Politics Shmolitics

I don’t want to write about politics.

This blog is supposed to be about parenting (yes, among other things) and I have a small enough amount of readers as it is without publishing my political views on the internet. If the idea is to try to expand my reach, taking a political stand runs the risk of alienating some people. Of course, I also realize that, although I might not spell out my views explicitly, it’s probably not that hard to figure them out, especially if you consider my full-time occupation or follow me on social media.1 But I’ll let you do that homework on your own, if you’re so inclined.

In the meantime, I’m not going to write about politics.

I don’t want to write about politics because it feels futile to do so. I am happy to engage in a debate about an issue that includes different points of view and involved a healthy exchange of ideas. We can go back and forth trading arguments, reasons for our opinions and pointing out the flaws in each other’s logic. I am perfectly fine not agreeing with you; if anything, a disagreement actually makes for a better discussion. In the best case scenario, one of us will make a point that the other hadn’t considered and we’ll each have to rethink our stances.

The problem is that these healthy exchanges seem to occur so rarely. The American political “debates” have become nothing more than candidates throwing insults back and forth at each other while the political issues get pushed to the side. No one makes any actual statements about their plans to fix the health care system or to reform education or about foreign policy. The debates are all platitudes and sound bites with no substance.2  Plus, have you seen what’s been going on in the House of Representatives this past week? I have to believe that the rest of the world takes the United States somewhat seriously only because of our military capabilities; there’s no way it has anything to do with diplomacy or our elected leaders demonstrating an ability to, you know, lead.

The other issue is that there do not seem to be any real forums for real political discussion. I have very little patience for politics on social media because of how splintered the landscape has become. People on the left hate-follow the right and share articles just to make fun of them and the right wing members do the same right back. And that assumes that people even bother to follow those who hold a different point of view; too often people will just follow those who espouse the same ideals and ignore any of the rhetoric coming from the other side of the aisle. I find that there is so little to gain by surrounding myself with people who agree with me because that means no one is challenging me to defend myself. The problem is that none of the people on either side seem interested in even listening to the other’s arguments in the first place.

Maybe I’m missing something. There may be some little-known, secluded, magical place of which I’m just not aware where people use logic and reason to defend their arguments rather than resorting to insults and mud-slinging. It’s also possible that I just don’t have the energy or the passion to do the research I think would be necessary to really engage in one of these conversations.3 I’d like to think that I would be able to muster up some more patience for this kind of a conversation if I could be assured that the other participant(s) were after the same objective: an exchange of ideas that does not necessarily need to end with a winner or a loser. Until then, I’ll keep doing my best to tolerate the actions of politicians and the “arguments” posed on the internet and keep most of my opinions to myself.


1. If you haven’t already done so, please like the blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

2. And, lest you assume that this is all just directed at Donald Trump and the Republicans, I have felt very similarly about the State of the Union address over the past few years.

3. Honestly, I’d rather watch baseball. Or, at least, read about it because, let’s be honest, when am I ever watching a baseball game these days?

Losing Online Friends

It’s weird thinking of myself as an online personality.

I’ve been writing this blog for about two and a half years now, so you’d think I’d be a little more used to it by now. I write these posts about my family, my sports allegiances, my beliefs about parenting, my views of the world around me and, the truth is, nothing much happens afterwards. I get the chance to process my feelings and let people in on the “secret” of what thoughts are swirling around in my head and that’s usually the end of it.

I don’t usually feel like I’m making a huge difference in the world with my fledgling little site. For one thing, I don’t exactly have the highest number of regular readers. People don’t recognize me on the street or ask me for my autograph or beg to take selfies with me. For another, so many of my posts are so small-scale, so individual, so specific to my family and my experiences. I’m hardly writing manifestos about how people should live or describing proper parenting techniques or even reviewing children’s books or toys. I’m telling stories about playing with my son and connecting with others and, occasionally, about sports.

Before you think that I’m complaining about not reaching very many people or that I’m feeling anything negative about this site, let me be very clear: I really enjoy this blog. I like being able to share stories with other people about my family. I enjoy exchanging ideas about parenting and relating to other people. I feel guilty when I see that an extended period of time has gone by without a new post because I feel a responsibility to the people who follow the blog regularly. I’m still surprised – pleasantly, of course – when people tell me that they read my posts and I jump at the chance to find out which posts struck their fancy and why.

