Now I’m on the cloud (9)

Tarquin and the EEESome time ago I wrote about the Macbook Air in slightly disparaging terms, wondering about the usefulness of cloud computing what with the Intertubes getting all messed up in the future.

But then I found myself in need of a simple, small and affordable laptop so I could write and podcast easily wherever I happen to be. The price tag of the Air ensured that that would not be an option, so I looked around for an alternative.

That’s when I found the ASUS Eee PC. My wife, being amazing, kind, supportive, and realizing that she would be up for a lot of whining, got it for me for father’s day (a little early, yes, but we are busy next week!)

First off, this is an amazing little machine. I am not at all used to Linux, but I had it up and running and ready to go within minutes. The interface is easy to use, well laid out and the built in applications are fun. Even with no prior knowledge, I was able to install extra applications not supported by ASUS (Audacity) and have it up and running quickly and easily. The keyboard and screen are small, so that is an adjustment, but not impossible to use, and much better than my old Palm Zire!

The media support is excellent. My son was very curious about the machine, and wanted to watch an episode of Dora on it. I was able to get him up and running within minutes, and he happily watched the show on the tiny screen, without concern for the size, although he described the process as being “a little weird.”

All in all, this is a rugged little powerhouse of a machine that serves my needs perfectly. I am really looking forward to tinkering around a little more, playing with Linux, and having some fun.

Birth Story

TarquinThis post is actually a re-post from my previous blog at fractual.com.  Just around three years ago my first son was born, and I was getting back into writing n a big way. His birth was difficult, and there were many tense moments where I was afraid for my wife and for him.

Now, he is nearly three years old, he is thriving, healthy, and happy. He has a little brother whom he loves, and he is becoming an expert on the computer. But, he is starting to drift away from me. After almost three years as my little man, he is starting to depend more on his mommy. He goes to her when he is hurt, he only wants her to read him bedtimes stories, the list goes on and on. And it sucks and it hurts. I am trying to think of ways to reconnect, without pushing him further away.

One thing we are doing is telling him stories about when he was a baby, adventures he and I went on, things like that. We have been telling the birth story recently, and he has been loving it. I remembered that I had written it up all those years ago, so I thought I would re-post.  It’s long, so feel free to skip it. I just wanted it back up, reminding me of the day he came into my life.

The Birth

After what seemed an eternity, the due date was fast approaching. For nine months, my wife and I had been eagerly anticipating this day, the day we would finally meet our baby. We had spent endless months talking to it, playing music for it, playing with any bits that stuck out, and hoping for a healthy, happy child. We had everything ready, or, as ready as we could possibly make them in the one-bedroom apartment that was all we could afford. We had been seeing a midwife for the duration of the pregnancy, and with every check-up, we became more and more confident and comfortable. Maureen was the perfect pregnant woman: while she experienced all of the possible symptoms, they were always very mild. Her check-ups were always perfect, her growth, development, and levels were always perfectly normal. She was never incapacitated by nausea, and was able to walk well into the pregnancy.

The due date came and went, with no baby. Maureen took maternity leave from work, I completed my Bachelor of Education Program at York University. We were looking forward to the birth of our baby. But the baby had some other plans.

The due date came and went, no baby. As days trickled past, we found it increasingly difficult to fill our days. We were trying to save money, and Maureen did not always want to do the things we had once done. Bicycle riding, for example, was out of the question.

A full week after the due date there was still no baby. We went once again to our see Susan, our midwife, and were told that we would have to book an ultrasound. While there was no reason to worry, it was imperative that an examination take place to see that the baby was still thriving. Susan told us that it would receive a score out of eight that would determine its overall health. A score lower than eight, and we might have to induce.

Thursday at 2:00 in the morning, Maureen had her first contraction. She woke up feeling a tightening in her uterus. All night she walked back and forth, feeling the pain of the imminent birth. Hopefully imminent. These pains were not particularly strong, and did not really feel like what she had been anticipating. The pain moved into her back, and made doing anything very uncomfortable. She spent the whole day feeling generally miserable. Hot showers and back rubs helped to alleviate some of the pain, but only for a short time. After hearing a description of Maureen’s symptoms, our midwife assured us that this was pre-labour. This, she told us, could go on for up to 48 hours. What was worse, it didn’t really indicate that labour was as imminent as we had hoped. It could fizzle out, and leave us back at the same place we were before. Waiting.

