Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vacation - Part I

I guess this is going to be a once a week type of thing.

We went on vacation - took a boat ride out to South Manatou Island, where we hiked and camped for two days and came back on the third day. Now, I love (i.e., hate) camping. But Mama Crab loves (i.e., loves) backpacking and camping, so we went along.

One of the glorious parts of camping and hiking is the shopping at REI that comes before the camping and hiking. Really, that is what it is all about - the lightest tent and sleeping bag and stove and ... But, I am a huge wet blanket and don't want to get anything new. I am like a relentless two-year-old in my complaining about not buying new things. I think that Mama Crab wants to kill me. Seriously, if she could get the Sierra Design 4.9 lbs 3-person tent and all she had to do was axe me, she would. We got out of REI only spending something like $100, which is pretty good. All it took was a few tears on my part. I am not ashamed to cry if it will save us money! Of course, Crab-Ma probably looks on it as a victory too ("If I tell him I want a tent, a backpack, a new stove, ... and only get a backpack, he will think he won - and I get to see him cry like a baby!!!")

Anyways, we pack all of our crap in our backpacks and head to the great white north (ok, less hot north). A four-hour car ride up through Traverse City and into Sleeping Bear National Park brought us to sand, sand and more sand. I mean, a mountain of sand. We went up to the top of the mountain and dug down something like 2-2.5 feet and it was still sand! Then we convinced crab-girl to climb into said hole and bury her! Well, it was really only up to her thighs, so she wasn't really buried. Lots of laughs. Lots of running down the sand jumping and rolling and such. Crab boy kept running up the hill, then turning around and basically face-planting himself on the way down. He loved that sand.

Then on to Leland, through a little berge called Glenn Arbor, where there was gas for sale for $4.09 a gallon. There is no way in hell that I am paying $4.09 a gallon when it is $3.75 in Ann Arbor. So, I blow by the place. Take note of this. Important mistake. We then drive another 20 miles to Leland. At which point the gas guage is below (well below) the empty line. And, guess what, THE gas station on Leland is closed. Nice. It is open 8:30-5:30 M-F. WTF? When is the last time you saw a gas station that was not open on the weekend. Well, for me, it was last Sunday. So, we park the car and start looking for hotels on foot. Now, I am not normally a dumb-a** (well, often less than twice a day), but that day really took the cake. If you are in the middle of no-wheres-ville, MI, and you see a gas station, and you are on empty, get some gas. They have you by the balls. Pay them to let go. Enough of the gas story, let's move on.

First hotel we go to has a price sheet out in the front lobby. $95 off season rate, $185 in season rate. It clearly says Labor Day is the end of the season, and this is (clearly) before labor day. So, it is quite obvious (even to a UM professor) what the cost is going to be. But, I have to ask anyways, thinking maybe the person would take pity on us and give us a break. "Uh, do you have any rooms for the night?" "Yup." "Uh.... about how much would it be?" Stare. "$185" Ouch. "Wow. Ok. Uh...." Stare. "I guess I could give it to you for $165 if that would help." (It is 6:00 in the evening and no one else is coming through the door, so maybe $20 would swing the deal.) "Uh.... I think that we are going to go look around a bit. We might be back." "Yup."

Next we stop by the Riverfront Inn, which is a Posh Establishment. They take one look at the kids and basically, in so many words, tell us "we don't want your kind here." Leaving the fine place, we see a minivan full of people who must be at least 90 years old unfolding themselves and heading towards the front door. Ahhh, now it makes sense. Old Crabs and Young Crabs don't mix. Of course, it could have been my t-shirt that said something like "F*ck old people". I am not sure which.

Let's try the third hotel (actually, I think that we were in motel land....) The Leland Inn. We walk in and the office was closed (remember, 6:00 on a Sunday night), with a sign that said, "See Bar Tender for Rooms". So, I walked into the bar, pointed at the Bar Tender and said "You're the man!" And he said "I'm the man!" (Keep in mind that this guy is probably 21 years old, and probably appreciates my t-shirt, which says something like "I wish I was young again!") He walks into the office, where I ask him how much, and he says something like, "Uh, I think that it is not the in season anymore, so let's see..." I didn't correct him. "How about, hmmm... $99?" "Ok!" He takes my credit card, writes the info down, gives me a key, and we're done. The room is pretty cool - they have a king size bed, and two wall-mount beds that fold down (Murphy beds - but not quite the same) - one on the top and one on the bottom. Of course, the Crab-kids start arguing about who is going to get the top bunk. Flip a coin. Crab-boy (which is a relief, since if it wasn't him, there would be a fair bit of pouting and crap). We have dinner in the restaurant, which is completely empty, except for the people eating with their mouths open two tables away. Nice. Oh well. Bed time.

