Ereader analysis paralysis

The future of my reading?

Let me start this off by saying that I don’t love ereaders. I love READING. My very first paying job ever – at the tender age of 13yrs and 9mos old – was shelving books in our local library. Books hold a very special place in my heart. So why would I consider buying an ereader, and why would I even have angst over ereader vs tablet?

The short version of the long story is that I received a tablet to review (forthcoming!), and I used it as an ereader for the copy of Divergent that I got free when we bought tickets to the movie. I used it on a couple of trips, and while I won’t say that I got hooked on ereaders as a useful tool, I would say that they have some merit (the same way an iPod is far more convenient than walking around with a stack of CD’s). But the screen resolution on this particular tablet isn’t really optimal for reading, so I wanted to see what else is out there. Any device I consider WILL NOT completely replace reading paper books – but for free books, ones that I don’t intend to purchase in paper form, this could be helpful. It’s also nice not to have to carry a stack of books when I’m traveling, which I’m doing more frequently now.

What’s on the consideration list:

  • Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
  • Amazon Kindle Fire
  • iPad Mini
  • …{generic Android tablet}

Kindle Paperwhite reviews are fairly positive, and the e-ink display I saw at our local Best Buy was very easy to read. [SHOUT OUT to Best Buy for showrooming Amazon Kindles - it makes it a lot easier to decide when you can SEE a product in person!] Big pluses appear to be: backlighting, touchscreen, e-ink display (lower eyestrain), and reasonable price. You can spend a few extra $$ to get a version that doesn’t have any ads, which is totally worth the expense, in my mind. Minuses: screen size is really small by comparison to a tablet and there’s NO color. AT ALL. I realize it’s a silly thing to some, but the color on dust jackets and book covers DOES attract my attention to a new read; it’s hard for that magic to work when I can’t see the color.

Kindle Fire is a little more expensive than its e-ink cousin, but it has the benefit of having color (yeay!). Pluses are bigger screen size, color, and the ability to do other things besides just reading; after all, it’s a tablet! Minuses are potential for eyestrain or that annoying thing where the screen screws up your sleeping, as well as a higher price tag.

It would seem logical, as I type this on my MacBook Pro, with my iPhone sitting to my left, that the right choice would have to be an iPad Mini, right? Well, maybe. Big pluses here in terms of it being able to do plenty of other things and its connectivity to the things that make me ME in the Apple world. Minuses are pretty much the same as those for the Amazon Kindle Fire, in terms of potential eyestrain/circadian rhythm disruption, but the price tag is MUCH higher, and that’s really something that gives me pause. How did a simple “Hey, ereaders aren’t so bad!” turn into “Let’s spend $400 on a new Apple device!”?

And then we have {generic Android tablet}. I saw an Acer tablet, for example, that was priced comparably to the Kindles and it looked basically like a souped-up version of the tablet I received for review, with a nice crisp display and a lightweight, compact body. Pluses are similar to the iPad Mini, in that it can do other stuff; also, I’m now more used to the Kindle app than the native Kindle interface (which I actually found a bit overwhelming with all its “TAP HERE AND THINGS HAPPEN” action), so the learning curve is lower. On the other hand, I haven’t heard that Android devices get the updates and upgrades that iOS devices receive, which makes me wonder if {generic android tablet} is disposable technology.

So, I’m stumped. I really like the Kindle store – the variety of options and pricing fit me really well – but I’m not sure which direction I should take.

*waves cash in the air and waits for personal shopper to appear*

Baby boys and blue nail polish – a Kindergarten journey begins

blue nail polish on my 5yo son's nails

Yesterday was ds’ first day in Kindergarten. And he wore blue nail polish.

It was just on two fingers – but it caused enough of a stir in our household that I wasn’t sure how it was going to play in school.

Two days before Kindergarten, as I was getting dd’s nails ready for her first day of second grade, ds came over and excitedly asked, “Mommy, can you do MY nails, too?!” He looked so eager. Honestly, why shouldn’t he want his nails done? It looked like fun, it meant you got attention fawned on you – at least for as long as it takes for the paint and top coat to be applied – and it left you with colored, shiny nails. Who wouldn’t want that?

And then there’s society. Stupid, *phobic society. Society says only girls wear nail polish. Society says there’s something wrong with boys who wear nail polish. (Unless the boy in question is Steven Tyler. Or Johnny Depp. Of course.)

