Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hello Oslo

Photo from the Fjord outside Oslo, Norway

No work-related trip to Europe would be complete without at least one fun side-excursion. For Alex's recent stay in Bremen, Germany, that excursion took the form of a jump up to Norway on July 21 and 22 to meet some relatives on his father, Al's, side.

Al's cousin, Ingebjoerg and her family (husband Finn, daughter Kristen, son-in-law Gier and grandchildren Helene and Mikkel) were kind enough to take these two days to show Alex all the sights Oslo has to offer (at least, as many could be fit into two days!). They were incredibly generous in donating their time to Alex, who was little more then a stranger to them. No tourist experience quite compares to seeing a city from the viewpoint of a local, and Ingebjoerg and her family made sure Alex had the royal treatment. By the end of the weekend, Alex felt like part of the family and had a new found appreciation for the beautiful scenery and culture that Oslo has to offer.

Highlight's from the weekend include a tour around the Fjords outside Oslo (above) and the Gustav Vigeland Sculpture Park (below). The sculpture park had an incredible array of human forms: from mothers and children playing to a tower of people all on top of each other.

Another treat was to see one of the three surviving Viking ships. Surprising little is known about this group of Scandinavian explorers who settled throughout Europe from the late eighth to the mid-eleventh century. Their known history (to be distinguished from widespread tales about their culture) can be summed up pretty much by: they came, they conquered, they left.

Scientist that he is, Alex was especially thrilled with a visit to the Nobel Institute. Given his chosen field, however, (planetary research isn't exactly a cure for cancer) it's a long-shot to hope he will be back there some day to collect a prize of his own =)

 Ingebjoerg, Kristen, Helene, Alex, Mikkel, Finn & Geir (photographer)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bridal Shower

Two weeks ago I took a quick trip to see the family in Milwaukee and enjoy what is likely my last chance in a while to get some time out of LA. It was a busy and fun-filled weekend.

My brother, David, recently started a Sales Associate training program at Rockwell Automation, in Milwaukee. As their name implies, Rockwell provides the services, support and hardware needed for their customers to improve the automation of their own facilities. A quick look at their product catalogue gives an idea of just how vast their product combinations can be. Thus, accomplishing a grasp of their products and effectively selling them is no small feat to undertake! It was great fun to catch up with David and hear first-hand about everything he's learning and doing in this exciting program.

A diversion during the weekend was to attend Milwaukee's Bastille Days Festival. Bastille Days, France's equivalent to the 4th of July, is a curious festival for the largely German-settled Milwaukee to have. Even more so since this 1-day event in France is a 3-4 day festival when observed in US cities. Still, any excuse for music, a diverse mix of food, and fun merchandise booths is good enough for me.

The primary reason for the trip was to attend my sister Stacy's bridal shower. Stacy is getting married in December to a wonderful guy, Ian. Check out their wedding website. The shower, hosted by my mother's friends Sue Miller and Ginny Kannenberg, was just lovely. As you can see in the picture above, Stacy received a ton of great items to help set up their new apartment.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Alex is off to COSPAR

Thursday morning, Alex took off for Bremen, Germany to attend COSPAR's 38th scientific assembly.

COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) was originally formed in 1958, shortly after the USSR launched the first Earth Satellite, with the objective to promote on an international level scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions, and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research. Complete background on the organization can be found here: link.

Alex's invited talk, Sunday afternoon, is on titled "CASSINI RADAR OBSERVATIONS OF THE NATURE AND SEASONAL VARIBILITY OF TITAN'S LAKES". See his full abstract here: link. One of the great things about this talk is it allows him to pull from most of his thesis research on Titan's lakes and consolidate it into a 20 min overview version.

No trip to Europe would be complete with out some fun, however. Besides enjoying the beer festival (and sausages!) that Bremen currently has going on, Alex will head up to Norway for a few days. There, he'll be connecting with some of his father's relatives for the first time. He should have wonderful pictures and stories to share when he returns!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baby Classes

This past Tuesday, Alex and I attended our first 'Baby Class'. Like anything else associated with babies, it seems that there is an abundance of choices when it comes to childbirth education classes, should you choose to attend one. The most common choices are Lamaze (taught at most hospitals and by independent instructors), Bradley Method, International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), HypoBabies, ALACE, CAPPA and more.

Ultimately, we decided to go with the Bradley Method. It's very similar to Lamaze in that the goal is to have as natural a birth process as possible (least medical intervention) and focuses on a coach (usually the partner) offering support to the woman. As far as I can determine, the main difference to Lamaze is that there is no emphasis on heavy breathing or other distraction techniques. Rather, the woman is encouraged to accept the pain of labor as part of the process. It's a simple approach and from what I've read so far, it can more or less be boiled down to "yes, labor hurts, but a woman's body is designed to deal with it."

Our impressions from the first class are mixed. The format was nice and welcoming. A private instructor leads each 2 1/2 hour class for 8 or so couples at a private location (in our case, a leased lounge at a medical office). It's nice to not be at a hospital and the atmosphere is relaxed and open to questions. On the down side, the tone of instruction (at least at the first class) was much more directive than instructive. Our first class was on breastfeeding and after this session it was clear the instructor thought formula was some kind of poison! However, some fanaticism should be expected from someone who has chosen to teach courses like this. That aside, it was nice to go to an 'event' together that focused on preparing for our little girl and hopefully it will become a nice weekly ritual for us.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Meet Ziggy

Ziggy (in-utero nickname) is our baby girl, due September 13th. The photograph above is from a 3D ultra sound session we had this week. This technology was fairly impressive and it was a real treat to get a sneak-peak at our little girl. At 30 weeks gestation, she's probaby just over 3 pounds right now. It's hard to believe that in just 10 more weeks she'll double in weight and be ready to make her appearance!