Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Christmas Pledge

We got this pledge from our uber-liberal catholic church (which, by the way, is currently undergoing an audit by our archdioses and will probably get run out of town).

The Pledge
1. I will examine my motives for celebrating Christmas.
2. I will not spend money to impress others.
3. I will avoid doing anything to oblige others to spend on me.
4. I will not engage in excess of eating, drinking, partying or anything that will reduce the freedom of myself or others.
5. I will give gifts and do activities only if they enhance life-for myself and others.
6. I will avoid gifts that are gadgets, made by complicated, energy-consuming processes that excessively pollute the environment.
7. I will choose gifts that rely on the involvement, energy and ingenuity of the recipient.
8. I will avoid buying items made by exploited workers whose land and labor are sacrificed to tempt my consumer appetites.
9. I will question the source of consumer goods before I buy.
10. I will celebrate Christmas by sharing of myself more than of my property.
11. I will give gifts of service which involve my time, my work, my spoken and written word, my art, my song, my presence-and other things that are not objects-whenever possible.
12. I will use some of my time to visit family, friends and those who have less, hurt more or who have been forgotten.
13. I will choose gifts that involve me and/or the recipient their creation and use.

The Peak of Procrastination

I must be stressing out.

I have an incredibly large workload at the moment, mainly because I am trying to get everything done before Itsy's arrival (we'll call that "time zero") and so, I find myself procrastinating to a degree that I have not reached since working on my dissertation.

What am I doing you ask?

Well, reading Dooce, for one. But, specifically, she has a great post on Sesame Street's character Count Von Count. In particular, her post on the subject focuses on his many lovers (being a vampire, he is, notably, 1,832,652 years old). His current squeeze is called "Sachertorte" and, in honor of that, I'm thinking of renaming BioMom here.

Okay, I probably won't do that, but I'm definitely renaming that little cat of ours for The Count's: "Fatatatita"!

Here Comes Itsy, Here Comes Itsy, Right Down Itsy Lane

Itsy must be coming soon. The other day I found BioMom going through the FYO's markers and checking each individual marker to see if they were still working. My attempts at explaining the economic concept of opportunity cost to her went unheard (or, more likely, were ignored).

Scene: BioMom sitting in a completely cluttered room after tearing apart a closet full of "craft supplies" and "christmas presents" testing markers and throwing them away one by one.

Me: What are you doing?

BioMom: Testing these markers.

Me in my head: Doesn't this woman, a lawyer, bill like $10,000 per hour at her firm? Does she think that testing markers is worth her time??? And look at this room! It is completely torn apart!

Me: Um. Why don't you just throw them all away? It is a waste of your time and we can get new ones for, like, ONE dollar at IKEA.

She is obviously nesting. This puts into perspective my doubts on the significance of our primal, biological origins.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Winter Wonderland

My English Homework

So, for tomorrow, we were supposed to take a poem (in my case, from Billy Collins) and imitate it, producing something similar, but our own.

Here's my try at poetry. First is the Billy Collins original called "Litany" and then my version follows.

-Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.

A Litany for My Pregnant Girlfriend in Her 9th Month
Inspired by "Litany" by Billy Collins

You are the rubber band around the Sunday paper,
the watermelon in August.
You are the present under the tree on Christmas Eve,
and the gossip with the juicy secret.
You are the pizza delivery guy stuck in traffic.

However, you are not the neighbor's fallen leaves that collect in our driveway,
or the stack of ungraded papers that crowd my desk.
And you are certainly not the toothpaste's minty blast in my mouth.
There is just no way that you are that minty blast.

You are sometimes that piece of corn stuck in my teeth
maybe even the music in the elevator.
But you are usually the black and white snap-shot of the reunited 1940s couple,
or the way that the five-year-old tells strangers about her day.

You are not even close to the Aurora Borealis,
and even a cursory observation of how you now move, will show that you are not,
at least not currently, the worn 300-count cotton sheets,
or the gentle May wind in the lavender iris' petals.

And a quick look in the mirror will show that you are neither
the grove of naked birches standing in their snow bath
or the steaming mug of coffee with my morning toast.

You are also not the green eggs and ham.
But, even if you were,
I would not be the antagonistic Sam,
continually refusing your emerald gestures with silly rhymes and caveats.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Spoonbridge and Belly


This afternoon, in an attempt to give some special attention to the FYO prior to Itsy's arrival, we went out "on a date."

