Friday 28 December 2007

Owain's 2 Month Checkup

I decided to post about Owain's checkup today since John is out at Radioshack, yet again. Owain is really 10 weeks old as of yesterday but it took me a while to get settled enough to find a pediatrician. His new stats are-weight 14lbs 6oz, height 24 1/2inches, and head circumference is 16 1/4 inches. He is above average in all areas especially weight where he falls into the 90th percentile. He had to get his first immunization shots today and he cried quite a bit. I have a feeling it may have been the nurse's cold hands that kicked off the screamfest. He is napping now after having a dose of Tylenol. He was not a happy bunny after those shots. I must admit that I have been an anxious wreck since last night anticipating this Dr's visit today. Thank goodness it's over! At least for 2 more months anyways.

Sunday 23 December 2007

Happy Yuletide!

I got around to storing all the photos we've taken in the past couple of months.

Friday 21 December 2007

Yes, I love technology

Sorry to all you baby photo fans out there. We've taken quite a few recently but with one thing and another, they're not on the web yet.

Last weekend was quite quiet ... I think. I can't really remember. We took family photos by the tree and probably did some shopping and some more unpacking.

Monday was the office party and guess who won the grand raffle prize?!? I did!! You could have fooled me. It's one of those novelty controller video games called Rock Band. It comprises a pretend guitar, a set of pretend drums and an actual microphone. These, you plug into your XBox and then pretend that, not only do you have a life, but you have your own rock band to boot!

It quickly became apparent that this game is hot property as people offered to exchange it for the Sony PSPs and iPod Nanos that they had just won. Perhaps foolishly, I decided to hang on to it. Most foolishly because I didn't have an XBox to plug it into!

Heather suggested that the only way to justify getting a new games console at this stage was to call it my Xmas present. This was a cunning move on her part as Xboxes cost more than I've spent on her in our entire relationship. And so it was that we went to Best Buy on Wednesday and bought not only an XBox 360 for me, but a Hi-Def TiVo for her. Ever since, I've been behind the the TV in cable heaven, trying to hook up all of our gadgets without blowing any fuses. Even the cable engineer spent an hour there today trying to find our HBO.

Rock Band is suitably silly. The basic idea is that you spend the time it takes to learn how to play a musical instrument but instead, you spend it you just press buttons or hit pretend drums in time to a beat whilst staring at a TV. It's actually quite good fun although I haven't got my hands on the microphone yet. Heather sings the songs so she can hold the baby. I 'strum' along on what is bascially a guitar-shaped joystick.

So there you go. After years of shunning Bill Gate's and his evil empire, I've got hundreds of dollars worth of frivolous, Microsoft-branded tat taking up precious space in my living room. At least I'm supporting my local economy. In fact, when I wanted to find my nearest video games store, I typed "xbox" into Google Maps. I only got one result back.

Monday 10 December 2007

Baby Likes Beer!

I'd just like to point out that Owain was sober in this photoI just dipped the dummy in my pint of Murphy's before giving it to him and he finally stopped grumping. You can tut all you like. My good intentions have mostly gone out of the window over the past seven weeks. As far as I'm concerned, a good parent is one who can keep a baby quiet. Period.

His electric swinging chair arrived last Thursday although sometimes even that fails to sooth him. He isn't supposed to watch any telly until he's three. But tonight, just so we could eat, we sat him right up by the screen. The affects are already there for anyone to see. He's clearly obese and getting fatter every day. And he doesn't care what he watches either. He just stares blankly at the screen. He rarely plays outside with the other infants and his only other interests in the world are Christmas trees and lamps. Oh, and beer.

Anyway, here is the news:
  • Job continues to go well. On Friday afternoon, I played Whirlyball with all the other programmers. God invented this sport to prove to geeks that he exists;
  • We now have all the mod cons we need to survive: cable, broadband, a kettle and a fondue set;
  • My already rusty bike is chained to the railing outside and is about to learn a whole new world of pain over the next few months;
  • Our neighbours all seem to be very nice people and the recycling facilities here are the best I've ever seen outside the Netherlands;
  • Fred Meyer is the local equivalent of Robert Dyas and stocks all the crap that a couple of clueless newly-weds might be fooled into purchasing. They sell adaptors for people who live in houses that have 2-pin sockets. Huzzah!

Saturday 1 December 2007

Guy Smiley

He's been able to smile for a long time but it's becoming less random now. This movie was taken a week ago...

Thursday 29 November 2007

0.4 Children

I've been back at work for four days now and wish I'd posted an update at the weekend when I had more energy. I think I must have been a lot younger last time I had a job, not to mention the hours are that bit longer here. It's not like I ever really get any work to do in the first week of a new programming job but somehow, that doesn't help.

The studio itself is very impressive. It's more organised that anywhere I've worked before and there are nice touches everywhere: a coffee machine that doesn't require constant maintenance, web-mail that loads faster than I can read it and I even get a bus pass! Really, that's the closest I've ever got to having a company car so I must be going up in the world!

Washington and Seattle actually seem more like home than the America I've become accustomed to. It's colder outside than it is inside, there's moisture in the air, pedestrians walk the streets and posters everywhere advertise gigs, plays, etc..

It's rather frustrating for both us grown-ups that we live somewhere where there's lots to do now that we can't do any of it. There's a bar right across the street from us but unfortunately, Washington's under-age drinking laws prevent us from taking Owain to those - the first thing we missed about Arizona. He actually had his first drink from a bottle today but did it turn him into an antisocial lout? Not likely. He's six weeks old today and he can handle himself pretty good.

Our new home is full of 'character'. Most of the cigarette smell is gone now but the carpets are still a little sticky. The shower knob seized up the other day and looked for a while like it would never turn again. However, the most troubling observation (for me at least) is that none of the electrical sockets have an earth... they're all two-pin! This means that none of my power strips work. It also means that I can't use my extended laptop cable and am having to run off my battery right now.

A plus about these flats is that our neighbours haven't secured their wireless internet which is how I'm able to blog. For that reason, I ought to sign off before I'm rumbled and instead get some rest. I'll try and post at the weekend when our goal will be to get tables.

Thursday 22 November 2007

Progress Report

Yesterday's flat hunting went reasonably well considering. We did a lot of driving but only saw three places in the end. The first had stone floors which put Heather off straight away. The second was a long way out but very smart. It was sort of a 'community' with communal laundry rooms, a swimming pool, an off-shore deck and so on. Both of these places were on the pricey side - almost as much as I'm used to paying in Brighton or Guildford although far more spacious.

The third place cost a third less rent, was quite a way north of the office and smelled of stale cigarette smoke despite a fresh lick of paint. Regardless, we've told the landlord that we'll take it. It's available right away and we're done with living in a hotel room. It may not be ideal but the area, Ballard, seems nice and the contract is month-to-month which means we can easily change our minds. (Most places expect at least a six-month contract.) We see the landlord tomorrow morning. Then we do battle with the Black Friday bargain hunters!

This is actually my second Thanksgiving in the States. My trip to see Heather last year was around this time also. Back then, we were guests of Mary Ellen's family in Fountain Hills. This year we had to make do with restaurant food at McCormick's Fish House & Bar. In truth, it wasn't half bad except that there was only one portion per person. A proper Thanksgiving should be at least three or four. As it was, we left the building unaided.

Today was my Mum's 60th birthday and she sounded quite sloshed by the time I spoke to her. Perhaps she'll post some pictures of her celebrations (hint, hint). Sadly, Heather also found out this morning that her Grandpa passed away. He'd been in decline for some time so it wasn't a huge shock or anything. However, it does mean that Owain never met any of his great grandparents.

If we move tomorrow or check into a different hotel, I may not have internet for a while but I'll try and gets some photos of the flat ASAP.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

So Far in Seattle

We've been here a day now. The flight ended up being a couple of hours delayed so we didn't get to the hotel until gone 2am. Then Heather remembered we'd left the cot on the baggage carousel. So half the morning was spent returning to the airport to collect it, then getting fleeced by the Advantage Rent A Car agent who saw us coming a mile away.

By the time we'd eaten and made it back to the hotel, Heather was too tired to go anywhere. A sympathetic receptionist upgraded us to a room big enough to fit the cot in. Unfortunately, it was on a floor where the Internet was down. By the time that was fixed, it was too late to phone any landlords. It's thanksgiving on Thursday and that spills over into Friday. So basically, we've got one business day to find a place to live before I'm due to start work. It's going to be an early start but that's ok, we've got the world's best alarm clock!

When the baby isn't on the move or in a restaurant, he gets very tetchy so I decided to calm him down with a walk. We're in the Executive Pacific Plaza which is only a few streets from the waterfront so with a tight grip on the buggy I walked down the steep hill to Alaskan Way. In the 2000 feet journey, I passed 3 Starbucks. I even left the hotel via a coffee shop.

The waterfront is just the right amount of run down. I'd say it's roughly on a par with the Palace Pier in Brighton. There are touristy seafood restaurants, an aquarium and an arcade with an F-Zero cabinet!!

I used to wander into the arcades in Brighton just searching for one of these. I'd given up all hope of ever finding it. Not being superstitious, I don't see this as a very good omen.

Monday 19 November 2007

Going... going...

It's all going on here today.

The car was picked up around midday so we had to get a cab to the Paediatrician's for Owain's one-month check-up. For your information, he is 10 lbs 8 oz after a good poop.

Most recently, someone came round to look at the stuff that needs shipping. Remember the nursery... it looks like this!

We're still in Tempe for a few hours longer. The flight to Washington is in the late evening. It's already delayed by 45 minutes. If it gets any later, we won't be able to pick up our rental car.

Did I miss anything? Oh yes, I've thrown all my flip-flops in the trash and lent my spare pair of gloves to Heather. She still claims she won't mind having weather again but reserves the right to complain at any point in the future.

Our hotel in Seattle has free wi-fi but I can't promise when I'll report in next, or where. It'll be from some happenin' coffee house full of shrinks and so-called gunge rockers, no doubt.

Friday 16 November 2007

Swing While You're Whining

'The boy' is still doing his thing. He's finally taken to the swinging seat thing. This is a massive relief as previously, the most reliable way to pacify him involved putting an upside-down finger in his mouth which often involves a lot of contortion and discomfort. Another effective method reserved for when he's screaming extra loud is to walk him around the block in his pram. Most of the time he's an angel but that doesn't help when he is causing your ears actual pain. And yes, he's been taken on car journeys solely to shut him up.

The move to Washington is finally picking up speed. Our first task - once we get there - is to find somewhere to live. We're probably going to rent a flat while we settle in. Heather hasn't been to Seattle since she was nine and I've only visited two restaurants and a Wendy's in the entire metropolitan area so neither of us have a favourite street singled out yet.

In the mean time, Heather and I have tickets to fly up on Monday. All of our household possessions will arrive by the end of the month and the car is being trucked up for early December with Owain in the back seat.

Monday 12 November 2007

More Pics From Grandma

Owain's paternal grandma, Lyn is flying back home tomorrow. The trip to Prescott went very well and she has met all of Heather's immediate relatives and many of her Arizonan friends, as has Owain. The timing couldn't have been better as we won't be living here much longer but things inevitably seemed rushed.

Regarding my new job, it's with Surreal Software in Seattle. We'll be moving in a week or two but have no detailed plans as of yet. As ever, stay tuned.

I finally sat down and helped publish the photos we've taken. Introducing Lyn's first web album including photos from her trip to the Grand Canyon State.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Assorted Pics

Things are going well here with Grandma. Unfortunately, with her high-tech digicam in use, it doesn't seem worth taking photos with mine. As a result, she has all the pictures of her visit. I will steal them from her at some point before she goes back.

In the meantime, I've uploaded all the older photos I've taken so far. There's a gallery of Owain's first few days at home and more recent pictures including Owain's first social engagements.

Tomorrow, we visit Prescott so who knows when I'll be able to update again.

Monday 5 November 2007

Grandma McFarlane

My Mum arrived this evening after a 10½ flight from London Heathrow. She met (and identified) Owain and dropped by our home to see Mac and the dogs. Then we went to Aunt Chilada's so Mum could sample some Mexican food.

I'm not sure what's happening tomorrow. We'll probably practice the famous American past-time of 'hanging out'.

Here is a movie from last month. It's rather boring but if you want to know how Owain hiccups, it's pretty informative.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Eat at Joe's

Just a quick line to mention that I have finally accepted a job offer! The company is a game developer in Washington. (That's Washington State, not Washington D.C.) More details in a few days.

Here is the McFarlane family's low-key celebration at Joe's Crab Shack:

Owain has been a proper little fiend all day and won't settle down without a huge amount of attention. We're already late going to visit Jamie and Gwyn's this evening. I looked after baby while Heather got dolled up and then she took him back. Now he's having a screaming fit. Maybe he doesn't recognise her and thinks he's being abducted!

Seriously, if there are any baby abductors in the local area, our address is...

Friday 2 November 2007

Sorry. No baby photos today!

I've been jet-setting around the states this week and far too busy to hang out with babies - let alone my regular social circle of anthropologists and pretend dogs.

Before I moved to Americaland, I didn't know there was a difference between Washington DC and Washington State. Now I've visited both in the one week! Cities that I've only seen the airports of now include Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. Both look stunning from the air at one time of day or other. Can't say much more about them.

While in the air or waiting for flights, taxis or sleep, I've occupied myself with two main activities. Firstly, I've been making my way through yet another Zelda adventure on the DS. The Phantom Hourglass is the ideal game to while away the hours when you're packed into a fuselage full of other people's relatives.

My other portable distraction is programming on the laptop. I've been learning the basics of SVG which is basically a high-level web-friendly graphics format. I say web-friendly... as with most up-to-the-minute Internet technology, it hasn't found its way into Internet Explorer yet. Just about any other browser will run my project, Rocket, with some degree of success. (It can be run from Explorer with help but I need to look into that.)

I've only really been doing this project to further my knowledge of web scripting and out of sheer bloody-mindedness. I didn't expect it to further my career directly as the games industry is about lean, mean pixel-pushing. So imagine my surprise when, on the flight to Seattle, the guy in the row behind me asked if I was available to do part-time SVG work! Makes me glad I chose to give Zelda a rest!

Anyway, one way or another, my job hunting should not go on for very much longer. On Monday, my Mum arrives for a week-long visit to see her first grandchild. While she's here, we will probably pay a visit to Prescott and do a bit of shopping in the Valley. She has been burdened with the unenviable task of maintaining the website for the apartment in France so maybe we'll spend the week discussing the finer points of HTML and FTP and leave Heather to look after Owain. Does that sound likely?

Tuesday 30 October 2007

It's Me Again

Heather here, again. I owe John a blog because he took me and the kid out to Claim Jumper tonight which was really nice. Owain slept through the entire meal. We are cherishing moments like this because soon he'll be throwing food and being a holy terror in general I'm sure. I got a little taste of his bad moods yesterday when nothing I did seemed to placate him so he fussed and cried most of the day until we went to pick John up from the airport, by then he was so tuckered out he slept like an angel through the night and was sweet all day. Of course John is convinced that Owain was simply missing him and that's what had him so upset. I hope that's not the case as John is off on another interviewing trip tomorrow and not back til Thursday!

