I think I just watched the last episode of Journeyman, which (to borrow a phrase from Katrina) makes me a little bit sad. It’s a wonderful show with depth and conflict and heart and, yes, a tiny bit of science fiction, but NBC didn’t order a full season. I try not to let myself get attached to shows like this, but in this case I couldn’t help it.

I guess I find myself hoping the writers’ strike causes enough strife to force the networks to renew series that might otherwise have been canceled (no pilots means no new scripted shows, so if things go too long, they’ll have to stick with the devils they know). Though tonight’s episode of Journeyman attempted to provide enough to close out the entire storyline, I still want more.

Christmas card, holiday card, and birth announcement

Want a sneak peak at our Christmas card, holiday card (sent to people we know who don’t celebrate Christmas), or birth announcement?

I created all three on Helen’s MacBook Pro using Apple iPhoto, Canon Digital Photo Professional, and Apple Pages.

Who’s God?

Katrina: “Jesus is going to be born.” (She’s always acting out the story.)
Brad: “Who’s Jesus?”
Katrina: “He’s the son of God.”
Brad: “Who’s God?”
Katrina: “I don’t know.” She thinks for a bit. “I think she’s an angel.”

Katrina’s favorite Cook

Helen to Katrina: “Who’s your favorite cook?”
Katrina: “Daniel Cook!”

What I’m watching so far

I was pretty accurate in predicting what I’d be watching, though by scheduling things to record in advance, I stacked the deck in my favor. Updated table follows.
Station 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
Fox Prison Break
NBC Chuck Heroes Journeyman
CBC Rick Mercer Report This Hour Has 22 Minutes
ABC Pushing Daisies
CBC Little Mosque on the Prairie
Bionic Woman Life
CW Smallville
NBC My Name Is Earl 30 Rock The Office Scrubs
Las Vegas

Desperate Housewives
Fox The Simpsons
Family Guy American Dad
Not yet scheduled
ABC Lost
Fox New Amsterdam
Fox 24

favorite, comedy, drama, comedy-drama, cartoon, fantasy, satire/news

  • I haven’t been watching Samantha Who?, and I’m somewhat surprised. Too much stuff on Mondays, I guess. I may still start watching, though.
  • I really like Chuck and Journeyman, though I can’t help pronouncing it /ˈdʒɜrnimən/ instead of /ˈdʒɜrnimæn/.
  • Both Cavemen and Carpoolers were pretty painful to watch. I didn’t make it through an entire episode of either.
  • Our friends Brandon (is that how it’s spelled?) and Ami (is that how it’s spelled?) are recommending Reaper on Tuesday nights. I might give it a try.
  • I really like Pushing Daisies and Life.
  • Bionic Woman is on the bubble. The pilot was problematic for me, both in terms of acting and in exposition. It seems to have gotten better, but it just hasn’t grabbed me.
  • No time for Royal Canadian Air Farce, especially considering I don’t live in Canada. I was prepared to give Friday Night Lights a try, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.
  • Viva Laughlin bought the farm before we saw a single episode.

Voice mail message from Helen

Allan’s two-month checkup was this morning. Helen left me a voice mail message.

“Here are the stats. Allan weighs 14 … yes, you heard it … 14 pounds, 1 ounce. Katrina was only 11 pounds, 12 ounces at this time. So he’s in the 90 to 95th percentile, which … head size is [15 5/8] inches, the 25 to 50th percentile. And his length is 24 3/8 inches, or 90 to 95th percentile, so he’s a lot longer than Katrina was. So, anyway, I just wanted to let you know. I’ll talk to you later. Bye bye! Elena, can you say bye bye?”

“Bye bye.”

The Very Best Dada, EVER!

Today was the Halloween program at Katrina’s preschool. Therefore, I had to get her dressed 45 minutes before the event. As I was getting Katrina’s accessories in place for her Glinda costume, Katrina said, “Mama, where is my magic wand?”

(Gulp) “Oh, Katrina, I am so so Sorry, but I forgot to bring it!”

Katrina: “Then I will never, never be Glinda!”

I felt horrible. Katrina, I’m sure felt even more horrible. She was angry, sad, and just plain miserable. It was already too late for me to call Brad, since he was already on his way to the school. Reasoning with Katrina simply didn’t help, and neither did the hugs.

When Brad arrived, my look of desperation moved Brad into action. Since talking and hugging Katrina didn’t seem to be helping, he took the aluminum foil that was left over from someone’s treat, and immediately broke a hanger in half. Within a minute, he had constructed a magical ball wand. There just wasn’t enough time to form it into a star like the one at home. So Brad explained that princesses have all sorts of different wands. With a couple minutes of convincing, Katrina finally entered the classroom so that the program could begin.

It was obvious that Katrina was disturbed about her wand, as she hardly participated in the songs and movements at first. Half way through the program, she finally let loose and began singing and participating in the motions.

At home, I once again apologized for my forgetfulness. Then Katrina enthusiastically said (regarding her new wand), “I will NEVER use another wand again!” Dada is our hero!

(Comment from the old site:)

Yay, Brad!!! By the way

Yay, Brad!!!

By the way — poor Allan. I can’t believe you made Allan Annoying one of your tags! LOL

Big Al!

I took Allan to see Dr Kendall for a recheck on his jaundice yesterday. When the medical technician took his weight, I was surprised to learn that Allan had gained 24 oz. since his appointment 14 days prior! The “norm” is gaining about an ounce a day. Apparently like our other children, Allan does not fall into the category of normal when it comes to weight gain. He was up to 8 lbs, 5.3 oz!

Since Allan was still looking about the same hue of yellow, Dr Kendall ordered a stat bilirubin. Luckily the labs showed that he most likely has a case of breastfeeding jaundice; no big deal. We’ll recheck in 2 weeks.

Dr. Randy Pausch: “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”

Dr. Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and spleen. In August, he was given an estimate of three to six months of healthy living left.

The video of his last lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, from September 18 is an hour and 25 minutes long, but it is worth it. I watched it a few days ago and I still haven’t stopped thinking about things he said in the lecture. It’s poignant, informative, and entertaining.

I highly recommend it.

(Comments from old site:)

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

Some lessons from Randy Pausch’s last lecture that especially moved me:

  1. Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.
  2. Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  3. Never lose the child-like wonder.
  4. If we do something which is pioneering, we will get arrows in the back. But at the end of the day, a whole lot of people will have a whole lot of fun.
  5. Be good at something; it makes you valuable.
  6. If you live your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, and the dreams will come to you.

Check out the tribute quiz on the lecture at : you can add your own questions at the end of the quiz.

My Beaumont Hospital Brownie

After every delivery, I have enjoyed the savory sensation of eating the Beaumont Hospital Brownie. So, when I became pregnant for a third time, I couldn’t help but look forward to this tasty treat. Unfortunately, they ran out of brownies on Sunday, so I had to wait an ENTIRE DAY for a new batch. I was a little disappointed to find that the recipe had changed a bit, as there was no longer a frosting topping on the brownie. So, I saved it to take home and put a huge glob of chocolate frosting on it when I got home yesterday. Yum!

BIG NEWS!!!!!!

I just wanted to let everyone know that it’s been 20 MINUTES, and our son is STILL SLEEPING in his bassinet up in our room! This is incredible news since neither Katrina nor Elena were fond of sleeping alone, and as a result the bassinet was more of a diaper storage aid than anything else.

Everyone keep your fingers crossed! :)

Baby #3: Allan Patrick Town

Allan Patrick Town was born at 3:51 a.m. at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. He weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces and measured 20 3/4 inches in length.

Thinking we were in for the long haul when I discovered I was only 2.5cm dilated at 11 or 11:30p.m. (? I think), we set out to walk the various halls at Beaumont at midnight. We met Brad’s parents and my mom there as they had started driving from Stevensville at about 9:30pm. Of course my mom seemed to be taking it harder than I was during our walking extravanganza. I guess I’d feel the same if my daughters were in labor.

