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Friday, October 31, 2003

All Hallows Eve 

I think we're just passing out candy quietly tonight; nothing too exciting. Each year around Hallowe'en, the local papers seem to find a good regional ghost story/urban legend to pump up the fear factor. This year, The Washington Post has a good story about the Bunny Man Bridge [version 1 | version 2] near Clifton, Virginia. It's a pretty creepy tale, but there's one a bit closer to home for us.

A few blocks away from our house (not so close that you can hear screams, however) lies Goatman Hollow, a haunted house in its second year. Apparently it is quite good, but we haven't gone yet. The Goatman is Prince George's County's primary haunt* and he's usually described as a dog-decapitating man-goat chimera [version 1 | version 2 | version 3 | version 4]. It's a pretty gruesome tale, told well in the links, so I won't go into it here ...

Actually, I don't know if we would go through Goatman Hollow anyway. I haven't been too fond of haunted houses ever since I was a little kid and my dad took my brother and I to a Knights of Columbus (or some other organization's) haunted house. I don't remember too many bits of it, except a few scenes with an arm being cut off and other assorted bits of gore. When we got to the end of the haunted house, I was happy to see the "good" witch who was handing out candy and who told me that there wasn't anything else scary ... she lied. A wolfman jumped from among the tombstones outside the haunted house at us. I ran back in and threw the candy at the witch.

In college, I helped stage a haunted house a few times. We were lucky those never led to any real dangers: A giant maze made up of black plastic sheeting (like what would be used to keep weeds down in a garden or beneath a brick patio) with lots of candles and college students in various states of sobriety. I'm a bit shamed to admit that we used the same trick (it must be a common feature of haunted houses) of getting people to think it was all over before giving them one last scare ... in our case a maniac with a chainsaw (chain removed) and/or a weed trimmer (spool removed).

*It might not be fair to call the Goatman the primary haunt of the county or even of the northern part of the county. A few towns away from us is Cottage City, which is where the events that The Exorcist is based on occurred.

The Iceman's Teeth 

This week's issue of Science (subscription required) has an interesting sounding article about Ötzi, the "iceman" discovered in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991. According to reports on "Morning Edition" and the BBC, the study looked at various isotopes in Ötzi's teeth and bones and then compared them to the chemistry of the rocks and soil of various Alpine valleys known to have remnants of Neolithic settlements.

The really cool thing is that, as the BBC puts it, "Biominerals from the diet are deposited in the body at different times -- in the teeth, for example, during childhood, and in the bones in adult life.” Thus by looking at the teeth, they can determine that he grew up in the Eisack Valley in South Tyrol.

I wonder during what range of childhood the local minerals are drawn up to build adult teeth. I was 1 when my father was transferred to England by the Navy and we stayed there until somewhere around my 5th birthday. Would my adult teeth -- which my dentist once described as "belonging to an old Asian man" -- have been influenced more by Britain or Louisiana? I'm not sure when I lost my first baby tooth, but I know most of them had to come out in Louisiana (but I lost at least one at summer camp in Tennessee -- I'm still not sure why the tooth fairy couldn't find me there).

In any case, the Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum in Bozen (Bolzano), Italy, is the current home to Ötzi, and its website walks through the Ötzi exhibition and the related Copper Age exhibit. It looks like a pretty cool museum ... hurm, would it be easier to fly into: Milano or München?

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Public Art 

I like the new wave of temporary public arts installations that seem to be cropping up everywhere a lot lately. Last year it was the Party Animals project in D.C. that had sculpted donkeys and elephants scattered around the city; this summer Prince George's County had Birds I View. It's neat having these colorful sculptures hanging around, although it seems that I missed most of both installations. There were a few that I saw quite often -- some way too often -- while commuting.

Prince George’s Bird of Maryland sat outside of Franklin's, our local brewpub, so we'd get to see it fairly often, and The Sky is the Limit sits at the corner of Route 1 and East-West Highway, and I must have passed it at least once a week. I think my favorite was Blue Beard, which we stumbled upon on the way home from dropping off some leftover paint and other household hazardous waste at the county landfill. I'm not sure what sparked it, but we decided to see if we could find (without the aid of a map or guide) a few of the bluebirds. It was also cool just running into them in odd places, such as Bird of Pair-o-Dice at Ikea or when Evelin had me drive through campus to see Leonard Birdstein.

Of the Party Animals, I really liked Melting Pot Democrat, which I saw every morning on the way to work, and Panoramic Pachyderm, which stood outside the National Zoo. The other sculpture at the Zoo, Laughing Stock, however, wasn't as appealing for some reason (although I wanted to like all the donkeys more than the elephants).

I think the first of these sorts of public art installations that I saw was Horses on Parade in Rochester, New York, back in 2001. Evelin and I were on our way from Massachusetts to Niagara Falls and happened to be passing through Rochester and kept wondering why there were all these funky horse sculptures everywhere. I don't think we saw Buckaroo, but I wish we had ...

Learning Spanish 

The Washington Post has an interesting article today about teaching Spanish to Latino kids ("Speaking to Student Heritage").
Ligia Glass stood in front of the Spanish class at Prince William County's Woodbridge High School and posed the question to the students, all of whom were Latino: Why were they taking Spanish when they had grown up hearing or speaking the language?

Pedro Medina, a senior, was ready with an answer for Glass, a professor visiting the class. "It's the same as Americans who take English classes. They want to get better at English," said Pedro, 16, who spent much of his childhood in Puerto Rico. "We want to get better at Spanish."
It's an interesting approach toward teaching language that makes a lot of sense; hopefully, they will be able to formalize the curricula and get similar programs into other communities and language groups.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

What do you call a panda? 

Open blog, insert foot. Okay, so I stated rather simply that giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in Chinese is 大猫熊 (da4 mao1xiong2) or "greater cat-bear." The truth is more complex.

Yes, 大猫熊 is one name for pandas, but, according to the National Zoo, they are also known as 熊猫 (xiong2mao1 "bear-cat"), 猫熊 (mao1xiong2 "cat-bear") and 花熊 (hua1xiong2 "banded bear"). Wikipedia gives a few other alternate names -- 竹熊 (zhu2xiong2 "bamboo bear"), 白熊 (bai2xiong2 "white/snow bear"), 华熊 (hua4xiong2 "bear of the mountain"), 花头熊 (hua1tou2 xiong2 "bear with a fancy head pattern"), 银狗 (yin2gou3 "silver dog") -- and several others I can't puzzle out. According to Zoo Atlanta, there are more than 30 different names in Chinese for pandas (I'm not sure how much of these name differences are language/dialect differences vs. different names for the same animal).

