Sunday, December 21, 2008

Geeking Out - Setting Up an Ubuntu Server

I've been working on this project for a few weeks now and its finally coming to completion, so I thought I'd document it here so others can save some of the time and hassles I have had in getting to this point.

When I bought a new MacBook for myself, I convinced Steph to ditch her P.O.S. Windows XP machine and take my old MacBook. We now needed a few thing:
  • Home file server for sharing documents, photos, etc
  • Automated back up system (TimeMachine would be ideal, but I didn't want to purchase a TimeCapsule for the network based backups. I'm cheap!)
  • Shared printing (again, I'm cheap, I don't want to buy a new printer and my existing printers don't support networked printing)
  • Home-based VPN to allow me access to the home network when on the road
So the obvious solution was to repurpose Steph's old Dell box into a server to support our needs. Here's what I did:

First, I replaced the hard drve with an unused 160GB SATA drive I had sitting around. After burning a CD from an ISO of Ubuntu 8.10 Server (Intrepid Ibex), I installed the server and got it up and running on my home network with a static IP address. The server is called "papaya". The initial install included an ssh daemon for remote access so I could work away from the console. Eventually the box will be headless, but for now its connected to my home office KVM.

Next, I configured ufw (Uncomplicated Firewall) to start locking down services. First, set the firewall into the "default deny" mode (a.k.a. whitelisting of approved inbound connections):

sudo ufw default deny

And then I added a rule to allow inbound ssh from the local network:

sudo ufw allow proto tcp from to port 22

Next I installed netatalk to support AppleTalk, allowing me to connect my MacOS X systems to papaya's shared disks. I started with directions from here and here, but I found they didn't work exactly as presented, and I needed some tuning to make it work. (See the referenced links for more details on all of these steps, I just distilled this down to the most important info.)

First, install netatalk with encryption support (required by MacOS X):

sudo aptitude update
mkdir -p /tmp/src/netatalk
cd /tmp/src/netatalk
sudo aptitude install devscripts cracklib2-dev dpkg-dev libssl-dev
apt-get source netatalk
sudo apt-get build-dep netatalk
cd netatalk-2.0.3
sudo DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS=ssl dpkg-buildpackage -us -uc
sudo debi
echo "netatalk hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections

Note the last line, it places a hold on any updates to netatalk when running updates on the Ubuntu server, this is necessary to prevent updates from breaking the installed version. Next I configured netatalk by editing a few files. First, /etc/default/netatalk was modified with the following configuration:


Next, edit /etc/netatalk/afpd.conf by adding the following line to the end of the file:

- -transall -uamlist, -nosavepassword -advertise_ssh

Now, configure your shared volumes in /etc/netatalk/AppleVolumes.default by adding the following lines to the end of the file (make sure its one line!):

/media/TimeMachine TimeMachine allow:username1,username2 cnidscheme:cdb options:usedots,upriv

This mounts a shared volume named TimeMachine located at /media/TimeMachine (your mount point may vary, this is an external 1TB USB drive at the moment). List the specific users who should be able to login to the share with their credentials. The remaining options have to do with dealing with invisible files/folders which are used by MacOS X. I actually created a handful of shares, each of them with different functions (TimeMachine, generic file share, etc.).

Now we restart netatalk:

sudo /etc/init.d/netatalk restart

Unfortunately, this share is not publicized to the local network, which I wanted for ease of use. So I set up Avahi, a daemon for Apple's Bonjour zero-configuration service:

sudo apt-get install avahi-daemon
sudo apt-get install libnss-mdns

Edit /etc/nsswitch.conf to add the mdns service to the end of the line beginning with hosts. In the end the line should look like:

hosts: files mdns4_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] dns mdns4 mdns

Next, configure Avahi to publish the service. Create a file with the name /etc/avahi/services/afpd.service containing the following XML:

<?xml version="1.0" standalone='no'?><!--*-nxml-*-->
<!DOCTYPE service-group SYSTEM "avahi-service.dtd">
<name replace-wildcards="yes">%h</name>

Note that this sets up Avahi on port 548 and tells Avahi to publish the device as an XServe, which will make papaya appear as an XServe icon on any Macs connected to the network. Open port 548 to listen for inbound connections:

sudo ufw allow proto tcp from to port 548

Restart Avahi to publish the servers:

sudo /etc/init.d/avahi-daemon restart

Woohoo, now I have the server publishing its shares to the network which are seen by my Macs, as seen below.

Now we need to configure the Mac to be able to use papaya as a TimeCapsule without paying for Apple's hardware. Drop to a command line and run the following (on your Mac, not Ubuntu!):

defaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

Mount any of the remote volumes from the Mac and use the TimeMachine preferences to select the remote system for backups. TimeMachine will actually create a disk image on the remote system and utilize that image for its backup volume. Or, in my case, maybe not! But we can easily fix that. Use MacOS X Disk Utility to create a new disk image as a "sparsebundle disk image". The naming is very specific and in the format machine_name_MAC_ADDRESS.sparsebundle. For instance, if your machine name is joeyjr and the MAC address of the primary interface (en0) is 00:13:24:1f:12:10 then the name of the disk image should be:


Note that the MAC address separators have been removed. How do you find the MAC address of the primary adapter? Drop to a command line and execute the command ifconfig, it should return something like:

lo0: flags=8049 mtu 16384
inet6 fe80::1%lo0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x1
inet netmask 0xff000000
inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128
gif0: flags=8010 mtu 1280
stf0: flags=0<> mtu 1280
en0: flags=8863 mtu 1500
inet6 fe80::223:32ff:febf:cd2%en0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x4
inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
ether 00:23:32:bf:0c:d2
media: autoselect (100baseTX ) status: active
supported media: none autoselect 10baseT/UTP 10baseT/UTP 10baseT/UTP 10baseT/UTP 100baseTX 100baseTX 100baseTX 100baseTX 1000baseT 1000baseT 1000baseT
en1: flags=8863 mtu 1500
inet6 fe80::223:6cff:fe7f:5cd%en1 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x5
inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
ether 00:23:6c:7f:05:cd
media: autoselect status: active
supported media: autoselect
vmnet8: flags=8863 mtu 1500
inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
ether 00:50:56:c0:00:08
vmnet1: flags=8863 mtu 1500
inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
ether 00:50:56:c0:00:01

The lines after en0 refer to the primary adapter, in this case the ethernet adapter, and the MAC address is found on the line in bold.

Create a sufficiently large image (i.e. 500GB) (note: this image will only take a few MB until it is filled, so this can be done on a pretty full disk) and move it to the root of the share you wish to use for TimeMachine.

Mount the TimeMachine share from above. Open the System Preferences, choose the share as your TimeMachine volume and let it go to work. If you did everything correctly, bacups should begin. My 160GB backup took at least 8 hours, if not longer.

Now backups are great, but they only work for me if you can restore from them in a crisis. How do I define a crisis? Not restoring a file that has been accidentially deleted by using the TimeMachine application, that should work as long as I have the volume mounted. How about Installing MacOS on a blank drive and having the MacOS installer pull all of the data from your networked backup?

In theory, everything should work as follows. I have not done a full disaster recovery yet (though I will before I depend on this as my only backup solution) so take all of this with a large grain of NaCl. Boot from the install CD and start the terminal from the Utilities menu. In the terminal, mount your afp file share:

mkdir /Volumes/timemachine
mount_afp afp://username:password@papaya/TimeMachine /Volumes/timemachine

If the disk is mounted you should be able to find your .sparsebundle in the directory /Volumes/timemachine. Exit the terminal and now open the Restore from Backup utility. The restore utility will find the remotely mounted TimeMachine volume and allow you to restore from that point.

OK, we now know we can back up and restore from the backup. That's all good news. Let's get some printers set up. I have 2 HP printers, a HP LaserJet 1100 which runs on a paralell port, and a HP OfficeJet 5510 All-In-One, running from the USB port. First, ensure hp-lip and cups are installed:

sudo apt-get install hplip
sudo apt-get install cups

Run the hp-setup command to set up your printers (follow the prompts):

sudo hp-setup

Configure cups to listen on port 631 for remote printing and configuration by editing /etc/cups/cupsd.conf

# Allow remote access
Port 631
Listen /var/run/cups/cups.sock

And configure cups to allow remote administration at http://papaya:631/:

<Location />
Allow all
Allow all
# Allow shared printing and remote administration...
Order allow,deny
Allow all
<Location /admin>
AuthType Default
Require user @SYSTEM
Allow all
# Allow remote administration...
Order allow,deny
Allow all
<Location /admin/conf>
AuthType Default
Require user @SYSTEM
Allow all
# Allow remote access to the configuration files...
Order allow,deny
Allow all

See for more information on configuring cups. I'm not perfectly happy with this yet, I believe it can be locked down further, but its good for now.

