in a perfect world of yancies: December 2012

22 December 2012

Me To You, The Merriest!

I've pretty much got everything on my list, but we're off in the morning to spread some holiday cheer, Franklin style. In the meantime, just a few recent photos.
Holiday Lights
And thanks to Grandpa Ray and Grandma Rhonda for the tasty treats on the table :)

Walked over to the Volunteer Park Conservatory today to take a look at the awesome decorations and Christmas train (not pictured...). Franklin seemed to enjoy the sights:
Christmas Decorations at Volunteer Park Conservatory

The title of this post, by the way, is a line in this fun song from one of our favorite holiday albums:

And partly because it seemed too big to carry, partly because it looked fun, we let Franklin go ahead and open his first present:
Opening His First Xmas Present
Good stuff, and that's just the bow!

And inside, this super cool transit map of Wonderland/Looking-Glass Land:
Wonderland/Looking-Glass Land Transit Map
Love it! Thanks again, Bria and Michael!

19 December 2012

Clearing the Air

You know what I wish? I wish this was another lame post with cute pictures of my baby.

Okay, instead, I'm going to try putting this all together in one place, if only to make my thoughts feel organized.

So, first of all, the news is horrible, and the facts are clear. Thanks to the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik, for putting it nice and bluntly:
"The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children."

And the solution is also quite clear: as various and repeated studies show, more guns means more killings.

Indeed, this academic study about Australia provides a detailed and concrete example:
Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern.
Oh, and in case you're worried that the homicides and suicides by other methods would increase, they didn't: "No substitution effects occurred for suicides or homicides."

But, someone might object, Australia doesn't have a Second Amendment guaranteeing individuals the right to own guns! Neither do we!

At best our current understanding of the Second Amendment dates to Reconstruction, as discussed in the Washington Post. Rather than a statement of a right for individuals to have guns, "Originally, the Second Amendment is very much about local militias keeping check on a federal military establishment."

Again, according to Jeffry Toobin on the New Yorker website, for over 100 years, "according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon."

The current reading, on the other hand, is a product of political—and therefore reversible—decisions in the 1970's and 80's:
it is clear that the scope of the Second Amendment will be determined as much by politics as by the law. The courts will respond to public pressure—as they did by moving to the right on gun control in the last thirty years

On the vexed question of just how to begin, I've seen a compelling case on Slate for following Michael Bloomberg's lead and treating this as a public health issue, just like smoking and such. After all, if we can pass other laws for our own protection, why would we settle for absurdity and leave guns out?

Patrick Radden Keefe presents just such a consideration on the New Yorker site:
Ponder, for a second, the fact that I cannot walk into a C.V.S. today and purchase half-a-dozen packages of Sudafed, but I can walk into a gun dealership and purchase a .50 caliber rifle of the sort that U.S. snipers use in Afghanistan. In fact, I can buy six or ten—there is no limit imposed by law.

And lest this talk of health distract us into a conversation about mental illness, let me just say, as clearly as I can, that mental health reform, though important, is secondary and on its own grossly insufficient, as just this one bit from a recent New York Times article makes clear:

Even though we know from large-scale epidemiologic studies like the E.C.A. study that a young psychotic male who is intoxicated with alcohol and has a history of involuntary commitment is at a high risk of violence, most individuals who fit this profile are harmless.

In any case, public health isn't the only or necessarily even the best way to frame the terrible situation we face. Firmin DeBrabander, for example, argues, in a New York Times blog post, that the proliferation of guns in the US threatens the core of our civil society. Rather than focus on the second, his concern is for the First Amendment: "Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech."

Finally, however, I am inclined to agree with Adam Gopnik most of all. He argues, in the piece I mentioned at the start, that what we face is a moral choice. A clear moral choice.

Meanwhile, it's Wednesday, so the flags are no longer at half-mast for those children. So, speaking of mourning, thanks Magen for pointing me to this excellent piece in the Economist. Before I go give Franklin yet another hug, I'll quote the last section for you:

So unless the American people are willing to actually do something to stop the next massacre of toddlers from happening, we should shut up and quit blubbering. It's our fault, and until we evince some remorse for our actions or intention to reform ourselves, the idea that we consider ourselves entitled to "mourn" the victims of our own barbaric policies is frankly disgusting.

18 December 2012

The Near and The Dear Ones,
The Old and The Young

Well, mostly young, and definitely dear. Franklin continues to charm his way into every blog post I write... Here he is entertaining his second cousin (or is it first cousin once removed?) Diana:
Emily, Franklin, Diana

Cousins 2

He also had fun Skyping with Anders the other day.
Skype Play Date with Anders
Couple of cuties!

And lunch with Vince:
Lunch with Vince
(Aka Uncle Vinny.)

