Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Very Long Post About Short Nights and Accompanying Days of the Holiday

On Night 1, Tuesday, December 23, I get back from picking up the rental car at around 6:45. Emelia is taking a late nap, and given how long the night would be, we let her sleep while we light the Chanukah candles and pack the car. She wakes up as we're finishing the packing, and we bring her down to open the rest of her major Chanukah presents so we don't have to take them up to Connecticut. After eating a quick dinner, we're able to get on the road by 8:15, already past when Emelia normally goes to sleep. Only an hour in, we stop for caffeine, figuring that most of it should have left our systems by the time we'd want to go to sleep upon arrival. While I'm inside the Rest Area, Kathy explains to the still-awake Emelia that Mommy and Daddy would need to stay awake, but that she should go to sleep. The incredibly empathetic child of ours is determined to bear the burden with us, and refuses to go to sleep despite our encouragement. In fact, whenever we push her to sleep, she pushes back, and in so doing stays up many hours past when she ever stays up. Finally, at 1am, she drifts to sleep, giving her about an hour before we stop at my in-laws house in Connecticut. She wakes up at that point, as we bring all the luggage in and get situated in the room we're staying in. The trundle bed designated for her is high enough off the ground that we don't want to risk her falling onto the tile floor, as she still sleeps with a bumper in her own bed. So at around 3am, I climb into the trundle, and Emelia sleeps in the queen bed with Kathy.

Day 1 begins at 7:15 when I awake to the light outside. I try to get the dogs out of the room quietly, but the room is cramped for three people and two dogs, and it's hard for me to get out of the room without waking Emelia. So soon everyone is up, and the day gets going. Emelia is able to take a three hour nap during the day, but that's not uncommon for her, and she still could have used many hours more. I sneak in about a 45 minute nap myself. Kathy's sister Suz gets home from work around 5:30, and she comes bearing a growler of IPA from the best brewery in the state. I thank her, and those of us who enjoy such beverages quickly consume the contents of the growler in their entirety.

Night 2 commences when we're able to get Emelia to bed around 8pm, as the excitement of Christmas Eve and all the presents in plain view has hit her. The small Chanukah present she opens does nothing to diminish her desire to open the multitude of presents sitting under the tree. The trundle has been moved out of the room, and Emelia sleeps on a single mattress that rests on the floor. Kathy heads to bed around 9, and I follow suit about an hour later.

At 5:15, Day 2, a.k.a., Christmas, begins when Emelia wakes up and won't go back to sleep, so the lot of us exit the room and have a leisurely morning. We tell Emelia she must wait for her Aunt Suzie to get up before we open the presents, and she's pretty good about that. All the same, when the presents are finally opened, I consider the change in Emelia's demeanor. At her birthday less than two months earlier, she had taken delight with each present, not entirely sure about the whole concept. But with the experiences of that event and the opening of Chanukah presents, she has moved into full-fledged present mode, where she wants more more more. Given that many presents remain, however, awaiting the return of Emelia's cousins from Christmas at their father's, Emelia's present thirst remains unslaked.

In the afternoon, we take a short walk with the dogs, all of us glad to stretch our legs, both for the simple sake of exercise, and to address the gluttony that accompanies the holidays at my in-laws, the result of Mom's delight in holiday mail-order foods, both main courses and desserts. Mom always makes full breakfasts, and although lunches are somewhat tamer, dessert follows it and most dinners. After we get back from the walk, we have a little down time before we head out the door for what is becoming our tradition of sushi for Christmas dinner. We had done Chinese for several years, in honor of my Jewish roots, but given that we all enjoy sushi much more, the tradition has changed. We are not alone, because although we had lit the candles for Chanukah before we left, people at another large table at the restaurant bring a menorah and do the prayers there.

Night 3 starts upon our return from dinner. Emelia goes to sleep as soon as we get back, but still it's after 8pm. Again Kathy goes to sleep before I do, but neither of us are ready for the 3am wake-up cries of Emelia after she fell out of bed. Kathy is the one who responds, but nothing she does is able to get Emelia to go back to sleep. I finally suggest bringing Emelia into our bed, and she settles right in after that, getting back to sleep around 4.

Day 3 starts around 7, when Emelia and I get up, along with the dogs, and leave Kathy to grab more shuteye. Kathy comes upstairs around 9. The day is uneventful but relaxing, as generally all the days have been.

Night 4 begins shortly after dinner. Emelia stays up for a little bit, but is rubbing her eyes and so to bed she goes. Kathy quickly follows suit, but I stay up for a while. When I finally decide to go to sleep, I have it in mind to sleep in my nephew's room with the dogs (he and his sisters don't return from their father's until Sunday night), hopefully letting everyone get a decent night of sleep. I come into the room to turn off the light Kathy left on for me, and when she stirs, I tell her my plan. Despite being fairly quiet, Emelia wakes up during my maneuver, and starts calling "Daddy." This was a new experience for me, as she generally wants Kathy when she's upset. The result is that I can't get out of the room without Emelia going into loud cries of "Daddy." I finally end up putting her into our bed and stay there with her, hoping to have her fall asleep so I can go back upstairs. No such luck, as every time I move she looks over to make sure I'm still there. The dogs by this point have come downstairs and I've put them into the room. Emelia starts positioning herself laterally, taking up more of the bed than can permit three of us to sleep together. I sneak off to the bathroom, and still she calls out for me, so I return and climb into her bed. I try to sleep, and according to Kathy I sleep for a bit (my snores gave me away), but it's not a restful sleep, and I resolve to go back upstairs to try to sleep, a sentiment Kathy encourages so she can sleep. Damned if Emelia doesn't start crying out after me again, and it's worse than fingernails on a chalkboard to have her cries tearing at me as I exit without answering them. Kathy comforts her successfully at last, and after a while of lying in my nephew's bed, I do in fact get all the way to sleep by 1am.

Day 4 begins around 6:15, and after lying in bed for a few minutes, realizing I won't fall back asleep, I hear Emelia downstairs. So I go down there, and relieve Kathy so she can go back to sleep. Kathy grabs another hour or so, and after breakfast, Emelia decides she neither wants to stay in her pajamas or get dressed. Thus, she spends half an hour giggling wildly while running around in nothing but her diaper. After we all finally get dressed, we hit the post office to send a misdirected Christmas present to Texas. Another day, another nap for me, and I actually clear an hour this time. Emelia tops that by a goodly amount, nearing four hours.

Night 5 begins optimistically, as Emelia goes to bed before 8, Kathy follows at 9, and I'm in bed by 10. All is well until Kathy has to go to the bathroom at 4:30, which wakes up Emelia. To stop the crying, Kathy brings her into bed with us, but she's really not interested in going back to sleep. However, she is enjoying kicking my stomach. Around 5:30, Kathy takes Emelia from the room, muttering something about us leaving Wednesday instead of Saturday, and I'm able to fall back asleep. Said sleep is ended shortly before 7, when Junebug decides that she needs my attention.

And here we are in Day 5. Kathy has rescinded her Wednesday departure statement, and Emelia is a whirling dervish of activity. I have no idea what the night will bring, but I expect the feeling of dread to start overwhelming me about the time we light the candles for the last night of Chanukah.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Break-In #2

I live on Capitol Hill. It's a decent area, and incredibly convenient. But it's also in the heart of a city, and it's close to some poorer and more dangerous areas. As such, it's very common for property crime to spill over into my neighborhood. Friday night, for the second time, our car was broken into. The first time was already a couple of years ago. I don't know whether we had left the car unlocked by mistake or the thieves* were good at picking the lock, but the window wasn't bashed in, which is common in our neighborhood. The thieves acted quickly -- they grabbed the couple of dollars worth of change that was in the car, didn't immediately see anything of value, then split. In their haste, they left a cheap pocket knife. The knife offered a fairly even exchange for the change, though we probably never would have traded if given a choice.

This time, again no windows were broken, but the thieves were much more methodical. They opened up the glove compartment, pulled stuff out of the car side pockets, moved stuff around, and even opened up Emelia's portable changing pad, which we had left in the car. After all that, we could only determine one thing missing -- a cassette adapter that lets you play things like mp3 players through your car's tape deck (if you've never seen one of those, this is one such device). That's it. There was also plenty of stuff that's of value to us, that evidently offered nothing to the thieves. Things such as the changing pad, a baby-carrying backpack, Emelia's car seat, and the nice umbrella stroller and umbrella in the trunk. They also left old tapes and a nice tire gauge that were in the glove compartment, and other miscellany. Even some loose change (total value of less than a dollar) was left behind. It took about five minutes to put the car back together, but it was much cleaner as a result -- all the junk was conveniently lumped together for easy disposal.

