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Dirquar's 6th Week Birthday
This parent's reflections:

On Smiles: Dirquar has been smiling on purpose for over a week now. That's exciting. I don't believe in the wind theory of the very early smiles, of which men are so fond. In fact, Dirquar started smiling around Day 5, which I thought was strange. And admittedly it was after a feed, but it was also after a burp. His eyes were closed, the visitors were gone, and I believe he was trying out this new facial expression everybody had. I don't think he understood why we smile, I think he was just practising. It has taken him four weeks to realise we smile because we are happy - and now he smiles on purpose when someone (especially his Mum or Papa) talks to him, or he makes the rattle work, or he's just done a really satisfying poo. Of course, he has to be in a good mood to smile.

On pooping and nappies: We're looking forward to him pooping once a day only. But when all said and done, processed breastmilk is no big deal. Certainly not compared to the goo that comes out of a woman when she's pregnant.
To quote Kaz Cooke, no one can argue that cloth nappies or disposable nappies or having babies is environmentally friendly. Ack! We have cloth nappies, and we use them as cloths - we have disposable nappies for convenience, and they really are.

On feeding: Three hours is a remarkably short time, if you need to be doing something every three hours, 24/7 for 6 weeks. Especially, as you really can't get someone to fill in for you. I'm just beginning to feel confident enough to express so that Papa can do some feeding, but they will be few and far between. And they won't save me from waking up in the middle of every night at least once for a feed.
When we were in the hospital, little Dirquar lost around 10% of his birth weight and became jaundiced. The major treatment for both these conditions was feeding. But Dirquar wasn't so good at feeding back then, and I wasn't so good at producing milk. So he would take what he could from the breast and then we would express what we could. And Papa got to feed him from a cup. That was a good chance for him to bond with food, which he mostly does not get the opportunity to do.
And finally, problems with breastfeeding take as long to fix as they did to occur. For instance, if you let a problem (like mastitis) continue for days, it will take days to resolve. Get the smallest of problems sorted as soon as possible.

On vaccination: No way. Ideologically, I'm not a fan of vaccination. But at a practical level, you should really look into what are the known side affects, the suspected side affects, where the vaccine comes from and what else is in the vaccine. There is a lot of misinformation on both sides of this debate.

On crying: Life is good when the baby doesn't cry. Life is better, when the baby cries and you can meet his needs.

On sleep: Sleep is good.
All babies should come with a Snooze button.
Dirquar does spy sleeping, also called wizard sleeping by his aunt. He closes his eyes mostly, and will even snore in this position. But if you try to put him to bed - he wakes up!
Two words: baby massage.

On time: Time is relative. Relatives take up time.

On experts: There are a lot of people out there who think for various reasons they are experts. I have found it is worthwhile listening to them all - and going with your own gut feelings.

On being a newborn: Honestly, I think it must suck. Forget the you get to eat and sleep and suck booby whenever you want to, the problem is that you can't always get people to know what you want to do. I'm hoping it won't be too long before Dirquar can at least pull things towards him that he wants, and push away those things that he doesn't. Just that simple sort of communication eludes him.

On having a newborn: To quote John Lennon, I can hardly wait to see (him) come of age, but I guess we'll both just have to be patient. This little boy is the light of my life, and I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.
If you find this writeup scattered, hard-to-follow and a little bit changeable, then that's the other impact I am finding of living with a newborn. And I love him dearly.

Happy Birthday Dirquar!!

I have to go feed, but I will be back

So, I'm finally graduating this august institution, walking out with a BA in American Studies. Well, I'm not technically done, I have a paper and three finals left, but the paper's mostly done, one of the finals is on a subject I've been studying from all different angles for the past two and a half years, and the other two are in silly senior year gut courses. Anyway, the only thing that could actually keep me from graduating would be to get an F on the paper, and call it grade inflation or what have you, but I think I'm guaranteed at least a C as long as it's made up of intact English sentences.

