Monday, February 27, 2006

Just tired

"You look really good," my friend Tammy said as I met her for dinner tonight. "But tired; very tired. Did you get some sleep?"

I mumble incoherently. I appreciate Tammy taking me to dinner tonight, but I'm afraid I'm not very good company. I am dead exhausted.

My plane out of Newark was delayed two hours last night, not because of anything in Newark. The flight was coming in from Columbus, to Newark and then to Austin and there were weather issues in Columbus. It was almost midnight when the plane landed in Austin. Of course, I couldn't fall asleep on the flight. It was after 1 when I got to bed, and had to get up at 5 to get ready and leave for school.

When I got home last night, it looked like a tornado had gone through the living room. I guess it was hurricane Allegra. Cushions were off the couch and terrible twosome had found a notebook and some paperwork from school and scattered them on the floor of the dining room. Evidently they decided to read one of Doug's brewing books as well. Additionally, it has been raining here for the last week and there is mud and dirt all over the floor. I think the governor could declare this an emergency area. I pick the stuff up off the floor and go to bed, trying not to step on too many clumps of mud.

After four hours of sleep, I get up and get ready for the day. Luckily, I have a guest speaker today, making it easier because I don't have to lecture. I'm not sure that I would made much sense today. I'm done by noon, so I come head home and crawl back into bed. At this point, the only time I've spent at home is asleep, or getting ready for bed or getting up from bed. The dogs must still be feeling anxious about me being gone as they got into things this morning while I was at school. Another pile of paperwork to pick up before the nap.

I sleep for a couple of hours then get up and start the processes of checking mail, voice mail and email. What have I missed while I was in New England? I know that really it had only been 5 days that I was gone, but given the intensity of my class before the trip, it feels like I've been gone weeks. I make a list of errands I need to do, but I put that off until tomorrow. I have slept only 6 out of the last 36 hours and still feel in a fog. I unpack my suitcase and gather my dry cleaning, dropping it off before I meet Tammy.

Dinner with Tammy was good; we hadn't seen each other since the holidays and needed to catch up. I really wanted to stay and chat for hours, but she could tell I was just tired and made up an excuse of why she had to leave.

As much as I enjoy being home, I always find re-entry into the real world difficult. When you travel, you don't have to be on schedules and timelines. You get to see and do new and different things. When you get home, reality strikes and there are bills and jobs and chores. Like an astronaut coming back from a deep space mission, you need a period of decompression to adjust from traveling mode to real life mode. At 21 I could go days with just four hours sleep. At 36, it's much more difficult. Fortunately, no school, no teaching, no nothing on Tuesdays, so tomorrow I will be able to crawl into my decompression chamber. Until then, I'm just tired.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Heading home

Note: This entry was written at the Newark airport on Sunday, but wasn't posted until Monday.

No additional snow last night, but the temperature this morning was around 22 degrees. Doug and I decided to try to go seal hunting -- not to club them, but to shoot them with the camera. Funny thing is, other than a seal-watching cruise, we could find little information regarding where to see the seals. We asked a few locals, but they had no idea.

We headed out based on info we found on the internet. We found a place that seemed like it, and asked a lady we saw in the parking lot. She told us this was indeed the place, so we headed down the path. It was cold! The thing was, she was adamant about us following a certain path, which we did. When we finally got to the shore, there were no seals. There was a father and son who told us that the seals were several miles up shore. Freezing, and not wanting to hike that much further there and all the way back, the guy told us how to drive there. We hiked back to the car and figured all total we had done 3-4 miles in 20 degree weather and no seals. We tried to find the place he told us, but couldn't follow his directions. We stopped at a gas station and were directed back to the place we originally were. We actually didn't find this surprising, as we have yet to have good directions in Rhode Island. Even the maps and street signs seem dyslexic. At this point, we gave up our quest.

Instead, we headed up Rt. 102 which was supposed to be one of the prettiest drives in Rhode Island. It was and we could only imagine what the views would have been like in the fall. Along the way we stopped at the one of the oldest general stores in the U.S. It has been continuously operated since 1810.

