Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine

I still remember the exact moment I saw Cindy. On the deck of a beach-side bar. We used to joke about the silly games of that first night. My green drink. Her attempts to get my attention. My complete naivete'.  Pearl Jam's Black. Dancing until sunset. Somewhere, I still have the slip of paper where she wrote her phone number. I called the next day. And the next. And the next. Aging memories. She used to think they were so cute. Or romantic.

My Valentine for eighteen years. But I'm still naive. And frightened. And confused. I just hide it better. But I've long since given up on those green drinks. And that bar is gone. We only have our memories of it. And of that first, wonderful night.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Keep Swimming

There is a brief moment of mind-numbing panic as I hit the water. Too cold! Always too cold in those first terrible seconds. Even though I know the water is heated, I entertain fears. Every time I think: Oh, god, it isn't warm! Then my body adjusts. The water IS heated. And my panic subsides.

How long do these fears linger? Like mental ghosts. I still imagine people laughing at my paleness or the fit of my speed suit. I always think everyone critiques my swimming technique. Though nobody else is usually there, I'm still haunted. Doubting myself. My abilities. I'll do more than thirty laps in the pool, but all the while I question if I can swim a third that distance in open water.

Even when nobody offers them, I still hear these voices of doubt. Or sing them to myself. Just have to block them out. And keep swimming. Eventually, something will drown.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cold Tryouts

Barely above freezing this morning. Made for some very cold tryouts at the baseball field. Meg & Cousin Alex doing little drills for prospective coaches. All of us wrapped in thick jackets. My fingers growing numb. The girls ran the bases. Fielding some catches. Threw a runner out at first. Another week to learn the result. And then the season begins.

Afterwards, the gym. Back and biceps. Experimented with kettlebell swings. Then deadlifts. I hate deadlifts. Have to kick it up a notch. First triathlon approaching in April.

Picked up Valentine's Day cards and gifts for the kids and the bride. Weird having to compensate for changing ages and genders and feelings. Chocolates for the kids. Sushi for the bride. I bought myself a new hoodie. I think we'll all be happy. But that's always my plan.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ain't No Party

Money isn't everything. Happiness is, though. I may have earned bigger paychecks elsewhere, but rarely was I as happy.

Enjoyed another Diversity gradation ceremony tonight. Mardis Gras themed. As everyone was departing for the open bar, I snapped a picture with one of the Facilitators: Firooz. One cool dude. From Las Vegas, though. He wanted to know how to get more beads during Mardi Gras. I gave him a demonstration. Stunned him. Briefly.

Ain't no party like a South Coast party!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Science Fair Results

The Science Fair results are in. Liam's project won 2nd place! He has a trophy and a ribbon and an ear-to-ear smile, now. In two weeks he goes to to the regional competition. Considering how much effort we put into it, I'm notching it up as a major victory for the whole family.

To celebrate: Dinner @ Buffalo Wild Wings!

AND... We are already planning for next year's project. One clue: zombie's beware!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Only Time

The only time I am alive is in the gym. No distractions. No complaints. The outside world dissolves. Nothing left to interrupt the narrative between me and myself.  Is it selfish? Is it irresponsible? Is it juvenile? Yes. Yes. And Yes. But I only live in those all-too-brief hours. Under the sweat. Under the endless repetitions. And the clashing of weights. I re-find my edges. Blurred and unfamiliar. But there. New boundaries. Redefining me. Reminding me I'm not dead inside. Reminding me that doubt is only a self-imposed limit. And that regret is suffering. In those moments of clarity, I am alive.

Then I return to the noise and the weight of my shared reality. With its voices of doubt. And its many vampires. But at least we're all on the road together. And there is some safety in numbers. Some.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

She breathes

Meg wants me to sit next to her. While she falls asleep. I'm on the floor. She's in her bed. Sometimes she tells me about her day. Sometimes she asks about mine. We share one brief conversation before she goes silent. Then she gives a long sigh. And falls asleep. 

I hear the rhythm of her breathing. Just sitting in the dark. Listening to her. I used to think: How long will I have to do this? But now, I don't mind. It won't last forever. And one day I'll miss that final long sigh. And the way she breathes.

Monday, February 07, 2011

When Will Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep?

We've been hammering on a science fair project for Liam all weekend. A bit each night. After our day-time projects. Hours at a stretch. Researched the data points Saturday night. Typed up the pieces for the poster board last night. Cut out the components and glued them down to the board, tonight. And we're finally done.

Cindy "helped." Griped about it during the day. Tried to change the plan at night. Wanted to minimize everything. Finish it quickly. Get it over with already. Couldn't envision the final product. So fought me every step of the way. Fortunately, she eventually stopped fighting and started listening to me. She cut out the data, let us lay it out the way we wanted, and then glued everything in place. In the end, what does she say, "Oh, that's cool!" And she finally gets it. Thought it was a good idea. And that I had pieced all the colors and data together in a clever, very distinguished way. Perhaps I'll get a little trust and credit on the next project, but I doubt it.

The title of the research project is: When Will Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep? We wanted to know how long it might take before ONE man-sized computer might be able to match wits with a human. Given the recent coverage of IBM's Watson, we knew it wouldn't be too far away. Liam and I figured 20 years, tops. Watson's able to challenge the top-rated contestants on Jeopardy! and win. But Watson is actually a distributed super computer. 750 servers. Something like 2880 CPUs. 11 Terrabytes of RAM! Hardly man-sized. But Moore's Law suggests that the number of transistors on a CPU double every 18 months. So the processing power effectively doubles. If 750 servers can match wits with a human, how long before ONE server is 750 times more powerful? Using Moore's Law, we see that in 10 generations (15 years!) servers ought to be more than 750 times more powerful than todays servers. So in or before the year 2015, one server ought to be equal to Watson. At least the theory we presented.

The project gets reviewed on Wednesday. We'll see how well Liam does. But we're glad to be done with it!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Liam's Doors & Casings

Two days of work crammed into one last day of my weekend. Better mood. Result of some minor victories. And some more sleep. Sleep always helps.

First up, the god-forsaken closet doors. I trimmed down a 1 x 6 x 6 and used it to shim up the gap between the bi-fold doors and the guide rails. One board wasn't enough. I bought three. Just in case. Trimmed down the second. And BEHOLD! The sumbitch was too big. There was not enough space for the doors, now. And then the gloom fell upon me.

At this point, I'm quite pissed. If one board is not enough, and two boards are too much, where does that leave me? Pulled down the second board. Searched for a replacement. None of my scrap boards were any thinner. Would I have to buy some thin plywood to cut and shape as a shim? And then I spotted the scraps from Liam's baseboards. Not exactly the right shape, but thinner than the other boards. And I could use the existing pieces without any cutting. The Gods of Woodworking blessed me. The baseboards worked! Nobody will ever know, either. Everything finally feel into place, and the sliding doors now slide.

With the final major change in place, I wrapped up the accent work. Starting with trimming out the closet. Went fairly well. Except I got frisky with the nail gun, and blew out the corner of one of the rosettes. Other than that, the closet went well.
Next on the list: the inside door, to the hallway. That one was a little tricky. The original casing was smaller. And when I removed it, it cracked. It also knocked the door off kilter a bit. I had to try to fix the alignment while getting it re-cased. Did the best job I could, but the door still doesn't close right. You have to lift the handle up so the clasp will hold. Can fix it, but should have done it right in the first place.

Last piece of the puzzle: case the exterior door. Finally, an easy project! Couple of cuts. Couple of nails. Boom. All done. Nothing clever or exceptional to report there.

With the plinths in place, I had to finish some of the baseboards. Just a couple of corrections. Maybe three cuts. Tacked those in place. Cleaned up the room. Took a shower. And called it a night.

Next weekend: sand the holes, apply the Spackle (tm), and sand the Spackle (tm) and wait for Troy to paint. At long last, all done!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Slow Saturday

On the new agenda: lunch, pick up supplies, install supplies, celebrate. Missed my race. So that's off the schedule. Did not roll out of bed until nearly ten this morning. Off to a slow Saturday.

Forgot what we did for lunch. Followed it with a visit to (surprise!) Lowe's. Picked up: two bi-fold doors, eight strips of casing, plinths, rosettes, caulking, and paint for the trim. Barely had room for Liam once everything was loaded. He was wedged in there like a clam in a shell.

Swung by Blockbuster on the ride home. Their servers were down. I tried to fix them. Of course "them" turned out to be a DEC Alpha 233Mhz system (twice Meg's age!) with a blown power supply. But, hey, I tried!

Then the trouble began. Once I installed the rails for the doors (not an easy over-head task!) the gap between the rails and the floor was too big. Like a 3" space to span. So the doors couldn't not stay in place. And my mercury kept rising. Just undid my work, put everything away, and moped excessively.

Horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible mood. Whole weekend a toxic trainwreck. No party. No race. Failed project. And after dark I had hours of research to do with Liam.

Let's just get this over with!

Friday, February 04, 2011


 Received a call around 9P last night. Joined a strike team conference line. Didn't hang up until almost four in the morning. Seven hours later! Woken up at five in the morning. And then had to get one child off to school while the other child stayed home sick, for a second day. Tried to get a little sleep. And my phone blows up with calls. Blackberry emails are down. Back on the phone. Back on another strike team call. More carnage. Even though I worked 16hrs, including over night, there's no rest for the weary. Overworked, or not.

Finished by 5PM, but I missed a social gathering at the office. One which included free food & drink. Plus  there's no chance in hell I'm going to race tomorrow. Especially now that the funk from Liam/Meg/Cindy has descended upon me. So this is not shaping up to be a pleasant weekend.

Let's just get this over with.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Semi-Sick Day

The Crud (its official name) has successfully migrated from Meg, to Cindy, to Liam. And I'm fairly certain it is knocking on my door right now! First thing this morning, The Evil School Nurse (her official name) declared, "None shall pass!" And Liam was forbid from going to school. Which strands me behind the keyboard at home all day. Or so I thought.

A trip to the pediatrician's office ensued. Here's what I like... not only do I get to sit in the "sick room" for HALF AN HOUR and then wait in the back office for HALF AN HOUR, but I actually end up PAYING for the luxury. How did society to develop this sort of thing?

Anyway, after that, I had to drag Liam up to the office. The robotic tape silo was running low on blank tapes. My shipment had been delayed due to the recent Snowpocalypse. So I didn't have any choice but to bring him with me to pop the tapes into the inventory. Fortunately, it was quick, painless, and involved a robot which kept Liam's attention long enough to get the job done.

Never a dull moment for us McDougal Men. And hopefully there's some health in our future!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

MS Gives You Wings

In MS, not only do our alligators have wings, but we deep fry those bad boys for you!

No, I did not eat them. But my lunch in the buffet was spectacular (grilled chicken marinara with sun dried tomatoes!) and gave me my own set of wings for the gym after work.

Actually pulled a twofur. Ran laps to train for a 5K this morning and biked then did an hour of weight lifting after work.

It's all good. Except for the wing-less alligators we have to deal with!