To my son: Year 1

Dear Dhyan,

I write this letter to you because I know that time changes our memories and feelings about events, and I wanted you to know what I was feeling in the first year of your life.  I also wanted to let you know who I am now, and maybe what I’ve become as a result of you being in my life.

I will begin with the day you were born.  We were at the hospital already.  One of many trips we had taken in the Dhyan_4weeklast couple weeks as your mother’s blood was racing in excitement for you being born.  Well that’s a nicer way of saying she had abnormally high blood pressure and we need to check her health and yours.  We knew that day, which was 3 weeks before your due date, there was a possibility they would want to take you out to make sure she was safe, and that is exactly what ended up happening.  I’ll proudly admit that I was rather calm.  Perhaps because I had to do none of the hard work, but I also have a lot of faith in statistics. Problems with deliveries in our part of the world are rare, and we were at one of the best hospitals in the area with excellent doctors and nurses.  I just knew everything was going to be alright, and I just wanted to make sure that your mother and you were fine and be calm and as in control for her as I could be.  Since all the hard work was your mothers, my panicking would have served little purpose anyways.  As they induced labor on your mother she got contractions quickly, and they started to impact your heart rate and so they decided that a cesarean section was necessary.  They wheeled your mother away and got me suited up so that I was sanitary and when they let me into the operating room they told me to not touch anything covered in blue.  The whole room seemed to be covered in blue and it was frightening obstacle course to get to the small stool next to your mother.  I held her hand and she smiled at me.  There was a large curtain separating the bottom half of your mother from our eyes so I couldn’t tell what they were doing.  Apparently they were making a big slice into your mother and taking you out.  The nurse handed you to me, all swaddled in apparently the same towel design they use in every hospital in the United States.  You were born at 9:59 pm on Dec. 27th, 2014 at 5 pounds 5 ounces, 19 inches long. You were so light and I looked at you and said to myself “So that’s it then?”  But your mom was tearing and she was too drugged up to really hold you.  You were so light and I brought your face close to hers and she smiled and cried at how beautiful you were.  I think it was a different experience for her.  She carried you around for almost 9 months and could feel her body change and feel you grow.  I would say at first I was more like a curious scientist, observing the whole process.  It did not feel like you were my son yet.  I hope that this doesn’t make you sad if you read this someday.  I was emotional because your mom was, but I have to say I didn’t feel like a father yet.

For the rest of that evening I continued to play the scientist as I watched them put you in a little warmer since you were so tiny, and found it humorous that you were under a heat lamp like a burger at a restaurant.  My feeling of being a father wouldn’t come until the next day when you didn’t have to be in the warmer anymore and we had be moved to our post delivery room and you were being fussy and unhappy and I picked you up and you quieted right down and became peaceful in my arms.  It was at that moment that my eyes begin to water.  I felt like you knew you were safe.   And I felt like you knew you were with your daddy and I knew you were my son.  And I knew that once someone feels safe with you, that you must be responsible so that they always feel that way.  I began to feel this surge within me out of nowhere, wanting you to be healthy and strong, wanting to make sure that I safely guided you to be someone that could handle this world that can be both terrifying and wondrous at the same time.  My head began to fill with dreams of what you would look like walking and talking, and questions you might ask, advice that I would give you, nursing tears and sharing joys.  That’s when you know you are in love, and that’s when I knew I was in love with you.

Dhyan_6monthBut time teaches you patience.  Perhaps that’s one advantage of having a 40 year old father.  As I process this past year I think about all the amazing moments I’ve been able to see.  These moments are small in comparison to what any human is capable of, but they remind me that in the process of growth even the most insignificant things can be great triumph because they happen along the way of great journeys.  And you have a great journey ahead of you.  I remember your first smile, the first time you opened your hands, your eyes following an object around the room for the first time, your first steps, your first crawl.  However, if I were to pick a favorite moment, when I think of your first year, is the first time you made vocalizations.  It happened one evening in between the age of 2 and 3 months.  It was like for the first time you wanted to greet the world.  It’s like you suddenly realized that you were no longer an extension of your mother, but you realized you were a separate individual entity and you wanted to announce your presence.  Or perhaps it was that for the first time you realized that the world wasn’t just happening to you, you could happen to the world and you were just glad to be alive. You made the cutest gurgling noises, and were smiling and waving your little arms about.  Your mother and I laid at your side on the bed and we just watched you.  It was the most entertaining and amazing thing I’ve ever seen and your mother and I were incurably happy next to you.  We would look at each other and just knew that as tiring as this might be some times it was also going to be incredibly rewarding and full of joy.  We knew what family meant, and we felt an incredible amount of love for you and each other.

