Thursday, June 28, 2012

Uh-Oh, Are We The Simpsons?

I think I just figured out why it's vaguely unsettling to have an older son and two younger daughters.

We have a towheaded boy with a penchant for disobedience (especially at bedtime). A younger daughter who loves looking at books. And soon another daughter who...well, I don't know. But I'm guessing she'll like pacifiers.

I already can sense I'll be increasing my beer intake.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Most Unfortunately Named School?

I appreciate that Catholic schools sometimes have "blood" in the name. But, um...

Couldn't you just name the place after a saint?

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Astoria (Not 'A Story, Uh')

From Roosevelt Island, Astoria is just a short hop away on the Q102 bus (which has the added bonus of sounding like an adult-contemporary radio station). So yesterday we decided to have a family adventure and check it out.

You know you've arrived in Queens when you see a gym devoted to Ultimate Fighting (mixed martial arts) that has classes for kids.

Astoria seems to be an increasingly vibrant neighborhood, with lots of hip restaurants and bars. I imagine it's what parts of Brooklyn looked like 15 to 20 years ago. We had a great lunch at a New Orleans-themed place called Sugar Freak.

On the downside: Other than Astoria Park, there's little in the way of green space. You can walk block after block down treeless streets in the hot sun. And I've never had to give the kids "earmuffs" more often than while strolling through Queens. Residents are very open in how they express themselves!

That said, we enjoyed Athens Square, which is outfitted with classical columns and statues of Ancient Greek figures. (I'm glad the euro crisis hasn't dampened the Greek pride around here.)

And the elevated subway tracks made me nostalgic for West Philadelphia.

The one disappointment: When Elliot heard we were gong to Astoria, he thought he was going someplace to hear "a story."

Talk about false advertising!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Is Health Salad?

Yesterday I became intrigued by an item sold at the deli of our local supermarket: "health salad."

At first glance, it didn't appear that healthy  in that it resembled coleslaw floating in murky liquid. I suspected mislabeling.

It turns out health salad is a real thing.

I've learned that it's a popular item in Jewish delis here in New York, and I was able to track down a recipe. (When you get past the oddness of adding sugar and canola oil to a "health" item, it doesn't sound too bad.)

Ingredient list from
1 medium green cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1 green pepper, sliced paper thin in small strips
2 kirby cucumbers, peeled and sliced paper thin
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
1 onion, sliced paper thin
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil or 1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup white vinegar or 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon oregano

And in fairness, it's probably a lot healthier than Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Baby Name to Consider: Ribbo

The other day Elliot suggested we name the new baby "Ribbo."

This has been his sole contribution to the family's baby-naming discussion. But I wasn't sure if I should take it seriously since Ribbo didn't seem like a real name.

Boy was I wrong! It turns out that one of the Jawa junk dealers on Tatooine is called Ribbo Qua'lu.

I guess Elliot is just a really big "Star Wars" fan? (Odd, since he's never seen any of the movies.)

"Star Wars" came out in 1977, which means Ribbo has a longer track record than a certain girl's name from "Splash" (1984). So there's that.

Still, does Ribbo sound cute on a girl?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is This the Coolest Thing About Roosevelt Island?

One of the most striking things about New York City is the trash. It's everywhere, piled up in front of storefronts and stoops in heaping blacks bags. And it reeks, especially during the summer.

We've lived on Roosevelt Island for a month now, but it didn't occur to me until today that you don't really see the piles of trash in this part of New York. You also won't find many garbage trucks prowling the neighborhood.

Why? The reason turns out to be something quite awesome: Roosevelt Island has a giant system of vacuum tubes, where trash whooshes from place to place underground.

From the Motherboard site:
...a series of tubes that literally suck garbage from buildings at speeds up to 60 miles per hour to a central collection point, where the trash is taken off the island by truck or barge. Theoretically, that eliminates the emissions and traffic caused by giant garbage trucks, and makes trash sorting easier. 
When Roosevelt Island’s system was finished in 1976, it became the first and only such system to be installed on an urban scale in the U.S. The pneumatic tube system, said Mayor John Lindsay in 1969, "could one day replace garbage cans and household incinerators.”
So far, that hasn't happened. But the city may be ready to expand the system to other parts of New York, including Coney Island or Chelsea.