Fun to notice him noticing other cute babies too, on Skype, at daycare, and even in his copy of Global Babies:
Reading "Global Babies"
Thanks again Bria & Michael!

Also fun that he fits in his new Jayhawk outfit:
Let's Go Jayhawks!
Thanks again Wendy!

And of course he's still enjoying the tree and keeping us all on our toes:
Christmas Tree 2

Speaking of the holidays, let's end with some music. Colbert put together a pretty good version of one of my Xmas favorites:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sign Off - Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples & Sean Lennon - "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
All right, that's all for today, reader. I hope you had fun :)

15 December 2012

A Brief Reprieve

Just a little bit of Franklin on an otherwise gloomy day. Playing last night with his favorite toy:

And generously offering to pick up the check at lunch with Pete yesterday:
I Got This One
(Although it was actually Pete's card, so...)

08 December 2012

The Joy of Living
Is In the Giving

Or, to put it in another way, we probably need to up our joy around here...
I mean, sure, it's pretty joyous looking at this enthusiastic young man every day:
Eager Eater
But that line from that catchy Toys For Tots song kind of haunts me.

For a while now I've been considering a post about this sort of issue, but the article on giving in today's New York Times—which even included quotes from a philosopher (huzzah!)—sealed, as they say, the deal.

So, for one thing, the author mentions making an actual pie chart, which I agree seems helpful. Here's ours (UPDATED & improved):
2012 Giving
(Slightly bigger version here.)

Okay, there's some data, but what does it mean? Well, for one thing, we give to three radio stations, which are definitely among Peter Singer's "morally dubious" cultural institutions. Look, KEXP and KUOW are basically non-negotiable. And come on, how can we not give to Kansas Public Radio when they keep making (and we keeping playing) episode after awesome episode of the Retro Cocktail Hour?

And who knows whether campaign donations really even belong on this list? But there we are. (Most dubious from my point of view? Boy Scouts. (Why? Mostly this.) But who can say No to a charmer like Braxton?)

Interesting to note that whereas most Americans apparently give mostly to schools and churches, we basically ignore both, and give the major chunk to human services groups at home (United Way of King County) and abroad (Oxfam).

But okay, here's the real reckoning: what do all of these numbers have to do with our actual income? I've been known to puff up a bit when recalling that we give $1200 a year to Oxfam, but all of this giving—ALL—doesn't even add up to 5% of our total gross income.

UPDATE: And just where does that put us, I wondered, with respect to the rest of the country? Well, fortunately there's a super fun website run by the Chronicle of Philanthropy that has all kinds of interesting info on giving (though they're focused on charitable giving, which may skew things a bit since I'm thinking about giving in a more general way...). And it looks like although the dollar amount we're giving is on the high end, when it comes to percentage of income we're barely average.

So, yeah, I guess I'd say things are looking morally dubious after all. How about this: we can call it a start, and do our best to seek a little more joy next year. But how about you, reader? What's your take on all of this? How much is enough? Where should it go?

In the meantime, here's one more look at Franklin, doing his part to spread some joy this season:

03 December 2012

'Tis the Season

December sure knows how to throw a party! Our weekend was non-stop fun, first at a birthday party for our friend Tyler, who turned one. Already a great host—just look at all the toys he had for everyone to play with:
Franklin and Cody at Tyler's Birthday
Franklin and Cody, maybe getting an early start on parallel play?

Not the best photo, but here's the birthday boy, being held by his grandma while his mom shows him his bday cake:
Happy Birthday Tyler!

Later that day we drove up north to check out the Mill Creek Town Center Santa's Coming to Town festivities.

The highlight of the event was our friend Wendy, performing with Jazz Underground. Here's a little taste of the holiday cheer:

Sunday kept up the fun. First, after months (years?) of talking about it, we bought a chair for the living room. And thanks to the Capitol Hill Parenting group on Yahoo!, all it took was a ten minute walk and $20!
New Chair
Notice what a nice job it does of blocking Franklin from his favorite "let's not play with that" lamp :)

Next, we walked over to St. Joseph Church for the Seattle U Choirs Festival of Christmas. Really nothing like choral music in a church. Franklin seemed to enjoy it too... or at least the 30 minutes he was awake for :)

Here's a sample: Lux Aurumque, the song Emily liked the best this year (and the song that soothed Franklin to sleep for the afternoon):

And, finally, on the way home we picked up our tree at the SASG Dunshee House Tree Lot. Great trees, a good cause, nice people; no wonder they're averaging a perfect five out of five on Yelp!

Pictures soon, I promise—just as soon as we finish decorating!

So, that's our weekend. Can't wait for the next one!

Oh, and if that wasn't enough excitement, here's how Franklin started Monday morning:

Some of you have likely seen that already, but come on, how can I resist reposting it?

Okay, I'd better get back to work on the tree!