Website, Reboot

General ramblings about web coding, life and other stuff

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Thoughts on Running

Run for your Lives logoI don’t know how it came up, or what conversation it was in, but I was sort of half-challenged to run a Run For Your Lives 5K zombie run in June.

Me? Running? Unheard of. I’ve always felt that I was never a good runner. I have weird things with my knees and problems with my feet. Running would be a bad idea.

Also, my loathing of running goes back to high school when we had to run around the track and I could barely make it a quarter mile without practically falling over. I wasn’t an overweight child, I just wasn’t athletic. I now realize that the coaches in high school had it wrong. You can’t just drop kids onto the track and expect them to run a half mile without any training.

I got an app on my new-to-me used smartphone and started with the Couch-to-5K plan. The first week, was pretty straightforward. Hey, this isn’t so easy. A treadmill cushions the ankles and knees and I have a shower and gym at work. Pretty nice when it’s 30 degrees outside.

Now that it’s warmer, I’ve been running outside. I just started week five, I’m all “Hey, I’m running! Holy crap, I never thought I could do this!” Of course, I’m still in training and taking audio cues from a disembodied computer voice from my phone, but it’s something. It’s almost fun. I find myself getting into “the zone” sometimes, where I am not concerned with how far I have left to go. I’m definitely getting the sense that this is mind-over-muscle. In some ways, I am working a part of my psyche that has never really had this kind of workout. It feels good.

Couch to 5K logo

I think I’m hitting my first challenge, though. Today I hit the treadmill with the symptoms of a cold caused by the insanely high pollen counts. Lung capacity is reduced, so I didn’t quite make my three intervals of 5 minutes each. I’ll have to repeat that again.

So far I’m enjoying how I feel having exercised. Overall I feel a bit stronger and a bit more accomplished at doing something I never thought I could do. Whether I lose my “brains” to a horde of “zombies” is still up for grabs, there’s hope that I will survive the run and obstacle course in June.

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Cruise Crazy ³

A third year, a third JoCo Cruise Crazy, a third year of insane fun, late nights, good friends, excellent music, mediocre dinners and did I mention the good friends? Yeah, that.

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Jonathan Coulton, the man of the week

The week started off on a middle note for me. I was a bit angsty about things early on and I was a bit snappish with people. This was pointed out to me by my ever-patient wife. I did my best to keep my cool, but there were times where I forgot myself and I let my temper get the better of me. If you were on the receiving end of that, I humbly beg your forgiveness.

It got better, though, and I was finally able to relax and let go by tuesday or wednesday and truly enjoy the cruise. It seemed to go pretty fast, but when I look back, there was so much that was going on that things that I remember seemed to take place weeks ago, when it was really days ago.

So here are some highlights:

On saturday, we learned that an important suitcase had been forgotten at the airport. Sara Chicazul needed to pick up her rental cello from the music store. I had a car. You can see where this is going, right? :) We drove. A lot. To the airport, to the craft store, to the music store, back to the hotel. We were gone about 4 hours. We talked a long time (what else is there to do?) and covered a lot of topics, all of which I won’t go into here. I got to know my friend much better. She is a quirky, some would say, strange woman, but also terribly intelligent, perceptive, kind and caring. I think that road trip is one of the highlights of the week for me.

Also on saturday, we learned that two of our good friends weren’t going to make it on the cruise due to the weather in Boston. We were very sad because we were looking forward to seeing them very much. Early the next morning, we heard they had a lead on a flight that had been rescheduled and were going to  try to make it. Later in the day, about an hour before everyone had to be on board, I texted him. Moments later, they walk into the conference room for registration. Woohoo! Rejoicing! My snorkeling buddy made it! it was awesome!

Snorkeling

Sunken canon and fish

Speaking of snorkeling, I am definitely doing that again. The snorkel part, which shall remain unnamed, was fun, to a point. It seemed to me that the company who owns the snorkel park was doing the bare minimum to get tourists to give them money. The park was situated on a rather rocky shore, but we still did see some fish and a sunken helicopter, an old cannon, a barracuda, some nasty looking spiny sea urchins and some fish. The best part of the day was getting to spend it with my friend, which was really worth it.

Concerts, parties, drinking, hot tubbing at midnight in gale force winds. Those are things that happend. I will not recount them.

