Friday, December 26, 2008

Half-Marathon #3

I've signed up!

Training starts next week!

(I have no idea how I'm going to train for a half-marathon while working 60-hour weeks for the next three and a half months. But somehow I'll do it.)

Danta Claus

More Christmas pictures are at Ella's blog.

Even more are on my Facebook page. I'll post a few more here as time allows.

But for now, I'm off to work.

Hope everyone had a merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Happening

I fear my brains are dripping out
My ear, aye, drains, tar-gripping grout
Nigh here, by strains, argh! Yip! Sing out!
I fear my brains are dripping out
My ear.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Am Truly a Sick Puppy

Sick in the workaholicky head, at least.

We just had a meeting at work. We're pretty much expected to work at least 55 hrs a week until, oh, the end of the year.

I knew it was coming. We all did. It's part and parcel of the job. Just one of those things, you know.

A normal human being would feel sad about these crazy, stressful hours ahead of us, about the fact that yet another year of holidays will pass while we while away our time in our cubicles.

But I'm actually excited about the next few weeks.

Then again, I always loved finals week in college.

Yep. See what I mean? Sick in the head, I am. Sick in the head.

Monday, December 8, 2008

So I Left Work Early on Friday & Saturday

I wasn't supposed to. I could have worked until 8:00 Friday night, then again until 5:30 on Saturday. But I didn't. My fellow tech writer and I are ahead of schedule, and I wanted to do fun things.

Here's a pic of Cowboy Hubster and me on a carriage ride. (I'm not sure why, but we both seemed compelled to make it "Silly Hat Night." But at least our heads were warm.)

I'll post a few more photos as I get them. I got this one from our friends Kim, Dave, and Elizabeth. Here they are (Elizabeth on the left, then Dave, then Kim):

I hope everyone (all three of you ... plus eArThworm!) has a good week!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's Saturday. I'm at Work.

So what else is new?

I just thought I would update so my three remaining readers wouldn't think my eleven brothers had dropped me into a pit and then sold me into slavery.

My great American software manual has been published and sent to our thousands of clients, and it's getting some good "reviews." I knew it was a good product, my baby manual, but all the same, it's nice to get some validation for it.

I'm caught in the work vortex. I'm loving every minute of it (I cannot tell a lie). I love having a job that is professionally busy and challenging and emotionally low-stress.

I'm reading Atlas Shrugged. I've never read it before. I'm about halfway through. It's an interesting book to be reading right now, in late 2008.

So I just wanted to say hello to everyone. Time to get off my laptop and get back to work.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ella Pic O' Day

Here is Ella doing her Joe Cocker impersonation while while her mom smiles genuinely and I try to smile genuinely but fail.

Wait ... is that a tennis racket Baby Ella is holding?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Great American Software Manual

Total page count, including cover page, TOC, copyright page, appendices, index, etc.: 348

Total writers: 2 (me, and my trusty co-writer Eddie)

Total time spent writing: oh, about three months

We're not quite done (one is never done with a writing project), but we are so close. If you'll excuse me and let me lapse into cliches for a moment, I'm about to find my way of this black hole of manual-writing and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. (No jokes about oncoming trains, please. I'm too tired to get them.) (The jokes, not the trains.) There's a reason for cliches, you know. Times like these.

I put in 58 or 59 hours of work this week. Next week won't be so crazy.

I feel good. I'm happy with my index, and I have only a few things to do with my TOC before I'm happy with it, too. The manual is done. Oh, there will be last-minute changes to the software and last-minute realizations that we wrote things like (oh, horrors!) "This feature will be allows you to ..." or "to log in into to the program." But if we had to send this baby out into the world tomorrow, I would be OK with it. I would be more than OK. I am proud of this manual.

It's been a very tough, very focused, very good week at work. I've really enjoyed my job these last few months. I'm ready to move on to something else, and I won't miss this manual once it's published, but I can't deny having enjoyed the journey of writing it.

Funny to think that some folks believe we literature-loving English majors "sell out" by going into technical writing. I would have believed the same thing 20 years ago. What a misconception. Writing is an adventure and an opportunity to learn exciting new things, no matter what the topic, no matter who the audience. And tech writing just takes me into realms I never, ever would have explored if I'd been completely in charge of mapping my own adventure all along.

It doesn't matter to me that most people don't read manuals. Most people don't read, period. If I were to publish a novel, most people wouldn't read it either. I honestly don't care. I just love writing for the sake of writing, and it just tickles me to death that I get paid for it. If this manual helps a handful of people, gives them a better impression of my company's software, maybe results in a few dozen fewer support calls ... then, as far as I'm concerned, I've done my job.

Life is good. (I accidentally wrote "Lice is good" at first. Yes, it's time for me to tear myself away from the computer screen and do something productive, like play some Bach or pet the cats.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Lovely, Sweet, Beautiful Niece

I am so in love with this child.


I've spent the last three days compiling a 14-page index for a 315-page document.

I've spent the last couple of minutes making this lovely sign (for blogging purposes, of course):

Now it's time to switch gears. For the next three days, I'll be proofreading a hard copy of said 315-page document.

I love my job.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Hope Y'all Aren't Getting Tired of Ella Pics

Every newborn needs a stuffed cow, so Hubster and I took on the important responsibility of providing Ella with her own very special stuffed cow this weekend.

