Jul 27, 2009

Still going

Another thumbs up from the doctor today. That puts D at 36 weeks, so the baby will be here in less than a month. Later this afternoon, I was able to see her moving around in D's belly from across the living room. I was ten feet away and had zero trouble seeing minor vibrations, random pokes/kicks, and huge movements of limbs across D's abdomen. She wants out.

Jul 26, 2009

Comic-Con Recap

This weekend felt both long and short. I had two long days at Comic-Con, but the remainder of the weekend flew by. Though I did explore the floor of the exhibit hall for a while on Saturday, I spent most of my time in the rooms with the panels. I didn't really care to get autographs and I didn't plan on buying anything....I just wanted to hear some of my favorite actors talk about what they're working on. I've put up pictures from every panel (along with a bit more commentary) in this web album, but here were a few of my favorite discussions.

The entire cast of The Big Bang Theory was there, talking about random stuff like hitting on Inuits, cloning people, and playing Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. As one of my favorite shows of the last few years, I was excited to see this group, and they didn't disappoint. PS- Jim Parsons (shown here on the right) deserves an Emmy.

TV Guide hosted a panel of stars from various sci-fi shows. Though it was mainly an excuse to show clips of each of their shows, how can you go wrong with Chuck, the guys from Big Bang Theory, Scott Wolf, Rebecca Romijn, and John Cho? Since I wasn't able to attend the Chuck panel the next morning, this was also my only chance to see Zachary Levi in person. He's a true geek that really enjoys his visits to Comic-Con and lets the audience know it.

I got to see some footage of Iron Man 2 (and hear the cast discuss the movie). As someone who thought Iron Man was better than The Dark Knight, is was pretty cool to see scenes from the sequel. Robert Downey Jr. is also incredibly charming and funny, and really makes a great impression. I hope that doesn't mean he's back on drugs.

My last day at Comic-Con ended with over an hour and a half of Kevin Smith taking questions from the audience and responding in his usual hilarious style. He's incredibly dirty, but he can take any question in any direction, including tangential stories that take several minutes to wrap up. He discussed Twilight, his new movie (with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan), and much, much more. If you're interested in laughing for a while, here's some Youtube footage of the Q&A.

Aside from the ones I've mentioned here, I also saw panels for 24, Battlestar Galactica, Zombieland, 2012, Extract, Bones, Dollhouse, Solomon Kane, and a few others. For any Dollhouse fans, I'd recommend going out and picking up the Season 1 DVD, as we got to see the unaired thirteenth episode that's now available only on the DVD.

D spent Friday and Saturday in Orange County, and then we had a relaxing Sunday. D's weekly doctor's appointment is tomorrow, though I doubt we'll learn anything new....at this point, there are only so many ways to say "this is a big baby." Hope everyone had a nice weekend!

Jul 23, 2009

Geek Week

WARNING: First it was cycling, now it's sci-fi, fantasy, and geek TV.  The next paragraph contains lots of nerdy content.

Last week I won two passes to Comic-Con, the annual nerdfest held at the San Diego Convention Center.  Since D wouldn't be very comfortable walking around all day, I used the two passes myself, for two different days of the Con.....so I'll be there tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday.  I'm a little concerned that I'll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that will attend....they're expecting 120,000.  I also worry that I won't be able to get into the panel discussions I'm interested in, and will spend my time wandering about aimlessly like a lost droid.  A few of the panels I'd like to see: The Big Bang Theory, Dollhouse, Chuck, Family Guy, and the Kevin Smith Q&A.  Believe it or not, there are are even geekier ones that I won't mention.  Unfortunately, I missed out on Thursday's events, which included panels for Psych (the show on USA) and Legend of the Seeker, a show based on a favorite series of books.  I also missed the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog fan screening, though I'm determined to track down Felicia Day at some point.  D might head to Orange County to escape the extreme geekiness that will be wafting from me when I return home.

For the non-geeky, I also won tickets to go see two comedians (Brian Posehn and Doug Benson) on Friday and to see Snoop Dogg in concert on Saturday.  I don't think I'll make it to either one, but let me know if you're in SD and would like to go....I might be able to pick up the tickets.