The reason I mentioned being an online personality is that the internet has a weird way of helping people feel connected to those who put their thoughts and their experiences out there for public consumption. For instance, I listen to a number of different podcasts during my commutes to and from work and home visits. I’ve been listening to some of them for years and, over time, I’ve “gotten to know” the hosts. I’ve never met any of them but, after hearing them talk about their families and their work in the course of the podcasts, I find myself feeling like I know them. I feel like I could invite them to my house to watch football (you know, if I had time to sit at home and watch football) and it wouldn’t be weird at all because I’ve already gotten to know them.1 I’m happy when I hear about their successes and I feel sad when I hear that they are going through hard times.

It feels like these internet personalities, whom I’ve never met, are my friends.

On Friday afternoon, ESPN released a statement that it was suspending publication of the sports and popular culture website, Grantland. Grantland was started in 2011 by Bill Simmons, a sports writer who had been employed by ESPN at the time. Over the last four years, its writers covered sports in a slightly different way than conventional beat reporters and commentators. Grantland made statistics more accessible and expanded on the human sides of the athletes. The contributors put out quality content in multiple forms, including written articles, audio podcasts and videos. They approached stories in unique ways and no topic was off-limits. The site wasn’t always perfect but it was always thought-provoking and entertaining.

Some of these contributors fit into the category I was describing earlier, the group of Internet personalities that I’ve grown to love. It’s that relationship, odd and one-sided as it may be, that spurred this post. Some of these writers and podcasters will reportedly be staying on with ESPN in other capacities, which I’m happy about because it means those people won’t immediately be out of a job and, selfishly, because it also means I get to keep reading their content that has drawn me to them for the past four years. But there’s still that nagging feeling like I’m losing something.

I realize that this is ridiculous in a lot of ways. Nothing is really changing for me. My job is the same, my family is the same, my commute is the same. I’m still going to listen to podcasts and follow my Chicago teams and read about sports if I have a spare minute or two. For all intents and purposes, the only way my life is really affected by any of this is that I’ll have a slightly smaller selection of podcasts to choose from. The people who are most affected by ESPN’s decision – the Grantland staff – have never met me and have much more pressing matters to attend to than worrying about how I’m going to learn about the most efficient NBA shooters or the reasons why the Mets faltered against the Royals in the World Series.

They actually need to figure out how they’re going to continue making a living.

Like I said, the Grantland staff don’t know me. We’ve never met in person, never Skyped, never had any real interaction to speak of.2 And still, I feel sad. I don’t know these people and they don’t know me. But they are my friends, just the same, and I hope that they all find a new place where they are able to speak their minds and express themselves in the ways that attracted me to them in the first place.

The internet is a less fun place without them.

Many many thanks to Jonah Keri, Robert Mays, Bill Barnwell, Katie Baker, Zach Lowe, Rembert Browne, Rany Jazayerli, Alex Pappademas and everyone else from Grantland for the cumulative hours of entertainment and procrastination that you provided. And, of course, thank you, as well, to Bill Simmons, who brought all of you together to begin with.

1. Never mind the fact that it would likely be really uncomfortable for them

2. Katie Baker and Jonah Keri replied to me once or twice on Twitter, but I think that’s about it.

The Toys Are Alive!

As anyone who has cared for a toddler will tell you, it’s hard to get young kids to stay in one place for an extended period of time. They have what my brother calls “Ooh Shiny Syndrome,” which means they get distracted by everything and they want to investigate every distraction. That’s why, when we’re able to sit and eat together, we try to get rid of all of the “shiny objects.” The television stays off, there are no devices at the table and we try to just enjoy each other’s company. We try to eat together every night and I’d say we’re successful at least five or six nights per week (my work schedule makes eating together difficult sometimes, but we can usually work it out).

This past weekend, Trudy, Eitan and I were eating dinner together and the scene was just as I described it. The television was off, the toys and phones were away and we were just sitting and spending time together. Then, suddenly, Cookie Monster’s voice interrupted our conversation:


Eitan, like many toddlers today, has a number of toys that make noise. A Little People carnival, a V-Tech turtle that teaches letters, numbers and colors and a gigantic Fisher Price fire truck are just a few examples. They’re basically all the same; you press a button and the toy plays music or talks to you or plays some other sort of sound effect. The Cookie Monster toy is slightly different because it relies on sensors to trigger the noises, rather than actual buttons (the Rock ‘N Roll Elmo, is very similar in that regard). You put cookies in Cookie Monster’s mouth, his mouth “chews” them and he swallows the cookies. They slide through his “throat” and end up in the red backpack he’s wearing so that you can take them out and feed him again. If you stop playing with him for a minute or two, he prompts you to play more. He suggests, “Me think there may be more cookies in me backpack.” Or, if your toddler misses the subtlety, Cookie gets more direct: “Me want cookie, please!” Leave him alone for a few minutes and he stays quiet. But then, last weekend…


