Also, isn't this cute? It cost $2!
As I sit here at 1am with a very awake Sammy I noticed the hedgehogs on his onsie.
Every time I think about hedgehogs my thoughts turn, as you would expect, to ice cream.
Ok, that might need a little explanation. I went to college on the South Side of Bethelehm, Pa. The town was divided into two main sections: South - more industrial and rough and tumble area (though I spent my time on Lehigh's decidedly not rough not tumble campus) and the North side - also known as Historic Bethlehem.
Historic Bethlehem featured, and still does, lovely homes and quaint shops. One of those shops (which closed several years ago) was an ice cream shop called "The Heavenly Hedgehog." That's just an objectively good name for an ice cream shop.
Also, hedgehogs like to float around like this:
For most of my life I've made special efforts to avoid babies. When a friend has given birth I would visit and say the right things but politely decline if asked to hold the baby. Or feed the baby. Or change the baby.
Why? Babies never really interested me and I was worried that I would break someone else's baby. I didn't need that pressure in my life.
Now, of course, I'm the father of two tiny babies and I can't continue my baby avoiding ways (though I did avoid changing their diapers for the first week or so of their lives when they were in the NICU. I figured the nurses were far better at it than I. Until one evening I was about to leave and a nurse said, "Would you like to change Declan?" I couldn't very well tell the truth, so I changed his diaper. I've now changed both of them many, many times. I will say that while I avoided changing them I did watch the nurse’s technique to prepare myself for the reality I would soon be facing, so I’m not completely awful).
I share all of this to establish that I didn't know much about babies going into fatherhood. I've now learned a few things that I thought I should share with folks who are also ignorant in the ways of the baby:
I’m sure allow of this is old news to people, or stuff that most will find obvious but they were news to me.
This tiny baby business isn’t for the faint of heart (though Marisa and I keep saying, “just having one baby must be so easy!” No offense to you singleton parents out there, but you’ve got it easy).
Why? Because I love Kindles, silly!
I won't be writing a review of it because I'm lazy and tending to some tiny helpless people, but I will point you to my pal Jason Snell's Kindle Oasis review:
Yes, the $120 Paperwhite is the better buy. But the Kindle Oasis is a great splurge for people who simply want the best ebook reading experience around and don’t really mind that it costs twice as much as the step-down alternative.
He and I are very much of the same opinion about the Oasis (this one, and the previous version): they are fantastic but most people should just get the cheaper Paperwhite.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story about baby boomers not being able to sell the giant houses they built.
This quote sums up the real problem:
The couple, who relocated there from New Jersey, will likely move into an apartment in Charleston. Mr. Hambleton is “a very young 89,” his wife said, and when they built the house, “he was only 82,” so the property’s upkeep “didn’t seem like that major a thing.” But when it comes to aging, she added, “I don’t know that you face these things until you have to.”
What the hell am I talking about?
Having my credit cards, plane tickets, and rewards cards in the Wallet app is great but there are two cards I use much more often that I just can’t cram into that Wallet:
The Free Library of Philadelphia is a wonderful institution. I borrow far more books than I should, I walk to the main library a few times a week, and I even donate money since I love it so much. However, it doesn’t have the resources to create whatever app thingie they’d need to do to make it easy for me to get my library card into the Wallet app.
My library card is basically a vehicle for the barcode that I need to scan to take a book out. The library won’t be creating an app for me to load the card into my Wallet, but they do let me download a graphic that sports the very barcode I need to scan. I’ve saved this image in my photo roll and I can just scan my iPhone at the checkout kiosk and I’m good to go. So close.
The building I live in requires residents to show an ID card to the guard before you can get into the elevator. This isn’t a high tech process, people. Fulltime residents get a laminated card with their pictures on it and visitors (I.e. people who don’t have their names on a deed of an apartment) have heavy card stock passes which sport that year’s color. Show the pass, get on the elevator.
A few years ago it was decided that you don’t have to show the actual card anymore (you know where this is going) but you can show a picture of your card on your smartphone. This has lead to people in the building making their iPhone’s lock screen a picture of their membership card. This makes me sad.
