Friday, January 23, 2009

Freecycle ROCKS!

Here are the toys that I got from someone off of freecycle. How cool is that! I'm all for free toys. I had to pick them up late last night on some country road north of Iowa City. I saw at least twenty deer during the trip and was careful not to hit any of them.
I'm glad that Abigail is still small and that we can cuddle with her all the time, but I am also excited to see her play with toys someday. I think that little people are fun and I hopes that she likes them.Here she is during tummy time. Usually she doesn't like tummy time, this time she fell asleep. Notice how her outfit is too big. Her legs no longer fit in the newborn outfits, but she isn't able to fill the 0-3 months outfits quite yet.Here I caught her smiling in her sleep, who knows what she was dreaming about.Here she is hard at work with dad. He is getting pretty good at typing one-handed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

Just thought I'd review for everyone's enjoyment and edification a few of the photographs that we took in 2007 during the campaign season.

Here's the new President of the United States at a campaign rally in Coralville - we were in the front row:

Here's the new Vice-President of the United States at a campaign stop in Vinton. We actually got to see Joe Biden several different times - he was at a backyard meet-and-greet a few houses down the street from our home and we had breakfast while listening to him speak at the famous Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City.

Here's the new Secretary of State her husband, a certain former U.S. president, at a campaign event in Iowa City:

Here is us with the former Secretary of Commerce-designee Bill Richardson at an event in Cedar Rapids. Maybe he'll get a spot in the cabinet after Obama's reelection in four years?

And finally, here we are with Sen. John McCain at a soapbox speech at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. This picture made it into the New York Times website. Katie and I are down on the ground in the front next to the person in the yellow shirt:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to Katie!

It's Katie's birthday today! (I understand it's bad form to say which birthday after they turn 19? Suffice  it to say, her age is now a "perfect number." Bonus points to the first one who can figure it out.) We've known each other for more than four years now. She's doing such a great job taking care of the new baby and going to graduate school at the same time. Wish her luck as she starts her new semester this week!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: "The Audacity of Hope"

Note: This is the second in a two-part review series of books and movies related to the presidential inauguration.

It’s standard procedure for those running for president to write a book before jumping into the primaries. They hope that this will generate some name recognition and maybe even some revenue to fund their fledgling campaigns. Barack Obama was no different and in 2006 published The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream shortly after he began his term in the U.S. Senate.

As someone pursuing a graduate degree in political science and a ravenous consumer of political news, I pride myself on being able to distinguish rhetorical style from substance. At first, I was ambivalent toward Obama’s candidacy because I considered him a celebrity with insufficient experience. He was the ultimate “style” candidate when I was looking for “substance.” His performance in the primary and general elections, however, along with what I read in his Audacity of Hope book, have convinced me that even though he still is somewhat of a political “rock star,” I now sleep soundly at night with the assurance that he has impressive substance to back up his style.

His book naturally covers a wide range of topics including portions of his personal history and his take on contemporary American politics. However, the bottom line of The Audacity of Hope is this: Pres-elect Obama is smart, and he’s not afraid to let you know it. After a presidential administration that has prided itself on its “anti-intellectualism,” it’s refreshing to have a president again who, for example, understands the theoretical difference between
positive and negative liberty (pg. 66).

Pres-elect Obama speaks to his audience in easily accessible language, but to those versed in the concepts and debates of political philosophy, he comes off as an impressive student of political theory (discussing how Hobbes and Locke relate to contemporary political debates), American Constitutionalism, (pg. 104) and American history (throughout). To my surprise, he even discusses recent academic political science research on incumbency advantage in congressional elections (pg. 123)! Furthermore, he frames his discussion of the role of religion and politics through the theoretical lens of the debate between liberalism and multiculturalism (pgs. 258-262). To a political science graduate student specializing in American politics and political philosophy, it was not unlike reading a contemporary
Treatise on Government. I’m not just saying all this because I like Pres-elect Obama. I was genuinely and thoroughly impressed.

Furthermore, what I’ve learned about personality and political leadership from teaching my “Political Psychology” class has convinced me that individual personality is just as important as policy views when it comes to presidential effectiveness, and Pres-elect Obama shares in common the personality characteristics of other great presidents in American history.
(See personality profile for more information.)

Disagreements on policy preferences aside, it would be hard for someone to argue that Pres-elect Obama is not intellectually or emotionally qualified for the job he now finds himself in. Not since the days of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison have we had someone with the potential to become a Plato-esque
philosopher-king” in the White House (with the possible exceptions of Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson). The tides and forces of history have presented Pres-elect Obama with the opportunity and potential to become one of the more effective presidents of American history -- it's now up to him not to blow it. I wish him well as he begins his first term next Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter in the Midwest...

