DOMA upheld in Washington State

Today the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the Defense of Marriage Act as constitutional.

One should note, however, that they explicitly did not say whether or not it was a good idea — in fact, they hinted otherwise.  But their job is not to make policy, only decide if policy is constitutional, and they sided with the legislature in this case.

Their arguments once again showed that the fundamentalists driving this issue are much more of a threat to my marriage than gay marriage.  From the majority opinion:

…because the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not, in the legislature’s view, further these purposes. Accordingly, there is no violation of the privileges and immunities clause.

What this implies is that the purpose of marriage is to have kids.  So if you’re unable to have kids for biological reasons, this ruling threatens your right to marry.  If you’re past your prime and divorced or widowed, this ruling threatens your right to re-marry.  If you choose not to have children?  Sorry, but marriage clearly isn’t for you.  By attempting to define my marriage, and its goals, DOMA-style legislation is a serious threat to my heterosexual marriage.

I hate to haul out slippery-slope arguments, but what’s next: attempts to legally define my role as a husband?  I stay at home while my wife works.  I cook dinner and she mows the lawn.  She manages the finances and can do more chin-ups than me.  I pick the colors when we paint the walls.  How soon until some right-wing nutjob decides that it’d be better for the children if my wife stayed home and stayed out of men’s affairs? 

 Just like we look back and cluck our tongues at the sexists and racists of the past century, our children will be doing the same to the homophobes of the present day. 

Ruby’s huggy future

Metrodad posted this today:

The Peanut is NOT a hugger.

For the most part, she never really wants to hug us.  She’s either too busy or she’s just too independent.

The ONLY times that she ever gives us one of those huge neck-grabbing bear hugs is when she’s absolutey scared out of her Huggies.

Even though Ruby’s only 4.5 months old, this reminded me of her.  She’s not much of a cuddler, and really prefers to have physical contact on her own terms.  She likes to be held, but only if you’re also carting her around and keeping her entertained.  And although she certainly doesn’t want to be left alone, physical closeness for its own sake doesn’t seem important to her.

Obviously I’d like to enjoy a lifetime of cuddles and hugs from my daughter, so I’m instituting a few strategies that might help in this regard:

  • First of all, I’m going to work on developing longer stretches of quiet holding time.  When Ruby’s in her quiet/thoughtful moods, I tend to leave her alone while taking care of things around the house.  Instead, I’ll try to be quiet and thoughtful with her.
  • Secondly, I’m going to try to pay more attention to her cues when we’re playing together.  We play aggressively together, and I’m not going to change the overall style of play.  But I am going to try to avoid getting all up in her face when she’s tired of raspberries.

The Stochastic Baby

It seems like just the day after I sang the praises of Ruby’s predictable schedule, Ruby changed her mind.  It looks like she’s evolved (or is evolving) towards a new schedule, and in the meantime my planning has been shot all to hell.  Last week I wasn’t able to predict her sleeping (and, to a lesser extent, her eating) with any real degree of accuracy, which led to some really frustrating days.  Now, though, it seems like things have settled down again.  For the time being.

Ruby’s new schedule:

  • 4am or 5am: Awake for a feeding, then back to sleep.  Kate takes care of this and isn’t too happy about it.
  • 7am: up to start the day with another meal from Kate.
  • 10am: a short nap, maybe 30 minutes
  • 10:30am: first meal
  • 1pm: a longer nap, between one and two hours
  • 3:30pm: second meal
  • 5pm: Another short nap
  • 5:30pm: Kate is home from work
  • 8:00pm: bathtime
  • 8:30pm: bedtime

The biggest change here is that she generally only needs to be fed twice a day (not counting mornings and evenings, when her Mom provides food on demand).  Her daytime meals are also bigger as a result.  This is good for me, since I don’t need to feed her as often, although I had set up some interesting programs to watch on TV while she was eating (such as a biography of Benjamin Franklin and a Nova special on string theory — hurray for PBS!), and now I’m getting behind.

It looks like she’s also slowly moving towards one long nap with a few catnaps throughout the day.  This is nice as it gives me a big chunk of time to work on Feedwhip or whatever projects I’ve got lined up for the day.

I fully expect this will change again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to be back on a predictable schedule.

Peggy Noonan against Science

Sometimes I wonder how apparently dumb people get to be in positions of such influence.  Take, for example, this column by Peggy Noonan, an editor at the Wall Street Journal:

During the past week’s heat wave–it hit 100 degrees in New York City Monday–I got thinking, again, of how sad and frustrating it is that the world’s greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not? If it is real, is it necessarily dangerous? What exactly are the dangers? Is global warming as dangerous as, say, global cooling would be? Are we better off with an Earth that is getting hotter or, what with the modern realities of heating homes and offices, and the world energy crisis, and the need to conserve, does global heating have, in fact, some potential side benefits, and can those benefits be broadened and deepened? Also, if global warning is real, what must–must–the inhabitants of the Earth do to meet its challenges? And then what should they do to meet them?

