A cornucopia of things

Seattle
We are in Seattle (Lake City) at least until mid-July. We fled Texas to escape the heat. Jen found us a housesitting job.

Weather in Seattle is wonderful! It’s cold in the morning (60s) and warms up into the 70s during the day. There are no mosquitoes. The doors and windows of the house are open all day (and night). I can be out in the sun for hours and not get burnt. I burn in less than 40 minutes of Texas sun.

Honda Odyssey
We drove our new minivan up to Seattle. It is a 2004 Honda Odyssey. We got it last month with 26,000 miles. It is like new. It is so anti-Jetta. The Jetta is small, the Odyssey is not. The Jetta is frugal (35mph), the Odyssey is not (24). The Jetta begs to race down the backside of mountains at 120mph, the Odyssey says, “grow up, speed racer.” The Jetta is cute, the Odyssey is…is…practical. 534

The Jetta: Let’s DRIVE!
Odyssey: Let’s ride.

The Jetta: Go, Go, Go! Faster, faster, I can do it!
Odyssey: Hey, look at the pretty mountains and the cool morning air that I have conditioned to exactly 72° for your riding comfort. Would you like a massage with your soft cushy seats?

After driving 400 miles:
The Jetta: Stop? Why? I can go for 200 more miles on this tank!
Odyssey: I’m thirsty. Don’t you have to pee or something?

After looking at the pile of stuff to take for 6 weeks:
The Jetta: Where?
Odyssey: Is that it?

Things that would not have fit in the Jetta: 20″ iMac, crate full of rock climbing and camping gear, portable office (phones, routers, power adapters, etc), a really big bag of Kayla toys. It really was quite dramatic. We filled up the Odyssey with everything we wanted to bring and was still below the bottom of the windows.

Contrast that with our two weeks in Michigan over new years. The Jetta was packed to the gills with the roof rack on top and not an inch to spare anywhere.

Junior 2.0
We had Junior’s big ultrasound yesterday. Junior appears to be very healthy. In fact, Junior is quite vigorous, refusing to hold still for the ultrasound technician. She claimed never to have seen such an active fetus. There were a couple images she simply could not get because Junior refused to hold still. After 15 minutes trying to get a particular shot, in frustration she held the probe still and said, “Look at this, I’m holding this still and he is just going and going!”

Junior’s mommy was not the least bit surprised. Kayla was an active baby and we had nicknamed her “Dances in Womb.” Junior is hyperactive and seldom pauses. Junior is more like “Spastic Bounces Off Walls.” His activity level is almost constant. Many things about this pregnancy are different than the last, but of course, every pregnancy is different. The nausea that abated in the second trimester last time has not. Other little things are different. We had our suspicions.

As the technician probed, daddy and Kayla watched. I asked, “Did I just see what I thought I saw?” The technician slid a knowing grin and continued. She paused, and froze the screen. There it was again, and this time she caught it before Junior swam away. Junior is sporting the goods.

Workin’ for the man
The day after we arrived in Seattle, I got the phones set up and then they rang. A certain mega-sized monopolistic computer software corporation (MSMCSC) based in Redmond, Washington wanted my assistance. Oddly, they had no idea I was only a few miles away. So, I am finishing up a one week consulting project with, guess who?

On The Road

We’re in Kansas. Bye bye Texas, Oklahoma is in the rear view mirror, and Colorado is in the near future.

9:45AM 26,543 – Depart Home
10:34AM 26,590 12.726G $34.60
12:41PM 26,734 6.018G $15.64 23.9mpg(1)
3:17PM Kansas Turnpike $1.50 (3)
6:27PM 27,097 15.203G $41.34 23.9mpg(2)
10:30PM 27,436 Arrival in Denver
12H:45M 893m 33.947G $91.58

Leg #1 stats: 893 miles in 12.75 hours = 70mph avg. speed(4)
Economy = 23.9mpg.

Notes:
(1) speeds driven on this tank were less than 70mph.
(2) speed varied between 70 and 80mph.
(3) Drove through a “brown out” where high winds and dust limited visibility to 20′.
(4) Faster speeds on the two latter tankfuls helped make up for extra stops for Kayla to play in the grass and stretch.

Making a splash

A nice thing our school does is include an activity fee with our tuition. I’m not speaking in a facetious manner, I actually mean it. For $55 per semester, we get a membership at a gym located a couple blocks from the school. Normal membership costs more than $55 per month so it’s a bargain. It is also one of the nicest fitness center I’ve seen.

Last semester, Kevan (my carpool buddy) and I began going in early to use the gym. They have a wading pool with six lanes and a full length swim pool with eight lanes. After spending a few mornings running on one of the dozens of machines, my knees reminded me how much they detest it so I began spending more time in the pool.

I can swim but it’s anything but graceful. In fact, it’s much like my skiing. I’m wild enough to jump off any double black diamond slope, Continue reading “Making a splash”

Why I love technology

Today we drove from Cadillac, MI to Nashville, TN. It should have taken 10 hours, but it took eleven. We are quite thankful to have only been delayed by an hour, and we owe those thanks to technology. As we cruised through Indianapolis, I glimpsed a flashing sign that said something like “accident on SB I-65, closed at mile 50, seek alternate route”. The 50 mile marker was a good hour away so I cruised onward. We scanned the AM frequency several times looking for more traffic info and found nothing.

Once out of Indianapolis, I used my laptop and cellular Internet connection to Google “I-65 accident Indiana” and got no results. It hadn’t made the news wire yet so the flashing sign back in Indianapolis was the only clue that something was amiss. At mile marker 55, I noticed brake lights and a two lane parking lot where the Interstate should be. I noticed it just in time to catch an off ramp.

Southern Indiana consists of narrow single lane roads and lots of corn fields. We followed the traffic for a while on the most obvious alternate route. As the miles long procession crawled along, it became obvious that it was going to take a very long time (hours) to make it to the next freeway ramp. This is where technology saved the day.

Thanks to a GPS receiver and Route 66 (my mapping software) I had complete maps of the area, and I knew exactly where we were. I veered away from traffic and charted a course through the corn fields down country back roads scarcely a lane wide. My alternate route ended up being about 10 miles longer than the other option but was largely untraveled and much faster.

Today on I-65, motorists fell into four camps. The tragic were involved in the accident. The unfortunate didn’t see the warning sign(s) nor the sea of brake lights until they were stuck in miles of parked cars. The fortunate motorists detoured early, or got lucky and were able to get off the freeway. Of the fortunate, only the enlightened few had suitable maps of the area, or knew the area well enough to get through with only a minor setback. We were through Kentucky and into Tennessee before the State Troopers hoped to get traffic moving.

It wasn’t until late this evening that information became available. At about 9:30AM, a car had a blowout. A truck driver swerved and lost control of his truck. He crossed the median and Southbound lanes and was killed when his truck collided with a guard rail. At 3pm traffic was backed up at least 5 miles. Police hoped to have the scene cleared and traffic moving by 6PM.

Today, we were fortunate. Alert driving spotted the backup, luck provided an exit ramp, and technology allowed us to navigate through the corn fields and back to the freeway.

rogue waves

To myself, an inexperienced boater, I find the prospect of rogue waves fascinating. Violent water is “typical” in many areas (Cape Horn, Cape Hatteras, etc) and is expected there. There are geographic reasons such as underwater topography, tides, and other factors that create to turbulent water. Other reasons for huge waves is simply weather patterns, particularly storms. Within the class of violent weather is a class of waves known as freak, or rogue waves.

Only recently have scientists begun to understand their frequency, and the more they learn about them, the more light becomes shone on past events. They are closer now to having plausible explanations for things that defy a simple explanation, like the unexplained disappearances of 200 ocean going ships, and the Bermuda triangle. However, there is much still to be understood about rogue waves.

Many scientists believe that there may be as many as 2 to 10 of these rogue waves generated each year. The 965′ ocean liner Norwegian Dawn had just weathered out a storm through the night and as dawn broke and the seas calmed, a 70 foot wave arrived and blasted the ship. The captain of the ship had 20 years of ocean going experience and had never seen anything like it.

Although sailing through the storm may not have been the wisest choice (it tends to make passengers “uncomfortable”), navigating his ship through a violent storm and a 70′ wave with only a couple broken windows to show for it a remarkable achievement. My hearty congratulations to the captain. Many a ship has simply disappeared under such conditions.

Volleyball Championship

Jen and I have been playing an indoor co-ed volleyball league all winter. We wrapped up the season last month and our team had a good season, ending up as third of twelve teams. As soon as the season ended, we badgered the league’s organizer to make sure our bracket (the top level) played as early in the tournament as possible due to Jen’s pregnancy. The first tournament date was April 10th, so we spent most of Sunday playing volleyball.

So, we played our best and won the tournament, right? Not exactly. We started out playing much as we had all season, which is to say, competent, but not well. The tournament was double elimination so we started by winning our first game, and then losing the next two. Losing our first match set us up for the long road through the losers bracket before we could get a chance to play the top team for the winners seat.

After losing our first match, we started fighting, a little. Our lot in life was knocking all the other teams out of the tournament by handing them their second defeat. Our next couple matches were difficult. We played three games in each match, losing one but narrowly winning two games. Simply put, we played just well enough to avoid ultimate defeat. However, during those first three matches, we slowly began achieving something we hadn’t achieved all season, synergy. As the day went on, our team play got better and better.

Late in the day, we had earned our right to battle against the top team. Their first match was a bye so they were well rested, having played no more than 6 games in their two matches. We got to watch them play one game. Comparatively, we had already played 11 games in 4 matches. That’s what I mean by “the long road” through the losers bracket. We would have to beat the top team twice, meaning at least 4 and possibly six more games.

Having watched them, we identified their biggest threat and devised a plan to control him. Our plan was simple. Their big hitter was super fast, with an explosive attack to the net. We watched for it early and double blocked both their hitters on every swing. Here was the critical difference. As contrasted to our regular season blocking, our blocking matured dramatically during the tournament. It wasn’t just one of us blockers that got better, nearly every one of us did. Karl, Rhonda, Eric, and I all stepped up our blocking and put the smack-down on the hitters. We started it in our third match, employed it well during the fourth, and by the time we got to our fifth and sixth matches against the top team, we used it so well that we effectively shut down their offensive weapons.

As we kept blocking, their big guns were pulling back off the net, hitting from mid-court, and doing a lot more placement instead of big swings. We had one team shut us down mercilessly in regular season by blocking our every hit. This time I got to watch the block from our side and I’m beginning to understand just how critical the block at the net is. An effective block forces their offense to settle for a less intense attack. It’s easier for us to defend and get up a good pass to the setters. As our passes improved, our setting picked up, and so did our hitting. Our little guns were credible weapons and our big guns pounded them relentlessly.

We won the first match in 2 successive games. We didn’t just beat them, we demoralized them. In the second match, they commented, “maybe we should just sit over on the bleachers and watch you finish up.” The very same ladies that fed Jay set after set when he subbed in for them during the regular season were ready to pronounce him one of the devil’s own for pounding so many successive balls at them. “It’s not all about power”, they’d snide. They were feeling helpless, and we were riding the tides of victory. Our last 4 games were our easiest, and we won them by substantial margins.

We played from 1 to 7PM, with only one break between our first and second matches. We closed out the day by winning our 15th and final game, handing the 4th consecutive defeat to the leagues top rated team. For me, the victory was bigger than the tournament. I saw us achieve a level of unity our team had lacked all year, and we all played our best, together.

Home sweet home.

St. John is a getaway destination. In that sense, it’s a wonderful place to go. We got off to a great start, exploring and adapting to the surrounding. We woke up early each morning at 10. We explored the beaches and snorkeled around the island, hanging out with lobsters, barracudas, sea turtles, and octopuses. The biggest worry was making sure our belly got as much sun as our backs got while snorkeling.

However, in the latter few days, the wonderfulness got rubbed off. One must understand that even paradise has rainy days. The clouds and wind can block the gorgeous views but we also had a wonderful place to hang out and wait for the sun to return. We had all the creature comforts one could want. We were managing just fine until a cold decided to plague us and from it there was no escape.

We had been looking for a “Matt & Jen update” photo moment and Jen suggested putting the master suite back in order. The photo would be us sitting in the middle of the room, looking as miserable as we felt with all our used Kleenex blanketing the surrounding area. The caption would read: “Wish you were here.” I thought it was a good idea but we couldn’t summon the energy to do anything about it.

Our colds are now reduced to minor congestion. Our flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids was cancelled last night so we got a cab ride from O’Hare to GRR. We arrived home 8 hours later than expected (8:00AM). Combine the travel fatigue with recovery from the colds and we’re wiped out. A couple of solid nights of sleep will fix us right up. Tomorrow will be a brighter day.

Pleasant surprise

Oh happy day. We’re sitting in Puerto Rico and Sprint has good coverage here. Now, if there is also coverage when we land in St. John, I’ll be oh so pleased. 🙂 My Sprint data connection is much better than suffering with dialup.

Off to St. John, Virgin Islands

It’s 7:54AM and we’re already in Chicago, having completed the first leg of our flights to St. Thomas. Flight info is as follows:

GRR -> ORD American Eagle #4152
ORD -> San Juan, PR – AA # 1367
San Juan -> St. Thomas, VI – AA #5136
Cab to Red Hook Ferry to St. Johns (Cruz Bay)

Returning Jan 18th:
St. Thomas -> San Juan – AA #5141
San Juan -> ORD – AA #658
ORD -> GRR – American Eagle #4171

Our phone number there is: 340-777-1053