And, on a completely different note, the baby was tap-dancing on the inside of D's belly tonight.  She was extremely rambunctious for a long period of time, through a couple of hours of TV watching.  It was a little more forceful than usual, and unrelenting.....D was ready to take a shot of whiskey to calm her down (just kidding!).  I got to feel her rolling around like an American Gladiator in an Atlasphere.  Let's just say it's much more exciting when it's not your pelvis that's getting kicked.


I've been told by a couple of people that comments on the blog aren't working.  I'm investigating now, so you can ignore this message and any comments to it.  I'll update when I know more.

UPDATE: I've changed the comment style to be a pop-up window rather than in-line.  That should leave room to fill out the word verification.  I've checked it in Chrome, Firefox, and IE.  It seems to work if you're using Internet Explorer 7 or above, but I can't seem to see the Comment link in IE 6.  For any of you that were having trouble posting comments before, please try again and let me know if it still doesn't work.  Thanks!

Jul 22, 2009

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Back in time again, to our April trip to the South. After spending a day seeing many of the downtown Atlanta attractions, we spent the next morning exploring the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I've put up some pictures in this web album, but here are a few.

Even in April, D was looking forward to the baby coming, and took this picture (and many others of the same ladybug) as a potential decoration for the nursery. In the end, the picture wasn't at a high enough resolution to blow it up so large, but you can see from my nursery post that the ladybug motif stuck.

The tulips were in full bloom when we arrived. This was one of several planters with various colors....yellow, blue, orange, and red. The others may have been prettier, but this orange was the most interesting.

Those who know me well will attest to the fact that I take a lot of pictures. Two of my most common subjects (when not traveling) are zoo/aquarium animals and flowers. Of the flowers I shoot, orchids are probably the most common, since we always seem to end up in places with a wide variety. I'm sure I have over a thousand pictures of orchids, though for some reason I've never done the research to identify the various types. This one is pretty common, but never fails to impress.

I see these purple orchids less frequently, but they're still pretty standard. See the web album for more.

Jul 20, 2009

Big 'Un

We had another doctor's appointment today, and everything is continuing as expected.  The baby is still huge, already weighing in at over 3.5 kilograms (around 7.75 pounds).  That's just an estimate based on various measurements, but I'm guessing it's pretty close.  Let's hope she doesn't continue to grow at the "standard" half-pound per week, since D still has five weeks go to.  We're hoping that she comes naturally so we don't have to induce, and she'll be "fully baked" in the next couple of weeks.

As our friends C&T showed us this week, you never know what's going to happen.....during a routine checkup at 36.5 weeks, their doctor decided that the baby needed to be induced.  That was last Friday.....by Sunday afternoon, they had a healthy baby boy.  Great ending, but D doesn't really want to spend three days in the hospital before delivering.   : )

Jul 19, 2009

Nursery Pictures

Here are the pictures I promised of the baby's room. I held off until after we picked up the decals for the wall this afternoon. They may be a little tiny here (click to make the picture bigger), but they include flowers, dragonflies, and lots of ladybugs. The changing table (and dresser) is to the left, and the bookshelf and rocker are to the right.

Here's a better view of the decals, along with the crib set that they match. The round thing strapped to the back of the crib is a "rainforest soother." It doesn't match, but it was one of Andrew's favorite things. The green and pink thing hanging on the left is a diaper stacker.

As you can see, all of her clothes have been organized and put away. The top drawer is for 0-3 months, the second is 3-6 months, and the third is 6-12 months. The younger clothes have already been washed in child-safe detergent and are ready to go.

The closet is also packed pretty well. Hanging dresses are to the left, robes are to the right, and the organizer holds blankets, bibs, sheets, etc. We have a few diapers of various types on the floor. Those should hold us over until we decide what kind we want and buy in bulk (probably at Costco).

Harry Potter and the Spectacular Brownout

We went to go see the new Harry Potter today with D's mom and Auntie JJ.  About half an hour into it, there's a scene where Harry uses a crystal purchased from Ron's brothers to make it dark on the train to Hogwarts....all of a sudden, it's pitch black so that Harry can sneak into Draco's train car.  The cloud slowly clears, and we can see.

