Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Are the Greatest Names in the NFL?

After exploring baseball-inspired baby names for Nameberry in October, I took a look at NFL names in my latest post. There are nearly 1,700 active players in the league, so it took a while to comb through the data. But man, there are some truly amazing picks in there.

I've always thought there was a certain formula to a great NFL name, which I describe in the piece:
  • An unusual, multisyllabic first name 
  • A shorter surname that’s ideally a common name or word 
  • A mixture of panache and gravitas
Some of my all-time favorites that fit these guidelines: Orlando Pace, Cornelius Bennett and Plaxico Burress. (Plaxico, whose appellation means peaceful, might not have helped the name by shooting himself in the leg during a nightclub incident.). . .  
Among current players, the prime examples include Orlando Franklin, Marqueston “Quest” Huff, Solomon Patton and Charcandrick West.
Other standouts, which maybe don't quite fit my rules: Barkevious Mingo, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The column is called "The Super Bowl of Football Names," but I don't really declare a victor. One name that appears to be "losing," however, is Marshawn.

Despite the on-field heroics of Marshawn Lynch, fewer babies are being called Marshawn today than when he started his NFL career in 2007.

I also was surprised to discover how many players are named Larry:
There are seven Larrys, plus four Lawrences (who could become Larrys at any moment).
You can read the entire column here.

How useful is all this for soon-to-be parents trying to choose a name? Hard to say. But if I cause even one to consider "Butkus," I feel like I'll have made a difference.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Handy Quiz Shows If You Should Have Three Kids

I came across this quiz on the Scary Mommy blog that tells you if you're cut out to have three children. It's a bit late for us, but I figured I should know if we made the right choice.

So here goes...

1. You like sleep deprivation.

 No, but I can probably tolerate it better than some.

2. You have an industrial sized washing machine.

Uh-oh, we don't have a washing machine at all.

3. You have an enormous car.

How about no car whatsoever?

4. You like noise.

Not especially?

5. You like being with your partner ALL of the time.

When I'm not at work?

6. You like your partner.

Yes! Nailed one. Maybe I can turn this quiz arou--

7. Your family lives nearby.

Er. They have to get into an airplane to see us, so probably a "no" here.

8. You’re agoraphobic and antisocial.

I'm just going to start saying "yes" to put a few in the win column.

9. You don’t need time for yourself.

Aside from when I lock myself in the bathroom and ignore the screams?

10. You have a full time nanny, cleaner and chauffeur. 

No, but I don't think I was supposed to get this one right.

11. You have no expectations whatsoever. Of anything ever again.

I can live with this one. I declare victory!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Similac Ad Recreates 'Battleship Potemkin' Scene

This touching commercial for Similac baby formula has a message for mothers: Can we all just get along?

It also recreates the famous baby-carriage scene from "Battleship Potemkin."

You may recognize it from "The Untouchables," which was paying homage to "Potemkin."

Fortunately, the Similac ad has considerably less bloodshed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Is It Really That Hard to Have a Baby in Manhattan?

New York Post writer Mackenzie Dawson is catching flak for a story saying you're a terrible parent if you raise your baby in Manhattan.
“New York, New York, it’s a helluva town for babies,” said no one ever in the history of New Amsterdam, which is why my husband and I packed up our bags and moved to Westchester when our son was 5 months old. . . . I maintain that while Manhattan is one of the most fantastic places on Earth in general, it is also one of the worst, most annoying places ever for children under the age of 2.
She decries the public transit, the "manic energy," the competition and the fact that someone is always walking behind you (and wishing you'd go faster).

First of all, how does a woman of child-bearing age have the first name Mackenzie? Based on the Social Security database, that's a 12-year-old's name. Her parents must have been way ahead of the curve. (Mackenzie Phillips is in her 50s, but Mackenzie was actually her middle name.) Anyway, I digress...

Dawson makes some valid points, but in many ways the city is better for kids under 2. When babies are small, you can tote them everywhere in a Baby Bjorn and they sleep much of the time — even if you stop for a meal at a bustling restaurant. That's not possible when they get older.

