Monday, January 29, 2024

How It's Done: The Moby Wrap Hip Hug Carry

A while back, a friend who knew I'm a Moby Wrap evangelist, asked if it was possible to comfortably carry her 16-month-old on her hip using the Moby Wrap. I responded with a resounding 'yes' and told her that I'd send her some YouTube videos showing how.

Looking through tutorials on YouTube, I couldn't find one that used the relatively simple technique I've deployed in the past. So, I borrowed her daughter, propped up Shira's phone, and shot my own quick tutorial.

This wrapping method comes straight from the Moby Wrap user manual:

As an aside, I love this manual. Published in 2006, not only does it cover the different holds—some of which are no longer mentioned on the Moby Wrap website—but it also includes advice on Kangaroo Care, how to breastfeed a baby in the Moby, and offers workout ideas you can engage in while wearing your baby. The pamphlet is part baby-wearing inspiration, part how-to, and all a liability nightmare. It's no surprise that it's no longer included with the Moby. It pairs well with my old school (now called classic) Moby Wrap: less sexy than modern options, but still so very effective.*

Shout out to our friend Lori who gifted us this Moby Wrap for our first placement, 14 years ago. Who knew that it would become such a fan favorite, and hold babies of every shape and size. From chunky toddlers, to two itty bitty twins, the Moby Wrap has brought joy and comfort to them all.

*Now I feel like I sound like my grandparents who might offer advice like: a little whiskey on the baby's gums will make those teething woes a thing of the past.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Review: Cold as Hell by Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle

Books with supernatural characters, like werewolves and vampires, tend not to make the top of my reading list. Sure, I'm down for the occasional zombie apocalypse, but I've never been into storylines packed with mythical monsters. So I was more than a little surprised when I found myself thoroughly engrossed in Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle's Cold as Hell, a book that squarely falls into this genre.

Cold as Hell delivers in a few different ways. First of all, I'm loving the historic Wild West setting. It's like I'm getting a side order of historical fiction with my fantasy plotline. And then there's the well-balanced main character: James Crowley. Sure, Crowley is (or rather, was?) an outlaw bastard, but he's also kind, thoughtful, inventive, and honorable. Bruno and Castle have created a main character that I can proudly root for, and one that I can learn a thing or two from.

The book includes just enough philosophical musings on topics like free will and the struggle between good and evil to be interesting, without getting bogged down in minutiae. I think the book navigates issues of racial and religious diversity reasonably well. On one hand, the majority of the secondary characters fit predictable stereotypes: from cruel and indifferent outlaws, to full of themselves sheriffs, to a cryptic-talking Native American sage. Some of these tropes are tired, others may be downright offensive. Yet, the authors have endowed Crowley with a degree of self-awareness that lets him navigate his world with something approaching nuance. All this is to say that Crowley comes across as relatively enlightened, and my modern sensibilities appreciate this.

The book has the additional challenge of needing to balance religious diversity along with racial diversity. The primary premise of the book hinges on the existence of an old-school biblical God. And yet Bruno and Castle found a way to make space for Native American faith traditions, allowing them to exist simultaneously and authentically.

But what really makes the book work is its voice. And I don't mean the tone of the text; I'm talking about the actual voice of the narrator who read the book to me. Roger Clark is the actor who voices Crowley in the audio version of the book, and his performance is brilliant. Clark's distinctive western drawl brings Crowley to life in a way that's hard to appreciate until you've heard it.

My only complaint with Cold as Hell is that by the end, it started to get tedious. I appreciate the detailed account of every stage of Crowley's adventure, but at some point, I was like, man, this is just a bit much. Still, that's a minor complaint and I'm eager to see where the next book takes me.

Bottom line: Cold as Hell is a fun read. After recently tackling weightier topics, I didn't realize how much I needed a good old-fashioned western shoot 'em up. Throw in the fantasy element and you've got a clever "page-turner" I couldn't put down.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

US Open 2023 - Day 3

[Composed 9/2/2023]

Kicking off our second day at the Open was a match between Daniel Evans and the young phenom, Carlos Alcaraz. We wouldn't have given this match much thought, except we recently watched Evans play at the DC Citi Open. Evans went on to surprise everyone, up to and including himself, by winning the tournament. While it was unlikely that the 33-year-old, with two titles to his name, was going to beat Alcaraz, we were hoping he'd put up a good fight.

For the first two sets, it looked like Carlos was going to steamroll Evans. But in the third set, Evans found his game and managed to take a set off Alcaraz. Evans lost the match, but surely he had to count this as a victory in its own right.

Up next, we watched Jessica Pegula take on Elina Svitolina. In a counter-intuitive move, we left this match early to watch the closing games of the Andrey Rublev / Arthur Rinderknech match over on Grandstand. Why would one leave the main event to see the final few games on a less prestigious side court?

Because, strategy, that's why.

