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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Knee...

Doing much better.  For as much as it hurt and how bad my initial feelings about it were, I have made a miraculous recovery.  I'm not even limping, although going up or down stairs is a little painful, as well as pivoting on that leg.  I have a big bump, which is slightly gray since I don't really bruise.  That's about it.  I didn't run last night and I have 7 miles to do tomorrow, so we shall see.  Todd has requested that I take elevators for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ouch.

So, I fell down the steps this morning.  Or, more accurately, I tripped on the steps as I was going up and fell forward.  These aren't nice carpeted steps, they were the back steps at work, unfinished and concrete with rubber things on them.  I had a bunch of stuff in my hands, I knew I had an 8:30 meeting and I was looking at my cell phone to see what time it was (it was 8:21).  I scraped my arm, which is minor, but the edge of the step went into my knee right under the knee cap.  As I lay on the steps, there was an initial horror of wondering if I had just ruined my trip to Bonaire and my upcoming half marathon just like that, also wondering if I could even get up and who would come help me (do I call Todd?).  I did manage to get up, hobbled to my desk, sat for a minute in serious pain, finally asked my co-worker to get me ice.  Started to get dizzy and pass out, just like when I fell out of bed and broke my toe in 1997.  My co-worker returned with ice, I asked her to go get somebody to help me.  My boss, other co-workers and HR came and assisted me to the Comfort room (breastfeeding room), where I could lie down for a few minutes.  They piled ice packs on me.

I can walk.  The knee is swollen.  I can bend it, although bending it hurts.  Putting ice on it hurts.  Initial blood pressure drop that caused me nearly pass out is totally gone, I just feel stressed.  I think I've decided not to see a doctor.  We shall see how today goes.  Doubtful that I can run tonight.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Annapolis Ten Mile Run 2008

You know, I'd watched the weather for the past 2 weeks or so and I was determined that after the beautiful weather we'd had over the past couple weeks, the weather was going to feel GREAT today for the Annapolis 10 Miler. Eh, no. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful day, if you were attending a picnic. I wasn't. I was running. So, I felt that it was just as hot as the 2006 race, although not quite as oppressive as 2007.

So, we drove down to Annapolis yesterday evening and picked up our packet at the cute little expo at the Navy Stadium. Afterwards, we drove the course, which was a nice little exercise, especially because it gave me a chance to pick out nice viewing locations for my mom. We headed to Graul's market to pick out some food for before the race, then met my mom and Vic at their house.

The four of us had dinner at Bertucci's (my request, I love Bertucci's and hadn't eaten there in a while). Oddly enough, we ran into Duke and his family, which was pretty cool. Nice dinner, Vic even said it was nice (which is REALLY A BIG DEAL).

Todd and I headed back to my mom's to sleep, and we watched the tail end of the Olympic men's marathon (Yay, Kenya!). My mom's stupid neighbors were big assholes insistent upon throwing a party in the front yard until 1am. Funny, same thing happened at the Frederick Half (late night partiers next door). I swear the night of the Baltimore Half, our next door neighbor is going to throw a party.

So, the day of the race (today), we met the Fleet Feet group at the Navy Stadium and hit the course at race start (7:45am).

The course was the same as in 2006, not going through the naval academy like it did in 2007. I ran with John, Kristy and Caryn. I was trying to keep a 12-minute pace, but my body would have none of it. I was fighting stomach cramps and other nonsense for a lot of the race, but for the most part I was close to the 12 minute pace. We were doing 1:30 and 1s and that was working for me.

We exchanged a lot of walk breaks, taking walks on the uphill (especially on the Severn River Bridge) and then ran downhill on the other side. This system worked and I was feeling ok. I was not feeling great, but I wasn't feeling like I had to drop out either, and it was nice to have my friends along.

My mom and Vic were out watching at Mile 6, and then again at Graul's market at 9 1/2 miles. Once I was coming down the stretch at 9 miles, I looked at my watch and knew it would require a 10 minute mile in order to reach the finish line and beat my 2006 time (which was my goal). I knew that was impossible, so I just took a few extra walks. Then, along came Todd down the course looking for me. He ran it in somewhat with me, as we headed to the finish line.

My watch time shows my final time as 2:05, which is perfectly acceptable and a good time. Official results don't appear to be posted yet.

In all, this was a good race, I put on a good showing since it's such a tough course. It's another example of "I hate running, but I do like having run," since I was happy taking a shower and nap once we made it home.

Congrats to everyone who finished today!!!!

Update: Official 2008 Results, my time was 2:05:40, a 12:34 pace, right on with my pace at the Frederick Half Marathon... but a tougher course, and higher heat. I think this is good. Next race: the Baltimore Half Marathon!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Continental Airlines Customer Service, Part I

I'm am feeling what is most certainly going to be a Consumerist moment. But, I'll give you a play by play, and we'll see how Continental Airlines' service holds up.

So, everyone knows I hate American Airlines. In fact, Todd and I now routinely pay more for flights on US Airways and other airlines in order to avoid flying AA. For the upcoming trip to Bonaire, we have booked flights on Continental. It's doubly weird because we are flying first class to Bonaire (because it's a red eye, and Discover card was willing to let me use some miles for the upgrade), and we're flying coach home.