For what it's worth, the cassette adapter was old and doesn't work very well anymore -- we had been meaning to replace it in the car for some time. Now we'll remember to take the new one we had gotten a while ago on our trip to Connecticut next week. So between the sort-of cleaning, and the disposal of the adapter so we'd bring the new one, again it seems like we ended up with a reasonable exchange.

Weird. Fortunate.

* - I don't know how many of them participated in either break-in, but in both instances I picture there being two of them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Modern World

Yesterday I was IM'ing via Gmail with a friend who was riding a bus that provided WiFi. I noticed another friend of mine (and his) was logged in at the time from his volunteer post in Central America, and I suggested the two of them chat. Not because I thought they had anything significant to say to each other, but because the whole concept was remarkable. Just 10 years ago, the user at either end of the conversation couldn't have participated, and now, it required no special effort to have two people chat when one was on the East Coast heading north on a bus speeding 75mph, and the other was at his computer in rural Nicaragua.

Now all I need is for Emelia to be a little older, so I can start telling her, "When I was a kid...."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's the Deal with Dallas?

I'm trying to find a rental car for when we visit my brother and his family in January. Check out the screwy rates that I'm finding (click on the image to enlarge):

With these rates, I can see why everything's bigger in Texas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If we don't do this, we will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever."-- Dick Cheney, as part of his failed effort to convince Senate Republicans to vote for the bailout package for the auto industry.

Monday, December 01, 2008

At Least Someone Thinks I'm Funny

A couple of weeks ago, firedoglake had a contest to come up with an appropriate title for George Bush's autobiography. I tossed out several suggestions (comments # 89, 244, & 269), and got a good laugh at many of the other entries.

This evening I was going through my Google Reader backlog from the holidays, and came across the announcement of winners -- I was surprised and delighted to see that I won. I guess anything's possible, but I'm betting that W won't be using the winning entry, "You Can Fool Enough of the People Some of the Time."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Not to Advance One's Career

Sitting at my desk at the end of the day, I get a phone call from someone I used to work with, a semi-friend, who's now in a different department at my agency. A former boss of ours has an extra ticket to Saturday's FSU-Maryland football game -- the semi-friend knows I went to FSU law, and asks on the ex-boss' behalf if I'm interested. I immediately answer no, not because I wouldn't want to go, but because I leave town that morning for Thanksgiving in Florida with my family. Ah well, that's how it goes sometimes.

Half an hour later, I reflect on the conversation, and start laughing, realizing only then that I turned down a chance to sit for more than three hours, one-on-one, with one of the people whose name is being bandied about to head my agency.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Facebook is Evil

But I bet you already knew that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the Presence of Genius

It's not every day that one finds one's self in the presence of genius, but I was on Friday, at my daughter's birthday celebration (I find it hard to call it a party when the attendees are five adults and two children, including the honoree). You see, when our friend Anna was served her cupcake, she ripped off the bottom half of the cupcake and put it on top of the frosting, in essence creating a frosting sandwich. She said the idea just came to her right then. To be witness to that spark of genius was an experience that only slightly surpassed the bliss of eating a cupcake in that fashion. Indeed, I plan never to eat a cupcake any other way ever again.

And how did I repay her brilliance? By having this exchange with her on Monday morning while I was walking the dogs and she was starting her walk to work, when she was only half awake.

"I realize that I should have carved my Halloween pumpkin into an ox."
"Why, is it something to do with a beer?"
"No, it's because that way my gourd can be an ox."

I fear that genius will never set foot in my house again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mugging Belated Update

My last post on the mugging was a couple of months ago, and I apologize for not keeping folks up to date on that front. The trial was scheduled for Thursday, October 2, and in the days leading up to it, I was very stressed. I worried that I would somehow screw up my testimony in a way that would let the actual assailants go free. On the Tuesday before the trial was to begin, I got a message informing me that the defendants pled guilty, meaning that there would be no trial. I was a bit surprised, but that surprise quickly turned to relief that I wouldn't have to testify. My anxiety level subsided immediately, and I've been a much more relaxed individual ever since.

In talking to the U.S. Attorney the following day, I learned that the church that was catty-corner from where the attack took place had a surveillance camera. It panned the area, so that it showed the initial bicycle incident, me talking with the attackers, and me getting up from the attack. So while it didn't have the actual attack, it served to help identify my attackers. So my concern over being unable to identify my attackers with sufficient certainty was for nothing.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 24, and the U.S. Attorney indicated that she expects sentences of roughly 2 years, where the maximum sentence is 3 years. The two defendants are 19, and have no adult criminal records.

As far as the aftermath, my health is pretty good, but not perfect. The feeling has not wholly returned in my teeth, and consequently, I expect I'll have a permanent loss of feeling in the three fron teeth on the upper left side (I put it at roughly 30% loss). While I'd have been happier with a complete recovery, all things considered, I really don't have any complaints. As I've posted before, it could have been much worse.

This was the year I left Blue Cross for a High Deductible Plan, so in that sense my timing couldn't have been worse, as all the medical bills are going to a high deductible. That being said, I'm eligible for a victims' restitution fund, so once the bills are all squared away (that's something still going on), I will be filing with the fund, and hopefully will be compensated for most if not all of my out-of-pocket expenses.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Another Year Has Flashed By

Yep, Emelia is two. So without further ado, here are some recent photos of her.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Just, wow. I'm a white male, and this isn't supposed to be my victory. I'm a liberal, and despite the McCain campaign's attempt to label Obama as a socialist, he's a centrist, not a progressive. But somehow his election mattered to me anyhow.

With Bush so unpopular and the economy so bad, given Obama's once-in-a-generation oratorical skill, and the most organized campaign I've ever witnessed, it should have been a walkover. But despite such advantages, and while the outcome seemed inevitable as poll after poll put Obama squarely ahead of McCain, it still was remarkably close. The anxiety over the possibility of a stolen election has faded to dust, and I am so amazingly relieved. And I find myself so incredibly moved by this outcome.

We will soon have a sane president again, after eight years of insanity.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What a Great Comeback! x2

They were in a must-win game last night -- lose and they'd be eliminated from the playoffs. They were banged up, with key players unavailable or trying to play through injuries. They fell behind, and stayed that way until late in the game. But then, to the delight of the home crowd, a late rally that resulted in an improbable victory left them to live another day. I was delighted, even though I recognized that the team still needed to win its next game as well, just to stay alive!

And I was at the game, in the third row, a live spectator to a wonderful win.

Wait, you thought I was talking about the Red Sox win? Well, except for that last sentence, I might as well have been. Yes, in addition to the Sox win that no doubt anyone who cares about sports already knows about, D.C. United played last night -- with two games left in the season, they were one of six teams fighting for the last three playoff spots, and of those six teams, we were on the bottom of the heap. So while a tie technically wouldn't eliminate us, it essentially would have done so.

United has had a disastrous end to the season, having not won a regular season game in nearly two months. And it's been a very long season. In addition to now having played 28 of the 30 games in the regular season, it's had four games in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, three games in the SuperLiga, four games in the U.S. Open Cup, and four games (with two more to be played) in the CONCACAF Champions League -- in other words, it's had more than another half a season of games to play in between its league matches. And the MLS roster rules and salary cap affords very little depth to teams. So fatigue would be enough of a problem even if injuries hadn't hit them, leaving them without some of their key players when they were most needed.

Last night, we had a lineup that included two guys who were playing in the third division two months ago (in baseball terms, think AA), and a forward who was waived at the start of the season by another club and who hadn't scored in the regular season. Three of our five first-choice offensive players (not counting one who has missed all but 15 minutes of the season) started on the bench (or weren't even available), and a fourth was returning from injury to play his first game in a few weeks.

Our opponent ironically was New England, a team that had sown up a playoff spot already but who was looking for home field advantage in its first round game. New England had the run of play early, but soon United had turned it around, and began creating numerous chances. However, United wasn't able to get the goal it sorely needed, its best chance of the first half bouncing off the crossbar, and the half ended in a scoreless tie. In the second half, United again controlled the pace of the game, but a disastrous turnover led to an easy goal by New England in the 58th minute, and suddenly we were half an hour from the virtual end to our season.

However, a couple of minutes later, with nothing to lose, the team pulled a defender and brought in Jaime Moreno, the League's all-time leading scorer, whose injured knee had kept him out of the starting line-up. The decision to bring in Moreno paid almost immediate dividends, as he soon assisted on a goal by Francis Doe, that waived forward who hadn't scored all year. Doe scored after a pretty cut back helped him elude his defender and get a good shot. After that goal, Fred, who was thought lost for the season due to a hamstring injury, entered the game as United's last allowed substitute, and United's offense was roaring.

Amazingly enough, the go-ahead goal came again at the foot of Doe, and was scored in impressive fashion. The ball was flicked to him by Tino Quaranta, and Doe was able to out-muscle and out-quick last year's Defender of the Year to square up for a shot that he got over the goalie (you can view this goal and the rest of the match highlights here).

United was able to ride out the last part of the match to finish with a win in its last home match of the season. Its next challenge is to finish the season on the road against the best team in the league, the Columbus Crew. A win may be difficult, but at least there's still something for the team to play for.
Post Script: Starting at halftime, and throughout the second half, I was tracking the Red Sox-Rays game, seeing the deficit grow from 2-0 to 4-0 to 5-0, just glad that at least United had pulled off a win. I got home when it was still 5-0 to find a message from Dad, who is now a Rays fan, having lived in the Tampa area since before the team came into existence. I called him back, and explained where I had been. He wanted my support for the Rays, asking, couldn't I cheer for the underdog? I firmly responded by saying that I root for my team, no matter who they're playing. All the same, I congratulated him for his team, and shortly after I hung up, the deficit had grown to 7-0. I needed to go to bed -- I was exhausted, so after winding down a little more from the United match, turned in, even though I had seen that the Sox had cut the deficit to 7-4. It was only this morning that I learned that the Sox had scored four more runs in the last two innings to pull off the biggest comeback in post-season baseball in nearly 80 years.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I forwarded this nonsensical response by Governor Palin earlier this week.

Note that she gave awful responses to other questions posed by Couric, but while those answers generally demonstrated facile understanding of various issues (indeed, apparently Henry Kissinger is beyond naive on how to engage Iran), the clip I've provided is truly babble, a cacophony of spoon-fed Republican domestic talking points all thrown together in a mishmash.

Later, it dawned on me that her response made about as much sense as it would have if she had given it completely backwards. And it was then that I realized that we needed a new word for such a presentation -- Palindrone.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm a Constitution Voter

So many political things I could say (and so many posts I've started to write but never finished, let alone posted), but here I just want to say that I've signed up on the ACLU's "I'm a Constitution Voter" page (and added a link on my sidebar). It isn't directly election-related, but I think it's important to help send a message to whoever is elected in November that many people find the Bush administration's disregard for the constitution, as well as Congress' unwillingness to confront the administration on this matter, unacceptable.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


A swing in the country looks so inviting. The entire scene could be from a postcard -- the swing is just a chain that hangs from a tree, with a board at the bottom of the loop held in place by two holes. It's a warm sunny day, no wind, one of those beautiful days that seem to appear right after a big storm, and the stream that runs underneath looks so tranquil.

"Emelia should get on it."

"She can't hold on by herself."

"I'll go on with her."

"No, I'll do it."

I sit down and put Emelia on my left hip, keeping my left arm on her. I hold the right side of the chain, Emelia takes the left and holds me with her right hand. I gently push off the ground and swing out over the stream. Back and forth and in circles we swing, never very far or fast, just for the sake of motion. The camera is out trying to capture both of us, but Emelia is frequently looking in the wrong direction. She's enjoying herself, looking back at the tree, the bank of the stream, Kathy smiling at her. An occasional hand comes out and pushes us, but it's never a hard push.

In an instant the board flips to vertical, and down we go into the stream. There's no time to react, it's all instinct keeping the grip with my left hand on Emelia. She never touches the ground, just remains aloft while my other three limbs are in the mud. Emelia starts to cry, but she's physically fine -- she has a couple of red marks from where I hold her tight, but they're gone by the next morning. She's scared, but she gets over it before too long. Soon enough, she's more worried about Daddy, and that he's ok. I reassure her that I'm fine despite my muddy legs. I get a few abrasions and my pinkie's a bit banged up, but she doesn't notice those (and I'm certainly not going to point them out).

We head back, ready to enjoy the rest of the day engaged in safer activities.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I Don't Believe in God

...but if I did, I'd have to feel comforted by the fact that after fundamentalist Christians had prayed for "rain of biblical proportions" to spoil Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC, Hurricane Gustav has wreaked havoc on the RNC.*

* - By no means do I wish to suggest that I'm happy about Hurricane Gustav or the damage it's caused, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate irony.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Luckiest Guy Who's Ever Been Mugged

Yesterday I gave grand jury testimony against the suspects charged with mugging me. I had never been involved with a grand jury until yesterday, and it was a fairly painless process. A grand jury determines whether there is probably cause to indict the defendants, and thereby bring the case to trial. Neither the defendants nor their attorneys are present, which means that I didn't have to face cross examination.

I was there all day, and hung out with the two men who stopped and called 911 for me. I also got to take them out to lunch -- it was the least I could do. In talking to them, I learned that I had an incomplete version of what happened that night. Apparently, when they showed up, they saw my assailants kicking and punching me, repeatedly. One said he initially assumed that he was witnessing a drug deal gone bad, the other thought it looked like they were pounding on a bicycle. I asked the witnesses if they thought my assailants were stopping, or if the assailants only stopped because the witnesses pulled over. Both of them were pretty sure it was the latter, and that the beating would have continued otherwise. One thing I had known but I don't think I've blogged about it -- it turns out that one of the suspects was already awaiting trial for attempted homicide, which involved the use of a gun.

Already I felt pretty relieved that nothing worse happened to me, but now I'm rather astounded at my "good fortune." Reviewing all my lucky breaks:

1. The two witnesses came by when they did to stop the attack. If they had shown up a minute or two earlier, they might only have seen me talking with my assailants. Had they come by a couple of minutes later, I might have been more seriously injured, &/or the assailants would have been long gone.

2. The only thing stolen was my wallet. True, I don't like being out the cash that was in my wallet, and it's a pain to cancel my credit cards and get a new driver's license, but they could have actually used the credit cards, and they could have stolen my car.

3. Despite being beaten, I had no additional broken bones or bruises -- my injuries were consistent enough with being punched out and landing on my left side to support the assumptions I had made about only being punched once and then falling to the ground (though the amount of abrasions on my left side did seem to be a little more than I would have expected).

4. I have no memory of the beating. I don't know whether it's because I blocked it out, or that I was rendered unconscious with the first punch, but whichever it is, I don't think there's any benefit to have that trauma be part of my memory (other than a generalized desire to have my memories intact).

5. The police were out in massive force that night, enabling a fast response to the 911 call, and the arrest of the two suspects.

6. It appears that I'll have no permanent injuries, and if I do, they will be comparatively minor. All that's lingering (beyond another month or so for the two broken bones to completely finish healing) is some numbness in three teeth due to the damaged nerve. All the feeling in the other numbed teeth has returned. One of the three feels 90% of the way back, and the other two are well over 50% of the way back. There's a very good chance that all feeling will return.

At the moment, the trial is scheduled for the start of October, which seems pretty quick to me, being only three months after the attack. I'm a little nervous about having to testify, but regardless, I'm happy that it'll be so soon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sisyphus was an Environmentalist

I came out of L'Enfant Plaza under the overpass, and as I approached the street I saw three plastic bags, the smiley face with "Have a Nice Day" on it. Unused, just lying there, probably from a roll of them. I started to go past them, but I couldn't, so I doubled back and picked them up. Got to the street and as soon as I took a left, I saw two more bags, so I bent over and picked them up as well. Walked a little further and saw about two dozen of them against a construction fence, just cursed and walked by.

At day's end, I did pick up another bag that was still lying there, but most of the others were out of reach, on the other side of that construction fence.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Maine Vignette No. 4

A Milestone Reached

Brief naps after the wedding on Friday provide insufficient rest after Thursday night's drama, so we head to bed fairly early, especially knowing we want to hit the road early the next morning. Unfortunately, around 11pm, Emelia is back up complaining of a tummy ache, crying out "Poopy!" just as she did the night before. Her cries don't reach the level that they did the previous night, but all the same, it takes over two hours for her to start feeling better. A little after 1am, she asks for some milk, so I get up to prepare some for her. As the milk is warming, she gets up out of the bed where she's been lying next to Kathy, and starts playing in the kitchen. When the milk is ready, she drinks it all up, and seems quite content.

