Jenny McCarthy's Dangerus Views

Michael Specter has the first and last word on Jenny McCarthy.

McCarthy now claims that her son was cured after being put on a gluten-free diet and subjected to chelation therapy, which extracts metals from the body. There has never been a verified scientific report that chelation therapy, a gluten-free diet, or anything else can cure autism.

So, you know, irony.

Still, the benefits for society so powerfully outweigh the risks that suggesting otherwise is irresponsible at best. It spreads fear and incites the type of ignorance that makes people sick. That is exactly what McCarthy has been doing. By preaching her message of scientific illiteracy from one end of this country to the other, she has helped make it possible for people to turn away from rational thought. And that is deadly.

3 million people watch the view each day. And while it might not be paragon on journalism, it is popular forum of debate over public policy.

Physiological Assembly Required

I would consider myself to be a smart person. I went to a good college and then got a masters degree. I am a published author. I have a blog.

But fuck if I cannot understand how to put baby stuff together. We are now 10 days from Prof. Dino’s Due Date and I have been getting stuff ready. The City Mini stroller was a breeze. Few moving parts and little assembly; three wheels and a canopy.

I have shit on Graco for their terrible website—but actually putting together their actual products broke me like a squad of CIA agents[1]. We got a hand-me-down Chicco car seat from some friends. The padding was a little beat up so we ordered a replacement from their website. The padding and belts were pretty beat up, so I dug around online to see if they could be replaced. It turns out that if you call Chicco’s [2] customer support line, they will sell you replacements for $60. This process was surprisingly simple. A quick phone call and 4 days later we had a brand-new car seat. Adding new padding and belts was difficult but doable. Anyone who pulled the pads off a car seat to clean it knows how hard this can be.

So I am two for two. All in the clear. Everything is going fine. We have a stroller for ambling. We have a car seat for interstate rum-running. All I have to do now is put together the bassinet/ pack and play thing.

Deep Breath

The Graco instructions for assembling the bassinet were more convoluted than their website. More.

The instructions for our particular flavor of play yard has 76 different steps. We started with step one only to find out YOU ONLY NEED TO DO THOSE STEPS IF IT IS GOING TO BE A PLAY PEN!! I literally [3] spent 20 minutes trying to secure the floor of the play pen in place only the find out those steps were not needed if it was going to be used as a bassinet.

So there I was, a pile of skin and bones on the floor of my torture cell. The play pen my torturer; the instructions KC and the Sunshine Band’s greatest hits played repeatedly for hours on end. I am a broken man with no will to live. I will start naming names. I will do anything to make the pain stop.

I see lots of people buying and using Graco’s products, which isn’t surprising really, because they are everywhere. Target, Wal-Mart, Babies-R-Us, and Amazon. They are inexpensive. They are a commodity. They have no value, they do not need to last for generations, they can be be interchanged endlessly. They are one and done. These products get recalled and reworked so often that there is little reason for Rubbermaid to invest in well thought out instructions or packaging. If a IU/UX professional spent just a few minutes applying some basic principles of user-centered design to the play yard, I might not have sold my dog out to the Khmer Rouge.

  1. I think about torture a lot. BUY MY BOOK.  ↩

  2. Take away: You can salvage a pretty cosmetically rough Chicco car seat. I would only do this if you know this history of the car seat, make sure it hasn’t expired, blah blah blah.  ↩

  3. Literally.  ↩

Would You Rather Shop for a Bassinet or a Dell

Baby stuff is way more complicated than it should be. It took us a while to figure out strollers, but once we got some hands on time at a local store, the right choice was pretty clear. Same with a crib. Eagle-eyed Sarah grabbed a Pottery Barn multi-stage crib on clearance. The other, small stuff was easy too. Our goal was to find stuff that would last through multiple stages of development and/or were multi-taskers.

Unfortunately, the crib will not work as a bassinet or fit in our Chicago apartment-sized bedroom. Luckily, Graco makes play-pen bassinet combos. Their pack-and-play playpen/bassinet fit all of our criteria. It wasn’t something that we would only use for a few months, it was well made, it would fit in our apartment, and it wouldn’t break budget. We found a model at Babies-R-Us a few weeks ago, but we wanted to find some more options online. Sarah started looking around Amazon and the number of options exploded. What is the difference between a Newborn Napper, bassinet, and Cuddle Cove? Or the Newborn Napper Elite? Those were the options on the first page of Amazon search results.

Have you ever been on Graco’s website? There are 105 different playpen SKUs with dozens of vague “features.” The website was hindered with slow loading flash elements. It was just as complicated as buying a Dell laptop. Dell offers multiple laptop lines (Inspiron R, Inspiron, XPS, Alienware, Vostro, Latitude, Precision) across at least four different (Home, Small Office, Medium Business, Enterprise as well as models for education, and government). Within each category, laptops come in multiple sizes with multiple CPU, Memory, and hard drive options. Once you get through all of that you encounter pages of up-sell. [1]

Graco didn’t make it easy. Details about specific features were located in videos not linked to or from product pages.

This is what Freud would called “Narcissism of small differences.” For Freud, this was a way that individuals describe a negative difference between themselves and others. In other words, we use small, often superficial differences as a way to describe one’s own uniqueness while masking the things that make us all the same.

Dell and other computer manufactures continue to offer dozens of variations of their computers because so much of what made that industry to was nearly endless customizability of PCs. Dell made billions of dollars telling non-hobbyists that a custom computer will set them apart from everyone else. They all came in a nearly identical box and all ran Windows—but they were called “custom.”

Graco sells new parents on their pack-and-plays because they are able to tweak a dozen different options to give their new baby a perfect sleep experience. I don’t know know a lot about infants, but I assume that they could not give a damn about whether their bassinet has a full or half canopy or if it is Winnie the Pooh or a variety of blues. This isn’t about the kid, it’s about pandering to what the parents think they need to want.

  1. MS Office Pro or Standard? Do you need a printer? How about an extra monitor? You are going to need a laptop bag? We have those! Don’t forget the extended warranty.  ↩