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Category — fatherhood

Announcing the Peter Picture of the Day

Peter Quinn Metcalf was born January 27th, 2011, at 8:56pm. I’m pleased to announce the Peter Picture of the Day, a photoblog featuring pictures of Peter. It’s modeled after his brother’s photoblog, the Matthew Picture of the Day, which has been running for three and a half years. Although the blogs look alike, there are a few subtle changes to the PPOD, some of which I hope to incorporate into the MPOD.

Most notably, the full scale picture is now available: simply click on the picture and you will be able to download the full picture. This should make for much better prints for those who wish to print out PPOD pictures. Warning: if uncropped, these pictures are about 3MB apiece. That seemed much too large back when I established the MPOD, and so it has used the display size only of 720 pixels wide. But these days, a 3MB image doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

I’m also now posting the date that each photograph was taken (a feature I should be able to add soon to MPOD), and I’m also putting the comments section on the main page, instead of in a pop-up window. As with MPOD, each commenter’s first comment must be approved by the moderator (me), to avoid spam postings.

I’ve loaded a couple of pictures to start things off, after which there should be one new picture each day, posted at about 6am Eastern Time.

January 29, 2011   No Comments

Matthew’s Books updated

I keep a permanent page on this website listing the books that my son has, in order to minimize duplicate copies. I have just now updated this list to include books acquired over the past year.

He does also have a number of books in Korean, which are not presently listed.

December 4, 2008   No Comments

MPOD hiccups

The companion site to this blog, the Matthew Picture of the Day, has been having a bit of trouble lately. Or rather, the automatic picture-posting program that runs in the morning fouled up on Sunday. I’m not sure why, and I think it was an anomalous, one-time problem. It wasn’t until the afternoon that I realized the problem and manually posted the picture. But the way the picture-a-day software works–checking to make sure it’s been at least 23 hours since the last post–the automation was disrupted, and today’s picture didn’t get posted until the evening either. I’ll manually post tomorrow’s picture, hopefully early, and by Thursday it should be running normally again.

To anyone who thought there wasn’t a picture Sunday or Tuesday: yes there was, and sorry it’s so late.

July 29, 2008   No Comments


I was 34 years old when my son was born; my father was only 29 when I was born. Yet despite the fact that more time will have elapsed between my childhood and my son’s than between my father’s and mine, my perception is that while the world in which I grew up was fundamentally different than that in which my father grew up, my son is growing up in a world that is a slow, gradual evolution of the world of my childhood. Perhaps it’s because it’s only relatively recently that I’ve self-identified more as an adult instead of as a young person, and have wanted to categorize more years of advancements as belonging to my youth than I would acknowledge belonging to my father’s youth. I don’t really know what the right comparison to make is–Matthew is several years away from an age against which I can compare any real memories. And when he’s old enough to think about it, I could imagine Matthew reasoning that the lack of digital photography, a ubiquitous internet, and the need to buy music on physical media all as evidence that my youth was stone-age by comparison. We don’t really know what the world will look like when Matthew is old enough to remember it, but we can make some comparisons about the years in which we were born.

First, transportation. Amtrak was formed in 1971: passenger rail when Matthew was born is roughly the same as when I was born, and completely different from when my father was born. At some point before I was born, the passenger-miles of the airlines overtook that of the railroads. The present Interstate Highway system, begun in 1956, is similar to when I was born.  

Figure 1943 1973 2007
Population (M) 137 212 303
Cars (M) 26 124 232
Cars per capita 0.19 0.59 0.76
Interstate Miles 0 35461 46837


So I think its fair to say that the transportation world in which I was born was fundamentally different than that in which my father was born, but Matthew’s transportation world is similar to mine.

For sports, my dad grew up in the era of the original 6 NHL teams, and before interleague play in Major League Baseball, but looking at the figures per 100 Million population is interesting:   

Figure 1943 1973 2007
NHL teams 6 16 30
NHL teams per 100M 4.4 7.6 9.9
NFL teams 10 26 32
NFL teams per 100M 7.3 12.3 10.6
MLB teams 16 24 30
MLB teams per 100M 11.7 11.3 9.9


So while the NHL has definitely grown in each era, there was more football per capita when I was born than either now or when my dad was born. Most significantly, there was more baseball per capita when my dad was born than either now or when I was born. Sort of makes me wonder about all the hand-wringing that goes on about how baseball expansion is supposed to have diluted the available pitching talent.

