Sitting in our living room last night, quietly caring for our newborn daughter, we were watching news reports about the bailout rejection and the corresponding stock market drop. Both cable news organizations screamed bloody murder and blamed Democrats for screwing everything up; predictably, the talking heads all pointed fingers at the House leadership for failing to secure the necessary votes to pass the legislation. Nowhere do I remember anyone actually tallying the votes for us to hear.
Later, I made a trip to the grocery store during which I listened to the BBC World Service on NPR. The commentator quickly summed up the actual facts: a majority of Republican legislators in the house voted against the bill, and a majority of Democrats voted for it. So how is that a Democratic failure? Especially when most news services are now saying that a flood of angry pressure from constituents opposed to the bill played a crucial role in its defeat?
While I don’t want to see our flawed, jury-rigged economic system collapse under its own bloated weight, I do wish there was some way to resolve the situation without having to pay to prop up the institutions that have brought it so close to collapse. I do hope that the final bill presented to and passed by the House has provisions for binding oversight and regulation; it’s been made pretty plain in the last six months that the free-market system isn’t so free.
Hi, little one. I haven’t written anything in a few days because, well, we’re still getting used to your schedule. Or, actually, to your stomach’s schedule. Your first night at home was a bit of a struggle, because we don’t know how you like to do things and neither do you. So there was a lot of crying, pacing, holding, feeding, and napping, and we were left exhausted the next morning while you slept in like a drunk after a bender.
Thursday evening was better, because the dairy delivery arrived, much to your mother’s relief. So you fed for shorter periods of time and passed out for longer periods, meaning we were all able to get a little more sleep. I did have to get up and rock you for about an hour and a half Friday morning while we both watched the early version of Headline News, just to give Mama a rest. You like the rocking. Actually, you like the walking. Last night I paced the upstairs rooms for about fifteen minutes until I got you to close your big blue eyes, and then I watched a preview of Clone Wars while you were passed out on my lap like a warm loaf of dough. You have this hilarious tic during sleep where you’ve been still for a long while, and suddenly throw your hands up in the air like your team just scored a touchdown. You also like to start with your head up in the crook of my elbow, and after an hour or so you’ve wiggled your way down to the other side of my lap, all fast asleep.
We still haven’t graduated to mechanically-assisted devices yet, even though we have a garage full of them. You simply don’t like to not be held. I know Mama smells good, and when I wear my fleece, I’m at least above room temperature, but this may not work out for us three down the road, girl. At some point you’re going to have to be cool with the crib or the co-sleeper, because Mama and I need our rest. I’m going to keep trying, and I guess we’ll have to settle you into things.
Grandpa also stopped by to visit yesterday, something he’s been chomping at the bit to do since, well, a month before you were born. You obliged him by passing out cold, and he held you in his lap like a piece of the finest, most delicate china he’d ever seen. I think he likes you, even if he’s afraid you will suddenly shatter into a million pieces.
Finn, I have to apologize in advance for the whole diaper thing. You and I have at least three years ahead of us, which means my icy hands will be wiping your bare bottom approximately 4,350 times before you’re potty trained. Daddy has low, low blood pressure, which means his hands are always cold. The thing is, though, you lose your freaking mind when anybody changes you. When the drawers come off, the world comes to an end, and as soon as we button you back up, it’s all sunshine and roses. Laying in bed with you napping between us after a particularly stressful changing, Mama reflected, “She doesn’t like having her clothes taken off.” Which, in retrospect, might be a good thing. It means I may get to spend less time chasing boys off with a shotgun after you hit puberty.
Hi, little one. Daddy is typing one-handed with you laying asleep across my forearm, a hold I’ve been practicing for years on the cats. It’s nice to know they’ve been handy for something, because other than the simple-minded one, they want nothing to do with you. You’ve been crashed out in my arms like a starlet after a five-day coke binge, and it’s a beautiful, wondrous thing, because Daddy needs to get a little work done, and Mama is sleeping alone for the first time since labor started.
Today was your first visit to the pediatrician, at the tender hour of 9:15, and you seemed to tolerate the exam pretty well until we had to take you out of the sleep sack. Instead of doing the bundle thing with blankets like they showed us at the hospital, you have a green fleece sack with velcro wings which are supposed to contain your arms, which you like to flap around your head like a wounded bat. You’re actually getting skilled at getting out of the sack on your own, which is why I’ve started calling you Finley Houdini; every time I turn around you’re wiggling around like the DJ told you to wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Ordinarily that would be fine, but your nails are long and you keep scratching your own pretty face. I’m terrified to do it, but tomorrow I have to bust out the file and remove your talons before you slice open Mama’s boob. So cool it with the jazz hands until I screw up my courage, OK?
Last night was pretty rough on us three because the milk fairy hasn’t arrived yet, and you’re getting frustrated. Bless your mama, though; she keeps at it, even though your suction is powerful enough to swallow tables, chairs, and large household appliances. She’s tired and sore but continues to offer up the tap, chewing her lip when you latch on like a feral wolf. Finn, when you’re fifteen and she won’t let you wear makeup and she just doesn’t understand and she’s the worst mother ever, I’m going to remind you of all this before I make you go apologize to her.
We have found, though, that there’s a reason “pinky” rhymes with “binky”. In the hospital, when we needed to give Mama a break, I plugged in and that seemed to comfort you; you’d happily suck the little finger on my right hand down to a nubbin. That worked great until last night, when you suddenly realized, THIS IS NOT BOOB. No amount of talking, singing, rocking, or pacing would make it better, and child, we can’t have that. I now fully understand the visceral, primal reaction parents have to a crying infant, and you didn’t even come out of my stomach.
Knowing we would spend another sleepless night unless other arrangements were made, a newborn binky was procured, boiled, and offered, and lo, the gods did weep with joy: the offer was accepted with a sigh, a yawn, and a couple hours of blessed silence.
Hang tight, kid, milk is coming.
Mama and baby are napping upstairs, while the cats prowl the halls, wondering what the hell is going on and what is that noise?
Hello, little one. It’s so good to finally see your face! You are, without a doubt, the most beautiful little girl I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Up until your arrival yesterday, your mother has been a whirlwind of energy, and in the last month I’d estimate she’s made an entire grocery aisle worth of prepared meals, labeled, sealed, and fitted neatly into our kitchen freezer. She decided, during her bout with morning sickness, that she couldn’t count on me to feed her anything with flavor, so she took matters into her own hands. Between all of that work, she’s shopped for the final few items we need, organized the baby accessories, cleaned the room, and hung the animals on the wall.
We also finally moved everything downstairs and into the office, and the door to the old exam room is in, courtesy of Mr. Scout and his trusty pneumatic nailgun. Daddy loves you, he loves your Mama, and he loves chocolate cake. But Daddy LOVES the pneumatic nailgun. When I told Mr. Scout I’d installed all the trim and woodwork on the porch by drill and hammer, his eyes got big as dinnerplates. “That’s old-school,” he said, as he shook his head sadly.
It was a good thing we got that done on Saturday afternoon, too, kid, because mama woke me up at about 2:45 on Sunday morning with bad, bad cramps and contractions in her upper back. “I’ve never felt anything like this before,” she said. It was at this point I knew your arrival was near. Contractions were short, anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, but as soon as we started timing them, they got longer and averaged about five minutes apart. Mama paced the bedroom while I notified the doula, and she muscled her way through some earth-shattering pain laying on the bed. The breathing exercises we’d practiced seemed to help her get through a little easier, but I have to tell you girl, your mama is a strong woman.
The books tell you there’s a point when things are kicking into higher gear: it’s when the mother-to-be hits the first sign of doubt. When mama said, “I don’t think I can do this,” I knew I needed to get her into the car and on the road as soon as I could. but first, we needed to get down the stairs and outside. We timed the next contraction’s valley and she hustled downsairs to lay on the couch, while I ran outside and debated the wisdom of backing the Jeep up to the front door. I settled for parking it on the lawn directly outside the hedge, figuring you would not appreciate bouncing over two four-inch speedbumps as we came off the curb to the driveway. Immediately after another contraction, we hustled out to the car and sped off to the hospital as the sun peeked over the horizon.