Friday morning came. Maureen had been suffering for just over 34 hours now. While still miserable and uncomfortable, we had to go to the ultrasound, to see about the baby’s in-utero health. Unable to handle the subway, we splurged on a cab ride there, and tried to wait as patiently as possible. The African-themed art of the waiting room did little to sooth and relax us, fixated as it was on various carnivorous animals, peering out at us with unbridled fury behind tastefully matching frames. Finally, they called Maureen. I had to wait outside until the examination was finished.

I waited until at last they called my name. Maureen was laying a bed, looking miserable. Her back was hurting, she had to pee, and the news was not good. The baby’s score was 6/8. Although that is 75%, a seemingly decent score, the two marks deducted were because the levels of amniotic fluid were low, very low. On the phone to our midwife, she told us to get to the hospital. Maureen was going to need to be induced.

Another cab home and frantic phone calls to Maureen’s parents. Could they meet us at home and drive us to the hospital? Of course they could. At home, we finished the long-ago stated packing of the bags. Just a few last items to throw into the mix and off we went.

The trip down to St. Michael’s hospital was long and slow. Traffic conspired to thwart us at every turn, but slowly, slowly we made it closer and closer to the hospital. At last, we were there. As we rode the elevator up to the 15th floor, Maureen turned to me and said, “I think my water just broke.” Truly, we were on our way!

Our midwifery student Elena met us as we left the elevators. The triage room was packed, she told us. We would go directly to the birthing room to get set up. I was in charge of getting Maureen signed in, while they found the room and got set up.

The birthing room was large, room enough for several people. Maureen had been experiencing labour pains for 36 hours now, and was very sore. Susan, our midwife told us that we would probably have to induce labour. There were three possible ways to do this, but as it appeared that Maureen’s membranes had ruptured, the most likely one was a drug called Oxytocin. This would be administered via an I.V. drip. There was still a chance that this would end in a Caesarean Section, but first they would make every effort to get Maureen on the path of a natural childbirth.

Maureen changed into a hospital gown, and the medical intervention began. Elena attached two monitors to Maureen’s belly. The first measures the baby’s heartbeat, the second Maureen’s contractions. These results were visible on a screen, and the heartbeat pattern was printed out to a long strip of paper. There is nothing quite as reassuring as seeing the strong, steady heartbeat of your unborn child as it traces lines along the screen. I would soon see the other side of this comfort, however.

Dr. Yudin, who would have to be our attending physician for the birth, came in and did an examination of Maureen. Her water had indeed broken. Oxytocin though an I.V. drip would be needed. Oxytocin could cause very strong contractions, and Dr. Yudin and Susan both strongly suggested that Maureen should consider an epidural. After 36 hours of pain, Maureen agreed.

By 6:00 that evening, Maureen had the I.V. the epidural, the two monitors on her belly, and blood pressure cuff, a monitor that directly attached to the head of the baby (giving a more accurate heartbeat reading) and a catheter. This was not the natural childbirth we had been hoping for.
After all this, we had to wait some more. The Oxytocin was on an amazingly slow drip. I could watch the countdown on the monitor, and give Maureen a play-by-play. “Just enough Oxytocin left for 72 hours.” I would tell her. “Man, I hope we don’t need that much.” We would watch the baby’s heart rate, listed to its steady beat, and wait. Doctors, nurses, and various hospital staff would come in and see how things were going. All signs were pointing in the positive direction. The heartbeat was fairly strong and steady, Maureen was dilating, slowly but surely, and the epidural made the pain bearable. We just waited and waited.

Then the bad stuff started. Watching our unborn baby’s heartbeat when it is strong and steady is a fine thing. Watching it when it suddenly drops is very, very horrible. The longer this labour progressed, the more in distress the baby was becoming. Maureen was not fairing very well either. The epidural would wear out, and the anesthesiologist would take some time to arrive. Maureen was feeling sick, and occasionally vomited. When the baby went into distress, Maureen had to have an oxygen mask as well. For those of you keeping count, that is seven wires, tubes, or monitors attached in some way to her.