After this, we decided it was time to head back towards the hotel, get a bite of lunch, and head to the airport. My flight was supposed to be at 4:23 and Doug dropped me off at 3 p.m. However, when I went to check in, they said the flight was getting ready to leave. Evidently, the earlier flight had been delayed and was getting ready to leave. They were putting me on this one, as my flight was supposed to be delayed as well. The only way to catch my connecting flight was to sprint down the concourse to the earlier (delayed) flight. I made it, being the last person on the plane, and got to Newark an hour ahead of schedule. No big deal, I thought. At least I wouldn’t be any later into Austin.

I’m slightly wrong with that. Thus far, the Austin flight is a half hour late, not leaving until almost 8, arriving after 11. That means arriving home at midnight, and still getting up at 5 for school. Oh well. I have a guest speaker tomorrow, so it doesn’t really matter if I can make a coherent sentence or not.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Texan in a Connecticut Yankee's court

This morning we had headed out with the idea that we were going northeast, spending the day at Cape Cod. However, we had to stop first to pick up a gift for our dog-sitter, and at the store, the sales lady told us that the forecast for snow had changed from flurries to 3-4 inches. That was all we needed to hear to decide that the Cape, or anything outdoors, would not be such a great idea.

Instead, we headed south and west to Connecticut. We thought we might go to the aquarium in Mystic. However, we stopped at the state visitor's center to get a map, and Doug saw something that intrigued him -- Mark Twain's home and museum in Hartford. The girl at the visitor's station told us that Hartford wasn't too far and encouraged us to go, so we did. Twain and his family lived in this house for 17 years and this is where he wrote Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and of course, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Both of us adore Mark Twain, although Doug is more into him and knows more about him. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but the outside is below.

After, we headed back to Rhode Island, stopping at the Foxwood Casino. This tribal casino would rival anything on the strip in Vegas, but set in the middle of the woods with no other buildings around. Inside was a smorgasbord for the senses. We looked around for a bit but opted not to stay. Given that it was Saturday night, it was just too crowded and noisy. Doug is planning to take the hour drive back there and play some poker Thursday night before heading home.

Tomorrow afternoon I will be flying back to Austin. We will probably do something in the morning, but we need to see how much snow we get during the night.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Newport news

Doug only had to work until lunch today. I kicked around a couple of towns this morning -- Pawtuxet and East Greenwich. The wind was starting to pick up and since the weather report forecasted winds from 30-40 mph today, I decided that we needed some winter gear and went to Wal-Mart to buy hats, scarves and gloves for us. I was glad I got some because we really needed it. Doug said I looked like a terrorist with my hat and scarf.

I picked up Doug from work and we decided to spend the afternoon at Newport. One of the things we did was the Cliff Walk. National Geographic Traveler named this 3.5 mile walk one of the "Fifty Places of a Lifetime." You walk along a cliff, one side is the ocean crashing 50 feet below. The other side is palatial mansions, owned at one time by the Vanderbilts and Astors. A few photos of the walk are below.

We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening exploring Newport and looking at great views of the ocean.

We're not sure yet what we'll do tomorrow. Depending on the weather (it might snow a little), we might head up to Mass. and/or Boston, or we might go to Conn. to an aquarium.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Happy birthday to me

Doug is in Rhode Island for work for the next two weeks, so I decided to join him for my birthday. I arrived last night. Tonight we went to the Federal Hill, the Italian area of Providence.

While Doug was working, I went exploring today. I ended up spending some time in the Village of Wickford, a cute little shopping area on the bay.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

It’s funny what you notice at the airport. I’ve always thought they were a great place for people watching. Sometimes I start making up stories about fellow travelers. Like the guy next to me, reading a Japanese-language newspaper and carrying a big rice cooker. Is he on the way to the U.S. to visit his son?

I look around to kill time as I am waiting on my layover in the Cleveland airport. This is my first, and presumably my last, visit to Cleveland. I can’t imagine there much here to interest me in actually taking a vacation here.

