Friday, September 28, 2012

You Learn Something New Everyday

I'm a sucker for random facts. I always like to learn something new, even if it doesn't impact my daily life. That's why I was a big fan of The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and TLC many years ago before they devolved into reality TV.  There was always something on that made me go, "Wow, I didn't know that." Well, that happened twice today and for a completely random reason to boot!

Anyway, going through my regular lunchtime political web reads (Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Slate, Politico, etc.), I came across this article on Slate comparing human births with other mammals. Being a father of a soon-to-be 9 month old, I was interested.  The article linked to another fascinating, but much older article in the New York Times on the same subject, which explained that human gestation is much longer than others because of the needed brain development, but the difficulty in birth (much longer for humans) is that the baby is born facing backward due to the smaller pelvice which is necessary for bipedalism.  So being big brained and able to walk screws us in the birthing process. But hey, it's worth it.

The article also mentioned the most difficult birth in the animal kingdom, that of the spotted hyena. Female spotted hyena don't have an accessible vagina, so they actually procreate and give birth through an elongated clitoris that looks like the penis of the male spotted hyena. This organ ruptures upon giving birth and up to 18% of first time spotted hyena moms die because of it.  That blew me away. But having cub hyenas that can fend for themselves (they're born with teeth) it's worth it.

That was the first random fact, but the second which really blew me away because it completely changed what I had believed all my life.  What is it?  Hyena are actually in the cat family in the animal kingdom rather than the dog family and the only reason they look like dogs is because of convergent evolution. Totally. Blown. Away.

So I went looking for info on the election and learned something new about hyenas.  Only on the Net.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What's In A Name?

My daughter just turned 8 months this weekend and, as I've mentioned before, her name is Elena Marie. My wife and I have named our children after the special people in our lives. Our son, Alexander Michael, is named after my parents Americo and Marion. We've been calling him Alex since birth, everyone else does, and he refers to himself as such, but in school he goes by the full Alexander. That was a good thing and I commended his Pre-K teacher for that. It made it easier for him to learn to spell his name.

Alex doesn't have any other name.  No, we're not going with Lex or Zander. Elena, however, has many different names.  She's named after my wife's sister and brother, Elly and Miguel.  My wife didn't want to give her a nickname like her sister because it would be too confusing, so she started calling her Laini (LAY-NEE). Alex calls Elena that too and, while I started off calling her Elly, I'm in the Laini crowd too. But it gets a little more complicated now. Our niece calls her Laila, and my wife has given her 2 alternate nicknames, one is Lulu (LOO-LOO) and the other, jokingly because of a friend from the neighborhood, Lailai (LAY-LAY) which is her "on the block" name.

Elena's young and she'll get to chose her nickname and she has a lot to choose from.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Memoriam, 9/11

Eleven years. I don’t know if it feels like yesterday or decades ago. That day remains vivid in my mind, however. It was a clear blue Tuesday morning, just like today. What I have a hard time remembering was September 10, 2001. I remember going down to court the week before. The courthouse was not far from the World Trade Center. Coming out of the subway the Towers were to my left in the distance, dominating the skyline. I go to that same subway station and I have a hard time remembering how the towers looked from that view. It puzzles me. Pre-9/11 seems like a dream. Maybe that’s why I can’t tell if it feels like yesterday or in the distant past. There seems to be no prologue. Just the post-9/11 world that I’ve become accustomed.

I can look back on my life of the last elevn years and so much has changed. I got married, bought a house, we have a son and a daughter. Life has endured, as America has endured despite what had happened. That was probably the hardest thing to foresee on 9/11. How life would go on.

Nearly three thousand people were murdered that day and their loved ones have had to find a way to live on, and they have. There are countless articles and expos├ęs on them out now to commemorate the anniversary. To the survivors, this past decade has been an elegy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happy 46th Anniversary, Star Trek!!!

Forty-six years ago tomorrow on September 8, 1966, NBC aired "The Man Trap," for the original STAR TREK. It was the first episode of the series aired, but it was not the first produced. Back then, studios got to chose what episodes to air and NBC likely chose "The Man Trap" because of it's monster-on-the-loose storyline. The original STAR TREK lasted only 3 seasons, but as we all know it became a cultureal phenomenon in reruns. Since I was born after the series went off the air, that's how I became a fan and have remained such for all these years.

As I previously wrote, my moral framework was formed by STAR TREK. I was a toddler glued to the screen watching reruns of the original series on WPIX. Yes, that’s completely geeky, but so what? I remember when I found out as an early teen that the US didn’t follow the Prime Directive (i.e., all peoples—alien or otherwise—had a right to self determination) and was devastated by that. There is something inherently noble about the original STAR TREK universe. Dave Marinaccio’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek perfectly captures what I learned from STAR TREK and all what I needed to know how to live, what to do, and how to be:

- Each person or each species, no matter how alien, has the right to live their lives as they wish. (AS long as they’re not trying to take over the galaxy or eat you or something.)

- Everyone has a role in life. Sulu is the navigator. Uhura is the communications specialist. Do your own job and the ship will function more smoothly.

- Whatever you are doing, answer a distress call. The most important time to help someone is when they need it.

- If you mess something up, it’s your responsibility to make things right again (Say you disrupt history and cause the Nazis to win World War II. To correct matters, you have to let Joan Collins walk in front of a car even though you’re in love with her.)

- The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play

- If you can keep your head in a crisis you’ve got a fighting chance.

- The unknown is not to be feared. It is to be examined, understood and accepted.

- Close friends become family and family is the true center of the universe.

- End every episode with a smile.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. It was a sort of epiphany seeing this. Yes, this is how we should live. Thank you, Gene Roddenberry and STAR TREK, and happy anniversary!!!

[updated from my September 8, 2011 post]

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Farewell Summer

Jeesh, it's September already. Where the heck did the summer go? I do feel that as I've gotten older the days have become shorter (since I've accumulated so many in my existence) that a week is like a day and a month is like a week. For my son starting 2nd Grade this week, the summer was like a year. But, of course, he's lamenting going back to school. Don't get me wrong: he loves it, but he loves camp more.
Me? I didn't take a vacation this year. I hardly do anyway and work through summer. My time "off" was taking two weeks in January after my daughter was born. But I enjoy the sun waking me in the morning before I get ready for the day and still being out when I leave work in the evening. The nice temperatures (I can even deal with a heat wave). That is what I lament. Spring is my favorite season because I think of birth and renewal. Life begins anew. The fall, while beautiful with the comfortable temperatures (and football season, of course), is bittersweet. If makes me think of endings and death.
The official end of summer is not until the end of September, but Labor Day has always marked it for me (and millions of others, of course). So goodbye, summer. It was fun, but all too quickly gone.