Ye Olde Archive Archived Posts: 2004-2009

31Dec/10Off

Best of 2010 – Books

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek LandyOne of my favorite things about the end of the year is the "best of" lists - best books of the year, best movies, best web sites and best services. So here are a couple lists of some of my favorite things that I read, watched, saw, or did in 2010.

Top Five Favorite Books of 2010
2010 was a pretty good reading year for me. I started listening to e-audiobooks, and found myself wishing that my commute was longer. On top of that, I read a number of books on, first, my iPod touch (a device I got for work) and then my iPhone 3G (my unlocked, jailbroken, personal device). The books I enjoyed were not necessarily books that came out in 2010, but books I read (or listened to) in 2010 that were outstanding.

1. Skulduggery Pleasant (series) by Derek Landy - Magic, mystery, and a dry sense of humor (these books had me laughing out loud more often than anything else I've read in memory). I listened to books 1-3 on audiobook, which I highly recommend as they are very nearly perfect. Book 4-5 aren't out in the States, yet, so if you want them you'll have to get them like I did - using questionable techniques to download them as e-books.

2. Bloody Jack (series) by L.A. Meyer - Adventure on the high seas as a London orphan cons herself onto a British Naval ship by masquerading as a boy. Again, the audiobooks are perfection - reading the books themselves is fine, but not the same experience.

3. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - Again, an excellent audiobook - I listened to most of this and then got impatient and finished it off by reading it on my iPod touch. My first exposure to Cory Doctorow, which was thoroughly enjoyable. I tried to follow-up by reading "For the Win" which I didn't care for half as much. Too scattered.

4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - Another fantastic audiobook that is also perfectly readable in print. Abby also really enjoyed this book, so it gets top marks from both of us as does its sequel, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag. The audiobooks for both are absolutely delicious.

5. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest - This is kind of an honorable mention, because it's set in a post-apocalyptic Seattle and is by a local author. Also, it has both airships, and zombies, so it's hard to go wrong, really. A very readable book, and an enjoyable one, even if it didn't wow me. Steampunk, as a book genre, made a big showing in 2010, and if you're unfamiliar with it then this is a very accessible entry point.

Honorable mentions - these are some of my favorite books of all time, I just happened to read them prior to this year:

Most of my favorite books of 2010 were discovered thanks to other people recommending them. I hope that these, in turn, will serve as recommendations to some of you, and that you'll enjoy them. In the meantime, let me know in the comments, what were some of your favorite books that you read in 2010?

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29Dec/10Off

How Things Fall Apart

Sleep comes in short intervals. By the time we wake, we've no idea how much sleep we've actually gotten. It becomes clear in the first couple hours of being awake, though, whether or not we've had enough and then, of course, it's too late to do anything about it.

We begin each day with the best intentions: to clean the house, to rake the leaves in the yard, to walk the dog, to find time to hang out together. And then we spend the day feeding the baby, and walking around with the baby, and cuddling the baby, cleaning the baby, and changing diapers and making bottles and the days become filled with baby minutiae.

Still, the baby is breathtakingly beautiful. Every noise he makes can break your heart. Every movement seems, somehow, to be a small miracle. When he sleeps, his entire body goes limp, and we drape him over us like a tiny blanket. Awake, his dark eyes scan the room and he is completely alert. Having spent hours analyzing our book shelves (hopefully our book collections have passed judgment), he has taken to focusing more on us, our faces, studying us. Sometimes he will start crying shortly thereafter, which seems a bit critical, if you ask me.

So yeah, I may miss sleep. But I wouldn't trade it.

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11Dec/10Off

Photographic Evidence

A handful of photos from the first week.

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10Dec/10Off

A Birth Story, Part 2

Zephyr Dawn, on his birthday

Happy birthday, baby Zephyr

Continued from A Birth Story, Part 1

Once our midwife, Constance, arrived, things got a little crazy. Not scary crazy, just crazy busy. I had already dropped the dogs off at their grandparent's (thank goodness), but we still had one pregnant lady, one midwife, two pregnant lady's best friends, one pregnant lady's ten-year-old, and me, the pregnant lady's husband. I have to say that of all of us, I was the most cool, calm, and collected. But then my job was pretty simple: say soothing things and keep my wife from collapsing during her contractions.

We had started filling up the birth tub pretty much as soon as we could, but since it held a bajillion gallons and needed to be filled to a certain point before you could turn on the heater, and since it needed to be a pretty precise 100 degrees, we were still working on getting it filled and to temperature even as things got progressively more intense. By 10:30 or so we had emptied about three hot water heater's into the things, along with countless gallons of boiled water, and we were only about halfway to where we needed to be. Luckily we were also well above our desired temperature, so we started filling with a mix of hot and cold water (as available) to bring the water level up higher.

I've never actually been at a live birth before (save my own, which hardly counts), but it was obvious to me that this one was moving pretty fast, and that, like many intense experiences, that there wasn't really time to think about things as they were happening. There was only time to do. I had lovingly prepared and set up a nice selection of birth music on our spare iPod connected to the stereo downstairs, and even though Deva Premal was playing, I doubt my wife could hear it. She was, after all, pretty much making her own music at this point, which alternated between some deep, native chanting, and the sound that Chunk makes in The Goonies when he's relating the story of throwing up in the movie theater.

We had just gotten the birth tub to a reasonable level around 11:00 am when the wife's water broke. Thankfully the midwife had been prepared for and even expecting this, since we'd removed the wife's pants at this point, and thrown some towels down on the floor just moments before. There was no gunshot-like-sound, as I guess there had been when Russell was born ten years ago; what there was was a sudden gush, very much like a water balloon had suddenly been popped (which seems like a reasonable comparison). With this sure sign of progress, we helped the wife finish getting undressed, and I stripped down to my skivvies, and both the wife and I got into the birth tub.

It's pretty easy to support someone when they're standing in front of you and leaning against you with their arms around your neck. It's more difficult to support someone when they're on their knees in a birth tub and leaning against the side. So mostly I hung out on the side at this point, providing some support and more comfort and encouragement, and things moved even faster than they had before. It seemed like everyone besides the wife, the midwife, and I were on water duty at this point, filling the tub with both boiling, and cold, and then just cold water, trying to get the water level high enough that the wife didn't have to kneel down too far to be properly submerged, and trying to get the temperature down from a roaring 101.5 degrees to a more reasonable 100 degrees. It seemed quite comfortable to me, but evidently babies care quite a bit about these things.

The sounds at this point had moved away from chanting and more towards The Goonies, which was unpleasant but at least seemed to be productive. The midwife told the wife that we were having a baby, which I think the wife took as a general sort of, that baby is going to come out eventually sort of encouragement, but which actually meant that the baby was really actually on its way out any minute now. I don't think the wife believed it, at least not until she had pushed the head out not 10 minutes later. With that major hurdle overcome, I felt somewhat reassured that the rest would be smooth sailing. But then again, I wasn't doing any of the hard work.

The next 10 minutes were filled with a lot of crying, plenty of swearing, some good solid breathing, moaning, chanting, humming, and a communal sense of hard work. Oh yes, and the birth tub was still getting its final touches in terms of amount and temperature of water inside it. I would say that when the baby came out it was somewhat anticlimactic. I mean, there was no thunder, the heavens didn't open up, angels didn't trumpet, and I knew that the hard work wasn't even over yet. There was, however, a baby, out in the world, wrapped a couple times in its own cord, and not even half as ugly as I thought it would be. It was even pretty cute, which seems like an accomplishment right out of the womb. We got the cord situation worked out, and I was happy enough to let the midwife do the clamping and the cutting, and then I got to hold the baby in the water while the midwife (and her assistants who had also arrived at this point) got sorted. Everything had happened so quickly that she had ill time to prepare, but she seemed to be on top of everything, regardless.

It seemed like a very long time that I held the very, very, very brand new baby, there in the water. It was probably only 60 seconds or so, in reality. The baby was a little blue, so they took it up to the bed to provide some oxygen, and the wife and I got down to the business of birthing a placenta, a fairly important though at this point annoying detail we had yet to take care of. Thankfully we get to lean back for this part (I was getting sore from being on my knees, and I imagine the wife was too), and I got to sit behind her as she leaned back against me, and together we got the placenta out in just another 10 minutes or so. A very impatient 10 minutes, to be sure, especially for the wife, who had not yet had the chance to hold the baby. During this time they did their initial Apgar test, which wasn't great, and gave the baby some oxygen, and then let Russell hold the baby up on the bed. We got to hear the baby cry a couple times, which was reassuring. The second Apgar test, 5 minutes out, was much better, the only downside being the babies color.

