So long, Blackberry. You were awesome, for a minute

Dear Blackberry 8310:

It’s hard to write this letter to you. You’ve been at my side now for almost two years. You’ve kept me up to date on the important things in life, like the Facebook status of the random people I’ve collected as friends over the years, the insightful links of a few hundred thought leaders on Twitter, and the comings and goings of dozens of people on Foursquare. You’ve kept me in contact with my wife, which is always important (right, honey?).

Despite that, we have reached the end of our run together. Today, the value depreciation algorithm arbitrarily set by AT&T will allow me to upgrade, yes upgrade, my phone to an iPhone 4. You’ve been a good phone, and you’re smart, but you just haven’t shown adequate progress. Later today I will journey to my local Apple store (the good one), and make my purchase.

I know it’s tough hearing this news so suddenly, but you had to know, right? I mean think about all of those “App Error – Restart?” messages you’ve thrown at me in the past six months. How about your limited storage capacity that renders you unable to store a lot of really useful apps? All of the garbage apps by AT&T that can’t be deleted are just pain in the ass. I hate to pile on, but there are two other problems: you get hung up processing simple tasks and you’re not 3G. That’s bad, you know? I mean opening my inbox shouldn’t cause the hourglass to appear for a full minute. I keep that box nice and empty for you. And I basically can’t use the web because “Edge” is just fast enough to send a text that reads “OK”. Not to mention your web browser has some serious problems rendering web pages.

But most of all, the reason I’m buying and iPhone instead of one of your newer cousins is because the ecosystem around the iOS platform is still the best by far. You’re just too hard to develop for. I know, you say you want to keep your tight security to appeal to enterprise clients. Don’t pigeonhole yourself like that, or you’ll soon become like Palm. Soooooo not cool. Take a look at the apps in the Apple App Store. Go ahead, it’s OK. Look at how Apple has generated a revenue stream and a product demand in one interface. Remember when you did that 10 years ago? It was fun, no?

Can I give you some advice? The best thing for you to do is adopt the Android operating system. Yes, seriously. Even though it is open source, you could work with Google to lock down certain parts and develop your own fork of Android. It would give developers the flexibility to create all of those cool-kid apps that catch the attention of the retail market, but still appeal to the enterprise. Because, let’s be honest, not one of my friends who previously had a Blackberry bought a second one since the iPhone 3Gs was released. Many have jumped ship to iOS or Android very enthusiastically.

Today is a bittersweet day for me. I know it doesn’t seem that way to you, but it is. You taught me that phone email and texting are awesome. You taught me that I do want to know whose green snots are flowing like a river. You taught me that I do want to know who is the Mayor of Target, and that I should get the Turkey Club at Village Deli because “it so f—ing awesome!!!!”. You taught me that people I’ve never met will give me meaningful information on topics I didn’t even know I cared about.

It’s been a good run, but it’s over. Don’t worry, though. After I clear your memory of all of my personal data, you’ll go in the drawer with my wife’s Blackberry 8310, too. Eventually, the two of you will be donated so someone else can use you. Kind of like those toys at the end of Toy Story 3. So, see, it won’t be that bad after all!

With much love,
Tim

The Mystery Illness

We are starting our second weekend in a row with A fighting some mystery virus that is causing her to spike a fever. She has been to the doctor each time, but no one knows what is causing it because the usual accompanying symptoms such as runny nose or middle ear blockage aren’t there.

We have a great pediatrician, too. He¬†knows child medicine, and he knows our kids. He also knows we’re not some crazy parents who run to the doctor when our kids are suffering from general malaise.

Our options are limited. A can’t tell us what’s wrong, obviously, because she’s only a year old. She’s eating well, sleeping well, and all other signs are good. It’s just the fever. So we are left with treating with infants acetaminophen (still no infants Tylenol in our house after the last recall) and infants Motrin. But I am ambivalent about this treatment because her body needs a fever to fight the infection, however a fever that’s too high or one that lingers too long could hurt her brain development. At the same time, loading her up with NSAIDs like Motrin isn’t good either because it can affect her liver function.

The best guesses we all have about the fever’s cause is that teething is so hard for her that her body is treating like an infection, or she just has some random virus; and that this week’s virus is different than last week’s. If they are viruses, they could be coming from anywhere. A is crawling like mad at home and at daycare. She’s even pulling herself up on furniture. The origins, however, are irrelevant. There’s no way we could clean our house enough to ensure she doesn’t get sick. We’d run ourselves ragged trying to do that.

So, what does a parent do? This is one of those dilemmas that there is no clear answer. We have to just follow the doctor’s advice, and rely on our instincts.

Anyone else have any suggestions?

Review by G

G and I read books every night as part of his bedtime routine. We talk to each other about the stories, and I like to ask him questions I would put to my third graders.

Last night, I decided to record our conversation. It went very well, and I’ve decided to share it. This is completely unedited and it is just shy of 5 minutes. Please let me know what you think.

This might become a regular thing. It was easy and he loved it.

Review of The Berenstain Bears Safe and Sound by Jan and Mike Berenstain

Maybe we’re just not fish people

We had a sincere moment of grief in our house today. Our 4-year-old son’s pet betta fish, Mac, died. Technically, it was Mac II, but our son, G, doesn’t know that. The first Mac died within a few hours of joining our family due to poor tank chemistry.

betta fishMac was a beloved pet for about two months. He was G’s first pet that was truly his own and he loved taking care of him. My wife, Susan, and I loved that G was taking responsibility for feeding him every night and reminding me every Saturday to clean his little one-gallon tank.

In recent weeks, though, cleaning the tank was low on the priority list. I had a few other pressing matters and I wouldn’t clean it every Saturday. This weekend, Susan tried to do me a favor and cleaned his tank. She did everything right except one thing. The water was too warm, and she inadvertently cooked Mac. He was dead, and we had to tell G.

Neither of us wanted to because we knew we were deliberately breaking his heart. We could have just done what we did for Mac I and just replace him with a new fish, but I felt it was important to give G an understanding of death.

I went into the family room and told G we needed to go upstairs to look at Mac. G knew Mac was sick because Susan had said so earlier when he wasn’t as lively as he had been. Upstairs we went and I showed G that the little fish that lived in a tank next to his bed for the past few months was now dead. G has a basic understanding that death is final. He got a taste of that when my grandmother died last year, but it has always been an abstract.

He looked at Mac, and looked at me and started to cry. He stopped before the tears and said, “We have to tell mommy.” G ran downstairs saying, “Mac isn’t living anymore.” I called him back upstairs because we needed to give Mac a little send-off. I scooped Mac’s lifeless body out of the tank into the cup he was in when we bought him. I told G we needed to send Mac to be with the other fishes. You can probably predict what happened next.

We walked into his bathroom, and I put the cup in G’s hands. I told him that we have to send dead fish back to the rest of the fishes. I know this may sound cruel, but not far from our home the area sewage treatment plant which discharges clean water into a local river and we’ve talked about this before.

Immediately, G was in tears. He missed Mac, well – Mac II, and we hugged while he sobbed in true grief. I asked him if he wanted to get a new Mac. He agreed, so we got in the car and went to the local PetSmart. He picked out a nice new Mac. This one even looked better than the last Mac.

As soon as we got home, G was excited to get the tank set up for the new Mac. We emptied the little tank. I rinsed the rocks and plastic plants, and I filled the tank with new water. I put in the water conditioner, and I set Mac in the water while he was still in his little cup for a while so he could get adjusted to the water. Everything was just right.

We returned to our evening activities, which included a ham dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday. By bedtime, though, it was clear the new Mac, Mac III, was dead. Susan told G that he was just resting because he was so happy to be in a new home. But she knew better. We would be going back to PetSmart to take advantage of their seven-day guarantee to get a Mac IV, but this time would be more like the first.

As we considered what our next move would be, Susan said, “Maybe we’re just not fish people.” Maybe.

My daughter’s first laugh, or is it?

Before our daughter was born, I was sure that I wouldn’t be as excited about “firsts” the way I was when our son was born. In fact, I was so adamant that I have almost all but tried to ignore the firsts just so I could stick to my preconception. It was a misconception, I’m discovering.

