Monday, January 30, 2006

Going Dutch

The Koreans and Japanese may have an edge when it comes to robotics, but my peeps kick some serious bootang when it comes to getting around town in style.

Now, if only there was one with a spot for a dog...

Roomba Booyakasha!

OK, MetroDad shows us all who's the boss when it comes to automating the house to allow us all leisure time--which we can spend drafting plans to fight off Skynet.

So, Roomba, Schoomba, show me a robot that will clean the house, walk the dog, feed the baby, and bring me a beer while I'm relaxing as it does all of that.


Due to overwhelming popular demand, or one request in a comment, whichever came first, I've posted a movie of Brother #2's Roomba in action, so you can see it move around, hear how loud (or quiet) it is, and so forth.

If it's not in the right format, or doesn't play, or if you've got a hangnail that's really bothering you, I probably can't do you much good, since I'm only posting what I got from B#2. However, a comment here might be seen by him and he could maybe help you out.

Or not.

Bonne chance, mes amis.

[UPDATE: This is a big file, and will take a leeeetle while to download, so open it in another window, perhaps. . .take a deep breath or two, perhaps. . .get some coffee, perhaps ('cause that'll calm you down while you wait). . .again, good luck.]

My kingdom for a broadband connection!

Today was another exciting day in the life of an expectant dad--me, that is. I spent most of the day on chores, which always seem to take longer than it appears that they should. I started off in Baby's room, painting the drywall repair that Connie made when she was laying our floor. This was to fix the gap between the outside wall and the wall between our room and Baby's room. The interior wall had pulled away from the exterior wall by about an inch, making the drywall tape warp and buckle. After I cut away the tape, and realized that there was such a large gap behind there, I wasn't sure how to fix it.

For awhile after we moved in, I thought that I would fix it, then gave up on that and for awhile had no idea how it would get fixed and wondered if putting a tall plant in front of it instead of fixing it would really be all that bad. Connie had to think about it for awhile herself, and finally settled on filling it with Great Stuff expanding foam, putting drywall mud over that, then sanding it down and finishing it. She did this rather than put tape back in there, because if it shifts now, all we'll have to do is fill the cracks with some mud and paint over that. If she put in tape again, any more shifting would mean we'd have to take it all out and do it over. But, once she had it fixed, it was up to us to paint it, which means that it was up to me, to keep Mama from huffing paint fumes.

Mama made a run to Target today to buy some more Mamaternity clothes to add to her wardrobe for work (here at home, it's always casual day--the real kind, when you can wear sweats). While she was out, she also stopped by Giant to pick up some food, which was a good move, since we were running low on staples, like ice cream--hey, it's been a warm winter. While she was out, I had a chance to get two coats of Roasted Red Pepper on the drywall repair, which looks like it will be enough, although when we did the rest of the room, it required a dark gray primer and two coats of the red, so we'll have to see how it dries. I also pulled out the vacuum after picking up a few dust bunnies in my trips up and down the hallway.

Even though Barky is the size of a harrier, he's no good with the dust kind of bunny.

Rather than sit and watch the paint dry, I alternated painting and vacuuming until there were two coats down and the floors were all clean--except the dreaded (and soon to be late) kitchen floor, pictured here. She's a real 1960's beauty, isn't she? When we moved in, she was shellacked in a hardened coat of grease and dirt. We chisled and scrubbed through most of that, although as you may be able to see, the vinyl contains thousands of tiny divots that would each have to have their hardened, sedimentary layers of grime picked out of with a dentist's tool if we were to get the floor truly clean. Even Barky, after licking the floor for minutes at a time--and no, we don't want to know what compels him to do that--can't penetrate these grease trap craters. We knew from the start that the floor would have to go--either be ripped up and replaced or simply covered over--so we never went further than making sure the surface was clean. It's been a little while, so today I pulled out our new big gun for the first time: the Swiffer Wet Jet.

We already had the regular Swiffer, but we got the WJ for the laminate floors since Connie had said that the solution was formulated not to damage laminates and that we may need something a little stronger than a regular or wet Swiffer to get some spills off the laminate. Even though it was very successful in the kitchen, peeling back more of the ossified layers of filth laid down by all those who came before us, you can see that the floor is still not truly clean. Ah well, the end is nigh; in February we'll start planning the new kitchen, including a new floor, with Connie.

Coincidentally, as I was working on that, Brother #2 sent along further accounts of his adventures with his new Roomba, which I've been asking about. He included action shots, and even an action movie. I'll spare you the before-and-after sequence of a pile of dirt, but suffice it to say that the Roomba is pretty impressive. It does seem to function as advertised, with the only shortcoming being battery life in a larger place. So, no that's not a picture of an angry face, that's the bottom of the Roomba, showing all of its tools. Seems to have been an exciting day on both coasts.

