Hairy Fishnuts, Everyone!

Here I am lunching in my office, processing payables, updating budget projections, and waiting for a delivery of office supplies. It's the first opportunity I've had to just sit and be a vegetable since eating lunch in the office last Friday! The weekend was much like the last -- plowing through the end-of-year decluttering and mass clean-up, although we had some excitement when a transformer near my house blew Sunday morning, and we lost electricity for an hour and a half. I know this because the sound woke up my housemate. I was out cold and didn't hear a thing. When the electricity came back on, we couldn't connect to the internet. I reset the modem and router and thought everything was hunky dory, but then lost connection to the router. Steven (my housemate) figured out that if we continually renew our dhcp leases, it will work, but that's kind of a pain. I wonder if I changed some setting in the router to make it do that... or if something was partially damaged in the switch or router when the transformer blew. By the way, this, the issues I've been having with my Powerbook, the end-of-year mas cleanup and busy work schedule, have contributed to my not being online much for a couple weeks.

I'm Buddhist and don't formally celebrate Christmas, but did spend part of Christmas day with my dad and his girlfriend. I drove to her place in San Pablo and watched some tv show with my dad. They dropped a guy on some mountain and he had to get down it with only what was in his pack -- a tripod, emergency blanket, a utility knife and a couple other things.

In the evening, I went to a potluck with Steven. His friend Jay's girlfriend, Jessica, is the manager at a bar called the Uptown, and in honor of the 1 year anniversary of James Brown's death, Jessica hosted the Feast of Saint Soul Brutha. Steven made mac & cheese and corn bread. I bought the ingredients, which is more difficult than it sounds, because he sent me specifically to buy Velveeta! I looked in the cheese section... nope. Dairy? Ha! So I had to find a clerk and ask out loud for Velveeta! After he finished laughing, he led me to the correct aisle.

So we went to the potluck and I met Steven's friends, most of whom are involved with an event called the Bike Rodeo -- they create and ride unusual bicycles and do stunts on them. They are also filming a Road Warrior spoof... on bicycles, of course! I was already a little tired from cleaning the house all weekend, then I ate a bunch of food and had a beer (I usually only drink about a quarter of a beer and then my housemate finishes it off for me), then I had a shot of Jamesons... I was snockered. I was only slightly drunk, but I was SO SLEEPY it made it seem like I was drunker than I actually was. When I stood up to walk to the bathroom, a couple of guys sitting at the end of the bar looked pretty amused.

I hope everyone had a nice holiday!


What a whacky week

Here I was thinking my schedule would ease off a bit, because I finished teaching this term on Monday and I'd only have to worry about my day job for a few weeks, except of course, once extra time opened up, other activities expanded into that extra time, so there goes my down time! At least I don't have to shuttle back and forth between jobs until mid-January!

Part of the activities have been taken up by the day job. It's one of those jobs that will just expand itself into the amount of time you give it. Plus, I open my house up to friends and family around New Years every year (it's a Japanese tradition), so I've been trying to clean and fix things up before the 29th.

Last week was declutter week, and it was FREEZING, literally -- it was actually in the 20s in the Bay Area one night -- so when I did my yearly scrounging for items to donate, I included with the normal stuffed animals, kitchenware, bedding and assorted clothing, a winter coat, insulated jacket, sweaters and some long-sleeved shirts, because I figured someone would really need those this year. I recycled a pile of research papers I'd had for something like 5 years, because most of them I can get online now, and threw away a 32-gallon can of junk. I also drained the spa.

I didn't do anything in the house during the week, because I've been putting in extra hours at work to get things organized in our new office, and I've been exhausted at night. I filled the spa yesterday (Saturday) while I was organizing some files and re-organizing my closets. Except I forgot I was filling it and it overflowed. I powered it up anyway, figuring the jets would splash out the excess water, closed the cover and headed back in the house. I was tired, and after dinner I even skipped a party I'd been looking forward to attending all month!

