Thursday, May 31, 2007

Busy Little Ant

This weekend as we were leaving my sister in law's house we spotted this ant rapidly dragging a large cake crumb along the front walk. This was the best shot I could get before it went over the side into the grass. I got a bit of video of it struggling with it in the grass, but haven't sent it to my email from my phone.

Anyway, I believe this is my first picture post with a pic taken with my new phone. It's my first phone with a camera - an LG VX8300 - and it's pretty neat.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Sperm Results In

My wife says she talked to the nurse at the fertility clinic and she says my sperm count from the backup collection was 3 million. That's nothing to brag about - it's still in the infertility zone - but it is somewhere between 50% and 600% better than my previous count. The normal morphology went up from 0% to 1%, but I don't know what the margin of error is on that number, or if it could just be a result of the higher count in general.

Why the large spread of numbers? Because my wife didn't ask whether that 3 million was the total count or the motile count. My previous total and motile counts were 1.9 and 0.5 million respectively. They still haven't gotten back the full genetic testing results. I hope that means there's no rush to get them back because there's nothing wrong. That does seem to be the pattern with medical tests in my experience. Anyway, I guess we'll get clarification on the sperm count when we hear from them on that.

Friday, May 25, 2007

If I Wasn't On A Mostly Strict No-Mammal Diet...

I'd be down south huntin' me up one o them big 'ol giant hogs! Them's good eatin'!

AP: Boy Bags Hog Said Bigger Than 'Hogzilla'

I'm right in there with the Hunting Giant Hogs t-shirts, though. (Did you think I wouldn't be?)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Thought On Civilization

I realize it's simplistic, but it occurred to me that as our degree of civilization increases, we include more and more people in the group we consider to be "us". And as we include fewer and fewer people in that group, and exclude more and more, civilization breaks down.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Forgot something...

I forgot we went on the Curse of DarKastle ride. Here's a video someone took of it. You wear 3-D glasses during the ride, so you'll notice lots of double images.

Last Weekend - Finally

I just realized I said I'd blog about what we did last weekend, but never did. I'm a bit restless in anticipation of tomorrow (see previous entry) so I guess I'll work a bit of that off by writing this entry.

It started off with an invitation to a birthday party for a cousin of my wife's who she hasn't seen for years. Turns out it was sent at the instigation of another cousin we saw at my wife's grandmother's recent funeral. It was to be in relatively unfamiliar territory for us, a couple hours' drive away in Williamsburg, and with mostly strangers attending, so at the last minute, in the hotel suite we shared with my in-laws, we decided to blow it off.

Instead of going to the party, we drove down the street to a K-Mart and bought swim suits, then hit the indoor pool at the hotel. It was nice, about 80 degrees, but a bit salty. I think maybe it was desalinated sea water, but maybe it was some weird chemical they were using. Who knows? We had fun, swimming back and forth (for the first time in a couple years) and playing around. Afterward we went out to eat, ending up at Chili's. On the way out there was a fife & drum playing next door.

Apparently, Jamestown was having its 400th anniversary, and Bush was there exploring his future career options. There were lots of people in town, taking shuttle buses to Jamestown for the celebrations.

While driving around deciding where to eat, we spotted some horses in a field surrounded by a split rail fence. We parked and walked across the street, hoping to put them a bit, but the wandered off to graze. One apparently had an itchy belly. He tried to scratch with his foot but couldn't reach, so he lowered himself to the ground and wriggled around. It was weird.

The next day we were trying to figure out what to do with our Sunday. We hadn't really found anything compelling in the brochures in the lobby. My sisters in law and their kids planned to go to Busch Gardens. My in-laws mentioned that they have a deal for residents where we can get a season pass for the price of a one-day ticket, so we figured what the heck, there's nothing to lose. We went and had fun.

We pretty much followed the same path through the park we followed last July, entering through the England area, then heading over to Italy. My wife insisted on riding the Escape From Pompei ride, getting herself splashed while I took her picture from a covered observation area. Then she rode some other rides. I didn't ride much since my back was twinging me a bit and I wanted to wait until it warmed up some. Did I mention it was sixty degrees when we arrived?

We rode the teacups, or Turkish Delight as it's called there, and hopped the train to the Canada area (or New France as they call it.) We could smell the smoked meat as we got off. Then we could smell the smoke from the designated smoking area and all the designated smokers who were there. We had arrived at the park around 11 AM, so we headed over to the German area and the Octoberfest food pavilion. We got in the cafeteria-style line and got fries, cake, drinks, and some institutional-grade pizzas. Yum! The carrot cake was pretty good. Lots of raisins, though I think it would have been better with a few less. There were German-style dancers and a band there entertaining the crowd and getting everyone to yell out "oi! oi! oi!" Her family showed up there and we talked and ate as families do, and the five-year-old refused to eat as five-year-olds do.