By 2 a.m. I was ready to return to the unit. I was dilated to 4cm/100%effaced/-2 station. Upon admission at 2:30 or so (once again, I have no idea of exact times), I was ready to shower in order to help ease the pressure. There was no time. Dr Hakim’s exam showed that I was 8-9cm. After a few of those contractions I was ready to begin pushing. Except for a small charlie horse(should have eaten that banana!) and totally forgetting how to push (you’d think I’d be a pro by now!), it wasn’t too bad. Brad’s coaching and Amy H. RN’s reminders helped A LOT!

As was expected, I’m having trouble sleeping due to the frequent visits by staff, and occasional grunts from Allan. He made me a bit nervous because he was choking on some left-over amniotic fluid. I suctioned him, and he was alright for a while. Then it started again, and VOILA!—-he coughed up a huge amount. I think he feels better now. Hopefully he won’t need to be deleed (suctioned out with a long tube) like Katrina needed to multiple times for 2 days after her birth.

Allan’s cries are a lot different than the kitten-like howls that Katrina and Elena had after delivery. He appears pretty content now that he has eaten and ridden himself of the mucous.

I think Allan has copper-colored hair at this point with a touch of blonde as well. Oh, and his body is really as soft as velvet! I feel bad touching him with my sandpaper-like fingers.

I think now that the boys are sleeping, I will follow suit. I can’t wait to introduce the girls to their new baby brother.

(Comments from old site:)


Congrats! We are so happy someone other than us finally had a boy! WOOHOO! Glad it is going so well. Keep the pics coming!

Allan Patrick

Congratulations to all of you! Welcome, Allan!

Jamie Lynch

Baby Allan

Congratulations and we are so glad to have a new baby boy in the neighborhood all the boys will be so excited to show him how to play baseball, etc. (ok maybe in a few months).MH


Now Robby will have a little sidekick when terrorizing his sisters and cousins :)


We are soooo happy for you. He looks wonderful. Have fun with his plumbing. Remember to cover him up.

Love, Juanita, Carmen, and Family

New blocks: "Google Custom Search" and "Recent pictures"

I’ve added two new blocks to the site.

  • “Google Custom Search” should make searching for information on this site a little easier.
  • “Recent pictures” will always show the latest pictures we’ve uploaded to SmugMug.

Updated list of my favorite charities

Charity Navigator, called by some the Consumer Reports of the non-profit world, has added the ability to share lists of charities. I’ve updated my list of favorite charities there.

Updated March 7, 2008: There are four charities I might consider that are not listed at Charity Navigator. They include:

Wireless access at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak

When Elena was born two years ago, Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak was considering providing a wireless network for patients, friends, and family, but it wasn’t yet available. There was a wireless network that had a name I’ve since forgotten that suggested it’d be for such purposes, but I couldn’t get it to work.

We all went to a class at the hospital today, a class to help Katrina and Elena understand more about having a younger sibling (and to prepare us for having another child, too). Using Helen’s iPhone I confirmed that there’s now an open wireless network there. Opening a browser window redirected me to a page asking for my first and last name and email address. Since I wasn’t actually going to use it, I called it quits at that point, but I was encouraged.

So, after Baby #3 is born, be on the lookout for up-to-the-minute baby coverage straight from the hospital. We’re just nineteen days away from the due date!

Free month of Netflix and $18 rebate for first-time Netflix customers

From Netflix:

We’re offering you a special opportunity to give your friends and family one month of Netflix service for FREE - that’s twice the length of our regular free trial!

When they redeem their free trial, you’ll get a bonus rental (up to 5 bonus vouchers per member) at no additional charge. This limited time offer expires 9/30/2007 so forward this email today.

The link in the message:

You might be able to combine this with the $18 rebate through FatWallet.

Katrina and verb forms

Wednesday evening Katrina was looking at one of her books, one with places for pictures of her when she was one year old and earlier. One of the pictures we put in the book was of her and me. In it, we’re in a pool — she’s sitting on the edge and I’m in the water next to her.

She looked at the picture. “Why amn’t…”, she started, then paused. (Her cadence for “amn’t” was more like that for “aren’t”.) She started again. “Why amn’t…”, she said. (This time her cadence for “amn’t” was closer to that for “isn’t”.) “Why amn’t I…”, she tried again. (The “isn’t”-like version must have sounded a little better to her, but she still seemed to sense that it wasn’t correct. She soldiered on.) “Why amn’t I swimming?”

“Why aren’t you swimming?” I offered.


“Say, ‘Why aren’t I swimming?’” She did.

I thought that was pretty cool. She knew the grammar rule (“put an ‘n’t’ sound at the end of the verb”), but she didn’t know the exception (nor, I might add, how to pronounce it in the absence of the exception). It does seem a little odd at first:

  • “Why are you” versus “why aren’t you”
  • “Why is he” versus “why isn’t he”
  • “Why are they” versus “why aren’t they”
  • “Why am I” versus “why aren’t I” (the exception she didn’t know)

What makes this even cooler is that I was reading The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker at the moment she asked me about the picture. If you find this kind of thing interesting, I highly recommend his books. The Language Instinct was the one that got me hooked.

I phone, you phone, we all phone for ...

… iPhone!

I got one for Helen (or, to be precise, I asked Helen to get one for herself). It’s her baby present. That means I’ll be taking over her mobile phone and number. She’s got a new number now.

I can honestly say I’m jealous. It is, to borrow a phrase from Ferris Bueller, “so choice.”

Planned downtime for Monday, September 10

Our host, NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, will be down on Monday.

On Monday, September 10, 2007 at around noon Arizona time (3pm Eastern, 7pm UTC), we will temporarily shut down our entire network to complete a migration of our equipment to a new datacenter. We anticipate that it will take four to eight hours to complete the move. All our services will be offline during that time.

If you’d like, you can read all the gory details.

Baby Birth Advisory System: Current Threat Level


Updated Sunday 9/23 11:44 AM EDT LOW: Allan Patrick Town was born at 3:51 AM. He was 7 pounds, 4 ounces and was 20¾ inches long.

Previous updates:

Updated Sunday 9/23 12:24 AM EDT SEVERE: Hard contractions, walking around, 2 1/2. Watch “Recent pictures”.

Updated Saturday 9/22 10:17 PM EDT HIGH: Vandana is here now. We’re heading to the hospital.

Updated Saturday 9/22 9:52 PM EDT HIGH: We asked our neighbor Vandana to come over and make sure Katrina and Elena are OK (they’re currently sleeping). We called the doctor and she said to head to the hospital. The last contractions were two minutes and twelve seconds apart.

Updated Saturday 9/22 9:07 PM EDT HIGH: Siblings have been called. We’ve asked our parents to come over.

Updated Saturday 9/22 8:41 PM EDT ELEVATED: Parents have been called to put them on alert. I’m putting our stuff into the Saturn.

Updated Saturday 9/22 8:00 PM EDT ELEVATED: Helen’s been having strong contractions every ten minutes for several hours now. She says they feel like the real deal.

Updated Saturday 9/22 12:34 PM EDT GUARDED: Helen had a few strong contractions this morning — strong enough to get her to lie down — but they’ve since subsided.

Updated Thursday 9/20 8:10 AM EDT GUARDED: Helen’s been having regular contractions, spaced about four minutes apart, all morning.

Updated Monday 9/17 2:30 PM EDT GUARDED: The doctor checked and says Helen is still at 1.

Updated Monday 9/17 10:39 AM EDT GUARDED: Strong contractions are few and far between again. Helen’s headed to the doctor for her weekly visit around noon.

