Future Daddy Blogger Support Group

Group white chairs
Group white chairs

The meetings are held in the basement of a church near an all-night donut shop. Although both are helpful, the location is more about the donuts than the man upstairs. The chairs are arranged in a circle. The donuts are placed on an end table in the middle. They are a focal point. The embers of a fire that never goes out. There are always more donuts.

“It’s time to start the group.” The host says. “Thank you all so much for coming today. I see a few new faces and many familiar ones. Who wants to begin today? Tyler? How about you start?”

Tyler was seated in the circle directly across from the host. Although he was a regular to the support group he was hard to remember. He had an unassuming disposition and talked in a hushed voice. The others leaned in when he spoke because he was barely heard over the buzz of the box fans. It’s not uncommon for the grown up kids of dad bloggers to shun the spotlight. Growing up online was enough. Tyler was the norm.

“Hi, I’m Tyler. You all may know me as “Little T” from the SometimesHePoopsInHisPants.com blog.”

“Hi Tyler.com” The group said in unison. Adding a dot com to their name was a joke that caught on. A way to mock their dads who’ve chronicled their lives online since birth.

“I’ve made some progress since last week when I told you I was ready to talk him about his blog and how it has always been the third wheel in my relationships. He acted surprised that employers ask about the site and that first dates do their research before we meet. Secretly, I think he was adding up the page views in his head. He suggested that I add his link to my resume to help with search engine optimisation. He even asked if he could make me a match.com profile and put it on his blog. But, he listened and was receptive but... I caught him recording me. I haven’t seen it pop up on any of his feeds yet. With our conversation recorded at least I know he may listen to it later. The last time I had a serious talk with him he spliced my words into a Beastie Boys song that went viral. “Whatcha Whatcha... Whatcha Want!” with me replying “No More Blog.”

“I like your optimism.” Said the host. “We’ve all learned that they will not change and unless you are ready to hack and delete their pages we’ve got to find a way to live in their world.”

“Thanks. I tried to vary my pitch and volume to give him little to work with. He’s always been pretty good at sound editing though.”

“I’d like to go next.” Said Rachel as she sat down with a fresh donut. “I’m Rachel from SheWillAlwaysBeMyLittleGirl.com”

“Hi Rachel.com.”

“My dad wrote me a letter this week responding to an email I sent him. All I told him was that I wished I didn’t have pictures of me online from every awkward age growing up. To him they may be cute and at the time maybe they were but now I can’t hide from them. I told him that when I look in the mirror all I see is every flaw from childhood. He seemed genuinely sympathetic and wrote me a poem.”

“That is really great, Rachel. Would you like to read it to us.”

What moon songs do you sing your baby?

What sunshine do you bring?

Who belongs? Who decides who's crazy?

Who rights wrongs where others cling?

I'll sing for you if you want me to

I'll give to you

And it's a chance I'll have to take.”

Tyler squirmed in his seat and spoke up. “Oh man, Rachel. Holy shit! Your dad’s passing a Smashing Pumpkins song off as his poem to you. Damn! That’s low! I’ve had damn near every 90’s alternative song used as the backdrop in my childhood home movies. I hate that shit.”

“I knew it was too good to be true. I bet he spent more time choosing the font. He’s always going on and on about fonts. I think he only speaks to me in headlines sometimes.”

“Sorry about that Rachel. That really sucks. To you all. I’m new to the group. My name is Mark from ItsGonnaLeaveAMark.com”

“Hi Mark.com.”

“I thought I was alone all these years in my feelings. I thought I was being too selfish and judgemental and then I realized that it was he who was being selfish and narcissistic. There isn’t a movie from my youth out there for me to enjoy because all I see is my face cropped into the movie posters. I think my dad must have taken every movie made during my childhood and spliced me into it somewhere. What gave him the right to take that from me?”

“Your anger is justified Mark.com and your feelings are valid.” The host said. “May I suggest you watch something that he didn’t use?”

