Before I became a father....
...........and many times since, I would always hear people talk about the day their child or children were born. They would describe so many details and what they saw, did and felt throughout the day, usually with enthusiasm and wide smiles on their faces. Many cite their child's birth as one of the happiest and most momentous days of their life, and I always assumed that when that day came for me, I would experience the same feeling. But, as anyone who knows me well has observed, I have certain "Kramer-esque" tendencies that go against the grain set by seemingly everyone else on Earth. Don't get me wrong - the days my children were born were good days. However, my entire recollection of Erica's birth would go something like - "Well my mom, wife, and I went to the hospital at around 6:00 am. It was a scheduled c-section for 8:30...... so the surgery went fine....um....the doctor said "It's a girl" and uh......that was pretty much that." But it didn't take long to realize that the true joy of parenthood was developing relationships, sharing experiences, and watching them grow, but all of that comes later over an extended period of time. I watched my daughter go from struggling to support her own head to beating me in a game of Uno and telling me sternly as she points her finger "Daddy, you don't smoke cigars because cigars are bad for you, okay?!" Between those benchmarks, I've had so many great times and memorable days with Erica that the one that started it all has mostly faded away, like holding a candle up to the sun. This morning, she woke me at 9:20 (we're night owls) quickly picked out her own clothes, dressed herself head to toe, and ate breakfast to make it to the QPL's puppet show. Then to the gym, where daddy worked out while she played at the facility's daycare. On to swimming, where she was smiling and giggling for the entire 45 minutes we were in the water. After swinging by mommy's work for a birthday hug, she chose Steak-N-Shake for lunch, and ate all of her food plus some ice cream for mommy. Later she took a nap before heading off to dance lessons, followed by dinner at Fazoli's (again, her choice) with the grandparents, followed by opening presents, followed by an hour at Bonkers before returning home and watching The Fox and the Hound while mommy made cupcakes for Erica's classmates. Throughout the whole day she smiled, laughed, and had a great time all the while doing what I told her when I told her (She's taken a vow of "no tantrums" now that she's four). Today I spent the fourth anniversary of a day I barely remember doing things I'll never forget. Happy birthday, Erica. I love you so much. But now that you're asleep, I think I'll go sneak in that cigar now.
Okay, so I've been busy.
It's been over a year since I've posted, and I don't really have an excuse other than to say that I've been too busy living life to write much about it. Numerous ideas for posts had surfaced but never made it to the screen. I didn't even make a Stanley Cup prediction, though I can be honest and say I would not have picked the Kings. Living with a wife and two young children, a full-time job, a part time job, involvement in my church, being president of a charitable organization, working out 3-5 times a week, playing hockey, and trying to keep myself up to date on information and entertainment leaves little extra time. Nevermind the fact that last fall I underwent what may have been the most psychologically trying two months of my life: trying to secure a house that had everything my family and I wanted after 10 months of searching. This was followed by what may have been the most physically daunting task I've ever undertaken: moving every single possession my wife and I have accumulated over our entire lives along with those of our children from our house in the city to our house in the country in under 55 hours. But after all the phone calls to the utility companies, the internet provider, the satellite provider, and Budget truck rental, and the endless list of change-of-address forms, and the huge stack of papers from the bank and the realtor that needed to be explained/signed, we began to make ourselves at home. Of course, now perspective has set in, and I realize that if, after 35 years on this planet, this was the most mentally and physically stressing ordeal I have experienced, I have lived a truly privileged life. And it's funny - I've been wanting to return to the country ever since I lived in town, and this new house is superior in virtually every way to the old house. But it's impossible not to think fondly about the old place and miss it once in awhile. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to have just one more day there, just like it used to be. After all, it's the house where my wife and I spent our first night as husband and wife; it's the house we brought both our children home from the hospital; it's the house that saw first steps, first words, first days of school, birthdays, Halloweens, Christmases, daddy days, and countless cigars (for me) on the front porch. In short all of our lives changed in inumerable ways while living in that house and that neighborhood. I understand now how people who were born, raised, and live in places that seem so inhospitable to outsiders can still talk with pride and conviction about where they are from - it's part of a person's identity. People are generally happy with who they are and their environment helps shape that. Nevertheless, I look forward to new memories and new adventures in our new home. But I've learned to have more appreciation for what I have and what I am doing. Because no matter how much "better" life might get, at some point I will look at this time in my life and think, "It would be fun to live just one more day like that."