When we lived in the hardscrabble alleyways of SoMa, we had a great time with Elliot as a baby. By the time he got past age 2, we felt like we needed to move. Mostly, it was because another baby was coming and our apartment was getting cramped. But it didn't help that Elliot began asking questions about the random man pleasuring himself at the bus stop. (Infants don't notice these things!)

Now we live in Manhattan, and since our third child was born in the borough, I feel like I have some authority on the topic of raising a baby here. (Yes, we live on Roosevelt Island — aka "Little Manhattan" — but just bear with me.)

Dawson is right about the transit. When you have to push a stroller around the city, you basically become a disabled person. You have to study the MTA maps to see which stations have the little wheelchairs next to them (denoting an elevator in the station).

Guess what? Not many of them do.

She also complains that you can't take a cab because it means lugging around a child seat. Here, she's a little off-base. In an exemption to safety rules, the law permits you to take your baby in a taxi without a special car seat. (Now, one could argue that no competent parent would do this, but it's well within your legal rights.)

As for your living situation: I think you really have to live in an elevator building to make Manhattan work. Hauling kids and/or a stroller up and down the steps of a walk-up doesn't seem feasible, and there aren't a whole lot of other options.

But again, raising kids in the city seems to get harder when they reach a certain age.

Lugging a stroller around is bad, but having them walk on their own is far, far worse. You have to constantly goad, cajole and scream at them or they'll stop every three feet to pick up something disgusting off the ground.

This is not something suburban families need to worry about. They just strap the kids into the car and go.

Does that mean I'd like to move out of the city? Not in the foreseeable future. But I also don't think Manhattan is anti-baby. I just think it's anti-crybaby.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lucy vs. the Water Fountain

Lucy learns that water fountains are good for drinking water but not for touching it.

This would be less amusing in a drought-ravaged state, by the way. Do not attempt in California.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When Children Escape From Their Cribs

When Elliot was a baby, he would continually escape from his crib. In fact, he would try to escape from nearly everything: baby gates, sleep sacks...gravity. He once climbed to the highest point of the couch and leaped into space — only to crash headfirst into the tile floor below. (Is it any wonder the doctors had to do so many back-of-the-leg tests back then?)

We were living in a quirky San Francisco home, which had about as much space as our current apartment but spread over four levels. Elliot would escape from his crib on the fourth floor and climb down the stairs, leaping over any obstacles, to our bedroom on the second level. He was always delighted with himself. We were terrified.

This is something every parent experiences sooner or later: My God, I can't contain this monster.

(He also had a knack for finding electrical cords and chewing on them.)

Fortunately, Alice was nothing like that. She is spirited in her own way, sure, but Alice never once tried to get out of her crib. And she generally seemed to have a better sense of self-preservation. In fact, she pleaded to be put back in her crib long after she graduated to a toddler bed.

I assumed that girls were just a bit more cautious — and wiser — than boys.

That may be true, but now we have Lucy and she is a crib escaper — just like her brother. That means we're going to have to get her a toddler bed. (I suggested putting one of those tent things on top of the crib, but apparently they're dangerous.)

It also means I probably shouldn't generalize about gender.

The BoingBoing site recently put together a compilation of babies getting out of their cribs. It does look like the perpetrators skew a bit toward males, but being a twin seems like a far more serious indicator that there's going to be trouble.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Taking a Look at 'Blind Portraits'

Alice and I were at the southeastern edge of Central Park and came across these sculptures, the latest installment sponsored by the Public Art Fund.

They reminded me of a previous bronze-cast Public Art Fund installation – "United Enemies" – but the current sculptures have no faces or bodily features.

It turns out there's a reason for that. The work, called "Blind Portraits," was created by Chinese artist Sui Jianguo while he was blindfolded.

Here's the description from the Public Art Fund site:
For Sui, this apparent limitation is a means of finding a different – and equally valid – method of creating sculpture. In this way, the artist brings together traditions of Chinese aesthetics and Western modernism, both of which share an interest in exploring the essential nature of materials and the effects of chance.
I liked the work, but the "equally valid" bit felt a little forced. If art created while blindfolded is equally valid to everything else, than why bother using our eyes at all?

Then again, the Ninth Symphony was created without the benefit of hearing, and it is certainly "equally valid" (insomuch as it's considered the greatest piece of music ever created).

