Second Tree Blog

Semi-regularly updated musings from the Tim, Julie, Benton, Carson, and Alana Wilsons.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spousal communication

Julie and I were ribbing Benton this morning. He was taking it pretty well, but reaching his limit. The following exchange ensued:

J: That's enough.
T: You started it.
J: No you're not!
T: What?
J: You're not sorry!
T: I didn't say I was. I said, "You started it."
J: Oh, I thought you said you were sorry. I guess I just decided to hear what I wanted to.
T: Yeah...and then disagreed with it!

This post inspired by karmalized.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

And It's Time for Another Word-Free Alana-Centric Post

Posted by Picasa


The Hideout Is ALIVE!!!

Way back when we were still living in Austin but had a contract on our house in Ohio, I floated the idea with the boys about how the basement was big enough that we could probably build a little hideout in one corner. Benton, especially, was pretty keen on the idea, and he asked every week or two after we moved in as to when we would get started. He and I played around with some ideas for the location, sizing, and design a bit, and I got a good enough idea as to what we had in mind that I could load up a bunch of OSB and 2x4s from Bob's farm when I drove down the weekend before Christmas.
At the time, Julie was still thinking that replacing the carpet in the basement was an imminent task, so I held Benton off by telling him that we did not want to start until after the new carpet was down. Well, several weeks ago, Julie announced that new basement carpet is not a near-term goal after all. So, when Julie took Carson and Alana to a birthday party last weekend, Benton and I got busy in the garage building the second floor for the hideout and cutting out the wall pieces. The design we ultimately came up with is 3'-6" wide, 8'-1" long and 6'-9" tall. It bisects the basement -- separating the TV/bar/couch area from the pool table / air hockey area.
Today, Julie took Carson and Alana to a Disney on Ice production (I'll let her provide an update on that experience), while Benton and I headed to the basement to continue the project. We started by assembling the wall with the main door in it (it's a bisected pentagon -- Benton's design). The structure leaning up in the background is the second floor, with the opening framed in one end for passage between the two floors. Benton's really getting the hang of using the cordless drill to drive in screws.

We then assembled the second long wall, which has a quarter-circle "secret exit" (hinged door to be added later) that comes out between the wall and the couch. It took a bit of help from Julie to get the walls standing up and secured with cross-pieces, but the floor then simply slid into one end before it was closed it up. Carson was the first kid to test out the structural integrity (that end, ultimately, will be fully enclosed, and a ceiling will be added to the top):

All three kids then got up on the second floor to try it out (if you click on the image to view the larger version, you just might be able to make out Benton's braces):

And Alana tried out the secret exit before we pushed the couch back over.

It's far from done. The plan is to carpet all surfaces on the interior, as well as to paint the exterior. One long wall will get cork added and a dartboard hung on it. The hideout butts up to an electrical outlet, so there is a hole on that end of the structure to allow easy running of lights to both floors. And, we need to add a ladder or steps to make passage from the first floor to the second easier than it currently is.
So, plenty of work left to do, but I'm tickled that we got it to this point before I head into a crazy four weeks of travel when I won't have much time to work on it. And, better yet, the total expenditure for the project has been $0.00 thus far. I'm sure we'll wind up putting some money into it to get all the finishing done, but we've definitely seen the advantages of living a few hours away from my I-never-get-rid-of-anything-because-someone-might-need-it father-in-law!
Posted by Picasa


We're Not in Austin Any More, and Voting is HARD!

I've just sealed up my Ohio absentee voter ballot and put it in the mailbox for pickup tomorrow afternoon. That's in plenty of time for the March 4th primary, and the process has been enlightening. With all of the hullabaloo around equitable access and accuracy in ballot-casting over the past seven years, getting to the point of putting a sealed ballot in the mail has certainly been interesting.

We moved to Columbus late last summer after 13+ years in Austin. There are a lot of similarities between the towns: both are the capitals of their respective states, both are the homes of the largest universities in their states, both are located roughly in the center of their states, and both tend more toward "blue" than "red." However, the differences in the voter experience are dramatic!

In Austin (we actually lived in the City of Austin, albeit on the outskirts), voting was quick, electronic, and insanely simple. For several weeks leading up to an election -- be it a primary or a general election -- there were scads of early voting stations set up. It was virtually impossible to drive anywhere around town without seeing prominently displayed, "Early Voting Here: Dates X through Y." Many of these early polling places were inside grocery stores -- the stores being more than happy to give potential customers an excuse to come into their buildings. I could go to any early voting location in the county. All I needed was my driver's license. The folding tables, laptop computers, and portable electronic voting booths were typically manned by 3-4 pleasant, accomodating retired men and women. The lines were short to non-existent.

I would drive past the local grocery store on my way home three or four times before I remembered I needed to pull up the League of Women Voters' web site to make sure I made a reasonably informed decision on the more obscure races and ballot issues. At that point, it was just a matter of pulling in to the store one evening when the timing was right. I could be in and out within 10 minutes. I voted on election day maybe once in the past 10 years, and I never missed participating in an election.

Now shift to Columbus. Or, to be more precise, Dublin, Ohio. As it happens, I'm going to be in Texas for work on Tuesday, March 4th. With the help of Google, I quickly found the process for voting early or absentee. In Dublin, they're the same thing: you can vote early in person by going to one and only one place, applying for an absentee ballot, getting it approved immediately, and then casting your ballot. Frankly, that one place is a fairly inconvenient location. So, I went with the second option, which was to apply for an absentee ballot by mail. This required filling out a one-page form, available on the Web, and mailing it in. Several days later, my absentee ballot arrived. That's when the cold, wet dishrag of you're-not-in-Austin-anymore-Dorothy gave me a rather unpleasant slap in the face.

Inside the large envelope were seven different items:
  1. The ballot itself
  2. An "identification envelope" that the ballot would go into
  3. A return envelope that the identification envelope would go into
  4. An orange Instructions to Absent Voters paper
  5. A cream-colored ATTENTION VOTERS!! insert telling me to read the instructions on the ballot itself before marking the ballot
  6. A small green slip of paper informing me that one of the Presidential candidates had withdrawn from the election, and that a vote cast for that candidate would not be counted
  7. A blue slip of paper that simply stated, in a very large font: "Please be advised. $0.97 will be required for return postage."

Once I had cleared enough desk space to separate the important materials from the borderline silly, I settled in to complete my ballot. That was pretty straightforward -- no butterfly ballots here!

Fortunately, I did not follow the instructions to the letter, as they told me to seal the ballot in the identification envelope once I had completed it. complete the "Statement of Voter" on the outside of that envelope, which required, among other things, the "Ballot No." I had not yet sealed the envelope, so I pulled the ballot back out and looked for the ballot number. I found what looked to be a unique number labeled "Consecutive No." on the ballot, so I wrote that in. I also needed to provide my "ID No." and "Pct. No." I'm still not sure what an ID No. is, but there was a barcoded label already affixed in the "Name" section of the envelope, and it had some numbers above my name on it, so I just assumed that one of those was my ID No. and left it blank. My Pct. No. I tracked down from my voter registration card. Mind you, in all of the slips of paper that came with the ballot, there were no clear instructions about these fields.

Having been a voter registrar for a period of time in Texas, I'm vaguely aware that federal law puts the onus on the precincts to, when in doubt, figure it out. I left the ID No. blank. And, I'll assume that if the "Consecutive No." on the ballot isn't the "Ballot No." requested on the envelope, then that will get corrected in processing. But, overall, it has been a disappointing experience. I was clearly spoiled from my time in Austin.

Let me be clear. I see voting as a responsibility of every citizen. A choice not to vote is an abdication of any right to complain about the current slate of elected officials or voter-legislated laws. It does not have to be so easy that it's a 10-minute exercise. But, with all of the technology available, with all of the years and years of trying different processes in different communities, with the fact that every community actually applies its process every 1-2 years, it just seems silly that being out of town on primary election day earned me the right to receive ambiguous material. I've seen it done better. It can be done better.

