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Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Doctor Is In 

I added a link to Howard Dean’s official blog this afternoon. I like his fire on the stump and the majority of his issues. Plus, if Bush-Cheney are already attacking him, then he must have them worried. This isn't to say that I wouldn't support John Kerry, Bob Graham, Carol Mosley-Braun, John Edwards or any other Democratic candidate -- just about anyone would be better than four more years of the current administration -- but the same quixotic urges that had me supporting Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown back in 1992 are drawing me to Dean this time around. I just hope he takes it all the way.

Cubano's 

Make no mistake -- Cubano's is a good restaurant. The food is well done and nicely presented, and the service is friendly. But (and you knew there was going to be a "but") the service always tends to be quite slow. Maybe it's because the last two times we've been there we've had a group (although this time it was six people and the time before it was only four); also they were short-staffed last night because of the AC Milan vs. FC Barcelona ChampionsWorld Series friendly. It just took a while for the food to arrive and then it took a while to check about dessert/coffee and to get the bill. It's nice to not be rushed out of a place, but things could have move a bit more quickly. And the mojito needed a better lime:mint mix. And it could have used more rum. And Evelin would have liked her soup to be warmer. And the desserts were not so much so. But the entrées are excellent...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

John Ritter RIP 

I put the prat in pratfall. Yesterday, while talking to someone in the office, I managed to step backwards into an empty box and to trip backwards into the doorway of my office. The fall was quite spectacular, although this time no holes were created in the drywall (and they still can't prove that I was responsible for that one so the less said the better). Actually, when I was a kid, I remember always being impressed by John Ritter's pratfalls on Three's Company, and on my U-12 youth soccer team, the coach called me "Chevy Chase" because I ended up on the ground so often. Of course, the fact that the field we played on was full of crawfish holes and other divots probably played a role in that. I also turned it to an advantage: as sweeper, I got quite good at going to the ground for tackles and clears.

Now I just use a pratfall to help disguise/accentuate my natural clumsiness. For example, a few years ago we were in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I was dashing across the street. Somehow I tripped on a loose cobblestone, something in the street, my feet — I have no idea what I tripped over — I went down well, but quasi-somersaulted back to my feet, knocking my head on the curb in the process and almost smashing into some people at a bus stop. I have no idea where this story is going, but it still makes me laugh ... unlike the time in Amsterdam when I darted across a street to get to an ATM (we were taking some advertisers to dinner and my European editor and I both realized we were short of cash). I made it across the eastbound bike lane, tram tracks and car lane and I was past the westbound car lane when my foot hit the westbound tram tracks wrong and I stumbled right in front of a bike. The ankle was twisted badly that time, but I managed to hop back across the street and to enjoy dinner. Hurm, reading back over this, maybe there's a lesson to be learned about jaywalking.

Last night Evelin found a cucumber hidden in the garden. It hadn't grown into a monster yet, but it was close. We chopped it up, added some diced onion and chopped tomatoes (from the farmers' market, ours are still a few weeks away from being harvested), and then drizzled it all with olive oil, merlot vinegar, and some salt. The peel was a bit tough, but the flavor was quite good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Jaleo 

Last night we went to dinner at Jaleo. I love that place, especially when friends/family are in town because you need more than two people to assemble a good range of tapas for the meal. We went with Evelin's aunt and uncle and we got three tapas each, and pretty much everything was scarfed down. Highlights included the cebolla asada con queso Picón (roasted sweet onion with Picón, a blue cheese), trigueros con romesco (grilled asparagus with romesco sauce) and portobello a la parrilla (grilled portobello with tons of garlic), along with our perennial favorites: judías verdes con vinagreta cremosa (green beans in creamy garlic sauce) and espinacas a la Catalana (spinach sautéed with pine nuts, raisins and apple). Evelin was being kind to me and let me have a beer, an Estrella Galicia; it just underscored for me how bad the nonalcoholic beers are. And for dessert, the flan al estilo tradicional de mamá Marisa con espuma de crema Catalana was sublime.

Wednesday night, we're going out with them again, along with two of Evelin's cousins who live in the area. Right now the plan is to head to Cubano’s in Silver Spring. Maybe I'll get to have a mojito ...

Monday, July 28, 2003

Family Time 

It's going to be a week-plus of family time. Evelin's aunt and uncle are in town for a few days and we're going to be having dinner with them tonight and later in the week; this weekend, her cousin's getting married; and another aunt and uncle will be staying with us for a night or two after the wedding.