Updated Monday 9/17 6:08 AM EDT ELEVATED: I, Brad, awoke shortly after 5 to the sound of the bathtub filling with water. I went in to check on Helen, and the first thing she said was, “Today might be the day.” Strong contractions every ten minutes for the past five hours. She’s getting everything ready again.

Updated Tuesday 9/11 12:04 PM EDT GUARDED: Helen was having some pretty strong contractions last night. They were so strong she ended up lying on the floor. From Helen: “Well, I had about five strong contractions that hurt my upper back, and then I went to bed. I don’t think that counts too much. When I woke up, I had a few more contractions that hurt my back, and then I was fine.”

Updated Friday 9/7 1:51 PM EDT GUARDED: The contractions have quieted down. Helen saw the doctor today, and she’s at 1. (We ended up watching TV with Sarah last night when we didn’t go to the hospital.)

Updated Thursday 9/6 6:38 PM EDT ELEVATED: Strong contractions. Helen called my sister Sarah to come down now and watch the girls in case we go to the hospital.

Three important rules of Hide-and-Seek

Elena and Katrina enjoy playing Hide-and-Seek. There are at least three rules of the game that Elena still needs to learn.

  • When choosing a hiding place, wait until the Seeker is not watching you.
  • It’s best to choose a new hiding place, not the same space behind the couch you always use.
  • When someone asks, “Elena, where are you?”, you shouldn’t yell, “Hiding!” (Actually, this one’s probably OK for safety reasons.)

How I got sick

Elena was the first of us to get sick. She started showing cold symptoms last week. I was trying to be careful around her so I wouldn’t catch what she had, but by Sunday night I wasn’t feeling great, and by Monday evening I had a full-blown cold.

So what happened?

On Thursday I was trying to get her to fall back asleep during her nap. While I was talking to her, she sneezed. In my mouth. There’s no getting around getting sick after something like that. I thought, “Well, now the clock’s ticking.”

True story.

My proposed fall TV schedule

TiVo’s gonna be workin’ overtime. Super-fancy hand-crafted table with a smattering of links follows.

Station 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
Samantha Who?
Fox Prison Break
NBC Chuck Heroes Journeyman
ABC Cavemen Carpoolers
CBC Rick Mercer Report This Hour Has 22 Minutes
ABC Pushing Daisies
CBC Little Mosque on the Prairie
Bionic Woman Life
CW Smallville
NBC My Name Is Earl 30 Rock The Office Scrubs
CBC Royal Canadian Air Farce
Friday Night Lights Las Vegas

Desperate Housewives
CBS Viva Laughlin
Fox The Simpsons
Family Guy American Dad
Not yet scheduled
ABC Lost
Fox New Amsterdam
Fox 24

favorite, comedy, drama, comedy-drama, cartoon, fantasy, satire/news

Remember Brad from Michigan

(I’m a little late for True-Story Tuesday.)

In my junior year of high school I became the junior drum major of our band. As a result, I attended a some drum major classes lead by George Parks and leadership classes lead by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser during a band camp I attended that summer. (All of which were quite good, by the way. Assuming little has changed in the past seventeen years or so, I recommend their classes.)

In the drum major classes we focused on directing things like hand movements and such. Most if not all of us were required to direct the others in a song, and a surprisingly large number of people were being criticized for their technique, especially for not keeping rhythm well.

I was determined to not be criticized for that, so I practiced quite a bit for it. When my turn came up, during one of the final classes, I was ready — I had the technique down pat.

I forget the song, though I believe it was “America the Beautiful”. Anyway, I directed everyone, and I thought I had done an excellent job, though I was aware most everyone thought they did well until they got their feedback.

George Parks noted that I had directed well technically and asked the other students what they thought. There was no hesitation — “He showed no emotion.” Murmurs from everyone confirmed it. George Parks began explaining to us that directing is more than just getting the technical details right.

He asked for my name again and where I was from, which I told him. “Remember Brad from Michigan,” he said. “Right it down — ‘Remember Brad from Michigan.’” (We all kept notebooks to note the important bits of information from the classes.) Not “Don’t be a robot” or anything like that. Oh no. “Remember Brad from Michigan.”

I was immortalized in the notebooks of drum majors from around the country as the guy who showed absolutely no emotion when he directed. That probably explains why I tried so hard not to direct like an automaton.

(Come to think of it, my experiences as drum major could provide a wealth of stories. Like how I directed the song “All Night Long” in Muskegon like it was a 33⅓ RPM record played on 45. Or how I hopped a fence and roll-glided all the way from the end zone to about the middle of the field at Festival because I was late for the awards. Or … well, you get the idea.)

Can you pick out Brad in the picture?

Brad's First Communion

Recently, during my scanning frenzy, I came upon this picture of Brad’s First Communion at the Annex in Stevensville, MI. The Annex was part of the St Joseph Catholic Parish, but it looked like a barn. I always felt more at ease there than at the fancy church downtown, although the metal folding chairs they originally had weren’t too comfortable! To my dismay, one of the pastors a few years back renamed the Annex: St Joseph South or something like that.

Anyway, when I was little, we had a great priest (note picture) whose name I can’t recall at this moment (Father O’Neil?). I always thought he looked JUST LIKE Jesus. In fact, I think a lot of us thought he WAS Jesus! He was kind and soft-spoken (not to mention the beard), just like I imagined Jesus would be. He left a few years after my first communion. Now where is that picture? I guess I’ll have to ask my mom.

Updated by Brad: The full-size scan of the picture is available.

(Comment from old site:)

Who else can you recognize?

Jason Wenzlaff and Jeff Hylok are in the picture too. Can you spot them?

True-story Tuesday

Years ago, around the time I worked at FANUC Robotics, I was driving on M-59 in Utica. Behind me was a car following so closely that I suspected they were following me. Now, it was the middle of the day on a weekday so there was really no reason to worry, but I suspected it nonetheless. (I don’t remember why I was driving around there when I should have been at work, but I seem to remember a plant trip was involved.)

I pulled into a shopping area to see if the car would follow me into the parking lot. It did. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced something like that, but it’s a little freaky. Anyway, I decided to make a couple of quick turns to convince myself they weren’t following me, and sure enough, they weren’t.

Once I was sure the other car had continued on its way, I surveyed my surroundings and saw that I was in the parking lot of a jewelry store called Jared. Well, I thought, I’ve been meaning to get myself to a jewelry store for quite a while. Maybe I should go in now that I’m here. I parked the car and went in.

That is the true story of how I got Helen her engagement ring.

I LOVE Scanners!

Blast from the past

I just got up the courage to set up the scanner today. I have a few pictures that I wanted to reproduce—this being one of them. Every once in a while, the Town family likes to take this picture and torture others (especially Mom Town) with it by hiding it different places. Now everyone will be able to see this picture of Mom! I wanted to scan it before it could mysteriously disappear.

The Towns have a tendency to play this game with other items as well. Once I was looking through my music school bag and I discovered a cute Santa Claus dressed in ornate fabric. In fact, it played music when you pulled the string. I had no idea where this thing had come from! I instantly thought of my accompanist because he had a similar type of character in his office. I felt horribly guilty for accidentally acquiring his doll! When I came in for a lesson, he denied knowing anything about it! I was perplexed. Where had this musical figurine come from?

I few weeks later the truth came out as I described the situation to Brad’s family. Everyone laughed when they found out that I actually LIKED my Santa! Someone had stashed it in my belongings because they thought it was not appealing to have a pull-string in between Santa’s legs! Apparently the joke was on them this time!

My best off-the-cuff jokes

  • Helen’s brother Tom and his son Paul were putting their stuff into Tom’s vehicle, stuff like luggage and Paul’s cello. There was a lot of stuff, and they weren’t sure everything was going to fit. Once most of the stuff was in, Tom said, “I don’t think the cello will fit.” I said, “There’s always room for cello!”
  • A couple of years ago, Katrina had come down with something. She had been running a fever and had a runny nose. She was sitting on our couch when I asked how she was feeling, and for some reason she began to flap her arms. I turned to Helen and said, “I think she has bird flu.”

Milk + remote = new remote

I once accidentally dropped an expensive universal remote control into a full glass of skim milk.

True story.

Churches and bowling alleys

When I first moved to Utica, Michigan, back in 1995, I wanted to find a church. I would leave my apartment and drive around for a while to explore the area and to find a church, but instead of a church, I found bowling alleys every time. Each time I thought, I should remember where this place is in case I ever want to go bowling, and I would return home.

One night I decided that I’d go bowling. I left and tried to retrace my steps to one of the bowling alleys I’d stumbled upon previously. Instead of finding the bowling alley, I found a church. I went home.

True story.

The play structure is complete

Torture device

The 2007 Sunray Premium Playground play structure Helen bought at Costco is finally complete. Special thanks go to Dad, Raj, Bill, Matt, Ralf, Helen, and Katrina for assisting in various ways. I’ve selected some pictures of the play structure’s construction to display in our photo gallery.

If I never see another #8 1½” Phillips wood screw, it’ll be too soon. There were 521 of them.

Helen Town’s Diaper Price Spreadsheet

As many families do, we go through a lot of diapers. Enough so that Helen had me create a spreadsheet in Excel for her to help figure out where to get the cheapest diapers. It’s available here.

Yummy yogurt

Salami girl

(While eating lunch of yogurt, salami, cheese, and blueberries)

Katrina: “What do I have to eat in order to get more cherry yogurt?”

Me: (laughing) “Eat another piece of salami. Then you can have more yogurt!”

I should probably explain that I tend to have Katrina eat something of greater substance before Katrina can have more dessert. Yogurt as dessert? For Katrina, yes—she could eat two containers in one sitting, no problem.

My discovery flight yesterday, plus jam

For Christmas Valentine’s Day, Helen bought me a discovery flight from Brooklynair, a flight school on Grosse Ile. I finally took it yesterday.

I’m pretty sure the plane was a Diamond DA20-C1 Eclipse. The wind buffeted the two-seater around quite a bit, but it didn’t bother me. The fact that I had a death grip on the stick would have been true regardless of the wind.

On the way home, I stopped to get some Magic: The Gathering cards at a shop in Wyandotte. I’m not a collector or anything — I think we have one starter pack around here from a few years ago, and that’s about it. A few weeks ago I saw that they were releasing a new edition on Friday, and I thought it might be fun to get a couple of decks that Helen and I could play — we’re always looking for good two-player games. The store was closed until noon, so I had half an hour to kill.

There was a Polish market nearby, so I stopped in. I strolled around inside, looking for anything to catch my eye. I knew there are different Polish foods that Helen enjoys, but I didn’t really know what they were, so I was hoping if they were there, I’d spot them.

Then, in the third or fourth aisle (this was a pretty large Polish market, located on Fort Street), I saw what I didn’t know I was looking for — jams. Helen’s been talking about wanting red currant jam for several months now, but all she’s been able to find is red currant jelly. Well, it took a minute, but I found some red currant jam in that aisle, and I knew I would be one of Helen’s favorite people that day.

After leaving with two jars of jam, a bag of pierogi, some horseradish mustard, and a pound of kabanosy (one of my favorite kinds of sausage), I headed to the card store. After stopping into the store, getting a brief lesson in the insanity that is Magic: The Gathering, leaving to get cash at the bank across the street because they don’t take credit cards, going back into the card store, and buying two core decks of the new Tenth Edition cards, I headed home.

UPDATE: Helen tells me it was Valentine’s Day.

Brilliant girl

(7/12/2007 while eating salad at the dinner table)

Katrina: “Let’s pretend that lettuce is a plant …”
Me: “It IS a plant.”
Katrina: “But, then we don’t have to PRETEND!!!”

Creature spotted in our backyard

Creepy cryptid

We saw a strange creature in our backyard.

(Comments from old site:)

"Strange Creature"

That is a woodchuck/groundhog. Isn’t he cute?

Ahh… Cool!

Ahh… Cool!


That’s Fred, the same animal I found in my Mom’s basement a few weeks ago. Wow, he really gets around! ;)

Happy 30th birthday, Sarah!

It’s my sister Sarah’s 30th birthday today! Here’s Elena doing the robot.

This is from our new high-definition camcorder, a Canon HV20, and is the first footage I’ve imported from it to Helen’s MacBook Pro.

My June 11 blood test

My total cholesterol was 111 mg/dL (pretty low, eh?) and my triglycerides are back to normal. The only values outside the reference ranges were my HDL (31 mg/dL), which should be higher, and my glucose (69 mg/dL), which was just a hair below normal, probably because I had fasted for around 16 hours for the test.

My HDL probably isn’t a huge problem because my LDL/HDL ratio is 1.87 and my total cholesterol/HDL ratio is 3.58, both of which are acceptable. That’s not to say I shouldn’t try to raise it, though.

Running shoes

The shoe fits

I bought some new shoes a couple of days ago. Helen had been complaining about how ugly my previous sneakers were, so I decided to replace them. As you know, I rarely buy anything without research, but I realized that I had never researched shoes. The horror!

In the end, I chose the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 7 because of the shoes’ features and the fact that they come in size 12½. Note that they are running shoes; I think there’s a chance I’ll convince myself to start exercising a bit more, so I wanted to support that.

Pistons logo for Harmony 880 remote

Are you a Detroit Pistons fan? Do you have a Harmony 880 remote control? Then this Pistons background for the Harmony 880 is for you! (Note: It should also work on a Harmony 890.)

I used The GIMP to do the image editing.

  • I downloaded the gradient background from j3’s Harmony 880 site.
  • I downloaded the Pistons logo from
  • I resized the background to 400x500 (the same ratio as 128x160) using Cubic interpolation and saved it to a PNG (which doesn’t use lossy compression).
  • I created a new image of size 400x500.
  • I opened the new background PNG as a layer.
  • I opened the logo PNG as a layer.
  • I changed the opacity of the logo layer to 20% so it won’t make the display hard to read.
  • I saved it to The GIMP’s native file format in case you want to change something.
  • I resized the image to 128x160 using Cubic interpolation.
  • I saved the image as a GIF.

I did most of the image manipulation at 400x500 and resized after because the edges of the logo were too jagged when I did everything at 128x160.


I couldn’t take the peer pressure anymore, so we joined Netflix. So far, Katrina and Elena have enjoyed Disney’s Little Einsteins, and I have enjoyed digging the return envelope out of the trash and washing off whatever that red stuff was because someone — we’ll call her H — didn’t know there was a return envelope.

Our second movie is on its way. Serenity now!

If you use Netflix, here’s an invitation to join our Netflix Friends List.


Do you ever have one of those days where the word you’ve just spelled looks horribly incorrect, and no matter what you try, it still looks foreign? The word that stumped me today was “exercise.” I hate when that happens. Makes me feel really stupid!

Random thoughts about our vacation

  • TiVo recorded the 1960 version of Ocean’s Eleven for me. Too bad it couldn’t be bothered to record the last fifteen minutes of it.
  • I cleaned out the car when we got back. Handfuls of Cheerios and fish crackers. Handfuls.
  • Still no camera. And ours hasn’t turned up on eBay yet.
  • Pennsylvania is very, very unforgiving to a driver who takes a wrong turn.
  • What on Earth is that smell? Helen claims it’s wet towels. I’m pretty sure it’d have to be wet sentient towels that hate me for the smell to be that bad.