I'm sure many of you have had to put up with a process similar to my Ohio experience for years, and you simply accept it. I wonder what kind of shock it would be for you to move to Austin and go through an election cycle. Would you be concerned that it was so easy? That it seemed like a situation just begging for voter fraud? I just don't know. I've only gone one way, and the way I went has been vaguely depressing.


Friday, February 22, 2008

When I get bigger...

Wait a minute. Isn't that Carson's booster seat that Alana's gotten herself strapped and settled into?

Then, where's Carson? Oh.

Note the lack of keys in the ignition.
Posted by Picasa


Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's a Big, Quiet House...

How the next few days were supposed to play out:
  1. Thursday afternoon -- Benton would head to the orthodontist to get his first round of braces-type hardware (a palate spreader -- he'll wear it for six months); he was pretty excited about that.
  2. Friday evening -- Julie would take the boys and headsto Wadsworth; Alana would stay with me
  3. Saturday -- Julie and the boys would head up to a "slopes"-based fundraiser for a charity her cousin is on near Cleveland; they'd spend a few hours riding inner tubes down the slopes and then head back to Columbus after dinner; Alana and I would hang out all day and grab dinner at The Bogey Inn. We went there with just the two of us on Super Bowl Sunday, and she points that out every time we drive past (it's 3 minutes from our house). Julie and the boys would arrive back home some time later in the evening.
  4. Sunday -- Julie would take Alana and Carson to Disney on Ice, while Benton and I would continue to work on the "hideout" in the basement (two levels, 3'-6" W x 8'-0" L, carpeted on floors, walls, and ceiling...and with electricity).

What actually happened: we woke up this morning to news that there would be a winter storm advisory starting at 7:00 PM this evening and running for 24 hours. And, the storm was coming from an odd direction, so it is actually clearer to the north.

Julie made the call to head out this evening instead of tomorrow evening. Benton did get his palate spreader installed -- the thrill is definitely gone there...but, if he's used to it by Monday, I suspect he will be excited to show it off at school.

Julie also decided to get some work done on the minivan. Today. The great news is that it looks like we've found a good mechanic -- nearby, highly recommended, and our first experience was very positive (including the fact that she drove it to them this morning, and they "test drove" it to assess the problem by driving her back to our house and dropping her off).

Since she left this evening, and I've got to work tomorrow, she took Alana with her.

There were clear skies when she left ~6:00 this evening, but we've already got a good coat of fresh snow since then, so it looks like she made a good call. They're still planning to return on Saturday evening to make Disney on Ice on Sunday. For my part, I'm planning on getting re-acquainted with my workshop on Saturday. I'm hoping to finish rebuilding the supports for the canopy of Alana's bed, which was Julie's as a child and her mother's when she was a child. The rebuilding required has nothing to do with the bed's age and everything to do with Abbey, our late, great, coolest chocolate lab on the planet...who had a penchant for lumber. I'd forgotten just how much solid 2x2 she had consumed on those things! I'm replacing an 8" second on one end and a 13" section on the other. And that doesn't count the nibble marks that extend farther up!!!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

And the Tetherball Woes Continue...

I've written a number of posts on The Saga of the Tetherball. The good news -- the only good news -- is that we've recovered the camera that had pictures of Boppa and Benton playing tetherball in sub-20 degree (Fahrenheit) weather:

The bad news is that we aren't the only people who have taken pictures of the tetherball rig in our backyard. The Homeowners' Association has as well (albeit without anyone playing a game at the time). We received a notice this week asking if we'd gotten approval to put this up, as they do not have a record of it. Well. Um. That's because we didn't realize it would require approval.

