Monday, July 31, 2006

A star is born

Karen was my guiding star into the world of infertility and adoption blogs. I remain, largely, a silent lurker in that world for a variety of reasons, but knowing that that world existed saved my sanity on a few occasions. Although she has no idea who I am, Karen's words saved my sanity on a few occasions. Karen got her referral today. Karen has a daughter. A little rip in the universe just healed.


Friday, July 28, 2006

The pre-season

I saw Dr. L yesterday to get a schedule for the FET.

(And yes, following my track record there in fact was a baby in the waiting room, but in all fairness Dr. L is not exclusively a fertility specialist. He also has a regular OB/GYN practice, and one sees all sorts of people and pre-people in his waiting room. I found that it didn't bother me too much, other than a knee-jerk "yeah, that figures" response - probably because the FET feels less fraught than the initial IVF did. And also because after the Absolutely Unbelievable You Can't Make This Stuff Up Infant in the Office For My Beta Incident a baby in the waiting room is, like, so whatever. The whole Absolutely Unbelievable You Can't Make This Stuff Up Infant in the Office for My Beta Incident pretty much immunized me against all future baby and/or pregnant person in the office during my fertility treatment interactions.)

Anyway. We've got a schedule. I'm doing a controlled cycle, meaning on day 3 of my next naturally occuring period (that's CD3 for short) I start taking Progynova (estrogen supplements) starting out at 2mg/day and gradually increasing. We'll do an ultrasound to check my lining around CD14 and, assuming all looks well, transfer a single embryo a few days after that. Then we wait, wait, lather rinse repeat, and wait some more. Fourteen days of waiting and then we do the blood test.

And this time there'd better not be a baby there. And she'd better not hand it to me.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Camera shopping (of the digital kind)...

...and looking for some advice. I know a lot of you are photographers/just got new digital cameras (Christina, Colors, J., Expat, Phantom) and I was wondering what you use and if you are happy/have any suggestions.

My 35mm is a Nikon, so I'm leaning towards a Nikon that would accept my old lenses and filters unless I hear from somebody who's really unhappy with their Nikon. But I'd also like to hear those of you with other brands if you're really happy with your cameras. I'll be ranging from taking big scenic pictures in the national parks over vacation to trying to capture the shapes and colors of Bern to random snaps of friends and family so I think I need to be able to change lenses - a telephoto for wildlife in Yellowstone is a must.

I'm not a pro but I think I've got a good eye and could make use of a slightly more powerful camera, especially if I took a class or two. Any advice?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Red state Wyoming

We're currently planning vacation - we are going to be here, here, and here in September/October - and I'm checking out some of the important side activities. According to their store locators, there is neither a Banana Republic nor a Border's Bookstore in the entire state of Wyoming.

Good thing we'll be starting out in Boulder, the Berkeley of the Rockie Mountain west, and I can scratch my shopping itch.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Note to self:

Dear Self,

Before you spend an hour and a half designing a plaid tabby weave baby blanket in colors of burnt umber, yellow, mellow orange and turquois, going so far as to use graph paper and algebra to determine the proper color ratios and sketching a 1:1 draft, perhaps you should browse the inadequate yarn selections in town to see if anything remotely suitable in remotely those colors is available. Not only have you wasted an hour and a half, Self, but you are now extremely attached to your design and the materials required to execute it do. not. exist.

In a perfect world design the project and then find the materials. In the real world design to fit the materials at hand.

Love and warp calcuations,

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tour de France Update: Phoenix from the ashes

Floyd Landis may not wear yellow into Paris on Sunday, but he acquited himself like an absolute champion today. Astounding.


It's too hot for anything other than random bullets

Well, I'm stealing a page from Phantom Scribbler's book and giving you...random bullets of damn it's freaking hot.