One other facet that I thought was different about my dad’s youth, but isn’t really, is candy. I remember my dad telling me about ads for Clark bars when he was a kid–even though they’re still available, they really aren’t heavily advertised, nor were they when I was young. But according to this timeline of American candy bars, it looks like the golden age of candy bar inventions were the 1920s and 1930s; pretty much the same selection had been available for my dad as for me, and Matthew benefits from the rather small handful of candies (Whatchamacallit, Twix, Skittles) that were introduced during my youth.

January 22, 2008   2 Comments

Another holiday flies by

One of the biggest changes moving from academia to being an employee of the U.S. Government was that I now have to keep track of vacation days–I get 19.5 per year, in addition to the 10 federal holidays. So I don’t always take the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s off, but this year I did, using up four vacation days to get an 11-day stretch at home. (The President was gracious enough to give Federal employees Christmas Eve day off.)

As with most vacations, I had anticipated making progress on a whole list of projects, but, as is also usually the case, I hardly touched most of them.

Let me say right off that the first problem is that the ‘to-do list’ mentality is not really the appropriate way to describe spending time with my son. I played with him and photographed him and read to him, and the fact that I didn’t get to cross any of these things off a project list is really irrelevant.

But still, it does seem like a whole bunch of time went by without much productive being done. And I think it’s partly because even though I do have some to-do lists made up, I didn’t really plan my vacation.

Planning might seem line anathema for vacations, an unwelcome imposition of order onto what ought to be relaxing, but I’ve come to differ. You must, at some point, plan your time: one way or the other, you’re going to have to figure out what you want to do. At the most inefficient, you can use up your vacation time deciding what to do, and in the end I think I don’t think that ends up very satisfying.

I think our sense of elapsed time–whether a vacation has flown by, or seemed like a good break–is strongly correlated with the number of changes we experience throughout. A “leisurely” day–getting up late, eventually eating and getting dressed, thumbing through the newspaper, and then thinking about what to do, to be followed, perhaps, by actually doing something in the afternoon–does not put one through very many changes, and seems to go by quickly. (This does describe a large number of my eleven days off.)

By contrast, I think of two-day conferences I’ve been to, with separate events in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings–lots of changes–and recall that they usually end up feeling satisfying, or at least, I can’t recall feeling like time flew by with nothing being done.

Planning out vacation time in advance becomes more important if you’re traveling somewhere, because then, your time at your destination is very rare and very expensive. What a waste to spend your time sitting in a hotel room flipping through a guidebook!

When my wife and my mother-in-law and I went to Korea, we did a lot of planning: to know what the bus and train schedules were, and what days the museums we wanted to see were open, and how to get from a hotel to a site of interest. And the planning paid off: we still marvel at how much we saw in ten days. Quite a contrast to this year’s eleven days of holidays.

January 2, 2008   No Comments

Gift giving

This weekend I begin my Christmas shopping, and it’s of course the first year I’ll have the opportunity to buy Christmas presents for my son. He will not quite be old enough to understand what’s going on, though, for his first Christmas. The concepts of owning things, having things, and getting things are several months away, as is the notion of how fun it is to get new things. Next year will be different, of course, but for now we can get away with things mostly for our benefit, such as books we’d like to read to him, or outfits we’d like to see him wear. With a child in the house, though, the focus of Christmas changes completely, and this gives me an opportunity for me to reflect on the whole enterprise of gift-giving.

My theory on gift-giving is that there are two elements to a good gift: that it is something the recipient will appreciate, and that it is something which the recipient would not have acquired otherwise. Additionally, there should be some element of surprise; the recipient should not know in advance what the gift will be. It sounds straightforward enough, but it has very different results for children compared to adults. For children, the primary reason they haven’t already acquired something is that they don’t have enough money to buy it. That doesn’t really work with adults: when I want a book, or a new frying pan, or new hiking boots, I just buy them. (Well, I used to, before we had to rein in our spending to make sure we had enough money for child care.) Adults have a whole host of other reasons not to have acquired something, even if they would appreciate it: they don’t know about it, they haven’t had time to find it, they haven’t had time to select the most appropriate version. Or, something has seemed too much like a splurge. But it’s always seemed silly to me to ask (financially stable) adults what they want: if they want something, why not just go buy it? If its the thought that counts, whose thought is it?

Of course, it’s not always easy to pick something that the recipient will appreciate; I’ve been hit and miss over the years but I do think overall the usefulness of the hits makes it worthwhile to try. Some of the best things I’ve given and received over the years: a nightcap, an electric kettle, a laser pointer (before they became ubiquitous), my first coffee grinder, an iPod. I wonder, in the coming years, what sorts of things our son will consider to be his favorite gifts–and will I have to assemble them Christmas eve?

December 14, 2007   No Comments