Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tossed Salad

Valerie wanted to go to the Pacific Ocean Marketplace in Broomfield so we invited her Aunt Nubia (Ruth's sister visiting from Mexico)and stopped on the way to pick up her friend Evan. While we were there wondering about how one might prepare some of the odd vegetables and fruit or if there is really much of a demand for fresh pork uterus I had a very patriotic moment. Somehow if felt very American to me to be Speaking Spanish with my sister-in-law, surrounded by a mix of Asian folks grocery shopping on a Saturday afternoon listen to Bing Crosby sing White Christmas on the muzak.

The odd juxtapositions of Americana didn't end there; when we left we went across the street to the Pho 79 or who knows which number to have some boba drinks. There weren't many people there but they entertained: a couple of young Vietnamese guys eating big bowls of pho and shouting out excitedly at plays being made between the Vikings and Bears on the big screen and an older American couple who were coqueting like they were auditioning for a Viagra commercial completed the picture.

Burning off Thanksgiving Calories

After two weeks of reduced miles due to a head cold and a busy schedule I was able to break forty miles for this past week. Even running over forty miles I ate more calories than I burned, although only by 300 (that's a bagel). On Thanksgiving day I ran 8.8 miles and would have had to run another ten just to balance out what I ate that day. Yesterday, I ran the ten miles but had turkey dinner leftovers twice so I only managed to pay half of it back.

For dinner last night I made what would be called turkey wrap by us Gringos. I heated turkey in gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and wild rice and wrapped it in a whole wheat flour tortilla. I was going to add cranberry sauce but Valerie felt that adding cranberry sauce to a taco violated her sense of acceptable crossover cooking. I could have enjoyed three but I exercised restraint and held it to one and a half.

The fattening leftovers are gone(there's still turkey) so I think we've made it through the hard part. I've lost almost thirty pounds since Elliott's birthday. When he was born in March, the two of us on the scale together weighed 216 pounds. He's gone from about seven pounds to almost twenty and the two of us together on the scale now weigh about 196. I haven't lost any weight perse in the last two months; this time of the year it is a feat to just not gain.

I prefer to run in warm weather. The hardest part is always just getting out the door so if I can head out warm in just shorts and a t-shirt I can deal with the heat later. Of course, I could run all day on a day like yesterday when it was in the high forties but the first twenty minutes in a raw wind is the daunting part. So far this "winter" I've managed to keep myself going out the door. The momentum is critical.

As a culture we need to make the healthy behavior the routine, then an occasional digression wouldn't be a problem, but I think too many people want their rewards right away, whether it be ice cream, a meal out, a bag of chips, etc. Letting go one meal a week would be a better way to go. Restaurants serving rich tasty foods used to be ok because eating out was an occasional treat but now it is part of many people's routine. Keep your mileage high.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

ardillas y ratones

Our house is not only home to the humans that reside here but to some uninvited rodent squatters. I'm a rather caring and considerate person with respect to animals (I was going to say animal lover but that conjures a sense of excessiveness to me) but when it comes to an us or them predicament I have to choose us.

With the changes of temperature that can come with the equinoxes we often start to see flashes of gray out of the corner or our eyes in the evenings around the house and what seem like chocolate sprinkles where there shouldn't be any. I know the hantavirus is probably relatively rare when the number of infested houses is taken into consideration but the consequences are significant. Trapping live and releasing somewhere doesn't seem to be a viable option. Letting them go in a field in freezing weather doesn't seem human; they've come inside to get out of the cold. Letting them go somewhere so that they could take up residency in the abode of another might be considerate of the mice but not of the neighbor. I've trapped eight so far this fall.

The standard Victor trap with bait still seems the most effective although I've discovered that death isn't as instantaneous as I had assumed. I had caught several with a little cube of cheddar cheese but there was a while there that the cheese kept disappearing. I decided to put some Horizon Organic Unsalted Butter as bait because it would require more eating in place. It worked; butter once again proves to be unhealthful even though it's organic and unsalted. Given my own weakness for butter, it felt a bit dastardly to use butter to trap a mouse after my own heart. Continuing in that vein I loaded the trap with pumpkin pie last night and it was licked clean this morning. I've had seconds and thirds on pie so I'm sure it'll be back again. I need to move the refridgerator and stove to clean the floor of droppings under them before the long weekend is over. Last fall we even had droppings on top of the refridgerator!

