Monday, December 31, 2007

Goose Feast: Part Two

Thank you all for your patience; I know you've been ever so anxious to hear what transpired at our Christmas Eve goose roast. Well, your wait is over! Here we go:

The goose spent a little over 2 days thawing. By the time we were all set to start preparations last Monday afternoon, it was completely unfrozen and ready to go. We unwrapped the bird, removed the gizzards and such, rinsed it thoroughly inside and out, and patted it dry. We then set about removing all the loose fat, of which there was an enormous quantity. Seriously, I was scooping it out by the handful. The goose is a fatty, fatty bird. All told, I must have pulled out a good two or three pounds of the stuff (enough to fill a standard dinner bowl). When that was done, we patted the bird dry again. Next we perforated the skin by poking it with bamboo skewers. This helps even more of the subcutaneous fat drain during the roasting process. It's important not to puncture straight into the muscle tissue, so these were carefully placed perforations, as close to parallel as possible to the skin. The goose was patted dry again. (It's also important that the skin be as dry as possible for roasting, as this will help it to tighten and push out the fat while keeping the meat nice and moist.) A thorough rub-down with salt and pepper followed, along with another patting-dry, and then we rubbed the goose with fresh thyme.

All the while, Tom was working on the stuffing, which consisted of apples, pearl onions, garlic, sausage and sage. This was sauteed briefly and stuffed into the goose.


Mmm, stuffing.

Once stuffed, the goose was sewn closed, sprinkled with a bit more thyme, and ready to go in the oven.


A fine bird!


The goose took about 4 1/2 hours to roast, all told. The boys turned it a couple of times, and cranked the heat up near the end to get a nice crackly skin. For a side dish, Tom made some roasted potatoes with rosemary.


Soon enough, our goose was cooked!


Looks tasty, huh?

During the cooking process, the goose lost an additional quart or so of fat. Seriously, geese are nothing like turkeys. (For one thing, they are made entirely of delicious dark meat, which is fantastic.) I can easily imagine how a Christmas goose would have served several purposes in the days of yore - meat for several days, a nice big pot of stock, and enough fat or oil to keep lamps lit or winter clothes waterproofed or whatever you like.

So all told, our meal consisted of a salad, the apple-onion-garlic-sausage stuffing, rosemary potatoes, and delicious goose. Max made a savory sort of cherry sauce to go on the meat (cherries, balsamic vinegar, butter, some red wine), and Tom made a bread pudding with raisins & cranberries for dessert. Clearly, it was all terribly unpalatable, and we couldn't eat a bite.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Goose Feast: Part One

A few weeks back, it was decided that we would roast a goose over at Max's on Christmas Eve this year. I may be the only one of the group who's never eaten goose, but none of us has cooked one, and it is a rather canonical Christmas meal, so we thought it would be a fun thing to do.

Step one - obtain goose

After work on Thursday, I went goose scouting at the super swanky grocery store here in town, figuring they'd probably be the only place to carry geese. At first it looked like they didn't have any in stock, as I perused the regular poultry section, so I asked the butcher if they would be getting any in; he said they had some over in the freezer section. (Silly me. Didn't even think to look there. Duh.) So he took me over there and pulled one off the bottom shelf for me, at which point I informed him that I had to measure it and make sure it would fit in Max's oven. So there's the butcher, holding this iceburg of a frozen goose, while I fetched my little Ikea paper measuring tape (the ones they give you for free at the door so you can make sure your furniture will fit or whatever) and took down the necessary dimensions. Then I had to go call Max and relay the measurements to see if they would suffice. (I let the butcher put the goose back in the freezer...he wasn't holding it all this time while I trotted off to an area of the store where I could get cell phone reception. Just so you don't think I'm that oblivious and mean.)

Turns out the goose was indeed an appropriate size - 15" long x 8.5" wide x 5.5" tall, and 13+ pounds! - so I purchased it and took it over to Max's. Not an inexpensive bird by any means, but I suppose I didn't expect it to be. Max has been thawing it since yesterday morning, so it'll be all ready for us to roast up tomorrow night, along with some potatoes and asparagus. We're planning to make a bread pudding for dessert. Ought to be a fun time! I will have to work hard to restrain myself from quoting A Christmas Carol all evening. ("Such a goose, Martha! And the pudding...oh, the pudding!") I'm sure I shall be too stuffed to blog about it tomorrow, but I will endeavor to get a post up, complete with photos, not long after. :)

A Brunch for the Ages

Well, with a grand total of one vote (Mom's), last Sunday's brunch is the official winner and subject of today's post.

We dressed in slacks and nice-ish shirts and arrived at the Ath just before our scheduled 10:30 reservation. More on the history of Caltech's Athenaeum can be found here, but in brief, it's the big building on campus, opened in 1930, that serves as fancy restaurant and hotel for wealthy alumni and other well-to-do folks. The basement houses the appropriately named Rathskeller student bar. This time of year, it's decked to the gills with Christmas trees and garlands and a huge gingerbread house in the lobby. (A tiny Hanukkah display sat on a table in the corner, we noted with amusement.) Our friends were already seated when we arrived, so we set down our stuff and headed over to the buffet.

Tom and I don't "do brunch" very often. Let alone super posh brunch. The feast before us was unlike anything I'd ever seen...at that hour of the morning, anyway. There was the traditional breakfast fare, of course - waffles with berries and syrup and fresh whipped cream, french toast, muffins/bagels/crescent rolls/pastries, egg stations (they'd make omelets or scrambled eggs or fried eggs or whatever you wanted), potatoes with peppers and onions, and the piece de resistance, a gorgeous slab of bacon from which a gentleman was cutting delicious little slices. Next to the bacon was a prime rib. On another table was a seafood spread - shrimp, crab legs, oysters, possibly scallops? There was a tray of cured meats and pates. There was fresh fruit, there were roasted pears, there was hummus and baba ganoush with pita bread. There was chicken and salmon and green beans and ginger maple mashed sweet potatoes. And then the desserts! Cheesecakes and regular cakes and tortes and little custard puff things. Three kinds of juice, and hot chocolate. We hardly knew where to go first.

Plates piled high, we returned to the table. The dining room was just as decorated as the rest of the building. A big tree stood in the corner. An assortment of nutcrackers lined a mantle along one wall. On each table sat a little fir tree centerpiece. On the centerpiece - a tag that read "Not intended for consumption." We all had a good laugh over whether that meant we shouldn't eat it or shouldn't give it tuberculosis. The top of the tree waved back and forth whenever anyone bumped the table.

While we ate, a fellow in a Santa suit walked around, handing out candy canes to people. When he walked by our table he whispered, "Merry Christmas, guys," and kept going. We thought this was a little creepy, the whispering. It wasn't as though we were in a library, nor was it as though he hadn't just been carrying on with the two little kids at the next table, pretending to pull candy canes out of their ears. Crazy creepy Santa. Tom brilliantly invoked The Sixth Sense with a whispered, "I see red people!" and set us all to laughing again.

The food was delicious, of course. I thought the bacon tasted like candles (not in a gross way...just kind of smoky and, I don't know, like fire somehow), but then again, I am strange. We stuffed ourselves to the gills, wished Demetri a happy birthday, and rolled on home. I didn't last more than a couple of hours before succumbing to a nap. ;)

And there you have it. Tomorrow: Goose Feast, Part One.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Week 23

Well, this week our young Master Johnson is about 8 1/2 inches long from crown to rump - "about the size of a banana." I've never known a banana to be as flexible as this kid seems to be, though. I'm starting to feel him moving around in there more and more. Some days it feels like he must be swimming laps, doing little flip turns on one side and then the other. Other times I'm sure he's playing air guitar, complete with rock star scissor kicks. I'm sure I'll find it a lot less amusing once he's big enough to direct those scissor kicks at my ribs and bladder, but for right now it's pretty funny.

We had our 5 month checkup at the doctor's yesterday morning. I was hoping we'd get to see the diagnostic ultrasound pictures (his little tiny kidneys and whatnot), but I guess the computer system is just set up to display the written report from the radiologist. Everything is in order though on that score (heart - present, head - present, growth progressing like it oughta, etc.), so that's good. And of course we got to listen to his heartbeat again, nice and strong.

Since yesterday was the end of the 23rd week, and I've started the 24th today, I'm informed by Great Expectations that I have now officially entered the third trimester. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, to be honest. I was under the impression that the trimesters would be somewhat evenly spaced (13ish weeks apiece), but apparently the second one is only 10 weeks long while the third is 16? Really? Anyway, whatever. Third trimester or not, I'm just glad we're heading into "winter" and "spring" (I use the terms lightly, living where I do) for these next few months, during which I can expect to grow increasingly round and uncomfortable; January/February/March is much preferable to, say, June/July/August. ;)

All right, that's it for this week. Tune in again next week (same Bat time, same Bat channel).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh, to be a real blogger again

This place sure does seem to have turned into the Weekly Baby Growth Update blog with sporadic little snippets thrown in here and there of non-babycentric stuff. Less of the wit and charm and randomness I'd like to think I'm capable of posting. Work's been keeping me busy, and the thesis is still a burden. I spent much of the weekend slogging away at the latter, trying to get one more damnable chapter finished and making barely enough headway to be passable. Blah. Here's a short list of some of the things I've considered writing about lately though, so maybe we could have a readers' choice sort of thing where you pick one and I actually generate some new and interesting content? Or not. Whatever. Here's the list, anyway:
  • Workplace lingo: Yeah, I know it's been done by many others before me, but lately I've been amused by the things people *cough*managers*cough* bother saying when they could just as easily use simpler terms.

