Sunday, October 28, 2012

Brief note before the storm

Tired and getting ready for bed, but just wanted to reassure everybody that we are prepared to do without power for several days.  We are not in a flood zone.  And our basement has a backdoor and is on a hill so water will drain out the back.

Also, I did not win my speech contest today.  Yay!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pink rhinestones and the Frankenstorm

JD got the Schnork a new tag for her collar today.  Instead of saying "Princess" with my phone number, it now says "THE SCHNORK" with my phone number.  And it has pink rhinestones on it.  So it's official.  Gotta call the vet and change it in the records.

The Schnork just made me crack up.  I heard her chewing on something, and she was enjoying it far too much.  So I went to see what she was chewing on, and by the time I got there she had scuttled away.  LIKE I WOULDN'T NOTICE.  She only scuttled four feet to her crate, though, so I still discovered her.  Somehow.  She was chewing on the much folded paper for the Buckyball instructions.  She didn't even try to kill me when I took it away, which is what she usually does.  She's like a tiny hair chainsaw.

Are any other physicists bothered by Bucky Ball toys? It drives me nuts every time I see them.  THOSE ARE NOT BUCKYBALLS.  This is a buckyball.  Note how it has nothing to do with children's toys or swallowing magnets.  Those other guys are totally misusing the words!  Come up with another name, you yahoos!


I am inaugurating this weekend with laundry, as it was pointed out to me that we wouldn't get much laundry done without power.  And we had a LOT of laundry.  Why no power, you say?  Funny you should ask.  Apparently the bastard child of a massive hurricane and a nor'easter is bearing down on us.  They are calling it Frankenstorm, as it should arrive around Halloween.  But we expect to lose power prior to that because the thing is hundreds of miles wide, so wind and rain will precede it.  The power companies are actually calling customers to warn them of impending outage.  When they call you ahead of time, it's a bad sign.

We've stocked up on bottled water and Halloween candy, so we're pretty much good.  Other than the need for more clean underwear.

JD and I have a long list of tasks to accomplish this weekend, starting with cleaning out the gutters and securing loose items in the yard.  Something tells me that I won't be hiking this weekend.  But I WILL be giving another frigging speech, as the next level of humorous speech contest is this weekend.  I feel kind of dirty because I bought and installed Microsoft Office on our home computers so that I can give the Powerpoint presentation that goes with the speech.  First time I ever bought a Microsoft thingie.  I don't know that my honey oatmeal soap is strong enough to wash that feeling away.

Also JD and I will be working on our costumes for Halloween.  Also Beauty and the Schnork's costumes.  Actually just JD will be doing that, as I don't normally dress up dogs.  Oh, also?  JD bought the Schnork a pink sweater, and also a pink vest.  With rhinestones.

I've checked.  He's still not gay.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rough draft of this week's (slightly controversial) speech

I had a heck of a time coming up with a topic for this week's speech.  Which I have to give Wednesday.  Fortunately, I figured out a topic this evening, and shortly after that I wrote the speech.

The audience is a small group of coworkers in Maryland.

The title of the speech is "Vote Yes on Question 6".  The objective of this speech is to speak persuasively, using logic and emotion. 


Good morning, TMOD, fellow toastmasters and guests.  I typically speak to you about my hobbies and interests, but today I'm bringing up something important.  Something that I care about for personal and philosophical reasons.  Today I'll tell you why I think it's important that you vote in favor of Question 6, a referendum petition regarding the Civil Marriage Protection Act.

The presidential election is coming up quickly.  Early voting starts this Saturday.  The official election is in two weeks on November 6.  So this is when you need to make your decisions about how you vote.  And I hope you do vote.  It's not only a civic responsibility, it's important to how our society functions.  What you choose now will affect our culture, our laws, and how we all live.  So please take the time to cast your ballot.

The Civil Marriage Protection Act, which has already been passed by our General assembly and signed by our Governor, establishes that Maryland's already existing civil marriage laws will also allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a marriage license.  The same law let me get married.  It let my parents get married.  It let my brother get married.  And I want my uncle to have that same freedom.  I want my friends to have that freedom.  I want people I've never met to have that freedom. 

As a country, we proudly proclaim that we are the land of the free.  But that's never been entirely true.  Do you know who had the vote when we first started?  Land owning white males.  Women?  Nope.  Black men (or women?)  Nope.  Everybody has had to struggle for their "rights".  That, at least, is in line with the founding of our country.  We struggled.  As a country, we have fought against what we thought was wrong.  And within the country, we have voiced our feelings loudly and at length on every topic that could be legislated.  We make laws and then we strike them down.  We amend.  We clarify.  And all of us vote for what we think is right. 

