Monday, October 23, 2006

How many cups of coffee do you need to be functional this morning?

I'm off the wagon. And when I fall, I fall hard.

It's not just the regular this time—I'm into the hard stuff, like cappuccino and those Starbucks drinks with the nifty, pseudo-European names (ah, my soul for one sip of sweet, sweet Moccachino!). I would like to blame my current baby-induced insomnia and resulting massive accumulated sleep debt, or my wife's concurrent addiction to Arnold Palmers (half lemonade, half iced-tea) from the new coffee shop down the street, but really these are just lame excuses for my own weakness. And so I'm back to living life by the drop, or more precisely, by the shot of Cafe Estima Blend (fair trade, of course).

So for those of you who, like me, only find their groove after ingesting enough bean-o-genic stimulants to put Whitney Houston in a coma, here is the definitive equation that will help you at least put a cap on your daily consumption.

C= In shots of espresso, the amount of caffeine you consume in an average morning
St= The hours of sleep you got last night (subtract one for every time you woke up in a cold sweat, thinking about the things you need to do today)
Su= The hours of sleep you need to remain civil with telemarketers
K= How many kids do you have? Kids in diapers are worth two; kids over age 18 are worth half
Bt= How busy are you today? (1-15 with 1 being “easy like Sunday morning” and 15 being “presently birthing triplets”)
Bu= How many hours per day do you usually spend in non-recreational activities?
N= Hours of naptime you can squeeze in this afternoon

Cups is the number of cups of coffee you should consume before operating heavy machinery

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who Should You Vote For?

Now here's a loaded equation...

After using the previous equation to pair parenting styles with a method book, I thought it might be possible to use a similar format to pair political ideas with a candidate. Also, here in Montana, we're staring down the barrel of a tight election, and I thought I might be able to use math to gently skew voters toward the candidate of my choice (insert evil laugh).

Just kidding. The following equation is as non-partisan as I could possible make it, and does more to measure and define your personal opinion than to choose candidates in the abstract. The crux, of course, is nailing down politicians' beliefs enough to accurately chart their numbers (though letting your bias, beliefs and opinions peek through this equation is as telling as the eventual result, itself).

Who Should You Vote For?
(first find your score and then compare it to candidates' scores)

Order the following traits or political issues according to how important they are to you or how central they are to the candidate’s message (1-7 with 1 being most important).
___ II=Iraq ___ EI= Economy ___DI= Education ___ CI= Character
___ SI= Smarts ___ MI= Immigration ___ GI=Globalization

I=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Bring the troops home; 10= Stay the course

E=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Tax and spend; 10= Trickle down

D=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Support public education; 10=Parents should choose the best schools for their children

C=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Candidates’ private lives should be private; 10= Candidates should model family values

A=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Brains make the candidate; 10=The candidate is but a faceplate

M=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Bring us your huddled masses; 10=Protect our borders

G=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Buy local; 10=Free trade

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Which Parenting Method Book is Right for You?

Currently, the babe is going through a rather focused amber-alert stage, which involves screaming bloody murder if handed even briefly to someone other than mommy, daddy, or the dog (because, of course, anyone but the aforementioned trio is trying to sell him to the circus). Advice we've received to combat this includes letting him scream, waiting patiently for the natural end of this developmental stage, passing him gradually and only for short periods of time, and using string to attach his feet to a mobile (we're not sure how, exactly, this last one would help, but our friend is sure this would solve all our problems).

Making this and every other parenting decision more difficult is the fact that each recommender backs their advice with expert opinion. For every kooky technique, there is an MD/PhD looking to ride it to status as the next Dr. Spock.

The other side of this (and what makes parents vulnerable to advice-book smoke and mirrors), is the fact that we really have no idea what we're doing. Most days, if the babe eats, sleeps and poops without falling down the basement stairs or joining his dog in the hands-on experience of rotting fish at the K9 beach, we chalk it up in the Good Day column. For the nuts and bolts, we need advice. This is why our bookshelf sags under the weight of every 734-page encyclopedia of baby knowledge ever published.

Unfortunately, cross referencing these produces more contradictions than a politician on November 9th.

