Wednesday, August 29, 2007

French Fries and Relatives

Last night we watched "Super Size Me," a documentary in which the director decides to eat only McDonalds for three meals a day for 30 days. He starts the endeavour in better than average health (he has three doctors and a nutrition specialist monitoring his progress from start to finish) and ends up in about as ghastly a state as you would imagine. It was very entertaining and somewhat enlightening. As someone who could do without fast food again for the rest of my life anyway, it stands only as an affirmation.

In other news, Kimberly's parents and her brother Ben are in town for the rest of the week. Ben is flying out of Logan Friday afternoon to embark on a nine month trip to Copenhagen. It should be a fun change of pace having guests around for a few days. Ben is probably even going to accompany me to the gym. It'll be good to have a running partner.

Work is going very well. I've started testing the software of a home theater processor and will be doing so for the foreseeable future. It's interesting work that is never the same from day to day, and I get a lot accomplished. What a difference my job change has made in my life!

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I've been at my job for less than two months, and I'm already appreciating the software humor. Case in point:


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Review: Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight

I went out at lunch and bought the new Rilo Kiley CD, "Under the Blacklight." They have long been one of my top five bands, so I was very excited to pick this up on its release date.

I went back to work editing test cases and popped it into my disc player. The first song, "Silver Lining," with its light folk-rock swing, soulful backing vocal lines, and high lead guitar licks, seemed to signal that this would be the logical next album for Rilo Kiley. It is the culmination of the masterpiece of alt-rock that was More Adventurous, and the country filled, vocal heavy, autobiographical Jenny Lewis solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat.

As the album progressed, though, it was quickly apparent that this was something totally different. Track two, "Close Call," was still Rilo Kiley, but with a distinctly more polished sound than I'm used to (this is their first major label release, so this is not surprising). By track three, "The Moneymaker," the album's true color is cemented. "Under the Blacklight" is a fusion of mere hints of the Rilo Kiley of days past with high production, classic hard rock (read Heart or Fleetwood Mac), and a surprising prolific Latin/R&B dance beat. This is perhaps slightly less surprising when one reflects that Lewis admits to listening exclusively to rap in her early adulthood, in the period between being a child actress and rising to indie rock stardom.

I have mixed feelings, since, like any devoted fan, I was anticipating and hoping for something that would add comfortably to the catalog that I know and love, but Lewis and co-writer Blake Sennett have never disappointed with their thoughtfulness and musicality. I'm sure this disc will grow on me in repeated listenings.

My one true complaint so far is that the lyrics are much less introspective and poetic than Lewis's previous pieces. Perhaps there is more solo material in her queue where she will employ her lyrical efforts in a more focused way once again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

We Need a Morale Booster

It looks like several of my friends and relatives are pretty down, according to their Gmail status, anyway.

In other news, it looks like we're on for a Wednesday night Starcraft party!

If you're interested it's totally open to anyone with Starcraft and a computer that he or she is willing to bring to my house around 7PM.

Active Weekend

This weekend started when I left work. I went straight home and helped Kimberly finish getting ready for our overnight trip to Effingham, NH.

No one really knows where Effingham is.

We decided to make this trip because Kimberly's entire family (her mom, dad, and brother) were at Camp Marist, on Ossippi Lake for the annual Northern New England Royal Rangers Pow Wow.

Traffic was pretty bad, but we made the distance in about two and a half hours. We stopped for dinner at the Poor People's Pub (flash and frames hybrid site!) in Sanbornville. The food was great but the locals took to making fun of Kimberly and me just loud enough so that we could hear. It's not even the first time that that has happened in New Hampshire. Hmm.

We made it to the camp to hear the last bit of a devotional from a visiting Teen Challenge member*, followed by an impressive fire works show. We got a chance to hang out with each of Kimberly's family members for a bit, setting up our tent with her brother Ben, sitting by the camp fire with her mom, and eating breakfast with both of her parents. It was sort of a long way to visit them for such a short time (another hour or so of travel each way and we could have made it back to our hometown of Bucksport) but it was fun. It had a bit of the crazy and illogical spontaneity that we love from time to time.

*Teen Challenge is an Assemblies of God sponsored rehabilitation program for young men that have been caught up in violence and severe substance problems.

Saturday morning we made our way back to Mass through the lakes region.

