Thursday, February 22, 2018

Home Birth: A Conversation with Dads

Home birth dads!
This is another of the content pieces that came out of Dad 2.0 in New Orleans earlier this month. The great thing about Dad 2.0 is it can be so many things. If you want to network with brands, you can do that. If you want to network with other writers, you can do that too. One of my favorite aspects is simply meeting other dads and talking about being dads. It's funny, because I would think that in Berkeley I'd end up having more of these kinds of discussions with dads, but in the wild, I still find that I'm not sure how to approach the dads I encounter. I can't always tell who's a gung ho dad, and who's just out with their kids. I guess the distinction shouldn't matter, but I get nervous with new people, so it does.

Which brings me back to Dad 2.0, where you can absolutely geek out over dadding and know for sure that you're going to met with enthusiastic nods and high fives. Which is how I ended up doing a spontaneous Facebook Live conversation about home birth with four other bloggers, Mat York, Anthony Griffin, Glen Henry, and Eli Lipman. Over the course of the last two Dad 2.0 conferences we had all met and talked in different capacities and at different times. Mat and Eli had done a series called Demystifying Home Birth. For me, this was the first time I'd had a chance to sit with other dads and talk about this topic.

The video below is mostly geared towards encouraging other dads to be open about home birth. We each talk about how we came around on wanting to do home birth with our partners. Each of us had different reasons, from bad experiences at hospitals, to not having set foot in a hospital. I think there's something in the conversation for any parent, or prospective parent. So click play and let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Stop Panhandling Online

Comic used with permission. Check out megadads.org for more awesome content

Seriously. It's becoming an epidemic. Stop it.

I've been struggling to write this post for a long time because I'm worried about calling people out. Then I came across this fantastic comic from Mega Dads and it gave me that extra push to get this thought out there. (Except I started writing this like three years ago and chickens out again.)

It started with...well I don't actually know where it started, but I going to make some wild and probably inaccurate generalizations here.

I first saw it with Kiva.org, a micro financing site that gives loans to people in "underbanked" areas. The great thing about Kiva is that the loans are well, loans. If the entrepreneur is a success you get paid back. Pretty cool right? Yeah! Then you can use the money you get paid back to fund another business. That's a micro-finance model that seems like it could work pretty well.

Next I saw Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. These sites wanted you to fund projects in exchange for...something. It seems like you mostly get offered potential stuff. At first you'd be getting the actual product they were trying to develop, and maybe some more shit on top of that if you gave at a higher level. Then later it was that you could get a chance to be the first to pre-order the thing they might develop if they got the money and then actually developed it. So, I guess that's cool.

I did give $10 to help my friends finish their movie. It was in the early days of online panhandling, and it was a project I believed in. I really wanted to see it come to fruition. And it did! And it was awesome! And you could see it on Netflix! And here's a link to their website! In return I got my name in the credits, which was pretty cool.

The thing is, it didn't stop there. The next thing you know everyone has some project they want you to fund. Then it's every parent on Facebook trying to get you to donate to their kid's school. Not buy stuff as a fundraiser, just give money to the school. Like I don't have kids in a school that I'm already giving money to. And look, I get it when you set up a GoFundMe when someone dies or gets really sick and didn't sign up for the ACA. I'm down. I give to those when I can. But it didn't stop there. Oh no. It's gotten all kinds of weird now.

The first time online panhandling struck me as being weird is when I saw a plea to help fund a vacation. It's not like it was some kind of quest to help underprivileged people somewhere, it was just for a vacation. "OK," I thought, "so this is just one yahoo who doesn't quite get the point of micro-finance or crowd funding. I'm sure it's an isolated incident." It wasn't. I've also seen people asking for friends to crowd fund their wedding. Like, I don't even know if I'm invited to the wedding yet, but you're already asking me to pay for it?

Then actual for profit businesses started getting into it. I remember reading about restaurants that crowd funded for things like new dough mixers and latte machines. Seriously? You're a business! You sell things in order to make money. Be better at that. Make better pizza, have better service, do something other than ask me to donate money on top of paying $5 for coffee. I'm sorry, I wish I had links to these articles, some of these were years ago now. Here's one about a coffee shop from last year. 

The pleas that really sent me over the edge with the whole thing came from a group of people who are generally well off, and who should have planned better. I'm talking about some of my fellow interpreters.

The Federal government is probably the largest employer of Deaf people in the country. As such they are also the largest consumer of interpreters. Here in Washington D.C. most interpreters and interpreting agencies are heavily dependent on the Feds for work. During the government shutdown of 2013 interpreting requests were cancelled and a lot of non-federal employees, contractors who relied on interpreting requests, were also out of work. 

On top of this most interpreting agencies were declining to honor the job cancellation policies that allow interpreters to get paid for untimely (short notice) cancellations. As the days stretched on some interpreting agencies started to furlough their staff interpreters. Suddenly the D.C. area found itself in a position it had never seen before, there were more interpreters available than were needed in the market. There simply wasn't enough work in the schools, hospitals, or private industry to keep all of the interpreters in the area working. It was a tough time to be an interpreter in D.C.

Please, please, hire me.
Tough, but not impossible. Frankly, interpreters (who work hard and deserve acknowledgment and respect) have pretty cushy gigs compared to people in many other jobs. In places like D.C. they also make a decent amount of coin. There aren't any millionaire interpreters, but they're not having to #FightFor15 either. So it was shocking to me when I started to see my Facebook feed littered with crowd funding campaigns to help support out of work interpreters.

It ticked me off. It was tacky. Here were members of a privileged class asking for handouts after being out of work for less than a month. And yes, interpreters are members of a privileged class. They are generally highly educated, highly employable people who earn a living due in large part to the fact that their industry is basically mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Aside from that, interpreting is a highly portable skill. No work in D.C.? Take a trip up to Delaware, or Pennsylvania, or New York. It's not unheard of for an interpreter who wants to travel to book a couple weeks with an agency in another city. Heading to a nearby locale that is less impacted and less dependent on Federal work is a feasible solution for interpreters facing something like a government shut down. I understand that people have kids and commitments and may feel like they can't go somewhere else for work. I have kids and commitments. When I need to feed those kids and put a roof over their heads I'll go wherever I can to get it done. Finding help with kids can be hard, but it can be done.

Interpreters aren't poor. We're not usually rich, but almost all of us have access to enough credit to get us through a couple weeks. Most interpreters I know take vacations. They budget for time off. This isn't any different. Yes, using credit sucks. Yes, using your savings sucks. But you know what sucks more? Asking a bunch of people, most of whom are also out of work, to support you because you didn't plan well. And that's what really bugs me about it. When your plea for money comes across my feed I'm sitting in the same city with the same problem. So are many of the Deaf people you know, and many of them earn less than you do. Interpreters panhandling online is like athletes crying about missed checks during a strike or lockout while the people who are really in dire straights are the stadium employees and people in other service and support industries who don't make six figure base salaries.

So I'm begging you. Please. Stop panhandling online.

If you're out of work, I'm probably out of work too. You're kid's school needs whatever? So does mine. Someone suddenly died, or was diagnosed with a terrible disease? OK, you got me. I'm in.

And hey, for profit endeavors, how about a different model? Why not go back to what crowd funding should be? Call for investors. You need money to develop your game? You need to finish that movie? You think you can build a better mouse trap? Great! Instead of offering me a beer coozy with your logo on it, or a chance to download early, why not offer me a piece of the action? You think you need $10,000 to do your thing? Great, for my $100 I want 1% of the net profits. Maybe I'll get my money back, maybe I won't. But I'll be much more likely to bet on your idea if I'm getting more than a commemorative tote bag. My issue isn't with you asking for money, it's with what you're offering in return.

I know I'm shouting into the void. I know that online panhandling will only get more bizzare. I can't help it though. I need to call for some kind of sanity. I mean really, I haven't even gotten into the allegations of fraud or people using conservative outrage to get rich quick. It's like I tell my kids, if you want something, work for it. Begging is usually just kind of ugly.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hanging with Ronnie Lott and Von Miller (for like, 5-minutes)

Me and a blurry but happy Ronnie Lott
When I started this blog back in 2003, it wasn't what it is now. For one thing, only nine people read it. The focus was also very different. I wrote a lot about sports, especially baseball, and I tried to bring a unique analytical spin. This was back before Baseball Prospectus and Football Outsiders started providing really good stats based writing and blew me out of the water completely. After I became a parent the focus of this space changed. I still write about sports, but mostly as it relates to my kids and what I can teach them (or what they teach me) through sports.

Last week was the annual Dad 2.0 Summit, a conference for dad bloggers to network with each other, and to interact with brands. It was also my chance to meet and chat with Super Bowl winning NFL players past and present. The opening key note featured former San Francisco 49ers great and Hall-of-Famer, Ronnie Lott and his son Ryan Nece talking about fatherhood. They both emphasized the importance of vulnerability, and being able to show that you are vulnerable, as key components of not only being a father, but also being a teammate, and a man. Lott explained that he wanted Nece to take his mother's maiden name so that Nece wouldn't grow up carrying the name of an all-time great player. It gave Nece a chance to be himself, and even to turn away from football if he'd wanted, without pressure from others.

Beyond fatherhood, the two gave insight into an NFL locker room. Nece indicated that a lot of "locker room talk" really centers around parenting and personal finance. The numbers behind athletes going broke after retirement are well known, and modern players are trying to avoid doing that. Nece also said that many players talk to each other about where to send kids to school. Lott added that with men for whom the locker room is a workplace, there's little time or space for bawdy conversations. Said Lott, "The thing is, it’s your job. There’s not many jobs where you go talk about of off color things. You’re trying to figure out life."

There was a touching moment when Nece told a story about asking his dad how to cope with failure. "I asked him, 'what did you do when you had a bad game, made the wrong play?' He told me, 'Son, I never made a bad play.'" The larger point was that you learn from failure and you move on. You understand that everyone fails at some point. It's what you learn from it, how you move on to the next play that matters. It's something I've tried to impress on my students in the years that I've been teaching. Nothing succeeds like success, but nothing can teach you to succeed better than trying and failing.

Lott also addressed the issue of kneeling during the National Anthem.
For me there's always some trepidation in meeting people you looked up to as a child. I loved Ronnie Lott when he was with the 49ers. I was five-years-old when Lott and the 49ers won their first Super Bowl. This was back before 24-hour sports networks (we didn't have cable) were pervasive. It was before social media. All you really knew about athletes was what they said in post-game interviews. So there's always a fear that they'll end up being something other than what you hope for. Brent Jones and Gary Plummer are staunch republicans. Even Jerry Rice threw out a #MAGA tweet during the election. So I was worried about what Lott would say. He was everything I'd hoped for. He made little five-year-old Tito beam with joy.

At previous Dad 2.0 conferences NFL stars Peanut Tillman and Michael Strahan were whisked away fairly quickly. Lott and Nece walked out through the ball room, stopping to chat with people. I didn't want to take up too much of Lott's time, but I had to say hello. I expected a quick handshake and greeting. He surprised me by stopping and seeming genuinely interested in my question, what was it like coming in as a class with Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright? "It was great, because we all genuinely liked each other. We had a special bond." I asked him about a story I'd read about him and Williamson passing off receivers and switching coverages without discussing it with the coaching staff. He didn't seem to recall it, but said it probably happened. I wanted to ask him about the psychology of switching positions, something many great athletes hesitate to do, but his handlers wanted him to get moving.

(More after this enormous embedded photo)

 This year I was also lucky enough to be included in a chance to meet Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, thanks to Best Buy. It was clear from the ticket that we wouldn't have much time with him and I had no idea what the format would be. I wracked my brain for something I could ask that might be even slightly original. He'd already answered every conceivable sports question. I wasn't a big enough Broncos fan to know any cool trivia. ESPN had already scooped me on the chicken farming angle. Then I remembered his ads. He always comes across as a kind of a nerd, from his dancing to his glasses. I decided to ask him how much input he gets when doing a commercial. How much does he get to guide the look and feel of how he's presented?



His answer was predictable. It was the kind of answer you get form a savvy, polished media personality. "I choose my endorsements carefully and work with brands that already understand who I am and what I'm about. So I don't need to control the process that much. I trust the people I have around me." It was a solid answer, even if it wasn't eye opening. We also took a moment to reminisce about his two strip-sacks of Cam Newton in the Super Bowl. As I was finishing my time I had to ask him his thoughts on free agent quarterback Kurt Cousins. "Oh he's coming! He is coming!" Miller exclaimed.

So there you have it. My NFL reporting from Dad 2.0 uncovered that Von Miller is all in on Kurt Cousins, geek is chic, and vulnerability is masculinity. Take care, y'all.