Jeroen Jacobs doesn't have anything about the Chinese names of the bears, but he does have a good overview of the 28 pandas living in captivity outside of China with pictures, biographies and links to the various zoos.

梅香 and 天天 or 美香 and 添添? 

Apparently, not everyone uses a Unicode-enabled browser. Evelin said that at her office, the Japanese phrase I quoted yesterday appeared only as boxes and squiggles for her. It may be that she was missing the Japanese language pack for Internet Explorer, and not a Unicode thing. I don't know.

In the interest of frustrating those whose browsers cannot parse CJK characters, I ran into something yesterday about Mei and Tian's names that I'm not sure about. Officially, the National Zoo's two pandas' names translate as Beautiful Fragrance (Mei Xiang) and More and More (Tian Tian), but I decided I wanted to put their names in characters in my linklist, so I did some quick digging online and came up with 梅香 (Mei Xiang) and 天天 (Tian Tian), based largely on this Beijing Portal report.

Looking through my Oxford Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary, 2nd Edition 精選英漢漢英詞典第二版, I see that 梅 is mei2 with the meaning "plum" and 香 is xiang1 meaning "scented" or "fragrant" (referring to flowers). This would imply that Mei's name should be translated as "fragrant plum" or "plum scented" or something similar, not "beautiful fragrance," which would be 美香 Mei3 Xiang1. But Googling 美香, I find that version of her name turns up almost as frequently as 梅香. Hurm ... is there confusion in China as to the panda's name or is it a pun that doesn't translate into English?

An old Washington Post article notes that some linguists and Chinese-speakers have had issues with how the Zoo has been pronouncing her name, although the question is more about 香 xiang1 than mei3; some critics are saying that the way interpreters pronounce things, may-SHONG, makes the second syllable of her name sound like 熊 (xiong2 "bear"), 凶 (xiong1 "terrible") or 湉 (xiong1 "fierce") instead of 香 (xiang1 "fragrance").

A similar issue crops up for Tian Tian. The characters I found for him, 天天 (tian1tian1), is the word "everyday," but I also found 添添 (tian1 tian1), meaning "increase" or "add," which fits with the official translation of his name as "More and More." It also looks, the more I Google, like 添添 is the favored rendering of his name. Again, I need to check the panda house to see if anything official is posted.

And, just in case anyone was wondering, panda in Chinese is 大猫熊 (da4 mao1xiong2), "big cat-bear."

UPDATE: The offical word can be found in this entry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

IVF Protocol 

Anita was asking for some more info about the IVF protocol, so here it goes.

The basics behind in vitro fertilization (IVF) are pretty simple: harvest some eggs; harvest some sperm; introduce them to each other in a swank, velvet-lined petri dish accompanied by some classic Esquivel or something; once fertilization is achieved, slowly study the embryos’ development for a few days; place one to three of the embryos who are doing the best into a nice and cozy womb for nine months; and, voilà, a baby or two or three arrives.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that. And lots of meds.

There are a few different protocols, and each doctor includes his or her idiosyncrasies as well. We are doing a "Luteal Phase Lupron Protocol."

Once we were cleared to begin the IVF cycle (we had to wait for one full cycle after the last miscarriage finally ended), Evelin went on a round of birth control pills. It seems odd, but the idea is that the birth control pill allow the doctors to ensure (more or less) the timing of the various meds and procedures involved with IVF and they start the process of "shutting down" the ovaries.

About a week into the pills, we go through a mock transfer. Basically, this is a trial run for the doctor to find out about any potential physical problems (odd shaped uterus, etc.) that could complicate things during the embryo transfer. Basically, it's the same equipment and procedure as would be done to transfer the embryos, just no embryos are involved. [This was done last week -- no problems.] Evelin compared it to a saline sonogram.

Three days before the last BCP, we start Lupron injections. These are fairly small-dose (0.2 cc), subcutaneous injections designed to suppress ovulation and are given each morning. About a week after finishing up the birth control pills, Evelin should start her period. The day after her period she goes in for a Lupron evaluation to see what the ovaries are doing.

At the same time we start the Lupron, Evelin and I both have to take a course of doxycycline (antibiotic) just to wipe out any low-level crud that may be running around waiting to complicate things.

If the Lupron evaluation checks out, the heavy-duty stuff begins, with Gonal-f and Repronex injections (subcutaneous) each night for a week and a half, or so. These stimulate the ovaries to grow and to spit out eggs. Because of Evelin’s history of good response to medications, we are starting with a pretty low dose -- 1.5 amps of Gonal-f and 0.5 amps of Repronex. During this time, Evelin is monitored regularly by the doctors to make sure that everything is progressing at a good, but not too crazy rate. And she may develop a case of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS), which isn't too much fun.

Once the ovaries develop enough follicles that look ready to pop, we use an hCG trigger shot to trigger ovulation. In the past, this shot has been subcutaneous, but this time the docs want it to be an intramuscular injection.

Then Evelin gets another antibiotic Zithromax (a one-dose thing) in preparation for the retrieval about 36 hours after the hCG trigger shot.

Retrieval is a surgical procedure, so Evelin will be under and will not be going to work that afternoon. However, while she's at home resting in bed and I'm taking care of her, the freshly harvested eggs will be introduced to the sperm sample I donate during the surgery in the aforementioned swank, velvet-lined petri dish.

Assuming the introductions go well, some embryos will start to develop. If not, there is another procedure, intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), that can be done. Basically, viable sperm are identified and injected through the cell wall of the egg to achieve fertilization. Hopefully, that won't be necessary, but it can be done if need be.

Back at home, Evelin will start to get a whole bunch of new injections, both intramuscular (progesterone) and subcutaneous (Lovenox), to go with the estrogen pills she gets to start taking.

At the fertility clinic, the geneticist will see which embryos are developing and, at three days, extract a single cell to begin the battery of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) tests. Here the goal is to look for any of 10 major chromosomal abnormalities that could be causing our recurrent miscarriages. The hope is that it will ID the three or so best embryos and rule out any that have problems. If all the embryos look good, then we will still have some big question marks, but will push ahead with the IVF.

Which brings us to day five of embryo development and the transfer. This is what the mock transfer was prepping for: Two or three (probably two) of the best looking embryos are placed into Evelin’s uterus and then we wait. The first 24 to 36 hours, Evelin is on strict bed rest, so we'll have to stock up on magazines and books and maybe move a TV into the bedroom. It also is going to be happening around Thanksgiving and her parents will probably be staying with us (we aren't hosting Thanksgiving this year, but we'll be a base for them so that there aren't too many people at her uncle's house).

