Friday, September 29, 2006

Home again, Home again, jiggety blog...

American Airlines carries Dr Pepper. I <3 American Airlines.

Gorgeous sights and yummy food were had in Vancouver this week. I took a friend's advice and sat by the window on my outbound flight. The view was breathtaking. The coast is geologically similar to Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. It seems to be just a little more convoluted in the coastline, but I could be wrong. There were lots of little islands and gorgeous mountains that knelt right down into the water. The wave patterns made by the wind and the boats were shown to best effect by the afternoon sunlight that turned the whole of the Pacific Ocean into a shattered golden mirror.

I had the whole of Row 12 to myself on that flight, so after I had seen all the sights and we passed Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helen's, I turned my attention to the very serious matter of solving the newspaper Sudoku. Alas, I got to the last square and discovered that I'd made a logical error somewhere else in the puzzle and couldn't solve it out correctly. This is where a computerized version of the game, with an "Undo" button that could step me backwards through my solution would have been useful. Rather than trying to unravel the puzzle and fix it, which my eraser was not large enough to undertake, I picked up the American Airlines magazine and set to solving their Sudoku. I laid out across all three seats in my row and had a nap, and then I tussled with the Sudoku a bit more. A direct flight, warm sunlight on my feet, and Dr Pepper to top it all off. I was in heaven.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I wonder if there are any good song lyrics about Vancouver?

So the Convention Center in Vancouver has a roof reminiscent of the one at the Denver airport. It's one of those masted ceilings with canvas strung between the masts and from the underside it's all swooping wires that maintain the tension of the canvas, keeping the thing watertight. Apparently it rains a lot here. I've seen nothing but sunny skies, but there was a complimentary loaner umbrella in the closet of my room. I'll take it as proof that they DO rather frequently have call to lend them out. As it is, I travel with a compact umbrella in my laptop bag because... well... you can't look professional giving a demonstration or standing in front of a class if your pants are dripping rain onto the floor.

Another feature of my hotel, which I have to say I adore at this point, is found with the in-room the coffee service. Ordinarily, there is nothing remarkable to say about it. Ordinarily, one gets a basket of junk alongside the in-room coffee maker and part of the junk is the packets of powdered non-dairy creamer that I secretly believe were the mysterious white substance found in John Cornyn's office this morning. Really, it's virtually indistinguishable from anthrax spores and it tastes bad, but not quite as bad as bad coffee does. So I use the stuff, though I loathe it with the loathing of a thousand thousand dogs loathing a thousand thousand thousand escape-artist cats. At this place, they provide LIQUID creamer. In those clever little plastic tubs with the peel-off foil lids, just like you would get in a diner. And really, since I don't want a uniformed roomservice attendant disturbing my slumber to bring me fresh cold creamer in an insulated pitcher every morning, nor do I want to pay the $5 they would charge for the one mug of coffee they would bring me, I can hang with the plastic tubs just fine. Really, room service prices make Starbucks start to look economical.

Speaking of... I've gotta get my things packed and into my car. There is a Tim Horton's on the walk to the Convention Center from my hotel, and I am bound to go. I need some timbits and a tall double-double. And maybe a Maple-Glazed while I'm at it. Road food is bad for you... But it tastes good!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Just when I start to feel like a grown-up...

So I'm in Vancouver this week. Not the whole week, thankfully, but Tuesday-Thursday, which might as well be the whole week. I managed to get my stuff moved out of my apartment this weekend, with the invaluable assistance of my delightful girlfriend. I would have been overwhelmed and then collapsed in a heap of frustration several times (especially toward the end) had it not been for her steady help and encouragement. As it was, we managed to finish all the crucial packing well beforetime on Friday, so we got one long, last, luxurious soak in my garden tub before i had to turn in the keys. We got a decent night's sleep and were reasonably chipper when the movers arrived to carry all the things from Point A to Point B. Then, we wrapped up the move in time to get a shower and a nap before going to her parents' house to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Happy New Year! I had never eaten Jewish "home cooking" before. For that matter, aside from the occasional kosher dill or lox on a bagel, I'm not sure I've ever eaten any sort of Jewish cooking before. It was a fantastic new experience and let me tell you - homemade Jewish cous-cous ROCKS. The hizzouse.

Monday, I went to the city dump and disposed of my dead washing machine which had left a bit of water-stain on the floor of my laundry room because it had decided at some point that leaking water was preferable to conveying it all into the wash basket. At least the leak was at the upstream end, so it wasn't leaking dirty laundry water on the floor. So, I was feeling all fabulous and mature and productive because I'd gotten all the move stuff done and finished the last cleanup details at the apartment and turned in the keys... I even remembered to wipe out the inside of the fridge! Tuesday, I had to pack for Vancouver, and this is where the trouble began.

For reasons unknown to me, I ended up spending lots of time Tuesday morning doing laundry, checking e-mail, catching up on blogs, preparing for demos I'd be giving at the conference and NOT PACKING. So when I got hungry, I looked at the clock to see if I could justify a lunch break, and realized that I had just one hour to get myself totally ready. This included FINDING the clothes and shoes and socks and accessories I wanted to pack, ASSEMBLING them and my toiletries all in one place, and ACTUALLY STUFFING THOSE THINGS IN A BAG. I failed miserably at the last two, and slightly at the first one.

A short list of the stuff I already know that I forgot:

  • Novels for airplane entertainment
  • Jacket (It's 18 here, yo!)
  • Hair Stuff *
  • Deodorant (I brought some, but it's so empty that I'd throw it away if I were home.)
  • Phone Charger
  • iPod

* The problem with forgetting my hair stuff is that, left to its own devices, my hair resembles nothing so much as a very disheveled Q-tip that has been used to clean auto parts. This, I assure you, does not coincide with even the more relaxed Professional Dress Codes. If you've been to one of those sandwich shops where the Sandwich Artists wear dreadlocks and have multiple body modfications, it's possible I could get by with my hair in a place like that, but I really think they'd make me muzzle it, even in a place that liberal. My "Hair Stuff" tames the mess and makes it lie (more or less) down against my head and unites the individual strands so they look like big curls instead of a frizzy haze. You don't even know you need to thank me for using it, so I'll tell you right now - You're Welcome.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Gone to Refugio, Back by 2!!!

Monica and I had known each other for four years. She was in my English classes from Mrs. Reuter to Mrs. Schurtz (quite the gamut those English teachers ran...) We were never especially close, however, until our sophomore year. That year, we competed in Certamen together and ran the Latin Club, and over time we became good friends. At first we didn't get along well because of some typical best-friend drama with her childhood pal, the result being that I was left out. But Monica was never the type to exclude someone, so by our junior year we had become like the Three Musketeers, but without the Muskets and all in Latin instead of French. Monica and I had more classes together our junior year, and she taught me how to raise a little hell but still be a good kid.

She was working at Grandy's at the time. When we had Certamen tournaments she would spend the night at my house after she got off work. That was better than driving all the way out to her house, trying to snag a wink of sleep, and then meeting us by the roadside on our way out of town in the small hours. We had always planned for me to spend a night with her sometime, just for fun. We looked forward to going dancing and sleeping late, rather than studying and going bleary-eyed as we usually did.

Junior year rolled by and Senior year came on and I quit taking Latin, but Monica and I still spent a lot of time talking because of all those events that happen to you in high school which are much bigger at the time than they ever are in retrospect. Well, one weekend in the fall, we were finally going to do it. There was a dance Saturday night, and we were going to go to it and then spend the night at her house. I had a physical exam for the Air force Academy that morning in Beeville, but when I got back that afternoon, my eyes were still dilated and my mom said I couldn't go out. My mom had the right idea - my eyes didn't return to normal until Monday. Hopes dashed again, we waited.

Some weeks later, however, everything was finally right. Monica had to work for a few hours on Friday afternoon. She came to my house and we "got ready", which couldn't have taken very long since neither of us really was the makeup-wearing type. Most likely she had to shower the fried chicken smell off herself and fix her hair. We went out to Inez Community Center, because TAB (the Texas Armadillo Band - in their day they were an act not to be missed) was playing there and it was just a half hour north of town.

We had good times, staying until the dance was nearly over. I met her cousin Bill, who she was going to visit two years later when the accident happened. On the way home, we sang to the radio and talked about everything and everybody. We got so busy talking we missed the exit where Business Highway 59 splits off of US 59 and goes into Victoria. We just kept on driving, singing, talking. After a while, we started to wonder if we had missed an exit, but there's no way to turn around on that stretch of divided highway, and we weren't sure how long we'd been driving, or how far. So we just kept on going and talking, and from time to time one of us would say, "Gee, are you sure we didn't miss an exit?" But neither of us remembered the merger of Business 59 with US 59 on our way out to Inez, so we couldn't figure out why there'd be an exit to miss. All of a sudden we were in Refugio. (For those not familiar with the route of US Highway 59 through south-central Texas, that's the next town down the road, a solid 30 minute drive from the south edge of Victoria.)

Neither of us had realized we'd been driving for that long, and we laughed so hard when we got there, I almost couldn't get the car turned around. Time flies, as they say. On the original route home, we had planned to take a shortcut her grandmother had described to her. By the end of that misadventure, though, we decided to simply follow the main road and get home as directly as we knew how. Afterwards, we had a secret between us that we never told anyone, but now I'm the only one who knows.

We were the kind of friends who can spend two hours out on the road together, not even knowing half an hour had passed. Predictably, when I left for school, we swore never to grow apart. Both of us knew we had the kind of friendship you don't let go of. She wrote and told me her milestones and her little things. I wrote back and we managed to stay close. I called whenever I was allowed, but freshmen at military institutions have precious and limited phone time. I tried to call her to catch up on her news on the night she died, Oct. 17, 1992. I got her last letter the next day, and it said she had to tell me something, but it would have to wait until a private time. I never found out what it was. I still think of her a lot, especially around Refugio.

In Memoriam - Monica Deanne Hartman - Ana Behabbek

Monday, September 18, 2006

back from connecticut

well, i'm back home safe and sound from connecticut. the road signage continued to be woefully inadequate at almost all times. the interstate freeways themselves, because they are under federal guidelines, were adequately marked. however, getting onto them from the state and local roads was occasionally a very dicey game.

yesterday was the gay pride parade in dallas and i rode my motorcycle. i'd affixed a texas flag and a us/pride flag to the back. my girlfriend had attached a us flag and a banner for her motorcycle club, so we got to lead the group out with our flag display. i picked up a passenger. she was some cute kid who had turned 19 just the day before and had ALWAYS wanted to ride on a motorcycle, etc. her girlfriend rode along as a passenger with my girlfriend, so that was some nice symmetry. it was slick and rainy and there was junk all over the street that various floats ahead of us had tried to toss at the crowd and then missed. how you could throw and miss a wall of people 4 feet from you, i don't know. but i assure you, there was plenty of flotsam atop the oil slick atop the water-slick streets. it made some of those parade maneuvers a bit scary. it was my first time carrying a passenger, and i was terrified that i might drop the bike in a turn or hit a string of beads just as i was braking down a hill and slide right into the antique car in front of me. anyway, i survived. and photos seem to indicate i was smiling:
I'm smiling!
that's me out front looking at the camera. in the vee between my flagpoles you can see my girlfriend laughing out loud at something. now, back to the trash on the street question - how can you throw something at a crowd like that and MISS?!?!
here's another picture. it's a little blurry, but it's got a much better angle:
it rained on us all day long, which was a mixed blessing. the temperature was cooler than our daytime average, but then... we were all wearing wet underwear and socks. really, nothing dampens my mood quite like wet socks and underwear. hunger and cold can make me really cranky, but for general mood funk - wet socks and underwear are the ultimate trigger.

the photographer noted that she'd never seen my hair braided up like that before. it's really just gotten long enough for that quite recently, since i'm growing it out again after having donated it to Locks Of Love. i think i've only worn it braided 4 times this year. braiding my own hair is one of those phenomenally useful skills i picked up along the way rather by accident and didn't appreciate the value of until well after the fact. the other two skills i count in that way are typing and the "roll step".

i rebelled against taking typing when my mom "suggested" it my freshman year of high school. "but moooooom! i'm not going to be a secretary, i don't need typing!" you almost have to be a freshman in high school with no understanding of how an office works to comprehend how much scorn i heaped on the words 'secretary' and 'typing'. needless to say, i've used my typing skills nearly every day since then and couldn't be more grateful to my mother for insisting that i learn.

the "roll step" is something you learn in the marching band. it's a way of placing your heel and of rolling your weight along the outside of your foot as you walk so you don't jounce along and break your teeth off with the mouthpiece of your musical instrument. if you like coffee, and have ever tried to walk back to your desk with a hot mugful, you realize the application immediately. until i made the ridiculous mistake of trying to wear women's dress shoes that matched my business attire better than they matched my lifestyle, i never spilled hot coffee on my fingers as i passed through the office. the "roll step" requires a reasonably flexibly-soled shoe with a relatively low heel on it. a glorious open-toed black franco santo with a 2" heel on it does NOT work with the roll step.

the hair braiding thing i owe to the air force academy. my hair is a giant mop which is not, under even the best of conditions, militarily uniform. nobody has the time or inclination to braid their roommate's hair every day, so my roommate showed me basically how she did her own and left me to adapt the technique for myself. i practiced a lot while reading history texts and eventually my hair got long enough and i got good enough. again, it's something i've used so often since then that i can't begin to imagine getting through my rugby career, my surveying jobs, or my professional career as an alarm-over-sleeper without it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm not QUITE dead yet...

But i AM a gigantic slacker. I've been on the road, from Dallas to Medicine Hat, Alberta, to Watertown, Connecticut passing through Charlotte, NC (good crabcakes in the airport there!) and Hartford, CT, too. As I've been so busy LIVING my life, I've not sat down and taken the time to WRITE about it. So I'm attempting to make amends. I'm actually teaching a class at this very moment, but the students are occupied working on the exercises I've assigned, so I might manage to sneak a quick update in before I have to get back to work.

And that was about it. Class finished their exercises and now we're off to lunch. Ah, well.

For the record: road signage in Connecticut is thoroughly inadequate. temperature fluctuations of 30 degrees celsius in a travel day are hard to plan/pack for. road food is bad for you.