So now, what? Well, I get my diploma at the end of May, move back home for a few weeks, and then I drive out to LA with my best friend from high school to become a television screenwriter.

This feels absolutely absurd, and I'm not really sure why.

I mean, I guess there's always going to be an element of ridiculousness when someone packs up their car and essentially declares "Look out Hollywood, here I come!" I don't think I'm just chasing a foolish dream, though. Someone has to feed the idiot box, and I - young, white, male alumni of an Ivy League humor magazine - am traditionally the exact kind of person that does it. The competition's fierce, but someone has to make it, and, well, let's dump the false modesty here, I think I'm smarter, funnier, more coherent, more well-read and accordingly gifted with a better sense of plot and character dynamics than the vast majority of the people I'll be competing against. (Of course, we'll see how this impression weathers rejection.) Riffing off of other people's ideas is one of my strong points, I'm good at emulating styles, I'm fairly amicable and can calmly and productively discuss ideas I don't like without getting petty or angry at my "opponents" as people, and I'm plenty willing to put in my dues and work as other people's bitch if it means an opportunity to learn the craft. Plus as far as practicality goes, screenwriting is one of the most culturally-specific jobs out there, so you've got a good assurance that they're not going to move the writers' room to India and leave you shit out of luck. (Silly goose, that's what reality TV is for.)

So if I can explain at length why this is a realistic course of action, then why can I still not fully take this seriously? Maybe it's a defense mechanism to prevent myself from having to contemplate the full weight of responsibility of adult life all at once. Maybe I'm overthinking things and I should maintain a sense of levity about the whole thing. I am, after all, talking about a career the application process of which largely consists of writing glorified fanfic. (Joss Whedon was really the one who inspired me to set down this path, and I'm working on a Firefly spec right now.)

Anyway. Things will happen one way or another, and damned if I can say what I'll be doing in two years, let alone the rest of my life. Maybe I'll have my WGA card punched, maybe I'll be doing something else entirely. I expect the experience itself should be worthwhile, and given that aside from riverrun's excellent firsthand accounts, there's not much on here about the actual business of how Tinseltown works, should make for good node fodder. (I recently just made level five, thanks to an anonymous upvoter who nudged my merit over the top, and while create room and the extra votes are nice, I've got my sights on the homenode picture. Just 70 69 58 34 23 more writeups to go, assuming merit paces inflation. ) I'll keep you all updated.

In the meantime, I'd be grateful for any Angelenos' recommendations on living in LA, where to focus our apartment hunting, etc, and for any recommendations of places to check out on the cross-country drive (leaving from Philly) or appropriate tunes to put on the iPod.

CHANGE

To write about more change? There's not enough hard drive space - can this server handle it? There's not enough time. There are too many things happening right now.

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Ok, enough of this excusitis.

Geography
We're now living in a farmhouse situated in a better place, 1000% improved environment and much closer to work. We get to watch the hamsters come from their little communities traversing through the country roads to their work destinations - places they'd much rather not be - to continue in their ratrace habits. But I digress.
This place has rooms we can now access. There are doors that work. Plumbing and heating that are connected to electricity. Perseverance has paid off. We can find peace. "If you settle for second class when first class is available, you tend to treat everything in life that way." - John F. Kennedy

Relationships
We've become as one as a team. We're supporting each other in many ways others have not even achieved. We're learning and doing. We're getting on with our lives and moving forward instead of chasing our past. Persistence in this has paid off and will continue to do so. Marriage is around the corner. "The first step towards greatness is to be honest." - Unknown

Business
As a continual evolution, tax breaks are not nearly enough anymore. Though the benefits are extremely helpful, it's time to create major profit. Our team is in the learning process of coming together. Our personal and financial lives are becoming intertwined in such a way I couldn't have imagined three years ago. Forget compartmentalization. Everything that has changed for the better, we owe to the business system. "To live and not to learn is to disrespect life." - Alvin Law

