27 February 2011

Another Week Squandered

Do you ever listen to the NPR show called "Car Talk"? Sometimes I will catch the tail end of it on Saturdays when I am driving somewhere. The goofy hosts always conclude the show by saying, "Well, you've done it again. You've squandered an hour by listening to 'Car Talk.'"

This last month as my blog posts have been sporadic at best, I've said to myself here and there, "Well, you've done it again. You've squandered another week without a blog post."

I know that most of you probably use an RSS feed or some such, so you probably don't notice when I go nearly ten days without a post. I don't show up in your reader, and you forget about me. But if you are one of the handful of people who regularly comes to my actual blog and then arrives only to discover that my most recent post is still just the one about some nerdy board game, then I'm sorry to disappoint.

We went to see our new house yesterday. I'm so excited to have a dishwasher, a stove top that works (and is gas instead of electric, hallelujah!), a washer and drier, plenty of counter space, plenty of cabinet space, a whole entire room to put Ike's stuff in, a garage, a fireplace, and oh, I could go on and on. Mostly, I'm excited about not having to move again for a very long time. This will be our twelfth move, and it comes roughly one month before our sixth wedding anniversary. Knowing that we won't have to do this again for several years is beyond thrilling.

Along those lines, I think we've figured out a good way to get the necessary help we will need for moving. It involves a little back story.

This summer when Eric went on a 540 mile canoe trip, two of the people on the trip were his Uncle Paul and cousin Seth. The cousin is 16 (or nearly so) and wants to be a Navy Seal. He really pushed the men on the canoe trip, and he was the main reason Eric got home in time to attend the twenty-week ultrasound where we found out we were having an Ike instead of an Ina. Seth is an intense kid. He also happens to think he is a grown person (which, he nearly is) and he wants to go on a canoe trip with his buddies this summer. They plan to go down a section of the Green River which Eric has done three times. (I went with a huge flotilla of the L. family in the summer of 2006.) As far as canoeing goes, it's really quite simple. The river is flat and slow, and when we went in 2006 we spent almost as much time swimming and floating down the river as we did actually paddling in our canoes. It's only about 60 miles, which might sound like a lot, but it's not really. You can start on a Thursday morning and be done by Saturday afternoon.
With all that said, Seth's mom and his friends' moms are not so keen to let their teenage sons do this trip alone. And none of the boys particularly want to be accompanied by a grownup, so Seth has asked Eric to be the chaperone. I'm pretty sure we'll be able to use this as leverage to get some hardy whippersnappers to help us move.

18 February 2011

Review: Dixit

Dixit is one of the newest award winning games. The premise is quite simple. Each player holds six cards in his hand. Each card has a picture on it. (The pictures tend to be fairly surreal. Some of these pictures are quite lovely, and I'd like to own prints of a few of them.) On your turn, you are the "storyteller." You select one of the pictures in your hand and lay it face down on the table. You then give a clue about the picture. The clue can be anything you'd like as long as it is a verbal clue. Each player then lays a card (face down) that he feels best fits the clue. The cards are then mixed up and turned face up on the table. Each player then guesses which card truly belonged to the story teller.

If you guess correctly, you get some points. If somebody guesses your card when you were not the storyteller, you get a point. The real trick is in the storytelling. If everybody selects the correct card, the storyteller receives no points. If nobody guesses correctly, the storyteller still receives no points. So the trick is to be obscure, but not too obscure.

It's a fun game and is great for groups. You could play it with three players, but four is really a minimum to have an enjoyable time. There are enough pieces to accommodate six players, but you could easily play with a few more if you tweaked things.

I recently reviewed another board game, and I've got at least three more that I need to get around to reviewing at some point. We are big board game geeks, and we are always looking for board game geek friends. If you are new-ish to my blog and care to read more about fun board games, here are some of my other board game reviews:
Fish Eat Fish
Puerto Rico
Tigris and Euphrates
Ticket to Ride - Europe
Liars' Dice
Settlers of Catan

16 February 2011

Kid History

I saw this YouTube video at a New Year's Eve party. You should watch it and enjoy it. It's a little long, so you might not want to watch the whole thing, but you should at least watch the first couple of minutes so you can get an idea for what a clever concept it is. I think once you start watching you'll want to finish, though. (Ange, as a filmophile, I think you will especially like it.)

13 February 2011

New House

There you have it, folks. The structure is built. The inside is not finished, though it probably will be by the end of March when we are supposed to move in. We've picked our flooring, fixtures and other such things, and we're very excited to be home owners!

06 February 2011

Two Months

Today Ike is two months old. Tomorrow he is getting a whole bunch of vaccinations. I am not particularly looking forward to it.

He has changed a lot in the last month. He's put on quite a bit of weight. The last time I weighed him he was 12 lbs 4 oz. He's developing a bit of a double chin, and it's as cute as can be. He's got little folds around his ankles and wrists, and I love them. He has outgrown some of our favorite newborn outfits and grown into some very cute 0-3 month outfits. (The picture on the left was taken about three weeks ago. You can see the double chin and the fattening of the wrists.)