Then came the first time she looked at me and laughed. It was a real laugh, and it totally caught me. I spoke to her some more, and she continued to laugh. I was so enchanted.

I picked her up and walked out the front door to see my wife and son playing outside. I called to my wife, signaling her to come quickly. Thinking there might be something wrong, she made haste across the lawn.

“Watch this,” I said, and I held our daughter above my head and got her to laugh again.

Then came my wife’s uncensored response.

“Oh, yeah. I know,” she said. My face clearly changed from unbridled joy to disappointment. “Uh, well, yes. This is her first laugh. You’re right,” she added, trying to reassure me.

Well, I believe her first response. Clearly, it wasn’t our daughter’s first laugh. But it was the first time I made her laugh, and that means a lot. It’s apparent that she and I have bonded, because I know that not any man can just walk up and get her to giggle. At least, not yet…

Parenting kids in public places is passe

I’m sitting in the customer chairs of my local Bank of America branch on a Saturday waiting to close my accounts, and I get chance to see something that interests me: the real situation when parents let their kids run around.

So far only a few people have come without any kids at all, and most have come with two or three. All were under the age of eight and spanned the world’s major cultures. Regardless of race or national origin, all but one family put limits on their kids behavior.

This doesn’t surprise me. It’s certainly more common than not. But it got me to thinking about my own childhood and the expectations placed on me whenever we went into a store, bank, or restaurant. I wasn’t always an angel, but I knew there were consequences, and I knew I risked angering my mom or grandmother. It was a once-spoken understanding usually before we went in or immediately after I started to act up.

Even when I wasn’t cooperative, though, I knew it was NOT OK to run around shouting and talking loudly. My job was to stand near the person I was with, not hang on things and not whine or yell.

That just isn’t so today, and I’m wondering when this major shift occurred in the parenting paradigm. When did public parenting reach its tipping point? Is this just a pendulum swing? If so, does anyone see it swinging back again?

I don’t have actual answers for these questions on any grand scale. But my answer to this trend, and I hope it is just a trend, is to make sure I parent my children in public places the way I was parented. I know there are plenty of parents who agree with me in principle and practice, and to those I give a big thumbs up. To the rest, I stick up another finger.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Transitions

UPDATE: Just after writing this post, A was back in her bassinet, and through no lobbying on my part. She just didn’t like her crib. I love this girl.

My daughter is sleeping in her crib tonight. It’s her first night there, and it’s my wife’s sole decision. I am opposed to it. She’s not yet 10 weeks old, and I think we can get another few weeks out of the bassinet in our bedroom. My wife is aware of my feelings, too.

See, this beautiful little girl is our second child. She is also most likely our last. So, this first transition – from bassinet to crib – is a tough one for me in part because my wife wants to get rid of the bassinet. I don’t. I know, of course, it’s unrealistic to keep it until our kids have kids. But I’m not ready to part with it yet.

When we were going through these transitions with our oldest, a son, it was my wife who would dig in her heels over such things.

So, now I wonder is it a mother/son-father/daughter dichotomy? Is it a first child/last child thing? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m not happy about this move. There. I got that off my chest.

Welcome

So, this is my new blog. Snazzy, right? Stay tuned for good stuff.

I’ve had other blogs before, including one that had quite a following when I lived in Boston. It probably would’ve been one of those that turned into a book at some point if I kept at it, but it became irrelevant after I moved away in 2006.

Then, of course, are the false starts. The blogs I’ve spent a lot of time making look nice, but failing on content.

So, after a 4-year hiatus, I’m back to blogging with the added bonus of writing posts from my Blackberry and my iPad.

For anyone who is wondering, this blog is powered by WordPress, and the first install is version 3.0. The theme is a free one called Chocotheme. I like how it kind of looks like either a Moleskine or a Franklin Planner.

Well, that is all for now. The dinner I’m cooking while writing this post on my phone is almost done. Pork chops, corn and mashed potatoes. Yum.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Another year gone

Like most people, this is a time of year to reflect on the personal events and accomplishments of the past 12 months. For me, it is particularly important because my birthday falls very close to New Year’s Eve, and therefore I have the distinction of turning a year older with the turn of a calendar.