So there's that.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hear the Legacy of Steve Jobs

Elliot has gotten into GarageBand lately, and it's a testament to Apple (and Steve Jobs' message of simplicity and elegance) that a 6-year-old can become fairly proficient at producing music with the software.

Here is a track he created entirely by sampling his sister's voice. It's creepy, but kind of beautiful. (For no discernible reason, Alice asked that the song be called "Super PJ.")

Later, Elliot heard the alarm I was using for my thrice-a-day antibiotics (I had dental surgery last week) and felt he could do better. This is what he produced.

On one hand, I'd like to think "Dads alrem" (Dad's alarm) is the start of a promising music career for Elliot. Then I remember that Pharrell only made $2,700 from "Happy" getting played on Pandora 43 million times.

So maybe I should keep pushing him toward accounting.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cheerios Commercial Shows #HowToDad

I came across this Cheerios commercial called "This is #HowToDad," which appealed to me on multiple levels.

First of all, I've probably consumed more Cheerios than any other food in my lifetime — as a child, then as a 20-something guy who could barely use a kitchen, and finally as a dad.

I also identify with the father in the video. I mean, that's my life. Since I started composing this blog post, I've been pulled away to find a child's yaya and called upon to put hydrocortisone on two different kids' rashes.

Even so, I wonder about this attempt to target dads. For years, cereal companies exclusively went after mothers. The old slogan for Kix is: "Kids love Kix for what Kix has got. Moms love Kix for what Kix has not." No one gives a crap what dads think.

I guess times are changing. I did do the grocery shopping for the family twice over the weekend. (In fairness, it was because I neglected to buy the necessary items the first time.) But I'm still not sure I have much sway in terms of what brands/products we purchase in this home.

Maybe Cheerios is just hedging its bets with this campaign. They're promoting it with their Twitter account, but it's only aired on national television twice. So I guess it's a low-cost strategy.

Regardless, any commercial that begins with a horse head in the bed has my support.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Limited-Engagement Magic Show, Off Off Broadway

Elliot put on a magic show for the family this morning. What he lacks in illusionist skills, he makes up for in showmanship.

I think we'll eventually have to invest in some genuine magician gear, but I'm concerned he'll try to saw Alice in half.

UPDATE: It's probably worth noting that Elliot was already a Houdini-in-the-making back in 2009.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Look Back at 'Mighty Manhattan'

After I shared archival footage of Santa Cruz, it's only fitting that I do the same for my current hometown: Manhattan.

The Roosevelt Islander blog, a great source for local content, posted this clip earlier in the week. The video depicts a time when the Statue of Liberty was a mere 65 years old (barely eligible for retirement, which no doubt she would eagerly accept since she's French).

There's also a brief view of what is now Roosevelt Island, then Welfare Island.

Photo courtesy of the Roosevelt Islander blog.

But that's just one of the many delights of viewing this clip.

As a relative newcomer to New York, I was surprised to see an elevated subway in Manhattan. The Third Avenue El, which appears to be going strong in the video, was phased out in the early 1950s.

The lack of traffic is striking — especially when you consider that the population of Manhattan was still significantly larger in 1949 than it is today (the total New York population was smaller, though).

Seeing pedestrians cross Fifth Avenue and other thoroughfares with no crosswalks or streetlights is quite something.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

Another revelation: The Central Park Zoo was free! But the sea lions were still a main attraction. (As I said when we first moved from California, I was surprised that something regarded as borderline vermin on the West Coast is held in such high esteem here.)

The video spends a fair bit of time on the novelty of the Central Park horse carriages. Even then, they were regarded as an anachronism.

Now that they may soon be banned altogether, it was interesting to get a statistic on how many of them existed in 1949.
Although the sight of a horse on the busy streets of Manhattan become rarer from year to year, there are still about 20,000 of them serving mankind in New York City.
In 2015, the number may finally drop to zero.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Roosevelt Island Returns to Gotham

Back in 2012, I was amused to see Roosevelt Island get a cameo in "The Dark Knight Rises." It was meant to be part of Gotham, not New York City, and the film digitally altered the surrounding areas to remove part of Queens and the entirety of the Bronx.

Well, Roosevelt Island is once again serving as the backdrop for Gotham. This time they're shooting scenes for the show "Gotham," which is set in the days before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. The Roosevelt Islander blog has the story.

