The bizarre world of the expectant father

I don’t often blog about non-work related stuff. Actually scratch that, I don’t often blog. But I can’t help but talk about how life becomes very strange when you’re expecting. None of this is new but it is new to me so therefore you must read it again and in some cases relive it.

Random strangers are suddenly your closest friend

I don’t know how my wife copes with it at least I don’t have to wear a stamp on my forehead proclaiming me to be an expectant father. Even so the fact does occasionally slip out while I’m talking to people I don’t know. All of a sudden I’m expected to offer up details on how far along we are, how my wife is feeling, if we know the sex, what names have we picked and damnit I just want to order some new checks please I don’t need to hear about how great the schools are around here.

They’re also all experts

So far I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that the city I live in is great for kids and terrible for kids. Natural birth is way better but epidurals are the way to go. Working from home is going to be great when the baby is here but also terrible. I don’t know what it is but when it comes to raising a child people suddenly start talking like they’re an authority rather than giving you suggestions like for other subjects.

They all think that you must be excited

Of course we must. I mean we’re only a few weeks from a large change in the status quo that by all accounts nothing can prepare you for so excitement is the natural reaction right? Generally I tell people that I’m actually petrified and everyone laughs like they think I am joking.

Which is strange because they apparently also think that your life is about to become terrible

  • What’s that? You’re feeling a little tired? Haha just wait until your baby is here!
  • You went to the cinema? Better do as much of that while you still can!
  • Laundry day? When your baby is here it will be laundry hour, amirite!

Need I go on?

But naturally we’ll want a second

Without a doubt the most bizarre thing to me is how common it is for everyone from friends and family to the supermarket trolley boy to ask when we’re planning to have our second. Hold your horses there buddy the first one isn’t even cooked yet, plenty of time to be thinking about dessert later.

Afterburner steak rub

This is a recipe for a steak rub that I made up last night. It came out pretty well and everyone enjoyed it. It slightly caramelises the surface of the steak infusing it with herby goodness and after you enjoy that flavour a nice kick of heat comes in the after taste.

  • 1/4 handful fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1/2 handful fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix it all together in a bowl, rinse off your steaks and apply liberally to each side about half an hour before you plan to start cooking. These quantities should make enough for 4 small steaks.

Six hour chilli

I’ve enjoyed making and eating chilli ever since I was in university. It has a lot of appeal for your average student:

  • You can make it in bulk and live off it for a few weeks
  • You can make it spicy enough that you start bleeding out of your nose (and thus totally impress all your friends)
  • It’s dead simple and really hard to screw up

The great part is that really once you have the basic ingredients you can just go nuts, vary up the ratios, add extra bits and pieces, whatever you fancy. Eventually though I discovered that I was getting a bit too wild and really wanted to nail down a basic “good” recipe to work from. It took a couple of tries but here it is. It’ll take around six hours to cook, an extra hour for prep depending on how lazy/drunk you are.


  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2.5 lb lean ground beef


  • 56 oz diced tomatoes (canned works just fine)
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp chilli pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 cup cilantro leaves (I use dried but fresh is probably good too)
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli pepper powder
  • 1/2 pint stout or other dark beer
  • 2 cups red wine (I tend to use merlot)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/8 cup tomato puree or 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
  • ~3-4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper


  • 3×12 oz cans of mixed beans
  • 2-3 large bell peppers (red and/or green), chopped


  • Fry the onions in some olive oil until they start to turn translucent, then throw in the beef and stir until it browns all over.
  • Add into a large pot with the tomatoes, spices, wine, beer and broth
  • Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring periodically (use the remains of the stout to help you get through this)
  • Drain and add the beans
  • Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring periodically (it’s possible you’ll need more stout)
  • Add the chopped peppers
  • Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring periodically
  • Serve with cornbread and the rest of the bottle of wine


  • This makes a lot of chilli, make sure you have a large enough frying pan and pot. You can try scaling it down but I find it works best when making it in large quantities.
  • After adding the peppers you’re basically simmering till it is about the right consistency, uncovering and/or adding some corn starch can help thicken it up at this stage.
  • This recipe comes out pretty spicy, you might want to drop the chipotle chilli pepper power if that isn’t your thing.
  • Unless you are feeding an army make sure you have tupperware to hold the leftovers. It reheats very well, if using a microwave throwing a little extra water in helps.