There's even a short 2010 documentary about Roosevelt Island's trash system. (I also learned that a nickname for Roosevelt Island is "Manhattan's other island," though where does that leave Randall's Island, which is also part of Manhattan?)

Perhaps the best part of all this: The next time the kids try to goof around near the trash chute, I can tell them they might get sucked in!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thanks for the Hint!

The Huffington Post published a list of rules for dads raising daughters, and I read it with keen interest.

One of the tips:
If you can’t be nice, at least be respectful and steer clear of the B-word, C-word, and other words for putting down her entire gender.

Say what now? Dads shouldn't use misogynistic profanity around their daughters?

What kind of parenting straitjacket are they trying to put us in?

Monday, June 18, 2012

R.I.P., the Most Misquoted Man in America

I was sorry to hear about the passing of 1990s icon Rodney King, a man with the distinction of being quoted incorrectly more often than not.

As I noted in 2009, popular culture remembers his statement during the L.A. riots as "Can't we all just get along?"
In fact, it was "Can we all get along?"
I'm not sure why the negative form of the question fixed itself in our collective consciousness. Perhaps it had more power that way.
In any case,  I'd like to think the answer to either question has gotten closer to "yes."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Celebrate Father's Day by Pretending You Don't Have Children

Today was my fourth Father's Day, and my last before our family likely descends into complete chaos.

So I was grateful to get most of the ideal Father's Day experience.

For me that entails:
—Sleeping in
—Taking a nap
—Reading the newspaper without being disturbed

I suppose it's odd that the perfect Father's Day means trying to recreate your life before you had children, but I think that's how it is for most dads.

(And in truth, I didn't get to sleep that late. I was awakened by a pantless 3-year-old who informed me that his bottom needed wiping. Considering he will go sit on the couch if I ignore him, going back to sleep isn't really an option at that point.)

I also got a Father's Day cake that made it all worthwhile.

It was a homemade ice-cream cake, with a base of ice-cream sandwiches.

Elliot helped with the R&D (it was his idea to use crushed peanut-butter Oreos on top). That's my boy!

Maybe You Can't Be Too Safe?

Yesterday I complained about people not giving up their seats for obviously pregnant women.

But I guess this is the flip side of that: Never assume someone is pregnant based on a Facebook photo.

That's the lesson from a recent letter to Dear Prudence:
I was clicking through a friend's Facebook photos of a wedding she attended, and saw that she was expecting. I commented, "Congrats! When is the little one due? You look great." As I clicked through more photos from the evening I realized that, well, she wasn't. In my defense, this is a friend I hadn't seen for a year, we somewhat lost touch, and she was wearing a large, flowy dress while standing next to a slender woman in a tight dress. I was mortified and went back to delete my comment, but she obviously read it because the photo had disappeared.

But she did say she looked great!

UPDATE: The New York Times' Motherlode column weighed in on how to navigate the pregnant-vs.-fat quandary back in 2010.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Don't Get Up on My Account

Almost four years ago, I wrote about Kelly's experiences riding Bay Area transit as a pregnant woman.

Photo courtesy of

At the time, I was surprised to find that men were less likely to give up their seats for her than women.
I would figure men would be more likely because (a) they have some lingering sense of chivalry (b) women usually keep to themselves and avoid eye contact on transit because there are a lot of scary people who will try to talk to them. 
Among the male population, Latino men are the most likely to give up their seats for her. 
Maybe it's just that white men are afraid of insinuating that she's fat. If so, I applaud their sensitivity!
We're now seeing this same scenario play out in New York. In fact, New Yorkers seem even less inclined than San Franciscans to give up their seats.

It's amazing to watch Kelly get on the subway or tram and actually see people elbow her aside to grab an empty seat. (And it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that she's pregnant these days. The fetus would have to pop out and slap someone for it to be more obvious.)

