Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday Stuff

Today I went for a six mile run, then went to the gym and lifted weights and did some swimming.

Yay, me!

I have determined that the chemicals in the pool at the university rec center are acceptable to my nose, so long as I don’t plan on sleeping within the following four hours or so. That means I could swim before work, at whatever point I’m ready to resume two-a-day workouts and/or get serious about my swimming again. Early morning swimming is always a bit of a challenge for me, with my distaste for cold and water, so I’ll wait for the motivation to come, as I know it will.

I did some more editing last night and now that the house is quiet I’m going to do some more. I’m also pondering an alternate ending to the draft of my second novel, which ended on such a dark note that it depressed even me. And I like unhappy and ambiguous endings! From a marketing point of view, I have a feeling I’d get nowhere with the ending the story has now. I can always keep the depressing ending in a separate version.

I’m a little worried about Dan tonight. He was feeling kind of run down all last week, and then tonight he had what he describes as a blood sugar drop, leading to chills and shakes until he ate something sweet. I’m suspicious about this. He ate a fairly big meal only a few hours before this happened. But he also ran three miles during the hottest time of the day today. He’s been slacking on running, and today was so hot that even I wouldn't have tackled a run at 3:30 in the afternoon. And I run regularly and have a high heat tolerance. So maybe it was a delayed reaction or something. He’s talking about going to the doctor for a blood workup and I sure hope he follows through. I'm concerned that there might be more going on here than meets the eye.

Not much else of note around here. I’m doing a demo tomorrow of a new hire orientation presentation. Ho-hum. And I’ve got lots of org charts and spreadsheets to work through this week. It will probably be even duller than it sounds.

Today’s Workouts
Sunday: 6 mile run, weights, 500m swim

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Checking In

Okay, I’ve been slacking on blogging this week.

I have started querying agents and have had to step up my editing process accordingly. Page after page with a red pen. Not fun. This is the part of writing that really is work, and it’s terra incognita for me, since I’ve never sought publication before. Now I see why writers actually get paid!

Work is a mixed blessing. One of my bosses is gone, which makes for a phone that rings far less often. But I’ve been given some additional “Buck Stops Here” responsibilities, which is keeping me busier than I might otherwise be.

I slacked a bit on my workouts this week, due to issues of time, weather and laziness. I used to prefer evening workouts—come home from work, take a nap, then work out. But since I started writing again last fall, I’ve found it easier to work out right after work. That way I have my evenings entirely free for writing. But now that it’s almost August, even my high tolerance for heat and humidity is sometimes challenged by conditions at 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.

So I renewed my membership at the university’s rec center. Yes, I know I have a YMCA membership. But I’m always daunted by the prospect of having to head downtown during afternoon rush hour. Traffic and parking are a pain, and the gym is full. So I’m going to try using the university gym after work on days when running outside is just not realistic. It’s only $25/month, taken directly out of my paycheck, so we’ll see how that goes.

I had a decent long run this morning, although the heat and humidity were getting to me a bit more than usual toward the end. And then Dan and I had lunch with our Romanian friends and some friends from work. It was very nice and sociable.

The plan for Sunday is to go for a short run in the morning, followed by a workout at the gym and maybe a bit of swimming. If the rec center pool doesn’t set off my allergies, I might decide to swim more often. I really want to get back into triathlon, it’s just that there are only so many hours in a day, and writing has hijacked a lot of those hours in the past year.

Today’s Workout
Saturday: 13 mile run

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Rabbit and the Romanian

This morning I arranged my long run so that the Romanian boy, Catalin, could join me. When I got to their apartment, the whole family was up and the girl was excitedly waiting for my husband to pick her up and take her to see our rabbit. Dan had told me the night before that he wasn’t sure if he would be up for dealing with a kid today, so I cautioned the mother that Dan was really tired and that they should wait for him to call, but the girl seemed unfazed by this news, confident she would get to play with a bunny today.


