Sunday, August 28, 2011

First Introductions - Meeting With Ultrasound

 Well - I guess it's time to introduce you to the newest part of our lives - though it's still a long while before this one makes it's way into the world proper. I'm happy to say that T-chan and I are expecting our second child, due in early March 2012. Actually, it's been a long time coming... and not a particularly easy time for us trying for our second child. We were very lucky with L-kun, and had no dramas whatsoever. Well - in the conception part at least, but that's a different story. It was very different this time around however; not least because we're both almost 5 years older (and everything starts falling off, or falling apart at our age).

Now we don't know the sex yet (that'll most likely wait till the 20 weeks scan), but we do have a working name. Before L-kun was born (we only named him after birth) he was simply "+1". A very Google-friendly non-gender-specific-sort-of name. Well, I guess it may come as no surprise that our new baby will henceforth be known (temporarily) as +2. Of course, some times the working title sticks - so we should be careful.

Now as many of you know the first trimester is generally the most tricky... so we haven't really been advertising this too much. So I'll just give you a recap of the story so far.

At 9 Weeks
We had our first obstetrician visit at 9 weeks. Now unfortunately our previous obstetrician was unavailable (apparently sailing around the world - literally). So we had to choose a new one. That's a difficult process - as it's not like you really get a chance to hear a lot about them except through word of mouth. Now it turns out that we chose one that delivered at the hospital we wanted - and that friends of ours were already with him (and were happy).

During the first consult we got to see our first ultrasound of +2. For all that we were trying to keep a lid on our expectations (after a long time trying) it was really exciting to see the first images of the little one.

Now the following vid was actually taken using my phone, so the quality is not so good. Babies at this age don't look much like anything other than a slightly bumpy jelly-bean. But the amazing thing for us was when the jelly bean started moving it's arm and leg bumps.

One of the reasons I won't mention the obstetrician is because in the end, we didn't like the experience at the first consult. Apparently, it's actually not that uncommon for people to change, so if you're having second thoughts, please consider changing. The thing to remember - especially if you're a private patient - you are the one paying the bills, and you are the one that should be happy.

At 13 Weeks
We've just had the normal 12 week (actually it was 13 weeks) screening ultrasound (which tests for Downs Syndrome). Now I know that parents are the only ones that ever really get excited about ultrasounds, but I am completely blown away by the experience we had. We didn't have the 12 week scan with L-kun (as we were either still in Japan, or had just returned), so it was truly remarkable to see what 4 weeks difference made. +2 had gone from a rather large jelly-bean with sort of bumps for arms and legs to something that actually resembled a baby. It was astounding (at least for me) to see the baby actually sucking it's thumb already at that age.
And no - we aren't the proud parents of Pinocchio - that's +2's other arm.. sucking it's thumb

I was also amazed at seeing the baby move it's fingers around, opening and grasping ...I wish I had video to show you all (yeah, I know, I'm sure you're all glad I don't). When I see this image, I just visualise those tiny fingers circling around mine and T-chan's finger.
+2's left hand... saying hello to the world.

One of the purposes of the ultrasound is to measure the size of the fluid at the base of the neck, which along with other measurements provides an indicator for the statistical likelihood of Downs. The baby was definitely active, rolling around and whilst I might hesitate to say playing, I would say being quite energetic. Which is good news for us, but makes taking measurements hard.

The screening test is not mandatory, and when you've seen images of your baby, things suddenly become much more real. And to be honest, they give parents this test not just to prepare themselves mentally - but to give parents a choice (enough said on that red button topic however). Luckily we found out that there's a very low risk of any problems associated with Downs. I can't really contemplate it being anything else but good news - but I'm sure there's many people that do face bad news at the 12 week mark. Thankfully that bridge looks like one we won't have to cross.

After all - when you look at the ultrasound, you can start to see a real face - a real person. And a whole life of possibilities streaming forth in digital illumination.

It may not be the face of God, but for a parent, it's pretty damn close!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Catching Some Rays... A Million Or So Of Them

It's been a fairly average winter here in Adelaide. Some good rain, but also some nice bright skies. Already the temperature's starting to hit the 20's... very nice indeed. It's well and truly on it's way to Spring, and I've just realised that I clocked up over 1 MEGA WATT HOURS (that's 1 miilion watt hours, or 1000 kWh) of electricity generation since April when I installed the system. That's generated during the darkest part of the year. Bweeeerrrgghhh [evil laugh].... my plan to take over the world is working.... one Watt at a time.

