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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Take Me Out to the Ballgame 

Last night I had two firsts: My first National League ballgame and the first time I've seen a MLB pitcher hit a home run.

A friend of S---'s was coming to town for some bankruptcy lawyers convention and part of the convention package included nosebleed seats for last night's Nationals–Mets match up. Because of an early schedule the next day, the friend had two tickets but no desire to spend a night at the ballpark. So, S--- got the tickets and I got to tag along; I told S--- I'd buy the beers, but, because of Passover, he wasn't partaking ...

[ASIDE: Yes, I abandoned Evelin and Celeste for the night, but Evelin said they didn't mind; Celeste didn't want to talk to me, however, when Evelin called at bathtime just before the first pitch — I think she was a bit jealous.]

The last time I went to RFK Stadium was during the 2002 World Cup, when the U.S. faced Germany in the quarterfinals. They opened up the stadium early for the 6:00 a.m. (UTC-5:00) match, which was being shown on the stadium Jumbotron. It was a good game, even though Germany won, and a lot of fun. The crowd was energized and players from the Washington Freedom were on hand to try and gin up interest in women's professional soccer. I ran into C---, the brother of one of my coworkers, and got to enjoy the game while only being a little late for work. (It definitely was a better match that some of the earlier games that I had to wake at 2:00 a.m. for to watch in Spanish or the ones I had to try to watch via the line-by-line commentary I was getting from the talkSPORT website.

Prior to that, I'd only been there for a few HFStivals. The Nationals game was quite a different experience.

Our seats were quite high (Section 524, Row 8) and along the third base line and it was surprisingly hard to tell where some of the hit balls were flying. Regularly, when a foul was headed into the sections below us, it appeared to be traveling more along the first base line. Balls hit hard and high into center field looked certain to be headed out, but instead they were easily caught no where near the warning track. What was clear to see was how fast the pitches were flying (even though only a few pitches broke 90 mph). I've usually had seats situated somewhere in left field with a head-on view of the plate. From that perspective, the ball doesn't seem to travel nearly as quickly as it appeared to from last night's seats. What was hard to judge was the strike zone.

At first it looked like were going to be in for a bad night for the Nats, with Liván Hernández struggling some in the 1st inning, but he settled in for the next seven innings giving up a few hits here and there, but no more runs. And, in the sixth, he had a solo homerun; the first time S--- or I could remember ever seeing (in person or not) a pitcher do that.

The stadium itself remains an old structure, but it wasn't bad for a ballgame. What I found really interesting, in terms of infrastructure, was that you could see some of the lines in the grass and the track where some of the seats swung out of the way to convert the field from a baseball diamond to a soccer pitch.

The sad thing was that I have one Met and four Nats on my fantasy team, and none of those players had a very exciting night. It did cause me a few conflicted moments during the game, however ... I wanted Hernandez to pitch his way out of his 1st inning jam, but if Cliff Floyd had gotten a three-run homer instead of a one-run sacrifice fly, it would have earned me more points (and being at in the cellar in the fantasy league is getting old ...)

Although I hope we'll get to a Boston–Orioles game at some point this summer, the only game I have tickets for thus far is for a Portland Sea Dogs match up against the Bowie Bay Sox in May. It's AA ball, but the Sea Dogs are running hot right now, and are fielding seven of the Sox's top ten prospects. So we should be in for a good game ...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

An Excursion 

When I got home and Evelin told me that Celeste had just awoken from a 214-hour nap, I was a little worried. However, with no sleep or feeding pending for the immediate future, I decided to do something Celeste and I have yet to do: an excursion by ourselves. She we've taken walks/strolls around the neighborhood, down to the park, and along the Northwest Branch, as well as trips to the supermarket, without Evelin, but I've been loath to load up the car and head OUT somewhere because of feeding/sleeping concerns.

This time, I threw caution to the wind, the Piggyback in the back of the T.R.U.C.K., and a bottle into an insulated bag (just in case), and Celeste and I headed out. (Although the story does not turn upon this fact, it is worth noting that I did not think to load up a diaper bag ...)