One thing I notice as I’m looking around is how everyone is dressed in heavy sweaters, coats and multiple layers. Of course, I’m the odd one out. I’m in short sleeves and my heavy coat is in the suitcase. After all, it was in the 70s when I left Austin. Plus I am flying in a 57-seat regional jet – space in overhead bins is a commodity fought over as much as crude oil.

People walk around the airport with their Bluetooth earpiece in their ear, eventhough they aren’t actually on the phone. I go into the bar to have a drink. I tend to drink when I’m flying, although I’m not exactly sure why. I don’t hate flying, but I don’t particularly care for it. Maybe it’s because I didn’t fly until I was 23 and my first trips consisted of flying a 25-seater twin prop. Luckily the flights were always fairly short, from Fayetteville to Dallas to catch a real plane, but still, by the time I walked off those planes, I felt like I had shoved into a dryer on the low tumble cycle. Still, it was better than the 6-seater I would occasionally fly with Wal-Mart, if my trips had at least four others going with me. One of those trips the weather was so bad that we literally kissed the ground when we landed.

There is a lady with two colleagues at the next table in the bar. She looks as though she is either a Baptist Sunday School teacher or that she sells Mary Kay. At the very least, she is an aging cheerleader, with a big diamond wedding ring. I am surprised at the amount of make-up she wears. That’s nothing you really see up north. In the south, it’s common to not go to the grocery store without first having your nails done. Austin, however, is a bit different – when a substantial portion of the female population doesn’t bother to shave their legs or armpits, make-up is the last of one’s worries.

I can’t eavesdrop on the woman’s conversation. My sinus and allergy issues went to my ears during the first leg of my flight and I can’t hear out of my right ear – it feels like it is stuffed with cotton. I just have to make up the dialog for this woman’s conversation. It’s not all that interesting.

Unfortunately the flight did nothing to diminish my sense of smell. A lady walks in and sits at the table behind me. I don’t see her, and can’t describe her, but I can definitely SMELL her. She reeks of perfume. She’s five feet away and her perfume overwhelms me. It’s expensive perfume, and maybe I would like it if it didn’t attack my olfactory senses. At this point, I decide it’s time to pay my bar tab and walk to my gate.

When I get to my gate, I have a stark realization – there is not a concourse that you walk through to get to the plane. You actually walk outside, down the tarmac and up those rolling stairs to board. I hate that. It reminds me of those dreaded twin props. Plus, I don’t have my jacket and it’s cold outside. I will have to order another drink from the flight attendant once I get on board.

The flight boards, we take off, and it’s time to get the personal electronics out. I forgot to turn off my portable DVD player, so the battery ran low during the layover – no Law & Order to amuse me. Instead, I take out my iPod and use my noise-canceling headsets to listen to the music I adored as a teen. I look out the window, into the darkness, staring at the lights below. It’s very different from flying out of Texas, especially heading west. There are tons of lights below – every town looks like a big city. It’s a fairly clear night, but we do pass through some clouds. At night they look like shadows dancing against the ground. I notice the blinking lights on the wing of the plane. Suddenly, I remember a Twilight Zone episode where a plane passenger sees a face against his window. Although I can’t remember any of the other episodes of the Twilight Zone, this snippet comes back to me as clearly as if the incident happened to me. It always does whenever I’m flying at night – I’ve had the remembrance before. My heart beats faster and I take drink. I try to think of something other than Rod Serling.

The plane starts its decent into Providence. I realize that now both my ears are clogged, but figure my hearing will be okay by the morning. I am looking forward to this trip, if for no other reason that seeing a new part of the country.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Event horizon

Sorry the posts have been few and far between lately. I was taking a weekend class where we covered an entire semester in three weeks. Let's just say it was hectic. We also took a case study approach, analyzing case studies from Harvard Business School and applying our learnings and other readings. We basically taught ourselves with the prof there to guide us. As you can imagine, it was very intense.

I took my final tonight (online) and have my grades. I made an A, which means I kept my 4.0. In fact, that's what I'm graduating with.

Yup, that was my last class. My course work is done.

Now, I get to spend the rest of the semester on my thesis. I'm not sure if I will make the March deadline for a May graduation, but if not, it will be August. Either way, I will be done with it by the end of this semester.