We were at the table and Cookie Monster was clear on the other side of the room. No one had touched him, and certainly no one had fed him a cookie, which is usually what prompts that exclamation. Eitan, of course, immediately got out of his chair and went to play. We were able to bring him back by bringing Cookie Monster to sit with us too (we also pretended to feed Cookie Monster spaghetti and meatballs to get Eitan to eat more), but it got me thinking. I couldn’t imagine that we were the first people to experience their kid’s toys spontaneously coming to life. In fact, I’d heard a number of stories about the Baby Alive that Trudy had when she was young. She and her parents kept the toy exiled upstairs because its voice was so creepy that they couldn’t stand to listen to it on a regular basis, and they still heard the baby’s “voice” calling to them. So I put out some feelers on social media and gathered some anecdotes about other parents’ and caregivers’ experiences with their kids’ toys coming to life:

‪Creed Anthony, Tales From The Poop Deck: The creepiest was an Easter gift that we got and it made a road trip with us. We traveled at night and right when my daughter was about to fall asleep, we hit a nice bump on the freeway and the duck started to quack. Needless to say, she cracked up and we did too. Eventually she fell asleep, as did my wife, and that deranged duck quacked from Indy to Cleveland. It was like the beginning of a horror story.

Mike Heenan, At Home Dad Matters: There was a Melissa & Doug Sound Puzzle left in a tent outside our bedroom window. We heard “N is for nails…” all night long until we figured it out the next morning.

Jeff Bogle, Out With The Kids: One night last week, the Mrs. and I were talking and laughing about something ridiculous or maybe it was something else. That’s when we heard it. The jive-talking giggling of Tah Do, our resident pink & black striped Furby Boom. Something had woken her up and she was as talkative as a 10-month-old in a crib as the sun fights through slotted wooden blinds, and making about as much sense. We freaking lost it. (This was an excerpt from the blog post Jeff wrote about the Furby. You can read the whole post here.)

Chris Gould, Blog of Manly: My daughter had a Violet Leap Frog toy, and she would roll over it in the middle of the night and we would hear “Hello, Olivia” in a creepy mechanical voice – imagine waking to that from a deep sleep through the baby monitor!

(For the record, Violet got a lot of mentions; Chris just happened to be the only person who specifically agreed to be quoted. But it seems pretty clear that parents do not like Violet.)

‪Scott Posey, Father Nerds Best: We have Scout. Scout can be [annoying]. If you don’t turn him off by pressing a small button on his foot, he’ll bark at you randomly – especially when you’re trying to put your son to sleep. Or, also when you’re trying to put your son to sleep, he’ll inform the world how to spell your son’s name. Thanks Scout, that was really helpful.

‪Chris Camacho: I own a children’s resell store and one day I walked in the store at about 5 am to get some stuff done. I walked in and I heard a conversation happening toward the back of the store. I cautiously approached and heard one of the voices truly sounded demonic. I thought about calling the cops until at the last moment I recognized Tad. The other voice was Dora but her batteries were about shot and she she was slow and much lower pitched. Freaked me out.

‪James Cameron, Home Is Where The Mouse Is: We had a Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Puppy. Would talk and sing randomly when no one was in the room with it. Sometimes in the middle of the night. So annoying.

Les Westfall, Jr.: I buried a dog behind the garage that liked to talk without batteries. Demon puppy. Sang evil songs. It has a grave marker of an old princess potty.

(James and Les were hardly the only two people who referenced the Fisher Price dog. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but parents seem to hate the Fisher Price version.)

‪Shawn Weil: As toddlers, my kids had a baseball toy – think “tee ball” for the 18-month-old set. If you hit it it would say “you have a double” or “it’s a home run!” The problem? Once you stopped playing with it, though, the trouble started. 30 seconds after the last hit, it would play 5 seconds of the applause of the crowd. Same at 90 seconds after the last hit. It constantly freaked us out.

So what does all this mean? Maybe nothing; maybe there’s just a glitch in circuitry or the house settles a bit without us realizing and that’s what triggers the toys. Maybe ghosts are real and they’re just messing with us.1 Maybe the electronics have become self-aware and we’re going to meet John Connor and Ah-nold sooner than we thought.

Or maybe, just maybe, Sid was right:

Feel free to share your own stories in the comments section below!

1. I have a friend, Mike, who used to do stand-up comedy in college. He had a bit where he talked about the kind of ghost he will be when he dies (I’m paraphrasing): “Some ghosts are angry; they torture and terrorize people because they have some sort of unfinished business or they need revenge. Some ghosts are friendly, like Casper. Me? I’d be an inconvenience ghost. I’m not really out to hurt anyone, I just want to have fun. I would be the kind of ghost where you get woken up at 2:00 in the morning because you hear the toilet flush and you yell out, ‘Damn it, Mike!'”