I haven't checked out the movie yet because we don't have any Internet access at home, since we're between Earthlink and Verizon. It's not too bad for this short bit, since we both have broadband at work, and can keep up on email and a bit of surfing through our Treo and Blackberry, but it is getting to be a bit of a pain for things like the movie I couldn't watch--OK, how sad is that, that I was disappointed I couldn't watch a movie of an automated vacuum cleaner?--and then there are taxes, which we do on the computer, and which always require an upgrade before we get started, not to mention downloading our latest banking activity, and mapping our route to. . .OK, so it is a pain in the ass while it's down, but it's a minor pain, and it keeps me from geeking out when I should be preparing for Baby by doing things like painting Baby's room.

There is still a little touchup to do in Baby's room, but then it's ready to furnish and decorate, which brings me to our latest shared moment of almost-panic: we need to furnish for Baby.

We need Baby Stuff.

We're not too worried, since we're about on track with our panic. Now's a good time to start shopping, what with Mama over her queasiness, but not yet getting so far along that she doesn't want to spend long on her feet debating which sheets for the crib. . .yeah, the crib that we don't have yet.

What got me started on this post were my thoughts as I was painting the wall while Mama was out shopping. It seemed like such a typical, suburban American way to spend a weekend: send Mama out shopping while I do some fix-it project around the house. Typical gender roles, right? The reality is that Mama needed new clothes and that I'm not a very good shopping companion (that's probably understating it a bit--I'm a terrible shopping companion). In addition, I needed to do the painting, and I needed to do it while she was gone, to keep Baby safe from the fumes. Sure, I suppose we could have gotten her an inhaler to protect her from breathing any fumes--although I doubt that even an inhaler would keep them all out--and I could've sucked it up and gone along on the shopping trip. But, there's also the time constraints of a weekend--there's just not that much time to get a lot done, and dividing and conquering our tasks turned out to be an efficient way to get things done.

Did we both end up in activities that are traditionally assigned to our respective gender roles? Sure. Did we do it because I'm a boy and she's a girl, and that's what boys and girls do? No, we did it for a raft of other reasons, without ever considering who's the boy and who's the girl. . .beyond the obvious recognition that the girl is the pregnant one. Actually, had Mama not been pregnant, it might well have been me out of the house on some errands while she painted, since she's the one who painted almost the entire condo by herself.

It's interesting how quickly our roles and priorities shift, ever so slightly, due to Baby's impending arrival. After Baby arrives, and as we get settled in our new patterns, I'm sure that our roles will pretty much revert to what they were before, although our priorities will surely continue to change as we grow with Baby. Does this mean that we'll continue to fulfill our traditional gender roles? Perhaps. Does it mean that we'll do it for reasons of gender? No, just as we don't now.

We'll keep thinking about and posting on all of this--changing roles, priorities, gender patterns, and so forth. In the meantime, does it make me more of a Mama to be excited about an automated vacuum?

*Note: I sent this to Blogger on Sunday night, but the Roomba picture was too large to be posted, so I've reduced the size and am resending. Hope this one goes through.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Grab Bag

Answers for Questions You're Asked When You're a Pregnant Dad

This is the only practical answer to, "Are you going to find out the baby's sex." Even if you're not going to find out, say "Yes." Then tell everyone that they couldn't see on the ultrasound what sex baby is. As for us, we don't care when we find out (we will find out eventually, after all), which has led to the entirely unacceptable answer on our part: "I don't know." To this, everyone has replied, "Oh, you want to know, I'm sure." And I'm sure that we will know, save time and your breath--just say yes.

In the wisdom from the doctor file, the answer is your due date.
This is the correct reponse when anyone asks you how far along your wife is. As he said, it's complicated to figure out what it means when someone says, "She's in her 14th week." First, that's a confusing measure. You would never say, "I'm in my 31st year." when someone asks how old you are. You would say, "I'm 30." which means that you're actually in your 31st year. So, in her 14th week means that she's completed 13 weeks. You might be tempted to be more vague: "She's in her second trimester." Except that a woman at the end of her second trimester looks nothing like a woman at the beginning of her second trimester--and is having a totally different experience. Then there's the nitty gritty truth, which is that the average pregnancy is not 36 weeks, which would be nine months. It's 38-40 weeks, which is 9 1/2-10 months or, according to the doc, nine lunar cycles (I didn't check this, so you can tell me if this is wrong--but it sounded good at the time). This means that, after
you say how many weeks along you are, when people start doing the math, they will come up with a due date that is two weeks or more early. (There are also other intricacies involved with how they figure the due date that influence this--mostly that they can't know the date of conception, so they make an educated guess, based on averages.) Those were all the reasons the doc gave, which are all good, detailed explanations that you can actually include in your reply. I have a shorter explanation why you should respond, "She's due on [your due date here]."

--If you answer their question directly and tell them how far along she is, using whatever measure (and length and detail of explanation) you choose, their next question will be, "So, what does that mean? When is she due?" I've found this to be the case with men, women, moms, dads, and even expecting moms and dads. You might think that someone who has experienced pregnancy would understand, but no. Unless it's an OB, save everyone some time, save yourself some breath--give them the due date.

The Only Correct Answer When Wondering Whose Side That Trait Came From
"Yours, dear."
For example, one might think that if our child starts singing Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling" at an early age (in a crowded room at full volume, most likely), that it came from my side, since my dear Brother #2 gave it to us, along with a boatload of other high-minded tunes, as a Christmas gift. Ah, yes, but Mama's the one with a cousin named Charlie--or Chuck, one might say--who lives on the farm where she has been known to go berrying. See: Chuck Berry. Her side.

