Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras Birthday Cake


So it's Veronica's birthday (Happy Birthday!), and it's Mardi Gras, and I got up too late to make breakfast at home this morning. What does that all mean?

It means 2 plain biscuits from McDonald's for breakfast
1 (big) corner slice of birthday cake--with a rose--after lunch
and pancakes for dinner (in honor of England's tradition of Shrove Tuesday).

Add 'em up and you get one very nasty dietary day. I already feel horrible, and the notion of warm syrup is sending me into anticipatory diabetic shock.

Tonight, however, also represents Alastair's first trip to a restaurant. We're very excited, and probably more than a little bit terrified. Germs, his explosive gas, his wail of discontent, the possibility of disagreeable temperature or lighting conditions, the mere notion of waiting in line, and the fact that I have work to do tonight have tempered my excitement just a bit, but not much. We're goin' places with this boy!

Wish us luck.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Evidently I screwed up the link to Alastair's pictures. It has now been fixed.

He just had his 1-month check-up this morning, and I'm pleased to report that he's doing very well. He's grown to 11 lbs, 1 oz. and 22". His color is good; his body is working well: he's a healthy boy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Alastair is one month old today! Hooray!

It hardly seems like it's been that long, but it's true. He's getting big, he poops a whole lot, and he's my absolute joy.

Happy one-month-birthday, Baby Boy! And happy wishes to a wife who's kept her sanity.


Yesterday, on my drive home, something struck the car.

I was on I-95 northbound through the city, watching the road diligently, when I heard--and felt--something violently strike the front end of the car. The something, which was probably 6" - 8" long, then shot up and to the left. It looked like plastic, but could have been a retread chunk.

I drove the rest of the way home highly self-conscious, worried that the front end of my car was hanging in tatters, and that the engine was somehow damaged (radiator leak or some other such issue), so I took her in slowly and carefully.

When I got home, I walked around to the front of the car and had to actually hunt for the damage (I knew it would be there--the impact was brutal). Then I found it: a 4" tall "Z" chopped into the bumper, license-plate frame, and lower grille. At some points, the gouge is 1/4" deep and seems to have gone completely through the plastic.

The only good news is that the car is so filthy it's not readily noticable, but I was absolutely crestfallen. I moped around at home for over an hour before I even tried to install our...


It arrived yesterday, and after a lot of time spent wondering why I couldn't get things to work (plugging in the phone line killed the DSL because I forgot to use a filter, then the server crashed because the router was freaking out, and then a couple of Tivo calls got interrupted...), we had joined the "tivolution". We haven't used any features yet, but watch out, Academy Awards!

Now we'll be able to put Alastair to bed, get a good night's sleep, and still watch figure-skating, Lost, or anything else that comes on at/after 9pm.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Freakin' weather.

So I was scheduled to play tomorrow. The rally season opener. I've been looking forward to it for a long time, and had convinced others to come and play, too.

The weather has been so perfect this week that Saturday's forecast seems ludicrous: they're calling for snow. Snow. WTF? How is it that we have 3 days of ~70 degrees, followed by one day of snow? How is that fair? And why does that one day have to be the same day as the season opener?

I've spent the whole week prepping the car, going over rally information, getting people excited, and now I have to look like a chump. This makes me very angry. Or at least very disappointed. Or maybe just depressed. I don't know; it's probably a combination of all three.

Weather Gods, I shake my upturned fists at thee, with middle fingers stretched to their utmost limits.

In other news, Amanda and I have a date tonight. Her parents are coming over to watch Alastair for a couple of hours so that we can have some husband-wife time, which is very important when you have a little baby.

We're going to start with a nice food-brick from Chipotle, and then just walk around somewhere. It will be perfect, and though the rally has been cancelled for me, this is the one thing I've been looking forward to all week.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


New exhaust and short shift kit! Woohoo!

Mr. Kimmelshue and I installed my new B&M Short Shifter and MyMINIparts.com Sports exhaust yesterday, and what a difference they make. The shifter dramatically shortens the throw, drops the shift ball a couple of inches, and gets rid of all the mushy feelings of the stock shifter. Shifts are definite, secure, and there is no real difference in weight, even though I'm pulling from closer to the fulcrum.