DH and I tried to convince him that he didn’t need nail polish for his first day of Kindergarten, hoping that holding him off with the excuse of “most boys don’t…” would be sufficient. We didn’t do it for us. We did it for him. And he totally ignored us.

There was pouting and confusion, and ultimately I gave him “shiny nails” – a coat of Seche Clear base coat, followed by a coat of Seche Vite top coat. I wanted him to see how he did with clear shiny nails first, I explained.

After he went to bed, I did some looking around on the Internet, trying to see what other parents did. Mostly, there was a lot of concern about kids being gay or transgendered. Um…SO WHAT? Nail polish love doesn’t mean you’re gay, transgendered or anything other than someone who likes to decorate their body. Most parents seemed to fret somewhat, but various behavioral health specialists pointed out that this was totally normal behavior for a young kid. The boy likes to wear stickers on his shirt, whenever offered one, so what’s the difference between that and nail polish?

As his sister put it, “Nail polish is for girls.” THAT’S the difference. People think nail polish is for girls. And if a boy wants nail polish (unless said boy is Mssrs. Tyler or Depp, natch), said boy must want to be a girl. OH. WE FEAR GIRLS and GIRL BEHAVIOR BY BOYS (except Steven or Johnny) is BAD BAD BAD.

The night before Kindergarten, he approached me again: “Mommy, where are the colors?” (they’d been out when I did dd’s nails)

“Mommy, I want you to paint my nails!”

I sighed and sat him down. I explained that not every kiddo would understand his nails and there’s a chance that they might laugh or make mean comments. He promised he’d say “Gee Whiz!” to them and that he didn’t care, but I know my sweet, sensitive little guy – and he’d care. It would bother him. I steeled myself and told him, “You know what, just tell them you’re a rock star.” He looked at me funnily and agreed, and then I let him pick from a curated selection of sparkly and shiny blues and greens.

He chose an electric blue Wet’n’Wild nail polish dd had gotten at a holiday swap. One coat of that on each thumb, and one more coat of Seche Vite to hold it all together.

But what would hold ME together if someone tried to make fun of my little boy?

I tweeted to my sister about it, showing her the picture, and telling her how fantastic they looked. Being the awesome auntie that she is, she totally approved. I suggested that she get bail money set aside, in case any of the kids in ds’ class decided to make a big deal out of it. Her response, “I’ll tell [my husband], since I’ll be right there with you, kicking ass.” See, I told you: an awesome auntie.

And then the day came, and I went off to work while ds waved to me from the living room. Off he went to his first day of Kindergarten, with his blue thumbs. I had remembered, as I painted his nails, that kids of MY generation often painted our nails with magic marker when we were younger. Boys and girls did it. We were decorating ourselves, as much as we decorated our binders or Trapper Keepers. Would it be the same for him?

When I finally got home, just before dinner went on the table, ds was beaming and couldn’t get out enough “Guess what?!” questions to satisfy his retelling of the day. So many friends, old and new, so many fun things, so many new discoveries, so many hopes for a great year.

The polish was still intact, and when I asked dh if there was a note from the teacher, he said no. Apparently, he’d asked ds how things went with the nail polish, and ds pronounced it as no big deal. Everything went fine.

I know it was just the first day, and I realize that there is always the threat of someone doing or saying something stupid to him about it, but I really hope that this bodes well. Whether he decides to wear nail polish on two fingernails or all ten, whether he decides that this nail polish does or doesn’t mean anything more than body decoration…it’s all up to him.

And what do I think of the nail polish? I think it’s freaking awesome. And I think he’s awesome. And anyone who thinks otherwise…well, the door’s to the left, and don’t let it hit you on the way out.

Is fantasy football feeding a nightmare?

Why I'm breaking up with the NFL - at least for now

For more than a decade, I’ve teamed up with a friend to co-manage a fantasy football team. He’s taught me all about not making player selection decisions based on emotion (like my famous “NO DALLAS COWBOYS!” rule) and I’ve taught him that my gut instinct can be a very good thing when making week-to-week decisions. And yet, after several winning seasons and quite a lot of games watched, I’m ready to put it all down – at least for a while. Here’s why:

I think American football as it’s currently played and managed is deeply harmful and dangerous.