Catalin and I went up through one of the nice neighborhoods near Rice, did the loop around the university, back to Montrose and back to the apartment. The humidity got to him a little, which didn’t surprise me. It takes time to figure out how to run long in hot and humid conditions. I’ve been running seven years now and I think this is the first year I can truthfully say that I can run without suffering in all but the very worst summer conditions. But I’m not worried about Catalin. He’s fourteen. He’ll adjust to the climate in no time, if he trains consistently.

After running with him to his apartment, I went back to the bayou, did a loop and went home. By now it was quite hot, I was dripping sweat and seriously needed to use the bathroom. So of course I stumbled in the door, and there was Anna Marie, full of seven year-old energy and no English skills. Her first instinct was to fling herself on me for a hug, but I deflected that (come on, kid, I’m wet and I stink!), and hurried off to the bathroom.

That matter taken care of, I took stock of the situation. Somehow, we had ended up with sole charge of this tyke, the parents having decided they needed a little break, I guess. Dan hadn’t realized what he was getting into, and was already muttering about how glad he was we don’t have kids while trying to keep Anna Marie from decorating our new sofa with a marker.

Dude, never give a hyperactive kid markers! Never, ever!

I found her some colored pencils, but she soon lost interest.

Then I asked how Tidbit was taking to the stranger.

As it turned out, Tid had been friendly enough at first, but had grown annoyed at Anna Marie’s attempts to pick her up. After stomping and grunting at her, Tidbit had gone off to hide. I iced my legs, hoping Tid would come out and visit me, since hanging out on Saturday morning is one of our little traditions. But she was still sulking and wouldn’t come out. I finished icing and took a shower.

Feeling better now, I came back out to the living room to watch the Tour and make sure Dan wasn’t giving the kid markers again, and now Tidbit came out. I showed Anna Marie the correct way to pet the bunny and Tidbit seemed to let bygones be bygones. She nosed around the little girl, friendly as could be. For a long time, Anna Marie played with Tidbit, feeding her wisps of hay and using the stuffed bunnies to interact with her. She pretended to read The Runaway Bunny to her. She scooped Tidbit’s breakfast pellets into her palm and allowed me to show her the correct way to let the rabbit eat out of her hand. They both had a wonderful time.

I had always suspected Tidbit had been a child’s bunny, and from the way she behaved today, I continue to think so. She was friendly and patient, but stood her ground on things she didn’t like. She never got hostile, but simply removed herself from the situation if the kid got rough. Amazing. People pay big bucks to train their dogs to behave this way, and here’s this little unwanted rabbit from the shelter who does it by instinct.

You’re the best, Tidbit!

And you, too, Floyd! Great comeback—now go get that hip fixed, okay?

Today’s Workout
Saturday: 13 mile run

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Working From Home

Well, the third world nation that is my office building was without power today. It was a scheduled outage to fix some things associated with the air conditioner. They said the power would be out from 9:00 to 11:00, but of course no one with any sense believed that. From the emails I got, it looks like the work began around 10:30 and power wasn’t restored until 3:30.

Good thing I can work from home!

What’s kind of scary is how much more I can get done at home than at the office, at least when I’ve got data-intensive projects going on. I finished one project that had been dragging on for awhile, and completed a new one that I had said probably wouldn’t be ready before Monday. But hey, with no phone ringing and no other distractions, I was able to dive right in and get it knocked out.

We expect to have no other a/c or power-related problems tomorrow, and with these two projects off my plate, it ought to be a good day for catching up on the types of little things that really can’t be done from home. Nice.

I’m beginning to think that I should work from home more often, at least when I have big projects to complete. I got more done at home today than in a typical day of workplace distractions, and this was in spite of going for a morning run, taking down some trash, taking some things to the dry cleaners (located here at my apartment complex), doing the laundry and loading the dishwasher. Of course, I also didn’t have to open doors for people, take phone calls or deal with people dropping by my office distracting me with random questions and chit-chat. Sometimes my boss calls me half a dozen times in the space of an hour, and it completely wrecks my concentration. Nothing like that here at home!

So I’m feeling a little spoiled tonight, wishing I could spend Friday at home too, and start things fresh on Monday. But I guess I’ll just be grateful for the little break that I got. I should learn not to complain so much about working in an old building on leased property off campus. Sometimes it really does pay off!

Recent Workouts
Monday: 30 minute elliptical
Tuesday: 6 mile run
Thursday: 6 mile run

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Happy Rescue Day, Tidbit! Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 17, 2006


I got to work this morning, opened the door to the building and was hit with a wall of hot air. It got hotter and hotter as I walked toward my office at the end of the building. I checked the thermostat. Mid-nineties. Ugh.

I nosed around and finally found the HVAC guy, who explained that the a/c had failed over the weekend, but that we had a backup chiller and he had turned it on. He said we could expect cool air shortly.

I waited. And waited. The temp came down to the high eighties.

I thought about working from home, but I had to finish a project for an afternoon presentation and I needed feedback from a key person. So I waited.

The temp dropped to a bit below eight-five.

I continued to wait.

Then the temps started climbing again.

I got the phone call I was waiting for so I could finish my project, and I also got the phone call I had been dreading, that HVAC could not guarantee a fix on the a/c by the end of the day. Great.

By the time I finished up, it was nearing ninety again, and I had to get out of there. I sent out the presentation, locked up and left.

Two Mondays ago, no water. This Monday, no a/c. Sometimes I swear I work in a third world country.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Embarrassment of Riches

On Friday night, we took the Romanians grocery shopping. What usually takes us an hour, took nearly four, by the time we picked them up, tried to explain American food, chased the little girl all over creation, then took the them home, showed them how to use their electric oven, etc.

Then on Saturday, Dan went to help a professor friend move some furniture. It was sweat equity in exchange for use of his friend's truck to pick up some furniture we bought from some friends of ours. Problem was that the truck was too small. So a job that should've taken 3 hours, turned into all day.

Meanwhile, I went for a 13 mile run, then went to tell the Romanians that Dan wouldn't be by with their sofa (our old one) until much later in the day. I ended up taking Camelia and the kids to the library and then to Hermann Park to see the ducks. When I dropped them back at home, I felt so bad for the kids (they were bored silly) that I went out and bought them a TV. (Yeah, I'm an old softie sometimes.)

By now it was almost 3:00 and I still hadn't eaten after my big run, except for a cup of yogurt. So I went to Central Market and got some goodies from the deli, but had to stop off at the pet store on the way home and get bunny food and litter. And as luck would have it, there were two cashiers on duty and at the head of each loooooong line was some fool with a complicated transaction involving returns, coupons, rain checks, Golden Tickets and radioactive waste. Why I'm not still waiting in line is both a mystery and a miracle.

I got home, grumpy and shaking with hunger, only to field a phone call from the hubby telling me to clear the entryway and lock up the bunny in the bedroom so she wouldn't be underfoot when he and his friend delivered our furniture. That required an additional fifteen minutes of work, primarily in finding things to block the bunny from going under the bed. But finally I settled down to eat my now-cold lasagna, which I ate so quickly I don't think I got a chance to taste it. Then I put in some earplugs and took a nap.

When I woke up, we had gorgeous new furniture! Yay! But it was so much bigger than the old stuff, that now the living room was all out of proportion. So we moved furniture around until midnight. We raised up just enough old dust and bunny fur that I developed an entertainingly serious asthma attack that didn't respond to meds and required a boost from a couple cups of strong coffee.

Oh, yeah. Coffee at midnight. I was up until 4:00 am!

