I have another, more serious post about moving and stability coming up, but I don’t quite have my thoughts together on it yet. In the meantime, I present you with a list of eight things I will not miss about the current apartment:

1. The laundry “facilities” – First, the machines are functional only in the loosest sense of the word. You can definitely get clean clothes, it just might take you six hours to do a load. Second, they are located in a spider-infested cellar at the bottom of the most rickety outdoor staircase I have ever seen.

2. The nextdoor neighbors – We live next to a couple with a young son. For a while, they seemed quite nice, but there comes a point when you realize that the screaming matches are kind of a regular thing. When the husband screams that his wife is a “goddamn fucking bitch” so loudly that we can hear it inside our apartment (located in a separate house) when they have company, well, I’m sorry, I can’t even pretend that I have respect for you anymore.

3. The garage – Is falling down. Seriously, I’m afraid to lean against it.

4. The incompetent remodeling job – We live in what is typically referred to as an “owner occupied unit”. This is supposed to signify that it is nicer than other apartments because, before you moved in, the owner lived here and he made it all nice and homey. Our landlord, however, remodeled the place himself and the whole thing reeks of someone constantly saying “that’s good enough”. My personal favorites are in the bedroom where he meant to put in crown molding, but just left a few inches unpainted and never got around to it and the inch and a half gap under the bar that divides the living room and kitchen where he must have measured wrong and figured no one would notice. Oh, and don’t let me forget the shower rod that is hung so high no shower current will adequately bridge the gap between rod and tub.

5. The lack of doors – There are two closet doors and a bathroom door in our two bedroom apartment. That is all.

6. The mailman – He likes to take days off. Especially Saturdays. He also doesn’t seem to have figured out where everyone in the neighborhood lives. It’s not like the addresses are on the envelopes or anything.

7. Parking on the street – Technically, we have the garage, but well, you remember #3. For some reason, people on this street are really possessive of parking spots even though there are WAY more spots than cars. I tend to park in whatever open space is closest to the house. Sometimes, this means I am parked in front of someone else’s house. WHY DO THEY CARE? I do not throw a fit when someone is parked in front of our house. Oddly, I do not find it a giant inconvience to walk 50 feet. Our downstairs neighbor is especially bad about this. He seems to believe he actually owns the place directly in front of the house.

8. The landlord. I saved this one for last. He is not the worst landlord I have had, but he is in the discussion. We had a windstorm in September that blew off part of the chimney. He got it fixed in March. That same month, our roof began to leak. That didn’t get fixed until May. Recently, some water started leaking into the downstairs unit. He seems to expect us to stop flushing the toilet so he doesn’t have to get it fixed right away. There are other examples, but let’s just say he sucks.

Good riddiance shitty apartment.

Screen Time

July 13, 2009

I have been having a pretty sharp internal debate lately that involves several things that are not seemingly all related. It involves the internet, fatherhood, my childhood, Simone’s forthcoming childhood, technology (specifically the internet), writing, daydreaming, Taoism, and general creativity. To go ahead and cut straight to the point, I have resolved to drastically reduce the amount of time I spend on the computer to one recreational hour a day. I’ll go over why and what exceptions there are below, but let’s go ahead and start with that premise before I get to the rest.

Time & The Internet
I spend a lot of time on the internet. A lot. As much as I internally look down on people who fritter away time in front of the television (we watch movies, but haven’t watched an actual television program since the Oscars), I fritter away a great deal of time myself. Most of it visiting the same ten or twenty internet sites over and over again through out the day. There are days when I probably spend four hours doing more or less nothing on the computer.

Time & Fatherhood
Obvious statement: Being a parent takes a lot of time. I am determined to be an available parent. This means that, as much as is humanly possible, I will play with my daughter when she wants to, I will answer questions when she has them, etc., etc. This also means that I figure to have a fair bit less free time for the next fifteen or twenty years (whenever, that is, she and her theoretical, but likely, sibling have become largely self-sufficient individuals and the role of parent has become less god-like and more guidance). So, I have to ask myself, when I have time to myself, what do I want to do with it?

Free Time & Accomplishment
Playing the guitar. Reading a book. Writing something (I would still like to publish books eventually). These things require time. What is more, they require effort. They are not as easy as picking up the computer to check on the status of Jay Bruce’s broken wrist. Interruption (now an integral part of my life) is more irritating when I am doing things that require mental energy. However, I would be lying if I tried to claim that I didn’t get much, much more enjoyment out of reading, writing, and making music than I do out of random time wasting on the internet. Correspondingly, it seems logical, as my free time is going to be diminished for a long time, to spend it in the ways I find the most gratifying and relevant. It could end there, but it doesn’t…

Daydreaming, Childhood, and Creation
I might never have come to this decision if not for a bit of what my friend Justin would call synchronicity and what I would call my mind looking for answers and finding them. Over the last several days, I read this article by Michael Chabon, this one about technology and creativity (hat tip to Mike), and started reading this book by Michael Pollan. Individually, they probably wouldn’t have led to anything, but in combination, they reminded me of some things: 1. Daydreaming was an integral, wonderful part of my childhood. 2. I have been sorely missing it lately. 3. I want my daughter to have a childhood where daydreaming is encouraged, and I want her to see that her father values it. I want to set an example. 4. If I am honest with myself, I know where the daydreaming has gone.

