Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spam or confused people?

In the past two months, I've gotten three rather weird e-mails. Or at least, they're weird to me because they're from people I don't know about topics that I know nothing about. One was a confirmation of my application to a Master's degree program at a university in England, another was the head of a charity talking about a diamond ring I had agreed to donate, and today, someone from the navy asking for clarification on something so technical I had not a clue what he was talking about.

Now I know my name isn't unique. And I was lucky enough to get in on Gmail early enough that my username is just my name, with no numbers after it, so if someone wanted to e-mail someone with my name and forgot to add whatever modifiers they had to put on their e-mail address, they would get me instead. Last year, for instance, I got several e-mails meant for someone with my name who lives in New Zealand (the most annoying of which was an automated party invitation, which meant I kept getting automatically e-mailed everytime someone responded, even after I politely told them they had the wrong person).

It just feels weird to get so many of these in so short of a time. I'm pretty sure the one from the university was legitimate, because I looked up the person who sent the e-mail and they were on the university website. And I'm inclined to think the one today was also legitimate because the subject was so technical that I can't possibly see how they could lead into asking me for money.

But the "agreed to donate a diamond ring" e-mail feels suspicious. If it's spam or a scam, I don't know what they would hope to accomplish from it because I don't have a diamond ring, never promised one to anyone and can't be guilted in to giving anyone money in lieu of my nonexistent diamond ring. But then, you would never think people would travel to Nigeria in search of a nonexistent fortune either. Does this sound like a scam anyone's heard of?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For knitters and non-knitters alike

If you're not reading the unbelievably cute and funny online comic Little Dee, may I take a moment to recommend it?

Last week's sequence was of particular interest to knitters and other yarn-types. It was all funny, but this was my favorite:

What goes around comes around

Particularly when it's the flu.

K is mostly better, although I was quite glad that they put a pullup on her at daycare yesterday when I took it off and discovered it was excessively grody. For all my years of cloth diapering, I have to admit that very occasionally you get the sort of diaper where it's very nice to just be able to toss it in the trash, and very very nice not to have to deal with cleaning up dirty underwear and pants instead.

This, of course, was the cue for B and I to wake up sick yesterday. Thank goodness K was well enough to get shipped of to daycare so we could sleep all day. Today, we're still tired but recovering.

We also seem to be able to eat again, which is a relief. The very few things I ate yesterday came back up, just in time for me to go to a prenatal visit today and get scolded about my weight gain. As in, I should try it sometime.

It's an odd feeling, being told I absolutely have to gain weight, especially since I spent the first nine months of last year fighting a creeping weight gain. But I feel just as powerless to make my weight go where I want it to go as I did then. There was the 16 weeks of morning sickness, extended by one major and two minor bouts of stomach flu (twice, B came home from work complaining of a "funny tummy," which would then result in another two days of throwing up for me after I had thought the worst was over). At my last appointment, I had finally managed to gain three pounds, bringing my pregnancy weight gain to -12. But this time, I hadn't gained an ounce, and I'm not sure that one day of not eating can account for that. I'm really truly trying to eat as much as I can and I'm certainly not staying away from fattening foods. I guess I need to get back to my nightly large mug of chai or hot chocolate and maybe switch to whole milk instead of 2 percent. And maybe add a bowl of ice cream.

This wasn't remotely a problem last time, when I gained 35 pounds and had my ob vocally worried about gestational diabetes when I gained a shocking 8 pounds in four weeks. *eyeroll*

I would be more worried if four weeks ago Wulfrith hadn't been measuring ahead at the last ultrasound and estimated at weighing a pound at only 19 weeks. He's also increasingly vigorous (with a devilish sort of aim for kicking a tiny foot directly into bladder) and my uterus is growing up in my abdomen appropriately. True, I didn't have to give up my pre-pregnancy pants until last week at the beginning of 22 weeks, but at least I finally did. Chances are good that Wulfrith is feasting happily on my fat stores and I'm taking my vitamins, so I'm not truly worried. But I'd like to meet the woman who can be truly zen in the face of things not going according to textbook during pregnancy.

This all contrasts to several conversations I've had recently, which all center around people being amazed that I'm five months pregnant and don't look pregnant at all. And I'm almost always congratulated for this, as if it were something I had any control over, or more to the point, would want. Part of it is being tall and long-torsoed, part of it just seems to the way I carry babies, and a lot of it has been spending 2/3 of this pregnancy unable to eat. But if I were to go by these conversations, not gaining weight is a good and admirable thing. I know that our culture is so screwed up about weight that people who've lost weight because of serious illnesses often get complimented on their weight. But are we so screwed up that not gaining weight when your pregnant, a time when it's important not only to your health but very much to the health of another person it's still seen as good?

