Saturday, September 26, 2009

Two Wheeled Pilgrimage and Wyoming Whoppers

This last weekend I had the privilege to travel to my grandparents’ home and stay with them for a couple of days. It’s a trip that I’ve been taking on my own every year for the past, oh, 4 or so years. It’s become a personal tradition that I really look forward to. I’m very grateful A supports me going to see them. One of the additional joys of the trip for me is riding my motorcycle there. I usually cover anywhere from 1,800 to 2,500 miles during the trip. I often take the long route to and from their home. They live in an area of the country where there is plenty of scenic beauty and long twisty roads. The trip is an annual two wheeled pilgrimage crossing 5 states seeking wisdom, friendship and Wyoming Whoppers!

While growing up in the Seattle area, spending time with my grandparents was a regular treat. My grandpa was a quiet and decent man who enjoyed taking us to play golf and dazzling us with his amazing whistling…he really sounded like a bird! My grandmother was an outspoken vibrant woman who took us to the beach, baked really cool and tasty cakes and hosted our annual GBBDD (Gingerbread Boy Decorating Day). GBBDD was something we all looked forward to because first, the GBB’s were huge and second, we were able to taste test all of the frosting at anytime. Grandma taught us how to carefully apply the frosting to the GBB’s using a large, canvas, squeeze tubes (at least I think they were canvas). Then we would finish decorating them with candy and other edible goodies. This event was truly a delight.

Now grandpa, he taught me the appropriate etiquette of golf….most of which, though I have aged and have played less and less golf, I still remember. Grandpa was a great teacher. I remember awaking really early in the morning and heading off to the golf course with grandpa. He was an excellent golfer then, someone I really looked up to as a young athlete. Today, at the age of 89, he still plays almost daily and regularly shoots his age. Still very impressive if you ask me.

When I was college age, I moved out of state, pretty much never to return home. At about the same time grandpa and grandma moved to the other side of the state to retire. We kinda drifted apart at that point, so I really only knew my grandparents through the lens of a child. It wasn’t until years later when my life had settled that they invited me to come see them and I decided to go for a visit. The tradition began and I wouldn’t miss the visit every year as long as I have the choice!

These visits are an absolute joy. I have the opportunity to get to know my grandparents in a completely different light: as adult to adult. I know I will always be there little grandson, ok, not so little, but the way I relate to them is different now. Now it’s more about who they are and where they came from and learning about their life experiences, instead of the past adolescent view of what grandpa and grandma did with me or gave me. It’s about them as people….family.

During our visits, instead of just playing golf, we sit and talk about the six holes-in-one grandpa has made over the years. We talk about grandma’s experiences working in California during WWII, and Grandpa’s service in the Navy. We talk about their childhood memories and what it was like growing up during the depression. I find great interest in their current life experiences; what they think of our country, politics and what they are doing in their local community. I plan on just sitting with them for 2 to 3 days talking, and I absolutely enjoy it.

Grandma’s tradition for my visit is having a fresh pan of brownies and a batch or two of Wyoming Whoppers….a very large cookie that has just about everything from the cupboards in it stuck together with sugar and love. Yeah, I’m still her little grandson. They’re very tasty and grandma makes sure I have a bag full for the moto ride home. I look forward to another batch and another visit with them next year!They currently live very close to where my grandma was born and lived until she was a teenager. Here are some pictures of the inside of the Catholic church from her hometown where she attended church and school. It was built in 1904, it is quite beautiful.

Here's a fun fake PSA video I shot on my moto last year while visiting my grandparents. It's shot on one of the local roads....enjoy!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Building a Nation vs. Building Software

I was thinking today about how amazing it is that our nation was born. The right combination of amazing men, who were no doubt married to likewise amazing women. . . The goodness and endurance and courage it must have taken to lead such an enormously important decision to lay the foundations of a nation. The hours of mental exhaustion as these individuals engaged in activities that would impact billions and billions of men, women, and children.

I guess what brought that to mind is something rather insignificant - building software. we have been engaged in designing, planning, and building this piece of software for work that is rather minute in comparison to what the Fathers of our Nation did. In fact, there is no comparison, minus the fact that we, too, have spent hour upon hour, week upon week, month upon - well, we haven't been at it THAT long, but we are meeting in air conditioned rooms in comfortable chairs, usually with a big box of bagels or doughnuts nearby, and everyone is wearing deodorant (hey, don't underestimate how good that is!)