Then I tell her it's time for bed, and she starts screaming. She continues to cry when I put her back in her crib, and she even screams. As tired as I feel, I figure I might be able to sleep through the noise. She cries out, "Mommy!" several times, and gets no response. Then she cries out "Up Please!" but no one gets her. Then she cries, "Poopy!" several times, and Kathy gets up.

"Put her down!" I hiss. "Don't you see what she's doing?"

There's a pause, and Kathy puts her back down. Kathy wants to comfort her baby, and she can't be sure that she isn't genuinely hurt. I'm figuring it's manipulation pure and simple, but even if it isn't -- we can't stop the hurt, but sleep can. The screams return, but within 20 minutes she's sound asleep, and shortly after that we are too.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I am not a Vegetarian

Almost three months ago, Kathy and I decided to try becoming vegetarians, primarily for the reason that it's better for the environment. In the time since then, we haven't bought any meat for home consumption. We've still eaten some meat at home -- we weren't going to throw out the meat in the freezer or pantry, but the supply there is dwindling (and it's not like there was that much to begin with). We're learning as we go -- we've found a veggie burger that we both like, Kathy is experimenting with all sort of new grains (quinoa being the one she's used the most, but tonight she offered up a stew with amaranth, "forbidden rice," millet, and wheat berries in addition to corn, white rice, and quinoa), and we're both cooking some with tofu (Kathy more than me) .

Also generally speaking, we haven't ordered meat when eating out. Some of our favorite cuisines -- Thai, Pakistani/Indian, Vietnamese, and of course pizza -- provide ample vegetarian alternatives, so we've had no trouble on that end. We've had Turkish/Lebanese a couple of times, and found lots of vegetarian mezza. About the only time we've been eating meat other than finishing up our supply at home is when we've been traveling. Our trips to Hilton Head and Maine included meat consumption, as did our stints in Connecticut. In the case of the former, it would have been difficult to do so when we were in a house full of meat eaters and we were eating communally (similar when we were with Connecticut). In the case of Maine, there weren't many options available to us, particularly given that our kitchen was essentially unusable. Plus, when they're offering up Maine lobster at the wedding, it would have been hard to say no.

At this point, our approach is that we're not hard-core vegetarians, and we don't want to inconvenience others, and, to a lesser extent, ourselves. So although we don't consider ourselves vegetarians, we're eating a tiny fraction of the meat we used to.

Little steps.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Maine Vignette No. 3

Kilts on Parade

Tom ordered a kilt to wear for his wedding. When it arrived a couple of weeks before we drove to Maine, he and Anna dropped by with him wearing it, and Kathy thought I'd look good in one. So she immediately ordered one for me. Anna and Tom were being married by a Cecil, a friend of theirs, so they ordered him one. And Tom's best friend Troy had to get one.

When we got up there, Gene saw Troy wearing his when we went out on Sunday night and thought he should get one. Then he promptly forgot about it. Until Tuesday night. Wednesday he ordered a kilt, and they were able to overnight it from Seattle to the little coastal town in Maine where we were.

So the five of us wore kilts for the wedding.

Cecil, Troy, Tom, Gene, and Me

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maine Vignette No. 2

The Sound and the Sulfury

Two picturesque cottages, very small, each with a bedroom/living room and a small kitchen, and that's about it. Across the street from the only sand beach in the area, beautiful view. Available for the week of the wedding, so we get them, taking one of the cottages for ourselves and leaving the other one for another couple up for the wedding. The fact that dogs are allowed lets us bring Nora and Junebug with us, something they would certainly enjoy.

The night before we head north, I work out the details of our arrival with the owner's son, at which point he informs me that the well water isn't drinkable, and that as a courtesy he's sticking a couple of gallons of bottled water in each refrigerator. It doesn't fully sink in what that means until we arrive. The word of the week is Spartan, as in, we have Spartan accommodations. The water reeks of sulfur, and the iron in it causes it to be brown sometimes. Kathy reluctantly showers in it, and despises that we have to wash Emelia's bottles in it. We don't cook with it, partly due to health fears, but equally because the tiny kitchen isn't meant for cooking. It allows for little more than heating frozen pizzas. Among other defects, the sink is very shallow, and leaks around its edges. The cottages are in a beautiful location, to be sure, and hanging out on the deck or by the fire pit is quite lovely. All the same, the interior makes for a trying week.

Word to the wise -- never rent a place that doesn't show its interior among the photos. And a request for anyone who rents out a house -- you really should disclose in your ad if your accommodations don't provide drinkable water.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Maine Vignette No. 1

A Long Night

Tom and Anna's wedding is Friday morning at 10:30am, and Anna has asked Kathy to come over around 9. Emelia woke up crying Thursday evening at 11pm, saying "Poopy" over and over again. Her stomach hurts, and there's nothing we can do for her except comfort her. Kathy does this for a few hours, but as time passes the intensity of Emelia's cries increases, to the point that as the waves of pain hit her, she's screaming "Poopy Poopy Poopy!" and writhing on the bed next to Kathy, grabbing her crotch in extreme distress. We have no medication for stomach aches, no house phone, no signal for our cell phones, and no hospital or emergency clinic within 30 minutes of us. At 2am, Kathy says we have to do something, so we get dressed and go out to the car, in the wind and moderately fierce rain, and drive several minutes until we get a cell signal. I pull over and call my father, the retired pediatrician, seeking his advice. He says to go to the emergency room, because if she's constipated, they'll be able to help. We drive into the nearest real town, searching for a hospital, not at all sure where one might be located. We go past the pharmacy and grocery store, where we hoped to find some sort of medication to provide relief, but they're both closed. Meanwhile, Emelia seems to be doing ok, her cries have evaporated and we consider simply driving back. Dad calls and says that if she's constipated, the problem will return unless we get it removed. So we follow the blue signs with the "H" until, on the far side of town, we find a hospital.

I'm struck by the contrast of my trip to the emergency room, not even four weeks earlier -- the emptiness of the facility, and the immediate response to our arrival. An intake receptionist gets our insurance info. As soon as she's done that, a nurse gets Emelia's vital signs and asks for a description. She then escorts us to a room, and five minutes later, a doctor arrives and examines Emelia. He feels her stomach and declares that Emelia has a lot of gas, and orders X-rays to confirm his diagnosis. Within minutes we head to radiology, which shortly thereafter confirms the doctor's diagnosis that Emelia has a lot of gas. The doctor sends us home with suppositories. Emelia falls asleep on the drive back, and she doesn't awake when we get back to our cottage -- thus, she doesn't even get her medicine. It's 5am, and we climb back in bed, determined to get a couple of hours of sleep before the day begins.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In the Wake of the FISA Rollover

Is it really any wonder that Congress is polling at its lowest levels ever, with Democrats rating it lower than Republicans despite both the House and Senate being in the control of the Democrats?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Long Overdue Experience

Kathy and I have been together for over ten years (married over nine), and never in that time had we gone camping together. About six years ago we even bought a tent, having the best of intentions. About three years ago, we made tentative plans to go camping with friends, but it didn't happen. Tom and Anna have asked us a few times to join them, and we never had. Finally this past weekend, we went camping with a group of beer-loving folk in the general area.

Initially we had planned to bring the dogs with us, but given all that we'd be bringing, we decided there really wasn't space for them in the car, so we reluctantly decided to leave them home (the fact that we're bringing them on a one-week vacation starting this upcoming weekend made it an easier decision to make).

We shared a site with our friends Margie and Chris, two veteran campers who drove up from around Raleigh to hang with us for the weekend. They tended to the fire, but otherwise I think we carried our weight at the site. We didn't need them to help set up our tent or anything, and in fact we pretty much took care of our stuff just fine. We didn't do anything too adventurous with the food, but hey -- it was our first time. At least we got a better sense of what would work and what wouldn't.

Emelia had a good time even though she was the only kid there. She enjoyed a nature show on owls (when the ranger asked what she was holding, before the ranger called on one of the kids with their hands up, Emelia called out, "Owl"), and we had to caution her not to go up to the multitude of deer at the campground. Many of the adults we were with were happy to engage Emelia in conversation, and she was delighted with all the attention. Our one hike with her was when we were leaving today -- we learned about a 1.6-mile hike that would take us to a great mountain view. Good thing we sought a short hike, because Emelia wasn't interested in walking any. Kathy carried Emelia on her back for about 2/3 of the way, and I carried her all but about 50 feet of the rest of the way. Getting Emelia to walk even that far was a rather arduous process, largely because she was overtired.

