Blame it on the belly
Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 09:03 a.m.

It is 9 AM and I have an overwhelming craving for Rosie's white cheese dip. It's all I can think about. The smell, the taste...I think I may die if I don't get some right now. I'm daydreaming about CHEESE DIP. This is not normal.

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From the weekend
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 02:48 p.m.

Sunday, I actually felt good enough to do a fair amount of yard work after Elizabeth and Josh left town. On my way by with a full wheelbarrow, I noticed this guy having a drink at our lilac bush.

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Progress
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 - 1:16 p.m.

So I'm now 17 weeks into this whole pregnancy thing, and I'm finally FINALLY feeling human again. Can I get a hallelujah?

Guys, honestly, the last nine weeks...well, they SUCKED. I don't like to think of myself as a wuss, but apparently nine weeks of non-stop nausea, some random projectile vomiting to keep things interesting, drastic changes in my job, random searing hip pain, and bronchitis all at the same time are pretty much my limit. I tried to keep the negative thoughts to a minimum, but really, it was kind of awful. The lowest point came after two nights of non-stop coughing (and therefore, no sleep) and a highly unfortunate vomiting incident. As I was blearily contemplating the highly unfortunate results of said vomiting incident, I suddenly realized just how TIRED I was of constantly feeling like crap. And when Todd got home later that night, he got to deal with a sobbing, exhausted, and thoroughly miserable wife. And boy howdy, was THAT a fun evening.

But now? Now I'm finally starting to understand why women say they liked being pregnant. I feel WONDERFUL. Well, except for the occasional crippling hip pain, but hey. I can eat on a regular schedule, I'm not a total zombie at work, I can eat most normal foods, and I can breathe again. And even better, I suddenly have a belly. Seriously, one day there was nothing and the next, POOF. BELLY. I am in awe of its rotundness.

So, despite three months of asking myself "what the hell were you thinking?" on an hourly basis, now I'm actually excited, happy, and looking forward to all the neat milestones. I finally feel able to think about getting the house finished and ready for a baby. We'll have our 20-week ultrasound on May 30th, and I can't wait. Even better, I finally feel like I always thought I was supposed to feel, and thatís a huge relief in and of itself.

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Underfoot
Thursday, April 17, 2008 - 10:27 a.m.

Our kitchen is not a small area at all. But when you throw in two large and lazy dogs who feel the need to flop down right smack in the middle of all the action, and one small orange cat who has a positive knack for winding up directly under your foot as you place it in one of the few locations NOT occupied by dog, it becomes a very cramped space.



At least three animals were stepped on during the taking of this picture.

I guess you could say that this interferes with the flow of the kitchen. You know that whole "work triangle" thing? Notice that they've strategically arranged themselves to block every single path. I can't get from any point to the other without stepping over (and occasionally on) a dog.

And where's the cat you ask? Why, UNDER MY FEET of course.

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Official Poll
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - 12:36 p.m.

Everyone knows email is horrible for communication. It's just too easy to misread a person's tone from what they've typed. Knowing this, I try not to read too much into stuff sent over email.

But still, if someone requests a meeting to ask you some questions, then at the end of the email confirming the date and time finishes with "We need to limit the meeting time to no more than one hour," is this:

a) a perfectly legitimate indication that they intend to keep their questions brief and concise, and would appreciate you doing the same with your answers?

or

b) kind a dick thing to say?

(Note: Please keep in mind, they're the ones running the meeting.)

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Just another day at the office
Monday, April 14, 2008 - 04:24 p.m.

This weekend, instead of traveling, we opted to stay home so I could continue to fight the Black Death this bronchitis crap without whining, drooling, and hacking in someone else's house. And it paid off, because I'm finally feeling better, to the point that the occasional unnervingly loud HACKHORKACK issuing from my chest cavity actually surprises me, instead of being a depressingly common part of my day. It's amazing what a few days of sleep and a whole mess of drugs can do for a person.

In other news, my coworkers and I came to work this morning to find two of the large glass panels in our office foyer replaced by plywood. Apparently someone smashed the windows Saturday night, just for the hell of it. A couple of cops driving by noticed and came in to investigate. Of course, the alarm didn't go off until THEY walked in, so the people who busted the glass never came inside. Because it's so just so much fun to break windows, I guess you don't need the extra thrill that comes with theft of property?

Anyway, this most recent event is slightly amusing to me because of the recent uproar regarding the move of the Downtown Rescue Mission to the property right across the street from my office. Many of my coworkers are concerned that the relocation of the Mission will automatically lead to one of us having our throats cut in the parking lot or something. And they're not the only ones. The people in the surrounding neighborhood are all in an uproar about the effect the Mission will have on the crime rate and the general atmosphere in the area.

Ah, NEWSFLASH, EVERYONE: This neighborhood ALREADY SUCKS. We already don't stay at the office after dark, and we already have to keep our doors locked at all times (this after we ran into one too many unwelcome local visitors roaming the halls). I mean, you've got folks being stabbed, robbed, beaten, arrested, shot, and whatever else on a regular basis just with the current population. Channel 48 ought to just have a regular segment titled "Last Night on Executive Drive." I guarantee you they'd never run short on material.

Having worked some with the homeless, albeit mostly under controlled conditions, I have to say that I find them to be like pretty much any group of people - most are just trying to make their way, some are super nice and interesting to talk to, some are batshit crazy, and some are just plain mean. I don't think being homeless automatically equates to dangerous, violent, or will-pee-on-your-parked-car, any more than being a resident in a neighborhood equates to harmless, cuddly, and unlikely-to-beat-you-up-for-loose-change. Given the existing state of the neighborhood, I refuse to believe that the addition of the Downtown Rescue Mission will make things around here any worse.

Not that I don't want my office to move, I do. But my desire to relocate somewhere safer is based entirely on the proven, existing situation and not on an unfair, bigoted assumption of future conditions.

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Making progress
Thursday, April 10, 2008 - 10:41 a.m.

So it turns out that the cough I've been stuggling with for the past several days is actually bronchitis, which I guess explains why it won't just go the hell away. It's been getting worse since about last Thursday and after getting almost no sleep Monday and Tuesday night, I gave up the fight, spent yesterday morning in bed, then crawled to the doctor yesterday afternoon. She sent me home with what appears to be THE ENTIRE PHARMACY, but is really only one antibiotic, two inhalers, 10 little bottles of allergy medication (yay, samples!), and one bottle of a lovely hydrocodone-laced cough syrup that I seriously should go back and thank her for. Probably while weeping and kissing her feet, because thanks to the entire combination, last night I was able to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. It was pretty much the best thing ever.

So now I'm back at work, still kind of woozy and still propositioning all eligible young male harbor seals within hearing range (seriously, this cough sounds like something from Seals Gone Wild), but functioning. I'm not sure how long I'll last today, but hopefully things are looking up.

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A fun new phase
Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - 11:58 a.m.

They took my Allegra away. Something about birth defects or something silly like that.

Now the trees are slowly killing me. Also, I think I just hacked up an entire kidney.

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It's only because "steal a boat" wasn't an option
Monday, April 7, 2008 - 01:12 p.m.

This weekend we watched I Am Legend, so I think this quiz is entirely appropriate. Sadly, I am not as cool as Will Smith.

40%

For the record, the movie started out great, but it wound up being pretty lame in the end. Good movie, lousy cop-out ending.

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Typing while hungry
Friday, April 4, 2008 - 03:17 p.m.

So I keep hearing about Clinton and Obama supporters who say that if their chosen candidate doesn't win the nomination, they'll vote for McCain. How is that not the batshit craziest thing ever? That's like having to choose between a thin mint and a samoa, not getting the one you want, and diving into a big bowl of brussel sprouts instead. It makes no sense at all.

Mmmmm...samoas and thin mints. Hey! I just found a bag of Cheetos in my desk! Score!

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They're nice like that
Wednesday, April 2, 2008 - 05:29 p.m.

Also, if you were departing Hunstville around noon today and your plane was mysteriously held up on the east runway for about fifteen minutes, uhm, I'm sorry. That was me next to the runway, and the airport was very kind to not let your plane suck me into an engine. I didn't mean for them to hold up traffic, but they really were very nice.

Hey, did you know there's a giant scary culvert that runs right under that runway from almost the other side of the airport? And that there are actual fish living it? Because there is, and there ARE.

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Inefficiency at its finest
Wednesday, April 2, 2008 - 05:17 p.m.

Today, while trying to track down a small bit of information for a project I'm working on out at Redstone Arsenal, I had to call exactly seventeen people. This doesn't count Todd, whom I finally called in exasperation because, when all else fails, he's my own personal Army Corps Rosetta Stone. So, SEVENTEEN PEOPLE. And fourteen of THEM had absolutely no idea what was going on and only served to pass me on to the next person.

I won't go into to the details on what all else was screwed up about the project, but suffice it to say that after the last three hours, I have absolutely no idea how the government ever manages to build ANYTHING. Thank God Todd doesn't work for a District Office, because if he did, oh the shame.

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I just can't help myself
Tuesday, April 1, 2008 - 05:31 p.m.

This past weekend, Todd and I traveled to Orlando, Florida for the ASCE Southeast Regional Student Conference. UAH was competing in several competitions, but the one Todd and I were interested in seeing was, of course, the Concrete Canoe Competition. Although we didn't help out with much of the academic side of things, we've been coaching the paddling teams since the Fall. It's not been an easy year - we started out with nearly a dozen prospects and ended up with half that number by January. Scheduling was a nightmare, apathy was a significant problem, and it was a real struggle to get them to work as hard as they needed. But in the end, they came together, started really working, and ended up placing third on the water. And I'll tell you, the sheer amount of pride I felt for all of them at the end of the day totally made up for all the work and frustration of the last six months.

A lot of people don't understand why we keep going back to help out the UAH chapter. After all, it's a college thing, and we graduated...what, nearly a hundred years ago? With everything else going on, I've been thinking a lot about why we've been so involved and why I would still like to help out in the future. And on the way back to Huntsville, Todd and I came up with the answer.

Part of it is, we honestly feel like the chapter and the competitions it participates in are terrific opportunities for any developing engineer. The skills they learn, the connections they make - I can't even begin to explain how important I think all of it is. For myself, I attribute a large part of what makes me good at my job directly to the experiences I had while I was a part of the Chapter. Public speaking, presentation preparation, problem-solving, leadership, independence, teamwork, patience, basic engineering principles, technical writing - all of it I learned or honed by participating in ASCE. And I can't see any other contribution I could make that allows me to so directly impact the development of so many students.

But the main reason we keep coming back is, believe it or not, we both LOVE to teach. There is nothing better or more rewarding than helping students and actually seeing the results firsthand. For instance, one girl this year is the type who hardly ever speaks, and we've been struggling to get her to interact with her teammates, to say what she's thinking, and share her ideas. But this past Friday, during the technical presentation in front of an entire panel of judges and a dozen of her peers - a presentation in which she was only in charge of running the slides - she stepped forward as a teammate was botching a question, and nailed the answer. And she didn't just nail it, she responded with an assertiveness and confidence I honestly had never heard from her. To see that kind of breakthrough, that kind of growth and development...man, that's WHY I do this year after year.

Of course, it's also incredibly frustrating when some of them refuse to learn and refuse to grow - when you can see their potential, but they have no interest in realizing it. That frustration is why I vow every year that I'm never coming back, because it just kills me every time.

But just as you're ready to walk away, one student steps up and tells you how much they appreciate your help, and how much they value what they've learned from you. Then you see another student have a breakthrough - you actually see them changing and growing and becoming better engineers and better people - and you know that you had a positive impact, at least on a few of them.

And, damn it, you're back in again.

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