I thought today would be quieter and I'd be able to get some writing done, but after a morning run and lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant, we dropped by the Romanians' apartment to drop off a DVD player we no longer needed. They were so obviously eager to get out and do something, that the next thing I knew, we were driving them around town. We showed them how to get to the nearest Social Security office, then showed them some of the local sights and ended up going out for coffee. We lingered for awhile, then took them to a park so the little girl could run around a bit. I hung out with the boy, Catalin, and found that he's just a step away from being a triathlete-- he likes swimming and mountain biking, and distance running. I made arrangements to do some Saturday runs with him, and promised to take him to my YMCA on Sunday mornings. I figure once he starts school, he can join the cross country team.

It was nearly 6:00 before we got home, and meeting my parents for dinner was just not in the cards.

I don't know where my weekend has gone!

But I've been really impressed by how nice people have been to this Romanian family. Dan's professor friend gave them a table and two bookcases. A friend at work promised to get radios for them and pay for six months of basic cable TV. Another friend offered to take them to dinner. And one of their neighbors gave them a desk and a set of chairs.

This has been an opportunity for me to see some interesting things about American culture through other eyes, and one thing that I'm really struck by is how rich we are, even those of us who are poor by the standards to which we aspire. In Romania, this family was solidly middle class. He was an electrical engineer, and she was a nurse and published writer of children's books. But they didn't have a refrigerator, freezer, air conditioning, microwave oven, or a dishwasher. In America these things are common among all but the very poorest.

I've been struck for the second time since Hurricane Katrina by how generous we are in this country. But I'm also starting to really understand how rich we are, even those of us who can recite a litany of ways in which we have failed to keep up with the Joneses. If you're reading this blog on a computer in your own home, if you have food in a refrigerator, clothes you never wear, furniture you never use, an air conditioner cooling your home and a running vehicle or two (or three) in your garage or driveway, you're richer than the middle class of all but a handful of nations.

Rejoice in your riches, friends!

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 13 mile run
Sunday: 6 mile run

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Romanians and Me

Wow, what a week!

I spent two days buying stuff and getting an apartment lined up for my Romanian friends. (The apartment is better than my own and cheaper-- am I a fool, or what?) Today, they were supposed to catch the bus at the airport, and I would meet them at the downtown station.

Well, by the time they called, exhausted and jet-lagged after more than twelve hours of air travel and two hours clearing customs and going through their final immigration interview, they were beyond being able to figure out how to get to the correct terminal and find the bus. So even though it meant heading outbound at almost precisely 5:00, and even though I was tired, hungry and cross-eyed from spending all day in front of a spreadsheet, Dan and I decided we'd go pick them up.

The trip required both of our vehicles, and it was a hellacious bumper-to-bumper smogfest getting out there. And then I had trouble finding my friends, but we finally figured that out and got them to their apartment.

Lots of unloading and unpacking of stuff ensued. My friends' little girl speaks no English and has enough energy that I'm thinking they could probably just skip looking for jobs and instead hook her up to a few wires and sell the energy to the electric company. She's a sweet little thing, but exhausting. The boy is fourteen, with a subtle sense of humor and a way about him that gives the impression he never says everything he thinks. Thankfully his English is quite good. I had been worried about how he would do in an American school, but I'm not worried at all any more.

We were busy getting them settled in until nearly 9:00. This included a run to the grocery store, where little Anna-Maria was hell on wheels, or rather, hell with wheels. She took charge of the shopping cart, completely oblivious to the fact that other people might be in the aisles. I spent a lot of time hanging onto the cart and getting only a big smile for my efforts to communicate before she was off again. Oh, my. Enough energy in that girl for at least three more just like her.

They're a very nice family and I'm looking forward to doing more with them this weekend. But I sure am tired! Not nearly as tired as if I'd spent over twelve hours on planes today, though. Thank goodness for that!

Recent Workouts
Wednesday: 5 mile run
Thursday: n/a

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jury Duty

For whatever reason, the county saw fit to call me for jury duty for the second time in as many years. Lucky me.