    Argument for posting: I think it's funny.
    Argument against: The buzzwords vary from place to place, but it's really the same old story anyone who has ever had a job will have told at one point or another.
  • Brunch Report: We went out to a fancy-shmancy prime rib brunch at Caltech's Athenaeum on Sunday for Demetri's birthday. We got to get semi-dressed up and stuff our faces with tasty foods.

    Argument for: Creepy Santa, the tuberculosis tree, candle-flavored bacon.
    Argument against: We didn't make any of the food, just ate it, and I've basically given away all the highlights in this little synopsis.
  • Movie Reviews: We're back to burning through our Netflix queue at a pretty good clip, so we've seen a few amusing movies I could write about.

    Argument for: Idiocracy & Live Free or Die Hard were entertaining, while In Good Company was disappointing, so I've probably got plenty to say.
    Argument against: Eh, none of these are really all that new, so I'm not sure how interested anybody will actually be in what I've got to say.
  • Inventory: I've been thinking of writing something similar to this recent post of Water Megan's AquaMegan's from last week.

    Argument for: Just in thinking rather preliminarily about it, I think my list is going to turn out quite a bit different from hers, and this is interesting to me.
    Argument against: I'm not sure if it will be at all interesting to anybody else. ;)

So there's a little of what's been rattling around in my brain lately besides "gah, heartburn again" and "seriously, cat, if you don't get off the counter right now, I will huck this book at your head" and "the correlation matrices clearly show that the particle size distribution of the sample set is blah blah blah..." That I have room for anything else at all these days is as much of a shock to me as anyone. ;) But there you have it. Anything strike your fancy that you'd like to hear more about?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Week 22

This week the little feller is "about 7 1/2 inches from crown to rump and weighs between 13 and 16 ounces - about the size of a small grapefruit." Other developmental details: "His fingernails are almost fully grown, and his organ systems are becoming more functional and specialized. He has a distinct pair of lips, and his first canines and molars are developing from hard tissue below the gum line. He looks like a miniature newborn." I am also informed that blood is traveling through the umbilical cord at 4 mph. Interesting!

As far as what's going on with me, I definitely have an identifiably pregnant belly now. I'm not huge, but there's no denying I've got something growing in there. Most nights I wake up sometime in the wee morning hours for a bathroom run hobble; if I'm unlucky, I have a rough time going back to sleep thereafter, which is no fun. Fortunately, I'm only unlucky in this manner a few times a week at most. The second trimester has been generally good to me - no more nausea, less exhaustion, as promised. I still only feel the little guy kicking sometimes, and only from the inside (that is, if I put my hand on my belly when I feel him moving around, his movement doesn't translate through all the padding of fluid and tissue such that I can feel it from the outside yet). And no, I haven't had any weird cravings. Sorry to disappoint, but the pickles and ice cream are still items to be enjoyed separately, as far as I'm concerned. Cheese and chocolate, on the other hand...well, I've always believed those two things were meant for each other, pregnancy or no pregnancy. ;)

Back to the thesis mines! More again soon! Whee!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Optimism of Pregnancy

This is what crossed my mind as I made my 700th trip to the restroom today.

The way I see it, when you're pregnant, the bladder's always half-full.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Week 21

Big doin's this week. He weighs about 10.5 ounces, and crown to rump length is about 7 inches, which Great Expectations says is as long as a spoon. The book also helpfully informs us that 10.5 ounces is about what bear cubs weigh when they are born.


Rawr


It's been chilly in the mornings lately (no, really, objectively chilly, like below 55 degrees in our bedroom), so Leo is even more likely than usual to desire a little morning snuggle time under the blankets. This morning he curled up right at my belly and set to purring, at which point the bambino started dancing around. It was pretty amusing. They say that kids who were exposed to dog barking in the womb aren't afraid of the noise once they're born. I raher doubt, however, that exposure in utero is necessary to develop a positive association with cat purring. Not exactly the most threatening of sounds, that. ;)

Friday, November 30, 2007

And now for something a bit more grown-up

I know things have gotten a little (okay, more than a little) baby-centric around here. So allow me to fill you in on the cooking class/demonstration we attended earlier this week.

Last year for Christmas, my parents got us a gift certificate to attend one of the classes at a local cooking school. Not to be confused with a culinary academy, a cooking school is quite a bit more informal, with fun one-off classes on a wide variety of topics. Unfortunately, this particular place holds its sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, so we kept finding that school and work got in the way of our attending. Finally though, this past Tuesday we got our chance to go play.

The class was themed around Tuscan cuisine. The instructor took a group of 25 or so people over to Italy earlier this month, where they toured sheep and olive farms, got to cook in local restaurants, and basically just had a grand old time. She had a slide show of photos from their trip running on her laptop as we waited for the class to begin.

Upon our arrival, we were given a packet containing the recipes that would be covered in the class. This particular class was demo-style, rather than hands-on, so we seated ourselves in a nice little viewing area and watched the instructor's assistants do some prep work. One was frying sage leaves; another started boiling pasta water. Soon enough, it was time to get started.

The instructor, Cherie, has one of the more effervescent personalities I've encountered in a while. She excitedly filled us in on the recent Tuscan journey, with animated descriptions of people they met and near-mishaps trying to get foodstuffs back through Customs. She plugged Trader Joe's products at almost every opportunity (who can blame her?) as she set to work preparing the evening's dishes.

First up was a simple puff pastry brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with Tuscan salt, which I understand to be any sort of sea salt/herb mixture. She showed us how to make batter for fried sage leaves and allowed us to sample some pears with chestnut honey and pecarino toscano cheese. She set to work on a pappa al pomodoro ("typical of the region" they were told, as they were served it seven times during their eight-day trip) and reduced some red wine in garlic and olive oil for "pasta of the big fat drunk." She made a tarta de la nonna (grandmother's pie) with ricotta filling and an arugala salad topped with thinly-sliced ribeye steak almost rare enough that "a good veterinarian could bring it back to life." At the end of the 90-ish minute demonstration, the whole feast was plated and we were served in the dining area. Everything was fabulous (I'm looking forward to making the pappa al pomodoro now that it's getting on toward soup weather again), and we learned some nifty new tricks for the kitchen. All in all, a fun evening!

One of the bonuses from the night, we learned about a nearby market called Sunland Produce, which Cherie described as "multi-cultural and multi-fabulous." Sounds like there are all manner of wonders to be found there, from bizarre fruits and vegetables to exotic cheeses and meats you have to work up some courage to try. We'll have to check that out soon, and I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Week 20

The gestational halfway point! I can hardly believe it!

So, the little fellow you met yesterday is "between 5.5 and 6.5 inches from crown to rump, and 9 to 10 inches head to toe. He weighs about 9 ounces and is roughly the size of a mango."


No, no, not the Mango...

...though sometimes he does feel like he's doing some kind of dance routine in there. Madre, you'll be interested I'm sure to know that his teeth are starting to develop in his jaws now. Yes, I'm making sure to get plenty of calcium.

So, 20 weeks down, 20(ish) to go. Exciting stuff!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hello World


Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, may I present to you, our son.

Finally!

Bambino photo shoot, 2pm PST today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thankful


My family started a new Thanksgiving tradition in 2003. Before dessert, we lay out a special tablecloth and a handful of permanent markers. Everyone present must write something on the cloth indicating the things for which they're thankful that year. Thanksgiving guests who are not direct family members are not exempt. It's been neat to watch the tablecloth, four years on, slowly become more and more covered with writing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Week 19

Happy Tuesday! Here you go.

This week the bambino is "between 5 and 6 inches long and weighs about seven ounces - about the size of an apple."


Noes! Ringo Starr be eatin mah analogee!

We went to the doctor this morning for our monthly "listen to the heart beat" session. Heart's still beating away in there, somewhere about 150-ish beats per minute, nice and strong, so that's good. There's an old wives' tale that a fetal heart rate above 140 bpm is indicative of a girl, but recent research says there's actually no statistical difference between male and female heart rates in utero. So, there might be a girl in there...or a boy. The doc asked if we'd had the ultrasound yet (what, you too?!), and when I informed her that we had not, she took a look in the computer system to see what the deal was. Apparently the ultrasound has been "ordered, but not scheduled" or something like that, so she added a note requesting that it be scheduled within the next 7 days. So there you go; by next Tuesday I ought to have an answer for you, and a new picture. At long last!

I'm looking forward to the long weekend. Yay for noshing and napping! Yay for sleeping in (or not...but not having to get up and go to work at least)! I failed to meet my self-imposed thesis deadline, so I'm sure a good chunk of those 4 days off will be spent writing, but that is okay. I'll still have the damned thing sent to the printer's well before I have to deal with giving birth (hopefully by the end of the year), and that's all I really care about. Anyhows, have a lovely Thanksgiving! :)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

So much for art house classics

We've had Last Tango in Paris sitting on top of our TV since mid-August. Tom added it to our Netflix queue a while back because it's one of those movies that seems to be referenced with some frequency, and we are people who like to know about things. Tom's considerably more well-read than I am, and much better at coming up with random tidbits of trivia in conversation, but even I can hold my own on a wide range of subjects. Watching a movie of some renown, or reading a book, or listening to a song, that might come up sometime down the road, is rarely a poor use of one's time.

However.

Last Tango sat on top of our TV for three months because, while we knew it was something we ought to watch for the sake of expanding our frames of reference or whatever, it didn't sound like a particularly appealing story.

