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September 7, 2012


A few months after arriving in Australia, Oksana and I noticed something distressing.  After a more than a year of hauling big backpacks around the world, nothing interested us more than sitting at home all day.  Evenings, weekends – didn’t matter.  If we had any free time, invariably our first choice was to spend it sitting on our asses.  Understandable, I suppose, but after three months of inactivity, some of our clothes weren’t fitting anymore… and we didn’t have all that many clothes with us to begin with!

It was Oksana who brought up the P90X program and wondered if it was something we could do at home.  I’d heard of it before, years ago.  I remembered it as an intense workout program designed for people who are already considered “fit” (whatever that means), one that uses small weights and body resistance for most of its exercises.  We did some research and I warned her that it would be a very intense program with a large time commitment – at least if we were going to treat it seriously.  She said she was game if I was.

So, 13 weeks ago – 90 days ago, to be exact – we started in on the P90X program.  Today is our official end date.

Here’s my “before” photo, which they encourage you to take so that you can see your progress (and one which, just so you know, I have a very hard time posting online!)

The after photos are posted down near the end of this entry.  Everything else is my thoughts on the P90X program.


May 21, 2012

For Mema


Eulogies always leave me feeling vaguely depressed.  When Steve Jobs passed away, newspapers, magazines, television, and the internet had nothing but wall-to-wall praise for the man.  How much nicer it would have been, I thought, if he were still alive to read it.  Why do we wait until someone dies before talking about all the good they’ve done in life?

Regret.  That was the first emotion I felt after hearing the news that my grandmother had died (a week ago today.)  My mom told me two days before that her parents had just celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary.  “Why don’t you give your Mema a call tomorrow and wish her a happy Mother’s Day?”  I could have.  I should have.  All the time zones between Australia and North Carolina aren’t excuse enough for why I didn’t.

In my sadness, I think no one could possibly understand how I feel, but that’s not exactly true, is it?  Probably most of you have felt the same sense of regret, of sadness, of loss.  If only I’d visited one last time.  If only I’d told her I loved her when last we spoke.  If only she were still here.

This pain feels so personal, so unique to my situation, but in reality, most everyone can relate to losing a grandparent.  I’m luckier than most.  I knew six of my eight great-grandparents (though their faces and personalities have faded from memory since childhood) and I almost made it to forty years of age before losing my first grandparent.  Not many can say that.


December 16, 2010

A funny thing happened today…

Today started out like any other day…

Does any story starting with that line ever finish with, “and then it ended just like any other day?” No.  No, of course not.

Today started out like any other day.  Oksana got up early for her four-hour, one-on-one Spanish lesson and left me sleeping in bed.  I woke up an hour or so later and went about my normal routine.  A few pushups, a few sit-ups, I grabbed a quick shower.  I was out the door at 10am.  After a week of classes, I had finally been invited to meet her instructor.

The streets in front of the language institute were crowded because today was a big day for all the local boys and girls.  School after school paraded their children in front of the judging stands set along the parade route.  The girls, no matter how young, were decked out in provocative mini-skirts and cleavage-bearing tops, while the boys were sharply dressed in 3-piece suits.  Hundreds (if not thousands) of drums and xylophones played the same song, mostly in synch, as the boys and girls marched, mostly in step.

I didn’t so much meet Oksana’s instructor as say hello and then stand behind her for 40 minutes.  It was impossible to talk over the marching music.

Afterwards, Oksana and I went back to the hostel to check our email before lunch.  The women that run the rooftop cafe during breakfast were rendering sugarcane syrup on the stove and, like magic, dozens of bees had found their way into the glassed-in room.  While uploading some photos to Facebook, one stung me on the Achilles tendon.  It was a completely unwarranted attack; I was sitting perfectly still!  I flicked the bee off and removed the stinger within five seconds.  It throbbed for 10 minutes or so, but that was about it.

We decided to leave the beehive and go get some lunch.  We walked the four blocks to Cafe Pan Rico and sat down in the empty cafe.  I had a banana batido (basically a warm, banana-flavored milkshake) and a nice fruit bowl, covered in yogurt and granola.  Oksana opted for just a blackberry batido. We stopped by the market on the way back and bought a couple of deep-fried banana and cheese empanadas, too.

I was feeling sleepy, so I convinced Oksana to take a nap with me.  She agreed, so we stretched out in bed and tried to ignore all the street noises coming from beyond our window.  The maid hadn’t cleaned our room yet, so we knew that we’d be woken up by a knock at the door before too long.

And, an hour or so later, that’s exactly what happened.  There was a knock at the door and I jumped up to get it before she had a chance to barge in on us.  Oksana stayed in bed, awake, but feigning sleep.

I answered the door; there were two cute maids looking up at me (I stand a full head taller than most women around here.)

“Would you like your room cleaned?” she asked.  Or at least it was something very similar to that, just in Spanish.

“No, not today, I don’t think.”  I reached around to the hooks on the wall and put my hand on two wet towels. “But maybe we can just change the…”

I guess that’s when I passed out.


October 27, 2010

Estimated Time of Departure


You can make all the plans in the world, but life will still get in your way.

— Paraphrased from W.E. Griffin Jr. (My granddad)

My granddad told me that years ago and it struck me as one of life’s great truisms.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

By now, Oksana and I expected to be deep in Central or South America, months into our round-the-world backpacking trip.  While we never had much of a plan, per se, we did have a sort of schedule lined up.  After driving through the United States, we thought we would depart from Florida around mid-August.  But then, because we were tired of driving, we pushed that back a couple weeks.

It was an easy decision to make; we were visiting my grandparents at their cottage on the beach in Nags Head.  We thought, Why not enjoy some sun and sand before heading south? Both Oksana and I like spending time with my grandparents and, in addition, my grandmother could use our help.  She was still recovering from a double-whammy of a heart attack and pneumonia from back in February.

All summer, my extended family took their turns visiting the cottage.  By the end of August, everyone had left for home, leaving only my overwhelmed aunt and grandfather to care for my grandmother.  Oksana and I realized that we were in the unique position of not having a job to run back to and, if we were willing to put off the start date of our trip a little longer, we could stay and help. We discussed it and decided to push back our departure date again until the end of September.

And then out of nowhere, on September 25th, we had another medical emergency in the family.  My aunt Susie, upon whom my grandparents relied so heavily, ended up in the emergency room with… well, we still don’t know what happened.  She’s been in and out of intensive care units and transported between three different hospitals now.  I’ve lost track of all the CAT scans, MRIs, spinal taps, and blood tests they’ve done.  As a family, we’ve weathered diagnoses of meningitis, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis, vasculitis, prescription drug overdoses and underdoses… even bird flu! We may not know the underlying cause, but we do know that she had upwards of four separate strokes.

In the short term, my mom (her sister) and my cousin (her daughter) flew down from Ketchikan to lend a hand.  My mom, realizing that my aunt would no longer be able to care for their parents, flew back to Ketchikan to start packing her things for a semi-long-term stay in North Carolina.  My cousin has stayed with her mom in the hospital, and Oksana and I are staying with my grandparents until my mom moves to NC.

Travel is important to us, but family? More so.

However, we do have a plan now.  Despite not having a real itinerary, we did have one commitment in Ecuador.  Five friends are joining us for a jaunt through the Galapagos starting around the 15th of November.  Oksana bought our tickets a couple days ago; we leave on 10th.

July 15, 2010

PV010: NASA STS-132 Tweetup

Here’s a long-ish podcast episode about the NASA Tweetup I attended back in May.  Oksana wasn’t able to go with me, so this video ending up being a one-man show.  There’s some good stuff in there, I think, but I ran into some problems during the production (not the least of which was overexposing my “narrator” shot… grrr!)  My intent was to convey my own experiences at, and thoughts about, the NASA Tweetup.  I hope I managed to at least do that.

Originally I thought I’d post it in June, but packing for our backpacking-around-the-world trip got too crazy for that.  Then, I thought I’d post it on the first week of the trip, but the trip itself got too crazy for that!

Oksana and I are finding ourselves facing down the Traveler Blogger’s Dilemma: How do we budget time for webpage work when there’s a whole exciting world out there to see?  Turns out that’s especially hard when you’re visiting friends and family!


June 4, 2010

Going Away Party

I had no idea it was called a 'Cornucopia!'

Boy oh boy.  You’d think now that I’m officially unemployed, I’d have all the free time in the world.  Not true!  I have a million and one things to do, starting with packing up one life and preparing to embark on another.

One thing I really need to get going on will be accomplished by this blog post.  It’s time to plan our going away party!  It’s going to be EPIC and if you’d like to see us off, you’re totally invited.

Here’s the low-down:

  • It’s going to be all day on Saturday, June 19th (starting at noon, dinner at 6pm)
  • It’ll be at the Schiable House, on Back Loop Road (next to the Mendenhall River Bridge)
  • Anyone that knows us is welcome to show (and bring a guest if you like!) but you’ll need to RSVP
  • This will double as Oksana’s 30th birthday party (more on that later)
  • It’ll be a potluck (ohGodnotanotherpotluck!  Yes, but hold on:  There’s a theme!)
  • The theme will be: A Second Thanksgiving (I don’t have a parenthetical for this, but I was on a roll)

“A Second Thanksgiving” theme is something I’ve wanted to set up with my friends for a long time now.  I mean, seriously, why shouldn’t we have more than one Thanksgiving?  Besides the sentiment of, you know, giving thanks for the things in our lives, shouldn’t we be able to enjoy all that wonderful food more often than once a year?  Turkey, stuffing, casseroles, cranberries, rolls, pumpkin pie… I’m making a declaration right now: It’s time to break out your favorite family recipes!

And this is why you need to RSVP: We can’t have everyone bringing cranberries.  I’ll start us off: I’m bringing the turducken.  What’s that?  OH YEAH THAT’S RIGHT I SAID TURDUCKEN!! Also, put me down for stuffing.

We can coordinate RSVPs and potluck dishes here in the comments, I guess.  Oksana and I hope we’ll have a lot of people show up, so I’m throwing out a request for at least one other “big dish” item.  Anyone willing to tackle another turkey?  Of course, we’ll need plenty of side dishes.  I suspect we’ll need at least two of everything.  Maybe even more.  (By the way, the Schiable House has a kitchen, so we can at least do some of the cooking there.)

As I mentioned above, we will also be celebrating Oksana’s 30th birthday party!  Now, let it be said that the best gift you can give her is your presence at our going away party (well, maybe the best gift would be sticking around to help clean up…), but if you feel like you must buy her a gift, then you’re going to have to get creative.  Chances are, if your present has any sort of physical properties at all, it’ll probably just sit in storage for the next 12 months.  No puppies, okay?

Finally, if I can get my act together, I may pull together some video/computer equipment for the party, too.  I would love to have something set up in the corner where guests could put pins on a map, give suggestions on where in the world we should travel, or just get some help (if needed) subscribing to our podcast.  But really, that’s all secondary because…

We’re going to be gone for an entire year.  All we want to do is make time to see our friends one last time before we go.

So, get those RSVPs in, okay? (Recipes! s’il vous plaît) And we’ll see you in a couple weeks!

May 19, 2010

Final Stretch

I’m back from Florida and it feels like we are really beginning to accelerate towards our departure date.  I basically have two weeks left at work, time in which my major responsibilities include training the coworkers I’m leaving behind and packing up my personal belongings.  Oksana will be working through the month of June, training her own replacement, and I’ll spend our last month in Juneau making sure all our possessions are safely packed away.

We also have a thousand-and-one other things to do.  Arrange for medical/travel insurance, complete our vaccinations, set up new bank accounts, cancel most of our utilities and make arrangements on the others to pay up a year in advance, buy ferry tickets, pack, fix the website, and somehow keep posting content (even if it’s Spartan, like this.)

On the plus side, my new Sony Vaio laptop arrived yesterday (after much struggle with FedEx Ground!)  Somewhere around here is my Adobe Master Collection serial number and as soon as I find it, I’ll finally get to try editing actual AVCHD files.  My previous Dell didn’t have the horsepower; let’s see what these i7 chips can do.