The good news is that it is semi-removable. With a shovel, a screw driver, and weather in the 40s, I could have it out in 15 or 20 minutes. Julie thinks we're just going to have to paint it to match the house (painted plastic where a rope constantly rubs across the surface -- that's going to look really nice by the third game, I can imagine!). We'll see. She called today, and we're getting the paperwork submitted. We'll find out. As my luck has gone with this whole experience, I'm expecting that I'm not only going to have to remove it, but I'm going to have to re-sod the 12' ice/mud pit that surrounds it!
Posted by Picasa


Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...Keep Those Pink Wheels Rollin'...

I mentioned in an earlier post that Alana is surprisingly adept on her brothers' Razor Scooters. I also mentioned that all three kids happily ride these scooters in extremely frigid weather (Benton and Carson have both experimented -- unsuccessfully -- with riding them on snow). What I failed to mention is that Julie took a page from one of her cousins' books and brought the scooters inside a few weeks ago. Dining room --> kitchen (either side of the island) --> hall --> dining room is the preferred circuit.
The strictly enforced rule is that the door to the basement must be closed whenever this riding is going on. And shoes must be worn (so...that's not as strictly enforced, as the picture below illustrates).

The real problem we've run into is that there are three kids and only two scooters. This 3:2 ratio situation has been somewhat mitigated by introducing Alana's Pink Princess Big Wheel, as well as her plastic-wheeled mini-tricycle (which we first got for Benton -- amazing durability there, considering that it did a stint with the Quinlivan daughters as well) to the first floor racing circuit. All three kids enjoy all types of vehicles, although Benton is very leery of the camera when he's cruising on the Pink Princess Big Wheel ("Do NOT put that picture on the Internet!").
Still, it was clear that we needed to add a third scooter to the collection. And, yes, the Razor A Scooter is available in pink. It arrived today:

The picture we didn't get:

The box arrived just as Alana was sitting on the potty. In a fit of lack-of-foresight, Julie said something to the effect of, "Finish up so you can come see your pink scooter." Alana damn near tore her purple panties in her haste to get them pulled up. Actually taking the time to put on pants was completely out of the question! She did remember the rule that shoes must be worn...but she was okay with the first two that she found, which happened to be one pink sandal and one brown shoe. Do you have the mental image yet? To recap: T-shirt, purple panties, one pink shoe, one brown shoe. Doing laps around our first floor. THAT would've been the picture that would have funded our retirement once Alana grows up and is a working professional with a reputation that needs to be upheld. Blackmail, people, blackmail!
Posted by Picasa


Saturday, February 16, 2008

[Julie] Visiting with Cousins

We uprooted the family so we could move closer to my family. Friday night, we got together with my cousins, Lisa and Michael, and their families: 9 children, 6 adults, 2 large pizzas, 1 very large yellow lab, and 1 Nintendo Wii. Chaos. Bedlam, even. Overall, it was FUN!

Michael failed to change Luke's diaper before he and Jen loaded up their 3 kiddos for the drive to the Leathermans' house. The result? His pants were soaked within 10 minutes of his arrival (diaper technology has progressed considerably in the past 20 years...but they still do not have infinite capacity). In a show of solidarity, Alana held it in when I made her go potty...only to let it all out 15 minutes later. We're definitely mid-potty training.

Appetizers, catching up, kids bouncing off the basement walls and glued to the Wii for bowling, followed by pizza and then some cake as part of a belated birthday celebration for Emily, who turned 9 a few weeks ago. After that, it was the adults turn to challenge the kids to some Wii fun (Benton, we must point out, fought two-time Academic All American -- Ohio State Baseball -- Mike Repasky to a 0-0 tie on Wii baseball) before we finally had to call it a night.

Here is a picture from the cake scene, showing 7 of the 9 cousins. Clockwise from top left: Benton (3rd grade), Hannah (1st grade), Natalie (1st grade), Carson (kindergarden), Emily (3rd grade), Abby's head (age 4), and Alana's head (age 2). Not pictured are Ryan (age 5) and Luke (age 1).

Carson figured if the adult kids were going to play Wii, he might as well check out an adult beverage ( this might be highly staged with an empty bottle by Tim), which garnered a disapproving scoff from his older brother.

