Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Michelline through the years

Now that Michelline's weight loss is so dramatically apparent, I thought it would be interesting to put up a bunch of old pictures from the time we met through now.

As she was losing weight, even though it was coming off pretty quickly, I didn't notice it much. When you see someone every day, the gradual change makes it harder to see, I think. That said, I've noticed over the last couple of days that when older pictures come up on the screensaver, she looks ahem, more full-figured (or well-nourished, as the doctor's office notes used to say) than I remember. I think my mental picture of her has finally adjusted to her new face so the difference can be rather striking when one of these older pictures pops up.

So I went back and picked out some pictures from different periods. I didn't try to find the worst or best pictures, just a representative shot if I could.

Here we are the very weekend we started dating. This picture was taken in Boulder, Colorado at the University of Colorado in August 1988. We were there for the National Junior Classical League Annual convention. I always thought this was a really good picture.
Latin Trip Colorado 1988 (2)

Here she is on our prom night, I guess this would be May of 1989. We went to different high schools, but both schools had their prom on the same night.
Michelline Barwell May 19, 1989

Here's our wedding photo from December 19, 1992. Michelline and I both put on some weight in college (89-93). I think this is a good picture of both of us, but you can see that she's gained some since the 1988 picture. I don't know that I was much bigger than I was in the last picture up here, but it's coming.
Chris & Michelline Howard Wedding Dec 19, 1992 (21)

Here she is on Christmas day, 1993. We've both always liked this picture. I wish the flash hadn't washed her face out so much.
Michelline Howard Xmas 1993 (1)

Ok, here's a bad picture of both of us from sometime in 1994(look fast, because she might make me take this one down :) ). This is our first apartment together in Jacksonville.
Chris and Michelline Howard 1993

Here we are at her baby shower for Tori. That puts this one in later 1995 as Tori was born on October 24, 1995. Michelline looked good at this shower. She lost quite a bit of weight throughout the pregnancy due to her gestational diabetes and the fact that she was sick the entire time.

This one is sometime in 1999, after Libby was born. She was wearing a lot of overall shorts around this time. I miss those. I think this period, right after Libby was born, may have been her lowest post-college weight. She'll have to confirm that later.
1999 Michelline

Ok, I'm going to jump to 2004 now, because there weren't a lot of major developments in appearance over that time. Here's Michelline with the girls on our cruise in April 2004.
Libby, Michelline and Tori 042604

Jumping again now, here she is checking into the Jacksonville airport on our way to London in March 2007. This is another good picture. This is one of those pictures where the difference in my perception becomes clear to me. To me, she never looked overweight in this picture before.
031407 Michelline checking in in Jax

Here's Michelline with Tracy in St. Augustine in March of this year.
03102008 Michelline and Tracey

Her's Michelline with Libby at her school on May 22 this year. This is only a little over a month before her surgery.
05222008 Libby and Michelline

Here she is on our Disney trip in September. I wanted to find a good picture closer to her surgery, but it looks like we didn't take any in August. This is the first post-surgical here.
09272008 Michelline

And finally, here she is last week, October 18 at the Halloween party. She's looking particularly hot here.
101808 Michelline

In the first picture she was a size 12, and in the last she's down to a 14/16. I think she'll be down to a 12 again in a few weeks. We've both been on a weight roller coaster our whole adult lives. It'll never be easy, but I think this surgery is a big step in getting off that ride. There was a health fair at her office today, and she had good numbers across the board - blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol.

One thing I do want to make clear (maybe this should expand into another post at some point), I'm really happy that she's getting healthy and looking good and feeling good about herself. But from the first picture to the last, and all the times in between, I always thought she was beautiful and I've always been very attracted to her. I never looked at her through any of this and wished she looked different than she did or wished she were smaller. The two biggest rewards I get from this surgery are her improved health, which had been weighing on both of our minds, and her improved self-image. Now she's just starting to feel about herself the way I've always felt about her. And that's a really great thing.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Steal This Comic

I'll never understand why people think DRM can ever work. It's really very, very simple. It should not be easier for me to pirate something than it is to get it legitimately. If it is, the people distributing it legitimately have failed. Try something else. Also, it doesn't, and has no hope of ever working.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Seen at Whole Foods

Michelline and I were driving around Orlando this morning and stumbled upon their only Whole Foods!
10122008 Whole Foods Orlando

After reading Mrs. Furious wax rhapsodic about it for so long, we had to stop and take a look around. As we're pulling in to park, I noticed this coexist bumper sticker on three different cars. Then we cam across this car and I had to take a picture.10122008 Van at whole Foods

I turned to Michelline and said "We're among our own people." We saw a few Obama stickers but no McCain stickers. It was too good to last. On the way out, we were almost backed into by a van with a "Yes on 2" sticker. Amendment 2 is Florida's version of California's prop 8. Fucking bigoted assholes.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Obama's hidden benefits

I was thinking past the election for the first time. I know the election isn't wrapped up yet, but I was wondering what Obama has to accomplish to be considered successful. That led me to think about the disaster of the last eight years.

