Saturday, March 29, 2008

It Hurts To Workout

Oh man it is so hard getting back on the erging bandwagon. I haven't worked out in over three weeks due to my infection. Now that the miracle that is modern science and antibiotics have seemingly cured me, it was time to start working out again. Can I say that erging after a three week lay off is really hard. At least if you're old like me. I did a 5,000 meter piece yesterday. It was gruelling and my time was a major suck. I tried another 5,000 meter this morning and while I took 32 seconds off Friday's time, it was still a pretty sucky time compared to what I had been pulling. Just goes to show how bad Friday really was. I've truly lost all my endurance. Lack of wind leads to major breaks in form which equals sucky times. I know from previous lay offs that my endurance will come back pretty quickly if I keep at it. Tomorrow's erg class will help. I'll need it as I can start sculling again in just five days. I don't want to embarrass myself on the water by stopping every five minutes to catch my breath. Now all we need is some warm weather and low winds. The last thing I want to do is flip a single on a cold day in 50 degree water. Not that I've done that, of course.

Why I'm envious of my kids. Daughter#2 just returned from two weeks in England and Scotland. Daughter#1 just finished her big trade show in Philadelphia (pictures to follow I'm told) and is now sitting on the beach in Cocoa Beach, FL with her boyfriend. What is wrong with these pictures I ask you? Maybe I need to be a kid again.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Golden Arches

It's a sad day in the world of fast food. The inventor of the Egg McMuffin, the McDonalds almost perfect fast food breakfast delight, past away today. Herb Peterson was 89.

My start in the business world, such as it was, was working at McDonalds. So much has changed from when I started working there at the tender age of 16. When I worked at McDonalds, it was a drive in. Not as we know drive ins today. There were no speakers and no drive up window. You drove to the McDonalds, got out of your car and walked inside to order and get your food. Then you left. There were no tables. No place to sit. You ate in your car or took it home. In those days working at McDonalds was actually considered cool. It ranked up their with being a lifeguard as the two best summer jobs you could have. It was also a men's only job. No women worked at McDonalds. The menu was also much simpler. Just hamburgers, cheeseburgers, double hamburgers and double cheeseburgers, fish sandwiches, fries, soft drinks, apple pies and milkshakes. That was it. I started in french fries. The fries were made by hand. They didn't come frozen in boxes like they do today. We had these huge 100 pound sacks of potatoes that had to be hauled up from the basement, peeled, sliced and blanched. Since I weighed about 125 pounds at the time, manhandling these sacks of potatoes was quite an effort. And the smell - OMG. Some bags would start to rot before we got to them and the stink down in the basement where they were stored would make your eyes water. Of course being around all that grease that we fried the potatoes in did wonders for my sensitive teen skin. I think I still have some blocked pores from working there. I never developed the speed to work the grill. There was an art to be able to cook twenty-four hamburgers at a time and cook them without either burning the hell out of them or leaving them pink inside. I eventually worked my way up to working the registers in my second year and opening up in the mornings (no breakfast items back in the day). During the two years I worked at a McDonalds, they did introduce the Big Mac. We got to eat for free on our breaks and we consumed Big Macs by the dozen. To this day, I cannot eat a Big Mac. I got to where the taste would make me gag. They also started hiring women after I had been there about a year. At first they would only hire "mature" women. You know, women your Mother's age. I'm not sure what that was all about. I left before teen girls ever worked there. I earned barely the minimum wage, which back then was like $1.50 an hour. I also had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to and from school. Actually I liked working there. It was mostly just weekends during the school year and more full time during the summer. It gave me walking around money, which is all I really needed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting Ready To Row