Alana made out just fine with a little cake. This kept her going for awhile, so we did not have to "worry" about her falling asleep too early.


[Julie] Valentine's Day Parties

When Carson's class celebrated Valentine's Day, Alana and I stopped in to see some of the activities, which included a variety of crafts and games. I managed to snap a few pictures of this Kindergarden celebration to better capture the moment.

Above, Carson reluctantly poses for a picture with his friend John during Valentine Bingo. Later, after cupcake decorating - and eating - Carson was a little more enthusastic about posing for a picture with John.

At the end of the party, when it was time to have snacks, I found 5 boys sitting together. The first picture they had me take was of the "Boys Club". Then Emerson joined the group and Carson flashed his Hook'em Horns hand signal. This prompted the "Boys Club" to become the "Longhorn Club". Carson's friend Jack, second child from the right, is also a former Texan, so I don't know who to credit with teaching so many of these Buckeye-children this Hook'em Horns gesture, but they were all very good at it.

Little Longhorns, from left to right: Emerson, Tommy, Carson, John, Jack, and Jacsen.


[Julie] Boys First Time on Ice Skates

Winter in Ohio has provided sledding, snowball fight, snowman, and snow angel opportunities. It also has the potential for some outdoor ice skating at the Dublin Recreation Center's rink. We moved from Texas with rollerblades and plenty of roller skating experience, but do not own a single pair of ice skates. Before investing in ice skates for the family, I thought it a wise move to try out ice skating first to make sure it was a hit. Today we did just that by heading to the indoor Chiller Ice Rink here in Dublin, where we skated for 2 hours this afternoon.

We started off by picking up two of Benton's friends from school - Nick and Josh - and then drove to the rink. (Nick and Benton are pictured above.) It took a little bit of effort to get skates in the correct size for everyone, but we finally hit the ice. Aside from comments about it being bumpier than rollerblading, it did not take long for both Benton and Carson to leave the outer wall and speed off around the rink. Carson even took time to discover the penalty box, where he could go take a break. In there, he found a similiarly imaginative boy about his age who was "in the penalty box for high sticking". (For those of you not familiar with this lingo, he was using the hockey "time out" spot for the imagined foul he pretended he got for improperly using his hockey stick.) Carson seemed to enjoy this and took off imagining himself a hockey player, thus referring to our outing a few times as playing hockey rather than ice skating.

After we headed home, it was decided that indeed, we needed to get some skates, as it was really fun. Next week, we plan to try out tubing at the Boston Mills Ski area near Cleveland with a few cousins. More winter fun to come....


Two Rangers in a Pod

Carson owns red, green, and blue Power Ranger outfits. For Christmas, Alana got a pink one. It's a little big...but that hasn't stopped her from wanting to wear it for Power Ranger Play with Carson!

And, we're a Razor Scooter short of where we need to be. With the temperature just above freezing, all three kids were outside riding scooters. Avoiding the ice. Mostly.

These scooters are listed as being for kids 5 and up, but they do come in pink, and Alana is surprising proficient. We'll see...
Posted by Picasa


Why Don't People Post Pictures of Their Cameras?

One of the items that seldom shows up in casual family photos is the family's camera. Oh, sure, it may be caught in the odd reflection in a mirror, or it may even be included at a party where there are lots of cameras floating around. But, obviously, it's hard to have a camera accidentally creep into a picture...because it's usually being used to take the picture!

In the spirit of giving the humble point-and-shoot its due, I give you...our camera: other camera:

We've found ourselves in the somewhat unique situation of having two virtually identical cameras. The story goes something like this: a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that our main camera had disappeared during a science museum outing. We gave it a week or two and then ordered a replacement. A week or so after the replacement arrived, Julie's cell phone went missing. In her search for the cell phone...the camera turned up (it took another day or two for her to locate her cell phone in the drawer of Carson's desk)!

We'll replay a few pictures from the original camera in the upcoming posts.
Posted by Picasa


Sunday, February 10, 2008

When Grandma Comes to Town

Grandma Marilyn rolled into town on Thursday and brought with her a carload of stuff that Julie and she are dividing up to unload between craigslist and eBay. In the meantime, Carson has set up a "museum" in the family room with all of the neat stuff (he really wants to publicize the museum's existence on the internet so that he can draw people in and charge them admission; all the money, of course, will go to Grandma Marilyn, since all of the exhibits are her stuff! Possible blog entry to accomplish that publicity to come...)

The picture below has two Grandma Marilyn pieces: 1) the parasol arrived with her on Thursday, and 2) the tap shoes (see the metal on the toes?) arrived a couple of weeks ago in the mail. There is a story of Marilyn being deprived of the opportunity to learn to tapdance when she was a child, and she finally saw her chance to live the dream through her granddaughter!

Benton, meanwhile, is a burgeoning experimental photographer. Carson and he set up a tunnel/fort in the basement with blankets and furniture. Then, they got out light sticks (2 each for Benton, Carson, and Alana), turned off all the lights, and crawled through the structure. Benton took ~5 pictures of Alana from 2-3' the pitch dark. It's no wonder that she looks a bit perplexed.

Julie and I got away for the night on Saturday while Marilyn watched the kids (apparently, watching 3 kids was too ho-hum, so she called up and had Colin and Evan -- brothers who are classmates of Benton and Carson, respectively -- come over for a few hours. Julie and I left late morning on Saturday and meandered down to Cincinnati for the night. Along the way, we stopped for gas at a full-service gas station in Plain City (I had no idea those even existed any more -- self-service was not an option, and the price was the same as we saw elsewhere on the trip) and spent a couple of hours at the outlets in Jeffersonville (Julie now owns a pair of heeled, knee-length leather boots! Patty will be so proud!). As tends to happen when we go shopping, my enthusiasm waned just as Julie was getting on a roll. But, all in all, we got some things"needed" at some great prices.

In Cincinnati, we got a good deal at the Westin downtown, managed to do a little ice skating in an outdoor rink right next to the hotel (my second time on ice skates -- one semi-controlled spill and two spills-that-almost-were-but-from-which-I-recovered, so, overall, I felt pretty good about it), had a couple of absolutely terrible, yet overpriced, martinis at the Havana Martini Club (it's just not a good sign when the brie is heated in a microwave and served with plastic plates and knives!), but then had additional appetizers and some great martinis and phenomenal service at the Boi Na Braza Brazilian Steak House. We will go back there! We slept in on Sunday morning, lounged in bed reading our respective novels for a while, lingered over a breakfast-from-our-college-days at Bruegger's Bagels, and were still back in Dublin by early afternoon. As tends to be the case when we get away alone for 24 hours, we just couldn't stop smiling at each other. I'm a lucky, lucky guy. And Marilyn is going to watch the kids on Valentine's Day, too!
Posted by Picasa


Thursday, February 7, 2008

"We're going to do another one of these in Boston."

This is my "Trip from Hell" tale. It's my own fault. To a point. (And it's not over yet.)

On fairly short notice a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a one-night trip to San Francisco this week to attend a user group/product feedback meeting with one of my company's key technology partners. Yes, I realized that San Francisco was on the west coast. And, yes, I realized that I'd moved east from Austin late last summer. But, it was a meeting I really wanted to attend, and, after doing some poking around, I decided that, while the travel would be a little crazy, I could pull it off for a good price and make it a one-nighter.

Things started out great. I managed to time the flight out so that I could still attend a committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the United Way of Central Ohio (which was a great meeting -- it actually spawned some thoughts I recorded on my other blog during the trip). I left from that meeting and headed straight to the airport, flying out of Columbus on time at 5:00 PM (EST) and connecting through Houston to San Francisco, arriving 45 minutes later than scheduled at 12:15 AM (PST). By the time I got to the hotel and got settled in, it was a bit bast 2:00 AM (PST) -- that's after 5:00 AM EST...but largely what I had expected! I got a few hours sleep, got up, got ready, and walked over to the 9:00 AM meeting. I was a bit tired, but, so far, so good.

The title of this post comes from a comment made during the meeting. One of the people running things noted that this was the first of a couple of these sessions they were going to conduct -- that they were going to "do another one of these in Boston." Um. Yeah. Boston is much more accessible than San Francisco from Columbus. Oh, well.

The meeting wrapped up around 12:30, which gave me plenty of time to grab a cab to the airport and actually sit down for lunch! Little did I know that, aside from a mini-bag of mini-pretzels, this would be the last food I would see until the next day. I even had time to grab some chocolates for the kids and Julie.

The scheduled 2:25 PM flight was pretty much on time, or so I thought. I wasn't conscious of boarding particularly late, sitting at the gate for a particularly long time, or waiting on the tarmac to take off for very long. But, as we descended into Denver, the flight attendant announced that we would be arriving at 6:15 PM (now MST). That was a little troubling, as my connecting flight was at 6:35. I got off the plane as quickly as I could at gate B25 and ran-walked all the way to gate B52. The door was closed. There wasn't a gate agent in sight. A fellow sitting by the door waiting for another flight said they had just closed the door. There was my flight to Columbus just outside the window. Still with the jetway attached. I grabbed the nearest gate agent -- a couple of gates over -- and she very sympathetically informed me that she couldn't help, as that flight was a United affiliate flight. But, she told me that the customer service desk was just passed gate B56. Stay with me: That's B25 to B52 to B56. Customer Service checked with the plane, but it was too late to reopen the doors.

So, my next option was to fly out of Denver on Thursday morning, arriving in Columbus at 2:45 PM. I've learned a thing or two from Julie over the years, so I pressed a bit -- check other airlines, get me closer, etc. Nothing on other airlines, but she said that I might be able to make it to Chicago. That was on a 4:54 PM flight that had been delayed. And was boarding right then. At (wait for it) gate B27! I ran-walked all the way back to where I'd started (B25 --> B52 --> B56 --> B27, if you're following along at home) and managed to board just before they closed the door.

So, that left me getting at least halfway from Denver to Columbus, and with a reserved seat on a flight leaving Chicago at 7:50 AM on Thursday morning. But, I crossed my fingers and hoped that a Columbus flight might have been delayed leaving Chicago that I could still make. As we were on our final descent into Chicago, the pilot suddenly sped up and pulled up. Hmmm. Nothing super-dramatic...but not generally a good sign. Shortly thereafter, the pilot came on the intercom and announced (I'm not making this up), "Well, folks, just as we were on our final descent, a Turkish pilot pulled onto our runway, so we had to pull up and circle around to land on a different runway." By my estimate, that cost us at least 10-15 minutes. Damn those Turks! (Why on earth we needed the nationality...and how our pilot even got the a mystery.)

When we landed, I had a voicemail from Julie that the last flight out of Chicago to Columbus was at 9:15 (CST now). We'd just landed, and it was 10:30, so I figured I had an outside shot at that flight having been delayed enough for me to make it. We taxied. And taxied. And taxied. I finally got off the plane in terminal C at 10:50 PM and checked the monitor. The Columbus flight was listed with a 10:56 PM departure...from terminal B. I was off to the races again. And, again, I arrived at a gate with a closed door. But the gate agent was still there, and she acted promptly, grabbing the phone to see if they could re-open the door. Alas! The pilot had already removed the brake from the plane, and it was undergoing de-icing. Again?!!! To the gate agent's credit, she showed genuine empathy, which I appreciated.

I then got to stand in the customer service line for an hour to get a discount coupon (not a voucher, mind you) for a local hotel. I called the number on the coupon and was given three options -- all "within 10 minutes of the airport." They ranged in price from $30 to $69. I'm a cheap bastard by nature. And I wasn't going to be there long. $30 it was.

I then had a 10-minute walk to the shuttle pick-up point, and a 45-minute wait for the "shuttle that comes every half hour." And then had a 15-minute ride to the hotel (that was supposedly 10 minutes away).

I rolled into the hotel well after 1:00 AM. I was still sufficiently alert to note the big sign that said, "Schedule your shuttle at check-in time." The shuttles ran every hour on the hour. I had a 7:50 AM flight and already had my boarding pass. The 6:00 shuttle seemed like the way to go. "I'm sorry sir, that shuttle is already full. Would you like the 5:00 AM or the 7:00 AM?" 7:00 just seemed too risky, so 5:00 AM it was. I logged a couple of hours of sleep, and am now sitting at my gate in O'Hare a full hour before boarding even begins.

Julie's Mom is coming into town today, which is going to allow Julie and me a getaway this weekend to a destination as yet unknown. Even if we found a great airfare, I don't know that I'd be up for flying!


Monday, February 4, 2008

Words Would Only Detract from This Post

Posted by Picasa


Tetherball: An All Weather Sport

You may recall my tetherball set installation woes. I put off trying to come up with a solution to the dilemma long enough that my parents made it to town, and my dad applied some engineering problem-solving to come up with a reasonably stable solution (a length of PVC pipe with a lengthwise cut in it and a handful of band clamps -- ingenious, really).

The weather dipped into the teens during the day shortly after the installation was complete, but that didn't stop Benton from pestering anyone and everyone into bundling up and playing a few games with him. We found out later that my dad -- the most obliging grandfather EVER -- managed to tweak his knee a bit, to the point that it was still bothering him a week or two later (and hindering my folks' cross country skiing plans in Maine)!

Unfortunately, the photos of those rounds are forever lost with the camera that disappeared. But, shortly after the new camera arrived, Benton's friend, Josh, came over for a Friday night sleepover. On Saturday, in 35 degree weather, they headed out to play:

After 45 minutes or so, they decided they were getting too warm, so they stripped down (Longhorn jerseys both! Hook 'em!):

But, the ground was still frozen, which, apparently, added to the challenge:

Posted by Picasa


The NHL Actually GAINS a Few Fans?!

The National Hockey League is dying faster than the tulips I gave Julie when we were in college (a story for another time...which Julie will never live down). Nonetheless, Julie is on a kick to "expose" the kids to a lot of different things, and that includes hockey (they'll be introduced to downhill skiing in a couple of weeks).

Columbus is actually a hockey town, in that it's the home of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets. "The who?" you say! That's right. The Blue Jackets. They're a genuine NHL team (as much as the Vancouver Grizzlies are a genuine NBA team, that is). This season, they actually have a shot at making the playoffs, although they're doing what they can to squander that opportunity.

Julie initially thought we'd grab tickets to a Blue Jackets game. Until she saw the ticket prices. Yowza! We're not exactly talking minor league baseball prices! Then, over lunch with Kim Cristofoli (a fellow gymnast from Julie's youth), she found out that her Kim's sons both play hockey. In a fairly elite league, no less.

Even better? They play their home games at Nationwide Arena (where the Blue Jackets play) or at Ohio State's rink. Both are nice facilities. And the games are FREE! We loaded up the family on Saturday to go see these 15/16-year old Blue Jackets (they are somehow actually affiliated with the NHL team) play the St. Louis Blues (who...yes...had travelled in from St. Louis!). These guys could actually play! They ran plays, made passes, and crashed the boards at full speed:

While Julie, her friend, and Benton (zoned out -- recovering from a very late sleepover with his friend, Josh, at our house the night before) watched from the 30th row or so, Carson, Alana, and I moved steadily closer to the action:

Eventually, the three of us found ourselves sitting right up on the glass, just 8 seats away from the penalty box. Carson and Alana both jumped a bit at the first hard check into the boards right in front of us...but both decided that was FUN! When the game ended (it wasn't really a contest -- the Blues won easily), we started back up the aisle. I was 8 rows up when I heard someone on the ice pound on the glass. It was one of the refs, who had obviously noticed us watching. He flipped me a puck for Carson.

We had to hold onto the kid's feet to keep him from floating off into the clouds. He's still talking about it!
Posted by Picasa