This weekend was pretty simple. Evelin's birthday was Saturday and I baked her a chocolate cake. For dinner we just grilled some peppers and onions and had veggie fajitas, and then watched Raising Arizona. It'd been a long time since I'd seen that movie (although we've been joking about it for a while now, what with going through our own fertility issues), and I'd forgotten a good chunk of it. Even though it was done in 1987, it's held up really well. At that point, ART and IVF were only a few years old, which leads to the baby-swiping plot instead of an ART comedy (for one of those, try Maybe Baby, which is a lot funnier if you've had to go to a fertility clinic), but the mix of humor, action, and pathos really work 15 years later. Plus it starts of with a line like "I tried to stand up and fly straight, but it wasn't easy with that son' bitch Reagan in the White House."

Last week I was a little bit irked about the disparity between vacation time between the U.S. and Italian offices of my company (actually between the U.S. office and any of our offices elsewhere in the world). On Sunday, Joe Robinson had a good op-ed piece in The Washington Post looking at how poorly vacations are valued in the U.S. vs. the rest of the world. Interesting reading, and it really makes me long for the time when I was telecommuting. Having to come into the office each day seems to make it easier to get distracted by tiny problems that raise resentment and cut down on productivity. Or maybe it is because when I was telecommuting, I was only doing one person's job instead of two to two-and-a-half person's jobs. I don't know if there is a real solution; there definitely isn't one that individuals can implement themselves (beyond dropping out of it all, which is where the country B&B/farm/vineyard/goat-cheese emporium idea comes into play), but there doesn't seem to be any political will to improve the lot of the worker either, so ...

On the panda front, Mei's hormone levels reached all time highs on Wednesday, so we could see at some point over the next week to 10 days either an end to pseudopregnancy or a cub. The conventional wisdom is that she's not pregnant this time, but there's really no way to know until the hormone levels drop off and a cub either shows or doesn't show. She did spend about 25 minutes shifting around the nest in one of her dens yesterday evening, along with some other unusual behaviors, but only time will tell ...

Friday, July 25, 2003

IUI ... 

Oy, you take one day off for an IUI and you come back to a ton of e-mail, conflicting projects, and much, much more ... Italy is calling for the 2004 editorial calendar (mostly so people can take August for a vacation; something I'm jealous about, but it would be a bit more diplomatic to not point out how more civilized other nation's work policies are), outside editorial assignments have to be made for a contract publishing job, the francophone edition is in production on Monday, a week after that the regular edition ... Oh, and I haven't gotten Evelin's birthday figured out. At all. And it's tomorrow. *Smack*

Okay, just wanted to get that off my chest. The IUI went well; the sample turned out fine and the procedure was easy, so now we just get to sit around and wait for two weeks and keep our fingers crossed.

The whole process was pretty quick, we were finished up and home before noon, but we'd decided to take the day off just in case there were any problems. (Although it's a fairly straightforward process ... maybe it was just a good reason to play hooky.) Anyway, I spent part of the afternoon editing in the basement and then cutting the grass and doing other yardwork.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

You'd Think I Could Do This by Now ... 

It would be nice if medical labeling could be consistent. The first time I had to give Evelin an hCG trigger shot (about a year ago, our first cycle with the fertility clinic), it was a total mess. We'd taken the injections class at the doctor's office, but neither of us took notes and the nurse ran through a few crucial steps, such as tightening the needle to the syringe. Also, none of our info said how much of the water to use to dissolve the medicine and then how much to inject. We muddled through it that time. The second hCG trigger (in late November last year) went much more smoothly, but we'd asked a lot of questions and the info was fresh in our minds.

This time ... well this time things weren't so fresh. The Gonal-f shots were easy. I'd had to do a whole series of them on the last cycle and I had the methodology down. When we restarted those the other week, it was no problem. This shot, however, is different. It's the same sort of kit (same size needles), but the ampoules are different. Plus we were injecting 5,000 IU of the 10,000 IU in the ampoule. That I could handle: draw up 1 cc of the sterile water inject it into the ampoule containing the freeze dried medicine, roll gently to mix, and then draw back up 0.5 cc of the solution.

Now this is where it started to get tricky. Evelin remembered that the injection was like the others, subcutaneous, so we could give it in the back of the arm. (Evelin likes the shots there because she doesn't have to see the needle coming.) But the packing and inserts all say to give the injection intramuscularly. But the kit included the long mixing needle and a short subcutaneous needle. So we tried to call the doctor, mind you this is a little past 10:00 p.m. I got the kit prepared and we waited for the call back. Eventually, I decided that Evelin was right, I couldn't remember ever giving her an intramuscular shot, and the kit had the small needle, so we must need to give it subcutaneously. We called back the answering service to say never mind, but they said the message had already been relayed, so we waited a bit longer. At 10:30 p.m. we went ahead and did the shot. An hour later and still no call back. Hopefully the "never mind" message got to the doctor and we weren't just blown off ...