We saw the play Alladin and then went to The Melting Pot.

It was magical.

The play was just amazing. I dunno why. The cast must have had some great connection, because they were just incredible. Plus, there was a number in the first act that involved tap dancing. Seriously. That song "You've never had a friend like me" involved a tap dance!

Anyway, at one point, Alladin and Princess Jasmine exited the stage and then entered along the aisle and walked down among the audience. Some kid right behind us yelled out "ALLADIN!" as if he were talking to him. As if to say "Hey Alladin, I'm over here! What are you doing?" Hilarious.

Then, when, in the end Jasmine said that she chose Alladin as her groom, the FYO literally rose up her arm and yelled "YEAH!"


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


See the following article from the Washington Post, "Once a C-Section, Always a C-Section?"

Note To Self: You Never Really Were In Control Anyway

Conversation from this morning:

Me: Okay! You need to get dressed! Go and pick out what you want to wear!

FYO (after coercing her up to her room and convincing her that she is able to dress herself): I want to wear this read shirt with this pink sweater!

She pulls out a red shirt with buttons and a collar and a slightly heavier pink shirt without a collar but also with buttons. Not a sweater. Then she pulls out a cream and black plaid wool skirt. It is about 50 degrees here today and I had planned on taking her to the climbing wall since we're both off from school.

Me: Well, instead, how about you wear this white t-shirt underneath the pink "sweater" and some pink stretchy pants since we'll be climbing?


Me: But the red and the pink. . . Well, they don't really match.

My agenda rears its ugly head and she completely recognizes it.


Me: Okay, I don't really care. Wear whatever you want, but please, just get dressed, okay?

FYO: Okay, I'll wear a white t-shirt but I don't want to wear THIS one because it has "HalLoween" written on it.

Me: But with the "sweater" on, you won't even SEE the "Halloween."

FYO: IT'S NOT EVEN HALLOWEEN ANYMORE!!! I want a different t-shirt!

Me: But we don't have any more plain white t-shirts.

I go back to the drawing board and pull out some other white shirts with other sweater combinations for her.

In the mean time, the FYO decides she's completely okay with it all.

FYO: You know, it doesn't matter what you look like on the OUTSIDE. Just what you look like on the INSIDE!

I resisted saying -- but I don't have to LOOK at your insides all day long. !

Monday, November 21, 2005

Itsy, Meet Chihuly

Discrete Changes In One's Lifetime

To the extent that we experience discrete moments in our life that result in changes (large and small) this is one of those for me:

[Blogauthor's first name],

Congratulations. The PRT committee just met and voted unanimously for renewal, which in this case means tenure. I am required to notify you within 7 days of our vote so I have attached the notification letter. The letter that goes to the dean is not due until December 9. You will get a copy of that letter when it is transmitted to the dean.

[PRT Committee Chair]

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Itsy On Board

The Economics of Donor Insemination

Today's New York Times sported the article "Hello, I'm Your Sister. Our Father is Donor 150."

It is another installation in the larger discussion about how children created through donor insemination (DI) are dealing with their personal realities. Ryan Kramer, the donor-conceived son of Wendy Kramer, founded the Website Here, more than 5,000 people have joined with the hopes of getting in touch with their anonymous donor.

Many registry members, however, are happy to "settle for contacting their half-siblings, who actually want to be found. As they do, they are building a new definition of family that both rests on biology and transcends it."

While many donor-conceived children prefer to call their genetic father their 'donor,' to differentiate the biological funciton of fatherhood from the social one, they often feel no need to distance themselves, linguistically or emotionally, from their siblings.

DI children seem to find comfort in meeting their half-siblings. In part it may be due to the relatively scant information they have about their donor and, therefore, their physical/medical history; one-half of the "nature" part of that nature/nurture equation.

For one DI daughter, knowing one of her half-siblings has "eased her frutration of knowing only the scant information about her biological father contained in the sperm bank profile."

According to "Sperm bank officials" (Now THAT would be a title to which to aspire: "I'm an accountant down at Wells Fargo. What do you do?" "Oh, I'm in banking too! I'm a Sperm bank official.") about 30,000 kids are born to donors every year. The industry, however, is largly unregulated and so banks do not have a clear idea how many children are born to each donor and where they (kids? donors?) are.

This could cause a pesky regression in our little eugenics experiment: the potential of unwitting incest.