Beside that, her brother's the musician. Well, OK, my Brother #1 is also a musician, but I think that's beside the point.

When the child plays effortlessly through Chopin before entering kindergarten--that's my side. Even better would be if it tore off some Zarathustra tune (do I have to buy it a sequencer before it's toilet-trained for this to happen?). I'd definitely lay claim to that. What's more likely is some mashup of Dylan, Zarathustra, Bragg, Chapin Carpenter, Marley, Fleck, LSJUMB, DiFranco, and Colvin.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Breaking news...

Sitting on the couch, watching TLC before bed with Barky curled up between us, and Mama just felt the first kick.

But, when I put my hands on her belly--nothing.

Baby's holding out on Papa.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's all worth it...

If we can get even one baby picture like this one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Nature of Nature

On Sunday, we went to the Uptown, an 800-seat, classic movie house in DC, to see the new King Kong with Deborah and Dave. It was good, clean fun, except the bug scene, which I have to admit to cringing through and watching parts of through almost-closed eyes and even turning away at times. I figure it this way: I'm a big boy now, I don't need to prove to anyone that I can take it--especially when I don't want to and don't have to take it. Yeah, bugs. Hate 'em. Big bugs--can't stand 'em. After we were past that, it was on to the scenes that everyone remembers from the movie: Kong in New York City.

After the movie, as we were wandering around, looking for a place to get something to nosh (Dino, across the street, had just shut down for brunch and wasn't seating for dinner for another two hours), we got to talking about the movie. While there were certainly holes that you could drive a truck through--where were the Skull Island residents when the boat crew was bringing Kong out through the gate, for example? And while there are strong racial, and quite possibly racist, elements throughout the story, what I was watching throughout the film was the way that nature and civilization interacted.

The film starts with a montage of NYC that includes shots of steelworkers raising and placing large beams in skyscrapers, demonstrating that industry, technology, and civilization are booming. Once we move to the island, the animals--and bugs--of the island are no match for the rifles and machine guns of the ship's crew, even though it appears that bullets would be far too small to stop any of the nonhuman residents of the island. Even Kong is felled by the technology of the crew--a harpoon and a bottle of chloroform. Back in NYC, the only time that Kong appears to enjoy himself is when he is in Central Park--a sculpted, manicured simulation of nature. Prior to that, he is roused from his slumber (nobody thought to have extra sedative on hand at the premiere? even a loose bottle of chloroform? a rather large plot hole or further evidence of the hubris of Denham and the other characters?) by flashbulbs, and following the skating in Central Park scene, he takes to the air via the Empire State Building, which is surely the largest symbol of the successes of industry around, from which he is shot down by airplanes, which were at that time a remarkable new technology. And this whole chase was brought about by Denham--a filmmaker at a time when motion pictures were also seen as one of the great achievements of technology. Throughout the film, it seems, technology and civilization triumph over nature.

Ironically, of course, technology and civilization, which teach us that there are rational, well ordered solutions for any problem, are the cause of and at the heart of all the troubles and are shown to be the least effective at dealing with the chaos that they create. After all, if Denham was not chasing adventure as a filmmaker, and if the tramp steamer, guns, harpoons, chloroform, and so forth were not available, none of this would have come to pass. Once Kong has been discovered, Ann Darrow, separated from all forms of technology, learns to communicate with him, in large part by following her instincts rather than her rational initial reaction (run like hell). Although he does not always bend to her will, Kong is mindful of her, as best he can understand her. When they return to NYC, the same is true, and it appears that she is able to calm him and make him behave in a predictable fashion, which could have brought a happy and peaceful resolution to the film. But her ability to do this is not to be believed. It is neither rational nor well-ordered, and so the problem that is Kong must be solved in the only way that technology allows: he must be killed. But, what is Kong in all of this? And what is Ann Darrow? Denham?

It seems to me that Kong is the monster that we call nature, with Darrow playing the stereotypical female role of instinctive, nurturing, irrational communicator and Denham playing the role of daring rationalist who not only controls nature, but destroys it. Is the movie, then, a warning of the consequences of industrialization, which we call "development" these days? Or, is it a celebration of our continued dominance over nature through the spread of civilization? At the center of the film are Kong and Darrow who discover first that industrialized people can live with nature and then that nature can live in an industrialized world, but they are both punished for this belief with the death of Kong, so it seems that we are to believe that industry, civilization, technology, and rational thought will continue to triumph over nature--and there is no one in the film who seems to mourn that victory.

There are, of course, other interpretations--perhaps this is a horror film and Darrow is the "final girl," as Jamie Lee Curtis was in Halloween. Perhaps this is a story solely about race. Or, perhaps it's many things wrapped up in one movie, which is perhaps why it's so compelling to so many people. However compelling, if any of those elements are reflections of ourselves and our society, I'm not sure that they're very flattering.