The exhaust is a much less restrictive system with no resonator, so it's a bit noisy. Very deep, throaty growl with a sublime purr at idle. There's a slight power-drop at low RPM's, but the car takes off like a rocket over 4K RPM. The difference between stock and this system is night & day. My only complaint is a bit of a drone at speed, and I'm going to try and take care of that with a product called Peel & Seal, a roofing material that's said to approximate DynaMat in performance, but at about 1/6 the price.

The absolute best part about the exhaust is that, if you didn't know it, you couldn't easily tell it's aftermarket just by looking at it. And it's quiet enough at idle that I just might surprise someone at a stoplight one day. I need to get out with some denatured alcohol and remove the "MyMini" sticker, but then it will be quite the subtle system, very much in keeping with my desire to keep the car looking stock.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mysterious Notions of Parenthood

When I was growing up, I was allowed to participate in just about any activity in which I showed an interest. I played soccer and guitar, shot bows & arrows, enjoyed swimming, boating, and all the other things that little boys tend to enjoy. Perfectly normal, right?

What baffles me is that today's parents feel an obligation to be involved with all such activities. I had a great childhood, and never once minded coming home and telling my father what I'd done all day. He rarely came to watch a soccer practice, almost never came to see me at camp, and we did not take (that I can recall) any vacations centered around what I wanted to do.

That doesn't mean my father was ego-centric: he simply had his own life. We went to Disney World, but as part of a larger vacation that involved a few days spent with his long-lost friends in Florida. I got most of my swimming, shooting, and ribaldry out at various camps, whether they were associated with the Boy Scouts, religious camps, or just Summer day camps.

I don't think he felt compelled to intrude on my play time. Yes, he and I went and kicked a ball around, and we threw the frisbee, and we swam together, and had a great time. But he respected my need to interact with other children, and in fact pushed me to have such interactions.

This method of parenthood is all but lost. I've had countless people tell me how much of my free time is going to be lost to my child's activities. Why? Did today's parents so utterly fail in their own childhood that they feel compelled to relive it? Do they feel that their children will be stunted and retarded if they're not forced into supervised competition? Do they fear they'll miss that one golden moment when Little Johnny makes his one & only goal? Waah: get over yourselves.

I got a great sense of pride from having something to come home and brag about. If my dad had seen me make the big goal, it would have ceased to be my accomplishment and become his. And that's what I see in my co-workers: they take the credit for their children's accomplishments, simply because they were there to observe them. What a crock!

I want my child to grow up with a feeling of self-empowerment. You want to go to soccer practice? Get a ride or ride your bike! You want to go swimming over the Summer? Fine, we'll take weekend trips to the beach, or send you to camp, but we're not going to take weeks on end to travel the country in search of Alastair's secret ingredient to happiness.

He should grow up learning what adults enjoy: a sense of culture and belonging in something larger than a soccer team. The world will not revolve around him as an adult, and the sooner he figures out how to make himself happy, the sooner he can figure out how to be successful as a human being.

Friday, February 10, 2006

How honest are we in our blogs?

I think I've commented on this before, but I've begun to realize that, as more and more people start reading this diatribe, I have to be more and more careful about what I say. Say, for instance, Dean Mongeon hops on over the weekend. Now I can't say anything about mis-management of e-mail systems at the workplace (not that there is any problem, it's a hypothetical).

The problem, in a nutshell, is that the more we open ourselves up, the more we increase our vulnerability.

I've made no bones about my conservative tendencies, and yet several of my more liberal-minded friends are now reading. Should I utterly avoid comment on political issues, lest I silently undermine a friendship?

What if the biggest thing on my mind is a personal problem with a friend? Aren't we sort of keeping these blogs as journals? Pages we can look back on in future years and see what was important to us at the time?

So I'm reduced to talking about how wonderful Alastair is (and he is; don't get me wrong) and what I'm doing to the car. And there this whole blog thing was supposed to be liberating. Sheesh.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sleep, Blessed Sleep

For the past two nights, Alastair has been letting us sleep. Alleluia! It seems that when he first came home, he hated being swaddled. He would squirm and wiggle until his arms came out, then start screaming bloody-murder.

Then, on Tuesday, following the advice of two books on baby-sleep, we tried again. He loved it, and allowed us to get 6 hours of almost uninterrupted sleep. Last night, we got 7 hours. He never cried once (that I heard), and Amanda had to wake me up to help change him (it turns out I swaddle tighter, so she likes me to rewrap him).