We headed across the Anacostia (actually the Northeast Branch at that point) and headed south into the District, making our way to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which is probably one of the least visited national parks in the country despite its urban location. As the name implies, the park is a big group of ponds with waterlilies, lotuses, and other aquatic plants. There also are a lot of turtles, frogs, and other animals, including this time of year Canada geese (Branta canadensis). A few years ago, the gardens also added a boardwalk out into the Kenilworth Marsh, which gives you an idea of what the banks of the Anacostia used to be like before it was dredged and manipulated, eventually leading the river to silt up to the point where ships could no longer bring goods to the port of Bladensburg.

Celeste did pretty good in the Piggyback; no fussing, except towards the end of the trip when I took back my hand that she'd been holding for a little while (it gets tiring to keep an arm lifted above your head and twisted back just so someone can squeeze and occasionally gnaw on it ...). I'm pretty sure she didn't notice the tadpoles, and I'm not sure about the turtles, but she definitely saw the geese, particularly the pair that swooped over us as part of their landing approach into one of the big ponds. She also kept a close eye on the two or three that hissed at us as we walked past. The paths through the ponds are fairly narrow, so there were times the geese either had to move or we had to agree to pass each other as widely as possible. Some were okay with jumping into the water, but a few held their ground and acted tough.

Out on the boardwalk, we saw some raptors — turkey buzzards or some other sort of vulture, I think — gliding about, as well as a few mallards, many more geese, and assorted songbirds. Celeste didn't seem to be looking in the same directions I was most of the time (although, even with the little mirror that comes with the Piggyback, it's hard to see what the person in the pack is up to), but she seemed to enjoy herself. I could feel her weight shift to look around in different directions a couple of times, particularly when we startled some mallards and they took flight from fairly close to us.

We made it back to the car and home without Celeste needing to be fed or anything; in fact, we had a little bit of hang out and play time at home before she wanted to eat, and — surprise, surprise — she fell asleep during her bottle and ended up having a good 30 minute nap.

The rest of the afternoon was the usual, play here, play there, jump in the jumper for a while; the only thing new is that we sat in the backyard for a bit. I'd just refilled the birdfeeder and I wanted to see if she would notice if any birds came to visit. The birds, however, weren't coöperative, waiting until after we'd left to see what sort of seeds were now on offer.

More About Celeste's Food

So, with the exception of the yoghurt, cereals, teething biscuits, and carrots, we're making all of Celeste's food. (Carrots should be bought because the nitrate levels in fresh carrots can vary greatly depending upon local soil conditions, gardening techniques, etc.; it's safest to buy carrot baby food.) However, making all this food is not as simple as it might sometimes seem.

Avocado and bananas can just be smushed with a fork or potato masher; for peas this works reasonably well, too. Butternut squash, however, seems to need to go through the food mill or something. Evelin made some up this morning and just mashed the squash; this evening Celeste took a few bites, made a scowl, and spat back a big fibrous knot-o-mush. I think the mashing of the squash is a bit like felting; it makes the fibers knit together a bit.

The other learning experience was with the parsnips last night. Instead of boiling them, Evelin thought to bake them. The end result was some very tasty parsnip fries, however, it took a lot of moisture out of them, and since they were cut into smallish chunks, there was a lot of "sealed" surface for each chunk of parsnip. Long story short: They wouldn't mash with a potato masher, and I didn't pull out the vegetable straining attachment for the mixer. Instead I tried the food processor and adding some water. That worked a little bit, but there were still a lot of chunks, so I tried working it all through a strainer, pushing the mash through with the back of a spoon. This worked pretty well, but one bag of parsnips yielded only two or three servings of baby food.

Next time (and there will be a next time, because it seems like she likes them, at least when mixed with apples), I think we'll try steaming them and probably using the mixer attachments ...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Schedules 

I'm having trouble getting myself back on to a schedule or into a rhythm or something, which is partly why I've not been blogging. After Vegas, I spent a lot of time catching up on sleep, and this week I've been getting back into the 4:00 a.m. to noon twice a week schedule.