At 2:00AM, Dr. Yudin arrived again to do a check-up. The nurses were sure that Maureen was fully dilated, but every effort to push resulted in further fetal distress. The little heart just couldn’t handle it. This baby was not coming out the natural way. Dr. Yudin finally said the dreaded words. Emergency. C. Section. This is when chaos erupted. Doctors and nurses were running in and out. Pages were being sent to anesthesiologists and pediatricians. Clair, our nurse, told me to pack up all of our belongings and take them over to the recovery room. Maureen was unhooked from most of her wires and tubes, and the nurses pushed her down the hall and away from me. I could go into the operating room, they told me, but I had to wait until they were all set up. There is no worse place to be than outside the operating room where Doctors are prepping your wife for an emergency c-section after 48 hours of difficult, painful labour. It is the most hateful place in the world.

People were running in and out of the O.R., getting things, getting ready, NOT LOOKING ME IN THE EYE AS THEY RAN BY. That made me very upset. Why were they not looking at me, I wondered. What do they know that they are not telling me? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THERE. I could hear the clatter of equipment, the babble of voices, and whenever the door opened, I could see people frantically moving equipment, setting up monitors and tents and whatever they hell they use in the O.R. There were only two things that made me feel slightly better. At one point, the anesthesiologist came out of the O.R. and went to the next room. I wondered what was wrong. What was he missing, what did he need? He shuffled out of the second room, surgical booties scraping on the floor, carrying an old, beat-up clipboard. If he had time to pick up a clipboard, I reasoned, things were going all right in there. The next thing that made me feel better was when the respiratory specialist came to scrub up. He introduced himself to me, and explained his function. “Hopefully,” he said, “I will not be needed.” He went in and got himself prepared. Susan and Elena came and helped me get suited up. Hair covering, mask, robe, booties. I was ready to go. They allowed me to enter the O.R.
My dear Maureen was on a table, arms outstretched in a position familiar to any guilty Catholic, shivering uncontrollably, a side effect of the triple dose of the epidural. I sat beside Maureen, up beside her head. She was not enjoying this. I was not enjoying this. Nobody was enjoying this. There were at least eight people in the room, doctors, nurses, hangers-on. It seemed like too many people for such a small baby.

Dr. Yudin carefully cut Maureen open, and extracted the baby. Maureen asked, “What is it? A boy or a girl?” I peeked over the tent to my slimy little baby. “What do you see, daddy?” Dr. Yudin asked. The baby was covered with goo, blood, and vernix. I couldn’t see what gender my baby was because of the coiled umbilical cord. “I see a whole lot of stuff,” was the only answer I could give at the time. Dr. Yudin laughed and moved the cord away so I could see that we had a boy. “We have a little Tarquin,” I told Maureen. She was still shivering and sick from the drugs. The Doctors took him away and gave him the once over. The respiratory doctor gave me the thumbs up as he left the room.

The problem with the birth was readily apparent. Tarquin is a big boy, with a big head. Weighing in at 9 pounds, with a head 39 cm in diameter, he was not going to fit. He was also slightly offset, and was trying to come into the world crooked. Other than that, he was a fine, healthy baby boy. I have almost forgotten the events at the hospital already. The fear, pain, and discomfort is now erasing itself as I spend more time with Maureen and Tarquin, my perfect little family.

Iron Man Releases Statement

Iron Man

Famed super hero Iron Man has just released a statement to the public stating that he is sick and tired of being called a “Second String” super hero in reviews for his new film.

“Seriously,” he was quoted as saying. “That shit is just not cool. I was an Avenger when Spider-Man was just a whiny teenager. Hell, I LED the Avengers for awhile! And don’t forget who was a father figure to that wall crawler? That right, baby, ME! I built him a suit and everything. And has Tobey McGuire ever won an Academy Award? Or Kirsten Dunst? No way. Look at my movie. Robert Downey Jr? Oscar. Gwyneth Paltrow? Oscar. That’s what I am talking about. I can’t even think of another Oscar award winning superhero ever!”

When reporters brought up Nick Cage and Ben Affleck Iron Man grew defensive. “Seriously? Nick Cage? Have you seen what he has been making recently? I mean The Wicker Man? What the fuck was that? And Affleck? That was for writing a touchy-feely screenplay about growing up and hugging your friend and shit, right? Some super hero.”

Iron Man also hastened to point out that his film had grossed $100 Million over it’s opening weekend. “As much as Daredevil made in it’s entire run!” he shouted. “And almost as much as Ghost Rider! I’ll rule them all! Except that little pissant Spider. Man, I HATE that kid.” Iron Man was eventually led away by The Incredible Hulk, who was holding up a sign that read “June 13th, 2008.”