Today I was trying to engage in this mentally exhausting planning session where we define the engineering stories and scope out how long this will take, simultaneously attempting to manage some of my people via my computer, and responding to requests for training and getting information to a commission to which I belong for professional accreditation. It was a whole lot going on, but I didn't hold in my hands anyone's future or anything like billions of people's freedom.

Sure, I believe the men gathered together to construct the framework of our nation were educated, generally well-mannered, and purposeful men, but I know how tense it can get between a group of product managers and software engineers, and I have to imagine that the group of men who had the wherewithal to build this nation were pretty strong headed individuals. In the heat of summer, I am sure the room would have been filled with the ripe smell of sweat, and who knows what else, yet hour after hour they drove forward with determination.

I guess what I get from this is even in my small little place in the world, I can learn to be a little more patient, but also a little more diligent as we struggle to break through the mental wall that we hit while trying to imagine what your customers really want. I can believe that developing something worthwhile and easy to use (that is my big "Thing," usability) with which even well-seasoned (old) people can work. I may not be doing anything spectacular, but I am, perhaps in a small way, making some elderly person's life just a tiny bit easier!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It was Love at First Fit

Today I stopped by a local running store (located via the Vibram Five Fingers website), and tried on some VFF KSOs. I tried them on at another store earlier, but zero customer service killed that sale. This place was AMAZING! If I was a blogger who cared to identify my whereabouts, I would give this place a major plug. (If you know me, ask.)

I was still in my dress suit from work, but took a jog on the treadmill just the same. Running in VFFs is a completely different experience - you don't strike your heels at all. Sounds very odd, but you have to experience it to understand. After several minutes, I thought my PF would flare up, but without the heel striking, it just felt better and better. I am pretty sure I imprinted on these shoes within about fifteen minutes. I refused to take them off, as shown by the shot of my very happy foot in the car.

I arrived home to find my sleeping C , back from his long moto trip. I snuggled up to say hello, and after a few minutes he opened his eyes and looked at my feet. "You have gorilla feet!" He said, and laughed. A few minutes later the doorbell rang. Our neighbor doctor and his wife stopped by to say hello and asked admiringly about the shoes. (This is the Doc who wears Crocs, so we call him the Doc in Crocs.)

Finally, I had to test them out at my Yoga class. My fave teacher came through, and I had the pleasure of meeting his amazing wife tonight. Certainly, Tyran did not disappoint, and all of that stress from finishing my operating systems class in two days melted away. I especially appreciated his mental exercises during the last part of class, explaining that we are not our minds or our bodies alone, but our minds and bodies are tools we use. If we keep this in mind, we increase our capacity. Oh, and the shoes? Awesome! They didn't get in the way at all, and in fact provided just enough support for my left foot that I could even stand on it for a while for a one-foot pose. VFF for Yoga? Passed with flying colors.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Every once it a while you feel like you are really living life to the max. This weekend has certainly felt like that for me. Rather than backing down, I rode the wave of faith and stayed afloat!
I ran to a local bistro yesterday to feed my famished self and take a 15 minute break from my mad run at finishing my class in a day, and while sitting there I looked at the planter next to me and caught this great shot as the sun was going down. The amazing thing is that it described so well how I was feeling - surprisingly not worn out, not overworked, just Maximum.
After battling for proctor approval with my University yesterday, I got an e-mail today at 12:45 stating that yes, I could take my exam, which I had scheduled for 3:00 (just in case). I spent about an hour studying for the open-book exam and the rest of the time getting permission to use my electronic copy of the book (why use paper when you don't have to?). I finished the exam in half of the allotted time, ran to Chick-fil-A to load up on diet lemonade, and came home to - - - work out.
I had to! No excuses, 400 Watts. With only a few hours left in the day to submit my final assignment so I could finish this class on time, I needed clarity of mind, and so I exercised first, programmed last. It seemed to do the trick. I just submitted the program and can officially set aside my Operating Systems text for a little while and program like crazy for my other class.
On a more upbeat note, I get my sweetheart back tomorrow. He has been out of town visiting his amazing grandparents and enjoying the beauties of two-wheeled travel on his ZX-14. I have missed him, but was so glad he didn't have to experience my mental trek across the plains for the past five days. Babe, you couldn't have picked a better time to get in some touring! And don't worry, I picked you up a lemonade too, for your final exam study tomorrow! (And maybe a cookie, too.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sure you have a week left. . .

