Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Months

Brynna is now passing that two-month milestone. Huzzah!

We got nothing else at the moment, really, so here are some more pictures of Brynna. We know that's what you come here far anyway...

Brynna is now a rather reliable smiler. Alas, it is a little difficult to get her to smile at a camera. This is the best we've done so far, which doesn't really do it justice. This one just looks like she's making fun of us.

Still enjoying the market while her papa picks out apples for pie. Poor Brynna doesn't know about pie yet, but her mother does!

Pretty in Pink?

Brynna has a very soft and squishy bear that she is simply enthralled by. That in itself is interesting, but the cooler part is that she tries, we think, to purposefully reach out and touch it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I love to read. The trouble, however, for the last few months (years, maybe) has been a lack of free time to fully indulge my love of books. H can tear through them much more quickly than I, and I don't do so well reading one or two pages at a time. But, I have some paternity leave coming up, and although Brynna will make my days unpredictable, I imaging that I'll have at least some time to read. It's a good thing, too, because I've got a tremendous pile of stuff that's come in - some books, but also my usual assortment of magazines: Make:, National Geographic, Wired, IEEE Spectrum, Yankee. Then there are the magazines that H gets or that we get jointly: Kiplinger's, Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, Dartmouth Alumni.

But, before I get to all of those, I'm trying my best to get through a library new release. Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I love Stephenson as an author - his subject material is right up my alley (science, tech, history), and his writing style ranges from airily constructed passages to whole rants of hyperbole that leave one in stitches. This latest opus is a piece of speculative fiction that takes place on an Earth-like world that has a sort of post-technological system of monasteries, one of which the narrator belongs to. The monasteries have massive stores of all knowledge, but largely eschew technology. The monasteries are divided into different sections, where the monks and nuns (fraas and suurs in this book - the book has its own vocabulary) reside for varying periods of time. Some come for day trips of lectures, then there are those who take year-long sabbaticals, then come the ten-year residents, followed by the hundreders and the millennials. During those prescribed periods of time, each section of the monastery is completely cut off from the rest and from the outside world. So, a Tenner will walk through the doors, perhaps as a youth, and live a monastic life of Socratic learning and dialog for the next ten years. When the gates to the ten-year section of the monastery reopen after a decade, they can leave to continue their lives, or stay for another ten year stint. Some migrate from their section to a longer-serving section. For the hundreders and millennials, this can mean they enter the monastery very early in life (the monastery accepts orphaned babies from the surrounding communities), and never actually get out again in their lifetime, unless they happen to live during the turn of a century of millennium. The segregation by time has some meaning - I think it is partly for intellectual hygiene - to keep virus-like theories and ideas from reaching the innermost sanctum of knowledge. Meanwhile, the outside world grows and changes. Nations rise and fall, culture waxes and wanes (mostly wanes), wars come and go, and those on the inside largely ignore and be ignored.

One needn't ask the why or how of this situation - it's a work of fiction, after all. It is an interesting premise from which to begin the story, and 300 pages in, I'm still puzzling bits of it out. The events of the story will not forever be confined to the monastery, certainly, but I'm a long ways from the end.

And therein lies the challenge. I have this book from the library. Being a new release, I only have it for two weeks. I picked it up last Saturday, then had no time all last week to even crack it open. Yesterday and today have allowed me to get some 300 pages in, but the book is over 900. Here's hoping I can get through it before its return date this coming Saturday - it may mean some late nights.

UPDATE 9/30/08 20:30 - Work has kept my progress down to just 50 pages in the last day and a half. But, I did have a laugh with these lines:

But after a while she said, "Do you need transportation? Tools? Stuff?"

"Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs," I said. "We have a protractor."

"Okay, I'll go home and see if I can scrounge up a ruler and a piece of string."

"That'd be great."

I sometimes feel like the one with the protractor.

UPDATE 10/4/08 17:35 - I did, in fact, manage to finish the book last night. So, I was able to return it today, on time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Debate

It would take hours, a few thousand words, and a complete transcript of the whole 100-minute teeth-pulling episode to say all we have to say about the debate. So, instead, let's throw out a couple of comments for the masses:

In response to Lehrer's question about the lessons learned in Iraq, the correct answer is not how right McCain was about the counter-insurgency. The right answer - first, foremost, before, after, and ever since the time of Sun Tsu - is "Never get into a war in the first place." Obama sorta came 'round to that, but really that is all he needed to say: the best way to win a war is not fight one in the first place. For crying out loud, just watch the Princess Bride.

"Maverick" should, like oh-so-many political cliches, be officially declared a four-letter word.

The road to the White House does not lead through bracelets from war mothers. If you think anyone's vote can be won in a contest of who has the best sob stories, I would very much ike to vomit all over you.

I suppose it is well that Obama's game is basketball. It is clear, from the number of leads from McCain that he could have knocked out of the park with a single sentence, that baseball will never be his game. In response to every instance where McCain touted his long experience in foreign policy as evidence that he's all set to make the decisions for the next four years, all Obama needed to say was "How much use is experience if you keep making bad decisions?"

If McCain thinks it's all so great that he's going to not need any on-the-job training to be commander-in-chief, what the hell does he think of his running mate?

I appreciated that this debate had some time for back and forth, rather than being merely a joint press conference. However, let this be a lesson for the future: the moderator must always be empowered with a switch to cut the mike of either or both candidate.

The sentiment in this room is that, far more than either candidate's performance, the debate itself failed to meet expectations.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Statue Cleaning

There's a statue-fountain I often pass: "Boy with Dolphin." It's out in the open air, day and night, all through the year, so it gets hit pretty hard by the weather. Every once in a great while, the statue gets cleaned up. So, here's the boy getting his bum scoured, buffed, and varnished to be spick and span.

The statue without an entourage can be seen here below.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Today was my first day back in the clinic, where I am finishing the week of diabetes clinic that I was on when Brynna decided to join us. Over the last couple of days, I carefully prepared a list of things that I needed to pack. Last night, after Brynna went to sleep, I checked things off.

I steam cleaned and put together my breastpump for the morning. I packed up extra bottles and extra pump parts. I loaded Brynna photos onto my iPod for provoking speedy milk let-down in the pumping room. I returned my pager and ID tags to their normal place in my backpack. I set out my suit. I boxed up a serving of leftovers for lunch, and filled my lunch bag with healthy snacks. I washed my water bottle. Then I found my stack of endocrine notes and articles from the days preceding Brynna's arrival and stayed up until 12:30 reviewing thiazolidinediones, sulfonylureas, and the onset and duration of action of different types of insulin.

Brynna woke up hungry at 5:15, and by the time that she nursed and I pumped the remainder of my milk, it was just about time to be awake for good. All went smoothly...Brynna went back to sleep while I got ready for the day, and then, with impeccable timing, woke up to nurse the last 15 minutes before I left, a lovely interlude for which I had carefully budgeted time.

Then lunch came out of the fridge, the ice pack for the milk came out of the freezer, and out the door I went at 7:30, hopping on to my bike and pedaling off toward the clinic. I was feeling like Superwoman. I am mommy! I am within-sight-of-being-physician! I can manage both of these roles with superior organizational skills!

Less than fifteen minutes later I was on the endocrine floor introducing myself to the resident and logging on to a computer. I put pens in my pocket and pulled out my clipboard, stocked with scrap paper and the template for diabetes appointments. Then I glanced at the doctor sitting next to me...who was fiddling with his stethoscope.

Right, his stethoscope.

I have one of those. Have had one for awhile. It's dark green, very lovely. Useful for checking hearts, lungs, carotid bruits.

And was hanging on our coat rack at home.


It turned out to not be a big deal at all. I was observing some educational sessions in the morning and wouldn't have used it even if I'd had it. Then, due to the quick progression of things in the morning, I got to go home for almost two hours at lunch. Then I did remember to bring my stethoscope back for the afternoon...just in time for the endocrine fellow to borrow it!

