Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh, the Games Wii play

No, I have never played a Wii. Derrill only has at MEnrichment with our branch. So...... why would Wii care what games people play?

Jealousy, mostly. Our brother Steve and his beauuuuutiful wiife have recently invested in a Wii for health purposes. You may understand this if you have heard of the Wii Fit which allows them to exercise in the 'privacy' of their own home entertainment system. Wii have listened with wrapped attention to their stories of how they are enjoying their Wii Fitness and (since they bought it used) their adventures in Wii babysitting or in other words getting all the parts to work.

So there I was at Target, today, minding my own business, getting toilet paper and other necessities. And as my husband often does at Target, I thought I would just see how much the Wii system costs, when it is available for purchase. When Derrill is interested in a game he checks on the game's descending price while we are at the store. Derrill calls it going on a pilgrimage or paying homage.

I had receive the impression that a Wii is very hard to find. There are websites dedicated to how to find a Wii. I found one that made me laugh out loud about how you need to get to know the store manager and be a stocker of the shipments of Wii. I was perfectly prepared by the fact that once we decided to get the Wii it would take some real work to find one.

When we found out that Steve and Emilee have a Wii and how much fun they were having with it, I stared thinking about how it could be nice to have a fitness center (of sorts) in our home that doesn't take up much space as space is a premium in our home. Additionally it is difficult to exercise outside in extreme heat and freezing snow. The expense for the Wii and Wii fit didn't seem much more than a gym membership would be. Really I think that if a person is doing some excersize all the time it is better than a lot of exersize once in a while.

Derrill and I actually had some conversations about whether there was a joint interest for the gamebox, where the money would come from if we did get. We even watched a few videos online of people using the Wii Fit. We had determined that we would probably get the Wii, but would wait until after Thanksgiving (when we could try our Steve and Emilee's Wii) and after Christmas (because there is such a shortage of them at Christmas). Really Derrill and I usually think about large purchases for a long time. We had decided that it would be a great thing to do with some fun money that Derrill had been saving since before we even got married. And also the Wii can play my favorite game Harvest Moon so it is not only games of shooting.

So after we had calmly and detachedly discussed the Wii, I asked at Target if they had a Wii.
The guy said that they did have one Wii and that it had arrived today. Well I found that kind of interesting (it was $250) and continued getting the items that I came to the store to buy.

I had called Derrill to ask what size of white board would be best (they had two sizes), and casually mentioned that Target had a Wii instock. I asked, kindof just teasing, "So do you think that we should get it?" As we were discussing it, I realize how amazing it was that there actually one in the store. (the store guy told me that their shipments usually come in on Sunday and there are usually about 25 people in line to get them-he doesn't even know how they find out they are getting a shipment since they are not planned ahead of time.)

I walked back to the games to tell Derrill about some of the games that were available. When I got back there, a lady said, "oh, they have a Wii...... I could get a Wii or I could get my brakes fixed. I never have money when there is one that I could buy." I thought that was hilarious. So we decided to get it

Above is our Wii sitting as a trophy on our TV. We will not open it until Derrill finishes his third paper for his dissertation, so that is can be a motivator for him. We expect to have a lot of family fun with it, we seem to do alot of our vacationing at home anyway. So I will begin as I started. I have still not played a Wii.

Take care everyone, I will hopefully write a blog about Hyrum soon. It sounds like he is up from his nap.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Tricks

Hyrum has been working on some clever new tricks to share.

Clever trick #1: Look, Ma, no pants!

Hy kicked off his pants in under a minute the other week. Then he was off like a flasher ... er, flash.

Clever trick #2: Incredible cuteness

"Daddy says if things get desperate, he'll pull me out during his dissertation defense and have me ask his committee to just go ahead and sign the papers. Pretty, pretty please?"
Who can say no to that adorable face?

Clever trick #3: Plays Lead Machine Gun for Franky the Python's Musical Mob

Doom players, beware! My son is armed and uncoordinated.

Clever trick #4: Multiple personalities

Adorable fuzzball to wailing banshee and back again faster than you can say, "It's nap time for you, bud."

Clever trick #5: Fighting hunger

Hyrum, independent spirit that he is, really wants to control his own bottle. The only problem is, he is more successful at pushing it away than pulling it in. The exception is when he grabs our fingers instead of the bottle, and then he has Great control pulling it in.

Clever trick #6: The one that impressed the doctor

Hyrum can roll over. He can roll from his back to his tummy and then around to his back again. And since he ends up on his forearms, he can do it while looking adooooorable! (Yes, I like that word. I think it describes him very well.)

Doctor quote: "You know a baby is teething because they are cranky, chew on things, and drool a lot. You know a baby is 4 months old because they are cranky, chew on things, and drool a lot. ... It's really very difficult to tell sometimes."

Clever trick #7: Astronaut in training

Joy explains to Claudia some of Hyrum's favorite activities, one of which is demonstrated.

(The others are performed by Daddy ... without a net. Actually, I asked the doctor and he said it was okay.)

Clever trick #8: GQ baby

In addition to being adorable and a fuzzball, he sure knows how to strike a pose.

"This summer's Church outfit for the baby-on-the-go is a stylish vest and shorts combo, with the buttons in back for inconvenient good looks. And since he can't crawl yet and only drinks Momma's milk, it stays white!"

Clever trick #9: Backstroke

Hyrum likes to kick more than moving his arms, but he can also coordinate all of them together pretty well. Of course, given that the bathtub isn't his best friend yet, maybe he's trying to fly.


That's the end.

You were expecting 10 tricks? Three videos and all the rest isn't enough?

Oh, alright. One more. But just because you're our friends.

Clever trick #10: Music Lover

Hyrum was munching away on his breakfast when my computer starting playing Bach's Fugue in g minor ("The Little"). I hummed along. That was when I noticed Hyrum wasn't eating anymore. He was alternating between staring at me and at the computer, enthralled by the glorious strains.

Here he is being enthralled by Fatima's voice.

The surest way to make him look at you and giggle is to sing in a slow andante tempo.

What can I say? He came to the right home.

Offwego to ATHGO

My daddy is President.
What does your daddy do?
I live in a big, white house
On Pennsylvania Avenue.
I always hide behind the desk in Daddy's den
When I play hide'n'seek with Secret Service men....

So there I was on Pennsylvania Avenue with Little Jo's adorable song running through my head on my way to the World Bank, July 8-11. ATHGO (which used to stand for something, but they changed their focus and didn't want to change their name, so now it's just plain old ATHGO) was holding a conference on governance, young people (18-35), and ICT (information and communication technology). Given my focus on governance in both my dissertation and the book chapter I'm working on right now, I was fairly interested in going, and Per paid the way.

I stayed at the Hotel Lombardy, which ostentatiously gives its address as being on PA Ave, but really there's a teeny park there where a hobo was stretched out. So as the GPS said "You have reached your destination," I thought, yeah, it's a warm enough night..... (PA Ave runs diagonally across DC, so it intersects and leaves some little triangles for parks.) The hotel behind the park features a single elevator, and it's run by a fellow who shuttles people pretty fast and gets your ice. I was supposed to be sharing a room with someone, but he never showed up, so I got the room to myself... for the little time I spent sleeping.

...My Daddy is President.
We had a busy day.
I'm learning the alphabet:
No matter what I do it makes a news event
Cwause my taddy is the P'esident.....

I have a very mixed review of the ATHGO conference. They billed it as being on Governance, but really it was about corruption. We had a wide mix of speakers, but many of them overlapped introductory material. And it's not just me being a PhD student - even one of the 22 year olds in my group said that she was disappointed at the lack of new material. We had a lot of people from the World Bank speaking to us, but more than three of the panels had someone focusing on employment opportunities at the WB and how impossible it is to get in (20,000 applications for 30 jobs). And for a conference about the wonders of ICT, there was a shocking lack of power outlets to plug a computer into. This is a picture of my view from the back of the auditorium where I could find an outlet. (Actually, oddly enough, the sound system was better in the back than the front, so I heard the conference better from the back than I had the first day when I was on the second row.) If I had known what was being covered before the conference, I likely wouldn't have gone. But now that I have been there, I'm glad I did.

The real value added for me was working in a group of about 14 people on creating two groups proposals: one a policy memo and the other a business model. In less than 36 hours we had to organize the group, decide on our proposals, write them up, and prepare a presentation on both of them because they didn't tell us which one we would present until an hour before we did it.

We had a good group of people, very accommodating, knowledgeable, and friendly. Some groups broke out into fights! For most of our jobs (group leader, policy strategist and writer, business strategist and writer, etc) people said, "I'm willing to do this if no one else wants to," and quickly bowed to someone else. I'm afraid I've never been so good at that and volunteered straight up to be our spokesperson ("I'll do it!"), which was the first job we discussed so I didn't have any of their good examples to follow. Two other people said they would do it if no one else wanted. They asked my qualifications and I listed off (in the best possible light) the history of public speaking training that my parents - the speech festival organizers - and the Church gives, and some recent experiences presenting my work material. When I declared I had 17 years of experience (which was a bit lower than actual, but no sense debating the issue), the other contenders gave way, though the gal who became our group leader was not impressed and interviewed me as to my worthiness. One of the other people who wanted to be presenter became my adviser who would whisper answers to me on the stage. But I accomplished my goal and became spokesman.

This was probably a mistake.

...At Daddy's first press conference I made news
Wearing Mommy's high-heeled shoes.
And every time I'm able,
I'm under the conference table....

Y'see, pulling together two presentations meant I got about 3 hours of sleep each night I was there. Fortunately, the policy idea was the one I brought to the table, so I was well familiar with it and could prepare the PowerPoint during the second day of meetings. It involved using cell phones in Kenya (where they're a lot more prevalent than you might think) to improve citizen participation in government. This picture is one of them I used in the presentation. In the end, though, it was our business model that was selected (randomly) for presentation, so I'm glad I spent the night before working on that one. I'm pleased with how I did in presentation and on the Q&A - our group gave us high-5's - but it kinda wiped me out.

Joy had been staying during this time with my good friends Marc and Marcy, who I met, hung out with, and adopted at BYU. I spent the evenings at their place and returned to the hotel around midnight to work until 3 (so I wasn't quite the martyr it might at first sound like). We had hoped Joy would get to spend some time at DC while they were at work, but Joy took the opportunity to catch up on her sleep without the pressures of taking care of house and home.

The plan was that Joy and I would drive home right when I was done Friday so that I could leave again early Saturday morning for the CES training meeting in Syracuse. But I was dead tired. I hadn't slept even half of what I needed the entire week and promptly fell asleep at their place for 3+ hours. So we stayed another night and left Saturday for our long drive home, arriving around 11pm. I was very glad Joy could come, and it was great to see my expectant 'sister'. I was sufficiently wiped out that I couldn't make it to church on Sunday, though, so I spent a lot of the next week recovering from the trip.

... My daddy is president.
We make a happy pair.
I go for my pony ride.
He rides in his rocking chair.
I don't play house, I play the game of government
Cwause my taddy is the P'esident.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blood Boil - a political rant with 50% more comics

So last night I went to campus to get some printing done, and while waiting for the school computers to wake up, drink their coffee, and otherwise remember how to function above 3 Hz, I read a book I haven't read in a while: Animal Farm by George Orwell, the same guy who wrote 1984. (For a plot summary of 1984, see attached comic.) I was slightly embarrassed to realize that I finished the entire book in one sitting. It is a short one and took less than two hours to cover, but it wasn't what I had planned on doing on campus. I got back to work.

Animal Farm ***plot spoiler*** tells the story of a group of animals who overthrow their human oppressors and begin trying to build a socialist paradise. (Yes, you can read it as a democratic or Zionistic paradise too, but the language used is of a socialist revolution.) From the very beginning, the pigs - cast as the most intelligent of the animals - begin to withhold for themselves special privileges and perks. Gradually the laws of the society change: No animal shall kill another ... without cause; No animal shall drink alcohol ... to excess; All animals are created equal ... but some are more equal than others. By the end of the "fairy tale," the rest of the animals cannot tell the difference between the humans and the pigs, who have surpassed even their former master in cruelty, excess, extortion, and slavery.

I've always been disgruntled to read of the pigs' transformation (pun unintentional), but last night I was livid with outrage. The last time I read this was before my mission, and I've 'experienced' a lot since then. The universality of the themes really smacked me upside the head. It's not just a metaphor for the Russian Revolution. It happens time and time again throughout the world. It's going on in Zimbabwe right now where a former "freedom fighter" has turned into one of the country's most ruthless dictators and oppressors, beating and killing people who are suspected of not wanting him to be president anymore (Gee, now why would they not want that?) while the rest of the world sits on its thumbs or maybe even, in a moment of reckless diplomatic abandon, says he's a very naughty man and should give back his toys ... if it's not too much trouble.

The corruption of the idealistic hopes and dreams that have led so many peoples and countries to strive for a free and independent life just galled me. Reading about the reborn suffering of the animals, who couldn't tell the difference between the oppression before and the oppression after, reached me in a new way as I considered the hundreds of millions of people who live on less than a dollar a day - hundreds of millions in Africa who even live on less than $0.50 a day! In some ways, I guess it was reminding my heart of why I'm working on a dissertation about kleptocrats and writing a book chapter on governance. The dry language of formal economics fails to capture the real pathos like Orwell's work does, though.

A new application struck me this time as I pondered the book. One of my econ professors at BYU (Prof. Lambson) used to be a Marxist, believing that if only Trotsky had won out in the Russian Revolution instead of Stalin, things would have been different. In Animal Farm, Snowball (one of the pigs) plays the part of Trotsky - a war hero and leader, albeit not above receiving a few perks himself, who is eventually exiled and branded a criminal and enemy of the people - while Stalin (played by the pig Napoleon) triumphs and enriches himself on the backs of the people. I used to read the book in the same way: if only Snowball had somehow won out, things would have been different.

Today, however, Prof. Lambson is a Libertarian. Among his reasonings - which were easily the best part of the class - is that a person like Stalin is not constrained by virtue and will therefore tend to be victorious in a power struggle. It is not Stalin who is the aberration, it's Washington who let go of the reigns of power voluntarily who doesn't fit the pattern of history.

I had a different thought last night, though: if Snowball had won, would things have been any different? He, like Napoleon, had worked to convince the other animals that the pigs deserved the entire production of milk for their own food so they could do the "heavy" brain work. Faced with the same corrupting influence of power, would he have truly made different choices, or would the decay have only been a bit slower? Switching over to Tolkeinian imagery, even Frodo was eventually corrupted by the Ring of Power. Switching to the Old Testament, the children of Israel prospered under Gideon who refused to be king but quickly fell under the tyranny of one his sons who was "willing to bear the heavy burden of leadership." Switching to the Book of Mormon, not one of the men who desired to be king over the Nephites, the Lamanites, or the Jaredites was a George Washington. Every single one of them was seeking for power, for authority, for riches and fame. They conspired and killed to get what they wanted, in the end destroying two civilizations in genocidal warfare.

And now here we have a new small handful of men vying to wield more power than should probably be entrusted to one person. On the one hand, it's a frustrating exercise and circus to have to go through every four years. On the other hand, I am immensely thankful to FDR for being elected to four terms in office and thereby spurring the enactment of a Constitutional amendment to throw the bums out of office every 8 years so that no one can get too comfy in that throne. How thankful we all should be for legitimate checks and balances and a divinely inspired Constitution.

If only I could figure out a reliable mechanism for consistently electing competent people who don't want the job. On the one hand, it might be worth a Nobel. On the other ... they'd never enact it.

... Come to think of it, there is such a system. "We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy ... to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof." No one vies for office in our Church. No popularity contests, no political strifes, no wheeling and dealing. God makes the call, and those whom God calls, He qualifies for the work.

God's ways: isn't it about ... time?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our baby is juuuust right

And it came to pass, on the eleventh day of the third month of the two hundred and twenty and first year of the reign of the presidents,* and it was during the eighth year of the reign of Abushakiah, a baby was born.
2. And he was goodly to look upon and cute as a button; and his father was well pleased and his mother did rejoice; and his grandparents and great-grandparents and uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews and their pets, yea, even their cats and their cureloms and their cummoms, and their friends and fellow bloggers did rejoice with exceeding great Joy and Derrill.
3. And they wrapped the babe in a doggy-head towel and laid him in a bouncer.