Tomorrow you will be a year old.  You are now eagerly walking around and getting into all sorts of trouble.  You are curious and exploring and it reminds me how important the process of movement is to discovery.  In human history, the building of boats, cars, rockets, they all have allowed us to discover and learn more.  Now that you can move the rate in which you will discover grows exponentially and I find myself continually blown away at how quickly your strength, dexterity, and intelligence grows.  As I look back on the day I first fell in love with you I realize that my love was a beautiful house that is empty on the inside, and each day you fill that house with amazing memories.  That love is now a home, and we are happy there, and excited for all the new memories that will fill that home.  Sometimes I get really scared that something might happen to you, and that being in that home alone without you, with only those memories to look at, would be the saddest thing imaginable.  But I would not dishonor your joy by getting lost in those fears.  I keep in the back to keep you as safe as possible without taking away from your desire for self-determination and knowing that ultimately what we learn from risk and failure is as important as any other way there is to learn.

Dhyan_me_1year

My heart is full of love and excitement because as your development continues I can show my love for you in so many new ways and I am anxious for you to experience it.  I am also anxious to experience your love in new ways also.  Though my appearance may change little, make no mistake that we are growing together.  And as I sit here and write this I know one thing for certain.  There are no words to express how much of a gift you truly are to my soul.  It will take a lifetime together as father and son for those words to manifest and even then it will be in no language that can be spoken, but I guarantee that you will know it.

Love,

Your Father

A Change Will Do You Good

From http://ohiomarketingstudents.com

A friend of mine asked me a few months ago “What are your weaknesses?”  After mulling it over for a couple of minutes, to be honest, I couldn’t think of any.  Now don’t start thinking I’m a smug bastard, I know for a fact that I am far from perfect.  Then I thought, well I am not quite sure what my strengths are either.  I guess the way I have to come to view myself is a work in progress.  It seems to me that trying to determine what strengths and weaknesses are is tricky business.  I might say that I worry too much, but at some level worry brings about a level of awareness that might help you act or reach a solution.  Worrying too much is obviously a problem though as it can be draining and waste time.  Not worrying at all, might also be dangerous as it may make you apathetic to important things.  I used to be a huge worrier, but I always looked at it as a quality that was part of a spectrum from too much worry, to not worrying at all, and that there was a healthy balance in there.  So it wasn’t so much that worrying was a weakness but that I had to find an appropriate way of using that “worry” towards being constructive and not destructive.  And I always felt that worrying was better than apathy.   To me, all strengths and weakness are not an either, or, but rather qualities that lie on a continuum between two extremes and thus any weakness may have some important qualities that we simply need to foster more.

If I say that my strength is kindness, does it mean I don’t have room to grow?  Does it mean that I couldn’t be more kind?  I have never been one to simply rest on laurels as I think it is important to strive each day to be more than we are (provided we are lucky enough to live in an environment where we have such an opportunity and are not fighting for basic subsistence needs like so many in this world).  Our strengths might manifest themselves in different ways.  While I may be kind, how I show that kindness may not be the right way for that particular situation.  Sometimes “tough love” is the best way to deal with a particular situation.  Some people respond to a stricter approach, drawing definite boundaries.  Some people respond better to you when you are sensitive, soft-spoken and supportive.  Some people might respond to both depending on the situation.  It takes time and experience to gain the wisdom to know how best to be kind to those around you.  Should I say it is a fault or a weakness when I show kindness in a way that makes sense to me, but is not received as such to the other person?  Or should I simply reflect and say, “I am glad my heart was in the right place, but I need to do better.”  And what if the person you are showing kindness to, feels grateful, but isn’t good at showing it?  As I’ve mentioned before, one of the amazing parts about life is that we never know how we may impact others.  Someone might be angry or frustrated with you in the moment, but only realize the kindness you showed years later.

In the end I would say that my greatest strength is that I feel I value good things like happiness, learning, compassion, self-reflection, equality, a strong work ethic, and humility, and that my weakness is that I am incomplete in demonstrating those qualities to a capacity I am completely comfortable with.  And that I may not be aware of the importance of other character traits that might make me and this world a better place.  And I accept that not only will this “weakness” never go away, but it might also be the very thing that allows me to become stronger, wiser, and appreciative of life in new ways all the time.  And so, in what might be a somewhat ironic way, the parts of me that I will not change, are the various things that allow me to change.  After all, why would I want to be the exact same person all my life, as if that were even possible? 🙂

Silly Christmas Parody Poem

Please pass this on…if I write one thing that gets passed around the internet, I would love for it to be this! 🙂

Cloak Unfurled

Twas the night before Christmas, and Facebook was quiet,

No winter weather whines or Phil Robertson riot,

I examined a link, posted without care,

Of the 20 hottest celebrities without any hair.

