Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is
-Peggy Lee (really Leiber & Stoller)
I walked away convinced that this wasn’t just one of Google’s weird flights of fancy. The more I used Glass the more it made sense to me; the more I wanted it. […]
After a few hours with Glass, I’ve decided that the question is no longer ‘if,’ but ‘when?’
-Joshua Topolsky, The Verge
The video below made me instantly think that if I had $1500 lying around, I’d want Google Glass on day one. At some point, the functionality you get out of it outweighs the fact that you’re wearing some clunky bullshit on your face. (And just imagine the functionality and form factor the hardware will have if Google keeps on it for a few years.)
But will it seem as gauche to wear Glass everywhere as it does, currently, when people wear their Bluetooth headset to dinner? Yes and no. I think it’d be closer to glancing at your smartphone, which can still be very rude at times, but can also be forgivable in just as many occasions.
As a friend pointed out to me, the wearable computing race now seems like it will come down to watch vs. glasses. Certainly, glasses/HUD is the more exciting of the two, but is it too obtrusive? As some have pointed out, it may indeed be that any wearable computing will be too much:
The difference is, of course, I can put the phone in my pocket the second you start talking to me. It is not part of our conversation and there is no screen alerting me to a new message or enticing me with some video. Putting the phone in my pocket is a way to say, “Okay it’s just you and me talking now.
The modal nature of smartphones is something I hadn’t thought much about, but which seems like a compelling argument against wearable computers–or at least heads-up displays. I do make a conscious decision to leave my phone in the pocket most of the time at dinner, and to interact with my kids without flicking my eyes down at the screen every minute or two. I do turn my phone face-down on the table during meetings (well, small, face-to-face ones, anyway) to signal that I’m paying attention. Google Glass isn’t really useful unless you’re wearing it most of the time, in which case you’re taking a chainsaw to this subtle ability to switch modes.
At least with a hand-held phone there was no charade. The very presence of the device in hand, head down, was a clear flag alerting bystanders to the momentary disconnect. “At the moment, I’m not paying attention to you.”
Of course, there’s are some counterpoints out there, for what they’re worth:
But the uncool factor can be overridden in various ways. Nike can make anyone wear anything, especially if it’s packaged like a watch with superpowers. A few years ago, you looked like a dork wearing headphones in public but Apple made it cool. Beats By Dre made wearing huge over-the-ear headphones in public cool a few years later. You look like a dork wearing a Bluetooth headset and talking to yourself, but they are cheap and useful enough that it doesn’t matter. Mobile phone usage in public used to appear very strange…for awhile it was difficult to tell the brokers-in-a-hurry from the mentally unstable homeless folks muttering to themselves.
I don’t think I’ll be wearing a computer on my face anytime soon, but it’s thought-provoking, to be sure. None of us probably thought we’d be carrying around the equivalent of a 1997 supercomputer in our pockets 16 hours a day, either.
What is the fair market value of an object that cannot be sold?
- A family inherits a work of art that is theoretically valued at $65 million.
- The IRS accepts the $65 million figure and submits a tax bill of $29 million.
- But the sculpture/painting includes a stuffed bald eagle, so it’s illegal to sell.
- The family can’t, say, donate it to a museum because the fair market value of something illegal to sell is $0. So, no write-off for donating.
- Can’t sell it, can’t donate it, worth $0, but costs $29 million in taxes to inherit.
I’m not a fan of this particular piece of art, so I’d probably “accidentally” set it on fire, on video, and send the video to the IRS. Whoops, now it’s a total loss.
This is Part 2. Part 1 is here. Yes, I invented a totally unnecessary cliffhanger for a three-year-old story. What a dick, right?
I want to say that although I respect that every relationship is different and cultural norms vary across our planet, I cannot understand the person who, when able to choose, makes the decision not to actively participate–with the mother–in the birth of their child. I haven’t heard an excuse that makes any sense to me. I absolutely could not have been anywhere else but beside Heather, holding her hand, my energy centered on the event with all the focus of a laser beam that has impregnated someone. There was no other option.
Still, you can’t blame me for also being very hungry.
