Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Round One Goes to the Toddler [Ellie]

Yesterday, we started potty training Stephen. It went really well!

. . .For the first hour-and-a-half. And then it fell to pieces.

We were all set. Stephen and I shopped for undies and gummy bears--both his selection. We got home and tried on all 15 pairs: Thomas, Lightning McQueen, Monster Trucks. He loved them! He went potty 3 times in 90 minutes!

After nap, we headed back to the potty. He dutifully sat for several minutes while we sang songs. Nothing doing. I let him off; he ran directly to the corner and peed on the floor.

Eighteen hours, eight accidents, and but two successes later things were looking grim. Stephen still wanted the Big Boy Underpants, but no longer wanted to have anything to do with the potty. I've talked with four different adults now who all had the same message for me: quit now. Try again in a month.

That is exactly what I plan to do.

This was supposed to go so much better.

The potty train has been derailed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thoughts on current events [Bryan]

Various tidbits from the political scene, both good and bad:

1. Many of my conservative friends are now excited about Texas Governor Rick Perry, and want him to be our next president. For now, I'll simply point out that, at least on one issue, he seems like something of a moral monster: "He vetoed a bill that would have spared the mentally retarded, and sharply criticized a Supreme Court ruling that juveniles were not eligible for the death penalty." (source)

2. President Obama's health reform initiative had two big goals: increase access to health insurance for those who don't have it and, less well known, decrease federal health care costs. Early evidence suggests already some success on the second front: "Over the year ending May 2011, Medicare claims costs rose at an annual rate of 2.64%, as measured by the Healthcare Economic Medicare Index. That number is down 4.36 percentage points since May 2010, and down 5.53 percentage points since its November 2009 high. This represents the lowest annual growth rate in the six years S&P has been tracking the health care information." (source)

3. NATO involvement in the Libyan civil war appears to at least have avoided the worst case scenario of a long-term stalemate. Still, President Obama's handling of this issue with respect to the War Powers Act, in which he circumvented congressional approval because, the administration said, tactical bombing is not the "right kind" of hostilities imagined by the Act, remains one of the dumbest arguments I've ever heard in politics. (source)

4. The damage done to the economy by the Republican's no-compromise hostage-taking over the debt limit is now becoming evident. Everyone from the rating agencies, like S&P, to Ben Bernake, the Republican Fed Chairman, point to this wild Tea-Party brinkmanship as one important cause of recent economic turmoil (see here and here).

5. Obama's much criticized auto-bailout quietly appears to be one of things keeping the economy from becoming much worse: "Taxpayers bailed out much of the U.S. auto industry. Now the carmakers might be what saves the nation's economy from falling back into recession. After a massive restructuring and several high-profile bankruptcies, a leaner, more aggressive auto industry is making a comeback, hiring workers and ramping up manufacturing plants. From a trough two years ago, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Chrysler Group and other auto companies have added almost 90,000 manufacturing jobs, a 14% increase, according to federal employment data." (source)

6. When people blame Obama for his "out-of-control government spending," I always like to ask them to name the new legislation that has been enacted under the Democrats that increases government outlays. Beyond the 2008 stimulus, which was a one-shot deal and therefore not a driver of future deficits, they can't. The reason: significant new legislation that increases spending does not exist. Current deficits are caused almost entirely by the recession and Bush-era tax cuts.

7. New, peer-reviewed research on global warming is not encouraging: "At last year’s annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, UC Santa Barbara’s William Freudenberg gave a presentation in which he revealed that “new scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is ‘worse than previously expected,’ rather than ‘not as bad as previously expected.’” Yikes. (source)

8. Politifact verifies the reality: "The top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income -- more than the entire bottom 50 percent. The percentage of income going to the top 1 percent has nearly tripled since the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, the top 1 percent earned about 8 percent of all income. In the 1980s, that figure jumped to 14 percent. In the late 1990s, that 1 percent earned about 19 percent." Meanwhile, preserving slightly lower marginal tax rates for these wealthy folks seems to be the only major policy goal of the Republican party. (source)

Movie recommendation [Bryan]

I've been meaning to blog about this for some time, but I wanted to recommend the movie, Another Year, directed by Mike Leigh (I was previously unfamiliar with Leigh's films, but apparently he is a big deal among the movie intelligentsia). Warning: The movie is conversation driven, amounting to about 2 hours of talking, so I guess it isn't for everybody. It depicts a marriage, where a husband and wife appear to genuinely delight in their long-term relationship. The movie captures the day-to-day reality of a stable, happy marriage in a completely convincing way. Indeed, what is great is how this movie captures the communicative nuance of everyday life. Every facial expression, every eye movement, every verbal tick, every raised eyebrow is pitch perfect. The movie contrasts the marriage of the main characters, Gerri and Tom, with the storms of loneliness experienced by the people who surround it. It makes you think about the ideas of loneliness and love, where they can be found, what causes them, and how people who experience both love and loneliness affect each other. Highly recommended.