You may not feel that our gay and lesbian coworkers should have the right to marry each other, because your religion says that they shouldn't.  But should others be forced to abide by the strictures of your religion?  Should you stop drinking coffee because it has caffeine in it?  It's not such an odd question - the Mormon religion prohibits it.  Should I wear a head covering in public?  Muslim women do.  Should we all give up that most delicious of treats, bacon?  The Jewish faith prohibits it. 

And no, we don't have to do any of those things, because we have freedom of religion.  I can worship any way I choose.  And thank goodness I don't have to worship the way somebody else says, because what if that somebody else were a Pentecostal snake handler?

The Civil Marriage Protection Act, while allowing folks to get married, specifically protects clergy from having to perform any marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs, as well as several other protections for religious group. 

Religion aside, the benefits that civil marriage provides don't just benefit the couple in question.  The act gives the spouse the ability to act as next of kin and to make medical decisions for their partner.  Without that right, who will make decisions when 80 year old Jane Doe with Alzheimer's is in need of care?  Preferably, her wife Janine Doe will do it.  Because Jane Doe's parents died quite a long time ago, and there isn't anybody else to make the decision.  Wouldn't it be better to have her spouse of 40 years making that decision, rather than an uninterested doctor? 

Or when John Doe dies, leaving James Doe and little Harry Doe.  If John and James are married, they can both adopt Harry, and there isn't a legal question about who Harry's remaining parent is.  With no marriage, Harry suddenly becomes a ward of the state - a burden on us all, a misery for him, and a heartbreak for James.  With marriage, James and Harry can grieve, and then Harry gets to still have a father.

After John's death, if they were married, James inherits all their jointly owned property through right of survivorship.  If they weren't, as under our current interpretation of the law, the lawyers and the state get a whopping huge chunk of the money, and the joint assets are tied up in court for months to years.  I guess it's just as well that Harry was orphaned, because with John and James' bank accounts held by the state, it's not like James could feed him anyway! 

For this and other reasons it makes sense to give Jane and Janine, and John and James, the right to marry.  Let them take care of each other.  Let them take care of their own affairs.  Don't make the state step in, where it isn't needed or wanted.  It costs us all more.

So please, when you come to question 6, vote yes in the referendum on the Civil Marriage Protection Act

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scheduled my next thruhike

I decided to thruhike again!  Not that this is probably a big surprise to anybody who ever met me.  Unfortunately, I'm not doing it anytime soon.  Starting date is set for March 1, 2020.  Only 2694 more days!  Unless I lost my job, in which case I would go ASAP.  But for some reason my job has been oddly stable despite the economy, and as far as I know I'm in no danger of losing it any time soon. 

More's the pity.

Probably the only people who can empathize are the former thruhikers or multiple offenders, but I'm thinking about things I'd do differently.  (Note to self:  Look up post about things you'd do differently, written immediately following last thru.)  Like I'd hike the approach trail.  I never had the patience for it before.  I think I will by 2020, though.  I want to take the trail more deliberately.  I know it probably didn't seem like I was in a mad rush the first time, but I was going as quickly as I could.  I'd rather give myself an unlimited window to finish so I could go just as slowly as I wanted. 

Sometimes the terrain sets its own limits on you.  You can't stop if there's no water and no place to lay your aching bones.  But other than that, limitless.

What else?  Well, ideally I'd find some other slowpoke to hang out with.  Company is nice.  My lowest days on the trail have been about loneliness, not about weather or my feet or the fact that I'm sick of all my dinners.  I do like my alone time, but it is really nice to see a friendly face.  I realize that some people never spend a night alone on the trail, but that has not been my experience.  AT ALL.

I think I'd explore the towns a little more.  One of the awesome parts about thruhiking is getting to see small town America.  I loved meeting people all up and down the trail, and visiting the businesses along it too.  Maine showed me that Whoopie Pies are in fact good.  (I had doubts based on our honeymoon trip to Freeport.)  Pennsylvania had such a unique run down Germanic feel.  I want to see it more.  Again.

I'd love to fix all my health problems before my next trip, but that seems wildly unlikely.  The cards dealt to me involve defective digestion and degenerative disk disease.  I work around them as much as I can.  I really seriously hope that I can eat wheat products again in the future, because A) they're really hard to avoid, and b) I want pizza.

I might be able to lose weight, but I've been working on that for all of my adult life and then some, and it doesn't appear to have made any difference.  Perhaps I should just buy a voluminous scarf and go with the babushka look.  Perhaps adopt an accent. 

Oooh, you know what's good about planning so far in advance? SO MUCH GEAR.  I'm certain that everything I have now will be worn out by then.  I'll have to buy all new ultralight stuff!  Eeee!  Although if I lost my job that would be less exciting.