Getting away from needles, for dinner last night we got our first taste of our garden: a crook-neck squash, a zucchini, and a cucumber. Evelin sautéed the squash and zucchini with some onion and olive oil and it turned out great alongside the portabellas I'd marinated and grilled. It's amazing how well a simple mix of olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, honey, and garlic can cook up with the mushrooms.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

More Than Twins? 

"A 10% to 20% chance of having more than twins." When I asked the doctor to repeat the numbers, just to make sure I'd heard him correctly, he emphasized the odds by widening his eyes.

Evelin's follicles looked good this morning and we're going to do the trigger shot tonight, probably with 5,000 units, instead of the normal 10,000. The goal is to prod the two that are above 18 mm to spit out an egg without encouraging the others (which range from under 10 mm to nearly 16 mm) to produce. The doctor is a bit hesitant about going forward (the reminded us that Evelin's response to the drugs is one reason why he was in favor of us trying IVF instead of another IUI), but we scheduled the IUI for Thursday.

10% to 20% chance of triplets or greater ... there's also a chance that this will not work at all, another percentage chance of a singleton, and the rest would be the chance for twins. We didn't ask for the other numbers. It's probably best not to obsess about the chances, let's just hope for twins and a healthy pregnancy ...

In less scary news, by the time we got to the clinic this morning, the Hyundai was at 1,197 miles. On the way home, we were able to drive at 70 mph. It's nice not having every other car on the Beltway passing you ...

Monday, July 21, 2003

Nothing Much to Report ... 

No updates over the weekend as Evelin's laptop is still unrepaired (she's thinking of buying a university-surplus one later this week), and my desktop isn't near a working phone line ...

So what went on ... every morning we were up early and off to the fertility clinic. As I've said before, Evelin is an excellent responder to medicine, and they wanted to keep a close eye on how her follicles were developing. We ended up on Saturday night going from a 1-ampoule dose down to a half amp, and Sunday night they had us coast, which meant no shot. This morning she had eight (I think that's right) follicles greater than 10 mm, which is a lot. I'm sure the doctor is going to be concerned about the risk for multiples, but I think Evelin would rather we risk having to face selective reduction or something rather than cancel the cycle. It's hard to tell how thing's play out from here. She thinks we may have to do another half amp or so tonight and we already have another appointment for tomorrow morning. Sometime this week we'll trigger ovulation and then, two days later, head in for the IUI. All in all, it's a really weird way to go about making a baby ...

Other stuff: We saw Whale Rider on Friday night -- excellent movie that had us swinging up and down over and over again. We also rented Say Anything ... and watched it on Sunday; it's surprising how well that movie held up over time (excepting, of course, for the hair and the clothes).

Friday, July 18, 2003

Rarin' to Go 

"Excellent ..." (said while rubbing hands with evil glee). Evelin heard back from the RE; the numbers look good and we're to return to the fertility clinic on Saturday and maybe back again as soon as Sunday, which could mean triggering ovulation as soon as Sunday night. It seems really early, but she responds well to the meds. The other cool thing is that they have bagels in the waiting area on weekend mornings ... yummy!

Froggy 

On the good side, the grass is cut. We figure it's been about three weeks since it was last cut because of busy schedules, rain and general avoidance techniques. It really needed cutting, and it looks a lot better; now if we just weed the back beds ...

While cutting near the patio and pond, I noticed a smallish frog. Evelin's been worried because she hasn't seen our bullfrog in a month or two. I figured she's just gone on walkabout or something (there are several other ponds in the neighborhood), but Evelin thinks a raccoon or cat might have caught her. Anyway, we now have a smaller frog that's taken up residence. It looks like it could be a juvenile bullfrog or an adult leopard frog. It was a bit skittish and I couldn't get a really good look at it, but now that we know the frog is there, we'll try to keep an eye out for it.