Now, open the firewall to allow access on port 631:

sudo ufw allow proto tcp from to port 631

Restart cups:

sudo /etc/init.d/cupsys restart

Now I browse to http://papaya:631/ to manage configured printers. With the printer URLs in hand I can add remote printers to my MacOS X machines through the Printers preference pane. Printing on the LaserJet is a bit wonky at times, but printing to the OfficeJet is perfect. I still need to set up remote scanning, but that's a project for another day.

The VPN is still a work in progress. I'll post details on setting up OpenVPN once I have had chance to configure and test it completely.

(All the info posted herein is for informational purposes only. Use this at your own risk as I will provide no support.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Maya Gets the Last Laugh

Tonight we were finishing dinner when Maya started whining. Steph picked up up and held her while we finished eating when Maya suddenly burst out laughing. This continued for a minute or so before I ran for the camera and sat down to see if I could catch it.

I did catch a bit of her laughter, but she definitely got the last laugh.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


We're back from Seattle, where we spent a week on vacation and
attended my cousin's wedding. I love Seattle! We always have so much
fun out there. This time was a bit different, Maya takes some extra
planning due to naps and feeding.

Highlights include dinner at Mashiko ( where we each
ate a beautiful chirashi - sashimi on a bowl of rice - while Maya
slept. Walking around the Fremont Sunday market. Running in Myrtle
Edwards Park on Elliot Bay. Dinner at Vios Cafe. Walking along the
piers with Steph and Maya.

I'm happy to be home... But I can't wait to go back!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Maya is Growing Up!

It seems like it was only a few months ago that we brought Maya home from the hospital. (Oh, wait... it was!) Today she flipped herself from her belly to her back four times in a row, twice to each side! Yay Maya, you're growing up! Video of the momentous occasion will be posted when I have a moment to download and edit the files...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Linksys Wireless Routers & DD-WRT

For a while now I have been planning to flash my routers (Linksys WRT54G and WRT150N) with either Sveasoft or DD-WRT. Last week one of the routers appeared to have finally died on me, a reset wouldn't work to coax it back to life and get Steph's computer back online. So I had nothing to lose by flashing the WRT54G.

The process itself was surprisingly simple and yields a wealth of options that are not in the original firmware on the router. I was so impressed, that I flashed with WRT150N today, as well. Now I am going to change my home network a bit. The N router will now serve up wireless on one SSID with WPA2 encryption, this is for all of my computers and any other devices in my house, like the Wii, which communicate wirelessly. I have also set up a second SSID on the same device for a public wireless network that friends and family can use if they are in range. On this public network I am hoping to use QoS to limit the bandwidth that any stranger can suck down. I'm also using QoS to hopefully improve the quality of my Vonage VOIP traffic when I am using the network heavily. I've got some more reading to do to ensure everything is set up correctly, but in theory it should work. I'm also planning to implement ipchains rules to prevent anyone on the public network from gaining access to the web based management console, but no luck on that one yet.

As for the other router, it will be moved downstairs and plugged into the TiVo. It will serve as a client, or possibly a bridge, in order to handle data from my DirecTV DVR, so I can get some of the on demand content that I am currently missing out on.

I don't get a lot of time to be a geek anymore, so this was a pretty fun project for a few hours. Not a bad experience to learn some more about wireless networking, as well... All in all, I'd recommend the upgrade to DD-WRT for anyone who owns a compatible router. I hope I can still say that in a few months time... but nothing can be worse the the Linksys default firmware...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm a Negligent Blogger

Oops... It sure has been a while since posting. Some updates:

I'm now an instructor at the 6 AM Operation Boot Camp in Bitsy Grant Park. I run around a lot and yell (not at people, of course). And instruct. And sweat. Good times, I tell you. And I am still losing weight and inches. Which is an even better time. Today was bring a friend day and we had Super Phat Mikey from Star 94 come for the workout. See the video here. Can you spot me? Look for the Incredible Hulk green shoes doing fire hydrants... I have to say, Mikey did a great job. He should come work out with us more often... but probably at the 6 PM camp since he's at work when I'm working out.

Peachtree Road Race: I ran it and didn't die. 1 hour 6 minutes. Just a bit longer than I would have liked to have run the race in — an hour was the goal — but I am still happy to have completed it. Next year I will avoid getting soaked on the course from the various water spraying contraptions. Wet shoes are heavy. Duh. The post-race drinking was good. The post-race drinking was, however, interrupted with some tastless, racist remarks from someone who shall remain nameless. I won't be hanging out with said person any more. And if he truly hopes to run for office... well I hope his remarks come back to bite him in the ass. (Had I not been inebriated, my comeback would have been much more swift than the half-assed "That was... off-color..." pun that flew out of my mouth.)

Next 10k is the US 10k Classic on Labor Day. Is there a half-marathon in my future? Perhaps...

Java is not dead yet. Thankfully. Dumbass has probably stopped eating baby wipes for a while.

I still don't have a damn iPhone. Because I have a business discount I can't buy it at the Apple Store. AT&T still has none in stock and their customer service still sucks. No surprises.

We bought a new car. The POS Passat is no longer, we replaced it with a 2009 Subaru Outback XT. This is the turbo model, nice and fast. Not that I can really open it up until the 1000 mile break-in period is done with. No more VWs for me, thanks. And Jim Ellis VW can bite my butt, they are the worst dealer in the Atlanta area for any kind of sales or service. I highly recommend Classic Cadillac and Subaru in Roswell.

I met up with the Atlanta People With Blogs Who Get Together To Drink at 6 Feet Under for dinner. And drinks. Good times were had by all. And it helped me reconnect with an old friend. I've known Tami since my IRC days back in the early 90's when I was in grad school. We've all grown up and moved on since then, but it was nice to reconnect. Maybe she'll come out to drink next time?

We're headed off on vacation to Seattle soon... more on that when we get there.

Maya is still cute as hell. No surprises there...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Java, Long Runs and Family Trees

Lots of little updated combined into one here...

Java is fine. He is eating and gaining weight and back to himself. We finally had someone come and deal with mowing the yard after the lawnmower died (again), and found lots of wipes that Java had eaten. He was trying a little intestinal roto-rooter. Yuck. We have stopped putting any wipes in any unsealed garbage can.

I ran 7 miles yesterday from Big Peach Running Company in Buckhead, down to 10th and Peachtree in Midtown. (Map) This was my longest run yet in both mileage and time (1 hour 17 min). My pace was slower than I'd like for the Peachtree at around 11 minutes/mile, I'd love to get this just below 10 min/mile for the Peachtree. Two weeks more running to work on that.

Finally, I have started building a family tree for Maya. This was spawned from Steph buying a baby book to document her life in. There is a spot for a family tree, but Steph wasn't sure how to go about filling it in. So I used to put one together. I now know more about my family tree than I ever could have imaged. Most of it is on my father's side, but I am working to fill in more on my mom's side too. I'm shocked that I can trace back 6 generations from Maya to her great-great-great-great grandmothers Pauline Edelstein (maiden name? married name?), Sarah Berkman (married name, maiden unknown) and great-great-great-great grandfather Harris Berkman, all born in the early/mid 19th century. Most of the trails backwards lead to Russia, Poland, etc., so I doubt I'll find much prior to their emigration to the US, but it's been fun anyway.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Java Health Update

Two days have passed and Java seems to be eating regularly, looking healthier and generally feeling better. But he is still super skinny, so we're doing the ultrasound tomorrow to see what, if anything, is going on with him...

Happy Father's Day to Me!

I started the day with a ~5 mile trail run at Sope Creek... a great beginning to my first father's day. And much more fun/interesting than running on the road. After visiting with some family, Steph, Maya, the dogs and I plan on spending the remainder of the day together. Other than a few hours work later today, it's my day to be lazy.

Yay for mostly lazy Sundays...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Java's Health

Java is once again giving us a health scare. After returning from Asia Steph and I both discussed that Java was looking skinny and then he stopped eating for a few days. Before heading to Boston we went to our vet to get a check up. Java has been known to raid the trashcan, but it appears he has been stealing used wet wipes from the trash can (not diaper genie!) in Maya's room. Java lost 7 lbs since February, about 10% of his body weight! We put him on some meds and wet food and he appeared to be getting better and was eating regularly.

Yesterday Java stopped eating again. He is back on medication from the vet and did eat some today, but is now refusing food again late this evening.

He's skinny. Scary, heroin chic skinny. I brushed him tonight and he is bony, I can feel most of his spine on his lower back quite easily. His tail is down, he is seemingly weak and lethargic and not acting like himself at all.

I'm not sure what the next step is. We'll call the vet tomorrow, they may try an ultrasound to see if he has a blockage which they can remove. But for tonight all I can do is go to bed and hope that Java is as stubborn now as he has been the rest of his life. If he is, he'll pass whatever may be inside him, if anything, gain weight and get back to being the happy "old man" that he was just a few weeks ago...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Coming Home From Boston

We're on the way home from a quick trip up to Boston, flying somewhere over the eastern US. The flight is pretty empty, so Steph, Maya and I have 3 seats together, allowing Maya to sit in her car seat for the flight. The girls are both passed out...

