Home, Archive, Stuff, Random thoughts, London, My Rigs, Pictures, Dreams, Links, About, Contact, Search

spikegifted.net - Archive Q3 2010

September 2010:
Work: The human mind is a fascinating 'object'. It never ceases to amaze me how differently it works under different conditions. Let me elaborate: I was the same person before and after the recent change of workplaces - I was enthusiastic, positive and generally hard working. However, if I was completely honest, I didn't think any of that was demonstrated consistently in the last eighteen months in my previous employer. I would not suggest that I wasn't trying, but either the opportunities did not arise or there was something working away subconsciously, I would freely admit that the work and I no longer 'engaged'. Then, fast forward a couple of weeks, I felt a different person. I guessed the atmospheres were the main difference and it was not difficult to see why. In the old workplace, there was this feeling that the place was in wind-down mode. There were hardly any new clients and we were constantly withdrawing from markets, either publicly or quietly. The trading floor was, believe it or not, quiet. In the new place, not only was there publicly stated growth strategy, it was backed up by a long pipeline and people going to engage new clients. The floor was buzzing. While I felt the old place was not running at full throttle, it was not until I walked through the doors of my new employers that the contrast was made so evident. With the new surroundings brought renewed energy and greater enthusiasm. It was hard going in the first few weeks as the sudden pick up in activities was not matched by my body and my mind. However, after a few weeks, I was now fully engaged and keeping up with the pace. There were, as always, room for improvement, but at least I was now swimming with the tide. In the coming weeks and months, I hoped to become even more involved in my new role and to make a real contribution to the team.
Home: The disadvantage of living in the suburbs was that our movements were restricted to the time tables of public transport. London, one of the global financial centers, has some of the poorest public transport links for a major city in the developed world. Allow me to describe my journey home one evening which, owing to a series of minor problems, extended from a 70-minute door-to-door trip into a two and half hour torture. I was slightly delayed leaving the office by a meeting one evening (this was a common occurrence in the environment I worked in, so it affected lots of people in the sector and frankly it was not that big of a deal) so I knew I would need to rush to catch my train. This particular service was considered a 'fast' service, which meant it would take around 28 minutes to get to my home station. Well, I missed that train completely as I was further delayed in the London Underground. There were other train services to get on to return home, but they were the 'slow' trains which took between 40 to 45 minutes winding they ways around south London before getting close to my station. So instead of getting on the earlier, slower trains, - I waited for the next available fast one. However, as soon as the train left the station, I knew there was something wrong, as it was not traveling at its usual speed. I would guess it was moving even slower than the slow trains. When it got to Clapham Junction (proudly boasting itself as 'Britain's busiest railway station'), the train driver announced something we all knew that there was some faults on the train and it would terminate early. That was ok as it would have stopped one beyond my destination. However, I celebrated too early. As the train continued to struggled down the track, the driver announced that we would have to get off the train one stop before my station! What an outrage! I was one stop away to getting home. As soon as I got off the train, I found out that the next train has been cancelled and the one after wasn't due for another 40 minutes. I decided to try and catch a mini cab from outside the station, assuming that, like other typical location in London suburbs, they would be readily available. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Given that I was getting a little tired of that evening's commute, I just started walking in the direction of where I thought my house was. This was when my luck began to change - less than two minutes into the walk, a bus went past me in the direction I was walking. Moreover I saw the bus stop just about 200 meters further down the road and I ran like I haven't for a few months in an attempt to catch it. Thanks to the large group of people already waiting at the bus stop, I made the bus and the driver confirmed that it went close to my house. However, although I was sitting down, that evening's adventure didn't end there as the bus meandered it way towards home. The final part of my journey was a ten-minute walk home from the bus stop. So there it was, a long and frustrated journey home. It was just past 6pm when I left the office and I got home just after 8:30pm. Just as a reminder of the distance I traveled - my house was roughly 19km from the center of London!
Home: We were back on the subject of feeding, again. We discovered that we had to replace the teats which Master Cheeky has been using. Owing to the different feeding habits of the two Masters, they required different teats. Master Cheeky, who started off drinking very fast but then slowed down substantially, used 'variable flow' teats. On the other hand, Master Chill used 'medium flow' teats as he drank with a very steady pace. Moreover, the way Master Cheeky played with the teats when he got bored led to them degenerated quite a bit over time. As a result, the flow was simply too fast for him and he had to make very little effort in drinking. While the new teats were still 'variable flow', he had to make a bigger effort to suck the milk out. As he needed so little effort drinking out of the old teats, that was too much and he soon grew tired. So for the first week or so, we were taking just as long feeding as before. It was very time consuming and at times very frustrating. Thankfully, the Ruler_of_spike got him drinking properly again after those first few days and he was now feeding properly again, most of the time.