The end is in sight. My event horizon.

BTW, on Wednesday I am heading to Rhode Island for a few days. Doug is there for two weeks on business and it made more sense for me to go up there for a few days now that this class is over than for him to come home. I've never spent much time in New England so I am looking forward to it. Any suggestions on places to see or things to do are welcomed.

Doug went ahead and gave me my birthday present -- a camera to replace the one left at Texas Stadium. Like my other one, it's a Canon PowerShot, this time a 5 megapixel. If I get the software and stuff figured out, I will post photos while I'm up there. At the very least, I will do the camera phone thing.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hawaiian name

I'll have to remember this the next time we go to Hawaii:
Your Hawaiian Name is:

Nani Iolana

Monday, February 13, 2006

Small world

About 40 years ago Doug's mother became friends with a fellow teacher in Belton, MO. His mother left that district to teach in Chillicothe, while her friend, Kay, eventually moved to Lubbock, TX. They still stay in contact.

The other day Barbara forwarded an email from me to Kay. It was about the son-in-law (Blake) of a friend of mine (Gary) who was in a terrible accident. Come to find out that Kay knew Blake when he taught at her school, and knows Misty (Gary's daughter & Blake's wife) as well. According to Kay, there has been such outpouring of warmth from the entire Lubbock community.

It's just amazing how small this world really is.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Say a little prayer

I got word from my friend Gary today. His son-in-law was in a skiing accident last Friday and has been in a coma ever since. Blake is married to Gary's oldest daughter, Misty, and they have a 3 year-old son and Misty is expecting a little girl. Blake is an assistant principal at Lubbock High School. This article doesn't say much; Gary said that two of Blake's vertebrae are crushed. If you could, please say a prayer for Blake and Misty.

It is any wonder why I live in Austin?

In just a few weeks it will be 6 years since we moved to Austin. Since going off to college, the only town I've lived in longer was Fayetteville, which really doesn't count because 4 of those 7 years were spent in college.

Now it makes sense why I've stayed in Austin so long. According to this quiz, Austin is the American city that best suits me. Which city best suits you?


American Cities That Best Fit You:

60% Austin

55% Atlanta

55% Honolulu

55% Miami

55% Washington, DC

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dog catcher

I'm sitting at the kitchen table all afternoon, working on school work with my laptop. Every so often Allegra comes to check on me. She nudges me for a pat on the head or brings me her bone to throw. I happily comply. I like working in this spot because I can look out the window. Occasionally I catch one of the dogs rolling in the grass, the sun on their belly. It makes me smile.

Afternoon turns to dusk and I watch the light fade from the sky. I finally decide to take a break. I turn around and walk five feet, into the darkened living room. I see an indistinguishable mass on the couch and I turn on the light. It's Allegra, looking like a kid with her hand caught in the cookie jar. She knows she's not supposed to be on the couch and she's waiting to see what wrath I will hurl her way. I'm too taken aback from her boldness to do much more than have her stay until I take her photo and send it to her daddy. "Just you wait until your father gets home, young lady!" I want to say. After all, I was less than 10 feet away with my back turned when she decided the no furniture rule didn't apply to her. She must have known she would get caught, but somehow she didn't care. Maybe she was trying to tell me that I was too wrapped up in my work to notice what she was doing. Now she's been noticed, now she's been caught and now she slinks off the couch and into the hall, where she'll wait for Doug to come home.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Typically students

I'm not long enough in my teaching career to be jaded, but several weeks into my second semester teaching at Texas State University-San Marcos, I've realized that there truly are typical students. I don't mean that all the students are the same, but that most students can fit into one of several categories.

The Inquisitor -- These are the students that ask the questions that you don't want to hear, as they have nothing to do with the actual lecture. Stuff like, "are we having a quiz today?". They also are the ones who beg for you to let the class out early or to give attendance points that day. Two things about them -- one, they are always in class and are usually prepared for the pop quiz, so what does it matter, and two, as a teacher you don't let the students out early so why does the Inquisitor think you'll start? Inquistors can be males or females and generally do well in class. But they do try to see how they can work the angles.