Last week we went to The Red Devil to show Owain off. Kristi came all the way from Alabama, yes the pizza's that good! And Jamie and Gwyn showed up as well. Some of the regular crew were there, my Dad, Mary Ellen, Tumbleweed, and Frank and Marie. Its nice to know he's cute enough to start a mini war between Jamie and Mary Ellen of who gets to hold him. I think Jamie won the battle that night.

but only after a little baby wrangling

One last picture for your viewing pleasure is of Owain on the quilt my aunt made. This one better shows her mad sewing skillz.

Friday 26 October 2007

A Post From Mrs. McF

I thought I would give John a short break and post in his place. Owain had his first pediatrician appointment yesterday and it went very well. He is already back up to his birth weight and has put on an extra 4oz! Needless to say any feeding issues we had have been resolved. The doctor said he is fit and healthy so we don't need to go back until next month.

Tomorrow we are off to the American Legion ball. It's basically a Halloween costume party at the Tempe legion post #2. We will make our appearance to show off the babe, who has a Halloween themed outfit purchased especially for the occasion.

Day to day life has become somewhat easier even though the four hours a day that Owain is awake he stretches out all through the night. Luckily I'm a lady of leisure and I can nap with him during the day. Dad manages to do the same.

I can hear him doing the squirmy wormy and grunting so I'll sign off for now and put you back in the much more capable blogging hands of my dear John.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Permanent Residence Inerview

I was approved for a green card today!

We all had to get to the Department of Homeland Security in central Phoenix for 7.15am so I assumed we'd be there all day being grilled over every last detail of our relationship. Instead, the whole thing can't have taken more than an hour. Heather was sure that the sleeping baby in a travel seat melted the heart of the gangling civil servant as we sat in an office small enough to be one of his shoe boxes. I think the two inch-thick wad of paperwork played its part.

Owain is feeding quite well now and spends most of his time sleeping. His biggest problem is that he gets all his outfits wet despite having a nappy on. I won't provide an explanation here. It shocks me too much. I say 'his biggest problem' but really it's ours. His biggest problem is keeping his dummy in his mouth.

Tomorrow is ram-packed full of job interviews and doctor's appointments. Heather's best friend Kristi is in town for the rest of the week so the hard stuff is nearly behind us now. Fingers crossed.

Have you had your fix of baby photos yet? Yes? Well tough luck. Here's Owain sleeping in his crib on the blanket that Auntie Dee Dee made for him. Aahhh!

And who's this hansome, young man asleep in his swing-chair-type thing? Could it be Owain Rockford? Why yes!

Green is clearly the new black (except in his diaper where it's the other way around).

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Settling In

We did indeed return home on Saturday morning and started settling in straight away. Mac and Mary Ellen fed us all weekend and Heather filled up on steak and home-made burgers to help replenish the iron she lost.

We've been playing with all the new toys essential infant accessories we received at the baby shower. I had assumed that most of it was to make mother feel special - rather than for practical purpose - but as I marvel at the invention of the heated wipe dispenser, it dawns on me that I've got the baby bug pretty bad.

Adjusting to our new life is predictably challenging. I'm sure we're experiencing much the same ups and downs that all first-time parents go through.

Feeding Owain is the biggest challenge that Heather has faced and can be very frustrating for both parties. Heather assumed that her only discomfort now would be the many - but slowly fading - pains from the birth itself. Instead, breastfeeding hurts her every time Owain latches on. Today was when milk started coming through and that has made a big difference.

Another problem is postnatal depression. I was fully expecting this as Heather has been on an emotional roller coaster ride since the first trimester. It still catches us out because there are a number of things to be very happy about as well as a lot of scary new problems to face. When the mood swings hit in, everything seems impossible and doomed to failure. She feels guilty about every mistake she makes and the sound of the baby crying breaks her heart. A strict diet of painkillers is the best help as lifting the physical pain really makes the sun come out.

Mostly, it's one big treadmill: the baby is fed, burped, changed and put down to sleep and at that point, he's ready to feed again. Getting this rhythm right is our main aim. As he adjusts to life on the outside and we get proficient at performing these tasks, the sleeping bit should constitute a larger part of the cycle. That way, we can sleep more too. It's heading that way gradually.

The good news? Owain is the most precious little creature ever. Maybe it's because he was so late but he is very alert and full of beans. He seems imbued with much personality - even though my good sense tells me that he's little more than a machine for converting milk into sticky green poo. And no, there is no such thing as too much information; sitting at the dinner table on Sunday, I realized I was freely talking about all sorts of unpleasant bodily functions with no consideration for anyone's appetite.

Just touching or holding him is a reward in itself. He's desperately delicate. On his first day, his skin was so soft that I literally didn't have sense in my fingers fine enough to feel it. He's also surprisingly strong. Holding his arms and legs down to change or dress him requires not-inconsiderable effort. This makes it a traumatic ordeal as he feels as if he'll tear like paper if I'm too rough yet escapes my grip like a cage fighter.

Saturday 20 October 2007

Good Morning!

Last night was very tiring. Rocky fed for a whole hour but then he wouldn't stop crying for quite a while. In the end, a combination of lots of burping and Radio 3 put him to sleep.

We did hope to go home yesterday but as he needed to stay here for at least 24 hours, that would have meant Friday night traffic. Instead, we head home this morning just as soon as we've got our things together.

We've got two hats that he's worn which I'm going to give to the dogs to sniff. This is supposed to help introduce him to them. The last thing we want is for Cinnamon to think we're offering her an extra-large burrito or for Joe to run off with him and bury him. No, those things would be inappropriate.

Friday 19 October 2007

Baby Photos

Heather and Owain are fed and fast asleep after a busy day of diaper changes and nursing mishaps so I've taken the opportunity to publish all of the photos from yesterday.

So far, I haven't got around to describing the birth - been a bit busy, you see. Well, compared to the rest of the week's trials and tribulations, the actual birth went fairly smoothly. At around four or five, the decision was made to start the big push. There was a break when the nurse found that the head was caught on a bit of the cervix. After sitting upright for half and hour, this righted itself and Heather made steady progress until some time after six.

The epidural was starting to wear off by the time the head was visible on its own. (The head, by the way, was the colour of reddish-brown meat with lots of white patches and reminded me of corned beef!) Heather had long since given up all hope of seeing a baby and just wanted an end to her misery. So in a sense, it was the fact that she didn't want to try any more that kept her pushing relentlessly. By the time the doctor was paged, she was ready to finish the job and was incredibly frustrated that she had to stop and wait.

Then the room was a buzz with people dressed in green; the stirrups came up and half the bed fell away to reveal a huge trough for catching all manner of fluids and other matter. (Still reading?) At this point Heather was screaming louder than she had all week.

The head turned out to be about twice as long as it was wide, so it just seemed to keep coming. As it got free the doctor quickly removed the umbilical chord from around the neck whilst twisting the head around 90 degrees which was when I could make out the features. In no time, the whole body was there in his hands which was when it finally sank in that Heather wasn't kidding; she really had been pregnant all year.

The chord was cut and the baby was whisked away to the other side of the room to be poked and prodded this way and that. That's when he let out his first cry and we just fell to pieces. I don't remember many details as things were still happening so quickly and nothing felt real. I remember he was given a minute or two of oxygen as a precaution because of his deathly pale complexion.

He was handed back to Heather to hold briefly and but not for long enough to feed before he was taken away again for more tests and treatment including an injection of vitamin K which made him cry so loud that Heather was inconsolable until she had him back in her arms.

The room slowly started to empty of staff and activity and we realised that we both had the sensation that we were in a completely different place. Around about that time I started taking lots of pictures.

Owain Rockford McFarlane

Yes, the baby has a name!

We couldn't put it off any longer and decided to go with our long-term favourite suggestions. I think he looks like an Owain, don't you?

Owain is a Welsh name which means 'young warrior' or 'well born'. It is pronounced the same as Owen (which is the Anglicised version).