For the weekend, she slept way less than she normally does, and we spent too much time trying to get her to sleep. She finally went down around 11pm on Friday night, compared with her roughly 7:15 bedtime at home (tonight she was asleep before 7 given how tired she is). Between all the stimulation, the altogether new environment, and being asked to sleep in a tent for the first time, I suppose it's no surprise she had trouble. Saturday she fell asleep for her nap while being carried on Kathy's back, but even then it was only for about an hour (compared with 2+ at home). That night she got to sleep at around 9pm, after screaming herself beyond exhaustion. The people across from us (not in our group) said we reminded them of themselves twenty years earlier when their kids would do the same thing. They learned to let the kids stay up while camping, that they'd eventually exhaust themselves and in the meantime, the adults shouldn't ruin their time worrying about the kids getting enough sleep. I think it's advice we might follow next time.

And yes, I said next time -- both Kathy and I enjoyed ourselves enough that we'd like to go camping again, even regularly. I'm not sure we'll reach "regularly," but I feel confident that the next time will be sooner than ten years from now.

* * * * *

Before I end this post, I just wanted to comment on the obvious, that the birth of Emelia has made travel quite a bit more complicated. There are so many things that go into planning and prepping a trip with a small child that aren't an issue when the travelers are self-sufficient adults. Despite this change, my trip planning essentially hasn't changed a bit -- I take care of myself, and leave Kathy with having to take care of Emelia as well as herself. Part of this is due to the fact that Kathy is home with Emelia on Thursday and Friday, when most trip prep happens, but it's also because I'm lazy about this aspect of parenting. Kathy occasionally grumbles about this (justifiably), but generally does it graciously, and always does it splendidly. So I wanted to take this corner of this blogpost to publicly acknowledge all she does to make travel great. The fact that she's mostly a homebody who'd just as soon hang out at home for leisure, while I'm the one who would travel more if time and money allowed it, makes what she does all the more wonderful. This is just one more reason why I consider myself a very lucky man. Thank you Kathy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Confronting Fear

Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around
and I'll keep this world from draggin' me down
gonna stand my ground and I won't back down
-- Tom Petty, "I Won't Back Down"

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down
-- Chumbawamba, "Tub Thumping"

I went out to a beer tasting last night, back in Takoma Park. I didn't drive, because I haven't gotten my replacement license yet since the last one was stolen. So I took the Metro, which meant I walked home alone across Capitol Hill at 11:30 at night. It was a walk I'd taken many times before, but it has at least a small element of risk, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious covering that ground at night for the first time post-mugging. Even as I set out at the start of the evening, I kept thinking about the late-night walk that would be there for me at the end. I felt that the walk was necessary, to put myself back into what I consider a normal part of life -- life's too short to live in fear.

Two songs kept running through my head as I took the 20-minute walk, along with memories of my pounding heart in that pitch dark garden in Prague.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Just a Number

Today Emelia turned 20 months, while I hit a milestone 24 times that. It's funny to think of it in those terms, that I'm exactly 24 times older than my daughter, so that if I have lived the equivalent of a day in some epochal scale, she's been here for only an hour of it.

Our nanny is taking the week off, and today I have the joy of being the one to stay home with Emelia. I think it's the first time I've done so since I was on paternity leave, in what seems like a lifetime ago. Right now she's upstairs supposed to be taking a nap. She's certainly tired enough, but stubbornness seems to be prevailing.

It's been over a week since the attack. I'm off the pain meds and antibiotics. Feeling has started to return in the area of my mouth that was numb, and I can eat most things at this point, so long as I do the bulk of the chewing on the right side of my mouth. My elbow turned out to have a foreign body in it. When I accidentally banged it yet again on Wednesday evening, the scab came off and whatever was in there (gravel?) came out as well -- only a small scab is there now, and there's no swelling or pain. My face still has some black and purple around the eye, but there too the swelling is gone. The bad guys are still being held, and I have learned that at the time of my attack, one of them had been awaiting a trial for a shooting. It makes me glad that I went down with only one hit.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday Update

First off, I want to say thanks to everyone who's offered their support while this has been going on. It means a lot to me that so many people have commented or written to me. Other than that:
  • The swelling has gone down in my face, which means that I look somewhat better than I did in this photo, taken yesterday evening.

  • I went to the oral surgeon yesterday. He examined me, and said that my face should heal ok without any surgery. I asked him about the fact that I can't feel the upper left quadrant of my teeth, and was told that it could take up to three months before feeling is fully restored, but that it's very likely that it will in fact come back. Beyond that he recommended soft food for the next couple of weeks (given how much chewing hurts right now, I was able to figure that one out on my own).
  • I had a nasty scrape on my left elbow that the ER doctors didn't even give a second glance. Now it's swollen, red, very tender, and warm, so I made an appointment for tomorrow to see an orthopedic surgeon.
  • Yesterday the suspects made their initial appearance in court. The U.S. Attorney's Office was going to ask that bail be denied, but I have yet to hear what happened.
  • I went into work today, and though I got a bit tired at times, I made it though the whole day, and didn't feel strained in doing so.
  • Several people have asked about my mental state after this. One person assumed that I was terrified in the wake of what happened, but I'm not. I'm not sure why I haven't gotten freaked out by this, maybe it's because I hardly experienced the event. One painful hit, and I was out. All I've been left with is the aftermath, which is at times painful and always a PITA, but not really frightening. Mostly, my emotional state has been that of relief -- relief that witnesses passed by at the right time and called 911, relief that my injuries aren't life threatening and don't appear to be permanent or even particularly serious, and relief that they only got my wallet when my car and various other possessions were ready for the taking. All the same, it's been less than 72 hours since I was attacked, so it's possible my take on what happened will change. As of now, however, the only thing that makes me a little frightened is the fact that the suspects have my name and address.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Morning Update

Yesterday morning I slept for a couple of hours, then was up for the remainder of the day. Over the course of the afternoon and evening, I spoke to a lot of people, reassuring them that I was doing ok. I also hung oustide with Tom and Anna. In truth, I felt ok. There were lots of aches and soreness, but thanks to the pain meds, no genuine pain. Over the course of the day, the left side of my face swelled up considerably, my left eye turned black (above broken bone #1), and the left side of my face turned red (location of broken bone #2). My jaws hurt a fair amount, and my bite didn't seem aligned (it still doesn't -- I'm hopeful that when the swelling subsides it'll be ok, but I don't know). It also hurt quite a bit to chew (even eating a Klondike Bar hurt), so I ate mostly liquids (Kathy made a several soups and bought a lot of yogurt). I gave some consideration about going into work today, but figured it'd probably be a bad idea.

This morning when I awoke I had no doubt about going into work. The pain medication had worn off during the night, and I was in a lot of pain. It usually takes me about 36-48 hours for an injury to reach its peak discomfort, and I seem to be moving along those lines. At the ER, I didn't get any ibuprofen until six hours after getting mugged, and while I was sore, it felt pretty tame to how I felt this morning. Fortunately, now that I've taken my pill and it's had a chance to take effect, I'm back to "moderate discomfort."

So today I'll take it easy for the most part, set up a couple of doctors' appointments, look into a new driver's license, etc. I'm somewhat restricted in what I can do in that I need my new bank card and credit card to arrive (somehow I remembered the phone number of my bank while I was waiting around in the ER, so I canceled them then).

I'm looking forward to 48 hours from now, when I should have already started feeling better.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Very Rough Night

I left the beer tasting around 12:30, having stopped drinking over 90 minutes earlier. I headed home, and had made it most of the 20-minute drive, when I got to a stop sign and saw two kids (late teens?) on bicycles pop out, one right in front of me. As for the other, I heard a bump toward the back of the car, and down he went. The guy in front tried to open my door to get me to come out for his friend, but I stopped him, then foolishly parked my car and got out to assess damage. The guy in front talked with me some and then the other one came over and accused me of hitting him. I said I didn't, and asked him how I could have done so with anything other than the front of the car. He asked if I was calling him a liar, and I said no, I was asking how it could be, that's all. Suddenly he punched me hard in the face, and I must have passed out briefly, because I don't remember them taking my wallet. A car pulled up and checked on me, and called 911. The cops showed up right away, several cars worth, and they pursued the bicyclists. They nabbed a couple of suspects, and I was able to identify one, but I wasn't as sure on the other, the one who actually decked me. Other than my wallet, nothing appeared missing.