We headed out and took a spin on the bumper cars. I bumped my wife pretty good a few times, and she gave as good as she got. It was fun. The back of my head was hurting from smiling the whole time. After that we rode the Katapult (or Scrambler as the painted-over plate on the center structure read.) Man, that thing really whips you around. It felt like we were about to be flung across the park every time we went around. It was great. If it wasn't such a line I would have liked to go on it again. The bumper cars too.

After that we had about an hour or so before the time we wanted to head out so we'd get home right around sunset. We thought about taking a round trip on the skycars, but we asked and found out we would have to get out and get back in line at each of the other two stations. We skipped that, vowing to ride them next time, and headed toward the park entrance. When we got there it was near time for the Pirates 4-D show to begin, so we headed in.

The seats were wet, so we knew we were in for a little splashing. We picked a pair of dry seats and waited. I marveled at with the 3-D glasses on my hand looked like it was coming right at me. My wife didn't find it quite so marvelous, so I stopped. The show started. It starred Leslie Nielson and Eric Idle (who wrote it) and was obviously made with the kids in mind. The 3-D was decent, and the additional effects - spraying water, blowing air, buzzing seats, added a lot of fun to it. It was actually enjoyable having Leslie Nielson spit water on us.

After the show it was time to go, and we headed out right on schedule. There was a bit of traffic on the way home, but ultimately it only took a half hour extra.

I'm not sure when we're going to go again, but I am looking forward to it. My wife is going to be really stressed in the coming month, and more if we have to try the IVF more than once, so a little fun escape at the right time will be just the ticket.

The picture above is the Griffin, Busch Garden's latest roller coaster, as seen from the train. It was open for a one-day sneak preview opening on Mother's Day. Top center you can see the sigle car, three rows of ten seats each, I believe, poised at the top of the big drop 250 feet up. We watched it a few times from various vantage points. The car stops, hanging over the edge for a few seconds, building the suspense for the riders. The it drops plunging straight down for a portion of the drop, as you can see by the track. We did not go on that ride, though I believe one of my sisters in law did. She's a friggin nut.

A Big Day Friday

Tomorrow morning we're driving down to the fertility lab to collect a backup sperm sample, just in case I get too sick, or injured, or otherwise incapacitated when the really big day comes in a month or so. I've heard of some men who get a psychological block and can't finish. I didn't have that problem when we tried IUI, so I'm not anticipating it now. I've been "saving it up" since Monday night, so I'm actually looking forward to it. I'm also interested in seeing whether my sperm count is any different. I doubt it but you never know.

Then we head over to the doctor for my wife's physical. We assume it'll be the typical gynecological exam, but with the addition of having her uterus filled with saline for an ultrasound to check for polyps and the like.

After that, lunch and back to Secret Headquarters, possibly with a stop at Lowes for some much-needed shelving.

Wish us luck! :)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Got My First Cafepress Check!

$37.09 for the period ending 4/1/2007. A good start, and it's been better since.

315 designs and growing...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Don't Quite Get This One...

Can you figure it out? Can you explain it to me? I just know I'm going to kick myself once I do get it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another Piece Of The Puzzle

My wife was doing a little online research last night and learned something interesting about a possible cause of my sperm problems. Apparently there are signs of a statistical link between appendicitis and anti-sperm antibodies. Anti-sperm antibodies can cause the body's immune system to attack sperm and keep them from developing normally.

Well, if it's possible for a case of appendicitis to cause a man to produce anti-sperm antibodies then I'm a absolutely prime candidate. Several years back I had appendicitis. It wasn't the usual case, though. To make a long story short, I walked around, apparently for a few months, with an encysted ruptured appendix. It was finally diagnosed with a CT-scan, though because I had to travel for that due to an insurance issue my doctor wasn't told of the diagnosis until we were off on vacation. We got back, I had my appendix out, and I recovered. I thought that was pretty much the end of it. I wonder now if maybe that extended/recurring case of appendicitis is what's behind my low sperm count and motility and poor morphology.

Just the possibility relieves us both of a nagging doubt: were we really meant by nature to reproduce? If this is an acquired condition, and we have no reason at this point to believe it's not, that doubt is gone.