You would think the world’s greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can’t. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.

This is a sickening attack on science and the human intellect. 

There is no great scientist who is not also completely honest and rigorous.  Intellectual honesty is at the core of science; you cannot have one without the other.  Richard Feynman, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, talked about this at Caltech in 1974:

It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

To paraphrase a similar idea from the same speech: science is essentially the long history of humans learning not to fool themselves.  Politics, on the other hand, is something approaching the exact opposite.

Science is just facts.  It doesn’t have an ideology.  It’s you, Ms. Noonan, who have become politicized.

Smackety Smack

I’ve been continuing to think about discipline the past few weeks.  I feel like we’re coming to a threshold where catering to Ruby’s every whim will no longer be the best parenting philosophy.  Not sure when, and it’ll probably be a gradual change, but it’s coming…

I read T. Berry Brazelton’s Discipline: The Brazelton Way last week and it didn’t provide much insight.  It’s a pretty short book, and so it moves pretty quickly, glossing over important areas and not really explaining the underlying psychology in detail.  The best parts of the book, and they are rare, are the dialogues between parent and child that illlustrate good and bad parenting techniques.  If I could find a large collection of those, that would be useful.

Down in New Zealand, a Christian group is promoting a more old-school approach to discipline:

Family Integrity has produced a controversial eight-page booklet on how to use physical punishment under the present law.

Parents are told that smacking can be a “10-to-15-minute process” and that if a child reacts angrily, such as by slamming doors or “pouting”, they should be smacked again.

“Smacking is meant to drive the foolishness, the sinful manifestations, out of the child’s personality so that they do not become permanent fixtures,” it says.

My favorite quote from the pro-smacking booklet:

“If the child is angry after the smack, you have not smacked hard enough.”


Kate has a few comments about the current state of discipline over at Ruby’s Blog.

Hope for Spinach

Rudd Sound Bites is the blog for the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.  At first glance, it looks pretty interesting.  I’ve got a Feedwhip subscription set up.

Here’s a post that inspires me to aim high for Ruby’s diet:

While six-year-old Faith and four-year-old Elijah cycle through finicky preferences, like any other children, Steinberger reports, “Neither of them cares for soft drinks (‘Too spicy,’ says my son).  Both like almost any kind of vegetable, and are particularly fond of kale (with sesame seeds and tamari sauce), broccoli, and peas… Both are willing to try new foods.” As a bedtime snack, they prefer sweet potatoes. 


The Statistical Baby

Ruby’s now at the age where numbers matter.  Not to her, of course — she’s not that gifted — but to me.  Any time she eats, sleeps, or poops, I want to know when, for how long, and how much.  When Kate and I come back from an evening out, we immediately grill the babysitters for all the relevant data.

There’s a constant calculation going on in my head that’s tying together all these numbers to assess (and, more importantly, predict) her mood.  It goes something like this: “she’s crying but she ate just an hour ago and it was a big meal but she’s been eating a lot lately but then again she hasn’t slept for a while but it’s only 10am…”

Now that Kate is back to work full time we’re really hitting a strong, predictable schedule.  Ruby naps three times during the day: 8:30am, 11:30am, and 4:30am.  She sleeps for 45 minutes.  Optional catnaps are at 2:30pm and 7:00pm.

Ruby eats at 10am, 1pm, and 4pm.  She eats 5oz per meal.  Of course, Kate also breastfeeds her in the morning and the evening.

Knowing that Ruby has settled into this routine makes spotting her moods much, much easier.  If she’s even slightly fussy and it’s after 11am, it’s naptime.  If it’s 10am, it’s meal time — I don’t even give her a chance to get fussy.

Also, knowing that I have those three breaks during the day really helps me relax about what I’m trying to get done around the house or for work.  I know there’s always another opportunity coming up in a few hours.

It’s now 12:20pm, and, just like clockwork, I can hear that Ruby’s awake from her mid-day nap.  I had time to have lunch, put the groceries away, do some prep work for dinner, and write this blog post — all of it calmly, thanks to the statistical baby.

How long of a straw does Dr. Hawking need?

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at this conference:

[LAWRENCE KRAUSS:] I just returned from the Virgin Islands, from a delightful event — a conference in St. Thomas — that I organized with 21 physicists. I like small events, and I got to hand-pick the people. The topic of the meeting was “Confronting Gravity. ” I wanted to have a meeting where people would look forward to the key issues facing fundamental physics and cosmology.