Dear reader, please heed this humble blogger's advice and choose but one method book on which to hang your child's Harvard dreams. And which one depends not on some absolute measurement, but on your own predisposition as parents. Solve this equation to simplify your choice:

First, rank these parenting issues in terms of their importance to you (1-6 with 1 being “this is the key to a socially adept, super intelligent, self actualized baby”):
___ SI= Spoiling a baby ___ TI= Ceasing thumb sucking and/or pacifier use
___ ZI= Sleep training ___ PI= Potty training ___ EI= Eating
___ FI= Discipline during tantrums

S= Do you think it is possible to spoil a baby? (1-10 with 1 being “anything you want, my little prince” and 10 being “the prince should learn to enjoy playing alone with cardboard”)

T= Do you believe in breaking children of thumb sucking and pacifier use, or letting this habit fade naturally? (1-10 with 10 being “at age two, out comes the hot pepper sauce”)

Z= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: Babies, ages 8-12 months, should sleep…
• 1= In your bed and on their own schedule
• 3= In a co-sleeper and with soothing before they cry
• 6= In a crib with soothing only after they have cried a reasonable amount of time
• 10= In a crib placed in another room, without soothing even if they cry

P= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: A 30-month-old who is not yet potty trained should…
• 1= Be left to discover toilet training when he or she is ready—hopefully before college
• 3= Be given gentle encouragement with any sign of interest
• 6= Be rewarded for using the toilet
• 10= Spend ten minutes on the toilet, every hour

E= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: A picky eater should…
• 1= Not eat if he or she does not want to—they will develop more sophisticated tastes over time
• 3= Continue to be presented with many food options and encouraged to try them
• 6= Be rewarded for finishing their food with desert or other appropriate incentives
• 10= Be presented with the same food until it is eaten

F= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: A child who is throwing a tantrum should…
• 1= Be cuddled and comforted
• 3= Be carried gently to a quiet area where they can work through their problem
• 6= Be left completely alone until the tantrum subsides
• 10= Be spanked

If Book is less than 5, go with The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears
If Book is between 5 and 9, use Touchpoints, by Barry Brazelton
If Book is between 9 and 13, use the standby: Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care
If Book is between 13 and 18, try New Parent Power, by John Rosemond
If Book is over 18, consider Dr. James Dobson on Parenting

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To scoop the poop? (musings on running with baby and dog)

So, I went for a run yesterday. This might not seem like a big deal, but believe me, with a five-month-old and a high-energy labrador retriever, running takes on a whole new dimension. Especially when said labrador is intent on touring local parks in hope of consuming goose poop, but otherwise ranks running on pavement on par with the intestinal bacteria, giardia, to which he is unusually prone. Which is why, lately, I've been really trying to focus on the other side of running, which is, of course, NOT running. I'm down to about seven miles a week and working hard to cut out this last little bit. Wish me luck.

But alas, every so often I fall off the wagon and find myself chugging along behind the running stroller in fits and starts as the dog alternates between pulling manically toward the nearest park (the location of each he has committed to olfactory memory) and pooping himself silly.

This would be merely sad if it weren't for my other running conspirator, who demands perpetual motion. Woe be unto ye who stops the running stroller, lest the voice of the babe ring forth from every mountain top. So doing my platic-bag duty every time the dog squats and grimaces entails a one-handed scoop, with the other hand continuing to rock the stroller, while trying to keep the labrador from pulling the entire rig into traffic in hopes of expediting the park experience.

Thus, quick decision-making is a must and I found myself in need of an equation:

P= The number of people who caught your dog in flagrante defecato
L= If left, how many people would encounter this poop in the course of an average day (add those who would smell it, see it, and then double any that are likely to touch it)?
R= How many times are you likely to return to this same spot in the next month?
F= In dollars, the fine your city poses on unrepentant poop-ignorers
I= The inconvenience of scooping the poop, which can be augmented by lack of near garbage cans, an unusual number of holes in the plastic bag, especially foul and/or runny poop, and, of course, the potential for the world to spin off its axis, prompted by the screams of innocent youth (1-10 with 10 being "easier to build small kiln on the spot, cook poop to crisp, then shatter it into miniscule shards")

If ScoopIt is greater than one, you should get up and personal with your dog's solid waste