Wednesday night, Evelin broke the power connection to her laptop again. It's been resoldered twice now and I spent an hour or two last night disassembling the thing and trying to resolder it again, but I wasn't too successful. I haven't done any soldering work since I was a teen (the first time a friend at work did the diagnosis and repair work; the second time I ran it up to a VCR repair place for a quick solder job; this time I went out and bought a soldering iron during lunch, figuring that I could take care of it easily enough) and I'm definitely out of practice. Actually, I'm a little worried I may have overheated some other components in the computer while trying to get the connection soldered. Very frustrating.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Good Responder 

We went in this morning to check to see how Evelin's responding to the drugs and it seems to be going well -- four follicles look like they're developing well. The office will call later today to let us know if we have to come back in two or three days. As we were leaving one of the nurses (actually the one who started out with us a year -- or was it a year and a half -- ago) stopped us to pass along an envelope we were supposed to have gotten last week. It included the consent forms for this round of treatment and orders for more bloodwork from both of us. Basically, once a year, they like to get the baseline bloodwork to make sure we don't have any untreated diseases, hepatitis, STDs, etc. I don't think they're redoing the karyotyping. I guess our DNA isn't likely to change...

A little swift thinking on our part and we found out there was a Lab Corp. place near the clinic, which meant we could take care of it quickly and we didn't have to go the generally less nice Lab Corp. office nearer to our house. Two vials each, so no big deal, but I did remember that I'm overdue for giving blood; I need to call the blood bank before I forget. I also was about 90 minutes late to work; oh well, I'm still planning to slip out early (probably as soon as I post this) ... it's a nice day and the grass is probably growing up over the porch by now.

On a musical note, I've been annoying co-workers today with Massilia Sound System's Aïollywood and Commando Fada albums. Occitan rap/toasting with some folk/reggae notes. I don't understand a word, but the beat is infectious.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Kaliber 

Oh! I forgot. I also tried a non-alcoholic beer last night: Kaliber Non-Alcoholic Ale-Style Brew. It is made by the Guinness company, so I had high hopes and, I guess, it doesn't totally suck. I mean, it was a bit thin, kind of like Miller Lite, the flavor was okay, just a little odd. Maybe I'd prefer something a bit hoppier or fuller, like a nice hefeweizen.

No More Herbs 

No more herbs! No, the basil and rosemary didn't die; Evelin's decided she's off the herbal part of TCM. Two nights ago, she stopped taking the herbs her acupuncturist prescribed her a long time ago and she's decided against going with the ones the TCM nutritionist recommended last week. It also means ... no more moxibustion!

Instead the acupuncturist is shifting the treatment a bit away from constitutional issues and more towards making a pregnancy stick. We're happy with this because it seems to be lining up with where we are with the Western medicine (going back to using the Gonal-f, etc.) and getting ready for an IUI sometime later in the month.

We go in tomorrow morning for a check up to see how Evelin's responding to the drugs and to try and get an idea of how this cycle will progress. The past two times we did medicated cycles, Evelin was a super-responder and the doc's biggest concern was multiples and whether or not we should skip the cycle. I think that was one reason he wanted to jump to IVF in January: more control. The other question -- and hopefully we can talk to the doctor some on Thursday -- is at what point can we start Lovenox/Heparin: post-ovulation or if we have to wait for a positive bloodtest. The rationale is that Evelin may have a factor (the test was positive on one factor and the doctor wasn't initially worried, but after an ectopic and another miscarriage it seems worthwhile to address) that makes it difficult for blood to pass through to an embryo. Lovenox and/or Heparin (warning, oversimplification ahead) would help thin the blood some to address this.

I'm keeping fingers crossed...

On the work front, it took me about four hours to go through all the questions to the marketing person's follow up e-mail. I guess it was good to review the minutia of AM broadcast technology, but I probably should have been editing something ... maybe I can get the editorial department to bill sales for my time...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Marketing Stooge 

So late yesterday I had a close encounter of the marketing kind. Dilbert may make fun of marketing departments (and I know I've had more than my share of run-ins with our marketing department/efforts), but yesterday was a whole new level. To protect the innocent, no identifying details will be provided...

On Friday, I got an e-mail from someone at a company saying that one of our sales guys suggested she talk to me about the international radio marketplace (scarily enough, I'm some sort of an authority). On Monday, we chatted for about 90 minutes and I'm not sure if I helped or hurt. Basically her company is looking to reënter a certain segment of the marketplace and she is trying to develop a segmentation strategy, identify growth drivers, and map out other factors that will play a role in this effort. I can generally parse legalese and I understand marketese when it comes to stripping hype from press releases, but this conversation seemed to be full of MBA-atitis or something. A lot of the time, I think we were talking about totally different things; I'm not sure how much was attributable to her tying to get up to speed on the market in question and how much of it was me making assumptions about base-level knowledge -- or maybe it was a matter of coming at things from totally different angles -- but I think the follow up e-mails are going to be an interesting exercise in each of us trying to figure out what the hell the other is talking about...