Safari for Windows

The twain shall meet

I just installed Safari for Windows, released today as a public beta. First impressions:

  • The font smoothing defaults to “Medium” and is pretty strong. I recognize that it’s closer to the font smoothing on the Mac, but some fonts such as Candara just look wrong.
  • Middle-clicking doesn’t work the same as in Internet Explorer or Firefox. Sure, it opens links in another tab, but it doesn’t open bookmarks in another tab and it doesn’t close existing tabs.
  • It’s pretty responsive. iTunes for Windows has always seemed a bit sluggish to me, so I was a little worried about Safari for Windows.

I’ll leave it installed for now, especially since it will help with predicting what a web page will look like on the Mac’s default browser. However, even after it’s out of beta, I don’t predict switching to it from Firefox as my main browser — I’ve got Firefox customized just the way I want it. You give me ad blocking and countless add-ons and we’ll talk.

Vacation, Day 6: Our Anniversary

Happy days

Today we went to the National Watch and Clock Museum and the National Christmas Center. Father Time, Father Christmas, and Father Brad still weren’t enough to keep Katrina and Elena from running around and disobeying us. I know they’re overtired, but then again, so are Helen and I.

Both places were pretty cool. I would have liked to see more of each, but that’s okay. I took a bunch of pictures in the hopes that I could read the descriptions and look at the items later.

After those places and long naps at the hotel, we hit the water park that just happened to be part of the hotel we stayed in. We weren’t there long, but that was to be expected. We got cleaned up, had dinner (Quiznos and leftovers), then went to some outlets half an hour before they closed so we could see the QVC outlet.

We’re back in the hotel room. Everyone’s asleep — even Elena, who fought it tooth and nail — so I guess I’d better get some sleep too.

Oh, and happy anniversary to us. Nine years.

Quote of the day: “No, I want the sharing book!” (I love irony.)

Vacation, Day 5 (continued)

When we left Philadelphia, we headed west toward Lancaster. On the way, we decided to look for a store that might carry a charger for the Canon battery. When we got to Exton, we stopped at a Kmart. I went in with Elena because we didn’t want her waking up Katrina, but I didn’t find anything other than directions to a Circuit City just a mile or two away.

We drove to Circuit City. Again, Elena and I went in and I searched for a while, but I couldn’t find a charger that would charge our battery.

We drove back to the area with the Kmart because there was a mall there. Turns out the mall is pretty nice. I thought I’d look in Radio Shack there — someone at Circuit City said there was one in there — but once inside (just me this time — no overtired, misbehaving Elena), I saw they had a place called The Camera Shop. Now that was promising.

Once there, I told the clerk my situation, and he offered to charge the battery for free. Isn’t that great? He could have made me purchase a charger I don’t need, but he didn’t. So, if you ever find yourself in Exton, Pennsylvania, and you need camera supplies, I recommend The Camera Shop in the mall.

(By the way, it’s a nice mall. Reminded Helen of the Somerset Collection, and she didn’t even go inside. Had she been in there, it would have reinforced that impression.)

Charging the battery took some time, so we went to On the Border back near the Circuit City. I thought a familiar place would do us some good. We ate, hit the mall, got the battery, and took off for our hotel.

The drive to the hotel took some time, but we eventually got there. I had to help the guy from the front desk carry the crib up the stairs to the room (thaaat’s right), then Helen and I put the little ladies to bed.

Vacation, Day 5

It turns out the best thing Helen did for this vacation was bring along her computer and the USB cable for the camera. I’d be much more upset if we had lost the little camera and all the pictures we’d taken thus far. Instead, the only pictures we lost were from last night’s dinner and the Franklin Institute Science Center. Sure, I was pretty upset about it, but things could have been worse. For example, it could have been all our pictures, or I could have lost the big camera rather than the point-and-shoot Kodak.

The weather was beautiful, which of course had us thinking about the previous two weather-affected days at Sesame Place. I don’t regret going when we did, though, because it didn’t really change what Katrina and Elena did at the park. (Case in point: At Sesame Place, Katrina asked me if I liked warm water or cold water. “Warm water,” I replied. “I like cold water!” she said as she splashed around in the wading pool.)

We went to the Franklin Institute Science Museum after driving around looking for a parking space for eight days. I ended up dropping them off near the museum and parking somewhere in New Jersey, which it turns out is surprisingly close. Katrina got to climb around in a giant heart (wouldn’t pictures of this be great?) and see a man dissect a sheep’s heart. Elena got to get in trouble several times for not listening to us.

Helen was surprised and happy to see that there was a Tutankhamun exhibit. I was surprised too, especially since I’d been singing Steve Martin’s song King Tut that morning without knowing about the exhibit. The stuff in there was beautiful (no photography of any kind was permitted, so that’s two reasons I have no pictures from this part). My favorite part was when Katrina loudly announced that she had to go potty. Those Egyptians really knew how to do death!

My mind was totally elsewhere. Losing the camera shortly before the King Tut exhibit was occupying most of my processing power. How were we going to take pictures? We had the big camera, but no batteries for it — the 30D takes a special rechargeable battery. We’d have to find a store that’d be likely to carry the right thing …

Whoops. Elena just woke up from her nap. I’ll have to finish this later — I’ve got to get us ready to meet Helen and Katrina at the water park we didn’t know about in the hotel we’re in here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

We made it to Sesame Street! (continued)

Finally, we were back on the road again at about 5:48pm. By 6:15, I had had it with the girls. Katrina had already rediscovered all of the wonderful toys she hadn’t seen for a while within the first 5 minutes of travel. I had spent hours carefully preparing some plastic bins with toys and activities for the car ride. How were we going to make it through the next 9 hours and 15 minutes??? Every two minutes, Elena would cry out, “Dat…DAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!!!” as she would point to the next object she wanted. Then she’d drop the previous toy on the left side of her carseat, where I couldn’t possibly reach.

Katrina kept dropping each of the five rings she had on her fingers and then would cry out hysterically. I decided that we probably should have borrowed Rob and Sarah’s conversion van so we could easily walk around and retrieve all precious toys for our darling children. Meanwhile, my back was killing me as the contractions kept coming.

After about 3 hours in the car, we made it to a Hampton Inn in Ohio. Let me tell you, that bed was SO comfortable! Of course I didn’t discover that until we made our mandatory trip to the pool with the girls. I think we were only there for about 20 minutes. Since they were so exhausted, they didn’t put up a fight at all when it was time to retreat to bed. I had 4 wonderful hours of continuous sleep before awaking to more contractions. What was the deal? I didn’t feel dehydrated! I kept wondering if I’d make it through the trip without visiting the E.R.

On Saturday morning we set off again and I was once again having those darn contractions! After about a half hour on the road, I confessed to Brad that I had forgotten my AAA tourbook for Pennsylvania. Without that or internet access, it would be impossible to find a AAA recommended hotel for that night’s stay. We hadn’t made reservations ahead of time because we simply didn’t know how our travel plans would go with two children. They weren’t used to long car rides, and I didn’t want them to have a miserable time on the trip due to time constraints. I wanted to be as flexible as possible with the hope of getting near Sesame Place by Saturday evening.

I called AAA to get hotel information for the Langhorne, Pennsylvania region. Unfortunately, having an operator type the information into a AAA website was a tedious process compared to actually having a book that I could flip through. I finally received directions on getting to a AAA office that was open on Saturdays. This took us about 40 minutes total out of our way, but it was completely worth it. The book is like gold. It gives great information on hotel rates and accomodations, places to visit, and recommendations on restaurants.

We decided that if I kept contracting, I would have to stay in a hotel while Brad kept driving the girls to Sesame Place. There was no way they were going to miss out on their vacation! Fortunately, halfway through the day, I had gulped enough water to fill the Hoover dam, and my contractions mysteriously stopped. Phew! I was going to make it afterall.