Hollywood heavyweight Marlon Brando delivers a tour-de-force performance as an American expatriate in Paris who's spinning from his estranged wife's suicide. While searching for an apartment, the grief-stricken widower encounters an equally despondent young Frenchwoman (Maria Schneider), and the couple embarks on an anonymous, no-strings-attached sexual liaison that gradually exposes their mutual agony.

Somehow we were never in the mood to watch it (shocking, I know). But today we decided that enough was enough. Netflix had been making a pretty penny off our monthly dues while we watched maybe one movie every few weeks or so. We were going to watch Tango this weekend or send it back unviewed, and we couldn't very well let the damned movie defeat us. So we watched.

Lordy, that was an exceedingly bizarre movie. I mean, really. The characters were all insane, albeit in different ways. The dialogue was so random at times that it wasn't at all clear what the hell the point was. I guess the acting was pretty good, but I wouldn't call it anyone's tour-de-force.

But whatever. It's done with, now. I believe we've got Multiplicity coming in the mail next. That ought to cleanse the mental palate some. 'Cause I like pizza, Steve. I like it!

Friday, November 16, 2007

On Potlucks

You know you've eaten too much when you have to un-do the top button on your stretchy, maternity pants. I mean, honestly...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Belle once More

I've been getting a fair number of hits lately from people in search of Bell's Palsy info. Since it wasn't so long ago that I was searching the internets for as many details as possible, I can sympathize, and will do my best to provide a concise but complete account of my own BP experience.

Here is the first post I wrote about the whole thing. What my first symptoms were, how I felt, yada yada. Three days later, I was fully paralyzed on the right side of my face, evidenced by the photo below. I had feeling in my face, but no movement whatsoever.


Taken 10/18/07, three days after initial onset of symptoms

Loverly.

So, a day after being diagnosed, my doctor prescribed a short course of acyclovir (an anti-viral) and prednisone (a corticosteroid). Yes, I am in my second trimester of pregnancy. Yes, my obstetrician said that these were safe to take. I was fortunate not to have any of the bad reactions to these drugs that I'd read about other people having. The prednisone made me thirsty, so I drank a ton of water and was getting up to go to the bathroom about seventeen times a night. That was about it, though. I was done with the acyclovir in 5 days and the pred in 8. I haven't been back to the OB yet since I finished the meds, but I know things are still trucking along just fine in the gestational realm.

Whether or not the drugs were responsible, the duration of my symptoms was pretty short. Two weeks after onset, I was starting to get some movement back on the affected side. Not bad! Now, another two and a half weeks later, I'm pretty much back to normal. See?


Taken 11/14/07, one month after onset

So, the palsy was annoying. The area behind my right ear hurt like a bitch at first. I was glad when that went away after about a week. I had to get used to eating carefully so as not to bite my cheek and lips. Drinking with a straw was easier (and resulted in less dribbling) than trying to drink straight from a glass. Laughing and talking too much hurt a bit, as the muscles on the left side of my face had to do all the work and pulled my mouth and nose to the side. My right eye wouldn't close all the way, so I had to remember to hold it shut in the shower when rinsing shampoo out of my hair, and it kind of rolled up creepily when I blinked, which I'm sure looked ever so charming to anyone talking to me. I had to put drops in my eye every so often during the day, especially when I was at the computer, or it would dry out. All the doctors were most emphatic on this point; apparently one of the biggest risks is lasting damage to the eye due to overdrying. It was never so bad that I had to tape it shut at night, which is good because I tried a couple of times, and ended up just ripping the tape/patch/whatever off in my sleep.

The thing that surprised me the most, and which I don't recall reading about anywhere, was how very sore the affected side of my face got once it started to heal. I felt like I'd been badly bruised, even though I certainly didn't look like it. That lasted a couple of weeks or so and was pretty unpleasant. It slowly started to hurt less and less though, and of course now it's just fine. Yay!

A month later, I'm not quite back to 100%, but I'm pretty darned close. Call it 97.3%. If you're reading this because you've just been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, or think you might have it, just know that it's not a ton of fun, and it'll get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. Go to a doctor right quick, if you can, and since I had no issues with the medication, I can speak favorably of taking it. Obviously I can't say whether I would have started improving as rapidly as I did if I hadn't taken the drugs, and it's entirely possible that I would have, but they certainly didn't seem to hurt me any. It should go without saying that everyone is a unique snowflake and my experiences may well not be your experiences, but I'm living proof that it's definitely possible to get through a bout with Bell's relatively unscathed.

And with that I'm off to bed. Though if I don't feed these cats first they may very well devour me in my sleep. Which would be unfortunate. So to the cat bowls, and thence to Nod. G'night all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Week 18

Another week, another update. And this week's one is a doozy.

As of today, the spawn is about 5 to 5 1/2 inches long from crown to rump and weighs a little more than 5 ounces, about the size of...a lobster tail?

Great Expectations, you're killing me here. A lobster tail? Really? I mean, I know I have said of lobster tails, in the past, "Gee, that looks delicious; I wish I had it in my belly," but this is not what I had in mind. You could have done much better with this week's comparison. Much better. Because you know what is also about the same size as a lobster tail?


You're damned right. A soft, fuzzy, cuddly llama's ear. Which is what I would much prefer to imagine I am harboring inside of me, rather than a crusty, pokey, sharp-edged, lobster tail.

Open Letter

To the guy walking down Colorado Blvd and El Molino Ave at 11:45pm and operating a leaf blower:

Dude, what are you doing running a leaf blower at almost midnight? Don't do stuff like that, it's creepy.

Regards,
Susan

Friday, November 09, 2007

Folk Magic

"Do you know whether you're having a boy or a girl?!"
"When do you find out what the kid is?"
"Do you want to know what you're having, or do you want to be surprised?"
"Have you had the next ultrasound yet?!"


These are the questions I am most often asked these days. I don't mind that much, and certainly when I've been on the other side of things, I've asked the same. But the fact is that I have to keep saying the same things over and over again.

"No, I don't know yet."
"I'll find out soon, hopefully within the next couple of weeks."
"I'm usually pretty good about surprises, but this is one I don't want to wait on."
"I think they're going to do the next ultrasound at 20 weeks, just after Thanksgiving. I don't know for sure; it hasn't been scheduled yet."

Of course, when you don't have an answer to give people, they start making predictions. My friend M says that girls make you look extra radiant and beautiful, and boys make your face break out and your butt get big. To which I reply that, no, it's in fact PREGNANCY and its attendant hormone surge that're responsible for the face breakoutedness and the posterioral expansion. But whatever. Today, while taking our morning snack break, the ladies in my group decided to employ some "traditional" approaches to prenatal gender determination.

"Let me see your wedding ring!"

Ah, the pendulum test. I'd read about this. I handed T my ring, which she threaded on to a string. She asked me to hold out my hand, palm up, and then she suspended the ring above it. It swung around in circles, which supposedly indicates a girl is on the way. Two repeat tests gave the same result.

"No, no, no, you use the hand if they're not pregnant yet. Once they're pregnant, you hold it over the belly."

This time the ring swung back and forth, in standard pendulum fashion. This means boy. Repeat...same result. We decided that either I'm having a boy now and a girl next time, or I'm having twins, or I'm having a hermaphrodite.

"Have you tried the Chinese chart? It was dead-on for all 3 of my kids."

Okay, so you take the mother's age at conception and the month of conception, and find the corresponding square on the chart. I'm 26 and the conception month was July so...



...huh. So there apparently isn't just one definitive Chinese Chart. And according to the two versions I found, I'm having....twins? Hermaphrodite?

So much for folk magic. Gonna have to rely on science.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Week 17: Gestational update and other tidbits

Another week, another Great Expectations growth tidbit. At the end of the 17th week, the offspring is now "about as wide as [my] palm, about six inches long, and weighs about four ounces - as much as a bar of soap...and [heavier] than the placenta." I'm assuming the six inches is full body (head-to-toe) length, rather than just crown-to-rump, since next week the book says that the CRL (crown-rump length) is only 5 1/2 inches. Anyway. Getting closer every day to the magical, big-enough-to-semi-reliably-determine-gender stage of development. ;)

My face is almost back to normal. My mouth still pulls a little to the left when I talk, since the muscles on that side are still quite a bit stronger, but otherwise you can hardly tell there's anything funky going on. So that's pretty excellent! It's now just a little over three weeks since I noticed the first symptoms, so it really was a speedy sort of thing, all things considered.

I've been really buckling down to get my thesis done and out of the way before too much longer. If all goes according to plan, I'll have a completed draft turned in by Thanksgiving, which will be pretty fantastic. I've been working on the darned project for over a year now, so there will be much jubilation when all's said and done (not least because I'll finally be able to dispose of the big boxes of dirt and organic extracts that have taken up residence in our living room). Just have to keep my nose to the grindstone for a few more weeks.

All right, I've bored y'all enough for one day. Go donate some more rice and have a lovely rest of the morning/afternoon/evening. :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Go Here Now

Free Rice dot Com

Play a vocabulary game. For every word you get right, the site's proprietors will donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. When the site launched on October 7th, players earned 830 grains for the day. The total for yesterday was almost 60 million grains. It's a good cause, they seem legit, and who among us doesn't love improving their vocabulary?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I think...

I can't be 100% sure, since I was half-asleep at the time and am obviously quite new to all of this, but I believe that I felt the gerbil-sized offspring moving around in there this morning. Either that, or I've got a large and rowdy tapeworm. It is Halloween, after all. ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Four months

Says Great Expectations this week: "The crown-to-rump length is 4 1/2 inches, and your baby weighs 2.5 ounces - about the size of a small gerbil."