After we had finished with the placenta, which is even more like watching an alien being born than when the baby came out, we relaxed for a minute or two and then got out of the birth tub. The wife stood up and very nearly passed out, but steadied herself within a few seconds, and we took it slow, toweled her off, and both got out of the tub. She went to the bed to rest and (finally) to hold the baby, and I went to towel myself off and change clothes. After I changed, I got on the bed with the wife and we looked at our beautiful baby. He really was beautiful at that point, too, not in the least bit ugly, which was surprising. I swear I'm not even being biased. Of course, while he was sitting there being beautiful he also had a massive shit, we I guess he'd been holding for some time, so good for him for waiting.

Had we weighed him before the giant poo, he probably would have topped 8 pounds. I'm not even joking. As it was, after a massive clean up effort, and I changed clothes, again, he weighed in at 7lb 7oz, which seemed not only respectable but also numerologically fortuitous. We spent the next hour or so touching the baby, and cooing, and wondering at how handsome he was, and hoping he didn't shit on us again, and wishing the birth tub would be drained already because now that the birth was over the bedroom we were in felt like a giant sauna and was not entirely pleasant. Thankfully, during that hour, our busybody friends and helpers did laundry, and emptied and removed the birth tub, and cleaned things, and got us stuff, and checked on the baby, and we got a little loopy as the adrenaline wore off and we realized what we had done.

We had a baby, and, beautiful though he was, I looked at the wife and said, "Why did we decide this was a good idea, again?"And she smiled, and nodded, and we both understood that having a baby was pretty much the craziest thing one could ever decide to do, even if he was the most lovely baby in the known universe, but that we couldn't take it back now and, chances are, we wouldn't even if we could.

In the end, the serious bit of labor lasted around 2 and 1/2 hours, started at about 9:00 am. At 11:22 am, our baby boy, Zephyr Dawn Ahniwa Ferrari, was born, at a healthy 7lb 7oz (less a good 8oz of poo) and a respectable 19 1/2 inches. He's healthy, and happy, and remarkably beautiful (in case I hadn't mentioned that), and we couldn't be more in love.

Happy birthday, little Zephyr. We're very much looking forward to getting to know you.

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8Dec/10Off

A Birth Story, Part 1

NYC - MoMA: Joan Miró's The Birth of the World, courtesy of flickr.com user -- wallyg --By Saturday, everything was in place.

Friday night I had driven with my dad up to Bremerton to look at a car; we had sold the Scion on Tuesday and after just a few days I was already done with driving the rusty old Ford truck around. Friday night is a crappy time to buy a car, especially when your wife may go into labor at any moment, but there you are. Much better to have it done before labor than to try and find time to do it after.

So I bought the car, a 1994 Honda Accord EX Wagon, and it was a pleasant drive home on a clear night, and after that, we were in business. Now that we had a family car, we were ready to go. We were more than a week "past due" at this point, but the baby was healthy and there was still room and fluid for it to hang out in, so past due is really just academic. We were following our own schedule and it was right on track.

The wife woke me up just before 8:00 am on Saturday morning by saying, "I made potatoes and sausage. You should get up and eat them while you can because I think we're going to have a baby today."

I replied with an eloquent grunt and spent a good five minutes weighing my choices: be there to help my wife begin her labor / get more sleep.

I pulled myself out of bed, ate some sausage and potatoes, and proceeded to bustle.

Contractions up until that point were noticeable (to me, obviously the wife had noticed them all along), but they were something that the wife put up with quietly and privately. Saturday morning, though, they were loud and public, and I knew we were in business. By 9:00 am I had eaten my sausage and potatoes, taken a shower, and was dedicated to following the wife around to serve as her leaning post whenever a big contraction hit; they were all big contractions at this point. A little after 9:00 am we called the midwife, but told her she didn't need to come over quiet yet, and called the birth support team (two of the wife's best friends).

By 9:30 am the support team had arrived and we decided to call the midwife to come over. In the meantime, we began to fill the birth tub, boil lots of water, and we generally stayed quite busy. By 10:00 am or so, the midwife had arrived, and we were in business.

Continued in A Birth Story, Part 2

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