We came up on Thursday to visit my grandparents, Maya's great-grandparents, as well as my aunt Robin and uncle Ronnie. Due to their advancing age, my grandparents aren't able to travel any longer. This was an important trip for us to make, however, it was not about a vacation or doing something for our own enjoyment. The timing couldn't have been worse with my recent crazy travel schedule and lack of time alone with both Steph and Maya. Instead, this trip was about being selfless, giving of ourselves to provide some happiness to others. We made the trip solely for Grandma & Grandpa so they could meet Maya, spend time with her, hold her and get to "know" her at this very cute stage of her life. I know we brightened their days by introducing them to their fourth great-grandchild, making the difficulty of the trip worthwhile.

Maya, for the most part, was an angel. She has been extremely well behaved on the flights to and from Boston and in the airport at either end. She's been a pleasure to travel with, but it amazes me how much crap one little girl needs! Instead of traveling with a single suitcase and my backpack, we've got 2 suit cases, my backpack, a diaper bag, pack and play (portable crib), stroller and car seat. Holy crap, that's a LOT of stuff to travel with. Our days of traveling light are over for a while, I guess.

We're all looking forward to getting home, getting back on a normal schedule and... What's normal anymore? While Maya is going back to her schedule with Steph, I won't be on any kind of normal schedule as I am traveling to Newark tomorrow and then down to Baltimore Monday through Thursday for work. Perhaps in July I might get to spend some quality time at home with Steph and Maya...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Coming home...

5/30 8 PM EDT

Its now 9 AM (5/31) local time in Korea. I got here this morning at 6 AM on the red-eye from Singapore. I hardly slept. I'm exhausted and just trying to stay awake at the moment. I'm sitting at Incheon Airport waiting to find out if I managed to get a standby seat on the 10 AM flight to Atlanta. If not, I'll be here — Korea, not the airport I hope — until 6 PM tonight. I'm hoping like crazy that I'm not here all day, it will make an already long trip that much longer. I should know in 20 minutes whether or not luck is working in my favor today. If not, I can't complain. I accepted the 12 hour layover here originally because it was the least expensive business class fare I could get ($6000 round trip), fitting within my budget for this engagement. Now I'm thinking about what a fool I was. Ooops. Lesson learned. I should have spent the night in Singapore instead.

(A cute, but strange, Japanese girl just sat next to me to practice her English. We exchange pleasantries and she asks me where I am from, so I tell her the US. Then she tells me she is some kind of student, something unintelligible, followed by "peace student". I flashed her a peace sign and asked her if that's what she means and she says yes. She then shows me something god oriented and starts explaining... I shooed her away. She didn't get the concept of atheism, but I didn't try that hard to explain. Perhaps now that I am alone again the deaf gentleman will come back and pester me for money for the third time...)

In the airport there is paid WiFi. But you have to have a Windows machine since the online purchasing requires an ActiveX control that won't run without Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to run with Internet Explorer all that well either! I did find an open AP and I have been using it off and on to check email and call Steph to let her know of my progress. Obviously, its how I managed to write this, as well. For a world class airport, one ranked best in the world along with Singapore's Changi, this is pretty pathetic. Come to think of it, I had the same issue last night at Changi, but I wasn't sitting there for innumerable hours, bored to tears. *sigh*

Off to check and see if I got on the flight...

5/30 9 PM EDT

W00t! I got on the flight. Its Korean Air, which has less comfy business class seats the the Delta flight I took to Shanghai, but it gets me home at 10 AM today (i.e. I leave here at 10 AM 5/31 local time, arrive in ATL at around 10 AM 5/31 local time) instead of 7 PM on Saturday. 14 hours of flying, no puking. At least one can hope. ;-)

5/31 6:21 AM

En route to Atlanta right now, we're just coming off of the Pacific ocean near the British Columbia/Washington border. Almost home.

Earlier in the flight I watched the season finale of Desperate Housewives, an episode of Everest: Beyond The Limit, ate a bowl of bibimbap and passed out (chemically enhanced by Ambien, but no alcohol and no puking). 5 hours of relaxing sleep later, we just had "breakfast", some kind of beef soup, noodles, rice and Korean pickles. They make pretty decent food on Korean Air, I'd fly them again. Now I am watching The Bucket List and staring at the monitor watching the plane creep ever so slowly across North America. I'll be seeing my Maya Papaya in a few hours! I think she's been a bit of a pain in the butt to Steph lately, their drive to and from Florida was apparently less than stellar. Maybe she just needs some daddy time. I certainly need some of that myself.

The past few weeks have been really hard. Everyone told me that I would stop traveling after Maya arrived. I didn't, and I don't wish I had. But when it rains, it pours, and the travel has been crazy lately. Since Maya's birth I have done trips to NJ, TX, central GA, and Singapore. In the next few weeks I will be in Boston, NYC, Baltimore and Chicago. And that's just before the end of June! So I clearly have not stopped traveling, but the trips are different now. I'm traveling too much, and feeling guilty that I am missing Maya as she "grows up". I know that she has a long way to grow, but she changes every time I see her. When I call or come home after I a trip I find out that she is making new noises, smiling more, etc. Will I miss her first time crawling? First word? On the other hand, I work from home when I am not on the road. So I get to spend more time with Maya during those weeks than most of the dads I know who don't travel, but spend their lives at work.

I don't want to miss these one time events in Maya's life, but this is my job. I love the job, and the opportunities it provides and my wife and daughter. Can one be put above the other? My job allows us the very nice and comfortable life that we live, both in material things like houses, and experiences like traveling around the world (vacation, not work), putting money away for Maya to attend the school of her choice someday and (hopefully) early retirement for Steph and I. We have no needs that go unfulfilled and want for nothing. (Well, I'd love a convertible, but I hardly drive any miles these days, so its a total waste of money.)

Are the tradeoffs worthwhile? Will I some day look back and wish I had made a different choice? I just don't know. I do know I am greatly looking forward to giving her a big kiss when I see her soon. I'm not quite looking forward to cleaning a poopy diaper, but I have to take the good with the bad and relieve Steph of her duties (doodies?) with Maya.

1:10 PM 5/31

I am finally in the house with Steph, Maya and the dogs. It is good to be home!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bye, bye Singapore

I'm sitting in th executive lounge of my hotel in Singapore, looking out over SunTec City and the city beyond while I wait for my flight. This has been an interesting trip, no doubt, but I'm happy to be headed home. Will I be back? Probably. Will I eat my way through the city again? Absolutely. Will I be a bit more touristy? Sure, why not! I might even check out the Night Safari if I get the chance. Unfortunately, too much work and too little time left little time for me to explore the city after last weekend.

Things to do next time I am back:
  • Check out more hawker centers for lunch and or dinner. Visit Lau Pa Sat on the weekend for satay again.
  • Eat more chili crab. And white pepper crab. And any other crab I can get my grubby hands on.
  • Go back to Muthu's Curry for dinner. I had lunch at the outlet in SunTec City Mall today and it was amazingly good. And super spicy, in a good way.
  • Find some chicken rice. I know its the local specialty and I was supposed to eat it during my stay. Somehow I screwed that up.
  • Eat more laksa.
  • Drink more Guinness Foreign Extra Stout while avoiding the local craptacular brewpubs. (Oh, Brewerkz was OK, but The Pump Room was total shit.)
  • Shop less. I don't want to visit another damn mall anytime soon.
  • Take more pictures. I failed on this count.
  • Drink a Singapore Sling. Yes, I managed to not have any whilst staying here.
Clearly, I have a lot to do next time around. Amazingly they all seem to focus on food. Hmmm, is eating the national pastime?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Last night in Singapore

My time here is coming to an end. It has been fun, but I've been gone a long time (7 days) and won't make it home until Saturday night around 8 PM. I'm totally missing Maya and Steph right now.

I felt like my jet lag got better through the week, but tonight I'm just absolutely spent. Its 7 PM and the gin and tonic I had in the lounge has totally knocked me out. I was hoping to go out for one last nice Singaporean meal tonight, but I fear I am probably going to stick close to the hotel due to the incoming storms and my sleepiness. Teaching all week definitely takes its toll...

Last night I met a local for dinner. While I forget where we went for dinner, we ate an amazingly large amount and variety of Chinese food. Celeste would probably correct me and tell me it was Cantonese or Haianese or something else, but at the moment I forget what it is exactly. No matter, it was all good stuff that I would never find at home. Admittedly, I felt like a bit odd eating with Celeste since there are some significant cultural differences between how we eat. For instance, in Singapore people eat with a fork and spoon, using the fork to push food on to the spoon. No knife. I was totally klutzy trying this. I am sure I was even less graceful with my chopsticks, making a fool of myself. Do I pick the bowl of rice/soup up toward my mouth when eating or is that rude? I'm such a clueless American. But I'm learning!

