Monday, October 30, 2006

Baby heads

So it turns out that having a baby is really hard work. Who knew? At any rate, updates are going to be sparse for a while - sorry about that. But there's a new guy in charge here.

However, at the hospital The Husband and I had the following conversation:

ME: Have you smelled his head yet?
THE HUSBAND: Yeah. So you're telling me that that's really not baby powder or anything? That's just the way his head smells?
ME: Yup.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The new boss

John Thomas (Jack)
8lbs. 4oz.
19 inches
DOB Oct. 24 11:30 ish PM
Cute as anything.

The Husband

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quick update

Yup, still pregnant.

Man, I can't BELIEVE I was three weeks late. Two days late is killing me.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I think that Carly Simon song is about me, actually

First of all: The baby is still firmly ensconced in my womb and appears to have no intentions of budging. I am not writing this from the hospital, nor am I on my way to the hospital, nor do I have any reason believe I will ever get to go to the hospital. So if you’re here for the baby check, consider yourself updated.

But the good news is that I did get to go to the wedding yesterday without giving birth at the reception. And surprisingly (at least to me), I did get some “Wow, you look fantastic” compliments. And I also got cake. All in all, it was a pretty good day.

There were, however, a few problems. After I finished doing my hair and makeup, I got dressed, put on my shoes, and walked out to the car. The mistake here was putting on my shoes. Because, you see, I am far too vain to wear the sensible flat black loafers with my dress and sparkly jewelry, so I wore my silver sparkly heels. Three inch heels. Three inch skinny heels.

I am a moron.

I figured that I’d be fine because I would mostly be sitting, but the brief walk to the car combined with the act of actually getting into the car – I never noticed before that The Husband’s car is much lower to the ground than mine – pretty much did me in. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to bring the sensible black loafers with me, so I only wore the fancy shoes while in the church. Even so, my back was pretty damn angry with me for the rest of the day.

But it’s just that the silver sparkly heels are so pretty! And the sensible black loafers, which I wore at the reception and therefore had to wear in the formal picture of the choir, looked truly ridiculous.

So, basically, what I’m saying is that even knowing how quickly the heels caused me terrible back pain, I’d wear them again. Because I am just that vain.

Except I’d bring them into the reception with me and wear them in the photo.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

T-minus 0 days. Hah.

Nope, no baby yet.

Lying liars who lie

I am a very gullible person. As a result, people enjoy teasing me. The plumber, for example, tried to convince me the new toilet was pink and that we wouldn’t be able to use the bathroom vanity for 48 hours after it was installed. And back in grad school, one of Grouchy Guy’s simplest pleasures was to try to see what he could get me to believe. It was never malicious, but it was constant.

One morning, we arrived at the lab to find list of lab members with funny nicknames taped to the door. The author of said list was anonymous, but I knew it was Grouchy Guy and his buddy, Athletic Post-Doc. It had to be, because I had been out with the two of them the night before, and we had discussed just such a list. Some of the nicknames were even ones I had suggested.

When The Doktah got to her desk, she asked if I knew who made the sign, so I told her. “That’s what I thought,” she said, “but I just asked Grouchy Guy and he denies it.”

I looked at her with pity, and said, “The Doktah, Grouchy Guy lies. He lies all the time.” She was surprised, but seemed to accept this.

Now, as I think back on this conversation, I can see where I got myself in trouble. People don’t like to be called liars, and I should perhaps have chosen a different word, because a few hours later, The Doktah came and told me that Grouchy Guy was mad at me for calling him a liar. “But he does lie!” I said. “He lies to me all the time!”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you, but he’s insulted,” she replied. “And he still denies making the sign.”

When I saw him that afternoon, I said, “Grouchy Guy, The Doktah said you were mad at me.”

“Yeah, where do you get off telling people I lie?” he replied. “I’m highly offended.”

“But you lie to me all the time,” I protested.

He was indignant. “Name one time I’ve lied to you!” he demanded.

“Well, this morning, after I knocked over that beaker, you told me I ruined your experiment,” I said. “And yesterday, you told me seminar was canceled. The day before that, you said I was supposed to be presenting at group meeting that afternoon.“

Grouchy Guy’s expression turned sheepish. “Oh, yeah. It’s just that I can’t help it! I can’t resist seeing the expression on your face! You always look so worried.”

We sorted everything out. I explained that, although I knew he was only teasing and it’s not as though he let me skip seminar or anything, he was, in fact, telling untruths. These are also known as lies. He stopped being mad.

And admitted to making the sign with Athletic Post-Doc.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

This? This is what makes you feel like an adult?

In 1998, The Husband and I graduated from college.

In 2000, The Husband graduated with his Master’s degree.

In 2003, we got married and I earned my Ph.D.

In July of 2005, we bought a house.

The following November, we bought a living room rug. As we paid for it, The Husband said, “Wow, this really makes me feel like a grown-up.”

Nesting Schmesting

Just got back from the doctor's. No progress.

I'm going to be pregnant for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So this is nesting

Well, I just spent the morning dusting. This is highly unusual. I’m either nesting or brain damaged. If I find myself ironing, I will have to call the authorities.

This could also be the so-called “burst of energy” my mother told me about that kicks in right before labor, so maybe I won’t be making that wedding after all.


Yesterday, I talked to my four-year-old nephew, The Charmer, on the phone. He was at my parents’ house for the day, and I asked him what he had been doing. Apparently, he and my mom pruned the Japanese Maple in the front yard. “That will make it grow better,” he told me.

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said. “I don’t really know, because I’m not very good with plants. They always die when I plant them,” I told him.

“Really? How come?” he asked.

“Well, I think that sometimes I forget to water them, and then sometimes I water them too much,” I replied. “I don’t really know, but I can’t seem to keep them growing.”

“Well," he said. "That is very surprising. All you do is dig a hole, and put a little water in, and then you put the plant in, and put some more water on top, and then the flowers will grow!” he explained.

Maybe he should be responsible for feeding the baby?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who were the ad wizards who came up with this one?

“When I buy my food at the grocery store, I’d like to be able to buy a bottle of wine.”

So says the woman on the political ad for Question 1 on the ballot this year, which is whether we, Massachusetts voters, want to change the law and allow grocery stores to sell wine. There have been a series of fairly ridiculous scare ads that equate selling wine in grocery stores with pouring alcohol down the throats of minors and then giving them keys to the car, and there have been a few calm ads that claim the current law stifles competition.

I am going to vote “No” on Question 1. Not because I fear the sudden and dramatic increase in drunk driving that will automatically result from people’s being able to buy wine at the same time as their food, but because I am sort of opposed to competition that results in small independent stores going out of business. If I hadn’t already decided, however, the woman who’d like to buy wine at the grocery store would definitely impact my decision. She would convince me to vote “No.”

Whoever was responsible for casting this commercial should be fired, because the woman in the ad is unbelievably annoying. I am not merely disinclined to help her by voting “Yes” on Question 1. No, I find myself wanting to take an active role in making her life less convenient.

So… great job with that one, People Who Want Me To Vote “Yes.”

T-minus 4 days, supposedly

Well, I’m no longer going to work. I was going to go till Friday, but the hour-long commute each way just became too hard to take, so I gave up today. I am officially on maternity leave.

This does not mean that I have a baby yet. Nor do I expect to have a baby by Saturday. Based purely on a hunch, I think this baby o’ mine is going to be late. Possibly it will be retribution for my own late arrival. I was three weeks late, people. THREE WEEKS. My poor mother. I knew this fact growing up, but until now, I did not realize how long three weeks can be. I cannot imagine being pregnant for another month. And although this baby will not be allowed to be three weeks late, there is no reason to expect him or her to be on time. And I don’t.

But, since I am home today, I watched the Today show, and Deepak Chopra was on plugging his new book. I mention this only because he was wearing a black suit and bright red sneakers. It was fairly awesome.

To be honest, I don’t actually want the baby to come until Sunday or Monday, because one of my church choir friends from Grad School is getting married on Saturday, and I really want to go to her wedding, even though she was so inconsiderate as to choose my due date for her big day. I mean, really. She should have checked with my reproductive schedule before planning her own major life events. Some people.