In retrospect, if Gore had taken office, he would have been successful in comparison to Bush just by keeping us out of Iraq alone, not to mention avoiding all the various constitutional abuses. But if he had been elected, we wouldn't know just what we had avoided. Especially considering the lies Bush told during the campaign about his agenda. No nation building indeed. Gore would probably have been judged on his handling of 9/11 and the economy. Not knowing how badly Bush fucked it up would actually work against Gore.

So too, for Obama. It's a little different, because Obama will be judged against the failures of the Bush administration, but he'll also be dealing with the consequences of those failures. The lingering effects of our current troubles could well work against Obama. And we all know McCain is a dangerous hothead, and it's hard to argue against hypotheticals. The fact that McCain may get us involved in further dangerous foreign entanglements that Obama may avoid won't necessarily be reflected in Obama's approval rating. Nevertheless, it's one of many reasons that just keeping McCain away from the reins of power is a success in itself. I hope we never have to find out what bullets we may have dodged.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Water Woes

All of you on municipal water should be thankful. When this neighborhood was first developed, it was way out in the country, far from city water sources. All the houses are equipped with a well and septic tank. Basically, you have a well and a pump which pulls water into the house.

When we first moved in here, I thought it'd be great to forgo the monthly water/sewage bill. However, I had no idea what I was getting into. Most of these wells have some sort of minerals or smell that you don't want, so you have to have a water softener or other filtration system. We had a salt softener which means we had to buy bags of salt every few weeks. And, since you have an electric pump that drives the water into your house, if the power is out, so is the water. Here are a few of the other issues I've had to deal with.

  • Our old water softener (essential if you didn't want iron stains everywhere) finally quit. We bought a brand-new one from Sears which I installed.

  • Not long after getting the new softener, the pump, which is in the garage, started making funny noises and running a lot. We couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then, one morning, it spat a bunch of sand into every toilet. The well had collapsed. We called around and found out it would be $1000 to dig another shallow well (80 feet). Then we remembered that we already had a deep well, shared with our neighbor, which we used to run the sprinklers. It's an artesian well and the water is good quality. The water from this well doesn't have any iron, which made the brand-new softener unnecessary. It does have a sulfur smell, which requires an aerator tank. This is a giant tank which holds the water from the well and lets the gas evaporate prior to entering the house. We hooked it into the sprinkler pipes and voila, we had water again. All this cost about $1200.

  • Shortly after this, our pressure tank failed. In order to maintain a constant pressure in the pipes in the house, the pump pushes the water into a tank which has a rubber bladder filled with air until a certain pressure is reached (we use 40 lbs). Once the tank pressure drops below 25 lbs, the pump starts up. I had to replace the tank, which is easy to do fortunately, but it set me back a couple of hundred dollars.

  • When we had the pool built, we knew it would tear up the sprinkler system. This is normal when pools are built. However, most people's house water doesn't rely on their sprinkler system integrity. While the pool was built, we ran a hose from the artesian well into the aerator tank. It has enough pressure to fill the tank without a separate pump. After everything was done, we had a separate spur run from the well into the aerator. Along with the sprinkler rebuild, another $1000.

  • Tonight, Tori noticed the toilet making spitting noises. That means air in the pipes. Oh, shit. I checked all the taps, toilets and hoses to make sure one hasn't been running and drained the aerator tank. Nope, but the tank was empty. I heard a rushing water noise coming from the back of the yard, faintly. I grabbed the flashlight (it was already 9:30 and I was in my boxers) and went to check it out. All around the sprinkler pumphouse, there's a giant lake about 3 or 4 inches deep, the pump was running nonstop and water was gushing. I shut off the breaker to the pump and then cut off the well at the source. This stopped the leak, but it also stops the aerator tank from filling. After wading through the lake, I saw that a pipe had busted loose inside the pumphouse. At least it's an easy fix. So for now, I dragged out three hoses, hooked them together and ran them from the tap on the wellhead to the auxiliary input valve on our aerator tank.

All this doesn't even go into the separate problems we've had with the sprinkler system. I'll be very happy to go back to paying my water bill.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Flipping Florida

We had been idly thinking about volunteering for the local Obama campaign, but hadn't really got anything going. Between work, kids, house, baseball and virtual couching, we hadn't made the effort to find out what to do. Fortunately, we got a kickstart when called me a few weeks ago. They had been calling people all over who indicated an interest in volunteering and scheduling times. I made an appointment and we did a little phone banking at the local office later that week.