However, it was a good time overall. I learned a bit of Singaporean culture and world view while sharing some American culture with her. I learned about SPGs (Sarong Party Girls), the fact that women (men?) can't rent an apartment until they are 35 or married, and the concept of a 3 room or 4 room (apartment with 3 or 4 rooms + kitchen) and the fact that Singapore is a "fine" country (in other words, you get fined for anything and everything possible). This is a bit of an odd country. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore...

Its time for dinner, then I need to pack my bags. I'm leaving after class tomorrow on a 10:50 PM flight to Seoul. I'll spend Saturday in Seoul before heading home to Atlanta to see my beautiful wife and daughter. And those crazy dogs, too...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I spoke to soon...

Jet lag sucks.

I thought I was doing OK, but around 7 PM last night I was completely zonked. I grabbed some dinner, called Steph around 9 PM and then, magically, I was awake again. I finally went to bed around 11 PM. I woke up at 1 AM and tossed and turned with some really freaky dreams until 3 AM. And then I was up for the rest of the morning. Tonight I'm going back to the Ambien, I need my beauty rest.

After a full morning of running around Little India I'm spent. Its time for a nap.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Flickr Photos

Of course my photos from Singapore will be making their way to Flickr...

I'm (Somewhat) Famous!

I almost forgot to mention this!

As I was flying into Singapore, I flipped through a copy of Atlanta Sports & Fitness Magazine. I ran across this article and thought the pictures looked familiar.

Of course they look familiar, I took them! Too bad I didn't get credit, but these were all taken by me during the 2007 Hike For Discovery season. (The hard copy has a few more images, but John Donaghy, who is shown in the picture coming up the switchbacks on the approach to Half Dome, spent a lot of "quality" time with me that day. You know what I'm talking about, John.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Saturday in Singapore

So its my first full day here in Singapore. Some initial thoughts:

The city is clean. Really clean. The only foul smells anywhere are from some of the stalls selling raw fish or other dried fish products that have that have a funky, fish out in the open on a hot as balls day smell to them.

It is hot. Damn hot. I walked around from ~8 AM until 11:30 AM and I am just dripping with sweat. Hot and humid, two great tastes that go great together. Bugis and the Arab district (Arab St, Hajj Lane) were the destinations of the morning. Mostly aimless wandering and some photos now and again as I orient myself. I did some shopping on Arab St. and found a nice present for Steph and some potential batik fabrics which we could hang in our entry way. Gotta check with the boss first and see if she approves before buying them.

Eating here is quite fun. First I ran into a fruit stand with some cut open dragon fruit, something I had never tried. So I bought a piece, it reminded me of a firm, purple kiwi, but not as tart. The hawker also convinced me to try some jackfruit, it was nothing special. I walked around the hawker food stalls in Bugis and sat down with some seafood laksa (seafood coconut milk soup, yum! I'm sure this was much better than what was featured on Top Chef last week), a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and then a cool glass of soya milk to soothe my burning tongue. That laksa was seriously spicy but so very good. And cheap! All in I spent about US $6.

No signs of jet lag yet. I slept about 6 hours last night (1 AM - 7 AM, thanks Ambien!). Since the middle of the day is the hottest, I'm going to chill at the hotel for a bit before exploring a bit more tonight, possibly in Little India. I'll be poking around Wikitravel further to see if there is anything else that I need to see on my 2 days off here before work begin

Howdy from Singapore

Some random notes from today's 24 hours of travel...

5/22/08 2:21 PM EDT

Here I am on Delta from Atlanta to Shanghai in Seat 1A as I travel the first leg of my trip to Singapore. We’re just northwest of Wabamun, Alberta and headed on a northwesterly course toward the Canadian Rockies. I’m well fed — yes, the airline food was surprisingly good in Business Elite, though not the Chik-fil-A chicken biscuit I wanted — tired of working and ready to catch some sleep to stave off the inevitable jet lag. A glass of bourbon and Ambien were both consumed 90 minutes ago. The cabin lights are down, ear plugs shoved into my ears to block out the cabin noise and my eye shade pulled over my eyes.

I’m wide awake. My well intentioned plan to force myself to sleep on Singaporean time (exactly 12 hours ahead of Atlanta) to stave off some of the inevitable jet lag is not working. Sure, I’m yawning a bit and I think I did nap for 15 or 20 minutes but real sleep is escaping me right now. With 9+ hours to go until we land in Shanghai, this is going to be one long flight if this keeps up. Perhaps after a little more work and a movie or two things will change. However, with an estimated arrival in Shanghai at 1:50 PM Friday (1:50 AM EDT) and a two hour layover before my next leg to Singapore, things are not looking so hot right now.

5/22 4:58 PM EDT

I've been sneezing my head off for 90 minutes. So glad I dumped my normal cache of cold meds based on horror stories about heading into Singapore. Still no sleep, but I did finish the report that was hanging over my head. We're over Alaska now, due north of Anchorage. 8.5 hours of flying time to go. Yes, it seems like it should be less, but for some reason the landing time keeps changing.

Ambien, take 2: Double bourbon on the rocks and 10 mg of Ambien. With any luck this will knock me out for the remainder of this leg. Until that sets in, I'm going to watch some bad TV...

5/23 2:59 AM EDT

About an hour outside of Shanghai at the moment. For the past hour or so I have been feeling pretty crappy, swinging between hot and cold. I was brought food which I couldn't manage to eat. As my stomach began giving me a hint that something was not right I walked to the front lavatory. Full. Turned around to go to the back lavatory. Full.

Turned around again and I puked in the middle of the aisle in business class. All over the floor, my shirt, everything. The good news: The mess I made is significantly far back in business class where I don't have to smell it until we get off this plane. But I think the flight attendant who came upon me in my puking glory is not so happy. Glad I had a change of clothes in my carry-on luggage.

I can't wait to get off this flight for a bit so I can stretch out and put some simple food in my belly.

5/23 7 AM (EDT)

After a layover in Shanghai, where I ate some good noodles and dumplings in soup along with some green tea to soothe my stomach, I'm on the way to Singapore. While in Shanghai I learned that I forgot to enable international roaming on my cell phone. Oops. I tried to call AT&T via Skype, but it was too early in the morning for that to have worked. Of course Steph and Maya will be awake and awaiting my call when I arrive in Singapore, they will have to wait until I reach the hotel.

Sitting on the plane I have my Singaporean immigration card in front of me. In BIG RED LETTERS it reads "WARNING DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW". They take their laws seriously, too. Of course, I have had a stuffy nose for hours and would love to have some Dayquil about now, but I dumped it all on my desk at home lest I be considered trafficking in Dayquil.

This flight is nice, quiet and very clean. The flight attendants are all beautiful Chinese women who are unfailingly polite, even when their English is a bit shaky. I passed out when we took off, catching about 2 hours of much needed sleep. When I woke I was immediately asked if I wanted dinner. Sure, why not? So dinner is brought to me — mostly not worth eating, IMHO — and she asked if I'd like a beer.

Would I like a beer? Uh, lady, HELL YES! Before I get the chance to find out what kind of beer she might offer me she is gone. In a flash she's back and has poured something out of a silver can with a mix of Chinese and English. Its yellow. Its fizzy. Its BUD ICE! Was she being stereotypical and giving the nice, sleepy eyed American gentleman what he would drink at home? I took a sip. Yuck. <snark>I love beers with no flavor to speak of other than cooked corn. </snark> So I ask her if she has anything else. Tsingtao and Lan Cang River (LCR) Beer. Who am I to pass up on the chance to try yet another disappointingly bad beer? I was right, it was no better than the icy silver bullet that came before it. I'll stick to water for now.

I am completely over sitting my ass in a plane and staring at the map of where we have been and where we are going. At least this time its in both English and Chinese, ensuring that I learn the symbols set of our soon to be overlords. We're off the east coast of Vietnam at the moment (all I can think of is Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam as Adrian Kronauer singing "Follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail!" as if he were a munchkin from Oz. Or, seeing Da Nang on the map. In the movie he fakes the weather report from Da Nang. "How hot is it?" "It's so damn hot I saw one of those little men in the orange robes burst into flames! It's that hot, you know what I'm talkin' 'bout?"). In 2 more hours we should be landing in Singapore.

The next question is one of jet lag. I'm surprisingly awake. I have slept, perhaps 6 or 8 hours in the past 20 hours since I left Atlanta. But when I actually go to put my head on the pillow tonight, what's going to happen? Anyone's guess at this moment. Though I think I may avoid the Ambien and bourbon routine, that didn't seem to work out so well on the last flight and may have been the reason I blew chunks.

5/23 11:22 AM EDT

I'm in my hotel. I have no need for sleep. But I do need food. Jet lag is going to suck.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Catching Up

Lot's of little things to catch up on here...

On 5/2 Maya turned a month old. On 5/3 we had a baby naming at our house, both celebrating her birth, her identity and our 5 year anniversary! Happy anniversary, Schmu!