The good news is that, should I go into labor at the wedding, there will be at least two pediatricians (one of whom is the bride), two brain doctors, a nurse and a midwife in attendance, and at least half of them, notably the midwife, will probably at my table. Still, I’d rather avoid that particular drama, since I think I read in Miss Manners that going into labor at someone’s wedding is an even greater faux pas than wearing white.

I, myself, will be wearing black, and looking large. It is the same very forgiving and stretchy dress I wore to Brother-in-law’s wedding in July, but I don’t think I’m going to get as many surprised sounding, “Wow, you look fantastic!” compliments as I did then, back when I was small. I think that instead, I’ll be getting comments like, “Yikes! Why don’t you sit down? Here, take my chair.”

Monday, October 16, 2006

And now, a tale from The Husband’s grad lab

As we are all aware by now, The Husband is also a huge geek. Even geekier than I, as a matter of fact, at least in the traditional sense. He, however, was smart enough to stop his education with a Master’s Degree instead of subjecting himself to the Ph.D. experience.

But this story is not about The Husband. This story is about one of The Husband’s grad school labmates, Clueless. Clueless was in his second year of graduate school, pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering, having already earned a B.S. in engineering. But one afternoon when both Clueless and The Husband were working on a homework assignment for a class they were both taking, Clueless asked The Husband, “What’s a determinant?”

The Husband was mildly surprised that Clueless did not already know, but realized that the concept of “determinant” is not actually very easy, so he figured that Clueless had just forgotten how to calculate them or something and said, “It’s the cross product of the bottom two rows of the matrix, remember?”

“Huh?” Clueless responded. “I don’t know what you are talking about. I’ve never even heard of a determinant.”

For those of you reading this who are not engineers, let me tell you that The Doktah’s jaw has just hit the floor in shock. Because it is impossible to get a degree in engineering without learning about determinants in about nine different classes. They are first introduced in Calculus III, and then they are used in Thermodynamics, Heat and Mass Transfer, Fluid Dynamics, Differential Equations... I could go on. So, while it is possible that someone could graduate with a degree in engineering without understanding determinants – Lord knows I don’t remember what they are used for, just that they are very, very useful – there is no way to get an B.S.E. without having heard of determinants. This was worse than The Husband’s never having heard of Donnie and Marie.

In closing, I will leave you with Webster’s definition of a determinant. I’m sure it will completely explain the concept to you.

Pronunciation: di-'t&r-m&-n&nt
Function: noun
2 : a square array of numbers bordered on the left and right by a vertical line and having a value equal to the algebraic sum of all possible products where the number of factors in each product is the same as the number of rows or columns, each factor in a given product is taken from a different row and column, and the sign of a product is positive or negative depending upon whether the number of permutations necessary to place the indices representing each factor's position in its row or column in the order of the natural numbers is odd or even

Got that?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

FYI: Due Date

By the by, People of the Internet, my due date is October 21. Which is 6 days from today. I don't think I ever actually told you that.

Phantom leg cramps

During this pregnancy, The Husband has been very good to me. He gives me no flak whatsoever when I play my trump card and sit around instead of doing the dishes like I said I would. And I play this card pretty much all the time now, as I am incapable of performing any tasks without resting for at least an hour before and after. Today, for example, The Husband went grocery shopping, which he hates, and cleaned the tub, which he also hates. And he will rub my back and stroke my head upon request and is just generally awesome. Of course, The Husband has always been awesome, so this is not surprising. There is, however, a dark side to the story.

Being pregnant has increased my proclivity towards leg cramps. Many many times over the past nine months, I have stretched my leg during the night only to be awakened by an intense, shooting pain in my calf muscle which has become locked in the contracted position. The only way to stop the pain is to flex my foot and stretch out the calf muscle, but this is something I am completely unable to accomplish while lying down, gasping in pain.

When this first started happening, I would shake The Husband awake and say, “Ow! Ow! The Husband! Ow! My leg! Ow! Please, can you – ow! Ow! My foot! Ow! My leg!” while uselessly waving the afflicted leg in his general direction. Having just been pulled from a deep sleep, he naturally had no idea that this incoherent gasping translated into, “Please pull my foot back and stretch out my calf muscle.” And he would be kind of annoyed with me.

