Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A grocery stocker's inquiry

I stocked olive oil last night at Jewel and have always wondered what the classifications "virgin" or "extra virgin" meant. A quick net search reveals that these labels refer to method of production in the former and acidity in the latter.

From: http://www.oliveoilsource.com/definitions.htm

Virgin olive oils

This oil is obtained only from the olive, the fruit of the olive tree, using solely mechanical or other physical means in conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not alter the oil in any way. It has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifuging and filtering. It excludes oils obtained by the use of solvents or re-esterification methods, and those mixed with oils from other sources. It can be qualified as a natural product, and virgin olive oil can have a designation of origin when it meets the specific characteristics associated with a particular region. Virgin olive oils can have the following designations and classifications depending on their organoleptic (taste and aroma) and analytic characteristics (the degree of acidity refers to the proportion of free fatty acids, not to the taste)

Extra Virgin olive oil

Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams (0.8%), and the other characteristics ofwhich correspond to those fixed for this category. Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries. Used on salads, added at the table to soups and stews and for dipping.

Virgin olive oil

Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams (2.0%) and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil

Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. Ordinary oil may still be fine for frying or where flavor is not wanted or needed.

Also, per his doctor's recommendations, my son Jon's skin is moisturized with olive oil, extra virgin I suppose.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Adventures in babyland!

Here is a not-so-rare picture of Jon Allen sleeping on my lap.

Because Esther and I are separated, I get to see Jon when I can schedule it, which is nearly every day. Last Tuesday he came down to DeKalb because Esther had a doctor's appointment, and I got to watch him alone for a couple of hours. He was fine for the first 45 minutes or so, then got hungry and started crying. He stopped crying when I fed him, but resumed shortly after he stopped eating. So I changed him. He continued to cry, and cry, and cry, for a good 15-20 minutes. I was at my wit's end. He was fed and changed. What else do babies need? Then I kissed his nose and noticed how cold it was, so wrapped him up in a couple blankets. This sent him off to la-la land posthaste, leaving a frazzled, but relieved Dad to pick up his dirty diaper and formula bottle.

Most of the time I see him in three-four hour stretches. He does what newborns do best -- eat, cry and make poopy diapers. I've learned the best way to burp him, and am getting quicker at changing him. So far, he doesn't like feeding from a bottle, preferring his mother's nipple instead. And then there's the gas to liquid ratio so important to baby feeding.

But what's been neat the last couple times I've seen him is a newfound recognition in his eyes. He knows who I am! He can tell my voice and the way I handle him. Saturday I played guitar for him. He was enthralled, wide-eyed and cooing along with the music. He also responds well to low humming and whistling. I think he's going to be like his parents and have a natural inclination towards music.

He is growing so fast. His hair is coming in thick, blonde and curly. He stays awake longer and is very animated and active with his hands and feet. He likes to grasp at things when he's feeding. He doesn't like to be strapped into his car seat, but falls asleep right away once we get moving. His neck muscles are very strong. He really tries to hold his head up when I lay him on his stomach. His leg and arm muscles are also strong and show good muscle definition.

My only concern is that he is a wheezy breather, especially after feeding. Maybe he got too much amniotic fluid in his lungs because he was born two weeks late? He doesn't seem to struggle for breath. He is such an eager feeder that he sometimes runs out of breath from feeding too fast.

I just love his smell, his feel, his eagerness, the wide-eyed looks and occasional smile. I've never spent so much time with a newborn, and it is a joy noticing all the subtle, yet dramatic changes he is going through.

I'm a graduate student, yeah!

I got my acceptance letter today and am officially a graduate student at Northern Illinois University. No longer am I a student-at-large. My roving days are done. Now I can get that cushy assistantship job and my own cubicle desk at Reavis Hall.

Yippee Kow ow! I sure fooled 'em into thinking I'm smart and stuff.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

amazon book reviews

Here are my first two Amazon.com book reviews. I plan to write a review for every book I read from here on forth, either for Amazon or just here on my humble ol' blog.

