Practical Fatherhood: Early Lessons, Volume II

Disposable for Sanity is OK!

We have grand plans to switch to cloth diapers (we have a drawer full of them!) but I am super happy with our decision to go disposable near the beginning for sanity.

Cloth diapers may be the more environmentally friendly way to go, they are also way more labour intensive. I am so happy we started with disposable to be easy on ourselves. In general, there's all kinds of places where you can spend money for ease, and in my opinion, if that option is open to you, I would encourage you to take it near the beginning. There’s already a million and one things happening, so be kind to yourself.

Physical Health is Important

Keep your own physical health in mind! This is a marathon not a race!

The first weeks one of the things I struggled with most was pain. My feet were killing me. The baby settled best when she was walked around, but this meant I was on my feet all the time. On hard floors, my flat feet were doing me no favours.

One of the best choices I made was to pull out my gym shoes and wear them whenever I was expecting to be on my feet.

Later we discovered that bouncing on a yoga ball was also an effective soother, but this came at the cost of back pain after a bit.

In hindsight, one of the best things I did last year was spent a lot of time at he gym working on my back, in particular my upper back.


Have earplugs you like.

Probably should have just shoved this in the last update under sleep, as you'll need them to make sure you can get enough sleep. Even if you know intellectually your partner is taking care of the baby, you baby screaming will definitely keep you up, or wake you up.

Practical Fatherhood: Early Lessons, Volume I

Man, there's so much you learn on the fly becoming a father. You can take classes, read, and plan, and in the end... there's so much more to it, so much you didn't anticipate, so much more you need to know.

You Don't Know What You're Going to Need

We had a list of things we knew we needed before the baby came. Went out, and got all those things, and thought we were prepared. Hoo-boy, were we wrong. Turns out, you don't know what you're going to need until you need it.

There's a whole shopping list of things we ended up buying after baby was born.

Accept it!


If you're dealing with bottles, at all, save yourself water and energy: Go buy yourself a bottle warmer and a bottle sterilizer.

While you can do things using pots, burners, stoves, you quickly discover that it's an enormous use of water an energy. Using a pot for sterilization means boiling a few litres of water. Using a sterilizer; 100ml.


The first two weeks in particular, you're adapting to the crazy sleep schedule, you're adapting to the demands of a baby. It's so easy to get your nutrition wrong: don't.

We were really prepared for dinners: Andrea cooked a bunch of meals that we froze for eating. What we were unprepared for were snacks.

Make sure you have snacks you can eat in the middle of the night that have protein; don't just down a juicebox or a couple slices of bread.Making smoothies with protein powder, and pepperoni sticks turned into a lifesaver for me.


So it turns out that it's really easy to not get enough sleep with a baby. I would highly, highly recommend that you track how much sleep you're getting.

You can see the crazy polyphasic sleep of parenthood here. This is week four, and so we’ve hit a bit of rhythm as you can see though.

You can see the crazy polyphasic sleep of parenthood here. This is week four, and so we’ve hit a bit of rhythm as you can see though.

I started tracking after two weeks, and it quickly became clear I wasn’t getting enough, and it was very likely neither was Andrea. Just seeing it made it possible to work on it.

I use Sleep Diary, a pretty no frills app that let’s me hit a button when I get into bed, and hit it again when I get out of bed. Good enough!

Cognitive Heatsinks

I finally got around to watching this Clay Shirky talk I had added to Pocket a few months ago (was something to walk around the living room to while calming a fussy baby). 

It’s a short and good watch, but a high level summary is that there is an enormous amount of cognitive energy that we have historically burnt off in the form of passive entertainment (or drinking). He foresaw a future where even a small fraction of that energy could be harnessed for great value; Wikipedia being the most successful version of this. 

The talk is ten years old though, so it’s interesting to look back and see where we went.

It seems like he missed the ways in which participatory systems would themselves be ‘cognitive heatsinks’. Social media, while it has some aspects that are valuable, seem balanced by negative outcomes that we didn’t see from sitcoms. 

Still great talk, and inspiring enough that I bothered to write this very post. 

What Scares Me, What Gives Me Hope

I feel like we don’t always talk honestly about our feelings these days. In particular, I feel like we talk about hopes and dreams and aspirations a lot more than we share our fears.

Allow me to share some fears. These are topics on my mind regularly, things that give me anxiety in my life.

It’s my hope that I’ll look back on this list in ten years and recognize progress. For my own sanity, and because I'm not a total monster, I've appended a list of things that give me hope afterwards.

What Scares Me

This list is haphazard and unorganized, much as you might expect of a barfing of fears.