Owain and JimOwain, Mac and Mary Ellen
(Left: Jim. Right: Mac and Mary Ellen.)

Rockford is an American name meaning 'early adopter of the answer phone'. I was against Rockford for a long time - mostly on the basis that it's not a name (unless you're a town or a TV show). Then I discovered that Rockford is actually a given name. That and my Dad's incessant pleading cause me to cave in and give him Rockford as the middle name.

Actually, I argued with Heather so much over it that she took the rather underhanded approach of making me choose the first name all on my own. This is probably the reason why he's not called Rockford Owain McFarlane.

Owain, Heather and John

Thursday 18 October 2007


Our baby boy!
Heather and baby are doing just fine. He's 8lbs 6oz and was born today at 7:21pm PST (GMT+8) and he's crying like a baby.And next time I post, we'll have a name picked out and everything. I thought I'd get this out just as fast as I could.

On This Day?

Heather's water broke this morning and she is at 8cm (as of 1:50pm) so there's little doubt that today's the day!

Thanks to everyone who has emailed and called in to wish us luck. Hopefully, the next post will include the photo of a grumpy, pruney bundle of joy.

I thought I'd check Wikipedia's entry for this day in history for a bit of inspiration with names and out of general curiosity. I didn't spot any really momentous events. Here are a few slightly eventful moments:
  • 1991 - Azerbaijan declares independence from USSR
  • 1954 - Texas Instruments announces the first Transistor radio.
  • 1944 - Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia
  • 1929 - Women are considered "Persons" under law in Canada.
  • 1922 - The British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation) is founded by a consortium, to establish a nationwide network of radio transmitters to provide a national broadcasting service.
  • 1867 - United States takes possession of Alaska after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million. Celebrated annually in the state as Alaska Day.
  • 1016 - The Danes defeat the Saxons in the Battle of Ashingdon.
  • 1210 - Pope Innocent III excommunicates German leader Otto IV
  • 68867BC - Ice Age begins

And here's a sample of the famous fellow 18th Octobrians he'll be competing with. They're quite a motley bunch so I'm not worried for him.

  • 1926 - Chuck Berry, American musician
  • 1949 - Joe Egan, British musician (Stealers Wheel)
  • 1949 - Gary Richrath, American musician (REO Speedwagon)
Regular Actors:
  • 1951 - Pam Dawber, American actress
  • 1961 - Erin Moran American actress
Kick-boxing Actors:
  • 1960 - Jean-Claude Van Damme, Belgian actor

Tennis Players:
  • 1956 - Martina Navrátilová, Czech-born tennis player

Purported Assassin's of US Presidents:
  • 1939 - Lee Harvey Oswald, purported American assassin of John F. Kennedy (d. 1963)

UK Children's TV Loners:
  • 1955 - Timmy Mallett, British TV presenter
  • 1947 - Paul Chuckle, British comedian

Is it Thursday Already?

Another exciting evening of not having a baby is behind us. Heather made it for (I think about) seven hours of induced labour without any pain killers before giving in and requesting a mild epidural. It's a strange thing to see how someone can go from one emotional extreme to the other in such a short stretch of time.

And now for the technical specs: Heather's baby pressure is 112/62. She's at 89 bloods per minute and he's at 144. Her eyes are now dilated to 5cm which is very good (see figure). And even though we're in a bigger room now, the contraptions are closer together.

Piece of cake this medicining.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Take Two

Late last night, the epidural became too much to bear and Heather decided to stop all the drugs. Her legs were going dead depending on which side she was lying on and despite the numbness, the pain of contraction was coming through so she had the worst of both worlds. Plus she remained at 3cm the whole time. She's a little sore but feeling a lot better today. She was in such a bad way last night that the staff are making her a top priority. They moved us to a room with a window, changed our doctor and included a number of extra services such as massage. Nice!

In a few minutes, she's going back on the induction drip and trying to make it through labour again. She's feeling a lot more confident today after writing off most of yesterday as one of her worst days ever. She's dolled herself up and even curled her hair. I don't think first impressions are that important but she's not listening.

Tuesday 16 October 2007


At our ultrasound appointment yesterday, it transpired that the baby's amniotic fluid is low enough to be a cause for concern. We were checked straight into the hospital at around five and at about 8:30pm, Heather was administered Cervidil, a mild labour-inducing treatment that is applied directly to the cervix and aims to ripen it.

At 8.30 this morning, it was removed after causing only mild contractions and Heather was moved on to Oxytocin, a drip-based drug that promotes contractions. All afternoon, Heather had increasingly intense contractions and dilated to roughly 4cm.

At around five, the pain got too much and she opted for an epidural which was immediately followed by a great feeling of relief as well as uncontrollable shakes which the nurses and anesthetist assured us was a sign of intensifying labour. She was then given a sedative to calm her down which just plain tripped her out.

Sorry for the overly medical account of our adventures in childbirth which probably involves plenty of factual errors. I've probably had four hours sleep since Monday morning and Heather's had less than that. It's been a very emotional time with a lot worry and stress and more than a little disillusionment on Heather's part. She's been through a huge amount of confusion and pain but is currently comfortable and calm ... and mostly numb from the waist down!

We're getting a crash course in hospital politics which is very interesting. A big problem is that we've out-lasted roughly six waves of nurses and doctors, each with a varying opinion on how to deliver babies. This means that we find ourselves changing course regularly. (It's a bit like party politics in that respect.)

Currently we're just waiting to see if the labour progresses of its own accord before deciding what to do next. Heather can't feel her legs and needs her feet rubbed constantly to stop her freaking out. She's not been able to explain exactly why this is but is very adamant about it.

It's quite hard to keep sight of the end goal at the moment as our time is filled with monitors, medicines, pillows and uncomfortable lying positions. We've had visits from Jamie and Gwyn as well as Mac and Mary Ellen who kindly lent me the laptop I'm using right now to get on the web. Jim and Daniel are currently keeping us company. Daniel is alternating between smoking and snoring and Jim is on foot rubbing duty while I write these words.

More news as it happens...

Sunday 14 October 2007

Sunday, the day of Video Games

The weather was cool enough today to do a bit of going outside for pleasure's sake. I, however, stayed inside and played Sonic and the Secret Rings for Wii. It's true to the Sonic formula: dshing along at breakneck speed and collecting as many gold rings as possible, but the controls are there for the sake of the Wii, rather than because they work best and much of the presentation is half-baked. The game's a lot of fun but totally put-downable and I'm glad I only rented it.

I have ordered the latest Zelda game on the DS which is due to arrive at the house some time this week. Wandering in to a shop on Friday, I found it playing on a display stand and got sucked in which was a HUGE mistake. I'm terrible at waiting for fun stuff to arrive in the post so now I'm getting frantic to get stuck in to it - like Joe and Cinnamon at dinner time.

There's really not much else to report unless you're interested in my efforts to learn SVG. (Hint: you're not.)

Saturday Night at the Movies

We went to see We Own the Night tonight. Heather only had to pay for one adult as the baby's still living in her belly. Good thing too because it's an R-rated (Restricted) movie which means that people under the age of zero are not allowed in.

We Own the Night centres around 1980's nightclub manager Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) who harbours the secret that he is both brother and son to two of New York's finest (Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duval respectively).

When the crime-fighting duo attempt to enlist Bobby's help to uncover a smuggling operation which involves one of his regulars, a predictable conflict of interest arises. Fortunately, this doesn't define the movie. Likewise the relationship between the two brothers does not smack of the yin and yang symmetry of The Departed. These were my worries going into the theatre. I should instead have worried about what would replace them as the story's hook.