Review of "A Multitude of Sins" by Richard Ford

A Multitude of Sins (Vintage Contemporaries) by Richard FordEdition: Paperback
Price: $10.40

Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
47 used & new from $0.29

The master's hand is revealed, January 27, 2006

Most of the stories in "A Multitude of Sins," particularly "Puppy" and "Abyss," ring true and authentic and resonate with feeling. I cared about the characters and they seemed real to me. But the rest of the stories seemed to be an authorial exercise exploring a theme, and it seemed almost like seeing a play where, just at the moment you've suspended your disbelief, right when you're starting to get into the characters and the dialogue, right when you're magically transported into their world, a stage hand rustles a curtain backstage and the moment is ruined. I like Ford's style, though. If he errs on the side of wordiness in over-examining his characters, his descriptions of them are often beautiful and lushly detailed. This was my first Ford book. I plan to read "The Sportswriter" next or maybe "Rock Springs." Reader reviews suggest these are better examples of Ford's writing than "...Sins."

Black Sun by Edward AbbeyEdition: Paperback
Price: $4.95
Availability: This item is currently unavailable.
17 used & new from $0.74

clunky, but enjoyable read, January 27, 2006

I tore through "Black Sun" in a couple days. I find Abbey's dialogue, both here and in his more famous "Monkey Wrench Gang," to be a bit clunky, but his nature descriptions are spot on. The main character, Gatlin, is a ranger who works alone on a fire lookout tower in some unnamed western locale (though by the clues given it seems to be somewhere near the Grand Canyon). Gatlin's crisis: Can he leave nature for the love of a woman? For anyone enthralled by wild places, adventure, travel, or any other pursuit that supersedes relationships, this dilemma is remarkably prescient. Readers looking for the curmudgeonly environmental polemicist Abbey in "Black Sun" will be disappointed. Readers can expect an easy read, beautiful nature descriptions, and a simple, tragic, poetically elegaic love story. Abbey never was very good at portraying the human condition. He regarded our species as a scourge on the landscape. But "Black Sun" is the most human book he ever wrote.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Boy, you gonna grow old and die

Lovely sentiments of a Sunday morn...

Sonnet 126: O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power

O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold Time's fickle glass his fickle hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow'st.
If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May Time disgrace, and wretched minutes kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure!
She may detain, but not still keep her treasure.
Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.

William Shakespeare

snow and fog

Friday night it snowed over six inches. Saturday night I took a walk and, with borrowed camera, took a few pictures in the fog and cool mist. Moisture makes everything feel colder. I had to keep moving to stay warm. Altgeld castle.The intersection of Normal and Ridge roads.

A large, snow-covered pine tree.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Jonathan Allen Locascio has arrived!!!

Esther during early labor, before contractions turned smiles into groans.
Jonathan moments after birth.Esther touches her son for the first time.
Three generations of Locascio.
A quiet moment between father and son.

