To Be A Good Dad, Get In Shape

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Jan 182012

OK, I’m probably gonna sound like I’m a broken record, but here’s yet another reason getting in shape, nay, being an active Dad is not only the best thing you can do for yourself, but also for your kids.

I’m going to unabashedly steal this from this great site,



Need I say more?


Deliberate Practice, Part 1: Intelligence Is Overrated

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Jan 182012

Talent, Excellence, Success – it’s all things we want to help nurture in our children.  A while back I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (OK, I listened to it as an audiobook, but it still counts).  In it, he talks about how some people become excellent at something, superstars and experts by doing what’s called deliberate practice.  This isn’t just rote practice, but a very specific set of activities where:

  • you start with an analysis of your strengths and weaknesses and a plan working on your weaknesses
  • you meticulously and step-by-step do whatever it is you want to work on, but always just outside your comfort zone so you’re not cruising through, but not quite freaking out either
  • work on those deficiencies or goals in small and measurable ways
  • get feedback (from a coach, a teacher, a mentor, an audience, somebody) on how well you are doing so that you can course correct
  • and do it again, day after day.

It’s how everyone from Tiger Woods to Bobby Fischer to Mozart to Einstein got good at what do do and did.

I’ve spoken of the blog by Cal Newport called Studyhacks before in a previous post.  He too talked about deliberate practice – in a way that’s probably a lot more eloquent than I could.  Recently he put up a post where he talks about a Reddit thread that he discovered that he thinks excellently captures the spirit of what this is all about.  I agree.  It’s from an MIT alumn to a poster (a high school student) who seems to be mildly freaking out about whether he’ll be smart enough to succeed at MIT.  It’s really worth checking out to hear, what I think is an inspiration (in a kick-in-the-pants sort of way) speech on how whether you succeed at something is a choice, and it’s a choice that you make yourself, and nobody else.

A lot of the time, we think that talent and intelligence is inborn, that you either have it or you don’t.  But a lot of modern research is showing that this is not the case, or at least there’s very compelling evidence that this not the whole story.  Things like deliberate practice is a method that we would do well to absorb into our lives, not just for ourselves, but so that we can teach its precepts to our kids, so that when they are old enough to pursue whatever it is they want to pursue, they not offer them encouragement and support, but actual concrete techniques and methods that they can use to become great.


Baby Barbells

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Jan 092012

So in surfing the web once again late into the night, I find this.  Baby Barbells is a series of exercises that guys can do – essentially weight lifting routines where you use your baby as the active weight.  Kinda makes sense – the baby is only going to be growing bigger (and thus heavier) so you have weight progression there, and you have also some quality time you get to spend with the baby disguised as “daddy play time”.  And by daddy play time, I mean that dads play with kids differently than moms – on the average we do more physically rambunctious stuff with them more like wrestling with the kids or swing them around or lifting them into the air repeatedly.  So it only makes sense that you’d capitalize on this to work out.  And as I pointed out in a previous post about what I consider the single best advice for new dads, being in shape is probably the best thing you can do for yourself to help you be a better dad.  So kudos to Dr.Levitt for actually bringing this to our attention.


Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Jan 082012


As some of you know (or may not be getting to know), I’m big on science education.  I consider science literacy to be of paramount importance to be a citizen of this planet in the 21st century.  But science education – especially in America – is sorely ineffectual and science and intellectual prowess has an unfortunate stereotype of not being sexy or cool.  I think the fault lies with policy makers and the media, but it also has a lot to do with those of us who are in the sciences – we haven’t done a very good job of conveying its coolness.  That’s why I think folks like Neil deGrasse Tyson is important, and important for parents (especially Dads) to know about.

He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in NYC, at least that’s his day job.  But on the side (and a big side it is), he is an author, TV personality, talk show host, actor, and speaker who’s had essentially one role and one message – to convey the coolness of space and science.  He’s got a zillion books and articles about space written for the layperson to his credit, been on a million PBS and  History and Discovery Channel (amongst others) shows, and in general has contributed to making science cool.  They don’t call him the new Carl Sagan for nothing.

And don’t take my word for it.  Take a look at this article by Carl Zimmer.  It’s a profile by Zimmer on Tyson.

I write these posts because I think to be a good dad these days, amongst the many things we have to do for our kids is to be their intellectual and inspirational guide.  Knowing or knowing of folks like Dr.Tyson helps with this.  Take a look at his really eloquent response to why the things NASA does is good for America:


Five Words Babies Use: Dunstan Baby Language on Oprah

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Jan 062012

I don’t normally watch Oprah, but now that I am a Dad and a lot of my friends are Dads, I am discovering that we share Dad Stories and Dad Info and some of the most interesting stuff comes from Oprah. 

My buddy Rich (remember the publisher of, that site on paper crafts and making pop up cards) whose daughter was born just a couple of weeks ago told me about this one.  Apparently there maybe such a thing as preverbal communication from babies that are more or less universal, and an Australian mezzo-soprano named Priscilla Dunstan claims to have discovered it.  She came on Oprah and here’s a Youtube clip of that segment.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the “Dunstan Baby Language” system:

According to Dunstan, the five universal words (or sound reflexes) used by infants are:


I’m hungry – An infant uses the sound reflex "Neh" to communicate its hunger. The sound is produced when the sucking reflex is triggered, and the tongue is pushed up on the roof of the mouth.


I’m sleepy – An infant uses the sound reflex "Owh" to communicate that they are tired. The sound is produced much like an audible yawn.


I’m experiencing discomfort – An infant uses the sound reflex "Heh" to communicate stress, discomfort, or perhaps that it needs a fresh diaper. The sound is produced by a response to a skin reflex, such as feeling sweat or itchiness in the bum.


I have lower gas – An infant uses the sound reflex "Eairh" to communicate they have flatulence or an upset stomach. The sound is produced when trapped air from a belch is unable to release and travels to the stomach where the muscles of the intestines tighten to force the air bubble out. Often, this sound will indicate that a bowel movement is in progress, and the infant will bend its knees, bringing the legs toward the torso. This leg movement assists in the ongoing process.


I have gas – An infant uses the sound reflex "Eh" to communicate that it needs to be burped. The sound is produced when a large bubble of trapped air is caught in the chest, and the reflex is trying to release this out of the mouth.

Now her claims here have not been backed up by any rigorous scientific studies, but I will admit that I do recall Nathan making most of these sounds, and he still makes that “Eairh” sound when he has to poo, so there may be something to this claim.