Passion

This blog has been quiet this week, and I feel I should explain. I had originally planned to post something every day, or at least every other day, to keep the content fresh and to have new things in the feed all the time. In doing so, I published some less than stellar material. And that is not cool.

I discovered when I write about things I am passionate about, it gets results. It gets comments, links, builds community, and makes for a much better experience for everybody. Except for the people who disagree with me. So I have a new rule now. I’m not going to write about something I am not passionate about, or at least very interested in. I have a few other projects on the go; my second novel is almost finished, my dad’s book is ready for printing, I have a new podcast idea, lots and lots of things are going on. So, if you don’t see me around here, it’s not that I have faded, I’m just being more selective about what I post. You can always check me at Twitter. I always have time for Twitter.

Oh yeah, go buy Infected. It’s amazing. See, I’m passionate about supporting the community.

Because Some Shit Ain’t Right

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Mike “The Birdman” Dodd at Podcamp Toronto this year, and I have been checking out his blog and chatting about nothing much with him on Twitter. His most recent post was a call to action, and I accepted the call, because some shit ain’t right.

A University Paper (the University of Toronto no less) published an article entitled “10 Reasons it’s Not Ok to Be Fat”. That ain’t right.

Here is the response I sent to the President of UofT, the editors, and various other people on staff.

Dear Dr. David Naylor, et al:

I was deeply disappointed to read about the article “10 Reasons It’s Not Ok to be Fat” printed in the March 27th 2008 edition of The Newspaper. Let me begin by saying that while I firmly believe in freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, this article falls so categorically into the realm of hate speech that it is unacceptable. Imagine if the article had targeted not the overweight, but some other easily identifiable and marginalized group. Would this article have been acceptable if it were marginalizing Blacks, Asians, Homosexuals, or Women? If the article was “10 Reasons it’s not OK to be Disabled” , would it have been printed in this newspaper? I truly doubt it. I wonder, then, why it is considered acceptable to publish a hate piece about the overweight. Is it that the author is unaware of the genetic conditions involved? Does he really believe that fat people are fat just because they sit around doing nothing but eating all day? Or that overweight people are less than human, and thus are the perfect target for this kind of abuse?

Is it not enough that the mass media continues its obsession with the anorexic, waif thin models and celebrities that fill pages of magazines, and our television screens? The University of Toronto is one of the most distinguished universities in the world, in one of the most eclectic and multicultural cities in the world, but this hate piece is published by its student community paper. Is the University of Toronto not intended to be a bastion of higher learning? I suppose not, because this article drags it firmly back into the gutter of shallow, worthless journalism. I have no suggestions, nor desire to see the author punished. I just wanted to write to express my profound disappointment and dismay.

Regards,

Drew Beatty

In which I realize I make as much as an Avenger

As I was sweeping the kitchen floor today, I had a sudden realization. I currently make around the same salary as the Avengers did, circa 1985.

Let me explain. Back when I was a somewhat nerdy child, there was nothing I loved more than Spider-Man. I couldn’t get enough of him – he is still my all-time favorite superhero, and I am currently indoctrinating my children to be fans of Spider-man as well. Tonight, for no discernible reason, I remembered a particular storyline that had Spider-man down on his luck and looking to join a superhero team to make the rent. One of the teams he approached was the Avengers, but he was quickly shown the door.

Captain America, the leader of the Avengers at that time, happened to mention to Spidey how much being a member of the Avengers paid. I remember thinking at the time that they must have been super rich to make that kind of money!

Today, I realized that I am making Avengers money. Roughly speaking, not accounting for inflation, or exchange rates, I make around the figure that Captain America mentions. And let me tell you, I am really not rich. I seriously hope that they had tax free status, or could at least write off things like their costumes and wear and tear on their vehicles as business expenses. I mean, the Hulk would have gone through his salary on new pants in a week! I really hope he got a per diam.

So, there you have it. I am making Avengers money now, like a grown up. I wonder how I can make Iron Man money? Because he had all the toys.

A Little Earth Hour Rant

Earth HourI understand the power of a symbolic gesture, but tonight’s Earth Hour encapsulates how humanity can always get things wrong. I’m sure tonight lots and lots of people will turn off their lights and feel like they have done their part, and tomorrow it will be business as usual. What will change? Nothing really.