The squirrels are possibly an even worse threat to us. They have found ways of getting in to the attic space and I have discovered that they have gnawed the insulation off of some wiring. Shouldn't they get a life-ending jolt when the reach copper? I need to get up in there and shoo them out and then seal up the known portals. I'm afraid to discover what damage they may have done. It would be handy to have a cat to put up there for an hour. Sunshine, our dog of seven years, was not a threat to the squirrels although she made it her life's work to be one. Even with Sunshine on constant alert the squirrels didn't leave a plum, peach, or strawberry for us to enjoy for the past three our four years. Well, if you ever hear that our house burned up you'll know I didn't solve the squirrel problem but mouse problem will have been solved.

Vivir para contarla

Gabriel Garcia Marquez titled the first book in the trilogy of his autobiography something that translates to "Living to Tell about it". Most Americans know him as the author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and one of three Colombians that they might know beside Pablo Escobar (dead drug trafficker) and Shakira (unfortunately for "Hips don't Lie")(Her lyrics in Spanish are much deeper; I'm not sure if she dumbed the English down for us or for herself). I don't know how people who keep diaries, journals, blogs, etc. and are living large find the time or the motivation to sit down and write about it. I'm certainly not living large but the day to day occupies me to the point that there is little time left to sit, reflect, and write about it. But I believe it's important.

Bill Clinton, promoting his memoire on David Letterman said that he recommends to anyone who reaches fifty years old to sit down and write their memoire. That is something to consider, but a blog is certainly a place to start and may be more representative of how we live our lives. Writing it down keeps it, which is something I need to do because the way I process and store information does not lend itself to having much in the way of memories. My sister says I don't remember anything. Our brains need connections to have memories be retained; my life has been comprised of some seemingly unrelated stages in which the various stages seem almost as if they were the lives of different people. Writing a memoire might help reconcile the various stages into a whole.

Writing is a tool often used to think something out, to make sense of a situation or issue, and in a larger way, to make life more meaningful, if only because it has been recorded. The challenge is to find the time to sit and make the meaning and give up a little of the living of it record it. I could take the view though of Jorge Luis Borges to whom the written word, live experiences, and dreams all ended up in his head as if they were all one and the same. I encourage us all to do the same.

Real people are beginning to populate my morning so I am going to turn my attention to them for some real human interaction.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

El niño

Dicen que será año de "el niño" y es cierto. Se lo presento. Aquí se encuentran algunas de las fotos más recientes. Ruth le llama "Fiesta" porque es una fiesta continua aunque recientemente ha estado un poco triste por el asunto de las cuatro inyecciones que le pusieron. Tuvo dos días y noches sufriendo pero ya parece que esté mejor. Ya pesa 18 libras y cinco onzas. Mide 28 pulgadas de largo y es bien cabezón y dientón como pueden ver.

Answer to today's puzzle:
They say that it will be an "el niño" year and it's true. Let me present him. Here you will find the most recent photos. Ruth calls him "Fiesta" because he is a continual party although recently he's been a bit down because of the four shots he got. He had two days and nights of suffering, but now it seems he is better. He weighs 18 pounds, 5 ounces and is 28 inches long. He's got a big head and lots of teeth as you can see.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Short Run

It's funny how there can be such a range of perspectives about running. I've mentioned to a class that I've run 30 miles on a given weekend and they seem mildly impressed by that, then today a student saw me come in from a run and asked how far I went and when I said three miles he couldn't believe it. It was hard to tell him that three miles was the least that I would even go out for.I felt like he would think I was bragging, but it's true. I haven't run three miles in months; I've had a few runsuder five miles when I get a late start on my lunch hour (today I had people lingering in my room and I didn't want to run them out). It's difficult to talk to non-runners about your running; you can't speak matter of factly. They think running for five miles is a long way. So, if you're a runner you can commiserate with me about my abbreviated outing today and if you're not you are welcomed to be impressed with my impressive feat.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wrapping Coins by the Dome Light

Teachers are often asked to "volunteer" for activities within their work day. I didn't want to be on the prom committee or the like so I volunteered to oversee the operation of the school store. I funded the purchase of the start up merchandise and over the past three weeks I've been holding on to the cash from the sales to pay myself back. Much of these sales have been paid with coins; consequently, I quickly had over a hundred dollars worth. We had also accummulated about fifteen dollars worth of pennies over the past three or four years at the cart that we run on Pearl Street because I round out the price for people so they don't have to give me pennies, but I accept their pennies when they want to unload them.

I figured it was time to turn all this in. We were due for a grocery run so I thought it would be almost like getting free groceries if I used up the coins. There is a bank location inside the grocery store so I asked if they had a machine to count them or if they could give me rollers. They gave me the rollers. I then went back out to the twenty-two year old Toyota pick up that I use for all my commuting and errands, turned on the dome light and started to sort out the coins and roll them. As people passed by and I felt them glance in I felt a wave of self-consciousness. Did it look like I was down to my last dollars? And they weren't even paper!

I got over it rather quickly; I knew what I was doing. They weren't my last dollars (too early in the month for that!). I started to think though about what the we deal with coins says about us a society. I've worked many years in retail and people always apologize for using something out of the ordinary for payment. If there is a two dollar bill in the mix, a dollar coin, a half dollar, some extra quarters or a hundred dollar bill (although they often seem secretly pleased using one of these) people feel compelled to say their sorry. It's all good, really, businesses need coins to make change with. I always told people at the cart that used coins in their purchase that they were saving me a trip to the bank. High school students don't like pennies; they cull them from their pockets and drop them in the halls. I worked with a teacher who picked up $131.00 in pennies in one year. I think the kids feel insulted by them; they are like little reminders of where they stand in the financial world.

Rolling coins in my car in the supermarket parking lot made me appear to others that my position in the financial world was at the nickel and dime end of the spectrum; it is, really, but that's beside the point. Students in the neighborhood where I teacher are impressed with a wad of bills. I've even heard that the whole baggy falling down pants thing started from the idea that a big roller in the hood would have so much dough in his pockets that it weighed down his pants. I occasionally mention to the kids that now-a-days people with real money don't even have cash; their money is in investments and their immediate funds are accessed by debit cards. Their morning coffee at the drive thru even has to go on a card. Mine, today will be stoically purchased with rolled coppers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Student Strife and Privacy

I started to compose a blog about a student's present difficulties and hard life in general the other day but I didn't have time to finish. A week doesn't seem to go by that I don't hear about, usually first hand from a student, some kind of trauma that he or she is enduring or has endured. I thought it might be good for the world or at least for the couple of people who read my blog to know how some kids live. It wasn't long before I realized that whatever I share could certainly be enough to identify the student because the school is small and the details I would have included would have been rather specific.

Today, another student shared details about her past and present home life and I just thought it's admirable that she even makes it to school most days.

Adult Birthdays

Alex's birthday was a couple of weeks ago on a Thursday. He couldn't come home from CU for cake that day because he had a class that met from 6 until 8 so I told him I'd come by and I'd bring him to go get a flu shot while they were still free at Kaiser. On our way to the clinic I asked him if anyone knew it was his birthday. He said no, that it was just like any other day. I said, "Welcome to being an adult." We had a little time left over so we went by Boulder Running Company and I bought him a new pair of running shoes. I think he'd been running in the same pair for about a year. We did have some cake on the weekend.

Today is Ruth's birthday and she is still at work at 8PM; she's setting up for a Day of the Dead event at her school. She went in at her regular time in the morning and returned long enough to feed Elliott and change him before heading back. Another adult birthday comes and goes.

Well, having a baby coming up on a year in four more months is we will have an excuse to have some more birthday parties around here. I was too old for the intensity that a two hour ten year old's birthday can be five years ago; I can only imagine the mayhem it will seem to be when I'm 61.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Eighty Degrees in November

This spring, I think it wasn't until mid-June that we had our second day of reaching 80 degrees. We hit 80 yesterday and 79 today, the 5th and 6th of November. We broke the record for the warmest overnight low for the date which was 49 degrees. Consequently I had a pleasant run yesterday at lunch(I truly prefer running when it's warm) and today I rode the motorcycle to work.

It's a bit curious to my sister that a couple of the reasons I run are to extend my life expectancy and quality of life while on the same day I might ride a motorcycle 17 miles on a route to work and back that includes a total of 18 white-knuckled minutes on the Boulder Turnpike. Just yesterday I was crossing a street on foot thinking how hard and coarse the pavement seemed. I picked up a six inch diameter rasperry rollerblading once; I hate to imagine what going down at highway speed would do. Somehow I feel that putting myself out there without the usual ton and a half of armor enhances my level of caution in general.

I bought the Honda Nighthawk 250 a little over a year ago when gas was around $4 per gallon. It certainly has been easier paying seven or eight dollars a week for gas instead of around thirty to fill up the car or truck. the bck has never delivered less than 70 miles per gallon and has reached as high as 80.

Tomorrow promises warm temperatures again. A long run is in order as well as a day on the Pearl Street Mall trying to squeeze what I can out of the cart on what may be the last pleasant weekend day of the year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Snow Tires

It seemed odd dropping my truck off to have snow tires put on with the temperature in the low 70's. (These temperatures are to continue through the weekend!)We had 16 inches of snow last Wednesday and there is hardly a sign of it now. I've had my warning. Next time I may not be so lucky to have two days off from work; I could have to go in.

I went for a run while the work was being done. Big O Tires is a little over a mile from Waneka Lake so I decided to run to the lake and do a couple of laps. After the hills on the weekend and enduring atrial fibrillation for the previous 24 hours or so I was ready for some flat terrain. The irregular heartbeats often stop after about a half mile of running and that's how it was today. My legs felt as if there were large rubber bands creating resistance to my forward motion. I plodded along though and manage to squeeze out six miles. When I returned, the tires were mounted.

I have been finding my snow tires in recent winters in Craigslist but it seems as though people are catching on and waiting until it snows and trying to get the most that they can for them. It makes sense. So between higher prices for used tires and higher prices to have them mounted I decided to go ahead and pay to have new ones installed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Los coyotes

Often on a run I'll come across a coyote. They are always aware of me but have little interest. On several occasions I have seen them among cows with calves and the mama cows have never seemed concerned. Prairie dogs who don't heed the warnings of their neighbors are asking to be dinner.

I've seen several news accounts where people and their pets have had run-ins with coyotes. My guess is that most of the people made the coyote feel threatened. Whenever I approach an area where there may be coyotes, or cows in a field for that matter, I scan the area first and if I see animals that might feel threatened by my presence I don't move toward it and I allow it to have space to go off in a different direction. Then I proceed.

Wild animals will almost always know you are approaching before you see them. In the animal world if you move toward an animal,you presumable have an interest in eating it. Animals are generally averse to being eaten so they are inclined to take defensive action. If you are close, they may decide that a good defense is a good offense.

I have heard that coyotes in the northeast part of the US are more aggressive and tend to hunt more in packs where as the ones here in the west are inclined to conserve energy; to them, hunting is laying amid a prairie dog colony waiting until the little burrowers forget the coyote is out there.

Meet Elliott

For those of you who may not know, Elliott was born on March 6th of this year. He has been demanding our attention ever since. He weighed 7 lbs. 6 oz. at birth and as babies do he has been getting bigger by the day.

We've had some weird experiences with people. I was surprised at how many would say say "oops!" assuming he was an accident. Do people really get to be 50 years old and not know how this all works? Elliott was an intentional last ditch effort. A couple of weeks ago I was on a run and stopped at a garage sale. I was asking about a high chair and the woman finally said,"Do you need a high chair??". When I responded that I did she tried to cover up her doubt. A while ago, Valerie and Elliott were due for vaccinations so we took them together. Valerie was sitting next to me and Elliott was on my lap. A gaggle of nurses came up to us and one asked,"Is this your first grandchild?" Valerie looked at me like, "Dad, they think he's mine." I turned to the nurse and said,"No, he's my last child." Ruth and I had already thought of all the jokes ourselves so we understand the brouhaha.

The cruel part is accommodating in his car seat with aging backs. I don't know how Ruth carries him as much as she does; I hold him for five minutes and I'm ready for the chiropractor.

He will be 8 months on Friday and has already said his first intentional word. It wasn't mama or dada or bob although he's been saying these for quite some time. He signed the word for "fish". Ruth uses a lot of sign language with the children that she works with since many are non-lingual. She and Elliott were reading a book that has a fish in it that we all often read with him a couple of days ago. Ruth signs fish when they read the book. Elliott clearly signed "fish" with his hand when they came to the fish in the story.

Speaking Spanish as a Beginner

I recently received an email from a student asking for advice on how to communicate with Spanish speakers when one is only just beginning to learn the language. I've cut and pasted that advice below.

Young children are wonderful to try speaking with; they are very forgiving and seem to clue in better to what one is trying to say than adults.

Regardless of whom you speak with it is easy to keep control of things if you ask (not open-ended) questions. "Yes/No" questions are the best because these limit the response the most. But using the question words narrow things down as well. For example, if you ask "donde..." you know you are listening for a location response.

Another strategy for practice is to place yourself in a familiar situation. For example, go to a restaurant that has Spanish-speaking customers and employees. This way, you are in a familiar situation with limited possibilities. You order items, have familiar props such as water glasses, ask for the check, etc.

They say that money talks, but being the one with the money allows you to speak. I used to drive to Denver just to go to a bakery to be able to order a couple of items in Spanish. You're in luck because there are places closer to home now.

Having a real situation in which there are no other options for communication is good too. This can be uncomfortable but it makes you do what you have to do to communicate. For example, working or volunteering somewhere that Spanish speakers may go to for goods or services is an excellent opportunity.

Having reference materials handy helps and so does having the chance to think out beforehand what you might want to say.

If you have someone who is willing to spend some time practicing with you who speaks Spanish you are in luck. It is difficult to make idle chatter though. I would still suggest having specific topics to talk about, plan ahead, and have reference materials at hand. It is better for you if they know only a little English because you won't be inclined to resort to English. Chances are though, they will know lots of words in English that they may not be able to initiate in English but they'll recognize it if you fill in with an English word here or there.

Stick to the patterns that you know in Spanish; if you try to translate word for word the complex English sentences you can make most likely it will come out nonsense in Spanish.

Don't Buy Tomatoes

The afternoon of Halloween Valerie, Elliott in his stroller, and I ventured over to the produce stand that has been set up for the past couple of months within walking distance from the house. We were looking for pumpkins to carve.

There was a sign over the tomatoes advertising them at 99 cents a pound. We had just finished the last of our garden tomatoes earlier in the week so I thought maybe with these I would be able to extend the tomato-eating season a bit. I asked the person working there what the tomatoes looked like on the inside and she answer in a questioning and uncertain tone, "Like tomatoes??" I knew immediately that these were imitation tomatoes like one might find at a premium price in the supermarket.

I only eat fresh tomatoes from August to October and those are only the ones that I grow in my garden. Nothing available in Colorado compares, even those found at farmer's markets. Tomatoes there are usually grown by big producers as well. So why is it that the average person without a green thumb can grow a tomato that makes one buy bacon just to enjoy the T in BLT, but a professional grower can't deliver a juicy, meaty, red tomato like this to the produce section of my local supermarket, or to the kitchen of a local restaurant? The reason is that they don't have to; people buy whatever sad excuse for a tomato that they ship, so why bother to produce anything different.

I thought maybe with the e coli contamination of tomatoes a while back that maybe the public would question its purchase of tomatoes and stop patronizing this industry until it could deliver an edible tomato to Colorado. At my local grocery store they do everything they can to impress you with the tomato at the point of sale; they bag them in a red netting, they leave the stems on, they put a sticker on them that says "red tomato" just so you'll know. I wonder, have so few people actually eaten a homegrown garden tomato that they don't know what a tomato is supposed to be like?

Just because the tomato is labeled "red", has a red tint to it, is in special red netting, has a sticker on it saying "red", or even says "organic" don't get suckered in. When you get home and cut one of these in half you may find a green slimy interior, a washed-out white middle, a pale dried out mealy center, or general mush and of course no tomato flavor. Every time you buy a pathetic so-called tomato it is as if you are rewarding the growers for creating an unacceptable product. I encourage you to boycott tomatoes.

Needless to say, tomato-eating season is over.

Eerie Erie

The Erie Optimists Club holds the Eerie Erie 10K on the Saturday of Halloween each year. It was a good morning for a race. The sky was clear and the temperature was in the low forties by my estimation. Wind was in the forecast but it hadn't picked up by then.

I brought my old Asics Evolution 5's as well as new ones. Sixteen inches of snow had fallen on Wednesday and I wondered about the conditions of part of the road that I knew to be dirt. I asked one of the volunteers what she thought and I was informed that except for a very short piece the section of road in question was now paved. I went back to the car and put on the new pair. They felt much bouncier than the old pair.

I was still standing behind people in costumes with strollers and dogs and dogs in costumes when I saw the front runners about fifty yards out; I don't know what I was thinking. It took a bit of weaving in and out before I was able to run naturally. After a mile and a quarter though nobody went by me and I moved up on runners one at a time. There were two long long uphills which worked to my favor because I have been doing lots of hills in the past couple of months.

The local cementary is at the top of the second long hill; I didn't even feel like I was ready to move in. Also at the top of the last hill I caught a woman in a bridal dress; I urged her to not be in such a hurry to marry. There was a mangled rabbit in the road; I mentioned to a nearby runner that that's what happen when you go out too fast.

Nearing the end there were to men that I speculated to be in my age group. I went by one and her picked up the pace and retook his position but dropped back again and I went by but he sped up again. I had enjoyed the run too much to play the game and also had left a lot on the hills so I was content to hold my pace. I ran with my iphone set to mapmyrun. It showed me running a 7:30 pace which didn't match what it felt like. The distance didn't match either because at 6.1 miles there was still more than a quarter of a mile to go. It ended up showing 6.4 miles at the finish. My time was 48:45 officially. I finished 7th in my age group, three seconds and six seconds behind the two that were also in my group.

Alex Visits

I picked up Alex from his dorm during halftime of the Bronco's game yesterday. We should have tried to miss more of the game instead of less; they went on to lose to the Ravens 30-7. Alex worked on Calculus and Physics homework and kept up with Valerie's exploits in World of Warcraft.

I was due for a run and asked Alex if he brought running clothes with him. To my surprise, he had. He's always asks about distance because he's been dragged out to go farther than he wanted.I said it would be less than an hour and not fast because I had just run the Eerie Erie the day before. It was a shorts and T-shirt day. We ran an out and back from the house for a total of six miles.

Thursday was Alex's 19th so the idea was to have a little birthday dinner and cake. Alex has been a vegetarian for about a year now, but eats meat about once a month. I asked him what he wanted for the dinner and he asked for beef tacos. I stir-fried the beef with onions, mushrooms, red chili powder, and garlic powder. I sauteed zucchini, summer squash, and red bell peppers in olive oil and dill seed. We use soft corn tortillas heated on the grill. For fresh toppings we had chopped tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, romaine lettuce, queso fresco, cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, and salsa verde. Alex requested our favorite birthday cake which is the Berry Chantilly cake from Whole Foods.