Last night I started to write the following:
"I have been staring at my computer plowing through Computer Science courses all weekend long. C was at his grandparent's home, so I took full advantage of the situation by eating leftovers and doing almost no housework. Speaking of housework, Kawi isn't very helpful in that category. I finally figured out that he takes the dog-food looking pieces out of his food dish and flips them onto the slate floor and watches to see where they will go. How's that for fowl attitude? They are especially fun to step on since I haven't stopped to sweep them up. The good news is that it looks like I might actually finish this class by the 28th (I hope). Well, I am going to keep this short because I am hitting the books again. Just needed a little mental gasp before I dive back into contiguous, linked, and indexed file allocations. "

That was BEFORE I decided to double check the deadline for this class, and low-and-behold, the deadline is actually the 22nd. I called my manager in a cold sweat, who told me to spend today on my class. Now if I can get my advisor to call me back to schedule the final - - tomorrow - - I might still make it through! Talk about an exercise in stress management! Back to the books.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Creative Fitness

With the diminished ability to use my left foot, I have had to get creative with my workouts. I can still do leg presses as long as they are not using the stabilizer muscles in my feet. I am getting much better at pull ups and other upper-body exercises. Most abs and arms exercises are still okay, and on good days I can still do pushups (no, I don't do them girl-style).

Last night I walked at a 15 incline on the treadmill at a reasonably slow pace to baby my foot which I have had to wrap because it has been very inflamed the past couple of days. I have to be careful with the elliptical because always want to crank down on the tension so I feel I am getting a decent workout. That just seems to aggrivate the injury.

I finally broke down last night and asked fellow blogger 400 Watts how much recovery time he gave his plantar fasciitis since I am trying to figure out how to kick this thing without going flabby. He mentioned that he took two months off of running, but is running better than ever now. He biked during the interim.

Today I went to the gym for Yoga, but when I noticed that my fave teacher, Tyran, had a substitute, I went upstairs for a bike ride. Nothing personal, but the substitute instructor tries to do Yoga aerobics-style and I am in no shape for that right now. I bicycled for 35 minutes in flip flops at a nice tense level while reading Doc Gottman, and then spent 25 minutes lifting weights.

Why flip-flops, you may ask? I am trying to get closer to the barefoot running model - or at least minimalist running, and am trying to move away from ultra-structured shoes which may have been part of the problem in the first place. I tried on a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers and they seemed like they would work well. According to the barefoot running forum on Runner's World (and other suggested material from 400 Watts) it is best to move away from structured shoes gradually to strengthen foot tendons and muscles without injury.

Well, one bonus to my injury is that my upper body is also getting a great workout lately. I hope to come out of this in much better shape than when I started. Well, back to operating systems and C++. I have a lot of mental ground to cover today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Software and Pears

If you had asked me five years ago what I would be doing today, I would not have said I would be building software and picking pears with my dad. Let me say that my dad is one of the most wonderful people I know. As a kid, I wished everyone had my dad. They all seemed to have the wrong kinds of dads - too serious, too grumpy, too lazy, too thin, too demanding. . . My dad was just right. Anyway, he noticed I haven't been doing much with my little pear tree, and offered to take some off of my hands, so today I pulled out the ladder and we cleaned off the last of the pears. (This is after picking up a bucket of pears every week off of the ground.)

This is the best little pear tree ever. If you see it off season it looks like a good candidate for firewood. If you see it in late August/early September, you wonder how it is possible for such a small old tree to hold so many pears on its tiny branches! And great fruit it is. This year the earwigs have been diligently seeking out the ripe fruit, but even then, the losses are minimal by comparison. It was good to see you today, dad.

On the subject of software, we have been working diligently on the software surprise at work. It was a little crazy because I was trying to train one of the individuals I manage to help migrate pages out of a portal template into a simplified format while attending an all-day meeting. All day, all week, all month. My team is consumed by this project.

After doing a rush training, I had to give that employee the system rights to lock down pages, and then had to notify over ten-thousand users that we were starting the migration to avoid any community upheavals, only to field a slough of out-of-office and spam responses. Lovely.

Tomorrow we meet with another team to discuss integration. I love working with my team members - we have a great balance between head-down-press-forward, and letting the rubberband unwind for a few minutes with a few good laughs. There is so much pressure surrounding this task, it would be unbearable otherwise. Well, back to programming. Sometimes I think my head will explode, I try to fit so much stuff in it all of the time, but it just keeps fitting!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Argh. Two weeks to the completion of one of my classes, and I am jamming to finish it on time. And once I finish it, I have a month to finish the other one. I think I will go underground for a while.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Becca!