The weather has gotten a bit more normal after the spring of constant rain, but the garden is still lagging behind where it should be. It looks like two of the squash maybe starting to produce at least a few gourds, but the cucumbers are going nowhere and the tomatoes are getting taller but no sign of fruit. We did get the first raspberry out of the patch last night. It could have spent another day or two on the cane, but by then a bird would have gotten it; even if it was a little early, the flavor was exquisite.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Lazy Weekend 

All around, it was a pretty lazy weekend. We took a long drive on Saturday to help beak in the engine on the Hyundai. The manual suggests driving the first 1,200 miles below 55 mph and at varying speeds to help get the seals to all set and to ensure proper function over time. I've always heard that one should do this with a new car, and I think I tried to do it with the Honda, but I don't remember if I managed to keep my speed disciplined for the full break-in period. Since I do go on to the interstate for part of my commute to/from work, I have breached the 55 mph line a few times, but when that happens I try to slow down quickly (which makes for interesting merges and general D.C.-area driving).

Anyway, to help keep the speed in check, we drove up a bunch of Maryland's back roads, enjoying the rolling countryside, dreaming about how cool it'd be to have a farm/B&B/winery or something and (mostly me) moping about not being able to stop at the wineries we passed. Yep, we're both off alcohol for the current TTC regimen.

Even though we aren't doing IVF (at least not this round), we're following the basic rules we got when we picked up all the IVF drugs back in January, which mean nothing to drink for either of us. But Evelin's promised that I can have a significant bender as soon as she's pregnant.

Before the Saturday drive, we went to the clinic for a day-three baseline blood work and ultrasound, just to make sure everything's okay to proceed, and it is. They called that afternoon and said to start the gonal-f shots, so that night Evelin got her first shot since last autumn. It's sad in a lot of ways that I've gotten pretty good at setting up a syringe and the meds. I mean, it's rich fodder for humor (mostly drug-related), but without medial training or a drug habit, there's no good reason for me to know as much as I now do about preparing needles and giving shots.

I guess the upside is that Evelin is a good responder to medicine (both Western and Eastern, it seems), so we aren't having to use as much of the drugs as some people do.

I think we go back on Thursday to see how things are progressing and get an idea of how the rest of this cycle is going to progress.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Lots of lightning 

Last night we were up quite a bit thanks to the storms. I don't think I've seen lightning like that since I was a kid.

Starting in the early evening there were lots of reports of "high-level circulations" that could indicate conditions ripe for tornado formation, mostly to the south and west of us. However, by about 10:30 or so, the early bits of lightning were reaching us. About quarter past midnight we were awoken by tons of thunder and lightning. It really was amazing. The rain started soon after that and the power went out, but only for a few minutes. By 1:30 or so, it was all over and (as best I could tell on my way to work this morning) little to no damage seems to have befallen the neighborhood. Despite all the noise and flashes of light, the winds didn't hit us that badly. The rain was enough to overflow the pond, however; and the bed of carrots looks like it's back underwater.

It may rain some more this morning, but hopefully it'll all dry out enough that I can cut the grass at some point this weekend.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Ice-Cream Sandwiches 

It seems that no matter how good they may taste, sorbet-meringue ice-cream sandwiches do not keep for very long. On the Fourth of July, Evelin made these ice-cream sandwiches from the latest issue of Cooking Light; basically raspberry and/or peach sorbet sandwiched between meringues and then cut into wedges. Very tasty, but since it's only the two of us, they’ve been sitting in the freezer and disappearing slowly. The night before last, it seemed the meringue was getting very sticky and soft and last night, well, we decided to salvage the sorbet and to toss the meringues. Oh well, they were tasty while they lasted and the sorbet remains yummy. The recipe isn’t online unless you're an AOL member or Cooking Light subscriber, but the same issue had a really good-looking ice-cream sandwich using gingerbread men...

And it looks like a big negative for this cycle, so it's back to the fertility clinic on Saturday. Evelin also has an appointment with the herbalist at her acupuncturist’s office on Friday; the acupuncturist thinks the over-the-counter herbal mix she has been prescribing Evelin isn't as effective as it could be, so she wants Evelin to see the specialist...

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Moxibustion Stinks 

My throat is starting to itch some. While I guess it could be something really interesting like West Nile Virus or SARS, it's probably just the moxibustion therapy Evelin's acupuncturist has us trying. Moxa is this herb (also called mugwort) that is normally burned on acupuncture points before the point is stuck. My lay understanding of the theory is that it helps strengthen blood and draw qi to the point, making the acupuncture treatment more effective. Usually, the acupuncturist puts a ball of moxa on the skin, lights it with a piece of incense, and removes the smoldering ball as soon as it starts to feel hot to the patient. This process may be repeated several times before the needling occurs.

