Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mini-update on the mini-human

I had a regular pre-natal checkup this morning, and all seems to be well. At this stage, such appointments are very brief - weight, blood pressure, urine sample, and a check of the fetal heartbeat with Doppler, then "Any questions?" and if not, I'm on my way. At first, I felt sort of ripped-off - I have to make the trek to the ob/gyn office for less than 10 minutes worth of care, when I'm not sick?? But all those routine things really are important to keep tabs on during pregnancy, and it does provide an opportunity to get information. For example, I had been wondering if it's recommended to get a flu shot during pregnancy, or if it could be risky for the baby. The answer is that it's safe, and definitely recommended.

The doctor asked whether I've felt the baby moving yet, because it's around the time that its movements start to become noticeable. I think I've been feeling it move for the last 2 weeks or so, but it's hard to say for certain. Things feel generally "different" in the lower abdominal region, but there are two distinct sensations that I'm about 80% convinced are fetal movement. One is little brief jerks that feel a lot like when you get a muscle twitch, and are probably kicks. The other is a strange shifting/crawling feeling that's a little bit like butterflies, or a mild version of the feeling you get on a rollercoaster; I figure that might be the baby changing positions or rolling over.

Bittersweetness of autumn

If I had to choose one word to describe what this time of year means to me, the mood of the season, it would be "bittersweet." In many ways, I don't like fall. The diminishing hours of sunlight, the leftover childhood dread of a new school year, the sense of loss when frost kills the last flowers and with them the joys of summer, all combine to make me feel uneasy. By December, I'll be accustomed to the cold and the shorter days, but after 27 autumns I still fight the transition. And yet, I can't separate those things from the season's pleasures: days like yesterday and today when the sunlight is golden-crisp and the temperature is invigorating but comfortable, the stunning contrast of a flame-red maple tree against an intensely blue sky, the sweet smell of fallen leaves. The re-appearance of some of my favorite foods and beverages - tea, hot chocolate, cranberries, soups and stews; the remembered excitement of Halloween and the warm glow of Thanksgiving. Still and all, I think the greatest benefit of fall and winter is that they prevent me from taking spring and summer for granted!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Control of my informations? Oh noes!

I love it when phishers leave tell-tale signs that they're idiots, as per this email message supposedly from PayPal. I highlighted the most obvious bloopers in bold red, but almost every sentence contains some awkward phrasing or mangled grammar. It turns an annoyance - phishing spam - into something that makes me giggle. Maybe I'm just easily amused, but they try so hard to make it sound official. And then they forget to spellcheck.


Dear PayPal Customer,

This email is to inform you, that we had to block your PayPal Account access because we had to upgrade our servers in order to remove online fraud.

Our terms and conditions you agreed to state that your account must always be under your control or those you designate at all times. We have noticed some unusual activity related to our servers that indicates that other parties may have access and, or control of your informations in your account. Please follow this link to confirm your account access information :

Please be aware that until we can verify your identity no further access to your account will be allowed and we will have no other liability for your account or any transactions that may have occurred as a result of your failure to upgrade your account as instructed above.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter .

Sincerely, PayPal Account Departement.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Queenly quote

The "Queen of Clean" Linda Cobb, upon being asked what household duties should be done daily:

There are only two things I do every day: feed the cat, and kiss the King.

A few years back, I borrowed a friend's copy of Linda Cobb's book on housecleaning. I have forgotten most of the advice, but I remember this quote. I can't quite put my finger on why I like it so much, but it makes me smile. Probably because I can picture the interviewer expecting to hear that at the end of each day, the kitchen sink should be spotless, the day's laundry should be folded, and everything should get a good dusting... and the answer defies that image.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Heroin Rocker and the Almost Hitman

One of the perks of working in the City, and commuting via train, is that I get to observe a big slice of human diversity. Between the door of my house and the door of my laboratory, on any given day I will see people from every walk of life - from the crazy homeless guy on the corner of 30th and Market to the investment banker on her way into Center City from the 'burbs - and of every color that human skin can be.

Sometimes, I amuse myself by making split-second assessments of personalities and life stories. This woman with the hard lines around her mouth but a sad look in her eyes is going through a divorce; that bespectacled young man grinning at nothing in particular has just aced his midterm exam in Accounting, and so on. It's not always easy to instantly invent something about those who just look like "ordinary folks," though sometimes the things that pop into my mind surprise me. And on many days, I tune out the whole parade and read a book.

But there are a few people I've seen that make a strong enough impression that I can't help but make up stories. One of them was the Heroin Rocker. Dressed in black leather pants and a black leather jacket, he's tall and sort of rangy, skinnier than he should be. Overall he might be about 45, but the bags under his eyes and the lines on his face make him look older. He has scraggly brown hair just past the shoulders, and looks like he must be on his way to a gig in some scuzzy bar, playing drums or maybe bass for a Black Sabbath cover band. Maybe in his past there were more glamorous venues, and the backstage parties went on all night, but they took their toll and those days are long past.

A character I just saw today, rather incongruous on the university campus, was the Almost Hitman. He had sleek sunglasses, a shaved head, a purposeful expression on his chiseled features, and a suit covering an athletic build. But the picture wasn't quite right; he didn't look entirely like a hitman and it took me a moment to figure out why. Then I realized - the suit was brown, not black. Hitmen must always and only wear black suits, it's one of the rules.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

15 week ultrasound

On Thursday afternoon, my husband and I went to Abington Memorial Hospital's Fetal Diagnostic Center, which is where they do all the high-resolution ultrasounds and amniocentesis and whatever else might be done to make sure that babies are developing properly.

I wasn't quite as nervous this time as I was with the first high-res ultrasound at 11 weeks. That time, I was (I think) outwardly calm, but inwardly biting my nails and squirming. I had a sort of negative association with ultrasounds because with my first pregnancy, I had no signs that I was going to miscarry until I had an ultrasound and learned that all was not well. So when I got pregnant again, I was pessimistic and refused to get my hopes up too much, but that didn't stop me from being very, very jittery about what the ultrasound would show. It was a major relief when the 11-week ultrasound showed that things were fine, but I was still a bit nervous - things can still go very wrong later in the first trimester or even early in the 2nd.

I relaxed when the technician said "There's the baby!" almost as soon as the ultrasound device touched my belly, and it was clearly baby-shaped, and moving. She proceeded to take a series of measurements of just about everything, all the while narrating what she was doing and pointing out what was what. I was amazed at how much can be seen now, and how much the bone structure has developed since last month - you can easily see the ribs and spinal column, arm and leg bones, etc. First she measured the dimensions of the skull, and the brain inside. At this stage, you can clearly see that there are two hemispheres, and there's still some space around them inside the skull. Then she looked at the heart - now evidently a multi-chambered thing although you couldn't easily see all 4 chambers at once. The heart rate is 144 beats per minute, which is normal for a fetus at this stage, and already much slower than the 163 of a month ago. Next she measured the abdomen, and pointed out the stomach and bladder. She looked at the arms and legs, took measurements of the femur and tibia, checked the spine, and used some sort of temperature monitor (I think?) to measure the blood flow through the umbilical cord and the blood circulation within the fetus. We also got a look at the face both in profile and from the front. The frontal view looked spooky because the ultrasound shows both the flesh and the bones under it, so it looked sort of skeletal.

The one thing that caused any concern is that the placenta is "low-lying" which means that its edge is near the cervix. That is a potential problem because if the placenta covers the cervix later in the pregnancy, it tends to bleed, and it makes a c-section mandatory. But fortunately, the placenta generally gets shifted upward as the uterus grows, so for now it's just something to keep an eye on.

All in all, I was very happy with the whole thing. I have another one scheduled in a month, and at that time we should get to find out the gender. I can't say I have any particular "sense" of whether it's a girl or boy, and waiting another entire month to find out seems way too long. On the other hand, knowing the gender answers only one aspect of the question "Just who is this new person?" And that question gets answered little by little over a span of about, I'd say, 20 years.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Crazy moods

One of the things I have found most unsettling about pregnancy so far is mood swings. I was prepared for morning sickness, I expected the tender breasts. But the moods! I had heard that it's like PMS. Ah, no, I wish!

I'll share the most extreme (and therefore most entertaining) example, but I should preface it by saying that most days are nothing like this - I'm usually fine, or just a bit tired and "blah."

One day, I came home from work in an edgy, itchy-trigger-finger mood. It wasn't caused by anything at work; the day had gone pretty smoothly. But there it was. I went around doing the usual routine things; feeding the cats, bringing the mail in from the mailbox, scowling at the pile of dirty dishes that hadn't magically cleaned themselves overnight, and trying to figure out what I could eat for dinner without having to cook. My husband was stuck late at work, and had no idea that luck was actually with him that day.

I went through the mail, and saw an ominously pink envelope from our car insurance company. Sure enough, it was a notice stating that the bill was overdue, and our insurance was scheduled to be terminated at such-and-such date. Many of the household bills are my responsibility to pay, but this particular one was HIS fault.

I went beserk. I stomped around, hyperventilating, and looked for something to break. I wanted the sound of glass shattering, I wanted to smash anything and everything in sight. But the tiny part of me that remained sane said, just loud enough to be heard in the storm, "You don't really want that kind of mess to clean up right now, do you?" So I snatched a box of crackers off of the kitchen table, hurled them on the floor, and stomped on them (yes, just like a toddler having a tantrum). The crunch it made would maybe have been satisfying, but I was aware of how funny it would look to a hypothetical onlooker, and that just made it worse. I've always thought it's a good thing to be able to laugh at yourself, but in this case it was like having a split personality where one was tormenting the other by making fun of their troubles. This was enough to turn the murderous rage into a crying jag, which started off looking a lot like hysterics because I was entirely too worked up to have a nice quiet cry. Finally I tired myself out, and went to sleep. By the next morning, I felt fine except for a slight headache.

Now, of course it probably wasn't all about the pink envelope, or even the hormones. No matter how much you want a child, preparing to be a parent is stressful. Lots of new things to worry about, and any pre-existing worries or issues suddenly loom larger. This is actually a fairly normal process to go through during pregnancy, I know. But much like other pregnancy troubles, it's comforting to know that it's normal, but nonetheless it's rough going sometimes.

There's really nothing surprising about the equation (major life change)+(hormones)=emotional earthquakes. But it's still a bizarre experience to have such disproportionate reactions to minor things.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blue Moon Faery

I'm working on a cross stitch based on Beth Hansen's artwork, "Blue Moon Faery." It is going very slowly, because it's a large piece with approximately one zillion small stitches.

Here's a picture (of the artwork, not of my crafting).

Although it may not be finished in 6 months, which is when our new arrival is due, I'd like to hang it in the nursery. I told my husband I thought she would make an excellent baby-watcher. The conversation that followed made me laugh... he pointed out that traditionally, the fae are not exactly to be trusted with babies. "Well, she is pretty though. She looks nice. And all friendly-looking faeries are good... right?" Much snickering followed. But we reached a compromise: I can hang the fae lady in the nursery as long as we also put a dragon there to keep an eye on her.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Naming

The title of this blog implies a higher level of compsci/math geekery than I actually possess. Truth be told, it's just two of my favorite concepts stuck together, and it could mean any number of things. In my mind, it conjures up vague notions of high-powered computer modelling techniques on the one hand, or some deep inscrutable philosophical insight on the other hand. Something along the lines of... if you look at the big picture of life, it's made up of little details and patterns that repeat, and all the tiny decisions we make every day add up - or vice versa, the big changes also transform the minutiae.

I imagine this blog will be a little like Seinfeld - it's about nothing. Or about anything, really, that pops into my head. It will probably be a dusty, cobwebbed corner of the internet, seldom visited, of little note. And that is fine. Mainly, it's for my own pleasure - a repository for stray thoughts, a recorder of milestones, a soapbox for the occasional rant.