Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting Involved in the Birth Process

I felt the need to attend breastfeeding class last night. I was bottle-fed, so I have no memory of exactly how this works. Several husbands attended, and we practiced the different holds alongside our wives. I held my realistic-looking baby, and stroked his/her head regularly. (The closer we get to the baby, the more I want to be kind to inanimate objects meant to represent them.) In the midst of all this, the instructor told the men that it's good we were practicing, because there's a drug out there that can make us manufacture milk through our own breasts so we can actually breastfeed out own babies!

Not kidding. Check it out.

It's actually kinda cool, but I think I'll pass. I want my boobs to look good in my old age.

But today, we took it to the next step. I was talking about the process and the possibility that "we would need an epidural." Swankette caught my slip-up and said "Honey, I don't think it's a good idea for you to get a epidural."

My response: "Sweetie, to show solidarity, I'd be happy to get an epidural with you."

Which led me to picture that hospital room. At least there'd be no danger of me accidentally wandering to a place where I'd see something I'd rather not see. "I'd be guaranteed you'd be there," Swankette said. "You couldn't wander away and get a snack at an opportune moment."

And my wife and I, de-facto legless together, would hang out in bed, feeling exactly the same way...

There are several positives to this, as I see it. I will start lobbying doctors and insurance companies to cover tandem epidurals in childbirth.

You heard it here first, kids. You'll all have Swankette and me to thank when this is all the rage down the road.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

State Memories Project: Arkansas

Just this past April, Swankette and I spent several days in Arkansas on baseball-related travel which brought us through the Ozarks. The memory I think I’ll keep most was that of Cosmic Caverns, a cave we stopped and toured mostly because it was along one of the back roads we chose to travel.

The gift shop was very, very tacky, but therefore perfect.

Believe it or not, there aren’t a whole lot of tourists who select northern Arkansas as a Spring Break destination, so we got a personal tour—just us and a guide. So much of it was lovely—cave fish in pools, bizarre rock formations, and the guide kind and knowledgeable, though I never cared much for geology. Still, I was blown away by a gorgeous “soda straw” (a thin stalactite/stalagmite combination that reaches from floor to ceiling) that was something like nine feet tall and an inch or two thick. They wouldn’t let us into the room with it—too fragile—but even from the next room, it was something to behold.

We’ve got a picture of us in that cave. It probably deserves a frame and a spot on our shelves, just to show the kind of out-of-the-way US travel we enjoy.

What are your Arkansas memories?

A coach's frustrations

I've been up for an hour after getting in past midnight last night. I was hoping that catching up on sleep after a long debate weekend would make me feel better than I did as I drove home. It did--a little. But I am still feeling terribly frustrated--exasperated, even--by what I saw happen this weekend at this weekend's large, college-hosted meet in both Public Forum and Public debate.

A little of this might be sour grapes, since my PuFo team didn't do very well. (I didn't have any Public debate teams, so I don't have a dog in that fight and can speak dispassionately.) But I did judge PuFo finals, which were an absolute farce.

One team tried to shoe-horn the entire debate (whether or not the US government ought to mandate that all cars and light trucks sold in the US should run off of alternative fuels by 2040) into a silly garbage argument over the definitions of "oil" and "equivalent." Additionally, one of them in particular acted terribly rude and smug, hijacking the Crossfire by refusing to stop talking or to ever listen to anybody. To quote my wife (referring to another debate she saw), their entire strategy boiled down to trickery and aggression.

They were arguing the Neg--that we ought not mandate alternative fuels. Their case advocated that the US government create oil from algae, and that this was not an alternative fuel, since their article stated that it was the "equivalent" of petroleum. Clearly, these kids do not understand the definition of the word "equivalent," which does not mean "equal" or "the same." (Consider...In my driveway basketball game, I dominated: I was the equivalent of LeBron James. This does not mean I am the SAME as LeBron James.) You'd have to be willing yourself to ignorance to believe that algae-based fuels are not an "alternative," or that "equivalent" means "identical." It doesn't pass the smell test; smart non-debaters like our moms, postmen, and Uncle Freds wouldn't buy that crap. But that seems to be how people are coaching debate right now, and it's being rewarded with trophies. The net result: using one's intelligence to will one's self into ignorance is what I saw debaters doing time and time again this weekend.

(Another example, different round: I had a Public round where kids defined "coal" as "any form of energy other than oil." Who in the name of God would be convinced by kids pretending they didn't know the definition of a word that a second-grader knows? And what coach would say to their kids "Our strategy is to go in there and pretend not to know the definition of a rudimentary one-syllable noun! To say that the definition of 'coal' is 'wind'! Go get 'em, tiger!")

Well, you see where this is going.

Predictably, in the blowout algae-oil PuFo final, I turkeyed.

