Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A friend in the running club, Michele, had spare tickets to today's game: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Seattle Seahawks, and offered one to me. I seized the opportunity! I figured this is an ideal game, if either team won it would be a success. Of course, I hoped the Seahawks would win since they have playoff chances, while the Buccaneers are dragging through a horrible season.

Raymond James Stadium
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Team Entry
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Michele actually has season tickets to the Bucs, and has had them since the very beginning - 31 years of holding season tickets! Wow. Her tickets are about 5 rows back from the field, near the goal line. While seats closer to midfield would be better, being in a corner does offer a few advantages...

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

The game was fun to watch, and the weather was fantastic. I can't really watch a game on TV without wandering away a few times, but somehow watching it live is far more engaging and the game didn't seem long at all.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

The Buccaneers didn't play very well, so the Seahawks cruised to an easy 23-7 victory. That's great actually, I hope the Seahawks get back to the SuperBowl and win it all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Art Gallery

Years ago when I was in 5th or 6th grade, my parents signed me up for art lessons. I remember taking the class with another friend, the daughter of another family my parents knew. For a few months, once a week I would pack up a little suitcase of paints and brushes, and show up at an art store (I think the main business was framing and selling supplies) and gather with some other kids for the lessons. We would sit around a table with miniature easels, and the owner would pull our in-progress works out of storage and we would continue. We mostly worked with oil paints, so every week we would start by wiping linseed oil across the painting if it dried too much.

Eventually when we finished our paintings we'd take these masterpieces home and start on another. It has been a while but I remember each work was focused on some art technique: black-and-white pencil sketch, some sort of dabbing technique for painting trees and grass, the classic still-life, how to paint the ocean and especially a breaking wave, etc. It was fun, I remember really enjoying it. One thing I always had trouble with was drawing a human figure so all my paintings were still lifes: flower arrangement, trees, and so forth.

Anyway, three of my works are on display in a very exclusive gallery: the guest bedroom at my parent's house. I have a fourth one in Florida. I'm not sure but I believe two more are over at my aunt/grandmother's... I'll check later if I get the chance. If memory serves there should be a picture of a wave crashing over a rock, and maybe even another.

For the first time on display since 1980:

Flowers 1
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
The classic still-life of a flower arrangement.

Flowers 2
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Another flower arrangement.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
This sketch won 2nd place in an art store contest.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Visiting my Parents

I flew out to Dallas to visit my parents, and soon after arriving at their house their dogs greeted me. The dogs are looking well-fed and happy, which is expected because they have trained my parents to give them a little treat nearly every time my parents go into the kitchen!

R2D2 loves to play catch so he does get some exercise.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

My mom's other dog isn't so good about playing catch. Kirin Kirin prefers to have his belly rubbed and run in circles.

Kirin Kirin
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Lawn

The summer was dry and hot and my lawn suffered. It didn't help that a few of the sprinkler heads were broken, something I discovered and had fixed, and of course it didn't help I wasn't watering the lawn enough. Patches of it died, and when I removed the dead grass and spread some seeds hoping to revive my lawn, moss and clover and weeds grew instead.

So I decided to have the lawn resodded. My lawn service estimated the work to cost $900, including new sod and labor, which was reasonable. Heck I spent 25% more for similar work on Kirkland. The final cost came out to $980, and now I have a much better looking lawn.

It is supposed to rain a fair amount over the weekend, but just in case I programmed my sprinkler system to water the lawn for 30 mins every morning. Lake Mary limits how often you can water, but there are exceptions for new landscaping. I'll keep that up for a few weeks, until the sod takes root.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Driving Range

My workgroup's quarterly activity was lunch at Magnolia Plantation Golf Club, and then some time at the driving range where everyone got a bucket of golf balls to hit. I used to play every once in a while in Seattle, mostly the par-3 golf course hidden behind Crossroads Mall in Bellevue. Par-3 was perfect: cheap, quick, and no advanced planning as far as getting a reservation and so forth. A full game was fun but I am by no means a competent golfer - I am at least 2 strokes over on every hole so a typical game for me is 110+. Or higher.

But the driving range is less complicated, just tee up and whack each ball. It had been years since I golfed, and I expected to do really poorly, but I surprised myself by hitting reasonably well. I borrowed a 7-iron off a coworker and hit most balls straight and about 100 yards. Yeah 100 yards isn't too far with a 7-iron but I find the more power I put into the stroke, the less accurate I get. ;)

We switched up and I hit a few with a driver and a 5-wood and also had pretty good results. Who knew, play less golf and get better! Everyone else in the group not only played occasionally (except me), they owned their own clubs. I suppose I do as well, somewhere in my garage is an assortment of 6 or 8 clubs cobbled together from sales at various stores.

