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.