My life, extended DVD edition

You know that scene at the end of bad action movies, where the grizzled and slightly bloodied hero hugs the buxom blonde with the suggestively torn denim shirt on top of the slightly burning pile of rubble? The one where the villian, who seemed to have been defeated with the one mighty punch, rises up out of the rubble and aims a gun at the blonde?

Well, it feels like my proposed mini-series of a life has transformed into this action movie, although at the moment, it looks like I won’t be delivering a cocky one-liner before tossing the hand grenade at the villian’s feet, blowing him off the wobbly precipice to a falling death below for some time…

After last night’s CBD-centric shenanigans, I had planned a quiet day and quiet evening. Di’s written up the day (non-quiet, for those of you who don’t want to click links). The evening seemed simpler; a little takeaway pizza (we were far too tired to cook anything) and settled the kids down. Di was feeling pretty wrecked, and I wasn’t too far behind her; my lungs in particular feel like they’re coming down with a solid case of Zoe’s cough from last week. Such fun.

Di headed off to grab some much-needed sleep at around 8:30pm, and I settled down to do some work, as I’m somewhat behind on my schedules right now. Fate had other ideas in mind, though, as James and Zoe unwittingly did a serious job of double-teaming my time, waking on almost five-minute intervals with problems — James especially, who kept slinking out of his bed and sliding downstairs to break my concentration until I settled him again. This continued through to about 11pm, by which time I was feeling more than a touch frazzled. Di came down to help with the settling, which finally kicked in around midnight.

At which point the contractions and the bleeding kicked in for Di.

Yep, been here before. Call the maternity ward at Hornsby Hospital, and they want her to come in. It’s about 1am by now, so after trying a few people to see if we can do the childminding thing, we give up and just head in with them. For the record, both kids are lighter than my brother, although the center of gravity needed to carry them is entirely different than to prop him up. Di headed in for her examination, and I tried to settle the kids for at least a brief sleep in the waiting room while we got a prognosis. James was dead asleep in my arms (figures) but Zoe wouldn’t setttle — not that the waiting room is that comfortable or anything. After what seemed like a longer wait than it probably was, one of the midwives came in for a chat. Di was stable, and they didn’t think it was too serious, so they were most likely going to just keep her overnight. After a quick check on her in the examination room, I headed back home with the kids. It’s not much fun opening the heavy fire doors that form the after-hours access to maternity when you’ve got a sleeping 12kg infant in your arms, I can tell you.

By now, it’s about 2am, and it feels strangely reminiscent for me to be travelling through the streets of Hornsby in the wee hours.. Oh yeah. That was last night’s problem too. At least this time I’ve got a car.

Got home at around ten past, with a very asleep James in the back seat, and a very awake and freaked out Zoe next to him. She wouldn’t settle in her own bed, so I put her in mine and tried to get her to go to sleep, which she eventually did, around 3am. Where did I last do a 3am sleep? Oh, yeah, that’s right. Last night.

By now, my lungs feel like someone’s dragging a cheese grater across them, so some sleep would be really handy. Just to check if you’ve been paying attention, here’s a short multiple-choice quiz. Remember folks, this is all for fun — no wagering, please.

Did the cats wake up Alex at:

a) 7am?
b) 11am, with freshly brewed coffee, toast and eggs, sunny side up?
c) 4:30am by running, claws out, over his arm?

If you answered

a) Yeah, nice theory. Fails the practical
b) You really haven’t been paying attention, have you?
c) You win a fabulous copy of our home game! *

*RRP: $0.01c. Not transferable for cash. May contain radioactive playing parts.

I’m just settling back to sleep at 5am… when James wakes up.

So, to recap, the blonde (well, OK, in this case she’s a beautiful brunette, but you try selling that to Hollywood) has been rescued, but the hero has by now had fewer hours of sleep since Friday morning than he has fingers on his right hand. Any fancy quips at this stage will have to be croaked out, or perhaps delivered in semaphore, and I’m sure that I’ve moved from handsome leading man stakes to grizzled old-timer stakes, which probably means a telemovie starring, say, Michael Hasslehoff. Mr T can play one of the midwives, and one of the cast members from “Little House On The Prarie” can have a brief cameo as a cab driver.

Oh what a night…

Well, it looks like act 2 of the screenplay that is my life has been written for me, courtesy of the events of yesterday — and most notably, the events of last night. But before we begin, a quick bit of scene-setting, via a recap of yesterday’s more ordinary daytime activities.