An ambulance offered to take me to the hospital, and I took a little while to decide, before concluding that my jaw hurt too much to just go home. So after a three hour wait I finally got to see a doctor, and another couple of hours later they did a CAT Scan on me. They discovered two broken bones on my face, one on the side of the face and the other the lower part of the eye socket. Pain meds, antibiotics, opthamologist, oral surgeon, and not blowing my nose for six weeks await me. Again, all told it could have been worse (more damage to me, more stuff stolen), and I'm not nearly as depressed about it as perhaps I should be. Then again, I had several hours to get used to the whole thing -- when I told Kathy about it this morning, she was completely stressed, worried, freaked, and apologetic. It's not easy to feel helpless on behalf of someone you love. Right now she's at the pharmacist getting my meds, and once she gets back and I take some, I'm finally going to sleep. Sadly, no DC United game for me today.

Depending on how coherent this sounds when I wake up I may revise this, but I figured I'd get the news out for those who want to know.

Friday, June 27, 2008

From the League of You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Apologies for another political post so soon after the last one, but after that downer, I needed a laugh:

Just this week, a group of Republican senators re-introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, which, as we know, would ban gay marriage.

And once again, the language is pretty straightforward:

Section 1. This article may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment’.

Section 2. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.’.

This isn’t especially surprising. Republicans are looking at the political landscape, and they’re feeling awfully discouraged. The polls look bad, the base looks depressed, and fundraising looks iffy. Rallying the far-right troops with an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution — even though it has no chance at even getting so much as a hearing — might be helpful to the conservative movement.

But the funny part is looking over the list of the 10 original sponsors. Most of the names are predictable — Brownback and Inhofe, for example — but there are two others whose names stand out: Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

Yes, two of the principal sponsors of a constitutional amendment to “protect” marriage include one far-right Republican who hired prostitutes and another far-right Republican who was arrested for soliciting gay sex an airport men’s room.

As my friend Kyle put it, these two are “not exactly the poster boys of the family values crowd or particularly upstanding examples of the supposed sanctity of the ‘union of a man and a woman.”‘


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why, Obama? It Matters!

Upon returning home on Sunday, I discovered that not only had the wretched FISA bill passed the House, but that Obama has come out in support of it.* I came up with four possible reasons why Obama might have done this:
1. With the nomination secured, he figures that he has to "move to the center."
2. He felt the bill's passage is inevitable, and decided that it would look bad to support a loser.
3. His earlier rhetoric wasn't genuine, but merely a way to win support.
4. He expects to be president, so isn't concerned about abuse of executive power.

Needless to say, I find none of these reasons, alone or in combination, a sufficient basis for his change of heart. I'm not going to name all the things wrong with the bill (it goes far beyond the telecom immunity feature); rather, I encourage people to read Senator Feingold's summary analysis of the bill's shortcomings, as well as Glenn Greenwald's excellent series of posts on the subject. Suffice it to say that overnight my support of Obama went from solid to tepid, and that any earlier interest in contributing to his campaign has evaporated. I know that no politician is perfect, and also that Obama is not and never has been a progressive, no matter the efforts underway to label him as ultra liberal, so maybe I shouldn't be so disappointed. All the same, one of the principal reasons I favored Obama over Clinton was a belief that he "gets" the importance of civil liberties, to me one of the most important issues there is, and the protection of which should, and occasionally does, cross political lines. Now I find that he doesn't get it, and doesn't see that this is one of the principles and positions over which one should not cave.

Given that I live in DC, it's easy to vote my conscience in the general election, because no matter what I do, the Democrat will garner over 80% of the vote -- I need not fear that my vote will enable "the greater of two evils" to claim the White House. Given that I have that luxury, I need to re-examine whether I want to vote for him, because his position here suggests that he isn't the candidate I thought he was.

[Update]Unlike Obama, Senator Dodd "gets it."
* - I consider his statement that he will try to get telecom immunity taken from the bill to be worthless -- he has stated that he supports the bill (and presumably will vote for it), not that he won't support it unless telecom immunity is removed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Weekend in Five

1. We went to Minnesota this past weekend to attend Kathy's 15th college reunion. Kathy went to Carleton, a small liberal arts college roughly 40 minutes from Minneapolis, which Kathy's Mom also attended. We had a great time -- I'd met a decent number of her classmates over the years, and enjoyed hanging out with both them and the ones I met this weekend. We got into Minneapolis in the late afternoon (note to self -- when flying with Emelia, it's worth booking the direct flight over the connecting one, even if it costs a little extra or we have to schlep to Dulles), which gave us enough time to check into the hotel we'd reserved right by the airport and grab a bite before it was time for Emelia to go to sleep. I have to say that most of the time, Hotwire is the best option for reserving hotels. We ended up in a lovely suite that included a better-than-average complementary breakfast for less than $60 including taxes.

2. After Emelia went to sleep Thursday evening, my friend Dan picked me up and we hit a couple of beer bars -- the selections were a bit disappointing, as not much new was available. During the evening, Dan apologized for forgetting a can of Surly Bitter Brewer that he'd intended to bring, and encouraged me to hit a beer store on my way out of town to grab some of my own (Surly is only a couple of years old, but arguably is the best brewery in town. It also provided a great private tour as part of last year's RateBeer Summer Gathering). I told him that we'd be heading out early in the morning, long before the beer stores would be open. I was, after all, in town to attend Kathy's reunion, and the fact that I was even able to get with Dan was a bit of a bonus. Apparently, having such a healthy attitude was something that the Beer Gods smiled upon, for that afternoon, when we were hanging out with Kathy's classmates and the alcohol began flowing, someone walked by with a mixed case of Surly products, including Bitter Brewer. I asked him what the deal was, and learned that one of Kathy's classmates is married to the founder of Surly, and that she was providing a few cases for the event. The fact that I since discovered that I had already rated it doesn't bother me in the least, as I enjoyed it there, along with the other three Surly beers that were in the cooler.

3. Out of a recognition of the noise that would be created by partying alumni, the rooms for the alums with children were on the top floor of the dorm we stayed in, the fourth floor. I know they meant well, but the fourth floor was a bit of a haul to bring all of Emelia's accouterments (including the portable crib), seeing as how there were no elevators. Plus it was a bit of a haul if you wanted to hang with folks while a child napped, but still wanted to check on her on occasion. And it was warm -- being part of a relatively junior class, we weren't in a dorm with A/C, and the sun beat down upon the very windowed rooms all day long (and heat rises). It cooled down at night, but it was tough for Emelia to fall asleep for her nap, and even harder to do so in the evening while the room at its peak temperature. Friday night, Emelia wouldn't go to sleep, and Kathy finally brought her downstairs around 9pm. After a little time in the relative cool, we went back upstairs to try to get her to sleep. Our efforts before 10pm came to naught, as it was then that the fireworks began, seemingly right next to the building. Emelia wasn't too scared (I calmed her down pretty easily when she started to stress), but she certainly wasn't going to sleep right then. Finally at around 10:30, only ~4 hours later than usual, Emelia fell asleep for the night (she usually goes to sleep just after 7:30, but Minneapolis is one hour behind DC).

4. On Saturday, one of the activities was a porch party at the house of a couple from her class that own a house just two of blocks from campus. They have kids, and there were plenty of toys to keep Emelia occupied. She was mostly exploring the toys by herself, and while many kept her interest during the time we were there, Emelia eventually settled on a few dolls with a stroller. As is her wont with dolls, she was transfixed, particularly with an anatomically correct boy doll. At one point I explained to her that these were dolls to play with while she was there and that she'd have leave them, but I didn't have much hope that she fully understood what I was saying. And indeed, when it was time to go, she let loose the loudest series of shrieks I'd ever heard pass her lips. Ah well, these things happen I suppose, but Kathy felt pretty embarrassed (I mostly tried to suppress my laughter).

Emelia was fully over it by the time we were about a block from dinner. From that distance we saw Shizuka and Kazumi -- Emelia shouted, "Kaz," and Kaz shouted, "Melia!" Well, Kaz did that at first, but pretty quickly she noticed that we were walking with Greg (classmate to Shizuka and Kathy), and she started shouting, "Greg!" After the mothers put their daughters down, what ensued was the classic movie scene parody, with the two of them running toward each other, followed by Kaz running right past Emelia to greet Greg.