Work: No matter how many times I have started in new jobs, I still got 'first day nerves'. Yes, I was starting a new job!! After months of waiting, I was finally starting. To say I was 'excited' really didn't wholly describe my feelings. Not only was I starting in a new organization, but in different role to the past. For those who have visited other parts of this site, they would figure out that for many years I have been working as a risk professional in investment banking. The new role I was starting would utilize much of the skills I have picked up over the years to help the revenue generating areas. While waiting to collect my pass, I bumped into a former colleague from many years ago who was going to be new boss. This was just getting better than I could imagine. As such, while starting a new job was exciting, but finding out that my new team leader was a person with integrity, someone who I could trust, was really the most important part.
Home: The weather was unusually warm. Given the poor summer we have had in the UK, any nice weather was welcomed. We even planned to have a barbecue, but didn't manage it because Master Cheeky's lengthy feeding sessions. While not having the barbecue was a small disappointment, the fact that we were struggling to have him fed which was the real draw back. Although we have found ways to encourage him to feed, each meal could turn into a real struggle. We could never be certain how he would feed like until the last drop was consumed. Although we have had some success in managing to him to finish the whole 180ml of milk in one 'session', often times Master Cheeky would start off fine, drinking the first 90 to 120ml in a nice steady pace, only for him to get distracted and we would ended up spending over an hour to persuade him to finish the bottle or we would have to let him play and re-introduce the rest of the feed at a later time. So it was impossible to predict what he might do during the next feed. So we took the safer option and cooked our barbecue sausages under the grill.
Work: It has been a long time coming (three months, in fact), but my notice period at the German bank has come to end. After five years, it was the second longest stay I have had at a single employer, beaten by the longest by mere a month or so. However, it has been the longest I have ever stayed in a single position. The five years have gone in a flash. It seemed like it was only a short time ago that I first walked into the old office, which we moved out off no long after I joined. At the time when I joined, there was a great deal of changes in the team and many of my colleagues for the next few years joined around the same time. Of course, there were plenty of other who had been with the firm way before me who had the opportunity to work with. We came to know each other very well. I loved my work. The firm was adventurous and I got to work with some very talented people who came up with innovative deals and challenging clients. Then there was credit crunch in 2007 followed by the global financial crisis. My colleagues and I went to hell and back during that time. We managed, we suffered and we survived. While we were all fighting our own little battles on our own, we knew we were all working towards the same single purpose - protect our firm and minimize any potential losses. Then came the take over by a rival and changes in strategy. People who I was working gradually found new opportunities and the team which I worked with for such a long time began to drift away. By the time I left, only six out of the original team seventeen were left, with others who I knew had either resigned or were searching for new opportunities. Interestingly, there were no new joiners, which was probably reflective of the firm's limited ambition in London. It was sad to see an once proud team of colleagues gradually drifted away either through the lack of opportunities or after being neglected over the years. We enjoyed our successes through the years, no matter how little they were, and we went through difficulties together. For the lack of a better description, we were 'band of brothers' - a bunch of people being thrown together and shared challenging experience. Even though there were so few of us left, there were plenty of others with whom I had the pleasure to work with. They, like former members of our team, were dedicated professionals who worked long and hard. And like us, they were heavily affected by changes in our firm. So when I said 'goodbye' to my colleagues, it was with a heavy heart and a great deal of sadness. As with many other people, it was not the institution that I would miss, but the people who work there. I took with me many happy memories. To all my former colleagues, thank you for all you help and assistance and for five wonderful years of my professional life.
August 2010:
Home: With the Ruler_of_spike and two Masters back in the house, they brought back the signs of family life that was missing when they were away. What a difference they made! While there was never a dull moment with the two Masters around, the Ruler_of_spike just made things worth doing. After so many years being around each other, we still laughed at each other's silly little things (which is great). Moreover, with the two Masters growing up in front of our eyes, we had so much to talk about. No wonder I was lost when she and boys were not around...
Home: While I was back on the UK on my own, I embarked on a small project at home. We had some damp proofing work completed back in March and in certain parts of the house, the repainting work was never completed. Previously, shortly after the arrival of the two Masters, some work has already been done, but for whatever reason, I never finished the work. So, being alone in the house for extensive amount of time, it was a fantastic opportunity to get the job done. The walls of the utility room were already painted, but required additional coats of damp-resistant paint as it was right next to the kitchen. The rear toilet wasn't even painted, so it was necessary to pile on the paint. Owing to the high humidity, it took a long time for the paint to dry. It was painful as I did not factor in the high humidity delaying my progress. While I had other things to do in the house, I was not being as efficient as I could have been. As a result, I simply ran out of time. In the end, I managed to finish painting nearly all the walls, putting up a further cupboard in the utility room and adjusted some shelving units.