... "Skip a bit, Brother Watson. We've all heard about how he got down to 1% body weight already and you freaked out. What happens next?"

11. And behold, it came to pass that his parents did feed their baby, yeah with exceeding diligence; and he did grow and wax stronger and larger, even so much that their friends did speak unto them saying, "Woah, you got a big baby there!" and "He's certainly chunking up."
12. And they brought their baby unto the man learned in medicine, and he spake unto them, saying:

14 pounds, 11 ounces = 34%
25 inches tall = 41%

You have a happy, healthy, normal baby. I don't have to see you for another 2.5 months.

13. Now behold, their baby did speak unto them, saying "Behold, verily, verily, I win! Yea, I do kicketh behind."

14. And his parents did rejoice ├╝ber die Massen (exceedingly), and they lived after the manner of happiness for several seconds, but behold this came to pass;
15. For behold, and lo, the nurses came in, and they were armed with cimeters and with slings and with bows and with needles and with all manner of antiviral weapon;
16. Now it came to pass that his mother did leave the room, and his father did hold him close, and there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth ... now behold, this was just the father!
17. And they did flee out of the office with exceeding great haste, after that they had made their copay, and they did return unto the land of their inheritance.
18. And his father dwelt in a trailer park.

19. Now behold, they wrapped the happy, healthy babe in an American flag and laid him in a crib because there was no room for him in the bouncer.

* - The US Constitution was ratified in 1787.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gamma n Pop

Pop is speaking in Boston this week, but he and Grandma Jule raced over here to spend a few precious hours with their grandson. Oh, are the kids there too? Well, we'll have fun them, we guess ;) . We had a great time together.

Pop, formerly known as Dad, is really proud of his adorable progeny.

At one point, I set Hyrum on the couch between Grandma Jule and Pop and told him he could fall whichever way he wanted. Pop was touched that he fell to the right.

Grandma Jule decided to introduce Hyrum to cats. He watched us playing with the toy kitty for a while, then started petting her himself! It was really sweet.

Grandma Jule - who prefers to remain faceless - can be very happy: Hyrum remembered her. He perked right up when he saw her and didn't take any time at all being friends with her.

"Thanks for come to visit, Gamma n' Pop!"

We got us a Cute baby.

Random pics 2: Travels

I thought it might be fun to try my experiment again: letting the screen saver grab 10 random pictures we haven't posted and telling a couple stories. I'll do this again with just Hyrum pictures (of which it grabbed about 10 in a row), but tonight we'll stick to non-Hyrum. We did live before the baby, after all....

And around 1996 I lived in California with my parents just before going off to BYU for the first time. This is me practicing the organ at home while my brother's cat listens. She and Mom were my two biggest fans. How did we have an organ at our house? The student ward hadn't had anyone who could play in years and they complained that it was in the way of the ping-pong table, so the stake asked if any faithful, tithe-paying member out there would like a free organ? Ooh! Ooh! I would!
Mom's award-winning Rose Window afghan and one of her longstitch projects are in the background.

Speaking of Santa Barbara, while Joy and I visited the zoo one year, I spied in the distance this beauty of a house far off on another hill. I decided to show Mom what my camera zoom could do. It's just a lovely building in our foothills. I do miss Spanish architecture out here...

Around Valentines Day, 2004, I joined Mom and Dad at Walt Disney World Florida. Joy and I had some Serious Conversations online while I was there, where we "put our cards on the table" and said just exactly what our feelings were. Revelation came and prayers were answered as I studied Alma 32 outside of the MGM studies. We decided that some dating might be in order. But before it was all over, Joy asked for a picture of me so she could remember what I looked like. This is the one I sent.

Speaking of Disney, don't they do great castles?

Joy found some of her birthday presents last year! She's starting to get ready for my birthday next month. (I turn 30!) She is much better at hiding my presents than I am at finding them. Maybe I'd better start looking now....