My future brother-in-law, Jake, was on standby with the circus of family members that by this point had pitched their tent in the waiting area at Northside. He poked his head in1 and announced he was picking up breakfast. McDonald’s.
“I’d love a Sausage McMuffin with Egg, please2.
Off he went.
There was a knock at the door. “Knock” is a pretty charitable way to put it. We really could have been forgiven for thinking that maybe what we heard was someone glaring angrily at the door of our delivery room on their way down the hall. Timid. The door opened a crack and I saw a bag of obsequiousness holding a bag of breakfast. It’s so rewarding to have such a great brother-in-law, I thought, as I snatched the bag from him and closed the door. I then considered the fact that food, especially fast food, was likely to provoke either desperate jealousy or further nausea in Heather. I decided, rat-like, to scurry to the outskirts of the room to eat, putting as much distance as I could between the food and her nose.3 After wolfing down the McMuffin between contractions, I found in the bag and immediately ate what my overtaxed brain told me was a Bonus! Biscuit! but what Jake later told me was His! Breakfast! Oops. Sorry, Jake.
I brushed off crumbs both ill-gotten and not, cleansed my hands with the ubiquitous antibacterial hospital foam, and returned to Heather’s side for the next round of contractions.
There at her side I had now been standing, on and off, for about nine hours. Progress had been great for roughly the first half of labor, but at some point, the mood in the room became decidedly… less great. Talk of “deceleration” and “infection” had started to dominate. The baby’s heart rate had been declining with each contraction and the doctor had ordered an OR prepared for a Caesarean.
“We’re still waiting on someone to perform the C-section. Let’s try to push a little more. I can try to assist the baby’s progress with a vacuum extractor.”
Here’s a photo of one.
If you stare at it long enough, you can probably figure out which part does what and gets shoved where. The vacuum extractor is used to “assist” labor that is not progressing as doctors and, I suppose, statisticians, would say it should be progressing. The doctor ended his pitch with a caveat: “We tend to recommend it–though it has its risks–when we feel its use will be less risky than a Caesarian.” For me, the appearance or explanation of the device’s purpose and function were not at all troubling. I was troubled by that little speed bump in the middle of his sentence. I sputtered, unable to think of any risks that would be minor enough to rationalize accepting them, but I eventually realized that A) there didn’t exist a third, even less risky option and B) it wasn’t even my decision in the first place. OK, we’ll try it.
So, with each contraction, there was a bit of a rigmarole. We’d watch the monitor–the waning epidural still impeding Heather’s full consciousness of this ebb and flow–and when we saw a peak, the doctor would spit out “Now?” Heather would nod as she clenched down, eyes closed, holding my hand and the bed rails and pushing. Pushing while the doctor used the vacuum to pull. That must be an odd sensation.4
This went on for a while. Heart rate: still decelerating. Progress: still none. After a few more futile series of contractions and attempts, the doctor wiped his brow and indicated that the C-section was probably the only option at this point.
“But maybe we can try one more time while we wait for that option to be ready.”
Another push. The doctor bore down on the device and finally, mercifully, the soggy, puffy head started to move out and everything seemed to yield. The baby was coming out.
And the clock stopped.
This was it. My heart was racing. I could hear nothing in the room; the world fell silent and went into slow motion. I locked eyes with Heather for a split second, her face contorted but incredibly purposeful. She was as amazing to me in that moment as she’s ever been. Gripping my hand and her leg at the same time, she bore down and I watched as our baby’s head came into sight, followed in one quick slosh by the rest of her squishy, tiny, pink body.
For about two seconds, none of us breathed. In a day of unprecedented moments, this one took the top prize. I may never feel that same combination of awe, terror, hope, and anticipation again. Floating on those two seconds was a truckload of raw emotion: the buoyant accumulation of the agonizing hours that preceded the birth, the careful months that preceded the delivery, and the happy, busy years that preceded the pregnancy. Even after being deprived of sleep all night and pouring ourselves into the task at hand, there was an irreproducible electricity in the air, in everyone in the room. We’d done everything we knew how to do, and many things we didn’t, and now we had brought a new life into the world.
Now she just had to breathe.
Madeline took a frantic, desperate gasp of a breath, and let out an absolutely penetrating scream.
And the clock started again.
The cry was loud, healthy, and heart-wrenchingly satisfying. Our child taking her first breath–and immediately expending it–was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. It’s not a moment I can even fully explain, but I know that it changed me, as cloying as that may sound. Holding Heather’s hand tight, I saw and heard our baby come into existence before our eyes, and I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion. It’s hard not to get choked up even now, just thinking about it.5
As Heather caught her breath and I tried to wipe the tears from my eyes, the doctor looked up and said–as if he had just realized it himself–“Congratulations… You’re not pregnant anymore!” Heather offered up a weak smile and slumped back in the bed. I kissed her on the mouth, then pressed my forehead against hers, unable to say anything at all.
- Actually, three years later, I am pretty sure it was my sister-in-law, now his wife, who did the poking. I’m not sure Jake had ever been in a delivery room before and he was… timid, to understate the matter by a mile. [↩]
- I don’t think I said “please”. [↩]
- I decided against eating in the en suite bathroom because I do not eat in bathrooms. Nor should you! [↩]
- I mean of course that the whole process must be a series of unbelievably excruciating sensations but the push/pull thing is even crazier. [↩]
- Since that day I have not watched a single birthing scene in a movie or TV show, real or staged, comedy or drama, without tearing up just at the moment the baby cries. I don’t think that’ll ever change. [↩]
If someone is in my way, or if I try and fail to sidestep an oncoming pedestrian, anywhere in the world, I still reflexively say “pardon me” instead of “excuse me”. A good friend of mine taught me to say that fourteen years ago when we both worked at a drug store in high school.
Saying ‘excuse me’ gives the customers the impression that they are at fault, whereas ‘pardon me’ achieves the same goal without letting on that you really just want them to get the fuck out of your way.
One can still alter one’s tone, as I do, to make his passive aggression clear in particularly egregious cases. It’s honestly satisfying to glare at someone, flash a grin, and say “pardon me” when they block one from exiting the elevator on one’s floor. Or, at least, it’s the most satisfying thing one can do while retaining his basic civility.
Note: I originally published this on my old blog but I never finished it. As my daughter approaches three, I decided it was time to write the rest. I am re-posting Part 1 first, lest you new readers think Maddie’s birth story began with an Egg McMuffin.
April 16, 2009 – 11:00pm
Like many other weeknights of my adult life, I was nearly motionless on the sofa watching TV. On this particular night, a mild Thursday night in April, I had just started an episode of 30 Rock in the living room. Heather had only been in bed for a few minutes, not long enough by a longshot for her to fall asleep.
Earlier that night, we’d taken my dad, who was in town on business, to Taqueria del Sol. The notoriously gruff cashier, in a rare moment of chattiness, had told us that their food is known for being particularly labor-inducing. This generally sounds like a total crock to me, but I guess I’m predisposed to doubt old wive’s tales, even when I end up being proved wrong. It’s particularly hard for me to believe in any correlation of X and Y when Y is pretty much medically imminent to begin with.
I was chuckling at some absurdly hilarious Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan dialogue when, from the bedroom at the other end of the only hallway in our condo, my wife of four and a half years screamed my name. Her tone was somehow ecstatic at the same time that it was panicked, but all I heard at the time was panic. I paused the TV show and experienced a moment of shock–unexpected screaming from your partner is always a little scary–even before I heard the reason for her cry.
“I think my water just broke.”
I ran into the bedroom and we stood there for a beat, grinning goofily at each other, not exactly sure what to do next.
“Well are you sure?”
The doctor returned our page within minutes and confirmed for us that yes, the popped-water-balloon gush of fluid and the nearly immediate onset of contractions added up to a pretty good indication that the moment had arrived. Or, at least, the first of many moments. She told Heather in her Doctor Voice that we could go ahead and come in if the contractions progressed or–and this was absurdly hilarious to us at the time–that we could “just wait ’til the morning and come to the hospital when [we] get up.” You know, after the last batch of muffins has cooled, or something.
