Fatherhood, Uncategorized 0 comments on Keeping conversations moving

Keeping conversations moving

With the Clementi case in the news, the shooting at a high school in Ohio, and the latest episode of Glee highlighting how bullying leads to catastrophe, I asked myself what it takes to actually bring positive social change into the lives of kids today.

You see, the adults have no idea how to react to a digitally connected world. I’m sure horrible things happened before MySpace, but I don’t know if they were nearly as viral or long lasting. On top of that, I think kids are just getting meaner. We are, so as not to hurt their feelings, being too nice to our kids. Their reaction is to be mean in return. It’s a bit bizarre and disheartening.

I’m glad that shows like Glee try to take on issues such as coming out of the closet, the lack of arts education in schools, and societal expectations of gender and roles. But I’m just not convinced that a 43-minute episode does enough to keep the conversation moving. We see it; we think to ourselves what a tragedy it represents; and then we move on to the next week’s episode.

Somehow parents need to be empowered to engage their children in difficult conversations. We should start when kids are much younger before they are overburdened with puberty, confused about their own identities, and struggling to make a place for themselves in the world. Young children are much smarter than we give them credit for, and I think challenging them with reading, writing, and arithmetic needs to be supplemented by making them aware of how we are different, and why those differences make us a better society.

I want my children to understand there is poverty, and that a middle class upbringing is not a right. I want my children to understand that there is race, and that because of it we stereotype and do harmful things to one another. I want my children to understand that someone can have two mommies or two daddies, and that that’s okay.

But I want my children to be kids, and to be naive as long as possible. And I think that’s the wall that stops us from having those conversations.

Between now and then, it sure would be nice to find a way to make it happen. I guess it’s one more thing to add to the to-do list.

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New Year Resolutions, Uncategorized 0 comments on Resolutions: Keeping score

Resolutions: Keeping score

I want to keep score as to how my resolutions and sacrifices are affecting my life. For the new year I’ve resolved to give up fast food, and for Lent I’ve given up soda. The main goal is to get to a healthier place in life. I have to add exercise to the equation as well (and I’ve started that), but let’s leave that to a different post.

In that vein, I’m going to publish my stats weekly to gauge whether anything is getting better or not. It’s quite scary right now, but I’m sure it’s going to get better.

Weight: 206 lbs
Waist size: 35″

What else should I be measuring?

My goal is to be in the 180s and 32″ by June for a physical.

New Year Resolutions, Uncategorized 2 comments on Giving up soda for lent

Giving up soda for lent

In college I dated a catholic girl who didn’t give a damn about being catholic. I thought it would be fun though to try Lent out one more, and so I gave up red meat for 40 days. It totally opened up my eyes to how much red meat I ate, and just how bad it was for me.

Ever since, I’ve tried to give up one thing per year, and really push myself as to what it was. One year it was fast food (at which I succeeded). Another year it was sloth (at which I epicly failed).

Since I’m giving up fast food this year as part of my New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided to stay in that theme. This year I’m giving up soda for Lent. I’m hoping that by Easter I’m 10 pounds lighter, and I’ve lost the taste for sugar. I’d be lying though if I said that it was easy to skip having a coke with Thai food for lunch (for some reason Indian and Thai food + Coke go together so darn well).

I’m trying to sign up other folks to join me, but at the end of the day this is one of those things you have to do because you want to do it for yourself.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Fatherhood, Uncategorized 0 comments on Observing what not to do – can it help?

Observing what not to do – can it help?

We’ve just spent an amazing weekend on the shores of Capitola, CA. It’s a really great, quiet, little beach town in Santa Cruz County.

We made a full weekend of it. On Saturday, we swung by the Monterey Bay aquarium. While we were there, I heard a mother screaming at her child about the value of a bottle of soda, and why she asked for it if she wasn’t going to drink it. It was a horribly adult conversation, and the 8-year old had no idea how to react. There was no framework for the kid to understand a budget, the value of a dollar, or even why they shouldn’t consume frivolously. There was just a mom yelling at her daughter.

It was just a horrible experience for everyone involved. The mother and the daughter yelling at each other. The two friends who were awkwardly stuck at the table. And me for eavesdropping, wishing I hadn’t, and then not being able to break away to see how it all ended.

It made me mentally note to never have that fight with my kids.