This interpretation was influenced, I'm sure, by my listening to a Soundprint show, The Public Green and the Poor, on Saturday. It's a fascinating look at how we view the natural world and define people, their character, and their morals by their connections with nature and civilization. I'll write more about that later. (And then, kids, we'll ruin the movie Curious George with a look at the imperialist and colonial overtones of his capture and subsequent adventures!)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I'm not dead yet...I think I'll go for a walk

I was just reading over The King's comment about people who give advice to parents through their children, and I realized that I have already been getting plenty of advice. Actually, they are prognostications of my demise, which will, according to these Nostradami, come at the moment of our baby's birth.

"You'll be dead to the world," they say. "We'll never see you again." They offer helpful advice like, "Go out now, because it's your last chance."

Granted, some of this is in jest, but some is serious. I do understand what they are referring to--that raising a child takes up time. A lot of time. I know that especially at the beginning we will be getting little regular sleep, trying to figure out what to do and how to do it, and being fascinated with our newest family member. However, I don't believe that after baby is born, they lock our condo door from the outside and pass our groceries through a slot, only letting us out for work and national holidays. In fact, some of the people who have told me this at various social events after work are parents themselves who are enjoying the same social event that I am. And while I know that my memory is slipping, I seem to recall the my parents had a social life while they were raising all six of us (probably a defense mechanism to protect their sanity). Now, thanks to the wonders of the web, I can also see that there are plenty of moms and dads out there having all kinds of adventures, although I'm not sure how likely I am to dodge through tunnels to make it to the next show. DC just isn't that interesting.

I think that part of this advice comes from the differences in situation and expectation between myself, Mama, and the Nostradami. Something that I think they fail to take into account is that we want this child--and everything that having a child entails. Yes, there will be difficulties, hardships, disappointments, and heartbreaks, but there will also be transcendent moments of joy, much silliness, and many lessons that Mama and I will learn from baby. Many of the most rewarding parts of life entail the greatest difficulties. Even sitting in meditation, which has been one of my most rewarding habits, is so difficult that I can only bring myself to do it periodically for brief spurts--and all that requires is sitting still and breathing. I don't think that those who make these preemptive declarations of our demise don't understand that rewards require work, but I do think that perhaps they are not in the situation where they have these expectations.

Mama and I, however, not only expect these changes to come, we're looking forward to them. It takes me back, in a way, to the line from Say Anything (excuse the paraphrasing, it has been awhile since I've seen it):

If you guys know so much about women, how come you're sitting behind a Gas 'N Sip on a Saturday night?

My question is along the lines of:

How do you know that drinking beer in a smoky bar with you is more rewarding than teaching a child to talk, walk, read, or run around with pants on his or her head?

The easy misunderstanding of this is that I believe that the time with my child will be more valuable than the time with others, but that's not what I'm saying. The point is that we all find a balance in our lives, and mine is going to include both time with my coworkers and time with baby, while their balance is skewed more toward time with coworkers. Perhaps that's because I'm often the old man of the group, so I've had my time with coworkers allotment filled, but perhaps not--after all, Mama is close to their age, if not younger. I don't think it's age so much as it is what I said before: situation and expectation. After all, there are those who never want to have children, and those who want and have them when they are much younger than I am.

I think that the prognosticators of our impending social doom are right: our lives will change, we will see less of them, we will go out less frequently. I also know that those are all things that we want, or are willing to exchange for what is on the other side of that coin: baby.

Friday, January 20, 2006

It's not easy being green

I know that during pregnancy, the woman has to do all of the work of bearing the child and sustaining it. I also know that there are many women who raise and bear their children without any assistance from a partner. And all of these women need as much information as they can get their hands on, which they can fortunately find at almost every turn on the internet.

However, there are, if not an equal number, a large number of expectant fathers who would also like a little 411 about what's happening and what's to come. Good luck finding it online, however. (Or offline, but I'll leave that for another time.)

There are some dads and expectant dads who are filling in the gaps left by traditional online publishers, gathering information to share with others, and gathering together around these new sites to support each other. I was glad to find some blogs that chronicle the lives of these dads, although I have to say that some of the posts don't really apply or appeal to me.

For example, while I'm interested in cars, I'm not sure how learning about the latest crossover vehicle from VW relates to my status as a dad-in-waiting. Perhaps it's just that it seems like an incredibly dorky car. Or, that it's just not an Aston Martin. Or a scoot (a blog is coauthored by new dad Jonathan Ogilvy).

In with that, however, is news that I am interested in, like about nutrition and food for kids. And what to expect from other people once the baby is born--and probably even before that, although they won't be nearly as likely to talk to the child as a proxy for speaking to me or Mama. On that topic, I think that it will be a matter of finding balance; some people will surely just be drawing attention to themselves, but some will surely have valid advice and good perspectives. As Castaneda learned at the beginning of his journey to Ixtlan, sometimes it takes a stranger to stop a person's world--a child's or an adult's--which can lead to valuable insights. On the other hand, it could be incredibly frustrating, and lead me to pour my grande, extra hot cappuccino on a stranger's head.

