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Let’s start the new year off right…

Posted in Uncategorized on January 1, 2014 by Mike

Since it’s the first day of a new year, it’s time to make some resolutions  – and then begin paving Hell with them the rest of the year (as Twain said).

First up, I’m writing more often.  I’ve written this one before, and Hell has a nice walkway through its eighth circle because of it, but this time I have a bit more motivation: on Monday, I went in for  a physical/check-up (after two years of not really worrying about it), and fully expected to be told that I had high cholesterol. And I do (blood pressure’s perfect, though). But that’s not what the doctor called me about that afternoon .

It seems I have diabetes.

Yeah, I know, right? I’m 6’3” and 195 pounds – I’m not the typical diabetes candidate.  I’m definitely not obese and I do work out (irregularly lately), but my piss-poor eating habits seem to have caught up to me in a way I never expected.  One of my symptoms (there were a few) appeared about two weeks ago – eye blurriness.  I thought grading papers was the culprit, or I was spending too much time reading on my iPhone, but, nope, that was my high glucose levels affecting my vision, trying to tell me to straighten the hell up. Honestly, I’m angry at a lot of different things right now, myself included, and what I think is the whole fucking injustice of it all, but I know have to change some pretty significant parts of my life. I now have to wake up and go prick my finger to check my glucose level first thing every morning – I’m three days in and I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to see 288 staring back at you when you think you were eating responsibly the previous day (for those who don’t know, I need to shoot for 70-100 on a fasting sample to be considered normal).  It’s unrealistic to think it will change after three days (and, hey, my fasting sample was well over 300 on Monday), and Laura (who has been utterly fantastic about this – I’ve been very low) has reminded me that it’s taken years to get myself to this condition.  I can’t expect it to repair itself overnight. And she’s right.

Speaking of diet, I’m no longer allowed to eat anything with abandon, and now I’m constantly thinking of the types of food that will be exceptions/forbidden.  Fried chicken, most fast food, most sweets – saturated fats and all that. I did find out peanut M&Ms are okay, so there’s that.  The past couple days I’ve looked through our pantry and have recognized just how much crap I’ve got in there.  There’s a definite lack of appropriate snack food there for me.  Now I’m trying to figure out what kind of snacks I can eat and what kinds of food I’ll be able to take to school for my lunches.

Beyond diet, I need to exercise more regularly, which I don’t mind, but I would have rather had been more intrinsically motivated than have my doctor tell me I need to.  So I’ve started running again, and I’ll be getting to the gym even more regularly.

So there are my New Year’s resolutions in a  nutshell (healthy, see?). I’ll be updating this blog with how my condition is going, among other things, this year.

Best wishes to you all this year!

 

Addendum: the Aggie game last night was amazing – Johnny Manziel showed why he is the best college football player in the country.  I hold out hope he’ll stay one more year, but deep down know he won’t.  Good luck to him!

 

 

No Shave November at the high school.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 1, 2013 by Mike

One of my good friends (and fellow teacher) was somehow able to convince our principal to promote a “No Shave November” contest among students and faculty this year. Actually, the “somehow” isn’t too difficult to understand – the proceeds are benefiting another faculty member (and friend) who has been diagnosed with both bladder and prostate cancer.

No Shave

Here’s the ad for the event. If interested in helping out, contact me.

Now, I’ve never been able to grow a beard.  My attempts at such have been limited to a week’s worth of goatee growth on several occasions, but my own sense of vanity ended those attempts.  Okay, my wife’s aversion to facial hair also had something to do with it.  I  have at times coveted my friends’ facial-hair prowess (I’m looking at you, BRP, Scott F.,  and Mark H.), and my dad can grow a beard at will, but I’d console myself that because I don’t have a beard, I look much younger than my 41 years and, hey, Cap doesn’t have a beard.  Okay, that last one’s pathetic.

But I am not alone – my twin, of course, has the same problem (though he has recently made it past the “this looks awful” self-doubt phase and is sporting a goatee these days), and my younger brother hasn’t really committed himself yet (though, as the spitting image of our dad, he’s bound to get started soon).  Another good friend at the high school (J-Roy) is worse off than me; I recall being able to count his chin whiskers after two weeks of dedicated growth. But because he’s J-Roy, he’s convinced me to join with him to form a team in League One: “Team Patchy.”

This means I’ll be attempting to grow a full-on beard over the next month.

This also means I’ll  be sleeping on the couch starting about next Wednesday, I imagine.

Wish us luck.

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Assignment: Go out into nature and use your sense(s)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2013 by Mike

Yeah, I’m not going in there
There’s bound to be poison ivy
And my calves prefer to remain itch-free.

Some small bird with a loud mouth, er, beak
Sounds off behind me
While another tweets ahead of me
Non-electronically.

Ouch! Damn mosquito –
Killed that fucker dead.

Nature be damned. I’m going back inside.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (allow me to geek out for a moment)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2013 by Mike

Warning: here there be possible spoilers.

Ever since the first teaser for “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” appeared, one of the more popular talking points about ABC and Joss Whedon’s series has been”How the HELL is Agent Coulson in this series? He’s dead! I saw him die!” Of course, comic book superheroes never really DIE for good – there’s not a superhero out there that hasn’t died in the pages of his/her comic book a few times over. But Agent Coulson’s no superhero – prick him, he’ll bleed; poison him, he’ll die and all that – so after Whedon ripped our hearts out in Avengers (as he did in Serenity) it was reasonable to wonder how he’d pull off the trick of bringing Phil back to life without blatantly cheating.

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“I am a leaf on the wind.”

The first episode of “Agents…” doesn’t completely answer that question. Sure, Coulson tells us about how he “saw a bright light” and was apparently on death’s doorstep before being revived miraculously (the heroes needed that “push” and weren’t told that Coulson survived) – and that’s certainly plausible – but it also cheapens the moment from the movie considerably. Coulson’s death becomes a trick, a ruse, not only fooling the heroes but also the audience. Beyond that, it suggests that mainstream superhero movies won’t let ANY protagonist actually die, which, if Marvel goes this direction, takes away any dramatic tension because there’s no risk anymore. Innocent bystanders are at risk of falling debris, of course, but never anyone with, you know, a name.

And I can’t really believe Whedon would do that.

There are hints in the episode that he didn’t. After Coulson discusses the bright light and being brought back to life, he goes on to talk about his recuperation in Tahiti, “a magical place.” Again, plausible, but Whedon brings in Firefly/Serenity alum Ron Glass (Shepherd) as one Dr. Streiten, who, upon hearing Coulson talk of Tahiti, looks on with amazement/mild bewilderment and, after Coulson exits, says something questioning Coulson’s lack of knowledge about what really happened. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders reprising her Avengers role) responds with something along the lines “He can never know.”

The plot thicks.

Fortunately, there’s a perfectly Marvel-ous answer for this, and, if true, would restore the integrity of Coulson’s death in The Avengers and enrich the cinematic Marvel universe through the use of comic canon: Life Model Decoys.

For the uninitiated, Life Model Decoys (LMDs) are androids that serve as perfect duplicates of VIPs in the Marvel Universe, right down to DNA and memories. They are SHIELD creations, and the original Nick Fury in the comics has several running around at any given time. Using one to replace Coulson would be in keeping with Marvel tradition and could possibly lead to some very surprising reveals later in the series. In fact, they’ve already been name-checked in the cinematic universe: Tony Stark tries to play himself off as an LMD when Coulson arrrives at Stark Tower to bring him his “homework.” So there is precedent.

But what about that whole “he can never know” business? LMDs in Marvel comics have been known to believe themselves to be the real thing, rather than a copy. The last run of Secret Avengers used a Nick Fury LMD who believed himself to be the real Nick Fury, and ended up going a bit insane. The idea that Coulson is actually an LMD who doesn’t realize that he’s artificial is, in my eyes, a distinct possibility, and sets up some fantastic possibilities/drama for the future. What would happen if Coulson realizes he’s an android? That SHIELD kept this from him because he’s so valuable (Fury: “I lost my one good eye”)? As Stark explains in the Avengers , Fury is “THE spy. His secrets have secrets.”

I think Whedon has one, too.

/I published this first on comicbookdiscussion.com – check it out!

The benefits of having cute daughters…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 18, 2013 by Mike

About a year ago, I was traveling with the family to my parents.  We were in my wife’s Highlander, and, because its ride is very smooth and its acceleration impressive for a small SUV, I didn’t really notice that I was going about 83 in a 75…okay, maybe I did, but no trooper is going to pull me over for just 8 over, right?

Wrong.

Just before Hearne, a trooper (WHO CAME OUT OF NOWHERE, I SWEAR) pulls in behind me and flashes his lights.  I pull over, groaning because my wife is right beside me and smiling smugly because she was the last one to get a ticket and I hadn’t had one for years.  She also said she told me to slow down not ten minutes earlier.  Right.  Like I believe that.

Anyway, the trooper gets out of his car and makes his way to my window, which I’ve rolled down in preparation for the “Do you know why I pulled you over?” conversation. Before he says a word, though, Suzie, my cute, silly little five year old daughter sitting behind me in her booster seat, looks at the officer and says, “Hi!” in her cute, silly little five year old voice.

I’m looking at the officer and see his stern face break into a slight grin – he tried his BEST to suppress it, but couldn’t.  It was at that point that I thought to myself, “Hot damn, I’m not getting a ticket.”

I didn’t – he let me off with a warning.  My wife and I laughed about it the rest of the way to my parents, and she told me I owed my daughter big-time.

Cut to this morning, and I’m driving Suzie to school in my silver SS Camaro, not paying ANY attention to my speed as I go down the main drive from my house.  I honestly didn’t think I was speeding – the thought never crossed my mind.

That is, until the motorcycle cop set up at the end of the street flashed his lights as I came over the crest of the hill.

Digression: From time to time since the state trooper escape, I’ve told Suzie that if I were to ever get pulled over again, she should again say “Hi!” to the officer as he gets to my window (“what the hell?”, I think, it can’t hurt).

Suzie performs admirably. In fact, she says “Hi!” about four different times as the officer tells me he clocked me at 38 in a 30.  I expressed some surprise at the speed and he asks how fast I thought I was going.  In one of my more impressive moments of stupidity, I say I wasn’t paying any attention at all to my speed.  Nice, Michael.

He walks back to his bike with my license (Suzie says “Hi!” a couple more times) and I’m wondering how I’m going to hide this ticket from my wife.  When he returns, he tells me he’s giving me a warning, and asks me if I’ll slow it down next time.  “Absolutely,” I say, and he kind of laughs at that.  Then he tells me that some neighbors have complained about speeders on the street and then says he’s “looking for bigger fish” that morning.

I drive off relieved, of course, but also amazed at two things:

1) Motorcycle cops NEVER let people off of tickets.  I’ve never heard of it happening.

and

2) I’m in an SS Camaro – I’m not one of those “bigger fish”?

Still, I think I owe Suzie again.

So we’re building a pool…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 18, 2012 by Mike

…and up until this morning things were going rather well.  Because of the rain last week, our builder couldn’t get started until the middle of this week, but over the past few days it’s been a well-oiled machine.  They excavated the hole Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday were spent putting down the rebar and the various pipes in preparation for the cement (“gunite”), the most complicated of the processes.

And, I should also add, the noisiest.

Now, I have to go back a bit to before the construction began.  I’m a member of my HOA’s Architectural Review Committee, and our bylaws ask homeowners to submit plans for such projects like pools and fences and sheds for review/approval before construction begins.  I believe we were the first family to actually follow this guideline, as there have been at least two other pools spring up in our neighborhood without any prior by-your-leave. That sounds a bit snooty, and as a committee we’ve always been considerate to our homeowners’ requests, but still…we have guidelines for a reason, people.

I excused myself from the review committee for our plans, of course, while the other two guys on the committee (who I really like as people, I’m going to say right now, and consider them friends) reviewed the plans and made sure we were taking into account all the variances and such.  That took some time. Perhaps because the previous pool owners did not go through ANY steps before building, and we were determined to do this right (and hopefully establish some precedent for future pool construction in our neighborhood), we were asked to go around to all our neighbors (not just adjacent houses; nine households, total) and inform them of the upcoming construction and have them sign that they were informed.  Finally, the chair of our committee told me before he signed off on the plans, we would have to agree that there would be no gunite work on the weekends (our HOA guidelines don’t prohibit work on Saturdays, though, and the city allows work beginning at 7:00 A.M).

Now, we had submitted plans to them in mid-December, and their approval came in the middle of February.  But, okay, we could get rolling now that that was done.  We had every intention of abiding by that final request, and so, after the rain and our builders’ schedules lined up, we got started this past week.

Here’s where things went south.

The weather has so far been cooperating with our building schedule, but there are thunderstorms forecast for the first few days of next week.  We are also having a pool house built (scheduled to start next week), but that start date depends on the pool having the gunite process completed.  So…what to do?  If we didn’t go ahead with the gunite on Saturday, the schedule for EVERYTHING would be pushed back by at least a week.  Also, and more importantly to us, heavy rain could effect the pool excavation, leading to possible structural concerns due to erosion, affecting the rebar skeleton and so forth.  So we made the call to it get it done Saturday.

So you, reader, can decide for yourself if we made a reasonable decision, or are horrible neighbors.

The gunite people got started early – at 7:00 A.M they turned on the machines and damn, if it wasn’t loud.  Not continuous, mind you, but there was a loud buzzing signal that occurred regularly as the gunite was being sprayed into the pit.  My wife and I were conscious of this, and I was just praying that it wasn’t as loud to our neighbors.

It apparently was.

Laura decided to go for a run since she was up, and about 10 minutes later the head of our ARC, the one who asked us not to have gunite work done on weekends, rang my doorbell. I walked out to the porch and he immediately started yelling at me. Screaming at me, really, asking me what was going on, why they were working, insulting me and saying I had just made an enemy in him.  I’m not confrontational – I apologized time and again, attempting to explain why we made the decision, but he wasn’t interested in that.  And I could understand the aggravation, if not the screaming.  Then he told me his wife had just lost her mother this past Tuesday and had just gotten back last night. Yeah, I felt like shit. He stormed off, leaving me to wait for Laura and feeling pretty damned bad about, oh, everything.  Then, 10 minutes later, he and his wife came back and continued the berating.  I asked our pool guy if they could stop for a while – he had them stop for about an hour.  My neighbor and his wife left, leaving me alone once again.

It took so long for Laura to get back that I recognized she must have run into them after her run.  She had, and when she returned my neighbor was with her.

One of the MANY reasons I love my wife is her ability to stay calm/rational in tense situations.  One of the reasons she’s a doctor, I suppose. She had apparently been informed by another one of our neighbors about the confrontation at our house, and went to talk to Mr and Mrs. ARC (<–  not trying to be flippant here, just want to clarify pronouns).  She went through the reasons why we made our decision, and the fact that we had to make the gunite decision late made it impractical to let them know.  Told them that we were willing to put them up in a hotel for the day, if that would help, and basically smoothed enough feathers that Mr. ARC came back to apologize to me for his behavior.  He was very apologetic about it, telling me he knew we were good neighbors/not self-absorbed/trying to do the right thing, etc.  As I said before,  I consider him a friend, and I apologized in return (again) for the situation. It still didn’t keep me from being tense for the rest of the morning. And that was before I found out that our neighbor across the street called the police at about 8:45 about the noise. Yes, that actually happened. Our pool guy had a brief conversation with the officer who showed up.

So, basically, it was a perfect storm of events that led to this morning’s unpleasantness.  Yes, I think we were at fault for going ahead with the gunite process on a Saturday morning, but with the circumstances being what they were, there was some justification for doing it.  Also, not to make light of the decision, but, as my wife said about the request not to have gunite work on the weekends, it was  “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” (We love the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie).

Above all, I’m very glad our relationship with Mr. and Mrs. ARC is still intact.  They are wonderful people.

So I’m on the last half mile of my run tonight…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 29, 2011 by Mike

…and I’m running up a street a couple blocks from my house when I see a purse on top of a car, apparently left there by accident. I don’t want to stop my run as I’m making pretty good time (for me) and I’m bare-chested and sweaty (ladies, don’t get excited – I’m married). So I decide to run back home and get a shirt on, drive back and be a hero to the nice lady who lives there.

I get back to the house and tell Laura what I saw – she thinks I should have got the house number so she could have called; the people might not open up this late at night. I assure her that they’ll answer the door – it’s not even 9:15, and I pull a shirt on and hop in my car to go save this lady a few moments of panic the next morning.

As I drive back up the street I spot the purse from a distance – it looks a bit “flatter” than I remembered it when I ran by not five minutes earlier. Then it starts stretching its legs and cranes its neck to look at me as I drive on by, round the corner, and head back home.

In my defense, it was dark and there were no street lights close by. Fat orange cats look like purses in the daylight, too.