Opinion: Friendship is a strange thing, particularly those forged in the work place. You go through thick and thin with your colleagues, fighting the same battles, taking comfort in the fact that you are not alone in this fight as there are others doing the same things in their own struggle. It is not surprising that strong friendships are often forged at work. However, what goes on at work does not necessarily apply to the situations outside work. As such, it can be a bit of a shock when the people you thought you knew well (at least at work) turned out to be rather different. I suppose it is often that people have different personalities to suit different situations, but it is unlikely to be so different that you have trouble reconciling the two personalities. However, when that happens, you are suddenly forced to re-evaluate your friendship. Suddenly, all the previous assumptions you have for your friend are now invalid. You are forced to look at each new situation with a different view point or adjust or existing assumptions for the new reality - both are painful exercises which you would rather do without. On the other hand, having gone through the re-evaluations, you will have enhanced insight into your relationships with your friends and your friendships will also be enhanced.
Home: Driving back from Brittany was a bit of an event. As anticipated, packing too a long time. Somehow, we managed to leave with even more stuff than when we got there. That was mainly due to the wonderful gifts given to the boys from our friends and family. We left before sunrise and thanks to the clear sky we saw sunrise about an hour into the journey. What a beautiful sight that was, but it made driving difficult. The ferry crossing was uneventful, except for the fact that we had trouble getting the car seats out of the car because of the limited space available. It was even more troublesome when we got back to the car as the ferry approached Portsmouth as we were even more space constrained than before. Luckily, we were helped by some kind-hearted fellow passengers who helped us with carrying the boys in their car seats. It was sunny and clear back in the UK. We decided to stop on the way home to feed the boys as the gap between feeds was going to be too big had we waited until we got home. We stopped at a service station and found a quiet spot to feed them. While we were there, we saw the sunset. This was the first time we managed to see both the sunrise and sunset on the same day. It would have felt even better if it was the beginning of the vacation rather than the end.
Home: it was great to be back in Brittany, a longer than expected journey not withstanding. Being reunited with my family was the most satisfactory feeling I could imagine. The Ruler_of_spike was feeling good - the pace life in the little village was just so different from London, despite having to look after the boys almost single-handedly. The boys were doing really well. They just loved Brittany. Being so close to the coast, the sea was doing a world of good for them. There was little pollution. The weather has been really kind to them. Most important of all, while the village was small, it offered so much variety. By walking for a few short minutes, there were all kinds of different sceneries which stimulated their senses - beaches, short walks, unexpected encounter with horses, etc. There was simply nothing like it in London, although a city like London did offer different kinds of simulations. Sadly, we knew that my return also signaled the end of their month-long stay in Brittany would be coming soon as one of the purposes of my return was to bring my family back to London.
Home: "Life is a game of inches", said Al Pacino in the movie Any Given Sunday. In my case, that wasn't far off. The plane which took me to France, landed on time, but took a long time to taxi and came to a stop. I knew my timing was going to be tight, so I did my best to rush my way out of the airport. However, there are certain things in life that cannot be rushed. In this occasion, I was held in a line for the passport control. The officer behind the desk was taking his time inspecting every passport that was put in front of him. When he finished with me, I tried to find out where I could take the bus which would take me to the train station in town. I watched the bus left as I ran towards the bus stop. The next bus was in 30 minutes. It was due to depart on 11:15 and would take 20 minutes to get to the station, which would leave me 5 minutes to get to the platform. Well, the bus arrived late and when I got into the station it was already 11:40. The train has already disappeared from the departure board. There was no quick way to find out which platform it was leaving from. Luckily, the ticket was transferable, so I could take the next train. Unfortunately, the next train was at 2:50. So the minute or so delay at the passport control caused me to arrive at my destination over three hours late. This was the case of a small event which had big consequences. Life, indeed, is a game of inches.
Opinion: According to Gerry Doherty, the TSSA general secretary, “We will defend a vital public service on which millions of people depend every day of their working lives.” And to achieve this, his union members were going on strike, bringing London Underground to a standstill. The TSSA, along with the RMT, were going on strike to protest plans to cut jobs. Jobs that were no longer needed due to introduction of new technologies. That’s right! The unions were here to protect the jobs of their members. But, hang on a minute. According the unions, that was not their primary concern. Rather, it was the fact these “cuts were unacceptable and would undermine safety and service for passengers”. Just what was so “unacceptable” about making cuts to improve efficiency? We all knew the bit about “safety and service for passengers” was a simple add-on at the end to make it sounded like the union actually care about the passengers. People! Get real and get a life! Welcome to the real world. The private sector has been bleeding jobs for two years, yet the Tube workers and their unions were still stuck in the 1970s. The London Underground was a business; it has to balance its books and sought operating efficiency. We, the traveling public, were the customers and we have a right to services. The unions could not be allowed to hold both the company and the customers to ransom. 