The best news for me is that these dads are out there doing this, that this information is available, and that these conversations are going on--speaking of conversations, you really have to read the comments in response to the post about walking too fast. For a dad like me, who believes that someone has already figured out most of the solutions to most of the problems that will arise before me, and who believes that constant communication reveals more information (and more useful information) than the binge and starve cycle that traditional publishing leads to, these outlets are exciting and invigorating to read and participate in.

As I started off saying, I know that moms have to do a tremendous amount of work that we dads can't help with, but there is plenty of work that we do, including new work that we take on as mom takes on her new role, and having someone to show us the way, go through it with us, and lead us to more information makes our job a little bit easier.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Good clean fun

Yesterday was "movement," today is "maintenance."

I did a little housecleaning around the blog and added a few little geegaws, like the links to feeds I read and some profile information. Not that most of you don't already know that about me, but it seems the thing to do on blogs, and I like checking out what other people are reading, so I might as well return the favor. The profile is probably not going to change much, but I'll try to keep adding links as I come across new feeds.

I've been thinking about this for awhile, but I got motivated last night when I found the Zygote Daddy blog. It was nice to see from his profile that we have some things in common, including, it seems, a little attitude, and to check out all the dad-to-be resources that he linked to. Who knew that there is so much out there for us? Most of it's geared toward moms-to-be, which makes sense on several levels, but which is still frustrating.

As for the word on yesterday's word, and all of the suggestions that have come in--people, people, people . . . we are not sitting in the U-Haul, waiting for the light to turn green. Although, we appreciate the suggestions, so you can keep them coming--and I imagine that there will still be year-round biking in Vegas for a few years to come, so we'll keep that info on file.

Tomorrow I'll try to find time to write about our condo association annual meeting, which is tonight. We'll elect new board members and discuss the proposed assessment. Should be good clean fun--provided that no one threatens to sue each board member (including yours truly) personally, as happened last time we all got together to discuss the assessment. So, either good clean fun, or someone will end up in the penalty box.

We'll see.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Word of the day

The word is "movement."

As in, Mama might have felt the baby move last night. Then again, she might not have. It wasn't like anything else she normally feels in her belly, so she figured that it was baby, but she couldn't be sure. This would be the second time--a few weeks back she felt what she described as "a flutter" in her belly, which is just how the books have said many women describe their first feeling of movement.

After that first bump last night, I tried to coax baby into some sort of confirmation motion. Talking to it through Mama's belly--how else?--I suggested some possible moves: somersault, jumping jacks, perhaps a cartwheel. But we got nothing. Perhaps by not responding to our attempts at communication it's getting us ready for when it's a teenager.

Other movement news from yesterday is that Mama Colorado is trying to convince us to move out and live with her, Papa, and little Q in some sort of godless communist hippie type of situation. Wait, did someone say "fresh vegetables"? We'll see you tomorrow. But seriously, Mama and I can't consider anything like that for some time, since we've only been in our condo for a coupla' years, we just put down new floors, blah, blah, money, blah, blah. Yeah, you don't want it to come down to filthy lucre, but it does.

On the other hand, there are all those considerations like clean air, fewer people, thousands of acres of national forest land, and the unbearable cuteness of little bunny Q Q:

Yeah, that's hard to resist, especially when the rain is beating down outside and the temperature is falling faster than a frozen block of ice from a plane. I know, I know--the winters there are longer and colder, and involve much more snow than they do here, but I'll take the snow over the rain--besides, they plow the bike path there. One set of studded snow tires for the bike and there's riding all winter. Oh, and I hear there's some skiing type activities too. (Actually, I hear that Papa's teaching that newfangled snowboarding type activity on the mountain these days.) There's not so much of the pristine winter landscape here to softly shush through on cross-country skis as there is, say, at the top of Rabbit Ears pass.

Hey, did someone mention rabbit ears?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Not quite the Brooklyn Bridge, but not swampland in Florida...

As promised, I got some better pics of the bridge that Brother #2 bought from said brother. Cousin Bill also sent along a picture, that you can see in his comment on the original post.

In bragging about this purchase, B#2 mentioned that the condition of the wood was pretty good, considering how long it had been "out there." When I asked where "out there" was , he clarified with this shot from Google Maps:

Right. That makes it so clear.

Actually, he clarified that what you're looking at is a City of Cypress storage yard. The bridge is the large diagonal object in the bottom center of the picture, just above and to the left of the red car parked at the end of the cul-de-sac at the bottom of the picture.

Here's a slightly closer view:

It really is worth bragging about, seeing as how at $200 it cost less than a iPod Nano, which is only several thousand times smaller.

Although it's hard to say which is cooler--owning a bridge or an iPod Nano--the bridge is pretty cool.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Countin' up the animals, two by two

At least when we went to the farmer's market, we didn't have to float through the biblical deluge that Sister #2 is enjoying out in Seattle. She's actually a bit south of there, but as you can see from these pictures she took, they get the same rain. Fortunately, Nephew #1 is a carpenter's apprentice, so he can start on the ark. I'm not sure who's in charge of the animals, but we've got the box turtles covered. Save us a seat.

this little piggy went to market

Nothing much to say about Friday other than that it was a beautiful day to be outside. Too bad,then, that we were both working all day, but it was still a beautiful evening. Rather than stay up late enjoying the unseasonably warm weather or, say, watching our latest flick from Netflix (Hotel Rwanda), we went to bed pretty early because we knew that we were getting up early on Saturday.