So the last time Evelin went in for a treatment, we were given this moxa cigar ("moxa in convenient stick form") that we're supposed to use each night. Basically, for about five minutes, I'm supposed to trace a slightly malformed figure of 8 across part of Evelin's lower back. The cigar then gets stamped out for reuse the next night. Among the instructions we were given was to disable the smoke detector before starting. While it hasn't triggered the alarm yet, there is a fair amount of smoke (we set a fan up to try and blow it out of the room, but that hasn't been too effective), and last night it seemed like more than usual. Maybe I'm allergic to moxa, or some cynicism about the therapy is manifesting itself as a sore throat and itchy eyes. But if helps, we'll keep using it.

A side note, on Sunday we ducked into the Smithsonian Museum of American History to try to escape the heat for a little while and there was a small exhibit about acupuncture ... and it included a big box of those moxa cigars.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Radio Online and Off 

I'm trying to finish up editing of everything for the August issue and, since the regional report covers Scandinavia, I'm listening to SPRAYdio's "Chelsea" indie-music channel today. A nice mix of new and old music, with a good percentage of Euro cuts that are new to me — in the past hour I've heard Håkan Hellström, the Smiths, Sigur Rós, the Charlatans, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the Beatles. U.S. radio really needs some help understanding what musical diversity is all about.

Usually, I tune to NPR in the mornings for the news, but during the day I often switch to MP3s, CDs or an online station. Current faves are Triple J, Couleur 3, Bluegrass Country, and Radio VW, although SPRAYdio is hopping up to the front of the list.

DC has never been a great radio town, at least not during the past dozen years that I've been here, but there used to be a lot more bright spots than there are now. Among the good things that can't be found on the dial here any more are Eddie Gallaher's big band morning show (used to be on WGAY(AM), which long ago switched formats); adventurous programming on WHFS (the station playlist has gotten so tight and the presenters lost any sense of personality about long ago); and afternoon bluegrass (WAMU opted for more NPR news even though WETA is airing the same shows in the same timeslot -- which I guess is fair as WETA added "Morning Edition" to its lineup to compete with WAMU during the a.m. drive).

Bright spots, as few as they are, include jazz on WPFW (the DC Pacifica outlet), "Variety is the Spice of Life" on University of Maryland's WMUC, the Sunday bluegrass and roots music line up on WAMU, and ... well ... not much else.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Identity Theft 

So last night I got a good scare. Calling to check something on my credit card, I found out that somehow my address had been changed to somewhere in California. Needless to say, the next hour or so of going through a couple of different people at the security department and other parts of the credit card company were less than fun... Since a new card now is going to be issued, I have to start trying to figure out how many different things are tied to that card number: Upromise, SpeedPass, EZ-Pass, Internet access, ... and I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

In a less identity-theft-anxiety-provoking theme, we went downtown for the last day of the Folklife Festival, getting to catch a little talk about scotch whisky, some singers from the Orkney Isles, bluegrass from the Bluegrass Travelers and the O’Quinn Brothers, a few really funny stories at a West Virginia Liar’s Contest, and a look at traditional crafts from Mali. Oh, and it was super hot... blaugh.

Before heading downtown, we got to check out a different folklife culture in College Park -- the new Ikea. That place is huge, but I don't think it's fair of them to have all these really cool Swedish books on display and then not allow them to be sold. They also had giant bottles of lingonberry juice concentrate, so now I’m trying to find a recipe for lingonberry wine to see if I can use the juice to make a batch of wine or even port ...

Saturday, July 05, 2003

A Brand-New Car 

Well, we didn't mean to do it so quickly, but we bought a car this morning -- a 2003 Hyundai Elantra. We woke this morning planning just to do a test drive, but we got there, were greeted, took the test drive and they the salesman was desperate to make sure we didn't leave without buying the car. Evelin is the master negotiator, mostly because she hates being pressured to make a deal and is so ready to walk away at any moment. We were able to almost play good cop/bad cop. I had a little fun with the haggling, because Evelin could say no no matter what and I wasn't going to have to look like the bad guy. The original plan for a Hyundai was no more than $12,000 for a manual transmission with the cruise control and keyless entry optional package. We ended up at a thousand more than that, but with ABS brakes and an automatic transmission. They even threw in the floormats. The market-adjusted MSRP was $17,000, so I think we did okay. Thanks, Anita, for pointing out the Motley Fool car buying site; that did have some good info in it.