Adding to all this is that Celeste's schedule is in flux, too. Part of it is trying to adjust to the new sleeping regimen; her bath and bedtime have shifted back to between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., but her wakes have been all over the place — as early as 5:30 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. and as late as 8:15 a.m. Not that she's sleeping straight through or anything; she still needs to feed twice a night (usually between 11:30 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. and then sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. or so), and sometimes she takes the first morning feed as yet another night feeding and goes straight back to bed (that's what happened the morning she slept until 8:15 a.m.). And, with that varying waking time, her naps range wildly; on a good day, she has a short morning nap, an okay (45 or 75 minute) afternoon nap, and a quick nap late in the day to "top off" before getting ready for bed.

Feeding Celeste

Her feedings (both solids and breastmilk) are similarly scattered through out the day; usually she gets a morning solids meal and a late afternoon/early evening one, but sometimes she only has one and (on rare occasions) she has three. It's mostly an on demand thing and she can be picky. The fun bit is that she makes lots of really neat growls and hyurrrrm and other yummy noises while being fed solids. When she gets on a roll, it's a riot.

As for what she's eating, she is has a pretty good variety available to her now, but we don't have everything in the freezer at any given time. On the approved list (grouped into yoghurt, grains, fruits, and vegetables, but otherwise in no particular order) are: yoghurt (Greek and regular); rice, oatmeal, and barley cereal, as well as teething biscuits and rice cakes; apples (and apple juice), pears, asian pears, plums, peaches, and bananas; sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas, acorn squash, summer squash, zucchini, butternut squash, and avocado. We made up some parsnips for her tonight, so she'll probably get to try those tomorrow.

Not surprisingly, the faves have been the sweet things: plums, apples, pears, and asian pears. Green beans are tolerated when mixed with something sweeter, such as sweet potato. Zucchini was too bitter (although we didn't try mixing it with other stuff), and avocado gets a mild expression of distaste, but each time we give her some, she seem to take to it more.

As for the fingerfood, she can't quite handle the rice cakes, but she does enjoy the teething biscuits. When we've tried giving her little bits of diced acorn squash, for example, she'll pick it up, but refuses to bring it to her mouth. Stray things off the floor? Straight into the mouth: Food off her highchair tray? Not a chance.

The first yoghurt she tried was some YoBaby Plus stuff that a S--- and G--- left here. She was okay with it, but Evelin and I didn't like that the second ingredient was sugar (sure it's "organic milled cane sugar," but still ...), so I checked at Trader Joe's where ΦΑΓΕ Greek yoghurt was finally back on the shelves. The full-fat ΦΑΓΕ Total Greek Yoghurt was there, whole milk and sugar-free. At the same time, Evelin picked up some Brown Cow yoghurt that was also whole milk and sugar-free, but not as thick and luscious as the ΦΑΓΕ stuff. (Evelin compares the ΦΑΓΕ yoghurt to sour cream.) Celeste seems fine with either the Brown Cow or the ΦΑΓΕ, and will eat either plain or mixed with some cereal or fruit ... even avocado.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Blog of the Living Dead 

I counted it up: Since leaving home at 3:15 a.m. on Saturday until I returned at 11:00-something on Wednesday, I had a total of 18 hours sleep, three or four of which were on the planes from Vegas to Pittsburgh and from Pittsburgh to Baltimore.

Yep, it was convention daily time again.

Usually these things get easier as the show progresses, but this was the really BIG project (two issues a day; 16 pages live for one, 24 pages live for the other with ad:edit ratios of about 55:45) — and, when the live assignments were made, the writers were all told to write short because the second edition was going to only have a 16 page live hole with an ad:edit of about 73:27 ... this meant there was a lot of scrambling to fill pages at the last minute.

Adding to the problem were various issues with the rental computers (for some reason, ever since Apple moved up to G5s and OS X, the rentals we've gotten for these on-site projects have been buggier and more difficult to work with than G3/G4 and OX 9 setups of the past or even the G5s and OS X setups in the office), and let's just say I was able to call Evelin and Celeste every night when I got back to my hotel room to talk to them during breakfast.