Theoretically, sperm banks monitor the number of children produced from each donor and their location, limiting the sample availability based on statistical sampling on a regional basis. Of course, that is all in theory, with the problem increasing with the degree of unregulated markets (not to mention labor mobility!).

Interestingly, it is the DI Kids that are calling for more regulatio on this front:

Even as the Internet is making it easier for donor-conceived children to find one another, some are calling for an end to the system of anonymity under which they were born. Sperm banks, they say, should be required to accept only donors who agree that their children can contact them when they turn 18, as is now mandated in some Eurpean countries.

Enter economic man. Presumably there are a host of reasons why anyone would donate sperm. Possibly, (as the WashingtonPost article from last June implied), it is to help infertile (or lesbian) couples conceive. Economics would argue that it ss the bottom line that matters: money, predicting that it would mainly be donated by younger, relatively poorer men whose economic alternatives are smaller. As it stands, sperm banks typically pay men $50 to $100 per sample (customers pay about $150 to $600 per vial plus shipping). So, donors, economic theory predicts, are those men whose opportunity cost of their time (15 minutes?) is less than or equal to that $50-$100 range.

Most banks charge more for "professional" donors (those with a higher degree), but it is not clear as to whether the donors get more per donation (or whether it translates into higher "productivity", i.e. pregnancies or even smarter kids for that matter).

Donors probably aren't donating with the thought of future emails from their heretofore unknown spawn 18 years later. It would be expected that relaxing the anonymity option for donors would increase their marginal costs (future discounted marginal costs?) and therefore cause a decline in donations.

More recently sperm banks have begun to charge more for the sperm from donors who agree to be contacted by their offspring when they turn 18. But they say far fewer men would choose to donoate if they were requrie to release their identity.

And you thought you'd never think about supply and demand again after college.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

And The Countdown Begins

At the end of this week, you're going to reach an important pregnancy milestone: Your baby will be considered full term! That means you could give birth very soon. Put any unnecessary travel plans on hold now in case you go into labor early. Many airlines won't let pregnant women fly close to their due dates for this reason. It's also time to start wrapping up projects at work, get an infant car seat if you haven't already done so (you won't be allowed to leave the hospital without one), and put finishing touches on the nursery. Your baby - who now weighs about 6 pounds and is almost 19 inches long - will continue to gain about an ounce a day until he makes his debut.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Girl Money

I finally got around to reading Maureen Dowd's teaser "What's a Modern Girl To Do" for her new book.

Having come of age (and come out) at the tail-end of the second wave of the US Feminist movement, I can recognize some of the patterns she presents in her non-pithy, mainly anecdotal, New York Times Magazine splash. Basically she argues that current (young) women find little use for the "tedious" feminists of yore and their antiquated policy goals.

Women in their 20's think old-school feminists looked for equality in all the wrong places, that instead of fighting battles about whether women should pay for dinner or wear padded bras they should have focused only on big economic issues.

Now, instead of "equal pay for equal work", there's talk about "girl money."

A friend of mine in her 30's says it is a term she hears bandied about the New York dating scene. She also notes a shift in the type of gifts given at wedding showers around town, a reversion to 50's-style offerings: soup ladles and those frilly little aprons from Anthropologie and vintage stores are being unwrapped along with see-through nighties and push-up bras.

"What I find most disturbing about the 1950's-ification and retrogression of women's lives is that it has seeped into the corporate and social culture, where it can do real damage," she complains. "Otherwise intelligent men, who know women still earn less than men as a rule, say things like: 'I'll get the check. You only have girl money.'"

Dowd claims that success and family/kid are incompatible for women. Citing no legitimate academic studies, she presents evidence that sucessful women of a certain age forwent marriage and family for career.

Furthermore in relation to my recent post about name changes, She cites evidence (credible at that) of a decline in the number of women who keep their own name upon marriage:

A Harvard economics professor, Claudia Goldin, did a study last year that found that 44 percent of women in the Harvard class of 1980 who married within 10 years of graduation kept their birth names, while in the class of '90 it was down to 32 percent. In 1990, 23 percent of college-educated women kept their own names after marriage, while a decade later the number had fallen to 17 percent.
Time magazine reported that an informal poll in the spring of 2005 by the Knot, a wedding Web site, showed similar results: 81 percent of respondents took their spouse's last name, an increase from 71 percent in 2000. The number of women with hyphenated surnames fell from 21 percent to 8 percent.