The Making Of Smuggling Basketballs

Smuggling Basketballs Maternity T-shirts

This is how I made them.

1. Get an old t-shirt, outgrown but not worn out.
2. Poke holes in it with the screwdriver I just used to tighten my glasses.
3. Rip holes wider by hand.
4. Shove basketball inside t-shirt, set on chair, and arrange holes & ball.
5. Set up camera on tripod.
6. Take picture. (above left)
7. Adjust brightness & contrast of image to make everything more visible.
8. Adjust color of ball to be a more bright orange.
9. Select t-shirt area.
10. Adjust brightness & contrast of t-shirt area to make area between holes mostly white and shadows grey.
11. Select hole areas and tatters, feather a bit, and crop, leaving the rest solid white.
12. Tweak & trim the shadows.
White version done.
13. Select white and tattered areas.
14. Carefully tweak selection.
15. Feather selection and adjust color to black with dark grey highlights. Forget about the shadows.
16. Select and trim away stray highlights beyond tatters surrounding holes.
17 Select all surrounding black area, reduce the selection, and delete leaving transparent section.
Dark version done.

Some of those steps took a bit longer to do than to write. :)
I don't think I've spent more time and effort on a design before. Feels good.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Been Busy Designing

I've been busy producing new designs since added maternity tees. So far, in addition to the Mad Gestating Skillz design I've had in the Yahoo blog's blast, I've come up with homages to Rosemary's Baby and The Mummy, and adapted an earlier homage to Shakespeare's MacBeth.

I've got ideas for a couple series of designs for these shirts too, but I think they would work best with one of cafepress' premium shops. I've been making enough to cover the cost of that and then some, but I'm thinking I'd like to stick a toe in the water with them first, and maybe build up a bigger collection of maternity designs.

If you know anyone who's "preggers" and who would appreciate my taste (or lack thereof) tell them to take a look-see. Thanks, and enjoy!

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Favorite Movie

I watched this (not for the first time) on IFC this weekend. I'm not a gospel type of guy, to be sure, but good music is good music. It's based on The Odyssey, in case you hadn't heard.

This is one of those songs that make me wish I could play guitar and sing.

Happy Birthday Bill Danoff

Official Bill Danoff Site

A Walk With My Wife - And Who We Met

As part of our attempt to get in better shape leading up to our attempt(s) at parenthood, we've taken to taking walks, ostensibly every day. This weekend the weather forced us into the mall on one day. As soon as we had entered, we were flagged down by my mother in law who was there at the Chick-fil-a with my sister in law. We sat down with them to say hi, and then, at my wife's request, I went and got the two of us some pizza from Sbarro. I also got me a mint cookies & cream shake from Chick-fil-a. (I'm so weak. Gotta be stronger than that. :P ) After lunch and a conversation that largely revolved around the Akon/Snoop Dogg song "I wanna ---- you", we went our separate ways and continued our walk, with a little store browsing along the way. (Didn't buy anything.)

The other two days we were able to do our walking around a 3/4 mile dirt track at the local university's athletic field. At the end of our lap today, we spotted a baby bird on the track. As we approached, it took off and flew slowly a short distance and landed on one of the railroad ties lining the track. After imitating its calls (and those of the birds in the tree above) for a little bit, I approached slowly and poured a little bit of water on the end of the tie, making a small puddle a few inches across. The baby bird hopped hesitantly toward the water, but when it got within a few inches of it I guess it decided drinking in with people so near wasn't something it was comfortable with, and it flew up into the tree. We smiled and hugged a little and went on our way.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

What's Your American Accent?

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


("Midland" is not necessarily the same thing as "Midwest") The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate. Since it's a neutral accent, just because you have a Midland accent doesn't mean you're from the Midland.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz

Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.
Interesting, since I was born and raised in New Orleans. I did watch a lot of Sesame Street and the like growing up, though.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

An Oldie But A Goodie

Anyone else remember Brunching Shuttlecocks?

Juggernaut Optimized for Hazardous Nullification
Get Your Cyborg Name

The Ball Is Rolling

Other than the consult with the doctor and the IVF consultant Tuesday, we took our first official step in the IVF process Wednesday: Getting blood drawn for a panel of pre-procedure tests. They're testing us both for a number of diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, and running a genetic screen on me. We discussed it, and we figure that if something wrong is found in my genes that is likely causing my poor sperm production, but that's all it would possibly do to any son of ours, we'd still go ahead without sex selection since we know the technology for him to get around the problem already exists (or else he wouldn't) and can only get better in the next twenty years. (BTW - going by the most likely date we'd schedule the IVF, it looks like the due date would be two days before my birthday. One of our nephews' birthday is the day before mine, so that would be quite a week! If the baby were born a couple days late - I think I was born like ten days late - that would be the best birthday present I ever got. :) )

The last time I had blood drawn was probably before my appendectomy a few years ago, but there was so much going on then I don't really remember it. This time around, they took, I think, five vials of blood. It didn't take long, though, and I had only the smallest little drop of blood on the gauze pad afterward.

