Brian Mapes
Random thoughts from my insignificant mind

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Part 2

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Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In previous years I’ve posted how to support friends and family going through this difficult loss. This year I wanted to give advice on how to support the larger cause.

1. Give to charities like the March of Dimes. I wish they were more fiscally responsible as only 70 cents per dollar donated makes it to programs, but they do fund lots of research. This research is important to birthing healthy babies and preventing miscarriages.

2. Donate to Planned Parenthood. PP provides vital services for family planning including infertility testing, pregnancy testing, STD testing, abortions, quit smoking support, and much more.

3. Support pro-choice politicians. Access to clinics without waiting periods can be critical during a miscarriage and full support for late-term abortions gives families more options.


I Pledge Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I’ve recited those words countless times. But…with liberty and justice for all…have I truly listened to the words?

…with liberty and justice for all.

Our nation hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. Everyone does not share the same liberty and justice. These rights vary by race, religion, wealth, sexual orientation, and many other factors out of an individual’s control.

Don’t give me sorry excuses about individuals in some third world country being worse than us. The bar should not be so low. We are the greatest country in the world; or at least we used to be. No longer the world leader in individual rights, we need to be reminded of our deficiencies. Those reminders often come in the form of protests.

Americans have a long history of protesting. In fact our country was founded on the backs of colonists protesting against British rule. Protesting is as American as apple pie.

People say that protesting the flag and anthem has gone too far. Isn’t that an irreverent argument though? The Sons of Liberty weren’t protesting tea and they weren’t trying to insult importers as they threw product into Boston Harbor. Rosa Parks was’t protesting public transportation and she wan’t trying to insult bus drivers. Martin Luther King didn’t march on Washington because he hated the city and he wan’t trying to insult it’s residents.

Kneeling during the anthem isn’t a protest of the American Flag nor of the anthem. It’s not meant to insult the military or anyone else. It’s a reminder that not everyone receives the same liberty and justice.

Many people have already tuned me out because they don’t believe Americans have unequal rights. Ignorance and white privileged allow us to put our heads in the sand, but that’s an argument for another day.

If you waive the flag, stand for the anthem, and recite the pledge, but aren’t willing to have that uncomfortable talk about equal rights, then you are the problem. You drag our country down.

For those still reading, some of you see the inequality, but believe sports is not a place for political statements. I got news for you: standing for the anthem with your hand on your heart is a political statement. It’s an easier political statement to make than kneeling, but it’s still a political statement.

Pressuring, shaming, and forcing someone to stand for the anthem isn’t patriotic. True patriotism is when people want to stand. If you want to increase patriotism and unify the country, then fight for equality. Fight for justice – equal justice. Make this country a place where protesting is no longer needed. Make this country a place that everyone, and I mean everyone, is proud of.


Goodbye, Barack

Four years ago I supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney (barely). At the time I didn’t think Obama’s first term was great but I couldn’t get a good read on Romney.

Eight years ago I supported John McCain over Barack Obama. Even though I still think McCain would have been a fine president, I now know that I backed the wrong candidate.

Every president has successes and failures. All and all, Obama’s successes have outweighed his failures. More importantly, overall America is better now than it was eight years ago.

It’s hard to judge presidents during or even soon after their presidency. I do think that history will judge Obama favorably.


Ontario Ani-Vaxxers May Be Required to Complete Science Class

Legislation is on the table in Ontario to force parents seeking vaccine exceptions to complete a vaccine class. I have minimal knowledge about Canadian politics so I have no idea if this will pass. I do know that it won’t work.

The problem is that anti-vaxxer beliefs aren’t rational. Their vaccine convictions are rooted in faith, not facts, much like religion.

Think of a fundamental Christian who believes in creationism. It’s fact that evolution happened. It can’t be rationally debated. Even if you carefully walk a creationist through the science they most likely won’t believe it. They may take a few facts and incorporate them into creationism as long as they don’t conflict with their preexisting faith, but good luck changing their mind.

Anti-vaxxers, GMO haters, natural food supporters, acupuncturists, integrative medicine practicers, climate change deniers, etc, etc. They all fall into the same category of irrational beliefs.

Teaching science won’t address the vaccine problem. Instead we need to focus on changing the anti-vaxxer “religion” but challenging someone’s religion may be an impossible task.


I Support Flag Burning

No seriously, I support flag burning. Take a deep breath. OK, ready? Yes, I said I support flag burning. I generally don’t support the platform of flag burners but I do support their right to burn it.

I respect the flag of the United States of America. It has great meaning. It stands for the American Dream. It stands for the blood, sweat, and tears of our soldiers. It stands for the greatest country in the world. I could go on and on, but what it stands for most of all is freedom.