When you’re old enough to understand, I’ll thank you for throwing the switch at 6AM on a Sunday, because there was nobody on the road other than the three people I almost hit while trying to dial the wrong numbers for both the doctor and the hospital. Opting for safety, I hung up the phone and we bombed into the hospital unannounced, leaving the Jeep in the valet spot, and raced up to the sixteenth floor to the delivery ward.
After wheeling your mama into the tiny Registration office, we had to fill out the paperwork they promised us we wouldn’t have to fill out while your mother did her best not to scream her head off or strangle the harried woman typing at the computer. Once we made it into our room, they got mama into a bed and had a midwife check your progress while friendly nurses offered epidurals. There was a brief glimmer of hope in mama’s eyes at the thought of drugs, but I asked them to give us some time and made her concentrate on breathing. When the midwife quietly announced “eight centimeters”, I could hear the gears click into overdrive, any chance of drugs evaporate, and we were suddenly surrounded by trays of instruments, monitoring equipment, and busy nurses.
The doula was driving in from Pennsylvania, so she got in about a half an hour after we did. She was great in helping me help your mama through the last hour of labor, especially when the doubt hit her again. This was at the point when she was having problems resisting the urge to push. Right about that time, the doctor came in, your water finally broke, and HOLY SHIT, WE’RE HAVING A BABY: you were fully dilated and at 0 station.
I will say this many times in my life, and you can always return here to read it in print: There’s no way in hell I could have done what your mama did, even if I was drugged to the gills. She did everything herself with no pharmaceutical aid, and after she squoze your head through her vajayjay, she was cracking jokes with the doctor while I was sitting on a nearby chair, trying to get blood back into my head. Someday you may have children of your own, and robots might deliver them painlessly with the aid of magic Star Trek drugs, but you can always tell people your mama is HARD-CORE. I imagine the only way I could come close to understanding that kind of pain would be to drag a car with no wheels from one side of the city to the other using only my penis. Oh, and NO THANK YOU.
When you finally popped out, little one, it was like the whole world just came to a stop while you took a good deep breath and started crying: I’ve never heard a sweeter sound in my life. And, a girl!
Holding your warm little body in my hands for the first time, I felt that cliched feeling where my heart felt so big and full of love for you and your mama that it about burst. You squirmed a little, you cooed a little, and your big blue eyes blinked all around the room as if you were checking out a hip new club. And then you looked in my eyes, and squinched up your face, and sneezed, and looked at me again, as if to say, What is that fuzzy shit on your face? you better not try and kiss me with that beard, Mister. It was that moment when I realized I’d have not one but two women in my life giving me a hard time, and I was in love.
I stopped into Zeke’s Coffee in Lauraville this afternoon to say hi to the Toddfather and pick up some beans. While I was there, he gave me an impromptu primer in small-batch coffee roasting and let me shoot a few pictures.
Zeke’s takes pride in buying beans from single plantation growers, insuring the beans are of the highest quality, and roasts them in small batches using hot fluid air, much like a popcorn popper, for a consistent and even roast.
They’ve been in business since 2005, and their coffee is featured in restaurants and cafes across Baltimore. The selection has grown by leaps and bounds since I’d been there last, and they have a huge selection of organic and fair trade varieties. I can’t wait for tomorrow morning’s cup!
On the subject of food and friends, I should also mention the excellent meal we shared with Mr. and Mrs. Scout the other evening at the Salsa Grille, a Spanish/Latin American restaurant hidden in an otherwise unassuming strip mall just inside the Beltway. While the bench seating was a little uncomfortable, the atmosphere was friendly, the wait staff was attentive, and the food was delicious. I had the Caribbean Paella (I know, I know, but I wanted chicken and seafood) which was large enough for two people but good enough to make me try to eat the whole thing. I left impressed enough to move this to the top of our local restaurant choices.