Um...I'm assuming they're not including the tail?

Today is "officially" the end of the 16th week (officially in quotes because these sorts of calculations are never precise). More people are commenting on the little belly I'm developing. I'm hungry almost all the time now, trying to maintain the delicate balance between eating enough and not gaining seven hundred pounds over the course of this pregnancy. Because, you know, it could go either way.

On the Bell's Palsy front, things are looking up. Sunday night, three two! weeks to the day after I started noticing the first symptoms, I discovered that I can move the corner of my mouth on the right side, ever so slightly. My eye closes a little better on that side too, and almost all of my taste buds are working again. So hurrah! Looks like I lucked out and got away with only having the mildest version of this thing. I'm quite relieved and feel very fortunate.

That's it for now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Borrowed it from the Pope?

Funny exchange from last night. We're making our way through season one of Friday Night Lights, watching the old episodes online (props to NBC for making them available). Anyway, one of the characters had a little picture of Jesus propped up on the dashboard of his truck.

Tom: Is that a photo of Jesus?
Me: Well...not a photo...
Both: *laughter*
Tom: Yeah, where'd you get that camera?!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bambi needs to eat!

I don't remember where that exclamation came from, exactly. It was the product of one of Mom & Aunt Teresa's marathon giggle-fests, certainly, but the specific context has escaped me. However, it's really the only appropriate thing to say right now. I have been hungry almost all the time this week. It's as though I'm eating nothing but Chinese food; I finish a meal and then an hour later...

The only acceptable way to deal with this, I realize, is to have lots of food around that's good for me. I'll be able to nosh contentedly without succumbing to the siren call of the vending machine. I've been able to avoid the little devil thus far only because I haven't taken any cash with me to work, but I suspect that I'll crack eventually and just borrow a dollar from someone. It's only a matter of time. Quite honestly though, I don't even really want vending machine food. I want fruit and berries and (perhaps incongruously) mashed potatoes. Starch. Carbohydrates. The very things I need to avoid if I don't want to give birth to a thirteen pound monster, but this early in the game, I'm pretty sure it's okay to eat all that. Moderation, yada yada. Chips and candy bars just don't appeal to me right now. Of course, I know that may very well change tomorrow or next week or next month.

All this talk of food has made me hungry! Shocking! I'm gonna go make some dinner.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Week 15

Greetings from the sunny southwest. I'm having a great visit so far with the family. There has been much consuming of tasty foods, many games played with an extremely energetic kitten, and of course much laughter.

Great Expectations is boring this week, with no fun size analogy. It merely says the kid's "between 4 and 4 1/2 inches in length, and about 1 3/4 ounces." I have definitely started to get a little bit of a belly, but it still looks more like I had a big lunch than like I'm with child or something. Supposedly in 2-4 more weeks it'll be more obvious as a "baby bump" (to quote the crazy entertainment magazines and their speculations over which celebrities are secretly pregnant this week).

I did actually buy some maternity pants yesterday, serious maternity pants with the wide elastic band around the waist. They're surprisingly more comfortable than I expected, and (dare I say it) they're actually kind of cute, when I wear a reasonable shirt that covers all the elastic. These pants and a crop top would not be a good look. Maternity stores are kind of odd places though. Most of the clothing assumes you're well into a serious belly development and doesn't provide much in the way of options for those of us who have only just outgrown the waistbands of our everyday pants. Then again, I'm not sure what I expect them to do instead. It's just weird being in kind of an in-between place right now, as far as all that goes. Soon enough, I know.

All right, I'm off to eat some breakfast and start the day. Hope everyone's having a great weekend. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Phoenix Bound

This evening I'm hopping a plane to spend a couple of days in Phoenix visiting my sister (who lives there now) and parents (who have also flown in to visit). As I've never been to the Grand Canyon State, it should be a fine adventure (even if it is a full 10-15 degrees hotter there than here right now). I'm a little bummed that I realized, just at this very moment, that I forgot to pack my camera (d'oh!), but it'll be okay. I'm told there will be maternity clothes shopping, a visit to my sister's classroom, and a possible trip to the state fair. Should be fun!

In other news, I'm on the antivirals and Prednisone now for the Bell's Palsy. All the doctors I spoke with agreed that these are okay to take while in my current, childbearing condition, so that's good. I don't know that the symptoms have gotten much better (I mean, come on, it's only been a few days), but they haven't gotten much worse either. Also good. The right side of my face is nearly completely paralyzed - can't wiggle that eyebrow or flare that nostril - but nothing's drooping. Half of my face just looks impassive. My right eye closes pretty well most of the time when I blink, so with the occasional addition of eyedrops it's been all right. I haven't had to tape it shut at night or anything like that. Decidedly strange, when I look at myself in the mirror, but on the whole not too bad. From what I've read about the condition, my symptoms are definitely on the mild end of the scale, which hopefully is indicative of a speedy and complete recovery. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. ;)

That's all I've got for now. Wishing everyone a pleasant weekend!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Great News!

We just saved a bunch of money on our car insurance by switching to Geico!

(Seriously, we did. I've always wanted to say that.) ;)

Bell of the Ball

It's been an interesting 24 hours for me. Educational, somewhat scary at times, but interesting.

Something seemed funny last night when I was brushing my teeth before bed. I couldn't manage to spit the toothpaste out the center of my mouth. It was like the left side was making a tighter seal than the right, causing my left cheek to balloon out like normal and the right one to be somewhat flatter. Hmm, that's odd. Oh well. I went to bed.

The same thing happened when I brushed my teeth this morning. I thought, again, that it was somewhat strange, but chalked it up to being too focused on trying to make my face do something while looking in the mirror. You know how sometimes you can trick your brain into not being able to do something you normally do without thinking? I figured that was what was going on. Besides, I had to get to work.

I hadn't been at work very long when I noticed that, if I closed my eyes, the right one didn't close as tightly as the left one. I could scrunch up the left side of my face, but it was like the right side had been Botoxed (not that I'd know personally, but based on all the various caricatures I've seen, that was the analogy I drew). Okay, what the hell is this? Am I having a stroke? What the crap?

I proceeded to freak out, just a wee bit. This may be the first time I've had a real honest-to-goodness "must protect the unborn child" instinct. But as freak-outs go, it was pretty minor. I tried to call the Kaiser "advice line," but that turned out to just be the automated appointment-scheduler thingy. So I called Mom. Because that's what you do when the going gets a little scary and the option's available.

Mom told me I wasn't having a stroke, so I calmed down a little. She said it still sounded like I ought to go see a doctor anyway, advice with which I agreed, so I left work for a bit to make my way over to the nearest Kaiser hospital, where (supposedly) Urgent Care was to be had.

A few brief words about the Kaiser Permanente system. I've discussed it before, so you can check out that post if you like, but the bottom line is that nothing's quite the way you expect it to be. At the little clinics, "urgent care" requires an appointment. At the big hospitals, "urgent care" doesn't open until 4:30pm. Do they bother to mention that on their website? Noooooo they do not. My options were to go to the Emergency Room or to schedule an appointment for later in the day. I chose the latter, since I was fairly certain that I didn't have an actual life-or-death emergency. I got an appointment back at the Pasadena clinic for this afternoon.

The diagnosis was Bell's Palsy. To be perfectly honest, I had done a little internetting after I'd gotten back to work, so I wasn't at all surprised when the doctor said that's what I've got. From the Bell's Palsy InfoSite & Forums: "Bells palsy is a condition that causes the facial muscles to weaken or become paralyzed. It's caused by trauma to the 7th cranial nerve, and is not permanent." It's believed to be viral in nature, so the typical treatment involves a course of antivirals, to fight the virus of course, along with a short course of steroids (specifically Prednisone), to reduce the swelling on the nerve. Were I not with child, I'd happily be on said medication at this very moment, but Prednisone's effects on fetal development are not well studied. So the doctor wanted to consult with my OB before prescribing anything. He said that even without any drugs, the condition will resolve itself, usually within a matter of weeks, rarely within a couple of months. Oddly enough, being in the third trimester of pregnancy is actually considered to be a risk factor for Bell's Palsy; I'm not entirely sure why, and I'm only in the second trimester now of course, but I still thought that was somewhat strange.

So, what's going on with me? I feel fine, first of all. My smile, crooked already after my broken jaw six years ago, is even more lopsided than normal. I can't close my right eye without also closing my left, so no winking on that side. Eyestrain from staring at the computer seems to come on a bit more readily than usual. Also, it's a good thing I'm not drinking much of anything but water these days, because little dribbles of water are so much less troublesome than little dribbles of, say, red wine.

This will go away. I will be fine. I'm thankful to only have this minor annoyance to deal with, rather than the major worry that a stroke would have been. I'm writing this so that if, someday, you or someone you know presents with the same symptoms (since this is apparently a much more common condition than I realized), you'll be able to look back and say, "Aha! This is just like that thing Susan blogged about. No worries; I know what it is and what to do."

