Monday, February 27, 2006

Nathan's First Trip to the Pool

Here are a few pics from my son's first experience in a pool. He was more entertained by the ambient noise and the overhead lights reflecting off of the windows and of course daddy's pool antics. But overall, it was a great time!

After getting cleaned up, Nathan decided that he would dawn some flannel, smile to the camera and go chop some wood.

Chopping wood and swimming in the same day can increase your appetite. So, Nathan devowered 12 jars of babyfood and proceeded to tell us with his perfected non-verbal communication skills that he wanted more!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Baby Attraction and Reaction

Absolutes in our world are few and far between. Death and taxes, of course, are the two biggies that come to mind. However, the two absolutes that are, in my opinion, more abundant than "death and taxes" are the following: The law of Gravity and the ability that babies have for bringing out wild spikes of emotion resulting in high octave squeals among certain people.

Sure, we all know what gravity is. We all experience gravity all the time. Its an absolute. However, the second absolute might not be as obvious if your not a parent. This absolute is characterized as an eruption of some people at the mere sight of a baby noticible as a high pitched vocal noise with wild spikes of emotion that normally don't exist in nature. Why is an absolute? It will occur with all babies without fail. If you've seen this, then you know what I am talking about.

What is the root cause of these strong forces--absolutes, if you will--in nature that seem so diametrically opposed? For some perspective, let's try to tackle the first. Gravity.

Over the last few centuries, physicists' knowledge of gravity has increased at a rate unlike any period in human history. The Law of Universal Gravitation (Issac Newton's brainchild) which describes gravity in great detail is still used today in some applicationn. In a revolutionary move to describe what causes gravity, Einstein came up with his Theory of General Relativity in 1915 which stated that the presence of mass, energy, and momentum causes something called "spacetime" to become curved. Thus, gravity exists because of this curvature.

Don't feel bad if all of this abstract science is hard to grasp. Just remember that Einstein formulated this in his spare time IN HIS HEAD WITHOUT COMPUTERS and since then, experiments done to confirm this curvature have all checked out. The bottom line is gravity exists everywhere. Whether you're here on earth or 15 billion light-years away (that's 88,177,302,054,810,000,000,000 miles--88 sextillion) in one of the first galaxies to form after the big-bang, gravity (as far as we can tell) is present.

Babies are very similar to this universal gravity concept that Newton formulated and Einstein expounded upon. Instead of attracting planets or other heavenly bodies, babies attract people. It's as simple as that. Race, color, creed or religion, it doesn't matter. Babies pull people in. Regardless of what we are doing at the time, we always make time to look at the little bundle of joy in the stroller in the food court at the mall. There's no way around it. Think about it: have you ever witnessed a situation whether at the mall or at a family gathering where a baby doesn't cause people to gravitate to them? Exactly.

Is this universal baby attractive force present everywhere and is this attraction the cause of that high pitched verbal reaction that Aunt Betsy gives when she sees little Johnny during the holidays? We know, obviously, that this baby attraction is present on earth. Whether it exists on an other planet in a galaxy far, far away isn't known. We assume however--albeit against proper scientific method--that if we somehow traveled at warp speed in a spaceship to a planetary system a gazillion miles away with an infant, that baby would still attract a crowd. While the attraction goes hand-in-hand with the verbal reaction, we can't say for sure that is the REAL cause.

What then IS the cause of the instantaneous emotional reaction when a baby is present? We tried to look for an answer in the studies of one of the smartest minds of all-time--Albert Einstein--but that didn't lead us to much information. Why? Evidentally, he spent most of his life researching the universe and aforementioned universal gravity concept but conveniently passed on trying to describe this high pitched, deafening squeal babies create in some people. He no doubt realized its complex nature and thought up his Theory of Relativity instead.