On 5/5 we celebrated Cinco de Mayo. Not. It was, however, Java's 12th birthday which we celebrated — a day late, mind you — with our twice annual "dogs eating ice cream at Bruster's" day. Ice cream was enjoyed by all, except Maya who got her's second hand.

We had Moms on Call come out this week to help us with some of the baby care basics that nobody ever teaches you. Most importantly, however, is that they teach you how to help your baby sleep longer in the night so we can get more sleep. They promise you'll be able to get your baby to sleep from 9:30 PM until 2:30 AM (or later), have a feeding and then sleep until 6:30 (or later) using their techniques. I thought it might be BS, but indeed, it works! Maya is being a total angel and letting mom get some much needed sleep.

Living in Atlanta, we not only have the book to refer to, we also had one of the authors come to teach us her methods along with 6 months follow up support via email. The hands on time was fabulous, we both learned a lot and felt our time and money was very, very well spent. However, I did have one minor issue:

When we were speaking about nighttime rituals, Jennifer asked us about our faith. I politely told her we don't subscribe to one. I figured that would be the end of it. However, she pressed on, wanting to know in what faith were we brought up. We responded that we were brought up Jewish. She then went on to tell us how we should talk to Maya as we get her ready for bed, telling her how someday she'll go to temple, recite prayers, etc. I can appreciate that her nighttime rituals include reading bible stories to her kids (Steph tells me this is mention in their book). However, I am an atheist, I don't believe in god, the bible or any other religious texts. Why can't we talk about the dogs, our family, things that are important to us?

As I am always reminded when consulting, there are three topics never to be broached with clients: religion, politics and money. Again, this is a minor quibble (less than 2 minutes out of 2.5 hours we spent together) and I'd hire her again in an instant, perhaps after explaining to her that my beliefs are as strong and important to me as hers are to her. Reading their website now, I see that they are both quite religious. Perhaps if I had known this before our meeting I would have been more direct with her regarding how we desire to raise Maya with respect to religion when the question was raised.

I ran 4.5 miles yesterday in about 45 minutes. My longest solid run yet, albeit pretty slow. I was using my heart rate monitor, trying to maintain a relatively steady heart rate in the 75 - 85% range. I'm going for a run again tomorrow, today was on off day, and I'll try to break 5 miles. Working toward the magical 6.2 for the Peachtree in less than 2 months time.

Finally, today Maya went on her first hike to Kennesaw Mountain. She didn't do much hiking, just a lot of sleeping as Steph, Lucy and I did all the hard work. I'm looking forward to her being older and able to sit up on her own. By that point I should have a baby backpack to put her in for longer adventures...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jonquil Jog 5k

I ran my second 5k yesterday in 28 minutes 16 seconds, taking almost 2 minutes off my previous 5k time. Considering I was sick the entire previous week, I'm pretty damn happy with that time.

Next time I have to find a 10k as I get ready for the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nalgene Bottles, Bisphenol A and REI

It has become hard to avoid the news over Bisphenol A (BPA) lately (here, here, here and many, many more). As an avid water drinker — in addition to beer, of course! — I have sworn off plastic disposable water bottles for a while now and mainly used my trusty Nalgene water bottles. Made of lexan (polycarbonate) it is nearly indestructible and was always with me on hikes.

No more Nalgene bottles for me, however. With the recent news of Bisphenol A, I swore off my old-school Nalgene bottles (at last count, I think we had 6 of various forms in the house) and went to REI to buy a new bisphenol A free water bottle. Here's where things get interesting: REI has voluntarily removed all bottles containing BPA from their shelves! According to their staff they are only selling BPA free bottles, predominantly from CamelBack. Cool, nice job REI, I'm glad to see you out ahead of this issue.

But wait, there's more! If you bought any BPA containing bottles from REI under an REI membership, you can return them for a full refund! Sadly, many of my bottles predate my membership, but at least one bottle is being returned for a refund. Two more bottles, neither of which appear on my membership purchasing history, have REI labels printed on the bottle, so I hope to return these as well so I can replace them with new BPA free bottles.

REI, once again, you prove what a great company you are. Your customer friendly policies will have me coming back and paying (sometimes) high prices again and again.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Home With Maya - 2 Weeks In

We've been home with Maya for a 2 weeks now. She's sleeping very well, allowing both of us some much needed rest, though not as much as we had before she came along. All in all, she's been a great baby. We've taken her on a few brief outings (Ikea, Muss & Turner's, Costco, Atlantic Station, REI and, of course, Babies R' Us). I even managed to get Steph to relax enough to take her out for dinner twice.

I started right back with Operation Boot Camp on Monday after we came home from the hospital. I have missed a few days due to being really tired, the crazy pollen count and, now, to a head cold. I've also gone back to work, but it has been an odd transition. Steph is still not allowed to drive, so I have to take her and Maya out any time there is something we need to do (get a birth certificate, etc.). So the work week was tough. But Maya, Steph and the dogs have been pretty cooperative with me, allowing me to work at home with minimal disruptions so far. Plus, its always nice to see Maya during the day when I take a break!

This week is the big test: A 2 day trip to NJ for work. Steph will be able to drive again, so she and Maya will have freedom to go do whatever it is that ladies do. I'm a bit more concerned about how well I'm going to handle the transition...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Maya's Birthday Box o' Beer

I'm putting together a list of beers to lay down in the cellar for the next 21 years (give or take a few days) to share with Maya when she's old enough to legally imbibe. (I'm getting nothing out of this. I swear. Its all for her. Yup, it will pain me to drink these in 21 years... or 18 if current legislation in 7 states has its way...)

Here's what I have on the to-buy list so far:
Of course, if anything interesting should come out this year, that will probably get added to the beer box, too. Hopefully work travel will pick up soon, many of these beers, particularly the Dogfish Head brews, aren't available in Georgia due to our 14% ABV cap on beers...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Maya's First Night at Home

Last night was Maya's first spent at home. We were prepared for a difficult evening with little sleep, however, we got more sleep than we expected! Maya was a very good girl last night, allowing us both to get a reasonable amount of sleep. I managed to get 6+ hours between diaper changes and comforting Maya in the middle of the night. Steph actually managed 4 - 5 hours of sleep Steph between feedings.

The dogs met Maya for the first time last night. Java was quite curious about the little squirming, crying thing in our arms. Lucy wanted nothing to do with Maya. And then Maya started crying. Java started barking. They had a little chorus going, but the tune wasn't something you could dance to. Nor would it become a number 1 hit anytime soon. Then the cutest thing happened. We were getting ready for bed. Maya was swaddled in her crib when she began crying. Java immediately jumped up, ran to her room and paced around, worried about Maya! He was so cute! I think he's going to be her little protector.

Tomorrow we're seeing the pediatrician for Maya's first appointment. Since we're not going to feed Maya formula we plan on getting a breast pump from the hospital tomorrow, as well. Steph can pump and put away milk which will allow me to take on some of the feedings with Maya. I hope this will allow Steph to get the rest she needs to recover fully from surgery while making the best use of my paternity leave from work. Of course, I am also anxious to be able to take Maya out for a walk or a trip to the store sometime soon while Steph catches a well deserved nap. Unless I have a food supply that is mobile, i.e. a bottle of milk, that's not going to be a possibility.

Once I go back to work, we're going to have to find a schedule that works for us with respect to feedings and sleep so that we are both able to function... we have a week or so to figure that one out. Since I work at home, we'll also need to figure out how I can find the time and space I need to be fully functional with Mom and a new baby at home. Perhaps it is time to build an office in the basement...?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Maya's First Day Home

Steph and Maya came home today, yay! The dogs are down at Wag-A-Lot in daycare at the moment, but they'll come home soon to meet the newest addition to the family. That should be... interesting.

I can see the scene unfolding in my mind's eye: Java takes one look, a quick sniff and thinks "WTF is this little thing? It smells of baby powder! It sure is loud, too!" Lucy, on the other hand, will get a worried look on her face as she realizes that she is still at the bottom of the hierarchy in our home. Then she'll run away, tail tucked firmly between her legs, never wanting to meet the little squirming thing in the cute yellow onesie.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Baby Story...

People have been asking what happened during Maya's birth that made it "not as planned", so here's the whole sordid tale. Most of it was great, just the last few hours or so where things went south quickly...

Around 6 AM Steph woke up with regular contractions. I woke up shortly after and we discussed her contractions before I left the house for a life insurance physical. By the time I returned, the contractions were coming regularly, every 10 - 12 minutes or so. This is usually referred to as "early labor".

I called work and let them know I was taking the day off to be with Steph in case this was "it". We then headed down to Memorial Park for a walk along Peachtree Creek with the dogs. Slow, steady contractions continued as we walked. The dogs definitely knew something was going on, you could just tell by the way they were acting, but of course they had no idea what was yet to come.