As I pondered on my next riveting status,

I heard a faint tapping at my window lattice,

I should have got up, for I was no craven,

But I was distracted by a meme of Poe and The Raven,

Then out on the lawn there arose a loud clatter,

So I quickly checked Twitter to see what’s the matter,

No tweets about accidents or troublesome boys,

I even searched for the hashtag, #whatsthatnoise

Then back to my news feed, but still hearing the scuffle,

Couldn’t think of a status with this annoying kerfuffle,

What’s all this jingling, hooves clomping on wood,

Perhaps a little snapchat would do me some good.

From somewhere above a voice so merry and thick,

View original post 381 more words

Climate Change for the Masses (Part II)

Well it would seem that a group blog idea with a weather and climate theme has fallen apart, and so I’ll have to do my blogging about it here instead.  Several months ago I began what I hoped would be a 3 part series, themed around the John Oliver’s  “Last Week Tonight” Episode on the climate change debate.  In my first blog post I wanted to try and investigate what type of people don’t accept the evidence on climate change, based on my own experience in getting into various discussions on the topic with people outside my discipline.  In this blog article I’d like to take a look at the actual media portrayal of the problem which was more the central theme of John Oliver’s segment.

If you haven’t watched the clip, John Oliver critiques the media for having one person who accepts the scientific evidence, with one person who denies it, saying that this gives an unfair representation of the scientific consensus on the issue.  Over 97% of the scientific literature from over 10,000 scientists across earth and biological sciences have concluded that human induced climate change is a fact, making it appear as though it is a split issue is quite simply dishonest.  And this absolutely true, but it is in fact even worse than that.

The 50-50 split looks even more in favor of the deniers when the media is always using the same person to represent the scientific side.  If you watch many interviews on the subject you might actually get the picture that it seems to be only one guy who thinks human-induced climate change is real while many other people don’t think it’s happening.  If you always saw the same guy “for” an issue and many other people on TV saying they are “against” it would be somewhat natural to think that the “against” side had a better argument.  Of course you’d be wrong in thinking that.  This is called the “Appeal to Popularity Fallacy” (or ad populum for you Latin Lovers).  An extremely common one used nowadays.  Of course as it turns out, it is the logic of the arguments and the strength of the evidence that makes for who has taken the correct issue on the stance.  Of course there are many biases and fallacies that we naturally gravitate towards because it is in our evolution.  Being the outcast in a group didn’t get you very far early in our evolution and the same is in a large part true today.  Although generally today, no matter how different you might be, with a large population you are likely to find a group to connect with.  But in terms of genetic history being an outcast in a group of social animals who may be relatively isolated from other populations doesn’t really give you anywhere to go, and since survival on your own is more difficult “following the herd” is part of who we are.  Of course, in this instance, there is no real punishment for accepting scientific evidence but sometimes I think our wiring doesn’t really care.

The 50-50 perception unbalances even further when you consider who Bill Nye.  Now don’t get me wrong.  As a scientist, I know he’s

From http://brandonhillphotos.com

a scientist, and that he has the ability to not only understand the issue, speak intelligently about it, and accept the hard work done by so many scientists to reach the conclusions they have about climate change.  But to the public there are a lot of negatives about Bill Nye that would make his credibility more suspect, especially to people who are on the fence or deniers themselves.   First of all Bill Nye is not a climate scientist.  He is not an expert in the field of climate science and as such this will weaken his credibility as an advocate.  In fact Bill Nye is most famous for his use of science concepts for educating children.  Climate change is a very adult issue that will require adults in government and voting adults to accept the scientific evidence and put forth appropriate policies to address the issue.  Bill Nye is also a celebrity and many people have negative attitudes towards celebrities who get involved in issues that are political.  In Canada, David Suzuki is a very famous scientist and naturalist, but is not very knowledgeable about the issue and so while he has tried to be advocate for climate change, he has not done very well when addressing even the most common fallacious criticisms put forth by deniers in a debate format.  He was hoping his popularity would help change the minds of people, but in fact it has likely hurt those who might be willing to listen to a well reasoned debate on the subject.  So I think Bill Nye may have similar impacts.

Now don’t get me wrong, because I am not convinced that the media is intentionally using Bill Nye for the purposes of misleading others.  For them, he is a celebrity and known and will add a few viewers whether people have grown to hate him or love him.  He is also an excellent public speaker, and he is also eager to break away from his previous persona as a scientist for children (honestly go back to getting children excited about science, I think it’s too late for congress now!).   So what is the solution to making the debate fairer?  John Oliver’s suggestion is not a bad one, but of course they are unlikely to get 100 people on the stage for a debate.   We nerdy introverted scientists simply need to become better communicators.  We need to get involved in educational outreach and scientific discourse at regional, state, and national levels.  Since there are literally 1000’s and 1000’s of people researching this field and concluding that man is impacting the climate just as we hone our research and analytical skills we must also hone our communication skills so that we aren’t just contributing through the publication of an article in a scientific journal.  And media, you could do a better job of finding actual experts to have on your programs.  You could do a better job also by being honest and saying we know this is not even close to a split issue in the scientific community and have more debates about what the best way about addressing the issue is, rather than trying to debate whether it is an issue at all.