The solution to this is simple: the ability to put arbitrary images into the Wallet app. There are a few services out there that claim to make it easy for you to create your own Wallet cards… but I couldn’t get them to work. My sadness continues.
Now, this is the point at which you, dear reader, think to yourself, “Scott, you’re dumb! Why don’t you just use this simple thing that does exactly what you want!”
At least I hope that’s what you’re thinking because I want that thing! Tell me about it! And I’ll use it, and my sadness will end.
With the babies on the way I thought to myself, "I should really read a bunch of these books I own."
And I also but 14 books on hold at the library (and have 3 checked out!).
Scene: I get on the elevator on the 5th floor of my building after running on the treadmill. On the elevator are two people: an elderly woman and man.
The old lady and man nod.
I press the button for my floor and notice I'm getting off before they are.
My stop arrives and I say, "Have a nice night," and get off the elevator.
As the doors are closing I hear the woman say, "Why was he so wet?!"
To which the man replies, "I dunno. Maybe he was working out."
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Twenty-two weeks and five days belly shot while waiting to go on New Day Northwest in Seattle. So far, book touring while pregnant has been totally okay. I need a lot more sleep, food, and water than on previous tours, but people have been so loving and kind. I feel very taken care of. As much as I love sharing my book with people, I am so looking forward to being done with this cycle and getting to hunker down at home. #foodinjarskitchen #booktouringwhilepregnant #22weekspregnantwithtwins #39andpregnant #ivfbabies
I sometimes forget that I have a blog! Ok, I don't forget but I just don't get around to blogging much these days. And it looks like I won't be getting around to do much in the coming weeks and months other than helping raise twins. OMG!
That's right, Marisa is pregnant with twins and they will be arriving this summer. It still hasn't really hit me yet, but I'm sure that'll change very quickly!
So, blogging will remain rather sporadic but I will post here and there (I do have a couple of things I want to post about!).
Anyway, that's the big news!
Marisa and I discuss it a bit on this episode of Random Trek, if you're interested in hearing a little bit more.
I love milkshakes. There's not avoiding it (in fact, I jokingly suggested we get a milkshake company to sponsor Vulcan Hello the the other day... if you're a powerful milkshake executive reading this, get in touch!).
Marisa contends that a milkshake is a dessert, while I think of it as a beverage.
And I'd very much like to enjoy one of these Orange Creamsicle "Shakes of the Month" at Bobby's Burger Palace this month. I'm not sure how many Weight Watchers points it would be... but I would guess something like "ALL OF THEM."
Seeing this also gave me fond memories of this Orange Cream float I had a couple of weeks ago at Disney World (which I really need to write about! The trip, not this particular treat... though it may have been my favorite treat of the trip):
It has been almost 2 years since I decided to drop some pounds and sign up for Weight Watchers. Over those two years I've lost nearly 130 pounds:
40 of those pounds were shed in 2018. Hurrah for me!
This is the most successful dieting effort I've ever tried and 2018 just continues the success.
I'm pretty sure at this point I weigh less than I did in high school. It is still a surreal experience for me to buy an XL shirt and have it fit. Mind blown, man.
Some folks surely think, "Scott, you've done Weight Watchers for 2 years now, surely you can just save some money and watch what you eat."
Ha! My experience over the holidays in which I gave myself a holiday from tracking my food shows me that I still have no idea how to feed myself properly (though I do know how to get rid of a lot of shortbread in a short amount of time). For me, Weight Watchers is going to be something in my life for the foreseeable future and I'm cool with that.
I use my Fitbit watch to track all my exercising over the year and as you can see I worked out 231 times in 2018.
My exercise of choice is running, and I was surprised to see treadmilling edged out running outdoors. Who knew?
I opt for the elliptical when all the treadmills in the gym are taken OR after I've fallen down on a run, banged up my knee, and it hurts to run but doesn't hurt to elliptical.
That lone hike? It was in Northern Ireland and it was awesome.
Given how often I ran this year it would be very sad if I didn't improve at all. And I did! Here are my best efforts of the year (and of my life):
Just the other day I was at dinner with some friends and I was trying to recall how long I'd worked at Penn. I couldn't remember (since I can hardly remember anything) so I did what anyone would: I looked at my LinkedIn profile.
