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.