We got back fairly early so we decided we had time to go to the gym. We worked out pretty hard. I was thinking that we had a party to attend later, so I might as well push myself earlier in the day and then relax in the evening.

After the gym, we went and helped Nathan and Priscila set up for Nathan's big birthday party at the Lewis's in Billerica. The party was great. Kimberly and I ended up playing some volleyball and some hardcore ultimate Frisbee (so much for the hard work out theory, I was exhausted by the end of the night) and ate plenty of Priscila's delicious sushi and truffles.

Yesterday I played bass on the worship team at church, and then Kimberly and I went to see an apartment, which we weren't entirely impressed with. It's definitely time to get serious about finding a place, since our last month in our current apartment is coming right up. After this, we went with John and Laura to seek out an elusive Ribs and Brews festival in downtown Lowell.

Downtown was pretty much a ghost town. We searched all around to no avail and eventually went back to the Haven's where John looked it up again to find that the festival is actually several weeks away still. Oops. We gave up and had lunch at the Outback instead, which was good. We then had time to go back save a little bit of the universe in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance for Wii.

After going out for groceries, Kimberly and I spent the rest of the evening in, watching Click. I really liked it (I thought it was classic Adam Sandler humor) but Kimberly was a bit disappointed.

This week should be good. We're continuing to make it to the gym several times a week, and our calendar is otherwise filling up with fun stuff pretty fast.

Alright. It's well past time to get back to my test cases...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On a MUCH lighter note...

I've been going crazy with Google gadgets lately. They're quite handy. Kimberly tipped me off to them when she created "Kimber Daily News." Now I've made three of my own, mostly for me and Kimberly or else just for myself. The right column of my blog page on iGoogle now looks like this:

Google Gadgets
The budget is to help us keep track of where we're at for the month on our spending (as you can see it was a bit derailed this month by things I still plan on blogging about) as well as our savings ($50 a week for vacation and $15 a week each as allowance).

The wish list came about after I decided we would have our $15 a week to save up.

The 4000 footer list is just so that I can taunt myself. There are 48 of them that will be on the list some day...

On death.

Like I said a couple of entries ago, I recently felt closer to my mortality than I ever have before. This brought about a feeling of discomfort that I've never tried to properly describe. I hope writing about it doesn't pass it along to those who would rather keep such things out of mind, so if that's you, just skip this entry.

The feeling I'm talking about is a sense of utter dread at the idea that my consciousness might cease to exist when I die. I'm very attached to being, after all. It is, of course, the pinnacle of doubt in my faith in God. Christ makes it very clear that we have eternal souls, that our death is by no means the end. Still there is a little part of me that is left to ponder the possibility that this is it. When I'm gone, I'm gone. And this idea scares me to my core; It scares me in a way that I can't properly describe.

Strangely enough, for me anyway, Kimberly doesn't share this feeling at all. It's not that her faith is impenetrable in a way that mine is not, its that the idea of ceasing to exist is fine for her--if it happens she won't be there to worry about it anyway. Even typing those words chills me. Getting close to the idea is hard for me.

I've decided to write about it now because I might have had a couple of small bits of revelation about it recently. Both are simple and I'm open to whether or not they are valid. First of all, when reading my brother-in-law's latest blog entry I starting thinking about this topic, and how it might be part of my spiritual maturity. When I have felt this way in the past, the Holy Spirit has often overtaken me in a way in which I again felt so sure of God's existence that it squelched my fears. Lately when I feel this fear no such thing has happened. Perhaps these feelings and doubts have been given to me as a test of faith, something of a spiritual barometer.

Secondly, just last night I thought of the words of Christ on the cross: "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which mean "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" (from Mathew 27:46). I am wondering if maybe some part of what Christ felt at this point, this separation from God, is very near to this feeling I sometimes have. This for me is a profoundly encouraging thought. Given who Jesus was and is, I'm quite certain that he never had an intellectual loss of faith, and neither have I ever had that problem. I think that logically, philosophically, the case for the existence of my soul far outweighs alternate explanations. What Christ had was an emotional and spiritual rift, as he sacrificed everything for us. At that point, he must have been flooded with this sort of dread. It would be a part of the doubt associated with His ultimate suffering.