Once the bed rest mandate is lifted, we get to wait ... and wait ... and wait ... and wait for a beta check. Home pregnancy tests won't do any good because they will turn up positive, so we have to wait for beta numbers and to see how they are progressing. During this time, the injections, estrogen, baby aspirin, and prenatal vitamins continue.

Once we get good numbers back, then it's the normal pregnancy routine of waiting and waiting and worrying and waiting and thinking about college funds and waiting and getting the nursery set up and waiting and waiting ...

Babies and Penguins 

I plan to write up a full entry later today, but I just ran across this and couldn't pass up commenting (lest I forget about it):
赤ちゃんはペンギンのように歩きます。
akachan wa pengin no yō ni arukimasu.
Babies walk like penguins.
It's from Drum & Bass & Eggs & Flour, which was linked through Languagehat. The pronunciation notes are: "All the vowels are pronounced as in Spanish, and 'g' is always pronounced as in gamble. 'yō' sounds like 'yo', except the o is drawn out a little bit longer. " Apparently, this is a phrase used in Drum & Bass & Eggs & Flour's current Japanese textbook.

Why did my German textbooks never have such charming observations?

Monday, October 27, 2003

Game 7, Plants & Pies 

Well, I guess it's par for the course: the Hanshin Tigers (阪神) fell to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (ダイエー) this morning, losing the Japan Series in Game 7. Both teams won handily in their home stadiums, but lost on the road. I just found a bio of Jeff Williams, the Australian who is a closer for the Tigers, and, oddly enough, it turns out he went to university at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, where my parents live.

We had a fairly sedate weekend. Saturday, after Evelin's faculty meeting, we rearranged things in the front garden a bit, moving one azalea and planting two boxwoods we bought earlier in the summer. We also moved the asters to the side yard and put in some pansies. We seem to have good luck with pansies: last year, they lasted into July; the year before that, well into June.

Sunday, Evelin made pies: sienipiirakka (a Finnish mushroom pie) from Sundays at Moosewood and a pear-ginger pie that I've been wanting to try for almost a year now. Evelin made the mushroom pie years ago, and I remember it being super heavy and too rich, but she used light cream cheese and a different crust from the sour cream one the Mooswood recipe includes and it was great. We also think she had a higher mushroom-to-cream cheese ratio in this one. The pear-ginger pie was fantastic. As soon as I saw pears showing up at the farmers market, I've been keeping my eyes open for comice pears and this week there they were: It was worth the wait. The comices have a really creamy flesh (not at all grainy like a lot of other pears) that pretty much melted when cooked and the ginger was a perfect counterpoint to the flavor of the pear.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Uisge Bheatha 

Tha buaidh air an uisge bheatha,
Tha buaidh air 's cha ghabh e cleith;
Tha buaidh air an uisge bhetha,
Dh' òlainn tè is fuar i.

-- William MacVicar
Well, with the exception of a dram of Tobermory (strictly for medicinal purposes) a month ago, it's been a while since I've had any whisky. But it seems like whisky or at least rye and other spirits are showing up in the news a fair amount these days.

First the Distilled Spirits Council and Mount Vernon have teamed up to recreate the rye [Washington Post] [DSC press release] that George Washington's distillery was making in the 1790s. And now workers at the Peabody Institute have uncovered bottles of moonshine made by the late conductor Gustav Strube. The Washington rye is going to be auctioned off, and I'd love to get a taste of it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the cost will be a bit out of my price range.

The lyric at the opening of this entry is from "Dan Do Shean Ford (Song to an Old Ford)," which is on Mary Jane Lamond's album Bho Thìr Nan Craobh. The translation from Scots Gaelic is: "There's benefit in the whisky, It's good for you, that can't be denied; There's benefit in the whisky, I'd take a drink of it cold."

Friday, October 24, 2003

And the results are .... 

And the results are ... one side of the sinuses looks clear; the left side, however, is severely infected or something. Right now the doctor wants me to go for a second opinion to see what an ENT thinks about the course of action and in the meantime I'm to keep using the nasal spray, Clarinex and other stuff ... sigh.

The frustrating thing is that an ENT does come into the group's offices once a week or so, but he doesn't take my insurance, so I need to find someone who is in my network, figure out what files/reports/etc. they need, get the referral, and yada yada yada. I know there would some bureaucratic hassles with a single-payer system, but at least the process would be more direct.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about how it was easier to get work done at home than in the office. I can't swear I would have gotten more done in the office, but it seems this past week I haven't had much luck working at home. Maybe it' because the doctors' appointments broke things up too much or lingering gloom over the Red Sox or it's just a slow period at work, the deadlines are a few weeks away and I don't have that large of a pile of stories needing to be edited ...

This afternoon, instead of editing, I cut the grass, maybe for the last time this year. Actually, I went a bit crazy and mowed over several of the beds. Mostly it was a matter of knocking down weeds or old lilies and violets that were long past flowering. But I also ran over the entirety of our mint hill in preparation for the apple trees Evelin wants to plant there. I don't know whether or not we will actually find apple trees to plant there or not (or if it's even a good place for apple trees), but now you can see the ground, which has to be a start. If nothing else, it will make raking easier in the weeks to come.

In a totally different direction, the Hanshin Tigers (阪神) picked have taken the lead in the Japan Series, three games to two. Hopefully, they will keep on winning when play shifts back to the Fukuoka Dome. Game 6 is Sunday: Cowboy Up! (Actually, the Tigers' cheer is "Never Never Never Surrender," which is pretty good too ...)

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Ill ... 

I won't find out what the CAT scan saw until Friday, but I already feel certain that it isn't allergies that have plagued me for the past month or two. I've been forgetting to take my meds lately. Usually, I remember an hour or two late and can take them then, but yesterday, I was almost to Virginia before I remembered and I didn't want to go all the way home. (On Monday, I did the same thing, except I remembered before leaving Maryland and it wasn't too far to turn around.) For most of the day, I felt fine, but come afternoon, a bit more coughing was going on and my ears were getting blocked and my head stuffed up. I'm willing to write off allergies because I took the Clarinex in the morning; it was just the nasal thing and the inhaled stuff that I missed. So if my sinuses are screwed up, I'm not sure what that means: megadoses of antibiotics? long-term medication? surgery? I'm not worried about this at all, just annoyed. I already have to take a course of antibiotics in a few weeks for the IVF cycle, so maybe I can coordinate things with that ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Mock Transfer 

Well, we're on the way to IVF-ville. Yesterday was the mock transfer, basically a trial run of what would be done to transfer the embryos to Evelin's uterus. The doctor said that all went smoothly, and Evelin said it was only a little uncomfortable. We now have the drug protocols (and will be starting LOTS of injections in a few weeks), and we are on track to do the real transfer somewhere around Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed.