It almost seems as if writer/director James Gray spends his time trying to avoid glaring clichés. Generally he succeeds and there are some nice touches such as the ringing ears accompanying gunshots and a thrilling - yet eerily quiet - car chase through rainy city streets.

Phoenix has a knack for playing characters on the brink of insanity in a suitably unsettling way. In this film, armed with a wobbly-cam(tm) and a bottle of spray-on sweat, he keeps the audience on-side as an unlikely hero who knows he's completely out of his depth. The rest of the star-studded cast compliments this with understated performances including Eva Mendes as Bobby's remarkably sympathetic girlfriend.

Ultimately, the film rolls from it's beginning to it's end without ever really leaving a lasting imprint. If you need the see every example of the current wave of cops 'n' gangsters films doing the rounds, this one's well worth your while. If you don't, it isn't.

Friday 12 October 2007

8 Pounds and Healthy

...according to the ultrasound scan today!

Even though the baby's a full week late now, the doc decided that he and Heather are not far enough along to be induced. Heather was over two weeks late herself and we don't feel too worried. Nor do the people at the perinatal centre where the scans get done.

He's so big now, you can't really make much out from the pictures. I was given the task of shocking him with a special buzzer because he wouldn't roll over to get his photo taken. He freaked out and kicked like a mule! It wasn't at all funny. Not funny at all. We go for another scan on Monday and another doctor's appointment on Tuesday.

Another ordeal that takes forever is baseball. It's like cricket only worse. The Diamondbacks took my advice and started playing against the Colorado Rockies (which isn't even an animal). They're eleven innings into a nine innings game. It gets Heather very nervous and excited which has to be a good thing given the circumstances.

Oh, there you go. The Rockies just won three points to two. Five points in nearly five hours? It's not cricket alright.

Thursday 11 October 2007

Still no sign

But we have a doctor's appointment tomorrow where we'll discuss the possibility of inducing labour. Stay tuned...

Monsters of the Deep

My still-heavily-pregnant wife and I went to see Sea Monsters 3D at the IMAX theatre this evening. The film follows the fate of a prehistoric, aquatic reptile called a Dolichorhynchops as she battles for life in a sea full of big, scary computer-generated beasties. Accompanying the main storyline are scenes of the palaeontologists whose discoveries made it possible to tell the tale in the first place. There are, however, no scenes of the team that produced the computer graphics for the feature; they are hiding their faces in shame!

I didn't go into the auditorium expecting an experience on the scale of Jurassic Park. I did at least hope for something on a par with Walking with Dinosaurs. This was was a step backwards. The sea looked about as deep as cellophane and much of the animation seemed half-hearted. I expect that most of my fellow movie-goers were not even born when Jurassic Park II was released but they deserve better than this and are probably quite used to it too.

In contrast to the CGI, the re-enactments of the fossil hunters was well filmed and reminded me why IMAX is so immersive when it's used right. The acting was no less wooden but then again, the humans weren't really supposed to be the main attraction. Definitely 'one for the kiddies' (if you can prize the critters out).

(Incidentally, Dolichorhynchops are a small type of Plesiosaur - the same sub-order of animals as the Loch Ness Monster. Fact.)

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Social Security

The baby did not arrive today... but my social security number did!
Promise not to thieve my identity? It's 123 (same as my PIN number).

Monday 8 October 2007


But we knew that months ago. Still isn't out yet... and no more contractions. In fact, Heather was right as rain today. It was probably my attempt at home-made hamburgers that made her feel funny the other night. Did you know that even though they're made from the same animals as steak, you can't eat them when they're red in the middle. I know that now, even if I don't know why.

Most of my clothes have now been washed in special baby detergent. 'Special' because it costs twice as much as normal detergent and doesn't get muddy paw prints out of bedlinen.

Sunday 7 October 2007

Almost there...

Baby's still not here but he is thinking about it.

Until this evening, Heather reckons she was getting occasional, pre-labour contractions but nothing very persistent. Right now she's consuming her last trolley-load of unhealth-food. Nothing to do with cravings mind; it's just her last chance to enjoy food with zero guilt. (You probably want to stop reading now.)

We went to the Dubliner this afternoon to watch the Scotland / Argentina game and they tried to charge us $20! Presumably, the Setanta Premium channel costs an arm and a leg. However I mostly wanted to see the repeats of Saturday's matches which you can get on regular $15/month Setanta.

From the comments I've seen around the Interweb, North American coverage of Rugby - and other extra-continental sports such as soccer - is a major cause of frustration amongst fans. Advert-funded TV stations over here show 18 minute of commercials every hour so a game that lasts for 40 minutes without interruption simply isn't viable. And without 'free' coverage, who's going to become hooked enough to shell out for a subscription channel?

Er, anyway like I said: still no sprog. Try again tomorrow. Cheerio!

Typical McFarlane

The due-date has come and gone and still no baby. It's not the 6th of October back home and it's not even the 6th here in Pacific Time. It's still Saturday in the Marquesas Islands but even there he's swiftly running out of time.

Far more importantly, today we've missed what sounds like two of the most gripping games of the world cup. That waste of satellite space, Setanta, decided not to show any live matches today, instead waiting until tomorrow. The reason for this is to make their premium channel seem more worthwhile. It's a pity we can't get that channel. It's an even bigger pity we didn't find out that the Dubliner has the premium service sooner than we did. When I phoned them to ask if they were showing the repeats, I could hear the end of the France/New Zealand game, live in the background. (And no, they're not showing the repeats.)

Not a good day for babies or Rugby. A better day for the Diamondbacks, the local Baseballerers who just beat the Chicago Cubs for the third time this week. (Not being too close to the action, I don't like to say anything but perhaps it's time they found someone else to play.)

And finally, a notice: Due to the weight of phone calls from concerned friends and family who worry that 24 hours of radio silence means we're in the delivery room, I hereby promise to blog every day that we're still at home. Feel free to phone anyway if you like. I doubt I'll have much to say but I'll say it anyway.

Until tomorrow ... probably.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

I still prefer Charlesworth

Thank you to everyone who voted in the baby name poll. I can't honestly say if it
helped us decide. I think the option to nominate alternatives would have been interesting. Still it's probably put the name, Zefram out of the running. (Sorry, solitary treckie who voted for that one.)

This evening was spent rearranging the bedroom to cram in an extra piece of baby furniture, a pack 'n playtm. I thought Elvis James was going to be sleeping in the nursery we went to such lengths to kit out. Looks like I was wrong. Perhaps I'll hide in the nursery in when the bawling starts.

On Sunday, Heather and I watched America's last world cup rugby match in the Dubliner in Phoenix. The US never looked seriously like upsetting hopefuls - and former champions - South Africa, but they played a fine game all the same. The try they scored a little before half time was possibly the most exhilarating point of the match and took the ball pretty-much the length of the pitch.

Apart from the Dubliner, I don't think there's a single bar in the Valley that shows any of the matches - even the repeats in the afternoon. Moreover, the landlord (whom I suspect of being Irish) seemed willing to show any match so long as someone was there to watch it. The rest of the bar was engrossed in American football but the rugby stayed on far as long as we stayed. What's more, the Guiness was poured properly and even tasted like Guiness! The knockout stages begin next weekend and right now, the Dubliner is the only reason to hope that Maddog Montgomery McFarlane holds on past his due date.

Saturday 29 September 2007

Eggplant Parmigiana

Still no offspring. We've been doing a number of things to hurry things along. Can't say that I'm totally prepared but I've packed my bag and charged my laptop battery.

Heather has turned to the bottle in the hopes that it'll induce the baby and I'm trying not to get my 'buzz on' (get tipsy) in case I need to drive to the hospital. It's a big failure, mind. She's got some mental block where she thinks alcohol tastes like poison and me, I've actually got a social engagement this evening so I expect I'll be half cut by sundown.