Some might think it is economical to have my birthday coincide with New Year’s so that any birthday resolutions I might make would coincide with any New Year’s resolutions. That is one advantage. But I generally don’t make resolutions, per se.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t evaluate the past year, however. In fact, I feel as though I do that to a much deeper degree than many others. At least, as far as I can tell from others have shared over the years.

For most of my life, I’ve been told that I (1) had great potential or (2) didn’t live up to my potential. The former is obviously more positive than the latter, but as I look back on life, I realize that both are meant in their own ways to inspire me to achieve this potential. Honestly, I have to agree with anyone who has appraised me as underachieved in the potential department. At this time of year, especially, I wonder what that potential is and if I’ve reached it. Since I still hear those remarks from time to time (now in more coded forms, but still positive), I don’t believe I have reached that potential yet.

I find myself thinking of the many, many things I wanted to do with my life, and wanted to be. I can still do many of those, provided I am afforded the length of years I will need to accomplish them. But I feel behind.

There are those who would say that I’ve made a mark in the people I’ve helped in the newspaper business or the children I’ve taught. That is true, but I feel like I should be doing more. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this feeling that I should be known for something great. Perhaps it is ego, which mine is big, or perhaps it is just approval-seeking-behavior. Are the two exceptionally different? I don’t know. I’ve never known. That’s what bugs me, especially now.

I look at the kids I teach, and the kids I’ve had in previous years; I look at my wife; I look at my son, and I know that these people count on me for various things. They learn from me, and I from them. It is a symbiosis, but is not something that quells that yen. For I don’t think that what tugs at me is something noble or ignoble. It is not something that would win me any international merit prizes (save for fiction). It is just something that would give me some measure of renown beyond my own circle of friends, colleagues, family, and acquaintances.

Who knows? All I know so far is I wasn’t able to achieve this mysterious potential in 2008. I don’t know what’s in store for 2009. If I reach that potential this year, great. If I do, what next? Perhaps that’s the point. Potential is something that can never be reached. Maybe it is meant to be the thing we cannot get because once we get it we stop trying.

All I know is that I feel like this world expects more from me. I hope I can live up to that expectation.

Dada, I want my Ham

Having a 2-year-old son and being a teacher has been cause for recovering a lot of long-forgotten childhood memories. Most of them are the silly little things that I did which no one really needs to know. Those are the ones I smile about privately in the moment and make a mental note to dwell on later.

Most recently, my son has gotten attached to Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. It’s a fun little book, as most people know, that is full of neat little repetative phrases and phonetic sounds. He calls it, “My Ham,” and he walks around the house with it tucked under his arm with the same reverence as his blanky and his puppy.

Tonight it got me to thinking about the first time I read the same story. I think it was the first book I ever checked out of the library. I lived across the street from the town library as a little kid, and I think I was probably in first grade when I got my first library card. It was about the size of a credit card with a little metal doo-dad on it that had my card number embossed on it. I remember thinking I was the coolest thing in sneakers to have a library card. Now that I look back on it, I had the same feeling when I got my driver’s license.

I was so excited to read Green Eggs and Ham that I was walking and reading at the same time. That’s not allowed, my mother told me. I read it as soon as I got home — so quickly that my mother had barely finished preparing lunch or dinner, whichever. I immediately wanted to go back to the library and get another book by such an amazing doctor.

Well, Green Eggs and Ham wasn’t the last book I checked out. I also checked out all of the Frog and Toad books, too. But that’s about all I remember. There was quite a while when I lost interest in books and reading. Through most of grade school and middle school I could barely spend the time reading what was required of me for school. Nothing in print was as interesting as watching the “Incredible Hulk” or playing with my Nintendo. Only in high school did I find anything to read that interested me, and even then it was still a struggle. I enjoy reading now, but I have to struggle to find the time between chores and family time. So, I read with my son. We read Green Eggs and Ham. And of all those little things my son does that I did, I hope one isn’t to lose interest in reading.