If you are interested in learning more about climate science, learn about what the common myths are about climate change and why they are not well reasoned arguments, and be able to investigate climate change science at various levels of complexities I strongly recommend this site called Skeptical Science.

Saying Goodbye to Bill Cosby

In my time I have seen many celebrities and politicians fall from grace, whether it be due to drugs, criminal acts, violence, abuse (sexual and non-sexual).  And while there were some who I found to be talented and that I respected because of their talent, there were none that I would say had any personal meaning to me.  Many of them did to other people, and I would call those people foolish for defending to the end someone who is clearly guilty, someone who is clearly criminal.  And for those who even accepted it, I never really thought about how hard it was for them.

I know I am not alone in my love for Bill Cosby.  Many people my age and older grew up with him.  My first exposure to Bill Cosby

From http://atlantablackstar.com

was through his comedy recordings (for me on cassette and record).   A friend exposed me to them early in high school and me and my friends would sit around laughing at his tales.  He had such a talent for telling a story.  A perfect mixture of embellishment and truth.  Watching a couple of his videos, the part that you don’t get is of course his ability with facial expressions which make one laugh even harder.  For me Bill Cosby was inspirational in his comedic ability and though I am no comedian, I would say he definitely influenced my humor and the way I make others laugh.  And then of course there was the Cosby Show.  One of the few shows that we would all get together as a family and watch.  It was an extremely enjoyable show, and of course the social and cultural statements made by the show had, I think, profound impacts on the country as the show literally united white and black people around this black family each week.   From then of course I saw him continue to promote the importance of education and a good work ethic.  He continued to be an inspiration to many I am sure in the black community and a role model to many African-Americans.

So it was with a great deal of surprise, when it came out recently, that over a dozen women had come forward with charges against Bill Cosby of sexual assault.  It appears that Bill Cosby did in fact drug and sexually assault these women.  Such acts are despicable and make me sick to my stomach when I think of them and how they were described by the women.  He was deceitful, calculating, invasive, and immoral.  This was a hard pill to swallow (unlike the pills he apparently gave his victims).  For the first time I was facing what many others have faced before; a childhood hero, guilty of horrible crimes.  I wanted to fight it, and I tried to read lots about it before I could accept it in my mind. The more I read, the more shocked I became, and at some point I had to stop, because it was too hard to bear.  More surprising than anything is that most of this surfaced 8 years ago, and I was only hearing about it now.  It seems like even the media, which loves to watch angels fall, didn’t even want to see Bill Cosby sink to the depths.

In some ways it has helped reinforced why people have trouble changing their beliefs, whether it be about religion, politics, or whatever, because when facts overturn your beliefs in an instant it is a very tumultuous feeling.  It is one you want to quickly get rid of, and often the easiest way to do that is to simply refuse to believe that new evidence.  It leaves you feeling divided.  Bill Cosby was cherished in my heart and now I feel like it has been ripped out of me and I wonder if I could be wrong about Bill Cosby, what other things that I cherish could I be wrong about?  It is not a comfortable feeling.

It also reminds me that when it comes to heroes, when we idolize celebrities we are always running a risk, because what we see may be a very small portion of who they are.  Maybe the true heroes in our lives should be those closest to us; the ones we spend time with on a regular basis, the ones we can talk with and listen to, and are reliable.  It also reminds me that there is perhaps no perfection, and when we idolize someone to the point of perfection, this is also dangerous.

Maybe Bill Cosby was always like this, or perhaps his fame and fortune corrupted him to such actions; I guess we’ll never know.  In some ways I’d have more respect for him if he at least admitted to his crimes and accepted the punishment.  I don’t see that happening.  He has been too big for too long, and he is much more likely to just hide and hope for all this deserved negativity to go away, in hopes that at least a majority of his fans might remember him in a positive light.

As my way of making peace, I want to say thank you Bill Cosby for all that you gave me personally throughout my younger years.  I will not feel ashamed for all the laughter you brought me.  For building you up as more than what you are, I take responsibility, but I do hope that somewhere in your heart you feel ashamed for what you have done.  Principally of course to those women you violated, but also to a country you asked to take you into your home and to a culture you helped shape and asked that they look at you as an example of what a good black man could be.