Sunday, January 29, 2006

Going NUTS

I ran the N.U.T.S. 5k (and it was nuts to be out there in the 24 degree icy weather) which stands for Northern Utah Training Series—a big series (5k, 10k, 15k, and ½ marathon) used as training for a marathon. I’m only running the 5k. Still, while there I did the following:

*Ran into two people from the past both of whom did not recognize me nor know my name. I forgive the first, a woman I ran with in high school, but not the second, a woman from our past neighborhood whom I’ve run into a ½ a dozen times in the last 5 years. It seems I’m very forgettable.

*Ran what seemed like an eternity first mile for a 5k—all steep uphill, slick with snow, and cold as hell—in 6:45

*Ingested 5 ½ donut chunks, 4 ½ bagel pieces, 2 glasses of Gatorade, and 8 orange slices (i.e. enough to make-up for any calories lost during the race which was my only real goal)

*Completed the 5k in one of my slowest 5k times on record, 19:40, right behind the overall female winner: Results

*Ran without stressing about competing—a glimpse of my future non-competitive running life? I hope so.

Friday, January 27, 2006

"Hold Up," CBS Sunday Morning connection

Nancy Giles is the name of the actress in "Hold Up." I remember hearing her accuse Bush of Racism after New Orleans:

Sundance Shorts

I've been checking out a Sundance short each day. Some interesting and bizarre stuff. It seems like there are more available online this year. Either way it's my only Sundance experience as I'm too busy with work and remodeling.

Sundance shorts

So, far I enjoyed "Hold up" the most. It starts off funny and ends with an embarrassed kind of sadness. Plus I recognized the store clerk--she's the woman who does commentaries on CBS Saturday Morning. Speaking of CBS SM, hearing Charles Osgood on a Sunday morning gives me great comfort for some reason. I just like starting out my Sunday's that way. And I always get a kick out of Bill Geist.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

We're almost done

Things we’ve done in preparation for new kitchen cabinets and flooring:

1. at least 8 hours at Home Depot deciding on the layout
2. remove old cabinets, some a few weeks ago and the rest yesterday
3. remove sink, water purification system and disposal; drop very heavy cast iron sink on little pinky finger
4. tear out ceiling getting sheet rock dust in eyes, hair and shirt
5. replace kitchen valves under sink to hot, cold, and dishwasher
6. put new kitchen valves on, but forget to use plumber’s tape; remove valves again and re-do with tape while cussing
7. pull out two layers of old linoleum
8. paint where walls will still show (all wife)
9. paint ceiling (all wife—what can I say? She’s a much better painter than me.)
10. rewire kitchen for canned lights and undercounter lights—wife’s design, dad’s help
11. rewire outlet under sink so we can move the dishwasher to the other side of the sink
12. move stove wire to other side of the room (wire cost $50 and is a bitch to manipulate)
13. hired John, our best find in years, to rough in new ceiling, sheetrock, mud, and advise on a number of details and decisions
14. I hope we haven’t forgotten anything—the new cabinets are here and the installers come Monday
15. p.s. purchased two cookies and one 9 buck loaf of cherry chocolate bread (I’ve never spent that much for a loaf of bread) from Great Harvest in an attempt to comfort myself in the face of spending thousands of dollars and doing last minute prep (see numbers 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7)
16. p.s.s. pulling up part of carpet downstairs and mopping up water because after shutting off the water to replace the kitchen valves, I opened it up too much—it leaked for about 8 hrs. Luckily oldest son noticed it just before we went to bed. Another 10 hrs of leaking would have been too much: no amount of delicious breads at Great Harvest would have healed me

I would have never guessed I was going to spend this much of my life remodeling: wife’s vision of our home + three kids + teacher’s pay = mucho time remodeling

Before and after pictures forthcoming

Saturday, January 21, 2006

And life rolls on

A few days ago I went to a funeral, my dad’s sister. My dad isn’t really close with his family; well my dad isn’t really close, in the traditional sense of talking about feelings and confiding, with much of anyone. Not that he doesn’t care; he does which I saw at the funeral and which I receive in many ways in my own life in less overt and obvious ways.

