Friday, August 27, 2004
Last night I discovered the
Last night I discovered the the $20 Walmart duffle bag I bought has a faulty zipper. Now I have to rush back to Walmart today to exchange it before I go to the airport. Annoying. However...
We're going to Peru today! How random! I can't believe the trip is actually here after talking about it for more than a year. Tonight I will be in Lima, and this time next week I'll be exploring the "old pile of rock" known as Machu Picchu.
For those interested, our group consists of me, Becca, Gavin, Jen, Cari, Karen, Emily (Becca's cousin who came with us to Longs Peak), and Nancy (Becca's aunt). I realized last night that there are 7 women...and Gavin. Ha! Our itinerary, briefly, is:
Friday night -- fly to Lima
Saturday -- fly from Lima to Cusco
Sunday, Monday -- hang out in Cusco
Tuesday - Thursday -- hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Friday -- arrive at Machu Picchu, spend the night at Aguas Calientes
Saturday -- more Machu Picchu, train back to Cusco
Sunday -- fly from Cusco back to Lima
Monday -- hang out in Lima all day, red-eye back to Houston
Tuesday -- get back to Houston, go to work (boo)
I'll update with plenty of stories and plenty of pictures when we get back!
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Last night they showed the
Last night they showed the women's triathlon during the primetime Olympics coverage. I was so excited! I think triathletes are some of the most amazing athletes around, as being great at three sports is a huge accomplishment. They swim, bike and run faster than I can do any of the three, and their transitions are lightning-quick. They already have their bike shoes clipped into the pedals, and ride the first mile or so with their bare feet on top of their bike shoes! Then at the end, they slip their feet out of their shoes for the last bit. I never even thought about the logistics of the transitions before, but they were really quick.
The only disappointment was seeing the Austrian pass the Australian only a couple hundred yards ahead of the finish line. The Australian had led the entire race and had the gold medal in the bag...until the Austrian somehow summoned a major charge during the run. She just went into a totally different gear. It was cool.
I'm pretty much all packed for Peru. Just a couple more things to throw in (toiletries and such). I can't believe that tomorrow night I'll be in the southern hemisphere. Very weird.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Interesting bit on the Olympics
Interesting bit on the Olympics vs. the Paralympics that Chris forwarded me from his friend Cheri, an elite wheelchair racer who finished 5th in the women's 800-meter wheelchair race -- an "exhibition" -- this past week in Athens. I was surprised to hear that the Paralympics are so well-covered in other countries, but not here; it makes me frustrated to realize that the U.S. is still acting in such a backwards manner by not treating Paralympics athletes in the same manner as their Olympic counterparts. The media puts such a focus on winning medals, and yet ignores Paralympians entirely, all because of politics and money.
I can provide a bit of clarification. The wheelchair racing event is an exhibition in the Olympics, and is there to promote the Paralympics. When it was started as an exhibition, in 1984, there was still a large push for integration of the Olympics and Paralympics. Now, there seems to be more of a push for "seperate but equal." The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the one promoting this agenda, and currently works with the International Olympic Comimttee (IOC) to stage this event in the Olympics.
There was no NBC coverage of our event (aside from a quick blurb at about 3 am that one of my friends happened to catch), nor will there be any coverage of the Paralympics on any major network in the U.S. The BBC, Eurosport, and almost all other major sports networks worldwide will be covering the Paralympics in primetime broadcasts every night, however, here in the U.S. the best we as athletes can do is tell our friends to check the BBC disability sport website (which is awesome, by the way).
Why is this? In short, the United States Olympic Comittee, which also runs the Paralympics, has failed for many years to create equal opportunities for Olympians and Paralympians, and one area where this disparity is especially troubling is in the selling of media rights and media sponsorships for the Paralympics. In addition, the major Olympic sponsors that FUND NBC (the ones with the cash that REALLY control what gets shown) also have not stepped up to the plate to request Paralympic coverage. There is currently a lawsuit against the USOC from Scot Hollonbeck and a few other athletes that deals with this - most directly regarding the fact that the USOC has closed the Paralympic market from a sponsorship standpoint. Unfortunately, as we all know, here in the U.S., money talks.
This is why everyone in the world OUTSIDE of the U.S. knows what the Paralympics is and who their national Paralympic stars are. The Paralympics are breaking down disability barriers and misconceptions all over the world. Yet here in the U.S. we as athletes struggle to be able to tell our families back home that they can watch us compete.
This exhibition event, as cool as it is (I?m not complaining that they have it - in my opinion it was pretty damn fun :), actually also complicates things even more. Because it is not a full medal event, the IOC has placed restrictions on us as participants. Two months before the event we recieved a memo stating that, among other things, that: 1) we would not be allowed to march in opening ceremonies, 2)we would only be able to live in the Olympic village for days, and 3)we were not guaranteed to be housed with our teams. Although this is not a direct USOC ruling, it still leaves the door open for further discrimination and segregation of wheelchair athletes. We had a meeting with IOC and IPC administrators after the event in reponse to bad press that went out in Canada and around Europe with regards to this discrimination. As athletes, requested that, based on the tenets of respect, equality, and for the growth of the sport, this event needs to be either full-medal or not happen at all in the future. Because the word exhibition makes it lie in such a grey area, in many ways it?s doing more bad than good. We definately want it to occur, and want desperately to promote the Paraympics, but in a respectful manner...