Zoe’s health has improved nicely, so it was off to preschool in the morning for her, after which I settled down to do some serious painting. Not of the artistic canvas type, unfortunately — I’ve always wanted to paint a multi-million dollar masterpiece, just so I could pay off the mortgage — but painting the new rails on the deck, something that’s needed doing for a month or more. About five hours of painting got about half the rails done, but by that stage, I was stiff and sore, and in need of a wash up before heading out to the fourth annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalist awards. The soreness from painting didn’t fuss me too much — I figured I’d take it light on the beverages and basically just help drive a dining table’s worth of conversation while applauding the winners.

Special plaudits clearly have to go to the publications I write for that won gongs, especially CNET & Netguide. I was also very personally touched when CNET’s Pam Carroll got up for her second team gong and thanked her freelancers — and especially me. Now that I was not expecting…

As previously noted, I was in the running for two gongs — for best technology reviewer, and best games journalist. And, as I predicted, I didn’t win either, although I was rather surprised that the organisers made the simplest (and oldest) error in the book and erroneously named me in the nominees category for Best Consumer journalist. Not that I wouldn’t like to win it, but it was my brother who was actually nominated. The real fraternal-level hijinks were just about to begin, however.

My brother is many things — a damn fine journalist, an afficionado of peroxide-style hair bleach, and collector of all things Paddington. He’s also not averse to the odd drop of fermented grape product, of which he’s known to partake liberally. On this occasion, he partook deeply, something which was commented upon to me by several people, especially when he took to the dance floor. Eventually, the time came when the management informed me that he’d have to leave, at which point I attempted to take charge. My brother can be a somewhat stubborn creature at the best of times, but events accelerated (as they have a tendency of doing) and we were eventually out the door. By this point it was around 10:30-11:00ish, I’d had 1.5 beers (the other 0.5 being sadly spilt over a journalist friend of mine, thanks to the staff presenting me with a beer in a wet glass… sorry Roulla!) and I was feeling tired. T’brother had wisely booked himself a hotel room in a small hotel just near World Square, and we were in Star City, and so we set off walking.

A brief diversion here: I hate Star City. Not just the gambling thing — if people are stupid enough to burn their money, then so be it — but primarily because the whole complex has been built in such a way that it’s deliberately very difficult to get out of there, or even to find certain bits of it. Especially when one member of your party is a little the worse for alcohol.

Now, there’s an expression that goes along the lines that what goes on tour, stays on tour, so I won’t mention too much of what went on on that fateful walk/heft/drag, except to note that what should be a 15 minute walk took us close in the region of one and a half hours. It’s also worth noting that my shoulder probably would have given out were it not for the entirely chance meeting up with an old school friend of mine, one Jonathan Maddox. A quick Google search reveals he’s been a busy chap, developing software and writing into the SMH on an intermittent basis. When I saw him last night, he was propping up a traffic light in a semi-inebriated state. Still, any help in a crisis is still help, and between us we eventually sussed out where the hotel room was and deposited one brother. The time then was about 12:45, I was extremely sore and about three blocks from Central Station, where I headed in order to see if the trains were still running. Thankfully, they were, so I waited the requisite fifteen minutes, called Di to let her know I was still OK — she should have been expecting me home around then — and caught a train to Hornsby. I was quite glad of the train — my original plan was to train to Hornsby and cab home for around fifteen bucks, as opposed to the seventy-five to one hundred it would cost to get a cab from the CBD. Now, you may be thinking that my night was more or less over there, and to be honest, I expected that it would be… but I was wrong.

Arriving at Hornsby at around 2am, thanks to a very slow-running train, I headed for the cab rank, only to discover that the pub over the road had just done its throwing out of patrons. About fifty of them, at best count. And no cabs. I waited around for about 20 minutes, and the crowd grew. One taxi came in, and somebody — not at the head of the queue — jumped in. The nervous looking cabbie sped off — I don’t entirely blame him — and the crowd grew ugly. Well, actually, given that it was 2am and I’m surrounded by some very drunk looking seedy types, perhaps “uglier” is a better word to use. When the same thing happened to the second cab to turn up, it quickly became clear to me that:

a) Nobody had any idea what the queue actually was any more, or who had “been there longer”
b) There were about two cabs in the whole of Hornsby.
c) At least one, if not several fights were about to break out.

That left me with one option, which I regretfully had to take, namely walking home. I did spot one or other of the two taxis heading towards me as I trudged, but naturally they didn’t stop for me, because a rioting crowd at the station is a far more appealing prospect than a lone sober guy in a suit. Now, on a fair day when I’m well rested and I have a decent supporting wind, I can make it home from Hornsby in about forty minutes. It’s now 2:30am (or thereabouts), and in the preceeding 18 hours I’ve painted for around five hours, travelled for about two hours, schmoozed for the best part of four hours and walked/hefted for an hour and a half. Let’s just say that my chances of scoring a personal best time were never high, and about an hour after I set off, I got home. 3:30am is no time whatsoever to be going to bed, especially when you have young children.