The problem is this - the flight leaves Bonaire early and gets into Houston at 11:15am. We are booked on a HOU-BWI flight at 6:45pm, getting in at 10:48pm. Totally fine, except I neglected to notice that we are supposed to be running the next morning, and it's a long one (Todd - 26 miles, Me - 16 miles), so we'll likely be getting up at 3am. Figuring how far we live from BWI, I think we'll be getting into bed after midnight. That's a short sleep and a likely crappy run.

There's another flight from HOU-BWI that leaves at 1:30pm and gets us in at a much better to handle 5:30pm, allowing us to rest and have dinner at a reasonable time. Why didn't I book this one to begin with? No idea, I figure I probably wanted us to be certain we'd have time for flight delays AND customs in Houston, and potentially to eat a little lunch, and 2 hours is not enough time for all of that these days.

I tried doing the change through the website, but was told that I can't and I was given an 800 number to call. Ok.

I called the 800 number. I connect to Customer Service, wait 2 1/2 minutes for a rep, the rep asks what I want, I say I want to change my flight. She asks for my conf. number, which I have, she confirms that she has the right schedule and then puts me on hold for 10 minutes. She didn't ask what flight I wanted to change, she didn't ask what I wanted to change to. She had already brought up my itinerary, so I had no clue what I was even holding for. I pictured her in the bathroom or attending an Office Space-esque birthday party. I hung up.

Called back, this time, I connected to international reservations. I got right in. Lady on the line tells me that she can't change my reservation, but that maybe I could fly stand by on the 1:30 flight. She connects me to online reservation (tech support?) assistance, and is done with me. But, she was polite and didn't put me on hold, so that was fine.

I get into tech support quickly (30 seconds, maybe) and explain. This lady puts me on hold for about 4 minutes. She comes back, says that to change flights is going to be $420 per person, since there is a $150 change fee (raised $50 recently, I noticed), and then a fare difference that I have to pay. This was the answer I expected, and it was more than I could spend.

The tech support lady suggested that I call Continental 24 hours before the flight to see if it would be easier to change then (without fee? who knows). Or, that maybe we could get in stand by, since the flight is very not full as of right now. I don't like making phone calls like that while on vacation. Sitting on hold is no fun.

Bonaire has an itty-bitty airport (though not as small as Little Cayman), so we might just swing by there and see if Continental can hook us up. We will also ask upon check in at BWI when we leave. Thus far, I give them a B-, but I know there is going to be more to this adventure.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review: A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson


I think that right now, this happens to be my favorite of all of the books that I've read so far in 2008. Granted, I don't read the volume of books that I have at other times in my life, but I've been working my way through books at a decent pace this year.

In the book, Bill Bryson gives an account of his travels up the Appalachian Trail. I compare this a lot to the Sex Lives of Cannibals, mostly because it's true, humorous, and still gives an account of the things that we have done to destroy nature, even in our attempts not to. So, it's funny and interesting, yet also sad in a way.

This book gave me a true idea of how American forests have changed over the years, and I've realized how sad it is to have missed out on what they once were. There are certain species of animals and plants that I will never see in my lifetime, and I doubt that I have a clear idea of what a forest in the Eastern US could be - since none are like they were 100 years ago.

What this book did not do, thankfully, is make me want to hike the Appalachian Trail. It sounds interesting, and I'm amazed at the folks that actually do it, but it's not for me. I have enough lofty goals and hobbies for now. The good news is that Bill Bryson is a pretty average guy, so his narrative of his experience sounds like what almost anyone's experiences would be if they were attempt this. His walking companion, Katz, is a true pain in the ass, but also fairly lovable. I certainly got a good idea of what hiking the AT is like, and maybe I'll spend a day doing it sometime... and then I'll go sleep in a mountain lodge or motel...

Definitely a good read, give it a look! My sister, Shelly, suggested it and let me borrow her copy, and next up will be one of Bryson's other books, given to me by Wife of Wacky Neighbor.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Maiky Snack

So, I've been hanging out on some Bonaire Websites, and therefore Todd and I had a spirited conversation about Maiky Snack today. My comment to him was, "Everyone is talking about Maiky Snack." And Todd was thinking it was some sort of sex game or something.

I just kind of like the way it sounds. Maiky Snack.

Oh, it's a restaurant in Bonaire. That was part of my problem, too, I didn't totally explain what it was and I was trying to read about it aloud and so I repeated, "they have 'goat, papaya or komkomber...,'" without really explaining what I was talking about.

I don't know. It was a funny conversation. Todd's kind of a picky eater, so I am unsure if he would enjoy Maiky Snack. Regardless, I am uncertain if we could find it, given this detailed map...



... two completely unlabeled roads and then "Road to Lac/Sorobon."

(Actually, I do kinda know where that is. I think we actually passed Maiky Snack when we were in Bonaire before, but it's still funny).

So... dunno. Should we attempt Maiky Snack?

The Weekend Past

Friday was our usual pre-long run evening. Some cleanup around the house, dinner of pasta and meatballs and a glass of wine. Always only one glass with plenty of water. Some Olympics, and bed early.

Saturday morning, we had our long run starting at 5:00am. My group is doing excellent and I'm mighty proud of them. We did 15 miles together on the trail. Todd is doing great with his full marathon training, running 23 miles. It was our first week running in the dark (only because of the thunderstorm issue 2 weeks ago).

After our run, we relaxed with a short nap and shower and then had lunch at Salsarita's in Westminster, which has quickly replaced Chipotle as my favorite mexi-fast food restaurant. Good stuff!! We attempted to purchase a new tire for the wheel barrow (I know, ultra-exciting), but couldn't figure out what to buy and ended up going and hanging out at home. Saturday night, we watched the Women's Marathon and other Olympic events.

Sunday, we headed out pretty early and had breakfast at Bob Evans, what a treat. We picked up some stuff from Lowe's for later yard work. We relaxed during the day and took some time in the afternoon to go to the pool, where Todd tested out his new camera housing. It worked well underwater, and Todd snorkeled around watching me swim laps.

We're in the process of doing what is apparently a summer-long project of tearing out the flower beds on the side of the house. We're nearly done - all that is left is to add mulch, which we'll likely do this week. No plants over there for a little while, maybe not until the spring. I don't know if there is any type of bush that does well being planted in the fall. We wouldn't be able to plant until at least mid-September.

Evening was more relaxation, and Todd got caught up on Generation Kill, which he is enjoying. We had to get to bed early because we both were up early this morning for Jack's Mikala 50k.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Recipe: Slow Cooker Beef and Bean Burritos

This was a great Sunday recipe. I found that it made a lot, but we were hungry and ate a lot after an afternoon of yard work. We'll have enough for leftovers tomorrow (and maybe longer). I put the beef into the crock pot this morning, and finished up tonight. I used what I thought were 8-inch tortillas, but found them hard to roll (the tortilla companies never put the size on the package).

It's a good one for your regular rotation.

Slow Cooker Beef and Bean Burritos

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thoughts on the Women's Olympic Marathon

I really enjoyed watching this race. Is it weird that I'm basically sitting and watching women run?
  • Interesting, to me, that they didn't cut away more often and show other stuff. I know this is something I'm interested in, but I figured that those who wanted to watch this event were in the minority of NBC's viewing audience. I mean, this is prime time, for heaven's sake! I was expecting to watch the start, then other events and then have them cut back to the marathon periodically. Imagine my delight when they were showing the whole thing!
  • I noticed that the chick from Brazil wore a skirt, which she proceeded to tug on throughout the race. I'm still anti-skirt.
  • Unrelated to the marathon, but if I have to see that stupid Comcast Wii commercial with the guy playing against the Japanese kid one more time, I'm going to scream.
  • How sad to watch Deena Kastor drop out. I really was hoping she'd get a medal, and she dropped out so early! It really makes me wonder if she was having trouble before the race...
  • Heartbreaking to watch the repeat footage of Paula Radcliffe pulling up at the marathon in Athens in 2004. Interesting, though, to read about the G-Trainer Treadmill that Paula used to train while injured. Read up on it! I want one of those!!!! I was hoping to see Paula get a medal, but (sigh...) not this year. Bless her heart for finishing, she definitely looked like she was hurting at the end.
  • The water stops are pretty cool in the Olympic marathon, where they have their own personal water bottles that they have to retrieve. These bottles have each athlete's own personal mix of whatever in them (wonder if any of them were using Nuun?). I also enjoyed watching them chuck the bottles over on to the pace car when they were done drinking.
  • It's kinda cool that not only am I watching a race, but also getting a little mini-tour of Bejing as the announcers talk about what the runners are passing. I almost wish somebody would do that at races that I run, since I sometimes have no idea what I am running past (and let's not forget Todd having no idea that he ran under the Kennedy Center in 2006).
  • I got goosebumps as Constantina entered the Bird's Nest. That's got to be an incredible feeling. I didn't think she'd do it when she first pulled ahead (and I kinda was hoping for Ndereba to catch up and take it from her), but when she crossed the finish line, I was really happy for her. 48 years old!! Good for her!
  • No matter what, this is not a marathon like I run. My marathons are nothing like this. For example, at the end of my marathons, I wrap in a space blanket. At the end of the Olympic marathon, they wrap themselves in their country's flag. Still, fascinating to watch.
  • I'm jealous of Jim, out watching in person. HOW COOL!

Other Olympics Notes
I remember when Baltimore/Washington were trying to get the Olympics to come in 2012 and I was totally against it. I thought it would be a horrible traffic mess and that I wasn't interested, and I'd never go see an event. Well, I still agree with my assessment of the mess, but I'd love to make it to see some track and field events (or the marathon - which is free!) someday.

I have never, ever, been more interested in an Olympics than this one. Remember, in 2004, I had not yet started running or even contemplated running or entering a race. Just four years ago, I would have laughed at someone telling me I'd sit and watch women run on a Saturday night for over 2 hours. I feel emotional about it, and I get sad when bad things happen -- even to rivals. Of course, I get happy when good things happen, again, even to rivals. I don't feel this way just about running, but about everything because I guess I can relate to it more.