I climbed into bed, opened my PowerBook and got a message that the OS needed updating. I started the update, clicked over to the Crossword I was working on... and nodded off! I wasn't going to accomplish anything, so I shut the 'book, turned out the light and was out cold before my head even hit the pillow. This was midnight. I normally fall asleep at about 1:30.

At 6:30, my eyes popped open, and I couldn't get back to sleep. I fed the animals, made oatmeal and coffee for my housemate, who had to be up early, went outside to the spa, and lifted the cover, looked at the display, and nothing! No lights, no error message, zip! And the water was COLD! So I turned off the breaker for a minute, flipped it back on, and still nothing! Then I noticed the water on the bricks running out from under the tub, so opened the housing and saw water running down from the depths of the insulation. I must have overflowed or overloaded something in the structure, which sprang a leak and shorted out the electrical system. Great. Now I have to call in the spa repair guys... arrrgh!!!

I went back in the house and opened the Powerbook to try and find the number. The little beachball that tells you it's in the middle of a process started its spin, and as I waited for the login window, I heard the hard disk spin down and then the display shut off. I hit a key to start it again, and it did that again... and again! So I shut down the power completely and restarted. The little Apple appeared to tell me it was booting, and the hard disk started up, and I waited.... and waited... then I set the thing on the floor and did something else for awhile and came back. Still on the same screen. So I tried a couple more times with no success. I'm on my way out the door right now to a cookie baking party, at which there will be a few computer geeks, so I'm bringing the thing with me, hoping they can fix it. If not, I may just buy a new computer!

Oh yeah, I'm late for the party!!!


I've still got it! Sort of.

I teach PE at the local community college (where we'll be moving into a brand new building in January!) and meet people of all ages and backgrounds. So tonight after work I was talking with a (relatively) young man (he's 32) who was originally from the midwest. He was very interested in my holiday plans and what kinds of things there are to do in San Francisco after midnight. When I said I was almost 41 and therefore didn't go out as much anymore, he acted surprised and then mentioned several times that I couldn't be that old. After that, he pretty much lost interest in my plans and opinion. I guess I'm flattered that I'm still somewhat attractive enough to be flirted with, even though I'm apparently too old for the follow-through!


Thanksgiving '07

Every Thanksgiving, I drive 20 miles up to San Francisco for an early dinner with my friends, Kathryn and Maurice, and their extended family, and then drive 60 miles down to my cousin's house in Los Gatos for a later dinner with my own family. Every year, I get lost on the way to my cousin's.

This year, I got to my friends' house in the afternoon, relaxed with a glass of champagne and made it a point to restrain myself from porking out when dinner was served. I brought a camera this year, which I normally don't do, but I'm not very good with it, particularly after drinking and I'm a lightweight. Soo... most of the snaps are unusable, and the best one of the bunch was me turning the camera around to capture myself and Maurice.

I currently have a housemate with whom I have a pretty good rapport, so I invited him to my cousin's. On the way down to Los Gatos, I stopped at home and picked him up. He was baking chocolate chip pecan cookies... yum! He packed his cookies while I downloaded a map of the area around my cousin's and then Steve took the wheel while I studied my maps.

As we got onto 101 I told him to look for 85 South. Except when 85 came up, we were yapping about something and missed it! So we took the next exit and looped back... except there is no 85 exit coming the other way. We wandered around Mountain View (I think) for awhile before stopping to ask for directions, found 85 and made the transition to 17 just fine.

As we sped down 17, Steve said "isn't that our exit?" and I said "uh, I don't think so," but of course it was. Another turnaround at the next exit and as we came off the proper exit, Steve was driving down the street and I said "ummm, I think I came this way last year - we need to go the other way!" By this time, he's not believing anything I say and stops to look at the map because we're close enough it shows the streets we're on, and is surprised to discover that I was actually right that time!

We walked in the door just as everyone was finishing dinner, right about the same time I'd walked in the year before. But I was there, it was warm and nothing more could go wrong! One of my cousins just had a baby this year and as I reached into my purse to grab my camera... I realized I'd forgotten my camera up at Kathryn and Maurice's!


Yes, I admit it...

