Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Our friend J is really smart

G, our friend J, and I went backpacking in Tennessee over the long weekend. There were a lot of high points - seeing a bear, getting a new tent, not sustaining any major injuries, enjoying the view of Watuaga Lake from the trail, not getting rained on (unlike last time). However, my favorite story has nothing to do with the hike at all.

We drove up on Thursday night and camped on the carport at G's brother K's place. We spent Friday with K and his family (you might remember our niece and nephew, M and D). It was such a nice day. We didn't have any plans, which was great. My sister-in-law* made delicious meals for us (including square bagels for breakfast), we toured all their home projects (and boy, can we relate), we played games (I can proudly say that I won my first game of chess ever against my seven year old niece), and we just hung out.

At one point, G and I were laying on the couch with M. Our friend J, who had not met this part of G's family before, walked into the room. He was going to look at the guidebook to learn more about our upcoming hike route. As he walked under the ceiling fan, he reached up and pulled the chain to turn on the light.

M looked over at us and said, in an awed tone, "J knows everything about fans."

G and I lost it. J hadn't heard what she said, and I almost couldn't repeat it because I was laughing so hard. It really gave me the giggles.

And that was the highlight of the trip.

*I don't typically use "in law" terminology because I feel like it's a little alienating or formal or something. However, sister-in-law is much easier than G's brother's wife, which just sounds weird, like maybe I've never met her.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Turned tables

A friend of a friend (I'll call him C) is getting ready to take the dental school entrance exam. We were out one night, and as often happens when you've had a beer or two, the conversation turned to math. And not just any math - nerdy math. As in, "So how would you define all odd numbers? Would it be 2x - 1? Why does it have to be 2x?" That was C; I got all excited by the mention of a variable and began explaining why multiplying x by 2 was necessary for a proper definition.

So, yeah, in case you didn't know, I'm a total math nerd. My dream job would be solving math problems all day.* It's better than Sudoku.

Anyway, he was impressed with my enthusiasm (at one point I actually drew out a diagram on a bar napkin) and asked if I would help him with the math section of the dental exam.

Our first session was last weekend, and he was a joy to teach. We were doing some practice problems he had a hard time with on his own. I was explaining the techniques I would use to solve them, and then we were solving them together. When we would get to the end of the problem, he would invariably give me some sort of positive feedback.

"Nice job!"
"Good one!"
"That was awesome!"

I'm usually the one giving the encouragement to students, not the other way around. It was very nice. I left feeling really smart. Maybe I should require that kind of feedback of my students.

I know what I need - a tip jar.

* If you know of a job like that, let me know. I'd really like to have it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Walkie - TALKIE

G and I went to Target last night. Before we began shopping, I used the restroom (not as a sort of ritual or anything - I just needed to go). I dried my hands and started to walk out, past a Target worker who was at the sink. As I walked past her she started giggling. I of course thought she was laughing at me since I was the only other person in the room. Do I have toilet paper trailing from my shoe?

I turned to look at her and she said, "Oh, I'm just laughing at what they're saying on the walkie."

She was wearing a headset that presumably was attached to an in-store communication system. I'm not sure if you call that a walkie-talkie, but I'm totally sure you don't call it a walkie.

I gave her a half smile to indicate that I understood. As I exited the restroom, she began giggling again and talking to herself under her breath.

Technology seems to give people a license to behave in ways that would cause them to be labelled "crazy" if they didn't have some device strapped to their head. Don't get me started on i-pods and cell phones. And now I have to add walkie to that list.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The answering machine in my office is one that talks to you between messages. The digital voice (male) tells you how many messages you have, whether the messages are new or old, and what time a particular message was left. It also gives instructions on how to erase messages.

To erase a message, you push the button marked "erase." Then the voice says, "To erase all messages press erase again." Right after you push "erase" the second time, the machine says, "No messages remaining."

The pause between no and messages is so long that the first couple (dozen) times I heard this, I thought the answering machine was telling me that I couldn't erase those messages. Like maybe it wasn't allowed.

Today I also heard it say, "No new messages." Again with the long pause. Someone should have ironed this out before this machine hit the market. Such a negative vibe.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Runners up

Well, we didn't win last night. We ended up with second place. Or as our trophy says, "Runner-up."

We beat the first team we played, and then we beat the second team we played. Unfortunately, since this was a double-elimination tournament, you had to lose twice to be knocked out. That second team we played hadn't lost yet (they're the team that put us in the loser's bracket), which meant that in order to win the tournament, we had to play them again.

We just didn't have it in us. We had beaten them easily in the first match, but while they were just warming up by the second match, we were shutting down.

It was disappointing, but we're looking forward to next season.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Wish us luck!

Tonight is the last night of our volleyball tournament. We lost last week, which put us in the loser's bracket. That means that we have to win three matches (two out of three games each) in order to win the whole thing. We think we'll have to play all three of those matches tonight. We're going to be tired puppies.

We really want to win. It's just for fun, but it's so much more fun when we win.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Public speaking 101

We had a seminar at work today. The speaker gave a long (over an hour) unorganized talk on a variety of subjects that didn't necessarily fit into a neat package. His transitions weren't smooth, and it was unclear how the various stories related to each other, if at all.

The most notable thing about his, talk, however, was the fact that his laser pointer was always on. During the whole talk. He would look at the projected slide and use the laser for emphasis. If there was a picture, he might point to something on it. If it was just text, he would wiggle it around on the slide randomly. When his gaze would move back toward the audience, the laser would drift off the slide - to the walls, the ceiling, the audience.

Note to self: Use laser pointer for emphasis only. Do not blind audience members.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I mentioned that our campout last weekend was at a National Guard base. One of the activities the older girls got to do was rappelling (that definitely looks like it's spelled wrong, but I checked). In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I saw it described as "essentially sliding down [a] rope in a controlled (!) manner."

The girls have rappelled every year for as long as I've been a leader, but I haven't gotten to try it before - the first few
years because my girls weren't old enough to do it, and more recently because I've been in charge of some other area of programming for the weekend.

But this year, I got to rappel!

We rappelled off a tall tower. There was a wall about 70 feet tall, with a platform above it. The picture to the right is actually the tower we were on. The wall we used is on the left side in that picture.

To rappel, the Army rappel master hooks a rope to your harness. You stand at the edge of the platform with your heels over the edge. You lean back, leading with your butt until the rope is tight and you are in an L-shape (like the guys in the picture - that's also the tower we were on). Then you start letting out rope and walking down the wall. You can also let out rope and jump off the wall.

Because I'm an adult, I was last in line. This weekend was about the girls, you know. I had watched many girls have a hard time with it. The hardest part is the leaning back. All the girls that got that far made it down the wall, although some did it in tears. Several girls didn't make it to the leaning back.

So as I said, I was last in line, and time was of the essence since the goal was to let everyone do it twice - once on the wall and once on the "skid" (you can see it on the left of the second picture - it's the bottom of a helicopter). While I expected to be nervous about it, I didn't really have time to be. I just got up there, got hooked in, put my heels of the edge, leaned back, and headed down the wall.

It was a lot of fun. I took a few steps down the wall, but then I jumped the rest of the way. That was the best part. The bad part is that it's over so fast. 70 feet flies by a lot faster than you'd think.

All of my girls tried it. Only one didn't make it down, and all but two did it twice. I was proud of them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

No food in the barracks

I took five of my Girl Scouts camping this past weekend. The event was open to all troops in our county, and it took place at a nearby National Guard base. I used the term "camping" loosely. We were not roughing it very much. Our meals were prepared for us and served in the dining hall, which was right across the street from our air conditioned barracks.

There are many rules to follow when you are staying at a military facility. One of the most emphasized rules is "no food in the barracks." On Saturday afternoon, my girls forgot this rule, and started eating trail mix in their beds. I heard the crunching and immediately reminded them of the rule. They quickly complied.

Later, as my girls observed the troop sleeping next to us eating trail mix with reckless abandon, they asked me why they couldn't eat when everyone else was. Fair question. I explained that it was a rule, and we were going to follow it. They didn't argue with me (because they are awesome!).

We woke up Sunday morning and started packing our stuff up to leave. As the neighboring troop rolled out of bed, the reason for the no food rule became clear.

There were ants everywhere.

Evidently the girls had left bags of trail mix all over the place. The ants had found all of it. They were on the floor, in duffel bags, on beds, and in sleeping bags. The girls were freaking out!

I looked at my girls and we shared a knowing smile. I think the no food rule will be questioned no more.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Go fly a kite

G has wanted a kite for a while. Ever since he shot his out of the sky with a BB gun as a kid. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I bet it was fun, but it left him kiteless.

G and I have gotten into the pleasant habit of riding our bikes to yard sales on Saturday mornings. Saturday before last, we hit the jackpot kite-wise. They had not one, but two kites. At $3 each, we figured we could spring for both. Thus began the (insert our last name here) Kite Adventures.

Our first day out was a little challenging. We only took one of the kites (the one that was labelled "sport kite," of course, the other one being rather ordinary in comparison) to simplify things. It took us a few minutes to get it up in the air, but once we did, oh my goodness, the fun.

This kite is a blast. It has two strings and two handles, and you steer it by pulling on the handles. It goes very fast (I'm sure that depends on the wind speed), and you can make it swoop and dive and twist and turn and all kinds of cool stuff. It's very exciting.

That's G flying the kite our first time out.

The second time we took it out, tragedy struck. Evidently, the wind was just too strong, and one of the strings snapped. Luckily, the second string held, so we didn't lose the kite. We just had to stop kiting for the evening.

I stopped by our local kite store (yes, all they sell are kites) to buy replacement string. $17!!! That seems a little steep for two pieces of string, but at this point, we're hooked. The guy at the store said a kite like ours would sell for about $40, so we've still only paid half retail.

The third time out, the wind was the strongest yet, and when it was my turn, I left skid marks on the ground as the kite pulled me away. I was shrieking with a combination of surprise and alarm (your hands are attached to the strings, so you can't let go), and I'm sure G was laughing as he chased me down. Luckily, the kite soon took a nose-dive to the ground, which stopped both the kite and me.

We are having a ball with our new hobby. Good thing we found something to keep ourselves busy. You know us, always just laying around.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The sell-out

We have officially sold out to the Man. Today we got cable and internet service installed in our home. Next we'll be renting movies from Blockbuster instead of the library and buying furniture from a real store instead of acquiring it from friends and family. We're turning into a couple of suckers.

Actually, it's not as bad as all that. The lack of internet at home had become a bit of hardship for G. Since he drives about 45 minutes to work everyday, he sometimes likes to work at home. The library is close, but it is also filled with homeless people who don't always respect the library rules (bringing dogs in with them, eating potato chips loudly and crinkling the bag unnecessarily, and yelling at old women).

It turns out that we could get basic cable with our internet for only an additional $5 a month. And that's basic with a capital B. I think we just get the same channels we get with rabbit ears plus C-SPAN. But we thought it was worth $5 to be able to see the expressions on the faces of the people on TV and to read the fine print during infomercials.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about our new hobby (it's not surfing the internet from the comfort of our own home).