We had agreed to go to yoga in Del Ray with Deborah and Dave, to check out the studio and see if we wanted to keep going or look for another one. Mama is the force behind all of this, since yoga's a nice, gentle way to get exercise while she's pregnant. I'm more than willing to go along since it's been months since I was last on my bike, and I'm never close to limber enough--tense and cramped is one way to describe it. Deborah and Dave expressed interest, and they just moved to Del Ray, so that all works out.

We also wanted to check out the Alexandria farmer's market, which we had talked about doing with the Liberal Banana after reading her post on her resolutions for the new year, so we asked her if she would like to go with us to the market first. She's our neighbor who babysits Barky even when he doesn't need it, like on Friday, when she had the day off and asked if she could kidnap him for the day, take him on a walk, then keep him at he place while she cleaned and did day off things. Of course we agreed; he loves her, especially after Thanksgiving, during which he spent most of his time either sleeping on her couch or begging under the table, and she's got the blog posts and pictures to prove it.

However for us to get to the market with LB in time to shop, then get over to yoga, we would have to leave our place at 8 a.m.--which, of course, means that we would have to have Barky fed, walked, and watered by then too.

On a Saturday.

This had better be a good market.

As you can see from the pics here and on LB's blog, there was almost no market at Market Square. I suppose we'll try again in March. Not that we'll be able to get up any later then. The market runs from 5-10 a.m.

That was one early rising little piggy.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Look, George, a shiny thing!

In all that excitement over the fog and the dog I forgot to mention this fantastic Jon Carroll column that starts off fresh

First off, I have assumed for at least 30 years that the government has been engaged in illegal wiretaps. I assume that the government reads any e-mail it wants to. I assume that the government breaks into people's homes and goes through their underwear drawers. It's the government; that's what governments do.
And only gets better
Does it sometimes seem to you that the government is being run by retired athletic directors?
. . .But seriously, can you envision a terrorist picking up the New York Times and saying, "My God, men, the government may have been listening in to our telephone calls. Quick, let's find another way to communicate."
I agree with him about the government doing what governments do. Perhaps I'm paranoid, but as a poster in our house used to say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you. The government with eavesdropping technology is like a monkey locked in a room with a typewriter--eventually they're going to use it. They may not use it well, and they may not use it for good purposes, but they're going to use it.

I also agree with him that all the furor is the administration's way of saying, "Look, a shiny thing!" That may have worked with Curious George, and it may have worked for the first coupla' years, but Rove is going to have to learn a new set of tricks to distract us from their insurmountable ineptitude if he wants to keep his job and stay out of jail.

It's worth a read, as are most of the columnists in the Chron. They're the real reason to read the Chron at all, unless you have no other way to get your wire reports and local news.

All the leaves were brown

The leaves are definitely in tune with the Mamas and the Papas, although I can't verify the color of the sky because it's too foggy to see it...or does that mean it's gray? I'm not sure about the "safe" part, but I'm sure that I'd be "warm in L.A.," which would be nicer than chilled and damp here.

I shouldn't complain, however, since it's supposed to be up to 65 degrees (F) today. I hesitate to say that our winter's been mild, since that will jinx us, and we'll spend the next three weeks digging tunnels through the snow to our cars, but it really has been mild [knocking on wood].

Barky, of course, loves this kind of weather. I figure there are two reasons for this:

1) His British ancestry, since I believe that beagles are just small foxhounds.

2) Wet weather makes it easier to smell everything, which is, after all, his raison d'etre.

Both of those are reasons why it was so exciting when a possum crossed our path as we were coming up the hill toward home. It sort of ambled down from the left, through the trees, saw us and then hightailed it--as best a possum can--across the road, stumbling as it hoisted itself over the curb on the other side. Very exciting for Barky. I imagine that he thought that was a hell of a squirrel.

He's run into a possum before, over at our old place. It tried to play dead, then decided that a rapid retreat was more appropriate. I didn't let Barky get close enough to actually grab him or her, but it was close enough that we could all see that playing dead was not going to be effective (perhaps we should have sent gift certificates for the Actor's Studio for Christmas).

Other than that, not much has changed except that our floor installation is complete. Connie and Diane wrapped up in our bedroom last night. They'll be back on Saturday morning to put in the final thresholds and 1/4 round, but we can move all of our chaos back to some sense of order. We started with our bed and the carpets under it last night. Next is probably the Medusa's hair tangle of cables and cords attached to the desk--guess we should have ordered that wireless DSL before we had the floor installed, eh? Then we'll be deciding if we want to move things back where they were or take the opportunity to rearrange. Actually, it's going to be the latter, but we'll see to what extent we do that.

