What’s Her Name’s Husband – Part II

Alison Piepmeier1 recently wrote a great post on women not not taking their husband’s name upon marriage. I sputtered out a few random remarks in the comments section, but it amounted to little more than incoherent spam. However, it did get me thinking quite a bit on my marriage and Angela’s decision. Even more recently, my friend Kevin wrote about how he and his wife, Katie, have agreed that she should just remain who she is.

Angela grew up in a traditional enough family and had the notion of taking one’s husband’s name as the norm. I guess most women in this country do. Of course, we both are people who hold tightly to the traditions that serve us well and discard the ones that don’t (those who were at our wedding will understand that about us). I suppose I should state this clearly, for Angela and everyone: the thought of marrying anyone who would change their name to mine never crossed my mind in any way. The fact that Angela ever felt that she needed to apologize for wanting to keep her name seemed so silly to me. I kept trying to tell her that it wasn’t a matter of me being ‘understand’ or ‘just a nice guy,’ it was that I really hadn’t ever thought she’d want to take my name2.

Even though I’m probably too old now to wear a couple of earrings (at least that’s what Angela tells me), I still wear them pretty much everyday. They let people judge me early on, if they feel the need to judge people at all, and know to steer clear of me if it’s going to bother them. I wear them to job interviews and when meeting new people in general. If it’s the sort of thing that bothers them, then it’s probably not a place I want to be anyway. The fact that we share different last names kind of goes the same way. We don’t want to be where people aren’t comfortable with it.

Alison pointed out that this was a political statement for her, and understandably so. That seems to be a part of how she makes her living and the cause she is closest to: women’s issues. We’re all a lot better off having people like her to fight for us, or at least our better half. I suppose us having different names is not so much of a political statement as a small signal. If it matters to you, then you should be aware that we are the kind of people who do that sort of thing in other areas of life. That is to say, if us having different last names seems odd or uncomfortable, then getting to know us might prove to be just more of the same. To that end, I always make sure to introduce my wife as "Angela Dyer" (and Dr. Angela Dyer, when I’m feeling really smug). In all honestly, most folks are perfectly understanding and from then on refer to us as the Dyer-Colemans (or Coleman-Dyers, depending on the phase of the moon)3

As for the whole issue of children, well, we don’t have any of our own. Children, that is. Advice, we have plenty off. I’d say that you should through all the names you want to at a child. Hyphens, concatenations, blends… heck I’m even okay with Kevin handing his apostrophe down to his kids. Where is it written that you must only have three names? There are many cultures outside of our own where three names is hardly enough. They’d think you were a bastard child with only that many. In a situation where you can only use three (like say, an application with three blanks), then just pick your favorite. I had a Portuguese friend in high school who did pretty much just that, and that didn’t include all the "de"’s and "le"’s in his name. Again, tradition just for tradition’s sake is pretty weak. It has to be what you want. Further, naming your child after grandma Beatrice or great-uncle Francis probably does them a lot more damage than giving them a hyphenated family name, and isn’t that being traditional?.

It has also always been a concern of mine that if children were named only one-or-the-other parent’s names, then might some busy-body daycare personnel refuse to let the off-named parent take a child home, for fear (legitimate or not) that they were lying? Throwing all the names at your kid helps this situation, if every only most them are on paper are rarely get spoken.

Alison states that we, as a culture, don’t yet know if these conventions will be sustainable or if they will scale over generations. I say we absolutely have the answer: each generation will have to evaluate what is right for them and do that. You name is yours and yours alone. I’d say to children: if you think that you’re being named Bifflemeier4 or Mills-O-Rama isn’t working for you, then tell your parents. Say you’d just rather go by one or the other, at least on a non-formal basis. If they’ve been called Jason Dyer, Alison Biffle-Piepmeier, or Kevin Kills a few times and not really minded that much, they ought to be okay with it. How many adults do we all know that go by two or more different names, depending on the situation (aliases for committing crimes don’t count)?

Lastly, my advice for naming children if you’re stuck on what to do: give them the name that comes first in the Roman alphabet (sorry, Alison and Angela). That just puts them closer to the front of the line and hopefully gives them a slight advantage. Hell, the whole family could just change their name to Aardvark and be in front of everyone. Of course, you’re children will also be the first to never speak to you again.

