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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Story of Boston's Stairwells - Guest Post

A friend of mine is a letter carrier in Boston. During his day-to-day, he began documenting the varied and ornate and sometimes downright odd stairwells he had to climb to get people their mail in the city. It's an amazing experiment that's given the internet dozens of pictures of stairwells as art. He explains the reasoning behind this here. His blog is linked at the end.


This whole series of pictures began as an attempt at proof.

I work as a mailman in a corner of the city of Boston where there are a lot of students, a lot of really old buildings, and a lot of people getting packages too big to just leave outside, and often too big to fit through ancient mail slots or stuff into derelict mailboxes. And one of the few advantages that we mailmen—sorry, letter carriers—enjoy over other delivery service providers like UPS and FedEx, is the fact that we all carry these little arrow keys that give us greater access than them to the interiors of buildings. (Those arrow keys sometimes don’t work, though. But the whole point of them is to give the post office access to buidings without having to carry individual keys to every single building on a route, because I’m sure you can imagine just how awkward that would very quickly become.)

So I took it upon myself to start leaving packages AT PEOPLE’S DOORS. Which often—all too often—meant climbing stairs. This is not, by the way, a service than any other person I work with in my own office woud provide. In fact, I’m fairly sure we’re not SUPPOSED to climb stairs. But some of the people who order things online are older, and don’t have the strength to climb up and down stairs every time someone rings their bell even if they’re home. And sure, a lot of people who live on higher floors and order things online AREN’T that old, but I figure, hey, they deserve to get their stuff the same as everyone else.

I will also freely admit, at this point, that I will absolutely take the elevator if there’s an elevator to take. But there aren’t that many elevators, and even then, elevators will be out of order.

I’m also that guy who will bring in packages that UPS and FedEx and DHL leave outside because they can’t get in and don’t want to leave the usual post-it note. I was raised that way. Blame my mother.

SO: pictures of stairwells. I see a lot of them, and (again) I only work in one relatively small corner of the city. I worked for four weeks this past summer in a suburb, but there weren’t so many stairs there.

Welcome to my blog.

James is a mailman who's working in Boston for eight years now, but before that he was in retail for far too long, selling mostly books and comics. He met a lot of interesting people in that time, however, so it wasn't entirely a waste. He now shoots magnificent photos of stairwells in Boston and you can see them here:


Friday, November 21, 2014

Grad students studying motherhood

In my graduate program, there is a woman studying mothering and the communication and media messages around it.

She's very interested in the portrayed roles of mothers versus fathers, who gets to keep more of their own identity in the media, if roles given by viewers create more or less sympathy for either the mother or the father.

Sounds interesting enough. Certainly she'll be studying a lot of the articles I've shared myself on social media, as she analyzes the content, puts little ones and zeros into excel spreadsheets and runs statistical analyses to flesh out answers to her research questions.

The paper she didn't present to the class was entitled:

"Don't be a boob: Bottles have nipples too"

She said the research looked at anti-breastfeeding campaigns.

First off, I'd need to see a really specific definition of terms for anti-breastfeeding. Are we talking formula adverts or simply mothers advocating formula use in forums meant for support? Are we talking hospitals giving out free samples of formula or nurses pushing formula on new frazzled mothers?

Secondly, the debate is full of emotion, high-strung and deeply-felt ideology, self-image and self-deprecation, and post-partum hormones. Are you sure you want to go around calling these women boobs? Especially if you haven't been there?

I guess, mostly, I was just disappointed to see that the academics doing studies on things like "portrayals of breast and formula feeding in the media" are no different from the commenters on op-eds about the same issue, who read the whole article then type in CAPSRAGE: I WASTED TEN MINUTES OF MY LIFE READING THIS. THIS IS A NON-ISSUE. WHY DO MOTHERS MAKE SUCH A BIG DEAL OUT OF IT.

Like, I really hate to be all, 'don't talk about what you don't know about,' but if you lack the empathy to gauge the situation appropriately or even see all the key elements of what you should be studying...if you lack the ability to make the connections between media and science in a way that does not entirely drown out the very real struggles of very real people in the process...just, maybe go study something else, I guess?

When your lack of understanding of the issue at hand is so blatant and that's the issue you want to study as a PhD? And these are the papers that get published? These are the studies handed down in layman speak to breast and formula feeding moms everywhere, yearning for validation as their hormones swing them to Timbuktu and back?


Everyone in the classroom laughed uproariously at her jokey title, and they spent a few minutes going back and forth about how ridiculous all the women's feelings were about this and how everyone should probably just calm down about it.