We then made a run up to Muss & Turner's to see my cousin Todd (aka "Muss"), his wife and one of their children over lunch. Throwing caution to the wind I had the M&T version of a sloppy joe and some fries. Good stuff indeed, especially since I haven't eaten that kind of food in more than a month! (Yes, Greg, Molly, et. al, I ate unhealthy, fattening food and I enjoyed it!) We had a leisurely lunch before heading down to the OB for an previously scheduled appointment. At this point we are indeed in early labor, and Steph was 1.5 cm dilated. The doctor advised us we're probably be parents in 24 hours or less...

Apparently, much less than 24 hours, as we would soon find out.

We called our doula to let her know our progress and headed home to labor. Things started progressing quickly. Contractions became stronger and closer together over the next few hours. We were in contact with our doula a few times as we waited for the magical "contractions spaced 5 minutes apart consistently for 1 hour" which signifies the change into active labor and the time at which we're supposed to call the doctor's answering service and head to the hospital.

About 20 minutes into timing contractions which were about 5 minutes apart, Steph was having real pain. My wife is tough, she has put up with a lot of painful things in her life, but she was really struggling. I was at a loss for what to do to help her. Feeling pretty helpless I called our doula. She gave me some advice to have Steph labor in the tub which we did, but the pain continued to grow and the timing of Steph's contractions grew shorter, coming every 3 - 4 minutes. I felt completely helpless, there was nothing I could do to relieve her pain. Both of us were in tears at this point. The dogs felt equally out of control. Java was barking and Lucy had a very worried look on her face and tail between the legs. Oy!

I called the doula again for advice. She questioned our technique for measuring the timing of contractions and questioned the amount of pain that Steph was dealing with. Neither of us felt as if she was being helpful or truly engaged with us at this point. When we both stated our intention to go to the hospital, she gave us a choice: she could meet us at Piedmont Hospital (~45 miles from her home) or we could call after Steph was "checked" by the doctor. The question was clearly loaded, she did not feel as if we were as far along in labor as we were. The question was put in such a manner so as to make us choose the latter option, which we did. She's the expert, after all. We were made to feel as if we were most certainly being overly concerned and would probably be told to go home once we arrive at the ER. We were both made to feel completely stupid.

We headed to the hospital as quickly as I could get Steph dressed and in the car. All together that took 45 minutes, 30 minutes longer than it should have. Steph, being herself, was apparently hanging up towels we had used and depositing plates in the sink on the way out the door. Always straightening something up, I swear. The car ride was horrible, thankfully its only 4 miles! Steph was writhing in pain next to me with each contraction. I was trying to keep it together, driving through the tears and trying to ensure we actually made it to the hospital without any accidents. We dropped the car with the valet at the ER and Steph was wheeled up to the maternity ward, checked in and in a hospital bed within 5 minutes. The staff at the hospital was great and efficient!

Steph was close to 6 cm dilated and having contractions about every 3 minutes, we were definitely in active labor! And we've been receiving very bad advice from our doula. I called the doula and told her to get her ass down to the hospital IMMEDIATELY. She replied it would take her 60 - 90 minutes! When I told Steph, the hospital staff laughed and said we'd be parents long before the doula ever arrived. What a comforting thought...

Labor continues, doula or not, so Steph and I had to be a two man team. I was working with Steph to keep her breathing steadily through an oxygen mask while the staff gave her an IV and hooked her up to various monitors. The doctor on call, whom we had seen earlier in the day, came in and was clearly not pleased with the situation, our lack of doula and my retelling of her advice. Not pleased, at all. (The next day, we had a 30 - 40 minute open ended discussion with him about our choice to use a doula as well as things his practice can do to serve pregnant women more effectively. It was very nice of him to spend that time with us.) Quickly we progressed to Steph being fully dilated and ready to give birth. On the instruction of the maternity ward staff and doctor we started really pushing, trying to have a natural birth as we had both intended. Steph had always intended to try birthing Maya without drugs, I think she was beginning to reconsider that decision. However, we were way too late for that. After 30 minutes or so of actively trying to give birth, Maya was struggling, her heart rate was decelerating and she was clearly in distress. (We'd find out later that the placenta had abrupted, i.e. prematurely pulled away from the uterine wall, causing distress for the baby. Had we waited at home any longer, the outcome might have been quite different.)

The nurses quickly gave Steph drugs to stop her contractions, unplugged all of the wires from various monitors and in no time Steph was whisked into an emergency C-section. While we had both intended for me to be there with her during the surgery if possible, due to the emergent nature and the need for immediate sedation, I was not allowed to be with her. She was rolled into the OR for sedation and surgery.

I was left in a room. Alone. Crying.

I had no idea what was going to happen to my wife or my baby. And there was nobody who could tell me.

15 minutes passed, it seemed like an eternity.

During this time I managed to compose myself enough to send an emergency text message to my cousin asking for help. I finally got myself together enough to call him as well. Todd hopped in his car and headed my way. This was the longest 15 minutes in my life sitting alone, without anyone there to support me in my time of need. Nurses came in and out of the room where I was alternating between sitting alone crying and pacing a hole in the floor.

Connie, one of the nurses, came out to get me. We had a baby! I was so stressed out I almost forgot to ask her if we had a boy or girl! Connie helped me get dressed up to go into the OR and lead me in. Seeing Steph laid out on the table, cut open with people still working on her made my heart sink. That was a very scary sight, the image is one I don't think I will ever get out of my head. It was only then that I learned that she was OK and would be out of surgery soon.

Then I saw Maya! She was being tended to, cleaned up and having her APGAR scores checked, etc. I stood there in shocked silence, camera in hand, gazing at my newborn daughter. I continued crying. I could barely get myself together enough to take a picture. I didn't say anything until someone asked me what her name was. Somehow I managed to get out "Maya Simone" before falling back into my dumbfounded silence.

Maya was ready to be moved to the transitional nursery so she should could finish being cleaned up, weighed, measured and have her footprints taken. (Side note: I have an extra set of her footprints which I will put to good use soon... more on that some other time.) She was put into a bassinet and I got to wheel her out of the OR and down the hall with two nurses in tow.

As soon as we exited the OR I looked up to see our doula. We exchanged few words, but my message was clear: "Go home, your services are not needed." Steph had already been through most of a vaginal birth and a C-section without the support of the person we hired for support! What else could she do? How much more bad advice did I really need?

While waiting on Steph to come out of surgery I made some important calls to let family know what was going on. Shortly afterward, Steph came out of the OR and into a recovery room. I got to give her the good news about Maya! I showed her the pictures I had taken kissed her and told her she'd get to meet Maya soon. My cousin, Todd, showed up shortly thereafter. Finally I had some support! I was so relieved to have a shoulder to cry on. He stayed with us for a few hours to help with Maya - Todd is a master swaddler! - and be there for both Steph and I.

In the end, everything turned out OK, even if not exactly as we had planned. Mom and baby are healthy and happy. While the experience was not as planned or expected, there were some things that the doula could not have changed, specially the abrupted placenta. However, the doula failed to deliver services that were promised. We decided to request that all fees be returned to us. This was a conversation neither of us was looking forward to.

After consulting the doula's contract this morning to understand our rights, I spoke to her. I was unimpressed by her unwillingness to negotiate with me on a refund of her fees for her negligent behavior and lack of support during labor. After an unsatisfactory and argumentative response from the doula, I called the owner of the doula service directly in order to express my dismay.

The owner and head doula was much nicer and more accommodating. She listened to my concerns, gave me a chance to share my recollection of the events on Wednesday night and recognized that our doula did not provide acceptable service. She also indicated that she had already discussed our birth with the doula and given her a "talking to" about the way in which she presented our choices with respect to coming to the hospital. With the help of a labor timeline guided by my cell phone records and photographs, we have been able to document exactly what happened during Steph's labor, when we contacted the doula, etc. Based on our discussion and the details provided the owner of the service has agreed to refund all fees associated with Maya's birth.

We are quite appreciative of the owner's willingness to work with us and her recognition that we did not receive the quality of service that she expects from her doulas. In deference to her and the services her company offers, I have chosen not to name either the doula or the doula service.

I don't know how differently the evening might have gone had we received the expected service, but I am still very happy with the outcome: a beautiful little girl who has already stolen my heart.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

24 hours in...

I'm exhausted, but running on adrenaline for the moment. It has been a full day of family and friends coming to visit us and meet Maya while I learn how to change diapers, swaddle Maya and generally try to keep her happy. Of course, I don't have boobs, so I can only do so much at this point...

I've had 3 hours sleep since 6 AM yesterday, so I'm headed home to be with the dogs and catch some shut eye while Steph and Maya spend another night in the hospital. Steph will get some rest with Maya in the nursery between feedings. Of course I'll be back first thing in the morning to keep everyone company...

Who is Maya Named For?

People are already asking how we came up with Maya's names, so here's a little info to chew on...