Not surprisingly, Ella loves it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My New Profile Picture

I changed my profile picture. This is a photo of me with Baby Ella.

What a sweet, pretty baby Ella is!

Apostrophe Abuse

What a fun site this one is. Many thanks to y'all for posting the school board sign from "A Sort of Notebook"!

Monday, November 3, 2008

What Election?

Have I mentioned that Ella made her entrance into the world on Halloween? I have? Oh, sorry. Silly me, I'm repeating myself.

Have I mentioned that she is beautiful? And sweet? And that when she cries, her little mouth makes a perfect little "o"?

I have?

I went to visit Ella last night. Her parents (oh, yeah--my sister Mu and her husband Stu) brought her home, so I got to sit in Mu's living room and hold Ella while she slept. Then she woke up and started crying and I just sat there with a big, silly grin on my face.

I love this baby.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Putting Away Childish Things?

Most of our boxes are unpacked. Today I unpacked boxes that I haven't unpacked in years. These are the boxes that got stacked in the back of overstuffed closets, that were among the first to be loaded into storage, that have been taped shut, some of them, for years. These are my journals.

For the first time in my life (I think), I have a place (other than taped-up boxes) to store my journals. These notebooks date back to 1980 (when I was 10), though I didn't actually begin writing every single day until I was 13 or 14. And I haven't stopped.

I know this is probably navel-gazing. But I learned how to use the "macro" feature on Hubster's camera and think it's really cool to look at handwriting up close. Don't you?

As I read these few journal entries, part of me wants to laugh at myself. Some of them are funny. My penchant for hyperbole apparently goes back about a million years.

But this is also making me feel pensive. I've been wanting to sit and journal-write (or blog-write) for a long time, but I've been so busy with work. The thoughts that are coming out here aren't in quite the format I'd planned (not that I'd really planned anything), but here they are. And there will be more to come, I'm sure, the very next time I have a slow, lazy Sunday to myself.

I hope I get another one of these lazy days soon. I have a lot to write about. Notebooks and notebooks and notebooks full.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Most Perfect Little Miracles

Just look at those fingernails. Just look at those tiny, perfect little fingernails.

More photos here.

(Bear with me ... I know people have marveled at babies over the ages, and that they're really not a big deal, considering how people have babies every day, and that my experience here is nothing new, but I've hardly ever been around a tiny baby, and I've never been an aunt to a tiny baby before now.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm an Aunt!

As of 7:55 tonight, I am the proud aunt of a beautiful little girl named Ella!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My, How Times Have Changed

When I took Technical Writing Methodology in grad school, one of my big group projects was to write a manual on how to use the university’s DOSsy e-mail system. (This was back in the day when your average person had never heard of e-mail … and our group was supposedly writing the instructions on how to use it. Heh.)

It was so difficult to write. Not only was I a bit of a techno-phobe, but I was much more comfortable writing vague and rather poor papers on issues of hermeneutics, ontology, and epistemology as relating to what literary critics wrote about what other literary critics wrote about what other literary critics wrote about literary things.

(Just now I had to look up “hermeneutics” to make sure I spelled it correctly.)

So today I whipped up a set of procedures telling our customers how to use our software’s e-mail system. Had the draft done in about an hour, I did.

And guess what … that draft is a whole lot better than the final e-mail manual we turned in to my Technical Writing Methodology prof. And, I’m sad to admit, it’s far better (and more interesting) than any of the pseudointellectually jargony stuff I wrote about what literary critics wrote about what other literary critics wrote about … ad nauseam. You get the point.

I guess this means I’ve come a long way, baby. Or something like that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pan & Tink

(For those who enjoyed the flying dream, this is my brother and me as Peter Pan and Tinker Bell one Halloween.)

Thanks, Mrs. Gwen, for forwarding the photo!
(Sorry about the size ... that's as big as I could get it.)

Drowning in Play Work

That's where I've been, in case you were wondering. I was comparing "hours worked so far this week" with a co-worker, and felt like a slacker because I'd worked only a mere 19.55 hours. She'd already topped 20. And it had only been two days. (Of course, I didn't count the four hours I worked at home on Sunday. Shhhh ... don't tell the boss. We're not supposed to work on Sundays ... but if work is like play, shouldn't we be able to work whenever we want?)

Yes, things are going well at work. It would be different if I wasn't so completely involved in the job. I'm writing and editing and organizing and learning and researching and working toward a big goal (the deadline) ... all stuff I love doing. And on top of that, I love the people I work with.

Who knew that a job in Cubicle Land could be so much fun?

OK. Time to drag my lazy self out of the house. The Cube awaiteth.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kris's Birthday: An E-mail Exchange.


Kris: Thank you! I am going to do my best to enjoy this beautiful (and cool!) day! Whew ... 38.

N: Wow, 38 degrees! That’s cold, especially for Louisiana! It wasn’t too much colder than that this morning. I walked to work and had frozen little hands by the time I got here!

K: No, silly! It's not 38 here! It was about 50 this morning. I'm 38!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Last Night's Dream

My brother, Ghent, was maybe seven years old. I don't know how old I was. Maybe four, maybe thirty-eight. He said, "Let's go flying!" and I said, "OK!"

See, in my dream, Ghent could fly. Like Peter Pan. And as long as he was holding my hand, I could fly, too. So we jumped out of a window and onto the wind.