What do you think about this interpretation? I'm open to the fact that I might be reading my situation into a passage about something else (though there is a case for some validity of God talking to us this way, too, I think). Does anyone share these feelings sometimes, or are most people more like Kimberly in this respect?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

News and a Story


An epilogue of my last entry: I'm not dying! The dermatologist flatly said that my mole is of no concern at all. The slight raising that I've noticed is very common and in no way indicates possible malignancy.

As far as the toe goes, he also gave me confident assurances that it wasn't at all suspicious. He was immediately familiar with the condition I was concerned I might have and he let me know that my toe doesn't look anything like the early signs of it. He measured the mark that I have and said that I could keep monitoring it. He expects that it will move up my nail as the nail grows, or else fade away. He also said that even if it stays the same there is no cause for concern. I'll watch it closely, but it sounds like I'm pretty much in the clear. Now it is time for the long decompression from the stress I put myself under over the past few days. Phew.


Kimberly left a cliffhanger in her entry today, so I guess I'm obliged to tell the story.

I suppose it begins on Monday, when I went downstairs to deliver the rent check and tell our landlord that we'll be moving out October 1. He was even fine with us using our security deposit as the last month's rent, which is convenient. So the very next day we're contacted by his sister, who handles the finer administrative points of the renting process for our apartment. She has friends in town that want to view the apartment before they leave, which means things need to be in relatively good shape very quickly.

With that news I came home last night (on the day of our third wedding anniversary), practiced some Bach and ate some yogurt (my usual pre-gym snack). When Kimberly arrived we debated about whether we could still go to the gym when we had to do all the last minute cleaning and wanted to try to salvage a bit of time together on our anniversary. Since we had already eaten as if we were going to work out, and since I wanted to return Nathan's car that I had borrowed (another story all together) I decided that we should go to the gym anyway.

Kimberly followed me down the street toward the Keliher residence in her car, I in Nathan's. We made it down to Middlesex St. at the corner of Foster, when she pulled into the parking lot of Bain Pest Control, across Foster St. from Captain Jason's Pizza. I pulled in beside her to find that she stopped because of a flat tire. It was REALLY flat with a 2 inch nail going in, curving around, and coming back out.

No problem. She has a spare and a jack. We'd only lose 10 minutes or so. I jacked up the car and found that she was missing her tire iron (or at least it was nowhere to be found in her trunk, which wasn't totally orderly). Nathan's Honda had a different sized iron, so I zipped back up the street to get the one out of my Toyota.

I returned and took off the nuts. Trying to pull the wheel off of the hub was, however, a different matter. I banged with all my strength on the center of the hub, around the back of the wheel, through the spokes of the wheel, everwhere. It would not budge. I took Nathan's and my tire irons, wedged them in the wheel and against the hub to create a lever, and pulled so hard that I was bracing my legs against the side of the car. It felt as though the wheel were welded to the hub.

Okay, we have the old fall-back. AAA. We called in for roadside assistance and I suggested that we have a nice anniversary dinner at Captain Jason's while we wait. We walked over, me with a splitting headache that began earlier that afternoon (see my last entry, I'm sure it was semi-suppressed stress causing it), to Jason's and ordered some steak subs and fries. They were great! We ate outside on a picnic table overlooking Kimberly's disabled car, waiting for the tow-truck.

We finished dinner and made our way back over to the car. I continued to try to separate the wheel from the hub, becoming more and more convinced that the help that was on the way would try less hard than this and then want to tow it. If only I could get the wheel off, we could cancel the assistance and Kimberly could drive the car to work and we could arrange a more convenient time to change the tire. I called my dad (a few times) and his last desperate suggestion was to put the lug nuts half on and drive around the parking lot, forcing the wheel to separate from the hub as it turned. No luck. Like I said, it was as though it were welded on.

Now the story gets odd. Instead of the "45 minutes at the most" that it would take our tow-truck to arrive, it took an hour and a half (that isn't odd, it's par for the course). The driver was the unusual element. He immediately seemed to be in a very bad mood. He backed up his large flatbed tow-truck between Kimberly's car and Nathan's with excessive speed and force and sarcastically asked if would could have parked the two cars a little closer together.

His attempts to change the tire reaffirmed this initial impression. He turned on an air compressor, and eager to let him know exactly what this situation was, I told him that there was a nail in the tire, so he didn't need to try to put air in it. His response was, "did I say I was going to put air in it? Do you think I'm going to jack this up by hand? Hmph!" He went on to use a pneumatic jack to jack up the car. Around this time he made some other confrontational comment that I don't recall, to which I replied "Sir, I'm only trying to be cooperative." His response was to call me a wise-ass.