Though I am firmly atheist, or what Richard Dawkins would call a "strong atheist" denying the existence of any god or gods, and Steph is agnostic, we both enjoy the cultural traditions of Judaism. We wish to raise Maya in a home with respect for our cultural traditions.

These bullet points from Wikipedia on Humanistic Judaism represent our views quite well:
  • People possess the power and responsibility to shape their own lives independent of supernatural authority;
  • Ethics and morality should serve human needs, and choices should be based upon consideration of the consequences of actions rather than pre-ordained rules or commandments; and,
  • Jewish history, like all history, is a purely human and natural phenomenon. Biblical and other traditional texts are the products of human activity and are best understood through archaeology and other scientific analysis.
In the cultural traditions of Ashkenazi Jews parents name their children after deceased relatives. However, we do not reuse the name of that relative, only the first initial. Following this tradition, we have named Maya after a few prominent people in our lives:

Maya is for Steph's father, Mitchell Levine. As you may recall from our first Hike For Discovery, we hiked in honor of Steph's dad who lost his battle with myeloma in November, 1995. Maya has a number of different meanings, the one I like best was provided by one of my coworkers. In Hindu culture, Maya means "ultimate truth". Simone is for my maternal grandparents, Sue and Samuel Jacobs, and Steph's maternal grandmother Sadie Buchman. Simone comes from the Hebrew word for "loud". We are already seeing her live up to that name!

Introducing... Maya Simone Saxe!

It's official, I'm a daddy!

Maya Simone Saxe was born last night, 4/2/2008, at 8:45 PM. Although her birth was not at all what we expected — the emergency C-section was definitely not part of the birth plan, nor was the doula showing up after the birth — both mom and Maya are doing great. I've put up a Flickr photostream for Maya where I will be pushing pictures over the next few days.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Baby Update

Yes, Steph was due Saturday. No, we haven't had the baby yet. Due dates come and go all the time, this is nothing out of the ordinary.

It is so nice of everyone to be inquiring about our soon to grow family, but the endless email, Skype and AIM messages, phone calls and SMS messages are a bit overwhelming. If you're comfortable enough using one of the above means to contact us and make an inquiry, you are also on the phone or email list to be notified when there is something to know. No, we haven't forgotten about you, or the almost 200 other people on our email list. I'm not trying to be rude, so I hope nobody takes it that way.

In the meantime, life goes on as normal. Well, sort of... I have no focus at work and Steph is watching bad daytime TV and playing Super Mario Brothers on the Wii.

Of course the obligatory cute baby pictures will be posted when there is something to post...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bootcamp Physical Fitness Test

Bootcamp is over and I did my fitness test today. I knocked 2 minutes 40
seconds off my 1 mile run (from 10:30 to 7:50!!) and improved my timed sit ups, push ups and dips. w00t! I'm going to take the weekend for a little relaxing, a lot of beer drinking and some good, unhealthy foods that I have been craving before I get back to the hard work of working out hard on Monday AM.

I bought myself a heart rate monitor this week to help me train for the Peachtree Road Race. I'll be taking it out for a run this weekend to guide me to keep my heart rate in the 70 - 80% max heart rate (MHR) zone as I run so I can (hopefully) start extending the length of my runs in both time and distance. Right now I'm working off the age based calculations, but I should find some time soon to determine my MHR more scientifically based on my resting heart rate as I wake up in the morning... if I can remember to do that at 5:30 AM when I get up.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Operation Boot Camp - Week 3

Three weeks have passed since I started at boot camp. I just signed up for three more months. I am a glutton for punishment.

On Friday I take my PT again to check against my stats from day 1. I can't wait to see the improvements I have made...

If its not obvious already, I really like boot camp. Having someone to push me every day, make me work harder and go beyond what I think my limits are is a powerful motivator.

The only thing that would make boot camp better is warmer weather. Tomorrow morning it will be hovering around the freezing point as we head out for our morning work out. YUCK! It is almost April already, the dogwoods are in bloom and the pollen is in the air. What's with the crazy weather?! Spring is coming soon and then summer. By then I'll probably be wishing it was in the 30s again...

I'm not dead yet!

Last Saturday Steph and I were at home, entertaining some friends when I stepped outside to take a call. I took the opportunity to check the mail and, damn, did I get the surprise of my life. Java died. I have the condolence card from my vet to prove it!

But, there's one problem: Java is still alive and kicking! Perhaps because it was Easter weekend he had been resurrected (if you can believe in such fallacies)? Probably not.

It appears as if there was some mistake at the vet. While I love the vet herself, her staff is pretty dumb. There is more than one Java that visits our vet clinic and the vet herself often refers to Java as "she" instead of "he" before quickly correcting herself and mentioning, yet again, that she sees multiple Javas of different genders. (This is especially humorous when Java is prone, legs in the air, displaying his junk for all to see. Perhaps she's not aware what a penis is? Maybe the twig without berries is confusing? Who knows!?) Apparently her staff has somehow mixed up the records for Java (with twig, no berries) and Java (no twig or berries), hence the condolence card to Java (with twig, no berries). Needless to say, the vet was quite embarrassed when we called to alert her to her (his?) mistake.

Next time I get a dog I am giving it a unique name so that this kind of situation doesn't happen again. Perhaps we'll use one of the baby names we considered and quickly threw away, such as S'phyllis or Lemonjello... only time will tell.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bootcamp - End of Week 2

Its been two weeks since I started bootcamp and I reached my first goal. For the first time in way too long I broke 190 lbs, losing my first 10 lbs! After two weeks I am really starting to notice changes in my body as my waist becomes slimmer and my legs are becoming more defined. I'm amazed at the difference two weeks of working hard and eating right makes!

Today I ran my first road race. If you know me at all you'll know I am fond of saying, "I only run when chased." Well, no more. I ran the Sham Rock 'n Roll 5k this morning at Atlantic Station in a hair under 30 minutes! Considering 2 weeks ago my 1 mile run at boot camp was 10 minutes 30 seconds, I've gained both speed and endurance through boot camp training. The best part about the race? The 2 hour nap I took when I returned home!

Since 5k was a breeze (well, not really), its time to take it up a notch to a 10k. I just completed my Peachtree Road Race application so I can run with 55,000 of my closest friends on July 4th! I've never run a 10k before but I have more than 3 months to train before the big day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BootCamp - Week 2

We're in the middle of week two of bootcamp. I'm feeling stronger, faster and generally have more energy than I did in the beginning. The meals are getting easier as I get into the habit of eating six times a day. I have the additional benefit of needing to cook at home in order to meet my daily allowance of protein, carbs and vegetables while minimizing my fat intake. This has been great for me since I love to cook, but often find excuses why we need to go out to dinner instead. I've taken quite a bit of inspiration lately from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday where the meals are healthy and relatively quick to prepare. Rick's Chicago restaurant, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo, is one of my favorites and a must-do when I am in the windy city. As a huge Mexican food fan its nice to see some more healthy alternatives to what most Americans think Mexican food is. Not that the cheese filled and fried foods aren't good... they are! But they are not on my eating plan at the moment.

Interestingly, I'm already noticing significant changes in my body composition. I've lost more than two inches off my waist already! Clothes that didn't fit 2 weeks ago now fit. Clothes than I haven't fit into in more than 2 years now fit, as well! By the time I get back on the road for work (May?) I'm going to need to buy a new wardrobe! This is seriously cool stuff.

At the doctor's office yesterday it was noted that I have lost 18 pounds since the last time I saw her! (2006? At the time I was pushing 210 pounds, near my heaviest weight.) That means I am down about 9 pounds since the beginning of March. W00t!

There's still 2.5 weeks of boot camp left in March and I'm already considering joining again in April. Boot camp and a newborn. It sounds crazy. It probably IS crazy. But I'm committed to being in the best shape of my life by the time I turn 35 in July! I'm already in the best shape of my life, I'm just hoping to continue that trend, increasing my strength and endurance while bringing my weight down to a healthy level that I can maintain for the remainder of my life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Shawn Mullins has a new album out today. Shawn is one of my long-time favorite artists and an Atlanta institution.

I first saw him play acoustic guitar at Oxford Books (an Atlanta institution that is long gone now) in 1993. I used to go there to read/study when I was in grad school and discovered Shawn, Millan & Kenzie, Matthew Kahler and others there. I have so many good memories of going to shows where Shawn played, such as New Years Day 1994 at Rainy Day Records (also long since gone) when I met Shawn's dog, Roadie, and a very intimate performance at Oxford College with perhaps 20 people, Shawn playing and singing and Andy Edmonds (???) playing harmonica.

I'm giving the new album a first listen right now...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bootcamp - Day 2

I'm on the second day of bootcamp.


I hurt.

Bootcamp is kicking my ass.

One of the most difficult things to do is eat properly six times a day. Thankfully my job keeps me at home, so I have everything I need in the kitchen to make good, healthy choices following a meal plan like that in Body for Life. Since I did BfL back in 2001, the food is not as daunting as it could be, but I was so hungry yesterday.

