Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

First Month - Bowling

Well, the team didn't start out so hot, but we've come on strong the last two weeks to even out to .500.

Personally:
Week 1: 154 243 180 = 192 average. Team: 0-4
Week 2: 147 133 192 = 157 average. Team: 1-3
Week 3: 211 189 159 = 186 average. Team: 4-0
Week 4: 212 171 151 = 178 average. Team: 3-1

So my overall average is at 178. Not bad, and I'm obviously pleased by all the 200s I've already managed, but my goal for the end of this league is to be at a 190 average. It's an aggressive goal, but goals should be. I am worried about the trend the last two weeks of starting strong and tailing off. Last week there was a reason (one of the guys on the other team was spending more time socializing around the teams than bowling, and we wound up being the last group to finish by almost 30 minutes! Everyone was tired-- and a bit cranky!), but this week I just lost my line and couldn't get it back.

I'm also very pleased with one teammate in particular. Although I'm the best bowler on the team, we put me in the lead-off position and moved Arvin to the Anchor position. He had some opportunities to come through for us and managed to secure a victory in the final game. He's coming along nicely. It takes a different mindset to be the Anchor and not everyone can do it, even if they are generally a good bowler.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Update

Apparently our viewing public is avid for some sort of update. I guess we have both been somewhat quiet since Tucson, but I’ve received some emails and in-person conversations asking what we are doing and where we are going from here.

We are making plans for me to fly back and visit her in her hometown environment over Halloween. This happens to be her favorite holiday and splits the difference between Tucson (mid-Sept) and Christmas nicely. It allows us about a week to continue figuring “us” out and getting comfortable with each other.

I’ll admit that I’m both excited and nervous. Excited because this is a significant step—meeting one another in one of our home towns. That is huge in a long-distance relationship. The safety of the anonymous internet and telephone, of the distance, and of a neutral city (although Tucson feels like home now, with as much of it as we saw!—have to go back there someday; beautiful city) are all ripped away and we are both left bare. It is a significant step and a significant, but necessary, risk. I’m very much looking forward to it.

The nervousness comes from being the first to step into the other’s city. I will be the first to meet her friends, see her home, and meet her family. I am not really that nervous about it—I know how much I like her, I have spoken with quite a few of her friends and they seem like great people, and all I can be is myself with her family. It is more the thought of what this could mean, where it could lead. We are now heading into the "significant steps" in any relationship; they are just magnified by the distance.

In a traditional relationship, you might date for a few weeks, going out a couple of times a week, before you begin the process of meeting each other’s families. We do not have that luxury. We need to compress more of the dating experience into less time, as the distance does not allow us the luxury of time or convenience.

Luckily, we continue to promote open and honest communication as the most important attribute in our relationship, so these compressed meetings will not be as stressful as they otherwise could be.

Her younger brother sounds like someone I would like even if he was not related. Her dad seems like a handy guy, smart, and he loves her a lot. Her older brother, being protective, may not like how we met, but he seems like a good guy. The only person I am nervous about meeting is her mom; she sounds like a woman who has strong feelings about her daughter’s boyfriends. All I can really do is express my feelings for her daughter and hope she approves. Maybe that will be enough?

I am most excited about seeing her town and meeting her friends. She speaks so passionately about her home town that it must be a wonder to behold. And, I’m told, it has these things called “trees” and areas filled with these trees that just occur naturally—they are not all designated as “parks” and only full of soccer moms taking their children to the latest match. Oh, and get this! There is a river there that isn’t in a flood channel and carefully contained by concrete! What kind of river is allowed to roam free? Weirdness! ;-)

Her many friends seem great (those with whom I’ve spoken). I look forward to pumpkin carving, shopping, and karaoke with some or all of them (although all are on a strict “John doesn’t sing” alert—do not even try!). I look forward to going to mass with her in her much-loved church. I am taking my date to a nice sit-down restaurant called Suwanna at some point. Oh, and I should stop by the florist I’ve been using—can’t have them ruining the surprise because they can’t find her address! They need a good talking to on that subject-- haven't they heard of mapit.com or Yahoo! Maps? Sheesh!

So, although I hate to fly with a passion, I will be boarding an ungodly number of airplanes (granting that any number above 0 is “ungodly” in my book—why do you think I drove to Tucson?) and winging east to meet this wonderful woman in her hometown.

There is no point in wishing me good luck—I’ve already used it all up and then some meeting this great girl.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Nephew's Birthday - Follow up

My sister just informed me that my gifts to my nephew are the hit of the neighborhood. The Spy Toys went over very well and my nephew is out with his pals spying on the neighborhood as we speak.

Yes, his birthday isn't for five days, but I'm the cool uncle that sends him spy stuff now! He can open them early if he wants to.

*big smile and puffed out chest

Now to send him the sensible piggy bank. Somehow I don't think that will be quite as well received. ;-)

Runner's High

I never thought I would say this, but I miss running. I was a good runner. I could keep up with the sprinters and did okay with the distance people. I made for a good 400 and 800 runner in High School, and did well enough at college that I was asked to join the team. Not sure why I didn't.

There was a freedom to running. It was something that was all about you, and your shoes, and the road on which you ran. I actually earned a letter in track and field by running. I don't think anyone actually knows I lettered in track.

The arthritis makes it hard to walk, let alone run. With the new meds I'm on, most of my pain is gone. However, the damage done to the bones in my hands and feet is pretty bad, and you need your feet to run. Does not matter how good your shoes, there is a certain amount of stress forced on them by pounding the trail when running.

I had to give up softball, the last activity in which I could run, because of the pain. That still frustrates me. I wasn't that great at softball-- good at defense and pretty quick around the diamond, but just couldn't hit worth beans. But I did it with passion and exuberance and I got to run. And I was somewhat infamous for making circus catches in the outfield nearly every game. King of the snow-cone catch. I hated giving that up.

A new High School was built across the street from me. This HS has a track that would be easy to get to. I have to admit, I have frequent fantasies of buying a new, good pair of running shoes and hopping that fence some night and seeing how far I can run. The kid in me wants to know if I can still get around that track. He wants to see if I can reach that point I hit too few times where you feel like you can run forever.

But my intellect kicks in. It knows that is the last type of activity these poor feet need right now. Let the new meds do some work and hopefully repair some of the damage done. And even if the knees can take it, my practical mind tells me, can my battered knees keep up? They are shoddy construction at best. Been ridden hard and put away wet, so to speak.

I worry sometimes that my illness and my life and my job and my responsibilities are killing that kid inside who just wants to run once more around the track.

So, if you're driving on Bryant and you see some guy struggling to run around the track at the new High School, you can pull over and even watch. But don't interrupt him. No matter the pain or the fatigue, he's Peter Pan once more, taking one last flight around Neverland.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

To Whom It May Concern

I don't appreciate you calling at 3 am. What's more, I don't appreciate you calling at 3 am, not getting an answer, waiting a half-hour, and calling back.

The phone is a convenience. I will answer it, therefore, when it is convenient to me. This means that I may be standing right next to it with nothing to do and still will not answer the phone because I do not chose to.

I have an answering machine. Leave a message. If it is important, I will call you back. If I hear your voice on my answering machine and recognize it, I may pick up right then.

What were you thinking calling so late? I stay up late, yes, but not that late. Give me a break!

So don't call so late (or early, I guess). If you do, leave a message so I know who it is and whether it is important. Otherwise, get the hell off my phone line and don't call me again.



John

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Children's Movies Today

I've blogged multiple times on movies in general. Here's a guy who I can see eye to eye with and agree 100% with his analysis. Take a read:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1786879,00.html

Nephew's Birthday

So I’m searching for stuff for my nephew’s birthday (he’s turning 8 October 2). The only item I have been informed of is a wacky food thing that allows the child to make their own food treats.

In looking on Amazon for this toy, I stumbled across some really neat toys. A company called Wild Planet has created spy toys that mimic the favorite tools you see in cartoons, TV, and movies. One is a Spy Pen that can turn into a motion detector, a magnifying glass, and has a secret storage compartment. Another is a Spy Kit that includes a long-distance listening device and a telescope.

Now this is something Uncle John can get into giving to his nephew! It does two things that I always liked in toys when I was a young boy growing up: enhanced my level of play with cool extras but did not get in the way of my own imagination.

I look at so many of the toys today and I wonder where the imagination has gone. The toys do everything for you, it seems. Many of the video games and similar electronic toys do most of the work for the child. I am noticing the action figures do more and more—and require more and more “upgrades” and accessories to even work to full potential.

Some of the most fun I had as a child was taking my (copious quantities of) Hot Wheels out into the backyard, scooping sand around and using water to make roads and jumps and such, and playing with my cars. I remember using Lincoln logs, Lego blocks, and erector sets to build things of my own design. I often built my own toys out of knick-knacks around the house—I still remember when I cobbled my flashlight, a clear plastic tube, some green cellophane mom had lying around, and a large amount of duct tape into the first “lightsaber” seen on the block. And how all the other children came running out as I ran down the street swinging it. By the next weekend every kid had made something similar and we were having epic battles.

I feel strongly that children need to have tools and toys that allow them to stretch their mind, be inquisitive, and learn as they go. They should even have a slight element of danger to them, so kids can learn that metal can be sharp, not to eat the small plastic pieces, and that you really can put an eye out if you try hard enough. Some of my best lessons were learned as I sat crying on the floor as mom got out the Bactine, hydrogen peroxide, and bandages to patch me back together from yet another unsuccessful stunt.

My poor nephew probably thinks I’m a bit weird. He’s received books, educational toys, and even a Learning Frog toy from me that was probably 3-4 years ahead of his learning curve at the time. The last thing I sent was about geology from a science-oriented online site. He probably would love it more if I’d just send him gift certificates, clothes, or more simple toys.

I’ve also got a special piggy bank that is designed with multiple slots so you can decide whether to put money into savings, for a special item, for charity, etc. and it stores the money in easier and harder to open areas. He’s 8! Time to start learning fiscal responsibility and that charity begins at home, right?


Oh well, I’m okay with being the weird “educational” uncle. I sort of pity my own children if/when I have them-- but I'll sure be having fun!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Other Days

Day 2
We visited a desert museum in the Saguaro National Park which, while interesting, was not what we thought it was. Turned out there was more than one desert museum in the park! The one we visited was filled with many dead, stuffed critters, which was sad, but did have a live tarantula in an enclosure. So she got to at least see that while in Tucson. :-)

After this museum we found the visitor’s center, met a park ranger who was from Bangor, Maine and knew the Saint John area, and then went for a walk in the park. I’ll leave it to her to tell you exactly what she said, but I’ll say this: we found a temperature that is “too hot” for the lady who loves hot weather. And make sure she shows you the picture of the “park;” any concept of grass, trees, and nicely placed walking paths are wrong!

Shopping—and then some! We hit a variety of stores and I got to experience “the look” firsthand that she gets in her eyes while “on the hunt.” I stood out of her way and in awe of her prowess, even if her main focus, Halloween decorations, were a bit of a disappointment. We did find some good things in Wal-Mart. We did see an entire store dedicated to Halloween, but never fit in a trip there.

We were supposed to go to karaoke that evening, but I was exhausted from an incredibly poor night’s rest the prior night. She could have pushed it and I would have gone, but she thought we should try again the next night instead. We instead spent quality time together that night talking, watching a little TV, and just continuing to figure each other out.

She opened the birthday gift I brought along. I’m happy to say she liked it.

Day 3
Continued some shopping, had to return a purchased item from the day before, and then planned to go to church and then to karaoke afterward. However, due to continued exhaustion problems, we decided to take a nap prior to church. Separate beds, people! Take your mind out of the gutter. Unfortunately, she didn’t awaken until about 5:10 and I didn’t until about 5:30. Since this is a Catholic Church, she knew showing up late wouldn’t really work, so she let me sleep a little longer. I feel like a real heel for that; as I was really looking forward to seeing her at church and gaining some insights into her through her connection to church and her religion.

So, although I apologized in person, here’s a written one for the entire world to see: I’m sorry we missed church.

She had to go to an initial meet-n-greet for the conference she was officially there to attend, so off she went. I ran some errands and then returned for some further conversation when she was done.

Because of the continued exhaustion issues—while it seems to have worked for us, I don’t recommend having two people meet in a strange city after each surviving many hours of travel to get there—we said good night and tried for a better night’s rest before our last little bit of time together.

Day 4

The conference started at 9am and I needed to get on the road for the long drive home, so we only had a short time in which to say farewell. What could have been a tearful event was, I think, a more positive one as we both focused on the future and other vacations together.

The drive back was a sad one. I didn’t want to leave! I could have stayed the whole week with her, had I the time off, and permission, from work to do so! What an incredible woman.

Still tired, even with a better night’s rest, the drive back was dangerously monotonous. Luckily, my mom’s house is on the way, so I stopped there for an early supper and a little breather before making the final hour and half to home.

My cat is still living—looks like I guessed correctly on the amount of food and water to put down for her as she still has plenty of both left over. She is even not being grouchy with me as she came out almost immediately for some ear scratching.

----

So, here I sit, utterly exhausted and wonderfully happy. I had a fabulous time and look forward to the next vacation we can manage—even if it involves… *shudder*… a plane ride. :-)

For those to whom it applies: we have to go to karaoke as a group. No excuses! But remember, I go as a listener and a cheering section; I don’t sing. At all. Ask anyone, it is not pretty when I do. And I look forward to going to church with her at her own hometown church.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Farter

Forgot to mention one of the funnier moments. We had finally gotten squared away and were almost back to her resort when she suddenly said, "Did you see the back of that truck?"

I said, "No."

She said, "I think it had a sticker that said 'I Love Farting.' I was hoping for confirmation."

At the next intersection we pulled up behind the same vehicle. Sure enough, a large sticker spanning the back of the window on the SUV said in big, red letters for all to see:

I Love Farting!

You never have a camera in hand quite when you want it.

Day 1

The drive went better than I expected. Except for a creepy feeling at the rest stop I paused at about halfway (why do only the weird ones stop at rest stops… wait, what does that say about me?), the drive went smoothly. My Saturn VUE, on its first long trip, held up admirably. I made it nearly 400 miles before I chickened out on the far side of Phoenix and gassed up for the last 90 miles. I’m still not sure it wouldn’t have made the majority of that, but I was in the final 1/8 of a tank of gas and didn’t want to do something stupid. Not today!

And I know everyone is reading the blog to know about the drive. Yeah, right.
:-)

The Date
We met about 4:30pm after both showering and getting dressed for the date. After a long travel day, you need to refresh!

She was wearing a devastating blue dress and looked absolutely smashing. We found an Olive Garden at which to eat (and noted Target on the way—she needs Halloween adornments so that will be a must-stop location either tomorrow or Saturday). We ate more than I thought we would, which is to say not much. But the conversation seemed to flow easily and we were able to talk about the same wide range of topics as we do nightly. I felt it went pretty well. My tongue was only tied for about the first hour! ;-) She has a beautiful smile and a great laugh.

The adventure really began as we tried to find our way back. We were in conversation and I missed the first turn and we didn’t realize it until we were pretty far up. From there, we had to break out the map and use her excellent navigation skills to get us back on track. The streets in Tucson have a bad habit of not being contiguous, so we managed to be on the wrong part of Magee twice, on La Cholla going in wrong direction once, we ran by, through, and on Ina more times than I can count, and finally found the correct portion of Shannon to lead us back to her resort. The fact that the only map we after both of our attempts to procure one was a crappy one that didn’t even label all the streets didn’t help. But she was more than up to the task and we made it safely.

Of course, that left me to navigate back to my hotel alone. I made it and even found the back entrance to the hotel that deposits me right at my door!

We plan to head to Saguaro National Park, possibly to that Target for some shopping, and maybe to karaoke. For those who know me, you can rest assured: she has promised not to make me sing. No point in subjecting the good people of Tucson to that!!

I had a blast with her. I absolutely cannot wait for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Countdown

Okay, I admit it: I'm feeling the countdown. Thursday cannot come soon enough. I'm excited and nervous. I can't wait, but at the same time I need way more time to get ready.

I'll be fine once I'm there. But all the energy up until then will be hectic!

Plus, let's be honest: no matter how maturely we approach things, expectations are high. Hopefully not too high and hopefully we'll relax and let things flow naturally. But the expectations are bound to be there. Just have to take it slow. This doesn't have to be the end-all, be-all. Maybe it is just the first of many smaller steps.

And there is still so much to do before then; maps, directions, lists, packing, breathing. Yeah, can't forget to breath. Very important.

Oh yeah, I'm just a little excited and nervous.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Land of Cubes

In my previous job I was in a two-person office. While it was true on occasion we grated on each other’s nerves, for the most part we got along just fine and I spent nearly 6 years with that roommate.

When I came to my present employer, I entered the land of cubes (cubicles). Initially, I found myself in locations that weren’t too bad; fewer cubes total, fewer people in the region in general, and the people with whom I worked were pretty conscious of the others around them.

I have since moved upstairs, where the concentration of people is greater, the cubes smaller and closer together. While most seem to be concerned with noise and their neighbors, it does not matter; I am now privy to the ins and outs of many lives. And some people are just naturally noisier people. You can hear phone conversations and listen to work conversations.

This company has done something right; it provided us with the taller cubicles. While sitting, you cannot see out of your cube. Many places get the short cubicles that mean that each person can see everything going on in the cubes near them.

I am still not sure what my feelings about the cubes are. On the one hand, it does seem more conducive to work. You know that everyone around you can see and hear your business, so you keep that business about the job. But we are also human beings; things go on in our lives with which we must deal, even if that is at work. We cannot work 100% of the time we are at work, we need to take those 10 minute stretch breaks and think about something else. Cubicle land is not conducive to that; I cannot help but feel guilty when I take a mental vacation. I even feel guilty when I eat lunch at my desk and choose to cruise the internet or read personal emails during that time.

Cubicles also seem somewhat fascist to me. It makes me feel like it saps my individuality and freedom of expression in favor of stark conformity. I am at my best when I can follow my ideas and be creative in my thought processes. I feel stymied, at times, being in my cubicle.

But I have Fred, my potted plant, and George, my self-sustaining terrarium made inside an old 100-CD plastic container. I have pictures of my family and magnets of some favorite super-heroes. I have an MC Escher mouse pad to boggle my mind.

My individuality refuses to die in the land of cubicles. Vive la resistance!