On the baseball side, "The K Chronicles" has a pretty harsh (and totally deserved) view of Game 7, and, after a terrible 0-13 loss to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (ダイエー) in Game 2, the Hanshin Tigers (阪神) picked up their first win of the 2003 Japan Series a few hours ago in extra innings (Game 3 had been delayed due to rain). The Hawks lead the series 2-1 ... and the Tigers are cursed, but hopefully they'll pull out three more wins.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Falling Over Niagara 

I just don't know what to say: Man survives Niagara Falls plunge. I know when Evelin and I went to Niagara a few years ago (after her sister's wedding), we were really impressed by the falls and it is easy to see sort of easy to see the appeal in plunging over it (excepting, of course, for the certain death -- almost certain death, I guess I have to say now).

At least one TV station is reporting that the jump was a stunt, not a suicide attempt, which is even more screwed up. CNN has an eyewitness account; Reuters quotes the Globe and Mail as saying that "He [the jumper] declined the offer of help from a Maid of the Mist tour boat and swam to shore."

Actually, it would be neat to go back to Niagara Falls, not to jump, just to spend more time in the region. We did the falls area in one day, having camped along Lake Ontario the night before and then driving off in the afternoon for dinner in Buffalo and eventually finding a B&B somewhere in New York to spend the night. It would be nice to see some of the old forts along the river and lakeshore, as well as a Niagara vineyard or three. The War of 1812 sites we saw on that visit weren't too exciting, but it was mostly just places we stumbled on. If I actually researched things before we went, I probably could cook up some neat sights.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Rennovating Historic Homes 

The Washington Post has an interesting article about plans to renovate Montpelier.

Long story short: Montpelier was James Madison's home and is in central Virginia near Jefferson's Monticello and Poplar Forest, as well as near James Monroe's Ash Lawn. It was purchased at some point by the du Ponts and turned into a fantastic horse country estate. It is currently open in a mishmash state of being; some parts are restored to Madison's era, others remain in the 1920s du Pont decor (including the fantastic red horse room), much of it is in a state of attempting-to-figure-out-what-existed-when. It's a fascinating place to visit to see different building techniques through the ages and the architectural investigation is being done in a way that visitors can get a good idea of what's being looked for and found.

Now, however, the foundation has worked out a deal to rip out the du Pont parts of the house to restore it to Madson's home. That's cool, but it also seems a bit of a shame to lose everything that's newer and the history of that, as well as to lose the mess of the architectural investigation.

Washington's Mount Vernon and George Mason's Gunston Hall are both fully restored and beautiful places, but it's neat to see the work in progress too. That's one thing that's neat about the restoration of Poplar Forest: They plan to leave two rooms unplastered so that people can see the raw brick and timbers and how the house is constructed. Similarly, Rosalie and George Calvert's Riversdale is largely refinished although many rooms remain unfurnished and a lot of detail work still needs to be done, but they are keeping one room reminiscent of how it was in the early/mid 1900s when it was a boarding house that was home to at least one member of Congress.

At least the deal to rework Montpelier will build a new structure dedicated to the du Pont legacy on the site and that will recreate the red room, but it still seems like something is being lost ... even as a restored-to-Madison's-time Montpelier is gained.

Slow Road to Recovery 

A fairly quiet weekend as I continued on the slow road to recovery (at least until the 2004 Red Sox start up). Okay, I'm going to have to move beyond Game 7 at some point, so I'll try to not mention the malaise for a few more months at least. But before fading out entirely, S--- sent me this Bill Simmons column, which really sums up a lot of feelings nicely. And Dan Shaughnessy's column from Saturday is a good read, too. Of course the best read is the Friday editorial from the New York Post. If only it could have been ...

We had a quiet weekend. Evelin and J--- made Hallowe'en petits fours for their book club on Saturday, and that night we went out with friends to Chinatown. Actually, we were going to go to Jaleo, but it was an hour-and-a-half wait for a table, so we walked around until something looked interesting. We ended up a Lei Garden and then stopped by Fado for little while afterwards. D.C.'s Chinatown has never been very big, but it always seems odd to me that it used to be home to a good Brazilian restaurant and now it has an Irish pub.

Sunday, Evelin noticed that the sink upstairs wasn't shutting off properly (it was more of a stream than a drip), so I took things apart to see what sorts of seals I needed from Home Depot to fix things. At the store, Evelin was looking at the new faucets and we decided to just scrap the old fixture (which Evelin has hated pretty much since we bought the house) and to replace it. It wasn't too bad of a chore (only one return trip to Home Depot for some plumber's putty and replacement feeder hoses), but, like most of the things in our house, a previous owner jury-rigged a few things, so I had to add to improvise a little in how the drain feeds into the trap (basically, the seal wasn’t 100% water tight because of this extender tube that’s needed to reach the outflow pipe, but I'm pretty sure I have things fixed up now). One day we'll get the bathroom redone, and at that point we can get the pipes redone properly ...

Saturday, October 18, 2003

The Malaise 

Yesterday was about depression. Today, I can be analytical and look forward. Perhaps having my head examined helped ...

I actually did have my head examined, literally, yesterday. Twice, in a way. First, as part of the shaking the Aaron Fucking Boone malaise, I got a haircut. Not the full Cowboy Up head shave that I should have had back around Game 3, but it did significantly clean things up. Second, I got the CAT scan of my sinuses as ordered by the doctor on Tuesday. She thinks that the lingering cough, etc., from the bronchitis may be connected to something in the sinuses, and if that turns up nothing, we may look at allergies ...

The CAT scan itself was really quick -- a lot faster than the MRI I had a few years ago when I blew out my knee skiing, and a lot quieter. But I had to lay on my stomach with my hands under my thighs so that my head could bob in and out of the apparatus without by arms whacking anything. It wasn't comfortable, but it didn't last long.

Okay, back to baseball. Thomas Boswell has an interesting piece in The Washington Post looking at what role group psychology plays in reinforcing things like the curse of the Bambino. I heard a similar theory from Michael Wilbon of "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPNRadio last week. The basic idea is that even though only one Red Sox is actually from New England (Lou Merloni), the players are surrounded by so much negativity from the fans and the culture that the expected loss is inevitable -- the curse is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I don't know if that is the case, but it does provide a non-superstitious rationale for the 2003 Cubs and the Sox. However, I also heard yesterday that the Hanshin Tigers (the Japanese equivalent of the Sox and the Cubs) won the Central Division pennant this year, so hope remains.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Thoughts on Babe Ruth ... 

I was born in Maryland, learned to walk in England, grew up in Louisiana and returned to Maryland as an adult. But while my passport says citizen of the United States of America, in my heart I am a citizen of Red Sox Nation. And this morning, my heart is bleeding.