Home: After of years of resistance, I finally signed up for a Facebook account. Why has it taken so long for me to get an account? Well, I guess I valued my privacy. Even now, after signing up, I was not certain whether I have selected the correct privacy settings. What prompted me to sign up for an account was the need to keep up to date with my friends and family. I have noticed that a number of people I knew were on social networking sites. Additionally, I have signed up to professional networks, which were similar to social networks. My intention was to continue with spikegifted.net as it was: a platform to record events that happen to me and my family and to express my thoughts, and to utilize the social network as a link to direct my friends and family to visit this site. I aimed to keep the contents consistent and hoped to achieve that by minimizing the content on Facebook. Let's see how that works out...
Home: Don’t you just love it when someone gives you an unexpected solution to your problem? For the first time in many years, someone in a shop here in the UK actually provided me a valuable alternative solution to a small problem I had. It all began one evening when my PC crashed owing to overheating. (That was a clear indication that I needed to clean out the dust collected inside the rig and those collected on the fan grills.) For some strange reason, when the PC rebooted, I have lost the internet connection. I checked all the settings, restarted the cable modem and the router. I rebooted the PC again. Nothing seemed to work. Figuring that there was something wrong on the ISP end, I called to report a fault. After an extensive conversation with the support personnel, he identified that my network card had failed. That was strange as I was using the network card onboard the motherboard and there was no indication that the card had failed. I felt cheated! And I felt stupid. Over the years I have built many computers and I have always chosen high quality parts from reputable manufacturers, I really did not expect a component to fail, especially something as basic as the onboard network card. The worst part was that there was no sign of the part’s failure in the operating system. Anyway, after hours of agonizing over my recovery strategy (the only available PCI slot was occupied by my S-ATA RAID controller and the graphics card heatsink covered the other PCI slot), I decided I needed to invest in an PCI Express network card, which would fit between the graphics card heatsink and the S-ATA RAID controller. Having made up my mind, I marched into our local Maplin the next morning. After explaining my problem, I was told that they only stocked PCI network cards, but not PCI Express ones. I was stuck. While I was agonizing over my predicament, one of the guys suggested that I should try a USB network card. I didn’t even realize such a device existed. However, in an instant, my problem was solved. I came home with it, installed the driver, plugged in the network card, connected the network cable and I was back online. Thank you, Maplin.
Opinion: In UK high streets, there were many special offers from chains of opticians, usually two-for-one deals: buy one pair of spectacles and the second pair is free! Now, if there was ever such thing as a bargain, this appeared to be it. However, if you have asked the shops about the deals, you would find that the free second pair only came with ‘standard’ lenses. ‘Standard’ for the opticians meant plain prescription lenses. If you wanted scratch-resistant coating, a useful thing, you would have to pay more. If you needed anti-reflective coatings, necessary for prolonged computer use, you would have to pay more. If you required high index lenses, you would have to pay even more. So, aside from the frame, which could be dirt cheap, you would be shelling out the full price of the lenses, which of course were the more expensive components of the specs. So what was my point? My point was that for most people, these offers were simply an illusion - you ended up pretty much paying the full price for the second pair of specs - a gimmick.
Home: The first pot of chili lasted for nearly a whole week. That was good news as I only needed to cook once. On the other hand, and the Ruler_of_spike would have a thing or two to say about this, it lacked variations (or in another word: boring). Well, that really did not bother me, which could mean only one thing - I made another pot. (I must stop watching so many Top Gear repeats!)
Home: The weather has been disappointing. It was the middle of August, yet we were struggling with temperature barely reaching the low twenties. It would have been ok had it been dry and sunny, but there were few such days. Often it has been overcast, with light rain. It has been really humid - towels I used to dry my hands were still damp a couple of hours later. It was disgusting. Talking to the Ruler_of_spike, it would appear that the weather was great in Brittany which made me feel all the more isolated. Since we started living together, I have never spent more than a few days away from her (it was either work related or emergency trips to Hong Kong). For the first time I was alone in the house. I missed her and I missed her company. Additionally I missed the boys. Everyday, the Ruler_of_spike was giving me updates on their developments and I felt frustrated not being there to see these changes. Finally, I couldn’t be with the Ruler_of_spike to lend her a hand with the boys. While the boys were in general happy little babies, they did have their moments. It would have been great to be there to help her out, just an extra pair of hands.
