Sunday, January 30, 2011

Please Recycle...LOL, Not Really

Speaking of recycling, I'm not sure how to interpret this message on a bottle of Vitamin Water.

There's a winking smiley-face emoticon after the note to "Please recycle."

It's the winking part that gives me pause (a smiley face by itself would seem more innocuous), like they don't actually expect you to do it.

I guess it's better than saying, "Please 'recycle'."

UPDATE: Maybe they're just tipping their hat to what the city of Berkeley already knows: Plastic recycling isn't really recycling. ;)

If so, way to be subversive, Vitamin Water!

Is Berkeley's Recycling Service a Leader or Laggard?

I've made a surprising discovery: The city of Berkeley thinks "Manchild in the Promised Land" is trash.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me discuss a broader topic. If Berkeley is so renowned for its environmental stewardship, why is its recycling program so frustrating?

Back in San Francisco, you could recycle nearly everything — including most every kind of plastic — and you never had to sort. Cardboard, glass, plastic and paper all went into the same container. The convenience encouraged more people to recycle, helping the city reclaim more than three-quarters of the waste it generates. (The goal is to reach 100 percent by 2020.)

Now that we've moved to Berkeley, we have to sort again. The whole thing feels so 1990s. Worse, Berkeley doesn't accept certain kind of plastics, like yogurt containers, even though San Francisco did so happily.

Now, you may just think it's because Berkeley lacks the resources of San Francisco. Maybe that's part of the problem, but it mostly appears to be born out of environmental asceticism. Berkeley thinks most plastic recycling is bogus and would prefer to abstain entirely.

Berkeley's split carts require sorting.

You see, plastic can't be recycled the same way aluminum or glass can. Plastic bottles aren't typically turned into new bottles. At best, they're reused in construction materials and other products. Because of the plastic prejudice, it was a big deal when Berkeley even began accepting plastic soda bottles in 2000 (something that seems like a baseline offering for any recycling program).

If you visit the website of Berkeley's Ecology Center (the organization that handles recycling), the message is clear: Don't buy plastic. But in real life, it's pretty hard to avoid it in certain products, such as yogurt. And if San Francisco has figured out a solution for these plastics, why can't Berkeley?

I was having these thoughts one morning while sorting items in our recycling bin. That's when I made my discovery. One of the items they recommend pulping is Claude Brown's "Manchild in the Promised Land."

Egg cartons, literary classics

Odd. Wouldn't it be better to use a trashy novel as an example of something to recycle. Any used-book shop in Berkeley would gladly buy back a copy of "Manchild" — especially the 1960s vintage paperback pictured on the bin. We should reuse before recycling, no?

It's also one of the most frequently banned books, because of its offensive language and frank descriptions of Harlem life in the 1940s and '50s. So of all the books for Berkeley to trash, this was a poor choice.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Question Here

Is it a concern when your son lines up all his stuffed animals face-down, as if they've just been the victims of a Colombian blood feud?

Just wondering.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

'Kosher Style Dishes'

I love that the Holy Land Restaurant on College Avenue in Berkeley says it serves "Kosher Style Dishes."

As someone who has no dietary scruples, I'd also like to see restaurants offer "Vegan Style Dishes" or "Gluten-Free Style Dishes."

You get the same great taste...without all those restrictions! How about some "vegetarian" veal or foie gras?

Let's do this.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yaya Etiquette: a Cautionary Tale Continues

I've mentioned how we purchased multiple copies of Elliot's security blanket (a duck-headed object that he oddly refers to as his "Yaya"). The idea was to have a backup if he loses one, and also to make it easier to clean them.

We currently have three Yayas (we would have four, but one was lost on the sidewalks of San Francisco — I can only hope it's providing comfort to a homeless man somewhere). From the start, I've been concerned about the unintended consequences. How will Elliot learn to take care of his stuff if his most cherished possession seems to multiply on its own?

But I didn't anticipate this: Perhaps inspired by his daytime/nighttime diapers, Elliot has designated certain Yayas as Nighttime Yayas and others as Daytime Yayas. (Because of the varying ages and conditions of the Yayas, it's fairly easy for him to tell them apart.)

God forbid you try to send him to bed with a Daytime Yaya. You'll definitely hear an earful about that gaffe.

The question is: Where does it end? Will they be categorized into outdoor and indoor Yayas? Town and country Yayas?

I have a vision of Elliot lashing out at me someday: "You fool, I can't bring that to a military funeral! Where are my dress Yayas??"

Resistance Is Futile

Never has the "submit" button been more appropriate than on the California DMV website.

Do not attempt to fight it — just submit.

While I'm on the topic, what's up with this photo they use to promote their videos?

Are those kids watching "Red Asphalt"? If so, they're WAY too into it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alice's Family, as Seen by Alice

The one that feeds me

The one that pokes me in the face

Not sure what this one does

'The New Age Baby Name Book'

I came across a book called "The New Age Baby Name Book."

I had hoped to mock the names therein...until I saw that both Elliot and Alice are included. Oh no, am I a "New Age" parent?

In fact, Alice even gets a pullquote.

Maybe it's more a case of a bad title. I'm pretty sure the whole New Age thing doesn't appeal much anymore — even here in Berkeley (especially if you're trying to target people of babymaking age). It's also a bad sign that the dad on the cover has a mustache and what appears to be a pinwheel necktie.

Aside from the cover, the book actually seemed pretty good. But then again, should you trust a naming resource that couldn't come up with a good name for itself?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Price Check at Target

It's no wonder big-box retailers are putting local stores out of business.

With prices like this, who can compete?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Berkeley Is Alameda County's Infected Toe

It's often been said that Italy resembles a boot.

Well, has anyone noticed that Alameda County also is shaped that way?

Alameda County (rotated a bit)
And the way they depict Berkeley on the Wikipedia map, it resembles an infected toe.

It's perhaps ironic, given the devotion to him here in Berkeley, but Bob Marley died because of a diseased toe.

Anyway, just pointing this out.

Alice's (First) Restaurant

For Alice's first dining experience, we took her to Bakesale Betty, the ultra-hip bakery/sandwich shop in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood.

There's only outdoor seating, so we figured no one could yell at us if Alice acted up.

Bakesale Betty is a minimalist eatery with a massive following. The menu is limited, and there's no decor to speak of — the signs in the window are hand-scrawled on pieces of paper. The lines can be insane, but we got there during a slower period.

They serve an amazing fried-chicken sandwich with coleslaw. Usually I hate coleslaw, but this one is quite good: It's vinegar-based and features jalapenos in addition to the usual cabbage.

The tables out front are actually ironing boards painted green. (The one downside: They're a bit rickety when you try to place a baby seat on them.)

Fortunately, Alice was able to outdo even Bakesale Betty's uber-trendy clientele with her seen-it-all attitude. She slept through the whole thing.

Top that, hipsters!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

All Alice All The Time

Peter Hartlaub, who writes The Poop parenting blog, recently discussed how "it sucks to be the second child." You never get as much attention as the first child, and "the ratio of older brother photos to younger brother photos is probably about 10-to-1."

That's probably going to be true of our kids, especially considering the insane number of videos I took of Elliot. But in an effort to start making amends now, here are some Alice pictures.

Moments after birth

Dad's hospital cot

Sleeping at the hospital


Leaving the hospital

At home

Reading to both kids at once. Economies of scale!

After her first bath

More sleeping

Dad passes out as well
Welcome to the family, Alice.

What's Going On Here?

It was a bit of a shock when my first kid came out with blond hair.

Now I'm equally befuddled by the fact that our second child is the polar opposite of the first.

For starters, Alice is a girl and Elliot is a boy (but in fairness, we knew that going in).

Elliot was born with wispy blond hair, which didn't really fill out until he was a year old.

Alice was born with a full head of dark hair.

Elliot's skin was pale-yellow (due in part to a mild case of jaundice).

Alice's complexion is a darker reddish hue. She almost resembles a Native-American papoose.

Elliot never took to breast feeding, despite our best efforts.

Alice is almost too much into breast feeding. She clamps on like a salt-water lamprey.

Elliot has big, round Obama ears.

Alice has pointed Spock ears.

Elliot has never cried once because of a full diaper. I'm pretty sure he could have a family of prairie dogs living down there and he wouldn't complain. (I even posited that the idea of babies crying about dirty diapers was a myth.)

Sure enough, Alice cries every time there's even trace amounts of anything in her diaper.

Are we sure these kids are related?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Trip to the Baby Store

We stopped by Day One, a store and resource center for new parents in Laurel Village. It's been a couple years since I last checked out this kind of establishment, so it was fun to see what has changed in the world of baby gear.

For one, Baby Bjorns are now almost exclusively targeted at men. They had five of them on display, and four put men front and center on the packaging.

Even weirder, every single man had a few days of facial hair. This is either an acknowledgment that it's hard to maintain grooming habits during the early days of parenthood, or it's an attempt to make Baby Bjorn as macho as possible (something I have single-handedly undermined).

I'm not sure the stubble is going to save the masculinity of this roll-neck sweater.

Or anyone using this ridiculous Baby Bjorn add-on.

Some products are just plain disturbing, such as this baby below. It looks like it's staggering into the fifth round of an infant ultimate-fighting tournament. I half-expected him to have tattoo sleeves.

I'm also not sure I'd want to give my child "sensory balls," especially the blue ones.

Hold me closer, Tiny Diner?

This Cuddle Cub says if you hug him, he'll "gently shiver." I think it's pretty clear that Cuddle Cub has some deep-set emotional issues that he's only now coming to grips with.

This is called the Hot Spot Labor Sock.

The less I know about that the better.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's in a Name: Alice — Part Two

I noted that my great-grandmother went by Alice. Well, my mom discovered another namesake.

Apparently a variant of Alice is the German name Adelhaidis [citation needed here. -ed.]. My mother found an ancestor by the name from the 1700s.

As you can see, she was quite a looker.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Bad Case of Unnecessary Quotation Marks

Hospitals appear to be a bastion of superfluous quotation marks, as evidenced by the dry-erase board in our room.

Our baby's name is "Alice"? I guess the nurses used this Dear Abby technique to protect her true identity, whatever that is.

Using quotes here seems riskier. This note was supposed to indicate that Kelly is allergic to Motrin.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's in a Name: Alice

As was the case with Elliot, the process of naming our second born involved much discussion and negotiation.

I wanted something that wasn't too popular, especially because our surname is so common. And yet, Kelly rejected Persephone almost immediately.

The nice thing about Alice is it feels very plain-Jane but isn't actually used much anymore. The name peaked in the 1800s and never really came back in style. (Jane itself is in the same boat.)

We also didn't have to worry about spelling. I suppose you could spell it "Alyce," but...c'mon. (Oddly enough, that variant peaked in the 1910s.)

Alice is currently ranked No. 258, which puts it in the same ballpark as Elliot. It has increased in popularity every year for the past four years, but there's little danger of it becoming the next Isabella, Emma or Olivia (the current triumvirate in girls' names).

This is the chart on the Baby Name Voyager site. It might as well be a graph of MySpace user numbers or Ricky Martin iTunes downloads.

Of course, Alice is most strongly linked with the works of Lewis Carroll. I was never really enthralled with those books (and I didn't see the recent movie adaptation), but it doesn't seem like a bad association. As for the Linda Lavin sitcom and the radio station named Alice, well, at least we didn't name her KFOG.

My great-grandmother went by Alice, but the baby's real namesake is Kelly's grandmother Verona (which is our Alice's middle name). I like the name Verona, but we held off on it as a first name. I'm not sure the world is ready yet for a baby Verona — it feels like it's from another time.

I will say, only once did I regret that Alice wasn't born a boy. When she first emerged from the nativity bathroom, it dawned on me that "John" would have been the perfect name.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hospital Horror Stories

Alice was quite the sensation last night in the maternity ward, with all the nurses talking about the baby born in the bathroom.

We spoke to one who said she'd only seen that happen once in her long career. But I did hear some other frightening tales.

In one case, an expectant mother was out of her bed when the infant's foot suddenly popped out. This led to an emergency C-section, since babies aren't supposed to be pointed in that direction.

Another time, a nurse was checking a woman's cervix when a tiny hand reached out and grabbed her. (Or maybe the nurse just said the hand "touched her.") Either way, that's horror-movie stuff.

On her medical chart, Alice is said to have had a "precipitous delivery," but I guess that refers mainly to its location. I'm grateful it was an uncomplicated process otherwise.