Another 7 things…

Thanks to robcee you get to learn a little more about me. Much like him I’ve done this once before (perhaps it’s a sign of our age?) but it was over two years ago so let’s see if I can manage to rustle up a whole other seven things. I believe that the original meme said the facts had to be surprising things that most people didn’t know but I think I’ve used up all the surprising stuff about me already so most of this is probably common knowledge to those that follow my twitter stream.

Here are the rules:

  1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

My new things:

  1. I like creating fractals. I guess this says that I have an artistic side but fractals are kind of cheating, you can create beautiful images mostly by tinkering with numbers in equations. I haven’t had chance to do it much lately mostly because the better software is Windows only and rebooting my laptop into Windows is tedious.[flickr size=”small”]4715418159[/flickr]
  2. Another part of my artistic side which has grown in the past couple of years is photography. I’ve liked taking photographs for some time but for a lot of that I was really just playing with simple point and shoots. Since moving onto the excellent Canon Powershot S90 and now the Nikon D7000 I like to think I’ve been able to get some really great shots. Of course I throw away more than I take. During a recent weekend trip to a lake I think I took around 1000 shots, kept about 90 of those and uploaded just 35 to flickr.[flickr size=”small”]5766449103[/flickr]
  3. I am engaged to the gorgeous Tiffney. We’re going to be married at the start of September, just five months after I proposed. We took the easy route of paying for a mostly pre-packaged wedding. I think some of our friends who are also getting married at the same time are a little jealous of how easy it’s been for us.[flickr size=”small”]5777718954[/flickr]
  4. We own a cat, Loki. He is curled up next to me as I write this. We named him before we knew just how appropriate it was. We had to buy sheets of plastic to lay by the sides of the bed to stop him scratching the mattress in the middle of the night. We used to also have a second cat, Ripley, but sadly she passed away at the start of the year from cancer.[flickr size=”small”]5870075150[/flickr]
  5. I have just bought a condo with my fiancée, the first place I’ve owned. It feels nice to no longer be answerable to a landlord though I guess we still have to answer to the homeowner’s association. Since we only just moved in we don’t know where any of our stuff is including the TV remote which is quite irritating.[flickr size=”small”]6015887571[/flickr]
  6. For a few years while I was at university I answered to the name Andy. This started because in my scuba diving class there was a large number of Andys and our instructor decided to just start calling us all Andy. I was one of the few from that year’s novices who got more involved in the club afterwards and so the name stuck. In fact I got so used to it that one evening in a noisy pub someone was trying to get my attention by calling “Dave” and when that didn’t work they called “Andy” which I heard right away.
  7. My IRC nickname (Mossop) originated in college. There was a childrens TV show on at the time featuring extremely badly modelled puppets. Someone in my physics class claimed that I looked like one of them, the nickname stuck and I’ve been using it online ever since. One bonus is the name is so unusual that I mostly get away with using it wherever I go.

Now for the tags, hopefully many of these are new to the game:

  1. Myk Melez who always has something interesting to say and hasn’t blogged enough lately.
  2. Dave Mason who needs to get his blog syndicated on planet.
  3. Jeff Griffiths who has only recently started at Mozilla and needs to get his new blog syndicated on planet before he follows through on this.
  4. Blair McBride, my chief partner in coding for the grand Add-ons Manager redesign for Firefox 4.
  5. Daniel Holbert, his blog title makes me laugh and the second coming of this meme needs to branch out into other teams.
  6. John Ford, so he can get the build and release teams in on this.
  7. Philipp von Weitershausen, I can’t pronounce his last name and I’m sure he’ll tag lots of the new services guys.


Sad news today

As I blogged yesterday, today Ripley got a CT scan and biopsy of the mass that is growing in her left shoulder. The biopsy results won’t be back for a few days but the CT results were really all that were needed to confirm our worst fears. Ripley has cancer and it’s large and aggressive.