5. Carleton doesn't just recycle, it composts. At meals, pretty much everything except the metallic butter wrappers went into the compost bin, including, when we ate outside, the "plastic" (corn or potato) utensils and cups. Kathy and I thought it was fantastic, and when I got back home, I discovered that Carleton has a host of significant green initiatives. I know colleges and universities are usually at the forefront of such efforts, but it makes us wonder how soon such efforts will become mainstream.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Things That Got Me Thinking in the Last 24 Hours

In other news, on Sunday I started with a stomach bug, and for the next 60 hours I hardly ate (I'm still eating much less than I was pre-bug, and am only just now starting to add dairy back to my diet (beer yet to be reintroduced)). On Monday evening the cold Kathy and Emelia were suffering started hitting me. Yesterday I felt miserable but went into work largely for an important meeting with an outside group (said meeting lasted all of 15 minutes and didn't cover anything new). As of today, Kathy and Emelia seem to be recovered, and while I'm feeling mostly better, I lost my voice this afternoon. We head to Minnesota tomorrow to attend Kathy's college reunion, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll be smooth sailing healthwise by then.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trip Photos

Enough chit chat -- here are some photos of Emelia from our week at the beach.

Emelia and the Heron

Emelia with her cousins Lauren and Leynie

Emelia feeding her younger (by three months) cousin Luke

Emelia engaged in her favorite activity (playing with water)

The little nudist

Emelia swimming with Kathy and me

Sunday, June 15, 2008


For the week vacation in Hilton Head with the family, we were going to take a direct flight from National to Savannah, and drive the ~1 hour from there. Six weeks before our flight, US Airways notified us that they were stopping their morning direct flights, and so we decided it would be better to switch to a flight into Hilton Head -- if we needed to take a connection, why keep the drive as well?

The last couple of times we've flown, we've gotten Emelia her own seat, even though she's eligible to be a lap baby until she turns two. She doesn't sit still, and it's gotten too difficult to keep her on a lap the whole way. On the flight from Charlotte to Hilton Head, they weren't able to seat the three of us near each other (only 2 passengers per side anyhow), so Kathy and Emelia sat in the back row, with Emelia alternating between Kathy's lap and the seat. It was 95 degrees outside, the air conditioning in the plane hardly worked, and the plane wasn't a jet -- it was a prop plane, a Dash 8, something that only added to Kathy's queasiness.

On the way back, we also were on a Dash 8 into Charlotte, but at least it was a newer (and more comfortable) plane, the A/C worked, and we were able to sit across from each other. Also, no one was in the seat next to me, so we passed Emelia back and forth throughout the flight to keep her fairly content, though she was unable to settle down enough to sleep despite the flight being during her nap time. Our flight to DCA was in a small jet, again 2 passengers per side, and again the seat next to me was unoccupied. Emelia's fussiness increased as her exhaustion did, but did ok all things considered -- naturally, she only fell asleep while we were landing on the second flight, and woke up soon thereafter with all the motion that followed upon landing.

Unfortunately, our luggage didn't accompany us on our flight home, as none of our three bags were on the conveyor belt when we got to baggage claim. Rather than wait for the next flight, to see if the bags made it, we went home and waited. And waited. And waited. I called and was told our bags would make it to us between 8:30 and 11:30. We never received a phone call telling us that they wouldn't be delivered, and Kathy stayed up later than the supposed window waiting for the bags that never came. I called in the morning, and they stated that the bags would show up some time after eight. When they showed up, I looked for my toiletry case so I could take a shower. It wasn't in either of the bags (bag #3 was Emelia's car seat), and when I asked Kathy, she remembered that she had put it in the carry-on suitcase that we hadn't bothered to unpack yet. In other words, we unintentionally defied TSA regulations that prohibit carrying on containers larger than 3 ounces, carrying toiletries when they aren't in a one-quart clear plastic bag, and not separating them out for inspection when we went through security. And despite this, we got through security wholly unimpeded.

Given how much inconvenience these rules create (and it's only getting worse with airlines deciding to charge for even the first checked bag), I'd at least appreciate it if TSA enforces these supposedly necessary rules. The fact that they aren't, or are doing so haphazardly, pisses me off even more than the rules being there in the first place, seeing as how we're left with inconvenience without enhanced security.

Our next flights are coming up this weekend, for Kathy's college reunion out in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, these aren't direct flights either. As for Hilton Head, the folks decided they liked it so much that they booked a house down there for next year's family vacation as well. As of now, we plan on driving the 10 hours.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Thoughts on Watching a Sunrise at the Beach

Some moments are meant to be savored for themselves and not put on film, for the act of photographing hinders one's ability to experience, to "live," the moment. In other words, rather than fully engaging one's self in the moment, the photographer is diverting his or her attention to the act to capturing the moment. Given that the purpose of taking a photograph is to share a moment with others, including not just the subject of the photo, friends, family, and relative strangers, but also one's future self, there is something sadly ironic about the very act of sharing that moment preventing the photographer from ever actually living in that moment.

Today marks the end of a week at the beach with my parents, my siblings, and their families. I did not take a single picture of a sunrise during our stay.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Maybe You're Wondering

This girl of ours, about two weeks shy of turning 18 months old, continues to amaze us. We estimate her vocabulary at well over 200 words, and she's starting to use possessive, i.e., "Mommy's keys," "Daddy's socks," and yes, even "Melia's shoes." We figure sentences aren't too far off, but it's not like we have experience with such things.

Last week she pointed out the moon before it was dark out, which i thought was pretty cool given that all her picture books would have shown the moon at night. Her favorite word at the moment is "again" -- yes, she's started the long stage of wanting to have things repeated. Mostly it's reading a book to her several times in a row, which, given how many times we've read all her books already and how short many of her books are, can be pretty tedious. Speaking of reading, she constantly wants to be read to, handing us books aplenty whenever we're inside. Not that she always sits through the reading of them. She walks and runs and, well, never seems to stop for as long as she's awake. Typical I suppose, but for a first-time parent, so exciting to experience with her. She tends to run off in the direction opposite of where we want her to go. Fortunately, she's not yet that fast.

As for manners, she's getting good about saying please ("peas"), and when she forgets, she follows our prompting pretty well. It seems that she understands the word to mean "I want X," which at one level sounds about right for a toddler, but in another way I guess that really is how it's used. "Thank you" ("dan-q") is a little more erratic right now, but she does use it, particularly when prompted. She also has started saying "Bless you" when someone sneezes, something she obviously learned from her Nanny. Kathy sneezes a bunch, and years ago I started saying "Gesundheit," "Labriot," and "Salute" in addition to "Bless you," and Emelia shows no inclination to adding those other sneeze responses.

Last weekend we bought her a doll at a neighborhood yardsale-- she's been grabbing other children's dolls at the park (and being unwilling to give them back), so we figured we should. Despite the stereotype of a girl having a doll, we didn't push this in the slightest. We got it because it was obvious that Emelia wanted one. Emelia named her doll Ogga -- Kathy and I disagree on how it should be spelled, but since I'm the one with the blog, I'm putting it in writing first. ;) Ogga has some purple marker on the side of her face (though after Kathy's ministrations, it's not as severe as when we bought it), but as one might expect, this isn't a problem to Emelia -- she absolutely adores Ogga.

Emelia is fascinated with water, and constantly asks us for some just so she can play with it. We have a metal sugar bowl with two handles that she asks us to put water in -- sometimes she drinks during the course of playing with it, and sometimes it ends in a mess. But even then, it's only water. She also really enjoys drawing, whether on her magnetic board or with markers on a white board at her little table.

Of course, despite our best efforts, she's not always fun. She often will cry as soon as she doesn't get her way. The crying has an instantaneous "off" switch too, so that she'll stop all at once if something else gets her attention (or if we're foolish enough to give into a demand/request that we had already said no to). In fact, she's much more likely to cry over not getting her way than she is when she falls -- she's a tough little cookie. She continues to test us, intentionally or otherwise -- she's been taking off her clothes, and her diaper, when she's in her crib. She hasn't done it in about a week, so we hope she's past this stage (we haven't entirely relied on her to be done with it-- Kathy bought onesies that we put Emelia in when she goes to bed, and so far she's hasn't taken one of those off (but we're sure that's only temporary)). Still, on the balance there are a lot more laughs and smiles than there are groans and instances of "Here, you take her!"

