Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Friday, July 31, 2009

Training Day

Fronesis has explained his lack of posts of late, so I might as well give my excuse. Potty training has absorbed all my available energy--at least whatever is left over from summer teaching.

We've been doing this for a few weeks now, and it is, I'll confess, something of (forgive the pun--not my last) a strain. Lang has been ready for a couple of months, during which she would often pee on the potty when reminded, but we wanted to get back from our summer travel before going sans diaper, since a home routine helps keep everyone regular, as it were. Not that it isn't obvious, but potty training is a convenient reminder of one's own corporeality. Things you don't normally have to think about too much--like how to make your pee go down as opposed to sideways or up--suddenly become matters of close observation and critical reflection, although the fact that these things are happening to someone else gives one a certain distance on the problem. That's both good and bad. Good in the sense that the difficulties are mostly felt by someone else, someone else who is surely too young to remember these days later in life. Bad in the sense that you're always a bit helpless in the pivotal moments. It is always more stressful to watch a loved one play a sporting match than to play it oneself.

Luckily, Lang has been pretty good about the whole thing. I feel silly complaining when this is something every parent has had to do, often for more than one child, and often with difficult or unwilling pupils. We haven't had too many mishaps. In the first few days I got peed on a few times, drenched only once. Now that phase is over, and Lang is a pretty reliable pee-er. Pooping is somewhat tougher, however. In part, the problem is practice. The body needs to pee and pee often, so kids get lots of workouts in short order for #1. Poops come when they come. Or they don't. It was at least a week after we started before Lang would poop on the potty instead of just waiting until we put on her diaper for overnight. For the last couple of weeks she's been going on the potty, a toddler ring we put over our own toilet. Usually every other day, just before going to bed. The problem is that her body would be happier going every day. How, pray tell, do I know? After day one, every mealtime is a battle to keep her in her plushly padded seat rather than writhing around complaining about her belly. And then there are nights like tonight--night three since she last went. I must have taken her to the bathroom eight times b/w 5:00 and 10:00. The last three after I had first taken her up and put her to bed. No luck. She's psyched herself out, and we're sitting on the sidelines without the faintest clue how to help. Sweet songs. Silly songs. Outsized enthusiasm. Casual nonchalance. Stories about family poopers. Stories about sending the poops home to a poop party. My poop imagination is running out.

One of things I've learned from parenthood is that much of what seems most natural in life--eating, sleeping, pooping--is actually learned behavior. The whats may be biological, but the hows are all socialization. Whenever I think I've turned a corner, gotten to that point where I know what I'm doing in raising my daughters, established a routine that works, I'm confronted by something new that seems like it should be simple and spontaneous and yet requires hours and hours of patient and plodding discipline, a kind of calm and methodical application of parental restraint that I often find myself lacking. Then I remember that I don't remember going through this myself, or how my own parents managed it, as surely they did. And I feel blessed to be muddling through in the oblivion of my own children's pre-memorial youth. Otherwise, I'm staring down a dark and empty drain.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Make Mine a . . .

Bud Light. So President Barack Hussein Obama held the "beer summit" today, and apparently he ordered a BUD LIGHT.

Now, given that the meeting was outside, in the Rose Garden, and it was HOT and HUMID today in D.C., I can understand the choice. (If it's over 90, the only choice is a light American beer, IMHO. It might not have been over 90, though.) This has prompted a lot of discussion about beer on the Intertubes.

Really? Even if Bud Light is an awful beer (a proposition with which I will not agree), who cares?

Also, if he drank a Bud Light, he's not a Muslim. Although, I've known Muslims who drink beer . . . .

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


What, is it the 1970s again? It's like Andy Warhol did the cover art. Next edition there will be soup cans.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SciFi Op-Ed

So the Times op-ed page just gets stranger and stranger. Was it just yesterday that Douthat was lecturing us on how the Iraq war was like the U.S. occupation of the Philippines--announcing that that occupation had had up-to-now unappreciated long-term benefits for the United States? Apparently, Brooks wouldn't be one-upped and wrote a column on what would happen if a massive solar flare sterilized one half of the earth.


Apparently, if this happened, "Within weeks, . . . everything would break down and society would be unrecognizable."

But would the social breakdown be as complete if, say, a zombie apocalypse occurred? Or if, say, alien invaders began replacing human beings with almost perfect copies and infiltrating our societies? Or what about if computers developed consciousness and decided that human beings were the greatest threat to their autonomy and decided to wipe us out? Now that would make society unrecognizable!

Everything would certainly break down if a virus killed off 99.9% of the earth's population, or if a massive asteroid impact caused worldwide, months' long winter.

I'm waiting for Brooks to explore these weighty matters from his perch at the nation's paper of record.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On Vacation

Too busy being a beach bum (and a doting parent) this week to do much blogging. Let me just say that Traverse City is a great vacation destination for families. We've had great weather--not hot but warm enough for activities--and the restaurants here are very family friendly. And, you may be surprised, but there are some decent restaurants here. Maybe not great, but certainly good enough. Not that expensive, either.

And, yes, we're re-tracing some of my childhood haunts. We hiked up Sleeping Bear Dunes' dune climb yesterday, for example (photo below). One great thing about having a kid is that, in a sense, you get to be a kid again. You get to see things again, like a kid.

It's like remembering things that you CANNOT remember. Remember the first time you had ice cream? I don't. But I remember the first time Bee did. She liked it, but she didn't like that it was cold. Now, that's kind of the point of ice cream. Otherwise, it's sugary milk. But the first time YOU had it, I'm sure you thought one thing, at first . . . "this is COLD!"

Have a great week, folks.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Camden Yards

I don't disagree with this, but some commenters here might. And I like the O's.

2010 (1984)

So this movie has been running on Retroplex pretty much non-stop for about a month now. I don't know why, but I absolutely love this "sequel" to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Is it Roy Scheider? Is it a young (and very attractive) Helen Mirren as a . . . Russian cosmonaut? Is it Bob Balaban playing a character--a computer genius, no less--named "Chandra"? Is it John Lithgow?

Yes, the three American astronauts in the film are Scheider, Lithgow, and Balaban. Imagine if they had made this movie in 1994. No way they would have cast such a frumpy, non-macho band of spacemen.

Is it that the effects, although primitive by today's standards, don't get in the way of the story--what little story there is?

Or is it the 2010 geopolitical situation as seen from 1984? As in, back on earth, the United States and the Soviet Union are locked in conflict over . . . Honduras. Now, IIRC, that's how it was in the Arthur C. Clarke book--maybe Clarke chose another locale for the conflict?--but even so, in 1984, this was a plausible geopolitical conflict.

My, how things change. Of course, the book also posits a "manned" space mission to Jupiter to retrieve an earlier space vessel. Next year. I don't see that happening, either.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Carolina Dispatch

We just got back from the SC on Sunday, and, aside from the serial killer madness in nearby Gaffney (always a rough little town), the big story was--no surprise--the Guv of Luv. The universal buzz? Sanford may be awful, but Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is worse. Apparently, he can't drive 55 (or even double that) and has wrecked a couple of airplanes. Now I'm not sure how that really makes him worse. Yet there seems to be a great lack of confidence in him across party lines, coupled with GOP fears of elevating him in a crowded field for the 2010 nomination.

Roger Simon's Caribou Crush

Politico's Roger Simon has offered some of the dumbest commentary yet on Palin's bizarro resignation. I've seen him on Hardball multiple times since Madame Pitbull pulled her Roberto Duran gambit, and he's positively gushed over her daring. Apparently, the American people just loooove her, and no one does or will care that she bailed early on her only serious political job in a fit of celebrity ennui. It's all just a sign of her mavericky authenticity, even if she sounds like the world's least convincing bullshitter as she declares that quiting means "staying" and flopping means "fighting." I think he and Mika B. should get the villagers of the week awards: the farther removed you are from "real" America, the more you pander to a purely-DC projection of rugged heartland idiocy. Guest host Laurence O'Donnell is often a great BS detector as a guest, but he zips it up while sitting in Tweety's desk. And Andrea Mitchell? She goes all the way to fish camp for an interview and then softballs it! I feel like Bush never left.

Addenda: Oh, and a couple of other things! First, my favorite new yet oft-repeated MSM Palin spin: she won her debate with Biden (or at least greatly exceeded expectations). Er, no. And second, who announces they will resign in a few weeks and then immediately goes on vacation for a few weeks? On the taxpayer dime? I guess it makes about as much sense as the rest of it.

Predicting Baseball Injuries

This piece in the Times about the Dodgers trying to apply statistics to predicting player injuries is interesting, but I have some issues with the approach.

The example given--the trainer warns the team about signing a reliever with two 80+ appearance seasons in a row, the reliever signs with another team where he ends up breaking down the next season--is not that remarkable. One wouldn't need any "logarithmic models" (the piece uses the term) to predict that wear and tear causes injuries.

In a very real sense, the probability of an injury in baseball is 1.00. Maybe .99, to account for a few Men of Steel and Horses of Iron. So what you are really interested in is survival, i.e., how long a given player will go until serious injury. That's why the article talks about insurance, I'm guessing. This is like life insurance. Replace injury with death, and that's what the insurance companies want to know.

But I am skeptical that many of the factors listed in the article are related to injury. The article mentions ethnic background, hypothesizing that certain Latin nationals are more durable. I doubt that this holds up after controlling for other factors.

My guess is that you could get pretty far with (1) player's age; (2) number of previous trips to the DL; and (3) games played last season (or last two seasons, I'd want to try both). I wonder how well that model would work? Maybe add player position, with certain positions more likely to lead to injury (?).

Also, note that many baseball injuries are, shall we say, random events. Crashing into the wall, getting hit with a pitch, a pitcher taking a line drive off his throwing arm . . . these are always going to be in the residual. There's no way to predict these--unless they are closely enough associated with certain positions that you can estimate the probability that an outfielder, say, will collide with a fellow player? Maybe.

There may also be a baseline probability for all players (batters) for getting seriously injured being hit by pitch. In fact, there must be, right? But it would be a constant (more or less?). A function of at bats?

I need to think about this some more.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Now He's Lecturing Us on Elitism

Didn't this Douthat guy first make his big splash with a book about his having gone to Harvard? Now we have his lament for Palin. The elites did it, I believe is his conclusion.

If Palin is the Harry Truman of our times, then I have to rethink Truman.

I don't have much to say about the Palin bow out--to be honest, I doubt that we know everything there is to know to make sense of what must be one of the strangest events in U.S. politics in quite some time--but I will add that the "she was tired of the media overexposure" meme is complete bullshit.

Palin sought out media attention. She exposed herself and her family to media attention willingly.

Don't believe me?


No one has ever been "forced" to be featured in Runner's World. In fact, the "I'm a Runner" series is basically about self-promotion, although, to their credit, the editors of the magazine occasionally present someone who is not a celebrity. Occasionally. But most of the time, my guess is that you pursue the magazine and not the other way around.

And there's the wee one, too. In the picture. If she wanted to shield the kids, she could have said no. Isn't that right, Douthat?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Emissions Inspection

If you're a DC resident--do any DC residents actually read this blog?--and you own a car, then you dread driving over to Half Street, SW, for your vehicle inspection every two years. Long, slow lines, cars running with their AC, hot hot hot. (I always have to go in the summer. It might be less unpleasant in the winter.)

Btw, "Half Street" is, despite the name, a whole street. It's not like half a paved street and half a cow track or something. (Not to say that there aren't such streets in the district, but I digress.)

So yesterday I had to go--time was up. I had been dreading the wait for days. I took my BlackBerry and a novel I've been reading, figuring that I would catch up on some email and read a few chapters.

But when I showed up . . . at first it looked closed. No cars lined up around the block. But no, there's the guy in the reflective vest, waving me in to . . . an empty inspections center! Seriously, there was one car in front of me. From leaving the house to leaving the center--passed!--took 30 minutes. Made one call on the BlackBerry, never cracked the book.

I guess it must have been a combination of it being mid-week (Wednesday), during the week of July 4 (many residents have already left for vacation). Not complaining. I'm doing the opposite. What is the opposite of complaining?