…Stephen Hawking came; we had three Nobel laureates, Gerard ‘tHooft, David Gross, Frank Wilczek; well-known cosmologists and physicists such as Jim Peebles at Princeton, Alan Guth at MIT, Kip Thorne at Caltech, Lisa Randall at Harvard; experimentalists, such as Barry Barish of LIGO, the gravitational wave observatory; we had observational cosmologists, people looking at the cosmic microwave background; we had Maria Spiropulu from CERN… 

Most of it would have been way over my head, but I’d have been happy to fetch them daiquiris and catch snippets of the discussion over the roar of the blender.

[via slashdot via feedwhip]



Getting in the Habits

A comment I’ve heard from parents of slightly older children goes something like this:  “Wow, I’m surprised at how much my baby is paying attention to what I do.  Just yesterday [he|she] started copying [some behavior]”.

Apparently kids are learning from you way earlier than you think they are.  With that in mind, I’ve started thinking about my habits and how they might influence Ruby.  I’ve certainly got my share of bad ones: I fart and belch, pick my nose, watch too much TV, swear, and leave little piles of clutter all over the house.  At the moment Kate and I don’t really blink at a burp or fart, but I think it’s time to start putting those emanations in the proper context: being discreet instead of… well, boisterous; and throwing in the proper polite words as appropriate.

At the other end of the scale, there are some good habits that I want to reinforce in Ruby.  As a kid I was pretty absentminded, and constantly misplaced things.  I can still remember leaving school in second grade with my baseball glove, and somehow arriving home without it.  How it managed to disappear remains a mystery.  As a result of a lifetime of misplaced-things grief, I’ve now got a good habit of checking my surrounding area every time I leave a place, just in case I forgot something.

Similarly, I want Ruby to get into a habit of thinking about safety.  Seeing as we’re training Ruby for a career in the circus, we’ll probably be guiding her towards activities that might appear more dangerous than others.  And I want to get her into the habit of thinking about safety so that she can be more comfortable, and of course safer, while playing. 

As an aside, teaching about “safety” has all kinds of corollaries: you need to understand yourself and your physical limitations; you need to understand the same about those around you; you need to know about your environment, the equipment you’re using, cause and effect, and how things can change depending on various circumstances.  There’s a lot of learning that can be grouped under “safety”.

Anyway, Ruby’s still too young for lectures about hard hats.  For now, I think I will just try to really ratchet up the usage of my polite words — not just with Ruby, but with Kate and with others I know.  If it’s a good habit, it shouldn’t be just for Ruby.  As for the bad habits… well, there’s nothing that a polite “excuse me” can’t cover, right?

Your Bad Choice

Cynical Dad relates a great story about his wife defending his honor at Target (while shopping for Father’s day cards):

Zoey: Why does it say that?
Ella: It means that Daddy gets to take the day off.
Unknown Woman Standing A Few Feet From Them: Which is also every day.

Now I would love to tell you that Ella turned around, pounced on the woman, and bitchslapped her senseless while the kids cheered her on. But Ella did tell the woman I was a caring, loving stay-at-home dad who seldom received days off as the woman backpedaled, stammered, and apologized.

 And then this story is related in that post’s comments:

I recently ran into the Random Lady in Costco who started gushing at how beautiful my daughter was and how my “husband, oh sorry, sperm donor, ha, ha” must hardly exist in my life any more because I couldn’t possibly resist loving my daughter a million times more than him, especially because she is so beautiful and really, the only reason I got married was to have her anyway, right? When I showed a disgusted, appalled face she only egged me on, “Oh, come one, you know it’s true. Don’t pretend you have feelings left for your husband… he’s not even here to hear you say it. You know this little girl is so much more…” blah, blah, blah.

I don’t have much sympathy for women who complain about stereotypical father behavior while, at the same time, reinforcing that behavior with their comments.  You know what?  You chose that belching, beer-swilling, covered-in-motor-oil, la-Z-boy-lovin’ dullard.  Although it’s convenient and easy to just stick him in the man-role while you live in the woman-role, you really shouldn’t be surprised when he exactly lives up to your expectations.

Kate and I work hard every day to push past the conventional limits that stereotypes suggest.  Because of that, we’re both better parents. 

I love being a husband, I love being a father, I love being a parent alongside my wife, and I’m intensely proud of how I live in each of those roles.  To the nameless woman at Target: you could have done better, and I’m living proof.  But Kate’s the one who made a good choice and she deserves me.