We got to look at the CT scan and it was frankly terrifying how large this thing is. In certain cross sections it looked to be taking up a full third of her body and it curves all down her left side and up over the top of her spine. It was taking up the contrast solution they inject which means blood is running through it. This both increases the odds of it spreading and makes it much more difficult to remove. In short, there is basically nothing we can do at this point.

In one respect the diagnosis left me a little relieved. I had pretty much prepared myself for the bad news and at least we don’t have to make a horrible decision between paying lots of money for treatment which would could itself cause her a lot of suffering with an unknown chance of success.

Thankfully, at least right now, it doesn’t bother her at all aside from a slight limp. She is in no pain and is still active and playing. The doctors said though that we probably have a couple of weeks before it starts to effect her quality of life. All we can do is try to enjoy the time we have left with her and watch out for when she starts to be in too much discomfort. To that end we let her sleep off the drugs this afternoon and then curled up on the couch to watch a movie this evening, with a few drinks to help soften the reality.


Kontemplating Kitteh Katastrophe

Well that’s certainly a nicer way of saying that you’re trying to work out just how to decide how much money and trauma it is worth putting your cat through to keep her alive.

Just before we flew home for Christmas (yes, that flight) we spotted a small lump on Ripley’s left shoulder. We rushed her to the vet’s fearing the worst but they allayed our fears, finding it was just a blood filled space, likely the result of a trauma (though what we couldn’t fathom) and blood tests showed no irregularities. They said it should shrink over the course of a few weeks. We had to put her up at the boarders while we were travelling of course but we managed to put it out of our minds and have a good trip with family.

After we got back the lump was clearly larger than it had been before we left and so we rushed back to the vet to get a second look. They were very concerned, the lump was now feeling mostly solid and spread over a large area under her shoulder blade. Although tumors in cats this young are rare they can still happen for a number of reasons and though they weren’t sure they weren’t suggesting any other options really. They couldn’t do any further diagnosis there, we had to get a surgical consult. The surgeon had basically the same opinion but wanted to do some more tests before suggesting a treatment.

Tomorrow Ripley is booked to go in for a CT scan and a biopsy to try to give a final diagnosis. This will cost us around $2k and I have to admit to feeling very conflicted. I hate to say it but a part of me is questioning how much money I’d be willing to spend on getting her healthy. If $2k is just the diagnosis then I dread to think how much the treatment could be. To complicate matters we were considering giving Ripley away to a new family as she does not get along with our first cat and they are both basically stressed out while they are living under the same roof. How much money is it worth spending on a cat that you’re thinking of giving away anyway?

I love her very much and don’t want to lose her for any reason so it feels very callous of me to be thinking like this. I guess tomorrow we’ll get some answers and have some hard decisions to make.

British Airways ruined my Christmas

To be clear I don’t blame BA for having to cancel flights into Heathrow when the airport cannot run at full capacity. That is certainly not their fault, you can’t change the weather (though you could buy more snowploughs!). What annoys me is their incompetent response to the situation and then their attempts at being nice with fakey emails from the CEO.

I wanted to go and see my family for Christmas this year. We were booked on a direct flight from San Francisco to Heathrow that was due to leave about 4 hours from now but due to the snowstorms in the UK it has been cancelled. The first we heard about it was an email from my dad at 9:30am yesterday morning, he had been keeping track of the flight status better than us. I don’t understand this. They have my contact details so why wasn’t I the first to hear about the cancellation the moment it went up onto the website. In fact I finally got an email from BA about it at 3pm, at least five and a half hours after it went onto the website. The email contained this boldfaced lie:

We have sent you this information as quickly as possible by automated email and hope it reaches you in time to allow alternative arrangements to be made.

