Sunday, January 27, 2008

Registration Fun

Today we registered for baby stuff, which wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. No one at Babies ‘R Us was injured while I was there, and Tim and were still speaking when we left. The pregnancy books warned that salespeople may use all sorts of tactics to push unnecessary items on us, so I thought it would be like buying a car. In actuality, the salespeople were far too swamped to bother us.

It was still somewhat overwhelming, though we were armed with Baby Bargains, a list of equipment my Moms group recommended, and advice from family and friends. We faced walls and walls of seemingly identical items. That confusion aside, we’re actually very lucky. As the last in the family to have kids, there is a ton of hand-me-down items that my brothers- and sisters-in-law are generous enough to share with us, which meant we had to register for less.

Today’s biggest sticking point, believe it or not, was the diaper bag. The bags I selected were too girly, while those he picked out didn’t look like diaper bags. I don’t know why I want something that looks like a diaper bag, but here we are. We left that for another day.

We also encountered plenty of items that no one needs, such as special plastic bags to dispose of diapers (they look like plastic grocery store bags). They even come with dispensers that look suspiciously like those found on dogs’ leashes. Do we use those when we’re out for a walk?

My absolute favorite was the Weeblock, a little athletic cup that is used when changing little boys’ diapers. When a baby boy piddle in the middle of a diaper change, the results can be disastrous for the person changing them, especially if he or she is running late or wearing dry-clean only clothing. For the person who wants to protect themselves, there is a whole line of Weeblocks, all with pithy sayings on them.

I think, for everyone's safety, we’ll just cover the baby with an extra diaper during changes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Name That Tune

The New York City Subway system has an interesting soundtrack. I'm not talking about the screech of the trains or classical music pumped in like they do at the Port Authority (or Christmas music that started the day before Thanksgiving).

No, these are individual musicians. So far, I've heard music from acoustic guitars, electric guitars, a violin, an accordion, a steel drum, a trombone, a saxophone, drums (the plastic bucket variety), a clarinet, and a keyboard.

I have also seen singers and dancers, but mostly in the Times Square station, where there is more space. People are more likely to play in the evenings, probably because they know none of us will be very appreciative or generous in the morning. Most of the buses and trains have an unspoken (no pun intended) quiet policy, and the subway is no exception.

The evenings are another story, especially Friday nights. You hear all sorts of music, and since it isn't on its original instrument and lacks lyrics, I invariably add an element of Name That Tune to my commute. The problem is that once I've figured out the song, it's stuck in my head.

And do you really want to have Christopher Cross' "Caught Between the Moon and New York City?" or "My Favorite Things" (on saxophone) in your head? Me neither. I've also heard the Jackson 5, and all sorts of other one hit wonders from the last three decades.

In other news, work is going well. Some of the interesting items my colleagues at findingDulcinea have been working on include a piece on a computerized dog translator and other studies into canine behavior. Dogs actually have more subtle emotions than previously thought.

Now if only they would devote similar research to cats, then I could figure out what mine is trying to tell me. I think it might be important.

Want to host a great Super Bowl party? Use our guide to watching the game. It includes hosting logistics (make sure the food table, if it's in another room, is still within sight of the TV) along with food and drink recipes. Anyone up for some Tequila punch? I have to pass, but it sounds interesting.

And if you have no idea what all the fuss is about, or are exasperated by a football-illiterate friend, send them our guide to Super Bowl 42. This guide includes the history of the Super Bowl, Giants and Patriots, as well as news and analysis for each team.

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's good to have one Manning in the Super Bowl

There was quite a bit of rejoicing at our house last night after the Giants defeated Green Bay. Neither of us have ever been to the big game, and this year would have been ideal. The game is going to be in Phoenix, where some very good friends live.

If you are lucky enough to be planning a Super Bowl trip right now, use our findingDulcinea travel guide to make the most of your visit. Learn about day trips from the city, how to get around town, and what kind of Super Bowl-related entertainment is available.

We've been there a few times, and I'm always struck by how beautiful the city and surrounding mountains are. The people are nice, the food is great, and of course, the weather is lovely.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dispatches from the board

Tonight I’m sending my post from our dart night. Home turf doesn’t seem to matter so far, as we're about even with the other team, win-loss wise, about a third of the way into the competition. I was responsible for one loss, but my opponent was very good (she hit everything I was aiming for), which is a consolation.

We had an interesting story today about wine’s prices vs. enjoyment. A study in California showed that people enjoyed a wine if they thought it was more expensive. Other researchers, though, wondered if the subjects would have enjoyed the wine as much had they actually paid for it. This story is currently irrelevant to me, as you know, but good to know in the future.