The Curse of the Bambino lives.

As a boy, I played little league in Louisiana, and I was a huge fan of baseball history. I wrote multiple book reports in grammar school about biographies of Babe Ruth and other heroes of the game. Since, I was in Louisiana -- and not in Massachusetts -- The Curse of the Bambino was not among the books I read. Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by a bookstore at lunch and thought about picking up a copy, but I decided to wait. I figured that an updated edition would have to come out after this season: Of course I was wanting to read Dan Shaughnessy's coda about how the Cowboy Up! Team of 2003 finally reversed the curse. Instead, a new edition is needed, but only to highlight the latest manifestation of the malaise.

This sucks. Yankees suck.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Game 6 and Risotto 

Oh man. Oh man. Oh man. First off, I'm sorry Cubbies; it should have been, it really should have been. But for me, the excitement was all over before the Marlins got their hits in the first.

I was still at work when Game 6 started, listening to the ESPNRadio coverage on SportsTalk 980 and watching things (such as you can) online with MLB Gameday. There was screaming and yelling, which isn't such a great thing to do in the office, but it was late in the day and my office is a bit isolated. On the way home, I kept tuned to SportsTalk 980 and there was much screaming within the cocoon of the car. At the house, I could catch the game on television and, as Evelin could attest, the yelling got even worse at times. Whatever, it worked. I wasn't on the couch, I did have my gris-gris, but I wasn't waving it with Yankee pitches like I had been. All I did was to pour heart and soul into wanting the good guys to win. And they did. Big time.

It's going to be hard to focus on work today. Game 7. Cowboy up!

Actually, one bad thing from last night is that I just swallowed my dinner without paying too much attention to it. Evelin and I are trying to plan out our week’s meals (this is week two of the plan) in hopes that, if nothing else, it will make deciding what's for dinner easier. Last night we tried a new recipe: green peppers (fresh from the garden) stuffed with leftover risotto. I made the risotto on Monday night because Evelin had an after-work meeting, meaning that I could have a bit of it and we'd have plenty left over to stuff the peppers. It was a mushroom-zucchini risotto and it turned out very nicely.

For Christmas last year, I got a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. Earlier in the year, we'd visited friends who had one and the idea that you could make risotto in 7 minutes without constant stirring amazed me. And I am still amazed. Instead of a 30 to 60 minute stir-fest that still may not turn out right, risotto has become a quick and easy dinner.

I diced a medium-small zucchini, shallots, a couple of toes of garlic, some fresh crimini mushrooms and rehydrated porcinis, morels, oysters and chanterelles. Sautéed all that until done and then made the risotto as per the pressure cooker specifications.

For the wine that went into the risotto, I opened up three bottles before I found one I could work with. This is the danger of not drinking (except for occasional tastings) for a long stretch of time: I have several whites that won't age in the cellar, but none of them were ideal for the risotto. I first pulled out a vinho verde I bought on sale at the beginning of the summer; it might have worked, but the wine had been damaged and had an off flavor. The seal was wet and the wine had pushed its way up past the cork. Next I tried a white from Adams County Winery; it would have made a nice summer sipping wine, but it was too sweet for the risotto. Finally, I went with an Ekem from Naylor Wine Cellars; it's made with a vignoles, and it tasted a tad like a sauternes, which wasn't what I wanted, but it was better than the others I'd already opened and I didn't want to open another bottle knowing that it wasn't likely to get used. In retrospect, a really oaky chardonnay would have been idea -- the woodiness of the wine would have worked with the earthiness of the mushrooms -- but I didn't think of that until it was too late.

The risotto-stuffed peppers worked out well, but the peppers could have been cooked a little more thoroughly. Evelin was thinking if we put some water in the baking dish to help steam them; I though maybe to parboil them or something before stuffing. We may have to experiment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Lucky Shirt ... Not 

Okay, so that shirt wasn't lucky. Or maybe I need to shave my head. Or maybe it was because I missed the first two innings because I was still at the doctor’s office. Or because I was running around trying to get the referral set up properly and the meds picked up and ... Or maybe it's not about me. Bambino’s Curse today gives an excellent look at where we are and what we have to do next with a reference to High Noon:

Though here we are, Red Sox fans, looking like Marshall Will Kane watching the clock tick ominously closer to high noon when Frank Miller will step off the train in Hadleyville. [...] The hero, Will Kane, in the face of almost certain destruction won't back down.
Marshall Kane : I've got to, that's the whole thing.
That's the whole thing. I've got to and you've got to believe the Yankees gang of gunslingers can be overcome at the hands of a marshall who hasn't even got any guns.
Come on, BoSox: Cowboy up!

And the Cubs, come on Cubbies ... what's up with that?

The doctor’s visit is leading to a couple of tests. She thinks it could be a sinus thing (although I'm not convinced); I'm going in for a CAT scan of the sinuses on Friday to see whatever can be seen, and I have a bevy of new meds. If nothing shows up on the CAT scan, then we're going to look at possible allergies.

I know I have some breathing and sinus problems due to having my nose broken four or five times throughout my life (first time was a playground scuffle in first grade; most recent was an attempted carjacking in 1994), but I'm not sure that's the issue now. My nose is actually a bit neat; you can feel the twists and bends in the bridge of the nose if you run your fingers over it. Well, I guess I'll find out more after the tests ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Sick Day 

I'm going back to the doctor about the bronchitis this afternoon, so today's a work-at-home day. Technically, it's a sick day that counts against my annual leave, but I plan to get a stack of things edited. I think I'm much better than I was three or four weeks ago (no fever, the cough is much less frequent and less severe, etc.), but my head still gets stuffed up every afternoon/evening and I still have some coughing fits (although I think those are acerbated by loudly cheering on the Sox).

It also works out well that I'll be able to be home for the game this afternoon. Last night, I tried not to over do the worrying about where I was sitting or what I was doing during the game. I still carried around that old baseball and I mostly sat in the middle of the couch, but I didn't stress over things too much. Today, however, I'm wearing the same shirt as last night (it's the same shirt I wore during game 1, which the Sox one). Maybe I should give the credit more to Tim Wakefield's pitching than to what I'm wearing or where I'm sitting, but baseball is a game of ritual and superstition and who am I to try to change that? Cowboy up!

Monday, October 13, 2003

The Last Week of Daylight Savings Time 

The sun didn't rise this morning until quarter past seven. In the summer it's easy to pop out of bed a quarter before six: The sun is already pushing back the blinds, birds are making noises, and it's just easier to get going. After the end of Daylight Savings Time, it's still difficult to get up, but for some reason the first part of October, before the timeshift, is worse. Maybe the body is trying to hold out for those first rays of sun or something. All I know is Evelin and I seem to use the snooze button a lot more this time of year than at others (or maybe it just feels like that today).