Home: Upon opening the front door of the house, I was greeted by a pile of letters and the usual junk mail. There were no baby sounds, no signs of domestic activities and no Ruler_of_spike. I was depressed! The house felt empty; the rooms had echoes; there was no-one to interact with. It was just an empty house and me. Without saying it aloud, I had been secretly looking forward to being in our house on my own, but now that I was actually there on my own, I was miserable and I missed my family. Other than that, I had little else to do, or had little motivation to do anything. That first night at home, I slept continuously for nearly 15 hours. I haven’t slept like that since the arrival of the boys. When I woke up in the afternoon on the next day, I felt like I had been drugged - slight headache, a little wobbly on my legs and generally felt like I haven’t slept for days. Yes, I actually felt like I haven’t slept after sleeping for such a long time. My body was in shock. It was screaming at me: “What are you doing? Why have you slept for such a long time? Now what do I do?” There were loads of things I would have done for the rest of the day, but nothing got done. The one thing I was really looking forward to was cooking a chili, which I did. I made a big pot which I made it lasted for nearly a week.
Home: Thankfully, the rest of the trip was relatively uneventful, aside from the check-in at the airport. That’s the problem with low-cost airlines - there are reasons for their abilities to deliver their services to such low prices. In this example, they checked-in three full flights with just two check-in desks. Needless to say, the queues were just massive and slow. By the time I checked-in, I only had 30 minutes to go through security checks, passport control and get to the departure gate. Thankfully, Nantes airport was not in the same kind of scales of the likes of London Heathrow or Chicago O’Hare. The flight itself was uneventful and it actually arrived ahead of schedule at Gatwick. The last leg of the journey, train to get home, was another exercise of time wasting - I had to take a train all the way from the airport to central London (a distance of 27 miles by car) then take another train back out almost a third of the way in nearly the opposite direction. All in all, I was pleased to have completed the trip.
Home: As the flight was in late morning, and with the feeding schedule of the boys, I made my own way to the airport from the house. A taxi came to pick me up from the house at 6am and took me to the nearest train station in Vannes. Normally the drive to the station would have taken 30 minutes, but as there was no traffic so early in the morning, particularly on a Saturday, we were there in 20. Then the fun started. I saw and heard that there was a 15 minute delay on our TGV as there was an incident involving a passenger. That was no big deal as there was a 28-minute gap between the trains at Redon. However, even before I could settle down my coffee, the announcement changed to a delay of 25 minutes. That was leaving things a little tight. Three minutes to locate and to get to a connecting train in station that I was not familiar with was an endeavor filled with risks, particularly as I was not really in a condition that I could run fast with a backpack after my knee operation. As things turned out, I had just enough time for the connection. The next bit of fun started when I got to Nantes and found out that the bus to the airport did not have a regular schedule on Saturdays. Considering my flight was at 11am and the next available bus was 10:22, there was no way I was going to wait around. Luckily, there were couple of other people in the same predicament, so we ended up sharing a cab to the airport. 
Home: I had to return to London on my own after the two week break. As the Ruler_of_spike was on maternity leave, it would have been rather unfair to have her coming back and away from her family. The boys were enjoying the change in environment, so there was no reason for them to rush back to London. I would then return later to drive back to the UK along with the rest of the family. We had arranged so that one of our friends from London would spend a week in the house in Brittany with the Ruler_of_spike, so that she would not be completely on her own for nearly two weeks. This arrangement also meant that the Ruler_of_spike would be on her own looking after the two babies for a week or so. Obviously that would be very demanding, so we hired a nanny to help her out for a few hours everyday during the week.
Home: Master Cheeky has developed some really strange eating habits. A typical meal for him involved him getting hungry (as he should), and one of us feeding him the milk. He would start the meal with lots of enthusiasm and quickly drink roughly a third of the milk. Then, he would begin to tire or to loss interest in the milk, but we managed to persist in the feeding. At this stage, if we removed the bottle, he would be upset. However, as we tried to maintain his enthusiasm, we would stop and wind him a little to make sure he remained awake and interested. The middle part of the meal would be significantly slower than the first. As the finally third of the meal approached, Master Cheeky would slow his progress to snail pace. This part of the meal was just painful for us and probably not that enjoyable for him. He would either tired so much that he stopped drinking, or he would play with the teat with his tongue and tried to avoid drinking more milk. We knew he needed at least 150ml to get through the four hours between feeds and to maintain his weight, but he needed more to put on more weight and grow. The Ruler_of_spike and I suspect that he was finding feeding very boring and he has found his own little ways to make things more interesting for himself. We needed to find ways to make feeding more interesting for him so that he would not invent ways to make things interesting for himself.
Home: I could not believe it when I was told, but the boys have begun teething. They were very early in the process, but the signs were there: persistent dribbling, putting the hands into their mouths and getting a little irritable. I always had the preconception that babies do not start teething until they are around six months old, but then that is just a statistical median. There are some babies born with teeth! Anyway, the Masters were showing signs of the beginning of the teething process. There were other signs of their developments. They were both trying to turn on their sides. They now enjoy making sounds of their own. And for a few days now, the boys had been trying to stand on their feet while being supported by us. As first-time parents, the Ruler_of_spike and I were completely bowled over by the progress the boys were making. We looked back the moment when they were born seven weeks premature and when we finally took them home three weeks later, and compared to the way they are now, we were simply thankful and the boys have made these progress and appeared to caught up with the termed babies.
Home: The boys were now four months old. Doesn't time flies? The Ruler_of_spike and I were always amazed by how well the two Masters cope with different situations and they have constantly done better than even our wildest dreams. It is impossible to say in words how precious they are to us and word cannot do justice to how much we love them. They were stars of the show and were being very friendly to everyone that showed any attention on them. As they were growing and became aware of the surroundings more, they got excited easily by all the new faces they met. The side effect was that they so desperately wanted to stay involved, they got themselves over tired. As a result, they got irritated easily. It was difficult for us as parents to present the best possible light. Of course our guests were keen on meeting them, but there were times when the boys became difficult handle, it was a handful even to calm them down, never mind getting them to sleep. There was a time over a period of three days that they hardly slept during the afternoons which meant they were over exhausted and very moody. There was nothing they could have done - they have not developed the instinct and reflex to wind down and they were simply reacting to the stimulations they experienced. Nevertheless, it was hard work to keep them in a routine. Vacation or no vacation, the boys have their own schedule which the Ruler_of_spike and I have to follow.
July 2010:
Home: Unloading the car in Brittany was a less difficult than loading it in London. We took off the roof box at the first opportunity as having an empty box sitting on top of the car was very inefficient in terms of fuel economy. The boys settled into the house without any difficulties. It was like they have always been living there. They ate and slept well. They were real champs. As we unloaded the car and unpacked the bags to filled the house with stuff for the boys, we realized how small the house in London was. Although the house in Brittany was soon filled with the boys' stuff, it was not overwhelmed by their kit, unlike the house in the UK where we pretty much couldn't take more then three steps without bumping into their gear. That was a reminder to us how inadequate our current house was in satisfying the demands of the two Masters. While the situation at the moment was bearable, there would more stresses as they grew bigger and as their need for space increased. However, that was some time in the future and we could only deal with the present. We were just thankful that we have two beautiful children.
Home: We eventually arrived at the Ruler_of_spike's brother's house without any trouble. We could not imagine the reception they had. Their grandfather was there, so were some family friends. Their cousins absolutely fell in love them, and their uncle and aunt were equally pleased. The boys were the stars of the show. They were very friendly with every new face they saw. The Masters were simply enjoying being the center of attention - smiling at every one. It has been known that not all babies are friendly to strangers. Although they were meeting family and close friends, the experience could have been overwhelming, but they took it all in without showing any sign of shyness. They were friendly, happy little babies. We could not have stayed too long as we had to make our finally part of our journey, to our house, before their next feed. However, it would not be exaggerating to say that the Masters stole the show with their friendliness and winning smiles.
Home: The boys were really cooperating. They barely woke up when we were running around the ferry to get to the car and they slept for a good hour or so into the journey, way past their feeding time. We stopped at a road side rest area to feed and change them. They were behaving impeccable. They have taken all the traveling on their stride. For babies as small as they were, and they were not even four months old, they traveled well.
Home: Prior to arriving at St. Malo in the morning, there was a complete scramble. First, we had to make the feed for the Masters, but there was not enough water, so I had to ask the restaurant staff for more. Then, after we made the feeds, we still needed to have some breakfast for we did not know when we would have a chance to get some food ourselves. With the Ruler_of_spike staying in the room to keep an eye on the boys, I went to pick up some light breakfast to be brought back to our cabin, which was against the rules. By that time, it was less than 30 minutes before docking, so the corridors, stairs, elevators were full of people. We consumed our small breakfast and some coffee and proceed to gather our stuff and put the boys back in their car seats. Then it was a mad scramble up and then down the decks to get to our car. Again, it was the same struggle getting to the car with idiots sitting in their cars and not having their wing mirrors folded that caused the most delays. We managed to get the boys secured inside and reloaded all our stuff just before our turn to disembark. It was a miracle that we did not forget anything.
Home: Once we settled into our cabin, it was time to feed the boys their first meal. The boys were really cooperating: the finished their meals without fuss and they waited quietly while we ate in the self-service restaurant. We managed to get some water to make their feeds for the rest of the night. Feeding over-night turned out to be a relatively easy affair as we had the water needed and we had access to the microwave ovens in the self-service areas, despite the restaurant being closed. The boys behaved impeccable and took their feeds without a fuss. That was all the more remarkable as they were in a totally strange environment. As we were on vacation, the Ruler_of_spike and I fed the boys at the same time rather than one after another as we have been doing in London, so the feeding was completely relatively quickly rather than being dragged out over a couple of hours. As a result, we even managed to have some rest ourselves, which was important was there was more driving to be completed after the boat trip.