  • Climate Change
    • Impact
    • Denialism
    • Impotence at change
  • Society
    • Rise of Intolerance
      • Calling people who disagree with you Nazis
      • Actual Nazis
      • Right Wing Extremism
    • Democracy
      • Weakening Institutions
      • Weakening belief in it
      • Money == Political Power
      • Loss of democratic norms
      • Populist Autocrats
    • Attention Spans
      • My own included
  • Internet
    • Surveillance Business Models
    • Engagement as a metric
      • Algorithms seeking to maximize engagement
        • The effect these algorithms are having on the rise of intolerance.
      • Does working on making JS better make the world a better place?
    • Weak Media Literacy
      • Especially as it makes democracy vulnerable to those algorithms pushing engagement.
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Canada
    • Reduced Cohesiveness
    • Alberta
      • Alberta's Economic Future w.r.t oil, climate change.
  • Personal
    • Gun Violence (My local community has had a large number of shootings lately, my cousin was just shot, and I fear guns every time I travel to the United States)
    • Community Safety
    • Retirement
    • "Doing the Right Thing"
    • My own personal impact on climate change.
    • Skills Stagnation.
Fears - December 2018 Transparent.png

What Gives Me Hope

It definitely frustrates me that the second list is so much shorter than the first.

What gives you hope?  

Unfollowing on Twitter

In February of this year I started getting off Twitter.

For a while, I was really good at this! I was totally off Twitter, and I was really happy with that. I decided I wasn’t coming back.

Over the last four or five months though, I’ve found myself… edging back toward Twitter. The thing is, there are a lot of people I loved following on twitter, and I missed their stuff. I found myself slowly getting pulled back in.

To try to prevent this, I have started unfollowing people on Twitter, pretty much every time I find myself there. Eventually I’ll probably get to the point where I only follow people who never post… or I’ll bite the bullet and go through the remainder and unfollow everyone.

It’s not a judgement on anyone, more a sanity-preserving measure for myself.

I’ll keep blogging, and keep my auto-poster to Twitter running, as I know people are using it.

Who know. Maybe one day I’ll be able to go back. Or perhaps not: Enagement driving machines scare me more and more over time. Somehow I don’t see Twitter not getting worse.

Two Weekend Reads

Here are two things I think might be worth your time to read (next?) weekend.

Delete Your Account Now: A Conversation with Jaron Lanier

Harper Simon talks to Jaron Lanier about his book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now”. I particularly found his discussion of social media and social justice near the end particularly fascinating

So can we talk a little bit about the social justice or activism aspects of social media? Aside from taking selfies, self-promotion, and communicating with friends, the main justification people have for being on social media is that it enables so much community activism and social justice.

Yeah. A lot of people have felt that using social media is a way to organize for mutual betterment, whether it’s a social justice movement or other things. You’re absolutely correct: in the immediate sense their experience of that is authentic. I think they’re reporting on real events. The problem, however, is that behind the scenes there are these manipulation, behavior modification, and addiction algorithms that are running. And these addiction algorithms are blind. They’re just dumb algorithms. What they want to do is take whatever input people put into the system and find a way to turn it into the most engagement possible. And the most engagement comes from the startle emotions, like fear and anger and jealousy, because they tend to rise the fastest and then subside the slowest in people, and the algorithms are measuring people very rapidly, so they tend to pick up and amplify startle emotions over slower emotions like the building of trust or affection.

And so you tend to have the algorithms trying to take whatever has been put into the system and find some way to get a startle emotion out of it in order to maximize its use for addiction. What we call engagement should be called addiction and then behavior modification. And so you tend to have this phenomenon where there will be, let’s say, a social justice movement of some kind; it’s initially successful, but then the same data is instead optimized to find whoever is irritated by that social justice movement. Those irritated people are introduced to each other and put into this amplifying cycle where they’re more and more agitated until they become horrible. So, you start with the Arab Spring, but then you get ISIS getting even more mileage from the same tools. Or you start with Black Lives Matter and you come up with this resurgent bizarre racist movement that had been dormant for years. And this just keeps on happening.

So the problem is that when people say, “Oh, we use social media for social justice,” they’re typically correct. And yet in the longer story they’re really vulnerable to a far greater backlash than they would have gotten if they used another technique. At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether they really benefited or not.

There are flourishing communities of marginalized people on social media, who say very clearly that they find comfort, solace, and companionship in these social media communities. I think there’s a good argument to be made that there are people who absolutely have benefit hugely from social media.

Yet, Lanier’s point about the callous amorality of engagement driven algorithms, and how they foment conflict feels like an accurate description of own experience on Twitter. I feel the siren song of these engagement driven algorithms regularly; perhaps the one that I wonder most about is Pocket, just due to the nearness of my work (Pocket is owned by Mozilla, my employer).

I have tried to reduce my own use of social media. Yet, I will ultimately post this blog post to my social media accounts; This is because I know so many people for whom social media is the only way they know things happen. Most of my friends won’t have my blog in an RSS reader; I’d be lucky if they would occasionally drop in. What does this mean? I don’t know. I’m a slave to the machine?

Another Technological Tragedy

A couple of months ago a neighbourhood in Massachusetts exploded, seemingly out of nowhere. I remember reading some of the original coverage on it, but neglected to ever return to the subject to discover the root cause. In the linked piece, Brian Hayes writes a fascinating mini-history of gas, and discusses the cause from the NTSB report.