Oh that reminds me.  Today was Eddy's 90,000 mile service. It took him nearly 10 years to get there so more things needed to be replaced than if it had only taken a year.  Still, it's going to cost more than he's worth.  Sigh.  But still less than a new car, and he's still plenty driveable. Sooner or later I should do something about the marks where he was shot, though.  That's a little more trashy than called for, even in a ten year old car.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Trip report: Southern Shenandoah

My latest hike started in a hurry on Friday night.  I flew out to the barn to hold Pluto for our new farrier.  Pluto was startled by something behind him and managed to put his full weight on the farrier's already broken toes.  I was mortified.  I offered her advil, but basically there isn't much you can do for that kind of pain other than cuss.  Which she did.

Then I drove to DeLee's.  We ate something, then started to leave.  At the last minute I mentioned that it would be nice to have walkie talkies for the drive, since we would be in two cars.  She couldn't find hers, so we stopped at the REI on the way out of the neighborhood and bought a new set.  I was so glad we did, it was much nicer to be able to communicate than to have a four hour drive without speaking.  It was super, super helpful to be able to talk about when we wanted to stop to visit a rest area, or comment on traffic, or the like.

A couple of hours in, I started getting a lot of text messages.  I could hear the phone buzzing, but at 70 mph, in the dark, I was not able to read them.  (Which would have been illegal anyway.)  When I finally got the chance to pull over at Woodstock, VA, I found that my dad was in the emergency room.  We went to the McDonald's and called around, trying to find out what was going on.  Finally we decided to drive the hour on to Waynesboro for the night, as Dad seemed to be stable.

Later texts and calls revealed that he was doing all right and they had sorted out his problems, and Mom and Dad were joking about it.  Thus reassured, at midnight or 1 AM, DeLee and I hit the sack in our motel room.  Not the restful start one hopes for.

In the morning, breakfast didn't sit right with DeLee, and it vacated the premises quickly.  DeLee was very subtle.  I doubt the other diners even noticed.  DeLee is a trooper, and so we still packed up and got on the road.  By the time we got in the park, shuttled the cars around, and started hiking, it was after noon.  Oy.

The weather was beautiful and hikers were scarce.  Our parking spot was supposed to have a nearby trail leading up to the AT, but that trail seemed to have disappeared several years ago.  We bushwhacked up a mountain until we found the trail, then started north.  I think we saw four hikers all day.  So we were considerably surprised when we got to the shelter and found it full and surrounded by tents.  There were boy scouts everywhere.  They were in good spirits and a little rowdy, but they settled down and were amazingly silent all night.

We had managed to find a spot in the shelter, which was especially nice around 5 AM when it started to pour.  I love not packing up a wet tent.

The forecasted all day rain didn't appear.  It was misty and damp, and cold, but not solidly raining.  We had a beautiful morning's hike, but it was hard to stay warm on rest breaks.  At lunch we couldn't find a great windbreak, but we did find a downed log in a very brushy area.  We set up leaning on the log, and it wasn't bad.  I immediately made us hot drinks using my fabulous Jetboil stove.  Even with that we started to get a bit chilled as we finished lunch.  We packed up and got hiking again, but when I looked at DeLee her lips were blue.  I checked her frequently over the next few minutes until her lips turned pink again.

Shortly after her lips turned pink, her lunch turned against her.  She held it down, but she felt awful.  Her steps slowed.  She still walked, but I was stopping and waiting for her frequently.  Within less than a mile, she wasn't generating enough heat to stay warm and became hypothermic.  The trail crosses Skyline drive frequently where we were, so at the next road crossing we stopped.  We both dug into our packs for fleece to put on, and we stuck our thumbs out.  German tourists stopped and offered us a ride.  We had cars stationed in both directions, so we didn't care which way they were going.  (Weirdly, this is the second time that German tourists have rescued me in Shenandoah.  Another couple gave me and Mel a ride when I hurt my foot a decade or more ago.)

Back at Eddy, my car, we turned around and drove back to DeLee's car.  I was starting to run low on gas, so we stopped at Loft Mountain Wayside for gas and hot chocolate.  Then we headed out of the park, looking for a motel.  DeLee was still feeling shaky and wasn't up to driving the several hours home.

In Harrisonburg, we checked into a motel.  I was ravenous.  DeLee only wanted a hot shower and a nap.  I read the literature about local restaurants, but soon the call of a soft bed overrode my stomach.  I fell asleep too.

After a couple of hours of rest, DeLee was feeling a lot better.  The nap didn't hurt me any, either.  We got up and drove over to the Outback Steakhouse, where we had delicious food.  Our server turned out to be from DC, so it was fun to chat with him.  I brought D-Ribose to dinner with me for both me and DeLee, to help with after-hike soreness. 