Despite all this, I think we had the fewest complaints ever about the papers, and they looked better than ever before. A good job done well, with only a few near fatalities ...

Now I just have to deal with a few regular office issues before we can do a post mortem and try to figure out what went wrong and how we can address those issues (and the ones that spiral outwards from them).

Home With Celeste

This morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. when I heard my mother and Evelin talking about whether or not Celeste (who was crying some) should get up. Not 100% awake, I quickly offered to go get her. (Last night, when I got in, I snuck into her room to take a peek at her, but she was sound asleep and Evelin and I agreed that if she woke for a midnight feed, I'd stay hidden so as not to get her worked up when she should be asleep.) By 7:00 a.m., Celeste and I were realizing we both needed more sleep: a half-hour more for her, about three-and-a-half for me.

While I was gone, she learned a few new tricks: She's able to roll from her back to her belly, and she has her two bottom incisors popping out. We can't quite see the teeth yet, but they are there (the initial eruption seems to have happened on Monday, while Evelin and Celeste were on the way to pick my mom up from the airport).

Also, she's sleeping more through the night and exclusively in her own bed. We're letting her cry it out some, and Evelin wanted to start the Friday night before I left, but there was no way I was going to let her cry when I was having to get up in the middle of the night to leave for nearly a week; I wanted her laugh, not her cries, to be the echo of memory I took with me.

So Saturday night, the great experiment started and, according to Evelin, went pretty well. Sunday night went less well, but the rest of the week has been pretty good ... or so I'm told. I expect to have to be cuffed to a chair or something tonight if Celeste realizes that the weak-link in this chain is now home.

Stories of Vegas

The rough outline (hopefully rough enough to keep me from getting dooced) of the work side of things is above and considering that I was in the newsroom from about 9:00 a.m. (worst) or 10:30 a.m. (best) each day to about 2:30 (best) or 5:30 a.m. (worst) each day, that pretty much was Vegas.

I stayed in The Riviera this time (which makes two years in a row without having to sleep in Circus Circus), which was okay. It was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the hotel (the day of celebration was the day I checked out, so I missed that night's fireworks display), so they had some displays about the casino through they years set up on the main floor, including Liberace's mirrored piano. I think they had a Liberace impersonator playing it sometimes, but I didn't catch any performances.

The only non-work thing I did was a quick ride on the monorail. Monday was the day I didn't get to the newsroom until about 10:30 a.m. because I decided to walk down to a liquor/souvenir shop that has a really big selection of airline bottles. (I like to see if I can find any miniatures of whiskies I haven't tasted before; I figure it's better to spend less than $10 for a small bottle of something that might be really nice than to spend $40 on something that turns out to be crap plus, because of the way liquor is regulated in the States, different tipples can be found in different parts of the country.) The store is near the Sahara, at one end of the monorail, so, after picking up a few things, I paid my fare and rode the monorail to the MGM Grand and then back to the convention center.

It's a fairly short system, but the surprisingly small cars got extremely crowded with conventioneers (and tourists) very quickly, especially on the MGM-to-LVCC portion of things. For the most part, it seemed to travel fairly slowly, but, because it is elevated and runs behind the casinos for the Strip portion of things, it did give a look down to parts of the hotels that aren't meant to be seen. The most interesting thing was a look over the wall into the Desert Inn Golf Course and of its nursery operation: There were tons of really large trees in giant boxes ready to be placed wherever Steve Wynn needs them to go.

The new Wynn hotel was a nice addition to the skyline; I'm sure it will be too expensive for me to even step inside much less stay there ...

Friday, April 08, 2005

South Park Stylee 

I think I've only seen about a half episode of South Park, but this is still pretty funny ...

Carter, South Park Stylee

Basically, Das Planearium has set up a Flash tool where you can design a South Park charicature of yourself.

(Via Blethers)

Monday, April 04, 2005

An Argument for the Elimination of Daylight Savings Time ... 

... or at least staying on GMT-5:00 year round.