"It's a return to romance, a desire to make marriage work," Goldin told one interviewer, adding that young women might feel that by keeping their own names they were aligning themselves with tedious old-fashioned feminists, and this might be a turnoff to them.

The professor, who married in 1979 and kept her name, undertook the study after her niece, a lawyer, changed hers. "She felt that her generation of women didn't have to do the same things mine did, because of what we had already achieved," Goldin told Time.

In the end, although she seems to side with these Carrie Bradshaw types (although, the comparison to me was odd. Didn't Sarah Jessica Parker lose her Gap contract for being "too old"? How can Dowd lump her character in with the 20 somethings carrying the new anti-feminist torch she's describing?), she doesn't endorse it unconditionally. She wonders about the future:

Having boomeranged once, will women do it again in a couple of decades? If we flash forward to 2030, will we see all those young women who thought trying to Have It All was a pointless slog, now middle-aged and stranded in suburbia, popping Ativan, struggling with rebellious teenagers, deserted by husbands for younger babes, unable to get back into a work force they never tried to be part of?
It's easy to picture a surreally familiar scene when women realize they bought into a raw deal and old trap. With no power or money or independence, they'll be mere domestic robots, lasering their legs and waxing their floors -- or vice versa -- and desperately seeking a new Betty Friedan.

Katha Pollitt's response is predictably articulate and smart:

Maureen Dowd doesn't read my column. I know this because in her new book, Are Men Necessary?, she uncritically cites virtually every fear-mongering, backlash-promoting study, survey, article and book I've debunked in this space. She falls for that 1986 Harvard-Yale study comparing women's chances of marrying after 40 to the likelihood of being killed by a terrorist, and for the half-baked theories of Sylvia Ann Hewlett (ambitious women stay single or childless), Lisa Belkin (mothers give up their careers), Louise Story (even undergraduates understand this now) and other purveyors of the view that achievement and romance/family are incompatible for women. To be fair, Dowd apparently doesn't read Susan Faludi or Susan Douglas either, or The American Prospect, Slate, Salon or even The New Republic, home of her friend Leon Wieseltier, much thanked for editorial help in her introduction--all of which have published persuasive critiques of these and other contributions to backlash lit. Still, it hurts. I read her, after all. We all do.

She admits that some of Dowd's unscientific presentation is, in fact, true:

And it's hard to deny that there's a reality out there of which she gives a slapdash, cartoon, Style-section version. There is some truth to Dowd's horrified depiction of the hypersexualized culture of "hotness."

Just that its not the whole story.

By many measures young women today are far more independent than we were--more likely to finish college and have advanced degrees, to work in formerly all-male occupations, to have (or acknowledge having) lesbian sex, to refuse to suffer in silence rape, harassment, abuse. If we're going by anecdotal evidence from our circles of friends, I know young women who've made the finals in the Intel science contest and worked on newspapers in Africa, who've had sperm-bank babies alone or with other women, who play rugby, make movies, write feminist/political/literary blogs, organize unions, raise money for poor women's abortions.


I'm amazed, actually, that feminism is still around, given the press it gets.

While Dowd might be a hot fifty-something, Pollitt rocks.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

Unexpected Origins

A week or so ago, Taggert over at A Random Walk discussed the ironic origins of the minimum wage bill.

Here's a quote from the article he references:

Progressives, including Richard Ely, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, the Webbs in England etc., were interested not in protecting women but in protecting men and the race. Their goal was to get women back into the home, where they belonged, instead of abandoning their eugenic duties and competing with men for work.

As it turns out, so-called Family Friendly policies seem to be following a somewhat similar pattern. I just re-read The Baby Boon by Burkett. In it, she points out one of the ironies of current Corporate work-life or family-friendly policies. In the mid-1900s, feminists decryed what was known as the "family wage". This was essentially a justification for paying men with wives and children higher wages not based on merit, but but on perceived need. It worked to the disfavor of working women, most of whom were single at that time. It also disadvantaged working mothers at the time, most of whom were minorities.

Ironically, Burkett argues that family-friendly policies do exactly the same thing, except now, they favor working mothers. Instead of paying people based on merit or productivity, wage and benefit subsidies in the form of work-life balance policies are heavily weighted toward those with kids.

Where Do You Stand?

Or, I should say, lean. . .

Check out this nuanced political compass.

If you're wondering, you won't be surprised to find that my coordinates are (-5,-7).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Keyword: Student Whining. REALLY

Received moments ago, exactly 9:17 p.m., two workdays AFTER the first deadline of the paper, and just hours PRIOR to the absolute deadline. Bold mine.