  • It's hot. 35 Celcius. Air conditioning is not the norm here. Not at home, in shops, or, joy of joys, the bus.
  • I jumped in the river yesterday. That's the thing to do here in Big City. On a random Wednesday afternoon there were hundred of people down at the public bath by the river - by the way, don't you people have jobs? - and scores and scores of people walking upstream and then jumping in the river and floating back down to the bath. And yeah, how cool is it that our river is clean enough to do that. Small Boy was with Grossmutti so I went and jumped in the river. Twice.
  • I have a friend who laughs about my vocabulary. Apparantly I never use a monosyllabic word when a perfectly good multisyllabic synonym will suffice. Small Boy seems to take after me. He cannot or will not say dog (or the Swiss Hung) - all dogs are "rrrr rrrrr" - or bear (or the Swiss Bar) - those are "rarrr rarrrr" - or any number of simple baby monosyllabic words. He does, however, say "Bepanthen," which is the brand name of the diaper creme we use. Freak.
  • Floyd Landis collapsed like a house of cards yesterday.
  • I've got a post in my head about frozen embryos, stem-cell research, and Bush's veto, but it's trapped in my head (it must not know the multisyllabic password required to get out). Short version: I have frozen embryos. This is not some esoteric debate to me (well, it is to some extent an esoteric debate since it's taking place in the US and our embryos have teeny tiny Swiss passports) and if we still have some when our family is complete we're donating them to a research lab. To my mind, it gives them dignity and value. It allows them to leave their mark on the world. They'll never be the doctor who cures cancer, but maybe they'll be the cell line the doctor works on. That would please me.
  • People who think their moral view of the universe should be enshrined in law piss me off.

Dear Senator Brownback:

If my embryos are indeed the "youngest of human lives" then please introduce legislation which will allow me to acquire Social Security Numbers for them so that I might claim them - all ten of them - as dependents on my federal tax return. There are an estimated 400,000 frozen embryos in the US. That's a lot of deductions. Money we infertiles could use for further treatment.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Moving forward with the FET

I need to see Dr. L again sometime in the next two weeks/ten days. It looks like although this cycle was a bust, everybody who needs to be around actually will be around at the right times for the next two cycles. Unless my period, which is so regular that the moon checks in with me to see if she's on schedule, decides to go hinkey on me. Which, in spite of my tendency for negative thinking in all things fertility related, even I don't think is going to happen. Wow. This might actually happen this summer after all.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006


It's hot here in the land of no air conditioning. Seriously. It's really hot.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cycling Update Tour de France Stage 13, or Five Guys Showed up Ready to Race Today

The entire peloton missed the cutoff time today, and, in theory, could all be eliminated from the Tour. They let an escape group of five get away to the tune of 29 minutes 57 seconds! Good thing there’s that little clause in the rules stating “If the percentage of eliminated riders rises above 20% of starters in the stage, permitted finishing times may be increased upon the decision of the stewards committee, with the agreement of the race management.” Somehow I think race management will agree.

This happened in 2001 as well; in that stage the break group was 18 riders (I think) and finished a whopping thirty five minutes and fifty four seconds ahead of the main group.

Each stage has a permitted finishing time calculated according to that day’s stage difficulty and average speed. For the 13th stage the formula was the winner’s actual finishing time plus:
4% if the average speed is less than or equal to 34km/h
5% between 34 km/h and 36 km/h
6% between 36 km/h and 38 km/h
7% between 38 km/h and 40 km/h
8% between 40 km/h and 42 km/h
9% between 42 km/h and 44 km/h
10% between 44 km/h and 46 km/h
11% between 46 km/h and 48 km/h
12% over 48 km/h

Jens Voigt of CSC won the stage at 5h24m36sec with an average speed of 42.51 km/h, so if I’ve got my math right the cutoff time was 5h53m36sec. The peloton came in a minute too slow at 5h54m33sec.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Okay, I'll play

Christina asked what we're craving. I'm craving this:

(Photo from Big Sky Fishing.Com.)