Next morning, we get up, eat a crappy breakfast, get some gas ($4.11 per gallon - Mother F*ckers! But, screw them, I only got 4 gallons! Ha!), dump our stuff at the boat, park the car, walk back to the boat, get on the boat, and take off. The vacation is officially underway!

We were told that the boat could be cold. We have been on boat-rides before, and we were expecting cold. So Crab-Mama packed gloves and mittens and snow pants and crap, but then boat ended up going something like 10 knots, which everyone in the crab family can run faster than that. So, not cold. Take off the hats, parkas, etc, and start baking in the sun. ("But it COULD have been cold!") We get to the island, and undertake the orientation, which is basically a little description of the camp sites, where to find water, a stern warning ("Don't sh*t in the camp grounds!"), and a lecture about how chipmunks (a.k.a., micro-bears) can get into your food and eat everything, so hang stuff from a tree. Mama-Crab and I laugh. No one else does.

BTW, word of the trip - "micro-bear". If you want to kill yourself as a parent, make-up a stupid word and tell it to your kids. They will repeat it over and over and over and over and over again. Kids get sick of nothing (except whatever you are interested in doing...), especially when you start pulling your hair out. They think that sh*t is hilarious and will just say it over and over some more. (When I started this blog, Crab-Girl leans over my shoulder and says "make sure to say something about the micro-bears!")

We hike for about 1.5 miles to our campsite, each carrying 10%-20% of our body weight on our backs (there is a formula here, you know!) Set up camp, and go to the beach. The crab-kids instantly notice that there are two other kids in the water, and want to go play with them. We try to convince them that this is a family vacation and that we should stick together. Needless to say, that lasted about 30 seconds, and then they are off down the beach to play with the strangers. I am left sitting alone on a beach. About 15 minutes later, I realize that no one is coming back, so I pack up all of the crap that we have to go to the beach, and go find the kids and Crab-Mama. They play with the other kids for about 30 more minute and we go back to camp.

Now, when you are an experienced backpacker, you can probably boil a pot of water for dinner in a few minutes. I am not an experienced backpacker. About 30 minutes later, I get the water starting to produce bubbles from the bottom of the pot. About 30 minutes after that, the noodles are to the point that the little crabs can chew them without breaking their jaws. Then I have to make the cheese sauce, and then the boiling water for the dehydrated peas. I think I expended more effort making dinner than the calories I ingested. Which, I think, is the point of backpacking. We crawl into our tents (Did I mention that we have two tents? Yeah, Mama-Crab definitely does not approve of two tents - especially when they weight 11 lbs and 8 lbs respectively. Why do we have two heavy tents? Because I am a cheap-a**-b*stard!) and go to sleep.

Here ends the tail of vacation, day one. Join us tomorrow to learn more about starvation, micro-bears, snakes and walking torture. I am going to bed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me....

The little crabs were pretty excited this morning.  They had bought me an apron for cooking, but it was plain.  So, yesterday, the drew pictures and wrote stuff on it in fabric paint, and gave it to me for my birthday.  Pretty sweat!  Mama crab got me a mailbox!  Not exactly what I wanted, but I got her a rain chain for her birthday, so what can I say?  It is a very nice and very sturdy mailbox, which is fantastic.  Right now our mail box is the cheapest one Lowe's had.  Indeed, one of the numbers fell off, so we replaced it with a completely different style of letter.  It is awesome. Our neighbors must think that we are the biggest losers in the neighborhood.  Anyways, I guess this means that I will be digging a big hole in the coming week or so....

Tomorrow we go on vacation.  Up north to go camping.  Yippee!  I love camping! Ok, I can stand camping for the sake of my marriage. You got me.  It should be fun, though.  We are going to South Manitou Island, which is right off of Sleeping Bear Dunes.  We can play in the sand and run around like crazy people.  And relax.