He took off the lug nuts and tried banging on the wheel with a rubber hammer. After 10 seconds of trying to loosen the wheel he said "Where ya bein' towed?"

Keep in mind that other than letting him know that I was trying to be cooperative, I gave no verbal, facial, or physical indication that his behavior was affecting me at all. I remained flatly cool in speech and only did or said what was necessary. He wanted me to tell him where he should tow the car. I told him Mechanics Direct. He scoffed about how he was supposed to know what that was, since he visits thousands of garages a month. His engine was loud so he was having trouble understanding me when while I pointed to Mechanics Direct, which was in sight. I moved closer to explain to him which of the buildings it was. At this point he threatened me with physical harm if I stepped closer to him.

He loaded up the car and drove it down the street. We followed in Nathan's. He plopped it down, crooked, by the garage door and then sped off without a word. We submitted the after-hours paperwork and deposited the key, and then moved the car into a proper spot, and went home, no gym, later than when we hoped to have our cleaning done.

I didn't dare ask the guy's name, but I made a point to remember his license number. When I went inside I immediately called back AAA and reported the highlights of what I just shared. The manager at the Merrimack Valley AAA that I spoke with was quite familiar with the towing company (M&S Towing, I think) and was aghast at what I had told him. He assured me that the matter would be taken care of.

Incidentally, our clean up was pretty speedy and we enjoyed the second half of our sandwiches with some Fresh Prince season 4 that I got Kimberly for our anniversary. It was certainly an anniversary celebration that we will always remember. (And thanks to my above stated news, I'm sure we will have so many more to celebrate in the future!) If you are ever in need of roadside assistance and you see MA license plate number 8945D approaching, it might be best to tell the driver to move on (assuming the fellow is allowed to continue operating that vehicle).

Monday, August 6, 2007

A worrisome situation.

I've never been a private person, but neither have I ever had news quite of this nature to share. I thought about whether or not I should blog it, but I can find no reason not too, but all sorts of therapeutic reasons to do it.

Though our weekend was truly amazing, it had a blemish of worry. For as long as I can remember I've had a mole on my left arm. A few days ago I noticed that it was slightly raised. Not a huge deal. Worthy of a doctor's trip, but it looks truly unalarming. However, I also noticed (or re-noticed, since it's been there a few weeks now) a little brown line in my right big toe. I first noticed it (I think) a little while after the camping trip I wrote about a few entries back.

I did some research online, concerned with this unfortunate double suspicion and found that the toe problem matches very closely some descriptions of the early stages of acral lentiginous melanoma (a word of caution to the squeamish: this link has no pictures, but if you google the term you'll find all sorts of gruesome late-stage pictures of the condition). This is, encouragingly, the rarest type of skin cancer for Caucasians and no more dangerous than the normal sort. What is scary is the coincidence of finding both of these things together. That is very scary to me, since everyone knows that it's bad news when this stuff spreads.

So I was pretty much worried sick yesterday and this morning. Last night, we went out for an emergency dinner at Longhorn outside of our budget and diet to lift my spirits a bit, which it did (how could I resist some spontaneous fun time with my lovely bride!) My benefit package for work just kicked in last week and I don't have an insurance card yet. So this morning I had to call and get an interim ID number and find a primary care doctor. I went with Harvard Vanguard in Burlington, and luckily, my new doctor got me in today.

So what did the doctor have to say about the situation? I think the news was mixed. She was very unconcerned with the mole on my arm. It, in her opinion, raises no trouble flags apart from the fact that I say it has changed over the past few days. The toe, around which most of our discussion centered, she also seemed to want to dismiss. She interrogated me about my activity level while camping, and offered the theory that it might be blood. This, of course, is all good news. She did, however, schedule me an appointment with a dermatologist for Wednesday morning.

I say that this is mixed news because I am pretty skeptical about the blood theory. It has been there a while and looks too solid after all this time. Luckily, I'll find out more on Wednesday. So I'm still pretty nerved up. The evidence is now pointing a little more strongly to an unfortunate coincidence, but uncertainty abounds. It goes without saying that your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated. As I said at the top, this is new territory for us. Even if it is all in my head, I have never in my life felt so personally close to the idea of mortality.