Just a little shout-out to my good friend, Becca. Today she turned 35, and let me tell you, she is one rockin' mom! She is highly intelligent and skilled at so many things, it will make you weep to hear them all, so here are just a few:

Cooking - she could win contests (if she hasn't already) for her outstanding culinary skills. This is no shoddy chef, here ladies and gents, but a bonified chef in her kitchen and out. Women of every age yearn to learn her tasty baking secrets.

Cleaning - I thought I was doing pretty good at keeping a tidy house, but even with her busy life, she manages to keep a pristine household.

Conversation - we have all met that person who is just as generous in speech as they are in gracious gestures, and Becca certainly fits the bill. When sitting down to a meal, or doing a service project, Becca will masterfully include everyone in the room, driving, and facilitating a conversation like a race-car pro. Highly skilled to expert in this category.

Fitness - I recently spoke with a mutual friend who gushed about what great shape Becca is in, and she certainly is. Becca takes exercise seriously, and has participated in multiple races this summer, inviting many of her friends and family members to join in the fun. She is gearing up for - not one, but two half-marathons within the next six months! You go, girl!

Motherhood - Becca loves mothering her two girls, and she makes it look fun, despite the daily ups-and-downs of parenthood. She cherishes the time she spends with her girls and recently took a vacation to the NW with her family. Did I mention that she was so sick during both preganacies that she was in the hospital on more than one occasion! It takes some kind of insane dedication to go after motherhood a second round when you know what kind of hell you are in for before you make the leap.

Witty - Becca finds time to laugh about even the bleak things, and allows others to laugh along with her with her witty sense of humor. If you don't believe me, check out her hilarious blog! Be forewarned, you won't want to put this book down once you open it!

A Great Friend - Becca takes time for so many people in her life, and does a great job keeping in touch. The funny thing is that I think everyone believes they are her favorite friend because she is so good at it! I am sure when she dies her girls will spend the rest of their lives fighting over the fact that THEY were her favorite child, and a few hundred people out there will be mourning the fact that they lost their one true best friend.

A Great Wife - Just look at her hubby, and you can tell he knows he made a catch when he got Becca. Far from a pushover, Becca is an excellent listening ear, loves what he loves because she loves him, and has a warm, delicious meal waiting when he comes home each day! (She even eats at the same restaurant every Saturday at the same time because it is his favorite place! Now that's dedication! Okay, maybe she likes it too. . .)

Pianist - At the drop of a hat Becca can accompany the choir or perform a solo piano performance that will make you sit back in awe. This woman has talent pouring out of her ears, and our of her mouth too because she also has a beautiful voice and can easily pick out Alto, or skillfully sing Soprano.

A Homemaker - that is, homemaker with a capitol H. She CHOSE to do what she is doing and she loves it and does it well. If there was an Olympic event for homemaking, she would beat Phelps in his takeaway record, but would keep those gold metals sparkling clean (unlike Phelps). What doesn't this woman do?

An Intellect - Recently a neighbor of Becca's was struggling with finishing a degree she meant to complete many years before, but was unable to finish because of her math difficulties. Becca took time out of her schedule every week to tutor this neighbor who graduated with flying colors, thanks to Becca's dedication. She gulps down books like they were slurpees (minus the brainfreeze). She was at the doorstep of law school with an LSAT score in the 97th percentile - Did I get that right, or was it 98th? But she chose motherhood over the courtroom. Put that in your book, women libbers! This is a woman you don't want to mess with!

Humanitarian - She doesn't know I notice, but she shops at stores that aren't doing so well to help them stay in business, and she looks out for friends and family members with the dedication of a lioness. Don't mess with her peeps!

A Great Leader - At her former job, she excelled beyond expectations in management, and continues to do so while serving at Church, over an organization that is about 200 individuals strong. She manages a small army of teachers and leaders to work with one of the largest groups of children I have ever seen. This is no small feat, I assure you, and yet she does so with skill, ease, and her usual wit and style.

A Model - This is no shabby, run-ragged lady. Becca is stylin' even in her running skirt and tennies. She has great fashion sense both in her home and in her wardrobe.