And now for the hugely ironic moment of the day. Tom & I are of course assembling potential name lists of both genders for the unborn offspring. We're not ready to share those with the world yet, but this one little thing was too strange not to mention. One of the middle names we were considering for a girl-child: Bell. Not the French adjective, but the English noun. Something tells me we may not be using that one now. ;)

Update: For more on my Bell's Palsy Experience, read this post.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Communicability

There should be some sort of rule, nay, a natural law, that both members of a couple are physically unable to be sick at the same time. It would make things much easier. Tom's managed to catch himself a cold and has been feeling pretty crummy all day. Lo and behold, by the time this evening rolled around, I was feeling less than awesome, myself. Fortunately we were both able to lay low for most of the weekend, so I'm hoping I'll be able to fend off whatever this thing is before it gets too too bad. But seriously, how are we supposed to take care of each other if we both feel like crap?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Willpower? What willpower?

Every Friday, I go out to lunch with some friends from my old job. Our usual haunts are Quizno's, El Pollo Loco and Taco Hell (I know...we're high class), with Chipotle making an occasional appearance for special occasions, since it's a bit of a drive. But oh, no. Today they informed me that they wished to go...where?...to McDonald's, since they are playing the Monopoly game. They invited me to pick up lunch from wherever and meet them at the golden arches, but as my unborn child had clearly gone to great lengths to arrange the stars just so, I could not refuse.

However.

The cheeseburger did not live up to my memory of it's kind. It may be worth noting here that the last time I ate a McDonald's cheeseburger was, oh, almost a decade ago, before my vegetarianism. After I fell off that wagon, McDonald's was one place I never felt any desire to revisit, which is why the craving was so unusual. Today's cheeseburger was not disgusting, but it was nowhere near the perfection of the one I had built up in my mind. So I expect this craving to dwindle away from here on out. What will replace it? It's anybody's guess at this point.

You asked for it

Yep, it's time for more updates. Try as I might, I'm having a hard time coming up with something to write about other than this whole "new life growing inside me" thing. Sorry if that alienates anyone. Most of the people who read this are family anyway, and I know you guys are all detail-hungry, so I figure you probably won't mind too much if I babble about this stuff for a while.

All right, so we're officially in Week 14. Great Expectations could have done better with this week's size comparison: "Your baby weighs about 1 1/2 ounces and is about three to four inches long - almost as wide as your fist." Umm...don't you mean "almost as long as your fist is wide?" Because, as Tom said, the way they wrote it makes it sound like the kid's suddenly become spherical, and that's just creepy. Little Cartman-looking thing in there making me crave pot pies and cheezy poofs...

Speaking of cravings, I suppose you're wondering if I've had any odd ones yet. The short answer is "Not really," but since Week 14 is officially the start of the second trimester, I guess I'm due to start having them pretty soon. The one slightly weird (for me) thing has been a bizarre yen for McDonald's cheeseburgers, but I haven't actually given in to that craving. I'm gonna go ahead and refuse on the grounds of "yuck, even if I do need to eat cheeseburgers, I will acquire them elsewhere." Mostly I've craved normal things (pizza, burritos, cheese, tomato soup) but I have found that, on occasion, whatever I'm craving is the only thing that sounds good to me. That's happened to me in the past, of course, usually when I'm sick, but it seems to be a more frequent thing these days.

So the first trimester is over. Since I didn't get to write about it at the time, here's a brief recap. I had a fair bit of nausea for a little while there, but I was fortunate in that I didn't have the classic "can't keep anything down" morning sickness. I was super, duper, extra tired at first; I had an even harder time than usual staying awake during meetings. We got to see the first ultrasound image at 7 weeks (that's the photo below), and when we were watching in real time on the screen, we could see a little flashing light that signified the heartbeat. That was pretty awesome. Even though the kid itself didn't look very human yet, that little heartbeat flicker made the whole thing more real to me, even though I didn't yet (and still don't, really) feel pregnant.

I've had some trouble sleeping lately. Mostly, it's trouble going back to sleep after I get up for a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom. I've also, in the last week, developed some congestion that I'm told is fairly common and will likely last through the remainder of the pregnancy (fun!). However, I have also gotten the promised second trimester nausea abatement and an increase in my energy levels, to go along with my increased appetite. In the next 3 months I'm supposed to put on something like 60% of all the weight I'm due to gain, so that'll be interesting. Already I've had to get some bigger pants, since all my usual ones are just tight enough about the waist to be uncomfortable when I sit at my desk for long stretches of time. It's not so bad though. I've had to put away quite a few shirts as well, as my chest has decided it would like to expand significantly faster than the rest of me. I'll say no more about that. ;)

At the end of the month we'll get to go in for ultrasound number two, at which time there's a fairly good chance they'll be able to tell us whether the critter in there is a little Tom of a little Sue. So that's exciting. I generally like surprises just fine, but this is one of those times when I would like to know in advance what we can expect. Not in the sense of whether I should stock up on pink things or blue ones, because I don't plan on doing that anyway, but I feel like we'll both be able to make a better connection to the kid if we can call him/her by name before the birth. Sounds kind of silly when I actually write it out like that, but there it is.

All right, that's probably enough for now, yeah? You can feel free to ask specific questions of either Tom or me in the comments, if there's yet more you're dying to know. ;)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Some tedium for ya

Ha. I just realized that my last post was the six hundred sixty-sixth. Part of me feels like I should have written about sacrificing goats or something. Or not. Aaaanyway, moving on...

I had to go to San Diego today to fetch some crucial data for my thesis. I haven't had to do that drive for a while, and I was astounded anew at the stupid little traffic clusters that crop up along the freeway. There weren't any accidents, and there was no road construction; there was essentially no good reason for there to be any slowage or outright stoppage of vehicular movement. There are just too damned many people on the roads. Southern California blows.

All in all it seems to have been a successful trip though. I finally have my experimental results in-hand (well, in-hard drive), so I'll be able to actually, you know, finish writing my thesis. And I managed to find good music to play in the car, so as not go completely batshit crazy. I'm tired, but not whooped.

And now for a gestational update: According to my Great Expectations book (not the Dickens version), the little critter is almost 3 inches long and developing vocal cords this week. The book goes week-by-week, which is pretty cool, and has very silly analogies for size. "This week your baby is approximately the size of a chocolate chip or berry." "Your baby is just under an inch long...about the size of a thumbprint!" The next week, it was a garden beetle. Then a peanut. Then a squash ball. We're currently up to the goldfish level. What will be next?! What?! I'm expecting to read in a few weeks that it's as tall as a llama's ear. Hello, Captain Random!

That's all I've got for now. I'm being distracted by the delicious smelling linguine in the kitchen. Gotta go get me some a that. ;)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Horse Tattoo Mystery: Solved!

For those of you keeping score at home, the great mystery of the illegible lip tattoo was solved this past weekend. It turns out that basically the first number Caitlin tried with the Jockey Club, over a month ago, was in fact the correct one! (That would be G22021.) The Jockey Club originally said the number was not a match because their records indicated that it belonged to a horse that was a different color than Royal. Well, they were wrong!

The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau did a more thorough investigation, given the partial tattoo number and a complete description of the horse, down to his markings. This investigation, naturally, took a bit more time but eventually revealed that, though the color on his papers is listed as "dark bay" instead of just regular "bay," Royal is definitely a horse called Majinski. (Not Magic Thang or whatever the previous owner thought his name might be.)

And it gets better. Royal really does have some fairly regal bloodlines. His grandsire, Nijinsky II, was voted the UK's "Horse of the Millennium" in 2000. Royal did not, it seems, inherit any of his grandsire's racing gifts, since he never even made it to the track (though he is tattooed, he has no race record whatsoever), so this is a good thing for potential buyers who might worry about the stresses that racing puts on young horses' legs.

Anyway, I know you were all just going crazy with anticipation, waiting for the resolution of this strange tale. Now you can sleep easier at night. You're welcome. ;)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Spawn of the Sue


Coming: April, 2008

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fo' Shizzle

I am really, extraordinarily glad that it's Friday. It's been a less than stellar week, work-wise, and my thesis project is evolving into a new kind of monster that seems determined to take up permanent residence even as I'm trying desperately to send it on its way. Altogether, I've been in reasonably fine spirits, but these two things have been working really hard to drag me down.

They won't win, though. The weekend is nearly here, and my mom's in town, so I'll get to spend some time with family and relax for a few days. Should be some good football on this weekend, too; I don't have much hope for my Beavs against UCLA (even though they did beat the only team to which UCLA's lost this year), but the Ducks just might be able to hold their own against Cal. It oughta be an exciting game, at any rate.

Hope that fun weekend plans are in store for the rest of you. :)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Music Reviews! Finally!

I know you all have been just delirious with anticipation, am I right? Without further ado, here's the playlist you so kindly helped me create.

