Finding New Ways To Lose Sleep

The “terrible twos” have arrived at our house (along with a new two-year molar or three). Baby G. has been more moody in the last few weeks, and prone to throwing tantrums in which he screams and either throws himself on the ground or tries to bonk his forehead into something if he’s unhappy. He’s moved from “2T” to “3T” between October and February, and he seems taller every time I turn around and look at him. All this change has got to be unsettling. Add to that the fact that he’s still not talking — he can now perform a variety of simple tasks if you ask him, so there is plenty of language cognition but he has little interest in mimicking others (for fun or not) and is very selective in how he vocalizes — and he’s got to get plenty to be frustrated about, I’m sure. Since he doesn’t talk and can’t ask, we don’t bother to explain what is going on even though he could probably understand some of it. Mrs. Geek and I need to be better about that.

Things were particularly bad two weeks ago. Baby G. was waking up in the middle of the night a lot. He also seemed to be want to cling to Mrs. Geek or myself than usual. His appetite was off. Mrs. Geek took him to a “newborn to toddler” parenting class in which the parents meet in one room while the kids have (supervised) playtime together in another room, and he had a pretty bad meltdown. This struck us as rather odd, because he’d attended the class during the previous two weeks and everyone was very impressed with how easily Baby G. was able to separate from his mother.

The reasons for his apparent bad mood became clearer to me a couple days later when Mrs. Geek was at a scrapbooking event for the evening and I gave Baby G. a bath. I happened to peek into his mouth and saw a new two year molar breaking through in the back. If it wasn’t “problem solved”, it was “problem better understood” at least. He continued to be grumpy, and up occasionally overnight all through the following week. It felt better knowing why.

If all this wasn’t enough, the alarm system panel at our house started making these sequences of six beeps every few hours during both the day and the night over this past weekend. I first noticed the problem at around 3am on Saturday. Baby G. was up again at around 1am, and I’d brought him with me to the sofa in our living room where (thankfully) we both fell asleep again fairly quickly. So that got me up for a second time with a front row seat because the alarm panel is only about six feet from the sofa. By late morning, I’d done some searching online about the problem and figured out that the system has a small lead acid battery that it uses as a backup power supply. That battery was dead or dying, prompting both beeps from our control panel and signals to the alarm company. Those alarm company signals resulted in robo-calls to our house saying “your alarm system has a low battery”.

I tried at various times during the day Saturday to call the alarm company to get advice on what to do. That initially proved fruitless. The robo-calls we got referred to a web site, and the web site referred to a 1-800 help line that called an automated phone tree. The phone tree eventually tried to call a number that prompted one of those “You have dialed a wrong number. If you reached this number in error, please hang up and call again.” messages from the phone company. After a few more episodes of beeping alarm panels during the day, I stepped up my efforts by looking at the contact numbers available on our monthly bills. One of those connected me to a human right away, and I finally found myself taking apart the alarm panel at around 5pm with the help of someone on the phone.

Getting at the battery proved fairly easy, but finding a replacement was less so. About the only place where I figured I could find such an item after 5pm on a Saturday was the local electronics megamart chain. It’s a great place to go for absolutely all things “technology geek”, but their customer service is absolutely horrible and their business practices cut every corner possible. Yet, they are a “one stop shop” with a lot of stuff you can’t get elsewhere, and cannot be ignored for that reason. I follow two rules when shopping there: 1. don’t call and ask if they have something because the sales drones always lie about what’s in stock, and 2. never buy anything “previously opened with manufacturers warranty” because all returns seem to be put back on the shelves at least once, even if parts are mangled, broken, or missing. Knowing that this might involve a journey, we decided that I should wait until Baby G. was fed, bathed, and in bed before I departed.

I finally began my quest just before 7:30pm. I headed to the nearest store for the battery, which the chain web site indicated was in stock. As with calling on the phone, I discovered that “in stock” on the web was a relative term. After looking for 10 minutes where on the shelf that the battery was supposed to be but wasn’t, I flagged down a sales drone and he looked at the inventory system. It said that there was supposedly one item in inventory, but the drone happily conceded that it was often difficult to locate an item if there was only one of them in the system. I had the presence of mind to ask about inventories at other stores; he said there was a store 10 miles away with four, and a store 20 miles away with twelve. I opted to head for the store 20 miles away because it was getting toward 8pm and the stores closed at 9pm. I’d rather go the distance and definitely find a battery than stop at a second store only to have to move on to a third and be worrying about closing time.

The further store did indeed have plenty of the batteries, though it took me a while to find one because each store is laid out differently and I hadn’t been to that location for a long time. The replacement battery took about 10 minutes to install and then 24-30 hours to charge. I had it installed by 9pm on Saturday, and the low battery warnings (with the attendant beeps and robo-calls) didn’t finally end until Sunday night. The system did not report that it was healthy again until I got up on Monday morning.

When I told my parents about all this on Sunday, my Mom humorously remarked that “all of you seem to try awfully hard to find new ways to lose sleep.”

I did get one consolation out of the shopping trip on Saturday night. The CD selection at the local electronics megamart has shrunk a lot over years (though it’s still better than say, Best Buy or Target) but they still have a rack for audiophile releases like SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. There, I was able to find a copy of the Mobile Fidelity SACD release of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. This is a lush, beautiful stereo version (created under the supervision of Brian Wilson in 1997) that made for a gorgeous meditation as it played on my SACD player while I cleaned house on Sunday morning.


Guns, not butter

I have friends or loved ones on every side of the gun debate that is raging in our country right now.  Mrs. Geek is convinced that no one in a civilized society (outside the military) should need a gun with a fire rate of 15 rounds per minute (such as the AR-15.)  My Ph.D. dissertation adviser and his sons apparently think every American should be issued a gun along with a birth certificate and if you can’t defend yourself against bad people, that’s your problem.   A high school friend (and Second Iraq War veteran) vigorously defends the right to keep firearms in the home, even after she and her ex-spouse both had to be removed from the home they shared at the time in handcuffs because they’d pulled out hand guns on each other during a domestic dispute.  Myself, my ideas about guns sit closer to those of my wife than the others, so there are some things about the pro-gun side of the debate that do not make sense to me.

Buying guns should not be like buying groceries.  It’s not “criminal persecution of the innocent” to not be able to say “honey, I’ll go down to the store to get some milk, some bread, and that new automatic pistol you like.”  It’s not a baseball bat or a kitchen knife.  These things have other legitimate uses, wholly unrelated to their ability to cause harm to another human being.  A gun is made to shoot at objects, animals, or people.  Period.  Is it so unreasonable to ask that (at minimum) we have the same sorts of mechanisms in place to handle guns as we do to handle cars (e.g. every gun is registered, gun training must meet a regulated minimum, and the ability to own a gun is denied people who are mentally ill)?

Guns can’t heal people.  People heal people.  The one that gets me most is that there apparently is this notion out there that learning to handle a gun will make you a better person and a better citizen.   The mother of the Newton, CT shooter used guns to bond with her son, who she seemed to feel had behavioral issues.  Chris Kyle, an ex-Navy Seal and sniper, was apparently killed this week by a fellow veteran he was counseling… in part, by taking a trip to a shooting range together.   I understand that shared interests are important and that making someone part of a group can help their self esteem and bring them out of their shell.  Don’t people understand that it’s not good sense to put a gun in the hands of some others?

Someone I know had a FB post up this week that said “Talk to me if you want to learn to use a gun.  I will help you buy a gun.  I will help you learn to use a gun.  I will help you obtain parts and ammo.  Help promote gun use in the next generation.”   All I want to say is: “really?!?”.    Putting a gun in someone’s hand is not like learning to fish in order to feed themselves.  Are you going to get to know this person?  Are you going to make sure this person learns good gun safety skills?  Are you going to be there when this person is feeling depressed or angry at his/her spouse?  Are you going to make sure this person isn’t carrying a gun when drunk?   I also want to ask: “how will you feel if you help put a gun in someone’s hand and they use it to commit a crime?”

Responsible gun ownership currently seems to exist as a circle of trust.  Trust us, the gun owners say.  We’ll monitor sales, training, and membership, they say.  We should really be unregulated, they say.  The government shouldn’t even collect detailed public health information about gun violence because guns are safe, they say.  It is our right, they say.

That sort of attitude only seems to invite trouble for all of us, I say.