Not much more news on the baby front, although Mama does report that she went all of yesterday without a headache, making it much easier to work and stuff. She credits having some coffee in the morning--perfectly safe according to all sources, including the doc--and staying hydrated all day long. She found out that Emilia found the same to be true for the headaches. Emilia also passed along the news that Our Bodies Ourselves gives a higher acceptable/normal weight gain at this point than the doc did, which made Mama feel better. To his credit, the doc, a rounder than ideal man, did point out that a man of his shape was in no position to make dictates about weight gain. In fact, his general philosophy, which he clearly stated and acted on, is that so long as Mama and baby are within the bounds of normal that he's just there to help out, answer questions, and so on, and he made it clear that "normal" has pretty wide bounds.

As for me, he told me to always reply that she looks "wonderful," which isn't hard advice to follow. Mama does look beautiful, as always.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We got the beat, yeah

A coupla' days ago, on January 9, we heard from the baby for the first time--we heard the baby's heartbeat. It was more GoGo's than Laurie Anderson (we won't even talk about the sun coming up like a big bald head).

They told us that they would listen for it and were sure that we would be able to hear it (last time Mama went, they tried to hear it, but baby was too small), so I came all geeked up. I downloaded a free voice recorder program for my Treo and tested it to make sure that it works and saves files, transfers them to the computer, and so on. Sure enough, after introducing himself and talking with us for awhile, the doc pulled out the microphone and put it on Mama's belly.

It took a second, but he located the right spot and we could hear baby's heartbeat. He just listened for a few seconds, said, "OK," and then turned it off. I have to admit that even though I'd geeked up in preparation I felt a little geeky asking him to put it back on so that I could record it on my phone to share, and I told him as much when I asked if he would. He laughed and said that I certainly wasn't the first to make that request, and told us about a woman who sent recordings to the father, who was a sailor, at sea for the first six months of her pregnancy.

And no, there's nothing more to tell from the heartbeat than that there is a heartbeat and it sounds strong, according to the doc. You can't discern gender, hair color, or handedness from it. Knowing that it's there and working away is enough.

On a technical note, now that I've figured out how to post audio files that I can link to (and now that I have a recorder on my Treo), I'll try to capture anything else that we hear from baby--although until July, it's going to be the same heartbeat. As for pictures, you'll have to wait until March, after the ultrasound.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A John Deere letter

Just got a John Deere letter from brother #2 that he bought this big new toy. Must be that he's finally doing laundry, cleaning out his living room, or taking it out to the ranch.

I would say that this is the kind of fun that editors like me never get to have, but he's an editor too, so that wouldn't be a true statement. It's just that in my current position there's not nearly as much call for tractors as there is in his. That's good news from one perspective: I must not have as much to dig through as he does (or as it feels like) since I don't need a tractor. From another perspective, it's bad news: not all the fun toys a boy could want. And, going by the picture, more bad news for me: it's not warm enough here to be outside wearing shorts and flip-flops--more like down coats and fleecy hats.

I'll send a picture of the bridge he bought at the same auction if one comes my way.

Really. A bridge.

[UPDATE: Cousin Bill was kind enough to provide a link to a picture of the bridge. Brother #2 also sent some of his own that I'll post soon.]

Friday, January 06, 2006

Where's winter?

Don't get me wrong. As a California boy, I'm fine with temperate winters. I don't need to develop frostbite as I walk the 30 paces from my building to the car ro know that it's winter. The shorter days are bad enough; there's no need to heap it on with things like wind chill, ice storms, sleet, and "wintery mix" (which I think should be reserved either for a great new red and green drink that keeps you warm by the fire or Dr. Demento's Christmas novelty collection--those are some wintery mixes I can support).

Nonetheless, this winter hasn't given even a hint of the season down here--again, I'm not complaining--and you can see what it's done for Daphne's snowman up in Vermont.

Maybe with these new globally-warmed winters, sponsored by Exxon and the Bush administration (one of which I believe sprung fully formed from the other's head), more people will move out of California, back to these formerly icy locales that they fled, and the Golden State will once again be nice (and perhaps even affordable).

This seems like it might be a faster and more permanent solution than the only other one I could envision (that doesn't involve a massive earthquake)--that, like a bar or club, nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded. (cue "To Dream the Impossible Dream")

Thursday, January 05, 2006


In the spirit of the Colbert Report, the word today is "sore."

Perhaps someone who is more medically inclined can explain why I'm always more sore two days after a sporting event than I am one day after it. Whatever the reason, today is day two after the first game of the 2006 ASCD volleyball season. We play in the Alexandria city league, which apparently attracts giants and ex-Olympians, if our first game is any indication.

I spent a lot of time falling to my knees, half the time was to attempt to get a ball, the other half of the time was to pray that the game would end quickly and mercilessly (just give me a cigarette and a blindfold and put me in front of the wall), and the third half of the time was just falling down. As a result, I went to Target last night to get kneepads--now that the cows are gone, might as well get that barn door closed and latched--and this morning I can barely walk up or down stairs. Or stand up or sit down.

Yes, it's really pleasant. Sports are so much fun.

And what is the deal with that? Was I just too stupid to recognize the pain when I was younger, or was I more limber (doubt it), resilient, made of softer stuff? I played about the same clumsy way that I did when I was younger...What's the deal?

