, we did most of our early flirtation via email. The problem with that is that I did a very plausible online impression of someone with his life in gear, but in real life I was much more messed up. Also, my conversational style has been compared unfavorably to drinking from a firehose. You really have to meet me in person to realize how annoying this can be. But I found someone who kind of likes it.
2. Hope for Failure. If you are listening to this show, then you are a geek. And the percentage of the general population who will intentionally date a geek is probably in the low teens. Add to that your own criteria (weight, height, hair color, Star Trek vs. Star Wars, has a job, bathes) and your pool starts shrinking. This is not a bug, it's a feature. A bad date or a rejected pickup is not a disaster, it's just another iteration in your own personal sorting algorithm. 
3. Define Success. I knew I was in love because my happiness had become contingent on hers, and when I was with her, I was a better version of myself than when I wasn't. Of course, I'm kind of an idiot, so it took me a long time after falling in love to even realize that it had happened. I almost drew charts, but even I recognized that would be a bit much. Instead, I proposed. Ineptly. But she said yes anyway. 
We've been married 5 years.  We have a 4 month old who just outgrew his first Star Wars onesie and a three year old who starts most of her sentences with "Well actually..." Love is good.
Love the show,
Mike the Grammar Geek
Molly, one of the hosts, said that "just another iteration in your own personal sorting algorithm" was "gloriously geeky", which I'm thinking of putting on a t-shirt.

Update: Speaking of dating geekily...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What are alpha-gal antibodies, and why did I get tested for them?

Here are a couple of articles on some research that my friend Gina sent to me that matches closely the allergy symptoms that I was having back in 2004:

1. The mystery of the tick and the allergy

2. Man's Sudden Food Allergy Was a Medical Mystery for Months

Basically, researchers have been looking at people with delayed-onset anaphylaxis after eating certain types of meat, and have managed to link their symptoms back to tick bites.  And that does fit with my experience, as I was doing a lot more hiking back in the days when I had my allergies, and frequently had ticks. Something in the tick bite caused people to become allergic to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (a.k.a. alpha-gal).

Hence the testing for alpha-gal antibodies.

Update (6-20-12): Good Morning America has a story that pins this specifically on the Lone Star Tick.

First steak in 7 years

I got the full food-allergy test and turned up negative on everything, and I got the alpha-gal antibody blood test, and that was negative as well. I got that news on Friday afternoon, and Sunday night I ate my first steak in seven years. And it was good.

But I had been outside playing with the kids earlier and managed to pick up a couple of mosquito bites, and between the mosquito bites and random phantom itchiness, I had enough anxiety that I didn't sleep all that well. But I really want to keep experimenting. So I think I'm going to start eating beef once a week for lunch, just to see. And I can have my anxiety during the day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Layered Hypocondria

There's this mole under my left eye that I catch in the mirror every once in a while and think, "Holy crap! Where did that thing come from?!" and then I remember that one time this happens I actually dug up a picture so I could see if it was changing and realized that it's always been there and has never changed.

So I don't have skin cancer.

But what's up with this not remembering what my own face looks like? Could I be developing face blindness?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Really, This Old House?

This Old House Fun Family Projects looks like a fun little book, and I might consider buying it, but the publisher synopsis calls it "Easy step-by-step, 1-2-3 instruction so simple even a Dad could follow it (as long as he gets help from Mom...)".

I have run out of words for how tired I am of the "Dad is a clueless moron who needs Mom's help to accomplish anything" crap. And I really, really expect better from This Old House, which I love deeply.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I find your surplus of faith disturbing

It kind of scares me when my wife demonstrates complete and total faith in my ability to fix some thing or another.  A not even slightly exaggerated example:

"Christie, there's a portal to a dark dimension in the basement, and I can hear Matthew McConaughey's voice coming out of it."

"Well, I'm sure you'll figure out how to fix it.  Have you looked it up online?"

Seriously.  Happens all the time.  Well, at least now I see where she gets it.  My mother in law is staying with us to help with the new baby, and she's been picking our daughter up from daycare.  I'm not sure exactly what they talk about in the car, but this is the conversation I had with my 2 and a half year old daughter this morning when the sun was in her eyes:

"Too bright!  The sun is too bright.  It's a problem!  Grandpa will come from Louisiana and fix it.  He fixes problems.  The sun is too bright and Grandpa will fix it."

"Grandpa will fix the sun?"

"Yes.  He has tools!"

Monday, February 07, 2011

Beck is losing it

So now he's saying that the people who want gay marriage and the people who stone gay teenagers are best buds out to destroy America because, um, well, yeah.

Beck has been enormously destructive to America's intellectual and political fiber, and I am glad to see that he's self-destructing instead of being taken out from within.  After all, Father Coughlin was enormously influential, too, at one point, until he pushed it too far and lost all but the most bigoted of his audience. Here's hoping that Beck goes down the same road until only the clinically paranoid are still listening to him. Maybe on Sirius Radio, 1 channel up from Howard Stern.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Apparently I can't turn off the "process improvement" part of my brain even when I'm away from the office.

I have a new son at home, and the whole experience was wonderful, with two very minor exceptions.  One was a brainless article in the stupid free magazine that the hospital's photo service gives out.  The other was an experience with the security at the hospital itself.

Security in the newborn wing is fairly heavy, but I'm cool with that even though I know that kidnappings from newborn wings almost never happen, because the fear that they might is enough to keep awake the people in the world who most need sleep.

But they also have this policy where the hospitality people walk around and take the names of everyone who's staying overnight so that the night guards can let them back in if they have to leave.  But I only know that because I asked, and I have to admit I wasn't very nice about it, because the person doing the asking opened by holding out a pass that said, "Visitor" and that the policy was all about "guests" who stay the night.  My immediate reaction was, "I'm not a 'guest', I'm a parent!"

I'm pretty passionate about dad's being involved in their kids' lives, and unfortunately, anything that puts up a barrier like this means a few less dads changing diapers, and all that goes with it.  So I got a little snippy, and got a better explanation of the policy, and it all makes sense.  I would suggest a few very minor changes, though:

  1. Instead of an off-the-rack "Visitor" pass, have something printed with the hospital logo on it and a space for the name and date.  Don't put "Visitor" or "Parent" or anything.  Use color coding that the staff understands but will be invisible to the people you give them to.  There's no one label that will make everyone happy, so why use one at all?  I can only imagine how it must feel for the parent of a terminally ill child to be handed a pass that says "Visitor" every night as they sleep in their child's room.
  2. Change the script.  I'd suggest opening with, "Hi, are you spending the night?  I need to make sure your name is on the list so you can get back in if you have to leave the hospital over night."