Category Archives: Fatherhood

Social Intelligence and Stubenville

So, just a quick time out from my usual techie posts to ramble for a bit. The Internet has gotten huge these days and once the information is out there it’s almost impossible to put the horses back in the barn. Case in point and what people are talking about right now is the verdict that just came down in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case.

Judge Thomas Lipps issued a cautionary note to children and parents, urging them to reconsider “how you record things on the social media so prevalent today.”

In today’s world where twitter feeds are archived by third parties and people who know people post their own messages of support, no matter how well intentioned, things will never be kept secret and this girl now has to live with the repercussions of what happened to her, no chance to put it behind her, unlikely that she can keep any sort of privacy.

In my own life, I really try to keep my Internet persona and my real name as separate as possible. People who know me or that I want to reach out to know my alter ego, but hopefully a random google search of my name or a couple of key facts about me don’t lead to a huge Internet trail of photos, tweets, and posting made two or three years in the past (personally, I’ve found a couple of my old posts from 15 years ago still out there).

So back to Steubenville. I read an article in the news, and quite frankly was a bit skeptical. So as I sat there on my tablet, I did a quick google search. That popped up a little more info, which then led to a little more. Long story short, within the space of about 10 minutes I knew real names, friends, random posts showed up two or three years old, even pictures of the victim from happier times. I was stunned at how much was out there. Even with all her online accounts closed, the wealth of information that is indelibly marked out there is heart breaking. Bad things happen to good people and sometimes being paranoid about protecting your name isn’t just being paranoid. Taking these lessons to heart, rules for my kids using social media:

  1. Never use your real name as your twitter handle
  2. Never use your real name on Facebook
  3. If you post or blog about your friends or family, use first names or code names only (one friend posts about her daughter as PT…. Pink Tornado)
  4. No “Internet only” friends, you should have already met people that you friend online
  5. If people tag you in photos with your real name, ask them to retag you with your more anonymous Internet handle. People who know you will still enjoy the pic, but random strangers won’t
  6. Be paranoid, always.

In today’s connected world where posts, pics and even thanks to apps like foursquare, your location can easily be tracked, I think the it takes the whole “stranger-danger” lessons from when I was a kid to a whole new level for the next generation.

The Work-Life Balance Myth

So I was spending a few minutes researching some other stuff and this article caught my eye:

Amy Wrzesniewski is a professor at Yale who studies work patterns, and has identified what she calls “orientations,” or psychological motivations, toward work. They are three: Job (money), career(advancement, power, prestige), and calling (meaning, purpose and fulfillment). Not surprisingly, individuals with a calling orientation tend to have higher life and job satisfaction and miss fewer days of work, she found in her research.

Why? When your job is a calling – and if you are lucky, you are in such a job now or remember when you were – time flies by. There are times you don’t want to go home. The best part of the “work-life” balance equation is the work.

Basically what this boils down to is, “Do what you love, love what you do.”  When I was teaching at the local community college, I always told my students that my goal was to never work a day in my life.  Not that I would quit my job of course, but that as Confucius put it: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I think that I am fortunate in that I really do enjoy working with technology.  I spend my free-time setting up test servers in my home office.  Before I got married my dining room table held an entire server farm.  I always want to know about the latest technology and find myself attending SharePoint Saturdays and SoCal Code Camp on the weekends.

This even creeps into my hiring decisions.  One of my standard questions as a hiring manager is, “How did you first get into computers?”  Their answer and their attitude are one of my main factors in deciding between two qualified candidates.  Hint: saying you got into computers because you heard it was a good money is not the right answer!

April was a busy month

All I can say about last month is that I’m glad I got through it… some of my highlights included:

1. My laptop computer has been on it’s last legs for a while… it’s an HP pavilion workhorse (nx9000 series) -17 inch monitor, big hard drive, fast cpu, lots of memory, and about 4 years old with a fan that was in hyper drive and enough heat generated to warm a small room to a comfortable temp. A year ago lines started to show up in the display. Every month a few more vertical lines would appear. The nvidia video driver kept freezing the operating system about 6 months ago, so I had to use the generic windows video card driver – which meant no cool video games for me. Finally, it looks like the video card has given up the ghost. No video on the LCD, no video on the external monitor. So this week I finally did the research and bought a new laptop computer and have spend the week restoring backups and reloading all my applications on the Windows Vista64 operating system.

2. Chickens are evil to gardens. I wasn’t thinking about it and planted my new seedlings that I have been growing indoors. I went to work for a day, came back with the chickens having made a tasty meal of my little plants. I now have chicken wire hoops around the remaining plants and am trying to figure out if there is a cheap way to energize it with solar electricity to keep them away from my poor plants. I will also be building a chicken run. No more free range for these little chickens until my garden gets a bit more mature.

3. Installing fiberglass insulation under the kitchen. I live in a tri-level house. This means there is a crawlspace under the kitchen and great room. I have always wanted to put insulation in there to keep the tile on the kitchen floor from being ice-cold in the morning. This month I finally did it. As it is summer, I haven’t noticed if the kitchen tiles are colder than they used to be. I probably should have done the geek thing and taken temperature reading of before and after.