Making a Change
So here we are. I am going to attempt to change a habit. It’s not something I do often, but I am going to set a limit on myself of one hour a day which will likely be most often apportioned into half an hour in the morning and an equal amount of time in the evening. I want to be clear, however, that this is not a limit on computer time. The following do not count toward my recreational surfing:

1. Writing – I write on computer. I do not like to write by hand, and, with my bad shoulder, it isn’t enjoyable anyway (writing includes blogging).

2. Correspondance – I’m not talking about commenting on status updates on facebook, but I do keep up with several people mostly through the internet. I don’t consider corresponding with these people to be the sort of recreational time wasting I am trying to cut back on. So, if I am writing a genuine message to someone that takes a bit of thought and consideration it doesn’t count any more than it would if I were writing someone a letter by hand.

3. Research – I don’t expect this to come up all the time, but I do use the internet to research teaching methods or topics relevant to what I am writing about at the time. This does not include going to wikipedia to look up Michio Kaku‘s biography.

4. Radio, podcasts, etc. – I like to listen to baseball games on the radio (for example). The best radio I have is my laptop. So, if I am listening to a game or whatever else but not otherwise interacting with the computer this time would, obviously, be exempted.

I think I have already explained why, but I do want to close with a story about the moment when I really made this decision. Today, the weather is very nice and Cate and I took Simone to a park for the first time. We found a shady spot under an big, beautiful river birch near a creek. We had a snack, read books, and played with our child. At one point, I gazed up through the tree considering the twisty white branches that are the river birch’s trade mark and my mind began to wander. I had a little daydream. Maybe it will be a story and maybe it won’t. But when my mind came back to the present I smelled the air and noticed the warm spot on the back of my neck where the sun had poked through the leaves. “I could stand for more of this,” I thought.

I suppose this could be considered the second in a series of posts about how the world goes crazy when you have a child.

As the 17 people who read this blog are no doubt aware, my wife and I have recently had a child. Simone is now 6 weeks old, and the world is very worried that she is going to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In fact, we have worked several doctors into tremors and fits when we have told them that *gasp* we are co-sleeping. That is, our daughter sleeps in bed with us. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is lack of space, we won’t have room for a crib until we move in a few weeks, but we also like it. It’s much more convenient for feedings and diaper changes and what not. Anyway, let’s take a walk through the numbers.

First, let’s establish that SIDS is one of those things that people panic about a bit too much. As of 2006 (most recent number I can find), there were 0.51 deaths for every 1000 live births. This means that there is a 0.051% chance that any given child will die of SIDS. So, yeah, let’s just start by acknowledging that half of a tenth of a percent is probably not something to lose your mind over. Still, any new parent wants to be safe and you don’t want to subject your child to unnecessary risk, so let’s look at some other factors.

According to literally every source I can find, breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by 80%. Simone is exclusively breastfed. For those scoring at home, that makes her current calculated risk 0.0102%. Basically, 1/100 of a percent.

Smoking doubles the risk of SIDS. Neither Cate nor I smoke. Other than my mother, Simone is not exposed to anyone who smokes. My mother is not allowed to smoke near Simone. Simone sees my mother about once a week. I think it is safe to claim that Simone lives in a nonsmoking environment. Let’s just ballpark it conservatively and say that this lowers her risk of SIDS by 10% to 0.0092%. That is, there is currently a chance slightly less than 1 in 10,000 that Simone will die of SIDS. Isn’t math fun?

But the point of this article really, is that doctors keep telling us that co-sleeping is bad, and there is, as far as I can tell, absolutely zero evidence for this. Sure there are a lot of fuzzy statistics that don’t factor in if the parents are drinking so much that “sleeping” means “passed out” or if they are smoking in the bed with the child or even if they are just putting the child to sleep and leaving them alone (that’s right, sometimes, “adult bed” counts as cosleeping even if no one else is there). I wish I were making this up, but I’m not. The only hard number I can find is that there are 60 accidental infant deaths a year in adult beds. This number has a TON of problems. One, it’s a raw number. There’s no context. 60 out of how many? Was another adult in the bed? What was that adult doing? How does that compare to accidental crib deaths? It’s meaningless. Inicidentally, this number has gained most of its fame becuase crib manufacturers put it out there all the time. The fact of the matter is, there is simply no evidence, zero, to say that cosleeping is harmful. In fact, every single study I’ve been able to find that is any kind of legitmate says that cosleeping REDUCES the risk of SIDS. Some studies even show that it is as beneficial as breastfeeding. (Look for a man named James McKenna, he has done a lot of the work.) Another fun fact: the countries where co-sleeping is the most prevelant are those with the LOWEST incidence of SIDS.

This kind of thing just annoys the fuck out of me. Almost every doctor you encoutner will tell you the cosleeping increases the risk of SIDS and it just isn’t true. This happens sometimes in all fields. A few bogus numbers come out, they catch on, and suddenly something is gospel even though it’s totally wrong. The next time a doctor looks at me like I’m trying to kill my child, it is going to be really tempting to demand evidence and then laugh at them when they can’t produce any. Further, I refuse to worry about SIDS. There is probably an 1 in 10 ro 20 thousand chance that Simone will die from this. There are things far mroe likely that I am also not worred about*.

*Deaths that are more likely than SIDS:
Natural Disaster
Assault with Firearm