Kelly says white guys in suits are still the worst. But when we were riding the E train this morning, I saw a broad cross section of the population ignoring her. (In fairness, most of the young men looked pretty hung-over.) Finally, a Latino man offered up his seat.

One bright spot: She's never been turned away from a cab in New York. You'll recall that a taxi driver in San Francisco almost refused to drive her somewhere out of fear that she'd give birth in the car ("I'm no hero" was his position). But we may put this to the test in New York as we get closer to the due date.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

I may not be able to chronicle the defaced stop signs of Berkeley anymore, but I can bring you the idiosyncratic signage of New York City.

Everyday I walk by some kind of municipal warning or notice that seems a little odd (at least compared to what you see in the Bay Area).

For example, an overabundance of signs in New York prohibit "ball playing." For me, this conjures up images of smudgefaced newsies playing stickball in Hell's Kitchen (in between shifts of hawking the New York Graphic and pickpocketing).

I see little of this in 21st century Manhattan, so I wonder if the signs are still necessary.

This one informs me that I've found a "drinking water sampling station."

I assume it's only for professional water-samplers, because the box didn't seem to open.

This next sign, which I tweeted about earlier, ostensibly warns you not to become a raffish layabout.

I feel like the man needs a front-tilted fedora to complete the picture.

Since tweeting about this sign below, I've since learned that "summonsed" is in fact a word — maybe.

I passed this one while walking by the Sloan-Kettering hospital. It's just good sense: no smoking in the cancer center.

This sign commemorates the "Dress Up Your Neighborhood Contest" winner....from 1988. The message (posted on a rusting chain-link fence) carries less weight now that the area has had 25 years to deteriorate again.

I see some version of this (below) quite often in New York.

I hope someone knows what it means.

Finally, I can't tell if this one here is a warning or a dare.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Toddler's Perspective on Hide-and-Seek

A dad in England strapped a video camera to his daughter's head and shot this video of hide-and-seek from a toddler's point of view. (You can tell this isn't one of our children, because the camera wasn't smashed into bits via blunt head trauma.)

You'll recall I did my own video about hide-and-seek last year.

The result is the same: Toddlers aren't very good at this.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

No, Clembough Is Not a Century Name

Groupon is offering a deal this week where they'll name your baby for $1,000.

From the offer's description:
Groupon will relieve you of the burden of naming your baby by bestowing a specially selected, custom first name upon your infant son or daughter. Purchasers will e-mail Groupon with their voucher number, and we will e-mail you back with a name for your child based on the name's aesthetic value and for how it might look emblazoned on a trophy one day—for a child named by Groupon will grow tall and proud, and he or she will be a beacon of hope in a world that is in such desperate need of one. 
Limit one per parent, unless you have twins, triplets or quadruplets, in which case you can buy one per child. Groupon, the official World's Foremost Authority in Baby Naming™, will name your child or children "Clembough". No substitutes or modifications. Spelling non-negotiable.
It's been speculated that this deal is just a Father's Day publicity stunt, though as of press time, at least one person has purchased the offer.

Clembough, incidentally, is not a Century Name — in that, it doesn't appear to have existed in any century (including this one). So I really can't endorse it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Veritcal Videos: You're Doing It Wrong

I've been complaining awhile about people who post videos online that were shot vertically with an iPhone or other smartphone.

Given how often I see this happen, I was wondering if I was the only one with this pet peeve. So I was excited to discover a PSA on the topic.

The really upsetting thing: Jon Stewart is a vertical-video practioner!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Best Sibling Configurations Reprised

Remember the study that rated the best sibling combinations for family tranquility (two girls, a girl and a boy, etc.)?

Well, it appears this new baby is going to cause us to drop precipitously in the rankings.

With a boy and a girl, we were No. 2. But two girls and one boy would put us at No. 7.
1. Two girls
2. One boy and one girl
3. Two boys
4. Three girls
5. Three boys
6. Four boys
7. Two girls and one boy
8. Two boys and one girl
9. Three boys and one girl
10. Three girls and one boy
11. Two boys and two girls
12. Four girls
Good lord, the configuration is below four boys. Clearly it's going to be some kind of "Lord of the Flies" horror show.