Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hey! Merry Christmas a little bit late... SNG and I are off work this week-- my company closes between Christmas and New Year's and SNG has vacation he'll lose if he doesn't use it. Actually, he'll end up losing some anyway, but I'm sure his reward will be great someday for all the extra hard work he puts in (smirk).

So this week, we're all alone at home without, as my mom put it, a chaperone. No one to stop us from eating Christmas candy for breakfast, no one to make us pick up dirty socks & underwear off the floor, general mayhem all around. Just last night we had chocolate-covered pretzels for dinner over at Peace & Fuzzy's house. And I'm still in my pajamas even though it's almost 1pm. Hee.

Oh! I updated 2 things on our homepage. First, I re-linked J&K's blog address so now the Blog of Fun gets you to the Blog of Fun. I also linked a Christmas card on the homepage. It's a bit slow to load-- sorry. Consider yourself jollified.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Graduation Day!

Last night was the last meeting of Spanish class for the semester. Only about half of the class turned out, so we went over the homework, told a few jokes, and headed out, caravan-styley, for a local Mexican restaurant. Well, yes, it was NC-Mex (which isn't quite Tex-Mex) but the food was tasty and the waitstaff good-naturedly entertained our pathetic attempts to engage in all transactions in Engspish (which isn't quite Spanglish). Almost everyone who went to dinner is also planning to take the 2nd semester class starting in January, and we worked on the profesor to sign up to teach the Monday evening section if possible. He is a good teacher and we like the people who are taking the class. We've signed up, of course.

One cool thing about taking a class through the continuing ed program at the community college is that there are no grades, so everybody passed. But I think SNG and I will be doing a lot of studying over the holidays to ensure that we meet the prerequisites for the next class. :-)

Today I'm off for NYC. SNG will be flying out tomorrow, and while I'm teaching all day, he'll be walking around museums, Macy's, and the Empire State Building, and standing in line for cheap Broadway tickets.

If anyone has earned 3 days on the town, it's SNG. Bless his heart, he made the mistake of tracking his overtime in the same spreadsheet as his vacation. So far this year, he's taken about 145 hours of vacation. He has worked about 185 hours of overtime. You can do the math. It comes as no surprise when he starts to get all Jake Morgendorffer at the dishwasher, or the garbage collectors, or the TV, .... Yeah, he deserves a little down-time.

It's still 28 degrees outside, but I've procrastinated long enough. Gotta get running.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Home at last!

I've been mostly disconnected since Thanksgiving break started, with little fits of communication access, and then darkness again.

But first, a clarification about the hat my Canadian colleague so generously donated to me in my time of need in arctic Nova Scotia. My dad, a born-and-raised southern Louisiana boy, informed me that the hat is called a Toque. How he would know this, as he's never lived for more than 1 year anywhere colder than Texas, I can't underatand, except to fall back on the usual explanation that my dad actually knows everything.

So, through brilliant deduction, I have determined that my hat is in fact Provencal, and not Canadian as I had previously reported. The way I figure, if the hat is a toque, then surely it was named for Alexis de Tocqueville, which would make perfect sense as the Canadians, like Americans, are fans of democracy. And what a fine homage, indeed! And if a toque a hat, then I can only conclude that de Tocqueville translates to from Hat Town. Well, if there's a Hat Town in France, then it must be Avignon, where the critically acclaimed Chapeauneuf-des-Papes comes from. So de Tocqueville's ancestors must have come from Avignon, and the Toque, while it may have been dreamed up by Canadians, clearly has Provencal roots. And now you know!

By the way, the hat has saved my toque-us on 2 more trips since then, and it has special status as my 3rd-favorite-winter-hat now.

The Austin trip was terrific! We got to spend lots of time with my mom and dad, my brother and my sister-in-close-enough-to-law, which alone would make the trip worth going, but we also got to spend some time with my niece, who is the coolest little chickie I know. She's not very tall for her age, so even better, she isn't taller then I am yet. By about 10-12 years old, all my little cousins have passed me in height. What do they feed these kids in the public schools??? I know that within another 2 years or so, my neice will be doing the thing where she rests an elbow on my shoulder, all causally, so that it's even more obvious that she's as tall as an amazon. I'm resigned to my destiny of bolstering the self-esteem of the pre-teens in my family. Everybody's got their something. *sigh.

We did some pilates with mom, went ice skating with my neice, saw T&E and their little dude (a.k.a. Big Al). SNG went home on Tuesday, and I flew from AUS to Ann Arbor on Wednesday to teach at UofM. It was a good time, but Ann Arbor is SERIOUSLY cold. It snowed and I didn't have a car, so I walked everywhere. But I had my fabulous new knee-length down-filled coat, so it wasn't all that bad.

And there's only 1 trip left for the year! Yay! Week after next SNG and I will go up to NYC (I've got a 3-day class, SNG's got a lot of sightseeing to do) and hopefully will be able to see my cousin Cosmopolitan (who thinks her name refers to her social drinking habits, but it really refers to the fact that she's lived in some major urban-hip places, so she's the most cosmopolitan person in our family). We'll also grab dinner with a friend from work and his partner while we're there, and we always like seeing them. In the meantime, though, it's overtime in the woods for me! I missed most of the fall colors, but I'll be darned if I miss the last of the not-too-cold-to-hike weather.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!

I'm in Austin, with the UT- aTm game on behind me. We got here Wednesday and the weather's more like late September than late November. We've been able to bike and hike and eat and do all those things that you'd want to do in central Texas in November. Mom made a whole mess of pies, and we delivered 6 of them to the Salvation Army Wednesday afternoon. They got apple, pecan, and pumpkin pies. Mom makes a mean pie, and it's nice to think of all those people enjoying it for Thanksgiving dinner. But not all the pies went to charity- she made apple crisp, key lime pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner. Today she'll make a lemon meringue pie, too. Oh, the humanity! Sometimes she just gets the bee in her bonnet to do something, and I guess this week it was pie. Aw, shucky-darn, we just have to do our part to support her hobbies!

Before the gorgefest yesterday we saw our very dear friends T&E and their little 20-month-old munchkin. He's the cutest little guy you've ever seen. What a flirt!! He'll hide around a doorway and peek his head around, look at you, and smile this sly little grin and it's IRRESISTABLE, I tell you! Almost makes me want one of my own. Or maybe T&E will let us borrow theirs.

Today my niece is coming to town!! Yay! Her birthday was Tuesday, and I haven't seen her since Christmas 2003. She's such a cool kid. She's getting old enough to appreciate the finer things in life, like clothes shopping, ice skating, and Harry Potter. This should be a fun weekend for sure!

By the way, update on the New York trip last week. I went to a Broadway show called Avenue Q. It's a parody of Sesame Street, complete with muppets and perky little songs. Very very funny. I'd love to get the music on CD. I'd highly recommend it to anyone going to NYC. Very irreverent, and SO much fun.

Oh well, this is getting to be a boring "what I did last week" post so I'll stop here. Maybe I'll think of something else to talk about to humor you later on. Have a terrific holiday and I'll eat an extra slice of pie for you!

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's Krispi and it's fresh, but it ain't doughnuts...
Nova Scotia was really fun. It turned out to be colder than The Weather Channel thought it would be, so I didn't really have appropriate clothing. I should've known -- if you go to Canada, BRING THE PARKA! Even if it's August. You just never know when a nor'easter will strike. Luckily, a colleague from Toronto took pity on me and gave me a bright red, most-super-fantastic took (or is it spelled tuc?) with my company's super-fantastic logo emblazoned across the front. If, like me, you didn't watch enough Doug & Bob MacKenzie as a child, a took is a hat, like a stocking cap without the ball, and kind of shaped at the top- not like a tube that's just been stitched together at a point, but a little more, um, square-ish. Mine also has a liner of black sweater material around it, giving the effect of 2 tooks layered together. It's most awesome. And warm.

Trivia for the Traveler-- Seafood in Nova Scotia is CHEAP. And GOOD. If you pretended the canadian $ were actually US$, it was STILL cheap. Then take the prices and multiply by about .78, and then it's like they're giving it away! And in a way, I guess they almost are. There were roadside trucks all over the highways selling-- no, not watermelons, or peaches, or even boiled peanuts (a southern delicacy).... fish! Smoked, fresh, live, whatever. Lots of fish. For sale on the side of the highway. I didn't partake-- allowing the local restauranteurs to do my cooking for me. But I could definitely live in a place where they sell seafood at every corner. Mmmmmmmlobsters. I'd buy a pair of big lobsters on my way home from work and do 'em up right, in crab boil! Extra spicy!

(slap-slap, focus! back to reality!) OK, anyway. On Friday I had nothing to do but sightsee and so I took my rent car, my took, and a crude Avis map of NS, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island on-one-page and followed the coastline along the Atlantic ocean and various coves, bays, waterways, fishing villages... It was Remembrance Day and I saw a band of WWII veterans at the Lunenberg Canadian Legion building looking distracted but very patriotic. What a great time. The only shopping I did was at a monster tourist trap called Peggy's Cove where I visited the busiest gift shop ever. I don't mean it was full of people-- I mean it was busy. My eyes never adjusted to the spectacle of tchotchkes. SNG got a groovy new magnet and I got a bunch of postcards (my pics weren't as good).

On the way back, I saw the funniest sign- hand (spray-)painted, out in front of a (ahem) business establishment:

Krispi Kraut
Always Fresh!

Eat your heart out, doughnut fans. Get them when they're hot??

This week's destination-- New York.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Chicago was fun. A coworker from Detroit was also there teaching, so we went to the Art Institute's museum and dinner afterwards on Thursday evening. There was an exhibit of old B&W photos of Paris dating from the mid/late 1800s to about the mid 1950s. Some very early photography, and it was surprising how good condition these pictures were in. One thing that was interesting were some pictures taken to document the original layout of some Paris neighborhoods that no longer exist. After the revolution, a big effort was made to tear down and rebuild some neighborhoods to make them more amenable to modern infrastructure, straighten street layouts, and widen the streets-- preventing the easy erection of impromptu barricades that were so key to neighborhood battles in the late 1700s/early 1800s. A photographer was hired to document these neighborhoods that would be completely flattened. It was kind of sad to think, this neighborhood, which looks like so many you might see in Paris, no longer exists at all.

This week I'm off to Halifax, Nova Scotia. How many times will I have the opportunity to visit Nova Scotia for free? I'm taking an extra day on Friday to look around. It'll be chilly, but not too bad. Weather forecasts say lows in the upper 30s at night. Heck, that's about like Raleigh. Anyone have suggestions for things to see in Halifax? I hear that the Bay of Fundy has some of the biggest tides in the world- that should be intersting to see. And I bet their seafood is outta sight.

The Guy Fawkes Day celebration was SO much fun!! I think we should have bonfires more often. Burning Stuff!! What a joy! It was like camping without the camping part. With a house! And toilets! And TV! And extra pickle relish in case we ran out! We burned the Guy F effigy and learned that yard scarecrows from the grocery store are not flame-retardant. They torch like they're made of lighter fluid.

During the bonfire, we were all cooking hot dogs and s'mores over the flames, and eating WAY too much. Everybody was QUITE full but still eating, when someone pointed out that we were really just eating as an excuse to keep burning things. Well, why do we need an excuse?! So we burned stuff. We burned everything we could find. Acorns, marshmallows, wrappers for everything, hot dogs, buns, mini chocolate bars, aluminum cans, paper plates, junk-mail catalogs, you name it. If it wasn't nailed down, it went into the fire. Did you know that aluminum can burn? Well, they melt into a little puddle. Close enough.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Cold Blues
So I'm sitting in the kitchen Friday night watching SNG make some chicken and sirloin stir-fry with about 1/4 cup of cayenne pepper and I start sneezing-- and sneezing, and sneezing. At first we thought it was the pepper in the air, but after dinner I was still sniffly and then my throat started to hurt and by bedtime I was full-out sick with a cold. Or maybe allergies, I can never tell the difference.

I don't get sick very often. I probably get food poisoning more than I get flu & colds combined. Part of the thrill of business travel is the uncertainty of restaurant cleanliness standards-- Salmonella Roulette! Anyway, I don't get sick very often, but when I do, it lingers for weeks. Good timing. I've got 5 straight weeks of travel, and if you've ever flown with a headcold you know it's an experience in pain like no other.

This is definitely some kind of avian-bird-flu-SARS head cold thing. I felt too bad to workout on Saturday so we just hiked with the dog in the woods out back. We probably walked 2 miles, but Goofch ran about 5 or 6. The woods are full of deer. It's nice to see that he's getting some of his fitness back. This time of year is so nice because it's still green, but there are very few spiders or bugs. It's the Golden Mean of the forest, that balance of the hot and cool forces, when the sky is a rich shade of blue and the squirrels are fat.

Sunday we took the tandem out for the 2nd time in over a year. First time was a couple of weeks ago when we discovered that the left-side gear shift lever was broken and we were perpetually stuck in the granny chainring. It's now been repaired, and I figured riding the tandem meant if I started feeling rotten, I could let SNG take up the slack. It was a good call because I needed to drink about every 10 seconds and on the tandem I can just let go of the handllebars the whole time if I want to. Besides, the view is nice where I sit...

Last night Peace and Fuzzy came over for dinner and a movie. They brought over The Third Man-- an old B&W murder mystery/con film set in post-WWII Vienna. It was written by Graham Greene, who is really good at developing quirky characters that have a certain awkward realism that came through even under the veil of late-40's-movie elegance. The main character was really good at blundering his way through every situation leaving a trail of destruction all the while apparently oblivious to the role he played.

So today I'm back at work after about 4 hours' sleep last night. On the upside? I did get our spanish homework done about around 2:30 this morning. But you know how your nose gets all raw when you have a cold? I've got vaseline slathered all over my nose and lips and it probably looks like boogers but I swear it's vaseline, and I should probably work with my door closed today. Not only for the ick factor, but because when I'm sick, I worry about being Too Much Information Girl. And while you, my cyber-friends, certainly want to hear about clever tricks to drain hard-to-access sinus cavities, I doubt that my coworkers do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It's winter already?
It was 41 degrees this morning!!! It's still October. It's still hurricane season! It can't be 41 degrees.

So when it's this cold, I don't like getting on my bike. Jogging is much nicer in the cold because there's not so much wind. Maybe if I ran faster there'd be wind. But the way I run, I only feel wind when someone passes me. ;-)

Spanish class is coming along OK. It's fun and all, but last night we spent almost the whole class reviewing homework. It moves along pretty slowly, and I'm afraid that by the time the Spain trip rolls around, all I'll be able to say is "What time is it" and "The professor is tall" and "I have a hardworking piece of chalk." I still don't know how to ask for the bathroom. "Donde esta la toilet?" Or is it "Donde es la toilet?" Is a toilet always a toilet? Does it meet the requirements of geographical-location-means-verb-change? Oh drat. "Ou sont les toilettes" is just so much easier.

I wonder whether more Spaniards speak French or English?

The people in my class are a hoot, and some of them seem pretty cool. I wonder how many will take the level 2 class next semester. Heck, I wonder whether I'll be able to, with the travel schedule that looms on my horizon. I was just lucky that this semester all my business trips start on Tuesday or Wednesday so I can take a Monday night class.

And speaking of travel, last week in Boston I visited the museum of fine arts. It was terrific. I'd recommend it to anyone headed up that way. There was a free exhibition called "Things I Love" which was a collection of William Koch's art and other nifty things. Koch (I didn't know who he was, either) is a wealthy tycoon who raced in and won the 1992 America's Cup race. He sounds pretty arrogant, to tell the truth, BUT what was really really really cool is that out in front of the museum were THE SHIPS that took 1st and 2nd place in that race. The winner was Koch's ship, America3, and the 2nd place was a ship called Il Moro de ... (something in italian). Right there, in the MFA's front yard. Words can't describe. They were so beautiful.

There was also an Ansel Adams exhibit, but it was $22, so I skipped it and looked at the pictures that were made into postcards in the gift shop. It looks like it would have been a great exhibit, if I'd had enough time to make it worth $22.

But the best part of visiting the MFA was the concert. As I was walking around looking at the Asian and Islamic art sections, I could hear faint music, like bells only kind of like strings, too. Gradually the music became louder, so I went to find where it was coming from. Up in the musical instruments collection they had set up a small platform where a group of about 15 musicians were playing various ancient chinese percussion-type bell and stringed instruments. The music was different from anything I'd ever heard before. Little by little all the visitors to the museum made their way into the little room to listen. The people watching was almost as good as the concert.

This week I'm in the office (except for the lunch date in DC Wednesday) for the last time until late December. Next week: Chicago. I'd like to catch a jazz show or a few museums while I'm there. Any suggestions? I'm staying downtown just a few blocks south of Navy Pier.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Stocking Stuffer!
Whoa, y'all. Check this out. One of SNG's friends at work saw this bike for sale in a shop in Italy for about 1200 euros (about USD1500). Check out what it retails for here.

SNG summed it up best when he wrote "Holly Carp!"

Holly carp indeed.

So, who thinks I should bring a few bikes home from Europe this winter? I could always use another bike...
I know that people like to be festive, and I'm certainly the LAST person who should be critical of others' holiday decorations, but...


It's just so obvious that the FatCat Executive of Creative Ideas sent a memo along the lines of, "If we have the sweatshops use the same dies for cutting nylon Christmas gewgaws but cut orange fabric instead, and then silkscreen jack-o-lantern faces on them, Voila! We'll have a fresh new profit channel! They'll sell like hotakes in February!"

The locals are just MAD about those inflatable halloween yard critters, in all of their 8-foot-high glory. My neighbors (a.k.a. The Woodspeople) haven't put up many of these, but I suspect that's just because they don't decorate for anything.

Like all the lawn inflatables, the Halloween critters have their charm while they're on, but by morning they're just a bunch of sad puddles of dead rip-stop, lying there like Oz witches after a storm.

OK, now that I got that out of my system, I sincerely apologize for offending any of you who may have one such critter on display in your yard. Go enjoy your lovely lawn thingie. Even if it is an exact replica of the Snowman critter, only orange-and-black.

Tomorrow I'm headed for Boston, where it'll be cold but the public gardens are still good for jogging any time of year.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Since my cousin has brought up the topic of embarrasing holiday candy-related-topics, I have to take this opportunity to admit to something slightly embarassing.

During October, the cafeteria at work (the World's Best Cafeteria, complete with live pianist, no joking) has candy corn as one of the toppings at the frozen yogurt/sundae bar. I love candy corn. And being too ashamed to just get a scoop of candy corn in a cup, I have been getting a teensy dab of frozen yogurt and scooping a few spoonfuls of candy corn on top. Yeah, that's a sundae, really. Oh just ring it up already. I'm just here for the candy corn.

But if I bought a whole bag of candy corn, it wouldn't be as good. The Forbidden/Rare Treat is so much better than the plentiful harvest. Besides, I can justify 10-15 corns. I cannot justify a whole bag in one sitting. Oh yes, in one sitting.

So anyway, with the candy corn harvest in full swing comes pumpkin season. I tried a new recipe for pumpkin-chicken stew that has hard cider, apples, and parsnips in it. It's based on a beef stew recipe my MIL sent to me. It's so good that it deserved a fancy name. I've decided to call it Pumpkin Poultry Parsnip Pomme stew. Just has a nice ring to it. Email me if you want the recipe. It's outta sight.

Back to mildly embarrassing things people do in 4th quarter, I'll be having lunch in DC National Airport on Oct 26. Just lunch. Off the plane at noon, and 55 minutes later leave again. Why? Because I'm 2 segments short of Platinum status on that airline, so I found the cheapest round trip 2-segment in Q4, and that's it. If you're going to be in DC, perhaps you can join me. But it'll be a real eat-and-run thing. Lunch: $78+tax, fees, and market price for a lobster roll at Legal Sea Foods. Platinum Status Perks for 2006: Priceless.

I think this act will, once and for all, land me in the category of Road-Warrior-With-Borg-Looking-Perma-Bluetooth-Earpiece-Geek. Except I don't have a borg-styley bluetooth earpiece.

Monday, October 3, 2005


We had SUCH a great weekend. I was so sad watching the sun go down yesterday because it meant the weekend was over. SAD! BLUE! We mountain biked Friday, rode a Ridge Rd loop Saturday, did all our house chores, went to work and got some stuff done, biked some more Sunday, went kayaking and open-water-swimming in Lake Jordan, made about 8 QT spaghetti sauce, cooked 2 pork loins and a mountain of veggies in the dutch ovens over an open fire in the backyard (yes, we ARE the "bubba" neighbors who burn stuff in the yard) and slept with the windows open.

It never got over 81 degrees, and never got below 68 degrees. The sky was blue. At one point there was candy corn falling from the sky, and it had no calories.

And now it's Monday. We have spanich class tonight. Or, as we've taken to calling it, Espanich class. In classic Cat&Tony style, I did my homework Tuesday last week, and have been fiddling with it to get it "just right" ever since, and SNG still hasn't done his. But it's OK, because I will let him cheat off me on the exams. 'Cause I hear that he puts out.

Did I say that out loud?

I'm in town all this week and next week. I was actually supposed to be in Austin this week, but that class was cancelled. And if I had gone, I would have had even MORE fun this weekend. Mom & dad went to a huge "Thank you" party for the city of Austin that was thrown by Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crowe last night, and it must have been some party, because every one of my phones has a voice mail of my mom hooting and hollering while Sheryl Crowe sings live in the background. What fun! We should have been there!

Finally, a big congratulations shout-out to my dad who handily took home the Texas state championship road race title for his age group in the Senior Games on Sunday. For bicycling. As if you had to ask.

PS- Blogger has been giving me a hard time with comments lately. If you don't see a comments field below, try again later- it'll be back.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A Pig Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever.
No, it's not a phrase spied on a t-shirt in Tokyo, or something that emerged from babelfish. It is the sign introducing you to a Red River Hog at the San Diego Zoo. And it may have to become my .sig file.

The Red River Hog has hairy ears like my grandfather had. I suspect that when he's old and wrinkly, SNG will have them, too. But for now his ears are super-cute. And an SNG of beauty is a joy forever.

This week I went open water swimming with a colleague who's really into boating but had never tried kayaking before. So I let him use one of our 'yaks to shadow me and keep the powerboats from plowing over me. It was quite a symbiotic thing we had going-- I was slow enough that he was under no pressure to pick up Mad paddling skilz in a hurry, and I needed a human shield. I swam for 90 minutes, with about 15 of them hanging onto the bow of the boat watching the clear blue sky fade into a purple-and-orange sunset. Did I ever tell you how nice it is in NC in the fall?

No trips for a couple of weeks. Instead I'm supposed to be writing a course for a customer that is contingent on their signing some legal document, which was due last Monday, but is still not yet signed, so I can't start the work yet. And if they wait much longer, I will be on the road again and their course will have to wait until next year. So in the meantime, I'm catching up on all the nifty programming projects I had put off for the last few months.

OK, that was seriously boring to most of you so I'm going to exit stage left. Have a great weekend! It's a PERFECT 10 on the weather channel's Fitness Forecast for this afternoon, so by the time you read this, I'll be cavorting with the birds and the trees!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

It's been awhile since I've posted because of all this traveling. Last week I was in Rockville/DC where we shared the booger experience together. No need to thank me, I know you're grateful.

I am left pondering why it is that I get these booger harvesters and many of my coworkers don't. I am sure that it's just that other people don't notice. They have the same rate of nosepickers, but their detection system is insensititive to all but the most blatant of excavation activities. I recognize that my measurement device is quite sensitive, and like a good neural network with adaptive learning capability, becomes better attuned to subtle variations in methods for digging concealment. Perhaps I can get a job with some super-secret intelligence agency finding and rooting out terrorist booger-depostion activities. You know, track down where terrorists are wiping their boogers off in public places, like underneath seats at airports, on commuter handloops in subway trains, things like that. But it would be dirty work.

This week I flew out to San Jose, CA (as opposed to San Jose, Colombia-- where I nearly boarded) for a conference. I gave 3 presentations: a half-day course and 2 50-min paper presentations. But the most exciting work I did was over coffee and lunch with an old grad school friend of mine I make a point of visiting whenever I'm in the bay area. He's one of those rare clever types who appears to have an inexaustable supply of neat ideas. We spent some time talking about a paper idea (actually, 2 ideas) that we could collaborate on. I need friends like this, who come up with ideas for research papers that other people might be interested in reading. I can be a great workhorse when I have the time to devote, but my ideas usually entail finding the hard way to do something, such as coming up with a new test statistic that is less efficient than what's already implemented in the software, and by the way you have to program your own matrix language code to get it, but gee, isn't that neat?? I know you're itching to hear more, but I don't want to be scooped, so I'm keeping the details to myself. Because I know you were all just waiting to scoop me. Dianaverse is aways trying to steal my research paper ideas and publish them in some tier-2 journal where she can use the puppy-pornography data example. And kiltman does worse than that-- he takes my ideas and comes up with better titles than I can come up with and so everyone reads his version of the paper instead of mine.

This whole silly mood I'm in must be from jet lag or something. I'm currently in the kitchen at my BFF Lizard's house in San Diego. Thursday night I flew down here to spend the weekend, and SNG flew in from RDU. We've been having so much fun. The weather here really is a pretty as everyone says, but (I think I've posted about this before) the traffic here is really nuts. Not quite Chicago-traffic-crazy, but I think it's worse than Atlanta traffic. Which is also really bad. But the weather is the least of the reasons we're here. Lizard has been stationed and otherwise occupied all over the world in very hard-to-reach places most of the last 10 years, and until she and her SO moved to the mainland this year I had seen her a grand total of 1 time in 10 years. This is the person I used to smoke ciagarettes and eat big-grab chips and mini-muffins with in my car before school started every morning in high school. She was the other half of prom double-dates. She was the maid of honor at my wedding. And not even having a coffee with her for years at a stretch? It's just not right.

Anyway, so now I'm having a cuppa at her kitchen counter, and SNG is sitting here waiting for me to take him for a jog.

Better run. We're going to the zoo later! Yay! If I get any good pics I'll post them when we get back.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I'm teaching in Our Nation's Capitol this week and I just have to get this off my chest...


It's DATA mining. Not nosemining. And I'm not a TV.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Last weekend was the MS150, which, for those of you who might be wondering whether that is some sort of giant strawberry festival, is a 2-day bike ride to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis advocacy, programs, and research.

This year we decided 75 miles a day was for babies. The route is nice and flat, but since it's near the coast, there's usually some wind to contend withand this year was no exception. With hurricane Ophelia brewing just to the East, we had bands of 20-30mph winds that blew into or across our route most of the time. Luckily, there are so many people on the ride that we usually had someone in front of us to act as a windshield!

Day 1 we finished the 100-mile ride in a little over 5 hours, at an average speed of 18.7mph. Three stops: mile 38, mile 50, and mile 78. We both felt great pretty much the whole time. And we met some really fun people. Whose names I promptly forgot. And Boy, howdy was it ever windy. I felt my bike being swooshed all over the road at times, and really worried that I'd be blown right over.

Day 2 we had an announcement from the Local Weather Guy (LWG). LWG told us that because the hurricane was getting closer, the wind would be even worse than on Day 1, and there was a possibility of some really severe weather. As a result, they were going to need extra volunteers available to drive SAG wagons in case riders were being blown off their bikes and stuff. So they cancelled the century loop on Day 2. (!!!) There was nothing for it. We rode the 75 mile route instead. I think day 2 was much harder than day 1, and not just because of the 100 miles we'd already put on our legs. We felt really pretty strong in the morning, and skipped the first 2 rest stops. Which was a mistake, because almost everyone stops at the 1st or 2nd rest stop, even if it's just to use the portajon, so the only people on the road in front of us (or right behind us) were the Serious hammerheads going 25mph into the wind. So in spite of our best efforts to hang on with the big kids, we rode alone for the next 15 miles, until we reached stop #3, the lunch stop. There we grouped up with some of SNG's office buddies and got some protection from the (by now Howling) headwind. The group stopped briefly at mile 55, but SNG and I just wanted to KEEP GOING! The skies were getting darker and darker, and I really hate riding in the rain. We finally finished, averaged 18mph, in just over 4 hours. And no rain.

We made it to the finish in time to eat our weight in BBQ and fixins before heading back to the in-laws' to shower, eat some more, pick up the dog, drive back home, and eat some more.

The whole weekend we slept like rocks! Which is saying something, since I tend to get nervous insomnia before any kind of big event. I guess since this isn't competitive, there's less to worry about. And we ate! Oh did we eat. Friday evening SNG's folks made a birthday dinner and Blueberry-peach pie! Oh, yeah! And Saturday evening we had as many brownies as we had plates of pasta-chicken-vegetables-salad. And I mentioned the Sunday BBQ business...

Now that we've finished our longest rides of the year, SNG and I will need to get out of the habit of measuring our dinner portions with a shovel, and go back to using kitchen utensils like everyone else. And sweetheart, your daily ice cream ritual? needs to go on wintertime hiatus. *sigh*

A side note: I had a masssage on Saturday from a guy who claims to hold the world record on longest running chair massages-- 52 hours. Can you imagine? He gave me a table massage, and at the end did this funny thing where he grabbed my ankles and shake-a shake-a shake-a shook me all around until everything was all loosie-goosie. Try it with a friend- it's a pretty cool feeling. He didn't do as good a job on my shoulder as Lal, my regular massage dude, but the shake-a shake-a business was fun.

Friday, September 9, 2005

"Dites- Que fait ton ami?"

OK, it's time to talk about something else. The email blizzard burying my Inbox from the non-Gulf-Coast contigent of my family gets uglier by the day. It's turning into a darned flame-war! The problem is that you simply can't be a moderate in my family. If you have a view, it has to be FIRMLY and FIERCELY held, with no wiggle-room for any competing perspectives.

And if you ask me, exactly half of them are RIGHT and the other half are WRONG (I am still, after all, a member of said family and no exception to these attitudinal parameters). :-)

But that's beside the point. The point is that I don't want to talk about the GC right now.

So I'm changing the subject. In my Pimsleur Speak and Reach Essential French 3, they teach you how to quickly change the subject in conversation. They say that if you start a sentence with "Dites!" (which translates to "Say!") that this is a "polite way to change the subject." It's funny to formalize something like that in a language lesson, but a useful thing to know. Val will have to tell me whether this is the best way to politely change the subject or whether I should try something else (perhaps something equivalent to "Soooooo, anywaaaaaaay....").

Dites! Our cafeteria at work makes the only tuna salad that I can stand to eat anymore. I'm not sure when or why, but at some point I stopped liking tuna. Fresh or canned. But the SASeteria has a recipe that transcends tuna. I don't know what's in it. Maybe it's full-fat mayo? Yeah, that's probably it.

In other news, the MS150 is this weekend. Or, as we've taken to calling it, the MS200. Weather permitting, we're going to attempt the double-century (100 miles Sat and 100 miles Sun). Saturday is also my birthday. Since biking 100 miles is kind of a crappy way to spend your birthday, I get to have a rain-delay birthday. Also, since I'm giving up my real birthday to ride 100 miles, I get 2 rain-days to make up for it. SNG doesn't know that yet, but he will as soon as he reads this.

Last year we started a tradition with friends where birthday outings are celebrated with "fake-sport-and-food." Real food, not fake food. We've done bowling, billiards, lazer-tag, miniature golf, skee-ball, I can't remember what else. Food has mostly been pizza, with some BBQ, some gelatto, some other random stuff. This year I want Ice Dancing as my fake sport. I have to be careful calling this a fake sport- my mom used to be an ice dancer, but it's not as sporty as figure skating or speedskating. (Thank goodness she wasn't a synchronized swimmer- then I'd have all kinds of eggshells to tread) I think we should all dress in period outfits from a decade with great music and go to the ice rink and ice dance! Food will be sushi. It just seems appropriate for ice dancing somehow. Of course, not everyone eats sushi, so it's an "Ice Dancing and Sushi or something else from Whole Foods' deli case" party. Um, and since not everyone dances, it's OK to put on skates and slip-slide around on the rink as long as you wiggle your tooshie as if you're trying to dance. Or at least look cool hanging out by a pinball machine.

The best part is I have a whole mess of free passes to the ice rink. They might be the B.O.G.O. kind, but that's at least 1/2 price.

Consider yourself invited-- shoot me an email and I'll give you the details.

Friday, September 2, 2005

But On A Lighter Note:
(lifted from the St Petersburg Times Q&A)

Is there going to be a shortage of Tabasco sauce, too, since it comes from southern Louisiana?

Apparently not. The McIlhenny Co., makers of Tabasco, has its headquarters on Avery Island, La., west of New Orleans. The company reports that Hurricane Katrina took out its Web site but not its operations and there will be no interruption in the processing of the hot stuff.

Whew! There will be no interruption to my daily omelette-soaked-in-pepper-sauce ritual.
I know I just posted a plea for donations to relief agencies-- but it bears repeating. If you haven't done it yet, please consider donating to one of the relief agencies working to
- evacuate the city
- rescue pets and other animals
- clean the toxins and poisons that will likely disrupt the ecosystem in ways we can only begin to imagine
- search for the dead in homes, under debris, in the streets
- find places to relocate the million-or-so people who are suddenly homeless (think about that for a minute)
- bring food, water, clothes, schoolbooks, and other supplies to proud people who are now, by no fault of their own, begging for help and counting on the mercy of people who are geographically more fortunate
- (eventually) clear away the old destryed buildings and rebuild a city that will be more resistant to weather catastrophes in the future
- care for the sick and injured

Remember, everyone from New Orleans-- not just the people who stayed behind-- is homeless and facing an uncertain future. New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the country, and most of the people who stayed did so because they had no way to leave, and if they could have left, had no place to go. The small number of idiots who are looting TVs and causing violence are FAR outnumbered by people who are scavenging for food, water, and dry clothes, for medicine and first aid supplies, for dry land. They may be poor but they are proud and small sacrifices on all of our parts will add up to a large helping hand for many people.

So please, if you haven't already done so, give what you can plus a little bit more. If you don't have money, donate some water. Donate tools or workgloves or blankets or clothes thatyou won't need.

You can find a list of charitable agencies here and here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Really Long Rehash of This Weekend's Triathlon... you've been warned.

Saturday was the Endurance Challenge sprint triathlon. I have posted some pictures along with running narrative here. View the slideshow to see the captions.

This was my first race in reasonably warm water and in a pool. And since the swim has cost me SO much time on other races, I had high hopes that the pool would make everything better. And to make it even better, I had a cheering SQUAD this time instead of a cheering GUY (but I really love my cheering guy-- SNG, you're the best cheerleader EVAH!). Our friend Marc showed up to watch the race (I think he was most interested in all the super-fit women in swimsuits, but he's way too polite to admit that to me). That was more motivating than I had expected it to be. SNG's boss was there, too. He's an Ironman triathlete, so that lent a little bit of gravity to the race. Um, I think he finished the race before I even got into the pool...

I made the mistake of seeding myself in a slower swim class than I should have, and spent most of the swim trying (unsuccussfully) to pass people. Funny, I didn't think anyone was a slower swimmer than me. Well, there was that one guy who died in the lake last time...he was pretty slow. Anyway, I lost a few minutes there. I'll know better next time. Finished the 500M swim in 13:49, 94th out of 110 overall. I know I could have done it in 11 minutes without the no-passing issues.
(apologies for the gallows humor, but if that kind of thing bothers you, then you probably found this blog by accident)

It was really fun and invigorating to be able to swim properly, since the last 2 races (in cold open water) I had to make do with either backstroke or a wierd hybrid dogpaddle-breaststroke thing in a miserably tight wetsuit. And since there was no wetsuit this time (and since my start time was around dinnertime), I was also able to warm up properly before the race. I am sure that it helped.

The only complaint I have about the bike was that they added the first transition time to the bike time. Grr. I am a slow transitioner. Nonetheless, my bike time was 11th overall and 3rd in my age group. It was a 16-mile route with continuous hills, averaged about 19.5mph, and the bike computer said 48 minutes (not including transition time). On the entire ride, only one person passed me. He was kitted out in full TT regalia, complete with $5000 racing bike and foil helmet. I passed a few dozen people on everything from racing bikes to mountain bikes, some in tennis shoes with toeclips and t-shirts. But I'll take my downward social comparison wherever I can get it, dabnabbit!

The 5K run course was gently hilly (nothing steep) and took two figure-8 loops around the sportsplex. My time was not as good as I'd hoped: 31 minutes, but my goal is 30 minutes so it was close. There's no way to finesse it: I run slowly. It's OK, the run is kind of a recovery from the bike. If a tiger were chasing me, I'd probably have run a little bit faster.

Since the bike is the only part of a triathlon that is at all ego-tied, I was really happy with the race. It was lots of fun, and sprint distance is definitely the way to go. It just feels like a fantastic workout. Any longer and it starts to feel like work...
With about 80% of New Orleans underwater, I'm sure that the homes of most of my friends and family, and even the house I grew up in, are under water right now. My brother's high school best friend and his mother are trapped in the 2nd floor of a neighbor's house with their own 1-story house flooded. Here's an aerial photo of my aunt/uncle/cousins' neighborhood from this morning. The orange thing on the top right corner? That's the local Home Depot.

As of now, people who evacuated have no idea what they're going to return to. And a lot of people couldn't evacuate. When this kind of disasters happens to a place with so much poverty, it seems somehow unfair.

Anyway, the red cross and other aid agencies have asked for cash donations so that they can give residents vouchers for repair and rebuilding efforts. Most of these people do not have insurance. If you can help, please do so.

A New Blogging Mode

OK, I’m trying something different this time… Blogger has a new thing where you can write and post your blog from MS Word, which is perfect for me since (as we’ve discussed in the past) I’m an HTML spaz, but I’m a Word whiz. I use a hybrid version of word-powerpoint for all the courses I write, so I even have a bunch of quickie keyboard shortcuts set up.

Don’t laugh at me. I know that all the cool geeks use anything but Word unless they’ve been forced to, especially for web publishing. It’s kind of like someone telling me that they use Excel for statistics (Bah! What a silly thing to do! Only a real loser would do that! Hahahahahahaha!) But seriously? I know how to use word. I can even write out really cool formulas in Word. Check it out:
(image placeholder)
That’s the observed-data likelihood of Y under the MAR assumption for missingness. See? Still perfectly cool geek, even if I use Word.

The best thing about it is that I can paste pictures really easily in Word, so the next post will be all about… LAST WEEK’S TRIATHLON!

Edited to add: Drat! It doesn’t support images and tables!! What’s this mess? So not only can I not post formulas, I can’t post pictures. Back to the drawing board. No more Word for Blogger.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Is it Wednesday already?!

And August is almost over. I tell you, I feel like I've dodged a bullet, having spent much of the the summer traveling. Summers in Canada, Detroit, San Francisco, San Diego, and the mountains of West Virginia are quite a bit cooler than in NC. Poor SNG and Goofch. I bet they didn't spend more than 10 minutes without air-conditioning.

I think I mentioned that we have finally got our housecleaning service started up again. HOORAY! As a result, SNG got me to help with some yardwork last weekend. That's right, folks. If you had driven past my house on Sunday, you would have seen me out there broiling away raking mulch. MULCH! I know, it's crazy. Luckily, there were plenty of shady areas that needed mulch. SNG, with his olive complexion and Greek heritage, is naturally well-suited to yardwork in direct sunlight. He doesn't burn, he just ripens. Everyone knows that light-eyed and fair-skinned people have much lower sunshine tolerance and should therefore stay in shade or, even better, air-conditioning.

There's no way I would have mulched if I could have found a dirty toilet to clean instead.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Yay! Released from government quarantine!

I spent the past week teaching statisticians at the headquarters of a federal agency that specializes in catching bad guys in rural West Virginia. Before I went, they had to do a full background check in order to give me permission to even drive onto the quarantined compound. Evidently, international meat smuggling is not a sufficiently heinous offense to prevent access to the neural center of crime intelligence for the federal, state, and local governments.

Even after my high-security clearance, I had to have an escort to go *anywhere*. Even the restroom. Luckily, they let me close the stall door (smirk). I wasn't allowed to open most of the doors we went through. That was kind of wierd. But the people were super-super nice, and I felt quite welcome, in spite of the deadly serious secruity guards with guns all over the place. BTW, don't try to joke with those people. They have no more sense of humor than the ones at the airport.

I haven't updated the blog in awhile because I couldn't plug my laptop into anything except the Epson. My hotel came with free high speed internet access, but "yeah, we used to have a cable for every room and then people starting taking them so we don't have them anymore." Uhhhhh-huh. So I finally found a radio shack and bought my own ethernet cable, but by then there were several hundred emails to wander through...

Anyway, so that's where I've been.

The last 2 pieces of news: dog, and a triathlon. Well, both are no-go. I skipped the tri weekend before last because I realized that it starts at 7am, which means having to be at the race site *before* 6am to register and get marked. And it was a 3 1/2 hour drive from home, and SNG & I didn't feel up to the drive on Friday night. But we did get to the Tori Amos concert that night, which was AWESOME. SO good. I had 2 little complaints. There were 2 opening bands, and they started late. "Concert starts at 7, doors at 6" shouldn't mean "the first opening band will wander unceremoniously onto the stage around 8:00." Also, in true Cary, NC style.... no one was allowed to stand up during the music. Now this was bizarre. Suppose you're sitting there, and your favorite Tori song comes on. You might want to stand up and dance, right? I mean, that's one of the traditional concert activities, along with puking on the way to the bathroom, sneaking photographs and smoking where you aren't supposed to smoke. Um, no. In fact, none of these customs were tolerated at the concert. Anytime someone tried, they were promptly ejected from the show. But Tori was fabulous, as was one of the opening bands, a 3-girl band (yes, they were girls, I can't rightly call them women, sorry) called The Like. When their CD comes out I will buy it.

What was maybe most interesting was the Tori Amos' parents were sitting across the aisle from us (they live in this area). Her dad went around before the show shaking everyone's hands and thanking them for coming out to see his girl play. He said he doesn't always understand her music, but if it makes her happy... etc. So when she sang The Beekeeper, and was looking right at them, let's just say there wasn't a dry eye in our section. And my college voice coach was right-- she is a freaking musical genius.

And the dog... yeah.... Maybe eventually. But right now, Goofch seems to be used to his "only dog" status and I like that. It's also a lot less work having one elderly dog than it is having 2 dogs, especially if one is a young dog. Goofch requires essentially no special consideration unless we leave town. You can leave him just about anywhere and he'll just sleep until you come back.

This week I'm in town, and Saturday is the next triathlon. I have no reason to chicken out of this one, so wish me luck!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Who spiked my coffee?

Yesterday Dianaverse sent me a link to the Wake county SPCA adoption center. She sent a link, specifically, to LIESL, page 4 (who's frankly a little freaky looking in the picture, but probably very cute in real life). So I went and started exploring and found JACKSON, page 1 (again, goofy picture, but probably smarter than Modean), and then SNG went and found CHLOE, page 3, and I was all, "You had me at hello."

So what is it? Maternal instincts? Here's what happened next:
I should have jogged home, but knowing that the shelter closes at 6pm, and fearing that they'd put to sleep all the cute doggies that I wanted to adopt, and a bit of threatening weather in the sky besides, I got a ride home from a friend. Then, in the middle of one of the year's roughest most horrendous rainstorms, I jumped in my car and sped down to the shelter. Along the way, I made a wrong turn because I couldn't see the streets through the deluge. I was so aggravated (it was 5:54 pm, btw) that I was screaming-- SCREAMING! -- at the steering wheel that it was the stupidest thing in the world that the animal shelter closes at 6PM! After all, don't they want the animals to be adopted by people with JOBS who can maybe afford the FOOD and VET BILLS?!! &*%$#^^*&!

I arrived at the shelter at 6:04pm. They had already locked up and left. I was so blue, imagining that all three of those poor innocent dogs had probably been put down, and all because I couldn't get there in time!

Yeah, I know. Weird. Oh, did I mention I'm PMSing right now? :-/

We're going to go look at the dogs hopefully Saturday sometime. We really don't need another dog.

Monday, August 8, 2005

What a weekend! It's cooling off a little after another warm wave swept over us late last week. Saturday's ride was 63 miles and hot. Saturday was 27 miles and cool.

Dianaverse came home from her vacation in Marquette and retreived her dog Daisy from our care. Goofch was sad to see her leave, but he has slept continuously since Saturday at 5:00 except to get up and move to different rooms and sleep some more. I have a feeling that the whole 2 weeks together in the canine bachelor pad were spent partying, telling stories, wrestling and yodeling.

We hadn't realized the extent to which Modean really was the brains of that little organization until last week. Between the two of them, Goofch and Daisy have 1/3 brain. Case in point: One afternoon they became fixated on a free-standing piece of fence that shields the wheelbarrow from view of the house. They were diligently trying to dig out the mysterious creature on the other side of the fence.

A diagram illustrates the interchange:

GOOFCH--> o. l .o <--DAISY

Then, they'd run around to the other side to try and sneak up on the critter from there:
DAISY-->o. l .o <--GOOFCH

They kept them occupied for about half an hour until SNG and I made them give up the chase and come in to eat.

OH-- in other news, SNG and I are going to ride the MS150 again this year. This time we're going to try the 200-mile route. We'll see how that goes... As always, we are raising money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and SNG is our team captain again this year. If you're so inclined, feel free to pledge a buck or two for us online. No pressure! I'll still love you if you don't pledge. It's a good cause, and it's tax-deductible.

This is our team page. Scroll down a little to find the name of the person(s) you want to sponsor.

Friday, August 5, 2005

Summertime and Produce Joys
This week has apparently been harvest week for everyone at my work. The break room has had baskets of freshly-picked goodies from everyone's gardens, and I've been showing my appreciation by partaking in (more than) my share of the bounty.

Monday: Figs. Now, get this: so far, every person I've spoken to at work (except the person who brought them in) has said that they've never eaten a fresh fig, don't know how to, and were wary of trying because they don't care for Fig Newtons. GAH! FIG NEWTONS? They are not even from the same planet as fresh figs. Newtons are not cookies, they're fruit and crap. And don't give me that "oh, I've had dried figs" -- Not even close. A fresh fig is like a silky, tender little bag full of honey. There's nothing else that comes close to fresh. And it has to be perfectly ripe. Dark color, heavy for its size, and if it's a brown fig, a red (not pink) "flower" end (not to be nasty, but I'm referring to the "butt" end of the fig). And yesterday, through careful experimentation, I determined another way to determine ripeness in a fig: drop it in a glass of water. If it floats, it needs more time to ripen. If it sinks but doesn't stink, it's perfect. An overripe fig has a distinctly musty/sour smell and tastes like a fig newton.

Tuesday: Tomatoes. Although everyone is hot on heirloom tomatoes these past couple of years, these were just romas. A little salt and some parmesan & fresh herbs and it's like a pizza for someone on a diet. If you squint really hard. OK, maybe it's not. But it tastes good anyway.

Wednesday: Nothing. Must have been an off day. But Wednesday is the day they deliver the M&Ms, so I guess that's got to count for something.

Thursday: Figs again!!! Since no one else knew what to do with them, I took more than 1/48th of the basket. I figure there must have been at least 11 other people who weren't planning on having any, right?

Today: Cucumbers! One of my FAVORITES! These are those funny little pickling cucumbers that are sometimes sticky to eat, but they're always crisp and have very few seeds, so I don't mind eating them raw. Friday is also doughnut day, so going into the breakroom is sketchy. Since I ate someone else's figs, they can have my doughnut.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

More Fitness-Related Stuff Ahead (You've been warned)
This is one of those stream-of-consciousness, trying to get my thoughts out into words blogs and if you skip it, you wouldn't offend me. But if you have any insights, leave me a comment!

After work last night SNG and I went to a local lake/water park with about 60 yards of distance available for open swimming. I wanted to go so I could try to learn how to open-water swim. I learned two things: leopard-print bikinis always make a person look trashy and open water isn't the problem.

Being an (arguably) good scientist, I have varied several factors to try to figure out why I can't swim in open water triathlons.
Wetsuit vs No Wetsuit
Pool vs Open water
Water tempertature
Crowded water (feet and hands and tooshies everywhere)
Race-day nerves

After experimenting with the two factors I can control, I've determined that
I can swim in a pool and open water just fine
I can swim with or without my wetsuit just fine (and the wetsuit is faster)

So the triathlon problem has to be either water temperature, which I know affects breathing because cold water causes heart rate to spike, or race-day jitters, which also causes heart rate to spike, or the crowds.

Race-day jitters should wear off after a few minutes, so I don't think that's it. And as slowly as I've had to swim in these races, the crowd is eliminated as a possible factor pretty early on in the race. I think the problem is water temperature. As long as the water stays cold, heart rate (and therefore respiration) stays elevated. I need practice swimming in cold, open water.

On the non-scientific front, the lake/water park is almost empty on an evening after work and it's just about the most fun you can have on a hot summer evening. If they have wireless internet, I'm definitely going to try to telecommute from there a few days a week. :-)

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

I luv weekends.

Yeah, so it rained Saturday and we didn't do the cup&cone tour. But we went to a really fun party for a friend of mine that evening and ate up all the calories we would have burned on the bike, so I guess that makes it all even.

And now it's Tuesday, and it's a beautiful day outside. I took a longer route to work this morning on the bike and almost ran over a herd of high-school girls from runner's camp in the park. They run kind of like buffalo.

On my mind this morning is whether I will have the nerve to actually participate in the next triathlon I'm registered for. It's called Bandit's Challenge, and it's notorious for being really tough. It's olympic distance. It's in the mountains. It has 2 infamously steep hils on the bike and on the run, which you actually have to cross multiple times. But you know, I don't mind hills so much. That'll be slow, but do-able. What I'm concerned about is that it's an open-water swim. We learned this year that I don't actually know how to swim in open water, unless you count dogpaddle or backstroke. And a mile is a long way to dogpaddle or backstroke.

Before today, I had already decided not to do it. The last one was just so tough, and competing in a field of athletes who are that much more experienced and faster was discouraging. This one will be worse, as I'm sure that the only people who will show up will be people who seriously gluttons for pain. Present company included, it seems. So why the change of heart? Two things. First, even though I've gained a few pounds in the last couple of months (OK, more than a few-- about 8 pounds!) I think I'm starting to get it off again. It was mostly just vacation weight from all that cheese and maple sugar and poutine. Now, this doesn't so much matter in a flat race, but Heavy + Hills = PAIN. Light + Hills = FAST. If I do manage to drop a few lbs, then I could make some decent time on the bike. Second, I've been swimming almost every day lately and I'm actually getting faster! Yesterday I swam a mile in 34 minutes, which was either a miscalculation on my part or a new (non-wetsuit) record for me, breaking the previous record by over 3 minutes! If I can just learn to swim in open water, then I think I'd be able to finish in a respectable time. Nowhere near winning, and probably not even near the middle of my age group, but at least within the time limit of 4hr15min. And hopefully not dead-last. Or dead.

SNG send me the funniest link- It's a plea to recognize the great spaghetti monster theory of creation in science programs in Kansas schools. If you haven't already seen it, check it out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Wednesday it was only 100 degrees, but the heat index was 115. That little bit of humidity makes a big difference! Last night the "cold front" moved through and, in addition to a lots of thunder and rain, it brought some cooler weather. I think it's funny to talk about a cold front in the summertime. There's no cold air to speak of, just less-hot air. But then, meteorologists have never understood warm weather places. In Texas, weathercasts never predicted 105 degrees. It would hit 103, 105, 106, always unforeseen. Forecasts were always biased-low. "Tomorrow's high near 98." Well, if by "near" you mean "within a range of temperatures at which water remains in the same state of matter," then I guess yes, the high is near 98. And a forecast never exceeded 99 unless it was going to be really, really hot. The only time I saw a forecast of 101 degrees was when it actually ended up 110 for the high. 110, 101, what's the difference, really? Two 1's and a 0, same thing.

It was just as silly in winter. They'd predict these low temperatures that Texans didn't know could even happen on Earth, and our actual low would still be "near" 98 (see above, def. near).

It's so nice and dark and drizzly outside, and I'm here at work under artificial lights that are a little too bright, wishing I was still in bed asleep.

We have lots going on this weekend. A friend of mine is leaving the company to go be a grad student again (I'm going to miss her a bunch) and she's throwing a party Saturday where we'll grill and eat and hear some funny stories, I hope. I also hope that she doesn't become a stranger when she isn't just downstairs from me anymore! Before that, we're going on a 58 mile group ride called the Cup & Cone tour. They're providing free ice cream for all riders. SNG kept wondering why I wasn't as jazzed about it as he is... Hmmm... Let's see. Get up way earlier than usual, go on a HUGE group ride with a bunch of people who don't know how to ride in a group, watch everyone else eat ice cream that I can't have, either swelter in July heat or plough through a thunderstorm, and come home, grimy, hungry, tired and not a little bit envious of all that free ice cream. And you KNOW there won't be a non-dairy alternative.

Oh, I can't wait! Yay! But I'll do it. I keep telling myself I need the miles to be ready for the double century ride in September.

I tell myself that, but myself says "yeah, that's bullshit" and prays for rain. I'm not usually this pessimistic, but I have a thing about ice cream. Damn ice cream. So creamy, so sweet, so deadly.

Bright side! We got our old navy 20% off bag in the mail this week, so I could go drown my sorrows in cheap t-shirts!

(edited to add: there are actually 3 rest stops on the ride, and only one (plus the finish line) has ice cream. So I might feel a little better about that. If I can't have ice cream. then darn it, there can't be ice cream at every rest stop.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

(Edited to add: I forgot to mention, I got free Tori Amos tickets from work! Yay!)

Hey hey hey, I just realized I'm in town for THREE more weeks, not TWO. That's cool.

My next trip is to Clarksburg, West Virginia, about an hour and a half south of Pittsburgh where a lot of electronic information about you, me and criminals is kept in a big government agency. I'd say more but then I'd have to shoot you. :-D

Anyway, the trip will be 5 days of teaching, so 6 days total. There's not much in the way of fine restaurants in this town, so I have a hotel suite with a kitchenette. All of that is A-OK with me, though, because it's right in the mountains and according to the map, there are state parks all around. Should be easy to find places to go hiking after class each day. Even better, they want to run class early, which means I should have time in the afternoons to go and do stuff. Fun! About the only thing that would make it better would be if I had students in the class who wanted to go hiking with me and show me around.

But that's not for another 2 1/2 weeks. In the meantime, we've been grinding through some seriously hot weather. TOday the car thermometer says 105 degrees, which isn't quite accurate, but I guess it's about 101 for real.

I jogged this morning early because it's just too darn hot in the afternoon. It was a perfect plan, too: get up early, drink a glass of water, drive the car out to the trailhead (1 mile from the house). Jog on the rock-and-root trails for a 4-mile loop, come home, shower, dress, eat, go to work.

Best laid plans of mice and cats...

Not wanting to lug a big keyring, I tied the little remote control clicker for the car to the drawstring in my shorts, thinking that was the safest place for it (OK, bra would be good, but I didn't want it getting all sweaty). Attach iPod to my head and go. 3 miles into the run-- clicker is gone. Where? I have no idea. Since when? I don't know. Nearest phone-- about 1/2 mile upthe trail at the parking area. No, the OTHER parking area. So I head back to where there's a pay phone and call SNG, using my corporate calling card (only hope of communication). No answer. Call Again. No Answer. Call Cell phone- no answer. Again- no answer. Leave a message.

I decided it'd be best to find the darn thing, and if I couldn't, getting home would mean: running all the way home (1 extra mile), getting a key, running back to the car (another extra mile) and driving home. So I was looking at being pretty late for work regardless. So I backtracked. 3 miles back to the car. At the trailhead about 100 yds from the car is a gaggle of teenagers who run in the park every summer morning (part of a summer running camp) who had found it on the trail. PHEW! If only I'd seen them at mile #3... So, 6 miles and an hour 15 minutes later, I headed home to shower, make breakfast, throw b'fast into a tupperware and cruise up to work.

So why didn't I just jog to work again???

After work today I'm going up to the pool to swim. Beats the heck out of running in 101 degrees.

UNLIKE Texas... tomorrow a cool front moves in and we'll get a week of highs in the 80s. Let's see THAT happen in Dallas or Austin in late July!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Well, if you're wondering what happened to all the rest of the Dear Diary guest blog entries from Quebec (and I just know you were on the edge of your seat wondering), there are 2 explanations. First, I've been out of town a lot and haven't had time to do much blogging. Second, blogger's picture-adding-widget seems to be broken. So I can't get the pictures uploaded easily.

Perhaps I should just make a picture album and link to it here, and let the reader sort through them and try to figure out which pics go with which blog entries. But that's just lazy.

I will get them posted eventually...

In the meantime, the latest news. I was in San Francisco last week teaching, which was great, but the REAL fun started Friday when I flew down to San Diego to visit my BFF Lizard Breath. Since my wedding in 1995 (where she was my maid of honor), I've seen her a grand total of... one time. That was 5 years ago. She's been out-of-pocket doing exotic and brave Navy-things for most of the last 12 years, and sometime in there she got married to a guy who I had only met once. So I was really looking forward to the trip.

Whenever you see an old friend that you haven't kept up very well with, there's always that nervous anticipation of whether they'll still be the same friend you knew before or whether they've changed a lot. Lizard is still the same awesome, fun, energetic, slightly obsessive, super-smart girl I knew, only she seems to have a lot more confidence now. I blame that on 2 things-- the great guy she's married to (he's a real gem. They're perfect for each other and he worships her) and the fact that she has cut off all contact with a very toxic person in her life (who, for a few years, seemed to be draining away her confidence and energy). She's so successful, and she knows that she can do whatever she wants to do (at least, she should know!).

We didn't do a lot of San Diego stuff, mostly sat around and talked. It was perfect. And we went to the best bookstore EVAH. It was a 3-story used bookstore! It wasn't as cheap as used bookstores usually are, but it also had so many nice books and there were very few romance novels. I'd tell you the name of it to go visit, but I can't remember. Drat.

I flew home all day Sunday and didn't get to watch the end of the Tour (de France, of course!) until last night. Kiltman came over and we all sat around eating big salads and watching the individual time trial. What a perfect way to retire!

On another note, Spain is my latest obsession. Mom and I are planning the 2nd Annual Mother-Daughter Europe trip for next February, and we've got 10 days to backpack around Spain with our Eurail passes. We can't decide exactly where to go, but we've narrowed down to a few places: Sevilla, Valencia, Maillorca (Balearic Islands), and Barcelona. Only Barcelona is definite. I think we should pick 3 places, no more, and spend 2-3 days in each. Considering it will be winter, some places may be less pretty than others, and it might be cold.

If you've visited Spain in the winter, perhaps you can drop a comment on where we should go?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hi from San Francisco!

I just learned that the name of one of the procedures I teach in this class is also a curse word in Quebecois french. Heehee!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

THis is the view from the top of Mt Royal

 Posted by Picasa

The top of Mt Royal Posted by Picasa

The bottom of Mt Royal Posted by Picasa

More Fun with Flats! Wheeee! Posted by Picasa

This guy tried to abduct us but we said Non, merci! Posted by Picasa

Actually, he may have gotten away with one of the riders after all. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Here's Pirate Tony outside the Geodome:

Maison des Cyclists:

Blogger is giving me trouble with postings, so I'll put the pictures for this Dear Diary entry in a couple of different posts.

Dear Diary, Thursday June 16
©Today we got to ride our bikes. We rode around Ile Notre Dame and saw the biosphere, and then we rode over to my company's local office to have lunch with a fellow employee. Now we can expense the meals for the day. International Per Diems, baby, oh yeah!

©When we arrived at the office we were allowed to sneak our bikes up the freight elevator and hide them in the coat closet while we went to eat. The security guard told us he would be stabbed if his manager caught us with bikes in the bldg…

©I won’t mention that we had 4 flat tires among 6 bikes. Did I say anything about flat tires? No, of course not.

(GIG) we really had 3.1415926 flats today. T made a pre-emptive strike against a bubble on his tire before we started.

©After lunch we rode up Mt Royal. It’s not a mountain but it is the cone of a long-extinct volcano. I won’t mention another flat tire at the bottom. Nope, you didn’t hear about that!

©We wrapped up the afternoon with a short bike ride accompanied by another fellow employee. And for dinner we had Montreal style smoked meat in the basement of the hotel. This was also our first Poutine. It would not be the last…

(E) Today it didn’t rain, wow. We started riding around 10. We would have made lunch on time, but we had two flats in the park across the river. Right in front of the geo dome. Once we got back to downtown we rode through gridlocked traffic to the southern side of Mont Royal, on Rue Sherbrook. The building guard was real nice, he bent some rules and allowed us to bring our bikes in. He even gave us the express elevator. I think he wanted us out of view as quickly as possible. After lunch we went down Sherbrook to Fontaine something or other park. Past Maison du cyclists, cycle pop, and Ty Brieze (creperie) and onward to Mont Royal. Stanton and I cruised to the top at 14 mph. On the way up I missed a bunny hop, popped a spoke out, and received an unrealized pinch flat. I reattached my spoke at the top. Somehow we missed everyone when the got to the top. So we headed back down. No one was at the bottom, well, no one we knew. I called Cat on my soon to be dead cell phone. It’s continually almost dead. They were still at the top. So we headed back up and met them on the way. At the bottom, after a crazy descent (Cat’s a crazy for fast descents) I realized my tire was soon to be flat. That’s too many flats in one day. And Tony only got half a flat. That must have made the gods mad, hence all the other flats to make up for it. His would’ve been a spectacular explosion if he hadn’t caught it.

(E)I headed for cycle pop while everyone else went to Maison des Cyclists for Coffee and to meet our friend. Cycle Pop said I needed to go to ABC on Parc avenue for the spoke wrench, Darn Mavic spoke wrenches. I sprinted over there but no shop. I asked directions, No one was sure, one even sent me back to Cycle Pop. I stopped at another shop on Rue Rachel: No wrench, same suggestion and directions. I told him I had been there, no shop. He said “I’ve never been there or seen it, But I’ve heard about it.” I headed back to meet everyone. All I can figure with ABC on Parc avenue is that I failed to see the grail over the shop, I guess they forgot to turn the grail light on.

(E) As we headed through town I spotted another shop. A really nice shop. No only did Bruno fix my spoke, he trued my wheel, and tensioned and stressed the wheel as best he could for a quick job. No charge. What a nice guy. I headed back to the hotel through traffic since I was alone again. It feels safer in traffic than it does on those ‘Piste cyclable’ Street lanes. It felt good to sprint with the traffic.

(J) Nothin’ like being taken by the scenery, so much so that you drive directly into a grate and pop a tire (not to mention popping my left breast and my pride). Also, goddess of Magnesia, pray for us!

(T) The deli where we bought the famous Montreal smoked meat was a landmark.
Stainless steel everywhere and a long lunch counter. The famous smoked meat is just like pastrami without the pepper. It’s good, but nothing to write home about, even though I just did. There’s another local delicacy that was pretty special- it’s called poutine. Think loaded fries, Quebec style… fries with cheese and gravy and debris from slicing the smoked meat. Très magnifique! From the grocery, we added wine and more yeasty dark Canadian beer.


(GIG) the smoked meat place is soo famous that the 2 CDN coin was launched there in the mid-90s. What’s not to love about fun currency facts? It’s affectionately called the two-nie by the folks we affectionately call the locals. Parking the van is fun, even for a rental.

© explanation—Canadians call their $1 piece a Loonie because there’s a picture of a Loon on one side of it (Is that the head or the tail? I’m not sure) so the $2 piece is a Two-nie. Isn’t that just cute? As a bug? So cute.

(SRT) It was cold and raining and MY Momma didn’t raise no fools, so I armed myself with metro tickets and a poncho and headed to town. I toured the Anglican Cathedral, aptly situated in the heart of the sex shop district. An endless supply of souls to save. The cathedral is very old and ornate and right across the back courtyard was a many storied, ultra modern, glass-fronted skyscraper that housed the Diocese’s administrative offices. Everywhere you go, you see this juxtaposition of ancient and modern.

(SRT)After a quick lunch in the underground, I walked around McGill U. and toured the McCord Museum. The McCord is a museum of the history of Montreal. Very interesting.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dear Diary, Wednesday June 15
©Today it rained a lot and we explored Old Montreal and the Underground. We visited Notre Dame de Bonsecours, where the lights hanging from the ceiling are little wooden ships. We had lunch at a restaurant called Forget (they pronounce it For-jhay so silly the french) and it was kind of hot & muggy, but they made up for it by bringing out 2 small sugar pies. Sugar pie is a local specialty made from maple sugar that’s a lot like chess pie. But with maple instead of brown sugar. Yum. After lunch we split up boys & girls, and the fun group went shopping (strictly catch & release) while the manly men found an internet café in a bookstore and read emails.

(J) Something cool happened to Cat today. At the grocery store, Cat was chatting with the checker (in French), when her mom walked up and asked her something (in English) and she responded (in English). He was surprised, and after checking her (North Carolina) ID, he told the bagger (with surprise), “She’s not French, she’s American!” He asked Cat where she learned French and didn’t believe she learned it in the US. Cat says….of course I’ll never trick a French person, but the Quebecoises are fooled! Heehee! Way to go Cat!! Also, thank you goddess of Magnesia!

© We found dinner goodies at the grocery store. Not haute cuisine, but good enough, and the cheese & sweets were top-notch. This hotel is a terrific place for a group to stay. The breakfast area in the basement has dishes, tables, and a microwave. We just brought out dinner down and sat around eating and telling jokes & stories all evening. Way fun. Then we picked Tony up from the airport.

(T)When we got back to the room, Eric handed me a yeasty dark Canadian beer. Yum. Vacation.

Notre Dame de Bonsecours is a sailor's church in Montreal right on the old port. Everything is nautical-themed.

This is one of the wooden ships that hangs from the ceiling at ND de B. If you're into boats and ships, you'd love this church.

And we were sure not to have any fun at a ll before Tony got to town. That just wouldn't be fair. So everyone was on their best grown-up behavior.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dear Diary, Tuesday June 14
*Note: I switched the thumbnail images to small for faster loading. Click on them to get the bigger image.

© Today it rained and we explored Montreal on bikes a little. We visited the Lachine canal bike path, made a few laps around the big outdoor farmer’s market although it was already closed. I forgot that up in Canadia, in late June, the sun is out almost all night. Sunset around 9:30 and sunrise around 4.

(J) Nothin’ like a little rain to make you appreciate the sun. We still had a blast, rain and all. We rode on the trails down by the canals. Also, goddess of Magnesia, pray for us!

(T) I was back in RDU at work with senioritis.

(E) It was raining this morning. A lot. We walked to the nearest subway station, Prefontaine, in the rain. I
wish my raincoat went to the bottom of my kilt. The front of each leg gets soaked. We rode the subway over to Place D’Armes and walked into Vieux Montreal. Past Eggspectations, to the Notre Dame Cathederal. It was closed for another 40 minutes. Cat translated the Plaque in the square while we all
backseat translated and tried to avoid reading the english version right below the french one. We went
to the Archealogy museum but decided $11 was too much, I guess we were not that interested. We went to
Forget for lunch. I forget the full name. Great maple sugar pie. We headed back after that.

We then did an easy 2 hour ride through old Montreal and up Lachine Canal. We did a couple of side tours. One of a goofy circle and another of Atwater market. We also threw in a few U turns. Accidental
and otherwise. It was a good inaugural ride to get everyone acclimated to the paths, and the city. We had take out Chinese for dinner because the grocery store was closed. Did I mention that the sun stays up late here?

Trying to read the plaque in Place D'Armes. THere was an English version of it just beneath the French...

This is the hotel we stayed at in Montreal, with the Vanarchy out front.

The Lachine Canal

Eric earned his pocket money by truing everyone's wheels in the basement of the hotel.

OK, so these are out of order. Back at the Lachine canal.

There were dragon boats practicing in the canal. Coooooool.

This is the weird circle E referred to. Right there on the bike path. We had a little trouble getting all of us through it without wrecking...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dear Diary, (Monday June 13)
© Today we watched 2 events at the senior Olympics. Our hotel was a hoot—at breakfast, there were all these old people (these folks were easily in their 70s) sitting around drinking coffee and eating the danishes, talking about their triathlon split times, how high they could vault, racing tactics, etc.

©We headed off to watch mom in her racewalking event first. D, J and I were late in arriving because of some highway antics and a 2-mile-walk from the parking area to the starting line of the race. It was just as well because the race got off to a false start because someone forgot to tell the walkers to turn at the 1km mark. So they just kept going. Uphill. In the summer heat. Finally someone chased down the old folks racewalking into the wild blue yonder, and rallied them back to the start to try it again.

©After the race, mom & dad drove on to Montreal. The rest of us wandered around Pittsburgh for the afternoon until time for the volleyball game. The event was in an un-air-conditioned gym with no working fans. So it was 10 games running at a time, the youngest player was 55, and the oldest was Who Knows how old—easily in their 80s—in a 100+ degree gymacafetorium. The youngster spectators (aka us) whined about the heat. The old folks laughed at the heat and played on. Jess’s mom and grandmother played hard. It was fun, in spite of the heat.
©BTW- Spiderstan’s bike race was 2 days before we arrived. He took 3rd place- go Dad!!!

©Then we drove to Montreal. We got in at almost 3:30 am. At the border crossing, the customs agent asked Dan where we were from. Response: “uuuuuuuuuh…..” (and from the back seats: “NORTH CAROLINA!!”) then he asked how long we’d be in Canada. Response: “Uuuuuuuuuh…… two…..uhhhhhh…..weeks”

(J) We had a ton of fun watching Susie and my mom and Nana show their stuff! We’re sorry we missed Stanton’s awesome performance, but we know he rocked! Also, goddess of Magnesia, pray for us!

(T) I was back in RDU at work with senioritis.

(E) I tried to sleep a bit but failed. I did have the best coffee of the trip that morning. Who’da thought.
I did get to watch Jess’ mom and Nana play volleyball in a gymnasium that had a serious need for air flow.
Making seniors play volleyball with artificially induced heart attack weather doesn’t seem right. It must have been 100 degrees in there. It was so hot it was hard to breath, and I was wearing a kilt. The kilt got lots of smiles. I even got a lecture, a lady asked what I had on under my kilt. I told her ‘Sandals’. She
then proceeded to tell me that I shouldn’t wear anything because it defeats the purpose.

(E)We left the games at 4:30.
The Drive to Montreal was long, although we shortened the AAA trip by turning right at Syracuse.
One highlight was the exit sign for Mexico. Apparently it’s quite close to Canada. We managed to get through customs despite Dan’s apparent amnesia about where we lived. We ran into some torrential
Downpours as we drove, little did we know that they would follow us and stay at the same hotel.
As we approached Montreal Dan and I talked while Jess and Cat slept. We arrived at 3:15 am. With a mileage of 1234. By now my sleep deprivation was turning into an ugly experiment. I fell asleep immediately but woke early. Oh well.

(SRT) My lack of training really paid off. I didn’t come in exactly last in my age group. Ah well, that leaves LOTS of room for improvement in 2007! What I lacked in talent was more than made up for by the enthusiastic cheering of my support team! NO one had the cheerleaders that I had! After the race, SGT & I headed off to Canada while the rest stayed to watch the volleyball.

Here's the start of the 5km racewalk. Actually, this might be the false start. I'm not sure. Look how earnest they all look -- it had to have been the false start.

There goes Texas!!!
This was the only picture we got of Fish, his S.O., and my dad on the day of dad's race. I promise all three of them are more attractive in real life ;-)

This was snapped sometime around midnight. Still over 3 hours to go till Montreal.