Health
I'm on the 90-day program similar to "Body for Life" but with a few modifications. Without going into too much detail, 80% of the program is about the food. What a great way to live! Food and Fitness!
Having just completed the third workout, people are saying to me, "Hey, I'm not hugging bones anymore."
I'm on my way to having more energy, more muscle and higher self-esteem than I have ever had in my life.
I'm also planning on winning a cycling race this year. "It’s about progress, not perfection." - Dan Sullivan

Financial
What can I say? We're on our way to becoming more wealthy by simply using some basic principles. Just read the book "The Credit Diet" by John Fuhrman. "Money is either a tool, or an idol." - Casey Combden

One more for the road: "A life of integrity is doing what you say. Your word is your worth and your worth is your word."

There is an article in the newspaper today about bees. I ask the computer programmers amongst us; if your superior asked you to design a bee's software, how would you do it? How long is a bee's source code? Two pages of A4? If there was a way to interface with a bee's brain, could it be used to store and transport information - like a flying, buzzing Johnny Mnemonic?

If anybody tried to intercept the information, the bee could defend itself, and die in the process, thus erasing the data; therefore the information would have be to stored in several bees at once, under the assumption that at least one of the bees would get through, and that the other bees would forget it eventually, or die of old age, or of boredom. I do not know how long it takes bees to forget things, and the article does not mention this.

Is it possible to revive a dying bee with a steroid injection to the heart? If so, the bees would have to be equipped with a special poison capsule such that, when the bee uses its stinger, the poison capsule is in turn activated, thus killing the bee instantly stone dead. An alternative solution might be to create a bee with a retrograde stinger, so that any attempt to sting a foe - something which the bee would only attempt in a dire emergency, one which would justify the death of the bee - would result in the bee's demise. I assume that bees are immune to their own poison, which is an issue that would have to be worked on by the scientists. A cyanide-stinging bee would make a handy weapon of assassination, if only the bees could be taught to identify and sting designated human beings.

There might be moral objections to using bees this way. Wasps might be more acceptable. They can sting and sting and sting, and no-one likes wasps. Bees make honey, and mind their own business; wasps are against all that is pure and good. They are vermin enemies of the human race.

QUOTE (Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2005, p10, "Radar solves mystery of bees and the waggle dance")
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The "waggle dance", a code that shows the distance and direction of newly-discovered food, was first described by the zoologist Karl von Frisch. After some dispute, this discovery would earn him a Nobel prize in 1973.

He believed other bees who observed this dance (recruits) could "read" the code to fly directly to food. But recruits always seemed to take much longer to arrive than expected if they flew directly.

Despite this, von Frisch's ideas were backed by indirect experiments carried out by scientists who used dancing robot bees, manipulated dances and made bees fly through patterned tunnels.
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END QUOTE

The article has a photograph of a bee with a radar transponder on its back. It's a all-weather night-fighting instrument-flying bee, rather like the butterflies with similar transponders from a few months ago. Has there been a breakthrough in radar transponders recently? Dancing robot bees? Bueller?

Apparently the bee has two basic dances, one of which involes waggling the abdomen. In contrast to this, human beings have several dances, such as the watusi and the twist, some of which do not involve waggling the abdomen. However, if the bees do not dance, they die. Whereas if people do not dance... only their soul dies.

Today, a friend of mine is still thousands of miles away in a town with a strange name. There, the fighting continues and the news reports that a squad of Marines attached to the First Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment has been “decimated

They’re based out of Columbus, Ohio.

It’s where I live.

It's where he lives too.

We used to drink together and he cooks my kid food.

There's picture of a bunch of us hanging on the mirror behind the bar where we call home.

He's in his combat fatigues.

We're all shaking hands and have our arms around each others shoulders.

We were all smiling then.

Four Marines killed, another 10 wounded.

No names have been released yet.

I don’t know what platoon or squad he’s attached to but that's his unit.

A bunch of us are worried shitless.

I’m not what you’d call a praying man but I’m praying for him and his family.

While I’m at it, I might as well pray for a bunch of people I don’t know but who find themselves under similar circumstances.

