Friday, April 29, 2005

This post is nothing more than a thinly-veiled plea for sympathy.

I am in Denver, I am sick and have absolutely no voice and it is snowing. I have to teach 8 more hours of structural equation models before I can fly home tomorrow morning.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Tomorrow I'm headed to Denver.

I really like going to Denver, and right not it's the only kind of trip for me. You see, my first triathlon is in less than 2 weeks, and a month ago I set a goal to drop 4 pounds before the event. I've dropped... one. No, I don't expect to drop 3 pounds by May 8, but I sure don't want to gain any. You see, I bought myself a fancy-pants new wetsuit and maybe this makes sense? but they don't make triathlon wetsuits for short and un-skinny people. No kidding! Ladies- try to find yourself on the Women's height/weight chart for wetsuits (no fair looking at men's sizes- they're shaped funny). Unless you're tall-ish, and skinny-ish, you're not on there! I happen to be right at the upper edge of one of the sizes for short people and let me tell you, putting it on, I know I can't spare an ounce. So lest my wetsuit hang in the closet for the triathlon, I would do well to drop a half pound or so.

Anyway, Denver is good because the hotel has a kitchen and it's next door to a big grocery store. There's 24-Hour-fitness down the road that has terrific aerobics and spinning classes. It's in the mountain time zone, which means I will get up early enough to workout.

But it takes about 19 hours to get there, and I can NEVER get the first class upgrades. You know, I have 20 (TWENTY) free upgrade credits in my American Airlines account and I've never been able to use even one because they fill the seats by priority-- Exec Platinum first, then Platinum, then Gold, then Mere Mortals. I am Gold. Each year I'm about 4000 miles short of Platinum and those b*&%ards get all the upgrade priority.

So iPod will be charged up, and I'll bring a good movie and spend all day tomorrow and all day Saturday on an airplane, sitting on the runway at O'Hare for at least 2 hours.
Last weekend, some karma-guardian angel-higher power-thingie was trying to tell us not to ride in New Bern. We drove down on Saturday afternoon and the weather report predicted beautiful clear skies for Sunday, although kind of cold. Sunday morning, it was clear and pretty. As we prepared to ride, though, clouds rolled in. Weather report changed to "partly cloudy." A little further along, it drizzles. Weather report still says Partly Cloudy. We get on the bikes and start to ride-- RAIN and HAIL and SLEET. WELL, I can take a hint! Apparently there was some crazy driver on the road, or a rabid dog on a farm somewhere had a taste for BIKER that day or something. Anyway, we turned back and gave up on biking that day. It rained long enough for us to pack up and eat some lunch. Then it cleared and we had beautiful sunny skies all the way home. Still, not one to tempt the fates, we opted for swimming instead.

OK, I have to say this because I am at work and it is making me crazy. I love North Carolina, it's a beautiful place and I love my colleagues. But some of the people from here have The Most Annoying Accents On The Planet. To imitate it: fill your mouth with marbles and cottonballs and then try to eeeenunnnceeeatte around them real hard. Then do that really loudly.

"Oh, the marble/cottonball accent, isn't that Mississippi?" you ask-- No, because Mississippians will just mumble around the impediments. It's not painful to hear, just hard to understand sometimes. NC'ers TRAAAAH TEEEEEWW TAAAWWWWWWK UHRAAAOOOOUUUWWWNNND THUUUUUH MAAHHRBUUUUUHLS. It hurts my jaw just hearing them.

I sympathize with people who are frustrated because non-southerners think people with southern accents are stupid. It's an unfair and untrue stereotype. But you know, for the most part, a gentle southern drawl is acceptable-- even charming. But if you can't get words out without multiplying their syllables by three, It Is Time For Some Intervention. Trust me. I've been there. Have you HEARD New Orleans accents? Not even southern-- more like Brooklyn ghetto. Buy a cassette recorder. You can do it.

That wasn't nice, and now it's off my chest and I won't say it anymore.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Our biggest conference of the year was in Philadelphia this year and as most years, I was teaching a class the week before the conference for people who come in early and just can't get enough of the software I teach This year we had more than the usual number of pre-conference classes and most of my colleagues (most of whom I like a lot) were there. It is always fun to go to these things because, as I've mentioned before, I usually travel alone.

Well, Philadelphia was kind of lame, but we certainly squeezed it for everything it was worth. It was made more fun (and more accessible) by virtue of the fact that my bike went to the conference, too. We have these huge 18-wheelers that take all of our crap to conferences every year-- stuff like booths for the demo room, books, computers, servers, cables, furniture... it's like taking a large regional office on the road for a week. There are six oversized 18-wheeler trailers in all. That's a lot of crap. Anyway, I asked, mostly joking, whether I could throw my bike on one of the conference trucks and sure enough, they said YES! Woohoo! So I had my bike the entire week (8 days, actually) and my friend kiltman had his bike, too (his went on the airplane, though). We rode ALL OVER philly. It was lots of fun, except we did manage to ride through some of the scariest parts of town. Which for Philadelphia is saying something! We got there by following the bike routes on a map we had, which took us on a nice 15-mile ghetto tour. I found out later that there was only one murder that day and we didn't happen to see it. Apparently it was a slow day for the gangs...

Other than the project-biking, we rode to the museum and carried our bikes up the museum stairs all Rocky-style (but with a bike) and people-watched. Then we rode several really pretty bike routes up the Skuylkyulikill river (sorry, folks, that's a crazy word and I can't spell it. Unlike Atchafalaya, which is a perfectly reasonable word) and up the Wissahicken Creek (TPPPPPH) toward Valley Forge. And we rode some street they call The Wall in Manayunk. If you know what that is, you might be impressed. If not, whatever. What's funny is that kiltman described this ride as "one of the highlights of the conference" which I find to be an interesting way to describe it.

When we weren't riding, we were eating. There were some really good restaurants that had very few people in them and some "legendary" places that were overpriced and not as good. Name names, you ask? OK. If you're ever in Philadelphia, go to Bistro St Tropez or Patou. They are moderately-priced French restaurants owned by the same chef. BST was hopping, but surprisingly, Patou was empty when we ate there. Apparently when they opened in January, they got a bad review for slooooooow service. It is not as slow now, although it isn't a quick meal. But it is dead-empty. I doubt it will stay in business much longer. Bistro St Tropez has a better chance, as it was a little faster service and probably better known. Both restaurants were, without question, the best meals we had in Philadelphia. As far as overpriced places that weren't as good, we went to a place called Bookbinder's that came really highly recommended. We were disappointed. Food was pretty good, but not worth the money, and the goony waiter could not figure out how to split a check 8-ways. Um, take the number at the bottom, divide it by 8, .... Apparently this was a step below quantum physics for the poor guy. Their menu's highlight was the snapper soup. It was de-lish. But be warned-- snapper means Snapping Turtle, not Red Snapper! If you're from the deep south, this will be neither surprising nor terribly revolting (although still a little creepy), but feint-of-heart midwesterners might take issue with turtle soup...

So there's not much more to tell about that trip, yeah there was work blablabla.

At this point I'm excited about too many things coming up and I don't which one to focus my "yippee!" energy on:
1. My cousins PartnerInCrime is getting married in 3 weeks, and we're going to fly out to Seattle for the wedding, and lots of other family will be there, too. She's marrying a guy everyone likes, and she's really happy, and he's really happy, and so everyone else is really happy, too. Right now she's a little frazzled with the wedding planning and stuff, but I've got to say, she's remarkably cool all things considered.
2. My first triathlon is in 2 weeks and I think I'm ready for it!
3. Our Quebec biking vacation is in 2 months and we haven't made any hotel reservations yet!...
4. ...except for the one in Pittsburgh, where mom and dad are BOTH competing in the Senior Olympics national championships!
5. I registered for another triathlon in August. If the first one is Mickey-Mouse, this one is its big, red, hairy-and-scary opposite. It's olympic distance, in the mountains, and supposedly one of the hardest ones in the series. No, I do not actually expect to finish within the 4-hour time limit. But I will go down fighting!
6. I got a bonus at work, part of which I just blew on a fancy new wetsuit! By the way, if you've ever try putting on a triathlon wetsuit, prepare for a truly claustrophobia-inspiring experience. Really. This, coming from someone who is *not* claustrophobic.

This weekend we're heading down to New Bern to visit the 'rents-in-law and get in some good flat-land riding. WHEN oh WHEN will strawberry-picking season start??? New Bern has a lot of berry farms.

Monday, April 18, 2005

OK, so a lot has happened. I'll update you in a few blogs...

Before SNG,Goofch and I entered a 2-week period of mourning, The last blog was before Easter weekend, coming home from Milwaukee (MKE).

As required by FAA regulations, all flights entering and leaving Chicago O'Hare airport (ORD) were delayed at least one hour and gates changed no fewer tha 3 times. Ironic because the flight from MKE to ORD is 14 minutes in the air. The drive is 90 minutes. I should have known to take a cab from MKE to Chicago. Anyway, so waiting in MKE airport on Good Friday I decided to get some lunch. Sat at the bar, had some food, watched the bartender make drinks. More than 3/4 of the drinks he set up were Bloody Marys. Is Good Friday an official Bloody Mary day and I just missed the memo? They weren't on special, either. I asked.

Finally made it to ORD, and then to RDU, and only ended up about an hour late overall because the pilot took some funky jetstream-express-lane from ORD to RDU.

On Thursday before I got home my friend James and his fiance Katrin came to visit and stay with us for the weekend. Katrin was doing an externship in RTP and although they've been together for over 3 years, SNG & I had never met her. SNG entertained them Friday with some hiking and lots of stories, and I got in just in time to go grab some dinner. We had such a fantastic weekend with them! We did all the local stuff- hiking in Umstead, wandering around the warehouse district in Durham, checking out the museum grounds, playing with the dogs. Even had a few adventures! It was really fun. James flew back home Sunday but Katrin stayed until the 15th.

Modean took a turn for the worse on Saturday when we took him hiking in the park. He was dragging up the hills and finally got where he couldn't walk more than a few hundred feet before he'd stop to catch his breath. Katrin noticed that his gums were white, which meant he wasn't getting much oxygen. He relaxed the rest of the weekend. After that he had inreasing difficulty with climbing stairs, and eventually even just walking on flat land.

We figured the end was near, but he still wasn't in any pain and his tail was wagging. He was pretty zoned out. As the week went on, he stopped responding to commands. If you said "cookie," or "Modean," about half the time he'd look up but that was as much response as he'd give. We gave him lots of love and chicken and ham and somebody was at home with them for lunch every day. As you know, he did expire on April 3 in his sleep. He was a really good dog. I really miss him, but we're getting used to being a one-dog family.

While Katrin was here we went for a ride with Eric and had some really weird weather. It was sunny/warm and them it rapidly changed to cold/WINDY/rainy and even at one point, hailing. Jeez. And none of us were properly dressed for it. The wind was so strong that K & I were in fear of being toppled off our bikes so we took the road bikes onto the dirt road (OH! GASP!) as a shortcut, to SNG and Eric's protests. I tell you, it was worth every bit of mud we splattered into our drivetrains.

We made it home just as the thunder started.

So that only brings you up to 2 weeks ago. Next post- I'll tell you about urban cycling, playing like Rocky, busy bad restaurants and empty good ones, and Amish cheese in Philadelphia.

Monday, April 4, 2005

 Posted by Hello

Sad News. Modean passed away last night peacefully in his sleep. He was perhaps the coolest dog ever and we were lucky to have the time with him that we had. We are going to miss him for a long time. Posted by Hello