Isn’t freedom what makes our country great? Freedom that the government won’t restrict our speech. Freedom to vote for our leaders. Freedom to choose our own religion. America is defined by the rights of our citizens, not by the restrictions opposed upon them.

We are free to speak any words we want until they infringe on the freedom of others. We are free to own guns (with some regulations) and free to use those guns until they put the safety of others at risk. Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.

Now whose liberty is being infringed by flag desecration? I understand that it may be offensive, but get over it. We should not be making laws because of your feelings.

Think of it this way, the same laws that give you the right to wave that flag without restrictions is the same laws that give protesters the right to burn it. Allowing you to do what you want with the flag without allowing them to do what they want with it is totalitarian. China, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea ban flag desecration. Let’s not use them as a model for limiting freedom.

As the old saying goes, “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”


Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor

I feel terrible for the Syrian refugees. We, as Americans, always have to consider terrorist threats but these refugees live with them on a daily basis. Think about that. We have the occasional act of terror, gang violence, and random acts of evil but they literally lived in a warzone.

Assad targets civilians with bombs and chemical weapons. ISIS takes over towns and brutally plunders cities and leaves the townsfolk for dead. Over a quarter of a million people are dead in a country so small. Half of the country’s population has been displaced from their homes. I’m sure they didn’t want to leave their homes. Would you? But they decided to pack what little they had to look for a better life.

Do you know who else left their home to find a better life? Hmmmm… The family of almost every American ever. For all those who want to turn away the refugees, I wish the Statue of Liberty gave your ancestors a big middle finger and turned them away because you are un-American.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I know, I’m overlooking the security issue. I get it but we take risks every day. Every time we get into a car we drastically increase our risk of injury. We use seatbelts, and airbags, and invoke traffic laws to limit risk, but we do not stop driving. I’m probably oversimplifying the analogy but my point still holds true. We can and should do everything possible to weed out those who wish us harm, but please do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

These people need safety. These people need opportunity. These people need love. If our country can’t give them that, then I’m sure not we can continue to call this country America.


Pregnancy and Infant Loss

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Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance/Awareness Day. I don’t blog much, but this is a topic near and dear to my heart. As many of you know, Monica and I lost one child due to low amniotic fluid and lost two others as vanishing twins.

The statistics on pregnancy and infant loss are horrific:

  • Each year in the US, 11,300 babies die on the day they were born.
  • 1 in 160 babies in the US are stillborn.
  • 10% to 20% of all pregnancies result in a miscarriage.
  • The actual number of pregnancies resulting in a miscarriage is probably much higher than 20% because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that the woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant.

Pregnancy and infant loss affects so many but gets so little attention. People are afraid to talk about it. Maybe it’s taboo because people don’t know how to talk about it. When it happened, I didn’t know how to talk about it. I still struggle with the topic. I do know this: the more I talk about it the easier it is.

I’m no trained expert, but through my own experience I have some tips for interacting and supporting those going through pregnancy loss:

  • Don’t get scientific or legal with terminology. The grieving parents just lost a baby. Not a fetus. A baby. Their baby.
  • Don’t try to rationalize or explain. Telling a grieving parent “Something must have been wrong and this is for the best” or “God wanted another angel” doesn’t help. In fact it can make it worse.
  • “At least” are probably the worst words you can use. “At least you didn’t know the baby,” “At least it wasn’t really a baby yet,” “At least you are young and can still have another one.” Nothing truly supportive can come after “at least.”
  • Don’t directly mention the baby. Stick to things like “I’m sorry for your loss,” and see where the conversation goes.
  • Actually, don’t mention any baby, pregnancy, or miscarriage. If you have a story, no matter how supportive or positive you think it may be, save it for another time. It won’t help right now. Trust me.
  • The one exception is if you personally experienced pregnancy or infant loss. In that case, it may help as grieving parents are seeking people to connect to who can truly understand their pain. It better be personal experience though and not a story about your friend, sister, or somebody else. I might sound arrogant saying that, but while grieving it was true.
  • Speaking about children may be OK, but it’s best to avoid the topic altogether if you aren’t sure.
  • Listen, listen, and listen. Let the grieving parents speak and let them guide the conversation wherever they want it to go.
  • Just because you are listening doesn’t mean you should be silent.
  • Grieving parents cry. They may try to hold it back in public, but they do cry. It’s ok to cry with them. In fact it’s appreciated.
  • Most people are sympathetic the first time they see the parents but never mention the loss again. Often they avoid it and pretend it didn’t happen. Grieving takes a long time and a simple “How are you holding up?” every once in a while goes a long way. It opens up the door for more conversation if the grieving parent so chooses, but it doesn’t invade their privacy or force them to talk if they don’t want to.