Oh, and if you have the cold or flu, use our guide to help get better. This guide has links that tell you how to figure out whether you have the cold or flu, and how they are treated. There are also links to what remedies are effective, or will just make you feel better. Among my favorites: a WebMD quiz that helps you decide whether you should go to work or call in sick, and an Associated Press article about other countries' versions of chicken soup.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New York surprised me in two ways. First, the city was far more clean than I expected. Sure, Manhattan has plenty of mystery puddles and icky smells, as does Hoboken, but so did Washington. I expected something much worse. The second is people are much nicer, for the most part.

This morning, we were passing through the Port Authority Bus Terminal on the way to that Big Apple Institution, brunch, when a woman said something unintelligble to me, but followed it up with a smack on my hip (which didn't hurt) and very clearly yelled, "You whore!" I never thought I'd hear that at 10 a.m. on a Sunday.

We met our friend and his mother for brunch at a wonderful restaurant called Norma's.

Our friend's mother and aunt started a really cool business called Incredibly Edible Delites some years ago. There are stores all over the country, but don't be fooled by imitators. It was great to see them both again. Besides taking us out for a lovely brunch, they also brought several gifts for the baby, which was very generous.

After brunch we all went to FAO Schwarz. It was my first time in that store, and wow. We walked into the plush section, where we saw rows and rows of stuffed giraffes, polar bears, gorillas, cats, catepillars, dogs, catfish, tigers and leopards. The centerpiece was a display of giant mythical creatures, such as Cerberus, a Phoenix and a Griffin. Seeing all of it made me want to ressurect my long-abandoned stuffed animal collection. It was hard not to regress when looking at the Smurf figurines, board games, Barbie gallery and Harry Potter display. Really, who could resist a model of the Hogwarts Express or Dumbledore's hat?

While we were in the infant/toddler section, Tim said he understood why people get the urge to spend ridiculous amounts of money before the baby arrives. We caved slightly and bought an adorable stuffed monkey. A few baby gifts have had monkeys on them, so I think a nursery theme is emerging.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A room with a view ... normally

My new office is on the 28th floor of a building on Park Avenue South, in the middle of Manhattan. The entire suite is lined with enormous windows that face east, south, and west. The view is impressive, especially for someone new to the city. The Empire State Building is about two blocks over, and the gold dome of the New York Life building to the south is so close it seems like we could reach out and touch it.

We can see some of the city's many bridges, the East River, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. On sunny days we get “sunset alerts” so we don’t miss any of the beauty.

When you inevitably wonder why every post starts with an uneducated weather report, that’s why. It's hard to ignore what's going on outside, but it's one of my favorite things about the office.

Today, though it’s foggy, gloomy, and to the west, the world seems to end at a solid gray wall about a quarter mile away. I hope New Jersey is still there, or else my commute is going to be difficult.

The last couple of days have been busy with writing health guides and news. One of my favorites was a Beyond the Headlines piece about pet allowances in Japan.

My editor told me a story about an actress buying a lamb, thinking it was a puppy, and asked me to research it. It turned out to be an urban legend, but the “accounts” were funny, as was’s report debunking it. All of them are included in the above piece. This is what I enjoy about my job: being asked to research some of the most bizarre and interesting topics.

Another piece is about using a rheumatoid arthritis drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

The case study is about one person, and research is in the early stages, so if it's approved, it probably won't be for a long time. But reading the account of the patient before and after his treatment was compelling, as were interviews with patients' family members.

Today’s musical selection: Simple Kid “Serotonin” from 2

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

You have to start somewhere ...

So I'll start with today, which is warm and sunny in Manhattan. And the sun definitely lifted my spirits after this morning, which started off with oversleeping, ironing and ill-fitting maternity clothes. And that followed a late night and a miserable showing in our dart game (0-3, a new low for me, I think). It's amazing what sunny weather and half-caff coffee can do.

Though many people seem focused on the New Hampshire primary results today, I'm not paying too much attention. No, something on findingDulcinea's web page caught my attention. On this day 36 years ago, the Queen Mary sank. You know I can't resist a good mystery.

Full disclosure: I write for findingDulcinea, but didn't write this particular piece. I'll periodically be sharing some articles, guides and other features I think may interest you. This site, for those of you who know me, is a big change from my newspaper days, but I find it fascinating. I hope you do, too.

For example, if you're feeling more civic-minded today than I am and want to learn more about the 2008 presidential candidates, check out our election guide.