What really bugs me, though, is the idea of the concerts and big events that are taking place to celebrate earth hour. Now, I understand that people are seeking alternative sources of energy to power these events, but it still seems idiotic to go out of your way to hold an event that uses power during the one time a year you are asked to use no power. In Tel Aviv they had volunteers ride stationary bikes to generate power for the concert. Total power generated in this way? 2.5 Kilowatts. The remaining 50 Kilowatts needed was generated by burning used falafel oil. I am sure that falafel oil is cleaner burning than regular fuels, but still, why not just DON’T BURN THE OIL! Don’t hold the event. It reminds me of when I was a teenager, reading about the tons of litter and refuse left after an Earth Day March. No march, no little. Simple, really.

And candles. Lots and lots of people are going to be burning candles tonight. Remember that paraffin (most cheap candles are made of this) is a by-product of petroleum. In other words, candles ain’t clean either. And flashlights? Well, are you just going to toss those batteries when you are done?

I don’t want to sound like some cold hearted cynic. I am not a global warming doubter. I know our planet is in trouble. I just think that events like Earth Hour are a panacea. People feel good, but in the end, it doesn’t help. But people THINK it helps, and thus don’t seek out any meaningful way to make lasting changes in their energy consumption and lifestyle. And this is a problem.

I was delighted to read a contrary opinion the The Toronto Star today. The Star has been one of the most vocal supporters of Earth Hour, and I was happy to see that they gave Mendelson Joe a forum to call bull on this event. As he is an infinitely more talented writer than I, I will give him the final words:

“I don’t think Earth Hour will make a difference whatsoever in the scheme of things. It’s delusional. It will not make people more aware of the problem. It’s a feeble recognition of our decline, and it won’t amount to a row of beans unless we plant beans every day”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Easter Egg Hunt

kaypo.jpgI’m a little bit late to the party on this one, but family commitments kept me from blogging more than one post yesterday. Chris Brogan had an intereting idea for Easter, an egg hunt where the eggs are blogs, not eggs. It seemed like an interesting exercise, and so I thought I would toss my hat into the ring.

The blog I have chosen to write about is a very new one – it has yet to gain an audience, but I think that most people who are interested in music will find it a valuable onto add to their RSS feeds. The name of the blog is Kaypo.ca, and it was started by a guy who really loves music. He does more than just write reviews – he meditates on the nature of the musical experience, with wit, eloquence and passion. He is not trying to be the hippest kid on the block, he is just a guy who wants to communicate about the experience he has had as a music lover for his whole life. He shares songs he is listening to right now, and interesting things he has found on the Internet. If you like music, you will like this blog. The blog, once again, is Kaypo.ca, and it is worth your time.

Destruction of a Peep (For J.C.)

Good news everyone! I have photographic proof that Peeps, although horrifying, are easy to defeat. In fact, they are powerless to defend themselves against even a one year old boy. Observe the destruction, if you dare:

Peep Attack 1

The terrible Ephraim-beast has caught the Peep firmly in his grasp. There is no escape possible for the Pinkus Peepisicus.

After a brief period of playing with his prey, the Ephraim beast devours the Pinkus Peepisicus. Like most larger predators, the Ephraim beast devours his prey whole, bones and all.

Peep Attack 2

Peep Attack 3

Peep Attack 4

Finally nothing remains but the slightest amount of Peep dust, visible around the mouth of the Ephraim-beast.

Now fully sated, the Ephraim-best will usually sleep off his meal and dream of the next hunt.


Happy Easter Everyone!

As an atheist, I am torn around religious holidays. My family is religious, and in fact my dad is an Anglican minister. And here I am, an atheist. Talk about uncomfortable.

My problem really isn’t with my dad, we found our peace a long time ago – it’s with my children. My wife and I did very little to celebrate the holidays until we had kids. Now, they see the decorations, go to the family parties and know SOMETHING is going on, so we have incorporated more and more traditions into our routines. Today we made easter eggs, that sort of thing.

But, it’s wholly separated from  religion, which is how I prefer it. I wonder it at some stage my kids will start to ask questions about religion, and how long until they become curious? What will I do then? I don’t know. I like to think I have a bit of a spiritual side, but I’m not sure what I will do then.  Any ideas?