Who knows what our chances were of re-booking onto something sensible had we waited for that to arrive. Thankfully we had been working hard, talking to Egencia who we had booked through and looking up what options were open to us. The good news was that Heathrow wasn’t totally closed, just running slow so only a few flights were actually getting cancelled so there was still the possibility of getting home in time. Egencia were saying they couldn’t see any economy seats to book us onto before Christmas but there were some business class seats and maybe if we spoke to BA directly and made use of some of our miles for an upgrade we could get those. The problem is that we couldn’t get through to BA by phone. This afternoon I received a laughable email supposedly from BA’s CEO which had this to say:

Throughout this period of disruption we have extended our call centre opening times and added extra phone lines to deal with the 150,000 calls we’ve received

There is even a nice video of him saying how they have kept their call centres open 24 hours a day. That would be nice if true except every time we rang them yesterday we received a recorded message saying they were too busy and to try again later and then hanging up on us. Yes, they cancelled a bunch of people’s flights, told them they’d need to rebook, then shut down their phone lines and then released statements proudly announcing how they’d managed to keep their call centres open.

So we were running out of options but then we spotted that BA’s main site was still showing availability on a number of alternate flights albeit indirect ones. In particular a flight via LA was available and didn’t make much change to our flight times. We spoke to Egencia and they said they would try to get us on it (why they hadn’t seen it before I don’t know) but because it included one leg that wasn’t BA (SFO to LAX was run by one of their partners, American Airlines) they had to speak to BA to get approval to change our booking. BA being the kind-hearted souls eager to embody the true meaning of Christmas and help out their disrupted passengers denied the request. We couldn’t even just swap the SFO-LHR flight to the LAX-LHR flight. Apparently when Willie Walsh says “we have not been able to help all of our customers in the way that they, or we, would have liked” he means “we couldn’t be bothered to help customers take alternate routes home for Christmas because we were all outside having snowball fights”.

Eventually we got a new flight booked. We get to spend our Christmas evening in the air. We’ll finally get to my family on Boxing day evening, jetlagged and probably not feeling fantastically Christmassy. I guess it’s an exaggeration that Christmas is ruined, but this will be the first year that I haven’t been with my family on Christmas day, if it was just because of the snow then that’d be ok but BA had the opportunity to get us there with minimal disruption and they chose to refuse us that option.

How do people vote?

I’m afraid to say that I’m pretty bad when it comes to the political process. I have voted exactly once in my entire life, the first time I was old enough to do so and never since. I like to use the excuse that I don’t know enough about the candidates and the issues involved and so I can’t make an informed decision. While that is actually true (I firmly believe that an uninformed vote is a wasted vote, maybe even a dangerous vote) it really just hides the fact that I don’t make myself find the time to go and research the issues and the candidates like I should. Previously that didn’t worry me so much but I guess as you get older you realise more and more how what the government does influences directly the state of your life, so lately I’ve been trying to keep an eye on the news to see what is going on out there. It’s pretty tough going, the news tends to focus on all the muckslinging and scandals, which as far as I can see is shared pretty evenly by all the parties, and this drowns out discussions on actual policy.

Yesterday I received notification to vote at the start of June. I figured that this would be a good opportunity to actually step up, take some responsibility and vote for something. Then I hit my first problem. What was the election for? I had to read the polling card three times before I spotted the line that said “European Parliamentary Election”. That is the extent of the details provided. No note about where to go for further information, no web address, just the name of the election. But no worry, I have the internet at my disposal, that can tell me everything right?

Finding some details about the European parliamentary election was pretty easy. I could find out exactly how members are elected, how many there are in Europe and even how many are elected by my local area (4 in Wales). I could also see notes about how they were going to be running awareness campaigns to tell voters about the election (I haven’t seen anything of them, apparently they don’t make it this far into Wales). It took about quarter of an hour of searching through the websites I had found before I could find a list of who was actually standing in the election for me to vote for.

So after a little while I had the list of candidates. Somehow I have to choose between 44 of them spread over 11 different parties (apparently I can just vote for the party rather than individual candidates). I even had the postal addresses of all the candidates, but no actual information on what they stood for or where to go for any more information. Again, I have the internet, can’t be that hard can it?

