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Weekend
Monday, April 30, 2007 - 03:54 p.m.


Since Todd is not currently able to run a marathon (what with the shoulder surgery and all), he had to settle for volunteering at the Country Music Marathon this past weekend in Nashville. I spent Saturday morning hanging out with my parents in Hendersonville while Todd handed out water to and cheered on the runners. Sunday was occupied mostly with church, giving blood at the slowest donor station in the world, and taking my grandparents out for ice cream. In other words, not a whole lot got done on the homefront and now we get to reap the rewards of our neglect. Top of the list: I have to sort through a metric crapload of donate-able junk when I get home after Movie Night, so it can be on our porch in the morning for pickup. The sheer amount of fun to be had there will BLOW YOUR MIND.

In other news, Conoco-Phillips is bringing their "Conversation on Energy" to Huntsville tomorrow night (7 PM at the VBC). On one hand, it sounds kind of intriguing. On the other, it also sounds like it could be mind-numbingly boring. As of now, Todd and I are planning on going, but after spending tomorrow in a Client Relations class, my brain just may not be capable.

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Small Talk
Friday, April 27, 2007 - 12:54 p.m.

Whenever I have a conversation with someone I'm not entirely comfortable around (usually a client or sometimes my boss) I walk away from that conversation already mentally evaluating everything I said to determine where I come in on the Moron v. Genius meter. And if I determine that things went well, I actually congratulate myself in my head, all for not sounding like a tool. "Hey, self, good job! I don't think you sounded like an idiot today!"

Which, of course, makes me a total DORK.

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Political BS
Thursday, April 26, 2007 - 10:56 a.m.

Troops on the ground. Commanders on the ground. Conditions on the ground. Realities on the ground. On the ground, on the ground, on the ground, on the gr- JESUS CHRIST ON A BIKE, find another catchphrase!

Seriously, am I the only one who finds the incessant use of "on the ground" to be incredibly obnoxious? Why not "in the field" or maybe just "our troops in Iraq" or something, anything other than the same three words over and over and over and over and over and, okay, I think I need to take a break.

Anyway, lately I've been trying to get back into paying attention to politics. A while back, I started tuning a lot of it out, just because I couldn't tolerate being that depressed all the time. But with all the 2008 candidates out there already, I figured now was the time to start listening again, even though I will probably develop a twitch before the end of the summer.

So far, I've been incredibly impressed with Barack Obama. I've listened to his speeches and I've read his book The Audacity of Hope, and nearly everything he says comes across as well thought-out and reasonable. I don't always agree with him, but he at least seems to have considered the issues, and he seems willing to engage in debate and discussion. Also, although it might hurt him during the elections, I think it says a lot about his suitability that his positions can't be summed up in sound bites. They aren't that simple, because the issues aren't that simple. And we need a president who understands that.

Tonight I'll be watching the Democrat Presidential Debate (7 PM Eastern). I've heard that Howard Dean is coming to UAH on May 24th (although I'm having trouble confirming that from any official websites), and I plan to go hear what he has to say. If any Republican candidates come to Huntsville, I'll try to go and hear them too. I'd like to get as much information as possible, even from candidates I won't vote for, because I want to know what's going on. Of course, this means that there will likely be ranting.

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Relay for Life
Friday, April 20, 2007 - 09:12 a.m.

I'm not sure that I ever really mentioned it here before, except in the most general of references , but back in July of 2005, my father was diagnosed with cancer.

It started out as a hernia, which was then found to be caused by a massive cyst on his kidney. He went in for surgery to remove the cyst and woke up one kidney short. The kidney had been consumed, but the surgeons managed to remove it and the cyst without rupturing the cyst. At the time, they weren't certain whether it was benign or cancerous, and they took every precaution.

I remember sitting in the darkened hospital room as my mother quietly told me that the tests on the cyst showed that it was cancerous. That although things had gone well in surgery and the prognosis was good, all we could do was wait and see, and hope and pray that this was the end of it, that it hadn't spread. And I remember that it didn't quite register then. I didn't really understand what my family could be facing. It wasn't until I was back outside, alone in the hall outside my fatherís room, that the reality of what she'd said hit me. The fear that I might lose my father was so immense, so crushing, it was almost a physical thing there in the hall with me. I remember leaning my head against the wall and offering up the most heartfelt prayer of my life.

It's been a year and a half now, and he's recovered well. All of his scans have come back normal, and it appears that, aside from missing a kidney, he is as good as new. But I still feel an echo of that fear whenever I remember that the words "Cancer Survivor" now apply to my father.

And my grandfather too. He battled bladder cancer and won. I know so many people who have had cancer or who have had a family member or a friend with cancer, and so many of those stories end in heartbreak. I am thankful beyond words that we have the knowledge, medicine, and techniques to diagnose and treat these diseases, and that my family has been so fortunate in our outcomes. And having been spared the tragedy of cancer, I want to do what I can to help others who are dealing with its impact in their lives.

On May 4th, my father and I will be walking in the American Cancer Societyís Relay for Life in White House, Tennessee. Itís an all-night event that brings together those whose lives have been touched by this disease to help raise money for cancer research and support of cancer patients. I would sincerely, deeply appreciate it if you would make a donation, any size, to support us in the Relay for Life.

Support Sarah Support Steve

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Already with the finger-pointing
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - 12:05 p.m.

This morning I was reminded of just how much I really dislike the Today Show.

The shooting at Virginia Tech is awful. It sounds like everyone's worst nightmare and I can't even imagine what it's been like for the students and the families. But all this about how the school should have prevented it? I kind of think that's not fair.

I mean, campus police could have locked all 2,600 acres down, but for how long? Two hours? Four? A day? And would that have stopped the shooter from coming back later? Maybe, but maybe not. We have the benefit of hindsight now, and yes, things should have been done differently. Knowing what we know now, lives could have been saved. But it just doesn't seem fair to say that the university should have expected a "domestic dispute" to extend across campus and end with 32 people dead. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't help but doubt that any other university would have reacted differently.

The scary thing is, there's not currently a practical way to protect against something like this. Not on a college campus. It's not a single building where you can have people walk through metal detectors on their way in. There's not enough money to pay for cops at every entrance to every building 24-7. And it's the students' home. You can only do so much to protect them before you make it an unacceptable living situation. There's nothing preventing something like this from happening at Auburn or Tennessee Tech or UAH or any other university out there. So it really doesn't seem right to blame Virginia Tech for lax security or something to that effect.

I'm glad that the people I know at Virginia Tech are all okay and my heart goes out to the 31 families. But I wish the news networks would stop trying to find someone besides the shooter to blame.

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Home Improvements
Monday, April 16, 2007 - 11:35 a.m.

I woke up an hour late today because I totally forgot to turn my alarm clock back on last night. That's pretty much how today is going.

This past weekend was filled with crazy home improvement ideas, namely of the flooring and bathroom variety. We're also very nearly ready to buy ourselves a gorgeous bedroom suite, as soon as I finish hyperventilating over the cost. We have so many plans for our house. Nothing crazy like an addition, but all just to fix it up and make it as nice as it can be. Sometimes all the proposed projects seems like a lot of fun. And sometimes (like when Todd talks about installing hardwood floors by ourselves), it's so overwhelming I think my head might explode.

So that's why I have to sit back and take pleasure in the little changes weíre making right now. For instance, our dining room. Before, it was scary ugly:

   

(Although to be fair, I took these pictures after we painted the trim and spackled the walls. We also don't normally keep a huge pile of junk on the dining room table.)

But a couple of coats of a paint later, Iím tentatively pleased with the end result:

   

Now all we need to do it get some stuff back up on the walls, and we're done. See? Baby steps.

In other news, we watched the premier of Drive last night and I have to say, I'm intrigued. (Hell, it's got Nathan Fillion as a lead and it's produced by Tim Minear, how could I NOT be interested?) I don't see how they can get more than one season out of the concept, but hey, Iíll give it a chance for now. Anyway, I expect Fox to cancel it just as it gets good. Because that's how they roll.

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Update
Friday, April 13, 2007 - 10:11 a.m.

Todd's surgery on Wednesday morning went very well. The doctor told us that he was able to repair the labrum and tighten down the tendons, and that everything went as planned. The last two days were pretty good, mostly because the nerve block they gave Todd just before surgery didn't wear off until yesterday evening. Physical therapy went well and we even went for a walk around our neighborhood before bed. But last night was rough. Starting around 1:00, his shoulder decided to finally register some serious complaints. Even with his pain medication, he just couldn't get comfortable enough to really sleep. I talked to him just a few minutes ago and he was feeling much better, but I still think it's going to be a long week for him.

On the upside, the allergies have been beaten into submission (mostly). Today I'm reveling in my newfound ability to BREATHE, and if I wasn't so damn tired, I think I'd do a little dance or something.

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Now that they're all dead...
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - 05:06 p.m.

...here's a pretty picture.

Today I'm finally feeling better (less snot, more oxygen), although now I apparently sound like I might die at any moment. I'm not sure if it's the 30-year smoker voice or the seal-bark cough, but my coworkers have taken a sudden interest in my welfare. "Are you okay?" and "Do you need to sit down?" and "Holy shit, was that your LUNG!?" But really, I feel pretty good overall. Expelled internal organs to the contrary.

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Cold Snap
Monday, April 9, 2007 - 12:29 p.m.

It's a teensy bit ironic that on Easter, the day of life and joy and all that, Mother Nature up and KILLED everything green and growing in the Southeast. Dogwoods? Wilted. Rose of Sharon? Toast. Blueberry bush? Terminated with extreme prejudice. Daffodils, irises, and tulips? Dead, dead, and guess what? Dead.

Last week, I thought for certain that summer was here. It 90 degrees outside, everything had bloomed, and I was settling in for the next seven months of sweltering heat. I brought out my shorts and sandals and packed away my sweaters and coats. Then all of a sudden, ZAP, it's cold again, everything is dead and, really, what the hell?

Also, it shouldn't be possible, but yesterday and today, AFTER everything has gone to the great garden in the sky, my allergies are worse. It's like everything gave off a great puff of pollen as its last act of defiance. And here's me, with the eye watering, the sneezing, the congestion, the coughing, and the bleeding from the ears. Okay, maybe no Ebola symptoms, but I do feel pretty awful.

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The weekend was nice. Not only was there a veritable FEAST Sunday after church, but I also got to see my grandparents and my sister and her family. My nephew, Daniel, was fascinating. He doesn't say much yet (in English that is), but if you ask him to get something, he'll bring it to you, no hesitation. If you ask him something, he'll answer you as best he can (although a large portion of it still sounds like Ewok). You tell him to give you a five, and heíll run up and smack your palm. Heíll even play the ďup high, down low, too slowĒ game. His comprehension is just amazing.

My favorite game, though, was going through his repertoire of animal noises.

"Daniel, what does the cat say?"
"Eow eow."
"And what does the owl say?Ē
"Ooo ooo."
"Okay, now what does the dog say?"
And the kid sticks out his tongue and PANTS. How cute is that?

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This Wednesday Todd is having his shoulder surgery. This is the big one, where they actually go in and open up his entire shoulder for a procedure called an open capsular shift. Because it's such an invasive procedure, he's facing a long recovery. He'll be in an immobilizer brace for around four weeks. After that, he'll be pretty limited for a while on what he can and can't do. All in all, he's out of hockey for six months, although he'll be mostly back to normal activities well before that.

It's going to be a rough couple of weeks for him, so please keep him in your thoughts.

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Concrete Canoe Results
Monday, April 2, 2007 - 02:52 p.m.

UAH finished 3rd overall, behind the University of Florida (1st) and FIT (2nd).

Category Predicted Actual
Final Product 5 4
Design Report 3 1
Presentation 6 5
Women's Distance 14 - 7:00 6 - 8:17.12
Men's Distance 3 4 - 5:39.72
Women's Sprint 11 - 1:55 3 - 1:55.65
Men's Sprint 3 4 - 1:30.43
Coed Sprint 10 3 - 1:35.88

Holy crap did I overestimate the paddling abilities of the schools at Regionals. Although the UAH women performed exactly as expected, they did much better in the standings that I would have thought. Anyway, the rest wasn't much of a suprise, except maybe the paper. It was exactly the same as last year's, but I guess the judges didn't look back.

Anyway, here's hoping they do better next year. Not that they shouldn't be proud of third place. I mean, it was all done by two guys in three months. I didn't think they'd even HAVE a boat, much less claw their way to third place. But it's still pretty damn far away from being a National contender. They have a lot to learn before they can expect to go to Nationals and do well. Especially on the water. An 8-minute distance and a 2-minute sprint? It actually hurts me to read that.

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From the dustbowl
Monday, April 2, 2007 - 02:01 p.m.

Happy Belated Birthday to my grandfather, my dad, and Jennifer!

Friday evening, we decided to head up to Hendersonville on Saturday after all. I heard a rumor that my mother would be making chocolate sheet cake, so there was no way I was going to sit a mere two hours away, twiddling my thumbs when thereís cake to be had. We only stayed for the birthday lunch, but at least we got to see all of my dad's family (and eat cake). It would have been nice to stay longer, but I was determined to paint the evil collard-green-colored dining room this weekend (and my mother sent us home with the leftover cake).

And paint we did. We're not quite done, but already the difference is astounding. The room looks less like a cave (one containing trolls or possibly a Balrog composed entirely of pet hair) and more like an area where one could sit to eat a meal. It looks much bigger and more open. Also, the craptacular light fixture almost seems to give off enough light, although not enough that we won't be replacing it soon. The new color isn't quite as dark as I thought it would be, but I think it will work. All that's left is cutting in around the trim and rolling the second coat of paint. I canít tell you how much I'm looking forward to having people over without feeling compelled to issue the disclaimer, "We did not choose this color!"

Next project, the yard. And oh have I fallen in love with the Better Homes and Gardens website. They have plans! They tell you what to plant, where to put it, and how to take care of it. All you have to do is adapt it to fit in your yard.

Although right now I'm thinking of looking into cacti, because based on the current drought conditions, thatís the only plant with any chance of surviving the summer. See that county, the one right smack in the middle of the "Extreme Drought" area? Hey, that's us!

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