Current Affairs

Gee Mr. President, Thanks for the Christmas Card (Finally).


I don't usually get political here on Modern Day Dad, but this isn't really a post about politics. Rather, it's a post more about politeness than politics.

In 2008 I was a big supporter of President Obama's campaign. For the first time in my life not only had I contributed money towards a campaign, but I had also volunteered. Even though it was a small amount of time (knocking on doors on election day), I enjoyed the victory because I felt like I had contributed something more than just my vote. That night I received the thank you email like everyone else, and I was happy.

That Christmas however I did expect a holiday card from the President, but not because of anything he did.

A few years previously my wife and I had moved into a new house, and that Christmas we received a card with a signed picture of (then) president George W. Bush. We hadn't ever given money and were both registered Democrats but somehow we got on some list. And even though he was barking up the wrong tree (politically speaking), I had to admit it was nice getting something in the mail from the President of the United States.

But in 2008 a card didn't come from the President. The country was in rough shape and I figured that they probably had more important things to spend money on than cards to political supporters.

Then in 2010 I volunteered for the Harry Reid reelection campaign here in Nevada. This time I spent many, many more hours and was fortunate to use some of my own skills for the benefit of the campaign. It was a great experience, and while I remain grateful to the campaign for the opportunity I never received any sort of formal thank you from the Senator or the campaign. A simple form letter would have been a nice thing to get, but by now my expectations had kind of been set by the Obama campaign so I wasn't really that surprised.

Then this year at Christmas I got, for the first time ever, a Christmas card from the first family (pictured above). Coincidentally, the 2012 reelection campaign is starting up and they're looking for more campaign donations. I don't mind the transparent marketing, but getting a Christmas card from someone only when they want something (and not when they don't) is insulting. Do they honestly think a holiday card this year is going to get me to contribute more money? Because believe me, it's had the opposite effect.

As a post script, I also happen to know it wasn't always this way in Democratic politics. In 1966 my mother (then a young college student) went out to the airport in St. Louis to see off Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Some photographers from Life Magazine were there, and my mother signed a photo release form. The pictures were never used, but few weeks later the Senator's office sent her a form letter thanking her, and underneath the signature Senator Kennedy himself wrote "Many thanks."

That's what I call good politics.

Making a Baby the New Way

There is a really outstanding piece I found yesterday about one man's experiences with IVF, fertility clinics and what it means for the guy who has to go through it. Intensely personal and incredibly well written, it's very much worth a read for any father or father-on-deck. Actually, it's worth a read for anyone.

The Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Paul Ford [ via Daring Fireball]

(And once you've read the article, don't miss the cherry on top.)

How to Raise Boys That Read? Maybe Start By Parenting.

[Note: This is a post I originally wrote a month ago for another website. They changed their minds about it, so I'm posting it here.]

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.


Twice in my Facebook feed this morning people have posted links praising this opinion piece in the WSJ about the problem of getting boys to read books. Written by Thomas Spence (a book publisher in Dallas) it tries to explain the reasons for the apparent disparity in reading proficiency between boys and girls since 1992 (as stated in a study he mentions but doesn't link to). In the piece Mr. Spence points to what he believes are the two main culprits, books that pander to boys through "[their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor" and, wait for it, video games.

As for the gross-out humor, his argument is that by allowing boys to read books that they think are funny (apparently Mr. Spence has never laughed at a fart in his life) the education system isn't teaching them "manners and taste." He even uses a pretty rich quote from the venerable C.S. Lewis, who talks about how the "little human animal" must "be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful." (As an aside, I haven't read something so utterly condescending in a long while.)

Are fart books really turning our boys into idiot zombies?

Am I really expected to believe that in C.S. Lewis' time there was nothing of dubious literary merit for people to read and enjoy? There has always been things written poorly for cheap laughs or thrills, and somehow "literature" continued to thrive and societies maintained social norms. 

Having never personally read any of this newest class of books that "pander to boys' untutored tastes" I can't comment on their merits or lack thereof. But take a second and look at the roster of books Mr. Spence has published. While most all seem to be politically conservative treatises about "the Tyrrany of Judges", How to Beat the Democrats, and The Left Illusion, none of them are books for young readers. So is he an expert worthy of a WSJ opinion piece, or is there some other social agenda going on?