So what do we do in bootcamp? Get our butts kicked around the parking lot and fields at a local tennis center! Yesterday was a physical fitness test where we got to find out how out of shape we were. My stats:
  • 1 mile run: 10 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Push-ups (timed, 1 min): 30 manly pushups, 8 more girlie-style
  • Sit-Ups (timed, 1 min): 35
  • Dips (timed 1 min): 20 (straight legs), 10 (bent knees, much easier)
In 30 days I hope to see these numbers improve!

Today we focused on legs with lots and lots of squats and lunges, with a good number of push-ups and sit ups to make it interesting. One thing that the instructors are great at is keeping everyone moving for the entire 45 minute workout. When you are in line waiting to run the course you are still moving: running in place, lunges, squats or the "listening position" where you hold a squat with your legs bent at the knees at about 45 degrees! OUCH! I was definitely showing my lack of cardio training today as I started fading half-way through the workout and my runs became slower, my push-ups uglier and my clothes soaked through and through. (Sure, it was raining, but I'd wager my clothes held more water weight in sweat and tears than rain!)

Tomorrow is an off day, so I'll be doing my homework running on the PATH near my house... This is the test to see if I can be as motivated without being surrounded by others going through the same workout as I am...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Boot Camp

Boot camp begins in a week. I'm a bit nervous now that my neighbor, a veteran boot camper, has told me that I am "crazy" for joining in the same month that Steph is due. At least the Rabbi has decided to join me in the pain that will be coming my way...

Java - One Expensive Beast

About two weeks ago I was on the floor petting Java. There he was, lying on his back, all four legs up in the air, when I noticed a large mass in his abdomen, just beneath the rib cage. He's a lumpy old man full of little, harmless tumors called lipomas. This one felt very different. It was larger than any of the others and it appeared to be in his abdomen, not on it. Not good.

Last Friday we saw our vet who took blood, urine and x-rays. The vet confirmed that there is a large mass of unknown origin in his abdomen and referred us to a specialty clinic for a more thorough diagnosis. Of course, all I could think of is that he has a terminal disease or something that would reduce his quality of life, making last weekend quite unhappy in our house.

On Tuesday we went to the vet at Georgia Veterinary Specialists. After more blood work, an ultrasound and aspirating the lump, it turns out to be nothing more than another lipoma. Cheers all around, Java is a healthy old man after all! And now he has a very expensive funny haircut - shaved belly with very uneven edges - to show off to all the ladies...

Java, its time for you to get a job and start paying some of the bills around here! Maybe you can tour with the Black Eyed Peas singing about your lumps. ("My lumps, my lumps, my big ol' fatty lumps... check it out!")

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hike for Discovery 2008

The new season has kicked off, but I won't be joining this year for obvious reasons. I am, however, remaining active with the team. So I went to Kennesaw on Saturday for the first hike of a season. We time everyone as they climb to the top of Kennesaw mountain (1.2 miles, ~650' elevation gain). I offered to lead the fast group to the top. Stupid me.

Two guys, one part of HFD, another who was considering joining, and a mother/son team kicked my ass hiking up the mountain. Just under 20 minutes to get to the top! I was huffing and puffing and having an asthma attack just trying to keep up with them. And my legs, damn were they burning! So much for leading the charge up the mountain! Previously my quickest time to the top was ~25 minutes, so this was quite a bit faster than I have ever attempted this previously and it really showed me that I need to work on my aerobic conditioning more.

In order to get in more cardio and work on my aerobic conditioning, I have joined Operation Bootcamp. Starting March 3 I'll be doing bootcamp workouts for the month of March at 6 AM daily. I must be a masochist to put myself through this. My only hope is the beer-hating Rabbi will be joining me in my month of pain prior to the baby arriving...

To prove I'm not a lager hater...

I did have one great lager last night: Left Hand Brewing Company's Rye Bock Lager. This is a very nontraditional doppelbock brewed with rye, which normally adds a spicy characters to beers. A very smooth drinking beer with notes of chocolate in the nose and a rich, malty body, this went down way too easy. At ~$12 for a 750mL bottle, I won't be buying a lot of this, however, its a nice addition to Left Hand's lineup.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Simple pleasures

As a beer geek, I am often drawn toward things that are bigger, better, more extreme. I had a phase where I was into double IPAs, though it began to seem similar to being into hot sauce. After a certain point, there was no balance, only hoppiness (spiciness). Lately I have been into barrel aged beers from the Lost Abbey (The Angel's Share was my favorite beer last year), Goose Island and others and wild beers from places like Russian River. And of course, Dogfish Head, particularly their very high gravity beers like Raison d'Extra and World Wide Stout. These are some fabulous beers, with crazy flavor profiles just begging to be shared with friends who can appreciate the art of brewing. These beers are for sipping, not drinking, making them inappropriate at some occasions. Some of them have near cult-like obsession for people, i.e. the guy who dropped $150 on a bottle of The Angel's Share on Ebay.

But sometimes, its a simple beer that brings me pleasure. Lately, I have been into Theakston Old Peculier, an old ale from the north of England and Fuller's London Pride, a bitter from London. The nutty, biscuit flavors of London Pride make an easy drinking, fairly low alcohol brew, so you could have a few at a sitting, if you should wish.

Another recent simple pleasure was two bottles of Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, an "old Bavarian dark beer" and a lager. Lagers are generally not something I consume a lot of, especially the pilsners, marzen and vienna styles. Bocks and doppelbocks are my lager exception. However, this beer was quite nice, very easy drinking with a strong malt profile and few, if any, hops, perfect for a warm winter day like today.

I'm not giving up on the more extreme beers, but I do intend to have a few more light, easily approachable beers in the fridge for those times when I just want to enjoy something completely unpretentious. I might even buy a 6 pack of Michelob Ultra Pomegranate Raspberry for "the Rabbi"...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Year, New Changes

OK, so it isn't really a New Years Resolution, but like Shawn, I am trying to be a little more green in 2008. To that end, we've changed a few things in our life:
  • Last year we stopped buying bottled water for the house. I try not to buy it on the road, but that seems a near impossibility at times. Of course, research suggests that using a Nalgene bottle may expose me to Bisphenol A. I may have to buy a few of the Sigg bottles instead.
  • I've started recycling more. After spending some time to determine what we can recycle in Atlanta, I have added more printed junk mail and cardboard to the outbound collection of recyclables. We already were very good about recycling plastic, glass and some paper products, so this is more of a tweak to our normal routine.
  • Bye, bye printed catalogs! They fill up our mailbox every day. Catalogs from places like REI (which I want) and L.L. Bean (which I don't want). So I have used Catalog Choice to stem the flow. So far, no difference.
  • "Free" newspapers that come in the mail aren't free to print, distribute and then haul to a recycling center. I called our local free newspaper and politely asked them to stop distributing to our home.
  • Low flow toilets are great (well, sometimes) but they still account for a lot of our water usage. New motto: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." A little urine in the toilet isn't going to kill anyone, but it will save a lot of water.
  • Low flow showerheads are next on the list. I bought one already from Bricor, a 1.5 gallon per minute (GPM) model designed to save 1 GPM over my current showerhead, but I am disappointed with the results. The water pressure in my house may be part of the problem, but increasing the water pressure will cause more waste elsewhere. This one is going back to the manufacturer while I search for other solutions. (On this note, my water bill averages $35/mo. Another couple who are neighbors of ours have an average bill of $85/mo and some neighbors run $300+ bills in the summer. We're already pretty light users of water, it seems.)
  • I am trying to get better at turning off the monitor, printer and other peripherals when they are not in use. Steph's machine automatically turns off when not in use. Since I'm almost always online I haven't yet gone down that route for my machines.
There are a few things we've done for years, too:
  • Telecommute. I've been doing it for 3 years, full time. My car gets about 5000 miles/year traveling mostly to the airport and the gym. I figure this saves us 10 - 20k miles/year.
  • Use automated thermostats and moderate the HVAC. Sure, I'd like it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, but that gets expensive quickly. The difficult part is when I work from home, I can't just heat or cool my office easily. I've looked into thermostats that automatically circulate air through the house even when the heat or AC are not needed, just to keep the temperatures even and air circulating. This may be a future change
  • CFLs. Need I say more?
And then there are the things I can't or won't change. Admittedly, I could buy carbon credits, but I'm just not there yet:
  • Air travel. I flew ~70k miles last year. Its my job and we love to travel.
  • Inefficient cars. Sure, together we only drive ~25k miles/year, but neither car is particularly fuel efficient, at best we get 26 MPG in the Passat on a road trip. Considering that we drive an about average amount of miles in average fuel efficiency cars, this isn't all bad news. But it could be better if we had reasonable public transportation...
  • Plastic grocery bags. They make good dog-poop bags. Two uses and I don't need to buy dog-specific bags.
What are you doing to reduce your ecological impact, if anything?