One of the trees outside my office window is turning colors, as are a few in the neighborhood. But when we were a bit west and at a higher altitude on Saturday, the foliage seemed to be changing everywhere. It's not near the peak, but you could see hints of yellow and orange and red amidst the green everywhere. Pretty soon, it'll be time to do a lot of raking.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Garlic and History 

Yesterday was a great Saturday. The lawn remains uncut; household projects are undone; and I know there are bits of work I have yet to catch up on. Okay, the Sox lost to the hated Yankees was a terrible strike against yesterday, but I remain unreasonably optimistic about tonight. Cowboy up!

Yesterday morning, we took off to visit Poplar Forest, a retreat home Thomas Jefferson built for himself after his presidency to help escape from the constant stream of visitors at Monticello. When Evelin and her parents went to Monticello a few weeks ago, Evelin saw a book about Poplar Forest and was really taken by the idea of the place. It's built as an octagon centered upon a 20-foot by 20-foot by 20-foot cube. The central cube is the dining room, lit primarily by a skylight that spans the roof. The rooms to each side are elongated octagons and served as entry vestibules, bedrooms, and a parlor. It's not as big as it sounds like it should be, but it's still quite spacious. Evelin is already planning how we could adopt the floorplan/design to a modern house (i.e., with bathrooms and a kitchen). It only recently (late 1980s) came into the hands of a nonprofit dedicated to saving the house. They're still early days in reconstructing things, so you get a really good look at what's behind the walls and how things were built. Of course, all the reconstruction is being done following period techniques.

Poplar Forest is just south of Lynchburg, which is about 3.5 or 4 hours from D.C. We took a winding path to get there, but made pretty good time, which allowed for a fair number of side trips.

First we stopped at The Apple Shed along Route 29 in Lovingston or somewhere about there. We are always looking for different varieties of apples that we haven't tried before (it's a variation of the same compulsion that drives me to try wines, beers, whiskies, cheeses, etc., that I haven't had before), so we immediately stopped when we saw the sign for mountain apples. Most of the ones they were selling were familiar (winesap, red delicious, granny smith, stayman, golden delicious, empire, etc.), but they did have Virginia golds, which are a cross between a pippin and some other apple (I don't have a database set up on my Palm to track apples the way I do with wine, beer, and whisky). [On edit, Virginia gold is a cross between Albemarle pippin and golden delicious.] Decent texture, a little watery at first, but the flavor that lingers when you're finished eating it was very nice. We picked up a mixed half-bushel of Virginia golds, staymans, and a few other odds and ends; hopefully Evelin will make an apple crisp today or later in the week.

As we were paying for the apples, the guy asked us if we were headed to the Garlic Festival. Well, we weren't, but as soon as we heard about it we decided to. The festival was at Rebec Vineyards, just a bit further down Route 29. Admission was a bit steep ($20 with a wine glass for tastings; $15 otherwise), but it was a decent time. Evelin had read about the festival a year or two ago, but it was a bit less garlic-centric than we'd hoped. There were five or six wineries doing tastings (the most crowded tents in the field), a ton of artisans/crafts (with varying degrees of adherence to the garlic theme) and a bunch of food stands. I had an excellent wild mushroom pita sandwich; Evelin had a garlic meatball sub. Of the wines, the most interesting was the Cabernet Blanc from Stonewall Vineyards; it was rosé in color, but the taste was much firmer than the color would have implied. It was 100% cabernet sauvignon grapes, but they were fermented off the skins yielding the lighter tint. Next time we're down that way, I want to stop at the vineyard to get a better taste of what else they're doing. I only tasted one wine from the hosting vineyard, Rebec's Sweet Sofia. It was billed as a traditional Bulgarian-style wine that was infused with 12 herbs. It was very spicy and floral; a little better to smell than to drink (at least at a tasting), but I could see it as an aperitif or something.

We also bought a variety of garlic cloves and Evelin started our garlic plot today. She's using the bed we had butternut squash in earlier this year; they were attacked by squash vine borers and it only produced three or four small squashes (which I think we're having for dinner one night this week). Now we just have to wait until next summer to harvest the garlic. Evelin isn't sure how many toes she planted ("A lot" is her best estimate), but we're going to have five varieties to choose among: Spanish roja, Italian, music, Georgian crystal, and inchelium red. We saved a toe or two of the Spanish roja, Italian, and the inchelium red, so we won't have to wait until June or July to see what they all taste like.

Spanish roja is an heirloom variety from the Pacific Northwest and the Italian is from Pennsylvania (originally from, go figure, Italy). Both are supposed to be on the spicy side and are rocambole hard-neck varieties, which are supposed to yield large toes that are easy to peel. Music and Georgian crystal are both milder porcelain hard-neck garlics. Music is supposed to be very nice when roasted, and the Georgian crystal is from the Republic of Georgia (apparently there are a ton of varieties that originated in Georgia). The inchelium red is an artichoke soft-neck garlic, which should store for longer than the hard-neck varieties. It was found on the Colville Reservation in Washington state.

Interesting side note: You can cook/eat the garlic right from the ground (normally it is cured/dried so that it will last longer), but it is milder in flavor. The curing/drying process concentrates the juices/essence of the garlic making the flavor stronger.

After the festival we made it down to Poplar Forest. It was about 3:15 p.m., which meant we wouldn't be able to stop at too many places on the way back to D.C., but we did get to stop at Mountain Cove Vineyards, which was located a little north of Rebec. They were in a gorgeous little vale near the Blue Ridge and had some nice wines. Best was the Tinto, a blend of cab sauv, cab franc, and a few other traditional red varieties: very nice tannins and structure, followed closely by the Virginia’s Harvest Blackberry wine, which was nicely balanced in its tartness and sweetness.

Also interesting: Al Weed, the owner of and winemaker at Mountain Cove, is running for the U.S. Congress in the 5th District. I'm not sure how many Democrats are looking to go up against Virgil Goode (former Democrat, now Republican), but after talking to him and looking at what I could dig up by googling him, he sounds very interesting. Goode has represented the 5th District for a long time now (he started off as a conservative Democrat, then as an Independent who caucused with the Republicans, and now he's a full-fledged Republican), but Weed looks like he will run a good campaign.

Getting a bit hungry, we stopped in Culpepper at the Hazel River Inn. They were short-staffed and since we didn't have reservations they shunted us off to a small table on the back deck, but at least we were able to be seated. The food was quite good, although the dessert (an apple and current dumpling) didn't match up to the quality of the gnocchi I had or the filet mignon Evelin had.