On that note, I could not be happier for Michael Phelps. His mom and his sisters are so cute. He makes me proud of Baltimore, and of the USA, and it's just so great to be watching such a great athlete. Yes, he's been on notice before by me, but that's a separate issue. They're going to show him going for his last medal later...

Another side note, I'm also watching the ex-hubby's Pinball tournament via the web. Go Dave!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Let's Get Something Straight.

I've read a flurry of women-centered relationship blogs over the past few months. These blogs clearly show a segment of women whose hobby is dating. This appears to be what they think about all the time. Men. And that's cool, I do my fair share of contemplating the opposite sex. It's more than that, though. They write about relationships. Their relationships. The ones that they are in. All the time.

Now, I'm not referring to a single gal who keeps us up to date periodically with a "Hey, I went out with AwesomeGuy the other night and we had a great date! Things are going well!" or a "Broke up with FairlyKindaOkMan today, but I'm comforted by Ben and his friend Jerry." And then back to talking about other things. No, I mean blogs absolutely devoted to dating and men, so much so that you really start to wonder.

Or, actually, you don't start to wonder because you know everything. You know that Bloglady went out on her first date with HappyMan on January 12, and that she was really looking forward to it. They met online just after New Years and had chatted on the phone and IM since. And she's kept you up to date on this, because she posted transcripts of the phone conversations and the IMs. So, you're pretty clear about where things stand with them. They dated for a while, they finally DID IT on the fourth date, and he was just kind of ho hum, but things have really heated up since. They had their first big fight the beginning of March, and it was about him spending too much time with his friends (more IM logs). Things were going well, but little by little you see that things are not going so well, because she gives you an updated play-by-play each and every day. Each post is followed up with 20 or so comments from various friends, relatives and blog readers who all need to chime in and throw in their opinion on whether or not BlogLady should just dump that guy or stay with him... or laugh about his lack of prowess in bed, or pretend to care that he doesn't like pasta. Or whatever.

I. don't. get. this.

PRIVATE. This stuff should be private, or AT LEAST under password. I'm out there, perusing the web, seeing all kinds of information about people I don't even know, and I wonder if the poor schmuck has any idea that his dick size is being broadcast over the inter webs (in a series of tubes!). Sure, gals have always gossiped. I get that, and I've done it. I'm more private with my current relationship than I've ever been with any other, but maybe I only babble to other girls when things are bad (or when I'm running... my running girlfriends seem to get more information about Todd and me than anyone else does).

I always wonder when these relationships go bad (because clearly there are a few that I can't help but read), if it is because the guy did a Google search and saw all of his attempts at being sensitive written about and then laughed at. I wonder if it hurts the poor guy to finally read exactly what his girl has been thinking all along. I wonder if the girls know that in fact the reason why they have so much trouble in love is that they write their troubles all over the web. They write about an argument that they had and I want to scream at them, "can't you figure this out on your own? Or at least, have a quiet conversation with a trusted friend?" Do these ladies know how many strangers might be reading this stuff? Or co-workers? Or anybody?

Anyway.

That was a long rant.

I write this because I'm kinda sorta breaking my own rule on this. I want to talk about my relationship, and I do so because I need people to know something:

I am not ready to get married.

I realized that we are in that sweet spot where we've been dating long enough that you can reasonably expect that we might get married, but we haven't been dating so long that we're where my mom and Vic are, which is that people have accepted that they aren't going to be getting married ever. And so, people ask. And ask. And ask. My sister is the worst of the bunch, going so far as to offer up her youngest child as a flower girl (Note: I won't have a flower girl in my next wedding).

It's not so much that I mind the questions as much as I just want to make a blanket statement so that people don't have to wonder so much - as you are clearly wondering. The closer people are to me, the less I mind people asking (once again, running friends can ask away! I seem to tell you guys everything). Recently, Todd has even gone so far as to insinuate that he was ready to go ring shopping and I had to nip that one in the bud. I think that was likely just a case of temporary insanity on his part anyway. In general, we are both on the same page on this. So, let me put out there how I feel (how WE feel) so that there is no confusion...

I not ready to get married. I am happy where I am. I think Todd is the greatest thing ever, I like being with him, I love living with him, and doing all of our fun stuff together. Todd rocks. But, neither of us have had particularly wonderful experiences with marriage so we need to take it slow. We're happy, and one of these days I'm sure we'll both be ready, but it's not now. Besides, I only JUST NOW finished changing my name.

And also... Wedding planning scares the crap out of me. I think of planning my own wedding back in 1999/2000 and I get sick to my stomach. It was a lot of work and a lot of worry (and A LOT OF DRAMA). I don't want to do it again. Are people asking me to get married because they want to go to a wedding? Bad news - it's unlikely that anyone who reads this blog will be invited to any wedding I have. I find it most likely that there won't even be an engagement. We will just come home from one of our trips and we'll have decided to get hitched while we were there. Will it be Bonaire, Belize, Honduras, Little Cayman, or some future trip not yet planned? Who knows, only time will tell.

Just needed to set the record straight. Now, ask your questions if you want.

"Well I'm telling you with 100 percent certainty that it is not the time. It's not about time, it's not the right time, it's not even quarter to the right time." --June Carter

Recipe: Tuna "London Broil" and Wasabi Cream

This was a yummy recipe with a BUT. It was a yummy recipe BUT the tuna we used wasn't high enough in quality. I was generally unhappy with the selected Tuna. The tuna, of course, came from Weis. When talking about Bad Times, I didn't go into the seafood department at Weis. The person who is normally there when I am is... a little scary. Said person is very nice (in fact, often altering the seafood weight to make it seem like I bought less than I did, which while nice, also messes up the self checkout thingy). However, she's frightening and the seafood at Weis is just not up to par. Sometimes it's merely ok, sometimes it downright sucks and I won't even buy it. This tuna was in between. Yet another reason to go to the Safeway in Westminster. If anyone knows of a good place to buy fresh seafood in Northern Carroll County, please clue me in.

Anyway, the wasabi in the sauce was DELICIOUS and made me crave sushi. I'll try this recipe again, on a night when I have better tuna. Wasabi powder is expensive, btw.

Tuna "London Broil" and Wasabi Cream

Monday, August 11, 2008

I am the ocean, I said.

After our quarry adventure, Todd and I discussed future diving certifications and how we should handle them. I initially was open water certified in Key Largo, and that was because I took the class in November/December and I didn't want to wait to dive in the quarry in the spring. I knew that Todd would take me on a vacation if I could dive :)

So, to Key Largo we went. It was a good experience, although storms had been blowing through for days. The dive shop, Quiescence, was very good. Todd and I decided yesterday that for further certifications we will fly down to the Keys and get certified with Quiescence in order to avoid the quarry. I wondered about the dive shop, and if the people we'd met while we were down there were still working there, so I looked up the shop online.

Tim and Jason, who were the instructors who certified me, are indeed still there. However, it was very sad to see that Mike, who had been our boat captain for all of my certification dives, passed away in October of 2007. He had been free diving* on the wreck of the Duane and blacked out or something. The divers nearby noticed his absence, but it was too late.

I'm so sad to see this. Mike was a terrific guy. Even though I only knew him for two days, believe it or not I've thought about him here and there since. He was friendly and talked to me on the 45 minute trip each way to the dive sites, which was great because I was so nervous about my certification. At one point during our second day, we came upon some fishermen who had pulled a jewfish up too quickly and inflated its swim bladder before cutting him loose and running away (as they weren't supposed to be fishing there). Mike stopped the boat, got out his knife and cut the fish so that the air would escape and he would be able to swim again. Otherwise, the fish would have died upside down on the surface. He was a good guy.

This is the first person I've ever known personally to have died in a diving accident. It's incredibly sad and I send my thoughts to his widow and baby. :(

I read on Scubaboard that the card for him at his celebration of life had the below poem on it and I wanted to include it here...

I am the ocean, I said.
I am.
I know.
And so I dived into the ocean,
I crossed the threshold of fear
To the unknown beyond.
An eternity beyond time.
A space beyond perfection.
Joy.
Another Universe...
Another Reality...

*Free diving is when you do not dive with a tank. You have weights around your waist and a mask, fins and snorkel, but you do not have air. You dive down (I've heard of free divers going down as far as 40 feet or more), and then see what you want and surface. It is dangerous and often considered more dangerous than scuba diving because free divers train themselves to ignore the urge to come up for air. This is a dangerous game and can lead to blackouts... which leads to drowning. Free diving scares me, and I don't do it. I figure, if you can have air along, why not have the air along?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Advanced Diving, Part II

Well, first things first. Yesterday, we had to get up at our usually early hour (alarm went off at 4:20am) in order to get to Goucher College for our running. We were doing speed work, and did mile repeats on the track. We ended up going home afterwards and took a very short nap -- maybe 20 minutes -- before heading up to Pennsylvania.

Our class met at Bainbridge Quarry around 11am. We had to do 6 dives between 11am and 10pm. We started around 12:30pm. I can tell you that the quarry looked nothing like this. It looked like murk.

Anyway, the first 2 dives were about buoyancy and basic skills. Todd and I are experienced, but the other folks in the class hadn't dove in a while, so we had to review some things like regulator retrieval and such. We worked on our buoyancy and played around on the dive platforms. At one point on the second dive, we descended down to a sunken boat, which was at about 50 feet... and it was cold. DAMN cold. The water was almost 80 degrees on the surface, but at 50 feet, the temp dropped down to about 50 degrees. This was fine, since I was wearing a 7mm wetsuit (I wear 1mm in the Caribbean), but I neglected to bring my gloves (they said we weren't going that deep), and my hands nearly froze off. I mean really, I thought my hands would be gone after that dive.

Todd hates quarry diving. He always says so, and I think Todd's a bit dramatic. Still, he is right that cold water diving is more cold than you really realize and when we dove down to see "fun and exciting features!" I really had no interest because I was focused on how cold it was and the fact that I couldn't see more than 2 feet in front of my face. Blah.

So, we had a surface interval and took a rest, then dove in the shallow water of the lagoon (with maybe 2 feet of visibility) to do some compass navigation. After, came dive #4 around the dive platforms for more navigation and such, where Todd and I worked together to navigate where we needed to go using our compasses. It was kind of fun actually, despite the fact that I was uncomfortable and hot on the surface in the thick wet suit. Only dropping to about 20 feet, we hit a thermocline and the temperature of the water dropped dramatically and it felt better.

We had a long wait for our last 2 dives. We had brought food and such, so we ate dinner, fed the fish, watched other divers and snorkeled a little in the lagoon. Finally, we started our dusk dive to practice "limited visibility" (note: all of our dives were limited visibility... We would come up and say, "oh, cool, I saw murk... rock... fish... tree branch...). Anyway, we did the dive down to the cement mixer, the top of which is at 40 feet or so. It was cold again, but I had gloves. We did one more dive, it was a night dive. I can say I've been on better night dives. Being in the quarry at night was creepy, that is for sure.

So, we finished up and packed up our gear and headed home. It was a good time. I learned a lot, especially about navigation. Good times. I definitely won't be diving in the quarry anytime soon. Between the cold, the uncomfortable thick wet suit, the hot feeling on the surface, the limited vis, and the heavy weights I had to wear with the thick wet suit (twice the weight I wear in the Caribbean), it was crappy. Still, it was a good course, and it was an absolutely beautiful, beautiful day with perfect weather.

See the murk. Watch the video on that page and now you never have to go diving in the quarry because that's just what it looks like!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Chances Are

by Bob Seger & Martina McBride

Chances are you'll find me somewhere on your road tonight
Seems I always end up driving by
Ever since I've known you, it just seems you're on my way
All the rules of logic don't apply.
I long to see you in the night,
Be with you 'till morning light.

I remember clearly how you looked the night we met.
I recall your laughter and your smile.
I remember how you made me feel so at ease,
I remember all your grace, your style.
And now you're all I long to see,
You've come to mean so much to me.

Chances are I'll see you somewhere in my dreams tonight,
You'll be smiling like the night we met.
Chances are I'll hold you and I'll offer all I have.
You're the only one I can't forget.
Baby, you're the best I've ever met.

And I'll dreaming of the future,
And hoping you'll be by my side,
And in the morning I'll be longing for the night.
For the night.

Chances are I'll see you somewhere in my dreams tonight,
You'll be smiling like the night we met.
Chances are I'll hold you and I'll offer all I have.
You're the only one I can't forget.
Baby, you're the best I've ever met.


Great Albums

Todd and I had a discussion about great albums.  He gave me his ideas, but I was trying to figure out what were the really great albums I knew of.  I focused on the time that I worked at Sam Goody (when I knew music best and wasn't retreated into my little country hole where I am now).  This was long enough ago that we can start to judge.  I worked at Sam Goody from 1994 to 1997, so it was prime music loving age.  UMBC folks, this would be our junior year of high school through our freshman year of college. 

Here are thoughts, although I am not saying these are the great albums of that period, these are the ones that come to mind right off the bat.  Remember, I'm talking full albums, not individual songs, and I'm looking for those that have real staying power....

  • Green Day, "Dookie"
  • Dave Matthews Band, "Under the Table and Dreaming"
  • Alanis Morrisette, "Jagged Little Pill"
  • Oasis, whatever it was called (I hated that album)
  • Hootie and the Blowfish, "Cracked Rear View"

Other ideas?  I also considered No Doubt and a couple others.

As a side note, if you looked at that period in country, it would be Shania Twain, "The Woman in Me," and I can't think of any others that really had a lot of impact.  In fact, that Shania Twain CD was the first country album where I was capable of convincing the manager of Sam Goody to play in the store.

I know there were some big rap/R&B albums out at the time, but for the life of me I can't remember.  Jesse, StephanieA?  You guys worked there then, what do you think?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Advanced Diving

This week we're taking our Advanced Open Water Certification course. There are different levels of scuba diving. First comes Basic Open Water, which is what you get to become a scuba diver in the first place. This is just a minimum of 5 open water dives, and a class (which can vary in length but for me was 3 weeks) that includes classroom and pool sessions, and a test. After you have your basic certification, you can scuba dive all you want and go on your merry way and never take another course if you don't want to. You just should take a refresher course before you dive if you haven't been on a dive in more than 12 months (something that I'm fully aware Todd has ignored in the past).

Of course, there are more courses to take if you so choose. Todd and I are both certified in Nitrox, which I've discussed before. Todd also took an Underwater Photography course while we were in Turks & Caicos. We have plans to take Stress & Rescue at some point. Each of these is a specialty course. To become an advanced diver, you have to have 4 specialty courses completed and a total of 24 open water dives.

We both have the 24 dive requirement filled, so that is not an issue (I'm at 92 right now). We just need the specialties. So, our dive shop offers 3 specialites and 6 open water dives packaged together as an Advanced Course. We are taking it this week and completed our classroom time and written tests last night. This weekend, we'll do 6 dives in the quarry to complete our certification (and take me to 98 dives completed... in Bonaire I'll have 100!).

Our specialties that we're completing are Advanced Bouyancy (we both have good bouyancy already, so that's a breeze), Night Diving (we've done a bunch of night dives already, but good to get the certification and some pointers), and Navigation. Navigation is the big one for us to learn, as I'm horrible at using a compass. It will be very helpful to know, especially for the night dives. There were times in T&C where I was definitely lost.

So, the class went well. We are definitely the most experienced divers in the group and the only ones who will get our cards at the end of the course. I'm both excited and not very excited about diving in the quarry. The water will be cold and I will hate that. I had to buy boots and gloves, which I did not previously own. Still, it will be nice to have gotten the experience and now we won't need a pool checkout dive before we go to Bonaire!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Non-Runner Dies!

I thought this was pretty funny, others did not (read the comments).  Thoughts from my fellow runners?

Very Bad Weekend Update

I shouldn't be like that.  Sunday wasn't too bad.  Saturday, though, was pure hell. 

When we have a long run like we did this past weekend, basically any and all plans for the entire weekend revolve around running.  Earlier in the season, it's not a huge deal, but once we get into August, marathon training is up to 18+ miles and we're starting to wake up before 4:00am, so we really have to be very focused on our runs.  This week was no different from any of our other long mileage runs of the past few years, we eat pasta the night before, sit out all of our clothes so that we can get ready in the fastest time possible, etc.  The problem was the weather, and so we ended up postponing our run.

I had no idea.  I really did not know or realize how much I need running to keep myself sane on days where I wake up at 3:45am.  My body was angry at me and it was like the crazy person that lives in my brain had taken over and the normal me had decided to remain dormant for the whole day.  I can honestly say I had an emotional meltdown partway through the (long) morning, caused in part by the fact that I could not get myself back to sleep.  I had the energy to go run, but I couldn't because now the run was on Sunday.  Eventually, I was too tired to have an emotional anything, and I couldn't try to sleep any more because I didn't want to risk not being able to fall asleep at night.

Basically, Saturday was a bad day.

Sunday, not so bad.  We did the same thing all over again, with much better results.  I was normal.  Things were normal.  I took a nap in the afternoon because apparently The Other Boleyn Girl is an excellent choice to put us to sleep. 

And then of course, I had to get up to go to work on Monday, so I spent the weekend basically getting far too little sleep.  But I ran 14 miles on Sunday in beautiful, cool, sunny weather.  So, I guess it's all worth it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Grocery Shopping with Tina Turner

Reading Wendy's post about Bad Times, I was trying to think of what the Bad Times stores are that I know of.

Here's a little summary from Wendy:

What constitutes Bad Times? It’s not just bad service or poor merchandise selection. It’s almost never a single thing that can be isolated and remedied. No, it’s an elaborate matrix of factors that make you miserable practically every single fucking time you shop there.

Bad Times conditions produce varying results within a consistent pattern of badness. Your shopping cart gets swiped. You wait in line and then the line closes. They’re inexplicably all out of water, or candy, or something amazing like that. Everything you need is available only in some horrifyingly wrong form, size and/or quantity, i.e., tampons which come in boxes of two hundred and are the super-ultra-maximum kind with scented musical applicators. The ATM is down, always. You’re lost in the aisles and the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is playing. So many things around you suck to distraction that you forget half the things you meant to get, and you stumble home defeated and with the distinct sense that none of this bullshit would have happened if only you’d gone to the other Jewel or Walgreens or Osco or Dominck’s. Bad Times stores are the ones you find yourself going out of the way to avoid for one reason or another. Sometimes you can articulate why, sometimes you can’t.

And then it dawned on me: It's my Weis. My Weis that I visit at least once a week unless I go to Miller's or out of my way to the heavenly Westminster Safeway, is a Bad Times store. It's been a nagging feeling that I've had for a while now and I can only truly articulate it now that I've read Wendy's article. Let me describe.

The one major issue is that when I visit my Weis, I want to beat myself in the head with a hammer. I feel like I cannot make it out of there faster and I feel INSANE just being in that store. Why? The music. The music is HORRIBLE. They recently remodeled (and I had thought things would get better). Before the remodeling, the music was bubblegum 1950's golden oldies. "Mr. Sandman," "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen," "Chapel of Love" are all great examples. They would play a song (and remember these songs are only like a minute and a half long), and then play a little jingle-tune and announce some in-store announcements about the produce department or specials (always pre-recorded and it played over and over and over). And the volume was LOUD. I would rush and not finish my shopping sometimes in order to get out of there.

After the remodel, there was a slight improvement. The music is now 70s/80s light rock, with the same jingle and announcements, but less frequently. There was one really good day where everything they played was tolerable (Paul Simon's "Call Me Al" for example). Then, one day three weeks ago or so, they played Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It" and I have not been the same since. That song was in my head for the entire rest of the night. Even now, weeks later and having been in there a few more times, that song will pop into my head randomly. I'll be at work or driving in my car or RUNNING and suddenly I'm wondering who needs a heart when a heart can be broken. It even pops into my head AT WEIS, even though Weis might be playing Roxette's "Joyride" at the time (another HORROR). I'm starting to wonder if I should wear earplugs when I shop there.

The music isn't the only issue. There's the deli. I used to feel that Weis had a wonderful deli, but not anymore. I can start my shopping at 4:30pm, when they're fairly empty, and there will inevitably be 3-4 people in line at the deli counter. The entire store of customers seems to sometimes be lined up at the deli counter, with one pour soul back there taking everyone's orders, and 3-4 employees standing back there either cleaning or chit chatting. Last week, I couldn't figure out why the employee wasn't helping me and the other guy there and it was because she was helping some woman who had wandered in to order what appeared to be 7 pounds of sliced American Cheese. If it wasn't for Todd, I'd avoid the deli all together, but I tried buying him non-deli lunch meat once and it was not taken well. If I skip it and plan to come back when it's less crowded, I find myself not doing it so that I can escape the horrible music and Weis jingles playing over the loudspeakers. So, sometimes he gets no lunch meat at all, and he just looks sadly into the grocery bags when I get home and I have to reply, "I hate the deli."

At least things aren't as bad as they were DURING the remodel, when I went in one day and there was no frozen food section at all (totally weird), and I ended up having to go down to the OTHER Weis in Hampstead. The "other" Hampstead Weis is at the other end of town and if you stay in the produce section, it's nice, but if you leave the produce section... I always get the feeling that the snack food and soda aisles take up the majority of the store. I don't get it, it's just that something seems weird about that store, like there is a larger amount of convenience and snack foods there than in other grocery stores, or like it's just a larger-sized 7-11.

So, what do I even do? The only other local store is Miller's, which is an awesome store, but just doesn't have the selection to sustain my shopping habits long term. Plus, I overbuy red meat when I'm there because they have awesome meats. There's the Giant near my work (that used to be my main shopping store when I lived in Owings Mills), but it's gone downhill and has become Bad Times (I won't go into it). The best store in the area is the Safeway in Westminster, which, as I've said, is too far out of my way (but gives me warm-fuzzies just thinking about it).

Sigh.

I guess I'll go to Weis with my ear plugs in and a potential 30-minute wait at the deli counter, but I'm sure that I'll still leave wondering what's love, but a second hand emotion. Oh well.

More later... I have to talk about my weekend, which was about as shitty as it gets.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Evil Intersection

Fellow Drivers, we need to have a talk.  Today's Subject: The intersection of Route 30 and 795 (which is actually Butler Road at that point).  This is not a complicated concept, but a whole lot of folks seem to have some emotional difficulty dealing with this intersection.  Now that I've discovered plenty of shortcuts through the neighborhoods of Hampstead to get around town traffic, I've begun to consider this intersection to be the most negative part of my entire (relatively short) commute.

First, let's describe the intersection.  I tried drawing it in Visio, but my drawing looked stupid.  I also tried looking at it in Google Maps, but you can't see the lanes.  Basically, I'm talking only about the flow of traffic that comes from the direction of 795, stops at the light and then makes a left hand turn on to Route 30.

When coming off of 795 and after crossing over Route 140, the road there is 2 lanes.  The right lane will go straight at the light to Butler Road.  The left lane will split into 2 lanes, both of which are left turn only lanes at the light.  You get a green arrow when the light turns green so that both of these left turn lanes can go left just fine without flow of traffic from the opposite direction.  Once you're on Route 30, these two lanes merge back into one lane.

The point, I think, of having two lanes at a light turning left onto a road and then have them merging back into one, is to allow more cars to get through the light.  Which is good, because this is a light with heavy traffic.  It makes perfect sense to me to utilize BOTH left turn lanes just for this purpose - as many people as possible can get onto Route 30, and then head on towards Hampstead and be happy.

The problem?  Not many people use the right lane of the two left turn lanes at the light, and those that do are cut off and treated like assholes when they get onto Route 30 and try to merge left.

WHY?

WHY WHY WHY?

ARG!!!  This irritates the crap out of me.  What is the problem with someone using the right lane there????

Well, two problem people cause this:

1. People actually ARE assholes.  You know who you are, you get into the right lane, make your turn onto route 30 and then mash down on the gas pedal, trying to get in front of as many cars as possible before you merge.  You cut people off, sometimes drive on the shoulder, and make the people in the other lane HATE YOU.  You shorten your commute by maybe an average of 3 seconds by doing this, but you also piss a bunch of people off and cause:

2. People who HATE assholes.  You know who YOU are.  You hate the assholes that mash on the gas and cut people off, so you get high and mighty in the left hand lane, and you tailgate the guy in front of you so that anyone in that right lane won't be able to merge in front of YOU.  You keep anyone and everyone from getting in front of you, and you think that the right hand lane should remain empty for some reason.  You often almost rear end people when the car in front of you stops to make a left hand turn into the garden center that is right there in the midst of all of this mess.  You don't shorten your commute at all, just just cause problems and make life for the right lane people miserable - and that is what your goal is.

I HATE BOTH OF THESE TYPES OF PEOPLE.  I am normal, I am neither of them.  I do get in the right hand turn lane as a habit, but I calmly make my turn and merge where I can.  I don't stress about letting folks in front of me and I don't stress about getting in front of other cars.  But, I am driven absolutely nuts by the uptight dick heads listed above.  If I get to the light at the same time as someone in the left lane, I often end up behind them and that is fine with me.  WHATEVER, it doesn't matter!!!!!

So, lighten up people.  You are driving me nuts.  This situation means that the right hand lane is often not used and sits empty and causes more traffic than is necessary at the light.  It's stupid and we all need a lesson in how to drive.
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