4. Dealing with a 5 month old. This is the age of flipping around, scooting across the floor, drool like Niagara Falls, and waking up at all hours of the night – My wife has been an angel dealing with him, but where I used to sleep through anything short of a nuclear blast – I’m starting to wake up early in the morning and taking him for an hour before I go to work so she can sleep in. To top it off, last night my 4 year old daughter got into our bed and about 2am pushed me off the mattress…All the books say just take her back to her room, which I did. She immediately came to “full alert”, and ran back to our bedroom. Tired as I was, I just went and slept in the guest room. Just didn’t have the energy to fight the epic battle of “sleep in your room”

As for the fan I keep promising to install in my daughter’s bedroom…yeah, still in the box. Maybe tonight…after I organize the garage and finish installing the insulation under the great room, assuming she doesn’t fall asleep in her room that is.

Resolutions for the New Year

As 2008 approaches, it’s time to brush off those new year’s resolutions.

Mine are pretty standard

  1. Exercise the Body
  2. Exercise the Mind
  3. Keep the financial house in order
  4. Be the family guy

Towards that end, I’m doing several things in 2008.

  • Body: The first is that I’m Tivo’ing the show “Biggest Loser”, and will be joining their Million Pound Match-up. I’m hoping to stay inspired as I strive to get rid of those 25 pounds that have crept up since my college days.
  • Mind: SharpBrains is a good place to start. So is reading a book, playing word games and filling out crossword puzzles. My daughter got a microscope for Christmas (yes, geek-in-training!) and I’m sure I’ll enjoy showing her how to use it and exploring the back yard with her.
  • Finances: Well, I’m pretty good on this front, although things have been a bit touch and go the last 3 months or so. This year was tough with the paying off of the kitchen appliances, paying the midwife for the birth of my son, and all the other various sundries that go with welcoming a new addition to the family. I’m planning on tightening the belt (figuratively and literally) as I will be bringing low-cost and healthy meals to work more often instead of going out for high-calorie/high-fat fast food. I’m also going to work on not being the sucker for my daughter and getting her everything she asks for. I know I should say no, but I have to admit that getting her a pretty dress and seeing her eyes light up is certainly a lot of fun!
  • Family: It’s not just about kids, it’s about my partner as well. Somewhere along the way we lost our “date-night” and ended up with me coming home and taking care of the kids while she goes out for a kid-free breather and coffee with her friend (who also happens to have 2 kids of similar age). Time to start reviving “family game night” and of course “date night”!

So there are the 4 pillars and how I’m going to work this year and next on strengthening them.

Oh, and of course write more in the blogsphere. I’ve been away and quite preoccupied with the birth of my son and the holidays… time to carve out a bit more time to spend with writing.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

The Branding Battleground

Last night my daughter and I went to the hardware store to get some drywall anchors. Earlier that evening she had been literally swinging from the drapes in the front room and managed to pull one of the curtain rods down on her head. Daddy was of course watching the football game. After checking to make sure she was all right and giving her the proper scolding about how the living room was not a jungle gym we set about to repair the damage.

Spackling the holes was about a 30 second job. Spackle is one of those items that is always handy to have around, whether you are a college student or the parent of a 3 year old, having a can of this wonder paste around the house is a must.

Once the spackle dried and my team was well on its way to winning the game, we headed out to the hardware store for some much needed heavy duty drywall anchors.

There are many places that I try to avoid in Wal-mart and Target because my wife and I are trying to make an attempt at raising a brand-free child. We have intentionally made a choice to limit the amount of branding and advertising that she is exposed to. I really didn’t think that I would need to start avoiding certain sections of the hardware store as well. But last night I realized that even in Man’s Sacred Cave of Wonders, certain aisles are to be avoided at all costs.

I swear my daughter can pick out a Cinderella or Dora character from a mile away, it’s like it’s her secret super-power. Walking down one of the aisles to the restroom I got hit with a “Wait, Daddy look at that, it’s so beautiful!” What she was referring to was a package of Disney Princess wall stickers.

There’s a double whammy – Disney princesses and stickers together! Two things that my daughter absolutely loves.

Then I really started looking around, and I realized that as parents we are subjected to branding from advertisers at every turn.

Colleen Kimmet recently wrote an article about Raising a Brand-Free Kid. In it she talks about the constant battle we as parents face dealing with marketers.

Parents as sitting ducks

All the parents interviewed said they feel targeted by advertisers, and indeed, the desire to make one’s child happy is a powerful marketing tool.

Verbrugge, who used to work as a consultant on projects related to children’s online activities, says she attended many marketing conferences as part of her job.

“It taught me how sophisticated marketers are in reaching people, and more and more how integrated marketing is in everything we see and do,” she says.

“I think we’re seen as consumers…how much wallet share do kids have, and how much can they influence our spending.”

The article also talks about a book that I am going to have to check out from the local library:

In her book Buy Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds, Susan Gregory Thomas explores the widespread and controversial phenomenon of using spokes-characters in advertising to young children.

I thought that this quote was particular poignant:

The retired Grade 1 teacher says he regularly saw different trends and fads sweep through the school, but in his own class and home he tried to encourage individuality.

“While it lines the pockets of large corporations, branding undermines creativity and choices, in a sense,” he says.

“[Diversity] encourages the capacity to create something different.”

But at the end of the day, as the article points out, just like living organically, buying from sustainable resources, limiting processed foods and living the values you want and that you want your kids to have, it’s really all about making that conscious choice to do what you believe is best. And sometimes what’s best leaves you with a sobbing child who may never thank you for making that decision to walk away from the 2 foot tall Disney Princess wall stickers.