Saturday I was in meetings from 8:30 to 1:30 making preparations for the upcoming rowing season. I belong to two different rowing clubs, hence the need to attend two different meetings that just happen to fall on the same date. I find these meetings both interesting and boring all at the same time. This is my sixth year as a Board Member for my sweep rowing club. I'm the treasurer so for these early year meetings, I mostly deal with setting up the budget and finalizing the fee structure for the coming year. Actually that part is fairly easy and usually my numbers aren't seriously challenged. Some of the other topics, like who will coach, what regattas we will attend, etc., lord we can talk a subject to death. While this makes for interesting subject matter as we set our goals for the coming year, after about 30 minutes about whether we will or will not attend a certain regatta, my eyes start to glass over. It's all good when we finally pull it all together and get out on the water, but getting there is not half the fun. My second meeting, at the club I scull with, lasted about a third of the time of my earlier meeting. Part of the reason is it was a general membership meeting and was held out of doors. It wasn't freezing, but it was windy and you needed to stand in the sunlight to stay comfortable. It had to be one of the most informal membership meetings I've been to. Considering this club sometimes had some, lets say interesting moments, fighting over what the by laws said about voting for Board Members and who could vote, it was a bit surprising. Our new lady president was all but drafted and voted in without opposition. Lets hope she has a good year. I was surprised to see so many high school rowers there at Sandy Run when I arrived around noon. I thought maybe that there had been a regatta that morning, but I was told, no, just a lot of practicing. I guess as the season approaches they are trying to get as much on water time as possible. One of our members also is involved with the Northern Virginia Park Authority, of which the Sandy Run Rowing facility is part. He discussed plans for a new finish line facility for the judges and timers and how they were holding a wine tasting as a fund raiser. The wine tasting sounds like fun, but it's in Vienna, which is not exactly convenient for me if I'm going to be tasting wines, but it was a nice thought. He also mentioned that the plans for the finish line stand is estimated at $140,000. Now that seems a bit steep. For that price that better be getting High Def Finish Line cameras and monitors, Internet access and a cappuccino machine.

On Sunday my usual erg class was cancelled, it being Easter and all, not to mention Spring break in the county, and we're not godless heathens, at least most of the time. Ann and I did attend Mass in the morning so I feel blessed and all. Most of the day was spent watching college basketball and watched my brackets further go into the toilet. I loved that Davidson beat Georgetown though. I just wished I had seen more of the comeback. I had turned the game off figuring with Georgetown up by 16 in the second half, the game was over. When The Son showed up for Easter dinner, he wanted to watch the games so I turned the TV back on and, lo, Davidson was up by 5 and went on to win the game. Teach me to be a warm weather fan. After the game we sat down and enjoyed a lovely lamb dinner prepared by Ann and I didn't managed to burn my hand on the pan the mashed potatoes were in that Ann had keep warm in the oven. Would have been nice to know. Hope you and yours had a Happy Easter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Day for Doctors

I love my Fridays off although today was spent dealing with one type of Doctor or another. Rosie had an appointment to have her teeth cleaned. Since dogs need to be out under, she had to fore go her breakfast this morning. She was not pleased with that at all. We dropped her off bright and early around 7:00. I had an appointment of my own with a surgeon at Georgetown Hospital to see what was going on with my skin infection. The infection seems to have started at one of the incision sites for a labaroscopic surgery I had a few years back to correct a hiatal hernia. The surgeon that originally did the surgery examined me and his opinion it was unrelated to the surgery since they leave no permanent stitches at that particular area. His opinion was it was a small cyst causing the problem. We'll have to wait until the infection clears for a final diagnosis. A bonus for having to drive into the District was being able to see crew teams practicing on the Potomac in the morning sun.
After my appointment we headed home and did some grocery shopping. I also went shopping on my own (I know!) and picked up some new underwear. Mine was in desperate need of replacing.
The rest of the day was spent watching basketball or taking a nap. Naps are way underrated. The Vet called around 2:00 to say they were finished with Rosie, that all had gone well and that she was just coming around. We finally picked her up at 5:00 and seemed none the worse for wear despite having a few teeth removed. She'll be on painkillers for a few days. Good drugs.
Hope your Good Friday was a good one.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Madness Returns

Today marks the start of March Madness or as it is known as the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. I've filled out the obligatory bracket (just one) and signed up at CBS Sprts.Com to have the ability to watch games on my computer lest the game I really want to see is not the one being shown on local TV. As good as all this is, I'm not nearly as excited about the Tournament as i was last year. The only reason I can think of is that The Son isn't at home and there is no one to really argue the merits of who will win, who will be this year's George Mason and which Number One seed will be the first to go. Ann doesn't quite fit this niche even though she enjoys watching sports quite a bit. It's one the reasons I married her. Maybe my enthusiasm will grow as we get into the games themselves. if i can mange it, I'll try and scan my brackets and post it here.