Sunday has been fairly sedate. Evelin worked in the garden some, including planting the garlic, and I futzed around on the roof, got some groceries, and other chores ... Actually, Evelin is cooking our butternut squash for dinner: cubed, tossed with salt, pepper, parsley, minced garlic, and whole cloves; drizzeled with olive oil; and baked at 325°F for 90 minutes to two hours. Yum.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Game 2 

Well, we didn't have to lose it, but it wasn't a bad game to drop. The ALCS may be tied, but in a way it's good that the Sox dropped this game: We were on a four-game winning streak, so losing last night and getting to start a new series of wins on Saturday will be fine. I may have stayed downstairs too long (Evelin ended up watching the BBC version of Coupling after Friends), and Andy Pettitte had time to calm down and to resist my gris-gris (I realized after a few pitches that since he's a lefty, I had to wave the old baseball with my left hand, not my right ... tricky this baseball voodoo is ...). Derek Lowe probably stayed in three pitches too long, but, overall, the Sox played a solid game. Oh and I still really like the looks of Bronson Arroyo: He had two pitches that went a little wild (I'm including the one that hit Alfonso Soriano), but I expect good things from him in years to come. Now, on to Saturday ...

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Irreconcilable Differences 

Thankfully, Evelin and I will never have to worry about something like this: "Irreconcilable differences" (from today's Boston Globe). I'm originally from Louisiana, so the closest we had to a hometown MLB team was the Atlanta Braves (thanks to Ted Turner's cable empire), the Houston Astros (the physically closest team) or the Texas Rangers (again, due to proximity). I never could see the value of any of those guys, although I will admit to liking the A's in my youth (my brother, however, became a dedicated Braves fan). After I moved up to D.C., however, I discovered the Red Sox. A friend's brother was dating a girl from Boston at the time and thus was following the Sox; I watched some of the games with him and caught the fever. From there it was only a matter of time ...

Baseball Gris-Gris 

I'm not sure what worked, but I dare not change anything. I started off the evening watching the BoSox on the basement TV, moving upstairs to my position dead center on the couch in time for the start of the 3rd inning. I had an old baseball that I found while cleaning out some old boxes Sunday night, and it seemed to work some magic. Using it as a gris-gris, I griped the ball tight at twisted it with each Yankee pitch starting with Félix Heredia’s last hurl of the 6th inning. I also kept checking to make sure I was sitting dead center on the couch, and my feet fell asleep a few times because I kept my legs crossed, but it was worth it. The Sox looked sharp, let's see it continue.

Moving away from baseball, Evelin scheduled the mock transfer for the 21st. This is a sort of test run for the IVF embryo transfer to give the doctor a heads up about any anatomical issues that could cause a problem. It's better to find out now, well before we get too far into the IVF process, than to run into trouble just at the point when the embryo is supposed to move in ...

Other stuff that I haven't commented on: Congratulations to Bob Graham on a well run campaign that never took off (and on the wisdom to bow out when he did -- now please go and hold your senate seat for the Democrats); California ... jeez, California; Roy Horn (of Siegfried and Roy) ... I've seen the white tigers at The Mirage a few times now, but never the magic act, I hope Roy recovers and that their show doesn't remain dark, but I also want to know what sort of microphone he was using to swat the tiger ...

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Winning Chocolate 

Well, my name is spelled wrong, but I finally found out what I wrote to win a year's worth of chocolate from Lindt. Answering the question "How do wine, chocolate and music enhance your life?" I wrote, "They add flavor, richness and texture to everyday experience, elevating the humblest of situations to memories worth savoring." The winners are listed on the Robert Mondavi Private Selection webpage.

Baseball Superstitions 

In general, I don't consider myself superstitious, but if something works, why not try it? For example, I regularly knock on wood when I don't want to jinx something that I've said. Also, it drives me crazy when Evelin and I are driving somewhere -- along the Beltway to the clinic, for example, or down the New Jersey Turnpike coming home from New England -- and she comments on how the traffic isn't that bad. I am certain such comments are guaranteed to snarl things up just a few miles down the road.

On Monday night, when Manny Ramírez got his big hit, I was sitting up straight in the middle of the couch with my legs crossed. I later moved to the left side of the couch and the A's scored. During that tense 9th inning, I realized what I was doing wrong, so I returned to the middle of the couch -- back straight, legs crossed -- and things ended up fine. Fellow members of Red Sox Nation in my office have similar tales: lying on the floor, hands behind head; right side of couch if not wearing Boston ball cap, left side of couch if wearing Boston ball cap; if they get a hit while out of the room, stay out of the room (but don't turn off the game); etc. I'm also not allowed to flip channels during commercials.

Tonight, I may tempt fate by starting off watching the game downstairs if Evelin wants to watch Ed (and I have to make peace with the fact that I'll miss The West Wing and Friends tomorrow night), but I've already warned her that if the Sox fall behind, I get the upstairs TV and the middle of the couch.

Cowboy up!

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Post-Convention Recovery Time 

The trouble with going away is that things always back up in the office. Beyond the regular post-show pile of mail and e-mail there's a nice dustup for the French edition (which I though I finished last Monday) and the start of production for my regular magazine. Fun.

The weekend was spent mostly just relaxing and catching up on laundry. On Sunday, we went down to the National Gallery of Art to pick up some posters that Evelin's mom wanted, but the gallery didn't open until 11:00 a.m. (we'd headed there for 10:00 a.m.), which gave us a chance to check out the new National Archives Experience. Basically, Archives has been reworked so that people enter through a new security area with a bigger gift shop on the way out. I don't know whose idea it was to call it the "National Archives Experience," but it sounds pretty dumb in a Las Vegas showman sort of way. It's the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other documents from U.S. history. You're standing in line and walking through the rotunda to read/look at them. The "experience” tag just seems silly: These documents are exciting enough on their own; plus, to call something an "experience" shouldn't a laser lightshow be involved?

After we got the posters, it was up to Takoma Park for the farmers market. Parking was a bear because the town was having it's annual street fair, which was fun to walk through. Nothing too exciting, but Victor Kinza did have some of his prints there. Evelin met him at a show at her university a year or two ago and got a neat turtle print from him.

In the afternoon, I had to watch the pandas; nothing exciting to report there. That morning, Robert De Niro was at the zoo with his children and they met Tian and Mei, but that was long before I got there, so no stories to tell. The second observer on the watch (there are two ethograms we track on each shift, so there is always an observer 1 and observer 2; I usually am covering the observer 1 ethogram) had stopped at a Russian Orthodox Church fair on her way to the zoo, so she brought in some yummy Russian pastries.

Yesterday was back to work, with all the associated troubles (see first paragraph in this blog entry), but the evening ended up well for the Nation ... Red Sox Nation that is. I was biting my nails from about 11:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. or so, but Derek Lowe pulled it out nicely, it looks like Johnny Damon is okay, and I take back anything and everything bad I may have ever said about Manny Ramírez. Now ... the hated Yankees.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Convention Report (Part II) 

Well, the bulk of things are done. This morning I have to be a warm body at a press conference, but beyond that, the issue is printed and delivered and we just have to wait until it's late enough to break down the racks, figure out what to do with the issues that haven't been taken by then, pack up the car, and drive back to D.C. And L--- says I look sicker today than at any other point during the show (I feel okay; I think it's just the skipping sleep is catching up with me and it's over, so I can let myself fall down a little.)

Last night turned into a real pain. I knew that Mac OS X was a complete do-over of the Macintosh system, and we've run into some small problems in the office with outside contractors having more up-to-date Mac gear than we do, but it was getting ridiculous at some points last night.

Things actually started off looking good: deadlines were being hit; the one big controversial story was approved quite painlessly; for the most part, stories were fitting on page (although I had to savage one a story I wrote and that I liked a lot ...). By the time we ran through final proof, we were running later than out ideal time to get out the door to the printer, but well ahead of our we're-later-than-we-want-but-not-really-late time.

Then the problems hit. We'd realized earlier that the version of Adobe Distiller we brought with us wouldn't work on the rented OS X machine, but we figured we could backsave the file to Quark 4 and shuttle them on a Zip disk to the laptop (OS 9.2) to make PDFs for the printer. After two lockups and a bit of frustration, we discovered that the OS X machine didn't want to communicate with our Zip drive (it took about 6 minutes to transfer 9.1 megs of files). To get the 100-plus megs of files we needed off the OS X machine, we decided to burn things to CD quickly to get them to the laptop and then use the Zip to get the PDFs back to the OS X box.

Of course, the version of Toast (5.0.2) we'd installed on the OS X box couldn't find the DVD writer. After more looking around on the machine and a call to rental tech support that didn't reach anyone, we found the preinstalled version of Toast (5.2) which did work -- another case of OS X and backwards compatibility. Until we figured this out, we were considering just taking the entire computer to the printer and hoping they'd have some cabling, software, and/or expertise that would solve things.

Okay, so files quickly transferred, PDFs made, and then shuttle the Zip drive back to the OS X box to burn a new CD of the PDFs to electronically ship them to the printer. And nothing. The Zip drive locks up the OS X box again; it won't work with the laptop anymore. We throw the CD with the Quark files into a bag, force the Zip disk from the drive, and head to the printer. We're at least 90 minutes late at this point.

We finally get to the printer (about a 40 minute drive from the convention center) and run through a few quick checks of things only to discover the Zip disk is corrupted. So it ends up in the trash, we borrow a new disk to transfer files from the laptop and the game is back on ... We got to rest a little bit while waiting for the proofs and, to make a long story short, the issues were delivered in time and they look great. And I am so ready to get home ...

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I'm an Uncle! 

I got the word around 9:15 p.m. last night when I got back to the hotel ... I'm an uncle. Welcome to the world Lucy Sinclar and Anna McAfee (not sure that's spelled right)! My sister-in-law's water broke Tuesday night and by Wednesday evening there were the girls. They're a little early and thus still in hospital, but wow. Evelin and I are very happy for them: They didn't have an easy time with the fertility stuff either and so it's great to see a success story ...

The sadder side of last night was that I was up until about 2:30 a.m. watching the Sox blow a one run lead in the ninth. Come on guys!

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Convention Report (Part I) 

Okay, so now I'm in Philly with time for a quick update. Today's the first official day of the convention and L--- and I are already running around like loons. We've just set up the issue racks (and found out that we are missing a shelf on each rack, which means they aren't as stable as they should be and they don't display the issues as nicely as they should) and unloaded all of today's issue. Of course, we have to watch out as we're shifting boxes and things around because technically we are encouraged to let the convention center's Teamsters take care of things like that, but we have to all this on the cheap, which means the editor and production heads are also stuck wrangling distribution, etc. The Friday issue, because the printer is dropping it off at the loading dock at 6 a.m., will have to have the exhibition services guys receive it and they'll handle distribution for the morning. Actually, I think that's for the best.

Let's see, L--- (the person in charge of contract publishing for the company) and I drove up Monday evening, which gave us a chance to talk a bit about both the show and what's going on in each other’s lives. At shows we usually get a chance to catch up on our respective fertility issues. She and her husband, after about three years of trying to have a second child, including some clomid cycles and one IUI, decided to back away from trying. They aren't actively preventing pregnancy, but also aren't actively trying anymore. It's kind of sad, but they've made peace with it, which is good, and the decision has removed some strain on their relationship, which is very good.

We got in to the city around 9:00 p.m. or so; my hotel is right on the edge of Chinatown. It's not the prettiest part of Philadelphia, but any means, but it seems pretty vibrant. On my walk to the convention center in the morning, I can peak into a Chinese noodle factory -- about 10 guys, covered in flour, slinging around bags of noodles in all stages of completion.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early (I never seem to sleep to well on these trips) and walked around a bit. I got to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (or at least to look at them though all the security barricades they have set up around the place). I then walked back toward City Hall. There seems to be a ton of public art in Philadelphia; I saw at least two new murals underway, and a ton more completed, along with various sculptures and installation pieces to complement the range of architecture around the city.

Most of the day was hurry up and wait. Wait for the newsroom to get set up. Wait for the computer guy. Wait for the computer guy's runner who was bringing more memory for the printer. Wait for the preprint issues.

Once things were set up in the newsroom, we had to head off to the printer just to be sure we knew where they were so that the Thursday night run with files wouldn't turn into a disaster. (Basically, we are doing one issue live; deadlines for writers are around 4:00 p.m. on Thursday and we are aiming to final proof the live pages between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. so that we can get to the printer between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. We hang out there for an hour or three until all the prepress work is done and we can check the proofs. They then print things overnight and get it to the convention center for distribution by 6:00 a.m. the next morning.)

On the way back from the printer, we were stuck on the I-76 for ... a long time because of a wreck further down the expressway. Finally, we bailed to surface streets to get back to the convention center, where, after a quick dinner at the Hard Rock Café, we had to load up our software (desktop publishing, fonts, flight check, etc.). Everything was finished up by 10:00, which isn't too bad, all things considered, but it did mean an early start today to get the racks out and filled. Now, there are just a few sessions I have to cover today and tomorrow it'll be all about the editing and production.

Oh, and the cough was nasty last night. This morning, it seems okay, but my head remains stopped up. Many people are insisting I seek medial attention once this show is over ...

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