We went for a ways, looking down at villages below us, and I was thinking of how neat it would be to fly like this in Europe, since you would be able to see many countries at once, whereas in the U.S., it was all the same country.

Then the wind stopped. Suddenly. Without warning. And started again.

It was just enough to throw Ghent off course. The wind yanked him away from me, and we began to fall. I wasn't scared, though. I knew Ghent would make everything right. He would get his balance, fly toward me, grab my hand again, and it would be like nothing bad had happened.

But he yelled, "We're too close to the earth! We weren't high enough to start with! There's nothing I can do!"

It took a moment for that to sink in. So I'm going to die, I thought.

"I'm sorry!" He yelled as the wind took him farther and farther away from me. "We just didn't have enough altitude!" (Yes, my brother used words like "altitude" at age seven.)

So I fell alone through the sky, and thought, "This is it. I love you, Hubster. This is it."

And I was OK with it. I didn't feel panic. I felt a little disappointment--I hadn't, after all, expected my life to end so suddenly, or so violently. But there was nothing I could do, and that was OK.

So I shut my eyes, crouched, and hoped the pain wouldn't be too great.

Next thing I knew, I was waking up on a patch of grass somewhere. It was a field, but a small field. I was actually in a neighborhood. I was alive. I had survived the fall.

I got up, feeling dazed and a little sore, and found my way to someone's house. The people who lived there were very gracious and helpful. They explained to me that I had fallen into DeRidder, Louisiana, and they let me use the phone to call my parents, who showed up a little while later. We all figured Ghent was dead somewhere. If he was alive, he would find a phone and call, just like I had. So we were hoping he would call, and waiting.

I tried to explain to my dad that we had been flying, and he kept asking, "But what happened to the little plane?"

"No," I would say. "We weren't flying in a little plane. We were just flying, just us ... you know, like Peter Pan."

"Well, I hope so," my mom said wryly. "Because Ghent's not old enough to fly a plane."

"But what happened to the little plane?" My dad again. "Maybe we can find it, and then we'll find Ghent."

We all knew that Ghent was probably dead, than my survival had been a miracle in itself. Still, we had hope that his fate and mine had been the same, that he had managed to land safely after falling 1,000 feet, and somehow survive.

So that was my dream. I think it was full of symbolism. I used to worship my brother when we were kids. If he'd told me he could take me flying, I would have believed him, all the way to the point of jumping out of a window with him. Yes, maybe I was a stupid kid. But I also thought my brother hung the moon and could do anything.

I am also struck by how calm I was as I fell through the air in the dream. I knew I was going to die, and I was OK with it. There was nothing I could do. I was in God's hands, or fate's. There was security in that, in knowing that it was all out of my hands. And I was certain I would die. I didn't think about heaven or hell or any of that. Just thought, "I love Hubster" and felt sad for him that he would have to learn secondhand of my death.

That dream has stuck with me all morning, so I thought I'd write it down.

Now, after working a 60-hour week at work, I'm going to spend the day reading The Brothers Karamazov, writing, and practicing a bit of piano. No more computer today. No e-mails, even though I owe about a million to people. No TV. None of that. Just reading and writing and music. Then later today, I'll go for a walk/run enjoy the crisp weather and the changing leaves.

It's going to be a good day. For some reason, that dream, haunting as it was, has left me in good spirits, tinged just a little by melancholy.

A perfect day for Doestoevsky, writing, and Beethoven. Life is good.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pictures? Of the New House?

Someone said they were waiting for me to post pictures of the new house.

No. I will not post pictures of the new house. But I will show you the gear room! The "gear room" is actually a one-car garage in the basement. Up until several weeks ago, it was the room where we put boxes we didn't feel like unpacking yet. Then we decided to make it a gear room.

Hubster and I put the pegboard up there. OK, Hubster put it up there and I put all the little peg-hanger things in it. And hung stuff. It's so nice to think I will never have to wonder where I put my gaiters again.

That little white plastic cabinet thing contains water purification stuff, first aid stuff, and some bathroom stuff, including my trusty orange trowel. I've since hung the orange trowel on the pegboard. It doesn't deserve to be hidden away in a drawer.

Here's another view:

See my beloved Leki poles? They're right there in the far left of the picture. And there is the Leki pole and Therma-rest repair stuff! Who can ever find that stuff when you need it? And then our million stuff sacks! And headlamps! And non-lost gaiters!

Those are sleeping bags on the left. Tents and sleeping pads on the bottom-left levels of the shelf. "Car camping" gear (mostly) on the right.

I hate car camping. I couldn't care less about the junk on the right. I have a genuine sense of fondness for the backpacking gear on the left.

At the top of the shelf are a couple of "picnic backpacks" that people gave us as wedding gifts. I honestly wondered if we'd ever use them ... and we actually do use them! Quite often, actually. Far more often than I imagined we would.

The plastic boxes contain winter stuff like gloves, balaclavas, etc.

I love having a gear room. At our old house the "gear room" was half of a tiny closet, and everything was always a mess. And I could never find my gaiters. No more!

Another thing ... before we moved, it always seemed like we had too much gear. After all, it was constantly spilling out of that tiny closet. Now we clearly don't have enough gear. Heh. Just kidding. Though we could use a few more stuff sacks ...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Last Mushroom o' Day

This little guy didn't have the most pizzazz of all the mushrooms we saw, but he's the one I've selected to close my mushroom photo show.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Mushroom a Day VI

I call this one "Flippy Shroom with Flippy Leaf."