He makes eye contact quite a bit now, which is kind of nice. Plus he smiles! He tends to smile at me more often than at Eric, but I think that is just because I am with him all the time. No doubt Ike will prefer Eric in just a short while.

This week I returned to work full time, and Ike came with me. It's been very successful so far, and people in the office like having him around, or at least they pretend to, which is very nice of them.

When we were shopping for a house, our real estate agent commented numerous times that Ike was just the best little baby. We agree! (We have selected a house, by the way. Story and pictures to follow, maybe.)

He sleeps in his cradle now (instead of his carseat or the swing, which is where he'd been sleeping since around Christmas when we went to stay with Eric's parents for a few days.) The transition to the cradle was really a breeze, and I'm not sure why we didn't do it sooner. We just swaddle him and plop him in there. He coos for a while, cries for a while and then falls asleep for a while. It's a good deal. Plus he usually will sleep from about 9-10 at night until 4 the next morning, and after being fed he'll sleep again until about 8. I think that's pretty good for two months. (If it's not good, please do not tell me and ruin my delusional state. I enjoy it.)

Ike loves baths, his Bumbo chair, binkies, being sung to, and eating. He tolerates being thrown in the air, which I have started doing so that he will enjoy it more when he's older. I have a firm belief that babies should enjoy being tossed in the air, and you've got to start them young.

There has been one rather depressing aspect of Month Two of Ike's life: I have learned that he is allergic to cow's milk. Of course, I haven't given him cow's milk directly, but when I eat dairy products, he does not react well. I have been off dairy products for about two weeks now, and I was beginning to notice a significant difference in his reflux. Then I carelessly ate some sandwiches with cheese on them at a wedding shower yesterday, and today his reflux was back to its terrible self again. The lack of dairy is terribly depressing, but the lack of excessive spit up is quite nice.

05 February 2011

Drug Testing for Welfare

I saw this post recently on somebody's Facebook status:

Kentucky just passed the best law ever: To be on Foodstamps, Medicaid or cash assistance for your children or yourself you have to pass a drug test. Now every other state should do the same. If you agree, repost this. People that work have to take a drug test, so should they! Amen! Repost if you agree.
Now, first off, I have to say that I am ALWAYS leery of these sorts of things. They are like the new email forwards. They spread like mad and rarely have any validity. Naturally, I checked Snopes out on this one. And what do you know? It's only partially true. The law has been proposed, but it has not yet been voted upon. Missouri lawmakers are considering a similar law for their state. Of the most importance, though is that Michigan started a drug screening program for welfare recipients in 1999, and this program was stopped when a federal court ruled that such drug testing was contrary to the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizure.

With all that said, let's get down to the real problem with such a law:

It would cost FAR MORE MONEY than it would save. Most people, even welfare recipients, don't use drugs. As much as some people would like us to think that the vast majority of people on welfare are sitting on their rears using crack all day, it just isn't true. (Especially if they are using crack. They would probably be doing a lot more than sitting on their rears, though not necessarily working, which is what we'd like them to be doing.)

To drug test every welfare recipient would cost a lot of money, even if the drug tests were only annually or were only done randomly. In order to justify the cost, there would have to be enough welfare recipients with positive drug tests (thus losing their benefits) to balance the outlay of the processing of the drug tests. Just to give an example, the cheapest drug test is a urinalysis, and it costs about $25 per specimen to analyze. Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time finding out exactly how much money an average welfare recipient receives in the United States. I know it varies by state, but when you really crunch the numbers, I seriously doubt this sort of program would be worth it.

Plus, drug testing is notoriously inaccurate. The cheapest form is inaccurate about 25% of the time. The most accurate urinalysis drug test costs more like $100-$200 per analysis. Even those can be tricked by the user drinking ample amounts of water in the days leading up to the test. Hair tests tend to be quite accurate and also substantially more expensive. Blood tests are the most accurate, the most invasive and also very expensive.

I really do understand the frustration behind the original Facebook post. It's annoying to think that your hard-earned money is going to some moocher who does drugs all day. But the fact is that your hard-earned money is probably not going to a drug-using moocher. If we want to focus on improving welfare, we need to focus on how to get people off of welfare ON THEIR OWN rather than kicking them off. I guess this would mean welfare-to-work programs and other programs that incentivise working. For example, a person who can make more money on welfare than they can working a minimum wage job is not going to be motivated to go get a job. It would also mean better funding for work training programs and better financial literacy throughout our society, particularly for the people in the lower classes.

I don't know if there is anything we can do to rid ourselves 100% of lazy moochers. There will always be people who figure out how to work the system. But developing welfare systems that promote work and sound financial choices are a much more logical route to getting people off welfare than drug testing everybody in hopes of catching a few cheaters.