As you can tell by the growing list of comments on Alison’s post, as well as all that Kevin and I had to write on our sites about it, this has been a fun topic to discuss. I suppose that I take a much more light-hearted approach to the whole thing than many, if not most. There’s never been any drama between us on the issue, other than Angela now reminds me that Dyer is less common than Coleman, and therefore cooler. I tend to not get upset with women who do change their name after marriage, although I sometimes wonder if they’re taking a step back from a professional point of view. I know how long Angela worked to be called Dr. Dyer and I wouldn’t dream of taking that away from her just to satisfy some misguided sense of loyalty to tradition. On the other hand, I know women who have done the same and look upon a name change as a sense of unity and togetherness. I suppose that falls under Alison’s false sense of romanticism, but it isn’t the worst argument I’ve ever heard5. If that kind of tradition is indeed important to you, then I’m hardly one to say that you shouldn’t do it just to be a shining example of individuality. You have to decide based on your sense of self and values, not anyone else’s.

  1. Alison is a person I know by one degree of separation via her brothers, husband, and some mutual friends. Of course, I left my Cookeville life some years ago, so even that’s a pretty weak link. Regardless, she and her husband Walter Biffle maintain a blog that always makes for great reading, even if they lose me on many, many inside jokes. []
  2. Although, being named after a camping stove has it’s advantages. I’m sure they mostly have to do with the camping stove industry fortune, of which I have none. []
  3. I love the older people we know from church who feel that they have to relate by telling us that there used to be a young couple at church and she kept her name, too. I can’t begin to make it sound as quaint as they put it. You’ve got to give them credit for trying to relate rather than just think we’re punks. []
  4. Sorry about spelling that wrong in my comment on Alison’s site. I’d feel worse, if anyone with that name existed anywhere in the world. []
  5. No, that honor would fall to JEB Stuart IV, a troll who’s pseudonym was taken from one of the South’s lesser known Civil War heroes. His comments are hilarious. I don’t even begin to care if they were meant to be or not. []

Challenger Incident at Twenty

Twenty years ago today, the U.S. space program suffered what was, at that time, it’s greatest tragedy to date. The Shuttle Challenger exploded in a both glorious and horrible shower of flames shortly after lift-off. Aboard were seven explorers, some military, some scientists or engineers, and one school teacher selected to take part in a remarkable program to bring space exploration closer to school children across the country. It was because of that last individual that so many of my generation were watching this, of all the shuttle launches at the time, so closely.

I remember my Mom telling my I had a phone call from my good friend Brian, who knew my love for all things space and science. After a short hello, he blurted out "the space shuttles blown up." I misunderstood him, thinking that he was telling me that they had simply gone up into space, as usual, just as we had grown to taking for granted. The modern miracle of man leaving his terrestrial home to explore the rest of everything. He quickly corrected me that no, it had exploded and no one knew why.

So many of today’s children get called generation 9/11. My generations first exposure to the fragile nature of man and that all of us; all of us, are fallible was the picture of the country’s greatest technological marvel bursting into a fireball.

The Space Shuttle program, as I grew up to learn, was riddled with problems and errors. It became, literally, a textbook example of engineers falling short of their duty to keep the public safe from harm no matter the political or economic cost. It is a painful memory for a boy who truly believed astronauts to be the best that humanity had to offer the universe. It was also painful as an adult to see just how little we had learned since then when Columbia broke apart over the Western U.S. upon re-entry.

I’ll always believe that space exploration is important to humanity. However, we must overcome so much of our flaws in order to pursue it.

Outlook Hack

So many things in Windows (and on a Mac/Linux machine for that matter) require you to confirm deletion, that it’s become a reflex to hit [Delete] & [Enter] in rapid succession. Sadly, the other day I deleted the very hand "Unread Mail" from Outlook. It’s a very handy way to immediately keep on top of incoming mail and I really have come to rely on it. So, it took me a while to find a method to get it back (on Google Groups, interestingly enough), although it’s extremely simple. All you have to do is create a new Search Folder (right click on the Search Folder in you folder tree, select New) and drag it back up to the Favorite Folders list. Tada.