But I made the most of it. I parked across from the Y and walked to the courthouse. It's about a mile, but I was dressed for warm temps and I figured if I got cut early, I'd be glad to be parked right there close to the gym so I could get in a workout. Besides, I worked downtown long ago and it's always nice to get reacquainted. I've never minded walking a little bit.

I took a manuscript printout with me and got in about 2.5 hours of editing in the jury assembly room, going a bit crazy with my red pen, but hey, that's what editing is all about. At one point some alarms went off and a recorded announcement said for everyone to evacuate the building. We all looked at each other, murmuring questions and concerns, while the people working on our assignments at the front of the room carried on. I guess fire drills, bomb threat drills, etc, are par for the course in a county courthouse.

The bailiff my panel was assigned to was a cute and funny young lady. And we had some funny folks in our group too, which helped keep the process from feeling quite so much like we were cattle being herded to slaughter.

The lawyer for the prosecution seemed a slimy sort, and I was lucky to be able to truthfully give all the answers he didn't want to hear during the selection process. Yay, me! So I was cut around noon and made my way back to the Y.

My legs were a little tight, so it was an elliptical day. I wasn't in much of a gym workout mood, so I broke up my 45 minute workout into three 15 minute sessions, walking around between sessions. I changed machines at one point and found mysself in front of a TV set to the History Channel. They were showing a program on Roman engineering, which told me little that I didn't already know (I took a lot of Roman history classes in college), but it's nice to actually see the places and things I read about. And it helped pass the time.

When I got home I had a nice big salad, full of feta, olives and other good things, with a bit of hummus and pita on the side. And then for some reason I was exhausted. Nap time!

In all, not an unpleasant day.

Oh-- I forgot to mention this earlier, but the footbridge I use to get to the bayou trails has been tagged by Knitta!

Recent Workouts
Sunday: 90 minute spin
Monday: 45 minute elliptical and about 2 miles walking downtown

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Chicken Run

Seeing that was predicting humidity in the 90% range for the early morning and temps rising quickly into the 80s, I bravely sacrificed my usual absurdly late Friday night writing session for an earlier bedtime and earlier wakeup call. How boring of me.

But I was rewarded with a cool, if very humid, run. After doing a bayou loop and scaring the baby bunnies, I ran up to Rice University and did a loop on their nice tree-lined trail around the campus. On the way up to Rice, I went past a house where I have sometimes seen a chicken poking around the front yard. Sometimes it's in the front yard, sometimes on the side, near the sidewalk, and sometimes it's even across the street. (Yes, one wonders why the chicken crossed the road.) The really odd thing about this particular situation is that it's on a pretty busy street, right in the inner city. It's totally not where you expect to see a chicken roaming around loose.

Anyway, on a whim I stopped at the house where I'd seen the chicken before and went looking for it, making clucking noises. (No, no one else was around. I'm silly, but not stupid.) I found the hen in the front yard and walked part-way up the path to get a closer look. Just an ordinary chicken, but still… very odd for the front yard of a house on a busy street in a wealthy neighborhood.

And that's the sum total of my adventures for this particular run.

I expect to finish the draft of my current novel this weekend. It's the second in my Peak Oil trilogy, and it's sort of an adventure story, backgrounded in the political consequences of severe economic crisis. The third book will focus on the rebuilding of a society that has gone through troubled times, and there will be a strong environmental element, since my main character will be a young civil engineer who specializes in water management.

My goal for this month is to begin querying agents for the first novel of the series. I've finally gained enough mental distance to go back in and do major edits, and what a chore that is! I've cut big chunks of the narrative, streamlined a lot of things, etc, etc. It hasn't been fun, but it's been instructive. Although I've written other novel-length fiction, I've never considered seeking publication before now. Consequently, I've never had to edit with agents and publishers in mind. It's very different than editing something that will forever be for one's own entertainment. But it's all good because I can already see a carry-over into how I work on my current draft, and how I conceptualize the next.