I am a little disappointed that the gas mileage in the Hyundai isn't as good as the Honda Civic, to say nothing of the Civic Hybrid, but the Hyundai was a few thousand less and the Civic Hybrid has the batteries in the back seat, so you can't fold it down to expand the trunk space... Now we just get to hold out for the Honda CRV Hybrid or Ford Escape HEV to come out, then Evelin gets the new environmentally sound SUV she's wanted for four years now.

The one downer in the process was that the dealer suggested we take the old Mazda to Carmax to sell, but after the whole rigamarole and inspection they came back telling us that it was in average condition for its age ... and worth absolutely nothing. Oh well, it looks like we'll see if the National Kidney Foundation or someone else wants it.

Last night we caught fireworks in Rockville; not too bad of a show, although the musical segues were a bit jarring at times -- i.e., from U2's "Beautiful Day" to "Ode to Joy" to "Grand Ole Flag." We were picking cinders and bits of fireworks debris from our hair well into the night.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Dreams and Inspiration 

What a weird dream … car chases, churches that turn out to be cults, slapstick humor, massive car troubles. What did I eat last night?

Anyway, it's the Fourth of July and it looks like we're going up to Rockville to a friend's for a traditional cookout and viewing of fireworks. Our other option was to bike up to the University of Maryland to catch the College Park fireworks. Evelin's not too fond of the mad scene downtown at the Mall, although the fireworks are always incredible; and the post-9/11 security checks do make going down there for big events like this more than a bit annoying.

The rains that came through over the past week have taken their toll on some of the trees around the house. None of ours (touch wood), but the neighbor behind us had people up in an old oak the night before last at 10:00 p.m. cutting out a large branch that had been dangling there for a few days and this morning our next-door neighbor has someone with a big woodchipper taking care of a huge portion of one of their oaks that fell over two nights ago. Last fall, the same neighbor lost a large part of another oak in a storm, so we're gradually getting a little more light into the yard, although I'm a little concerned about how it's happening. We have two oaks that reach over out house and two others that hang over neighbor's houses and/or driveways ... I guess we should get an arborist out to give things a look-see.

The big bit of news is that yesterday Evelin got the inspiration that IVF might be the way to go. We had been scheduled to give it a try back in January, but decided to take time off to give the acupuncture and homeopathy and TCM time to work; now that we've had two cycles of not not trying to get pregnant (assuming she isn't pregnant yet, there're a few days yet to go before it would make sense to test) we were planning to go back to the clinic for another medicated cycle/IUI. We know that such a cycle will work (at least, it did the last two times), the question is where is the problem that keeps the pregnancies from advancing beyond a few weeks. If there's a tubal issue that caused the ectopics, then IVF would help bypass them; if that's not the issue then IVF vs. IUI vs. timed intercourse cycle is all a toss up. I'm not sure what route I want to go with. Back in January, I agree with Evelin, neither of us was really ready for IVF. Now, I'm not sure ... I guess it will remove another variable or two from the equation and, if nothing else, might help ID the problem. Or maybe it'll work great and we'll end up with twins ... We have a few more days (at least) before we have to make a decision.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Water, Water Everywhere 

The car replacement project can wait no longer. So TS Bill passed/is passing through yesterday/last night/today and we've been getting on and off rain, none of it too heavy, but it is generally damp and icky. Since about last autumn, the car has had leaking problems, most of them associated with the sunroof. (Just as an aside of the four cars I've had in my life, three had sunroofs; every damn one of them ended up leaking at some point. I like the idea of sunroofs; I hate the leaking.) The worst used to be after a heavy rain there would be a half inch or so of water on the driver's side of the floor -- more a nuisance than a serious problem (okay, it is a serious problem, bad enough to make me grumble but not so bad to make me rush out and buy a new car). The other common problem would be a small stream of water that would leak out onto my head or shoulder when the car first moves.

This morning came the deluge. A good chunk of the roof, mostly on the driver's side, is damp to dripping and a good pint of water poured out onto me as we came up the hill from the house. Grrrrrrrrr ...

Okay, so maybe there will be good Fourth of July specials this weekend at the dealerships. The main problem is deciding which way to go: cheap used car, cheap new car, or something better like a new Honda Civic Hybrid or a used Civic. The one car of mine without a sunroof was a Honda Civic DX (bottom of the barrel with no extras besides air conditioning); if we go the Civic route again, Evelin would like power locks and I'd like a CD player, so a midline LX might be the way to go, but looking at the price ($16,000 or so), I start thinking we should spend the extra $5,000 or so and get the Hybrid version. At least half of that money would be returned through tax credits and I really want to encourage these companies to pursue HEV technology. The other thing is that if we look for a used Civic, we'll still end up spending $12,000 to $16,000 at Carmax, and at that price it might make sense to get a new one instead.