“I have! All I can enjoy is Japanese Animation and I hate Japanese Animation! I don’t know what’s going on and I always think I’m gonna have a seizure.”

“Most of us have tuned out from the digital world.” Said Rachel. “We get together and play parcheesi. You should join us after group. We don’t take pictures and listen to vinyl so there is no digital record. God, my dad would love to stream my listening habits online."

"My dad blogger would love to write a post about that." Added Mark.com.

Watching the Wheels in Motion

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"In our personal lives, also, we journey from ignorance to knowledge. Our individual growth reflects the advancement of the species.” Carl Sagan

Watching Judah's brain develop is fascinating. All those cliches about learning something new every day and growing before your eyes are tired and true but are overused for a reason. They are correct. Carl Sagan said it in Cosmos and I've been watching the history of human development on a microcosmic scale for the last three years. We started with grunts and gestures and cave drawings and have moved into the basics of verbal communications. The other day I watched him build a little Stonehenge in the sandbox and realized it wasn't a timepiece or temple it was just a cool exercise in how many rocks can we get standing upright before they all fall down.

Some of the most fascinating parts of my day are watching him when he doesn't know I'm watching. I sneak up and watch him through the window at school or in this case hide a camera in his room when he's supposed to be napping. Yes, there will be time a time when he needs his privacy and I'll stop spying on him but as long as he needs me to wipe is behind I think I have the right to record him at play and publish it to YouTube. (At least I figured out what all the hammering was.)

Now, admittedly, this video isn't for everyone. It's an hour of naptime condensed into 3.5 minutes. As his dad though, I sat through the unedited version riveted and on the edge of my seat anxious to see what may happen next!

$#*! my son's caterpillar doesn't say

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Several times between now and the era of the stage 2 Huggie overnight diapers I've fallen down the rabbit hole of sleep deprivation to awake in the land of disproportionate proportions with over sized talking caterpillars, four keyed colorful pianos and airplanes whose propellers spin with a psychedelic glow not too far off from the St. Elmo's fire that buzz around the blades of a turboprop before a lightening strike. It's in this land and through my weary eyes that I make awful rhythms with toddler toys and get the toys that talk to say bad words in their little sing songy voice. Since the voice sounds like all the ladies who work at "Gymboree", I like to pretend it's them swearing at the drive thru speaker because the order was read back wrong.

As I sit down with a new toy to experiment with what words the manufacturer thinks are too dirty for a baby, I start slow and pull from the standard repository of filth... I type out George Carlin's seven dirty words. Most are censored although many aren't spoken clear enough to do damage if you played them to a drunken Eagles fan after an upset. You'd be more likely to get punched in the eye because you taunted them with a green toy caterpillar. Leapfrog has an array of talking toys that are limited in their range of letter combinations. Before you can finish typing in the offending word, you are greeting with an, "oh, that tickles" which depending on the word... makes it more offending. Apparently getting a caterpillar to swear tickles them. Who knew?

Interestingly, you are unable to type in anything that rhymes with "duck" for it's the U and the C that trigger the - "Oh, that tickles." I'll have to move to some knock off brand of toy whose seller has limited ethics if I'm to teach the boy how to spell "awestruck."