Becca is beautiful, smart, skilled, friendly, fun, and such an amazing woman! Well, I could go on and on, but I will just invite you to learn a little more about her at her blog (since my poor husband is trying to sleep while I write this). Becca, thanks for being such a great friend to us, and for making our lives so much the richer for knowing you! We love you! C & A

iPhone 3G and Garmin Nuvi 265w

As one who has great admiration for technology companies who just NAIL usability, and who manage to develop highly technical devices that literally ANYONE can use, I have to hand kudos to those very few products that demonstrate that the user is their real focus. Here are a couple of standing ovations to two tools that certainly do what they claim, and do it better than right:

In the past couple of months we purchased Garmin Nuvi, followed by an iPhone. the Nuvi, which I had identified as my tool of choice years before, was all I had hoped and more. During a business trip back east, it functioned as my Bluetooth device because I accidentally forgot my Plantronics earpiece at home. Minus a few glitches because I didn't update my maps before I left (like the road to Chicago ending at a steel plant due to reconstruction, and the Indianapolis airport terminal moving last November), everything went quite well. I could step out of a courthouse, punch in an address, and off I went.

If there was traffic, I punched "Detour" and flew off at unmentionable speeds through random cornfields, arriving safely at my destination a short time later. When you are going full speed ahead during Chicago rush hour, you sit back and realize with some admiration that Garmin got it right. Really right. I have read the reviews for years, but our recent vacation was no exception. Garmin was great for helping us locate a variety of locations, including the Chapel so we could go to church on Sunday, and an autoparts store to add oil to J's oil-burning RX-7.

When my parents-in-law came for a visit in our complicated little maze of towns for a wedding, I punched in the coordinates of the reception and handed them the Nuvi. The next day I asked how it worked for them, and if they would like to use it again. Dad replied that it had worked very well. It helped them arrive at their destination, and helped them find a restaurant after the reception. In fact, it worked so well that they didn't need to use mine because they went out and bought one. 'Nough said?

Lest I sound like a bad commercial, the iPhone has been extremely fun, but also very useful. On our vacation I got sucked into a silly game that I played while C walked around the deck (my foot was killing me). The GPS functionality and maps were fantastic, and easy to use. Some of my fave apps include NPR news, which not only keeps me posted on topics of national interest, but also is a conduit to local radio stations.

I have had many smartphones, blackberries, Nokia N95, T-Mobile Shadow, Sony Erickson brick, Samsung Omnia (Verizon), but there is really no substitute. These other devices have similar programs and functionality, but when I have to sift through six menus to get to mobile Skype versus two taps on the iPhone, well, all I have to say is - time-saver, convenient, life-style adjustable . . . It helps me exercise, budget, write books, read scriptures, read/listen to books anytime, manage my work, keep in touch with family, manage my contacts, manage my shopping list, figure out what to make for dinner, find a movie to watch on the weekend, split a bill at dinner, find a restaurant, tweet, go to sleep at night, de-stress at the end of the day, watch the stocks, learn a new language . . .

Yes, there are tools that help you do this. There is the Internet. There are planners, and good old paper and pen . . . Having a personal trainer, phone, sleep therapist, huge library of books and music, nutritionist, linguist, time manager, and arcade (to name a few) in a EASY to use device the size of your palm . . . ? Well, life gets a whole lot easier and you can spend every minute doing something worthwhile.

I love to learn. It is like a hunger for me that is bigger and more insatiable than a desire for food, so I am eating up this excellent little tool for all it is worth. I have read more books in the past two months than I have in the past two years, and am exercising more consistently than I have in the past five. Worth every penny? Absolutely. AND I still get my unlimited data and minutes plan. (Ask me about that one some other time.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Planet Fleshyitis?

I have been merrily running along almost every weeknight after work for 30-45 minutes at a reasonably good pace, but when you get to the point that you can't stand up in the morning, you think something might be wrong. My co-workers crossed their fingers that it was just a bone spur, but lucky me, I get plantar fasciitis. C has been kind enough to tape it for me the past couple of days which, combined with rest and prescription-strength anti-inflams, is helping. Helping as in, my foot doesn't hurt? Yes, as long as I don't walk on it. :) Apparently, this isn't a week-long fix, since C came home tonight with two big rolls of pro wrap and six rolls of athletic tape. On a positive note, I found a great blog called 400 Watts of Anti Wussy while searching for more information on PF - it was his PF entry that caught my attention - made me laugh, especially his lessons learned from Taken. Well, that covers my two entries for the past two months. Maybe I'll get another entry in before the end of the year. . .

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