And then there's the old "let's blame video games for everything" argument. To back his conclusions up, the author cites one study from a Psychology professor at Dennison University that purports a causal relationship between video games and academic performance. One study is all is needed apparently, because "Science has spoken" (capitalization is all his too by the way). And the magic solution to fix boys, the education system and America? Take away the video games.

While I have to assume Mr. Spence's heart is in the right place, I think he's got it all wrong. The way to get boys' reading proficiency back up, or make them have better manners, or appreciate some of the truly amazing things humanity has created is to act like a parent. And this doesn't go just for boys by the way, it's also true for girls. I see no problem with allowing children to read so called "gross-out" books if they want, but you have to encourage them to read other stuff too. In my own life, my oldest daughter picks books she'd like to read, but I also choose books for her as well, typically the books I remember reading and loving when I was young. And I haven't had a complaint yet.

The same goes for video games. Act like a responsible parent and limit the amount of television, video games, sports, reading or anything that might be putting your children's lives out of balance. If your son isn't reading books and playing video games for three hours a day, then cold-turkey might be the way to go. But to say it's the fault of the video games is absurd.

And be an example for your kids as well - maybe your son isn't reading because you don't read. When is the last time you took your kids to the library or talked to them about a book you read? There are all kinds of reasons why boys might not read as much or as well as girls, but "I submit" the root of it isn't the video games or the subject matter of the books, it's the parents.

How to Raise Boys Who Read []

A Blunt Truth About the Effect of the Wakefield Article on Vaccines and Autism

In a recent Medscape article titled "Autism and the MMR Vaccine, Revisited" (taken from a lecture and reprinted here), Dr. Paul Offit lays down what really matters with Wakefield's fraudulent Lancet publication.

Thousands of parents in England chose to not vaccinate their children. Hundreds were hospitalized and 4 were killed. Three in Ireland and 1 in London died because their parents feared the MMR vaccine more than they feared the measles. You could argue that the Wakefield paper killed 4 children.

My only problem with what Dr. Offit says? He still calls him "Dr. Wakefield." As we all know, he hasn't been a doctor for some time now.

Autism and the MMR Vaccine, Revisited [Reprinted at - Medscape is subscription only.]

Parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should have to pay more.

Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities. It's precisely this point a colleague of mine was considering when he had the idea that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.


Check out this great op-ed piece on (link above).

In 2008, one couple from San Diego who decided not to vaccinate their child for measles ended up exposing 839 people, creating 11 new cases of measles and costing their county and state $124,517 (not including private insurer costs).

Even if you set aside the health risks for everyone that children who aren't vaccinated create, reckless parental decisions have real economic consequences as well.

Stay-At-Home Dads Going Back To Work in the Wall Street Journal

There's a good article in today's Wall Street Journal about At-Home Dads trying to get back into the work force. There are as many different reasons for staying at home or going back to work as there are At-Home Dads, but the article does a good job of illustrating a few different situations. Whether Dads decide to go back to school to give them a competitive edge or keep themselves in their industry with freelance work, the smart Dads play the hiring/interview game without discounting their time as primary caregivers.

In a world that pays a lot of lip service to those who "think outside of the box," I can't think of anything in my life that has made me do so more than staying at home with my kids. As featured father David Hallowes says, the "challenges and self-reflection of the past 2 1/2 years will make him a better manager."

Daunting Task for Mr. Mom: Get a Job -

[And for the record, shame on whomever wrote the lazy "Mr. Mom" headline.]

"Is That $50,000-a-Year College Worth It?" Uh, maybe.

With the baseball season started and the tax season finished, it is time for the final rite of spring: Where to send the college deposit check.  That is the dilemma facing many families of high school seniors who have been accepted to multiple places.


This is a question I know I'm going to have to tackle eventually - twice. What this article basically comes down to is - if you can get into a truly elite school, then it's probably best to go. If it's between an expensive middle tier school and a public university, the cheaper public option might be better.

The most interesting point to me was that if you can get into an elite school in the first place, then actually going might not make you any better off. UNLESS you come from a low-income family.

Of course measuring "success" is kind of difficult, but my advice? If you live in a state with great public universities, stay put.

via @deantsouvalas

Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work : NPR


In a "down economy" stay at home dads are more popular than ever!


This story from NPR is pretty good though, and it puts a spotlight on what a lot of us are going through. Namely, should I go back to work? Because there's a part of me that does, and a part of me that doesn't. And if I do, how the hell am I going to explain this period of my life on a resumé?