Turns out I could have waited a few hours because I received an email telling I was celebrating 15 years at the University. Hurrah! And, more importantly, I get a gift in recognition of my service.
Not only do I get a gift, but I can pick one out from... well, a very strange assortment of things.
Now, I'm not complaining because I appreciate the token of appreciation and I am very happy that I can pick something rather than getting a picture frame or something. I'm just struggling to find a theme with options that include:
A grippy thing to put your phone in... for gaming?
An umbrella, which in and of itself isn't odd but it isn't a Penn branded umbrella which I find odd.
A glass(?) bowl. This one looks pretty nice, actually, but I don't think I'm in need of a bowl.
A telescope! This is the one that I am most tempted to get, however, I don't really have any place to keep it and I'm pretty sure I would never actually use it.
And my favorite time: the 1.5 gallon beverage dispenser. I should get it and fill it with champagne to CELEBRATE ME!
2018, in many ways, was a pretty crappy year for many people. It was, however, a pretty OK year for me personally and a great year for reading.
I managed to read 101 books this year (that’s over 35,000 pages!), the most I’ve read in a year since I’ve been keeping track. How did I do it? Well, I took the time to read books. This isn’t rocket science, people.
I always think it is interesting to see what the gender breakdown of the authors I’ve read over the year happens to be. Now, I should say that I know many folks decide at the start of the year to mindfully read more books by a certain population. While I fully support that, because who I am to tell you what to read, that isn’t something I’ve ever done with purpose. Which made it all the more surprising to me that this year I read books mostly written by women:
As I see it there are a couple of reasons for this:
Here’s my ranking breakdown of those 101 books (since I use Goodreads to track my books the ranking scale is 1 - 5):
As you can see, I’m a pretty generous 4 star giver. For me, if a book is fine (i.e. it entertains me) it gets 3 stars. A book that I think is well written and entertaining gets 4 and 5 stars go to books that I really, really liked. 2 stars go to books I wouldn't recommend to anyone, but I finished since they weren’t awful. And this year I didn’t read any 1 star books because time is too short to read books you aren’t enjoying on some level (unless you have to read them for a class. Stay in school, kids).
I know a few paragraphs ago I said it wasn’t my job to tell you what to read… but here are some books I think you should read.
Now I should say that the list below doesn’t include all of my 5 star reads of the year. You can see the full list on my Goodreads account.
One of my favorite things in the world is discovering a book series that just sucks me in, and this year it was an absolute pleasure to read the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. I read the first 9 books in the series pretty much back to back. I stopped at 9 because the 10th in the series wasn’t out yet… but it did come out this year and, of course, I read it. I also read her other series (the Magic Men Mysteries) so I think I’ve read something like 13 of her books this year… and I regret nothing.
Ruth Galloway is an unlikely sleuth (aren’t they all?). A single middle aged archeology professor at a small regional school with a very specific specialty. And yet she gets mixed up in all sorts of dangerous situations. As is the case with any mystery series the cast of recurring characters must be interesting, and Elly Griffiths delivers on that front as well. These books are a delight. The only problem is that I’ve already read them all!
Another mystery! It starts off as a pretty typical murder at a Manor but this one has a twist - the main character jumps perspectives and the story resets itself multiple times.
I don’t want to say too much about this book but I very much enjoyed it.
This book certainly doesn’t need me to tell anyone about it. The hype around it is certainly deserved. A compelling story about a horrifying episode in American history. I knew the US Government had been horrible to Native Americans but this book showed me that it was even worse than I thought.
I couldn’t have a book list without a science fiction novel on it, now could I? This book was one of the last books I read last year and one of the best. It is a sequel to Barsk which was the best novel about an elephant with psychic powers in a multiple planet spanning civilization I’d ever read. The first book, as you can imagine, was pretty banana pants (and I mean that in the best way possible). The second is even better and expands the world in ways that I wasn’t expecting but found most satisfying indeed.
The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it ends on a cliffhanger. That’s good because it means there will be another one (I hope!) but bad because I want to read it now!