Yeats Merge

This morning I was writing and suddenly got the urge to read poetry. I was stuck, my cat Hideaway being asleep on my lap, so I had to call the Hubster to come into my writing room.

"Hubster," I said. "Will you hand me that big black book over there ... my Norton Anthology of Poetry?"

He knew exactly which one it was. It's the one I lug with me whenever we go on a road trip of any kind. I've even taken it backpacking. Even though it weighs more than my sleeping bag.

So he handed it to me and I opened to a random page to find Yeats's "Among School Children." So I read it and wrote, then read it again and wrote.

Here's the final stanza of the poem:

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

I love that final line, "How can we know the dancer from the dance?" So I wrote it down a few times and thought about it and read some more.

Fast-forward a couple of hours. I had finished my morning writing, taken a shower, and got dressed for the big Sunday jaunt to Wal-Mart. (We live large here in rural western North Carolina.) But for some reason, I started thinking, "Wouldn't it be awful if Hubster died?" And I got all mushy and teary-eyed and flew downstairs to the man-cave to give him a big ole hug and a kiss. In mid-hug, I heard the TV sports commentator guy talking (for Hubster was, of course, watching ESPN or something like that). And the guy on TV was talking about OJ Simpson's glory days, saying something like:

"Blah blah blah OJ Simpson blah blah and as Yeats said, 'How can we know the dancer from the dance?' blah blah blah ..."

How weird is that? I randomly opened to the Yeats poem this morning, and that particular line jumped out at me and I wrote it down. Then I randomly went to the man-cave for about 10 seconds and heard the sports announcer guy say that same line.

I call that merging, when identical ideas and stuff seem to come flying at you from totally different sources like that. Weird.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Mushroom a Day III

These looked like giant pancakes.

That's Hubster's big ole foot posing next to the mushrooms.

Not That Anyone Cares about My Opinion ...

Not that anyone cares about my not-very-politically-engaged opinion, but I’m sharing my notes from tonight's debate. My observations are in italics.

First of all, I want Sarah Palin to do well. If I were her, I would be drowning in a big old pool of self-pity and insecurity, after all she has been through with her e-mail being hacked, the media treatment, the cruelty of many bloggers, etc. I am not a big fan of John McCain. I am one of the millions out there who didn’t care to vote for McCain, but whose attitude changed when he nominated Gov. Palin.

I like Obama, too. He is disarmingly smooth and can be very convincing. But his actions speak louder than his words.

OK, debate is about to start. Gwen is talking. She seems like a nice lady. The “Gwen is in the Obama tank” right-wing editorials seemed like a bunch of whiny noise to me. Let’s hope I was right.

5-minute segments. 90 seconds per candidate plus 2 minutes for rebuttal. Gwen has chosen the questions. OK. Here come the contestants!

Sarah asked if she could call him “Joe.” Charming. Joe is gracious. They both look happy to be there. Weird. If I were Sarah, my knees would be knocking. Good thing I’m not Sarah.

I didn’t realize she was so short. Is she short? Or is Joe just really tall? Can I call him Joe?

1. Bailout. Worst of Washington or best of Washington?

a. Biden—last 8 years, worst econ policies. Congress in a difficult spot. BO laid out 4 basic criteria for a rescue plan. 1-oversight. 2-homeowners. 3-taxpayers like investors. 4-make sure CEOs don’t benefit and make money off rescue plan. Fundamental disagreement: We’re going to fundamentally change the focus of the econ policy. We will focus on the middle class, not just the wealthy. Good.

b. Sarah: Soccer. Soccer? Fear—barometer. She’s talking in generalities. "We need reform." John has represented reform. There will be more oversight thanks to John. Hm. Slow start, I think.

2. How would you work to bridge the gap of polarization?

a. Joe: That’s what I’ve been doing all along. I’ve been able to reach across the aisle. Back to economy: John McCain, fundamentals of economy are strong … to econ crisis.

b. Sarah answers well. Fundamentals being the people, which McCain clarified but no one listened. She points to her past as a maverick. Even though I'm so sick of the word mav I could throw up. She says BO hasn’t proven that he’s willing to step across 96% of the time.

3. Subprime lending meltdown. Who do you think was at fault?

a. Sarah: Predator lenders, darn right! Uhhhh … There was deception, there was greed, and there is corruption on Wall Street. John and I will get rid of that. A little platitudinous. Ugh. Never again will we be exploited by those who are managing our money and loaning us. We need to demand strict oversight. Let’s do what our parents told us. Personal responsibility as individuals! We have an opportunity to learn a heck of a lot of good lessons here! YES!!! Good!! Go, Sarah, go!

b. Joe: McCain was surprised about subprime mortgage and Obama was warning about it. “Deregulate” as if Wall St could self-regulate itself. John is wrong about that! And now he wants to do it for healthcare! Bring up Joey Someone. Focus will change with Barack Obama. Gov, you can argue this.

c. Sarah: You’re right about that … but these two voted 94 times to increase taxes! That’s not what we need to create jobs to bolster and heat up our economy! “Heat up.” Is that an AK term? Govt needs to learn to be more efficient. BO even supported increasing taxes for people making $42K a year! Biden seems to be laughing at her.

d. Joe: That is not true. John voted the same way. Using Sarah’s standard, John voted 477 times to raise taxes. Gov did not answer the question about deregulation. Did not defend John McCain. He did support deregulation almost across the board.

e. Go, Sarah, go! I eliminated taxes as an executive. As for John’s adherence to rules and regulations and pushing … Biden is laughing at her.