All in all, it was a nice, mellow first day back. I did not feel guilty or upset, which I'm sure has a lot to do with the absolute confidence of leaving Brynna with my dad all day. They had a lovely time, and though Brynna took a bottle quite happily during the day, she has been nursing almost non-stop since I got home. It may turn out that she will eat sparingly during the day and then make up for it when I am around. This is actually quite flattering, though possibly tiring if it continues all night!

Tomorrow is only the morning at work, then home in the afternoon and off to a big celebration dinner that the Department of Engineering is throwing in the evening. Will try to post some more pics of Brynna soon...and eventually we'll catch one of that smile head-on.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I would not ever claim to be a gardener. I do a little gardening, but I think to claim the title, I would need to have more enthusiasm and aptitude for it. Nevertheless, I must say I am quite proud of this clutch of peppers I harvested from our garden today. We only have one picture-perfect Red Knight so far, but there are a few more on the way. The green ones are Poblano, a slightly hot variety that I am experimenting with sun-drying. The purple ones are, aside from their color, almost the same as ordinary green peppers. The long red ones are Jimmy Nardelo, one of the few chili-type peppers that is sweet, not hot.

There are still many of each variety that are growing and ripening. We'll see how far we can get in the next month or so before we have to start worrying about the frost.

As great as it is to have our own peppers, it is good we are not relying solely on these for the coming winter. We have instead been buying up large amounts at the farmer's market of late, cutting then freezing. Mostly we have focused on sweet red peppers, but have expanded into yellow bananas and the purple ones, which create a nice color blend. We have four or five large ziplocks frozen up already, with perhaps one or two more to come.

Friday, September 19, 2008

7 Weeks Old!

Brynna turned 7 weeks old yesterday. She was not too obliging in the picture department last evening, though...the best we could do were pictures of her back as she was crying into Alex's shoulder. So, I cheated a bit and re-took some shots this AM, when she actually looked celebratory. Look at that beautiful gummy grin!

Here's Brynna all dressed up for the La Leche League meeting on Tuesday. I thought her "baby woman" onesie would be appropriate wear:

Brynna received a most wonderful handmade quilt from Steph this week, and we have been using it for "tummy time," since it has nice bright patterns to look at. Isn't she strong?

And isn't she just as cute as can be?

Jasper is much more comfortable with Brynna now. He likes to keep an eye on her, whether she's snoozing on the couch:

Or playing on her new quilt:

This weekend we'll be transitioning the three of us out of the guest room where Alex and I have been sleeping since June, back to our regular bedroom upstairs. Mainly, we have to carry the cradle and the changing table upstairs and reorganize things a bit to make room for what will be Brynna's little nursery-nook. We've been pondering this move for a couple of weeks but are now going to actually carry it out, as my dad arrives Sunday for his first (of many) stints of Brynna-watching, and it makes a lot more sense for him to stay in the actual guest room. I head back to the clinic next week and am so incredibly glad that when I head out on Monday morning, I will be leaving Brynna in my dad's experienced and snuggly hands!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pics from CT

There are many, many more, but here are some highlights from Brynna's east coast debut!

Brynna at 6 weeks old.

Two greats: great-grandfather Dickie with his great-granddaughter.

M reading Mike Mulligan. He would insert snide remarks about the devious town selectman of the story being a Republican.

Brynna's great aunt, down from Boston.

Brynna with Hilary's godparents (Brynna's great-godparents? They certainly are great) and Paul and Gail, who all remember Hilary from before she was this small.

The paparazzi turns on itself.

Holly with an amazing quilt made for her - a grandmother's quilt, which is to remain with her for when Brynna is around.

Watching the world from her papa's shoulder.

College friend Kristin.

Auntie Sara the baby-whisperer.

All in all, a good time was had by all. Brynna got a bit fussy from all non-stop, multi-day stimulation, and will probably welcome being back in boring ol' Minnesota with her boring ol' parents before long. We just have another another harrowing trip to the airport first.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Zen Traveler

Our dear Brynna had her first plane ride the other day, at only six weeks! What a champ she was. We were able to forestall her growing hunger and impatience until takeoff, so that she could eat during ascent. This is a strategy that helped her ears to equalize and avoided a lot of unpleasantness. After that, she slept for the whole trip to BDL. Although we had the bulkhead row - the very last row in the plane - we had an empty seat in the row, so we could lay her flat and swaddled.

And how did her parents fare? Reasonably well, considering we were hauling about three times our usual amount of stuff. Hilary and I are seasoned travelers, like to think we travel light and efficiently, and, although we find no pleasure in flying, are well adapted to it. Due to recent airline price restructuring, we only checked a single bag. We also only had one carry-on apiece. The difference was that we also had Brynna, her carseat, and the stroller it snaps into. Taking advantage of a rare example of airline practicality and magnanimity, we kept her in the stroller all the way down the jetway and gate-checked it, which prevented us from having to carry her through the airport. Still, it also meant that we needed to perform and elaborate and unpracticed dance to get through security (shoes off, laptops out, line up the bags, pull Brynna out, carry Brynna through, break down the stroller and carseat, line up for scanning, walk through, then reverse the process on the far side).

Now we are in CT, to introduce Brynna to her adoring East Coast fanclub. We introduced her to Dickie, her great-grandfather, who likes to say they two are both greats. She took a fieldtrip to her grandmother's office, some of whom remember Hilary when she was that young. She also met our good friends Dave and Anne, who braved I-84, Friday evening rush-hour traffic around Hartford to come down from Boston for Friday dinner. Today she will meet some of her father's New England relations, and most of her mother's hometown acquaintances. She is napping now to prepare for the paparazzi.

We can only hope that the return trip will be so smooth.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cabinet Trim

Brynna's arrival sorta sidetracked the finishing steps in the bathroom renovations project. In hindsight, we're lucky I managed to get as far as I did.

But, hey, after only 5 weeks, I'm back at it.

Actually, I was back at it after only 3 weeks, when I purchased some interesting trim profiles and cut them to length. Ordinarily, one could just use a piece of 1" quarter-round molding, or something similarly easy to find in any lumber store, and install pretty quickly. However, the gaping hole into which the cabinet was inserted required, as I have said often before, a lot more than just one inch of cover. As a matter of fact, it requires about 2-1/2". So, instead of a single large piece of trim molding, what I did was stack two types. The first is a 2-3/4" baseboard molding, which is basically a flat board with a slight taper on one end. Onto that I added a 1-1/2" cove molding (in order to save on the amount of wood involved, the cove molding was made from 2" x 3/8" flat stock, rather than 1-1/2" square stock, and is designed to rest at a 45-degree angle). This stacking of different pieces at different angles is how one can produce the intricate profiles on, say, a mantlepiece.

During the following week, I stained and put a few coats of finish on the wood.

Then, every evening of last week, I said to myself: "Right, so tonight you're going to put that trim up," only to have it suddenly leap from 5 pm to 11 pm without even getting my hammer out.

But yesterday, at last, triumph!

After a lot of frustration, more curses than I would have liked for Brynna's tender ears (she actually slept through all the pounding), and about a dozen bent brass nails, I managed to get it in place. The difficulty I encountered had several causes including:

  • The wall onto which I wanted the trim to sit flush against is not actually flat
  • The non-flatness means that the miter corners wouldn't come together properly
  • I don't own a chop saw, and my table saw with miter gauge resulted in some poor miter cuts
  • The wall is plaster-and-horsehair, which is at once impossible to nail into, and won't hold onto a nail if you do
  • The nails I used, brass-finished for looks, were tiny and very difficult to drive in straight
  • I needed to basically hold onto and nail both the baseboard trim and the cove molding at the same time
  • Gravity

I only hope that whoever next buys the house doesn't take too close a look at the mitered corners.