To reiterate, a Public Forum tournament--the event designed to award sensible, clear communication that a community judge would be convinced by--was awarded to the team who based their entire case around these words: "It's not alternative fuel. It's alternative oil."

Worse: the kid who acted so rude and smug, interrupting and smirking, was named the #1 speaker in the entire debate.

My conclusion: we've left behind everything PuFo was supposed to stand for.

In his original, probably-too-snarky article introducing Public Forum (then called "Controversy"), Donus Roberts said the following:
We need to have this division judged by community adults, chaperones or teachers who do not need to learn a special language and listen to high pitch speed-talking. These people care deeply about public issues.
Amen, brother. Unfortunately, the meet yesterday showed the horrendous consequences of ignoring this and ceding PuFo judging responsibilities to college debaters. College debaters reward trickery and aggression, neither of which are effective means of persuading anyone (except, I guess, a college debater).

I don't want to get too into slamming college debaters, since their time and energy are just as valuable as mine. But when one asks what the purpose of Public Forum Debate is, the answer is "to learn how to convince a community member, one not steeped in debate, about an issue."

To put it another way, as soon as you throw a college debater in the room to judge, it isn't Public Forum anymore. Rhetorical, delivery, and logical skills that would convince a regular citizen are trumped by trickery, aggression, and the latest irreverent intellectual contortionism.

I'm fighting as hard as I can at both the state and NFL levels to emphasize the need for community judges in absolutely every round possible. Beyond that, I want to say this as clearly as I can, particularly to those who run college meets with a lot of college debater judges present:

KEEP THE COLLEGE JUDGES OUT OF PUFO ROUNDS. Send them into LD and CX rounds, where they'll continue to do the fine work they've always done. But it is not Public Forum if it's has a college judge. Don't pretend it is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's over.

I feel like I've removed a hundred-pound backpack.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

When the Cardinals and Steelers get together...

the result is ugly.

Seriously. Just go back to 1944. The war had depleted rosters so badly that teams merged briefly, including the Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers. The winless team, "Card-Pitt," was known as "the carpet." The results should speak for themselves, but they don't. The team was so bad that three players were fined for "indifferent play." (Would that the 2004 and 2008 Mariners had been similarly fined...)

I do believe this is the first Super Bowl featuring two teams that had previously merged. Pittburgh's victory today guaranteed it, of course...had Philadelphia won the other matchup, we'd have seen a resumption of the rivalry of the teams that combined in 1943 to form the Steagles.

Now don't say I never taught you anything.

Locker room talk

"Have you had Seuss High School's girls' team yet this year?" a fellow ref asked me before the game. I was about to do a freshman game, he was about to do the JV and Varsity games.

"Yeah, I have," I replied.

"What's their coach like?"

"She's not a problem. There was barely any lip at all, but when I talked to her it all ended quickly."

"No. That's not what I mean. I hear she's really good-looking. Is she?"

I pause. "Well...yeah. Yes, I guess she is."

Another ref jumps into the conversation here. "You know, I don't even notice that stuff anymore. I've been married for 41 years!"

I think, then come in again. "I've only been married three and a half years. But I suspect I'll never stop noticing if a coach is good looking."

My long-married partner replies. "Well, John here wants to do far more than just notice."

John says: "Yeah. In fact, when I work Seuss next week, I'm going to make it a point in our pregame to say that I'll head over to talk to the good-looking coach about any close rulings or bizarre situations."

I wish John luck, but there a worse situation to begin a romantic relationship than by interacting as ref and coach?

And how cool is my wife that I can relate this story to her and have her laugh?

State Memories Project: Arizona

If you haven't seen my dad's comments on the first two states, give them a look. He's in some of my memories, although not all, and provides some early stuff as well. Incidentally, it's never too late to add your memory to an earlier state. I thought it might look cool to have quite a few comments--quite a few unique events in each state when all is said and done.

Anyway. Arizona.

I've had quite a few fun trips in Arizona to hang out with college buddy Rob, but I've selected a memory from my first-ever trip there (excluding a plane layover in 1983), which took place pre-Rob. My first year as a forensics coach, I was fortunate enough to qualify a kid for NFL Nationals, which took place in Phoenix that June. My student was eliminated after 2 days of competition, which meant we had a few days to kill. Killing all of that time in 117-degree Phoenix wasn't my favorite choice, so I joined up with another coach (plus all relevant chaperones) and we drove up to Sedona to spend the day at Slide Rock State Park. It's a natural water slide in gorgeous surroundings. I was worried the rock would tear up my butt, but I guess the water, plus the millions of butts that go down the rock every year, smooth it out. It was a fun thing to do.

We got to an area where the water got slower and deeper for a stretch of 50 yards or so, and flowed between 15-foot cliffs or so. I had one student with me, Julie, and my fellow coach, Ed, also had one student, Carmen.