The Eager Beaver -- I have to admit, I have a tendency to fall into this category myself. These are students too eager to participate in class and willing to answer the teacher's questions. As a teacher, you have to be careful that the eager beaver doesn't hog all the class time and/or doesn't hijack the class to take it in the direction he/she wants. As a student, I've learned to scale back on this a bit.

Still Waters Run Deep -- These are students who truly take in everything you say, but hardly contribute to class. Yet, if they feel you are approachable, they will talk with you outside the class or send emails, asking a lot of questions on the course topic. Mainly these students suffer a bit of communication apprehension about speaking up in class. In many ways I find these students the most rewarding, as they show insight and you know that not only are you reaching them, they are thinking about the class after they walk out of the lecture hall.

Zombies -- The vast majority of students in larger-sized classes. They come, maybe they take notes, maybe they don't, maybe they nod their head if you are lucky, but they don't answer or ask questions. Sometimes you really wonder if you are reaching them. They go under the idea that if they don't make waves, they won't be noticed. Maybe this is true, as many times in larger classes you won't learn their names.

World Dominators -- Eager beavers with more than a streak of aggression. They thrive knowing that they have the top scores in the class or did the best on group projects. I'm not sure if Dominators are all that common with the millenniums (students in the 18-22 year old range), but it is still common with the Gen X'ers. I speak from experience (on a personal note: don't ever compete with my grad school group because we WILL decimate you!).

Little Darlings -- I call them this because I have the feeling they were mamma's little darlings growing up. These are the students who send you an email saying they over slept, but want to know what you covered in class that day. I actually had one walk in at the end of class the other day wanting to know what they missed. Yeah, right, get a clue. These are also the students who will use the class intranet site sending an email to the entire class begging for notes or a study partner without realizing that the teacher sees those as well.

The Invisibles -- As the name implies, these are students who you never see, usually because they are never there. You will see them on test day and will need an ID to verify they are enrolled in your class. Of course, they wonder why they don't do well in class, but they are never there to ask you why.

This is just a sampling of what I've seen in my classes. Of course some of these students you reach, and some of them you don't. There is a deep satisfaction when at the end of the semester, a student says they really enjoyed your class or has decided to make your subject their career. To me, that's what it's all about.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

'70s style is back

Elton John or Rachel Hollon? You decide.

Welcome to my 3 weeks of hell

You know you are leaving the house way too early in the morning if the dogs are still asleep. The mornings I have to teach I leave the house by 6:15 and the dogs are still sound asleep. They don't even bother seeing if they can go with me. The only one in the house awake is Dexter, and being a cat, he doesn't care if I come or go, as long as his dish is full.

Here I am again at school for another 8 a.m. class. Only it's Saturday, and I'm a student, not a teacher. Last night was the first meeting of my weekend class. For the next three weeks, a group of us will meet Friday nights, from 6-9:30 and all day Saturday, from 8-5, to study creativity and problem solving. We will cover a full semester of work during this time, which means I will have no spare time, even during the week. Still, this is my last class and if last night was any indication, it will be very interesting.

The hardest part will be Fridays. I teach at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Fridays, then I'm done for the day. Only I'm not done, as I have to hang out until class. Yesterday I spent the time editing the paper we had to turn at the start of class last night. Still, I arrived on campus at 7:15 a.m. and didn't leave until 9:45 p.m. After giving a friend a ride home, it was 11 when I got home. Morning came a bit early today. It's a good thing I can get away with jeans and a t-shirt. Studentship has its benefits. :-)

Need to scoot; class starts in a bit.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Litter box

Guess Dexter is hinting that his kitty litter needs changed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Welcome, new blogger!

A new person joined the world of blogging yesterday. Somehow Doug and I convinced his mom to start blogging. Feel free to check it out. For years she has been writing an email called her Daily Saga, and when we started blogging we told her how easy it was and how this might be an interesting alternative to email, especially as she can publish from any computer (heck, I published from Hawaii). This weekend I showed her a bit of the blog and offered to set one up for her. Low and behold, when she got back home she did it herself. Now that she's done her first post, I can't wait to see the rest.