... I read, and enjoyed, the "Little House" books when I was a kid. I read them all... two or three times!

I still remember how Jack, the brindle bulldog (must have been a Staffordshire/Pit Bull, because that's how he looked in her drawing), faithfully followed their wagon across the states and swift rivers to a whole new world, and I remember crying when I thought he was lost in the current of one of those streams... and crying again when he turned himself in his three little circles on his pillow for the last time.

I remember her enjoyment of the maple sugar candies she received on Christmas, and how white sugar was such a luxury. Funny how times change -- white sugar is relatively cheap now.

And I remember her perspectives on others, the family she stayed with as a young teacher that was so unlike her own -- frequent arguments and a much less rosy outlook, Nellie Olsen, the "scary" natives wearing skunk skins and how her mother thought the only good indian was a dead indian, but her father thought they just needed better lines of communication. Funny how things don't change. There are still people who don't trust those who are different than themselves and those who feel that ignorance leads to hate. Then there are those who foster that hate for their own gain... I don't remember Laura mentioning them in her books, but they must have existed, even back then.


Another Dog Story

I was in the kitchen making tea when Piglet ran in to see what I was doing. She weighs over 50 pounds (23 kg) now, but at 10 1/2 months of age, she's still technically a puppy. So Piglet sees me near the food and gets excited, because she thinks I'm going to give her a doggie treat. I bend down to greet her just as she begins to rear back to jump on me and pow-pow! I get a paw in each eye! Three nights earlier, she'd been crawling up onto Steve's bed to lie down next to him and punched him in the eye! I'm looking forward to the post-puppyhood calm... at least I hope there's a post-puppyhood calm!


Old School

This is me, c. 1987. I ran a race in Osaka, and the woman with me is Irina Kazakova, who was on the Leningrad Institute team. Irina and I kept in contact after this race until sometime in the early 1990's. She is a marathoner, who has since moved to France. She has her own marathon training site, http://www.runirina.com/. Wow, she looks good. Since I last saw her, she's won Lausanne, Vegas, Vienna and Cross of Mt Blanc, among other big races. I'm a schlub. I stopped running, gained weight and work in an office under flourescent lights all day.


Post Election Blues

The local election has closed, and everyone I hated won. Now I kind of wish I'd been more vocal about who I disliked before the election. Too late now, but I'm going to rant anyway...

I was bombarded with junk mail by the two City Counil incumbents up for re-election. Almost every day for two weeks, I received something from one or the other. A couple of times, I received joint mail from them! I was annoyed. I only got one message from the candidate I did support when she sent a single email message to people she knew (we're in the same neighborhood association). Plus, these two supported a lot of ugly, low-quality developments, most of which are within walking distance of my house. I live in the low-rent neighborhood -- they live up the hill, away from the eyesores they supported and proudly printed on their campaign junk mail. They're the kind of guys who encourage high densities in my neighborhood (but not theirs), to the point where the developments don't provide enough parking for the units built, and tell us the residents should use public transportation or ride bikes. But they don't support increased bus or train service (and forget extending BART down to the Peninsula), or planning for bike lanes to make it easier for people to use those options. I guess their mailings were effective, because I'm doomed to 3 more years of them.

Then there's the finance wiz who is now on the school board. His whole deal was that the district needs to tighten up. Yes, the district has had problems with financial mismanagement, but he has no educational experience. How can someone who knows nothing about education lead an educational body?

This has nothing to do with the election, but I'm ranting, so I figured I'd continue. My 77 year old father took his bicycle out for a ride last summer for the first time in years. He lives up on the hill in the good neighborhood and it's relatively quiet. However, San Mateo streets don't have much in the way of bike lanes, and since it's, for the most part, a quiet suburb, we don't have a lot of traffic patrols, particularly in the nicer residential areas. So of course, people drive fast. Cars were whizzing by my father, who was a little unsteady on his bike, and he got so scared of being hit, he turned around after a few blocks, headed straight home, and hasn't ridden his bike since then.

A few weeks after the bike incident, I received a brochure from Park & Rec. The subject? How San Mateo is a bicycle friendly city! There was a map of the few bike lanes and routes within the city limits. I know those streets, and most of the bike lanes are barely wide enough to be legal. And one of the bike routes is on a narrow, windy road, on which cars tend to speed. Only bike geeks could navigate with confidence on most of the roads shown on the map. I'm of the opinion it should only be called bike friendly if my 77 year old father (or my neighbor's 8 year old daughter) would feel comfortable biking on it.


I've Been Out

Four weeks ago, I received a request to do a "body alignment" lecture for a group of Japanese sports medicine students on November 3rd. I agreed, although not without some misgivings. First, I hate the topic. My specialty is biomechanics, and within that, kinematic and kinetic analysis. However, "core" strength is over-emphasized by all the fitness "experts" trying to capitalize on the core bandwagon. Second, I only had three and a half weeks to prep the lecture.

I sort of did the same lecture last year for the same group (different students), although I discussed mechanics specific to the overhand throw, common injuries and their prevention, and age-related progressions. But the coordinators really wanted the spinal alignment stuff, and besides, they gave the biomechanics lecture to a chiropractor. They should have given her the spinal alignment slot, because it would have made more sense for a chiropractor to do that and have a biomechanics person do the biomechanics stuff, but it was too late.

I spent all the spare time I had between my two jobs for the last 3 weeks modifying the lecture to fit in the alignment material without having to start from scratch. During this time, I didn't clean my house, do laundry, see friends, or reconcile my credit card receipts (if you wanted to steal my identity, last month would have been the perfect time). Last week, I slept a total of 22 hours in the 5 days leading up to the lecture.

My lecture was the first of the morning, 8am on Saturday. The coordinators arranged for a laptop and projector, and all I needed was a thumb drive or cd with my presentation... except on Friday night none of the thumb drives I had were working (I'm hard on my equipment) and my cd drive died! At 2am, my housemate wandered into my office to find me cursing and crying. He told me my notebook would work just fine with the projector and to go to bed.

4 hours later, my alarm went off. An hour after that, I woke up. I had 20 minutes to leave. I left in 30. I arrived on campus at 7:55, ran up to the building and into the scheduled room... and saw a group of shocked, non-Japanese people gaping at me! I excused myself and went back out into the hall. I just got a new phone and haven't had time to transfer numbers, and of course the coordinator's number was on my old phone. So I wandered up and down the hall until a woman asked me if I was Tracey. She was my translator, she couldn't find the room either, and her cell phone battery was dead! So we wandered around until the coordinator came -- the person responsible for booking that room accidentally overbooked it and we had to find an unused room! On the bright side, I found out I had more time than I thought, because it was an 8:30 start.

It wasn't the best lecture I've given, but it wasn't the worst, either. And, I also have to say the students were much more interested in the throwing and baseball portion than the core conditioning segment! All of their questions and comments had to do with shoulder injuries, and age-related issues in throwing (specifically baseball pitchers). At this point though, I'm just glad I have time to sleep now!


Life with a Dog

Two significant events influencing my general health happened early this year: I started working a full-time desk job during the day on top of my teaching in the evenings; and my housemate moved in. With two jobs, my personal time has all but disappeared, so I don't do as much hiking, biking and paddling watercraft, and well, my housemate happens to be a fantastic cook... and he cooks a lot... and I always feel compelled to finish everything.

Sometime between April and September, I gained ten pounds. I didn't even see it coming. I woke up one morning and my pants, which had previously been too large and always fell down if I didn't tie the string around the hips, suddenly fit! And there was a definite pooch. And, for the first time ever in my life, the extra weight didn't go away when the school year started (I teach PE).

I actually teach a weight control course, and practicing what I preach is proving to be something of a challenge, at least from a food intake perspective. Go figure. The good thing is that I now have a jogging companion in the form of an akita/lab/border collie, which makes the exercise part easier, because labs and collies are working dogs with a lot of energy!

Because of my work schedule, I admit I don't do much with Piglet during weekdays. But last Saturday, after my morning tea, I decided to take Piglet for a spin around the neighborhood. I leashed her up, grabbed a couple of plastic bags, and headed out the door.

It's been years since I've walked a dog, but I have to admit Piglet is much better on a leash than most of my dogs were. Still, she pulled a little. We headed west toward the downtown area, past a little corner church where they were holding a fundraising rummage sale. Most of the ladies saw a big, black dog heading toward them and drew back in fear, but Piglet strode on by with barely a glance in their direction. She was on a mission!

As we got to the downtown area, there were more "dog" people out and about, so they saw a black lab with its tongue hanging out and a smile on its face and were completely relaxed. Piglet pretty much ignored them too.

Things went so smoothly, I took Piglet jogging on Sunday morning! This time, we barely saw anyone. I guess most people were in church at that point, since I think it was around 9 or 10am.

With dog on leash, I'm hopeful that the health issues will turn for the better.


New House Member

I got a puppy by proxy last week! Technically she's my housemate's dog, but since we're all there together, it's almost like I have my own dog. She's an akita/lab/border collie, about 8 months -- the 'mate was hoping for a pre-trained adult dog, but this one was confined to a kennel and so sweet that he couldn't say no to her.

We have the cats locked up for now, because she's still a little excitable about new things, but she has seen (and chased after) them. She chased my housemate's cat down the hall, up and across some bookshelves, and to a cat tree, where she proceeded to bark... and bark and bark and bark while the cat glared and growled. The cat now runs to my room, into my closet, and up a chest of drawers and some shelves to the top shelf of my closet whenever the dog is out and about in the house.

My cat hides under the bed and tries to make herself as small and quiet as possible. I figured with the 'mate's cat up on the shelf and my cat under the bed, the dog would be okay nosing around my room while I changed yesterday. As I started to pull on my pants, the dog found the cat under the bed and started barking and trying to scooch under the bed to get to the cat, so I had to drop my pants so I could pull the dog out from under the bed. 

My housemate runs into the room to see his topless housemate, with her pants around her ankles, clutching his yipping dog. If it weren't for the fact that the dog was still lunging for the bed and he knows my cat hides there, it could have been bad!


Devil's Slide

On the way home from work yesterday, I drove down the coast highway over Devil's Slide, which I haven't done in awhile. First, it takes about twice as long to get home that way. Second, parts of the hill the highway is on keep falling into the ocean.

But yesterday was nice, not too hot, not too cold, so I put the top down on the car and let the wind whip my hair up into a huge, un-tanglable (yeah, I know that's not a word) mess. This was the first time I'd driven Devil's Slide in the convertible. I'd always been in my beat-up CRX, hoping the car wouldn't lose a critical part while navigating the curves! With a sounder machine and an open roof, I actually had a chance to enjoy the ride and take in what is truly a breathtaking view -- waves crashing up against sheer, high cliffs, the seemingly endless view over the ocean. I was truly in awe of what nature is capable of producing. I'm glad I made the detour.

Since I was passing by, I headed out to Pillar Point Harbor to see what Captain Dan had on the Seabird. I buy fish off the Seabird, because Dan has a friend, Ron, who has a dog I like to play with. Alas, Ron, and therefore the dog, weren't there that day! Capt. Dan had a couple of 30+ pound king salmon, way too much for my housemate and me, so I opted for a couple of the live rock fish they had swimming around in a couple of barrels. They pummeled the fish to death for me so I could get them home, and instead of paying the couple of bucks to have the fish cleaned, I decided to do it myself.

I got the fish home and started scaling. Rock fish have large, thick scales that are pretty stubborn to remove. And then came the gutting. I haven't actually cleaned a fish in over 20 years, and the last fish I cleaned was a rainbow trout, much daintier than a bass! The guts were clinging to the fish with incredible tenacity, and everything was kind of slippery. I tried to sever the connective tissue with my knife, and failed miserably, so I just wrapped my fingers around them and yanked! Guts and scales flew everywhere -- counter, walls, floor, my shirt, my face, my hair... I had on gloves, but the ick managed to work its way down into them. I smelled like fish guts the rest of the day. Next time, I'm dishing out the two bucks for the professionals to clean the fish.


Driving in Strange Places

I have two jobs. I work my full-time day job, then head straight to my part-time night job. I leave my house at 8:30 am & walk in somewhere around 12 hours later. The way my time off has worked this year, I have 4-5 days for vacation, starting in a week and a half. It took until a few days ago to figure out when I'd be able to go, so now I'm scrambling to find someplace I can go last-minute within a few hours' drive or flight that isn't too expensive. I have two options so far: see my friend in Seattle; and get lost in the woods for a few days.

The friend has first priority, since I can pretty much walk in the woods anytime and I haven't seen him in about a year, but he won't know if he can spend time with me until this week (even if he can, I'll probably be on my own most of the time). I don't know the area at all, so, I'm relying on him to find a hotel for me, but he said I'd probably want to rent a car.

I was hoping the transit system would be decent or I could hoof it, because I have bad luck driving in new areas, particularly in cities. Middle of nowhere? No problem! But cities have hazards like pedestrians, cyclists, one-way streets, non-parallel streets, narrow alleys, no u-turns, heavy traffic, road rage. Plus, parking is practically non-existent in most cities, and when you can find it, it's expensive.

Some things that have happened to me while driving in unfamiliar cities...

...I was in a line of traffic at a dead stop in New York, and the guy behind me starts leaning into his horn. We're all completely stopped, so no one is going anywhere. He continues for a minute, then gets out of his car, walks up to mine and points to the space between me and the car in front of me, as if moving up three feet will make a HUGE difference in the flow of traffic! It was hot, I didn't have air conditioning, he was big and hairy and I was alone, so I rolled up my window, locked my doors and grabbed my tire wrench in case he decided he wanted to beat me up (hey, I wasn't going down without a fight).

...I was double-parked in Manhattan picking up my housemate at her parents' apartment, and a delivery van that was turning right cut too close and took off my rearview mirror. Okay, I wasn't lost and it was my stupidity, but I'd have never found the right parking garage without my housemate and I had to pick her up somehow (this was before cell phones).

...I was leaving Burbank airport and the instructions I had told me to turn left on some street to get to the freeway. I see the street name, turn left... and see the freeway entrance to my right, on the other side of a solid divider and I can't get over. Apparently, I was supposed to turn left at the NEXT light instead of the one I took and the streets seem to have the same name. The street I was on was busy and had a solid divider line, and it took awhile before I found a street where I could turn around and come back -- I couldn't turn right to get to the adjacent street because the berm seemed to go on forever (or maybe it was a railroad track or one of those freeways that's been built up, I'm a little fuzzy on that). A few months later, I was driving the same road with one of my bosses, who has the map, sees the intersection and says "Turn left!" I kept going. "You missed the turn!" If he made the same mistake I did, I guess I don't feel TOO bad about it.


Car wash

I washed and waxed my car yesterday, and I must say it looked good -- clean, shiny, smelling of Maguire's (that scent is almost lickable).

This morning, the pitter-patter of water hitting ground brought me to a gentle state of semi-wakefulness. Wiping the sleeep from my eyes, I threw on t-shirt and slippers and padded to the kitchen to start hot water for tea, then continued to the office down the hall, which faces the driveway, looked outside and saw... my car! Forgotten to put it in the garage last night. Grabbed keys, ran outside dressed only in t-shirt and flip-flops to save the wash job, but alas -- mud had splashed up from between the widely-spaced bricks and grime had splashed down from my neighbor's tree. I sprayed the ick off, parked in the garage and wiped it down.

Ran back into the house on numb feet just in time to answer the phone.

My boss: "Could you drive to the other side of the bay to pick something up?"

My heart sank as outside, the gentle shower turned into actual rain and the wind suddenly picked up. Couldn't tell him I'd just waxed my car and besides, I was cold, wet and wanted to hang up to jump into a scalding shower.

Me: "Sure, no problem."

I washed my car tonight...