It's the Madison River, in Yellowstone National Park. God's most perfect river. My father's Valhalla. My son's birthright. My touchstone. My true north. My river.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

At least I don't have to go decaf yet

Well, this cycle is lost as well. The lab will be closed during my projected transfer window.

At least I don't have to change the beans in the coffee machine yet.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

One of twelve, sort of

I really like Small Boy's pediatrician, Dr. Norwegian. He was the neonatologist at the hospital where Boy was born and did the three and five day checks of the newborns. I liked him from the start; when he learned in the hospital that I'm from the US, he would say things like "He's going to be another Bode Miller" after doing Small Boy's reflex checks (NB: this was before the whole skiing drunk fiasco), and after the five day check he said that we'd made a "perfect prototype" and could go into production. Boy is long and lean, and Dr. Norwegian always says that that's the kind of baby he likes to see, and other similarly nice things. I know any good pediatrician is going to say nice things about the kid to the parents, but still. If he's faking he's a good faker because I think he really does like the Boy.

Today Small Boy had his 18 month check up (two weeks early) and Dr. Norwegian asked when (not if) I'm going to have more kids because Small Boy is the kind of baby you should make twelve of. Funny thing, because Small Boy is one of twelve, in a manner of speaking. One embryo didn't implant, ten are in storage, and Small Boy makes twelve. I laughed and said he keeps me busy enough, but we are, in fact, creeping up on an FET. Project Wean is proceeding apace, I've resumed taking the prenatal vitamins that I should have been taking all along since I'm still nursing but gave up on at some point during the winter, and I've contemplated the purchase of decaf coffee beans. Things in this house are serious when the purchase of decaf coffee beans is contemplated. The only real wrench in the works is Dr. L's messed-up summer schedule.

What kind of doctor takes vacation? In the summer? Of all the nerve.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The taxman cometh, or What do you mean I'm supposed to live my principles?

We received our final Swiss tax bill for fiscal year 2004 the other day, and I’m just now getting over the shock of it. (Do I even go into an aside here about why it has taken until July of 2006 to get a final tax bill for fiscal 2004? No, it’s long and boring and utterly beside the point. But here’s an interesting little tidbit about Swiss taxes. There is no income tax withholding. No withholding at all. Nope. You get a big huge bill for all your taxes and you are supposed to be able to pay the damn thing all at once, because, you know, you set aside money to pay your taxes. Between this and the countless referendums* and initiatives on which the Swiss are expected to vote, I find that the government trusts the people to be rational entirely too much in this country.)

So. Swiss tax bill. Yes. Let’s just say Ouch. In keeping with Switzerland’s extreme federal system, we’re paying the overwhelming majority of our taxes to the Kanton (state) and the Gemeinde (locality) – and Small Village, where we lived until mid-2005, had a shockingly high tax rate – because the Kanton and the Gemeinde provide and pay for the vast majority of services: education, social welfare, refugee and asylum assistance are all provided at the state and local level. Looking at the raw numbers of what we paid, and what services we actually consumed, I’ve got to say: from a straight book-keeping what’s-in-it-for-me sense, we are not getting our money’s worth.

No, no we are not. Sure I walk safe and clean streets (but we do pay an additional garbage tax, plus the garbage stickers on every bag, plus I have to carry my recyling to the depot myself) and we use the Autobahn system (but of course we pay an additional 40 Francs a year for our Swiss Autobahn Vignette, which is required in order to drive legally on the Autobahn), and I ride safe, clean and reliable public transportation almost daily (but I paid for my annual pass, you know), but other than that…No, not really getting our money’s worth. The postal system is remarkably efficient, but fairly expensive. Switzerland does not have national health care. They do not have universal pre-school beginning at age three, as in France. Mandated maternity leave was only just approved in October 2004 (by a vote of the people), and compared to our Austrian neighbors, for example, it’s a cheap sort of leave. All in all, I’d have to say that Switzerland is an island of conservative capitalism in the European sea of social welfare and we are not. getting. our. money’s worth.