Home: Our trip to France was an event in itself. Having the roof box meant the car felt very different. The full load above the roof made the center of gravity of the vehicle higher than normal and it was more susceptible to the effect of cross wind. Additionally, the speed limit imposed on by the roof box meant it took us longer to get to Portsmouth than usual. It was a real novelty to 'check-in' as a family of four. How different to the days when there were just the two of us. We were marshaled onboard the ferry almost as soon as we got to the port. For those not familiar with cross Channel ferries, space is a premium in these vessels. We were marshaled to park between two vehicles, which allowed for very little space to take out the children car seats. There was also a lot of stuff to bring with us: the milk powders, the clean bottles, the medications, the diapers and change of clothes. We had our hands full. To add to the problem, those selfish drivers who didn't fold their wing mirrors added to our difficulties in getting to the exit. Finally, the layout of the boat was not the most convenient as we were required to travel up then back down to get to our cabin.
Home: Every year we take the ferry across the Channel to spend our summer vacation with the Ruler_of_spike's family, and this year was no different. Of course, this year we were traveling with the two Master, which added a whole new dimension to the trip. First of all, there was the additional stuff we needed to bring with us. The Ruler_of_spike gathered all the kit prior to packing and it was like we were moving house. Our stuff remained manageable - there were just the two bags of clothes, a few pairs of shoes and some small bit and pieces. However, for the boys, there was this small mountain of stuff to take with us - clothes, food, medication, rockers, blankets, carries, toys, etc. Moreover, we had to feed the boys during the trip. We had to feed them a total of five time between leaving our house in London and arriving in the house in France. Plus all the kit needed to change them on a timely basis. I was thankful that we invested in the roof box, for it was full by the time we finished packing.
Home: We tried a little of the rice cereal on Master Cheeky. Obviously, as this was the first time he had anything other than plain milk, formula or breast, he was a little surprised by it. As the cereal was made with milk, he had something familiar to relate to, but he was pushing the solid back out of his mouth and was getting frustrated but the lack of liquid milk. We caught the cereal and fed it back to him again and again until he swallowed the little bit of solid food. That was his first experience of solid food. Whether it was shock of having something different or his improved appetite, Master Cheeky then proceed to finish his food without fuss. After that, he did not have further difficulties in his feeding. It was a relieve all round as it was getting close to our vacation and the last thing we wanted was one of the boys having dietary problems while we were away.
Home: Master Cheeky's feeding habits were rather troubling. Owing to past experience, when we were made more anxious, we have shied away from doing research on the internet. However, his feeding behavior was a concern to a sufficient extent that we went searching for help online. It took a while to find the correct search terms to properly reflect his behavior, but it turned out that it was not uncommon for babies to behave the way he has been. In a nutshell, babies, like adults, get bored of being fed the same thing over and over again, day after day. Master Cheeky has been fed the same formula pretty much since birth and he was getting bored of it. Also, he was showing signs that it was time to introduce a small amount of solid food to 'spice up' his diet. Having read other parents' experience, it was reassuring. So I bought some rice and oat cereal for babies for him to try. There is one thing for certain: anything that has 'baby' written on it is a license to print money. They asked for GBP2.00 for that tiny little box. If it wasn't for babies, there was no way to justify the cost.
Home: As mentioned before, our current car was a smaller model compared with the previous one. On its own that should not have been a big deal, but we now have the two Masters to add to the consideration, which means the car was way too small to take all their stuff with us. And there was a lot of stuff to take with us: their clothes, their food, the rockers, the medications and various other stuff. All that even before we consider our own stuff. The solution was investing in a roof box. Knowing that our appetite for traveling space would only grow in the years to come, I went for the largest model available. At 540 liters, this was 'equivalent to the space available to a BMW 5 Series wagon'! Ouch!! It was certainly a massive box, it was two meters in length and nearly was wide as the car - I could hide in it without feeling cramped. Given the size, installing the box was no laughing matter. Thankfully, it was quickly accomplished, with some very timely help from the Ruler_of_spike. While it looked pretty sitting on top of the car, the real test would when we drove the car on vacation. The box certainly altered the aerodynamic property of the car. With the box installed, I would be restricted to 80mph, otherwise the force of the air rushing between the roof of the car and the underside of the box would generate enough pressure on the fittings to make it unsafe. Also, I just hoped that the various components (locks, hinges, seals, etc) were strong enough so it would withstand the vigor of being driven on motorways in the UK and France. Our trip looked to be an interesting event before we have left our house.
Home: There has been troubling developments in the feeding habits of Master Cheeky. For several weeks, the boys have been trouble-free. They have been feeding well, sleeping well and have generally been growing at a steady rate to catch up with other termed babies. They have alert and were generally reacting well to attention, whether it was from the Ruler_of_spike or I, or from other people. In the past few days, Master Cheeky has been struggling with finishing his feed. At the moment, both the boys were polishing off 150ml of milk every meal, six times per day. However Master Cheeky has suddenly decided that he needed less. He would stop after only 90 - 100ml, which was way below what he needed. To complete the feed was a mighty struggle for both him and whoever was feeding him. It was totally perplexing that his feeding habit has changed so much in such short time. To add to that, his stool has become very soft and runny. All in all, Master Cheeky as not feeling great. As the boys were still catching up with termed babies, every meal not finished as lost progress. Then, the Ruler_of_spike suggested that he might be suffering from 'stomach cold', after observing him sneezing the past few days. After that, we kept him in all in ones, instead of t-shirts and pants, to keep him warmer; and we spent extensive amount of time to wind him before and after meals. Thankfully, he seemed to be interested in finishing his food again. However, we remained vigilant to ensure that he didn't fall off the curve again.
Work: It has been a while since there has been any departures in our teams. Last year, there was a wave of departures during the summer months. Colleague after colleague was leaving our bank to pursue other opportunities. Our team reduced in size dramatically during that period. Then, over the winter months, there was no movements. While we lost another colleague this spring, there were no further losses until now. Today marked the beginning of the next wave. It was always sad to see valued colleagues leaving. Some of these folks have joined our teams at around the same time as I did, so we were effectively 'from the same class'. We have gone through all the trials and tribulations together and we enjoyed our successes together. Not only did we engaged on a professional level, but these guys were valued individuals who I would consider as friends outside work. In investment banking, it was not unusual to meet people who were selfish and arrogant, but I have been fortunate to have worked with some genuinely nice folks, and some of these were now moving on. Although the typical stay in a job in our line of work was around three years, and these guys have outlasted that, it was never the less hard for me to see them go. Friendships at work were often seen as friendship of convenience or accidental, but when I saw the departure of people who I respected and got on well with, I was sadden. Our careers may not cross paths again, but I genuinely hope that we could remain in touch.
Home: We were trying to get the boys to sleep through the night without their night feed. We have had much advice from health professionals and friends, and, on the surface, appeared simple enough. We figured that if we got the boys to take on additional food on the meal immediately before the long sleep, hopefully, they would sleep for longer. Unfortunately, things were never as simple as what other people have suggested. First of all, the boys struggled to take on the additional amount of milk. Their stomachs were literally bulging out. Also, they slept a little longer, they didn't sleep long enough to skip the night feed. To add to our difficult, because they woke up after roughly five and half hours, their vigorous feeding schedules were disrupted. While I took a rather lay-back approach to this (as the boys were now at a good weight and they would eat as much as they wanted or needed), the Ruler_of_spike was concerned. She has her point though - it has taken a lot of effort to get the boys to the satisfactory weights, and it would be careless of us to allowed their progress to slip. So, we needed to figure out an alternative approach.
Home: Some of our friends are just amazing and they are incredibly patient with our family. We invited a few of them over for a barbecue. Owing to the boys' feeding schedule, they were woken up and fed before any cooking could be done. As the boys were now more alert and were aware of having visitors, they just refused to settle down after their meals. This caused a massive delay in starting the barbecue. The weather was not the best, but it was not raining, so that was a plus. The only problem was that I over-estimated the amount of charcoal left in the bag. As a result, half of the meal was cooked under the grill and not over the barbecue. How embarrassing! So the lunch was late (more like an early dinner), with the Ruler_of_spike and I rocking the boys in their rockers, and not entirely barbecued. It was only thanks to our guests' patience that we managed to bring it off. Less patient people would not be so forgiving.
Home: The boys were now three months old. Although they were now over 4.5kg each, they were still playing catch up with normal termed babies. They were, however, developing at a phenomenal rate. They held their heads up nicely; they were very alert, showing interests in all kinds of things; and they could express themselves through all manners of sounds and facial expressions. When they smiled, their faces were glorious. All the time we spent looking after them was richly rewarded through these smiles and the occasional giggles. Additionally, they were now keenly aware of smells, they could hear our voiced and we believed they could distinguish faces. It was lovely to be greeted by the boys when I returned home after a long day at work.
Home: It has been nearly two weeks since the keyhole surgery and the swelling on my knee was gradually reducing. Right now, aside from the swelling near where the incisions were made, the knee was back to normal. In terms of movements, I didn’t appear to have any difficulties moving around the house, even when carrying the Masters. However, when I was out and about, there were times I would struggle over slightly longer distances. I guess this was a simply a case of taking the time needed to recover from the surgery. The appointment with the physiotherapist was hugely beneficial as she was able to check on my recovery. It would appear that I was making good progress as there appeared no serious issues around the knee. While the knee is attached to me, the whole family was riding on it - the boys needed a healthy dad to carry them around and to look after them, and the Ruler_of_spike needed as much help and support as I could provide to take care of them.