Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Trot X 5

I'm really kind of proud of this. Today marked the 5th Thanksgiving in a row that I have completed my own personal turkey trot before Thanksgiving dinner.

I told Lexie last night that we would have to go to Life Time Fitness this morning because I still can't run (see It's Broke). After the doctor gave the Ok, I started out on an elliptical machine, and last week I began combining a stair climber with the elliptical machine.

When I was up and saw Lexie this morning, she asked when we were leaving for the trot, and I told her I didn't think we were going to go. I was trying to wimp out, but Lexie, at 6 years old, reminded me how important it was for me to keep the streak alive. I said, "Lexie, you're right," and off we went for Life Time Fitness.

For my personal turkey trot today, I complete 45 minutes on the stair climber and walked 0.5 miles. The picture below is after 45 minutes on the stair climber. I sweat profusely when I exercise, which means the looks I get in the gym aren't the "he's hot" kind of looks. More like the "is he Ok" kind of looks, or the common "ewww" look. Deborah loves me, but she still falls into the "ewww" look category.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pictures From Italy

Don't have too high of expectations, but here are my pictures from Italy.

Grapes right before harvest in the Chianti region. I never tasted a wine grape before, but I picked one off the vine, and it was incredibly good. Very sweet.

The bishop's church in Arezzo. Most of the tours involve looking at churches. Usually, I would say "boring," but it wasn't. The construction of the churches was fascinating--start, stop, fight a war, start, stop, fight a war, start. And the artist (forgot the name) painted the ceiling, which is at least 60 feet in the air. I feel confident that scaffolding in 1300 was not as good as it is in 2010. And the stain glass windows were amazing. I also learned it's really hard to take pictures of stain glass windows with bright sunlight outside.

View of a cemetery from Cortona. Those are olive trees in the foreground. The olive harvest was underway, and many of the roads up to Cortona had harvesters placing nets under trees and shaking the tree to allow the olives to fall onto the net. It reminded me of harvesting pecans when I was a young teenager--my grandfather put down a net and made me climb my young ass up the tree and jump on the branches (when your grandfather says climb a 100 year old pecan tree and jump on branches, you do it, but it's probably why I'm so scared of heights now).

Here is a picture of the town of San Gimignano, and it's famous towers (grapevines in the foreground). The personal tour guide explained that the richest, most powerful men built the biggest towers. As if I couldn't figure that out. It was either that or the dude with the biggest...

...and speaking of David, here's the replica. The detail is amazing--Michelangelo must have studied the hours, days, weeks, and months. Modeling for Michelangelo was good work if you could get it during the Renaissance.

And finally, the hotel band on Saturday before departing. They didn't take requests.

Like I said, don't expect many good pictures from a lonely honeymooner, but we did go to Tuscany, and I did tour a little while Deborah was miserably sick in the suite watching Italian television.

Monday, November 22, 2010

DNF - The Honeymoon X 3

In 2009, I wrote about what was supposed to be our honeymoon in Australia. Deborah and I didn't actually get married before the trip, so it probably shouldn't count. But...

We did get married on September 12, 2010, and our wedding was beautiful--the site, the weather, the guests, Deborah--it was beyond everything that I had hoped for.


Deborah was sick before, during, and after the wedding, so that was a huge bummer.

Deborah and I spent a couple of days in Estes Park before returning to Denver, and when we returned to Denver after the wedding, my mother accused me of abusing Justin and Jarrod because we use behavior charts to show our expectations for the kids. The chart has stuff like "Say "please" and "thank you"" and "Wash hands after going to the bathroom and before meals." I looked at her like she was nuts, I mean, how can writing down expectations be abusive? No matter how I look at it, she's nuts. I thought it was a great way to help the boys practice the behaviors we teach. As a result of her accusations, I put her on a plane back to Texas, which was also a huge bummer.

We had a nanny lined up for our "dream" honeymoon in Tuscany. The first few days of the trip, I was scheduled to present a technical paper in Florence and then we had about 10 days to tour Tuscany. Travel is a pain in the ass for most, and we are no exception. Deborah hates to fly, and sitting on a plane for hours hurts her back. Plus, Deborah was sick.

We left a few minutes late for the airport and arrived about 45 minutes before departure, but we had checked in online. The United representative said that they couldn't check the bags without calling the gate (tick-tock, tick-tock), so she called the gate (tick-tock, tick-tock). About 30 minutes before departure, the gate said check the bags and we were allowed to head for security. We made it through a very short line, and they selected me to go through the new "full-body scan" machines. I had a broken leg and a boot on, but the TSA agent assured me the "full-body scan" would be faster (tick-tock, tick-tock).

So, I waited forever for the full-body scan machine, and after the TSA got an incredible view of my testicles, they pulled me aside for further screening (tick-tock, tick-tock). I told the TSA agents that my testicles were loaded because my new wife had been sick, but it didn't seem to matter to them.

The TSA agent said that I would have to remove my boot from my broken leg for an additional scan (tick-tock, tick-tock). After I told them they had to be kidding, he called a supervisor.

Note: The TSA deserves another post, but for now I'll note that the TSA is a government agency working for United States citizens. Neither my wife, nor our kids, should have to expose genitalia to a high school graduate to get on a plane. Instead of anal and vaginal inspection at the hands of government bureaucrats, I choose not to fly unless it's an emergency. When the airlines and people wake up, the TSA nonsense will cease.

Anyway, I removed the boot, and the TSA scanned until their little brains were satisfied that I wasn't a threat (tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock). Deborah and I ran for the train, and arrived at the gate to see that the door was closed. We missed our flight to Chicago and our connection to Zurich.

We had a seat at the gate and began to catch our breath. I began trying to find a flight to Chicago that would still allow us to get on the SWISS flight to Zurich. I called SWISS, and they could not get us another seat to Zurich for 2 days. I told them to forget Chicago. We would connect out of any US city--San Francisco, Chicago, Boston--anywhere. SWISS reservation agents were very helpful, but they can't do anything other than reserve seats. In other words, they can't tell a caller how much it costs. That has to be done by the SWISS fare office. So, I made tentative reservations for the Monday flight to Zurich while I tried to work on alternatives. What I didn't know was that SWISS puts a block on the reservation until the fare office arrives at a fare difference to charge.

Deborah and I were hanging at the airport trying to get SWISS to help us with alternative reservations. Hours pass with me calling SWISS every hour. Finally, a reservation agent tells me that there is nothing they can do until the fare office releases the itinerary. Deborah and I headed for an airport hotel for her to rest and me to work on a flight. About 6 hours after the missed connection began, and with me calling SWISS every 30 minutes to 1 hour, a SWISS reservation agent told me that the fare office was closed and we would have to wait until Sunday morning.

Deborah couldn't sleep at the airport hotel because of me. Apparently, I was snoring, and she couldn't sleep. On Sunday morning, I went for breakfast for both of us, and when I returned, Deborah announced that she was not getting on a plane. She told me to go. A honeymoon alone? It cost about $3,000 to cancel the tours for the 2nd honeymoon--the tour agency has a very strict cancellation policy, which is, basically, don't cancel.

I drove Deborah home, and began working on a flight from Denver to Florence so that I could present my technical paper and return home. On Sunday, I returned to the airport alone. I parked in the garage, walked to the elevator, and became stuck in an elevator with two men catching flights to New York. I had to use the elevator emergency button to get someone to come help us. After about 20 minutes in an elevator, we were rescued, and I went back through a TSA genitalia inspection and flew to Italy alone to present my paper.

When I returned from Italy, I began planning the rescheduled honeymoon. I worked with Deborah and we found a convenient time, an alternative set of tours that would allow her to experience Tuscany, a suite with two rooms so she would not be kept awake by me, an amazing nanny to care for the kids, and rebooked SWISS tickets to Florence for only $6,000 in fare difference and fees.

We left for Tuscany on Halloween eve. The flight to Chicago sucked because United ran out of ham sandwiches, and we really wanted a 1st-class ham sandwich. The SWISS flights to Zurich and Florence were outstanding--the food during the flight to Zurich was exceptional. After arriving in Florence, we had scheduled 1-1/2 days of nothing to recover from the flight. We managed to eat a couple of meals at modest restaurants, but nothing good.

On Tuesday morning we had the first tour scheduled. It was a visit to Arezzo and Cortona, where "Under the Tuscan Sun" was filmed. It was Deborah's dream to visit Tuscany and see where the movie was filmed. Before the tour guide arrived, Deborah told me she didn't feel well enough to go on the tour--nausea and fever. So I went on a tour of Arezzo and Cortona alone. A huge bummer.

On Wednesday morning we had a tour scheduled of Pisa and Lucca. Deborah was too sick to go on the tour, and she didn't want me hanging around the suite all day, so she insisted that I go "enjoy" my vacation. Some fun. I told the driver to take me to a winery for lunch and wine tasting.

Thursday, Deborah was sick, so I walked around Florence.

Friday, Deborah was too sick to go on the Brunello tour, so I went alone. Big sucking bummer.

Saturday, I walked around Florence and bought a few gifts.

Sunday, we finally left for the airport to return to the United States. The flights back home were not as good, but the security in Europe is much better than in the United States. They never once asked to see Deborah's vagina or my testicles, yet I still felt safe getting on a plane. How can that be TSA?

Everyday that Deborah was sick, I took her food, bought her medicine, and went grocery shopping in Italy to try and find American foods she might be able to eat. The rest of the time, I either went on tours because the driver had already been paid, or watched Italian dubbed American TV shows or ice hockey. If I never see another NHL game or Italy again, it won't bother me one bit.

Three honeymoon attempts and tens of thousands of dollars later, I resign from over-the-top dream-come-true honeymoon planning. And no more mixing work with pleasure--if I have to go make a presentation, I'll do it alone. If it's a "vacation," we'll do it together. It's been mentioned a trip to Hawaii might be fun, or maybe a vacation to Maine. I'm thinking Vail...or...maybe Garden of the Gods...or...maybe just a trip to the outlet mall in Loveland.