You ask what I did today?  Uh.... open presents, pack, go to REI, eat dinner at Potbellies, pack some more, fart around on facebook, write on my blog, and go to bed.

Happy birthday to me.  Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


meetings. meetings. meetings. meetings. meetings.

Oh, did I mention meetings?

2:30 (phone call interruption)
3:30 (phone call meeting)
5:30 (phone call meeting)

I am not really sure, when was I supposed to actually work? Can you see it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

History of my life

Ok, let's clear something up. I suck. I can't seem to find time to write on my blog. Oh well, I will do it when I have time. Trust me. Yeah, right.

I have been spending an astronomical amount of time working on my class lately. I am teaching another new class this semester. I vowed that this semester I would prepare lesson after lesson after lesson this summer so my semester would be much easier. Oh, that really happened. Well, I have two weeks until class starts, and I have about 6-7 lessons done. That is better than last year at this time (0 lessons done), but I was hoping for about 20 or so by now. Well, two more weeks.

One of the problems that I have is that I seem to actually give a crap about the classes and want to teach with lots of illustrations and movies and stuff. It seems to take a lot of time to find all of the illustrations and examples. Anyways..... I have no idea how people did this before the internets. It would be impossible. Much homage to all those who came before.

I must say that soccer players in the Olympics are a wee bit better than I am. They are unbelievable. It is just insane how well they control the ball. Insane.

The other night crab-girl and I went outside at 10 PM and looked at stars. We saw Jupiter, the moon, and the big dipper. That is about all I know. She thought that it was beautiful. Maybe we will get a telescope and take a look at the stars more. I am hoping that as winter comes and darkness comes earlier and earlier, we could all go outside and look up. One of the reasons we built our house out in the middle of now where is that we could look at stars. Well, now I am going to do it! Anyone have a telescope? Or know anything about stars? I think I know what the moon looks like....

Mama Crab canned peaches the other day. A whole a** lo*d of peaches. Did you know that there is actually peach jam? I never knew. I thought that there was only grape. Concord's Grape Jam. Isn't that the only thing you need? Oh, I guess you need peanut butter. What else is there? I guess that it turns out that there is peach jam. Who knew? She added the 20+ jars of peach jam to the 175,263 jars of strawberry jam. Guess what you are getting for Christmas?

Today she canned tomatoes. From our garden. How cool is that? Neither of us have any idea how to make a good spaghetti sauce, unless we are starting from something 3/4 of the way to good already. I think that we will have to experiment with a whole lot of basil, oregano, tyme, garlic, and other stuff.

Mama crab has also been working a huge number of hours lately. She has been in Flint for days and days - getting up at 4:45, leaving by 5:00 or so, then getting home between 6 and 7 each evening. Sucks for her. Sucks for us. Sucks, sucks, sucks. Yesterday was her last day in Flint. Tests were successful. That is good. It is over. I have to remember that her working 14 hour days for a week is just the same as me going on travel for a week. Sucks.

Ok, that is all for tonight. I promise that I will try hard to write more often (and fail).

But, that is the history of my life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


About a year ago, I took crab-girl with me to a conference in Utah. We had lots of plans about how we were going to do hiking and go do all sorts of touristy types of things, but we ended up sitting by the pool a LOT. She loves the water. The hotel had an indoor/outdoor pool, which she really, really loved. So, we spent hours and hours playing in the pool. Which was fine. Not exactly what I had planned, but she was more than satisfied, and I got to read a little bit while she kicked around (although playing by yourself in the pool is no fun, so I had to play also....)

Fast forward a year.

I had promised crab-boy that I would take him on a trip with me also. So, after avoiding this for a while (13 months to be exact), we finally settled on a trip that would be good for him and not be too boring. Washington DC.

So, tomorrow and Thursday I have a NASA working group meeting in Maryland. Today, we flew into National Airport, took the metro to downtown and proceeded to walk around and see the sights. Here is a tour of where we went (this should bring up a walking map):

1. Air and Space Museum - hey, I am a space scientist, I would naturally go there first, right?

2. Lunch in the park - crappy bagel and crappy turkey sandwich - $10.

3. Washington Monument. We didn't take the elevator since I thought the wait would be too long. We should have done it, since the line was moving quite quickly. Next time....