At 8:00am you don't generate a whole heap of power... but it's only just getting started

Solar's definitely become popular these days - and I'm amazed to see how many panels have sprung up all over the place. To all those that have Solar-enabled your homes. Well done. I do wonder what will happen when all of the great deals come to an end however. October's the deadline for when you can no longer add panels to existing systems without losing the great feed-in rate. Part of me wants to beef up my system to a 3kW set-up... (from a 2.1 kW) but the majority of me wonders if the price of panels will go through the floor and the economics of it will suddenly change post "the good deals". Also - people don't stay in their houses that long...

An Interesting But Almost Unrelated Fact
Adelaide's first electric power station opened only in 1900, and was located in Grenfell Street (in the heart of the city). It's initial purpose was to power the new-fangled electric street lights. It started off having a capacity of 0.280 MW... and to put that into perspective that's only about 130 times bigger than the system I have on my roof.... and that was powering the whole city centre.
Source: Paul Scott's Historic Adelaide website.
 Actually, many of you may not be aware the the Adelaide Electric Supply Company's power station is now the Tandanya Aboriginal cultural museum. I never knew that, and happily walked past there many times without realising it had once been a power station! 

And on the question of power in Australia... it's funny how things change. Back in the 90's everything looked rosy, and you might be forgiven if you felt that prices were going to continue to fall in real terms...

Just over a decade later, the picture looks dramatically different, as shown below, with an overall 30% increase in the over 4 years (by the way, whoever produced these graphs was being a little disingenuous as the vertical scale is manipulated to appear overly dramatic).
Source: Energy Market Outlook, 2010

Still my point is that we are often unaware of these trends, or even the historical perspective, as we live through our lives. We are at the mercy of a shallow memory, knowing only that electricity is getting expensive now. Will it continue to get more expensive... it certainly seems to be that way. Especially with the drive to reduce carbon emissions... but I would caution about betting too much (or investing too much) on what is maybe going to happen. These economic systems are very complex, and depend on many factors rather than just a simple policy decision of the day.

Anyhow - I think if you haven't put panels up now, or haven't ordered new panels to be put up, then you've most probably missed the boat. Of course, it would really suck if power prices suddenly started getting cheaper... naw... it's still good for the environment regardless.

Although, I'm quite happy with our system whatever happens. I still maintain that the main advantage of solar panels is that you suddenly start thinking about your power usage. And that leads to changes in behaviour. I don't want to get political in this post, but it seems to me that people are inherently lazy. And greedy. The best way to encourage widespread changes in behaviour is to link it to money. Either making money or saving money. However, for all those that are out there that do the right thing on principle alone, please keep doing what you're doing. It's an important service to us all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Adelaide Show Teaser - Part 3

After a day at the show, you can start to just wonder how you managed to pull through. Fairy floss, deep-fried "things" and a good amount of caffeine (or related products) is a common reality. We'd actually thought we'd head off back home around 5pm-ish, but L-kun seemed to be doing just fine so we figured why not stick around. And we did - in fact to closing time (around 9:30-ish from memory).

Now at one point, T-chan let me go off and take some photos whilst she looked after L-kun. I haven't taken much in the way of night shots, and the Showgrounds is a little bit like cheating (with all that electricity pumping through the lights, it's hardly night-time). Anyway, I thought I'd just indulgently put up some of the photos... not that exciting, but I thought I'd throw them up for the hell of it.

Didn't quite get everything exposed just right on the one below - yeah, should have thought about a multi-exposure, but I was working against the clock.

The good thing about the Show is that you get both good light, but also lots of movement. Makes for some interesting effects.

A slightly different perspective.

I do love the CARN-Evil!... who wouldn't? The funny thing is that I've never been in a good haunted house. Do such things exist?

Speaking of haunted houses.... I loved that this one was in Live 3D. Of course, we're all in live 3D, but I'm sure that was part of the humour. I hope.

Colour and movement...

