Monday, August 29, 2011

Man vs. Nature

Story time!  And today's is a doozie.  My head is still kind of spinning from it, actually.

So earlier today, there I was, innocently doing my running run through town, having a pretty good time of it and enjoying the cool pre-sunrise weather, noticing the return of the students to town.  I approached another fellow taking a stroll down the sidewalk, so I stepped off onto the street and ducked around the trees to go around him when suddenly it felt like I was hit in the head with a baseball bat.


I'm telling you, that branch appeared out of NOWHERE.  I'm quite sure I have adequate depth perception to understand and avoid running into things most times (though I feel like I have been clumsier than usual recently, breaking dishes and tripping over cords on a very regular basis), The guy I had just run past looked appropriately horrified at what he had just witnessed, and asked me if I was okay, and all I could do was stumble around for a second and say "Ow..."  I went back and examined the offending branch, and I just don't know how running into what I think I ran into could have possibly felt like that.  It truly felt like running head-first into a wall.  I was about a mile away from home, so I gently massage my throbbing bump and continued on my little run, and that's when I looked over at my reflection in the restaurant window and noticed blood running down my forehead.  Yikes!  It wasn't gushing or anything, so I wasn't too worried, but still I figured I better get home soon.  When I made it there, the wound was still a little bloody, but not really bleeding that much, if you know what I mean.  I didn't feel too dizzy or light-headed or anything (a little exhilarated from a good run maybe), but I did feel kind of like when you reach the top of the stairs and think there's one more step, and then experience that strange sensation like you don't really know what just happened (thanks to Lemony Snicket for the adjusted allusion).  The Wife made a sweet and sympathetic fuss about my little injury and helped me clean it up and examine it.  I wondered casually if such a thing would need stitches, since I don't have much experience with injuries requiring that kind of attention, but once we had a good look at it we thought it was mostly just a pretty good couple of scratches on my cheek and just past my hairline, and they would probably heal up on their own with time and a little ointment.  One of the scratches is pretty sizable, I should say, but it's not too serious.  So, no permanent head injuries or serious cranial trauma, at least not that I've noticed yet.
Cool, tree.  REAL cool.
Running is good for your health, they say, but apparently it can also be quite hazardous!  Just last week I almost faceplanted on the sidewalk when a dog ran right under my feet and in between my legs (after which it proceeded to follow me halfway home, catching up after it paused to sniff around, and then I finally lost him when it became distracted by some spot on the sidewalk).  Maybe in the future I'll be just a LITTLE more observant when dodging foliage.  So um, I'm not quite sure exactly who won in this morning's battle of Man vs. Nature, but I guess this one has to go to Nature.  My head still hurts a little, but that tree didn't seem to suffer much (if at all) as a result of our epic collision, except maybe when I snapped a twig off in some pitiful kind of retribution as I rubbed my forehead in vexation.  I hope we don't meet again, Tree, but if we do, you will not be so victorious!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Anniversary Weekend!

So yes, we celebrated our anniversary last week, and it was part of a weekend-long celebration!  Here are some of the happenings:

•  On Saturday morning we were up bright and early to run the fun and casual Alpine Days 5K with the fam.  It's ever so early, but we still have a good time.  I placed second in my division, coming in at about 20:52 (6:37/mile, though I think it was actually about 3.15 miles, so go ahead and take a few seconds off, hmm?), and they even gave me a medal for my efforts.  I checked here on my blog, and learned that I cut a couple minutes off my time from when I ran this race two years ago, and SEVERAL minutes off from the first time I ran it the year before that (last year we were in London so we missed this one).  Since we all ran a race, we were totally justified in indulging in some delicious french toast from Kneaders.
That little armband is pretty much a thing of the past.  I guess that's what you get when you pay $1 for it from some knock-off overseas website (and it takes over a month to arrive).
Why do I look so weird in this picture?  I admit I didn't plan out my expression or posture very carefully.
•  Then, since we decided running a 5K wasn't enough exercise for one day, we decided to finally hike to Timpanogos Cave.  We've been talking about it for months (even years!), and we finally decided while we're in the neighborhood we should just go.  We invited everyone to come, but in the end only Mom and Dad joined in.  It's a pretty good hike, especially in mid-day in the dead of summer (never again, I should think...), but we made it all right.  The cave itself is pretty cool, it had been years since I had been there, and it was Julie's first visit, so we appreciated Ranger Andy's guidance, even though we were really late for our scheduled tour time.  We were extremely sweaty, but the cave immediately drops like fifty degrees, so I was pretty glad about that.
Mountains!  They'll be even prettier in a couple of months.
We headed up while Dad parked the car, but then we decided to wait for him.  Here are the lovely ladies waiting in the shade.
And then, amazingly, I spotted Dad, and if you look closely, you can too.  He's wearing a white hat.  Where's Waldo?
Getting ready to have an adventure!
Oh calm down, it's not as far out as it looks.
We took a lot of pictures inside the cave, but this, ye legendary Heart of Mt. Timpanogos, is one of the ones that came out best.  (When I asked The Wife if she remembered its proper name, her reponse:  "I dunno, it's da heart of da world!"  Well said, Wife.)
It's us!  It was dark in there, and SO nice and cool.
This is Caramel Falls or whatever, but it kind of looked more slimy and less delicious than caramel.
That's the original entrance.  Can you even imagine?
That was SCARY.
We were really curious where these mystery doors led...
Hello, Utah Valley.
I call this one Wife in Archway.
She was all worn out by the time we were down.

• To finish things off, we celebrated our anniversary proper on Monday by giving surprise gifts throughout the day and going out on the town.  We had a very fancy dinner at Chef's Table, and to balance out the expense, went to a very cheap movie at the dollar theater.  Dinner was really quite delicious and deluxe, and Chef's Table lived up to its reputation pretty well.  I had some really good pork tenderloin medallions with the most amazing mashed potato truffles, and Julie had the salmon, which was really excellent too.  Their bread is awesome, and each entree comes with soup or salad (which, I believe, should be the case at every restaurant).  It seemed just a little overpriced, especially when you consider the view is a trailer park and power lines, but we were glad to go there finally.  The movie was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (in 3D!!!).  We decided to give it another chance and tried really, really hard to give it a little slack, but really, it's just kind of a mess.
What better to go with pork than bacon?  I am trying to look sophisticated, because this is a FANCY place.

What an elegant and dainty wife!  And such delicious fish.  And you can see the trailer park out the window.
Yay for leftovers!
One rose for each month.  It should be noted that flowers don't do well if your apartment is 85+ degrees at all times.  Also, flower food helps.
At dinner we also exchanged a couple of gifts (though there were a few for-both-of-us hidden surprises left for The Wife to find throughout the day... like the necessary volumes to complete our collection of this little number).  My surprise to Julie was a long-desired piece of jewelry, and hers to me was a DVD set that's not even available.  I never ever expected by favorite teen fandom series would belong to me in its entirety on DVD.
It holds up, even after all these years.

It was a splendid weekend.  Again, it's been two glorious years, and there's no end in sight. :D

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two Years Ago... (Or, The Best Two Years)

... I was married to the best girl in da world!  I love her so!  She is sweet, charming, talented, funny, gorgeous, and perfect for me in every way.  I just spent a few minutes looking through all of our wedding pictures and I felt such a rush of affection and memories that the workday suddenly seemed really long.
We have some fun plans in store for tonight, so I'll do a post about those after they happen, but I did have to post something right away to express my utter happiness and excitement (especially since The Wife wrote such a delightful blogpost herself today about how awesome I am and we are).

I can't believe it's been a year since we celebrated our first anniversary in Windermere (alas that we can't be somewhere quite as exotic for our second).  It hardly even seems that long since we were actually wedded (which you can read about all over again here, if you feel so inclined).  Are we still newlyweds?  Sure, why not?  We still feel like it.  :D
Now those were the Best Two Years.  (So far!)  I love you more than ever, Wife!  Let's be married forever, okay??

Friday, August 12, 2011

Computer Woes, Or the Near Loss and Triumphant Return of Sheng

(For those who don't know, Sheng is the name I affectionately gave my laptop when I first bought it, in honor of every teenybopper Hmong girl I knew who had that name.)

For the last many months my poor laptop has been running really low on hard drive memory.  I managed to delete things (music, mostly) in order to keep open at least 3-5 GB of her once available 170ish.  Eventually, at the recommendation of my technical support representative (more on him to follow), I decided I just had to break down and buy a new drive, and I found a really great deal for one that was 500 GB, which I thought I could surely never fill.  At first I thought I could just add a drive to use in addition to my current one, but I guess my computer doesn't have space to allow for that.  But I was informed that my drive could be cloned to the new and bigger one, so I bought it, but it kind of sat there for a few weeks... I'm kind of hesitant to make big changes like that sometimes because I'm afraid of losing everything on my computer and then where would I be??  Well, I would still probably be right here, but Sheng-less, so I just kind of toughed it out for a little while longer.  My hard drive kept reminding me that it was low on memory, and then one day, for no apparent reason, the whole thing just shut right off.


Of course that's the expected reaction when your computer inexplicably shuts off.  I waited a few minutes for it to cool down and then booted it back up.  It ran fine, but over the next few days shut off on its own once or twice more, and I noticed it was really hot where it sat on my knees (which is especially no fun when your apartment is already so roasty from the summer heat), so I decided the time had come for me to make arrangements to put it in the hands of the professionals.  "The professionals" is a phrase which here means my brother Matt, who is a master computerman and very, very awesome to always answer my questions about technology.  He's kind of like Kip in that he loves it.  So I let him know the latest developments about the shutting down (which he guessed was due to overheating and fan issues), and put Sheng and the new drive in his capable hands and left him to work his magic.

A day or two later I received an email from Matt with the prognosis, as well as the following pictures, assuring me in the email that "No laptops were harmed in the taking of these photos."
And still a work of art.
I think I started to panic a little when I glanced at this one, before I had read the actual email.
The pictures looked intense to me, and made me realize that while I might have been able to do this sort of thing myself (eventually, after hours of frustration and terror that I was going to do irreparable damange), I'm really glad that there are people with specific expertise for this very thing so I don't have to.  He told me that he could replace the hard drive, no problem, and cloning it would means it would be exactly like it was, but with much more available space.  As for the shutting down, his guess about overheating was right on--the fan was old and grungy and not working properly, so luckily Sheng was smart enough to just shut off when she overheated to avoid doing more serious damage to her innards.  Matt suggested I could either have him clean up the old fan and reinstall it to see if it works any better (unlikely), or I could just buy a new one (pretty inexpensive) and that one could be installed.  Naturally I just bought one and had it shipped to his place, and a couple weeks after I left it with him (oh my word, they do take their sweet time shipping those parts, don't they?) it was back at home and working better than ever!  And now she looks like this:
Just like the day I bought her, which is when this picture was actually taken.  Except my wallpaper now is much more attractive, because it's a picture of me and my stunning wife.
It took a couple of adjustments for her to get her bearings and remember who and where she was, and how to connect to our wireless signal, but now here I am not worrying about space every week when my podcasts download or wondering if she's going to shut down at any moment while she burns up my lap.  She's as good as new, and all of her parts are even better because all of her bolts have been tightened and all of her nooks and crannies have been swept clean.  Nothing like a happy laptop for laptopping.  The only payment Matt would accept for these particular services were fresh-baked cookies (pretty good if I say so myself) and girly giggles (see about 9:30 of the video).

As a side note, I'm kind of baffled by how hard drive space works sometimes, like how defragmenting the disk can actually leave you with less space, or how it might go down just because you open a file or move files around, and I have no idea how I could possibly have filled up 30 GB already...  But I'm not against housecleaning, doing an occasional iTunes sweep to delete songs I never listen to (or ones I didn't even know I had).  Sometimes less really is more.  Remember the days when we used to have towers and stacks of CDs?  Now I have it all right here on Sheng.  Packing my music for vacations is so much easier with an iPod than it was with a Discman and big old case of CDs, oh my word.

Thanks, Matt!  You're the best IT department/technical support ever!  To illustrate my feelings, here are a couple of relevant clips from The IT Crowd.  (And if there's a person in the reach of my blogvoice who hasn't watched The IT Crowd yet, do so forthwith.  Come on over, we have Series 1 on DVD.)  Enjoy:

Sheng returns!  And I'm one happy camper.  If your computer keeps giving you grief, Wife, we'll give her a similar facelift treatment, hmm?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hurrah for Utah-Only Holidays!

(To be fair and accurate, I remember the wards in Wisconsin having festive activities for this holiday too, though I guess no one had work off or anything...)

We had Pioneer Day a couple weeks ago!  It was great fun to have a long weekend.  My work doesn't recognize Pioneer Day as a paid holiday of course (or even as a holiday at all), but I do get one "Personal Holiday" each year, and it seemed like the very day to use it, especially since The Wife had work off.  We had a lot of festivities with family and friends, so I will now outline them in bulleted fashion!

•  On Friday night we were lucky enough to have great seats in the Conference Center to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform their Pioneer Day commemoration concert, with special guests Brian Stokes Mitchell (who I never get enough of) and Linda Eder (who I have been waiting to appear with the Choir for years).  It was stirring and thrilling and inspiring and all of those things!  I look forward to Linda joining them as their Christmas concert guest in the next year or two.  Then we stopped at the new Culver's in Midvale on the way home for some frozen custard and deep-fried cheese curds.  Ooohhhh, I have missed Culver's.

•  Then on Saturday morning we had a great 5K right here in Provo.  We have run the Provo Pioneer Day Classic once before, two years ago, but this time we were actually *ahem* registered (though it was a bummer because we barely missed the deadline for cheaper registration fees), and we planned to meet up with a bunch of kin there.  Julie and I arrived at the very last moment and had a good run.  The course is pretty tough with a few good uphill slopes, but we did all right.  I was this close to placing (less than 20 seconds behind third place in my age group, as well as top 10 overall), but I still feel good about finishing at 21:04 (about 6:48/mile).  Who could complain?  Besides, I don't think I could have pushed myself any harder in that last half mile.  Oy.  Melody followed right behind me and tried really hard to pass me up.  I never thought I would be considered a fast runner.  Several of our group placed in their age group, and were fortunate enough to end up with bonus t-shirts and fabulous prizes.
I mean, seriously, don't I look like a champion?  Oh, and I hope the powers that be don't mind that I borrowed this image without actually buying it.  I figure I left the URL in the graphic, so I'm advertising for them, and the picture quality is sufficient for blog needs.

Not pictured is Amber.  She might have taken off early, along with baby-sitter Katy, but maybe she opted out of the photo since she ran bandit.

Jonny was away when they called his name to collect his medal, so I picked it up for him.  Don't tell, I'm not really Jonny Rej-ho-lec!

•  We hurried home so we could conduct a business transaction at our place.  Some of you may know we've been looking into getting new furniture for quite some time.  We have liked having Mom's old couches, but we always thought it would be nice to be furniture that's just ours and that we pick out and buy together as soon as the time and situation was right.  We've also been looking into moving into a bigger place, perhaps slightly more outside of Student Town, but then we realized that we don't really have a very good reason to move yet, so we should just stick it out for now and save the extra cash.  Then we thought a good way to feel like we moved without really moving is to rearrange our apartment's setup and finally get that new living room set (which would be better to buy now than when we're taking a hike in rent anyway).  So I advertised on Facebook and almost immediately had a taker in one of my friends from the MTC.  We met him at our apartment after the race, vacuumed the couches out, said our goodbyes and then sent them off in the U-Haul truck to live with their new family.
They are comfy, and I have many fond memories of Sunday afternoon naps on them!  Also notable memories were when Cami used to wake me up by running and jumping through the air to land upon me.

Bye, couch!

Bye, love seat!  You served us well for just about two years.

Later in the day we stopped at RC Willey to make our purchase, and bought a set on sale that we had seen a couple weeks earlier and liked (they evidently met all of Julie's couch requirements), though we knew that they would take a day or two to come down from Salt Lake City, and thus began our weekend of sitting on the floor to watch TV.

•  For the rest of that day we relaxed, watching TV and having a picnic on the floor, shopping at IKEA and buying a few other new additions to our living situation, and seeing Captain America with some friends later in the evening, which seemed a fittingly patriotic movie for the time of year.  We also had delicious frozen treats after the movie at Sub-Zero, which we liked very much.  We'll probably go back so Julie can get that peach cobbler concoction again...  As for me, I wouldn't turn down the chocolate peanut butter option.

•  On Sunday I led the choir in a very festive performance of "They, the Builders of the Nation."  Those who have spoken with me on the subject of this ward choir (or who has any kind of experience leading probably any ward choir) will know that it's been quite a struggle to get devoted choir members at rehearsal, especially in a student area in the summertime.  So, imagine my surpreeze when record numbers walked up to the stand and joined in the musical number!  It was quite remarkable, and it really sounded like even more singers than we had.  It was interesting to hear the ward choir sing the same piece that opened Friday night's concert in Salt Lake City...  We didn't have 200 singers of a world-famous choir or a full orchestra or a 21,000-seat venue, but I tell you, I had the same feeling listening to my stalwart little group of singers as I had on Friday night.  That Mack knows how to arrange a hymn.

•  On Monday our couches came into town, and we made ready for them by cleaning the carpets (with our weeks-old vacuum and even a rented Rug Doctor) and basically deep-cleaning the entire place.  We even rearranged our bedroom furniture, so the light from the window is finally out of our eyes when we sleep.
Can you believe this all came out of our carpet?  And that's after vacuuming twice!  Nasty!!!

But then it looked like this.  It made me feel like I shouldn't walk on it.  Ever again.
Then, despite all my most valiant efforts at securing use of a truck owned by any nearby friend, we ended up hauling both pieces the three-and-a-half blocks from RC Willey to our apartment.  (This is very reminiscent of a time when Cami and I carried a love seat from the same RC Willey to her and Jake's apartment).  On the one hand, it's a good thing that we live so close, but on the other hand, they were still really heavy, and seriously, NO ONE around Provo had a truck we can use??  It almost put our poor helpful next-door neighbor in the ER for overexertion and underhydration.  But the couches are here and they are new and they are ours!  We love them and wanted to just sit and snuggle on them for a long, long time.

New couches!
Some assembly required.  I like when the need arises to break out the ol' tool set.  It makes me feel manly.  Which manliness you can clearly see in my expression.
We rearranged things a little too.  Don't they change the whole look and feel of the place?  Too bad the pillows they came with are sort of hideous and scratchy.  They may or may not be replaced soon.  The rug was a recent IKEA acquisition.
Interestingly, we stopped by our old apartment recently and found that at least the outside has had a major facelift, including completely new paint from top to bottom.  It almost looks liveable!  There are even window AC units, which was a thing unheard of back when we lived there.  It's still tiny, and I'm sure the nasty bugs will be there forever, but they probably raised the price when they painted the outside anyway.

•  The rest of the holiday was spent running many errands (getting fitted for new suits I bought on MAJOR sale a couple of months ago which finally arrived, and checking out the going-out-of-business sales at a favorite Borders) and then having a delicious dinner with Mom and Dad.

We didn't want to go back to work the next day, but at least it would mean there was a short work week.  It seemed like there should have been something more to our activities, maybe something I was forgetting, but now that I type it all out, it seems like we had quite a busy weekend after all.  Hurrah for Utah-only holidays!  Thanks, pioneers!  I feel like there's a little bit of hero worship in the Church, but they did some pretty impressive things.  I should know, because I went on a youth trek when I was like 14.  My cousin had a tick, and it seemed so gross to me.  (My pioneer ancestors would probably smack me for being so flippant about all of this, but oh well.)

Say, I guess I never blogged about my poor sick computer and her triumphant return...  That will have to wait.  *reminds self*