Dear Professor Pushover --
I really don't want to be a pain but I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish the [paper] by tonight. I've honestly been trying all day. The hardest thing for me are the graphs and I just don't feel like I can do them. I know that I did poorly on my previous [paper] and I really cannot afford to get a bad grade on this one. I am really afraid and stressed out about this. I know that I shouldn't have waited until the deadline to try and finish and I'm sorry. However, I would REALLY appreciate it if I could come to your office and have you help me with it and I could turn it in by tomorrow. I know that I am not any more special than any other student but I know that everyone just needs help once in a while. If you could please email me by tonight that would be greatly appreciatedor I'll call you office tomorrow morning. Thank you so much and I'm really sorry. If you have any questions my number is [###-###-###].

Really super sincerely,
Student X

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Is Economic Rationality Unethical?

In today's New York Times Magazine column "Why Vote?", Freakonomics authors Dubner and Levitt argue that it is not rational to vote.

Basically, because the act of voting exacts a cost on the citizen, and because their is virtually no observed benefit in terms of affecting the outcome of the election [they cite research in which mroe htan 40,000 elections were examined, comprising nearly 1 billion votes, with only 7 elections being decided by a single vote] one can discern that the costs outweigh the benefits.

Research by Patricia Funk on voting behavior in Switzerland finds that when voting became virtually costless (mail-in votes) people actually participated less. The author speculates that people voted only due to the percevied social gains: social esteem, benefits from being perceived as a cooperator or just he avoidance of informal sanctions.

Clearly this has implications for the possibility of internet voting.

I wonder what these conclusions imply for ethical behavior more generally. A friend of mine once said that her ethics were based on the question "what would happen if EVERYONE made the choice to do X?" If she could conclude that everyone doing X was a good thing, then she would go ahead and do it. If not, she would avoid the behavior. One obvious example is the defenestration of ciggy butts. If everyone did this, our streets would look like ash trays. So, even though your marginal contribution is negligible, by these ethics, you should still not throw it out the window.

Economic rationality, on the other hand, would argue that the marginal cost to society is smaller than the marginal gain to the individual (in terms of decreased cost of personal clean up).

No wonder they call it the dismal science.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Iraq Body Count

Here is a website that attempts to maintain a count of the number of Iraqi casualties of the war.

What's In A Name?

Lately, a few people have asked me what Itsy's last name will be.

It's weird because the question, for me, comes out of left field, whereas for those asking, it is completely logical.

It's weird on one hand because such a question continues along the lines of treating kid #2 differently than kid #1 just because I wasn't around when kid #1 was born (see this for an explanation). As an example, just today, a colleague of mine was asking about BioMom and I's respective time off once Itsy comes out (we're very lucky, I have six weeks off which we'll enjoy together, followed by BioMom being off until May-ish, after which I'll take the summer and fall off). When I said that I'd be back at school in the spring she pondered for a moment and followed up with something to the effect of 'I suspect that you'll fall in love with this baby and not want to leave it!' I dunno why that bothers me so. Of course I'll fall in love with Itsy (I think I have already and all I've seen so far are its Alien-like punches through BioMom's belly and a bi-monthly heatbeat!), but it feels somehow that I will be less willing to leave Itsy than the FYO.

Its weird on the other hand because I am simply not attached to the idea of ownership generally, and particularly over the brood. Just to be clear, if you're wondering, it will be "Itsy [BioMom & FYO's Last Name]." In fact, I have to say that I sort of LIKE the fact that I have a different last name. It clarifies, in my mind, that they are separate people. Independent.

I am not opposed to changing my own name, or even hyphenating it. When I express this, I often get a nod of approval from these curious friends, which also strikes me as odd. Or the suggestion that we all hyphenate our names.

Ultimately, I wonder why? Why change at all? Why hyphenate and add to the already challenging minutia of the day-to-day?

I could argue that as a lesbian family, taking the traditional route is a countercultural act. I have friends that share each other's names and I think it is a wonderful act of committment.

I suspect, too, that it makes life easier in some ways to just have the same name.

What I really wonder about though, is all of the social baggage that people put on a name. So much so, that they feel like they can comment on our personal choices.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Note To Self

Don't ask a classroom full of 19 year olds an open-ended question like this:

Can you think of any good that is NOT characteristed by the law of diminishing marginal utility.

Or. . . DO!