4. Raising taxes for people earning over $250,000 a year. Gwen is doing a good job.

a. Joe: Where I come from it’s called fairness, just simple fairness. Under McCain, 100 mil middle class families not a single break in taxes. No one of them will have taxes raised under BO. That sounds so good, but I don’t believe him. That’s the crux of the matter for me regarding taxes. I simply don’t believe him. 95% of the people making less than $150K will get a tax break. The econ engine of America is the middle class. John wants to add $300 bil tax dollars per year while doing nothing for the middle class. It’s fair. They deserve the tax breaks, not the super wealthy. They’ll pay no more than they did under RWR.

b. Sarah “redistribution of wealth.” Yes. Tell it like it is. BO’s plan—the millions of small businesses that will fit into that category. Fewer jobs, less productivity. Paying higher taxes is patriotic. That’s not patriotic! Good for bringing up that idiotic quote. It’s saying, govt too often you’re the problem. Get out of the way and let the private sector and our families grow and thrive. BO’s way is the backwards way to growing the economy. Sarah did well here.

c. Palin on health: $5000 tax credit for families so they can purchase their … budget-neutral … universal “government-run” program. Good snipe at government. "That’s gonna help." He wants to erase the artificial lines between state—through competition we can cross state lines.”

d. Biden: We don’t call it redistribution to say that not giving Exxon another $4bil tax cut. We call it fairness. 95% of small businesses, their owners make less than $250,000. With regard to healthcare plan … how JM pays for tax credit: He taxes as income all of you who has a healthcare plan thru your employer. Biden is getting excited. He’s getting bullyish … maybe. C’mon Joe, you can do it. The “ultimate bridge to nowhere.”

5. What promises, given the week's events, what promises have you and your campaign made to Americans that you can’t keep?

a. Joe: Double foreign assistance may have to slow down. Make sure we do not go forward with tax cut proposals for people making over $250K. Not supporting $300b tax cut … he’s off the subject, not answering the question. Just saying what they’re not going to do. We are going to eliminate the wasteful spending in the government. $100b tax dodge—offshore accounts.

b. Sarah: John doesn’t keep changing what he tells people. Back to the energy plan: Obama voted for it. That’s what gave the oil companies their big tax breaks! In Alaska I had to tell them no. They’re not my biggest fans. I had to break up a monopoly. The people are going to come first. Joe is smiling. Laughing. Looking like he’s humoring her by being there. Or perhaps she's charmed him too.

c. Joe: Tax breaks. BO voted for an energy bill because it was support for alternative energy. BO voted to eliminate tax breaks for oil companies. Joe is doing well. He’s using numbers. He’s hammering the $4billion. Are those figures accurate?

6. Make it harder for debt-strapped mortgage holders to claim bankruptcy?

a. Sarah: We need to look back and appreciate John’s call for reform. We have John to thank for warning people and bipartisanly bringing people to the table to fix this econ problem we’re in. Does Sarah look like she’s going to cry? Geez, Sarah. Please don’t cry. Don’t act like me.

b. Joe: Mortgage holders didn’t pay the price. Only 10% of people … BO saw glass as half-empty, I as half-full. We disagreed. BO pointed out 2 years ago that there was a sub-prime crisis. There are ways to help people now, and the ways we’re offering are not being supported by the Bush admin and McCain/Palin. Yes, gotta throw in Bush.

c. Sarah: Back to energy. Disagrees with Biden, but goes back to energy. “East coast politicians” who won’t allow Alaska to produce energy! Energy independence is the key to this nation’s future. When we talk about energy plans, it’s not just about tax breaks, it’s about a heckuva lot more than that.

7. Let’s talk about climate change. What is true and what is false about the causes?

a. Palin: Alaska feels impact of climate change more than any. Man’s activities, also cyclical activities in the climate. How are we going to positively affect these impacts? That’s the real question. I’m not going to discuss the “why.” We need to do what we can—reduce emissions. That is another reason why we need to be energy-independent. “All of the above approach.”

b. Biden: I think it is totally man-made. Seriously? Probably the biggest fundamental difference: If you don’t understand what the cause is, you can’t come up with the solution. Good point, Joe. We have 3% of the oil reserves, consume 25% of oil. McCain has voted 20x against alternative energies. BO believes that alternative energy can help us create jobs and export it. We should export green technology.

8. Gwen: JM Caps on emissions; BO clean coal

a. Sarah: Drill baby drill. Talking about Alaska energy sources. She called him "Senator O’Biden." I like it! It is not RAPING the continental shelf if it is safe drilling. I do support capping carbon emissions.

b. Biden: About clean coal—look at my record for 25 years of supporting clean coal technology. Bottom line: How do we deal with global warming?

9. Do you support as they do in Alaska granting same-sex benefits to couples?

a. Biden: Absolutely positively. No distinction constitutionally. Visitation rights, joint ownership, life insurance policies.

b. Not if it goes closer to redefining one man/one woman. I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and friends. Some dear friends who don’t agree with me. No one would ever propose in our admin to prohibit visitation in a hospital, contracts, etc. I don’t support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman. Traditional definition of marriage.