We've had two nice days in a row now with the temperature hovering around 70. The grass is getting so green, the daffodils are blooming and the flowering trees are a bloom. It's beginning to give me a case of spring fever. I'm dying to get out on the Occoquan and row and out on the W&OD Trail and ride my bike. I just need the stars to align right to have the nice weather hit on a weekend rather than during the week. Speaking of rowing, the high school and college teams are out on the Occoquan in full force. I know George Mason held one of their two regattas this past weekend. The finish line for the race course is not that far, as the crow flies, from my house and I can hear the announcements and also the crowds as the boats approach the finish line. Makes me want to get out on the water even more. One of the two rowing clubs I belong (the sculling one) to will have its annual membership meeting on Saturday at noon. The other club (sweep rowing), which I am an club officer, is holding a planning meeting that same morning. It will be a day of meetings. The first club will start allowing singles out on their own starting 1 April, less than two weeks away. Last year I mananged just over 200 miles sculling. I'd like to see if I can manage 250 this year.

Tomorrow we are dropping our dog Rosie off to get her teeth cleaned. It's something we've neglected and in a small way hastened Winnies demise. I'm sure she'll hate it, but in the end it's for her own good. No one likes the Dentist, even if your Dentist is the Vet.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Home Again Home Again

The world travelers are now at home. We picked them up at the airport, although a good ninety minutes late. US Airways kept up their splended record for flight delays. They were due in from Philly at 7:00, but didn't actually arrive until 8:30. We had planned to take them out to dinner after they landed so by 8:30 everyone was starving. Daughter#2 opted to eat at Noodles and Company at Pentagon Row. Apparently she needed a noodle fix after two weeks of English/Scottish fare. We didn't get home until almost 11:00. By then Daughter#2 and The Son In Law had been up for over twenty-four hours having left for Glasgow at 3:30 in the morning GMT. If they could sum up their trip in one word, that word would be wet. This scene was not atypical of many of their days.

They did get in a lot of hiking. There was 27 in their group and unlike I had imagined, most of the time they were free to plan and take off on their own hikes. A picture from the top of Fairfield Horseshoe Hike.

Another picture from one of their hikes.

One thing you can say about the Lake District, it certainly is picturesque.
As I had mentioned in an earlier entry, after their hiking adventure, they traveled north to visit relatives in Largs, Scotland.

Here is a picture of The Pencil in Largs. It commemorates a Scottish victory over Vikings many centuries ago.

One of the required places to visit in Scotland is Edinburgh Castle. Daughter#2 had been there before, but since this was The Son In Law's first visit to our ancestorial home, they made the trip.

I have also mentioned here occasionally, that Daughter#2 was quite the soccer player in her day and she still has an interest in it. Through e-mails with our relatives in Largs prior to their visit, Daughter#2 expressed an interest in catching a game while in country. Madeline came through for her big time. She scored two tickets so they traveled to Glasgow to Celtic Park to watch the Celtic FC play Dundee.

Celtic is in the Green and White.

Apparently the match ended up ina 0-0 tie. But there was Guinness to drink before and after the game. I'm very envious.

Daughter#2 and The Son In Law returned to their home on Saturday after a night's rest. Daughter#2 was nice enough to cook everyone breakfast. For some reason, I couldn't get back to sleep after waking up at 5:00 and Gracie was whining to go out, so she and I went on a 2.5 mile walk before breakfast. After they packed up and headed home, Ann and I just watched basketball games for the rest of the day. The house seemed very quiet with Gracie gone. After a long Palm Sunday Mass (Vigil) in the evening, we headed out for pizza. When we got home, I spent a lot of the evening uploading Daughter#2's photos of their trip.
Sunday was just for laying around and doing some chores. We did watch Michael Clayton in the afternoon, which seemed a bit slow at times, but all came together in the end. There wasn't anything on Sunday on TV that appealed to me, so I did some rowing club work and then turned in.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Home Again

Daughter#2 and her husband have landed in Philadelphia and we'll be leaving for Washington National to pick them up from the connecting flight from Philadelphia. It hardly seems possible they've been gone for two weeks. They sent us one group of pictures and I'm sure they'll have more for us when we see them. I'll post a few for your entertainment.

Babysitting Gracie has been pretty easy and a lot less stressful then I originally thought. Watching a young lab is not quite the same as being with two elderly schnauzers. Having her here did help us with Winnie's passing though so we're happy for that. She's been pretty well behaved except for the last day or so. Almost as if she knows Mom and Dad are coming and she can't really be punished that much.
Case in point - She started sleeping not only on our bed but right against my pillows. A definite no-no. Then yesterday she managed to chew up a pair of my shoes. How cute. Not. Here is the Demon sleeping after her shoe snack.

But then Rosie also helped herself to Gracie's bed.
I haven't been able to erg at all this week since Sunday. I picked up a skin infection that is quite painful. I'm on antibiotics, but it looks really bad. As anyone who suffers from eczema will tell you, sooner or later you'll develop a skin infection. Eczema suffers tend to be walking staph factories so it's only a matter of time. Usually it takes the antibiotics a few days to really kick in. I can hardly wait.

Also congratulations to Daughter#1, who won an award at work for her performance. Keep up the good work!

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Fast Weekend

I have no idea where the weekend went, but it seemed to fly right on by. Saturday I woke up a good deal later than usual, about 8:30. I was wiped out and need the extra hour or so as I was up way to late on Fridnay night. It seemed to make for a short morning and we were out the door by 11:30 to grab some lunch at Friday's before hitting Target and Giant and then heading home. It was 3:30 by the time we got home. What took so long?

After the rain on Friday and Saturday morning, the sun came out and the temperature reached the mid 60s. When we got home and unpacked (still no jeans), we harnessed up the dogs and headed out for a walk. We were out about 10 minutes before the clouds rolled back in and it started to rain again. The temperature then dropped about 20 degrees in two hours and the wind started howling with gusts up to 40 mph. Ah March in Virginia. After running the dogs back through the rain, we just settled in front of the TV to watch George Mason top Northeaster in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament quarterfinals. We then dashed off to Mass came home and ate dinner and then crawled into bed by 9:00. We're party animals, I tell you.

Sunday I woke up and looked at the clock and was surprsied that it was 8:15 already. Sleeping in two days in a row was stranage indeed. It wasn't until I stumbled dowstairs to grab my Coke and breakfast bar that it dawned on me that Ann ahad already set our clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time. I felt a little better, but missed the extra sleep. I made my erg class at 11:00 and got in 10,500 meters. I felt it the rest of the day. I just felt out of sorts all day, almost flu like symptoms. I was cold all the time and felt achey. After the class, I fixed Ann and I some Taylor Ham sandwhiches and toast and then settled in for a day of basketball. We watched all or part of VA Tech vs Clemson, William and Mary vs Virginia Commonwealth, Goerge Mason vs UNC - Wilmington and Maryland vs Virginia. Most were entertaining although the MD vs VA game was sort of sad if you were a Maryland fan. They probably played their way out of the NCAA tournament. The CAA final is tonight and I'm hoping George Mason makes it back to the dance.

Our internet at home has been very sparadic over the past few weeks, but particularly this weekend It won't be working in the morning, it will work for a few hours and then cut out again. A Comcast tech is suppose to be out today to take a look at it. Lets hpoe it gets fixed. Its frustrating being without.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hiking England and On To Scotland

We heard from Daughter#2 this morning. They are well and they have finished their hiking through the Lake District of northwest England. They've hiked about 45 miles or so total. They hiked, among other things, the famous Fairfield Horseshoe, which looks like quite the hike. You can follow the trail on Google Earth out of Rydal, which is just northwest of Ambelside. Apparently William Wordsworth was a resident of Rydal. Looks like such a pretty area. They are now in Largs, Scotland. Largs is west of Glasgow on the Firth of Clyde and the home to our cousin Madeline. In our family, relatives from Scotland visit my Dad in Orlando and Cocoa Beach. On the flip side, our family from this side of the pond all go visit and stay with Madeline. This is Daughter#2's second trip to Scotland and her husband's first. I'm not sure what all they have planned. I know they would like to take in a soccer match if they can find tickets. I'm very envious of our daughter and Son in Law.

It was a wet, rainy dreary day here in northern Virginia. Ann and I used that as an excuse to go see a movie. We saw The Bank Job. It tells the story of a big bank heist in England in the early 70s and how it was all covered up by the Government. Entertaining, but not for the little ones. Tomorrow we need to do a little shopping. I desperately need some new jeans. Hope to get that done before lunch time and then settle back to watch some conference tournament basketball. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Winifred 1991 - 2008

Yesterday we lost a much loved member of the family. Our miniature schnauzer Winifred or Winnie as we more often called her, passed on due to old age and failing kidneys. She was 16 1/2 years old.

We got Winnie as a puppy in 1991 from a pet store. We're pretty sure she came from a puppy mill in Kansas. I had resisted getting a family dog since the days the kids were old enough to start asking for one. The big reason being that I'm very allergic to animals or at least their fur/dander. Animals just trigger my asthma. However, when the twins were 9, Daughter#2 wrote an essay on how she really wanted a dog. Her fourth grade teacher, who is also a friend, passed along her wish. Ann and Daughter#1 meanwhile were doing their homework. They found that certain breeds don't shed as they don't have fur, but have hair instead. One such breed was a schnauzer. The stars aligned when Ann and Daughter#1 visited the local pet store, now gone, that had this adorable salt and pepper colored miniature schnauzer. That puppy joined the family that Christmas. As a puppy she chewed the furniture a wee bit and she also nipped at the kids. We took her to a dog trainer and manged to tame that behavior. She was an only dog for all her puppy days and well into adult life. She never had much of a chance to socialize with other dogs. If she saw another dog, she would bark at it like crazy, as schnauzers will do. They are terriers after all. However, when the time came to introduce other dogs into the family, she was very accepting and we never had a problem. A few sniffs and she was cool with it. Another dog? No problem. She was such a good dog that she paved the way for us to consider adding others to the family. We eventually introduced two other dogs into the family, both coming from a schnauzer rescue organization. Napoleon was our first and was with us for two years before passing over the Rainbow Bridge when he developed bone cancer. Rosie was our second rescue dog and is with us still. Winnie was a good traveler until well into her senior years. She traveled with us to Atlanta to visit my sister and Orlando to visit my Dad and more recently to Harrisonburg to visit Daughter#2. She loved sitting on The Son's bed and looking out his window. It was her window to the world. She knew when the school buses would come for the high school and middle school kids and when the elementary school kids would walk by. She barked at them all. Most of her life she slept with Ann and I. She was on the big size for a mini schnauzer at 26 pounds, but she didn't take up much room. When we had Napoleon, he had his own bed in our bedroom. When Napoleon passed on, Winnie gave up sleeping with us and started sleeping in Napoleon's bed. It was quite strange. She slept in that bed for the past two years. The bed is as empty as the void she has left in our lives with her passing. She went very peacefully as we were with her as the Vet put her to sleep. It was all very sad and we miss her dearly.

Daughter#1 has provided her thoughts about Winnie:

I remember going to the pet store with Mom after she picked me up from school. She had been in earlier and wanted to show me a miniature schnauzer puppy she thought was really cute. When we got to the store, we walked over the to puppy section and there she was-SO CUTE. She was so little and had perfect coloring. Mom asked if she thought we should buy her, and of course the response was "YES!" We weren't allowed to have pets up until this point because my Dad was allergic. Mini schnauzers do not shed. Mom didn't think Dad would be thrilled, but the twins really wanted a dog as well. I don't really remember Dad putting up much of a fight, or maybe Mom didn't even ask him about getting the dog, but we got her!!
Although she ruined all the carpets in our house, Winnie was the sweetest dog ever. She was tolerant when we eventually brought other dogs into our home. She was definitely part of our family for a very long time, and I will miss her a lot.

And The Son had this to say:

I just wanted to say how sad it was that she spent her whole life up on my bed, looking out that window. From Sunrise to Sunset you always knew where to find her; at her guard post defending the castle.

Monday, March 3, 2008

England or Bust

Daughter#2 and her Hubby are now in England having left a day late. Although US Airways didn't make it easy. Their 3:ooPM flight to Philly was two hours late taking off and their flight from Philly to Manchester left 90 minutes late. I'm sure they were totally worn out given all the delays.

It was nice having them spend the night although I know they were disappointed that their travel plans had been delayed. Saturday morning, I got up early and helped Ann walk our two dogs plus Gracie. Usually I'll take our two dogs (Winnie and Rosie) and Ann will walk Gracie. Gracie is much younger than our two old lady dogs so she covers about twice as much distance running back and forth and side to side while our two try to keep up. Daughter#2 did make us a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, which was about all the food we had in the house since we hadn't gone to the grocery store in a while. Since we had missed out on Daughter#2's Lebanese restaurant the evening before, we planned to go there for lunch. From the restaurant, the airport is about a mile away so it's convenient. Lunch was nice. The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and the food is tasty although I have to admit I'm not that adventuresome. I had lamp chops. After we finished lunch we dropped the pair off at National Airport around 2:00 and headed home. We use a flight tracker program to watch the progress of their flight. We kept waiting and waiting for their flight to get airborne and finally it did over two hours late. We tracked them for a bit before we had to head off to Saturday evening Mass. Upon our return from Mass, I started to watch the Radford vs. Liberty basketball game when The Son arrived. The Son has a Computer Science degree from Radford and we called him to straighten out our home wireless network. Our Comcast Gateway (combination cable modem/router) had gone bad so we went and swapped it for a new one on Friday. I got it up and running or at least for the computer that we hard wire into the Gateway. None of our other computers, using the wireless network, would connect though. I called Comcast tech support and got a woman who was totally clueless. I don't think she ever grasped what I was asking her for help on. After about 30 minutes it became obvious she was beyond being able to help us. Her final gasp was for us to call the Gateway vendor. I told her fine just to get off the phone. I placed a call to The Son who promised to come over to get us fixed up. I'm glad all our dollars for his education are producing some benefits. He did some preliminary checks and our thought was that the Gateway wasn't broadcasting a wireless signal since we didn't recognize any of the wireless networks that our computers were picking up. Speaking of which, they could pick up like five different networks, which is kind of crazy. Anyway a call to Comcast and he had the problem solved and all our computers on line in no time.

Sunday was a typical Sunday. Up early and walk the dogs. Get the laundry started, the earlier the better since I hate doing it. Just get it over with. Head out to the gym for the 11:00 erg class. I did 10,250 meters in a lot of low rate steady state rowing. Come home and shower. Log my meters. Ann and I then headed out to lunch where I had a steak and cheese sub. Then to Giant to grocery shop. Once we were home and everything was out away, we watched a movie. Yesterday it was Glory Road, the story of the 1966 NCAA basketball champion Texas Western (now Texas - El Paso) and their big upset of Kentucky and their Adolph Rupp. One of the players for Kentucky was Pat Riley interestingly enough. It was an enjoyable movie in typical Disney fashion. A movie that i would recommend and did to The Son. We also had The Son and his gf over for dinner, which was nice and a pay back for helping us get the computers up and running. After dinner The Son left and Ann and I watched the MD vs Clemson game. What a debacle. Up by 20 with 11 minutes left, Maryland managed to lose. That could cost them a trip to the tournament. They need a good run in the ACC tournament, I suspect.