Honestly, I'm probably just curmudgeonly, but I really don't think the phrase 'don't be a boob' is all that funny to begin with--when that was added to the obvious lack of any type of understanding for a mom attempting to nurse, I just checked out and let the side-eye take over.

And this wasn't even the paper this particular woman presented.


The one she presented was on mothers and fathers leaving their children in the back seat. She's trying to tie it to gender violence and is very interested in the roles society foists on mothers and fathers vs. their self-identities.  The first one is ... absolutely ridiculous, and the second one is ground broken so long ago I think my grandma was the academic working on it.

There's no point to this entry.

I'm just really suspicious now of studies coming out about parenthood. Apparently, very sound statistical studies can be run with no intuitive understanding of the topic being studied. And on the outside, that sounds fine. Because wouldn't being totally outside the topic being studied be ideal for objectivity? But in reality, if you are so removed from what you are talking about that basically 'you don't even go here', there are going to be very important correlations that you miss because you don't know to look for them. And there are going to be very tenuous connections you make too big a deal out of because you don't know they're actually not a big deal.

And a study can be presented any way the researcher wants. People say the numbers don't lie, but they can be emphasized or twisted any which way to make any point. May as well make legitimate points based in knowledge, right?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Important Backyard Safety Tips Parents Need to Know - S post

(Photo Credit-

With kids, parents can't help being as cautious as possible. We can go to great lengths to ensure that our kids are safe wherever they may be.

While many of us may feel that our kids are safest at home, this isn't always true. It is equally important to ensure the safety of our kids when they are indoors or out playing in the backyard.
Taking the right safety measures to child-proof your home and backyard will take a lot of stress off your mind. This will especially be helpful in situations where you may have to leave your kids alone at home or if you’re hosting a party and may not be able to devote all your attention to your kids and those of your guests.

It goes without saying that your backyard should be properly fenced. Here are some other important backyard safety tips that you can put into good use.

Tips for Patio Safety

Always be sure to buy good quality furniture for your backyard. Patio or deck furniture should be sturdy so that it doesn't tip over and injure kids. Avoid reclining and folding furniture as they can fold over unexpectedly. If you can't do without such furniture, be sure to teach your kids to not jump over such furniture.

Glass tabletops should be avoided as they can shatter and injure kids. Always discourage kids from playing on such surfaces and around such items. You'll want to keep your kids from playing around garden umbrellas too as they can tip over easily.

Be sure to check your furniture for any splinters or rusted parts that may be sticking out. Broken mechanisms or frayed straps need to be repaired to prevent accidents. Use non-toxic solutions to clean furniture.

If you have a raised patio or deck, make sure no thorny plants are growing around the edge as kids can hurt themselves if they topple over. Additionally, keep the patio free from clutter.

Tips for Playground Safety

It is important for the playground to be adequately cushioned so that it can offer some protection when a kid falls. Use a 10-12 inch deep layer of shock-absorbing material such as rubber or sand for the same.

Grass works well but you'll have to consider mowing it regularly, along with re-seeding in high-traffic areas. You'll also need to use fertilizers and pesticides as required. Synthetic grass is a better option for the play area as you won't need to water, mow, or use chemicals to maintain it. It also comes with a layer of shock-absorbing mulch beneath it. No wonder installing an artificial turf for playgrounds in schools and homes is becoming popular.

Avoid using play sets made of treated wood as it exposes kids to arsenic, which is known to increase the risk of cancer. If you already have a play set made of treated wood, be sure to seal the wood with standard penetrating treatments once a year.

It is advisable to replace high-exposure sections such as deck boards, hand rails, rungs, or steps with other non-treated alternatives. Arsenic can leach from the wood onto other things when it rains, so be sure to store toys and other items in a safe place instead of leaving them under such wood structures.
Play sets need to be fitted securely. Protruding bolts on play sets, slides, swings, etc. should be covered. Avoid play sets that have ropes or cords as they pose a health hazard. Play sets with steps are preferable to those with rungs. If choosing a play set with rungs, make sure rungs aren't too wide apart or too close as kids can get stuck between the spaces. Ladders, walkways, ramps, etc. need to have guard rails to prevent mishaps.

(Photo Credit -

Tips for Pool Safety

Pool safety is important be it summer or winter as kids can easily drown in shallow water too. If you haven't got a fence installed around your pool already, get one as soon as possible that has a self-closing and self- latching gate opening outwards. Be sure to install latches out of the reach of kids.
It is also important to not have furniture or items around the fence that kids can climb up on and get inside the pool. Keep the pool covered at all times when not in use. Drain covers need to be properly fitted so that kids don't get trapped under water.

It will help to have rescue equipment nearby. You may want to consider installing a pool alarm that can alert you whenever someone enters the pool.

Tips for Fire Safety

Whether you're throwing a barbeque party in your backyard or huddling around the fire pit with loved ones, it is important to ensure that kids are safe from fire-related hazards.

Barbeque grills should be on a level surface and sturdy so that they may not topple over and cause injuries. Always stay beside the grill when it is on and never allow kids or pets near it.
If you have the provisions to make an open fire in your backyard, never leave children around the fire unattended. Avoid starting a fire if there's a strong wind; it is better to avoid accidents whenever you can.

Remember to extinguish open fires properly as smoldering flames are potentially dangerous. Kids may try to touch coals too so be sure to dispose coals correctly.


If you take the right safety measures, you won’t have to constantly worry about your kid’s safety. It is also important to teach kids the importance of safety so that you know they’ll do the right thing even if you’re not around to watch over them 24/7.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How I became a crone -- Contributor post

After two unexpected IUD pregnancies, my partner and I came to the conclusion that we'd need to take more drastic measures to ensure that our exceptional fertility wouldn't catch us by surprise again. Abstinence would have ended in divorce, so we looked at the other options and I discovered something called Essure.

Essure is a hysteroscopy procedure that involves placing nickel coils in the fallopian tubes. Over three months, the foreign objects invite scarring, which occludes the fallopian tubes, thereby preventing ovulation (and any possibility of future pregnancy). It's a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure, and my healthcare provider uses general anesthesia for it. I closed my eyes as the IV drip took effect in the operating room, and a moment later I opened my eyes to find myself in a recovery room.

When I first considered the Essure procedure, though, I was torn. Letting go of one's fertility is a big deal. What if I changed my mind? What if fate intended a third or fourth child for me? Was I shutting a door on a bright future?

I was indeed shutting a door on one possible future, and denying it was pointless. I decided to honor my transition from mother to crone by ritualizing it.

I wrote a letter saying farewell to what had been. I took the letter outside where I had an aloe vera plant waiting to be planted. I read the letter aloud, dug a hole in the moist earth, and set the letter ablaze in the earthen bowl I had created. When the ash from the letter had cooled, I placed the aloe vera plant over the top and secured it with the earth I had displaced. This plant of healing and perpetual growth would be transformed by--and transform--the ashes of my identity as a fertile mother, giving birth to my identity as a wise elder.

Kate is the married mom of two precocious tots. When she's not chasing them or dancing around them or singing at the top of her lungs with them, she likes to drink coffee, make yummy food with her hubby, edit other people's writing, pray, and write edgy pieces on religious topics. You can check out her blog, Thealogical Lady, at (And, for the record, that "a" in "Thealogical" is no accident.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rasputin pwns the twins

Thought I'd pop in a movie for my poor, sick kids, so I could clean the kitchen and write this blog.

Wrong. Instead, this happened:

"Mom, is the bat a good guy?"

"He doesn't seem to hate Anastasia, he must be good?"

"How can Rasputin tear his whole body apart?"

"How is he bad?"

"If he can't die, like in the beginning, mom, how come he can die at the end?"

"How can bats come out of his body? I just want you to tell me why? And what is selling your soul? And who is the devil? If Anastasia's grandmother killed him, then how could he sell his soul?"

"What even is a soul? Is hell bad? Where is his blood? Is Rasputin an alien?"

"Why does he hate Anastasia? I don't understand. He looks like a person. Are you telling me he's not a person? Why does he still look like a person then? WHY DOE HIS BODY KEEP COMING APART? Mom. MOM."

"If he's already dead, how can he die again? Is he dead? Is he a zombie? The bad guy, well, is everything broken? His mustache, his lips, his eyes, even his butt?"

"Why would the devil want souls? I don't think the devil is in this movie? Do I have a soul? Can I sell it?"

"Why is the bad guy trying to kill Anastasia? He should be trying to kill the grandma."

"Why is that boy sad now? Why is he scared about Anastasia being a princess?"

"Now she's wearing dresses all the time. When is she going to be in shirt and pants again? Do princesses always wear dresses? Can I wear whatever I want all the time, too? Why aren't I a princess, mommy?"

Guess I'll go do the dishes and tidy up instead.



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