10. Do you support gay marriage?

a. Joe: No. It’s a faith thing. I take her at her word re: civil rights distinction.

b. Sarah: I do not.

Gwen: Wonderful! You agree!

11. Iraq. Exit strategy?

a. Palin: Surge! Worked! I am thankful that that is part of a plan! Other ticket opposed the surge and funding troops. Biden I respected you when you called him out on that. Biden voted against it under political pressure. We cannot do early withdrawal. We have got to win in Iraq. Down to pre-surge numbers. More troops in Afghanistan. We cannot afford to lose against Al-Qaida but we are getting closer and closer to victory. Sarah did well here.

b. Biden: I didn’t hear a plan. BO has a plan. 16 months. Only odd man out is John McCain. John McCain voted the same way as BO! It had a timeline and John wouldn’t fund troops if it had a timeline. Well, yeah, but Joe's talking like McCain didn't want to support troops at all. No, Joe. But you have to have a timeline. $10bil a month. Iraqis have an $80bil surplus. JM sees no end in sight. Fundamental difference. That is WRONG.

c. Sarah: Your plan is a white flag of surrender! My jaw just dropped. Did she really say that? She did! We will leave when we are victorious. Re: McCain—at some point, you supported McCain! Good points by Sarah. Biden looks like he is having fun. BO … another story there.

d. Joe: JM voted to cut off funding for the troops. Let’s get straight who has been right and wrong. John McCain has been “dead wrong” on the fundamentals relating to the cont of this war.

12. Greatest threat? Nuclear Iran or unstable Pakistan?

a. Biden: Pak already has deployed nukes. They can hit Israel and the Mediterranean. Both very dangerous. Fundamental problem with John: he continues to tell us that war on terror is in Iraq. But Al Qaida is planning in hills of Afgah and Pak. Stable govt needs to be est in Pakistan. That is where Bin Ladin lives.

b. Palin: central: Petraeus and Al Qaida said that! Sarah says “nucular.” Aarrgghh. Refers to Ach, Kim Jong Il, Castro Brothers. BO’s naivete. Beyond poor judgment. BO should not meet with these without preconditions.

13. Some level of engagement with enemies. Do you think folks are wrong on that?

a. Sarah: Kissinger—passion for diplomacy. We would engage in that. But with some of these dictators—those who would try to destroy what we stand for cannot be met with. Biden is laughing at her. He looks amused. Or charmed?

b. Biden: Can I clarify? This is simply not true about BO. Yes it is. Liar liar pants on fire. It’s not about Ach’s control, it’s theocracy control. Now he’s ragging on Bush again. What makes you think the allies are going to sit with us? McCain said he wouldn’t even sit down with the govt of Spain! Joe is really mad about Spain!

14. What has this admin done right or wrong regarding Israel?

a. Palin: A two-state solution IS the solution. Israel is our strongest and best ally in the middle east. We will never allow a second holocaust. A two-state solution. Peace-seeking nation. It’s gotta be a commitment. I like how she says gonna, gotta, etc.

b. Joe: No one has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. This administration’s policy has been an abject failure. We were right every time about Hamas, Hezbollah. Fact is that this admin has been an abject failure. The only thing on the march is Iran. Biden is much more forceful, spewing out more hard details, but Sarah is holding her own.

c. Palin disagrees. I’m encouraged that we both love Israel. Enough is enough with your ticket with the blame game. There have been huge blunders … but, for a ticket that wants to talk about change, there’s just too much finger-pointing backwards. We will learn from the past mistakes of this administration. Partisanship aside, etc. Biden looks like he is having fun.

d. Joe: How will McCain’s policies be different from George Bush’s? How? How? How? Biden is doing well here. Even if what he’s saying isn’t true.

15. Interventionism, nukes: What should be the trigger for nuke use?

a. Palin: Be all end all of too many people, too many parts of our planet. Now can we talk about Afghanistan? Ha! I love it! The surge principles that have worked in Iraq need to be put into place in Afghan. There’s a difference. BO’s reckless comments hurt our cause. True.

b. Biden: Afghan: Facts matter, Gwen. Our commanding general in Afghan said today that the surge principles in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan. We need more troops, govt building, $$ on infrastructure. Repeating himself. He’s doing well. 3 weeks in Iraq, 6.5 years in Afghan. Re: nukes, McCain voted against comprehensive test ban treaty that GOP wanted. BO reached across aisle to Lugar, he worked with him on that. McCain has been opposed to

c. Palin: McClellan(?) did not exactly say that. Good response. Counter-insurgency principles—clearing, holding, rebuilding, can work in Afghan. Biden is laughing at her.

16. Darfur—does American public have stomach for this?

a. Biden: McCain opposed Bosnia, but it worked. I wish Sarah would do more of “That’s simply not true.” Sarah is smiling. Does she have a zinger?

b. Palin: Not used to the way you guys operate. Americans are cravin’ that straight talk. Pointing to the fact that he supported McCain and opposed Obama—good job! Go, Sarah, go! Sarah is so beautiful. Sexist of me to say, but it's the truth.

17. Is there a line that should be drawn about when we go in?

a. Biden: Yes. Do we have the capacity to go into there? Also, when countries are doing genocide, they give up their right to say we can’t come in. (Um ... Iraq?) BTW, I did NOT support McCain. Sarah is smiling. McCain was lock-step with Dick Cheney. I never supported McCain on the war.

b. Palin: I beg to disagree on whether you supported McCain … you can say what you want to say … pundits will give us the proof tomorrow. Sarah … is she nervous? “Taking the politics out of these war issues.” Good.

18. Presidency a heartbeat away. How would your administration be? What an awful, awful question.

a. Biden: I would carry out BO’s policies. Talking points. Good rhetoric.

b. Palin: “team of mavericks” … I'm glad "maverick" is not a drinking game since I have to work tomorrow. We can agree to disagree. He has never asked me to check my opinion at the door. I would continue the good work that he is so committed to. We need a little bitta reality from Wasilla Main Street. She's starting to sound a little too folksy to me.

c. Biden: He spends a lot of time at Home Depot? McCain agrees with Bush on everything. Middle class has gotten the short end.

d. Pointing backwards—there you go again, Joe. Ha! That was a Reagan thing! “Doggone it.” Is she a little too folksy? Education—the “extra credit” thing was a nice touch.

19. What does VP do?

a. Sarah: Lame attempt at a joke. “Nobody got it.” Of course we know what a VP does. Sarah is doing well. She’s much more charming than Biden. I think she’s outshining him. The "lame joke" quip was great.

b. Joe: NCLB—money was left behind. I have a history of getting things done in the Senate. I’ll be sitting in the room to give me my best advice when OB needs to make a decision. Independent judgment—that is my reputation. I plan to play a very constructive role in his presidency.

20. Do you agree that VP is not just executive, but also legislative?

a. Palin: Founding fathers were very wise. I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility and we’ll do what we have to do. Biden is laughing at her. Is he on his way to a gaffe? I wish he wouldn’t smirk like that.

b. Joe: VP Cheney has been the most dangerous VP we’ve had in American history. Primary role of VP is to support the Prez. Biden is giving a lecture-type thing and putting down Cheney.

21. Achilles’ heel—Sarah lacks experience, Joe lacks discipline

a. Palin: My experience will be put to good use! Good … she goes off on her experience and why it’s NOT an Achilles’ heel. Show 'em, girl.

b. Biden: I’m surprised you said that was my only Achilles’ heel. The modesty is charming here. Good job, Joe. Now he’s going into his strengths. I understand. I understand. His answer started out charming, but I'm not sure where he is going with this with single parenthood ... I think he may be teetering on the edge of gaffe-dom ...

c. Palin: Maverick. I wish she would quit saying “maverick.” Yadda yadda maverick yadda maverick.

d. Biden: McCain has been no maverick on the important things. He votes with Bush. He’s doing well, Biden is. Very forceful, good rhetoric.

22. Can you think of a single issue in which you were forced to change a long-held view in order to accommodate changed circumstances?

a. Biden: Talks about when he was really young. Refers to fight against Bork.

b. Times when I quasi-caved. But on major principle things, no—we always seem to find a way to work together.

23. Bipartisanship. How do you change the tone?

a. Biden: I believe McCain would acknowledge this: I have been able to work across the aisle.

b. Palin: Work with people regardless of party. I wish she wouldn’t bring up her “diverse” family … lots of people have those and it doesn’t make her special. But then maybe people like that.

24. Closing Statement

a. Palin: I like being able to speak to the American people, not filtered by the MSM. Good closing statement.

b. Biden: ... sorry, I got distracted.

No gaffes by Biden. Senator Biden had more substance, but Gov. Palin held her own on substance and she far outshined him in style. Neither of them answered every question directly. Sarah rocked tonight. Time for me to go to sleep!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Mushroom a Day II

We found these little orangey-capped shrooms on the trail Saturday evening.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Anniversary Hike with Hubster, Take 2

OK, for those of you (and you know who you are) who have been prevented by Big Brother from accessing anything on the Facebook site from a work computer, here's a short trip report, with some of the pictures I posted on Facebook.

The plan was to leave on Friday. I worked half a day at work, then came home, feeling a little down. The sky was gun-metal grey, and storms were expected all weekend. The very air felt heavy and weighted down with moisture. I don't mind hiking in the rain (really, I don't!), but I didn't want to spend our fifth anniversary weekend getting soaked and carrying wet gear.

What to do, what to do? My ultralight pack cover was nowhere to be found. We still needed to get batteries. And oh, but I was in a foul mood. Tired and cranky and ... yes, sometimes it sucks being a girl. Sweet Hubster ("Sheltowee" on the trail) would not be discouraged, though. He is a happy fellow, despite my occasional moodiness, and when I said I wanted to wait until the next day to leave, he was fine with it.

So I went back to work, got my forty hours in for the week, and headed home again.

We had a good evening, actually. We made our camp dinners (we had, after all, packed them for Friday's night's dinners, after dehydrating all kinds of veggies to go in them) and watched the presidential debate. We got to bed relatively early, since we would be hiking the next day.

It was still grey and foreboding the next day, but we were not to be deterred. I was no longer tired and cranky. I was ready to hike! We drove out to the Standing Indian Campground and started out on the Kimsey Creek Trail. We started hiking just after 10:00.

It was a pleasant little hike along the creek--lots of mushrooms to photograph.

Soon we went uphill ... and up ... and up. Next thing we knew, we'd hiked for an hour or more and were on a ridge ... hmm ... Sheltowee said, "I've hiked the Kimsey Creek Trail before. This ain't the Kimsey Creek Trail."