The next morning, I groggily awoke to Brad saying,”It’s eight-o’clock.” I looked at him, closed my eyes again, and grunted loudly as I tried to return to sleep. Suffice to say that we didn’t make it to Sesame Place in a timely manner at all. The line to park wrapped around to a main street. I think it took about 20-30 minutes to even get our car into the parking lot. I was so frustrated with myself for not being more aggressive about getting up and ready in the morning. I guess I never expected so many people to be at a mostly water-amusement park on a 70-something degree drizzly morning. Who knew that it would be packed?

The girls were so excited—they didn’t know what to do with themselves. At first glimpse of Ernie, Elena went nuts. Of course when it came time to take a picture with him, she wouldn’t have anything to do with him unless she was in my arms. We figured that the weather wouldn’t be conducive to water rides that day, but hoped for the best. Most other people braved the weather. I thought they were nuts. Of course I do tend to get cold easily.

The girls had great fun riding the dry rides and running around in the play areas. After watching a parade, which, by the way featured Bob McGrath from Sesame Street, we went to the Abby Cadabby show. They loved it to pieces. One puzzling thing is that they sell absolutely NO Abby souvenirs at this time. During the show, the drizzle turned into a decent rainshower. We visited the souvenir shop for a short while and then went to our character dinner.

Once again, Elena went nuts with excitement over seeing Ernie and the other Sesame Street characters. This time she was obsessed with Bert as well. “Er is Bert?” she would ask over and over again, when she couldn’t find him. By the time our dinner was over, it was pouring buckets outside.

The nice thing about weather like this, is it scares everyone into leaving the park. So there we were, at 5pm with the park practically all to ourselves! Katrina got to ride her roller coaster three times in a row because there was no line any longer. Earlier that day, every line had lasted from 15-30 minutes.

I think we walked out of the park at around 6pm. 2 minutes from our car, Elena FINALLY fell asleep in the stroller. Figures. She just couldn’t miss out on anything that day even though she was five hours overdue for her nap. As the girls were conked out in the minivan, we tried to get back to our hotel. Our 1/2 hour ride turned into about 1 1/2 hours because we missed our exit, and the next exit was about eleven miles ahead. Then, we once again couldn’t find the correct exit to get to our hotel (it’s just a screwie operation with the tolls and such), so Brad had to take out his Mappoint program on the computer to navigate us through the city. If we had gotten back on the highway, we would have had to pay another toll just to turn around again. Apparently this particular hotel gets lots of angry phone calls from patrons who can’t get off on exit 20. We made the same mistake twice, so it’s not just our skills that are lacking, it’s the tollroad!

On Monday morning (today), I was right on top of things. Elena woke us all up at about 7:00am with her jibber-jabbering. She started out with a brief conversation with her Ernie doll, followed by a nice serenade of her greatest hits: “Hello” (from our Music Together class), “Goodnight, Baby” (from Signing Time), and “Where is Thumpkin?” Then she and Katrina had a nice chat as they waited for our heads to pop out from under the covers. We were totally hiding so they wouldn’t discover us and make us get them up for the day.

We were on the road by 9am and grabbed breakfast on the way. The Sesame Place parking lot had about four other cars in it. I couldn’t believe it. I guess because it was a Monday during the first week of June on a dreary 70 degree day, no one bothered to show.

Then I saw the two school buses filled with eager children. That was when I said, “RUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!” My goal was to get through all of the dry rides and beat the lines before all of the crazy kids showed up at the park.

I worried for nothing. I think the longest we waited for a ride the whole day was 10 minutes, and that was because the attendant decided she needed to wait for the kids who were 1/4 mile away to get on a ride before starting it up with just us and another family. By 11:30, it was still freezing according to my standards, but we HAD to go on the water rides. We had exhausted all other possibilities for entertainment, and I was determined to get my money’s worth!

Katrina was excited beyond belief. We decided that I would just have to suck it up and deal with the cold water. Boy, was it cold! The girls ran around in the wading pool as my goosebumps grew more abundantly. I would keep Elena occupied in the pool area as Katrina and Brad ran from one water ride to another. Elena has an intense fear of water coming near her face, so water rides were pretty much out of the question. We did go on the lazy river ride, but Elena fear intensified everytime we floated near a sprinkling area. Elena’s favorite was the fishie ride, so that was our special activity we did many many times during the day.

We had lunch, played in the souvenir shop, and then went to the Elmo live show. By that time Elena was looking very sleepy. I thought I’d take her to the car and call it a day, while Brad and Katrina went on some more rides. Of course Elena perked right up after the show and was ready to take me to the fishies again. We also took some more pictures with Ernie because she just couldn’t get enough of him. Then all of us returned to the wading pool to have some more freezing fun.

By Katrina’s fourth injury (she kept falling and skinning different parts of her body), she had had it. Katrina was very upset about the blood coming out of her knees. She didn’t even want to stop and see Grover on the way out of the park because, “I don’t want to tell him about the blood on my knees.” The girls fell asleep within minutes of being in the minivan-around 4:30pm.

This time, we made it to our new hotel with no problems at all. Elena continued to nap in the hotel, but after about an hour, she woke up crying hysterically. I knew it was because she was overtired and dehydrated and hungry, but there was no reasoning with her. Katrina gave Elena a cookie, and that helped for about 30 seconds. Finally, when we got in the car and began driving to Nifty Fifty’s, a restaurant we had found in our AAA book (see?), she was much more calm.

The restaurant was awesome and we ate way too much. The girls loved their cherry shakes and I loved my spicy chicken salad. Brad loved, well, he appeared to love everything. I’ve never since him eat so much since he went on his diet in January. Tonight this guy had: two cherry cokes, 1 1/2 Oreo-chocolate chip shakes, a filet mignon burger, and spicy fries with cheese (which I, of course, needed to help him eat).

After that sugar rush, the girls were completely crazy. They were laughing and carrying on unlike I had seen them before. It was a great day AND a great two days at Sesame Place.

In the car going to Nifty Fifty’s in Bensalem, PA

Katrina: “Where’s Beebeebee?” Me: “He’s back in the room.” Katrina: “But he will be lonely!”

I suggested a few ways Beebeebee could keep himself occupied.

Me: “Or he can watch television or use the computer.” Katrina: “No, he can’t!” Me: “Sure he can. He can use the remote.” Katrina: “But he can’t! He only has circle hands!”

That reminds me of the live Elmo show we saw earlier. Elmo was thinking about fish today. At one point late in the show, Elmo begins talking to a kingfish. Katrina exclaimed, “But fish can’t talk!” I think it’s interesting how everything else is believable, but talking to a fish or Beebeebee using a remote control with his circle hands is out.

We made it to Sesame Street!

After looking back on the last few days, I can’t even believe we made it to Sesame Place in the first place! For one thing, I had started contracting on Thursday afternoon after spending a little too much time in the 89 degree heat earlier that day. The contractions stopped after I went to sleep, but returned the following afternoon as I was trying to pack the final items for our trip.
We made it a whole 3 miles that Friday evening as we stopped at our local McDonald’s, when Katrina exclaimed, “I don’t have my shoes!” In horror, I turned to look at her feet and saw that, in fact, Katrina DID NOT have her comfy walking sandals, but her fancy white dress shoes! Prior to our departure, Katrina had been running around with her fancy shoes on—something she considers pure entertainment. We were already running late by 45 minutes (according to my timeline) and another 3 minutes was COMPLETELY unacceptable, but necessary. Ah well.

to be continued…

A cute conversation from a few days ago

We had just finished dinner.

Me: “How are you doing, Elena?” Elena: “Uh na na na buh-duh.” Me: “What did you say, sweetie?” Elena: “Uh na na na buh-duh.” Me: “You want bread with butter?” Elena: “Uh na na na na na na buh-duh … buh-duh.” (She said it slowly and deliberately, tilting her head forward a bit and widening her eyes a bit to add emphasis.) Helen: “Oh, you’re feeling better?” Elena: “Yeah!”

(Comment from old site:)

your vacation

Mom Glad you are having a wonderful time-we love the pictures! Hope weather is getting better for you, too. Enjoy the excitement the girls experience…they’re this precious age for such a short time. Love you all!

Vacation, Day 3: Sesame Place

C is for collapse

(Photo album: Sesame Place)

Sesame Place was a lot of fun despite the rain. We skipped all the water-related activities (which are quite numerous) and did other things instead. We all played on or near the rope bridge, rode Big Bird’s Balloon Race, saw a parade, saw a show, and met all the characters at an insanely expensive dinner.

Katrina and I also rode a roller coaster called “Vapor Trail”. We rode four times and she was still sad we didn’t ride it more. The fact that Katrina loved it made her roller-coaster–loving mother very happy.

The last three times we rode “Vapor Trail” were around six o’clock when most people had already left the park because of the rain. For all I know, some of the workers had left, too — the four teenagers running the coaster had trouble getting the ride to start each time. (“Everybody [take your hands] off [the button]!” (pause) “Everybody [put your hands] on [and press the button]!” “What’s going on?” “It didn’t go!” “Okay, let’s try again …”)

It sprinkled a bit throughout the day. The first significant rain fell after the parade while we were watching the Abby Cadabby show; the second, while we were at dinner meeting the various Sesame Street characters. We were pretty lucky.

We’re hoping that tomorrow’s weather will be better. If not, we’ll probably find other things to do in the area so we can go back to Sesame Place and do the water activities.

Quote of the day: “Dada, if we move faster, you’ll get lither.” (Katrina in a rope-bridge tunnel with me)

Vacation, Day 3

We’re in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. Yet again, the hotel doesn’t have The Disney Channel, and to make matters worse, there’s no breakfast, continental or otherwise. Regarding breakfast, Katrina was “very disappointed” (her words). We also had to switch rooms because our non-smoking room reeked of smoke. Then the Pistons lost. Grrr.

Yesterday we realized shortly after getting onto the highway that we had forgotten our AAA guide book for Pennsylvania. This was particularly unfortunate because we were planning on relying on that to find a place to stay. Helen called AAA and found an office open on Saturdays and that was only about half an hour off our route.

Helen needed to get instructions from the AAA office so we could find them. They had a pretty hard time finding someone to give her directions from eastbound I-80, and even then, the instructions weren’t correct. The irony was delicious.

Helen wanted to note that Elena said her first five-word sentence on Friday. We can’t remember what it was.

Vacation, Day 2

We’ve made it to Richfield, Ohio, which is near Cleveland. (Go Pistons!) We left when I got home from work yesterday. We could have gone farther, but the girls don’t do too well sleeping in the car.

We’re at a Hampton Inn. It’s nice — Helen loves the beds and the pool is a nice size. There’s no Disney Channel, but Katrina hasn’t seemed to notice. (Of course, since we use an antenna at home, we don’t get it there either, but it’s nice when the girls get a special treat like watching Little Einsteins in the morning.)

Helen took Katrina and Elena down for breakfast. I’m penning this before I take everything down to the car. After breakfast, we’ll be off to Sesame Place.

Indy 500

Rain, rain, go away

I prefer seeing 200 laps and a finish under green to seeing 166 laps and a finish under yellow, but hey, at least we didn’t have to drive down there a second (or third, or fourth) day. Plus, our seats in the Paddock are covered so we didn’t mind the rain (except when we had to walk back to the car).

Now to figure out what to do for next year. Request Paddock seats closer to turn 1? Camp overnight? Decisions, decisions.

Playdate at Leslie Science Center

Today we met Angie and Sofia at the Leslie Science Center in Ann Arbor, MI. Twice a month, the center has a special set of activities geared toward 1-3 year-olds. We went on a nature “hike” and explored stuffed animals in trees with the provided binoculars. Katrina really got a kick out of that! Then the kids got an opportunity to dig into huge piles of mulch and search for bugs using a magnifying glass. Normally Katrina loves digging into our mulch around the house and spreading it about, but once the tour guide mentioned “bugs,” Katrina lost interest in inspecting the mulch.

She’s recently developed a terrible fear of bugs. We’ve tried to talk nicely about them in our home as we gently scoot them out to our front porch, but now that isn’t working anymore. The other day along came a spider and krept up to Katrina and she screamed bloody murder. Maybe the fear of bugs is just something that occurs naturally for some kids.

Another big hit for the youngins was the sandbox. Surprisingly, Katrina was willing to play with the faux bugs - no problem! I must have turned my head the second that Elena decided to “drink” the dirt that she had placed into a plastic cup. She’s played in sandboxes numerous times without experimenting with sand’s edibility. Why did she have to pick really nasty, most likely poop-infested dirt?

After looking at the critters (hawks, owls, turtles, fishies, etc.), we drove over to a really nice park in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, since it was near a river, there were many Canadian geese ready to engulf our meals as we innocently ate our picnic lunches. As we were eating, Katrina screamed out in terror because one of the geese snatched the hummous sandwhich right out of her hand. Poor Katrina! The tears and the crying made me feel horrible for her. I think the goose expected that she was going to feed him since EVERYBODY feeds the geese at this park. I was able to get her to stop crying by having her sit on my lap and eat my breakfast bar. Then we walked over to the goose and said, “NO, NO!” That seemed to help a little.

While the goose fiasco was occurring, I noticed that Sofia had COMPLETELY stuffed her tiny little mouth with cheese. We hadn’t noticed what she was doing because we had been so distracted with Katrina’s epidsode. So, poor Angie had to pull all of the cheese out of Sofia’s mouth so she wouldn’t choke!

Thank goodness there was a great play structure located at the park. All was happy and good with the world again. :)

Katrina and the Tigers

Katrina’s First Baseball Game [Helen’s public gallery at Picasa]

On Sunday, I took Katrina to the Tigers game at Comerica Park. (The Tigers beat the Twins 4-3.) We got there a little late because we took our time at WalkAmerica that morning, but neither of us were bothered by it.

We had great seats — I chose a section near where I sat last year for a coworker’s bachelor party. Katrina mostly wanted to take pictures and eat her piece of pizza (she didn’t want the cherry Icee I got for her), but she did enjoy doing the wave and cheering when everyone else did. (She got confused a couple of times, putting her arms up in the air when the crowd cheered for a good play. I thought that was cute.)

For a few innings we walked around, rode the carousel, visited the store (where I bought her a white Tigers hat with a pink D), and bought cotton candy. After the game, she said her favorite part was riding the tigers on the carousel.

Another Critter!

Last weekend, an animal set off our outdoor live squirrel trap. I’m suspecting it’s the same creature that’s been digging holes under the ground for the last couple of months. Squirrel Guy came over on Monday to reset the trap. By Wednesday morning, the trap was once again set off—-and the peanuts were gone!

Once the rain began pouring this week, our scratching squirrel noises began as well.

There’s no hope!

(Comments from old site:)

The cute little squirrel

Have you ever considered, not a live trap, but a DEAD TRAP! Remember he is a RODENT. His brothers are mice, rats and beavers. If he ate his way into your attic, can’t he eat his way into your bedroom too? I don’t know if they’re too small but I have a couple of rat traps that you could use. And, if they’re not too small, they would be quick, deadly, and, most important, PERMANENT. Dad Town


We have a live trap outside so we don’t unintentionally kill or hurt another animal. The lethal (“dead”) traps are up in the attic, but the squirrel doesn’t ever get caught in them, although he sets them off. In general, squirrels don’t want anything to do with humans; they just want the benefits of a warm, cozy place to live. So, I’m not worried that he’ll try to get inside the house. I’m just annoyed about the noise he makes!

No more batteries for the Fisher Price aquarium


Brad “fixes” the Fisher Price aquarium [Helen’s public gallery at Picasa]

Elena loves her Fisher Price aquarium. In fact, she loves it so much, she turns it on several times a night. As a result, the aquarium, which takes four D batteries, goes through batteries like I go through grapes. (I like grapes. Note the nearly empty bowl of grapes in the pictures.)

We’ve got rechargeable D batteries, and they work fine, except for a couple of issues. First, they only last a couple of weeks on a charge. Second, when the batteries are run down, the aquarium goes from “works fine” to “sounds scary” pretty quickly.

Enter Brad, the guy with the electrical engineering degree. I found a power adapter, formerly used for an old Palm, and rigged it up to the aquarium. I checked voltages to ensure everything was okay, and voilà! Now she can turn them on as often as she wants.

My favorite fonts

You can get several of my favorite fonts by installing some free-as-in-beer software:

Some of my other favorites aren’t available with free-as-in-beer software (or at least I don’t know that they are), but are available with other software:

Fonts for viewing this site

(This information applied to the old site.)

If your computer has the font Candara installed, this site will use it. If the characters “0a1c2e” are all the same size on this site, you probably have it installed.

Candara and several other fonts are included with Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, both of which cost money. However, you can also get these fonts by installing the free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack.

If you are on a Mac, you’d probably have to find a computer running Windows, install one of the products listed above, and copy the fonts from there to your Mac. I doubt that’s allowed by the license, though.

The Squirrel Chronicles

From Wikipedia

A year or two ago, I noticed that there was a lot of activity going on above the baby room. I mentioned something to Brad about it, but he didn’t seem too concerned since it wasn’t affecting us too much. Then, during the winter months, the scratching and pitter-patter noises began again — but this time, I could hear them in my walk-in closet (where I sit and do my scrapbooking). It was pretty noisy, but once again, Brad didn’t appear too concerned. The morning when the squirrel(s) woke us up with their “talking” and excessive noisiness, Brad asked me to take care of it.

Apparently there are a lot of companies out there that take care of these critters. Unfortunately, I think I chose the most ineffective (aka least expensive) one. It cost $100 for the squirrel guy (Bill) to come out and do an initial consultation. Most others charged more than this, or more for each squirrel (or other critter) caught. He immediately found two half-dollar (at most) sized holes on two sides of our house, leading into our attic. Squirrel Guy definitely found traces of squirrel food debris in the front portion of the attic. Apparently this was the work of the notorious red squirrel (a squirrel that’s pretty small, red, and looks like a baby) which is known in the wild, wild world of animals for being a nuisance.

About 4 weeks ago, Squirrel Guy set up a couple of lethal traps with peanuts all over them in the front portion of our attic. The next morning, we didn’t awaken to any sounds. We were excited. Squirrel Guy said he’d return the next day but didn’t. So, I called to get him out to our house, secretly hoping our ordeal was finally over. Upon his examination, he found that the squirrel hadn’t even touched the food. He left, but forgot to tell me when he’d return. After two days of no Squirrel Guy, I called the office again. He returned to find, once again no trap set off. We decided to try the back portion of the attic, where the scratching noises seemed to be originating from. Squirrel Guy said he’d be back on Wednesday morning to check it out. Of course, he didn’t show up. He arrived Thursday. Nothing. He said he’d be back on Saturday morning, and if nothing was caught, he would just patch up the holes (and charge us $50 of course).

Well, Squirrel Guy didn’t call and didn’t show up that Saturday morning. In fact, he didn’t show up the entire next week. Since I was pretty busy that week, I didn’t bother calling until the following Monday. By then I was irate. I called the main number, and received some apologies and then Squirrel Guy’s cell number. Then I called Squirrel Guy and complained. His excuse was that there had been a lot of new customers for him to see. In addition, he added that he was an airhead when it came to schedules. He promised me he’d be at our house the next morning before 10am. Thank goodness for him, he showed up on time. Of course, no squirrel had even touched the food. He was afraid to patch up the holes because he feared that the squirrel would just puncture more. So he set up traps with peanuts and vanilla wafers right next to the hole above the area where I was hearing the most scratching.

Two days later …. nothing! Finally, Squirrel Guy decided to set up a live trap outside, under one of our trees. On Tuesday morning, I noticed that the trap had moved about 3 feet to the left, and was discharged. I called Squirrel Guy to let him know. By the next morning, the trap had moved another 2 feet. Squirrel Guy returned the trap underneath the tree and placed a brick on top — ha!

Later that afternoon, I noticed that not our red squirrel, but a regular squirrel had gotten itself encased in the trap. He seemed quite upset as he kept digging, trying to get out. I felt horrible! Poor guy was probably hungry and thirsty, and he barely fit inside the trap! It was already 4:45pm, and I couldn’t get ahold of Squirrel Guy. So, after consulting with Amy and Lisa, I decided to give him some walnuts, Ritz crackers, and bird seed. Since there was no way in heck that I was about to open the cage to place water inside, I made two holes into a gallon of water and stuck two straws inside. The poor squirrel got some water out of the straw, but then after gnawing on it, the straw came right out of the gallon. I tried calling Squirrel Guy again around 8pm. He called back, and said he’d just release the guy since he wasn’t our main target. I feared that there was a chance that this could possibly be our aggressor, so I asked Squirrel Guy to release him to the wild. Of course I would be charged, but I just wanted to experiment and see if this could be our trouble maker. Plus, this squirrel was mad, and I didn’t want him in our yard any more after capturing him!

So here we are, back to square one. The cage is empty. I haven’t heard any scratching yet since Wednesday night, but I have a feeling we will soon.

20 quadrillion quadrillion electron masses

I don’t remember exactly what I weighed around the holidays — I know it was 223-point-something — so I’ve decided to declare that, since my weight is now 183-point-something, I have officially lost 40 pounds.

The logician in me thinks it’s not really that big a milestone for a couple of reasons. First of all, 40 isn’t that special of a number. Sure, it ends in a zero, but only because we use a decimal system. If people had had, say, twelve fingers (fun fact — hexadactyly is autosomal dominant!), we’d probably be using a duodecimal system, in which case a number like base-10 40 wouldn’t be that interesting. And what exactly is a pound, anyway? It’s pretty arbitrary.

The logician in me can be a real Captain Bringdown.


We are a flu-ridden family. I came down with it last Sunday. Helen and Katrina started showing symptoms on Thursday just as I was starting to feel better. Runny nose, aching, and prolonged fever (mine was four days) are the main symptoms. This is not an illness you want.

Elena, who got her flu shot a few months ago, has been perfectly fine. Helen tried to get Katrina vaccinated at another time, but they had run out before she arrived.

How to raise, then dash, a friend's hopes

I’m a software developer at Autodesk. I’ve worked on Inventor since around 2003 (give or take a year).

One decent way to judge a company is to look at how likely its employees are to refer friends and family. Me? I’ve referred three people over the past few years. One person didn’t have the right skill set for the open position, another had to take another job because of time constraints (the company gave him an absurdly short amount of time to accept their offer and he didn’t have enough time to shop around), and the third … ah, the third.

The third is a good friend of mine. (Wait, that’s not quite right. He stood in our wedding. He’s godfather to one of our daughters, for cryin’ out loud. That’s beyond “good friend”.) And I thought he would be abso-friggin’-lutely perfect for a position Autodesk has just created.

Well, to make a long story short, his current employer told him no. Why should that matter, you ask? Apparently his employer has some sort of secret agreement with Autodesk where Autodesk won’t hire their employees. Unless they give permission, that is.

So he asked for permission.

They denied it.

But that’s not all! They also said that because they now knew about his desire to work at Autodesk, if he quit, they’d contact Autodesk and make sure he wouldn’t get hired there for a year.