Last week, I got a call from our neighborhood coordinator Tony. He was trying to round up people to do some canvassing in our area. Having got our feet wet with the phone banking, we said we'd meet him Saturday morning. We went to one of the neighborhoods in our area and got lists of addresses. Tony said these were people who, when called, had indicated they were undecided or were going to vote for Obama. We were supposed to find out how they were voting (early, vote by mail etc...) and who they were supporting, if undecided.

Here's Tony and a couple of other volunteers at the meetup in the neighborhood 10042008 Tony, our neighborhood coordinator

Michelline and I aren't introverts by any means, but knocking on doors for a political campaign is definitely outside of our comfort zone. But if we can help turn out even a few additional votes, that can make a difference. We know McCain is counting on Florida, and turning it will probably give Obama the election.

We set out with our list and our campaign lit and started knocking - 10042008 Michelline canvassing for Obama

Out of all the houses we hit, only 3 were still undecided. The others had decided for Obama previously or had made up their minds for Obama since they were called. We even took a voter registration app for a likely Obama supporter who hadn't registered. Everyone was very pleasant, we had some nice conversations and there was no tension or combativeness. We had forgotten to bring water (stupid, after 3 hours in the sun, we were dying), but we got offered water by two different households, including one of the undecideds.

We'll definitely be doing more volunteering over the next few weeks. We've signed up to do voter transport and we may do more canvassing and calling. I think it's especially important to keep the pressure on now that McCain is going to throw the sink at Obama this last month.

(Speaking of McCain, we just saw one of his newest negative ads, claiming Obama is untrustworthy and using the 94 tax votes lie again. McCain is such an asshole.)

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092008 The Howards plus one
When we heard that Obama was coming to Jacksonville, we knew we had to go. I haven't seen a president or candidate live since Reagan came to Jacksonvlle in 1987.

The man himself was scheduled to speak sometime after 2:30 and the gates were opening at 12:30. We knew that it was likely to fill up quick so we got to the stadium (to park, it's across the street from the park where the event was held) at about 10:30. It's a good thing we did -
092008 The line to get in
That was just a small portion of the line. It wrapped around itself several times.

The atmosphere was very friendly and excited, very similar to a sporting event - a lot of people wearing the team colors, a lot of vendors selling t-shirts and buttons, an air of anticipation. One difference was the campaign volunteers handing out info cards and asking for everyone to fill them out. One more piece of Obama's very good grassroots organization.

They finally let us in and we settled in for a long wait. There were a lot of people crowding around the stage - 092008 Metro Park
but we had no intention of standing like sardines for 3+ hours, especially with 5 kids in tow, even if it did mean a better view. We settled into a nice dry spot on top of a ridge under a tree.
092008 John, Keri, Zoe, Tori, Libby and Jason

At about 2:30, the event finally started up. Some local people spoke, Bill Nelson spoke, a volunteer spoke. We couldn't hear anything as the speakers weren't set up well for the back of the crowd. I was worried that we wouldn't hear Obama. After the speakers finished, the crowd got a little restless. It ended up being another hour or so before the Obama bus rolled in. By this time, everyone had been waiting for about 5 hours, with nothing to eat. The campaign had a lot of water available, so that was ok, but no food inside the park, so we were all starving. We found out later that the park had been filled to the legal capacity, which was about 12,000, and over 8000 were waiting outside.

Finally, Obama came up to the podium. Fortunately, the legal capacity allows for a lot of breathing room, so we were able to come down and compact the crowd and get relatively close. It was really neat listening to him speak in person, even though I had already heard most of the stump speech. Tori listened attentively to the whole thing and told me she was really glad we came. She's starting to really pay attention to politics, for a 12-year-old. We could see Obama, although he was a bit distant. Here's my zoomed in pic - 09202008 Obama zoom

All-in-all, a neat experience, and I'm glad we went. It also whetted our appetite for some volunteering which I'll address in the next post.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bumper Sticker

Can someone please explain to me what the hell this bumper sticker is supposed to mean?

Oh, and I should add that this is the second time in as many days that I've seen this ridiculous nonsense on someone's car. Do people even pretend to think anymore?

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Totalitarianism vs Liberalism

I don't know why, but I found myself clicking on Glenn Beck's latest excretion. We all know the guy is an idiot, but that's not specifically what got me going this time. He's trying to be snarky, writing from the future, 68 years from now. He's saying America at that time is a government controlled socialist dictatorship.

It's always baffling to me how some of these right-wing nuts like Beck conflate liberalism with totalitarianism. It seems to be as deeply ingrained as the "tax and spend" label in some parts of wingnuttia. They always make this giant leap from government regulation of business to government control of the individual. At the same time they're constructing this imaginary bridge from liberalism to fantasyland, they're supporting policies that much more directly affect individual freedom - regulation of sexual conduct, suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping etc... Yeah, those are fine, but government mandated vacation for larger business? Police State!

I'm not surprised that they try to demonize progressive ideas, I'm surprised that I see this particular meme expressed so often.

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