Like a dope, I just stood there watching her hunch over the bathroom counter, the pain and strain on her face making it evident that the contractions were getting worse quickly. About this the books are right; there seems to be no mistaking labor for anything else once it actually comes. We made the decision: it was time to go.
The next sixty minutes played out like a Benny Hill running gag. Imagine–to the tune of Yakety Sax, if you prefer–the tremendously-pregnant, surprisingly-soaked woman rinsing off, changing clothes, and then running around the house with her husband, both of them throwing things into bags, nervously laughing at each other, and checking/double-checking their packing list. We already had our hospital bag packed, of course, but we still had to go over the list as a ritual that would later turn out to have been pointless since I forgot to bring both socks and my camera charger. Cats sometimes seem to be able to sense the intensity of their owners’ emotions, and Rosie left us a wide berth as we gathered our things and raced out the door.
April 17, 2009 – 12:15am
“This is as fast as I go right now,” my wife pleaded as I speed-walked down the hallway ahead of her on a surge of adrenaline, our overnight bags swinging from my shoulders. This was not the first time I’d heard this phrase during the pregnancy (and not because I’m a born athlete made of pure speed). I guess she wasn’t in the mood for sprinting to the car.
Once we were in the car, of course, I could sprint for both of us. With one foot. That adrenaline wasn’t doing us any favors in the speed department, and it got even worse every time she had a contraction. I can confirm that in the midst of her bent-over, dashboard-grabbing pain, she did still have presence of mind to ask how fast I was going. I don’t even remember my answer, but I was driving pretty damn fast.
I can tell you with certainty thanks to georgiatolls.com that we went through Lane 009 of the tollbooth on Ga-400 North at 12:27am.
We then arrived at Northside Hospital and proceeded to do what everyone does upon arriving at every hospital ever: wait. I have been to hospitals more than you’d probably guess, and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a situation that actually seemed to warrant haste on the part of the triage/admissions people. Not a broken nose, broken leg, broken hand (not mine), food poisoning (not mine), asthma attack, or 13 separate instances of lacerations requiring stitches in my scalp, eyebrow, and tongue. Now I can add “active labor” to that list. You fill out a form, you wait. Life goes on. We got a room within a half hour, so this isn’t really a complaint. At this point, Heather finally suggested I call/text our families to let them know our status. Nobody was upset that we called so late.
We were assigned a Labor and Delivery room. I set my bag down and surveyed the quarters. This room was huge, maybe 20×15, with lots of empty space to pace. In the corner was the heat lamp/baby station; the “bed” loomed front and center, flanked by machines and backlit by soothing, cruise ship, “is it nighttime, daytime, or purgatory?” fluorescent lights.
I don’t remember any of their names anymore, but the nurse/delivery staff at the Women’s Center at Northside is incredible. I had never met anyone in a hospital who is as accommodating, as genuinely caring, and as patient as the nurse who ended up helping deliver the baby.
But that’s getting ahead of myself. I took my shoes off and sat down in a chair next to the bed. Once a nurse finally returned, they got Heather hooked up to various wires and widgets and she propped herself up in the bed and waited. Contractions were now about 3-5 minutes apart, and they were absolutely ravaging Heather when they came, which was not an easy thing for me to watch.
This frequency was good, they told us. Combined with the amount of dilation that had already occurred (a few centimeters before we even arrived), this was a good indicator that the baby was close. Still, they said, we had a few more hours, but their best guess was that everything would continue to progress and we’d deliver the baby before the sun came up.
Within a few cycles of contractions after we arrived, the nurse called in the anesthesiologist for the epidural block, which was a lot less dramatic than I had imagined. I think Heather and I both had envisioned a 4-inch needle jabbed between her vertebrae, but the reality was just a tiny catheter taped to her lower back (hidden by truly massive amounts of tape) running up and over her shoulder to the auto-syringe-plunger on the table next to her. The pioneers of modern anesthesiology certainly got that part right: use a large machine, a few yards of surgical tape, and a few feet of tube to obfuscate the reality of the gigantic syringe pumping drugs directly into your spine.
I am a sucker for data: the more, the better. As part of running our household, we both use spreadsheets that track budgets, the mortgage, Christmas gifts, and now even baby feedings. So, naturally, by 3:00 am, I was staring at a machine, watching the triad of readouts on the computer screen next to my wife, trying to reconcile the numbers with the reality.
The machine has three continuous graphs that appeared to update once per second: Maternal heart rate, contractions, and fetal heart rate. Contractions had continued to increase in intensity for the first two hours and everything had gone relatively smoothly so far. It was at this point that things got slightly ugly.
Of the three graphs I mentioned, the one to watch was really the fetal heart rate. The strength and duration of the contractions was easily gauged by simple metrics: how much was my right hand presently being crushed? And the maternal heart rate was not a concern based on, well, the aforementioned crushing. And by the way, the fetal heart rate is not determined by sonar or radar or satellite monitoring…
For internal monitoring, a sensor is attached to your thigh with a strap. A thin wire (electrode) from the sensor is inserted through your vagina and cervix into your uterus. The electrode is then attached to your baby’s scalp. Your baby’s heartbeat may be heard as a beeping sound or printed out on a chart.
The reality by 3:00am was that the baby’s heart rate had started to decline with the onset of each contraction. In addition, the rate of progress from uterus to fresh air had slowed down significantly. To the doctors, this meant one of two things: A) The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck or B) Heather’s pelvis was too small for delivery and she was stuck.
“Could we get any available OB to room B4?”
The call went out over the PA, but the nurses hadn’t said anything to us. Still, the fact that they were huddled, whispering, by the door and had just sent out a rather desperate-sounding page was enough to crank up the anxiety. The fetal heart rate continued to drop with every contraction and nobody could figure out why.
You don’t generally see depictions of this situation on TV. I paced the floor at the foot of the bed between contractions, slouched over with many hours of accumulated worry. Heather was already exhausted and had the demeanor of someone in a situation she knows isn’t even close to resolution. By this time, she’d already been through several rounds of pushing, waiting, and pushing again (to match up with the contractions).
The doctor had been checking in on us from time to time, but now he was permanently stationed in the room. While he was originally optimistic and jovial, at this point, his demeanor changed. He had started to drop the C-bomb every now and then at 4 or 5, but by now, he was a little more straightforward: “It looks like we may have to do a Caesarian.” Our hearts sank. We were hoping to avoid this kind of surgery. Plus, if the situation indicates a C-section even when it is not elected by the mother, this must indicate that it is more likely to keep the baby and/or mother alive. That’s not an easy thing to hear. Still, it’s not like we had a choice. Unless all of the pushing and straining all of the sudden became productive, this process would require major surgery within a few hours. We both hastily signed the form consenting to an emergency Caesarian, replete with phrases like “FULL UNDERSTANDING OF THE RISKS INVOLVED”.
It was 7:00am and though we had no idea, the sun was rising outside.
…To Be Continued.
Last year was a great year, reading-wise. Of the 26 books I read last year, here are four you might like, in the order I read them.
Sprawling. Dense. So, so many characters. But there’s plenty of action in this epic, and without all the moral clarity of Tolkien’s characters. Game of Thrones is like Lord of the Rings if you took out the non-human races and added an HBO miniseries worth of sexytimes and decapitations. Which, coincidentally, HBO did. (Great show, by the way.) I’m not going to bother with a plot summary.
There are billions of characters.
A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and Oh God, Enough with the Long Subtitles, Nonfiction Publishers
An amazing, true story. This book feels like it should end about halfway through, and then just when you thought this guy’s story couldn’t get any more insane, whoops, now he’s in a prison camp for two years. A lot of the stories along the way seem unbelievable, but Hillenbrand seems to have backed up most of the more outlandish assertions with solid corroboration from Zamperini’s fellow inmates and/or crew.
This book really doesn’t fit into a genre. Spy spoof? Thriller? Whodunnit? A freelance British soldier-of-fortune type is offered a sum of money to kill a rich American, and he instead decides to warn his intended mark. He, er, mostly regrets this.
Apparently, besides affecting a terrific American accent on House, Hugh Laurie is also extremely adept with a witty turn of phrase. This book is exquisitely written. I don’t mean that in the sense that every sentence and paragraph is syntactically and positionally handed down from the gods; no, I mean that with his word choice, literary devices, and his gift for detail, this dude had me laughing out loud and immediately re-reading passages. Quite often. And not even mainly at the dialogue. The real gold in The Gun Seller is in the descriptions of scenery, characters, interactions, and subtext.
I was shown into a room. A red room. Red wallpaper, red curtains, red carpet. They said it was a sitting-room, but I don’t know why they’d decided to confine its purpose just to sitting. Obviously, sitting was one of the things you could do in a room this size; but you could also stage operas, hold cycling races, and have an absolutely cracking game of frisbee, all at the same time, without having to move any of the furniture. It could rain in a room this big.
Stephen King obviously doesn’t care about SEO. The title to this book is infuriatingly hard to Google, or at least, it was right after it was published.
This was a book club book, which is generally a good sign but not a guarantee of anything in particular. A high school teacher finds a portal to 1958 in the back of a diner in small-town Maine, and discovers that no matter how long he spends in the past, he can come back to 2011 and only two minutes will have passed. So, naturally, he tries to alter the course of history. On its face, literally, it’s a book about the Kennedy assassination. But it’s really a book about time travel and love. And it had me up late two nights in a row1 following both the love story and the assassination plot to their interwoven conclusions.
King reportedly first had the idea for this book decades ago, but never had the time to do the necessary research. Whatever made him finally write it, he certainly didn’t half-ass it in the end. I haven’t read a work of fiction with this much history baked in since Fall of Giants. It’s hard to believe anyone could expend the colossal effort required to put this kind of book together immediately after cranking out the 1000+ page Under the Dome (also great). I think this Stephen King guy just might go far as an author.
What have you been reading lately?
- Think reading The Hunger Games in a night is exhausting? Try reading 849 pages of Stephen King in 48 hours. [↩]
Madeline, age 2.5:
‘I love Mommy.’
‘What does that mean, Maddie?’
‘It means… it means I want to keep her warm.’
A few months ago, after Heather left for work, I was packing my bag for work and Madeline ran in from the playroom. She had her big frilly pink skirt on–the one her great-grandmother gave her which plays music, though the batteries have suspiciously disappeared–and she immediately started dancing around the kitchen in delirious circles. We play music in the house as we’re getting ready to go, and she was into it.
Now, this was before Zach was born, so we weren’t yet locked into the military regimen that is demanded in order to keep the rest of the family on any kind of schedule while meeting the needs of a vomiting, screaming mess. But I’d still prefer not to be late, and I’d prefer that Maddie not miss her breakfast at school, which is usually cheese toast or waffles.
So I opened my mouth to say “Let’s take the skirt off and go to school”.1 And then I immediately stopped myself.
I felt like such an asshole in that moment.2 The girl just wants to dance!
My daughter is only two and a half years old, but one day soon, she’ll be my age. And I won’t have her in my kitchen asking me to dance with her. She’ll be out having her own experiences in the same way that I am now. It is my sincere hope, like that of most parents, that she’ll come visit, and we can crank up whatever Trans-Bionic Music Pods we’re using in 2037 together. But that is not guaranteed, nor is it necessary. What’s necessary is that I experience and enjoy it here. Now.
Before he died, Carl Sagan said of his wife:
In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, it is my joy to share a planet and an epoch with Annie.
I feel the same joy. With my wife, Heather, and, more and more3, with my kids. And, I might add, with most of you. I’m starting up my blog again because sharing the world with my friends and family is pretty awesome. The overwhelming evidence tells us that this is the only life we get, a beautiful limitation that I believe mandates we make damned sure we’re doing awesome things in the time we’re allotted.
In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, I get to share a planet and an epoch, and, for the blink of an eye, a home, with my daughter.
We danced for ten minutes.
- Why do parents always delude ourselves, without a shred of evidence for its efficacy, into thinking that the first person plural is going to be more convincing? [↩]
- Parenting will make you feel like an asshole from time to time, if you’re doing it right. [↩]
- Would you believe the little fuckers actually develop personalities? Unbelievable. [↩]