Dear Eitan: Be A Man

Dear Eitan,

It’s been a little while since I’ve written to you. We’ve all been busy, you and your mom and me, between work and going to the beach and playdates and all the other stuff that manages to occupy people’s time. We’ve been having a lot of fun together at the pool, playing catch and getting into tickle fights at home. And I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it is to have a mini-dance party with you in the living room while Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” plays in the background. But there’s something more serious we have to talk about.

We have to talk about girls.

We’ll have other discussions about girls as you get older, but this one can’t wait. We have to talk about how you act towards girls. How you talk to them, how you look at them and, most of all, how you touch them; it’s all important. There are people in our society that are going to try to teach you that this isn’t true. They’re going to make comments about women needing to stay in “their place” (usually the kitchen) and then say, “It was only a joke.” They’re going to write lyrics that refer to girls and women as bitches or hos (or worse) and then say, “It’s just a song, it doesn’t mean anything.”

They’re going to hear that a woman was knocked out by her fiancée, a professional football player, and then say that there might be “some other story,” implying that she must have done something to deserve getting punched in the face and dragged, unconscious, out of a Las Vegas elevator.

I know, it seems like a big jump to go from jokes and song lyrics to incidents of domestic violence. It is, in a way; certainly there are plenty of married men who make their share of misogynistic comments but don’t go home and beat up their wives. The thing is, you need to realize that all the “little things” add up. Every time you call a woman a name (besides her own, obviously) or make a joke about how girls don’t need to be involved in important decisions because it’s not their “place,” you’re contributing to the culture that sees women and girls as less than their male counterparts. And, if women are seen as less than men, if they’re just objects to be looked at, then there is less of a reason to treat them with respect.

I know that a lot of the things I’m talking about are over your head right now. You’re two years old; you’re not supposed to be thinking about the way American society influences your behavior or the statements that your actions make about your personality. Your biggest focuses at this point in your life are if your pancakes have “caka chippies”1 in them and where you last put your “pee mom boll”2 and paddle. That’s how it’s supposed to be. But as you grow, you’re going to be exposed to a lot of different things in a lot of different ways. Some of it will be good, like learning about teamwork and humor and love. Some of it won’t be quite as good, like when you eventually hear about violence and war and the terrible things that humans do to each other. You’re going to have to decide how you want to treat the people around you and, by extension, what kind of a person you want to be.

Over the last few months, your mom and I have been teaching you not to hit. You don’t do it maliciously; sometimes you just get a little too excited and forget that it hurts when you hit people. I’m not really worried. You’re a quick learner and, even though you’ve been testing the limits more often recently, you know when you’ve done something wrong. More importantly that that, though, you’re a kind and sweet boy who genuinely cares about others, even at your young age. I get the sense that you’re going to grow up to be just as passionate about preventing all kinds of abuse and mistreatment as I am and that hitting women (or anyone, for that matter, but especially someone physically weaker than you) is something for which you would never stand. So I’m not really concerned, but I figured it was worth saying anyway.

There is a saying that comes from the Rabbinic traditions of Judaism: “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”3 I take issue with the phrase “Be a man” for a number of reasons,4 but I think Rabbi Hillel got this one right. It’s not always going to be easy to stand up for what’s right and to look out for the people who need help. The road of social welfare and moral responsibility can be a lonely one sometimes. Your friends and co-workers are going to issue all the usual platitudes about jokes and seemingly innocent comments. But as long as you understand the deeper meaning behind all those remarks and remember that you don’t need to use physical aggression to demonstrate your masculinity, you’ll be a man in the best sense of the word.


Daddy (Da-dee!)


There have been seemingly endless reports about the incident that occurred between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then-fiancée (they’ve since been married) and even more opinions have surfaced since the NFL issued Rice a fine and a two game suspension. Feel free to do your own research and formulate your own opinion. If you’re interested, I thought this article by Jane McManus was a really well-written, thoughtful and poignant take on the whole situation. And, for other dad blogger posts, check out these posts by Oren Miller and Jeff Bogle. And, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading. –Aaron

1. Thank you, Cookie Monster.
2. Ping pong ball.
3. Pirkei Avot, 2:6.
4. Many of those reasons are illustrated beautifully in this video.

New York Metro Parents Interview

New York Metro Parents is one-stop shopping for all things parenting in the New York City area. Whether you’re looking for parenting techniques, local kid-friendly attractions, educational resources, special needs service providers or just about anything else a parent could need, New York Metro Parents has it. Also, their “Stuff We Like” section is all about New York City area parent bloggers and they recently interviewed me about Sleeping on the Edge so they could feature me on the site. Here’s the article in all its glory.