She certainly has enriched our lives.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Another Depressing Facet of the Iraq War

I don't watch TV much these days, but I wouldn't be surprised if the big story in today's New York Times doesn't generate much attention in any of the television news programs. I didn't see any mention of it on's front page (but there is of a car used in the latest James Bond movie plunging into a lake), or's (though a bully apparently tried to poison a student with peanuts), or (an Indiana woman turned 115), or (same bullying piece as CBS). Only's site acknowledges it. Given that the article can be read as completely undermining the various networks' (and many other news source's) coverage of the Iraq War, I suppose it's no surprise. At the same time, it's appalling that they fail to acknowledge the report, or what it means.

Thus, in case you missed it, this article reports on the fact that the "military experts," those retired officers who have been providing the bulk of the analysis of the Iraq War, from the lead up to present day, were routinely briefed and prepped by the Pentagon in order to get out the message that the Pentagon wanted to express. Moreover, most of them work for defense contractors and thus have an interest in currying favor from the Pentagon. The article provides numerous examples where an officer believed the Pentagon's position didn't hold up, but where he nevertheless elected not to reveal his doubts or concerns when given a public opportunity to do so. I could quote the article extensively, but I recommend that you read the whole damning thing, even though it's rather long.

I wish I could say that I was surprised to learn this, but really I wasn't. It greatly saddens me that the invasion and subsequent disaster in Iraq could have been avoided if these officers had spoken up when they had concerns, that they had no qualms about allowing themselves to serve the Pentagon rather than the American public, and that the news media that plays a role in forming public opinion failed to address the conflicts of interest before giving these retired officers a platform to shape public opinion. What could sadden me even more is if the networks' failure to acknowledge what has happened, or their role in it, leads to future such happenings. For this reason, I encourage everyone to get the word out to those who get their news from the very cause of the problem.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It Could Be Worse

Yesterday Emelia got sick -- runny nose, watery eyes, and very fussy. She went to sleep around 6pm, and other than a brief time up around 1am, slept until about 6:30 this morning. There's no fever, and she was able to be with the nanny for the day (our approach with the other family is that unless they're really sick, no problem). Truth is, we're starting to think that it's strictly allergies. So it could be worse.

Like with Nora, who started having diarrhea on Saturday night and really hasn't stopped since -- very messy (and stinky), lots of cleaning up, and a sad little dog. We started her on a rice and turkey diet last night, and there was no mess when I got home tonight. So it could be worse.

Like with Junebug. We came home from being at the playground with Emelia yesterday to find that the dogs had gotten into Kathy's purse and opened up a plastic container of raisins – about one cup was consumed. My sister having sent us one of those "Warning" e-mails on this very subject last week, we called the vet, who said to bring them both in immediately. They had their stomachs emptied, and it turned out that Junebug had eaten them all. Because of their toxicity, however, even the limited time they were being digested in her stomach could be fatal, so she's staying at the vet hospital for observation, tests, and IV fluids for 48 hours. She gave us quite a scare, but she'll probably be ok (so far the tests have been fine). And it's certainly better that Nora didn't eat any, and so doesn't have to stay for observation as well (for Nora as well as our bank account). So it could be worse.

Besides, this is a great excuse to offer up appropriate musical accompaniment (and a belated wish of a Happy Easter to those out there who observed it):

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Battery Recharge

We, along with our friends Tom and Anna, went to the Outer Banks last week, and while no, the water wasn't warm enough to go swimming (not that we expected it to be), we greatly enjoyed the pleasant weather and peace. Our house was on the ocean, was dog friendly, and had a hot tub. Emelia had a great time, enjoying filling her bucket with sand and collecting shells, as well as bike rides and a whole lot of running around.

This is the first of three weeks we'll be spending at the Atlantic Ocean this year -- my family's vacation is in Hilton Head in June, and then we return to Maine for Tom and Anna's wedding in July.

So she's shoveling sand with the sifter -- she's only 16 months old, what do you want?!

Sunrise (View from the Deck)


The VA-NC Border
The beaches have a fence between them, presumably because the Virginia side is a state park. Still getting used to the camera, and I overexposed this one. All the same, I like the effect.

Running Crazy

Currituck Lighthouse

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Feeding Frenzies & Fast Footsteps

I think these two photos, taken about a week apart, speak for themselves.

In other Emelia news, this past weekend the weather was great and she walked with us to the nearest park/playground, ~2.5 blocks away -- we carried her when we crossed the streets, but otherwise she did all the walking herself. At one point she lost focus (something shiny on the ground perhaps), and I was ahead of her, gesturing and calling to her to come on, facing her and walking backwards as I did it. Damned if she didn't turn around and start walking backwards herself without so much as stumbling. This kid has fun (and hanging out with her, so do we)!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Last Night's Dream

For some reason I have to take the LSATs again. I'm about an hour late getting to sign in, but when I get there, they hand me my 19-year-old original test, and I can use my answers from then if I want to. I go sit down to take the test, but somehow the test is transformed into a beer blind tasting, complete with palate cleansing snacks (mostly vegetables with a Ranch dressing dip). Although having the answers makes me feel like I should have no trouble acing the test, the fact that I started late makes it challenging to get through all the "questions" in time, particularly since I feel quite full. At some point I get up and take a break by going swimming in the pool that's right there. I go back to finish the test, but I have no recollection of whether I'm able to finish in time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Greetings from Warfordswhere?

A couple of years ago, when I googled for rental places in the region that allow pets, I came across the place that we stayed this past weekend. The cabins were unavailable when we've previously tried to visit, so this was our first trip up there, there being just outside Warfordsburg, which is the first exit in Pennsylvania on I-70. Yep, smack dab in the middle of nowhere, where we were able to hike, hot tub, and generally hang out. Other than a trip to a far away brewpub for lunch on Saturday, we stayed on the property the whole time.

1. The property evidently had been in the same family for years, and it was only in the last dozen or so years that they decided to rent out cabins there. The cabin we stayed in is called Sophronia, and there were a couple of other references on the property to Sophie. The first night in the cabin, I discovered a pamphlet/short story called "Sophie's Story." I skimmed it to learn that Sophie was a girl who lived in the valley about 100 years ago, and who, when she was eight, burned to death when the wind caused her to catch aflame from a controlled brush fire. The end of the pamphlet provided directions to Sophie's grave in case you wanted to put flowers there. We thought the fascination was a bit weird, though it seemed more than that when we found the needlepoint couplet on the wall in the bedroom that read, "This valley is my home, From it I never will roam. -- Sophie 1908."

2. Upon arrival, we discovered that Sophronia had no bathtub. By Sunday Emelia definitely needed a bath, so we improvised:

3. On our Sunday morning hike, we went up a small hill, not knowing where the path would lead. When I say hike, I mean that I carry the camera and Kathy carries Emelia. It may not seem chivalrous, but Kathy says she hardly feels the weight, while I have a bad back. The trail wasn't particularly steep -- it just went uphill for an extended time. Eventually the trail took us to a different trail, part of which we'd done Saturday morning. We ended up on a wholly different segment, however, that seemed tame at first, but then offered a brief sharply downhill section followed by a stretch that was against the mountain. This stretch was narrow, had poor footing (loose leaves covered by a little bit of snow), and was roughly 40 degrees (i.e., your left foot was supporting all your weight while your right foot was uphill). I had enough trouble navigating it without a child on my back, but Kathy had it much worse, particularly given that she wasn't wearing shoes with treads. By this time we didn't see that we could go back the way we came, so we pressed onward, only to discover that the trail abruptly ended with an arrow that pointed downward to the bottom of the hill. We tried to ease our way down, but ultimately Kathy sat down involuntarily, braced herself, then went on a lovely sled ride, hold the sled, with Emelia on her back laughing and loving it. A run in the washer and dryer later, Kathy's pants were as good as new. As for her willingness to hike again, I admit that I pushed her to take another one in the afternoon. Fortunately, it was much milder (though not easy by any means).

(I was above them for the climactic slide down the hill, and Kathy refused to go back up so I could get a good picture of it).

4. A couple of times last week, when I was counting with Emelia, I threw in the "ah ah ah!" of Sesame Street's The Count. Emelia doesn't watch TV, so she's never seen The Count, but the day before we left, and ever since then, she's been saying "ah ah ah!" all the time (not that she's actually counting). In her honor: