Archive for July, 2003

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Lewis & Clark On Ritalin

July 27, 2003

I’ve been busy. Very busy. Since Thursday I’d say. I feel like I climbed into a canoe on that monring and the rushing water has only just now released me at the mouth of the river, here on Sunday morning. What a ride. Actually, though, maybe the story starts further back than that. Maybe it starts back in late June when I began teaching a 5-week class every afternoon.

***

I’d agreed for the second year running, to teach “digital media” to high school Juniors and seniors enrolled in Marquette’s Science and Math At Marquette (SAMM) program. It’s a part of their excellent Educational Opportunities (EOP) program for urban high school kids. In any case, it runs for five weeks, two one-hour classes every day, 12:30-1:20 and 1:30-2:20 daily. (“Digital media,” by the way, is a slick way of saying I turn them loose with Canon ZR mini-DV digital camcorders and Apple’s iMovie software.)

Doing this is quite outside the scope of my regular job and so they do pay me extra for it. That being the case, I try to still put in the same number of hours at my regular job even though I’m stealing two hours away from it during the middle of the day. What I end up doing is coming in to work at 6:30, taking no lunch break of any kind, teaching the class from 12:30 to 2:30, going back to my office for the rest of the afternoon, and leaving at 4:30. That makes for a long day. But I figure I don’t have to keep that kind of schedule forever, just five weeks.

But anyway, the five weeks is up now. We’re done. The final day for me was Thursday when I taught my class in the afternoon and then stayed late to host the traditional “Film Festival,” during which all the kids’ digitally-shot movie masterpieces were shown after dinner to parents and guests. It was a good time. I got home at about 9:30. On a fifteen-hour day like that all I can say is “thank you, Starbucks.”

***

Friday wasn’t much better. The previous morning I’d been suddenly “invited” to attend an after-hours planned outage in the data center. Some of my colleagues were upgrading servers and other equipment that comprise the brains of Marquette’s IT ifnrastructure. I first found out about it earlier in the week. Then on Thurday I heard I was going to be there. Starts at 7 and ends at midnight? “No problem,” I heard myself say.

Because for five weeks I’d been the first person in the building, and because I knew I was going to be staying late that evening, I decided to rebel a little and come in to work at …say, 9:30 AM. Who could fault me, right? Well it just so happens that while I’m sitting here feeling rebellious for going in late I get an emergency call from the help desk advising me that all hell is breaking loose and wouldn’t I please do something about it? It couldn’t happen when I was sitting there manning my post in the early morning hours, when I might have looked like a hero. No, it has to happen on the one day when I’m at home slacking off. Sometimes you just can’t win.

In any case, the crisis of that morning was soon resolved, the rest of the day was uneventful, and even the planned after-hours outage went well. In fact I didn’t have to stay very long or do very much. I got sent home at about 8 or 8:30. The catch was, I was to be called in the middle of the night at home so I could get up and do some more work from there. So I came home and stayed up late. I got really tired so I went to bed and figured they’d wake me up.

Only they didn’t. They never called at all. Oh, well. Could be worse. They might have called with a huge problem that they wanted me to fix or something. But I wish I’d known because I’d have gotten more sleep.

***

Because Saturday was specially set asside for an all-day canoeing adventure with my nephew and neices. By 9 or 10 am we had started the long drive up to Waupaca, stopping to meet up with the kids in Mayville on the way. Our desitnation was Ding’s Dock, “home of the famous Crystal River canoe trip.”

I just have one word for you: don’t.

I’ve canoed the 11.5 miles down the Crystal twice now, the first time being two summers ago, and I hated it both times. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. Numerous places where the water is so shallow you basically get out and pull your canoe.

2. Numerous places where there are so many boulders in the water you’d have to be Lews & Clark on Ritalin to successfully navigate them.

3. Fiberglass canoes that leave invisible, well, fibers of glass, in your skin.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed other parts of the day. I just love spending time with my brother-in-law’s family. They’re great kids. Bottom line, though, is I won’t be going down the Crystal River again. No, I think if I’m to go canoeing again it’ll be somewhere else.