Design With Social Purpose

Katrina Cottage by Shawn Lea (Flickr)

Katrina Cottage by Shawn Lea of Everything and Nothing (szlea at Flickr). Image CC2.0 Shawn Lea, January 2006

Flipping through this week’s ENR, I saw a blurb about the "Katrina Cottage." This 300ft² structure, designed by architect Marianne Cusato (article at Dexigner) has one bedroom, living area, kitchen and bathroom. The design is such that the small home can be built quickly and for roughly the same $35,000 as a FEMA supplied mobile home1.

Of course, one immediately realizes that a mobile home can be much larger for that price tag. However, the design requirements for mobile homes are considerably more relaxed than those of fixed-place structures. For example, the hurricane design wind for the Gulf Coast region, according to the 2003 International Building Code (current here in VA,anyway), range from 110mph up to 150mph. According to an old college professor of mine, a mobile home is typically only designed for 70mph, which is the maximum speed it sees on the highway. No, that’s no joke. What’s worse, in case this wasn’t readily apparent to you, wind pressure is a function of velocity squared. That means the mobile homes aren’t designed for at least 50% less force, they’re actually designed for at least 150% less force! Now, I think, you might understand why I think that sacrificing some living space has its advantages over the alternative.

Many designers over the years have shown us that pre-fab needn’t mean poor quality or unsightly. This small structure is a great example of that kind of design philosophy. Note the large windows leading to a front porch with integrated seating. Other photos show a ceiling fan on the porch. The architecture of the building is very reminiscent of Deep South Style, even if we may never see President Bush and Senator Lott sipping ice tea on this porch. Cusato has even considered owners adding on to the structure for a permanent home and has also integrated the ability to repurpose the structure if owners decide to build a separate, permanent dwelling.

Of course, this is a prototype of the structure, so results may vary. Also, I would like to know more about the materials that go into this structure as well as how it will be anchored to a foundation. Those details not withstanding, this is a great example of design benefiting people who usually aren’t afforded that kind of luxury. It is a tragedy that so many people were displaced by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. However, it is fitting that they benefit from mass design and production.

Update (2006-02-03): Here is the website for CusatoCoggages, including how to go about ordering one as well as more photos.

  1. As reported last week in the Orlando Sentinel. []

Still Running

This morning I ran my first race since Thanksgiving. Sad to say, I haven’t kept up my (self-)promise to run at least one race every month of the year, as I didn’t do any last month. What’s worse, I really didn’t run much at all last month.

Well, Angela and I have at least started the new year off right by trying to run 3-4 days a week. This morning, I ran the 22nd Annual Frostbite 15k. I’ve been wanting to run this race ever since moving to Richmond, but never had the guts to go out and run 9+ miles in the cold. Well, after learning a great deal about running over the past year, I knew I had it in me this time. I certainly could have been better prepare; I haven’t run more than a 10k since the marathon, which was 2½ months ago! However, it still went about as good as I could have hoped for. I was shooting for 80 minutes and ran it in 1:21:33. Not the fastest I’ve ever ran, but I felt okay upon finishing and Angela still let me back in the house upon my return.

Now, I’m going to go enjoy some well earned breakfast and be lazy until noon.

Text Misadventure by defective yeti

Mathew Baldwin, better known as defective yeti, has written a hilarious post of the past six years of President George Bush’s career as a Zork-style text adventure. No matter what youre political bent, if you loved Zork half as much as I did, you’re going to be rolling on the floor reading it (via BoingBoing).

Wilbur Scoville – Father of Hot

In 1912, Wilbur Scoville published a means of measuring the hotness of a chili pepper (the Scoville Scale) in "The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association." I was watching a cool episode of Alton Brown‘s Good Eats on chile peppers last night and thought that my pharmacist friends, especially those who are Alton Brown fans, would enjoy that fact. Scoville was, by all accounts, a brilliant chemist with a knack for compounding.



Pronunciation: ‘äb- se- sh&n

Function: noun

Definition: An extended period of time spent viewing countless episodes of shows or movies in a similar genre or the same series because one has become seemingly addicted.

Synonym(s): Butt-numb-o-thon (see Harry Knowles), addiction, OCD.

Etymology: Derived from obsession (note the stress on the first syllable for the new derivation), a direct result of DVD sales of entire seasons of television shows and movie collections in a single package and/or the TiVo Season Pass feature.

Variants: Orb Session, Obsessathon.

Example: Once I watched the pilot episode of "Arrested Development," I simply couldn’t sleep until I had seen every episode I could get my hands on.