How to set up a password protected baby-cam with Ustream.tv

Okay, yes we have an audio monitor that lets us hear every cry and whimper and I also set up a wi-fi camera next to the crib that broadcasts out to our laptops, Iphone and Googlephone anywhere in the world. But I wanted to set up a streaming camera that I could embed on our personal website so I could have family log on (when invited) and watch a feeding, nap-time or that really special diaper change. I also wanted this video to be password protected to keep prying eyes off the crib. By crib, I mean I have the camera trained on the the actual bed he sleeps in. Not a camera showing his "crib" - the pimped out nursery. I also wanted the image to be time stamped so I would know if the camera was frozen or if Danny Ocean came in and replaced the video with a that taken from a reenactment so he could make off with our Diaper Coach. I know what your thinking, "The image could freeze but the server could still be stamping the video with the current time!" Rest easy... rest easy. I have an analog clock on the wall so I can ensure the image is live. (I'm the guy who wears a belt with suspenders and then keeps my hands in my pockets to make sure my pants don't fall down.) I looked at several websites that offer free streaming and settled on Ustream.tv to host the live video. Think of Ustream as a Youtube for live video. It's both free to host video streams and to watch them. Since I'm cheap and like to repurpose old hardware, I'm using my old Xbox360 USB camera to capture the video and have it strung (through a wall) to an always on computer I use as a media server in the house. Even though there are several video streaming services online... I found Ustream to be pretty easy to set up but I hate the site itself! I despise sites that automatically start broadcasting crap out through my speakers when I log-in! Unless, of course, it's a laughing monkey telling me to play online poker. I'm a sucker for anthropomorphism. Our dog Bella is too.

To set up a stream, first create an account on Ustream and then click "create a show" under the quicklinks on the dashboard. Name the show and in my case, since I want the show password protected, I clicked "Require a password" under the advanced setting of "your new show" and used the password I use for all my banking and email accounts - "123abc.". This ensures viewers need to enter a password when watching either the show on Ustream or embedded on your own site. If you don't have a site to embed the video on - you can use the Ustream URL and watch your stream there. (Save the URL so you don't have to go through the main site and get blasted with whatever crap they are sending out at that time!) The "Share your show" option has the embed code for other sites or quick links to share to places like Twitter or Facebook.

Since I have a personal site, I used the embed code and pasted it to a new page on my wordpress blog. The height and width needed to be tweaked to fit and to make him look taller. When I first showed him the video he said, "I'm on a few dozen inches tall... that camera makes me look squished!" Speaking of anthropomorphism.

Now, when I feel like showing him off, or I want to see the crib from afar, all we need is the URL and password. Ustream also has apps on the Iphone and Android stores for both viewing and streaming. With the same login credentials you used on the site, login on your phone and you can broadcast a remote show to stream your child's first visit to the Florida Aquarium, in Tampa Florida which hosts a large array of wildlife. And... is a pretty nice place for a wedding.

There is also a scheduling option to set the site up to record video of a given length at recurring intervals of your choosing. I have my show set to record a few minutes every morning, every day so at his wedding I can show his first few years of growth in a few seconds of fast-forwarded footage set to circus music.

I wasn't expecting HD image quality on Ustream so I could check to see if his eyes were red from too litle sleep, but I was expecting a little better than I got when I first set up the stream. I assumed it was because I was using a crappy old Xbox camera, and though it probably doesn't help, after some research I learned it is best to compress the video locally before you send it to Ustream for compression. This gives a faster upload and a smoother image. I installed Adobe's Flash Media Encoder on my computer have it converting the image to flash before it sends it out to Ustream. This made a much crisper image on the other end. Flash media encoder is pretty straight forward to install - and once you have it running, the Ustream website will recognize it and use it as the video source rather than the USB camera.

The biggest downside of the whole set-up is our nursery looks like the lobby of a bank with cameras mounted all over the place. In the near future, I may have a post called, "How to hide your web-enabled baby camera in a stuffed monkey with a really long tail that plugs into the wall - and how to ensure that if your baby chews on said monkey - they won't get zapped with electricity."

I used to watch alot of Fanny at my Nana's house

Plenty of sick days from Grade School were spent at my Nana's in Tampa watching this show from her king sized bed. I think it was on at 1pm while she was watching Days of Our Lives in the other room. (Side note - I threw up on her new carpet one day and while she was yelling at me for puking she started throwing up too. As a result, if it was "Bridge" day, I'd sleep in the back of her car in her friends driveway while they were inside drinking Martini's and playing cards. The ladies were afraid I had a weak stomach and would ruin their carpet.)

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