1. Angel, by Massive Attack
First impressions: Kind of a cool little beat at the beginning (and throughout). Kept expecting the track to build up to something a bit more than it eventually does.
Upon further examination: There are a lot of layers here. Interesting complexity, but it's still mellow and pleasant.
Most likely to become an earworm: That opening beat, plus the first couple of lines: "You are my angel / come from way above / to bring me love"

2. Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You, by Rilo Kiley
First impressions: The verse pattern is a little repetitive, but pretty. Jenny Lewis really has such a nice voice, and I love the flutes woven throughout.
Upon further examination: This song starts out with kind of a delicate feeling, builds up to something that has more energy but stays light, and then there's this long, dissonant thing with the flutes at the end. Kind of a neat progression. Also, it's a really short song. Feels shorter than its 3:20.
Most likely to become an earworm: "Pretend all the good things for you / pretend all the good things for me too / and the weather changes not halfway between your house and mine"

3. The New Face of Zero and One, by The New Pornographers
First impressions: The New Pornographers being their fine, peppy selves. The lyrics kind of melt away while I bob my head and just hear the music. (I should look them up.)
Upon further examination: Aha. Interesting. These guys and The Shins often manage to write songs that are not as simple as they first seem.
Most likely to become an earworm: The chorus - "Parade of sisters through New York / a trail that, once it began / snaking its way through the memory of / faking its way through the hallelujahs became / a parade of sisters through New York / a trail of sisters through New York"

4. Candle, by Sonic Youth (recommended by Tom, offline)
First impressions: Sounds at the beginning like something that'd be on My Vitriol's first album. Middle's more dissonant than I tend to like.
Upon further examination: Yeah, if I could cut out the screechy middle part, I'd like this song a lot more, I think. The lyrics are interesting, and the bulk of the song's interesting, musically. I'm just not one for a lot of squeedly guitar stuff.
Most likely to become an earworm: "It's safe to say, candle / tonight's the day, candle"

5. Popular Mechanics for Lovers, by Beulah
First impressions: This is one of those songs that it's really hard not to bop your head along to the beat.
Upon further examination: This is a fun song. Except it's kind of sad. Spurned ex-lover and all that.
Most likely to become an earworm: "Just because he loves you too / he would-a never take a bullet for you / don't believe a word he says / he would-a never cut his heart out for you"

6. Science vs. Romance, by Rilo Kiley
First impressions: Another mellow Rilo Kiley tune.
Upon further examination: Yep, another mellow Rilo Kiley tune. I like it. Maybe not quite as much as "Hail to Whatever..." or "Portions for Foxes," but it's still quite good.
Most likely to become an earworm: "Text versus romance / you go and edit all you want / still we're not robots / inside a grid"

7. Dissolved Girl, by Massive Attack
First impressions: Pleasant to listen to. Kind of nondescript. Would be decent background music at a gathering or somesuch.
Upon further examination: Kind of a vanilla track. I like vanilla just fine. There just isn't much that makes it stand out.
Most likely to become an earworm: "Say, say my name / need a little love to ease the pain"

8. The Laws Have Changed, by The New Pornographers
First impressions: I'll admit, I cheated on this one. Already knew, and knew I liked, this song. Happily took the opportunity to download it.
Upon further examination: This one and "Miss Teen Wordpower" were conflated in my mind for a good long while; I'd start humming one and switch midway into the other. Oh well. They're both great.
Most likely to become an earworm: "Introducing for the first time / Pharoah on the microphone / sing all hail, what will be revealed today / when we peer to the great unknown / from the line to the throne?"

9. Vikingman, by Rodrigo y Gabriela
First impressions: Holy crap. Is it actually possible to play the guitar that fast? That is absurd.
Upon further examination: Gods. These people are guitar gods. Video of another of their songs.
Most likely to become and earworm: No lyrics, and I suppose just saying "that part that goes ba-da-da daa, ba-doo, ba-da-da ba ba baa, ba-da-da boo-da ba-da ba-da ba-da baa ba-da" isn't really helpful. ;)

There you have it. New music is fun! Yay!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Oh hell yeah

Today it was:

  • wet out when I left in the morning, because it had rained in the night

  • less than 80 degrees all day long

  • finally cool enough in the evening for me to justify wearing a sweater when I went out to the grocery store


It's supposed to rain tomorrow and Friday. I am excited!

Oh yeah, and I downloaded some music per your recommendations, and I'll be posting my reviews shortly. Yay!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dick Francis Wannabe

I have been trying to help a friend of mine with an honest to goodness racehorse mystery. It's been equally interesting and frustrating, and while I thought I already knew a fair bit about the racing industry, I've learned yet more in these past few weeks.

I've written about my friend, Caitlin, before (steward of the beloved Kakki in her final years). She operates a horse farm in Southern Oregon, which was a successful breeding operation for several years and currently focuses mainly on buying, training, and re-selling horses. She is the most talented rider/trainer I know, and the few summers I spent as her working student taught me almost as much about myself as about horses.

Anyhow, back to the mystery. Last month, Caitlin purchased a young Thoroughbred gelding. The previous owner had bought him at an auction and didn't know much about him, other than the fact that he'd been born in California, wasn't very good at the track, and raced under a name that may or may not have been "Magic Thing", but was something similar to that and definitely spelled strangely (e.g. Magik Thang). Side note: horses in general, and racehorses in particular, are often given some very strange names. At any rate, Caitlin only needed to see this horse move to know she had found something special. She told me that he "is SO beautiful and and calm and moves like no Thoroughbred I've EVER seen, floats along at this slow jog trot with his feet stepping four inches above what you think is the ground, it's wild."

So we've got a beautiful, talented, young horse with a temperament of gold. Caitlin and her family have nicknamed him Royal. His future as a performance horse is bound to be nothing short of shining. Caitlin should be able to sell him for a pretty good price, but there's one small hitch. She still doesn't know who he is, or what his bloodlines are, and most prospective buyers will be keenly interested in such details. And this is where I enter the story.

All racehorses, be they Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Appaloosa, what have you, are marked with an identifying brand or tattoo. A lip tattoo is the most typical, but neck freeze brands are also used. Every horse registered with the Jockey Club is kept in a huge database. If you have an unknown horse, but its tattoo or brand is clearly legible, the Jockey Club can easily trace the horse and provide copies of its pedigree and race record.

If only it were that easy.

Royal's lip brand is not clearly legible.


The format for a Thoroughbred's tattoo is a letter (designating year of birth) followed by five numbers. Royal's letter is basically invisible, but his teeth indicate he's probably between 4 and 5 years old, which would make him most likely an F or a G horse (born in 2002 or 2003). The rest of the numbers seem like they'd be straightforward enough - 2, 2, something, 2, 1 - except that every possible combination Caitlin called in to the Jockey Club came back as invalid. Either there was no horse registered with that tattoo number, or the horse registered didn't match Royal's description. So Caitlin sent me a bunch of tattoo photos, hoping I could use my mad CSI skillz to enhance them and magically reveal the missing letter and number.



Alas, I only managed to raise more questions. Is that second-to-last number a 2, or could it be an 8 instead? (A week later, we've determined it's definitely a 2. Probably.) The "invisible letter" looks kind of like an H, but that would make Royal younger than his teeth say he is. Aaaand we're still coming up with zilch from the Jockey Club. So. Back to square one. Mystery horse still mysterious. Whatever will we do now?

Update: Something that I forgot to mention before, that has only served to add to the frustration of this whole thing, is that when you call in a potential tattoo number to the Jockey Club, they only let you try two numbers a day. If you catch them in a good mood, they might let you get away with four, and when I called, I cajoled the lady into letting me try three. So checking a series of possible tattoo configurations (G22021, G22081, G22321, G22381, H22021, etc.) takes days at the minimum. Come on, Jockey Club! Why can't you be more like the Standardbred association, which has a beautiful little search engine on their website? (Caitlin thought Royal might be a Standardbred, not least because of his amazing trot, but all the potential matches we came up with on the Standardbred website were for freeze brands, not lip tattoos.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Make me a mix tape (sorta)

Okay, not so much a mix tape as a mix playlist (ah, technology...)

I probably don't have much of a right to ask, given that I hardly write enough anymore to keep anyone entertained, but I wonder if I might request a favor of the few of you who do actually still come around here.

My sister gave me an iTunes gift certificate for my birthday a few months back (thanks!). I haven't gotten around to using it yet, and I wonder if I might solicit recommendations from you folks as to what I should purchase. Since I stopped downloading free stealing music via Napster et al, I haven't discovered all that many new bands or artists. So whadya say? Help a gal out? Who/what is rocking your [insert music player/device of choice] these days?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Catting is Hard

Over the weekend, the temperature outside was above a hundred degrees. Our apartment has pretty much no insulation whatsoever, and no central air, so even with the wall unit in the living room and the window unit in the bedroom going full blast all day long, it was pretty uncomfortable inside. The living room didn't drop below 93 degrees until well after the sun had set. The bedroom, where the air conditioner works considerably better, was a manageable 84 degrees.

The cats, therefore, spent most of their time this weekend in the bedroom, basking on the bed with their bellies stretched out toward the cool air. I am, however, suspicious that the increase in the temperature outside was in direct proportion to the increase in shedding the cats did.

In other words, they lost their hair at a prodigious rate. What I mean is, the transfer of cat hair from cat body to bed linens was outrageous in scope. That is to say, the cats left us enough of their fur to weave an additional blanket, if we so wished. What I'm getting at, is that there were not only the usual smattering of hairs covering our sheets and pillows, but actual tufts of fur. Tufts. In other words, I am surprised that the cats are not currently naked.

Seriously. It was so bad that I actually took the lint roller to the bed, and had to rip off no less than seven sheets of sticky paper, before the thing was anywhere close to habitable by humans who do not wish to wake up spitting out hairballs in the morning. Those guys...I'm telling you...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Burnination!


It's hot here. Really. I mean, I know it's not Phoenix or anything, but at least those fools have air conditioning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I forget, sometimes

Yesterday, as I was driving home from work, I saw a black helicopter hovering fairly low to the ground off to the side of the freeway. It was the hilly area between the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, so there weren't any houses there, just hiking trails. As I got closer, I saw a rope dangling down from the helicopter. Then I saw several police cars and a fire engine parked a little ways up one of the (rather wide) trails. There was a small crowd of people gathered behind the vehicles, with the cops at the front of the pack. About fifty feet in front of the crowd, not far from the rope hanging down from the helicopter, a man stood facing away from the cops with his hands in the air. Traffic, of course, came to a screeching halt as everyone turned to gawk at the scene. Huzzah.