And it wouldn't be a Show if there wasn't Show Food. And lots of it. Why is it that after 8 hours in the Show, we can still go back for more sugary goodness?

I wonder if they remembered to smile?

Did I mention anything about my fear of heights? Not for me... even though this is a tame one. Comparatively.

And then, it was fireworks time. L-kun loves fireworks, and I guess he gets that from his parents. The Adelaide Show fireworks are run both in an early evening and end-of-the-day format. L-kun got a double serving.

And was looking for more well after they had finished.

Or were we simply following the crowd?...

So that was my fairly quick tale of our night at the Show... and I didn't even mention anything about Show Bags. Hint - expecting to get good show bags at the end of the show is an exercise in futility! However, L-kun came out of it happy, and Mum and Dad came out without too much damage to our wallets.

With just over a week before the Show starts again... we're charging ourselves up mentally - and physically - for the coming onslaught. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adelaide Show Teaser - Part 2

 The Adelaide Show is of course a story of two halves... there's the agricultural Show, then there's the fun Side Show. And Side Show Alley is where you'll find all of the rides. Not that L-kun is really ready for all the fun and excitement of the Show.

First off... here's a cultural shot. Hmmm pipe organ. Monkeys. Seems historic or symbolic... or both. Sometimes I think I would have made a good organ-grinder monkey. If only I could dance in time.

 Now this is more my style... I tort I taw a... well you get the picture (copyright infringement avoided - whew).

And what sort of show would it be if it didn't have copious amounts of sugar-based snacks? And when I say sugar-based, I guess you can pretty well miss out on any thing that isn't actually sugar - or even more concentrated carbohydrates. I'm glad the Show comes around only once a year.

L-kun was looking quite nonplussed about the Panda... poor Wang Wang and Funi... how quickly the popularity wanes. By the way, I understand that the Adelaide Zoo's financial state is not quite strong - maybe the cost of the new Panda redevelopment wasn't quite balanced by the increase in visitors. In fact they're 24 million in debt, and now considering re-branding themselves as the "Conservation Ark". *sigh* I sometimes wonder who is running this State... [time to get off my soap-box now]

Every year there's something that's a must buy at the Show... something that everyone has, and therefore you need to buy it (to avoid the savage glares from parents that have bought what ever it was already and don't want to be the sucker). This year it was the bubble guns. L-kun didn't seem to mind one bit... and went through about a bottle of bubble solution in the afternoon. Be warned however - you should shop around first as the price varies ridiculously from stall to stall. 

Now whilst L-kun was only 3 during last year's Show, he was able to enjoy a few small attractions... ok, they're not exactly thrill a minute, but when you're 3 they're pretty fun nonetheless.  

And unlike in 2009 (when he was 2 and really didn't know what the hell it was all about), in 2010 he really enjoyed himself on the rides.

And the truck-driving... beep beep!

The dragon-riding was the one exception however. This was his first "roller coaster" and he really didn't look at all comfortable. I doubt he would have wanted to come back for seconds on this ride.

The final challenge - the giant slippery slide. Ok... for those that have just come to this blog recently, there's one thing that you should know about me. I don't like heights. Ok... a fireman I would not make. Still, as a father, you have to suck it up, and do things that don't make you feel necessarily comfortable. This was one of those occasions. I know I know - you're most probably wondering how I could be afraid of a slippery slide. 

Well that's the thing with phobias, they're not exactly rational. Still, Everest was climbed, and Daddy felt like he'd bested yet another "fear factor". Ok - the fact that everyone and their dog was climbing up the ride didn't really come into it. I felt I had achieved something. 

And the trip down was a lot more interesting... though quicker. I'm not what my expression is here (fear or relief). L-kun seems to have mastered the art of hiding his fear however - under a facade of having a good time!

So that was our afternoon at the Adelaide Show (in short form)...  Was it fun L-kun? You betcha! 

But we're not quite finished just yet... one more to go.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Adelaide Show Teaser - Part 1

Well it's almost time for the Adelaide Show again folks (all 0.75 of you - and I mean that in a totally appreciative way)... but I confess I was totally slack, and didn't post my photos of the 2010 Show. Mainly because I hadn't started my Raising Adelaide blog at that stage. Anyway - I thought it'd be good to put up a few of my fav (non-T-chan) photos.

The Adelaide Show, like most around Australia, is an agricultural show at it's heart. That means, lots of pigs, cows, sheep, lots of horses, dogs, cats and things that go tweet. It also means lots of people in from the country to enjoy the one time a year when the city and the country properly meet to cross-fertilize.

For many people in the city, we don't often get the chance to see these sorts of farm animals... so an important thing for us to realise where all those bacon rashers are coming from!... sorry Miss Piggy. 

Ah - a T-chan photo... how did that slip in. The yellow bag is called the "Yellow Brick Road" bag, and is one of those walk from A thru to Z collecting samples as you go type things. T-chan was happier with it than me, but I'm such a grump when it comes to meeting expectations. 

Just call me Angus.... hmmmm... you look deliciously Grand!

I'm not sure where they all went, and perhaps I wouldn't want to know...L-kun, I think they cows have gone away for a holiday. No, I'm pretty sure they don't have an abattoir next door to the showgrounds.

 Inside the Jubilee Hall you can always find a great range of different stalls, shows, and exhibits. It's always worth checking out the arts sections there - especially the photographs.

Ah - I don't know how to tell you this, but there's a giant tarantula crawling up your chest, and YOU'RE MADE OF STRAW!...  

Now I'm not a MOTORHEAD, but it's always fun to see the cars race around the Showgrounds track. L-kun loves it too. Not sure how good it was for my camera however.... 

And just to wrap up the manliness line, the Adelaide Show's always got a good wood-chop competition going on. What is it with wood-chopping. I don't know, but I doff my hat to these guys. They definitely earn a cold one (and many of them appear to have been taking up that offer, in true Aussie-man style). It's a hard life in the country, and opportunities are fewer than you might imagine. I have lived (in a former life)  in the country, and have been known somewhat as a country boy by friends and colleagues.

Still, there's a good spirit about many that live in the country that often doesn't extend it's way into the city. It's a shame that the younger people seem so lost, and drifting off towards the city, or to oblivion... Things like the annual Show, and yes, wood-chopping provide a purpose and a inner direction that can be important for people in the country...

But the Show's not all about the country.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Rise and Fall of...The Great Thunder Gate

On my trip to Japan in 2010, I came across a new fad (at the time). The nanoblock. These were all the rage in Japan, and I have to admit that I was quite attracted to the idea. I mean, what guy doesn't like Lego. And this is Lego, but NANO-scale. Ok... perhaps not quite nano-scale. But small. This one is of the Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate that sits out the front of Senso-ji in Asakusa, in Tokyo.

It was a great opportunity to have some fun with L-kun, who also loves Lego. Hmmm - it's not hard to see from this photo who's the supervisor, and who's the worker.

Like any good engineering project, it all depends on getting the foundations right.... I somehow thought I could imagine how the ancient Pharohs felt when they first embarked on the construction of their great pyramids... 

Slowly, but surely - bit by bit... the structure grew. 

And just like Max, who had a forest grow in his room, and the walls and ceiling became the world all around, so my Shogi board found a new magical life, to transport me away...

After a few more nights of sneaking a few minutes to add more to my great gate... I was starting to get closer to completion. Only then did thoughts start to rise through my sub-conscious, what happens when I've finished? Will I find happiness and meaning? Will the gods be pleased?

Ok - the flash may have been a bit strong, but the roof was finished. This was the critical part... from which the enitre world would hang.

Da-dah! Completed... my Thunder Gate could start'a'thunderin'. I felt satisfied indeed, for it was good... and the gods were smiling down upon the works of man.... but such is the hubris of man, that he often doesn't realise when he should have quit when he is ahead. 

Indeed - little did I know that fate had another plan for my great Thunder Gate. It was smitten by the thundering hand of my lovely L-kun. It could have been an accident - or some form of righteous retribution - but what I do know was that one night, about a week after I finished it there was an almighty crash. Ok - nanoblocks aren't prone to cataclysmic sounds... but you get the idea... When I came running into the lounge, I let out a "NOOOOOOOooooooo!"... which ended drowned in a pitiful sobbing...

There lay my monument... in ruins. And there it has remained. A crushed spirit. A hollow dream. But one day, it will be re-built.