After this happened a few times, I decided that we had to have some practice runs during the day, and I explained to him that I woke him up like that, I needed him to pull my foot back and flex it for me. This improved matters dramatically, as I was able to wake him up and simply say, “Ow! Leg! Left!” and he would know what to do. But in his sleep-addled state, he still tended to get annoyed with me for waking him up and being incoherent.

One time in particular, as he attempted to pull my foot back and unlock my cramped muscle, he said to me, “Stop fighting me!” in exasperation. You see, my leg cramp was so strong that he thought that I was actually pushing against him with my foot, purposely not letting him stretch out my leg.

The next morning, I asked him about this. “You secretly think I’m making up the leg cramp thing, don’t you,” I said. “There’s actually a part of you that believes I’m waking you up and pretending that I can’t pull my own foot back to stretch out my calf muscle.”

The Husband gave me a sheepish grin. “Uh… yeah,” he said.

But I don’t hold it against him. He came around and believes me now, and he’s been taking care of so many other things that I wouldn’t dream of complaining. And he never makes fun of me when I take off my pants because they’re too tight and take off my sweater because I’m too hot and write blog entries in my underwear.

You know, hypothetically.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

It's not a race, which is good, because I'm losing

OK, everyone in the entire world who was pregnant along with me has had their babies. The Husband's cousin, due a week after me, had her baby on Tuesday. So did his other cousin, also due after me. And Emily, due the same day as me, had her baby on the 10th. And now Arwen, due four days after me, had her baby today! But I feel confident that I will give birth before Maggie, since she is only 10 weeks. (For the record, Emily also finished her bathroom remodel first even though she started it several months after we did. I'm not quite certain I've forgiven her for that.) What is up with everyone being early? I thought first babies were usually late.

Of course I am very happy for everyone, but I can't help but feel jealous. Because I am ready. I bought a diaper pail last Monday, and that was the last thing we needed. The bathroom and pantry are fully functional. Our last birthing class was today. The clothes have all been washed, the nursery is set up:

And I can't wait to dress the baby in these:

We are ready.

So, baby, come on out! I'm dying to meet you! And also to have you stop kicking me in the spleen, or whatever tender spot that is! You know the spot; it's where you like to put your foot when you stretch.

So, any time now would be fine.


Any time.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Yankees

I am not a very craftsy person. I like to cross-stitch, but that’s pretty much counting and sewing tiny x’s on a grid. It takes no real skill, only patience. Everything else is a complete mystery to me. Take knitting for example. How is it that string is transformed into a sweater using only two sticks? Magic, as far as I’m concerned.

So there’s a show on PBS called New Yankee Workshop. Have you seen this show? Have you seen it? This show is utterly fascinating. Watching this show is like watching a miracle occur before your very eyes. The guy on the show starts of with some planks of wood and maybe some glass or upholstery and by then end of the show he has, say, an ottoman. It’s sort of like The Miracle of Life, only more exciting, because in The Miracle of Life, you see a fetus and hear a voiceover say, “At this point, the ears are beginning to migrate to their final location,” but you can’t actually see the ears begin to migrate. You just have to take the voiceover’s word for it. You can, however, see Norm Abram upholster the ottoman. In real time.

And naturally, he makes it look easy. As you watch, you find yourself thinking, “Well, sure, if I had a lathe, a routing table and a pneumatic staple gun, I, too, could build an ottoman.” But I have a sneaking suspicion that there is more to using the lathe than just holding a chisel against a block of spinning wood, so methinks it is not quite so easy as it appears to be. And of course, the time lapse videography, makes it seem like it takes Norm only two minutes to form an ottoman leg, while it is probably more like an hour. Or five hours! I have no way of knowing!

I wonder if watching a knitting show would be as interesting?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Car talk

Rita Rudner has a joke where she describes the difference between men’s and women’s attitudes about cars. “What kind of car do you have, sir?” she’ll ask a man in the audience.

“A Mazda 626,” he’ll reply.

“Now ask me what kind of car I have,” she’ll say, and when he does, she responds, “A white one.”

That may be a sweeping generalization, but nevertheless basically sums up my own attitude towards cars. When I was in college, my aunt gave me her old car when she bought a new one. I’m better than Rita Rudner, because I at least knew that it was a beige 1990 Chevy Cavalier, but that was about all I could tell you about it. It ran, and I was satisfied.

Brother-in-law #1, however, is about as car guy as they come, and every time I came home for a visit, he would ask, “So how’s your car?”

I was never quite sure how to respond to this question. “Uh, fine?” I would usually say. “It got me here.”

But I don’t think that was the sort of answer he was looking for. I think he wanted me to say something like, “Well, the timing belt seems stable but I think it may be on its way out. The carburetor, on the other hand, is in great shape. I just took a look at it the other day.” Sadly for Brother-in-law #1, he would never hear anything like that from me. “It runs,” was the best he’d ever get.

After I started my first job post grad school, I bought my first ever new car (and second ever car, actually, since I actually sold the Cavalier to Big Sister #1 and Brother-in-law #1 my second year of grad school and then did without). I bought a new one, a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid. I had been waiting on tenterhooks to get my hands on a hybrid vehicle since I first heard about them as concept vehicles in 1999, so I was pretty excited to have the chance to actually buy one. But, other than the fact that it’s a hybrid, to me it’s just a car. Handy for getting me around, but that’s about it.

Which is why I got flummoxed every time my mother-in-law asks me, “So how’s your car? Do you love it?”

Love it? I love that it gets 50 mpg*, yes. I love that it has almost zero emissions, yes. And I am pretty pleased with its reliability; it is, after all, a Honda. But do I love the car itself? No. It’s a car. What’s to love?

I will say, however, that my life is much easier because I do not love my car. For example, when I scraped up the bumper trying to pull into a tight parking spot, my reaction was pretty much, “Eh. That’s what bumpers are for.” My father-in-law, on the other hand, saw that scrape several months after the fact and his eyes widened in shock. “Does she know about this scratch?” he said to The Husband, in the hushed, horrified tone that one might use to ask, “Does she know she has cancer?”

I don’t know. Maybe, if I weren’t so eminently practical and could buy a really hot sports car, I would feel differently. But it’s hard to get worked up about a Honda Civic.

And anyway, I’d rather spend my sports-car money on something more fun, like shoes.

*I do not lie. 50 mpg. Jealous?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No need to water

This weekend, we replaced the dead plants on the porch with some pumpkins with painted faces. They are shellacked and everything, so I had no qualms about taking them home to be under my care. (Sometimes, when I buy plants, I think I can hear them screaming. “Nooooo! Don’t let me go home with Mo! I’m doomed! Doooooooomed!)

I moved the dead impatiens aside, and put the pumpkins on the plant stands. Then, as I picked up the impatiens to clear them away, The Husband asked me, half-jokingly, if I was going to put them in the side yard with the other plants I had killed.

“Of course,” I said, and placed them carefully down next to the porch where they will be out of sight from passers-by, but where they will serve as a grim message to the botanical world that we don’t stand for any flower-flak here at the Grad Lab Adventures household. If a plant can’t water itself, that plant is not welcome here.

Being dead inside really cuts down on household clutter

A few weeks ago, at Babies ‘R’ Us, The Husband and I noticed a display of bronzed baby shoes with a little information card that we could take in case we were planning to bronze our baby’s shoes.

“Is that something you think you’d want to do?” he asked me.

I regarded him, an amused expression on my face. “Me? You think I would want to do that? I, the one who is willing to sell her engagement ring for the right price? No. No, I think we’re all set.”

“Good,” he replied.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Trump card

On Saturday, The Husband and I tried to go to our last birthing class, but it turned out we had the wrong Saturday. We’re sort of scatterbrained lately, can’t imagine why. At any rate, as we were leaving the hospital, The Husband said, “Well now I can get a head start on all that stuff I need to get done. I think I’ll start with mowing the lawn.”

“I think I’ll start with putting my feet up,” I replied. Because, you see, I’ve decided to begin playing my “Nine Months Pregnant” card. Until now, I think I’ve done fairly well with holding that card back and doing the chores that I have been capable of doing: laundry, baseboard-painting, shopping, nursery-setting-up-ing, etc. But on Saturday, I suddenly felt about two months more pregnant than I was on Friday, and I just couldn’t face the idea of chores of any kind.

“Oh, the ‘Nine Months Pregnant’ card?” said The Husband. “So maybe I should make you some index cards that say ‘Nine Months Pregnant’ and you can whip them out whenever something needs to be done?”

“That sounds fine,” I said, “as long as you know that I still get to keep the card after I’ve played it.”

“I can play my ‘I Built a Bathroom’ card, though, right?” asked The Husband.

“Sure, but whatever card you try to play, it will be beaten by the ‘Nine Months Pregnant’ card,” I replied. “When you can build a person, you get back to me.”

So I spent the day largely – no pun intended – on the couch. I did manage to put together the shelves that we are going to hang in the bathroom, and I think I washed some diapers. I didn’t fold them or anything, though, because that would have involved effort. Otherwise, I watched some TV and took a nap.

Interesting thing: During my nap, I let out two sudden snorey snorts. I know this, because each time, I woke myself up. In case that is not clear, let me say it again: I woke myself up with my own snores. Apparently, I’ve been snoring a lot lately, but The Husband has been kindly keeping this information to himself. We think it’s because of the pregnancy-induced increased blood flow that has caused my blood vessels to constrict my nasal passages. I’m sure I’ll return to my natural, ladylike self after the baby is born.

Yeah, that “Nine Months Pregnant” card comes in handy.

Friday, October 06, 2006

If I were going to steal one, I wouldn’t steal this one

There’s something you should know about The Husband. Whenever he plans to buy something, he does research, because he likes to buy only the best. The more expensive and/or packed with electronic features the item, the more research he does. This is often quite handy for me, because if I want to get, say, a video camera, I say, “Husband, I think we should buy a video camera.” So he goes off and finds out all the features that are important, what Consumer Reports and Slashdot have to say about different brands, makes a list of the pros and cons of the top three models, and returns to me with a brand and model number and says, “I think we should get this one.” Meanwhile, I watch movies. Couldn’t be easier.

Naturally, The Husband was similarly diligent about doing his homework when he was buying my engagement ring. He read all about the clarity of diamonds and learned the difference between a VVS1 (one very very slight inclusion) and a VVS2 (two very very slight inclusions). He examined inclusions (flaws inside the diamond) through a microscope and compared a grade A diamond with a grade D (has to do with color). He also learned about laser inscription of serial numbers. In short, by the time he decided which diamond to buy, he really knew his stuff.

After we got engaged, we discovered that the ring he bought me was about a half size too big. Since neither of us wanted the ring to fly off my finger with a sudden gesture, we brought it down to Jeweler’s Row to get it sized. The first store we went into said they’d be happy to resize the ring, but that we’d have to leave it with them for a few days.

“That’s fine,” said The Husband, “but I’d like to copy down the serial number of the diamond before we do that.”

The jeweler looked mildly affronted, as though he was offended that we didn’t trust him, and said, “Oh, does it have a serial number?”

“Yes,” replied The Husband. “It’s laser inscribed.”

The jeweler very skeptically pulled out a jeweler’s glass of the sort you hold up to your eye and examined the ring. “I don’t see it,” he said.

The Husband started to feel a little panicky. “Well I saw it before I took the ring home,” he replied. “I know it’s there. I have papers on the diamond and everything. It’s a VVS1 grade A stone.”

At this, the jeweler regarded The Husband with pity. “Oh, I don’t think this is a VVS1 diamond,” he said. “I can see inclusions all over the place, and I can’t see a serial number anywhere. And they usually don’t inscribe diamonds this small*,” he added, very condescendingly. “There’s no point.” His tone clearly implied that The Husband had been scammed.

At that, we took the ring back from the jeweler and said we’d be bringing it elsewhere, thank you very much. The Husband, meanwhile, was in a full-on panic and asked if we could please go back to the lab and look at the diamond through The Doktah’s dissecting scope so he could reassure himself that the serial number was really there. Which of course it was.

The next day, we brought the ring back to a different jewelry store and asked them if they could size it. This jeweler was quite happy to do so, and in fact, sized it while we waited instead of asking us to leave it for days. Neither was she offended that we wanted to show her the serial number and write it down before she took it into the back. To find the number, she set the ring in a clamp and looked at it through a microscope instead of holding it in her shaking hand and examining it through a shaking, hand-held jeweler’s glass. But first, she cleaned it.

“Oh, this is a nice stone,” she said. “What is it, VVS1?”

“Yes!” said The Husband. “You know, we took this to another place yesterday, and he kept trying to tell us there was no serial number and that there was no way it was a VVS1 diamond. Of course, he didn’t actually clean it before he looked at it,”

“That’s strange, becuase dust looks just like inclusions, so it really should be cleaned first,” said the new jeweler.

“Well we’ll never go back into that store again,” I said. “They basically called my ring a piece of junk.”

The new jeweler made a surprised face. “Huh. We sort of have a policy of not insulting our clients’ jewelry,” she told us.

Good policy.

*For the record, the diamond is not particularly small. It’s no 5-carat or anything, but it’s a nice size.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I was also in charge of the dead plants that I hid in the side yard

Plants I was responsible for caring for:

Impatiens. Supposed to grow well in this climate. Just need watering.

Plant The Husband is responsible for caring for:

Plumeria. From Hawaii. Very touchy, difficult to grow in the wintery north.

So. Who should be responsible for feeding the baby?

I’d love to keep talking to you, but I think I need to get some Fresh Air right now

A couple of friends of mine from the med school had an annual wine and cheese party at their apartment. While making small talk at one of these parties, I met someone who worked for WHYY, the local NPR station.

“Are you kidding? That is so awesome!” I exclaimed. “Have you met any famous people?”

He smiled, and said, “Yeah, people always ask me that, because Fresh Air is produced here. In fact, Matt Damon was on the show just last week, and – ”

“Yes, yes, Matt Damon, very exciting,” I said. “But what is Terry Gross like? How about Carl Kasell? Have you ever met him? Peter Sagal? Oh! Oh! Have you ever met Ira Glass?” A strange expression came over my new friend’s face and he started glancing around the room, as if looking for a savior.

“Oh, my favorite show is definitely Wait Wait – Don’t Tell Me. Of course, I try never to miss This American Life.” I babbled on, and he started edging towards the door, but I followed him. “My favorite episode of This American Life is the one with the Squirrel Cop, I think. How about you?”

“Uh, I don’t really – ” he said.

“Oh, and man, that Car Talk. Those guys crack me up. Hey, did you ever hear that show Rewind? It doesn’t play here, but you can listen to it online. They once did a parody where they had Ira Glass filling in for Click and Clack on Car Talk. It was hilarious.”

“Oh?” he said. “Yeah, that sounds really – ”

“I even like You Bet Your Garden, and I don’t garden!” I told him.

“Gee, that’s great,” he said. “Oh, hey, there’s someone I know! Bye!” and he took off.

Was it something I said?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Baby heads are jam-packed with pheromones

I have been spared the supposedly common pregnancy-induced cravings for things like pickles and ice cream. Instead, I have become somewhat obsessed with the smell of baby heads. You could even say I crave it. I remember babysitting as a teenager, rocking a baby to sleep, and being amazed at how good his little head smelled. I could have sat there all day, perfectly content just to sniff his head while he slept. And it was not that his head smelled of baby powder or perfumes. No, a baby head has a distinct, lovely, happy smell that is independent of soap or powder. It’s special.

So when it recently occurred to me that soon I will be able to smell my own baby’s head, I got excited. “I can’t wait to smell the baby’s head. How about you?” I said to The Husband. Imagine my horror upon discovering that he was not, in fact, looking forward to it, because he has never smelled a baby head and had no idea it was something to be excited about.

Well, that about did it for me. I became very eager to witness The Husband’s first smell of a baby head, knowing it will be even more special because it will be the head of our very own baby. Now it seems that all I talk about is the smell of a baby head. And for some reason, I insist upon using the word “baby” as an adjective. I never say “Wait till you smell the baby’s head,” I say, “Wait till you smell the baby head.” Is that weird?

Perhaps this particular thing is symbolic to me of The Husband’s relationship with our baby. Seeing The Husband act as a dad could very well be what I most look forward to once the baby is born. He’s going to be a great dad. He’s going to be the kind of dad who knows everything, and he’s also going to be completely whipped. It’s probably going to be hard for The Husband not to spoil this child, because he’s going to want to give him or her everything in the world.

It’s going to be amazing to watch, and it’s going to start with that first whiff of baby head.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Differential what now?

For those of you here for the stories about home remodeling and pregnancy, let me explain that the field of engineering pretty much boils down to the solving of differential equations. You might therefore expect that, as someone who holds a Ph.D. in engineering, I would be capable of solving differential equations. You would be mistaken.

For a Ph.D. engineer, my math is actually pretty weak, despite the fancy equations I posted in this entry. (Some might argue, in fact, that this series of entries is actually evidence of my poor math skills, but I’m not going down that road again.) My professors can be held partly responsible for my poor math skills, because in college, my engineering professors always provided us with the solutions to the relevant differential equations instead of making us solve them ourselves. They were relying on the math department to teach us to solve the equations. Unfortunately, my math professors were pretty awful. For example, I took a class in linear algebra, taught by a Russian guy with a heavy accent. He typically started the class by writing an equation on the board and asking, “What do you think x is?”

There would be a pause, and someone would say, “Um, 1?”

“Let’s try that,” he say, and then he’d substitute 1 in for x and see if it worked out. If he ended up with something like “1=4,” he’d say, “No, 1 didn’t work. Anyone else?” Someone would suggest he try x=0, and the process would repeat. I assume that he eventually transitioned into the actual technique for solving the equation, but he never really told us when that transition occurred. So, as far as I could tell, he was teaching us to solve linear algebra equations by randomly guessing what x equals until finding something that worked. That is a pretty poor technique, as only good luck would ensure that the solution is found without having to test infinity numbers. Which would take a while.

In grad school, my engineering professors once again provided us with the solutions to all the relevant differential equations, so once again I didn’t have to know how to solve them. There was one grad school class where we were taught how to solve partial differential equations, but not really. The professor taught us the “separation of variables” technique, which is all fine and dandy if you can separate the variables. Sadly, for most real-life engineering problems, you can’t. So for most real-life engineering problems, you have to solve the differential equation numerically. (Ironically, solving an equation numerically is almost like solving an equation by randomly guessing what x equals, but using a computer so there is a chance that you will arrive at the solution in your lifetime.) Our professor taught us one numerical technique called “the finite difference method,” but he didn’t do a great job teaching us. What he did was give us a computer program which used the finite difference method to solve an equation. Then, as an assignment, he told us to use the program to solve the equation for different initial conditions. Someone asked him how many sets of initial conditions we needed to try. “At least one,” he said.


The Doktah and I used to joke about what would happen if someone asked us how to solve a partial differential equation. “Did you try separating the variables? Oh, you can’t separate them? I can’t help you.”

But no matter how lax my professors were in teaching me how to solve differential equations, I can’t lay all the blame on them. I was in college and graduate school for nine years, so it’s possible that I should have taken some of the responsibility for my own education. Perhaps I should have taken the initiative to, oh, read about the finite difference method and actually learn it instead of just changing the initial conditions of our professor’s problem and calling it done. Because in the end, I hurt only myself.

Or did I? Because ask me how often someone asks me to solve differential equations these days. I’ll tell you. Not a lot. The skills I learned during my interminable years in college and graduate school that I actually use in my daily life are more of the critical data analysis and presentation variety and less of the higher math sort. In fact, the types of experiments I do now at work barely even resemble anything I learned in college or grad school. It most definitely is not engineering, and never requires that I solve differential equations. However, my engineering background serves me well in my ability to get to the crux of the problem at hand and in my willingness to try creative approaches in solving it.

That’s got to be worth something, right?