From there, we made our way back up to Capitola to check-in to our little beach house. Our next door neighbors were having a massive 35-person birthday party, and it was quite fun to watch all the kids run around. You notice kids, and their behavior, a lot more after having kids.

I kept thinking to myself, holy shit how do I prevent Amelia and #2 from being like that one over there? Or, wow, that girl is so kind, I wonder how to make sure my kids are kind? The one I kept coming back to that proves I’m officially an old man is, there’s no way in hell she’s ever wearing anything that looks like that!

I’m not great at a lot of things, but I will give myself credit as a strong pattern matcher and observer. I’ve learned the value of listening over the years, and have found that a large part of the equation of being a strong listener is being strong with your eyes as well. With all of that said, I still can’t find the pattern that distinguishes the girl getting yelled at for buying a soda she wouldn’t drink, and the kind girl on the beach who helped her sister/cousin when she bumped her head.

I think it’s going to take a lot more pattern matching before I can figure this one out :-/

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Fatherhood, Uncategorized 2 comments on It’s a boy!

It’s a boy!

Micky and I are pregnant a second time.

I know, it’s shocking. We were shocked too. And so has everyone been who has heard so far. But it’s going to be amazing!

Today we went to the pre-natal folks to get our last ultrasound. To say we were nervous is a massive understatement. After Amelia’s oemphalocele, there hasn’t been an ultrasound machine that hasn’t made us nervous. As fate would have it, we were in the same room with the same ultrasound tech who found the problem with Amelia. Too many coincidences to really get comfortable.

Amelia was with us, and we were giving her a play-by-play of what her new sibling was showing off. We started with the spine, and worked through to the heart, various organs, 10 toes, 10 fingers, and then we shut our eyes so we wouldn’t see the sex.

We wanted to know everything was okay first.

Dr. Goldberg, with whom we’ve been through a lot, came in, and told us that everything looked great. We then excitedly, the three of us, got a peek at the little guys boy parts. And we smiled. And now we’re going to be four.

And it’s going to be amazing 🙂

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Open letter to Netflix

Open letter to Netflix

Dear Netflix,

Looks like the competition is heating up. In the words of Gandhi, the fight has begun. It’s been quite an impressive ride though. Your stock price. How you’ve pushed the competition to bankruptcy. Quite impressive.

If you want to win the next round (which by the way is probably the final round of this bout), then you have to massively improve discoverability.

Netflix does a few things very well.

1) Netflix is on all devices
We moved to Roku just about one year ago. It’s fantastic because between Hulu Plus and Netflix we have almost everything we need. Yeah we’ve added Amazon Instant for some newer releases, but I know those are coming to the previously mentioned channels.

On top of that my PC has Netflix. My iPhone and iPad have Netflix. If I hooked up my XBox to do TV, then that would have Netflix. It’s a truly universal platform, and that’s awesome.

2) Netflix recommends wonderfully
Between the fact that I watch a bunch of documentaries and cop TV shows, and the fact that Micky watches a lot of cheesy Rom-Coms, Netflix has us figured out. Their selection isn’t great today (see next point), but of what they have they are able to categorize and relate it to what I’ve seen.

Netflix hosted a massive competition to improve their recommendation engine by 10%. It took 3 research teams over a year to put together the right algorithms, but they did it. It has definitely proven to be a competitive advantage for Netflix, and hopefully the million dollar prize has treated the competitors well.

3) Netflix is very aggressively going after content
Netflix just signed an extremely big deal with DreamWorks and is demonstrating a clear desire to increase its streaming catalogue. The competition is heating up, and so the price  is going to increase as well, but based on CEO statements Netflix is up to the battle.

This is really going to make the platform that much more compelling. However, the one thing that you do horribly is discoverability.

A movie platform, to be successful with discoverability, has to make it easy to search in any dimension that I want that I associate with the movies even after I discover the movie that I think I’m looking for. Movie title, actors, directors, genre are the obvious search topics that are most obvious. Today, you can search on those dimensions, but for Netflix search and discoverability are not the same thing. It’s not delivering the content that matters. Right now the web interface sucks, but it still gets the movies in front of me.

It’s all about how I interact with the content once I’ve had it presented to me. Give me cross-links on top of the movie that I’m looking at. Is it the actor that I’m interested in? Is it the location? What about the writer? Or the style of comedy?