Jonathan Allen Locascio was born on January 17, 2006 at 4:59 p.m. at Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb, IL. He weighs 8 pounds, 8 ounces and is 22 inches long. He scored a 9 on the APGAR.
Esther, Sharon D. and I went to the hospital at 2 p.m. Monday (the 16th), where Esther was admitted. Esther had already pre-registered, so it did not take long to get to room 208A in the birthing center. Around 4 p.m., after three attempts by nurses to get a needle into Esther's finicky veins, an anaesthesiologist was called and succeeded, and Esther began receiving a steady dose of Pitocin.
Contractions began, but did not become strong enough to make Esther moan and howl in pain until after midnight. From about 2 - 9:30 a.m. Esther's contractions were at their worst, but she only dilated to 5 cm. At 2:48 a.m. Esther's water broke. By 9:30 she was so exhausted from the pain of the contractions that she agreed to get an epidural. The epidural allowed her to get some rest and made contractions bearable as she expanded to 9 cm. She stayed at 9 cm for over two hours until Dr. Baumgart, noticing the baby begin to lag energy, went ahead with plans to do a C-section.
Finally, more than 24 hours after going into labor, Jonathan Allen came headfirst into this world. He looked so normal, just a little purple that quickly turned to pink as he, with quavering lips, took in his first breaths. Esther pulled through the operation with no complications. While she was being stitched and wheeled into recovery, I took Jon into the nursing center and stood by while he was given a shot of vitamin K and had antibiotic goop rubbed in his eyes (both are required by state and federal law). I then gave him his first bath, swaddled him and held him for about half an hour.
He stopped crying and opened his eyes as I sang to him and rocked. I got my pinky near his mouth and he latched on, sucking. I'll never forget these first few moments alone with my son, watching him look around with nearly blind eyes, listening to his breathing, feeling the strength of his kicks, memorizing his features and smelling his doughy sweet baby smell.
Jon eagerly latched onto his mother when they were reunited and fed continuously for almost half an hour. It didn't take long for him to produce his first poop. I was the first to change his diapers. He even spit up and peed on me. Now how's that for an introduction to fatherhood?
Esther and I agree Jon's got my nose and mouth, and her forehead and brow. We aren't sure whose eyes he has. It's too early to tell. And we disagree on ears. I think his ears look more like mine. His skin tone is darker and ruddy, though he's got a veiny splotchiness to his cheeks that is a telltale Larson trait.
He is not much of a crier. Like most newborns he spends a majority of his time sleeping. I accidentally bumped his against my shoulder shifting him around this afternoon. He let out a few good cries, but quickly settled down and went back to sleep. This suggests he is not a fussy baby. I sure hope so.
Esther is still in recovery. If all goes well, she will be released Friday morning and will probably spend the next week at her parent's in Belvidere. I will try and visit each day as my work and class schedule allows.
To contact Esther and baby at the hospital, call (815) 756-1521 or (800) 397-1521, ext. 2080. Again, she is in room 208a. Visiting hours are from 9 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Has anybody seen the baby?

Esther and I went to the doctor's office today for another checkup, nearly a week after the original due date (Jan. 3). The clinic employees consoled Esther. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to see you here." Esther had a rough night's sleep last night. She said the baby was very active and she had many contractions, though at irregular intervals.

Esther is still only dilated 1 cm. If she does not give birth by the 17th, a week from tomorrow, they may induce labor. They did an ultrasound. The only features I could distinguish are the heart, skull and spine. The rest looked like a milky nebulae, a cloudy stew of life. Its body is so cramped in the womb that I could not see its arms or legs, and its sex organs are covered up, so we couldn't figure out the gender if we wanted to.

A nurse took us to another room and strapped what looked like two plastic disks across Esther's bulging belly. The sound of the baby's heartbeat cadenced forth against a background of ocean surf, a lulling, gurgling white noise. Esther had a clicker in her hand to push when she felt the baby's movement. This lets the doctors know the health of the baby. A lower heart rate could indicate a health problem. But the baby wouldn't cooperate. It must have been napping. I tried to cajole him/her to movement by playing various ring tones from my cell phone against Esther's belly. Esther didn't like that though because the vibration made her want to pee. So I read aloud instead from a baby book, of course, and within a couple minutes the baby moved and kicked its sure to be powerful legs.

The days after Christmas, when it seemed imminent Esther was going to give birth, I was anxious and nervous about the whole experience. Now I'm bored and impatient. I am stuck here in DeKalb until that baby's born. I also have to keep my cell phone on me at all times (which I normally never do) and every call from Esther is full of anticipation.

I work 32 hours this week at Jewel, my first full week on the job. My hours are from midnight to 8 a.m. Yeowtch! And on Thursday I'm lined up for a substitute teaching job. Between classes, fatherhood and work, I don't see much sleep in my future.

No matter what, in 8 days or less I'm gonna be a daddy. I can't wait to hold you, little one, and get to know who you are.