Let'e back up and state a few facts:

Babies in public attract other people especially if they are cute. At some point, some subconscious, involuntary, neurological reaction occurs, mostly with women but not always, when a baby is seen at a close distance. Now, seeing the baby is key. You can hear the baby or smell the lotion on a baby but this seizure-like excitement won't occur until you actually see him. The reaction manifests itself in an out-of-control spasm accompanied by a frantic verbal exclamation which is 4 octaves higher than normal speech. What is said can vary but most of the time it is usually:

"Ohhhhhh....he is sooooooo cuuuuuute!"

You don't just say this. You stretch it out for at least 10 seconds. Long enough to paralyze people within 15 feet. Glass items such as coffee pots, mirrors and wine glasses crack or shatter all together. Dogs bark in shear terror and car alarms go off without warning. In essence, the apocalypse that ensues is tantamount to a small thermonuclear explosion but without the radiation. Its a wonder that babies don't cry more when they are subjected to it.

According to OSHA guidelines, decibel readings above 85 are considered harmful and could cause hearing loss. Needless to say, many mothers and fathers are suffering from hearing damage from these high pitched reactions. If you are anticipating one of these reactions, proper ear protection should be worn.

This past weekend, I witnessed a middle-aged woman expand her octave range at the expense of my ears along with every dog in a 3 mile radius. Her uncontrollable excitement over her first glance at my child was the most unbelievable display of emotion I have ever seen.

My son, in my opinion, sets the cute scale bell-curve quite high so he attracts his fair share of people. (I'm just his father with a totally unsolicited, unbiased opinion of my son.) But the event that occurred as this woman saw my kids was pure torture! Don't get me wrong. Its wonderful to see a person show so much emotion toward your new child. As a parent, you couldn't ask for more. But when your ear drum resonates like a tuning fork, that's plenty for me.

Yet the question still remains: What universal force emanating from babies that causes people to display such excitement? If it manifested itself like magnetism or electricity, we would be able to measure it. If it showed properties similar to light, we would see it. Yet the force causing baby attraction and the resulting ear-piercing reaction remains unseen without properties that we can quantify.

Maybe science isn't the road to take in our exploration of this. Maybe baby attraction and reaction and the forces that create it aren't something that were created to be "measured" in the traditional sense.

Maybe that instantaneous, emotional reaction of cosmic proportions people give when they see a baby stems from the their innocence and delightful demeanor unblemished by society and the complexities of everyday life. Then again, it might orginate from something deeper, something well beyond our comprehension.

Maybe its a feeling that we should just embrace as an intangible component of human creation instead of trying to analyze it analytically. Yeah, the high pitched reaction might be like nails on a chalk board at first. But once you step back and observe the real meaning behind it, you can't help but embrace it as one of those powerful emotions that accompany parenthood and the people who share it with you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

1st Graders: The Carriers of Disease

About a week ago, the entire family and I decided to go out into the winter elements to get some errands done. You know, the innocuous trek to the grocery to pick up basic food necessities such as milk, bread, eggs, bacon and of course assorted babyfood ranging from peas to chicken and rice to beef and potatoes to the ever popular desert among babies from 5 to 9 months--Hawaiian Delight. How they puree chicken and rice to a consistency that matches smashed banana I have no idea. But I digress.

One of the stops that day was to the eye doctor to pick up my FIRST pair of glasses. I hadn't had an eye exam since the pre-internet days so I knew glasses were in my future. Plus, the shelf-life of my left bionic eye being only 7 years was due for a refit.

While I was busy picking out frames, my wife was entertaining my son by playing peek-a-boo among the endless rectangular mirrors in-between the ecletic styles of frames throughout the store. He was getting a bit cranky so she put him in his removable car seat and started feeding him lunch. It wasn't the best setup but you make due when your arsenal of baby needs doesn't include a traveling high-chair.

As my son was eating lunch, a family consisting of a mom and two kids probably age seven or eight walked into the store. The mom made a mad dash to the checkout desk to pick up her prescription. The kids, however didn't follow. They made a beeline to my son who was quietly eating lunch.

As a parent, you develop a second sense when danger might be lurking. On this day, I realized that I had developed this power. Soon, my "spider-sense" was tingling bigtime. Almost immediately, I turned around and these kids were talking to my son. No problem, right? Normally that would be true. Except this day, these kids were hacking up phloem as if they had smoked 3 packs of non-filtered cigarettes on the car ride over! Their eyes were bloodshot, the bottoms of their nose were red with irritation and the snot was running out of their noses like a leaky spicket puddling on their upper lip! Instantly, the words Pneumonia and Sinusitis repeated themselves in my head like a huge, blinking neon sign.

Not used to my new glasses, I stumbled over to everyone congregating around my son. The disease infested kids paid no attention to me. So, I leaned over to my wife and start mumbling different random diseases:

"Bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, The Black Plague--one of these kids has to be named one of these", I said.

My wife who usually corrects me when I am somewhat blunt in public started to laugh uncontrollably partly because what I said was, frankly funny, but it also served as a therapy mechanism that dulled the prospect of our son coming down with a prolonged illness of the likes that hadn't been seen since the SARS epidemic.

From that point on, the first graders handling our kid were referred to as: Bronchitis and Emphysema

As a paranoid father, who desperately wanted his child's streak of non-sick days to continue until he's 18, I needed to jump into action. Do I pull the kids away from my child and soak them in antibacterial soap? Should I risk actually touching these kids potentially exposing myself to the Bubonic Plague they were carrying? Do I call their mother over and ask her nicely to remove her disease infested children whose DNA was being re-written to resemble some alien, snot producing lifeform from the SCI-FI Channel? Do I Purel my son's hands, face and other exposed skin and run the risk of showing the mother through my actions that their kids are spreading their germs to my infant son? Or do I ignore this and hope that everything will be alright?

All of these scenarios went through my head in the span of a few seconds and thankfully I didn't have to act on any of these possibilities. Why? Because, my wife saved the day as only a mother can.

She calmly told the kids who doubled as a petry dish to not touch my son because he was not feeling well and that he might pass along his germs to them. Upon hearing this, I couldn't fathum my son passing along any germ that could have been more potent then the bacteria that resided on these kids. Almost immediately, they moved a few feet back from my son although more curious than ever. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, their mom finished her business and made her way to the door followed by the kids. They left the store and I breathed a sigh of relief now that my son was by himself and hopefully free of contaminants.

Like a season of "24", a biological disaster was averted that day all because of my wife's quick thinking and unorthodox tactics. Sure, all my wife did was turn the situation on its head by pretending that my son was the carrier of disease but it worked.

What did we learn from all of this? Simple. Quarantine all first graders until spring because they are carriers of disease.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Missed us by THAT MUCH

You can call it the blizzard that almost was.

Throughout last week, the computer models were cranking out yet one of the those solutions that make most people cringe this time of year. That solution was another major east coast snowstorm that would have affected parts of the great lakes including Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

As most of these storms have done, this one deviated from its projected path. Unlike the last one that went too far west to produce widespread snow, this storm shifted to the east sparing the aforementioned states but not New England. The storm might not have been of the magnitude of the March 1993 storm that is now ranked as the worst snow storm of ALL-TIME but it produced more snow for places like New York City than any storm in RECORDED HISTORY! Try 27 inches in 24 hours.

All that areas of Cleveland saw from the storm was a few fluffy inches (up to 5 in spots) that quickly melted or blew away.

Here is a view from outside shortly after the snow ended. Notice the blue sky and hardly any significant accumulation.

Another major meteorological bullet has been dodged. Now if Lake Erie would just freeze over.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

BEARDS: The measure of a man

Recently, I had a three day weekend to tackle my television memoirs. I woke up on my first day off, drank 12 ounces of water (one must be hydrated), jumped in the shower when an otherwise unimportant mental manifestation surfaced with the ferocity of a nuclear blast:

I didn't need to shave!

Forget the morning coffee or a homemade country breakfast to stimulate your groggy senses. The realization that you can display a days growth of facial hair without having the cataclysmic repercussions you would normally encounter at work is one of the most exhilarating epiphanies one can experience early in the morning on a day off.