Behind those trees is an amusement park in downtown Copenhagen. It took about ten shots to get even that much detail on the park. It looked pretty cool, but didn't open until the day after I left. It's worth clicking on the pic to see it up close.

This week for Family Home Evening, we went down to Stewart Park to spend time with the Halcombs and their son, Emmanuel. This is what he looked like about half a lifetime ago (for him) when he came to visit us for an hour or so. He always liked my hats and was amazed when everything was quiet in my office, only to see me suddenly emerge. He would watch the door and ask if I was in there. That was clearly a cue line if ever I heard one.

This is Schiller's house.
Who's Schiller?
One of Goethe's best friends.
Oh. ... That says a lot.
Famous German poet who wrote the words to the Ode to Joy, later made famous by Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
Ah. Thanks.

Hyrum's Great-grandma Elzinga made this quilt for us when we got married. We really like it.

And let's close off this brief jaunt close to home with some fall foliage around Ithaca.

So there you have it: Three of the four corners of the US, Germany, and Denmark. That's a fast trip! Time to get some sleep before the jet lag overpowers me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Eat Any Good Books Lately?

The Big Read says that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Mark (in red, strikeout, etc) ones you would never read even if someone paid you.
3) Reprint this list so we can try and track down these people who've read only 6 or less and make them read.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I've read 38 out of 100.

So what do they mean when they say the "top 100 books they've printed"? It's not original works (they didn't publish the Bible first, I'll tell you that!), but there's a decided lack of classical and international material. Nothing Greco/Roman, nothing from India or China that I notice, but they do have a couple Spanish, a couple French, and a large number of Russian ... but no Germans! But it includes the Hitchiker's Guide. I'll admit that's fun stuff, but still ... . It's a Strange list.

And now..... THE BIG RED TOP 100

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen 3 or 4 times
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
half a dozen times or more
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte maybe
4. The Harry Potter Series JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
entire Old Testament 2-3 times, entire New Testament 6-10 times
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte maybe
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy and I wish I hadn't
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare complete, maybe not, but I've read a lot
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien half a dozen times
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger another one I could've skipped, though don't hate it
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell I started it until my wife recommended against it.
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy I read it almost entirely while soaking in the bathtub over the last few months before my mission (no, not one very long bath, you jokers!)
25. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Just pulled it out of storage to work on again
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh .
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky loved it
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll I recently recorded me reading this for Joy
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy maybe
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis several times and we're reading them together again
34. Emma - Jane Austen .

35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
several times
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
several times
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown I'll join Steve on this one.
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving Actually, I'm not sur eif I read this one. But it's familiar
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan .
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens This one is due for a reread
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding I tend to frown on modern, sexed-up remakes
69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72. Dracula - Bram Stoker twice
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens half a dozen times
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry .
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery half a dozen times
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare 3-4 times
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo I read Hunchback first.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hyrum vs. Chanch

Other blog post titles include: "Why I stay up so late at night" and "Episode 6: Return of the Baby Fat"

Time for a hat tip. My old mission companion and golden (aka greenie), Mike Baker, got married and had a baby just before we did. They affectionately nicnamed him: The Chanch. This was him at one month.Quoting from their blog:
for those of you who don't know; that is in reference to the extremely chubby kid who loans Jack Black some stretchy pants; I know-Mike and I fully realise that we might have to pay for counseling later-but look at those cheeks. Can you blame us?
... Sadly, the only language that he is fluent in is wookie. Mike and I have done some frantic perusing of the old episodes in an attempt to communicate with him, but so far all we have really figured out is that most of the time he is saying "Mom I'm starving, I'm starving, I'm starving!"
Regularly, their blog (featured on the right) refers to the Chanch's struggles with life. It's tough being a baby, y'know? Chanch vs. Pears; Chanch vs. Swings; Chanch vs. The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (j/k); and so forth. Hence tonight's blog titles.

Hyrum has had a real struggle to be where he should be. Joy has even more. The blessed lot of fatherhood has been to struggle with them.

Hyrum was born at about the 33rd percentile for weight and the 88th for height. Tall and slim. There was just one problem...