It might have been excitement over the Beloved BoSoxHated Yankees or, more likely, her two-and-a-half hour nap that ended at 5:15 p.m., but Celeste did not want to sleep last night. Around 6:30 p.m., she started making some sleep cues and got ready for her bath, by the end of bathtime, it was the usual crankiness about getting dressed and settling in for the evening; then, after Evelin topped her up for the evening, back down the stairs came Celeste eyes wide open.

The game was on the radio (sadly WCBS and the Yankee's broadcast team) and Evelin lay with Celeste on the couch trying to get her to realize that it was sleepytime. No good. After the 2nd or 3rd inning, we headed upstairs to bed where I switched to an earbud radio and where Celeste just wanted to sit and play. Finally, around 9:30 p.m., we shut off all the lights in an effort to convince her to GO. TO. SLEEP.

The convincing worked on Evelin and eventually on Celeste, too. I dozed off in the bottom of the 6th to awaken for the bottom of the 8th. It was a fitful night for me for some reason (and not because of the loss: there are 161 games left and the BoSox have started the last four seasons with a loss; plus, to my ears, Randy Johnson sounded pretty hittable — I think the stats he put up last night make him sound better than he pitched), but Celeste and Evelin did pretty good. There was a wake up to feed around 1:30 a.m., but otherwise Celeste slept until about 6:45 a.m.

Accounting for the change to summer time, that last bit doesn't seem too far off from what she'd been doing, but Evelin found it much more palatable to get up a little before 7:00 a.m. than a little before 6:00 a.m. It probably helped that I stayed in bed longer than usual because I was feeling tired and didn't really feel like rushing to work ...

Tonight, she treated her post-bath bedtime as a nap, wanting to get up about an hour or so after going to sleep, but she couldn't quite pull it off. Right now, I can hear some snuffling and the occasional squawk, but hopefully she'll pull off a decent night's sleep despite that ...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sometimes I Don't Know When I Have It Good ... 

This afternoon, Evelin had her book club; the same book club that lead to the first Daddy–Daughter Day Disaster many months ago. This time, a little while before Evelin had to leave, Celeste was getting cranky but not wanting to take a nap despite being fairly tired. (I was tired, too, and tried to convince Celeste to be my nap buddy, but she wasn't buying it today.) So, as I listened to the 8th inning of the Nationals–Mets game, Evelin topped Celeste off, which knocked her out. I though Evelin put Celeste in her crib and then headed out, assuring me that if I did doze off I would hear her and awaken even though she was in the room next door. (I know that happens at night, but I was a little worried that I would be less likely to awake from a nap.) I had nothing to fear.

I listened through the end of the game (Nats lost) and then dozed for a little while, but Celeste was still sound asleep when I awoke. I puttered around the house, planned dinner, straightened up some things, and checked in on her periodically, but Celeste continued to nap. I tried to call Evelin to see when exactly Celeste had gone to sleep, but her phone was off. I started to get worried, but Celeste didn't care, she was too busy sleeping. In the end, she slept for two-and-a-half hours, waking just before Evelin called to say she was on her way home. Considering that she slept for over an hour this morning while I was at the farmers market, it almost made up for the waking every 45 minutes she did the night before ...

For dinner tonight, we had some green beans I bought last week to make φασολάκια, but when I was looking at what else we had around and what I wanted, that didn't seem to fit. Instead, I went with a couple of traditional Lebanese recipes: mdardra (lentils and rice) and lūbiyah bi-rubb rummān (green beans with sour pomegranate juice) as a side. It turned out pretty good; since both are served cold or room temperature, I could prepare them ahead of time (meaning that I didn't have to worry about when Celeste would need her bath) and the pomegranate dressing for the beans was pretty tasty. It was just olive oil, garlic and pomegranate molasses; we're thinking we may try it on a salad someday soon.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Not a Bad Day ... And Garden Talk 

So things are off to the printer today. All I had weighing on me this morning (besides all the regular work this project has shunted off to an unspecified point in the future — okay, until Monday, at which point everything is fantastically late), was one headline, checking a photo, and waiting for the client to provide updated maps. This meant I could relax some.