Sorry so long...it?s a complicated issue. For now I just try to push fast and enjoy it without getting mared by the politics. :)
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
We just had to write
We just had to write a JAVA code to generate 6 different numbers between 1 and 49, like a lottery drawing. The point was to illustrate loops. It would be much easier if we'd learned how to do arrays yet, but we haven't, so I'm stuck with a dozen different loops to check to make sure each number is different. Sigh.
I got a pedicure yesterday along with Jo and Tiffany, and the woman painted a flower on each of my big toes. It is pretty, I guess, but so just...not me. I don't really like it, but don't want to ruin the rest of the nail polish just to get rid of the silly flower.
After pedicures, I killed time at Walmart to buy the last of my Peru supplies, including a huge duffel bag to put my backpack and extra stuff in. (It makes sense, trust me.) I couldn't find the duffel bags in sporting goods, so I asked the guy behind the counter. He seemed very confused, as if he had never heard the term "duffel bag" before, and directed me to the sleeping bag stuff sacks. Hmm. So I asked where the luggage was, figuring the bags must be there. No luck on the luggage aisle either. Finally I called Jen (who got hers at Walmart, so I knew they had to be there somewhere), who directed me back to the sporting goods section and to the very top of one of the shelves in the corner. Success! Too bad the Walmart employee couldn't point them out to me, especially since I was on the right aisle to begin with!
This is my issue with Walmart. I love the place, and they have everything...but it's so big that if you're looking for something specific, it's often almost impossible to find it! Last night I couldn't find sunscreen! That's a pretty normal purchase, and you'd expect it to be in/near the cosmetics section, right? Nope. Couldn't find it anywhere.
I also bought a load of school supplies (love the back-to-school sales). Peru is a very poor country, and the tour agency told us to expect to see many children begging. Tourists usually give them toys or candy, but toys only encourage the behavior, and candy only hurts their already-in-bad-shape teeth. The tour agency said that if we brought school supplies (notebooks, markers, crayons, pencils), they would arrange for us to go to a local school and give them the supplies. It not only provides the kids with something useful, but it encourages them to go to school! That sounded like a great idea to us, so we're all taking a bunch of school supplies with us on the trip.
After Walmart, it was off to dinner with Nick, Tiffany and Jo, and then home for more packing. Packing is a very lengthy process for me...
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
I finished my JAVA exercises
I finished my JAVA exercises for chapter two almost an hour ago, and yet other people in the class are still working on them. Curses on people who didn't grow up using a computer. Curses on no one emailing me to give me something to do. I guess I'll start on the next chapter. These computer classes are so educational, and yet so inefficient.
I think JSC should start doing two sets of classes if the subject is anything to do with a computer -- one class for people under the age of 30 and one class for anyone else. I know that sounds very discriminatory, but I truly believe it would make every computer training class run more smoothly. When it comes to computer-related topics, there is a world of difference in the speed with which people "get it." In my experience, a person's ability to understand computers is directly related to whether the person has grown up using computers or not. People who have graduated from college within the last 10 years have a much better, almost instinctive understanding of computers; older colleagues just don't have the same grasp. There are exceptions, of course, but the exceptions aren't taking these classes!
It will be interesting to see what things are like when I'm 50, and my kids are doing something that's second-nature to them but a mystery to me.
Last night I started packing for Peru. The first step was to create a comprehensive list of everything I need to pack, and where I need to pack it. I consulted lists from Jen, Becca, and the trail guide and made three separate lists. First, there's the list of what I need for the Inca Trail -- camping clothes, water filter, hiking boots, etc -- that all goes in big pack. Then there's the list of what I need for the time in Cusco and Lima -- nicer clothes, a swimsuit -- that goes into the extra space in my enormous duffel bag (the big pack fits into the duffel bag for the plane flight, then I take the pack on the trail while the duffel stays in Cusco). Then finally there's the list of what I need with me at all times -- wallet, camera, sunglasses, book, etc -- that all goes into my daypack. Whew. I know that I'm obsessing way too much about my packing list, but it makes me feel so much better to have a really good list. After making my huge list, I'm feeling less anxious about the whole trip.
I am so weird. Yup.
Monday, August 23, 2004
I made it into The
I made it into The Mirror Project.
Monday, August 23, 2004
I'm in another class this
I'm in another class this week, Beginning JAVA. I don't know what it is about this summer, but I've managed to get into every class I signed up for. That's pretty unusual (which is why I often sign up for lots of classes -- because I don't expect to get them) but it's been nice to have the change of pace. Though it does stress me out a bit to not be in the office working on my neural net.
I don't know why it stresses me out to not be in the office, because when I'm actually there, I don't have a full eight hours of work anyway. This week, it's probably because I know I'm going to be gone all next week anyway because of Peru, so it stresses me out to think I'll be out of the office for two weeks in a row.
I'm excited about learning JAVA, as I've wanted to learn the basics for a while. However, it's only the first day and I'm already very frustrated with the instructor. He's already told us a couple blatantly wrong things (which we figured out were wrong once the compiler starting showing lots of red text), and he doesn't seem to have a good handle on how to actually use the compiling software. I've had to figure out some things on my own, and ask Jen a couple other questions. She took the Advanced JAVA class last week, so she may be my "expert" for the week.
Yesterday, Becca, Jen, Gavin and I went downtown to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see a travelling exhibit on (coincidence?) Machu Picchu. It was cool enough that I am a bit excited about our trip now!
I know that implies that I wasn't excited before...and quite honestly, I wasn't. I react strangely to taking trips. I don't have any problems when the vacation is somewhere within the United States, but as soon as I get ready to leave the country I'm burdened down with some weird anxiety. Leaving the country totally stresses me out! I obsess over what to pack, and whether I've packed everything I need, and I don't sleep well the nights before leaving.
But to make it even weirder, the feeling only lasts until I'm on the plane. Once I'm on the plane, I'm pumped. I've left the country several times now, and it's happened each time. Last year when Becca and I went to Greece, I was so stressed out beforehand that I was wondering whether it was even worth going! But once the plane's wheels left the tarmac, I was so excited. And Greece was awesome.
What can I say, I'm weird. But the Machu Picchu exhibit got me excited before I'm even on the plane, which is a good thing, I think.
Last night Jo had a cookout at her apartment pool, and it was tons of fun. We played volleyball, and then when it got hot, we took to the pool for some Ultimate Pool Frisbee. I scored all four goals for my team, and today the skin on the bottom of my toes is all peeling off as a result of trying to get traction on the concrete pool bottom last night. But it was very fun. And tiring! Water polo players must be in very good shape.
Ah well, back to JAVA.
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Last night I decided
Last night I decided to finally quit talking about painting my apartment, and just do it. I don't think the complex manager will be very excited about it, but I decided it's better to ask forgiveness later than to ask permission. Besides, I'm willing to lose my security deposit and/or repaint it before I move out, whenever that day comes.
So, decision made, my last stop while running errands was Lowe's where I bought some paint and a plastic drop cloth. I let myself into Becca's house to borrow her ladder and extra paintbrushes and rollers. I came home, moved the furniture, and five hours later...
I have a beautiful blue wall in my living room. The color reminds me of Greece.
(This picture makes the color look a little different than it does in person. It's actually a bit darker/deeper in person. But not much.)
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Bumper sticker seen today: "Reelect
Bumper sticker seen today:
"Reelect Bush. Because you've been waiting for Armageddon long enough."
Friday, August 20, 2004
I feel 40 kinds of sadness when you're gone /
I feel the same thing always happens when you're gone
You would think that by the time we get into our twenties, we would have all learned how to communicate calmly and reasonably. Unfortunately, it seems we never cease to be dysfunctional. I've noticed that in the past year I've become more and more impatient with...well, with people in general. All the pointless arguments annoy me, the egos get under my skin, and the constant competitiveness drives me a little batty. I even admit that sometimes I'm the source, which only annoys me more.
Maybe it's because I'm bored at work, maybe it's because I'm not getting enough sleep. I don't know. But I find myself turning down more social engagements for no reason other than "I don't feel like it." I just don't want to deal with everybody's quirks. It has been a long week, and I seriously want to just go home and spend the entire weekend alone, continuing to be an Olympics junkie, and sleep late. I can't entirely, because tonight is Stephanie's bridal/lingerie shower and Sunday is Jo's birthday cookout. But I don't think I have anything scheduled tomorrow, so that's a start.
Marc and Josh took an hour after lunch today and gave half of our division a slide show of their recent trip to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. They had some amazing pictures, both of the mountain and of the safari they went on afterwards. Some of the safari pictures were really amazing -- close-ups of cheetahs, elephants, hippos, giraffes, and an ultra close-up of a lion that walked right past their land rover. I guess the animals in the parks have grown fairly accustomed to having vans and buses drive past, but nonetheless, they are still wild animals. Oh, and of course I've now added Kilimanjaro to my "places I want to go" list.
Today is Bini's last day as our grad co-op, and on Monday we get a new co-op, a girl named Sloan. It will be her first tour, but we found out today that before she went to college she was in the Air Force for three years. So from what we can tell, she's probably 24 or 25 -- only a year or two younger than the most of us, and the same age as Becca. That will be a big difference from our usual 19-year-old first-timers in terms of experience. She has done a lot of work in spacecraft operations already with the military.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
When it comes to sports,
When it comes to sports, I'm really more of an endurance athlete. If I have even a one-percent chance of someday being a competitive athlete, I have about 0.000001 percent chance of being a sprinter. I'm not fast, and I never will be. But I'm a pretty good tortoise. Slow and steady.
Carter didn't believe that Olympic swimmers are twice as fast as me, but they really are. The world record for the women's 50 free is 24.13; despite being the best swimmer I know besides Carter, the best I could pull off (these days, anyway) is probably about 45 seconds. I don't know for sure as I don't have a pool that's very condusive to testing that, but it's a guess. That's if I tried really, really hard. And was allowed to collapse, gasping, on the pool deck at the end. But ask me to swim consistent laps of 50 meters per minute or so, and I can go for a long while. I can probably swim a mile faster than anyone I know. Again, not because I'm fast, but because my endurance at a medium level of effort is better.
It's the same with running. I don't really fall into a good stride until I've covered at least 3 miles. It's annoying, because I absolutely hate the 20-30 minute "warm-up phase" when my legs hurt a little and my breathing is unsteady. But once I'm past the 5k mark, I get into a zone. Not "THE" zone, but a comfort area where I feel like I could reel off mile after mile forever. Last February at the Austin half marathon, I ran 10:30 miles. Not fast at all. But I was like clockwork. 10:30 for the first mile, 21:00 at the second mile, 31:30, 42:00. I was amazed at how dead-on I was each time I passed a mile marker. My last mile was a bit faster, as would be expected.
I ain't fast, but I'm consistent.
The Olympics have only reminded me how much I love all the intricacies of sports. How to people perfect their technique? What makes one guy faster than the next? Sometimes I think it's a shame that someone as interested in all the different aspects of athletics as I am isn't faster, or strong, or better. But that's the way it goes. In the meantime, it just makes me appreciate Olympians that much more.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
I have spoken at least
I have spoken at least a few times here about being somewhat of a stickler for proper grammar. I don't claim to be an expert (I do misspell things from time to time, and I used to -- gasp -- blog in all lower-case letters) but I do like to edit, and I do catch more mistakes than most. I come by it honestly enough. From kindergarden through my senior year of high school, I doubt I ever submitted a paper that my mother hadn't first read with red pen in hand. She's a teacher, which probably explains her own attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Today, Blogger indulged my pet peeve with an entire article about it, containing such gems as: "Though Blogger gives everything else away for free, sadly the service does not come with a cranky grammar bitch with blue pencil in hand." and "You don't need to know the 17 reasons to insert a comma into a sentence. (Although, if you did know all 17 reasons, that would be totally hot.)"
That article also led me to a New Yorker piece pointing out all the errors in a best-selling book about proper punctuation. I've considered buying the book ("Eats, Shoots & Leaves") myself, but am less inclined to do so after reading the New Yorker article.
In other linkage, the BBC site had an interesting article today as well, discussing the aftermath of Hurricane Charley. Not in terms of homes and lives lost, but in terms of the incredible amount of stuff that Americans have, and the odd things they bemoan losing.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
The men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay
The men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay last night was one of the more exciting swimming races I have ever watched. Michael Phelps got the Americans off to a good lead, which the second and third legs stretched a bit farther. But Klete Keller had to dive in for the final leg knowing that Ian Thorpe (the Thorpedo, the best middle-distance freestyler around at the moment) would be in the pool less than 2 seconds after him. Talk about pressure! Thorpe closed the gap with the first 50 meters, but Keller somehow found the strengh to keep him at bay for three more lengths of the pool, and touched the wall first by 13 thousandths of a second. Wow. I knew the outcome ahead of time because I had checked ESPN (such is life when they broadcast on tape delay -- it's hard to avoid hearing results), but watching was still a thrill.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
The beautiful weather continues. It
The beautiful weather continues. It has been lovely for almost a week now, which is basically unheard of for August in Houston. The weathermen keep saying that the nice weather is about to end, and that we'll soon be returning to our regularly scheduled heat. Each time I walk outside I find myself holding my breath in anxious anticipation, hoping that the oppressive humidity hasn't quite returned.
It hasn't. Yet.
This morning Jen O. pointed out the other reason swimming is so appealing as an Olympic sport -- the incredible hotness of the swimmers, of course. ;) She just made it to Seattle and is trying to settle in while trying not to miss California too much. I wish I could offer her some advice, but the truth is that it's been more than two years since I left and I still miss it. She's right -- the weather out there really does make you happy every time you walk outside, and the proximity to beautiful recreation areas was awesome.
I was doing mental calculations last night as I watched more Olympic swimming. I'm a pretty decent swimmer, not spectacular, but I won a few races in my time. So though I knew the Olympic swimmers were fast, I didn't know how fast. They cover any given distance in almost half the time it would take me. I guess that shouldn't surprise me so much, as marathon runners run twice as fast as I do. I guess I thought that, compared to the best in the respective sports, I was a much better swimmer than runner. Turns out that the difference is pretty slight.
I also read an interesting NY Times article debating whether elite athletes are approaching the limit of human ability. The article explains that records have not been falling as often as they used to; however, it also explains that performances today are just now catching up to the performances of the 70s and 80s when widespread drug use was suspected, but not always detectable. Today, with the intense focus on drug use, athletes seem less likely to dope.
I read articles like this on a fairly regular basis, but I find the issue interesting every time. I have no doubt that someone will eventually break the marathon record, for example. A man will run it faster than Paul Tergat's 2:04:55 and a woman will beat Paula Radcliffe's 2:15:25. But I highly doubt that anyone will ever run it faster than, say, an hour and a half. Obviously that would be a huge gap to close, and the point is that somewhere between 2:04:55 and 1:30:00 lies a time that humans will never beat without some sort of genetic mutation! Is there any way to figure out where that line is? I wonder.
Monday, August 16, 2004
Warning -- don't read this
Warning -- don't read this if you care about the 200 men's freestyle, the much-hyped "showdown" between Michael Phelps (the American phenom) and Ian Thorpe (the Australian star), and want to see it live in primetime tonight. Because I'm about to talk about the result.
Minor Olympic rant: Michael Phelps and how he's been treated by the media. The kid is an amazing swimmer, perhaps the most versatile in the world at the moment. The media has gotten itself into a frenzy over the fact that he entered eight events, and thus could theoretically break Mark Spitz's record of 7 gold medals in one Olympic games. Today he took bronze in the 200 freestyle, finishing third to Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands. Now, after this and the U.S. team taking bronze in the 4x100 freestyle last night, the best Phelps can do is leave Athens with six golds, and the media is starting to say things like "despite his talent, fewer than 7 golds could look like a failure."
Um...hello? Michael Phelps has entered three events so far, and left with three medals. One gold, two bronze. Three Olympic medals already, and he'll almost certainly win more. Holy crap.
It sort of makes me want to smack someone. He's 19 years old, seems like an all-around good guy. He's got a long swimming career ahead of him, and in addition to other world records he already held, he set a new one in the 400 IM on Saturday when he won by a body length. A world record. By a body length. Pretty damn impressive. He may not win all golds, but he's going to go home with quite a haul nonetheless.
And so it really irks me that the media is now suggesting he may be a "failure" simply because he didn't accomplish what they over-hyped in the first place.
Monday, August 16, 2004
I'm happy to report that
I'm happy to report that I am now a Grade 8 soccer referee as certified by the United States Soccer Federation. Pretty cool, eh? I passed the test yesterday with a 93, which was the second highest score of anyone in the class and well above the 75 needed to pass. Boo yeah. I got my official 2004/2005 patch, a South Texas Soccer Referees coin (to use for the coin flips, of course), and got registered with the local league. I just have to go buy a cool referee's shirt and call the assignor and tell him I'm ready to start calling games and he'll assign me to some. I'm not sure what age group I'll start with, but I imagine that my first few games (at least) will be kids, probably 10 and under.
My favorite question of the weekend came from a 12-year-old girl on the front row. We were certifying to be Grade 8 referees; the lowest grade is 12 and the highest is 1. "What happens when you become a Grade 1 referee?" she asked. The instructor paused for a moment and then responded with "well, you shave your head, become Italian, and start reffing the World Cup!"
Last night I found myself watching water polo at midnight. Water polo. I don't really know anything about water polo, but it was fascinating. That's when I realized that the Olympics are going to cost me a lot of sleep over the next few weeks.
I love the Olympics. I mean, I really love them. I love how sports that no one ever pays attention to are suddenly thrust into the limelight. I love that swimmers, beach volleyball players, sailors, and gymnasts get their 15 minutes of fame, along with all the even lesser-known athletes. I love the patriotism that everyone shows for their country, the flag-waving and anthem-singing. I love the crazy fans in the stands decked out in bizarre costumes all for the sake of cheering on someone most people have never heard of.
I don't have any memories of the Los Angeles games. Seoul is hazy except for Matt Biondi's seven medals and Janet Evans's three golds, all in swimming. I do remember the Calgary Winter Olympics from 1988 very clearly, as I watched Debi Thomas and Katarina Witt skate, but the first Summer Olympics I remember with real clarity were in Barcelona in 1992. I was 14 and sat on the couch watching the swimming, and the diving, and drawing.
Swimming has always been my favorite of the summer Olympic sports. At 14, I was playing soccer for my junior high, and I was still on the swim team winning ribbons in the breaststroke and on the relay teams, and I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I did a lot of sketches that summer, copying photographs from the newspaper. I thought I still had a lot of them, but when I went through all my old artwork last night I only managed to find one. But finding it brought back a lot of memories.
With only a couple exceptions (Cayce, mainly), none of my friends today knew me before high school, and most of them didn't know me until college. During those six years, I was an engineer, and a good one, but I was definitely not an athlete or an artist. To them, the interest I've shown in both sports (running, triathlons, soccer) and art (web design, wanting to do graphic design) over the past couple years probably seems strange and sudden.
I played soccer from ages 8-14 or so, and I almost played in high school. I went to the summer workouts before I started 9th grade...but then I wussed out. I was intimidated by the older girls, and I didn't try out for the high school team. I stopped taking art lessons when my teacher got sick, and I didn't bother to find a new one. By the time I got to college, I thought I was too overweight and out-of-shape to play any sports, and not well-trained or talented enough to do any art.
But as I'm watching the Olympics and remembering the things I used to dream about when I was barely even a teenager, I realize that maybe I've always been an athlete and an artist; I just took a break for a while. I won't ever win any gold medals (heck, I won't even ever win a local road race) and I won't ever have anything gracing the walls of a museum, but I've always loved sports and art.
I had forgotten that.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
I just finished my Longs
I just finished my Longs Peak trip report. (I know, finally.)
It's long -- don't say I didn't warn you! -- but I hope you all enjoy it.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Oh. My. God. It is
Oh. My. God. It is so. freaking. beautiful. outside today. And I am so. freaking. stuck inside. learning about soccer.
The soccer referee clinic is cool, and I'm learning all the little rule intricacies and will be able to ref games after this. I'm looking forward to that because I think it will be fun. And the class is amusing because of the 13-year-old girls who are extremely overeager to demonstrate their knowledge of soccer.
But it's just evil that this class happened to be scheduled such that I will spend 16 hours of the most beautiful Houston weekend ever sitting in an overly air-conditioned classroom.
Friday, August 13, 2004
To: Matt, George, Gavin, Jen,
To: Matt, George, Gavin, Jen, Becca, Bini, Jo & Nick:
Subject: hear ye, hear ye
I now hereby declare that we will go somewhere for lunch that allows us to sit outside. Options include but are not limited to: Quizno's, Fuddrucker's, Mediterraneo's, Jason's Deli, and possibly La Madeline's or Zio's. That is all.
I just want to eat lunch somewhere outside, because it is gorgeous today. I can't remember a day in August ever being this nice anywhere I've lived, not Charlotte, not Atlanta, and definitely not Houston. But here it is. August 13 and the high is only supposed to be 89 degrees, with low humidity.
So I just want to eat outside. But our lunch group can never settle on a place to eat. One person doesn't like green things. Another couple people refuse to eat mediterranean food. Another person doesn't want to have anything that's remotely fast food-ish. In my email I gave six choices, and we can't settle on any of them. Apparently Quizno's is too boring, Fuddrucker's and Meidterraneo's were immediately vetoed because people don't like them, Jason's Deli was out because their outdoor seating looks over the parking lot, La Madeleine's wasn't even considered, and Zio's was rejected because a couple weeks ago they had, I kid you not, "oily tables."
So no decision has been made as of yet, which means that around 11:15 we'll all head down to the parking lot still arguing over where we should go. It happens every freaking week, and it's so annoying. I think I've reached my limit on trying to make entire groups of people all happy at the same time.
Nacho bought a new bike on Wednesday and came over last night to go riding with me. My bike had another flat tire (my third since April -- what gives?) so I went outside to change it. I put the new tube in and was pumping it up, when around 60 psi, BAM! The tube popped. It was so loud and sounded so much like a gunshot that I was afraid people might come running out of their apartments in a panic. Anyway, that was my last tube, so instead of riding speedy-fast down the road with Nacho and his Trek 5200, I got to dink around on my mountain bike while he zoomed in circles around me. Stupid tire tubes.
Oh my, Jen just posted the most hilarious account of our lunch wars ever. Read it.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
I just totally burned my
I just totally burned my tongue on hot coffee. The cup didn't feel hot, so I took a big gulp. Ow ow ow ow ow. Just in time to go to the dentist this morning too. Ow ow.
Last night I went running for the first time since we went to Colorado. I'm planning to do the Houston Marathon in January, and so I'll have to start training by mid-September, but summer has become the season where I just don't run. Hardly at all. I'll swim, I'll bike, I'll play sports or hike or do the elliptical machine. But it's just too hot and too humid to deal with running, so I only do it occasionally. Once or twice a week, and only to avoid losing my fitness entirely.
I ran 5 km last night, and though I felt ok, I was going so slowly. When I got home and saw myself in the mirror, I realized why everyone always gives me funny looks and asking if I'm ok. My face was so, so red. I have a lot of histamines, or something.
I borrowed The Last Samurai from Matt and watched it last night in between calls from Mom and Dad trying to figure out when Katie and Joel would finally make it back to North Carolina. Their British Airways flight from London got into Newark on time, but their US Air flight to Charlotte was cancelled because of bad weather. US Air wouldn't put them up in a hotel for the night, and they didn't have any clothes anyway because their bags were still in London, so they got transferred to an American Airlines flight into Raleigh. That flight was then delayed for more than two hours. In the end, my parents drove up to Chapel Hill, took a nap at my aunt's house, drove over to Raleigh at 1:30 a.m. to get Katie and Joel, and finally got back home to Charlotte after 4 a.m. Whew.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Can you tell Matlab is
Can you tell Matlab is being slow today? So many posts.
Here's Debbie looking very Gollum-ish with her yellow Jeep travel bug. (It's a geocaching thing.) There's a photo contest to take neat pictures of the little things, so we were getting creative at the rock gym on Monday. Debbie was the actress, Jason the director, and me the photographer. Not a bad team.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Christina posted a link to
When I run, I have a bad habit of turning out my right foot. I first noticed it when I saw video of my crossing the finish line at the end of a 10K, but others who run with me have confirmed that the turnout is always there (and seems more pronounced at the end of a run when I'm tired). It's only my right foot, which I kick back and out as I push off that foot. I can't feel that I'm doing it, and thus far have been unable to correct it even though I know it makes me a less efficient runner than I could be otherwise. Though I will never be anything close to an elite runner like those mentioned in the article, I feel like I could improve over where I am now.
Next time I run I may do it on a track, so I can concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other like mentioned in the article. I don't think it will correct the problem entirely, since it's less to do with placing my feet in a straight line and more to do with the direction my leg kick goes in, but we'll see.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
I'm thinking of going to
I'm thinking of going to the soccer referee clinic my league is holding this weekend, but I'm having trouble deciding for certain. I think it would be fun to really learn the rules (more in-depth than I know as a player) and I've always thought it would be fun to ref games. Once I took the clinic, I'd be eligible to ref any of the games in the 6 different divisions my league has, and it'd be a way to earn a couple extra bucks here and there. The thing holding me back, silly as it sounds, is that the clinic is literally all weekend. Four hours on Friday night, a full 8-hour day on Saturday, and five more hours on Sunday. That's giving a lot of my weekend to learning about soccer.
But I'll probably do it.
I watched a few innings of the Astros game last night before heading over to Debbie's for TV and Jason's yummy Creme de Menthe pie. (Mmmmm...pie.) Anyway, it has become just downright depressing to watch the Astros play. Even the Braves, who have lost time and time again in the postseason, don't give me the sad feeling the Astros have given me this year. They had so much promise, and they just... I don't even know. They say they're trying, but their hearts aren't in it. I don't see them trying, I don't see them running all the way through first base when they make contact, or stepping it up on defense, or coming to the mound with utter conviction that there's no way the guy at the plate will hit their pitch. And so they continue to halfheartedly jog to first, miss routine catches and throws, and give up runs in the middle and late innings.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
I was just reading an
I was just reading an old journal that listed my fantasy baseball team from the beginning of the season. I didn't realize it had changed so much. Too bad they all still suck.
C - Jason Kendall
1B - Richie Sexson
2B - Bret Boone
3B - Bill Mueller
3B - Eric Hinske
SS - Rafael Furcal
OF - Gary Sheffield
OF - Torii Hunter
OF - Richard Hidalgo
OF - Trot Nixon
OF - Reggie Sanders
OF - Jay Payton
OF - Carl Everett
OF - Cliff Floyd
SP - Curt Schilling
SP - Kevin Brown
SP - Greg Maddux
SP - Mark Redman
SP - Livan Hernandez
SP - Ted Lilly
RP - Octavio Dotel
RP - Trevor Hoffman
RP - Francisco Cordero
RP - Shawn Chacon
C - Jason Kendall
1B - Lyle Overbay
2B - Bret Boone
3B - Adrien Beltre
2B/3B/OF - Rob Mackowiak
SS - Carlos Guillen
OF - Gary Sheffield
OF - Andruw Jones
OF/1B - Adam Dunn
OF - Hideki Matsui
OF - Steve Finley
OF - Lew Ford
SP - Ryan Drese
SP - Jason Marquis
SP - Curt Schilling
SP - Kevin Brown
SP - Greg Maddux
SP - Doug Davis
SP - Paul Wilson
SP - Ted Lilly
RP - Octavio Dotel
RP - Trevor Hoffman
RP - David Riske
RP - Shawn Chacon
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Climbing last night was ok,
Climbing last night was ok, but I still can't do a pull-up. I have visible muscles in my arms, but they don't actually do anything. Hmph. Rather disappointing.
A couple tropical storms have finally started brewing in the Caribbean, making Matt far too excited. He seems confident that his house (that he's closing on in two weeks) will be fine no matter what hits because...it's on stilts. I haven't managed to convince him that a storm surge can be higher than 15 feet.
Actually, he just likes playing armchair weatherman.
We had lunch with Laura, our co-op from fall 2002. She's graduating next summer and had lots of questions for me about grad school and job stuff. I love talking about grad school. Every time I have that conversation, I walk away convinced that I need to go back.
I think I'm suffering from delayed exhaustion from the Colorado trip. Yesterday it was hard to get out of bed; this morning I hit the snooze button at 7:00 and next thing I knew it was 8:15. Oops. I was here by 8:45, so it wasn't that bad.
Monday, August 09, 2004
If you love swimming and/or
If you love swimming and/or love good photography, you should check out this New York Times online slideshow: The Strokes.
Monday, August 09, 2004
oh you drive me crazy / oh you just bring me down /
look out your window / my sunshine's all around
The following sentence is for Jason:
Sometimes I like Houston.
Yes, sometimes, Houston is nice. This weekend was gorgeous thanks to some random rainless cold front that came through on Friday. I walked outside on Saturday morning prepared for the blast of humidity but was instead surprised by a lovely 90-degree, 60% humidity day. I know 90 degrees doesn't sound exactly cool, but when it's been 95 with 90% humidity since you got back from Colorado, 90F/60% is absolutely glorious. And it stayed that way all day. Yesterday was slightly warmer and stickier, but not bad.
To celebrate the great weather, I went for my first swim since the triathlon (in mid-June) on Saturday evening. I've slacked off on my swimming since realizing that the final triathlon I'd planned to do this year is on the same weekend I'll be in Kansas City for Matt and Stephanie's wedding. The water felt great and the only thing bothering me was my arm. Even this morning, four days later, I can still feel where I got the tetanus shot when I pull my arm back behind my body. It's not painful, just a dull ache that I feel when I stretch the muscle. With each stroke in the pool, I could feel the soreness. I don't know what's in that shot, but it's slightly frightening that it makes your arm sore for days. If the shot is that annoying, tetanus is bound to be worse, I suppose.
I promised the Longs Peak trip report would be done by the end of the weekend, but hey, I lied. I've written up the first and second days, but still have more to go. I'll hopefully have it done by the end of tomorrow.
I had Jamba Juice for lunch both Saturday and Sunday. They just opened a store nearby, and it may be my downfall. Hmm. But there's nothing better than enjoying some Jamba Juice on a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine while your car is getting washed for the first time since you bought it three months ago. My Xterra looks so pretty and shiny now!
Saturday, August 07, 2004
of note for today
Derek's website has been on my list of random surfs for a while now. I don't know him, but he posts great pictures all the time. He and his wife (who also posts great stuff) were in Paris for the honeymoon and just happened to catch the end of the Tour de France. This picture of Lance Armstrong flying down the Champs-Elysses is simply amazing. Look at the muscles in his legs -- I don't know whether to admire them or be slightly scared!
Greg Maddux got his 300th win this afternoon. Awesome.
Adam Everett was hit on the wrist by a pitch last night in the Astros game. The impact fractured his ulna bone, and he's out for 4-6 weeks. Yet more bad news for the Astros.
Friday, August 06, 2004
Still working on the trip
Still working on the trip report, but here are the six panoramas I stitched together from the trip. Click for bigger versions.
Sky Pond and surrounding peaks:
View from the Keyhole:
View from the bottom of the Trough:
Chasm Lake and Longs Peak face:
View from Trail Ridge Road:
Friday, August 06, 2004
i would be / heavenly / if baby you'd just rescue me
The Braves were in town last night to play the Astros. I sat most of the night watching the game without clapping for either team, partly because I was tired, but partly because I didn't know who to cheer for. Old habits die hard, though. In the 8th and 9th innings, I found myself silenty rooting for the Braves to score one so that Smoltz could come in and close it out. (And that's what happened.) As much as I want to see the Astros recover from their gigantic slump and make the postseason, I couldn't root against the Braves. I just couldn't.
I know it's only been a three-day week for me, but I am incredibly glad it's Friday. The "Gettin' Smart" party is tonight, in honor of Randy, Stephanie and Chris all going back to school (for a Ph.D., J.D. and M.S., respectively), and Betsy's bridal shower and bachelorette party are tomorrow (two months before the wedding due to Steph going back to school), but I plan on sleeping late and vegging out with the rest of my weekend time. The spring soccer season has finally ended, in August thanks to all the rainouts we had, and so even Sunday night is free.
I think I just need a lot of sleep. The Colorado trip was great, but didn't help me feel any less tired. I've been in one of those moods where everyone is on my nerves for weeks now. Sleep would help.
Nick and Tiffany are apparently still in the mood to paint after doing Nick's bedroom over the weekend. I think they should come paint my apartment. That would be great. I keep talking about painting my place, but haven't had 1) the time or 2) the inclination to do all the little stuff like taping the trim and covering the furniture.
I've been pretty productive at work in this short week though. I've given a presentation, had a sheet of comments sent to the Europeans, and managed to get my neural net to train. I don't know if it's training correctly, but at least it's training, which is an improvement over what it was doing prior to vacation.
Oh, and we leave for Peru in exactly three weeks. Whoa.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Tetanus vaccine and typhoid drug prescription: shot and filled.
Last-minute presentation slides for 3:30: completed.
Longs Peak money-owed email: sent.
Plans for tonight's Astros-Braves game: made.
Matlab data pre-processing script: still working on it.
Colorado trip pictures: posted in the gallery.
Detailed trip report: to follow by the end of the weekend!
Thursday, August 05, 2004
I remembered late last night
I remembered late last night that I had an appointment this morning to get a prescription for typhoid pills in anticipation of the upcoming trip to Peru, so I was at the doctor's office bright and early. I also updated my tetanus shot, and now my arm hurts.
Because I had the appointment, I missed Marty's exit pitch. I feel bad about that, especially because I've been working some with Marty all summer. His last day is tomorrow, then he heads to grad school at Purdue. But he'll be back next summer.
When I finally arrived at work close to 10:00, I was informed that I'm giving a presentation on uncrewed orbiter footprints. This afternoon. At 3:00. I don't have any slides, so I must hurry to make them.
And that's why this entry is so short and sweet!
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
for purple mountain majesties / above the fruited plain
We are back from glorious Rocky Mountain National Park -- alive, well, in one piece (though with some new aches and pains), and feeling very defeated by the flatness and humidity of Houston. The trip was awesome. The Rockies are awesome. Longs Peak is awesome. All this was confirmed by an Australian woman in a vintage Rolls Royce on Trail Ridge Road, who said "this is -- I'll use a new American word I've learned -- awesome."
Five of us caught a ballgame on Thursday at Coors Field. Friday we hiked 9.2 miles round trip to Sky Pond and camped in Glacier Basin at 9,000 feet. Saturday we hiked in 2.5 miles to the Battle Mountain backcountry site at 11,000 feet and set up camp. On Sunday we got up before sunrise and started on our way to Longs Peak. We hit the Boulderfield around 8 and the Keyhole by 9. Emily, Jen, Gavin and I traversed the Ledges and made it most of the way up the Trough before finally turning around about 400 feet below the summit because the climb got a bit too tricky for us. With snow and ice still in the Trough covering up the official route, the climb was a Class 4. (For reference, Class 5 is what I do on Monday nights with a harness and ropes at the climbing gym.) The bottom of the Trough was manageable, but the last 50 feet required scrambling up some pretty scary-looking ledges. The four of us agreed that we'd reached the edge of our comfort level, and turned around, arriving back at camp around 4:00.
We were happy with our decision to turn back, but disappointed that the snow and ice prevented us from making the top. In a week or so when the snow is completely gone, we probably would have made the summit without a serious problem. The way I see it, this just means that I'll have to go back and try again sometime!
On Monday morning, five of us hiked back up the trail and took a different fork to end up at Chasm Lake, directly below the sheer face of Longs. (The non-technical route we'd attempted the day before goes around the back.) It was gorgeous, and with binoculars, we spotted three people ascending the face. Wow -- talk about scary. That afternoon, we hiked back to the trailhead. Going down is so much easier than going up, although my calf muscles paid for it.
Yesterday we drove Trail Ridge Road from the east side to the west side of the park, topping out at just above 12,000 feet as the highest road in the country. From there it was back to Denver, say goodbye to Carter, return the rental car, say goodbye to Emily, and back on the plane. As we descending to Houston, we were enveloped in haze.
Sigh. I want to be back in Colorado!
Sheer face of Longs Peak lit by the rising sun:
At the Keyhole -- 13,162 feet:
Sheer face ("the Diamond") of Longs Peak from Chasm Lake below:
I took a couple hundred pictures and am in the process of organizing and posting them. I'd have more here, except my software did some weird compression thing where pictures with people in them look blurry. By the end of the week I hope to have a trip report up.