I’m beginning to have second thoughts about who should play me in the movie version, though, as the running time seems to be getting a little long. Perhaps a mini-series would be more appropriate…

I was dreaming when I wrote this…

More published works with my distinctive stamp all over them at the mighty CNET:

Yappermouse: It’s easy enough to believe in many things mouse-related. A mouse that roars? No problem. A mouse that runs a billion dollar entertainment empire? Not a worry. Even an invisible mouse is conceivable, albeit a little hard to see….

Belkin Wireless G Router with Built-In USB Print Server: It’s a very simple design step, but for networking novices it’s such a huge confidence booster that we wonder why more router manufacturers don’t adopt this KISS-style labelling…

So very tired. No more comments here.

Somebody say, “Movie Star!”

I swear, one day I’m selling our family story as a screenplay. Sure, it’s a little unbelievable, right up to the point where that little line of text scrolls across the screen, stating that “The events you’re about to see are all based on a true story. Only the names have been retained to implicate the guilty” — or something like that.

Take this morning. Last night, things seemed to be approaching what you’d call “Normal”, or at least as normal as it gets around here. Di was back from her latest sojourn in hospital, the house was basically clean, and we got the kids to sleep, watched some brain-dead TV and went to bed… and then 4am struck.

In the space of five minutes, Di woke up with strong chest pains and a tingly feeling in her arms, and Zoe woke up coughing up a storm. Zoe’s had a cough for a little while, and it’s not unusual for kids to get night coughs, but Di needed attention straight away, so back to the hospital we go — only this time, to emergency, not maternity. They know me far too well in maternity; I reckon if I turned up and just picked up random babies nobody would bat an eyelid…

(Note for DOCS: I kid, I kid. I’ve already got 2.5 kids, I don’t need anybody else’s)

Di gets admitted, and I get the fun pre-dawn job of keeping two kids entertained in a hospital emergency waiting room. Thankfully, we’re the only ones in there; I don’t think I’ve ever seen an empty emergency room in Hornsby before. Zoe was fine; pretty sleepy but easy to control, but James was awake and ready to PAAAARTY!

Which is just what you don’t want at 5am.

After about an hour, Di seems to be settling, and the quiet pace means that one of the nurses can watch the kids while I go in to reassure Di. But then, Zoe’s cough gets a little worse… and a little bit worse.. and before I know it, she’s coughing up green goo into my hands. Sips of water don’t really help, as they’re coming back up again minutes later. Between scared Di, rebellious James and vomiting Zoe, I figure it’s time to call in the troops, so I call Di’s mum to come and help. The nursing staff get her an icy pole to rehydrate Zoe, which seems to go down well. In due course, Di’s mum arrives, and it’s decided she’ll take both kids back to our place for some breakfast while I wait with Di. Except that literally as they’re walking out the emergency room doors, Zoe brings back up the whole Icy pole, and plenty more green chunky stuff besides on the floor. So it’s time to admit her too, which leads me to an image that’ll stay with me for some time: Mother and daugher at opposite ends of an emergency ward, smiling weakly at each other. By this stage, Di’s settled enough — turns out it was most likely heartburn, which isn’t unknown in pregnancy, but Di’s never had it before. So she’s discharged, and heads home with her mum and the rebellious (and, to be fair to him, totally bored) boy. I stay in with Zoe to await an X-Ray on her chest, as the medicos have picked up a nasty rattle. Much waiting — and waiting with a sick, dehydrated 4 year old when you’ve had about three hours sleep is exactly as much fun as it sounds — leads to an X-Ray, which is a scary prospect when you’re only four. Zoe is very good, however, and the X-Ray is quickly done and assessed. It looks at this stage as though she’s got either a virus or a very mild pneumonia, as there’s some smudging on one side of the lungs. Antibiotics are prescribed, and we eventually head out of there at 11am, a mere six hours after arriving there.

It’s then that I nearly crash into the electrician’s van at the top of our driveway; he’s there to wire in our new solar hot water tank, something that had escaped my attention up until then. This then leads me to doing something I’d sworn I’d never do again, namely reversing down our driveway — the last time I tried this, I got suspended on an hanging rock and only got out by basically tearing the front bumper off reversing over it. Thankfully, a mixture of terror adrenaline and sheer blind luck leads me to not crash the car going backwards.

There y’go. I think I should be played in the movie by a young Harrison Ford, but knowing my luck, I’ll get Mark Hamill instead…

U might say, “what U mad about?”

While family dramas unfold, the tide of the presses erm… presses ever onwards, I guess. The annoying thing about being stressed and super-busy is that your usually reliable store of … whaddyacallem? Oh yeah — words — dries up on you.

The latest issue of PC User is out; go and buy it, and marvel at my reviews in the front and back of the book. See if you can find them all!

The next issue of Netguide isn’t out yet (although my Netguide-alarm suggests it should be soon), but an older feature of mine has snuck online in the meantime:

Avoiding online fraud: Keeping your money safe online requires you to keep two well-known quotes firmly at the front of your mind: ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ and ‘If it looks too good to be true, it is’…

I’m also featured twice online at 3DAvenue.com:

Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams: Imagine, if you will, a game that’s obsessed with Cherry Blossoms…

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Before I start, though, time for a quick admission — and not the one about the tub of margarine and the nun’s outfit either…

Mama said there’ll be days like this…

OK, so here’s how the plans for the past two days were meant to go:

Monday: Public holiday for the rest of the worky types, work day for the freelancer types. Alex to work on his download video feature, write some short form reviews for a few other publications and get in some free play time on Oblivion.
Tuesday: Play outside with the kids, more work on video feature, perhaps some painting of the deck rails. More Oblivion.

However — and you’ve probably guessed this by now — that wasn’t how things turned out. Oh no. Instead, what we got was:

Monday: Alex walks upstairs to the laundry to put back some tools, and realises he’s standing in an inch of water. This is because the hot water heater has ruptured, spilling gallons of water all over the laundry. Mad dash to turn the water off, followed by much mopping. Naturally, the hot water heater isn’t covered in the insurance (somebody remind me — why do we have home AND contents insurance when so much of the home and the contents aren’t covered?), although it later transpires that I didn’t catch all of the water, and it may have soaked down into the beams.

All this occurs, naturally enough, on a public holiday, when the services of a plumber are roughly price-equivalent to the GDP of, say, Japan.

Discover that for impercetible reasons, I can’t do a major part of the video feature, and the vendor involved can’t even tell me WHY. Stuck.

So, we decide to tough it out with lots of boiled kettles and some patience until…

Tuesday: Instead of writing or testing products, head out to price new hot water systems, including solar. Except that the woman at the Gas/Electric place looks at me like I’ve just bitten off her left arm, and the people at the solar place aren’t actually in. Head in for lunch and to pick up a new blender (as the old one’s died too — perhaps it went out in sympathy with the boiler).. only to find that the appliance store has lost the box for the only blender we liked. Along with the extra bits and bobs. And the warranty. Decide that perhaps isn’t blender-buying day.

So, we head back home, to relax for a while and have a simple dinner. We even manage to get someone to come out and quote on electric and solar options for the heater, and things vaguely start to look “up”. Until Di starts going into contractions again.

Sigh. We’ve been down this road before — she only got out of hospital with her previous set last Wednesday in fact. So it’s off to the hospital to drop her off, then back home with the kids for something on toast for dinner, kids off to the in-laws for the night so I can head back to the hospital. She’s now been admitted to the ward, and is essentially stable, thank God.

Now, can anyone tell me where I went wrong and lost the plot on the original plan?

Mmmm.. honey dipped babies..

While things could be better right now, they could also be worse. And the one upside of being in a hospital is that they hook you up to weird technology, like the ultrasound machine that produced this image of our as-yet-unborn bub. I’ve animated it to make the features clearer:

Awww, so cute. And so orange...

And before anyone worries, no, it doesnt’ in fact explode in the final frame; what’s happening is that a computer is simulating the “look” of the baby based on the ultrasound info it’s got, but it can only extrapolate so much; if there’s a lack of info or distortion, you get a distorted image, like you do here.

That was my drug of choice…

More reviews spill forth from the Kidman brain; sometimes I can’t stop them.

Sony VAIO VGN-FE15GP: Sony’s desktop-replacement VGN-FE15GP is impressively light and has great battery life, although its overall performance trails behind its dual-core competition.

Linksys WUSBF54G Wireless-G USB Network Adapter with Wi-Fi Finder: The WUSBF54G is a handy Wi-Fi detector and 802.11b/g network adaptor, although performance as a wireless adaptor is only average.

And three of the top ten Mobile phones for the month (including the top two) were written by yours truly. They may as well just give up and call it the “Alex Kidman Top Mobiles Award” or something. Or maybe not….