29 June 2016

Name The Baby: The Sequel

At 32 weeks, we're getting pretty close to the end game for this pregnancy. (If he comes when Anders did, we're only 4.5 weeks away! Yikes!) Must be time for another Name The Baby contest!

Periodically over the past several months, we have been reading through baby name books looking for boy names we like, with each of us keeping an individual list of any that appealed to us. So far, none stand out overall as obvious winners. Here is your chance to help! We got some great suggestions in the first contest 8 years ago, even after discarding all of the names suggested in the original girl's name round.

This baby hasn't had a codename so far, so we're including that as a category. (We've just been calling him little brother - boring.) It's also important that the name be equally as cool as Anders Rocket; in fact, Anders has stated that his brother should have a vehicle for a middle name, too. So Best Pairing with Anders Rocket is another category.

We'll be picking winners in the following categories:

  • Most Creative (First+Middle Name)
  • Most Likely To Be Used (First+Middle Name)
  • Best Codename
  • Best Pairing with Anders Rocket
In general, we tend to like less common names (at least in this country), with Scandinavian influences or space/science related names getting extra points.

30 weeks

You can submit your entries in any fashion you like: email, SMS, social media, postal service, telegram, etc. Contest is open until the baby arrives. Participants may enter as often as they like. Be creative! Be entertaining! Have fun!

- Mike, Corinne, Anders, and <your entry here>

26 June 2016

26/52 - Lair of the Bear

When I was a kid, my whole family would go off to a family camp at the end of the summer. We'd stay in a cabin, spend time at the lake, eat together in the dining hall, and just generally do camp stuff as a family1. It was all great fun, and we wanted to find a way to pass that experience on to the next generation and enjoy it again ourselves.

It's most fun to go to camp with people you know, but for a variety of reasons we couldn't get something going here in the gorge. So instead, last year we attached ourselves to some friends of ours that attend Lair of the Golden Bear. Lair is a YMCA-style camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, owned and run by the Cal Alumni Association, UC Berkeley. Yes, we said Cal Alumni Association, despite neither Corinne nor I having attended a Cal school. And yes, it's in CA. So starting with last year, we have paid our $60 annual membership fee to join the CAA, and we have driven the 12.5 hours to Pinecrest, CA to spend a week at camp. Call us crazy, but it's the best vacation we've taken as a family.

The camp2 has about 250 campers per week-long session. Each family has their own cabin, with wood floor, basic beds, and canvas roof.

Like most things at camp, someone else takes care of most of the day-to-day tasks that take so much of our time when we're at home. Meals are served three times a day. When the 15 minute warning bell rings, everyone starts salivating and migrating toward the dining hall. The food is camp food, but it's pretty good camp food, with a good salad bar available at every meal.

In the mornings and afternoons, there are "age group" programs for the kids. Anders' 6s & 7s group went panning for "gold" in the nearby creek, went on a scavenger hunt around the camp, made s'mores and told stories, along with countless other things. When the kids are off with their age groups, the adults have time to do.. well, whatever we want! We spend a lot of time just reading.

In between programs and meals, we spent some time in the arts and crafts grove. Last year, each of us made a clay pot on a pottery wheel, then glazed and fired them. While it was fun, we're a little bit too "type A" personality to really enjoy them without focusing on all of the flaws. (One of the pots ended up with a big hole in the middle after it was fired. Oops! But all three are still on our counter, filled with tomatoes and pistachios for snacking.) This year, we opted to buy a pre-made plate for Anders to glaze.

Tie-dying is also a big activity at camp. Last year, Anders made a tie-dyed shirt, but this year we had grander plans. We brought 4 napkins, 3 pairs of underwear (Anders' idea), and a few onesies leftover from a work baby shower.

We think they turned out pretty darn great!

And no summer camp is complete without lanyards.

There are camp activities in the evenings as well. One night's activity was "Disco Bingo". The participants dress in their favorite 70s outfit and play bingo (using the letters D-I-S-C-O). When someone gets Bingo, a dance party ensues.

We knew about disco bingo ahead of time, so Corinne and Donna got a jump start on this year's Halloween costume.

Dance party!

Father's Day falls during our camp, but just being at camp together is the best gift.

Early on in camp this year, Anders found a buddy: Eddie. They met at a neighbor's Happy Hour (yes, that's a camp thing, and yes there are drinks) and spent most of their free time together after that point. While it was great for him to connect so well with someone close to his age, we did end up spending less time with him than we did last year. I suspect that this is a sign of things to come...

The camp is run almost entirely by the "staffers", college students who stay at camp and do everything: cook/clean, run age group programs, etc. Surprisingly, a majority of the staffers are not actually students at Cal; most were actually campers when they were kids. They are enthusiastic and know how to make camp fun. (Since we attend "Week 2", which is actually the first full week camp session of the summer, I often wonder how that enthusiasm might wane by "Week 10".)

The staffers put on a "wacky pool show" where they dress in costumes and jump into the pool. Here they form a human bridge and help the kid campers walk across.

Anders with one of his favorite staffers, Zara

One of the camp legends involves "Staffer Bob", a staff member who supposedly lives at camp and has a beard down to his waist. Anders and Eddie made lots of "tributes" to Staffer Bob, including turning a hollow tree stump into a fort.

Many of the evening performances consist of skits and songs performed by the staffers. But one evening activity is the "Blue Revue", a variety show of performances by the campers. Last year, Anders decided that he wanted to do a standup comedy routine at the revue. He killed it, and he loved it.

When we arrived at camp this year, many people remembered him from his performance last year. This year, he wanted to bring his ukulele so that he could up his performance game.

In order to keep the event around an hour, they usually limit performances to one song or skit. But in Anders's case, we just cut a few verses from each of the songs and they let him keep his whole act3.

As we mentioned, neither of us are Cal alumni. During camp we do need to "endure" a bit of Cal school spirit, including some songs at the evening performances and a "Go Bears!" after each announcement at the dining hall. But we have been working to build our own MIT contingency. Marnie is the MIT grad who married a Cal grad to start this crazy scheme, then we invited ourselves last year. This year we enticed fellow MIT alum Amory and her daughter Lizzy to join us.


At the end of the week we weren't quite ready to go home. We could have stayed there at least another week. But it was time for us to go.

For the drive home, we went the "eastern route" over the Sierra Nevada mountains and through Nevada. It's a little bit longer, but so much prettier.

There is some serious climbing on this route, though. At one point we saw a sign indicating 26% grade, which is the highest we've ever seen. Last year we weren't prepared for the steep climbing and windy roads; we had to make one "motion sickness" stop for Anders. This year we were more prepared and brought dramamine with us. The combination of motion sickness drugs and a week of playing hard had its effects on the ride home; Anders fell asleep just a few miles outside of camp.

It's easy to see why people come to Lair year after year. There are people in our session whose families have been coming to camp for 40 years! It is quickly becoming a tradition in our family. Next year will be a little different for us, so we haven't made a decision about whether we'll go to camp with our less-than-one-year-old. But we sure hope we can!

- Mike, Corinne, Anders, and ??

1 If you don't know what I'm talking about - or if you do and just want to hear more about it - there's a This American Life episode.

2 There are actually three separate camps within Lair of the Golden Bear: Camp Blue (ours), Camp Gold, and Camp Oski. They each have their own facilities and staff, and generally only interact during a few inter-camp sporting events.

3 Due to audio issues, some of the jokes are a bit hard to hear on the recordings.
Did you hear the one about the broken pencil?
Nevermind, it's pointless.

What did the left eye say to the right eye?
Between you and me, something smells.

Why can't you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom?
Because the P is silent.

What did the 3-legged dog say when he rode into town?
I'm looking for the man who shot my pa(w).