Then, pitch black again.  The movie and all of the low-level lighting in the theater suddenly went out.  The theater lights came on about five seconds later, and a couple of employees came in to tell us that the power was out.  We soon came to find out that it was affecting not just the theater, or even the shopping center, but the entire city (Mira Mesa).  It was an undetermined problem with the electrical grid, and the initial estimate was over an hour to fix it.  We sat there for a while, then decided to take a rain check and head out.  After waiting over half an hour in a line of cars just to get out of the parking lot, we headed home unsatisfied.  Boooooo.

PS-There have been a lot of terrible disaster movies on TV recently.  While Impact was bad, Meteor is far worse.  I don't know who wrote this piece of trash, but they obviously think that given the slightest bit of hardship or natural disaster, every person in America will turn into either a rapist, a murderer, a price gouger, a gun-toting lunatic, or all of the above.  Also, the International Space Station is filled with unlabeled rows of useless lights, complex asteroid trajectories can be calculated on a disconnected laptop with no recent data, and the President doesn't need to be consulted before planning a combined Russian/Chinese/American nuclear missile launch.  Pure crap.

Jul 18, 2009

Le Tour

WARNING: Totally geeky cycling discussion follows. If you have no interest, skip it and save yourself some boredom.

One of the things that keeps us busy every July is the Tour de France, and this year is no exception. I've been watching the Tour for about twenty years, and I got D hooked a long time ago. For those of you that don't know, the Tour de France is a 23-day, 21-stage bike race through - you guessed it - France. The route changes every year, and the characters, politics, and tactics are just as intriguing as in any other professional sport.

I record 4-6 hours of live coverage every morning on Versus, starting around 4:30am. When we have the opportunity later that day, we fast forward to the good parts - generally, the opening analysis, the first breakaway, any mountain climbs, all the interviews, and the sprint to the finish. D and I even compete by picking two riders each that we think will do well that day, and recording points for whose picks win the stage (four points for first, three for second, etc) - the commentators have a similar competition.

This year the Tour has gotten more press coverage in the US because Lance Armstrong has rejoined the race after retiring four years ago. His seven wins are the most in the history of the Tour, and the chance for an eighth is obviously unprecedented. The big news of the last few days, however, has revolved around other Americans. First, Levi Leipheimer fell at the end of Friday's stage and broke his wrist. Though riders have completed the race with broken collarbones (and worse), he was in no condition to ride and didn't start Saturday's stage. Levi was one of only seven Americans in the tour and he was on Lance's team, so it's a big deal that he won't finish.

Back in February, Levi won the Tour of California for the third year in a row. The last of its eight stages took place in San Diego, from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido. D and I went to see the riders start the stage, and walked around the team buses beforehand. The crowds were very impressive for a cycling event in the United States, though they don't compare to the French crowds at the Tour. The largest crowd was around the Astana team bus, because everyone wanted to see Lance and (to a lesser extent) Levi. When it finally came time to start the race, they made their way out, signed a couple of autographs, and then got on their bikes to ride to the starting line. Here's a quick video of the mass of people surrounding them as they rode through:

Can you tell that Lance is loving his return to cycling?

The second piece of news from this weekend's Tour stages revolves around another American, George Hincapie. This is George's fourteenth Tour, and he's finished all but the first. He rode on Lance's team during every one of his seven victories, and is one of the most popular American riders around; he's known in the sport to be a really great guy and a strong competitor. In Saturday's stage, he definitely proved the competitive part. He was part of a 12-man breakaway that stayed out in front the entire day; his position at 5 minutes and 20 seconds from first place in the Tour meant that if he came in that far ahead of the main pack (the peloton), he'd be wearing the yellow jersey (signifying the leader of the race) at the end of the day.

D and I were watching intently, rooting him on, but in the end he came up just short and is now in second place in the race, just five seconds out of the lead. He just barely missed another great result for his team, Columbia-HTC, which is one of two American teams. The potential "scandal" that has arisen is that Astana (Lance's team) and Garmin (the other American team) seemed to be riding at the front of the peloton, helping the main pack catch up to George's breakaway. They had no tactical or strategic reason to do so, except perhaps an ongoing rivalry between Columbia and Garmin. George was visibly and audibly disappointed and upset by this turn of events, and almost called out his former teammates and fellow Americans. The truth of the matter may come out in the next few days of the race....it should only add to the drama of the last week of the tour.