The other option is to look for a non-Civic used car (and at that point, I'm still not sure what to look for -- I want good to great gas mileage, decent handling, and a quieter ride) or maybe a new Kia -- the Spectra LS would be $13,750 or so; $1,000 more for the hatchback version.

I guess I'll be poking around at a few auto websites during lunch today ...

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Grilled Cheese on the Grille 

Last night we had one of our favorite dinners: grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. Okay, that sounds a bit boring, but these are great. Evelin noticed in an old issue of Kitchen Gardner an article about grilling vegetables. One of the recipes as for these pseudo-kabob sandwiches with tomato, cheese and red onion skewered together, painted with olive oil and grilled over indirect heat. The only problem is that some of the cheese ends up leaking out as it melts.

They are fantastic. We used some dilled havarti and this chewy bread laced with garlic and pepper. I stopped in Brookland on the way home and caught the tail end of the farmer's market so that I could pick up tomatoes just this side of over ripe ... add a glass of seyval blanc (Loew Vineyards in Mt. Airy, Maryland) and a touch of a cool front to take the heat off and to dry things out before Tropical Storm Bill arrives and it made for a nice evening on the patio.

This morning was quite cloudy and Bill should be arriving by midday. Hopefully, the sun will be back out tomorrow (although the forecasts look a bit iffy until the middle of next week) so that the garden can get a bit of a boost. The gloom of April and May has left things in sad shape. This past week and a half, the tomatoes and peppers have really shot up, the zucchini and squash are doing well and the cucumbers have tons of flowers, but nothing is even close to harvestable yet. And the carrots, oh the carrots. That's the raised bed that was filled with the Home Depot top soil that seems to have almost zero organic content (the others got nice Canadian soil from Behnke) and it drains terribly. So, with all the rain in May, the seedlings seemed to be being grown hydroponicly. Now, about two-thirds are looking decent to good, but I have a feeling it's going to be a while before we'll get to eat any of them. Oh, and the raspberries seem to be growing well and the birds haven't discovered the blueberries yet, so we may get a handful or two of fruit from them this year!

On a totally different front, I listed to the Friðarey album I picked up at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Friday. I cut out of work a half hour early to catch Fiddler's Bid, and they were awesome. Friðarey was an impulse buy because no Fiddler's Bid albums were available. It's mostly vocal folk music from the Fair Isle in Shetland. The first three tracks weren't quite to my liking, but the rest of it was a bit more interesting. One or two seem to be in an odd dialect of Scots; it's probably wishful thinking to hope there's a touch of Norn left in it, but who knows ...

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Layoffs ... 

Urg, where to begin. Not to make this a total downer, but I'm just not feeling it today. Yesterday we had another round of layoffs, the third round in the past two years; I think Evelin's acupuncturist doesn't like me; and Evelin and I have been being really irritable towards each other for no good reason.

The layoffs weren't unexpected. I had gotten a heads up about them a few weeks ago because of some of the new duties I'll be picking up, but it's still no fun. I've been here for 10 years and while it's never been the best place to work, most of the people who made it all worthwhile have left for one reason or another. I know I should probably look for another job, but I do like working with radio and I like the international focus of my job, but the real reason I stay is that it's stable (despite the layoffs) and when I change jobs I want it to be to move up to New England ... I know sooner or later we're going to have to move north for Evelin's sake.

The acupuncturist thing shouldn't bother me (after all, I'm not the one who she's sticking needles into), but I do think she's a bit too opposed to Western medicine. Plus she spouted off against Diet Coke and aspartame claiming that there was a payoff to the FDA to get aspartame approved and that it slowly kills you. "Do a web search, you'll find tons of information." Right, most of it's totally unscientific, hysterical and wrong. I mean, I know the stuff isn't a health food or anything, but Diet Coke is not going to kill you, give you Alzheimer's, etc. Anyway, Evelin told her that we're thinking of going back to the fertility clinic if she isn't pregnant this month and the acupuncturist said okay, but it sounded to me like she felt like we were giving up on the alternative medicines. We also told her that the doctors at the clinic were going to be against us mixing traditional herbal remedies with fertility treatments, and her reply was that doctors don't know anything about herb and blah, blah, blah. I would like these processes to be complementary, but I think she feels like they're in competition with each other ... we'll see, I guess.

The only good thing I can think of about the bickering and irritability is that the last time we were like this (at least the last time it stands out in my mind) was the second time Evelin was pregnant. Maybe it's a sign ...

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