The best I can say is that though I had a good time, it was a mixed week for me. Overall, the week went by very fast. I didn’t get much sleep and was busy doing something all the time, be it running errands for the staff, partying it up, dining, going to shows, trying to tie a &$#@! bowtie. But the week started off on a down note and picked up over the course of the week.

A few hiccups on my part early on with the volunteering thing kinda got me down, but I had to force myself to let it go and start enjoying myself. Eventually things fell into place and I forced myself to have fun, but maybe not to go so far as singing karaoke. Maybe next year.

And yes, we are going again next year. How could we miss this? :) The best part for me is seeing friends I don’t often get to see, and making new friends. Next year, more friends, right? Right.

See more photos here! //www.flickr.com/photos/cajunjoel/sets/72157632801755376

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Surprises

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This week was my birthday. A “milestone” birthday that everyone else thinks is significant, but I was not planning on making a big deal of it. I don’t consider it that much of a huge accomplishment to reach the age of 40. It’s not like I did anything except take reasonably good care of myself and not get hit by a bus.

My wife, however, had different ideas.

On Tuesday, she contacted me at work and asked if I wanted to go to our favorite fast casual restaurant for dinner. Of course, I agreed. It’s tasty and we had a coupon for a free entree. So she picked me up at the Metro and we had dinner and it was nice. When we got home, I was putting my leftovers in the fridge when I turned around to see a bunch of cards hanging from the chandelier in our dining room.

Now, it’s not unknown for my wife to do fun things with stuff like this. I thought she probably just thought it would be fun to spruce things up a bit and hang the cards from ribbons on the chandelier instead of placing them on the top of the piano like we normally do. We have plenty of ribbon that we are unlikely to use anytime soon, and so that was one fun thing to do with it. On the table was a small box, too. And then she brought out a cake. Yay! It’s a little birthday at home. I am content.

Then I start looking at the cards and the box more closely. The cards are not from the usual places. I don’t have family in Boston. Or Alabama. And there’s far more than family members. That’s a lot of cards. The box has an airmail sticker on the outside and it’s a bit beat up, as if it went a long way. And it was sent from Australia. Huh? What’s going on here.

So I start taking them off of the chandelier and see that they are from all over the place. Some have names, some don’t. I start to realize that there’s been a conspiracy here. My wife has contacted many of our online friends and they have sent cards for my birthday. This is really awesome. People from California, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Massachusetts, Oregon, Florida, Alabama and others took the time to find a card, write something nice in it and send it. My wife held onto all of them for days.

Oh, and the box from Australia? Chocolate that you can only get there. Cadbury Footy Bites and two, count them, two!, packages of Tim Tams that you can’t get in the U.S. This is awesome!

And so monday ends and I am happy, my wife is tickled pink and quite proud of herself for pulling this off. Yes, she is quite proud of herself. And it’s well deserved. And you see that there is more blog post here. Let’s continue…

Wednesday!

Kate picks me up at the Metro again, we have a doctor’s appointment. In the car is another box! And an Express Mail envelope! These are obviously latecomers, of which we knew we’d have a few.

The express mail envelope is surprising. Someone spent almost $20 to send a card for me. Brian, really, you could have waited. I open the express mail envelope and inside is a beat-to-hell wrinkled-up yellow greeting card envelope. Inside is a card and it has a monkey on it. This is not surprising seeing as this is a fellow Jonathan Coulton fan. Then I open the card. And it’s signed by Jonathan Coulton. With an added message “Not enough monkeys!”. This. is. AWESOME! Wow. I am floored.

In the box is an equally cool gift. It’s from our friends Tara and Sean in Utah who know I have an affinity for the space program. In the box, along with a lovely card (Tara does have a way with words) and a little space rocket toy. I look at it more closely and it’s a ballpoint pen in the shape of an Ares rocket. And, to top it off, it’s spring loaded and it launches! I can’t wait to open this up. I think I’ll take it to work and keep it on my desk. If someone needs a pen, I’ll say, “Ok, stand back and get ready to catch. 3…2…1… Liftoff!” I tried it this weekend and launching it from the dining room table, it comes within a foot of hitting the top of our 9 foot ceilings.

And so I get a second day of birthday excitement and fun.

Thursday! Friday!

Not much happens on thursday and friday. We’re cleaning house looking forward to a visit from our friends Thera and Josh as they drive back home from the beach.

Saturday!

So Thera and Josh arrive. I’m cooking something for my lunch this week. And it’s cooling on the stove when they arrive.

At some poing, they remember that they have some stuff in the car that needs to be put into the fridge. I go outside and help get the stuff out of the car, I return to put the stuff in the fridge and as I come out of the kitchen, I see someone in the grass outside out patio and I thought it was workmen or some neighbors or kids walking by. So I look out the window more closely and I see a t-shirt that I recognize from JoCo Cruise Crazy 2 and Molly. The person in the t-shirt ducks behind a wall, but I can still see Molly out there.

I turn to Josh and say “Josh, what’s going on here?”

“I don’t know anything“, he replies.What’s going on here. Why is Molly outside my patio?

I glance outside again and I see people carrying stuff. Nerds. Carrying stuff! “Josh, what is going on?”

“Really, I don’t know anything about this!”

So at this point I realize that my wife has organized something. Again. I go into the back room, and I say “Kate, What did you do?!”

She calls back through the door, “I’m in the bathroom!”

So I go back outside and Josh is still in the living room, Thera is nowhere to be found, and there are still a dozen nerds on my back porch. I’m shocked and surprised and finally open the door and start letting people in. Suddenly there are a dozen sea monkeys in our condo carrying food and drinks and snacks, salad and cake and all sorts of things. A card is shoved in my hand. A gift bag. A large gift bag. Wow.

Needless to say, I’m still shocked and still surprised but I soon realize that our little living room and dining area won’t hold this many people. So I say “Let’s move the couch over here” and like some sort of domestic Transformer, the room is suddenly reconfigured to hold more people. Kate is bringing out chairs and people are settling down and I’m floored.

Presents are opened, games are played, cake is eaten, everyone has a good time and I thanked numerous times for getting older and giving everyone a reason to have a party.

After all this, Kate asks me some questions about how the day went. And she makes the point that sometimes things are celebrated in ways that you don’t expect it and that sometimes the things you expect aren’t the things you want. And that sometimes things that you don’t want to celebrate should be celebrated anyway because they are important as much as you don’t want to admit it.

This week I turned 40 years old. I don’t feel it, people tell me I don’t look it, I hope I don’t act it (except at work). But what really happened is that I got to spend this week with someone who loves me in ways I am still learning about, and I got to celebrate it a second time with an amazing group of friendly, kind, generous and amazing people.

Who could ask for more, really?

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Illness and Appreciation

This week I’ve been sick. Now, I’ve had my share of illnesses over the years. Flu, mono, the occasional so-tired-I-sleep-for 18-hours-straight, seasonal allergies (it’s like being sick 8 weeks out of the year!), but this time seemed different somehow.

So here’s how the story goes…

A good friend is moving across the country. We decide to throw her a party on saturday.  It’s nice, it’s fun, we’ll see our friends, we’ll have a fond farewell. Photographs, card games, good times, munchies, root beer, cake.

Hey, wait… who invited the norovirus?

24 hours after the party ended, my wife and I got sick. So sick that our bellies decided to disobey the standard rules of digestion and forcefully evict, without a warrant or barely a warning, the food we’d eaten over the past 24 hours. Needless to say, Sunday night was pretty rough. Between bouts of queasiness, praying that it will pass without having to kneel before the (thankfully recently sanitized) toilet, visiting the toilet more than once, and trying to get some sleep, it was almost a miracle we made it through the night.

After things started to calm down at 1am, I thought I’d warn our guests that we’d been sick and to see if any of them had come down with anything. I started a group chat with them on Facebook. Sadly, within an hour of my initial post, someone else was feeling queasy. And by the end of the next day, a good 60% of our guests had the same symptoms.

Monday comes and we’re wiped out. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life. Not when I biked a metric century (62 miles) without being prepared for it. Not when I tried to walk 5 miles home and ended up walking 15 (didn’t quite make it home.) Not even when I had mono (two weeks in bed.)  I realize now that b monday morning, we effectively hadn’t eaten in nearly 36 hours, and had about 4-5 hours of uncomfortable sleep. Not a great combination. And to top it off, having an upset stomach, to put it mildly, meant that we had no interest in eating anything whatsoever.

I somehow made my way to the grocery store that morning to stock up on Pedialyte (yay! On sale!), juices, crackers, soup, and other gentle foods to ease our bodies back into the idea of digestion. I think I must have been an odd sight: 8am in the grocery, barely showered and groomed, trudging through the store, taking upwards of 30-35 minutes to pick up a selection of items that filled one grocery bag, at a time when most normal people are just getting to their desks.

The rest of the day passes in a blur, more or less. After we moved the furniture around in the living room, converting the floor to a bed by way of the mattress from the hide-a-bed sofa, and turning on the TV, we zoned out, make sure we each always had water and juice, and checked our email as we could. Sleeping now and again, resting, hoping that the crackers I ate thirty minutes ago will stay down, even though my stomach is threatening another rebel uprising.

Dénouement

By and large, with enough sleep and managing the 101º fever, things begin to move back to a state of normal. We were able to commiserate with our friends, taking comfort in the shared experience and that in the end, there’s really no one to blame. It could be that someone, anyone, picked up the virus and it spread rapidly with all the hugging and handshaking going on. But we were able to support each other and offer advice and sometimes that’s a good thing to have.

Everything is better today, with the exception that our guest of honor at the party had to delay her trip by a few days. Fortunately she was able to work things out with her soon-to-be ex-landlord to stay a few more days and I hope that the airline said “Why of course we’ll change your ticket for free, Ma’am. We’d rather you just keep that nice little virus to yourself!”. (Somehow, I don’t think it went down like that.)

But what this all boils down to is that I have come to have a much greater appreciation for illness than I did before. Typically and historically I have a pretty strong immune system and don’t fall ill often. I like to think of it as a trade-off for fighting grass pollen two months out of the year. So usually when I do get sick, I’m a miserable, insufferable, whiny, bitch about it. This time around, I somehow found a way of accepting it and I think I gained a greater understanding and empathy for those who have chronic or other severe illnesses. For me, there are few things worse than vomiting, which in my case is pretty bad. It made me think about cancer patients going through chemotherapy and how they face this sort of thing week after week and I can only get a glimpse of how they find the strength to continue to go on with the treatments again and again. Lying on the living room floor for two days, I think about people who have CFS or other chronic illnesses and how it feels to have what seems like a two ton weight on your entire body such that simply sitting up takes all the strength you have. And yet these people still hold jobs and have families and lives. It’s amazing.

I guess it makes me thankful that I am healthy, but at the same time I’m a bit guilty for having taken it for granted for so long.

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On loss

My cat died today. She was 11 and a half years old. Our little world at home will never be the same.

It was sudden, but not unexpected. She’d been sick for a while, but we did our best to make sure she didn’t suffer. I accept that our pets must die for they don’t live as long as we do, but as their owners, we must make sure that we keep them free of pain and suffering. I have to remind myself almost hourly that we did our best by her.

Now, our condo is a constant reminder of her absence. I think that’s the hardest part. From the place where her food and water constantly got in the way of my feet in the kitchen, to the sun shining in the window onto the bed, where she would lay for hours in winter soaking in the heat. Even the color of the carpet and the shades on the wall are reminiscent of the grey of her fur and the green of her eyes.

I feel cheated. Angry. Furious at the unfairness of the world. She was only 11 years old. Cats live longer than that. I knew she was getting old and had arthritis in her hips, but I wasn’t prepared for this. She got sick. She stopped eating. We took to the vet, we got her IV fluids, we tried to get her to eat. But in the end, I think it was cancer that got her. We had a biopsy taken just yesterday. The results won’t be in until next week.

I console myself that she went when she was ready to go. It was her choice, not ours. We just weren’t ready for it. We didn’t recognize the signs at the time. We rushed her to the Veterinary ER at 6am. She was gone five minutes after arrival. The staff there were exceptionally kind and understanding for people who probably see this every day. They said that some animals ‘check out’ when they go and that their body takes a little longer to figure it out. I think this was the case with our Coby. It’s going to be hard to remember things other than the glazed-over look in her eyes as I broke several traffic laws to get to the Vet as fast as I could.

When we came home, broken hearted, to an empty home, we cleaned, the activity giving us something to take our mind off. But it’s not enough. Eventually you run out of things to do. Your mind wanders back to that shadow, is that here laying there in the corner? Or you see the corner of the wall where she used to rub her cheek. Or the end of the couch that was essentially reserved for her. But the food bowl is gone, waiting to be washed and put away. The blanket on the couch is in the wash with all the towels we’d put on the floor to make cleanup easier.

How do you get through? I can just hope that the hurt is less tomorrow than it is today.

God, I miss my cat.