Anyway, this brings us back to the Tour of California. While I was waiting to get a good video of Lance coming out of his trailer, D was over at the much less crowded Columbia trailer getting these great shots of George Hincapie. He's been one of our favorites for years, and he seemed really nice and approachable.

George was signing autographs and talking to his teammates for several minutes before the start. I felt a little bad that he wasn't getting the attention that Lance did, but I guess that's what separates the occasional fan and/or cancer survivor from the true cycling enthusiast.

D was quite proud of her pictures, and I have to admit that they were better than any of the ones I took that day.

As a last note, the Tour de France continues until next weekend. This Sunday (the 19th) is the first mountain stage in the Alps. The climbs aren't quite as large as they will be later in the week, but it's a mountain finish that could separate the men from the boys. If you decide to watch one stage, make it next Saturday, July 25. It's the second-to-last day, just before the finale in Paris, and it finishes with one of the most famous climbs in Tour history, Mont Ventoux. With such a huge mountain so close to the end, it could literally determine the final outcome of the entire race on its penultimate day. Now that's just good TV.

Sorry to geek out....I'll get back to more normal subjects tomorrow.

Jul 17, 2009

A New Leaf.....and Atlanta

It's summer, and for many that means some additional time off. Though I'm still working full time and won't have any vacation until the baby comes (paternity leave, technically), I thought I'd try to be more proactive about updating the blog, so that those with a more relaxed schedule (D included) will have something to read. I'm not going to make any guarantees about posting every day, but I will try to be a little more reliable about not skipping several days at a time. If you're one of our three readers and you feel like I'm slacking, poke me. Send an email or leave a comment bemoaning my disappearance on the last entry.....I'll find something to write about.

Unfortunately, there's not necessarily a lot going on to write about, which will make this task a bit harder. Aside from a quick jaunt to San Francisco, I've been staying mostly local. D's trying to take it pretty easy, so we don't do a lot, though there's plenty of shopping to complete the baby's room and she somehow manages to fit ice cream into the schedule somewhere. I've seen a lot of movies recently, but I don't really want to turn this into a movie review blog....though I've definitely got some strong opinions. We still watch way too much TV, but you also don't want to hear about how much I enjoy Cat Deeley, Top Chef: Masters, Better Off Ted, and many more. So, I'll be going to the mattresses and blogging about things that we've done (somewhat) recently that I never got the chance to discuss. By jumping back in time about three months, I'll be able to keep it fresh while still intermixing current events and baby news.

So let's start back in April, during D's Spring Break, when we took a trip to Alabama and Georgia to visit friends and family. We flew into Birmingham, rented a car, and then drove immediately to Atlanta, where we spent several days. We stayed with our friend K and saw a bunch of the city highlights; we bought an Atlanta CityPass for each of us, which gave us access to the main downtown attractions. The first day, we went to the "World of Coca-Cola," the Georgia Aquarium, and the CNN Center. I've posted the pictures to this Picasa album, but here are a few teaser shots.

The World of Coca-Cola is pretty much the incredibly commercial, self-congratulating lovefest you would expect from a museum about Coke, sponsored and built by Coke, in the city that gave birth to Coke. That said, it was somewhat entertaining, though I wouldn't have wanted to pay full price. The portions I found most fascinating were the sections on advertising. From the various signs in the picture below, to the vending machines from around the world, to the "invention" of the modern-era Santa Claus, to the Victorian-style "Coca-Cola ladies" pictures, to the memorable commercials that play on a loop in a dedicated theater, they are not shy about their marketing. It makes it easy to see why they're one of the most recognizable brands in the world, though I tend to have a knee-jerk desire to boycott their products after seeing how insidious their advertisements are.