He would NOT eat. He would scream murder and the veins pop out of his head when we offered. This was psychologically shattering.

He lost more than 15% of his weight before we got him home. Regular readers will remember we started feeding him by syringe then. This was not particularly fun, but it was a LOT better than the alternative. By that time he was at the 6th percentile for his weight.

Well, that worked for a while. His weight stabilized and started going up. The docs took us off emergency status as he went back up to the 8-9 percentile.

He continued growing. His ribs disappeared. He started getting a teeny tummy. He got up to 8 pounds! Finally, a pound above his birth weight, after two distraught months. We were very happy.

Until we visited the doctor again and learned he was NOT keeping up with the other kids. He was at ... the 0.96 percentile for weight. And his height had not kept up either: from 88th percentile to 15th!

That's when I started staying up until 2-5 in the morning to work on the second chapter of my dissertation ... and to feed Hyrum. This lets Joy sleep through the night (mostly), and lets him Chunk Up.

This bathtub pic was taken a month ago at 10 pounds and 5th percentile.

Two weeks ago at our doctor's visit, he was 12.5 pounds and 15th percentile. The doc told us we could ease up finally since his weight had caught up with his last measured height. We don't have to wake him for a midnight feeding ... except that if we don't, he wakes us up for a 4am feeding, and so we're still being a little preemptive. We'll test him out again without the midnight feeding this week while I'm in DC.

If he has maintained his previous rate of growth, he should weigh between 13 and 13.5 pounds now. That would be somewhere around the 25th percentile. He's outgrown I think all of his newborn clothes because he's too tall (at 4 mo.) and Joy brought out the rest of his 3-6 and some 6-9 mo. clothes to try on.

I have never been so thankful to see a chubby cheek or a second chin in my life. It means hope. It means growth. It means life.
Of course, a lot still depends on the camera angle. But there is no question that he is a happier, heftier, healthier baby. I cry with gratitude tonight for Joy's sacrifices and efforts, and the multiple doctors it has taken to figure out how in the World to get him eat.

It still takes sacrifices and effort and near-perpetual adjustment. But I'm so thankful for my sweet little baby who I love so dearly and my tough as nails wife who has never given up, no matter how hard it was. Thank you, my Queen. I only wish I could do more. Thank you, God, for seeing us through.

And now it's time to fetch and feed my son before joining my wife in slumber.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hyrum vs. Sleep

Every parent likes watching the baby sleep most of all. I always figured I understood why. ...

Now I know I do.

The late-night Grandma Cam caught these sleepy smiles

Hyrum has never minded sharing his bed with others.

This was an early attempt at thumb sucking when he was a newborn. He chews on his thumb more than he sucks it, and it doesn't provide him much comfort, but he keeps on trying.

I already showed you pictures of Hyrum trying to convince me he isn't tired. Well, he blows bubbles sometimes in his sleep, and the milk crusts on his lips. So when I wake him up for a midnight feeding, this is the set of luscious lips that greet me.

"I would like thank yous for performing this small soivice for me. It shows the proper respect."
-- The GodBaby II: Baby Vito's Revenge
[PS - That shot was actually taken EARLY ON in the chunk-up. An exceptionally ... flattering shot]

Hyrum can fall asleep pretty much anywhere...

The couch is a great place for a nap.

Unless you'd prefer a blanket on the floor....

Here he is, drunk as usual.

Okay, Sandman, come and get me!

The one place we COULDN'T get him to sleep was in his CRIB! By far his favorite place to sleep has been his bouncer. So most nights we stuck his bouncer in the crib so he'd at least get used to the idea.

But then tragedy struck a week or two ago. He has grown so top heavy that he can now tip over in the bouncer and is unable to right himself.

This is freaky. Something had to be done.

Thanks to a gift from Grandma Jule, the Sleep Sheep (it makes various white noise sounds, including his possible favorite: whale songs), we can get him to sleep in his crib.

In fact, the doctor told us we need to be more proactive in making sure he takes his baby naps. So now we insist. He gets 2-3 naps a day, and still sleeps through the night. It's beautiful.

And here he is tonight, not ten minutes ago (with a really good flash):