I don't see the charm in being complimented for something that's causing me a fair amount of stress. Maybe the next person who admires how little I'm showing would like to take my place at my next prenatal appointment and let the nursing student worry them over their miniscule fundal height.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Poor K has been throwing up for two out of the last four days. She threw up on Thursday night, seemed absolutely fine on Friday if perhaps a little low on appetite, then Saturday morning demanded an egg for breakfast and promptly returned it. Today has been puke free but not symptom free, if you get my gist.

Poor puny baby. On the plus side, she has now mastered the technique of throwing up into a receptacle instead of all over her bed/clothes/parents/cats. Mostly.

I hadn't planned on watching the Oscars this year. I've seen maybe two of the movies and the host wasn't a particular draw. But I decided to tune in for a few minutes and managed to get sucked in by Hugh Jackman singing and dancing. I have to admit, as much as I've enjoyed some of the various comedians who've hosted the years, someone who can sing and dance and do the sort of overblown spectacle that suits Oscar so well was a good choice.

The only movie we've actually seen recently that definitely won't be seeing an Oscar any time soon was Inkheart. I read the book several years ago and wish a bit that I had had the opportunity to at least skim it again before we saw the movie. I know the movie deviated from the book and I don't think the choices they made were inappropriate, but trying to remember how it deviated kept niggling at me the entire time. Anyway, it was a decent movie with good special effects and cute animals that weren't entirely obnoxious. I admit, I've had a bit of a thing for Brendan Fraser since The Mummy. He has such an ability to turn mediocre movies into somewhat enjoyable movies (although I refuse to test this theory out on Encino Man, no matter how cute Brendan Fraser is). For instance, we watched Journey to the Center of the Earth a couple months ago, and it was, well, pretty awful actually. But Brendan Fraser made it enjoyable enough for me to recommend it to my brother.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Breathless anticipation

It's very hard to be three years old sometimes, to have the ability to anticipate things but not have a real sense of time yet.

I made two mistakes when putting K to bed the other night. The first was to bring up the trip to visit my mother she and I are taking sometime in the next six weeks (place tickets haven't been bought yet, so the exact timing is still to be determined). The second was when K brought up the princess dress like the one a preschool classmate has that she desperately wants, I didn't put her off with something vague but instead suggested that her grandmother might buy it for her birthday.

The next morning, I went into her room to discover a duffel bag out on the floor with several shirts inside, clearly packed for our imminent trip. And the day was pretty much evenly divided between asking if it was her birthday and asking when we were going to the airport. It's very hard to deal with a preschooler who has no real concept of months yet. The best we can do for the moment is get across "Not now."

For the trip, we'll probably make up a calendar where we can cross off the days, and hopefully that will give her something more concrete to see how the time will pass. Her birthday, over four months from now, seems a bit far away for that tactic. I had actually been planning to start making her some princess dresses in the not too distant future but haven't had the time to sit down and sew, so I bought a cheap dress today and have offered it up as a potty training bribe, in exchange for dry pants for the rest of the week. We shall see how successful that tactic actually is. Bribery has never once been an effective technique for us because, heh, K isn't very good with delayed gratification. She didn't want one sticker on the sticker chart, she wanted to be able to artistically arrange multiple stickers on the page without being constrained by little boxes. It only managed to turn every potty session into a completely different power struggle than the typical one.

I'm rather thankful that the baby is still abstract enough in her mind that having to wait until June isn't too hard on her. Finding out that it's a baby brother and getting to see better pictures definitely caused her to have a big leap forward in interest, but my tactic of buying her a doll to be a practice baby brother managed to head off any disappointed about the baby not appearing right away (I had wanted to get an anatomically correct doll, but she insisted on a pink one. However, according to her it's still a boy doll, it's just a baby brother that wears pink. Way to fight gender roles, my dear). But all of her play lately has shifted from mommies and babies to big sisters and little brothers, and she's suddenly wanted to have our books on where babies come from read to her a lot. It's clearly processing through her busy little brain, but I'm just as glad that it's not real enough for her yet for her to start asking when her little brother is arriving every five minutes too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


As I listened to NPR this evening while picking K up from daycare and B from work, I became progressively more aware that every single thing I heard was making me feel more stressed until my forehead began to feel like it was being squeezed in a vice. As the evening has gone on, I've begun to realize that it's not so much that the feeling isn't going away as it's just a slightly worse version of what I've been feeling for quite a while.

Part of it I know is a combination of pregnancy hormones and February. The useful approach would probably be vitamin D, exercise and staying away from the various internet discussions I can't seem to stay away from that cause a stabbing pain behind my eyes every time I read a new comment. What I feel like doing is curling up on the couch and ingesting many carbohydrates. Hopefully I can find a compromise in there somewhere.

Part of it is that we've realized that we can't go to Acen this year. Driving out would take a minimum of six vacation days for B, and he only gets 10 a year. He used to be able to significantly augment that by working Sundays, but thanks to the budget cuts, there is now only one public library in Philadelphia that is open on Sundays. If we weren't having a baby, we would probably go anyway and make it our summer vacation. But we are, and he only gets five days of paid paternity leave. That could conceivably be used up almost entirely while I'm in the hospital if I have a c-section, so we really need to hoard vacation days for when the baby comes. So no Acen, and it will likely be quite a long time before we see some of the friends we see at Acen again.

Part of it is the state of the world in general. I know so many people right now struggling with lost jobs or jobs that are in danger. The general stress level as I do my daily internet level is enough to give you contact high blood pressure.

And then there's our own financial and job worries. The mayor has asked all city departments to prepare proposals for cuts of 10, 20 and 30 percent. B would probably survive 10 percent, but almost certainly wouldn't survive 30. And even if he keeps his job, his contract is up at the end of June, meaning we have some highly contentious contract negotiations ahead of us with a good chance of strike. I would really like to know that I can quit one of my jobs without worry after the baby comes, but as things stand at the moment, I'm going to have to wait as long as humanly possible to make a decision, and possibly have to go back to work three weeks postpartum.

You know, there's been a lot about this job and living here that we haven't liked. But the one saving grace was supposed to be that B's job was secure, dammit.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Astonishing revelations

It's beginning to seem like every pregnancy, I have a moment where I experience the blinding realization that I'm pregnant. Oh really, Captain Obvious? you might say. Have you been talking about anything else for the past three months?

But the thing is that despite the inconveniences of morning sickness and first trimester exhaustion, my life doesn't change much when I'm pregnant, at least not for quite a while. I don't drink alcohol and don't eat most of the forbidden foods. The cat boxes have been 's job all along. I don't have a huge stomach getting in my way or making me move differently. But eventually, a few months in, I finally come up against the fact that I'm pregnant and therefore can't do things the way I used to.

Last time it was at 27 weeks, on the day when I first started experiencing the joy of pubic bone pain. We had gone to Sears to buy a garage door opener and after buying it, left me with it while he went to get the car. I was looking at the box and thinking of picking it up and moving it, when it occurred to me that I was six months pregnant. And therefore perhaps I shouldn't attempt to pick up the big heavy box by myself. My brilliance, it dazzles sometimes.

This time, it's hitting me a bit earlier. I've been caught in a mental tug of war over my work schedule lately. I really want to start going to church more, which means I need to schedule fewer Sundays. But that means working more Fridays, which I'm starting to hate because I have to get up early and work a full day at the library, then go home and work another four hours. Last week, I treated myself to a sick day from the online job so I would be able to go home from work and be done, and oh, it was heavenly. This week, I was regretting that a bit because I'm actually sick, but it would start to look rather suspicious if I started taking serial sick days right before every weekend. I was thinking about this last night, dreading the thought of going to work today, when I realized, Hello, you're pregnant. Maybe it's a bit much to expect myself to be able to work 14 hour days. And the fact that I'm dreading the weekends and feeling like they're slowly killing me is probably a good sign that perhaps my body, busily engaged in growing an entire human being, has enough on its plate without being abused further.

Apparently pregnant women need extra rest. Shocking, no?

In any case, I've decided to try and minimize my Friday shifts, even if that means working more Sundays (Saturdays are problematic given that works some Saturdays as well). I'm also going to make a bigger effort to get more work done during the day, since I've fallen in the bad habit of using the day when K is at daycare to do chores and run errands, and then doing my actual work at night. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this, except for when I run up against a day where I can't sleep in. So a bigger effort to be diurnal on Thursdays will help as well.

I've been thinking a lot about how next year is going to go in terms of work and child-wrangling. I've more or less come to the conclusion that I'm going to give up the online job (although I'm holding off on saying anything about that because 's contract is up at the end of June and given the budget issues, the negotiations for the new contract are not going to be amicable, to say the least). I should check to make sure, but I'm fairly certain that because I was hired as a contractor, the only time off I'll get is the three weeks of unpaid time they allow per year. I can't put a three week old baby in daycare, and my experience of attempting to work and take care of a newborn last time is that while some people may be able to do both well, I'm not one of them. It won't be a problem to get time off from the library, so I'll keep that job, which will get me out of the house and talking to adults but still have the benefit of time at home with the baby.

I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from the public preschool we applied and got waitlisted for last year, saying that all I had to do to get considered for this year is fill out a short update form. Since age is given first priority, it shouldn't be a problem to get K in this time, and I'm so happy not to have to fill out another gigantic, byzantine government form (especially given that it's tax season). I had been mildly panicking over what to do with K this summer, given that we can't afford her daycare if I'm not working and when I have a newborn is when I'll want her out of my hair the most, when I discovered that the city rec center closest to us has a summer day camp for children 4-10, which K will be just in time. Every day from 9-2, incredibly cheap - my dream come true.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Work and play


- High school students in Philadelphia are required to put in a certain number of community service hours each year, so the library has started attracting teenagers eager for boring work in a clean and dry environment like... erm, animals to an attractive thing. We have three so far, diligently demolishing our backload of projects to get to some day. They've been very useful, not merely by doing a lot of grunt work, but because to have things for them to do, I need to be organized enough to do a lot of the things that had been stacking up so I have things ready for them to do. By the time they're done, they'll have gone through about three years' worth of things we had been putting off because they involved a lot of time-consuming tedious labor. Why, our card catalog may even bear a passing resemblance to what's on the shelf once they get done with the inventory project. Imagine!

- It's actually incredibly useful that we have innocent teenagers to abuse do an inventory project because we recently received the fabled, oft-mentioned in yearning tones but never seen museum and library software! And after a few Keystone Kops moments involving not being able to find the administrator's password to our computer, we're even ready to install it. This means that we are about to start on the process of putting our catalog on the computer! Oh my, I've been looking forward to this. Card catalogs may seem all nostalgic and romantic, but that's before you have to spend any amount of time maintaining one. If you want to make a change to a record on the computer, it takes about five seconds. The same change for a card catalog involves digging out all of the cards associated with the book (every book has a minimum of three), retyping them and then refiling them. And just imagine how the workload scales up if you want to make changes to a bunch of books, like when I pulled a couple hundred books out of adult fiction to create a science fiction section last year. It would have taken most of the rest of the year to note the change on all of those cards (well, in a larger library it would take the better part of a week, but we have collectively 18 hours of librarian time a week with normally no other help), so with the inventory project and computerization, I'm finally getting the opportunity to make the changes in a fashion that won't take me the next six months to accomplish.

- We had THREE HOUR Friends meeting the other week, mostly thanks to the insane treasurer (no, really - she wants the Park Commission to hand over the trust fund that pays for the museum to her. This is like a PTA not only wanting to take over the school, but take over collecting property taxes as well). Although to be fair, plenty of time was wasted by the people who couldn't understand why we wanted to order new brochures just because we're about to run out of our current supply. Is there a particular circle of Hell that involves particularly pointless and nitpicky committee meetings?


We've been watching several new tv shows lately:

Slings and Arrows: This is a Canadian tv show about a theatre company, focusing on a Shakespeare play each season. It's hysterically funny, especially if you have theatre experience. Fair warning: one of the central aspects of the show requires a character's death, so the first two episodes are a bit down. After that it picks up quite a bit and the second season was just wonderful. There's only one more season available from Netflix and I'm not sure what we'll do after we've watched all of this, except perhaps sit around and look melancholy.

Avatar: the Last Airbender: An anime style series done by Nickelodeon, which we are enjoying immensely so far. I have to give Nick credit for doing a very creditable faux-anime which is hard to distinguish from the kind made in Japan.

Under the category "Classics of Anime," we've been rewatching Lupin the 3rd and are about to embark on Ranma 1/2. I've only watched a few episodes of it several years ago, and it doesn't seem right to call myself an anime fan without having watched a decent amount of it.