Celeste started waking up at 5:00 a.m., much to Evelin's dismay, but I was getting close to waking up too, so I didn't mind listening to her mewing over the monitor. After about 15 minutes, however, the babbling tuned into pre-crying, which got Evelin worried. She didn't want another awake-for-the-day-at-5:30 days. I went to try to soothe Celeste, and while she scaled back the crying to a point where I could take a shower and think she'd be okay. When I got out of the shower, Celeste and Evelin were up and about.

As early as it was, I wasn't rushing off to work for the first time in nearly a month, so we had a nice time just hanging out, reading the paper, talking, and playing for about a half-hour (interspersed with getting the trash and recycling out to the curb and other Friday morning chores).

I also, for the first time in a long time, was able to escape the office during lunch. I drove over to the W&OD trail and took a short walk/hike, about 45 minutes. It wasn't too warm, but the front that's supposed to be bringing us a lot of rain this weekend had pumped up the humidity quite a bit. I saw a lot of cardinals flitting about the bushes and a pair of ducks in Four Mile Run.

Hopefully, the rains this weekend are being overstated by the meteorologists and we'll have some time to work on the garden. Evelin set up the pea trellis (this year as a sine wave instead of a square, which may leave some of the plants more shaded, but hopefully it'll be a bigger harvest) and planted spinach Wednesday, and yesterday I planted the peas and started pruning the raspberries, but there's a lot still to do.

The Garden

Our plan this year (and yes, this is evolving into the "The Garden" entry) is garlic in the small bed, carrots in the next one, leeks and broccoli in the big bed (where the spinach is now), tomatoes in the next bed (where the peas are now), and herbs in the little triangular one by the raspberries. In July, when the garlic is harvested, we'll put bok choi in the small bed. I think I'll also build a small raised bed for the sideyard (where we grew okra last year), but I'm not sure what will end up there. We also have blueberries and strawberries in front of the house, and a few years before the apple tree will produce.

The specifics are (all from Burpee): Baby’s Leaf Hybrid spinach, Sugar Bon peas, Dawn Giant leeks, Sweet Treat Hybrid carrots, Tomande Hybrid and Super Sweet 100 Hybrid tomatoes, Extra Curled Dwarf parsley, Summerlong basil, common chives and garlic chives and Little Dillicious cucumbers, which came free with the order and we aren't sure where they'll go. The bok choi is 小白菜 Pai Tsai (short white stalk) from 凱傑興業社.

This summer we're likely to be doing a lot of destruction in the yard. The pond is going to be taken out. we've lost all but one of the goldfish, most of the plants are doing poorly, and each year, the algae and other problems have gotten worse. I've never been as adept at keeping it up as I should be and the lack of any circulation/filtering doesn't help. Perhaps we'll be able to create a new, smaller one down the road, but right now, it's dying/dead (the frog Evelin found not withstanding).

The first step will be draining things followed by some mixture of mucking and pulling out the plastic lining. This is likely to get pretty gross. I also need to find someone who wants the lily pads or find some other way to save those. The fish can be caught and brought inside or passed along to someone else, and the frog has other ponds nearby (the closest being next door) to move to.

Once we have a big hole in the ground, we can start dismantling the patio (step to in the yard destruction). It's a raised structure with railroad-tie sides and a brick surface that was never set properly. The previous owners would try to relevel things each year, but we've been lax in that regard and the sides are starting to rot out in places.

The plan is to shift the dirt that's in there into the pond; however, the yard isn't really flat there, so we'll need to build some sort of retaining wall on the west side of things or do some sort of grading work to keep from creating an unstable situation.

Also, with the pond done, we can check the retaining wall between the upper and lower parts of the backyard. It needs some chinking and definitely some paint. Also, without the pond there, the forces on the wall will change, hopefully for the better.

After that's done ... well that's still up in the air. Perhaps we'll do somesort of deck, either raised or at ground level (or, considering the lay of the land, a bit of both). The pond area may become garden space or part pond/part garden or who knows what.

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