It’s like any other great pain: you never get over it; you can just hope to carry on. Some couples jump back on the wagon as having a child is the only way to lessen the pain. Others need to step back and can’t even think about trying for a long time, if ever. Either way, be supportive because they need it.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can freely talk about pregnancy loss. It was a hard long road and I couldn’t have done it without my best friend, Monica. We walked that road together.

Anyone needing a friend to talk to can always give me a call. It doesn’t matter if we see each other all the time or barely at all. I know the dark loneliness of it all and am certainly willing to extend an ear.


Gmail and the ‘Plus’ Sign

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Did you know that you can append a plus sign and any combination of alphanumerics after your gmail address and still get the email? I did and I love the feature.

I use this feature for most of my non-personal email corespondents. For example, if I were to provide an email address to the fictional phone company No Cell Service, I’d give them bmapes+nocellservice@gmail.com. This provides two key features. First, I can easily create filters to handle mail sent to bmapes+nocellservice@gmail.com. I can move it to any folder, forward it, mark it as important, or delete it. Second, if I start getting spam emails to this address, I know No Cell Service leaked my phone number, which is easily blockable.

Apparently, many websites don’t know about this cool feature. Discover Card does not accept plus signs in email addresses and they throw up a nice big red message telling me so. Instead I give them a crap email address and forward any email from Discover to my main address. It’s a pain in the ass but I’m too OCD not to do it.

There are too many companies behind on the times that need to get their act together and start accepting the plus sign. Paint Scratch doesn’t accept the plus sign in email addresses, but they are not nearly as graceful as Discover. While making a purchase at Paint Scratch, they gladly accepted my email address with a plus sign. They sent me a confirmation email to bmapes+paintscratch@gmail.com. About an hour later they sent me an email saying there was a problem with my order. The problem was that their credit card program couldn’t handle the plus sign so it ignored it and tried sending the receipt to bmapespaintscratch@gmail.com. The email bounced because it didn’t exist. Doh! Even if it didn’t bounce, it still wasn’t the correct email address. Double doh!

In conclusion, companies should be allowing plus signs in email addresses as the character is legal. If you aren’t willing to do that, then you need to at least throw an error during input or not automatically remove the plus sign and assume the address will still work.


Flyers Get a New Coach; Philadelphia Sports Are Doomed

Peter Laviolette has been fired as coach of the Flyers and is being replaced by Craig Berube.

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If Laviolette was on such thin ice then they should have fired him in the off-season and done a proper coaching search.  I’m not going to bash Berube because I don’t know him well enough to say if he is going to be good or not.  Maybe they would have hired him in the off-season anyway, I don’t know, but at least the team would not be dealing with an in-season system change.

The Sixers are trying to lose but at least they have a plan.  The Eagles are trying to build a young team around a young, high-energy coach.  I don’t have a clue what the Flyers’ (or Phillies) plan or philosophy is.  The Flyers organization is clearly dysfunctional and needs more than a coaching change.  Every move the GM makes turns to crap and the owner has transformed into Al Davis.

One championship in 30 years.  Go Philadelphia.


Thanks for the Memories, Uncle Charile

Charlie Manuel was fired today. Yes, you heard correctly, the winningest manager in Phillies history, who gave us a World Series Championship, was fired.

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Manuel wasn’t a tactician. The double switch threw him for a loop. Knowing when to hit-and-run was difficult. Determining when to bring in a reliever and which one was troubling. He was loyal to a fault. That said, he was great at managing the personalities of extremely high paid ballplayers and getting the most out of them.

I think Uncle Charlie did the best he could this year. He was given a bad team that had almost no chance of competing regardless of who the manager was. The team has too many aging players. The worst part is they are overpaid and locked up in longterm contracts. Rubén Amaro, Jr is at fault here, not Chuck. By firing Manuel, RAJ confirmed he is an awful GM and doesn’t know what he is doing. He should be fired immediately but the Phillies owners are too tentative to pull the trigger.

Manuel is being replaced by Ryne Sandberg, the so called “heir apparent”. I like Sandberg but let’s remember that he is here because Chicago and Boston didn’t want him. It makes me wonder why and what flaws or baggage he carries around.

I guess it doesn’t matter who the coach is next year, the team will continue to stink until they can get younger and more patient. They need their swagger back. Unfortunately, Amaro doesn’t have the skill set to make any of this happen and we are doomed to have another awful year.



My name is Brian Mapes. I'm a father, husband, Phillies fan, Eagles fan, comic book lover, software engineer, technology lover, wannabe artist, and former MacRumors mod. These are my random thoughts.