People were making their way up to the top of the cliff to jump into the water below. The water was deep enough to do this safely...provided that you jumped out horizontally a bit. If you didn't get far enough out, the water near the banks was shallow enough to make a jump from that height dangerous.

Ed, my fellow coach, in what might be the most foolhardy move I can recall a teacher making, started encouraging his student to make that jump.

"Carmen...I think you can do that. It looks fun!"
I don't know, Coach. It does look fun, but I'd be a little scared.
"No. It's easy! Just jump from right there [pointing above] and make sure you get out to here [pointing at the area of water right in front of where he was treading]."
Well...I guess it would be fun...I'm just not sure, Coach.

Unbelievably, Ed sweet-talked Carmen into climbing up the bank. There she was, watching other people hurl themselves into the water. She did NOT look happy. I had already taken some time to tell Julie that I would NOT let her jump into the water. She replied that she had absolutely no interest in doing so. Now, we focused on an uncertain-looking 18-year-old kid in a bathing suit, looking down on us from quite a ways above. Ed resumed his pep talk.

"Okay, Carmen! You can do it! Jump right out to here, just in front of me!"
I don't know if I'll make it out that far!

Surely, surely my fellow coach would back down now...but no.

"You'll be fine! Just back up and get a running start!"
Um...all right, Ed...I'll do it!

Carmen backed up about ten paces and started running over the rock above us. About three steps short of her jump, I saw her freak out a little bit and buckle on a step. It took away quite a bit of her momentum, and my heart kicked over to a spot in my body it had never been before. She was going too quickly and was too close to the edge to stop, but that bad step made me worry that she didn't have enough speed to clear the dangerously shallow edge of the water.

Fortunately, the kid was muscular enough that she must have pushed off pretty hard. She cleared the dangerous part and landed safely, and we all slid on.

But that was a terrifying moment. I will never, ever forget the stupidity of that coach's actions, and I will never forget the moment when Carmen reared up like a spooked horse just a nanosecond too late to stop herself.

What do you remember from Arizona?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baby's room

I have painted baby's room. It's a gorgeous color that my wife says she's falling more deeply in love with. And I PICKED the color. (Well, out of three choices wife left me.) Oh, and Matt helped me paint it. Thanks, Matt.

I have put together a crib, shelves, and dresser for baby. I'm not usually a put-together-stuff guy, but I did so in a borderline-gleeful fashion with less profanity than one might expect from such a project.

We've put down the rug. We're putting up the pictures.

Holy shit. My baby has a room.

T-minus 6 weeks and counting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

State Memories Project: Alaska

For a look at what I'm up to here, read this. And feel free to chip in your own state memories...either her or on your own blogs. I enjoyed my wife's and Spoon's last week.


I am six years old. We have just spent three weeks in a camper, driving from Littleton, Colorado, all the way to Alaska. My parents are the only people of driving age. Of course, at six, I don’t realize how massively taxing this all has been. Along the way, Dad has planned countless gorgeous stops: Banff, Jasper, Writing-on-Stone National Park…we parked the camper in some really gorgeous locations. And it rained. It rained constantly. So we played Hearts in the camper every night. We played often enough that my kid sister once shot the moon. She was four.

So when we got to Alaska and there was a nice day, we jumped on it. We wound up at Cook Inlet, not far from Anchorage. It was somewhat chilly, but waves from the North Pacific were slamming into a little nook in the beach. All three of my siblings and I threw ourselves against the waves on the beach, wearing old college sweatshirts. I’m not sure how much of this I remember myself or how much I have convinced myself I remember from looking at the slides of exhausted, happy kids in sopping-wet sweatshirts (adult sized, if I recall correctly). But I remember it being as fun as a waterpark. I think we were the only people around, and I recall just going nuts in the surf. Those waves were as big as the state to me.

Postscript: The parents’ original plan was to take a cruise ship down to Seattle and then drive the camper home. But they must have underestimated the toll that driving the Alaskan Highway would take. They sold the camper in Anchorage and used the money to fly us all home.

And you?...

The scale

This past week...

--I officiated 8 games (two each on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights),
--I am submitting to all of my wife's Diet Nazi (her term) demands, since my food allergies, sensitivities, and reactions to a high-fat diet could cause me to be, um, indisposed for a few hours. Since we want to be extra sure I'm able to be in the room for Hedgehog's birth, I am only eating Swankette-approved foods.

It occurred to me that the result is that I've probably taken in a heck of a lot fewer calories than I'm expending on the court.

So this morning, I weighed myself. (This is something I seldom do.)

I'm down to 178. With shoes and a sweatshirt.

My usual weight is around 190. I aim for 185; if I let myself get to 200, there's trouble. The worst I've ever been was 215 at the end of my reffing hiatus in the summer of 2004.

This is, I'm pretty sure, the lowest weight I've been since sometime in the early-to-mid 1990s. It's eye-poppingly small. Wow.

Cool. Yay for eating right and exercising.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In which TRP is grateful for his marriage...

I've been married for three-and-a-half years this month. I don't know when one is not newlywed anymore, and I don't want to pretend to be expert. But today at baby class I became way, way more grateful for Swankette.

The first thing we all did was divide the room by gender. Moms-to-be were to write down big changes they were going through. Dads-to-be were to write down changes they saw their relationship as going through.

People are mean to their spouses. I guess I've always known this is true, but since my marriage, imperfect as any marriage is, does NOT include being mean to each other...well...I'm a little taken aback when I see it happen.

Case in point. One guy said something to the effect that "when she's feeling good, it's our baby, but when she's feeling bad, it's suddenly my baby and my fault." Most of the men around me nodded knowingly.

Swankette has never, ever done that. Right now she's going through the garden-variety third-trimester stuff...hip pain, inability to lean over, peeing constantly, Hedgehog thinking her diaphragm is a Dance Dance Revolution pad, etc. Early in the pregnancy, there was the throwing up. And for about a week, without going into detail, she had to put up with pretty intense pain, and did so heroically (thankfully, it passed). But NEVER has she thought to blame me for any of this! Had she done so, I'd have accepted it hurt feelings are jack-nothing compared to what she's going through. But she never has. At all.

Then, there was a moment when our teacher, a pretty cool woman, said something else that took me aback. She was talking about Kegel exercises (did you know men should do them too? something else I learned today) and when to do them. "Do them anytime you're doing somethign routine, but that will happen a few times a day. Like during commercials, or at red lights, or maybe when you're yelling at your partner." Huh? I can't recall a time that Swankette and I have ever yelled. We've been pissed off, sure, and we let each other know, but we don't yell.

Of course, when we point out each other's foibles, it's a very, very loving thing. When I told the men in the group that one change was that "my wife now cries at television commercials," I guess I said it a little loud, because the women turned around and gave me the evil eye, as if I'd done something horrible. But the fact is that this is something Swankette and I joke about already! How could you not handle changes like this if you don't have a little sense of humor about them? Swankette said that it was her husband who said that, and don't worry--she'd be worried if I didn't point it out. My mom even jokes about the hormonal tears, remembering when she was crying at episodes of Lassie during her 1960s pregnancies. Come on! Let's find the joy in being together, even in hard times! (Of course, we might handle this with a little "Please Do Not Be Alarmed By Our Sarcasm" sign in the delivery room...)

So, Sweetie, thanks for making this such a great marriage. Every now and then I'm reminded how good I have it with you, and today was one of those times.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009

State Memories Project: Alabama

For a full list of what I'm up to, go here. I'm basically putting up a vivid memory for every state in the union (except the two I haven't yet been to). This week we lead off the alphabetical project with Alabama. I'm enjoying this project so much that I really want my friends and family to join in, either in the comments or in their own blogs. Chip in, y'all.


The game was cancelled--wet fields. So our long drive to Huntsville--me, Swankette, and a friend and his girlfriend--was somewhat in vain. Our travelling companions decided to take the night off, which gave us a nice break from each other (we'd been in an SUV together for 11 days).

And, on the eve of our first anniversary, Swankette and I began a tradition. We went to Taco Bell.

A year earlier, when we began our honeymoon by getting off the plane in Hawaii, we were damn hungry. The only place open was Taco Bell. And, as I devoured a 7-layer burrito, Swankette suggested that we should go to Taco Bell for our anniversary every year.

Therefore, I got to look at my bride and eat another 7-layer burrito instead of attending our usual minor league baseball game.

As a wedding gift, our friend had gotten us a gorgeous hut overlooking a gorgeous view of mesas and the Cumberland Plateau. We saw the sun rise there the next morning. But it didn't matter whether I was there or at a Taco Bell. All that mattered--and matters--is Swankette's presence. So a romantic date at Taco Bell--my first anniversary celebration-- is my Alabama memory.

What's your Alabama memory?

Friday, January 02, 2009

More snow driving adventures

It snowed about an inch overnight. Fortunately, by the time I left to get some work in at about 9:00, the roads were merely wet.

I used my forearm to remove the crusted-over snow from all of my windows, and all was well.

Explain me this:

Today, I saw three cars (once on the way to work, once at lunchtime, and once on the way home) who were driving without having removed the snow from their back windshield.

I'm not talking about it was a little iced over, or it needed defrosting. I'm talking about that inch of crusted snow staying on the back windshield, completely preventing use of the rear view mirror.

Give me a damn break! How could this happen once, let alone three times???