After dinner, I tempted our company with the promise of cake, and we stopped into the Catonsville Gourmet to see what they had left. Even though the wait staff was closing up for the night, they carved us four slices of cake, offered us milk and coffee, plied us with water, and made us feel at home, something I doubt we’d find at most other restaurants where the chairs were already up on the tables. (Their service has always been nothing but impeccable). We were finally able to get Mrs. Scout the carrot cake she wanted for her birthday, while Jen and I were able to satisfy the craving for chocolate cake we’ve had for a week. And, because we were commenting on it but did not order it, they gave us a slice of Smith Island cake on the house. Their desserts are all from Sugarbakers, and they did not disappoint. It felt great to get out and enjoy good company on a random Tuesday given the rapidly approaching Life Event. Especially with cake.
Jen has gotten the baby’s room as close to done as possible; this weekend I will be moving the office downstairs and clearing out space for a third bedroom so that we might finally be able to clean something. Mr. Scout will be by on Saturday to install the final door while I try to tie up a bunch of unfinished projects before the weekend evaporates. (The lawn? I mowed it this evening, for the first time in a month.)
So they’ve announced that the Seinfeld/Gates ads for Microsoft are officially ending. While I understand the underlying concept of the two ads I’ve seen (are there more?) I’m still puzzled by the execution.
They are using Bill Gates to personalize Microsoft, making it less of a monolith and more into a friendly, cheerful entity. Seinfeld is there to be the comic foil and provide the yuks, showing how Gates can be an everyman like the rest of us. Seems simple, right? It would be, if the jokes and execution weren’t so oblique. It’s like the writers tried so hard to be hip and self-aware that they forgot the concept completely, so the situations and dialogue become a 30-second riff on shopping and “Real America”, subjugating the message behind “We’re stinking rich and look how funny it is to live with the little people” jokes. Yeah, so we all have a bitchy grandmother who lives with us, and we eat leftovers, and we have lousy taste. I’m sure you have an ugly lamp somewhere on your estate too, Mr. Gates.
So what does this say about the brand? To me it emphasizes the divide between the huge, wealthy corporation (Gates) and the customers it services (the family), and the tone of the jokes highlight how it looks down on the rest of us. Seinfeld is there for some unknown reason; his presence is pretty much superfluous in the context of the setup. The same effect could have been achieved without paying him millions to show up, and could have humanized the Gates character even more.
Let’s examine the Gates character for a minute, too. I’m calling him a character because he is there to portray the human side of the company, and the in-joke is that he’s “just like the rest of us”, even though he could buy and sell any country on earth. He does get humanized, and they even show his sense of humor, something the Microsoft PR machine was never really able to achieve. But no amount of kidding around will change the fact that he is one of the five wealthiest men on the planet, and that he will never be “one of us.” When his Vista install crashes, he has five of the smartest men at Microsoft immediately parachute into his billion-dollar estate to fix it, while we all have to sit on hold with the Geek Squad for three hours. They also never made a visceral connection between Microsoft and Gates. It’s implied, but it doesn’t go any further than that, and his reason for being in the commercials is never really explored or explained. Finally, and this is the most obvious and perplexing point of fact: He doesn’t work there anymore. He works for a foundation he started which tries to find creative ways to give away billions of his dollars in aid. Yes, he will always be the figurehead for the company, but that just underlines their most serious problem: They have no real brand identity.
So what does this million-dollar marketing effort achieve? Absolutely nothing. It leaves us all scratching our heads attempting to divine the message. Is it about Seinfeld? Is it about shoes? What is it supposed to mean? The end result is an ambiguous celebrity endorsement that showcases the failure of Microsoft to be able to connect, on an individual level, with the billions of people it touches every day. My guess is that a lot of people are in big trouble as a result of this campaign, and that there is a scramble to reshoot new ads which will be as bland and cold as the previous attempts to promote the company.
After two days of all-out work, I’ve got the porch very close to completion. The baseboards, toe molding, and finish molding are all in and painted. Network drops are wired and ready. Jen picked out a beautiful Pratt-Lambert light gray for the walls, which keeps the room light, neutral, and accents the bright white woodwork. The only things that remain are the drywall above the door to the bathroom, which needs to be primed and painted, and areas around the switchplates which need to be sanded, primed and painted.
There is a little touch-up to be done with the color here and there, but I’ll wait until the other stuff is ready to go.