I told Tom that evening about the crazy arrest I'd witnessed. He found it about as surprising as I did. I meant to see if there was anything about it on the news last night, but I got sidetracked and forgot.

This morning, I asked one of my coworkers (who drives home on the same freeway and left a short while after I did yesterday) if he'd seen the cops take the guy out or what. His reply - "Oh, is that what was happening? I didn't really see any cops, just a crowd of people milling around. There didn't seem to be any tension either. The helicopter was circling when I drove by, like it was trying to get in the right position or something. I figured they were filming."

Duh. Of course that's what was going on. Why that hadn't occurred to me, I don't know. Maybe it says something about the area that a film shoot and a large-scale arrest are about equally likely. But logic wins the day. I wonder what movie/TV show/commercial/music video they were working on.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Project Runaway

I was at work until 8:00 tonight finishing up the project for which I have a big presentation tomorrow. I've been working on this project for almost 5 months now. It's pretty cool, but I'll be glad when it's done. I present to Manufacturing tomorrow and then Marketing on Monday. Given the option, I would gladly flee the scene thereafter and go take a couple of days off. Instead, I'll just go back to work and get started on the next big project. But hey, Labor Day's coming up soon, right? Right?

Update: First presentation went well today. Yay!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oh Noes!


When I got home from work last Friday, I discovered that our internet connection was on the fritz again. Pah. No matter; we checked email at Tom's office on Saturday and managed to "borrow" a wireless connection from one of our neighbors on Monday (until they got wise and upped their security). So yesterday, it was time to call the cable company.

I am not going to write a "oh woe to me; calling the cable company customer service line is such a drag" post. But seriously, calling the cable company customer service line is such a drag. Ultimately, "we" discovered that the problem is the cable modem. It has the flu, or possibly just some bad gas. At any rate, today I have to take it down to the cable office and swap it for a healthier one. Hopefully thereafter I will come up with something exciting to write about.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Somebody should've called the PR Store

Last week at work, there was a meeting in which we were reminded that we have access to free support/counseling if we need it. We were each given a little refrigerator magnet with the following printed on it:


EMPLOYEE SUPPORT SYSTEMS COMPANY
(ESSCO)
Your Employee Assistance Program

Marital, Family, Emotional, Legal, Financial, Chemical Dependencies

(phone number/URL)
Finally! Someone who can help me with my horrible financial dependency! That thing has been a monkey on my back for so long now...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fascinating

We watched a show on Animal Planet tonight that was all about this crazy bastard who free dives with all sorts of sharks, up to and including tigers and great whites. (That link will take you to a video of him doing just that.) Not that I have any desire to emulate the guy whatsoever, I have to say his cause is noble (he's all about getting people to stop killing sharks), and it's also pretty interesting what he's managed to do.

Apparently, many (most?) sharks succumb to something called Tonic Immobility under different sorts of stimuli. This catatonic trance is similar to "playing possum," though it's not clear exactly why it happens. It has at least something to do with how sharks mate; the males of some species bite the females and then flip them over on to their backs. Once inverted, the females go completely limp for something like 15 minutes on average. Fertilization happens, and the eggs have a chance to remain undisturbed for a decent amount of time before the female wakes up and swims away.

Various shark experts around the world have figured out how to induce "tonic" in the animals. The method depends upon the breed of shark. Very small sharks (e.g., juvenile lemon sharks) can be manually flipped on their backs, at which point they go immediately limp. Medium-sized, pointy-nosed reef sharks are sent into "tonic" by having the undersides of their noses stroked, where there are a multitude of nerve endings. Tiger sharks (which are really very pretty, by the way) are sensitive along the sides of their square noses, rather than the underside. And once they're out, they're really out. The scientists on the show were collecting blood samples and implanting subcutaneous radio tracking devices, and the sharks didn't even seem to notice.

Anyway, definitely give it a watch if you happen to come across it while channel surfing. It's the Sharkman episode in Animal Planet's "Bite Nights" series.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ye Olde Oil Rigs

I haven't had much of anything exciting to report lately, in case you hadn't noticed. My days have consisted of waking up, going to work, going to the gym, going home, making and eating dinner, showering, and going to sleep. That's really about it. Important, I guess, but not so very interesting!

I've felt a little guilty about not updating anything here. I had a crazy dream last week that I was still in high school, missed my carpool one morning and was forced to take the elementary school bus. I had to walk a few miles to get to the bus stop, but somehow I made it on time. When I got on the bus, there were animals everywhere. Apparently it was "Bring Your Pet to School" day. There was a very elaborate fish tank sitting on one of the bus seats, and there were cats and dogs and ferrets and gerbils frolicking in the aisle. My lone thought amid all the craziness: Hey! What a crazy day I'm having! Finally I've got something to blog about! See? Worried about updating the blog even in my sleep. I'm a big dork...

However, this weekend I managed to do some stuff worth writing about. Here goes.

I had lunch with Gram Gram on Saturday. We went to the Corner Bakery in Burbank, where we had a nice time getting caught up over some tasty food. Afterward, I went by the dive shop to pick up gear for the oil rigs trip on Sunday. After that, Tom & I went over to Max's where we made an extremely tasty dinner with him & Demetri. On the menu: falafel-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and roasted baby zuchinis. The chicken was a little tricky to prepare, but once Tom & Max got the deep frying protocol figured out, it was smooth sailing. And oh my word were those some tasty drumsticks. The falafel coating was just crispy enough to offset the tender, juicy meat.

Sunday morning we got up early and made our way to San Pedro, hoping to successfully make it out to dive the oil rigs this time. The boat's air compressor was working just fine, so the trip was a go. Less than an hour later, we were approaching the Eureka* rig. We could hear the sea lions barking and, as we got closer, could see them lounging** on the cross beams. How cool is that?

We had to do what's called a "live drop", since it's too deep for the boat to anchor near the rigs, so we sat waiting with all our gear on while the boat carefully backed up to the Eureka. Then, two-by-two, we jumped off the back and kicked like crazy until we were under the rig, protected from the open ocean currents. Once underneath, we had to shift our attention upwards; apparently, the sea lions think it is super fun to roll off the beams and dive-bomb anyone who might be underneath them. Heh heh...yeah. Fortunately for us, they all seemed more interested in napping than "playing." Soon we were ready to ascend into the deep.

Our plan for the first dive was to hit 120 feet, stay there for 5 minutes, then ascend to 60 feet for 10 minutes and 30 for 15. The bottom of the rigs is something like 600 feet (!), so there was no way we'd be anywhere near the ocean floor, which was a first for us. Usually we spend at least part of every dive at the site's maximum depth. There are a couple of considerations when diving at a place like the rigs. First, you obviously want to make sure you've got your buoyancy under control; you can accidentally exceed your planned depth if you don't start putting air in your BCD early enough. Also, most divers experience some degree of nitrogen narcosis below 100 feet. This is frequently described as being similar to alcohol intoxication, except that it is entirely dependent upon pressure. At depth, it comes on very fast, but it goes away just as quickly upon moderate ascent.

The most dangerous aspect of narcosis is the loss of decision-making ability, loss of focus, and impaired judgment, multi tasking and coordination. At its most benign, nitrogen narcosis results in relief of anxiety and a feeling of tranquility and mastery of the environment. Other effects include vertigo, tingling and numbness of the lips, mouth and fingers, and extreme exhaustion. The syndrome may cause exhilaration, giddiness, extreme anxiety, depression, or paranoia, depending on the individual diver and the diver's medical or personal history.

I have experienced some mild narcosis in the past at depths near 100 feet. It's fairly easy to recognize - feels like you've just had a couple of beers - and as long as you keep your wits about you, it's really not so bad.

However...

My narcosis experience was completely different at 120 feet. This time I fell promptly and firmly on the "anxiety and paranoia" end of the spectrum. It was the first time I have ever felt really and truly afraid while diving. Even though I knew logically that I was just as safe as I'd ever been, I wanted nothing more at that moment than to be back on the surface with my head above water. In hindsight, I'm kind of offended that my body would betray my brain like that (or was it my brain betraying my mind?), but you can't fight physiology, can you?

The good news is that, even in the midst of my little anxiety attack, I have the requisite training to know exactly what was going on and exactly how to make it stop. And I did just that. When I couldn't handle it any longer (about halfway into our planned 5 minutes at maximum depth), I got Tom's attention and let him know we needed to ascend a little. We got up to about 90 feet, and I started to feel better.

Minor freak-out notwithstanding, it was a pretty cool day of diving. The rigs really are neat; there's life covering just about every square inch of the pylons and cross-members. There were some wicked-cool metridiums (metridia?), big-ass scallops, and, well, all kinds of crap. On both dives, there were giant schools of silver fish; I mean giant. So giant in fact, that at times, I could barely see Tom in front of me for all the fish. These are generally referred to as bait balls.

And on the second dive, the sea lions came out to play. They even came right up and barked at us underwater! It was pretty freaking awesome.

All told, it was a good day. I'm bummed about the bad narcosis experience, but I'm glad I got to see what it was like, and while I'm pretty sure I never want to have to deal with that again, at least I know that I could.

Here's hoping something else exciting happens soon so I can write about it too!



*This guy's got an amazing collection of underwater photos. Go check out his website.

**Ditto this gal.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Half-assing it

  • Lab work for thesis: completed!
  • Sunday divezors out at Catalina: excellent!
  • Harry Potter reading: commenced!
  • Recent weather: hot!
  • After-work gym attendance: resumed!
  • Leo: hungry!
  • Husband: wonderful!
  • This post: lame!