But, so long as you don't scrutinize it too much, it mostly makes the cabinet look like an elaborately framed mirror.

Much as I wish this were the end of the lengthy project, there are, still, one or two odds and ends still to take care of. The observant in the audience will notice that, despite the 2-3/4" of coverage, there's still a gaping crack between the top of the cabinet and the bottom of the light fixture. I can probably fix that by just moving the light fixture down. Probably. One might also notice that the light switch to the right of the cabinet has no cover. Because of the width of the trim, I'm actually going to need to cut away the left third of the coverplate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Who's My Pretty Baby?

Some fun dancing with Brynna, captured with our new Flip Mino camcorder.

The latest addition to my gadget arsenal, the Flip is to video cameras what point-and-shoots are to SLRs. Very few controls, automatic everything, stripped down and simplified user interface, resulting in a very simple and compact device that is perfectly adequate for for 75% of tasks.

Expect to see some more as I play around with this new toy. I've got video from the State Fair that I hope to play around with this weekend.

A Quick Update From Maternity Leave

There is a sleeping baby rocking on my lap. There is a sleeping dog lying on my toes, keeping them warm against what has turned out to be quite a chilly morning. There is a Mozart oboe concerto playing, and there is a very cool blog that I have just discovered, courtesy of my father-in-law, on my screen.

Good day.

Personal Trainer

Here's Brynna supervising my daily crunches:

And leg lifts:

But running is reserved as special time for Jasper and me. Yesterday we ran 20 minutes, and I'm feeling good. I think we'll run all the way around Silver Lake soon...

Thursday, September 4, 2008


We wanted to be able to show Brynna that she was around for a big historical moment. Here we are watching Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC last week:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

On Sunday we headed off to the State Fair. Its main claim to fame is that just about any sort of food is available on a stick.

We started off the day with a yummy brunch at the French Meadow bakery:

Then made a brief stop at Twin Cities Green to pick up some more bamboo socks for Brynna:

And finally, on to the park and ride area for the fair. Here we are waiting for the bus:

Once we finally arrived at the fair, we met up with our friend Katie, a Minnesota native, and put ourselves in her capable hands to direct our wanderings. We started at the dairy barn, where Alex and I shared a blackberry malt made with Minnesota milk:

And checked out the butter sculptures of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contestants, each one carefully carved from a 90-pound block of Minnesota butter:

Across the street was the horticulture building, with the prize veggies:

And giant pumpkins:

And pretty flowers:

There was also crop art, which is made with seeds and grains. We had no idea that crop artists trend Democratic, but there were many anti-Republican and pro-Obama pieces, including this Dr. Seuss-themed one (Thidwick the moose has an annoying elephant living on his head, and all of the little figures surrounding the main picture have little liberal signs):

And this George Bush/Pinocchio scarecrow:

We have no idea why this scarecrow is wearing a Dartmouth hat, but we back it:

Then we wandered across the fairgrounds...

Stopping to take a photo with the moose topiary:

And ended up at the Eco Experience building (that's a 120-foot wind turbine blade):

Brynna then decided it was time for dinner, so we all took advantage of the opportunity to have a bite to eat (us grown-ups had watermelon):

Later on it was sweet potato chips:

Also eaten at the fair by various members of our party:
-fried cheese on a stick
-non-fried cheese stick
-corn dog
-fried pickles
-strawberry lemonade
-Leinekugel's honey weiss (beer)

We passed up chocolate-covered bacon on a stick, chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick, spaghetti on a stick, deep fried candy bars on sticks, and a variety of other fair delicacies.

We did, however, visit a bunch of the animal barns, checking out the dairy goats, poultry, horses, and cows.

Eventually, it was time to head home. Once back at the park and ride, Brynna went through a large meal and two diapers before we could buckle her in to her car seat and start the drive. All in all, she seemed to enjoy the festivities, which marked her one-month birthday!