"Gotham" director Jeffrey Hunt has been posting Instragrams about the all-night shoot, which is unfortunately occurring during 17 degree weather.

A photo posted by Jeffrey Hunt (@huntvision) on

I only hope the Bronx isn't digitally destroyed this time. (Well, maybe just Yankee Stadium.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Always Nice to Find a Parent With Less Sense Than Me

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I take a lot of video of the kids. But not usually while driving a vehicle.

This mom learned the hard way that capturing a cute moment isn't always worth it.

I'm not quite convinced this video is real, though. As Jalopnik points out, the clip is almost a year old and its authenticity hasn't been verified.

Either way, the message is clear: Never take vertical video!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

How to Fake a King Cake

This was our second year of celebrating Epiphany with the kids, but we didn't really have time to make a king cake. So I improvised a bit...

I bought a cupcake for each member of the family and used a chocolate-covered gummy bear as the baby Jesus.

Kelly put the bear inside one of the cupcakes and then handed them out. For a second year in a row, I got the Jesus, making me king for the day. I chose Kelly as my queen.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a coup and the girls wound up with the crowns.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, Lulu. Especially when it's too way too large.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The First Snow of 2015

After last year's blizzard-filled winter, this season has been a bit of a letdown. There hasn't really been any significant snow, despite a fair bit of cold weather.

In my book, snow is one of the best things about living in New York. It obscures the city's blemishes and transforms the metropolis into a gleaming powdery paradise. And unlike people who live in the suburbs, we don't have to shovel it! (That may be the best part, actually.)

So we were pretty excited yesterday when we thought we were going to get some accumulation. But despite the white stuff coming down pretty hard for a while, it just turned into a slushy mess.

That didn't stop us from going outside to attempt a snowball fight.

The excursion ended abruptly when Alice reached into a pile of not-so-frozen dog poop. (For better or worse, I didn't capture this on film.)

Oh well, at least the kids made some memories (even if it was just of their dad being overly enthusiastic about something lame).

Saturday, January 03, 2015

More Time Traveling: Santa Cruz in the 1930s and 1970s

The coming of the New Year forces us all to reflect on the passage of time. So it seems appropriate to share this clip I found of Santa Cruz, my hometown, from the 1930s.

As with the Nostalgia Train, it provides an intriguing glimpse into that era. The Boardwalk, wharf and beaches don't look drastically different, though. The changes are most evident in the cars that people drove, the clothes they wore and how white they all were. (I'm not sure how diverse the city was in that era, but it was a fairly small town. In the 1930s, Santa Cruz only had about 15,000 residents — a quarter of its current size.)

The water looked like it was still quite bracing, judging by how eager the swimmers are to get out of it.

I didn't expect to see the "Safety First" sign on the Giant Dipper roller coast, since I imagined that people in the 1930s lived in a perpetual death trap (and liked it that way).

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

There's also a longer video on Santa Cruz's history that was produced by the Rotary Club in the mid-1970s.

It shows more of the downtown area, which was heavily damaged in the 1989 earthquake. Pacific Avenue is almost unrecognizable. Skip ahead to the 15-minute mark for that footage.

It's also fun to see the Natural Bridges still intact (pictured below). The main bridge collapsed in the quake.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

Watching both the 1930s and 1970s clips makes you grateful that someone took the time and effort to assemble the footage.

I feel like I take some ribbing for obsessively filming everything around me (mostly the kids, but also the changing New York landscape).

I hope someone is grateful to me someday too.

Friday, January 02, 2015

It's Hug Time

Alice was trying to watch TV yesterday when an aggressive hugger kept getting in her way.

Fortunately, they worked it out.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Not Quite the Times Square Experience

As promised, we used Netflix's New Year's Eve countdown last night, duping a group of six kids into thinking 8 p.m. was midnight. (I'm not sure the older children were fooled, but they went along with it.)

Unfortunately, our Roku box wasn't working, so we had to put the countdown on the laptop rather than the TV. As you can see, it wasn't quite so spectacular that way.

(Our party's only similarity with the Times Square festivities is attendees of both events were wearing diapers.)

Luckily, the kids are really good are making a lot of noise on their own.

Happy New Year from BuboBlog.