I think Heather's going to try the Eggplant Parmigiana method when she can muster up the courage to tackle the complicated recipe. Perhaps she should have tried the getting-into-the-Scotland-Italy-match technique. Judging from the last 20 minutes, it was a bit of a cliff hanger.

I've spent the last week or so indulging in my new favourite past-time: building web sites. It's actually a lot of fun crafting style sheets so that web pages come to life. The result? The family web site it looking almost presentable at last. (Before and After.)

Wednesday 19 September 2007

What's up, baby butt?

There has been an impressive response to the baby name poll so far. I'm guessing that most pollsters are treating it with a high degree of seriousness, given the sensible names that are out in front: James in first place, Owain in second and Elvis in fourth. :-)

Elvis himself is getting quite excited and just won't stop jiggling around. This fidgety behaviour is likely to continue until he becomes a teenager. Heather has been using his pokey-out bits and dance moves to map out how he's sat.

Here's the map:

This is all based on some new-age nonsense she read on a web site. It saves her from an uncomfortable examination (yay!) or another ride on the high-tech $trillion winkle location system (boo!). The upshot is that he's ready for launch.

Yesterday, I applied for my social security number. This was no fun at all: the queue was only two and a half hours long, the security guard allowed Heather to take a seat inside the building (which was air-conditioned) and the lady who served us was polite, helpful and patient. To make up for this, I think I'll try and dash over the border and back tomorrow evening, just to spice things up a bit.

Saturday 15 September 2007

Licence to Work

My Employment Authorization Card arrived today! Now I have very little reason not to get a job but I'm taking the bad news quite well. Heather has opened a bottle of bubbly as a consolation. She's taking it very well indeed. All that's left now is to get a social security number so I can pay taxes and I'm all red-taped up.

This doesn't mean I'm a resident yet. That takes a few more months. Then I think I become a conditional resident meaning that Heather is my wife of convenience and Rockford (working title) becomes my son of convenience, if that isn't an oxymoron. I think it takes two years before they become inconvenient whereupon my status is upgraded to permanent resident, mostly out of pity for me.

On other news, England got a sound beating by the Springboks yesterday. We've subscribed to Setanta Sports now in the Valley but the useless gits are delaying most of the matches by a day or so. When the channel was free last weekend, almost every game was live or near-as but now they've got our money, it's soccer, soccer and more bloody soccer. That means we didn't get the England match until I'd already seen the score.

Worse still the Wales / Australia match played early this morning and won't be on until tomorrow. Mum and Dad phoned today and Dad blabbed the score to Heather, thus ruining it for her. Watching England/RSA was a dead loss. 60 minutes in, Heather asked: "Are England going to score anything?". "No," I replied which was our queue to walk the dogs to the post box.

So don't any of you go getting in touch with us to tell us rugby scores you hear? I mean it!

Thursday 13 September 2007

Indecision 2007

Not so recently, I considered having a t-shirt printed in XXX-Large with...
A Boy
No, not yet
...for Heather to wear in public or anywhere else where strange and chatty women congregate and ask her the exact same three questions:
  • When's it due?
  • Do you know what it is?
  • Has he got a name?
Some of these helpful ladies will tell her it's definitely a girl based on the shape of her belly, the contents of her shopping bags or the day of the week. Medical profession be damned! There are even more suggestions for baby names.

One friend, for example, keeps suggesting Sebastian as a name. At first I didn't really take to it. Since getting back into international Rugby however, the name Sébastien is starting to grow on Heather and I. This is thanks to M. Chabal, the French number 8 who could have come from the pages of the Asterix comics.

I've mentioned several other suggestions that we've considered since the ultrasound scan. Heather likes Rockford because it's her favourite TV show and, well, because she's American. My Dad likes Chuck which is short for Charles. I believe this is in honour of our future king of England. Everybody loves Maddog but for some reason, only as a middle name.

We just can't decide which of these fabulous suggestions works best and that is why I'm putting it to a public vote!

To the side of the page, you should see a 'Name The Baby' section where you can choose the fate of our unborn baby. You and you alone can determine how much - and what sort of - bullying he will suffer in school because of his name.

The poll lasts until the end of the month or until everybody votes for Rockford and I dismiss it as a bit of fun.

Tuesday 11 September 2007


I managed to get in a match or two of the World Cup last weekend in Prescott, thanks to Jim and Setanta Sports.

Setanta is an international network I'd never heard of before with channels in Great Britain and Ireland as well as America and Oz. The US operation is presented by a team of mostly Irishmen. I wouldn't say they had a bias or anything but they knew more about the Namibian side than they did about the Welsh. (Ireland beat Namibia by an unimpressive margin on Sunday BTW.)

Elsewhere in France, the not-much-hyped game between the US and England went well, i.e. America only lost by ten points to twenty eight. The locals here seem disappointed when I tell them the score despite only just learning that they have a team at all (or, for that matter, that England are the World Champions). When asked for his comments on the result, President Bush said, "we're kicking ass".

The Tri Nations teams all beat their opponents by a factor of between five and thirty as widely predicted. Wales won by a fair gap to Canada after a poor start in the first half and a steady stream of replacements in the second. Even Scotland had an easy go of things against Portugal.

The surprise match of weekend turned out to be the first, in which the hosts fell to Argentina. The upsets always seem to make the best viewing. I expect that's because no matter how far below par the favourites are, the underdogs always have to put on a hell of a show to come out on top. That's why Wales vs Australia is going to be such a joy to watch at 5:30am on Saturday. We're going to kick their asses all right.

While I was in Prescott, I also acquired Jim's old bike. It's been in storage for about twenty years now but I am assured that it was a fine vehicle in it's day. See for yourself.

I've replaced all the rubber parts which were perished and have given it a can or two of lube. It still needs a lot of work but for now it gets me to the post box and back. Nifty eh?

Monday 3 September 2007

International Day of Celebration

That's right, it was my birthday yesterday. I mostly got Scotch, three bottles in fact. This should keep me going up until Christmas (hint hint). I also got a money clip for the wads of Monopoly money I carry around with me, a US power cable for my laptop (so I don't electrify myself again) and Metroid Prime 3 for the Nintendo Wii.

I spent the weekend in Strawberry, mostly drinking whisky. I would have been playing my new game as well except I was had company so I had to be sociable instead. :( I've been playing it today and it seems worth of the name Metroid which is a Latin word describing a condition caused by playing too many video games. I'll race through the game and give my impressions of it at some point soon.

Today is the equivalent of a bank holiday in the States and Canada. Each of these extended weekends has a particular theme such as Martin Luther King Day or Memorial Day. Today is Labour Day which is basically May Day without the left-wing connotations. Communism as you may know is frowned upon in America and has largely been replaced by the Mafia and a shady organisation known as the Liberal Bias. Sadly I can't find the website for either of these organisations but they probably end in ".org".

In just a few days time, the Rugby World Cup begins. It's crept up on me this time around as I am no longer associate with rugger buggers and jocks of one sort or another who talk about it years before it happens. All of the Six Nations teams have made it into the final 20... Hooray! The same goes for the Tri-Nations... Bollocks!

The Americans are also in there which greatly increases the chances of seeing it on the telly somewhere. In particular, I'll find myself rooting for America for probably the first time ever in anything on Saturday when England's run of world cup luck finally runs out... GO THE EAGLES!!

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Funny Films

I saw a funny film yesterday and a totally different funny film the day before. It's like the opposite of déjà vu only it's real!

On Monday we finally made it to see Superbad. I've now seen three films this year with Seth Rogen in the acting and producing credits. He really needs to put his feet up, buy an island somewhere and give somebody else a go.

Superbad passes the comedy test. I laughed out loud for most of the film, despite a slow beginning which I just assumed was a fast beginning to an unfunny movie. Ostensibly, it's a buddy film about two desperate virgins about to graduate from high-school and head off to separate colleges. Their plans to get laid involve acquiring alcohol which in turn involves their even bigger loser friend, Fogell and his brand-new fake id.

Fogell enters a liqueur store with $100 dollars and a shopping list and out comes the best what-if comedy situation I've seen in a in a long, long time. I'll leave it at that. Very funny.

Yesterday we made it to the Camelview 5 which is a special place where Harkins hides all the films that aren't very profitable just in case it's infectious. It was the only place in the valley - possibly in Arizona - showing Death at a Funeral, a British comedy that should be easier to sum up.

It's basically a carefully crafted English farce with all the appropriate ingredients: an emotionally incompetent family full of sparring siblings, grumpy, judgemental patriarchs and general fuck-ups all reunite for a stressful social situation they'd rather avoid. But while there's plenty of dashing about, misdirection of vicars and the obligatory manhandling of dead bodies, there are also some satisfyingly adult touches such as hard drugs, blackmailing dwarfs and our old friend, 'you've missed a bit.'

I won't say what it's a bit of. It could put you off seeing it and that would be a shame. (If you can find it that is.)

Monday 27 August 2007

We're Rich!

Late last week, in a fit of boredom, I wrote a program to produce lottery numbers. The idea behind the program is that if the numbers are as random as possible and we win the jackpot we're slightly less likely to have to share it with anyone. (I think the logic is correct although I never completed my Stats A-level so I can't be sure.)

We used it to pick numbers in Saturday's lottery and guess what, we won ... $21!! Including Mac's contribution, we bet $10 but that's still over a 100% profit. I have high expectations of winning the $15,000,000 jackpot on Wednesday. If it comes through for us, expect a posting here by the guy I hire to write my blog for me.

I put the program on my site and then decided the site needed an overhaul and that's mostly what I've been doing ever since. I've got quite proficient at CSS as a result.

Daniel and Jim came to visit on Saturday to drop off the last of the baby shower presents and to get the rest of the stuff on the registry. We now have everything a baby needs plus a tonne of other stuff Heather thinks he needs. She just now remembered he doesn't have a pair of sun glasses.

Looks like another trip to Target...

Monday 20 August 2007

Heather's Baby Shower

We've been in Prescott since Wednesday when I got a nasty case of drink poisoning which knocked me out for a day or two. Fortunately I recovered by Saturday for the Baby Shower!

As you can see, it was a non-traditional, men-and-children-invited baby shower. Fortunately there was lots of beer so the kids weren't too much trouble.

I've no idea if baby showers are just an American thing or not. I certainly didn't hear of them until I got here. Basically everybody gives a first-time mother baby stuff. We got tonnes of stuff - much of which is genuinely useful. The rest is stuff that makes Heather and the other mothers go 'Aaaaaahh' a lot.

We're heading back to the valley early tomorrow with most of our new toys. Jim and Daniel are coming to visit in a week or so with whatever we couldn't fit in the car. A batch of new movies came out last Friday and with any luck, they'll push Harry Potter out of the listings so we can go see it with them in IMAX.

In other news, the job hunting is really picking up pace now, with on-site interviews and everything. That's a big deal 'cos everywhere is so far away here.

And finally, here's proof that mum will do anything for a bottle of bubbly (in case you needed it):

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Infant-related matters

At one time (I can't remember exactly when) I was going to get a job, then we were going to find a home (with cable) and then have a baby. On closer inspection it seems things aren't going to work out that way. My work permit won't arrive in time for us to get all that done before Chuck's grand entrance. Hence the nursery in Mac's spare room.

Heather and I spent last weekend un-flattening flat-packs full of baby furniture. There's a crib, a changing table and a chest of drawers... which is exactly like a grown-up chest of drawers, only with extra safety stickers on it.

Heather has also been busy making baby apparel. That's American for clothes. Look:

Thursday 2 August 2007

Only In Your Super Soaraway Sun!

Today we got our fix of new films at the local Harkins cinemaplex. It's like Odious cinemas in the UK except it's just as naff. In fact the only difference is that the food and drinks are a rip-off at both venues.

Top of the list of films I want to see is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The dilemma is that it's available in 3d IMAX. There's an IMAX theatre right next door to Harkins but they have an agreement not to show the same films. This means that I've got to wait until the Harkins stops showing the crappy version before I get to see it in all its glory.

There's another cinema on the other side of Phoenix which claims to be IMAX but it's not; it's just a fairly big screen. We saw 300 there when it came out and it should have been as good as 2001 but instead it was more like 500!

Speaking of 2001, we saw Sunshine today. It's another bleak, claustrophobic piece of hard science fiction set a long way from Earth and it's not shy about giving away its influences. It's reminiscent of Solaris and Event Horizon but it also has a similar apocalyptic slant to recent British films like Children of Men and 28 Weeks Later.

The star of Sunshine is a ship called Icarus 2. Its mission is to drop a bomb the size of Manhattan into the sun to stop it fizzling out. Failure will spell the end of life in the solar system. This overwhelming burden and the fact that the original Icarus disappeared on an identical mission makes the movie an almost painfully tense thriller from the start. (Spoiler alert: the mission doesn't go smoothly.)

The other film we saw was The Simpsons Movie. This is just a great big episode of the TV show. It's OK if you like that sort of thing. I like that sort of thing and found it OK which proves my point. By the way, it's not available on IMAX so rush out and see it now. You'll make an old man - who's just become $5bn poorer - very happy.

Tuesday 31 July 2007

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Slight Drizzle

This morning I was walking the dogs around the block when I noticed that rivulets had formed by the roadside. I tutted disapprovingly at the waste of precious desert tap water before I remembered that it had in fact rained this morning for a whole hour! I'd forgotten what roads look like after a downpour; it's normally so dry here.

Not so back in the good ol' U of K. It's wet there. It's been pissing down for weeks. Britain's up to its necks in what the marketing department has asked me to refer to as 'aqua'. It's clearly kicking-out time on a Friday night in the bit of heaven over the British Isles. Yes it's wet.

There have been suggestions that this punishment from above is actually, er, punishment from above. The Torygraph naturally thinks it's Gordon whose got God's divine back up. Meanwhile, in 'England's medieval town of Tewkesbury', some believe this is God being nice which makes me wonder just how medieval things are in Tewkesbury.

The truth is that books that are to blame for his holy wrath. The UK is a literary hell-mouth with a long tradition of pissing off the almighty in print. Whether it's Denis Wheatley, Jackie Collins or Salman Rushdie you can be sure that Britain's blasphemous book writers are the envy of the world. Take this concise book review:
"Harry Potter is an evil book intended to trick people into believing that witchcraft is pure fiction. This way they will be off their guard and will more readily begin experimenting with things like Dungeons and Dragons and the like. Rowling may have written those books, but she didn't author any of the HP books. The devil is the one and only author of those books. Rowling created HP by a process known as automatic writing which is a form of channeling. After each sessions she probably had carnival relations with him."
Guess we're all going to hell in a tea cup.

Saturday 21 July 2007


Heather and I did our childbirth class today and that's the name of a breathing exercise we have to do during labour. And I do mean we.

I've always suspected that the father's role throughout the whole gory show is mostly to not block anything such as medical experts, emergency parking spaces or birth canals. This should be a simple task except people like me have to do it. Hence a room full of men learning just how many words you can combine with vaginal. It wasn't always this way...

Imagine that you're Dirk Bogarde in Doctor in the House and you've been called to a maisonette where a woman is in the late stages of child birth. Now imagine that the husband is actually at home for some bizarre reason. He's doubtless flapping around like a headless chicken and any first aider will tell you that the first thing you need to do in this situation is clear the area of any hazards quickly and permanently. How to do this? You tell him:
"Quick, I need a clean towel and some hot water!"
That should keep 50's man busy for at least thirty minutes.

Of course, I know full well that these items are completely useless for childbirth. The baby should not be bathed for at least an hour and we now know that soft fabrics lead in all cases to SIDS. Clearly this sort of cheap trick is not going to work on 90's man who is far more clued up on 'lady issues' such as pregnancy and emotions.

And while the delivery room may be no place for someone with such a low pain threshold, male presence is almost unavoidable nowadays. Thus damage limitation is the purpose of the class I attended today and here are a sample of the tasks I must perform at each of the stages of labour:
  1. Breathing: If the woman is breathing quickly in the early-to-mid stages of labour, she can't accidentally start pushing before she's fully dilated. If a man is breathing quickly in the early-to-mid stages of labour, he can't sing When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin.
  2. Foraging: We're now at the hospital where the duration and frequency of contractions is carefully monitored by nurses who need to look busy. I also need to look busy which is good because Mom needs to eat and drink to keep her energy levels up... and that's why there are so many vending machines in hospitals, why they are located in such baffling places and why they pay out less reliably than the Wheel of Fortune machine at Caesar's Palace. They are high-tech alternatives to the towels and hot water.
  3. Hand holding: As the birth nears, one hand is in the iron grip of a screaming woman and the other is aiming a camcorder. This makes it very hard to make popping noises.
Now I just need to decide between a natural birth or a heavy course of smelling salts.

Friday 20 July 2007

Very Very Frightening Me!

There was some more weather this evening! This time, I used Rob's old camera and took some movies from which I was able to grab these stills. Here's the best one:

And here's the movie:

This evening, we saw SiCKO, the fourth Michael Moore documentary film I've watched and probably his best so far. It's factually correct whilst being the most (arguably only) left-biased thing I've seen the whole time I've been here. It makes the NHS look amazing! It also reveals that Tony Benn is turning into my Dad! He has the same style of ranting, the same exaggerated mannerisms and even the failing fashion sense. I almost feel sorry for Hilary.

Monday 16 July 2007

Thunderbolts and Lightening

It's monsoon season! It got here late this year but now that rain's pissing down for all it's worth.

The lightening's pretty frequent and Joe got all scared earlier and wouldn't let us put him down. He even wet himself, proving the idiom that it never rains.

After my success on July 4th, I thought I'd use my new tripod to see if I could catch some lightening on camera. Obviously that's not as easy to do but I figured that if I just kept clicking, I'd catch something. And look at the marvellous results!

Pah! And I missed The Colbert Report because the storm killed the satellite signal. :(

In other news, I'm having my biometrics captured! The letter arrived today and the appointment is early next month. The only things that might cause them to reschedule are 'open wounds or bandages/casts'. Guess I'll be showing up rough shaven.

Saturday 14 July 2007

Holiday Snaps

Presenting some pictures of our Holiday in Southern California! Technically it was a job hunting trip so if I ever get one (a job that is), I can deduct most of it from my income tax. Tidy!

I have always imagined that CA was especially hot and sunny. But because I'm living in the Phoenix area, I found the frequent clouds and two-digit temperatures to be a blessed relief. (It still could have been a little cooler for this whinging pommy who burned his feet on the concrete by the pool. Awwww!)

Heather got to catch up with a few of her old flatmates from her days in Orange. Some of the stories they had to tell about her were frankly scary, as were the photos.

I don't really want to say too much about the job interviews. I thought they went well. I usually judge these things by how enjoyable they are. In fact, I don't worry so much about the employment side of things. If I got to talk all nerdy about nerdy stuff with some nerds I usually find that the time was well spent. And time is on my side. Or at least time isn't flicking so many rubber bands at me this time around.

The day we got back, I received some receipts from the USCIS letting me know that my applications are in the pipeline. They are dated 1st of July and I'm told the work permit takes about three months which means that I'll likely be starting work at roughly the same time that the baby's due. Yikes!

We finally went to see Knocked Up yesterday. It was very funny and it rang true for this slightly bewildered father-to-be. However, I expected it to be funnier still. I only last week got 'round to seeing The 40 Year Old Virgin which is by the same director. It received a lot less hype and had me chuckling all the way through so the latest movie was a slight let down. The birth scene had Heather suitably terrified. I had to take her to see 1408 today to take her mind off it and it made her scream out loud! Result!

Monday 9 July 2007


Well here we are in Southern California! Heather drove all the way from Prescott yesterday with only two or three breaks.

We're staying in a motel in the City of Orange where H used to live. Last night we ate at Duke's on Huntington Beach which was very expensive and very tasty. This afternoon, we lazed by the pool and now we're off to get some Mexican food even though I have bad heart burn. I just don't care, me! Anarchy!!

Thursday 5 July 2007


The Rodeo was great fun. I think I would have preferred it much more if I was about a quarter of the age. Still, now I know that I've seen real cowboys and cowgirls doing what they do best: diving onto baby cows from a horse, racing round barrels and falling under the hooves of wild, pissed off bulls.

Here's a picture of two cowboys jumping on a baby cow that's been tied up by another two cowboys riding grown-up horses. Say what you like; it's still fairer than bullfighting.

Whiplash the monkey was a bit of a let down. He's basically strapped to a sheepdog that's being directed by a shepherd. Our simian friend supposedly performs the 'Indian hideaway', leaning fully to the side of his 'steed'. It looked more like he was trying to free himself. Think 'organ grinder meets One Man And His Dog' and I'm afraid you've got Whiplash.

As for the rodeo clown, this mirth-maestro specialises in politically charged, observational comedy. For example, one of his blasts involves the observation that Osama and Obama both start with an 'O'. Oh, how I cheered as the bull went for him!

Yesterday was the 4th of July, better known State-side as July 4th. Jim's efforts to find a nice spot from which to view Prescott's fireworks were scuppered when we were moved on by a curt motorcycle officer, charged with protecting us from spent rockets. I felt like a real wild-west outlaw, holding my empty Guinness can as I folded up the chairs.

We eventually found a government sanctioned vantage point on a sports field at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University where I managed to record images of the fireworks. Might I be the first of about ten thousand people to publish a nondescript movie of some 4th July fireworks on YouTube...

And here are some blurry pictures.

Being British, I wailed and gnashed my teeth throughout the whole humiliating spectacle.

Monday 2 July 2007

Daniel's 28th Birthday

We're back in Prescott where it's all going on this week.

There's a craft fair here selling all forms of poorly conceived ornamentation. If your house is lacking in kokopellis or you've dropped your unbreakable crystal nail file on a hard surface then hurry on down to the Courthouse Square while stocks last.

Whiskey Row (a line of old bars opposite the square) was closed off on Saturday for live music by local acts. It reminded me of the gigs in Chepstow at the racecourse and down in The Dell with dozens of bored looking teenagers stood at the front of the stage, waiting for the local middle-aged rockers to play a song they actually recognised.

Yesterday was Daniel's birthday. We had breakfast at a friendly little cafe called Molly and Wally's, saw Live Free or Die Hard at the cinema and had dinner at Red Lobster. I think I've officially watch enough action movies to last me a lifetime now. I haven't had enough seafood however and can't wait to sample the restaurants in SoCal. (That's Southern California for those who know).

Tonight, we go to the Rodeo! In preparation, I'm getting tanked up on beer. I've forsaken my shorts and flip-flops for unsuitably hot jeans and boots and I'm ready to kick some shit! I'm looking forward to the mild scenes of animal cruelty and can't wait to cop an eyeful of the Rodeo queens (who look pretty convincing, judging by the promo pics). However, I'm most excited about seeing Whiplash - one of the worlds most talented (and oldest) cowboy monkeys. He's 20 years of age, rides a dog and herds sheep for a living. Go Whiplash!