Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

I am way behind on the posting and don’t really have any time to write now, but I’m afraid you all will think I’ve abandoned the blog if I wait any longer.

This past weekend was party, party, party… We had a party on Friday night at our place for Rob’s birthday, and I think it went pretty well. I am always nervous when hosting a party or even having people over for dinner because I never know if its going to turn out well or if they will like the things I make. Plus, with Rob’s party we were mixing groups of friends—that is, the invitees were from different walks of our lives and didn’t all know each other. My experience with mixing groups of people who don’t know each other is that it doesn’t always go so well, but this time it ended up great and everyone was talking and in general having a good time. Plus, people seemed to like the things I fixed to eat, so that was a plus. The most popular food item was an apple dip I made; here, I’ll include the recipe (note, I don’t ever measure anything):
  • Cream cheese (I used about 1/2 package of reduced fat)
  • Brown sugar (maybe about 1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla extract

I stirred it up and it was quite a hit, spread on granny smith or gala apples.

We had an Anth Halloween party on Saturday night that I technically was not invited to but I went anyway. Every year for the last 100 years Prof Pablo has had a Halloween party—complete with a pumpkin carving contest—but this year I had heard nothing about it, so I was actually getting quite worried that Pablo was sick or something. Then, come to find out, my name had been left off the email list and there was a party afterall. I was in a pinch to come up with a costume so I put on a safari hat, sewed some fake spiders to my field pants, and carried a data book—I went as a primatologist (with spiders crawling all over her). How original.

Sunday was followed up by another birthday party at for Rob at his parents’ house. More yummy things to eat, and of course, chocolate cake. Rob and I are about the point where we think we might need to go on a diet after all these parties. That will be difficult with a large quantity of leftover brownies sitting in our kitchen, plus a bowl full of Halloween candy for the trick-or-treaters.

Speaking of which, happy Halloween. Its never been my favorite, maybe because it’s the last day of October, which is my favorite month. I’ll just have to remember to go running early this afternoon so that I’m not running in to trick or treaters. Our neighbors told us that there are usually quite a lot of kids who come by, so hopefully we have enough candy.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Comeback Kid

Rob used to be just about the biggest name (or at least longest name) in Illinois and Indiana triathlons—until one fateful year when he posted a super-fast time at the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, and sadly, his knee was never the same after that. Biking didn’t seem to bother his knee like running did, so for several years, he contented himself by being strictly a cyclist. Recently he’s been coming back to running bit by bit, always cautious of the knee. He had been tentatively planning on making his comeback to the world of multi-sport at a duathlon (run and bike) this weekend in Marshall, Illinois.

Then of course came that whole car accident thing, and I thought for sure that the duathlon was out. Despite his injuries, Rob decided he wanted to try it. So on Friday after work, we packed our tent, sleeping bags, and Rob’s gear into Iris and took off for the Lincoln Trails State Park—where the duathlon was to begin.

We passed through Paris, Illinois on the way to the park. Nothing like its namesake, I can assure you.

As we got to the park and started setting up the tent, one of the tent poles snapped, which definitely complicated things. In the increasing darkness, Rob somehow managed to cobble the tent pole back together into a usable fashion, so disaster was avoided. I was impressed.

I had brought plenty of warm clothes with me, but no matter how many layers I piled on, it was still cold in our tiny little tent. When morning dawned I don’t think either Rob or me wanted to unzip the tent flaps and brave the even colder air outside.

Nonetheless, it had to be done. Rob got himself ready, and before I knew it, it was time for the race to begin.

I wandered briefly, trying to find a good place to stand. Apparently they were short on volunteers; I’d only been there a minute or so when somebody came and asked me if I could go stand over at the corner and direct the runners/cyclists as they came in. So I thought I might as well. It was pretty fun being an impromptu race volunteer, but unfortunately, it made it difficult for me to get any good pictures of Rob. Here’s the best I could do:

Rob did pretty darn good. He got 7th (or maybe 8th ?) overall and was the 1st finisher in the 25-29 age group. A pretty sweet comeback. They gave him some kind of swiss army knife thing for a prize; neat. Anyway, I am really happy for Rob.

After the race we drove around the park and took some photos of the beautiful fall foliage.

Well I’ve got tons of work to do this weekend, but I think its too beautiful to do any of it! I guess it will just have to wait until I get October out of my system. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Squirrel Evacuation

The class I’m a teaching assistant for is one of the biggest classes offered by the university: there were originally about 750 students enrolled, although after the first exam that number has dropped significantly. Today midway through class, some students in the front of the lecture hall started screaming in terror, and pretty soon the entire auditorium was filled with a pandemonium of shrieking students running for the door. It turns out that a squirrel—having somehow entered through the vents or rafters— had jumped down from the balcony onto the main level and was running loose through the auditorium.

For crying out loud.

It was just a squirrel!! Was all of that screaming and running really necessary? Have these people ever been outdoors before? Squirrels are everywhere!

At any rate, the professor retained her as cool as a cucumber persona and calmly asked the students to leave the auditorium while we tried to get the squirrel out.

It seemed like it wouldn’t be too difficult to usher the squirrel towards one of the many doorways leading outside, but it wasn’t proving to be easy. Plus there were still a bunch of students who stayed in the auditorium, chasing the squirrel around and trying to take pictures of it with their cell phones.

Now, the majority of my up close and personal squirrel experiences come from Lucy, the Nicaraguan squirrel who loved me for the cookies I gave her. But this was a fabled U of I Quad Squirrel, who was scared senseless and not nearly as sweet or tame as dear Lucy. Plus, squirrels are pretty fast. One minute it would be at the back of the auditorium, the next minute it would be up on the stage.

Today was a Thursday—so all of the students who are in the military always wear their uniforms. There were a couple of guys in military uniforms who took it upon themselves to organize the rest of us, formulate a plan, and finally get the squirrel outdoors. This one at least, was a military success. Mission accomplished.

Nonetheless, by this point, it had taken so long and been so distracting that any hope of continuing the lecture had been disbanded. As the professor and TA’s stood in the mainly deserted lecture hall, sort of shaking our heads at all of this, who else should appear in the doorway but good old S.L. and C.R. (another professor in the department). I guess one or both of them had been walking across the quad and seen this mass exodus of students pouring out of Foellinger Auditorium, so they came in to check and see what had happened. Luckily it was not as huge of a crisis as the screaming of the students would have indicated, and everyone ended up safe. Hopefully even the squirrel.

You just never know what’s going to happen! Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Conference Time

Over the weekend, both Rob and I had conferences to attend. Rob’s was a computer conference here in town; mine was a regional primate conference about 3-1/2 hours to the south. I left on Friday afternoon with a bunch of other grad students from my program—some of whom were genuinely interested in primatology, and some of whom were more interested in a change of scenery.

In years past, this Mid-West primate conference has been awe-inspiring and fabulous, but this year I just felt kind of … meh. Maybe its because Carbondale is about the least vegetarian-friendly place I’ve ever been (and I’ve visited Texas), and it was just that I was hungry the whole time. Or maybe it was because our supposedly “non-smoking” hotel room in fact smelled like it had been inhabited by chain smokers for the last 30 years and all of us were up coughing all night long because the stench was so bad. It was probably more of the latter—I couldn’t breathe well and slept poorly on Friday night, so all day on Saturday at the conference my face was puffy and no amount of weak coffee and Lorna Doone cookies could wake me up.

One of the highlights of the conference was talking to my friend Liz, who I met on Ometepe while she was there for a few weeks collecting data for her master’s thesis. It was good to see her and reminisce about Uno and Funny Nose and baby Patti of the South Group. I was presenting a poster on the case study of the dog attack I observed on Ometepe. I actually didn’t get a whole lot of feedback from people on it, but during the poster presentation, I was too groggy and puffy to care. Oh well, at least nobody told me it was stupid, so that is a plus.

It turns out Rob’s weekend was far more entertaining and action-packed than mine. Apparently he was giving a talk at his conference, even though he’d never so much as mentioned it to me before-hand. He sent me an email all about it, but of course I didn’t read it until after I got home and talked to him. I think his own words really describe it the best. Here’s what he said in the message he wrote to me:

"My conference presentation went about as badly as any presentation could go. The previous session went long so I was short on time. My computer crashed when I plugged in the projector. The lapel microphone didn't work well so I had to either shout or hold it up to my lips. After rebooting Mathematica didn't start. It started the second time but my first example didn't work. After quitting and restarting Mathematica it started working better. All of my examples took longer to run since I no longer had any of the external applications already running. Spotlight (one of my examples) just didn't work. The time ran out just as I reached the part I wanted to spend the most time on. I got through about 60% of my material. I had to talk so fast I'm not sure anyone could understand what I was saying anyway. Phew. I guess it can only get better from here. I hope all is well with you."

Poor Rob, better luck next time. I think it did get better from there on out though. On Saturday there was a state-wide high school marching band competition here in town, and while Rob was riding his bike to his conference, he saw my old friend Jason, who is a band director back where it all began. Talk about random--that’s so Dunlap Love.

Sunday morning I slept in longer than I thought was possible and then didn’t even go running. Instead, Rob and I went to a big clearance sale at Champaign Surplus, and I bought a new coat. I haven’t had a new coat in about 7 years, and the coat I’ve been wearing all this time is not going to be good for riding my bike or walking to school this winter. Rob took a picture of me trying on the coat; I don’t think it is interesting in the least but Rob thought I should blog it, so why not.

Later in the afternoon, I avoided work by raking leaves in our yard, and Rob took some photos of the absolutely fantastic marigolds and mums by the front of our house.

Rob is still in a lot of pain from the bike accident; he’s recently upped the ante with some powerful painkillers, and he’s going to have to go to the doctor this week because something in his shoulder is definitely not right. We’ll keep you updated.

The latest word from Ometepe is that one of the guys who worked at the Hacienda is now going to be a daddy, and they’ve emailed me to ask me to pick out a name for the baby. This is interesting. Nicaraguans tend to be very clever with the names they give their children, and I always wondered how they came up with some of these names. I guess maybe this is how—by soliciting the advice of people from all over the world. I’ll have to think about it for a while. At any rate, I’d better sign off for now. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Sunday in Roscoe, A Monday in the ER

Its been so hectic lately that I decided Sunday was as good a time as any to invite myself to my sister’s place and see my little nephew. It was a very rushed visit that involved doing a lot of driving all in one day, but it was so worth it. Little Logan is cuter than ever and his new thing is grinning hugely to show off his 3 fancy teeth. When we first got there, Logan was all smiles, but after a while he got sleepy and napped for several hours. My sister felt bad that we had come to see him and he was so interested in napping, but I think it worked out pretty well. We had some time to visit with Logan, and then while he was sleeping we had time to catch up with Michelle and Mark. Logan did wake up with just enough time for a brief outing to a park by the river, which was lovely. As always, it was very hard to leave them, but at least Auntie M didn’t cry as much this time as when she left Logan to go back to the jungle last April.

It was back to the daily grind on Monday. Kind of a wretched day, actually. I gave a presentation in journal club about the dog predation event I witnessed that lead to the deaths of Scooby and his mother. I wasn’t thinking that this kind of presentation was that big of a deal, but some of the higher-ups in the department (who, mind you, do not study the behavior of wild primates) cut me down, basically saying that this was shoddy science because it was an anecdote and therefore intrinsically meaningless and a waste of everybody’s time. I never would have thought that a simple journal club presentation like this would land me up in my office crying for a an hour afterwards, but you just can’t predict everything.

So I came home still in somewhat of a grim mood, and even though I just felt like pouting, I forced myself to get off my rear end and go running. It was about 6:40pm when I got back from that; Rob still wasn’t home from his Monday night bike ride. I checked my phone to see if he’d left a message while I was running, but there was nothing. When I got out of the shower, my phone was ringing. It was Rob’s mom, who prefaced the conversation with, “Everything’s going to be okay, but…” She said Rob was in the ER and had been trying to get ahold of me (did I take a really long shower or something??), then she let me go and in a couple seconds Rob called back. His voice sounded like his mouth was stuffed gauze or marshmallows and he said, “A car kind of bumped me, and I fell into a ditch.” Kind of bumped me, what a Rob thing to say. I was still dripping from the shower; I threw on the first pair of pants and shirt I saw and rushed to the hospital.

When I got there, I was expecting to see blood and twisted limbs, so I was much relieved when I saw Rob calmly lying in a bed—not too much blood to be seen—giving a report to a police officer. Rob had been out in the country on his way home from the ride when he got to an intersection where he did not have a stop sign, but the lane perpendicular to him did. As he approached the intersection, a car was also approaching perpendicular to him, and it stopped at the stop sign. Assuming that the car had seen him and was stopping—as it was supposed to—to let him pass through, Rob proceeded through the intersection. Well, apparently the driver hadn’t seen him approaching, because as Rob got into the intersection, the driver started to go. At first Rob slammed on his brakes, but realizing he wouldn’t be able to stop soon enough, he then tried to goose it and serve to avoid getting hit. He managed to get his body out of the line of fire, but the car struck his rear wheel and he lost control of the bike. He skidded, then flipped over the handlebars and landed shoulder-first in what he described as “a very deep ditch” on the side of the road.

The driver called the ambulance for him right away. As Rob was lying there in excruciating pain, he heard a guy’s voice say to him, “Rob are you okay?” and it turned out it was our former neighbor—the guy who lives next door to our old house. At the time Rob was maybe about 2 miles away from our old neighborhood, and this guy had been out for a run in the country. I guess he stayed around until the ambulance got there and he took Rob’s bike and helmet home with him so that we can get it later. Of all the things!

Shortly after I got to the ER, they took Rob away for X-rays, and in the midst of this, Barb and Bruce arrived. When they heard their baby had been in a crash, they drove all the way over here just to be there for him! They are the parents of the year.

Eventually someone who said he was a doctor told us that Rob’s X-rays showed no breaks, which is good news. He may have injured some of the tendons in his rotator cuff (shoulder), so if that doesn’t get better by the end of the week, he should go to his doctor. I was really relieved. At first I was remembering that hospital we’d had to go to in Moyogalpa and thinking how much better care he was receiving here in the US, but then I stepped back a minute and thought maybe not. They didn’t even clean up the “road rash” he’d gotten on his face from the fall off the bike, and they didn’t give him ice or anything for his extensive bruising and possibly torn rotator cuff tendons. But I don’t want to complain, I am mainly just so relieved and so happy that he is okay. It could have been so much worse. When I first heard the news that Rob had been hit by a car, my mind jumped to all sorts of terrifying conclusions, so at the moment I can’t think of anything else but how thankful I am that he is okay.

When he woke up this morning, he said he felt “B-ok” (instead of “A-ok”). He went ahead and went to work, but I suppose this will keep him off the bike for a few days at least. I’ve got loads to do, so I’d better get going. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 1, 2007

October Fool's Day

Happy October Fools’ Day. Its a little-known holiday that less than a handful of people of people in the world celebrate. Rob and I celebrate it because the beginning of another October means its been something like 10 years since we first met. Also its our friend Cara’s birthday.

Over the weekend Rob put up one of the hammocks that we got in Masaya:

Also, this weekend my friend Aimee was in the paper for her new website What Friends Do. If you don’t get the News Gazette, you can read the article here.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading.