Monday, October 30, 2006

An "Extra" Hour

Saturday night, we received the best present possible -- time. I went to bed late, slept in the next morning, and still had time to run my four miles, take a shower and be to church early. What decadence!

Then the confusion sets in as I try to keep track of which clocks have been updated and which have not. But is all this stress and changing of clocks really necessary?

In this map of the time zones, you can easily see that those of us in the United States have been victims of some pretty severe time zone gerrymandering. Clearly, from this diagram, if our lines hadn't been moved all over the place to align with something that someone thought would be more right, the city of Austin would have been in section T -- placing us seven hours before Universal Time, and therefore in traditional Mountain Time. In general, that means we would stay in the Central Daylight Time we just left all year round.

While I enjoyed my extra hour of sleep this weekend, I still think we should have stayed in CDT, or more appropriately, we should be in Mountain Standard Time all year long. Why do I feel this way? I run in the morning, so you'd think I would want light for that time. However, I have mostly run in the dark till now anyway, so light a little earlier is not likely to affect me. Mostly, though, I abhor the fact that it will now be dark when I leave work today. I hate the early hastening of the dark sad time of the year known as winter, when the days get so short that you start to forget what the sun looks like. I know I shouldn't complain -- I'm so far south that this is barely an issue compared to all the folks that live in the north. But I've grown spoiled with the days of sunshine, and I depend on it to remain sane (if you can call me sane). Without the abrupt changing of the hours, I would have been eased into this part of the year where I leave work in the dark. I might have had time to adjust. But now, when I left work on Friday it was light, and when I leave today, the sun will have already departed. No adjustment period allowed.

I know Daylight Savings Time was initially suggested as a way to help out farmers dealing with businesses, primarily banks, be able to work their fields and still get to town as necessary. At this point, that argument is now archaic and completely useless. People are expected to continue to remember an arbitrary rule set up during a time when the country was virtually entirely agrarian, when most of us now couldn't even distiguish a combine from a hay baler. Last year congress wasted time while figuring out the latest energy bill to debate adding four more weeks to daylight savings time. Apparently this was, at least partly, motivated by a desire to give the kids more daylight in which to collect candy on Halloween. If, instead, they had just spent the same time realigning our country with the longitude lines that were originally intended to be used in time zone definition, we'd all be better off.

Some people say that the lines squiggle around to keep whole states together in the same time zone. If that's the case, then why are so many states, including Texas, divided anyway? if you're going to divide South Dakota into two zones, why not divide it along the longitude line, rather than some other arbitrary location? I, for one, wouldn't care if Austin was in Mountain Time and Houston was in Central Time. It would just add to the flavor of the state.

Why isn't this incredibly important issue front-and-center on everyone's election platforms this year? If someone promised me they'd move Austin into Mountain Time, I'd vote for them.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Marathon Training: Week 14

After a week and a half of lackluster commitment to running, I'm back. Being sick gave me an acceptable excuse for skipping a few runs, and that was all it took to get me back to my lazy non-running self. I skipped more than the few runs needed to get back to healthy, and I suffered for it. I even had the thought that maybe I wasn't cut out to do a marathon. I had the thought, but that doesn't mean I entertained it.

This week, starting Tuesday, I kicked myself in the rear and figured I better get moving again. I did just twelve miles this week, but the big thing is that I'm back on track. I'm now into the part of the training where I have a long run every other week, and the other week is half my long distances. The "long" run was just set to be six miles, and those six miles went well. It was just encouraging to have a good Saturday run to get back into it properly. And, after all the bad runs I've had in the multiples-of-six-mile runs, it was good to break that streak. Now I'm ready for this week, too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stuff in My Desk Drawer

I opened my drawer at work recently, and was sort of surprised by the random collection that resides there. Currently in that top drawer are:

  • a rubberband chain about eight feet long
  • additional rubberbands that never made it into the chain
  • packages of Orbit citrusmint flavor gum, which was my favorite for a week
  • the box for my desk phone's hands-free headset
  • containers of generic ibuprofen from Target and Albertson's
  • a container of Sortkwik, used to moisten fingers for faster and more accurate collation (which I do once a year in preparation for the client conference, but brought from Motorola where I hadn't collated anything in years)
  • a half-completed McDonalds Monopoly game board
  • four ketchup packets
  • a bag of honey-lemon cough drops
  • a protractor
  • assorted sizes of PostIt notes, all yellow
  • an assorted pile of paperclips, binder clips, and desk/chair hardware that I hope isn't necessary
  • two containers of sour apple Altoids
  • a pair of socks I must've worn a month ago, but in a fidgety conference call, removed
  • the owner's manual to my keyboard (longer than most keyboard manuals)

    Who keeps this kind of junk in their desk at work? Someone who's been there way too long, and is way too comfortable with staying right where they are. I guess it's a good thing our office is moving to a new building on Congress at the end of this week. It'll give me a good reason to throw away a whole lot of stuff that I should have been throwing away as I was going along.
  • Saturday, October 21, 2006

    Marathon Training: Week 13

    After being sick the last part of last week, I started back into running very slowly. I was concerned that I needed more days to heal. I only ran 2 miles on Wednesday as a result. It wasn't probably the best prep for today's twelve-mile run, but I did survive it (but let's not speak of today's run ever again), and I did get healthy. Now on to the next week.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Cowboy Mouth at Antone's

    Tonight I went to see Cowboy Mouth at Antone's. I'd never been to a concert there, though I've walked by it numerous times (it's near a club I visited during our customer conference last spring), and it always sounds like good fun is going on inside. I had seen Cowboy Mouth before, but last time it was at La Zona Rosa, which has some similarities to Antone's as a venue. I think the stage is higher at LZR, which worked well with CM. But I digress.

    The opening band was called Johnny Sketch, and they were amazing! I love to see band members that look like they are enjoying themselves, and this was definitely the case with this group. Add to that fact the non-standard instrumentation including a tenor sax and a trumpet (they said flugelhorn, but it wasn't that big), and you find yourself in one rocking ensemble. We were a little late arriving at the show, so we missed probably 15 minutes of their set. Regardless, they were a lot of fun (you know that's the case when you remember the name of the opening band at the end of the show).

    Then CM came onstage. They have a new bass player since I last saw them, but they seemed like they've been playing together forever. Fred (the drummer/lead singer) will not allow the crowd to just listen -- the audience is part of a Cowboy Mouth show. You have no choice but to get involved: singing, jumping, clapping, screaming -- it's all expected. Fred threw a half dozen sticks into the crowd, and Johnny even threw out his pick. It was tons of fun, especially watching the people who were there. After two solid hours of "Southern Louisiana Rock" I walked back to my car trying to learn how to hear again. And we didn't even stay near the speakers where we started out.

    Ah, good fun. And all the better to enjoy with your girlfriend when both husbands are out of town. It's mostly nice just to pretend we aren't normally in bed by 9:30.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Sad Music Addendum

    As always seems to happen, as soon as something is declared finished, more ideas come to mind. I can't imagine how authors do it -- deciding that something is really finished and ready to go to print must be awfully tough.

    After completing my recent assignment, I realized there were some doozies I left off the list. And since I don't have a publisher that prevents me from modifying and adding things, I decided I can add additional songs here.

    "Hate Me" by Blue October

    I often feel like my husband is struggling in the same kinds of ways as the protagonist in this song. Depression instead of addiction, but very similar struggles. There are times I see this as the only kind of outcome that will keep my life intact. I'm not sure I'd get the kind of mature release that is described in this song, but maybe that's a realization that doesn't come to the leavee until well after the leaver has done their leaving. Depression is a life-sucking monster -- especially when sufferers can't/won't/don't do something about it. We actually had a really good talk recently which might lead to him getting some help, but we'll have to see how that plays out.

    "The Dance" by Garth Brooks

    I don't listen to a lot of country, but I did attend Texas A&M, so I was exposed to it. Somewhere along the line I decided I liked Garth Brooks, and bought one of his albums. When I met my husband, he also didn't like country, but had purchased one lone album from the genre. And, you guessed it, it was the same one. The only overlapping CD in our collections.

    This song is one of those songs about how you can't enjoy the mountains in life without the valleys for comparison.

    And now I'm glad I didn't know
    The way it all would end the way it all would go
    Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
    But I'd have had to miss the dance

    Touching, how looking back, one might choose to make the same decisions, even knowing how a particular situation or relationship might turn out.

    "He" by Jars of Clay

    I realized the other night as I left their most recent concert, that I am glad they didn't sing this song. Crying in private in one's home or car is different than crying at a concert with lots of people around. The lyrics to this song are such a poignant look at children who suffer abuse, that I wonder which of the four of the members of the band had the experience that hit so close to home. Especially the line

    And they think I fell down, again

    just gets me. The picture of kids screaming in whatever ways they feel that they can, and not getting heard is just devastating.

    "Butterfly Kisses" by Bob Carlisle

    This is an overly sentimental song, but melodrama always gets me. If something is "supposed" to make a person cry, you can just about guarantee that will include me. Speaking of crying in public places, people who use this song at their weddings aren't nice. Wedding attendance is one of the few things that motivate me to wear makeup -- and then you want to go make me mess it up?

    Sorry I had to create a second post on these kinds of songs, but there were just too many more to leave them out!

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Paying for Clean Energy

    I recently started to respond to a post on clean energy, and found that I had more to say than I thought. So, I decided to post on the topic here on my own blog.

    I honestly think that if those of us with the means to pay for for cleaner energy don't opt to do so, we are dooming the ability for those energy producers to get to the point where they can make energy cheaper for the general public.

    I would equate the need to pay more for cleaner energy in the short term less to a moral issue and more like the ability for more wealthy people to pay for a higher quality of health care. You get better health care if you can pay more, whether that's through your insurance or your own cash. Whether you agree with that or not, that's the way it is. As treatments become more common, and more sought after, they become cheaper and covered by more insurance plans, and they become available to people with less means.

    For people with the means to pay for cleaner energy who choose not to do so, they are acting irresponsibly with the lives of those who come after us. It's sort of like knowing there is a procedure that would save your child's life when they are deathly ill, no moral or religious concerns about the procedure, and having the means to proceed, but just choosing not to have it done. Are we really that callous a people?

    So, what is my family doing on this front? If we weren't doing something, that would make us awfully hypocritical. We have been trying to get on the City of Austin Green Power program, but it's very popular and nearly impossible to become a part of it. We have decided that solar energy the only way to participate in the immediate term from our location in the city, since we don't have enough land to produce our own wind or hydro energy. We've investigated the ability to sell any overflow power back to the energy grid, looked into the different technologies available for solar panels, and are saving up for the initial outlay for the equipment. We expect to have those panels in place within the year.

    There are always other things to do to reduce your energy footprint, and other things that we are doing at our house, as well. I would submit that if you have a computer and enough free time to have read this entry, that you have the means to make decisions to help the environment with your money. And nothing speaks louder to our country than how you choose to spend your money. What are you doing?

    Marathon Training: Week 12

    All I can say is that it's a good thing this was scheduled to be an "easy" week. I had run my two 4-mile runs this week, and then on Thursday, I came down with the cold/flu that's been running around the office. I ran a low-grade fever Thursday and Friday, and proceeded to try to take care of myself. Saturday morning I got up and felt much better, and while I knew I was still not completely better, I figured if I ran slow I'd be okay. And besides, my long run was only scheduled to be 6 miles, so I figured that would be manageable. While I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, I don't always make good decisions.

    About a mile in my fever was back, and I thought about quitting. But I didn't, and by mile 4 when I made the decision to quit, I was too far from the house to do anything but finish the mileage. I thought about asking the nice people that were out and about in their neighborhoods to give me a ride home. I wished I'd brought my cell phone to call someone to come get me. Regardless, that last hallucinatory mile was completed, and I can still say I have completed all my long runs on the program.

    Now I'm back to sleeping and drinking lots of water to try to get back on the appropriate track for next week.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Jars of Clay at Stubbs

    This weekend I went to see Jars of Clay at Stubbs. Now Stubbs is one of my all-time favorite venues, and I've gone to see bands I've never heard of there. Jars of Clay is one of my favorite bands, and the only band I've seen more than once. So, when I heard they were coming to Austin and playing Stubbs, I had no choice but to attend.

    The first time I saw them was at a church in Fort Worth while I was in college. There couldn't have been more than 300 people there, and they did a fully acoustic set, including a violin and cello on a couple of the tracks. After having been involved in a church band for a while now, I have a real appreciation for how much harder it is to make a quiet acoustic song sound good than a really loud, rocking song. But even then, I realized how talented these guys were to make that intimate setting work.

    The next year there was a new album, a new tour, and a grammy under their belt, so they had a bigger venue. That year, I saw them open for Michael W. Smith at the Astrodome in Houston. I'm not generally a big MWS fan, but he is a talented musician, and can certainly draw a crowd worthy of the Astrodome booking. And Jars sounded amazing in the big place, too. Their second album was generally passed over, but I think it's been their best so far. It was a reflective album, but it concerted well. I doubt "concerted" is a word, but I have a documented knack for making up words when I need them.

    This weekend they were promoting their sixth album, which is a rocking look at the juxtaposition between the good and bad in all of us. Much higher energy than previous albums, and the show was, too. It was like they're all grown up now. They have a more robust sound, but they still stay true to their talented roots. Some of the vocals were muddied through some of the songs, but on the whole, it was a great show. Lots of fun, and I'm glad I went.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Another Odd Anniversary to Celebrate

    This week I received a small box in the mail. It contained a butterfly necklace from my Aunt in strange Aunt in California. It seemed strange to receive a present (and yes, I assumed it was for me, and was not a silver necklace intended for my husband) when my birthday was a while back, and Christmas is still a ways off. So I opened the card next.

    I'm sure your mother taught you like mine did to always open the card before the present, but I've stopped doing this since I got married. Mostly, because my mother-in-law has a habit of telling you what she got you in the card, and then is disappointed you aren't more surprised when you open the gift. I try to still open the card first if my mother is around, but other than that, I don't worry about it. And the box wasn't wrapped, so it sort of just fell open.

    Regardless, the card said something to this effect:

    Dear Heather, Your grandmother loved butterflies, and wore butterfly jewelry quite often. I hope this necklace will remind you of her as we celebrate her one-year anniversary in heaven. Love, Your Crazy Aunt

    One might think, upon reading this note, that the necklace in question was something from grandmother's butterfly collection that might bear some sentimental value. But, no. This is silver, and grandmother always wore gold. And I've certainly never seen this necklace, so it holds no sentimental value for me. So my aunt actually went into a store and bought multiple pieces of butterfly jewelry (both my sisters received similar packages) for this express morbid reason. I can just imagine the overly friendly clerk getting a little freaked out when they ask my aunt if these are gifts for a special occasion.

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Marathon Training: Week 11

    Last week was a pretty good running week. I did miss my first required 4-mile middle-of-the-week run, but I did all the optional runs to make up for it. Justification aside, the eleven-mile long run on Saturday felt great. I was even able to speed up about 1.5 minutes on the pace for my last mile to finish it out.

    In several of my runs this week, I crossed some train tracks. I never actually heard or saw the train, but I know it comes through early in the morning on the weekend, because we've heard neighbors complain about the noise. Anyway, it came to my attention that there is a big sign along the tracks, where the train engineer could see it. That sign has a blinking red X that I assume means that the train shouldn't be coming that way -- that traffic is only lined up for the other way. My only question is, Is that really expected to work? I mean, trains take a long time to stop, and a little blinking red X sign doesn't seem the most effective way to avoid a head-on collision of trains.

    "Sorry about that massive accident with the chemical fires and all the dead people. I saw the blinking X a mile back, but I just couldn't stop in time."

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    What? A Year of This Crap?

    Today is my one-year blogging anniversary. I've probably learned something about myself this year, but then again, maybe I haven't. Mostly I've just rambled on about things that, together, interest no one but myself. Or maybe that's just the sentiment of a person that hopes they're more unique than they really are.

    Regardless, I thank you for the opportunity to bore you with my stories, and I hope to continue to do more of the same. And maybe throw a few interesting ones in there, too, just to keep you guessing.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Songs that Make Me Cry

    There are way more books that make me cry than songs (so you can imagine I'm a wreck when I read), but I have been challenged to continue building on the meme started by George. And I cannot back down from a challenge. Just ask that poor guy from college during that truth or dare game.

    As I was thinking about which songs make me cry, I realized that there are a lot of them. So, for the sake of brevity, I have only selected songs that have made me cry more than once. Be thankful for that.

    "Home Free" by Wayne Watson

    This is essentially one of those cathartic songs Mr. Watson wrote after a friend died of cancer. Perhaps because my grandfather was the only person I knew at the time that had died of cancer, I have this song associated with that event. It's not a timing thing since he died in '86 and the song didn't come out until '90, but there you have it. When I hear this song, I grieve for my grandma who's been living without my grandpa all these years. This album was the first tape I ever bought with my own money, too. When the tape got jammed in my player and snapped, I pieced it back together and it still plays to this day (well, at least until the last day I owned a tape player). And wouldn't you know it, the tear was in this song, so it seems weird when I hear it on the radio, and the little tape-blip isn't there.

    "Cats in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin

    This is one of those classic regret songs -- a warning, really, to the rest of us to not have this happen to you.

    I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
    I called him up just the other day.
    I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
    He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
    You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu,
    But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
    It's been sure nice talking to you."
    And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
    He'd grown up just like me.
    My boy was just like me.

    There was some day when I really listened to the words of this song, and I realized my relationship with my Dad was following this path. And while I'm not his son, I still felt like the song was pointing out that I had a choice to not wait until my Dad regretted things, but to do something. I think I can safely say, I have heeded the warning, and have not grown up to be just like my Dad. And we have a pretty good relationship now, too.

    "Brave" by Nichole Nordeman

    I am small
    And I speak when I'm spoken to
    But I am willing to risk it all
    I say Your name
    Just Your name and I'm ready to jump
    Even ready to fall...

    Reminds me to go out and take risks. It points out to me when I've been too meek (kind of a constant battle for me), and reminds me that I can be bold and go out and do stuff!

    "Your Body is a Wonderland" by John Mayer

    I know there are lots of people out there that think John Mayer is beyond cheesy. This song is so romantic, though, and it causes me to tear up. It makes me cry if things have been going well between my husband and I because I realize how good I really have it, and it makes me cry when things aren't going so well because I've experienced this and miss it. The most touching line in the whole song is:

    I'll never let your head hit the bed
    Without my hand behind it

    And those of you rolling your eyes -- "you're heartless bastards! Heartless I tell you!" (from an English professor in college when none of us had completed a required reading, and thus didn't raise our hands when he asked who cried in a certain part of the story).

    "I Want to Be Just Like You" by Phillips, Craig, and Dean

    This is such a touching sentiment. It's basically the writer's prayer to be the best man and father that he can be, because his child learns more from his actions than from anything else -- this overwhelming responsibility to be a good example to his kids, so they grow up right, respectful and loving and as Christ-like as they can strive to be. The chorus pretty much covers it all:

    Lord, I want to be just like You
    'Cause he wants to be just like me
    I want to be a holy example
    For his innocent eyes to see
    Help me be a living Bible, Lord
    That my little boy can read
    I want to be just like You
    'Cause he wants to be like me

    "The Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las

    I'm a sucker for a sad story. This is the story of a girl who fell for a guy in a motorcycle gang. Her parents made her dump him, and he drove off and crashed his bike and died. Very melodramatic and over the top, and it makes me cry.

    "Sometimes Miracles Hide" by Bruce Carroll

    Another ballad. I feel like a broken, crying record. This chronicles the struggles of a couple that tried hard to have kids, and then finally got pregnant. Early in their pregnancy, they find out there are problems, and are encouraged to abort. They don't, and they have a daughter that is extremely disabled, but one day she goes to school on the bus, all by herself. Ultimately they realize that their blessing may not have been in the package they expected, but she is a blessing nonetheless.

    Next up: Kyle, Amy, and Monica -- you've been tagged to continue this process, and share about the songs that force your emotions to the surface. I'll look forward to your entries.