Except. Except that I’ve spent a life-time spouting off about social justice, and life in Switzerland more closely approximates justice than life in the US. Although Switzerland does not have national health care in the Scandinavian sense, nobody goes uninsured. Health insurance is required by law, and if you can’t afford to pay premiums, the government insures you (if you can afford them, you'll be paying some of the highest premiums in the world - and health insurance is almost never an employee benefit). R and I and our enormous tax bill, we help pay for those who can't afford insurance. And there is the Mütterberaterin. We pay for that, too (and use it, I must add). Although there is poverty in Switzerland – up to 284,000 working poor in a country of 7 million (link auf deutsch) – there is not the desperate grinding poverty of American inner-cities, the poverty that so shocks Europeans. The social safety net is hung at a much higher level than in the US, and R and I, we help pay for that too. The 2004 poverty line in Switzerland was defined at 4,603 Francs a month for a family of four, or 55,236 Francs a year, which translates to US$45,127 – more than twice the 2004 US equivalent of $19,157 for a family of four. $19,157 for a family of four. Think about that for a minute. Switzerland’s higher poverty line can in part be accounted for by a higher cost of living here, but it’s not twice as high; the rest of the difference is accounted for by the fact that the floor is higher here. Society is willing to pay to ensure that the floor is higher here, and it shows. In 2005, UNICEF reported that 6.8% of Swiss children lived in poverty (defined as less than half of the median country income) compared to 21.9% of US children. R and I pay for that difference, too. To be honest, I think not all of this is driven by pure social idealism, though the presence of a genuine Social Democratic party in Parliament certainly doesn’t hurt. I think that among other things, the Swiss crave stability and are perceptive enough to realize that a more just society will be more stable. Some of the social goodness of Swiss life is, I suspect, a by-product of good old Swiss pragmatism.

As a US-American who’s proud of who I am and where I come from, who thinks that these are the most important, perhaps the only truly important, words in the English language, it pains me to say that although life may be more free in an absolute sense in the US, life is demonstrably more just in Switzerland. R and I pay for more than we receive because we have more than we need and because the calculus of social justice requires that of us, and because the calculus of social justice is actually applied here. Society here is far from perfect, but it is more perfect than the one I left behind. It wounds me to say that, and it makes me feel disloyal, but it’s the truth. Social life here is more just, and the life of the poor is more dignified, and those sorts of things don’t happen by accident, and they don’t happen by spending a life-time spouting off about social justice. They happen by spending money.

Living here has forced me to put my money quite literally where my mouth is. I’ve always talked a good game about social justice; here I have no choice but to live up to it. And I know it's sort of a cheap way of living up to it, letting my tax bill do the talking rather than more proactive charitable giving (though we do that, too) or, more importantly, giving of my time, but it is living up to it. And really, government simply has to be a large part of the equation in promoting social justice - the collective action problem of individuals doing everything is simply too great. Private charitable giving, Warren Buffett notwithstanding, is never going to be sufficient unto the day; and as for volunteering, well, plenty of us are already burning the candle at both ends. Beyond the practicalities of the matter, there is a moral and philisophical question at stake: by what sort of social contract do we wish to be bound? What's the whole point of government anyway, if not to ensure some basic decency? I like that the Swiss system enforces a social contract that people might wish they would live up to themselves but, for the varied and complicated reasons of real life, don't. If the price of a more just and decent society is a little bit of money and a little bit of freedom, it's a price I'm glad to pay.

In the US we are fond of saying "freedom is never free." But you know, neither is justice.

The taxman cometh. Bring on the taxman.

* Yes, I know, the proper plural of referendum is referenda, but in political science, among people who study the referendum and the initiative, it is accepted usage to speak of referendums. Problem? Take it up with William Safire.


Monday, July 10, 2006

The Swiss may not have much to show from the World Cup...

...but they own Wimbledon.


Thai food yum, thai food diapers pee-uuuu!