Throughout the day, the scruffiness of my days growth became empowering. I felt like changing the oil on the car. I wanted to build an addition on my workbench along with finding random uses for my cordless drill. I felt like challenging people at the grocery store to feats of strength. My facial hair was even brainwashing me into thinking that I could hold up the front end of my car up with my bare hands WHILE changing the oil! In essence, my facial hair increased my adrenaline output and my level of stupidity. If it weren't for my wife strongly suggesting that I refrain from these activities or my day would revolve around cleaning our bathrooms, my adrenaline overdrive would have caused serious injury. This, keep in mind, is all due to facial hair.

Since my overzealous, adrenaline laced body was checked at the door by my lovely wife always looking out for my well-being, I never tackled the projects that I set out to do that day while on my facial hair high. But I did have a chance to reminisce about facial hair days gone by. One specific instance was back in 1995 during my last year of college.

Several friends along with myself were studying for a calculus test (how dorky is that) and--for reasons still unknown--the conversation shifted from integrals and complex equations to beards within a few minutes. Actually, it was more of a switch to topics that were only partially related to manly activities but within those minutes, the focus evolved to straight up, manly things. Eventually, as all manly conversations go, the topic drove headstrong right into beard territory. Once your there, you cannot back out. The friendly discussion morphed into a heated exchange and then to a challenge. We all agreed to grow beards for a period of weeks after which we would have an impartial party judge to see who has the best beard. Needless to say, I won!

After the two weeks elapsed and the contest was over, I realized that each man's beard was distinctly different not because of color but in thickness or density.
This, in my opinion, is directly correlated to his manliness. Since I won the contest, I figured I was more manly than the others ( I was biased) so it was up to me to explore this relationship further. After all, I owed my results to all manly men who won beard growing contests.

But first, I needed a scientific term.

Also, how could beard density be quantified?

Since my background is in meteorology, I took a weather-type term and changed a bit to describe what I needed. In weather, an isobar is a line of equal pressure. So, I thought, the lines showing equal beard density should be appropriately named: ISOBEARD

So I drew a picture of a face (circa 1995) illustrating where the beard is the thickest using these brandnew ISOBEARD lines.

Notice that the facial hair in this example is the thickness or the most dense around the chin and near the ear. The beard is the least dense in the mustache region and near the cheek bone. Also, NEGATIVE ZONES or areas where the beard doesn't occur (below the lower lip and to the left and right of the mouth) become very visible using this technique. While these negative zones make the beard look trim, it is a detriment to possess too many NEGATIVE ZONES as it dilutes ones manliness

What does this map tell us? Simple really. If a person's ISOBEARD MAP has lines that are far apart then, by definition, he is not as manly because he doesn't have a thick beard. If, however, a person's ISOBEARD MAP has lines that are concentrated throughout then his manliness is much greater because he has a thick beard.

Since then, I have created ISOBEARD MAPS for many people (with their permissiion) using this technique as a tool to determine the person's manliness. Of course, God created all of us to be unique in our own way. However, if God created us with the same level of manliness then I wouldn't be here determining a way to quantify it because we'd all be the same. Basically, some of us have more manly uniquenesses than others. That's what the ISOBEARD MAP TECHNIQUE shown in the picture above was designed to find out.

So draw an ISOBEARD MAP of your own beard using the picture above as a template and see where you come out. Don't give up if the outcome isn't what you hoped for. If at all possible over a few days off, try to let your beard go for a bit longer and see if the results get more precise.

If you think this technique is faulty, remember this: Does Clint Eastwood have a thick beard when he chooses to grow one? Does Arnold Schwarzenegger have a weak beard why he's sported facial hair? Does Chuck Norris have a beard that's spotty? Exactly.

Guess What? La Nina is Back!

Remember back in 1997 when everyone blamed EL NINO for everything weather-related? Well, its cousin--LA NINA-- is showing signs of returning albeit in a very weak capacity.