This maneuver let us secure excellent seats for the match that would follow Rublev / Rinderknech. Mainly a doubles match featuring Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff taking on Cristina Bucsa and Alexandra Panova. That's right, we left the Pegula match early so we could watch Pegula.

Sure, we had to wait for Pegula to finish her singles match, as well as have her "suitable rest" between her two matches. As expected, Grandstand filled to capacity, and Shira's chess-like scheme paid off. We had brilliant seats to take in the doubles match. Pegula and Gauff were in fine form, taking the first set easily. In the second set, they faced more resistance, but ultimately won the match. The atmosphere in the small stadium was electric, and whatever hoops we had to jump through to be there were worth it.

We closed out our second and last day at the US Open with night matches between Ons Jabeur and Marie Bouzkova as well as Daniil Medvedev and Sebastian Baez.

We were excited to see Jabeur take the win. She does so representing not just her country, but effectively the entire continent of Africa. At times, tennis can show a stunning lack of diversity, so seeing players like Ons thrive is a win.

Medvedev got off to a good start, and Shira and I didn't have the wherewithal to stick out his entire match. Sorry, Daniil, don't take it personally. Or, maybe do: we never doubted you'd pull off the win, so we didn't fear missing an epic upset.

Monday, January 15, 2024

US Open 2023 - Day 2 - Night Edition

[Composed 9/1/2023]

After a full day immersed in tennis, we found ourselves with a bit of time before the night matches kicked off. This gave us the opportunity to explore the grounds. While I love the challenge of capturing the on-court action of tennis, the Open is way more than this. Wandering the grounds gives the street photographer in me a chance to try to tell a more complete story of the Open.

Our rambling led us to the practice courts, hoping to witness some unique action . Alas, countless other tennis fans had the same idea, so the area was packed. I caught a few games of a random ladies' doubles match on a small side court, but it too was so overflowing with spectators. Eventually, we headed into Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the night matches would start shortly. Once we made it to the general admission concourse, I headed to one of my new favorite spots on the grounds: the North-West corner. From here, we not only had an overhead view of the practice courts but were also directly above a player's lounge area.

From here, I captured Stefanos Tsitsipas refining his serve, a fatigued yet jubilant Francis Tiafoe making a fan's day with an autograph, and the world's #1 player, Novak Djokovic, entering the stadium and going through bag check. I had to smile: the Tennis GOAT had to have his bags and ticket checked just like the rest of us.

Admittedly, there's a delicate balance between capturing unique behind-the-scenes moments and playing the role of a paparazzo. I'd like to believe I was doing the former, although, with my zoom lens and shutter clicking away, I'm sure I appeared as the latter.

The night matches kicked off with Coco Gauff facing off against Elise Mertens. Our hopes were high for Gauff, as she had just won our local tournament, the Citi Open. Alas, Gauff got a slow start, losing the first set 3-6. Unlike Men's tennis, where the 5-set format provides ample room for comebacks, a Women's match can be over in a blink. If Gauff didn't regain the momentum, the match and her tournament would be over. Fortunately, in the second set, Gauff found her rhythm, winning 6-3. By the third set, Gauff was showing the crowd why she's a favorite, taking the set 6-0. While the scoreline might suggest Gauff was never really in danger of losing, it sure didn't feel that way watching the first set.

The final match of the day was between Novak Djokovic and Laslo Djere. This match was almost certainly going to be a repeat of the Iga Świątek and Kaja Juvan match from earlier in the day. Like Świątek and Juvan, Djokovic and Djere had a personal connection: they both hail from Serbia and have spent time practicing together. But more to the point, the #1 Djokovic would almost certainly crush Djere, who started the year ranked #70 in the world. Given the late hour, we assumed we'd watch a set or two of Djokovic beating this unknown player and then call it a night before the match was even over.

If this was the plan for the night, nobody told Djere about it. Djere came out on fire, and took the first set 4-6. It's not that Djokovic played all that bad, it's just that Djere played the match of his life. OK, so Djokovic was down a set. That's no big deal, it happens all the time. Then Djere backed up the first set by taking the second, 4-6. What we had assumed to be a pro forma match, had turned into a battle. Djokovic's obvious win was no longer obvious. It looked like we might be witnessing one of the all time great tennis upsets.

Alas, beating Djokovic is never that easy. Djere gave up the 3rd and 4th sets to Djokovic 6-1, 6-1. But still, we entered the 5th setting knowing that anything was possible. The audience at Arthur Ashe was being treated to an amazing battle and we were all loving it. At 1:34am, the match finally closed out with Djokovic as the winner. Djere walked off court with thousands of new fans on his side and reminded everyone, especially Djokovic, that there are no sure things in tennis. You simply never know which matches are going to be the nail biters.

I'm not sure how tomorrow's tennis is going to top all that we saw today. But I can't wait to find out.