Over the weekend R and I, Small Boy in backpack, went to the Thai Food Festival at the Thai Embassy here. Thai restaurants and organizations from all over Switzerland (there are a surprising number of Thai here, largely women) set up food stalls or booths selling foodstuffs and handcrafts on the grounds of the Thai Embassy. The booths spilled over to a small field and parking lot area next door, and there was a stage for demonstrations of Thai music, dancing, and boxing; Thai massages were available (for a charge, of course). There were hundreds of people there samping the food, and many mixed Thai-Swiss families laid out blankets and looked as if they were ready to picnic all afternoon.

The food was fantastic. The food stalls were grouped according to regions, so I saw more variety of Thai food than I usually see (because R and I go to the same Thai restaurant all the time). We tried a pork-papaya salad (cold dish); a seafood curry in banana leaves; Thai noodle soup with beef; duck; a fried rice dish mainly for the Small Boy; and of course Pad Thai; we had banana rolls for desert (think spring rolls but filled with cooked banana mixed with coconut shavings). As long as it wasn't spicy or raw, we let Small Boy try from everything. The rice, of course, was a hit; Pad Thai a surprising miss (the Boy is all about the noodles so I though that would be a hit); the noodle soup was a hit; he seemed intrigued by the duck; and the banana roll was a major hit. He's also been known to eat marinaded tofu, mung bean sprouts, maybe even steamed chinese brocolli if he's in the mood, and avocado sushi. Seeing him sitting there, sampling from our strange meals, eating something new and unusual made me so happy.

The aftermath, however, not so much.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Cycling Update: Tour de France Stage 6

Oh why why why is my least favorite cyclist in the world so mind-blowingly good? It is a torment to me, a torment I tell you.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cycling Update: Le Tour

This one's for Expat, who's doing a better job updating than me, but who asked if I'm following Le Tour. But of course. Although, with Ulrich, Basso, Mancebo, Sevilla and Beloki among those banned under doping suspicions and Vinokourov unable to ride because Astana-Wurth couldn't field a team, not to mention the gaping hole left by Armstrong's retirement, it's an odd sort of Tour.

Hincapie, for years the loyal leutenant, finally got a brief taste of yellow. Hushovd got it back. McEwen, perhaps my least favorite of riders, won stage two and wears the green points jersey. Discovery apparantly doesn't have a team leader yet; they're waiting until the first long time trial to see how things shake out. Seems like a recipe for disaster - whoever they want in yellow on the Champs-Elysee should already be conserving his energy - but what do I know? I love Hincapie, but I don't think he has the personality to stamp his will on the team the way Lance did. Let's face it - Postal/Discovery's purpose in life was to help Lance win the Tour de France and if you didn't like it, you found yourself another team. Lance was the team leader and everybody knew it. Right now I don't see anybody on Discovery who can command that kind of obediance. Then again, with all the doping violations the field is wide open and maybe that kind of iron discipline isn't required this year. But if Basso were riding, Discovery would already be screwed.


Fourth of July

We're not doing anything special over here today. Back in Small Village we used to host a BBQ - R had a great smoker and he'd spend all day slow-smoking ribs or a pork shoulder. People could come over whenever they wanted and hang out in the back under the sun-shade or out in the sun drinking cold beer and soda we kept chilled in the Brunnen*. I'd make corn bread and guests would volunteer a potato salad or chips and we'd eat and talk and drink.

We no longer have the smoker - although we have a balcony, it's not exactly appropriate to have a smoker in a city apartment, is it? - and a lot of our friends are travelling right now, and we got lazy and didn't plan anything. There are fireworks in Geneva, apparantly, but that's too far to drive for a few fireworks. So for us it's just another Tuesday in Switzerland. With one exception - R has some time off this afternoon and we're taking the Boy to the Grosseltern, and then we're heading off alone for a few hours.

Well, with two exceptions.

* That's not our Brunnen, but we did have one very similar by the barn.