On Donald Sterling, the NBA, Racist Symbols, Easy Victories, and A Wakeup Call That May Continue To Be Unheard

I was thinking about writing a post about Donald Sterling and his lifetime ban from the NBA. Then I read this post, from a college friend of mine, and decided he had said everything I would have wanted to say.

Too Much For Tweets


Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA Tuesday, in an unprecedented move by new commissioner, Adam Silver.  The Los Angeles Clippers owner, a habitually public racist, had long been ready for the gallows and today was the long-past due execution.

View original post 847 more words

Rise of the Machines

I went to Disney World for the first time for my 21st birthday.

I usually get a number of different reactions to that statement, including “Oh, that’s so cute!” and “I’ve had so much more fun at Disney when I’ve been older” and “Really? Your 21st birthday was at Disney? And your first legal drink was a Michelob Light?”[1]

My first visit to Disney World and the subsequent discussion of when my wife and I will be introducing Eitan to Disney are both topics for a different blog entry. The reason I brought up Disney is because while Trudy and I were there, we went on the “ride” at Epcot all about evolving technology and the ways technology affects our daily lives.  Anyone who’s been to Epcot knows exactly the ride I’m talking about.  It’s the one where you sit in the seats and see the same family living room over the course of different decades and they sing that song, “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” over and over again. And while I’m not sure today is particularly greater, bigger or more beautiful than yesterday[2], I have been thinking a bit more about the ways technology is changing and what that’s going to mean for Eitan as he grows up.

Here are a few things that were around when I was growing up that Eitan is never going to see, much less use, unless he’s at a museum:

-a record player

-cassette tapes (music or video)


-computers that need a program disk in order to do anything

-rotary telephones


Before you say that last one was too extreme, think about it for a second.  When I was growing up, we had a subscription to one newspaper.  In Chicago we got The Chicago Tribune, on Long Island we got Newsday and in New Jersey it was the Star-Ledger.[3] Now that my wife and I have our own place, we don’t subscribe to a paper because we get all our news online. Every newspaper has a website, and most news sites don’t even bother with paper copies in the first place. Half the time we find out news because of Facebook or Twitter and then go to a different place to find out more details. I’m sure Eitan will be able to see print newspapers, but they’re going to become rarer as he gets older.

There are two primary ways of thinking about technology with regard to kids.  The way I hear most often is the feeling of dread about the internet because kids are going to be on Facebook and YouTube and they’re going to be exposed to all kinds of horrors and pedophiles are going to abduct them and the immediate access of smart phones means less monitoring from parents and my God won’t someone think of the children!

My response, to use a phrase from a fellow dad blogger, is that people need to Calm the F Down.[4]

The other way of thinking about technology is that it’s an opportunity.  Teaching kids about being a responsible digital citizen[5] is just another conversation for a parent to have with their child.  We can do things online together.  Maybe Eitan will start a blog of his own.  Maybe we’ll start a family fantasy sports league together.  Kids always learn about technology things faster than their parents, so I’ll have Eitan teach me about the things he’s learning (which also brings the added bonus of me being able to monitor his online usage more effectively).  The point is, technology is going to keep changing and it’s going to keep becoming more and more a part of our lives.  I’m fine with it, as long as there are some limits and I can still kick Eitan out of the house and make him play outside once in a while.

But in the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Candy Crush.


This entry was inspired by a comment from my cousin, who has a blog of his own that you should all check out here: http://softblackwater.wordpress.com/

[1] Considering the types of alcohol I’d been exposed to at the time, I still have no problem with the choice. Also, we were at ESPNZone watching the NHL playoffs, so I was going to get a beer as opposed to something harder. That being said, I may still not be exactly a beer connoisseur, but I’m happy to say I’ve grown in terms of my preferences.

[2] Except Candy Crush.  Candy Crush is definitely great, big and beautiful.

[3] Never the New York Times. My father would never subscribe to a paper that didn’t have a comics section.  Also, Newsday was an okay paper, except for one unbelievably annoying flaw: if a game ended too late, either because it ran long or was played on the west coast, the box score wouldn’t show up in the paper the next day. For a kid whose primary team was from a different time zone (the Central, but still), it was unacceptable not to be able to know what the result was of the game the night before.  At least I wasn’t playing fantasy sports yet.  But I digress.

[5] Listen to the NYC Dads Group Podcast for more about this: http://www.nycdadsgroup.com/2013/07/podcast-episode-4-realistic-approach-to.html