***

So the ride of the past few weeks and days has finally come to a halt here on a Sunday morning, leaving me blinking in the sudden calm of a Mississippi delta-like expanse of freedom. I hope to take advantage of this by spending a few days with a normal schedule. No special events or activities, thank you. I need to rest up a bit. I’ve got promotional testing for my red belt in tae kwon do coming up on Friday…and I leave for a week in Chicago a week from tomorrow. More on that later.

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Finished Phoenix

July 24, 2003

Two large pizzas: $20.00

Frozen custard: $12.50

Finishing the last nail-biting 130 pages of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix in a all-night read-aloud marathon with your family on a Wednesday night:

Priceless.

I am so pleased and delighted that our family has developed this read-aloud tradition. What could be more wholesome? I know we’ll all remember these times for the rest of our lives. And I bet my children grow up and do likewise with their own children. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for providing one of the key ingredients.

Now get to work cranking out book six! I don’t know how we’ll survive the wait.

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Am I Canadian?

July 20, 2003

Dispite right-wing rhetoric to the contrary, I don’t think anyone can really deny the fact that the United States has grown ever more conservative during my lifetime. Year after year, election after election, the entire spectrum of political debate has shifted to the right. Apparently a $350 billion tax cut for the wealthy is considered a victory for the left now. I look at this state of affairs and realize very clearly my genuinely liberal values are at odds with not only the current administration, but evidently the majority of American voters. I’m outside the mainstream. I’m “on the fringe.”

Or maybe I’m just Canadian. It seems slightly shameful to discuss such things openly, but Salon started it. Click here to check out this piece they got off the AP wire about Americans expatriating to our northern neighbor.

Treasonous or tempting – you decide. For myself, I’m just not ready for that yet. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t occasionally daydreamed about expatriating. After all, there must be a dozen or more lovely places in this world where people’s values are more in tune with my own.

I hear Vancouver is very nice.

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Clematis

July 14, 2003

So we’re driving through the neighborhood in the Pathfinder, the wife and I, admiring houses. I spy a mailbox at the curb with a lovely flowering vine growing on it.

“Hey nice clematis vine on that mailbox!” I say.

The wife, clearly impressed, blurts “how did you know what that’s called?”

Without missing a beat I reply “well, it’s, you know, like a box and it holds mail. Hence, ‘mailbox.'”

I thought it was hillarious. She was less enthusiastic. In any case, you can see my very own clematis vine in the picture I just submitted to photofriday if you click right here!

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Zoo Trip

July 14, 2003

Angela and I took the kids to the zoo this past Saturday. Angela’s mother, sister and niece came along, plus the kids each brought a friend. We packed coolers full of picnic lunch goodies, stuffed everyone into three vehicles, and set out for adventure. I’m happy to report that the weather was perfect and we all had a great time.

I took about 60 pictures, but most of them weren’t very good. I had three main obstacles: distance, dimly lighted indoor exhibits and glass reflections. I did my best, though. You can see the some of the results in the shot recently album. They won’t be there long, so check them out!

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HAWS Calendar Photo Contest

July 11, 2003

Angela sent me an email telling me about a photo contest for the annual Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County calendar. If you’re new around here it might have escaped you that Logan is the most photographically documented animal in the history of picture-taking. Naturally I’d have to enter the contest. But which photo to submit?

I considered this one, this one and this one, but in the end I submitted…
hawscalendar.jpg

Coincidentally, this photo was taken during a HAWS fund-raiser called “Bark in the Park.” Angela and I had raised a pile of money for them and showed up with Logan to walk the trails with all the other HAWS supporters. It was a great time.

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foo foo fish

July 8, 2003

I made grilled salmon for dinner tonight. We all hated it. Something about the lime-based marinade left us all wishing for …a meatlof. Or anything more savory and less “foo foo.” It’s a shame though because Angela and I were hoping to get a healthy fish meal into our regular lineup.

Got any good fish recipes? Bonus if it’s easy and cheap. Sainthood for the submitter of one that both of my kids will eat. (Don’t get your hopes up on that one.)

Actually since I’m asking for recipes let me also ask you this: where does the expression ‘foo foo’ come from anyway? (Or is it “frou frou”?) I took it to mean “something which is over-frilly, fancy, insubstantial.” But I can’t find anything like that at dictionary.com. Anyone? (Don’t confuse it with this frou frou though. They’re quite substantial. Highly recommended.)