Everyone had a fun time, even Stephanie who had never tried before at all.

After a long lunch and extra time at the driving range, we made it back an hour before an informal party in the 2nd floor break room, with music, chips/snacks and beer. Yeah, today was a brutal one. :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Health Screening

My company held a free "health screening" for employees, as part of some health awareness push. I skimmed over the announcement and wasn't too interested until I noticed the screening included a blood test! Now there is something I can't readily measure on my own so I signed up.

The screen was setup in the 3rd floor break room, which is large enough for a seperate kitchen area, pool table, and table tennis. All that stuff was pushed aside and several tables were brought in for the various stations. It was pretty crowded so participation was really high among the employees.

The first table was sign in and the usual disclaimers. The second station was blood pressure, and mine measure at 129/82, which is "pre-hypertension". Measured again it came out to 109/79, or normal. I'm not really sure the device was properly calibrated.

The second station was height/weight for the BMI calculation. I'm 5'5" and at 138 pounds my BMI came out to 23.0, which falls in the desired range (which is less than 25).

All this was fine but not really why I came. The third table was the blood test. The nurse took a dab of blood from my middle finger and put it into a machine, so I sat on the side until the results came back. After a few minutes someone called my name and I went to hear the results. They gave me a sheet with my numbers written in on the side, and some range data so I could see where I fell.

Glucose was 131, where <100 was normal (fasting) and <140 is normal (non-fasting). Since I ate breakfast in the morning my level was fine. LDL cholesterol was 49, where <100 is optimal. HDL cholesterol was 81, where >60 is optimal.

Triglycerides was <45, where <150 is optimal. So far so good!

But my total cholesterol was 210, where <200 is desirable and >240 is high. I fell into the "borderline" area.

Later that evening I saw my friend Francis at the Y running group and he said he had the same result - each subarea was fine but the total was in the borderline region.

Hm... this will be a project to look into, reducing cholesterol in my diet.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Reindeer Run

This is one of those runs wwere a third of the people show up in costume, from striped socks (red/green thick stripes) to elf vests to reindeer antler hats and so forth. For my part, I wore Holiday Greetings socks. :)

I picked up my friend Diana from the Y running club, and we carpooled. She likes to get to events super early, which is good because I wind up cutting it fairly close. We arrived about 50 minutes early which gave me a great parking spot, plenty of time to pick up the race packet, and warm up.

During the warm up I noticed my left foot was sore, whenever I landed on the ball of my foot. A nagging thing at the top of my arch. Hm... well it got better as I warmed up so I decided to run anyway. I did 22:40 which is a pretty good time for me at a 5K for not having done lots of speed work. This race is deceptive because you run through the start to the finish, and as you come back along the lake you can see the start banners and it looks like the finish line... which is really another 3/10ths of a mile around a corner.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Parties

My work and various clubs all schedule Christmas (or "Holiday") Parties early, to avoid conflicts with travel, vacation, family gatherings, etc. The funny thing is that means all these events pile up on the same weekend anyway.

Yesterday was the Seminole Cyclist's holiday party, held at Jinja, one of my favorite area restaurants. About 30 or 35 of us jammed into a side room and enjoyed dinner, drinks, and a slideshow of the membership at various events throughout the year. It was fun and one of the few times I've seen most of them in normal clothes instead of bike shorts and jerseys.

This evening was the Orlando Runners Club party. It was a potluck event, and the instructions were to "bring something you enjoy eating" so I made vanilla ice cream. ;) The dessert went over well, but not well enough as I have about 1/3 of a container left!

OUC Half Marathon

Last year I set my half marathon PR at this event. I wasn't aiming so high this year, because I haven't been doing as much speedwork, plus I am recovering from a light ankle sprain. I decided anything under 2 hours would be good, 1:55 would be excellent, etc.

It was warm, in the mid 70's. I had on shorts and a short sleeve jersey and wished I had a sleeveless instead. The course was different than last year's course - from what I understand, certain neighborhoods complained about traffic disruption so they tried a new route. Although I've never lived on a street or in an area near an event course, so I've never been subject to road closures or delays at my house due to an athletic event, I am hugely unsympathetic to those people who are and complain about it. I mean geez, we're talking about what, 2 or 3 hours max (depending on where you live along the course) a few times a year, on weekend mornings? And if they live across the street from a public park, well that's too bad as well, get used to having events you can enjoy so conveniently located.

Anyway, I wound up finishing this year's OUC Half Marathon in 1:49, so that beat my expectations. Actually this is my 2nd fastest half mary, where last year's time (~1:42) at this event is my PR. So my 2 fastest half mary times have been set in Orlando... Florida has been good for my running and biking!