Well actually it varies. Most of the parties have good overviews of their policies. The cases where this wasn’t true were mainly the crackpot parties that I’d never consider voting for anyway. Though on that subject it is truly concerning some of the policies that would come into effect should any of these guys come into power. I guess even racist and religious bigots get to have their voices in democracy. But it was surprising how little detail was readily available on some of even the larger parties’ websites. One of them had exactly two sentences to cover their policies on commerce and industry. Many simply don’t mention their policies in certain areas, I assume they all have some policies, damned if I know how to find them out though. Finding details on the particular candidates was also particularly difficult. Of the two largest parties in the country, one of them had details about their candidates buried deep within the site (and for three out of the four candidates those details were nothing more than a photograph and an email address). For the other party I could find no mention of the candidates or the European parliamentary election. Also a note to the parties, bad spelling and generally appalling looking websites do not make me terribly confident that you have any capability to run a government.

I’m pleased to say that this has come on some way since I half-heartedly tried this during the last general election. Then the parties’ websites were even worse with no general information in the right places, but there is still a long way to go. Maybe I’m looking too early, do they really not start gearing up with the information I want until closer to the election (it is nearly 3 weeks away!). I can’t help but be amused at all of this. Politicians frequently complain at how low voter turnout has become and yet though they are making some progress they seem to be completely ignoring ways that they could make voters’ lives easier.

Print a web address on the polling card, when I go there it could tell me what the election was for, a full list of who was standing along with a short statement on the policies of the party as a whole, and the particular issues the candidates are focusing on, plus of course a web link where I can go to find more details. This could turn what was half a days worth of research into maybe just half an hours. You might argue that spending longer over it better informs my decision, I disagree. With the amount of information to wade through here having more of it available quickly allows for better decision making. It’s hard to compare a candidate you are looking at to one you looked at a few hours ago.

Giving up is hard to do

I don’t like to think of myself as a hoarder, but I am. Certainly not as bad as many people but you know stuff just builds up and it seems a shame to throw away perfectly good things. My hoarding is kept mostly under control by the fact that I haven’t lived in the same place for more than about 2 years since I left home. Moving is the perfect opportunity to ditch things you don’t need any longer, if you throw it away you don’t have to pack it and I hate packing.

My upcoming move to America (still some 3-4 months away) though will be something different. This time the amount of stuff I take is going to have a bigger impact on how hard and expensive the move will be so I’m going to have to really work on getting rid of even more than normal. To try to ease the stress I’ve been working at this already. A few weeks ago I got rid of 4 bin liners full of clothes that either didn’t fit me anymore or were falling apart. Today I have pruned out another 2 bin liners full and then started going through my closet.

My closet is filled mostly with empty boxes, mostly from gadgets I own that it is handy to keep the packing for for moving and warranty claims and such. Lots of these boxes I don’t even own the contents of anymore, easy pickings. Some of them I’ll never use again and they will soon make an appearance at a landfill or an eBay listing near you.

Then I get to the back of the closet. The boxes that are actually filled with stuff that has journeyed around with me as I’ve moved, most since before I left home. And I’m presented with the difficult decision, what do I do with this box of childhood memories? It has been at the back of a closet for close to the last 2 years and I have never looked at it. None of it is what anyone else might look twice at, a deck of cards we used to play with in college, a professional compass used in my graphics GCSE, my old field hockey stick and ball. All very normal items that are significant to me in some way. Part of me is saying that I’m never actually going to use or probably even look at these items again, except when I move, so what is the point in having them clutter the place up? But then there’s that other part that just doesn’t want to see them go into the bin. Some of it can potentially be given away and put to good use by friends, but some of it is just junk to anyone else.

Still I guess today’s haul is a step in the right direction, I hope the tip isn’t busy tomorrow…

Rubbish for the tip
Rubbish for the tip

Stupid rules

So let’s pretend I am in a bad place and looking to kill myself through an overdose of pills. Is the fact that the supermarkets refuse to sell more than two packets going to be a hindrance to me? I don’t think so. I’ll just go through a few times, soon have enough for my stupid attempt.

Now let’s pretend I’m really sick. Getting out of bed is quite an effort let alone leaving the house. Unfortunately I’ve run out of drugs so I have to make a run to the store. Clearly I want to get a few packs, not only can I get through a pack a day but a few different types covers me as the illness changes over time. Now the store refusing to sell more than two packets is actually a pain in the ass.