Sorry it ain't much, folks. I'll be back to write something for real, real soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Foiled!

I had my weekend all planned out. It was going to go something like this:

Saturday
Ass-early: Wake up. Take Tom to Catalina ferry carpool. Return home. Go back to sleep.
8-ish: Wake up again. Feed cats. Go to work.
9am: Work on data collection for hateful thesis project. Finish data collection. Do a little, celebratory dance.
Mid-afternoon: Purchase & consume ice cream cone. Return home. Pick up Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, which whill have been delivered. Whoo!
6pm: Purchase and consume dinner foods. Drive to Long Beach. Take ferry to Catalina.
8-9:30pm: Read Harry Potter on the ferry all the way to Catalina.
9:30-ish: Arrive in Avalon. Meet up with Tom & friends. Hand Harry Potter over to Tom. Go to sleep.

Sunday
7am: Wake up. Breakfast. Go to dive boat. Dive all day.
7:30pm: Ferry home. Resist urge to read Harry Potter over Tom's shoulder. (He really doesn't like that.)
10-ish: Arrive home. Shower. Sleep.

Seems like a pretty good plan, no? Alas, a hitch has developed. Yesterday afternoon, I got the standard shipping confirmation email from Amazon.
Your item has shipped! Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows is scheduled to arrive on Saturday, July 21st, at [Tom's work adress].
Noooooooooo! How could we have been so stupid?* Even though the book will arrive on Saturday, campus mail won't deliver it to Tom's box until Monday. Gah. So lame.

It should still be a good weekend as far as everything else goes, though. I heard that the water temp at the island was averaging around 73F last weekend, so the diving ought to be spectacular. And after Saturday, I won't be stuck at work every evening shaking and sifting dirt**; this will make me very happy.

*Actually, I know exactly how. Originally, the release date for the book was going to be 7/19, which is today. A Thursday. Which would have worked out fine. When they pushed back the release date, I forgot to adjust the shipping address accordingly. Rest assured, I will be flagellating myself for my grievous error.

**It's the dirt that is both shaken and sifted. I am not so overwrought by this chore that I am reduced to trembling.

A foray into frivolity

I am not a very "girly" girl. I wear makeup almost never. Shooting guns and driving tractors make me happier than shopping for shoes and reading Cosmo. It takes me all of 30 minutes to get out the door on an average morning, and that's only because I'm a slowpoke; I could probably be ready sooner if I had to be. I certainly don't devote an appreciable amount of time to my appearance. If my clothes (generally) match and my hair (mostly) isn't sticking out all crazily, I'm good to go.

I have, however, recently begun investing in good haircuts. It's a time savings, really. If my hair is cut well, it takes very little effort to make it look at least moderately presentable in the morning.

I got my hair cut last week. Since it's summer and about a million degrees outside, I went a little shorter with the cut than I've gone in a while. It's a very versatile 'do. When I get ready in the morning, I wet my hair down and run a little gel through it with my fingers. I can part it on the left. I can part it on the right. I can part it right down the middle. I can spike the back out a little if I want to be all sassy. (Or something.) It takes all of five minutes, which works out just fine for me.

Okay. Now to the frivolity. I've been rockin' the side part since I got this new haircut, since a center part seems to make everything fall a little flat. I like how my hair looks when I part it on the right. It looks fine parted on the left, but I did that so rarely when my hair was a little longer, that it just looks less like "me" than a right-side part. However...I am looking at myself in a mirror. To everyone else, it's backward. I've been walking around all apparently-left parted, looking the opposite of how I think I look. So now I have a minor dilemma - do I part my hair on the right so it looks good to me but less good to everyone else (and in photographs), or do I part my hair on the left knowing that it looks better "in real life" than it does in the mirror?

(Dude. I warned you this was going to be frivolous.)

I'm going to go now. We can just pretend I never wrote this post at all, if you want. That's cool.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Disorder of the Phoenix?

I watched the Harry Potter movie tonight. Not going to spoil it, so don't worry. I will say that while I wasn't entirely satisfied, it was about as good as can be expected, considering how much they had to cut out from the book in order to not have the film be seventeen hours long. (Of course, since the book's got about 300 superfluous pages of Harry whining, you'd think they could have managed to whittle it down without carving up the story, but whatever.) It was kind of like a two hour long version of "Harry Potter in 30 Seconds as Re-Enacted by Bunnies," in that it basically jumped from plot point to plot point without any real transitions or detailed explanation. It was prettily shot. There were only a couple of minor inaccuracies. I think I'll probably enjoy it more upon a second viewing.

I may get my chance for that pretty soon, since Tom was called away as we were walking into the theater. Seems there was some major disaster in the lab, torrential flooding, badness all around. He's just now on his way home. At one in the morning. It's awesome. Poor guy. :-\

I'm off to bed. Hope everyone has a good rest of the weekend.

Friday, July 13, 2007

GIMPing Along

I finally got around to downloading The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) yesterday. It's basically a free, open-source analog of Photoshop. I got the Catalina pictures developed today, and they're all pretty washed out, so I'll be spending a lot of time tweaking the color balance and such before they're ready for public view. Here's the first one, though. The original image (complete with exposure burns), followed by the GIMPed one. I can see this rapidly becoming my new obsession...



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

See the bandwagon. See Sue. See Sue jump on the bandwagon.


As I do not yet have photos to post from Catalina, I will do this Simpsons avatar thing everyone else is doing. My hair is no longer a braid-able length, but all the short styles didn't look right either. So we'll just pretend. (Yes, as if that is the most unbelievable thing we've got going here...)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

More to life than diving? Are you sure?

We're off to Catalina at the crack of dawn tomorrow, if not before the crack of dawn, so that we can (hopefully) finish our deep diving certification. As we have to be in Long Beach shortly after 5:00 in order to catch the 6:15 ferry, I'm basically headed off to bed as soon as I finish the sentence after this one. Have a good weekend, all, and you know the drill (check back for photos etc. in a few days, if you are interested in that sort of thing); good night!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

8...8...I forget what 8 was for

Chimmy says: "There's more to life than diving Sue..."

We'll see about that.

1. Post the rules, then list eight things about yourself.
2. At the end of the post, tag and link to eight other people.
3. Leave a comment at those sites, letting them know they've been tagged, and asking them to come read the post so they know what to do.

Ready? Okay!

1) At this moment, I am sitting on the couch with my husband. We are trying to reason our way though figuring out the physical size of "the world" in Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince/Dragon Star books. It takes two days to ride from Stronghold to Radzyn. We figure a person can easily hike 20 miles on foot in a day; a horse could probably cover twice that distance without having to go too fast. Estimating then that Stronghold and Radzyn are 80 miles apart, we can extrapolate (using a ruler and the drawing at the front of the book, which for our purposes we must assume is to scale) that the whole island is about 120,000 square miles - about half the size of France. These are the kinds of conversations we have, sometimes. (Technically, I know this is more about me-and-Tom than just me, but...meh, I don't care.)

2) My legs are pretty sore right now because I finally went back to the gym yesterday for the first time in over a month. I decided that I should start lifting weights at least a couple of times a week, so yesterday I jogged for 5 minutes on the treadmill to warm up and then did a bunch of leg exercises in the weight room. And by "a bunch" I really mean "a few, but more than I've done in a while, obviously."

3) I frequently have dreams that I'm walking through a hospital. Not because I'm hurt or sick or even visiting anybody. It's usually just that I'm on my way somewhere, and on the way, I have to pass through some hospital. No idea why I have these dreams.

4) I'm having a hard time completing this list. I've been working on it (okay, off and on) for over an hour now, and I'm barely halfway done. I suspect it's because I don't believe there's much about me that is all that interesting (that I haven't already mentioned in the Six Weird Things meme), and I want nothing less than to be uninteresting, or at the very least, amusing. I fear this probably means that, despite my claims to the contrary, I actually do care what other people think of me.

5) I wish I were a better photographer and/or I had more time to devote to taking neat pictures. I suppose all I really have to do is make the time, so I wish I bothered to do that.

6) If I knew how to skydive, I would probably pack a parachute in my carry-on luggage for every flight I took. Seems about as reasonable as carrying a life jacket on a boat. In fact, I'd rather my seat cushion be able to double as a parachute instead of a flotation device. At least then I'd have a shot at survival, even if I don't have any formal skydiving training. What are the chances of a plane crashing into water and everyone on board not dying on impact, anyway? Do we really need life rafts? Has anyone ever deployed a life raft after a "water landing?" I highly doubt it.*

7) I really REALLY want to spell flotation with an extra A. Why in the world is it not floatation?!

8) I make wishes on hay trucks if I pass them on the road ("Bale of hay, bale of hay, take my wish away."), but only half-heartedly, because part of me is afraid that whatever wish I make, the opposite will come true. This is undoubtedly because I usually wish for things like, "I wish for the workday to go by quickly and without any stress," and at my old job, that was pretty much never going to happen, magical hay powers or no. For a while there, I was trying to "fake out" the magic hay by wishing for the opposite of what I actually wanted, but the magic hay always knew what I was up to. Then it came down to bargaining with the hay - "Okay, just let the day be relatively painless and without any major issues. I'll deal with the usual crap. Just no extra crap today. Okay? Please?"

Aaaaand, we're clear. Anyone who may want to attempt this (Tom, Meg, Megan, Amy, Raul, Dana, Sunny, Neil, others?) should consider themselves tagged.

*It seems that I am wrong.