So our two night trip turned into a one night trip, but one that avoided potentially serious hypothermia in really dangerous conditions.  It was about 40 and raining when we left the park.  It was likely 30 degrees that night.  Had we kept going DeLee would have been in deep trouble, and the likelihood is that I would have been hypothermic as well.  Instead, we met some nice people, had a delicious dinner, and slept at a nice motel.  That's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Although I wasn't the one to get hypothermic this time, I usually am.  I wasn't expecting it from DeLee, as she is usually more resistant to cold than me.  I thought we had planned well enough to avoid hypothermia, but DeLee's icky feelings were something I hadn't accounted for.  If the park had more water available in that section I would have set up camp for us and gotten her some hot food and beverages immediately rather than having her drive her car when she didn't feel well.  But, we didn't have enough water so that wasn't a good option.

Oddly, I felt great for pretty much all of the trip, paternal medical drama aside.  I was surprised at how good I felt. A little over a month ago I was still too sick to walk all the way around Greenbelt Park.  Last week I walked around the park with a lightly loaded pack and still felt pretty tired.  So why was I feeling so much energy this weekend?  My stomach didn't complain, my legs didn't complain, and I felt like I had boundless energy.  Today, the day after the hike, my legs have barely any of the typical post-hike ache.  My shoulders don't hurt from the pack.  I surprised JD by not wanting a nap.  Weird, huh?  My only supposition is it's the wheat, or lack thereof.  When I was reading up on celiac disease, prior to my (negative) test, I read about an athlete who stopped eating wheat for other reasons and was surprised to find herself with faster racing times.  She supposed that she had been held back by wheat, or its effects on her body, before without noticing.  Perhaps the same is true for me.

I'm definitely still sensitive to the stuff, as I have accidentally "glutened" myself several times, and felt awful.  Last time was earlier this week when I had sushi.  I thought I was so smart with my wheat-free tamari sauce instead of soy sauce, but I was caught by either the artificial crab in the California roll, or the spicy sauce on the spicy tuna rolls.  Within hours my guts hurt like they were being stabbed.  If I'm able to go back on wheat at all, it looks like it will be a while.  Sigh.  But I'm learning to live without it, and learning what to avoid out in the restaurant world.  (Turns out IHOP puts pancake mix in their eggs to make them fluffy.  Who knew?)

Lactose isn't so bad.  If I'm willing to swell up and look pregnant for a few hours, I can have some dairy.  Which I did last night, on my loaded baked potato.  I got my pregnant look on, and I enjoyed the hell out of that potato.  But it only lasted a few hours and then I was back to normal.  Being glutened takes two days to resolve - much less fun.

To sum up, and as notes to my future self:  maybe skip the trip in bad hypothermia weather.  But walkie talkies are fantastic.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Misleading feeling

About 1 pm today I started to feel like I could do everything.  I could do ALL the work.  But it turns out that I had had caffeinated soda with lunch.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Looking forward to my steamed crap upgrade

I am having a day.  I shall present it in random order.

I am not entirely certain, but I think that my scotch (Lagavulin) may have liquid smoke in it.  It is not an improvement. 

I am not sick, but then neither am I well.  As far as I can tell, every joint that has ever been abused (which at last count includes all of my fingers and toes, much of my feet, parts of my hands, my knees, my hips, my entire spine, and my collar bone area) is aching with the cool damp weather we're having today.

The nicest thing said to me today was "Hoping you upgrade to steamed crap."

I just ran out of chocolates.

My vet knows some dressage riders looking for rides, so I may be able to find somebody to ride/lease Pluto soon.  I have mixed emotions about this.  I think it's a good idea, but it also makes me want to cry.

The Schnork peed right next to the wee pad, again.

While driving home from work I got this insanely bad headache which made me think that aliens might burst out of my left temple.

I spent an hour and a half on a telecon today, and they didn't say anything very relevant to me until the last three minutes.  And then just as I was logging out somebody started to say something very very relevant, but it was too late.  My hand finished pushing the button.

I STILL haven't gotten much done on my security plan, and I am worried about what will happen next year when our current one expires.  Despite this, I can't seem to carve out time to work on it.  Things keep happening.  Things involving spacecraft, IT security, new hardware, and other issues which are my actual job and not just a government requirement.

I am cranky, and my husband is also cranky, and there is a chance that our joint crankiness could explode into outright grumpiness.

I'm worried about my dad, who is only just released from the hospital and still has a way to go to get back to healthy, and I'm worried about my mom who is spending all her energy being there for Dad.


So I'm drinking smoky scotch because I don't have any other scotch, and I'm hoping it will be sunny out tomorrow.  Sunny days are nice.