How can you, Netflix, not have this data? And beyond that, how can you not encourage me to build such verticals into queues which are, “Melih’s Caribbean Instant Queue” or “Melih’s Witty British Humo(u)r Instant Queue”. I can have a movie night around self-categorized, self-discovered films, and, oh by the way, it makes Netflix that much smarter.

Also, please make this available on the Roku. Discoverability is even worse on devices than it is on the PC. But that’s a topic for another day.

Sports Stories, Uncategorized 0 comments on Gosh I miss college basketball

Gosh I miss college basketball

Between NC State beating Georgia Tech tonight (which we desperately needed to keep NCAA hopes alive), and the quality of the last 4 minutes of the Duke/UNC game, I’m reminded how much I miss college basketball.

I genuinely believe that it is the purest form of the game. The level of athleticism in the ACC is amazing. The quality of the coaching is spectacular. Each game means something, and that’s what keeps me on the edge of my seat. Being a spectator for my whole life, and a photographer on the sidelines during college, has taught me that it’s a game where the buzzer is the only barrier between a team and the opportunity to snatch victory on any given night. That is truly a beautiful thing.

The thing is I’ve lost sports a lot since moving out to California. I used to spend hours at the Rudino’s in Waverly Place just watching sports. I’d be there with my dad, or with my buddy John Gottshall. It was awesome. The thing is that Micky isn’t really into sports, and not having cable makes it hard to keep up.

In losing sports, I’ve gained a ridiculous amount of time for other things – building my own projects, writing this blog, learning to play guitar. I love those things. I’m also much more likely to do a sport whether it be running, golf, or soccer now that I’m not constantly planning my day around watching sports.

That said, it’s weeks like this one where I say to myself thank goodness for ESPN3, and an Austin Rivers 3-pointer.

Fatherhood, Uncategorized 0 comments on A sunset over the Pacific

A sunset over the Pacific

I came home today, and took Amelia to the ocean. We watched the sun set over the Pacific as the low tide took the ocean away from us and towards the horizon.

There’s a break about 40 yards out where the waves climb up as if there’s a ramp that blindly throws them in the air only to leave them with a long fall on the other side that wasn’t expected.

When you sit on the beach and look through those waves at the setting sun, there’s a calming effect. It’s a moment I wanted to last forever, but as quickly as the sun sets the moment disappears with it.

Every time I look at Amelia I realize just how ethereal everything actually is. Her entire life can be summarized as a series of moments built on top of each other but simultaneously forgotten as soon as the next one arrives. There is no need for memory. Only for experience.

I’ll remember every single one of these moments, and she’ll remember not a single one. Our first kiss. Our first sunset over the Pacific. The moment the doctor told us it was a girl. The first time she held my finger.

And when she does begin to remember, it will come from her own eyes, and her own world view. That’s a beautiful thing, but something that is solely hers. I don’t know how to share those moments with her. Maybe time will teach me, or maybe I’ll always be an outsider, but regardless of the outcome the fact still remains.

Through this series of moments, I am just a flicker. But the sun set was beautiful.

Fatherhood, just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on A very un-Super Bowl weekend

A very un-Super Bowl weekend

We had a great weekend.

I think because we avoided the Super Bowl. You see, I’ve really lost my interest in watching sports since being out here. If you get me in front of a TV, then I still love it, but I can’t plan around it anymore. There’s just too much to do in life.

What did we do instead?

Brunch with a dear friend. One of my best friends from Raleigh, John Gottshall, is in town through Tuesday. We took him to the top of Twin Peaks, which I’d never done before, and it was quite awesome. One thing that wasn’t was the $4.50 hot dog, but that’s San Francisco for you.

And all of that was just Saturday!

Today we trekked into Sonoma and Napa hitting three wineries, two tours and a great two hour lunch along the way. Micky and I are members of the Hess winery, and I love it. The art is cool. The wine is easy to drink. Really great place to take folks.

When we got home Miss Amelia went straight to bed. She’s now rolling onto her stomach to sleep that way using Boomer as a pillow. Her little butt is sticking straight up in the air like a teepee. It’s quite cute really.

John and I watched the last two drives of the game, and then we all had burgers, fries, and fantastic conversation.

What more could a weekend be?