We realized where we were--on some connector trail far from the Kimsey Creek Trail, and not very close to where the Kimsey Creek Trail was supposed to take us: Deep Gap, and the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). But, we could take our current trail to a road ... which would take us, after a two-mile roadwalk, to Deep Gap. Let's go.

Sheltowee and I were happy as could be. We were hiking, it wasn't raining, and we were celebrating five years of marriage to our Mr. and Mrs. Right, respectively. So we didn't let a little thing like a detour get in our way. We spotted a cool little spider on our road walk.

Our feet were hurting from the road walk by the time we finally reached Deep Gap. We entered the Nantahala National Forest and hiked up to Standing Indian. It was nothing like I remembered it when I was there on my thru-hike. Then again, most of my memory of the southern part of the trail is little more than a blur of cold and snow and ice.

Coming out of Standing Indian Shelter (where we had our lunch break), we met a couple of guys from the Nantahala Hiking Club doing trail maintenance. We helped them carry a big fallen log. It just about killed my back. Note to self: Don't pick up big fallen logs, no matter how guilty you feel for not helping with trail maintenance.

We stopped several times on the hike to consider how far we should go. Carter Gap Shelter was the logical stopping place, but ... that would make for a 14-mile hike. After sitting at desk-jobs for weeks and weeks. Even though Sheltowee had hiked 800 miles this spring, and even though I am running 20+ miles a week these days, we still didn't feel like we were in sufficient hiking shape to do 14 miles on our first day out. Especially considering it would make for a 14-mile hike the next day.

What the heck. We hiked all the way to Carter Gap Shelter and still had daylight to spare. "We are bad mamma jammas," I said triumphantly. Sheltowee agreed. Fourteen miles in just over 8 hours. Not bad for a couple of desk-jobbers on their first day out.

Here's the "anniversary suite."

The old Carter Gap Shelter is still there, but there's a new one, and it's pretty nice. There was only one mouse living there, and the worst it did was steal the two buckeyes we had picked up on the trail earlier that day.

The next day was beautiful. Pale blue sky, just a few puffy white clouds. We had coffee and breakfast and hit the trail at about a quarter after nine. It was an "in-the-zone" day for hiking. The trail was gentle and smooth, and there were mushrooms everywhere. We took lots of mushroom pictures.

We also caught a great view somewhere between Betty Creek Gap and the climb up Albert Mountain.

Sheltowee had nightmarish memories of Albert Mountain from when he thru-hiked the A.T. northbound in 1999. He wondered, would it still be the hateful climb it had been before?

Yes, he said, after we made the climb. It was still a mean old butt-kicking climb. ("Those wimpy northbounders," I thought to myself. "Complaining about a little old uphill jaunt like Albert.")

The views were fantastic. There were several others on the summit of Albert, including a threesome who had met the previous year while thru-hiking. We chatted with them awhile, then went up the fire tower and took more pictures.

Here's the Sheltowee and me, happily married for five years:

And we hiked on. Easy, easy trail. ("Those wimpy northbounders," I thought to myself. "Complaining about how hard the A.T. is in North Carolina. Heck, we southbounders didn't get this much smooth trail until Vermont!")

We reached Rock Gap Shelter around 3:30 or 4:00 Sunday afternoon. Sheltowee had to use the privy, so we hiked down to the shelter and Sheltowee made a beeline (heh, heh) for the privy. Meanwhile, I found the waterlogged, mouse-gnawed shelter register and tried to read a few faded entries before I gave up. I walked around to the front of the shelter and noticed a note the size of an index card pinned to the front of the shelter. It was dated 8/31/08.

"Do NOT use the privy," it read. "There is a giant wasp nest in there."

I thought for a moment, then reasoned, "The Nantahala Hiking Club is an active hiking club. They are good trail maintainers. I bet they've gotten rid of that wasp nest by now."

But ... then they would have taken the note down ... right?

"HUBBIE!" I yelled, running toward the privy. "HUBBIE, get--"

Hubbie ran out, yelling, swatting himself. I have never seen him looking so ... panicked. I was panicked, too. "Get out of there! I yelled, grabbing his pack. "Come on! Run!"

He stood there, swatting. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he started to run back toward the shelter, cursing the whole way.

We flew up the side trail back to the A.T. Turns out Hubster got stung eight or ten times. (No, they didn't sting him on his butt, Mrs. Gwen.) I was scared he would suffer some sort of allergic reaction, but fortunately he didn't. Poor Sheltowee.

"Why didn't you run when you first came out of there?" I asked.

"I did run!"

Either he was in a sort of shock and couldn't think to run, or time was standing still for me and the "eternity" that he stood still, swatting, was really only a half-second. I think it was probably the latter.

On the two-mile walk back to the campground, we decided that this was one of those stories we would laugh about someday. Just not today. We were both happy that the stings hadn't swollen up and that they'd even ceased to hurt after a few minutes. My hubbie, he's a tough one.

We got back to the campground to complete what had become a 28.5-mile hike for the weekend. Our feet hurt, but we felt good. We were bad mamma jammas.

I think we're going hiking again next week.

Update: Sheltowee's evil attackers were white-faced, or bald-faced, hornets. (Attention, white-faced hornets: The evil intruder in your privy home was a white-faced, or bald-headed, Sheltowee. Har, har, har!)

Blogging Elsewhere

Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!