Ground Control to Sir Richard
With the end of the era of the space shuttle has come alot of speculation about the future of space travel. Who will run it? How much will it cost? Where will we go? What will it accomplish? As private companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have come to the forefront to offer a sort of astronaut fantasy camp for the super rich and future visions of family vacations to the moon, the most important question seems to be curiously overlooked - how safe will it be? Coincidentally, I was recently reading a fantastic book called Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife which chronicles the distortion of numbers and statistics in the dissemination of news. The author happened to touch on the subject:
Airline magnate Richard Branson is hard at work trying to snooker private investors. Branson is currently running a private spaceflight enterprise, "Virgin Galactic," which within its first five years of operation is supposedly going to launch an estimated 3,000 passengers into space. Safely. "Virgin has a detailed understanding of what it takes to manage and operate complex transportation organizations....such as Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Virgin Trains which carry millions of passengers each year and have enjoyed superb safety records," brags the Virgin Galactic website. If you believe Virgin, spaceflight will be no riskier than a little jaunt on a private jet.
Hogwash. By comparing spaceflight to train and plane travel, Virgin is effectively underestimating the huge risks you take when you strap yourself to a rocket. It's a very dangerous task to pack enough energy into a cylinder to get you into space - and it's equally dangerous when, falling through the atmosphere, you get that energy back and have to dissipate it away in the form of heat. Throughout the history of spaceflight, about one in a hundred human-carrying rockets has killed its passengers, and that risk seems unlikely to change in the near future.
One chance in a hundred might not seem like so much, especially for the rare privilege of becoming an astromaut. But as far as risks go, it's extraordinarily high. For comparison, if today's U.S. passenger aircraft had a similar failure rate, there would be roughly 275 U.S. plane crashes every day. A one in a hundred chance of dying every time you set foot on a plane would doom the airline industry; a 1% chance of death is simply too risky for any form of transportation to be commercially viable. If the historical failure rate holds, at Virgin Galactic's projected launch rate of one flight per week, there would be only a one in three chance that Virgin Galactic goes for two years without a Challenger-type disaster. All in all, their chance of getting all 3,000 people into space and back safely in this scenario would be about half of one percent. People would almost certainly die, sooner rather than later. Even if the company survived the inevitable investigation and embarrasment, it would be jsut a matter of months before another explosion.
In my opinion, Branson is downplaying the risks, which has helped him convince more than 250 astronaut wannabes to put down $30 million worth of deposits on rides into space. He's also sold politicians and the public on his vision. In 2005, New Mexico politicians started spending tens of millions of dollars to build a spaceport. Two counties even passed a sales tax to fund the project. As a smart businessman like Branson knows, downplaying risks can be very lucrative.
That's a new one.
So, at the end of a long day, I sit down with Spencer on the couch as he watches an old episode of the Jetsons. I notice that a band is playing on the show and the following conversation takes place:
Me: Spencer, do you think you might want to learn to play a musical instrument?
Me: No? Wouldn't it be fun to be a musician and be able to play the songs you like to listen to?
Spencer: (Whining) No, I already know what I want to be.
Me: You do? What?
Spencer: I want to be a coach.
Me: A coach? A coach of what? A sport? Or do you want to teach something?
Spencer: Umm.......a tennis coach.
Me: A tennis coach, huh? Okay. (Shared smile between my wife and me.)
In all the times I've heard a child asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, the standard replies are always something along the lines of police officer, astronaut, movie star, fireman, baseball player, singer, etc. I've never heard anyone say they wanted to be a coach. Maybe it's because he has inherited his parents' occupational tendencies toward teaching and guiding people, or maybe it's because he just resumed the tennis lessons he enjoys so much. Regardless of the reason, thank you Spencer for the totally original answer and the priceless memory. Keep 'em coming.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Given the Palin women's penchants for financial opportunism and unusual child names, maybe the next offspring to come out that family could be named "Cha-Ching Palin".
In 2009, Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol joined a teen pregnancy prevention nonprofit called the Candie’s Foundation. Today, the Associated Press reported that the Candie’s Foundation released its 2009 tax information, revealing that Bristol was paid a salary of $262,500.
But a closer examination of the tax form by ThinkProgress shows that the group disbursed only $35,000 in grants to actual teen pregnancy health and counseling clinics: $25,000 to the Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center and $10,000 to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Thus, the nonprofit paid Bristol over seven times what it paid to teen pregnancy prevention groups.