Well, I guess I need to quit dilly-dallying and go kill off a favorite character. I always dread these moments, but sometimes it has to be done.

Today's Workout
12.5 mile run

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Third Time's the Charm

I left work today thinking I'd like to go for a run. But it was pretty hot and humid, so I decided to do a gym workout instead.

I was in no mood for a gym workout, but I was game. Until I got down there and found that the a/c was on the fritz and it was just as hot in the gym as outside, but with less of a breeze.

Suddenly the run didn't seem like such a terrible idea, after all. That is, until I realized that heavy black rain clouds were moving in fast. I almost went ahead with it anyway, but these clouds looked like they meant business!

By now I was pissed. I went back upstairs, endured the looks of annoyance from the pets (Okay, okay, humans are indecisive too, sometimes!), set up the bike and did a spin session. Thankfully, nothing went wrong this time.

Sometimes the hardest thing isn't the workout, it's getting to do the workout at all!

Recent Workouts
Sunday: 90 minute spin
Monday: 5 mile run
Tuesday: 30 minute elliptical
Wednesday: too lazy
Thursday: 45 minute spin

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Saturday Run and Scouting Mission

I headed out the door with a route in mind, and as so often happens, got a sudden notion to do something different. I have friends from overseas moving here in a couple of weeks and I had reason to believe that there was a perfect little neighborhood for them that would offer everything they were looking for. So I decided to check it out.

But first I ran most of the bayou loop. Although the temps were only in the low 80s, the humidity made it feel like soup, and I was soon leaving my own little drippy trail. As I neared downtown, I saw two fenced-off areas where fireworks had been staged. The second spot covered the running trail (thanks, guys) and there was a detour sign pointing to a trail I had never used.

Odd, that there should still be a trail on Buffalo Bayou I hadn't run, but there it was. I had never bothered with it because I thought I knew where it went. I was both right and wrong about that, but it was a nice change and I'll be keeping this detour in mind for future runs, since it will allow me to avoid a spot that always has bayou silt several inches deep after major rains.

I came up the Allen Parkway side of the bayou, crossed the street after the bat colony and headed into the neighborhood. I ran up to South Boulevard and headed toward Montrose. I love the little neighborhood along North and South. It's a wealthy area, with trees that meet overhead in a sort of tunnel over a brick sidewalk on an esplanade. I got to thinking about the first time I found this little gem, 20 years ago, back when I was just an ignorant suburban kid who had no clue that such places even existed in Houston.

Next I ran through a slightly less expensive neighborhood, where I lived for a year in the late '80s. And then I crossed Montrose and headed into the area I wanted to check out. It was just as I remembered it-- an easily overlooked little rincon of older homes and brick fourplexes. There was some new construction, but most of what was back there was just as I remembered-- slightly run down, but in a charming and human way, with twisting streets, crepe myrtles, oaks and pecans. I stopped to talk to a man watering his yard, and he confirmed my memory of the neighborhood being quite safe. It's only a few blocks from the light rail and major bus lines, it's surrounded by churches, museums, parks and cafes, and the rents appear to be reasonable. I found myself sort of wishing I hadn't signed another lease where I'm at now, because I've always loved the area near the museums. I resolved to return over the weekend, get some phone numbers and make inquiries for my friends.

And then I ran toward home, giving myself an impromptu tour of some of the Montrose neighborhoods and eventually ending up back on the bayou where I completed the loop and added another couple miles for good measure. Although it was past 10:00 by this point, it still wasn't terribly hot out because of the growing threat of rain. I frightened a baby bunny, but didn't phase an older one who knew a runner and bunny-lover when he saw one.

I took my stinky, dripping self home after that, wrung out my running gear (how disgusting is that?), iced my legs and then took a shower. It was time to get cleaned up and reward myself with Indian food!

I sure do love my Saturdays!

12 mile run