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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Busy ignoring you

Wow, I can't believe how long it has been since a post. Here's the news.

First, I haven't been posting because this is my vacation. I've been notoriously bad about using my vacation time for myself. Of course when we came home from Rusk, there was never time to stop, something always needed to be done. Then we bought a new house. Then school started up again.

During recent breaks I've worked on my speech therapy software. I did some computer work for the speech clinic at Truman. I've installed new computers for the Math and CS division. I've kept busy; really busy.

It's not that I mind being busy. I love having a project to work on, and I often move from project to project. But this spring I was really burned out. Not using my vacation for vacation had really added up. So when summer came, I was resolved to use some of it for me. I was determined to do what I want to the greatest extent I was able, and to not do what I don't want as much as possible. Last week I managed to become bored, so I feel I've had some success. The timing is good because I'm actually teaching during July, so in a way work will resume.

My summer project has been to learn about investing. My free time is consumed reading books about investing and the markets and finance. I've never been all that interested in any of that stuff, so I was surprised to find much of it fascinating. There've been good math questions (and yes, they are going to show up in my future math classes). I've spent a lot of time reading proxy materials, and annual reports, trying to size up companies and their management. It's surprisingly hard. It's no wonder to me now that most investment portfolios can't match the S&P 500.

I've done a little bit of fun programming. I've decided that Javascript is the unsung hero of computer languages. It's way better than you might think.

Linda continues to go to therapy on Tuesdays. Somehow she is getting a kind of reputation with her current therapists for being a slacker. How these rumors get started I have no idea. She bikes, we go out once a week to walk on campus (about 1/8 mile), she uses the parallel bars at home, she does activities around the house. It's really quite a lot.

Ellie is doing swimming lessons. I think she's starting to be sated though. When the water is cold, she's just as happy going to school as swimming. At the beginning there was hardly any way to get her out of the pool.

For Father's Day, I took Ellie to the pool in town. It just happens that fathers got in free, and I was cool with that. Ellie had been nagging me to go for a while. We swam and then I went to visit with other adults there that I knew. I think that's the rule: if we go swimming, then the adults get to socialize.

I had no idea how much a hour of swimming with 8-year-olds could do. On Wednesday, Ellie had for the first time put her face in the water while swimming. By the end of Sunday under the tutelage of kids, she was swimming 5 feet entirely under water. I was stunned. I should dump her in with kids and leave her alone more often.

Today we went to Iowa to see my new nephew. He was cute. We tried Subway on the trip instead of McDonald's. As usual, the accessibily was about 90% there. Inside, it was great, one of the best restaraunts we've done yet, but there was an inch-and-half lip to get inside the building. No way to do that without real help. Still, we'll probably eat there again anyway.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A new skill

It's not a big thing, but Linda was telling me that she learned something new again recently. A week or so back we bought a mat for her to use for exercises on the floor. Among other things, getting up from the floor is pretty much always an ordeal, where she sort of levers herself up slowly.

She was commenting that over the weekend when she was exercising, she wasn't really thinking about how to sit up. She kind of forgot that it's always hard and just did it like you would normally. And it worked.

She said it is much easier. I can't really go into more detail than that because I haven't seen her do it. But that's what she said, and I've no reason to disbelieve her.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What happens when you sit in Linda's wheelchair

I promised I would tell what happens when you wheel around in Linda's wheelchair. I did this the other day on campus when she got tired.

The first thing that happens is that you discover that the sidewalk behind Missouri hall does not actually slope down to the parking lot the way it should. I had only gone 4 feet when I got stuck, and I mean really stuck as in couldn't go forward or backward. I finally got unhung by leaning hard on one wheel when and turning it backward. But I only managed because I was totally healthy and determined; Linda could never do it.

The 2nd thing is that your arms get tired. And you realize that it isn't so easy to push both wheels exactly the same. I tend to drift right. Linda tends to drift left. I had to mak sure I didn't run into the hedges a couple of times. And downhill sections are great, because you don't have to push. You only have to make sure you don't go too fast.

The 3rd thing that happens is a surprise. You turn invisible. Linda told me that this happens, but it was amazing to experience it. No one looks at you. I passed a girl who was walking the other way and she just inspected the grass on the side of the sidewalk. I forced her to look by cheerfully saying "Hi," and she looked for just the briefest moment before returning to her study.

It's surprisingly hard to run a wheelchair down the sidewalk, and it's surprisingly slower than walking considering you're on wheels. I definitely had a feel for the efficiency of walking about. You can get places so quickly.

And when you're walking, people can see you.

Not dead yet

I know, no post in 2 weeks. Probably a record. But it is summer break, and maybe a break is in order, even for bloggers. I know you're desperate to hear the news, so here is some.

My John Deere L120 lawn tractor has been in the shop for 2 week because it was running so bad. It's still under its 2-year warranty, so it didn't cost me anything to have it repaired, except $15 to have it brought back to the house when I couldn't borrow a trailer. It had a bad cam shaft (a fancy rod with knobs that controls things like the opening and closing of valves in the engine). I'm glad it was a warranty repair because that would have been expensive out of my pocket.

Last night I put on a new set of blades and mowed everything. Some of the grass was tall like a hay field, so I knew I'd need sharp blades. I lost my metric set of sockets the last time I moved (or the time before that, I'm not sure) so I had to get some new ones. Everything on the tractor is in millimeters, and as tight as things are, there's really no fussing around with adjustable wrenches. I still bruised my palm pushing, but I got the old blades off and the new ones on. I can have the old ones sharpened at my leisure now.

It seems there have been things to keep busy with while not mowing the lawn. I did some work at school after classes were out. One day the power was out long enough to drain the backup power on all of my servers. Five of them had some trouble coming back up, which is definitely a record for us. I'm counting the two computers currently in my office, but, frankly, I'm used to zero problems even with my own machines.

I've also spent some time programming for fun. I've been writing a version the game Bejeweled, and it turned out pretty well. I'm happy with it. Linda is glad that it's done, because I tend to ignore her when I'm working on a project.

Linda and I have done some different things for therapy. We got a small exercise mat for home, and we've gone walking on campus for endurance. She walked for 30 minutes, from the back of Missouri hall to the eternal flame in front of Kirk memorial (which as usual was not lit). I brought her wheelchair from the car, and I wheeled it the whole way to see how hard it is. That was pretty interesting, and I'll post about that later.

Ellie starts swimming lessons, and summer pre-school is going. She was very upset that all of her best friends were split into a pre-kindergarten group. But they were cool about it, and let her switch. She can stay with the older kids as long as she cooperates and works on things like she is supposed to. If she gets spastic and random and young she may have to go back with the younger kids.