Lots of me (not surprising). Lots of Marisa (she's so cute!). A cat and the Enterprise. Pretty much what you'd expect.
Oh, and you can create on of these yourself using Top Nine. You do have to give them your email address... and I have no idea what they do with it, but someone has probably stolen it already so what's the harm? ;)
That's from my run yesterday. I had an average pace of 8:26/mile, which is exciting. And I'm pretty happy with the consistency (well, generally speaking) of my pace on the run:
There are a few reasons that I can point to for this improvement:
The pair then posed for photos and West, who did not cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election but has been a vocal supporter of Trump, hugged the president.
I think we can all agree that the world is going to hell in a hand basket (as it has been for all of recorded human history).
The climate is going to kill us in less than 25 years, if nuclear weapons don't do it before that. The people in Washington seem to continue to lack for common sense, and the electorate (for some reason) is ever eager to reward this deficiency with more and more power. And for many people it seems like progress is being reversed, while others feel like too much is changing too quickly.
Pretty depressing, huh?
Well, good news everyone! World events have spurred me to engage in even more of my favorite solitary pastime: reading. And it looks like I'm on track to read the most books in a year since I've been keeping tabs on such things.
It isn't all bad! Just mostly.
Marisa did something I've always wanted to do: had something published in the New York Times! It is all about 5 Cheap(ish) Things to Help You Start Packing Your Lunch and you should read it.
A few weeks ago I got an email letting me know that I had a free night at a Kimpton Hotel offer that was soon to expire. Since our anniversary was approaching we decided to book a room in Washington, DC.
Yesterday we hopped on a train and ended up in Union Station:
We took a selfie in front of the Capitol (and didn't run into any senators!).
And then we took a stroll through the Botanical Gardens (which Marisa had been to many times to teach classes but never had the opportunity to actually see!).
There was a water feature!
None of the fruit was ready for picking, but you shouldn't pick it anyway!
Lots of plants!
And pictures of plants.
Then we headed to the National Museum of the American Indian (which I had been to 13 years ago!)
I didn't take a lot of pictures in the museum because it bummed me out. The US Government has been pretty terrible to the American Indians. But he's a statue of George Washington chilling with some American Indians.
This was in our hotel room. Very dramatic.
Here's Marisa with a distant (and slightly better well known) relative.
It would seem to Obama portraits have increased visitorship to the National Portrait gallery threefold.
William McKinley or a vampire? You decide.
My brunch was pretty tasty.
Then we headed to the Air and Space Museum, which was a favorite of mine as a kid. Luckily, it seems have changed very little in 25 years. Ok, that wasn't so lucky as many of the exhibitions were looking a little worse for wear.
But I was really there to see this original filming model of the Enterprise. We got there a little before 1pm without knowing that they light up the model for 10 minutes at 1pm!
Here it is sans lights.
We saw some sculpture.
And then visited the National Postal Museum, which I didn't have high hopes for. Turns out, it is a pretty good museum.
And they have a sweet statue of Ben Franklin.
"Be a man and do it!"
This was on the ceiling.
All in all a good time was had by all.
I'm a gadget guy, and I like to live on the edge. Therefore, I installed iOS 12 on my iPhone as soon as it became available (iOS is the software that powers your iPhone).
After reading a few reviews, I was expecting to be impressed. Or at least to notice... something. I do like the grouped notifications... kind of. But that's really the only thing I've noticed (but I did create a a "Memoji" because of course I did).
I will say that iOS 12 makes me glad that I don't have to spend my time writing about iOS 12.
I spat in a tube awhile back and sent my saliva to the Mormons so they could analyze it (a.k.a. I signed up for Ancentry.com's DNA service).
My results came back, and I wasn't too surprised. I was mostly Irish (78%) with a little Eastern Europe (18%) and a tiny bit of Scandinavian (2%).
I got an email from Ancestry that told me my DNA results had been updated, since they were able to match my DNA against more samples. I was excited to see what the results might be!
As you can see, it turns out I'm even less interesting than I thought. I'm now 84% from Ireland and Scotland (mostly Ulster) and 16% Englad/Wales/Northwestern Europe.
I'm no longer a Viking. Sigh.