Tonight was also the start of other changes. For some years we have not been doing much cooking to speak of. Sad to say, I've largely been living on frozen food and sandwiches and restaurant meals. My wife made herself the occasional batch of cheese bread, but was otherwise the same as me. We have decided to ween ourselves off the convenience foods and try to eat healthier & fresher. Tonight she made me a pasta bake with chicken & cheese & whole-wheat penne. Very nice, and with enough left over for at least a couple lunches.

This weekend I'll be attempting to finally finish the paint job in the front room and hallway. I had tried weekend before last, but ran out of the glaze I was sponging on. We got glaze & paint to mix a new batch. The least we could get was a gallon & a quart, so there should be plenty enough to finish, with plenty left over for later touch-ups. We've still got the guest room to install flooring in, but we have to get rid of some stuff that's in it now - particularly our old bed. (We plan to get an inflatable to put in the den if we do have company, and when we finally furnish the front room we may get a sleeper sofa for there. But the priority, assuming the IVF works, will be to convert the guest room into the baby room. There's a smaller bedroom, but that's to be my wife's studio for drawing, quilting, or whatever else she's inclined to do. In order to make this baby thing work we've also got to work on delegating a lot more at Secret Headquarters, as my wife does most of the paperwork & data entry now. Gotta offload that job so she can focus on the baby and the more creative aspects of the business and life in general.

And some potential good news: it looks like we'll likely be able to get additional financing for an additional cycle of IVF on our own, so, assuming we can get help for another from family, it looks like we'll probably be able to do three cycles. At a 40% chance each try, that comes to about a 78% chance of pregnancy, with a 63% chance it'll happen in two or less tries.

Here we go...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Where Are You In The Internet?

From - Online Communities. (Click for access to larger version.)

I guess we're somewhere in the blogipeligo. Where else do you spend time?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

IVF Consult Today - and - A "Brief" Entry On Boxers (heheh)


We have an appointment this afternoon to talk with the IVF coordinator, or whatever they call her, to get everything explained & scheduled and have whatever questions we have answered. We've been trying to think of as many questions as we can beforehand, and this morning we had a brainstorming session in the car. We'll likely do the same on the way there. Aught to be able to think of a few more during an hour drive.

The critical thing is the timing. We're pretty sure we can get one try in right away, but they have a gap in their scheduling during the summer to give their machinery a thorough cleaning. (It just occurred to me: does that mean we get the machines at their dirtiest? Probably well within tolerances.) If the first try doesn't work (~40% chance of success per try with ICSI at our age, they say) will we have to wait a few months longer for the second? I guess if the first try fails and we can identify one or more contributing factors a delay could give us time to do something about them, so if there is a delay there could be a silver lining to it. My wife just wants to power through this thing and get it done, though.


As part of an attempt to do everything possible to improve my sperm count & morphology, I've now switched to boxers after having worn briefs my whole life. I got knit boxers, so the feeling would be a little more familiar. It's still a different experience altogether, I can say. Everything dangles, with no support to speak of. The first couple days there was some definite discomfort in my left testicle as it hung unsupported, but that seems to have passed.

My wife picked up a couple pair for me. Merona, I think the brand is. Then we picked up some others - a couple Hanes and a couple Jockey, plus one novelty pair with Homer Simpson just for fun. Then my back went out on me. I have a bad back, an inheritance from my father, and every so often it hits me. I believe it's the muscles of the lower back going into spasm. It seems to happen more readily if I wear pants with a waistband or drawstring that digs into them. Lying on the floor seems to help a lot, if only temporarily. Anyway, I took a closer look at the waistbands of the brands I got, and while the Hanes look smoother & softer - puffy with no bunching like you normally see with an elastic waistband in boxers - the elastic seems like it's going to hug tighter in a narrow band at the base of the waistband. The others seem to have more even pressure distributed over the entire hight. Because of that, I've declined to try wearing the Hanes until my back gets better. Search for merona boxer

The button fly is a new twist for me too. It's hard to unbutton those things while you're dancing.