I am, however, not as sore as our contractor, who is putting in our floor. For unknown reasons, she has been getting this wicked joint inflammation that knocks her flat. She couldn't work on Monday, and was able to finish up the hallway and bathroom door yesterday (see picture--and our house is not that green--that's just dim morning light and a camera phone conspiring to make it look that way) and start scraping the parquet out of the kid's bedroom, but still sounded pretty rough. Not a good job to have joint pain in. Feeling as I do, which is, I'm sure, not half of what she is feeling, since my pain is really isolated in my quads, I sympathize deeply. It's actually kind of nice to have a break from moving all of our crap from one room to another, not to mention having to find space for it in that other room too.

Mama is doing OK this morning, but she still gets some queasiness, especially on the Metro. I'm still driving her to King Street, but I do want to get back on my bike sometime this year, so we talked about that this morning. I'm not willing to start riding to work if it will make it rougher on her, and so I'm going to wait and keep talking about it and play it by ear. I don't think that I'd start before the floor is done anyway, just so I can have the car here in case I need to go home and answer any questions or do anything related to that. If I don't start riding to work, I can certainly set up the trainer and start riding that, which will be easier than all the arrangements needed to ride in to work. Mama has found that chewing gum on the Metro does help, as does stripping off her coat to prevent overheating. I, of course, encourage her to stay home if she's feeling queasy, but she insists on going in. I suppose that it's something that she's gotten used to, as much as possible, and will be glad to be rid of when the baby gets here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

what about kiki in the new year?

Every year that we've passed into the new year (rather than passing out into the new year) with Jeff and Aline, which is to say last year on New Year's Day, they led us in a Buddhist prayer, which includes the words "ki ki so so...[words I can't remember]." It's a prayer for times of renewal and change, making it perfect for the new year. Last year we sat gathered around the chiminea (sp?), talking all morning, catching up on the past year, before this prayer. This year, however, wasn't as warm as last (which was the warmest on record in DC), and Holly was a little under the weather, so we stayed inside for our catching up, and never got around to "ki ki" the prayer, although Kiki the dog (Jeff & Aline's) was around all morning. Before we left, Aline did say that they would be saying "ki ki" to honor the expectant mothers and the changing of the prayer flags.

Nevertheless, we left feeling, as always renewed and changed for the better for the too brief time we spent with everyone.

We felt even more renewed after our five hour nap when we got home.

Monday, January 02, 2006

the waiting is the hardest part

As Petty says, it really is the hardest part, and there's nothing like the beginning of a new year to point out that we can do no more than wait for time to carry us forward and for events to come to us in their due course. Most of the time, there is little for us to do but wait, which we tend to fill with pondering--as the carved troll appears to be doing, sitting--as Paul was doing out on the porch, and longing--as Farley was doing, watching Paul on the porch.

happy new year

It was a happy new year, rung in with many libations and much catching up on all of the events of the past year that have filled all six of our lives, including the news that there both Wifey and Holly are expecting--which we had pretty much figured about Holly, and which she had pretty much figured about Wifey, but which we confirmed and then discussed at length (not, I hope, ad nauseum for Jeff and Aline).

It's nice to be able to talk about all of these things that the last few months have brought us with good friends who are like-minded. Fascinating how we can be so far apart physically, and yet remain so close in so many ways.

a luminous new year

Jeff and Aline's tree (although I'm not sure that Aline claims any responsibility for Jeff's decorations) is, as he promised, luminous again this year.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

that floor...that wonderful floor

This is all that is, really, some laminated particle board planks laid down on top of layers of plastic and foam. So, why is it so wonderful?

Especially when it causes all this disruption--tools and stacks of flooring waiting to be installed as well as displaced furniture that we move through the house in a sort of shell game, keeping it from showing up in the same room as the new floor--what is so wonderful about this floor?

A few things jump out at us after living with our old floor, which was the original parquet, laid in 1969 or so when the building was built, such as what the new floor doesn't do--

--it doesn't give us splinters when we walk around barefoot

--it doesn't get sucked up into the vacuum

..and what it isn't--

--it isn't covered in mold from the old leaks, spills, and other small disasters

--it isn't gray, dried and cracking, and without a trace of any finish, like perfectly milled kindling blocks

--it isn't filled with holes from the thousands of nails, screws, and staples used to hold various pieces of hardware and layers of carpet down

And then there's the new baseboard, which lacks the old baseboard's sedimentary layers of paint (that went back to the paleolithic, I believe) encrusted with remnants of all the past carpets ever installed.

It seems shallow, perhaps, to spend so much time and be so happy about such a, well, shallow development. (Unlike the Colbert Report, which we're watching right now--"grippy.") But there's something thrilling about walking around your house barefoot without having to break out the tweezers.

another thing that we do...

Is resend photos to our blog when they don't go through the first time, like this one of the line at the post office on New Year's Eve. What's up with this line? Why are all these people here on New Year's Eve?

And what were we doing there? Finally picking up the last of the Christmas packages that were sent to us. We have been busy at home with moving our furniture from one room to the next in advance of having our new floor put in, which has kept us from getting out much this week.

More on that in a minute...