Between the revelations of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and how head trauma from even one concussion can turn football players’ brains into spongy masses prone to memory loss, mood swings, and dementia, I just don’t feel like this is something I can support anymore. Referring to two recent studies as primary examples, and understanding that CTE can only be properly diagnosed with a chemical analysis of brain tissue post-mortem, the results are startling:



Detaching from football is going to be hard. I grew up a football fan, and I live in a region where you have to work hard to find someone NOT rooting for the New England Patriots every Sunday in the Fall. I grew up watching the Washington Redskins win Superbowls under the deft leadership of Joe Gibbs (MARK I), and I saw amazing players in the prime of their careers, like Joe Theismann, Art Monk, Joe Jacoby, Jim Lachey, and Darrell Green. These men were revered as gods in DC, and we loved rooting for the “Sons of Washington” in their burgundy and gold. In other words, I’m planning to stop something that’s practically hardwired in my DNA – not just putting away the laptop on Sundays but actually STOPPING WATCHING the NFL. Completely.

DS is five years old, and he starts Kindergarten in a few days. Seven-year-old dd is on the cusp of starting second grade, and she’s advancing nicely in gymnastics. We’ve offered ds several sports as activities, to make sure he keeps his little body moving and learns the value of staying fit. But I refuse to offer him football. I won’t even consider offering either child the opportunity to play hockey. I have loved watching both of these sports, but the physical damage inflicted on these players in the name of “sports” and “entertainment” is getting to be too much. The NFL and NHL seem to turn a blind eye to the consequences of the increasing physicality in both sports, and it’s making me sick. I can’t imagine intentionally putting my child in harm’s way like that.

Now, it’s easy to argue that gymnastics isn’t exactly easy on the body; joints take an incredible pounding, and there’s always the possibility that something bad will happen in a fall. DS is getting into swimming, for now, and there are tons of risks there, too. But there’s nothing like what I hear about CTE.

And so, here I sit, mourning my now-former co-managership of a fantasy football team. I already feel somewhat off, walking by the Pats jerseys at Target, wondering whether I’ll intentionally ignore when the Pats – or even my beloved Redskins – are playing. Wondering if I’ll ever don team colors again, knowing that so many of my friends and co-workers will continue to do so because their love of the game is greater than their fear of what supporting it may mean.

In a recent op-ed piece for the Boston Globe Magazine [warning: paywall may block access], Steve Almond passionately argued that supporting American football is tantamount to greenlighting something terribly destructive to other human beings. When I read his column, an excerpt from his recently released book (Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto), I felt like he was giving voice to my own concerns. Pre-game shows celebrate NFL players getting “JACKED UP!” (hit exceptionally hard), but somehow they seem to miss out on highlighting all the players sidelined with concussions. They’re merely a blip in the injury report scroll, something for fantasy football managers and bookies to watch – but not something of major interest or attention.

I don’t want to say goodbye to the sports I love, but I don’t want to say goodbye to the people I love even more. I wonder about the hypocrisy of my saying “I’ll watch SOMEONE ELSE’S kid play a dangerous sport, but NO WAY IN HELL will I let MY kid do that!” Even Junior Seau was someone’s kid.

In a region where sports are a dominant part of the culture, where they’re woven into the fabric of society so firmly that I’ve heard people launch into “Yankees Suck” chants on an escalator at the airport (when no game was playing), I know I’m committing heresy. I also know that I have friends that will think I’m a complete idiot for not just shutting up and watching like all the other folks. But when I see careers ended by vicious and/or repeated hits (Marc Savard and Taylor Twellman) – and lives ended by the results of hits (the aforementioned Seau), I feel justified in walking away. At least I have that option.

And yes, Twellman played in Major League Soccer and Savard played in the National Hockey League – but both suffered from repeated collisions (in Savard’s case, some that were particularly brutal). Hockey may soon disappear from my playlist, as well, since the NHL appears unwilling to do much to address the lack of player protection from bad hits and bad seeds. Soccer, at least, is trying to make changes at the youth level – so they’re recognizing that something must be done to protect the future of the sport. Hockey and American football lately appear to be little more than leagues of gladiators without the lions and spears. I, for one, am getting tired of games interrupted by terrifying injuries – NOT because it disrupts the game but – because it threatens lives.

I can’t say I won’t come back to American football, but it will take some serious changes on the part of the NFL. It may be a lonely Fall, being one of the few not watching the games, but if the only way I can register my horror and concern is by voting with my feet and dollars, that’s what I’ll do.