It’s a strange experience going to a funeral or a wedding and seeing relatives one rarely sees, especially on my dad’s side of the family. I talked with a cousin I haven’t seen in over a decade even though he lives about a mile away from my parents in Hyrum. We had great fun as kids. We started camping by ourselves at age 11 or so in Devil’s Half Acre by Hyrum Dam; we “skied” to the top of Spy’ Hill many times; we killed sucker fish—great fun for young boys. My favorite memories are from the camping. I remember one night there was a teenage party up above us on the hill where there was a road. I think they yelled down at us or maybe threw rocks—it scared me but also made me more confident about facing the world on my own. I remember how we took an old cooler down there and dug it into the hillside and then later a hunter shot a huge hole in it with a shotgun. I remember how we spent hours stringing together bailing twine (small twine that binds up bails of hay) for hammocks. We were going to sleep in them. Unfortunately the twine slipped, opening up uncomfortable holes. I remember (and almost all of these ideas were his) how we built an Indian sweat lodge: we’d heat up rocks red hot in the fire, then take them into our lodge (made of tarps and logs) pouring water and sweating it up till late at night. Jeff often made outlandish pronouncements: “I’m going to strip down and sweat it out all night.” He was always, and still is it seems, a bit of a braggart, a storyteller, but in a nice way, not in your face. I don’t remember Jeff ever getting in a fight; he didn’t want trouble and could control his anger and use humor to diffuse a situation.

But now I only know scattered details about the last 20 years of his life, mostly the gossipy kind, details picked up along the way. I know he had to get married; I know his wife embezzled some money and went to jail; I know they had two kids and that they later divorced; I know he remarried; I know he was thinking of majoring in psychology and, then, for whatever reason stopped. That’s all I knew before we talked and I still don’t know much. It’s strange to realize half his life—marriages, divorces, pain, children, different jobs, joy—has gone by without me. I wasn’t part of it. We had a close friendship for years but… Where did it go? Where is it? What does it now mean?

Talking to him, I didn’t feel completely at ease. His face and body seemed so big; he seemed like a different person even though he’s not overweight. I guess he doesn’t match the young cousin I knew and there’s no way to recover that. We could probably spend hours together but it would, of course, never work.

To a lesser degree, I feel this sense of loss about many of the relative there: crazy (in a good way) Aunt June; David (a cousin) who always seemed older than he was; Aunt Carolyn who'd suffered from many ailments her whole life and had now passed on; Sheri who was run over (the side of her head) by her dad's own truck; Aunt Pauline (my dad still hates lima beans because she forced him to eat some as a kid); Lennis, my uncle, and owner of our campground and the bailing twine…

At one point we did get together frequently on this side of the family. My Grandmother Christy (short for Christiansen so the grandkids could pronounce it) held it all together. We’d have Christmas at her house: each year we would drag her fake fireplace mantel down the steep stairs of her 100 year old home, then she’d hang little tree ornament presents for each of us. Did we pretend for her? Probably a bit. When Grandma Christy died we pretty much stopped having any family parties. I know my dad’s sisters stayed in touch but my dad never got together or checked up on them by phone. My mother, though, has stayed in contact with my dad’s sisters. Seems some women, certainly Cache Valley women, feel not only responsible for their own family ties but also for their husbands’.

And, so, life rolls on with or without the friendships or connections of the past; a few years, a decade, a lifetime, births, weddings, accidents, sickness, agony, anger, deaths…

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Top 10 reasons why I can't get my blog up (to date)

10. Unsure of my presence in the blogosphere

9. A quickie entry won’t due: I need 40 minutes to do it right

8. I keep spending time with other blogs rather than mine

7. Nervous about unexpected intruders

6. Overwhelmed with numerous New Year’s resolutions that are already in the shitter

5. All my extra energy is spent on maintaining some sense of order to the beginning of the semester

4. Performance anxiety after the long break

3. January/winter blues and dysfunction

2. Fear of commitment to any particular individual idea

1. Other blogs seem so much bigger and better

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cousins invading my blogosphere

While I haven't been writing or reading many blogs, I've had a number of surprising blog experiences and connections of late. First, Howard Dully (discussed below), then Norene from San Francisco commented on my death entry--she has a fascinating blog with a very specific purpose, as she says, "what if every single person devoted 5% of our time and energy to being a better person and creating a better world." She takes on the quotidian tasks of how she simplified her breakfast routine. Then my cousin's husband, one I rarely see and haven't spoken to much over the past few years, posted a comment about my discussion of the Harper's article "Jesus without the miracles."

None of this is that amazing but it got me thinking about blogs, technology, and public writing. First, I'm struck, as mentioned in another post, about the truly public nature of a blog. This reminds me of John Trimbur's (a composition scholar) focus on the circulation of writing. Clearly circulation matters, but often the traditional circulation of our writing is predictable, foreseeable, and limited. Blogs introduce a number of variables. For one blogs seem (and I know this might get overstated at times) to level the playing field a bit as with Dully's comment on my blog--the creator of a radio essay takes notice, albeit a small one, of a nobody like me writing about listening to his essay. Two blogs can surprise: I would have never guessed in a million years that my cousin's husband would not only find and post a comment on my blog but would have actually read the same article I was discussing. We would have never discussed this article and now we will probably talk more at the next family gathering. Still, I probably wouldn't have gotten too excited about all this, if a couple of days later (I believe they worked independently :) another cousin, Shane, from the same family posted a comment to a post I wrote back in August called "Anarchists in Cache Valley?"

And this is where it gets interesting. In Shane's words, "I was doing a blog search for anarchists in Denver the other day and imagine my surprise to find this--and then to find out that I was the Cache Valley anarchist!" When I read the reply, I immediately worried about what I had said about my cousin: had I been rude or dismissive; had I exaggerated? I truly felt caught with my pants down. I'd just never, however naively, thought about my cousin reading my blog. Maybe, then, this is much ado about nothing: this strange blog communication is merely the result of my inabilities to appropriately understand the rhetorical situation of my blog. But the circulation of a blog is unique. On one level, most of my blog readers are colleagues, it's just like any old piece of writing I might share with co-workers or friends. Except I would never have shared this kind of writing with colleagues, friends, or family. There was not technology or genre to support this kind of activity. Further, the reader has more ability to control the circulation of the text. Of course we control circulation as we buy a magazine, but again where else does the reader have control over access to this kind of personal, ranting, observational type writing? Where else can readers easily seek out some average Fred and Freda talking about their lives and thoughts?

I'm not satisfied with my ability to get at the core of this and I'm confident someone else has articulated it much better. But as I'm engaged with this kind of writing, I still hit the "publish post" button, warts and all. Having been found out, as it were, I wonder if I will start to reign in my writing a bit. I wonder how I'd feel if an old girlfriend or particular family members stumbled onto my blog. And I've wondered about bloggers with older kids (Mega?)--will I want my children reading my blog? Not really. I guess I could then turn to limiting access but then that feels so unbloglike. BTW my cousin's anarchist blog is engagingly brave and honest though the blue font is tough to read and there are no dates on the posts (maybe the latter is intended--he is an anarchist)--wonder if he ever imagined I'd be reading and critiquing his blog.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

one positive

Howard Dully commented on my post about his NPR piece on ice pick labotomies (see November 17th blog). Dully has a blog about his life story and it looks like he hopes to publish a book. While Dully didn't say much about my response to his story, I still like the idea that he found it. Without the blogosphere, I can't imagine such a connection being made.

Guess I couldn't end on such a downer (see last post).

Unfocused Breaks

I so badly want to be an optimist at this time—hell I just finished a two week break—but I struggle. I struggle each year as the looming semester comes at me. All the stuff I thought I would do is still piled on my desk or, worse, still in a bag on the floor in a corner. Certainly part of the issue is that stuff comes up, important stuff, stuff I haven’t made time for during the semester: taking kids to movies (saw Narnia and King Kong at the theatre and rented War of the Worlds); remodeling kitchen and downstairs bedroom; helping a friend with electrical remodeling; card playing with family; organizing garage and books (well some of my books). But the central issue isn’t this “other” stuff but my inability to focus unless I have a deadline right in front of me. Crap, I’ve been avoiding my blog because of these very pessimistic and depressing words I’m compelled to write. I would much rather happily revel in sleeping in, hanging out, and watching TV like many of my blogger buddies, but I just can’t. I guess I’m cursed to half-heartedly enjoy the break while worrying about what I’m not doing, even though I still don’t get much done which then necessitates an unproductive panic mode a few days before the end of the break.

A friend pointed out that my blog was depressing and, at least for today, I’d have to agree.