I hope that if there is a God he doesn’t consider me insincere.

I can’t bear the thought of a funeral.

Fuck me for thinking the worst.

Fuck them for sending them there in the first place.

Apologies for the fractured text in this w/u.

But that’s just how I feel.

A little bit broken

Godspeed Marine, try and stay out of harms way.

We'd journey, seemingly forever, from the town to the country. Darkness would fall, the headlights of the car only just winning the battle against the rural pitch black. Sleep. Breakfast in a farmhouse kitchen. Tea towels draped over the handles of the range. Spot, the farmhouse dog whose name is all that's necessary to describe his appearance, darts frantically around at your feet. A Jack Russell's demeanour never seems to change.

Out to the yard to fetch the sheepdog, between the barns there's a mist trying hard to be fog. In the back of a Land Rover dog and I climb, I perch on the wheel arch, this is his space not mine. He eyes me suspiciously, I'm not his master; he suspects I am quick but he knows he is faster. The four by four vehicle forces dirt tracks to yield. Supermarket? School run? No. Sheep in a field. He's given the order and carefully slinks. Slowly at first then a whistle says FLY! Surgical precision. Away. COME BY! I fill pockets with stones that I find on the field. There are millions, they're worthless, I'm told it's called flint. They can make sparks and fires - now that's worth a mint.

My memory grows hazy, it's a new time of year. I climb on a tractor - a Ford? A John Deere? Lambs I would later be able to eat - so cute, so cuddly - now my favourite meat. Some fed on bottles, I feel no remorse, knowing little of gravy, spuds or mint sauce.

Here comes the harvest, a barn full of grain, protected from splashes of autumnal rain. I ride on the trailer towed by the tractor; it's bumpy, hilarious, dangerous even - but all thoughts of accidents don't seem to factor. Marks from the tractor scribed on the mud, straight lines and arcs, circles round trees, I'd repeat their perfection with a pen if I could.

Back at the farmhouse a pheasant's our feed. Shot by the farmer, he carves it in tweed.

A pipe. Pipe cleaners. The smell of tobacco.

Spot jumps. We go home.


I learnt last week that my Mother's best friend - whose husband was my Father's best man at their wedding and whose daughter was born on the same day as me - has died of a heart attack. As a child I would visit their farm and, unsurprisingly, images of the place began to return when I heard the news. Tainted by the passing of time, some may be idealised fabrications; most are as vivid as if they were only days old. The slightly childish, bouncy rhythm I'm going to blame on the fact that I was recalling a time when everything was a form of play.

Every child deserves to have the opportunity to see the life blood of all of us - the products of working the earth - nutured and harvested. Yet I doubt I'll even be able to provide that experience for my own kids today. How many of you know someone who works with the land?

Not many of you I'll wager.

Looking for a house

Today my girlfriend Chris and I went looking for a house to purchase. We have narrowed it down to two specific homes that we are interested in. The first is a thirty-five year old ranch house, it has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and of course the living room, dining room, and kitchen. It sits on 1.5 acres of land and is out in the country, which is great because I could party down and play my drums as loud as I want. It needs a lot of work though. The exterior of the house desperately needs to be painted. I would have to put up new drywall in several of the rooms, and it needs to be carpeted. This house would cost us $33,000.00. Not a bad deal, but not the greatest as it is not on a land contract, meaning that I would have to get a loan.

The second house we looked at today was a much larger house. It is a two story Victorian style home. It looks much nice on the outside than the first house we looked at. It has two bedrooms, and one bathroom. It is a much more economical house. We really don't need four bedrooms. This house would cost us $45,000.00, but it would definitely be worth it. The only work that really needs to be done is in the yard. It needs a new septic tank, the old one leaks horribly. This house is on a land contract, which is what I am looking for. It comes with four acres of land. The interior would need to be painted, but I really wouldn't mind that. I like to paint. We are still shopping around, but if we do not find anything else we will most likely go with the Victorian home.

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