At the end of the tour, you enter a tasting room that is filled with soda fountains. There are about ten pillars, with three fountain consoles each. Every console has eight actual nozzles, and each nozzle is a new type of Coke product. It adds up to hundreds of new flavors, as most of them are from other countries and don't exist in US markets. They have every different flavor of fizzy fruit drink you could imagine, and some you couldn't imagine until you tried it. Though I haven't had a real "drink" of anything except water in about eight years, I will take sips of other people's drinks every now and then, to 1) try a new flavor, or 2) reinforce my distaste for alcohol/fizz/sugar/etc. Well, I took sips of a lot of different beverages that day, and I was filled with regret (and a confused jumble of contradicting flavors) about ten minutes later.

Just across the Centennial Olympic Park from the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium has eight million gallons of water and the fish to fill them. It's relatively young as aquariums go, opening in 2005, but they definitely went all-out. It's divided into five large sections that each focus on a different natural habitat: Georgia waterways, rivers, cold waters, tropical waters, and open ocean. Each section is well-built and innovative, but I didn't feel like there were enough separate viewing areas for the huge numbers of people that were there. The haphazard, built-over-time growth of some of the older aquariums (Boston and Baltimore come to mind) would actually be a benefit here, as it would provide more smaller exhibits rather than a few huge ones. That said, I wouldn't change the main attraction at the Georgia Aquarium one bit. The Ocean Voyager is a massive tank with a 100-foot-long underwater tunnel, viewing windows on all sides, and a huge 60-foot main window onto a really well-put-together ocean environment. This tank contains four whale sharks and a manta ray, and is still the only place in the US to see either creature in captivity. We sat in front of the main viewing window for a long time, enjoying the natural feeling of the fish and whales cruising by. The environment is large enough that you can witness some authentic fish behaviors....they congregate by species, they trail after larger animals to pick up the scraps, etc. It feels like the ultimate SCUBA adventure, because you don't have to worry about running out of air.

The last place we visited that day was the CNN Center. The building itself is huge, and houses much more than just CNN, including a hotel, other corporate offices, and a large open food court and seating area. The gift shop has fun shirts and other CNN paraphernalia, as well as the cutout of D's new boyfriend shown in the picture below. D bought a snarky shirt that says "It's called journalism" to wear during newspaper publishing days at school. Then we went on a tour of the studios themselves, and had a great time. The tour is fascinating and highly recommended....you get to see in-use studios for both CNN and Headline News, you can eavesdrop on the control room as they direct the live broadcast, and you can see all the overpaid and sensationalistic producers trying to come up with 24 hours worth of news in the background.

More about the rest of our trip later....this was just one (very full) day.

Jul 16, 2009


D had a doctor's appointment on Monday that gave a thumbs-up.  She's currently at 34.5 weeks, and we have another appointment next Monday for an ultrasound to get an updated size estimate.

Last weekend was all about babies.  On Saturday, we attended a nearby baby shower for our friends C&T, who live in LA but have family a few miles from our house.  On Sunday, we had a fantastic baby shower in Orange County.  The decorations were beautiful, lunch was great, and it was wonderful to have our friends and family turn out in droves.  Thank you so much to everyone who came.  A special thanks to our generous, hard-working hosts, plus D's mom and brother.  We received some great gifts, including lots of clothes that D has spent the last week washing, sorting, and putting away in their respective drawers.  I'll take pictures of the nursery and post them in the next few days.  After the shower, our friend J came down with her 11-month-old baby girl and spent the night.  The baby is darn cute, and if we didn't have one coming next month, we would've stolen her.   : )

The Backyard is Done!

It's been finished for a couple of weeks now, but I've been waiting to get some good pictures of the backyard. The concrete is 95% cured, though there are still some dark spots on the side of the house....they'll go away in time. There are more pictures at the end of the Backyard Album, but here are a couple of teasers.

This side is a bit more colorful, with yellow adirondack chairs, a purple umbrella, and a mixed pastel tablecloth.

The path connects the two patio areas, and we're really happy with how the lawn and planted areas have turned out.

The gazebo and patio furniture look great together....this patio has the darker decor. They work really well as a shaded seating area; we've already had several get-togethers out there.

The yard is peaceful and relaxing. We love it all!