This morning I woke up refreshed and happy. Ahh, sleep.

Then I came to work. Dang.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Emergency Maintenance

Yesterday, after two weeks being a passenger, Amanda was ready to take her first solo trip out of the house. She was to drive to a bridal store for a fitting for a friend's wedding at 4pm, and when she left the house at 3:45, I figured I'd see her in a couple of hours. I wasn't prepared to see her in a couple of minutes, clearly upset.

It seems her car battery was dead. This just a week or so after I changed her turn signals, which made me the prime suspect. We tried jumping, but neither of us could find the instructions, and I didn't realize that my car needed to be running to fuel her battery.

Anyway, that didn't work; I had to hastily stuff Alastair into his car seat, get Amanda into my car, and run her to the store. After dropping her off, I raced to Sears, where everybody under the Sun wanted to talk about my MINI, bought a battery and a battery-charger, and raced home to do the swap.

I've never replaced anything so fast, and had the car ready before Amanda was due to be picked up. I was so proud, and fully expected to surprise her in her own car. Just at the apex of my pride, she called to say that her friend was bringing her home. I was so disappointed.

Oh, well. Now I can say I've changed a battery, too.


Today was my first day back at work. Nothing much to speak of, except that I felt like a jukebox, with only one tune to play: the "How do you like being a new dad" tune. Yep. I think I had the exact same conversation at least 12 times. Perhaps I'll publish the lyrics of that tune, so that people won't have to ask.

It's not that I mind repeating myself. I don't get tired of talking about the new experiences, but I'm an efficient person by nature, and it pains me to be repetitive. If I could gather all the people at work into a room and have a 20 minute Q&A session, I'd be much happier than answering the "Is he sleeping at night" question 20 times. The answer never changes, so why should it be repeated? In fact, the question never changes, either. Collaborate, people!


I finally ordered an exhaust and short-shift kit today. I ordered them from a really cool guy in Florida. Check his site out and support him if you can: www.myminiparts.com. They're making their own in-house exhaust, weighing in at a scant 21 lbs and producing the same power gains as all the big players. The tone is said to be sporty, if a bit loud, but not "rice" at all.

The shifter is a B&M, and Pete (the owner?) actually tried to talk me out of buying it. He's of the opinion that an SSK is not a good choice in a Cooper, although he admits that the shift box feels like mush. Evidently he thinks that the B&M will make the shifting very difficult. We'll see, but I found the guy to be super nice and even willing to undermine his own sales to keep a customer happy. I miss that about modern dealings.

While I was in the spending mood, I ordered a new shift-knob and a rear-window sun shade. Now Alastair will be thoroughly protected from the Sun while he's in the back seat.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I'm just so damned clever...

Alastair has not had many restful nights. I think he's had two, and they both came in the middle of this past week. We were hopeful that those two nights signaled a change in his body-clock, and that he might be acclimating himself to sleeping at night.

And then came Thursday night.

It seems that the only thing that can send young A to slumberland is a ride on Daddy's chest. Sometimes he will drift off if he's on his back (and we're happier for it, as it slightly reduces the SIDS chances), but on Thursday he absolutely had to be on his tummy. Multiple attempts to take him off my chest, or even to roll him over, were met with unrelenting wails. (The chest sleeping does not fit with Daddy's back-health, which has taken a beating over the last week. When he's been there for more than an hour, I get a deep and brutal pain that radiates down from my mid-back, and generally lasts about 20 hours.) And so it was that Alastair slept -- face down -- on my chest from midnight until 4am, and then from 7:30am to 9:30am. 6 hours. Friday was hell.

So I got to thinking about how crafty I was last week with my late-night mocha. I figured I'd stay up again with my wailing boy until his usual 4am drop-off, then crawl into bed beaming a big heroic grin. Alastair had other ideas. In fact, he slept from midnight until 3:15am, and over half of that time was spent in his despised bassinet. Figuring I was in the clear (and getting a bit drowsy), I crawled into bed. 5 minutes later, the wailing started.

OK, fine, maybe he's hungry...? Amanda roused herself, fed him, I changed him, and we put him back to bed, whereupon he began snorting and hacking and having all sorts of trouble breathing.

Long story short, he didn't let me sleep until about 6:30 this morning. Fun. And I go back to work on Monday.