It's currently -13 degrees out (with the windchill) and it got down to -35 degrees last night. We've had about 10 inches of snowfall over the last three days. We've been lucky that the snow is at least light and fluffy which makes it much easier to shovel ourselves out in the mornings. Don't you all just wish you were out here with us right now???

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Even more baby pictures

Here's another Picasa web album of baby pictures for all of Abigail's adoring fans out there. These are a slew of "portrait" photographs that Katie's dad took while he was visiting last month. At the very bottom are two additional Abby-nuggets: the birth announcement and belated Christmas card. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Movie Review: "John Adams"

As the quadrennial presidential inauguration season quickly approaches, I thought I’d take a quick break from the baby pictures to begin a short review series of books and movies appropriate for the occasion.

The first is John Adams – the eight-part 2008 HBO miniseries starring Paul Giamatti as President John Adams and Laura Linney as Abigail Adams. This excellent miniseries covers the major events of Adams’ life, beginning with his defense of the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre trial and ending with his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson during the last years of his life. In between, viewers are treated to concise dramatizations of the major events of the American Founding, intertwined with significant events from the personal lives of the family of John and Abigail Adams.

This series does a remarkable job of capturing the personalities of the American Founders and the complexities of their inter-personal relationships. We see John Adams as talented and brilliant, while also vain and pedantic, with a tendency to bloviate. Throughout the series we get the distinct impression that Adams was indispensable to the founding of the republic, but also that his conceited nature made it so that he was barely tolerated by the others of the Founding generation.

Viewers are able to learn some less-well-known aspects of our second president, such that the Declaration of Independence was originally his idea, but he asked Thomas Jefferson to write it, as he thought that it would be less-well received by those who were not well-disposed to his personality. More than 200 years later, Jefferson is still remembered as the creator of the Declaration, but no one remembers that the Adams deserves the real credit. The series captures well Adams’ perceived slight by the future annals of history: “When the story of this revolution is told by posterity,” he laments, “it will be that Dr. Franklin smote the ground with his electric rod and out sprang Washington and Jefferson!”

Furthermore, this series excellently portrays and summarizes the primary political theories and concepts of the American Founding. Through Adams and Jefferson we see the conflict between the conflicting goals of order vs. liberty and elitism vs. egalitarianism as the new Constitution is written and implemented.

Lastly, viewers are presented with a poignant glimpse of Adams’ personal life. His brilliant wife Abigail was always his most trusted advisor – they wrote constantly during their entire marriage. We also see how his multi-year absences in the service of his country took their toll on his relationships with his wife and various children. John Adams does not present a “rosy” picture of the American Founding, but rather focuses on the personal sacrifices that were made by all involved.

There are of course, some shortcomings. An eight-hour series cannot perfectly convey every detail of a fifty-year period. Also, Alexander Hamilton’s character is not presented quite fairly in terms of his relationship with Jefferson and his overall political philosophy. Nonetheless, John Adams is an excellent dramatization of one of the less-often recognized “wise men” (D&C 101:80) raised up for the purpose of establishing the United States.

NEXT IN THIS SERIES: The Audacity of Hope by President-elect Barack Obama.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Four Week Update

For those who are interested in tracking milestones and statistics, Abigail had her four-week checkup this morning. She currently weighs 8 lbs., 11 oz., which is 26 oz. more than what she was at birth and it is an increase of 23% in body mass. The CDC puts her at about the 40th %-ile for her age and weight. Also, as shown, she is developing stronger neck muscles and head coordination as she is now routinely pushing her head up.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

All dressed up with no place to go.

Hi, this is Abigail. My mommy won't let me leave the house as she has been duly warned by everyone that it is cold and flu season. She does still dress me up though. Don't I look cute? I even smiled. :)


My baby

Well, in this case I guess he's really my handsome handyman. We purchased our home in 2006 (instead of renting, much to Ben's chagrin) and have had lots of learning experiences about home repair since then. This weekend Ben learned what a ballast was (thank you Internet), how to remove one from a flourescent light, and how to then install one and rewire it. Good job Ben! I am so proud of your skills! :) He even put in two new bulbs to boot.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

HELP! -- I'm starving

I remember the hunger pains of pregnancy, but they do not hold a candle to the constant achings and rumblings in my current stomach. People warned me that nursing would make me hungry, but I never understood how much until now. I feel like I am eating every twenty minutes. So please help me!!!!! I need some suggestions on what nutrient-rich snacks I can have on hand to curb my incessant hunger pains. I probably should find alternates to the bowl of ice cream I just finished and the peanut butter m&m's that will soon find their way into my mouth.

So give me your best suggestions. I need something that will keep the tummy happy for a couple of hours at a time. I would appreciate it if some of the suggestions will help me from regaining my pregnancy weight. :)