4. WWII Memorial. I had never seen this. It is quite beautiful.

5. Random bench.

6. Ice Cream Stand. Water, ice cream. $7. Eaten under a tree. Dripping everywhere. Some of bottled water used for cleanup.

7. Lincoln Memorial. Take picture. "Ok, can we go?"

8. Steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (Have you noticed that the distances are becoming exponentially smaller?)

9. Vietnam Memorial. Son duly impressed.

10. Bench.

11. Side of the road. (collapse. "Come on, we are almost there." "Can we rent a car?" "Where would we get the car?" "Can we take a taxi?" "no.")

12. Park in front of the White House. Police man: "You can't walk though here." Me: "Why - we only want to go right there" (points 100 ft away to the other side of the park, where there are lots of people looking at the White House.) "Security" "It's only 100 ft!" "It's closed." "F*ck! How are we supposed to get through there?" (pointing to collapsed boy laying on ground, looking longingly for a National Car Rental outlet) "You will have to walk around" "F*ck! You have got to be kidding me!" "I have a map" (proceeds to pull a map out of his motorcycle) "I have a map too! I know exactly where I want to go, and exactly how to get there! G*d D*mn I*!" Pry half dead child off the ground, turn around and walk backwards.

13. See 11.

14. Metro Station to pick up Auntie Crab III (i.e., the third in a series of IV - actually, she may be IV, hmmm, I will have to check birthdays between the wife's and my family.... anyways, you all should know who I am talking about.... The aunt that now carries a gun and knows how to use it.)

15. Dinner at Cosi, which I have seen many times in DC, but have never eaten there. Now I have. It is good. Chicken Pesto Sandwich. Very good. We closed the place (ok, not saying much, since they close at 6:30...)

16. Starbuck's. Lemonaid smoothie split with crab-boy and a treat from Auntie Crab III. Score!

17. Metro station.

18. Cab to hotel.

19. Bed for crab boy. Computer for me.

20. Bed for me. Night.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Week in the Life

The week started off quite sadly, with a funeral for my cousin's husband on Monday. This was quite difficult, since we have been friends with both my cousin and her husband (who was about 12 years older than me) and one of my cousin's kids, who is about 12 years younger than me. He died of brain cancer. It was a sad day.

Tuesday, my mom decided to steal the crablets for a few days. So in the AM we packed and ran some errands, then had lunch, played with the neighbors (I worked), and said goodbye. I wend to work for a few hours, then the Mrs. and I caught a movie (Hancock - I would give it a 4 out of 5). Home, eat some blueberry pie, and bed.

Wednesday, Mrs. Crab and I biked to work. Since it was two weeks since I had ridden, my legs burned and burned and burned - and that was before I got out of the driveway. For me, Wednesdays are meeting day. At 2:00, I finished the morning meetings, and headed out for lunch.

We were given the opportunity to run on a brand new super computer that is owned by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It has 4096 processors, and we are going to be allowed to utilized a significant portion of the machine for long periods. In order to prove that we can really utilize the machine efficiently, we had to do a bunch of tests. So, Wednesday was spent trying to get the code working on the new machine and doing "scaling curves" - this is where we create a problem, run it on 32 processors, then 64 (which should be completed twice as fast), then 128 (4 times as fast), 256 (8 times as fast), etc. If the code is actually 2, 4, 8, etc. times as fast, it is said to scale perfectly. It is impossible to do forever, since you run out of cells or whatever. For us, given the problem size that I chose, we ran just fine up until 1024 nodes. I then redid the calculation for a problem 8 times larger, and showed that we could run just fine up until 2048 processors (1/2 the super computer!)

I biked to Mama-crab's office, home, cereal for supper (we eat so well when we work long days), a little "So you think you can dance" (I am ashamed), and then bed. Crab-kids doing fine at grandma's. Playing at the beach.

This morning I took the dog (scaredy-crab) to work, since I was at work for a long time today. More scaling and testing at work. I had an annual report due a tiny bit ago, so I had to write about what I was working on for the last year. I love reports. They are so fun. The super amazing thing about the National Science Foundation is that I finished my annual report today, submitted it this afternoon, even got a question on the science from my program manager, then, just now, I got the money for next year. (time line - reminder at 7:33 AM, turned in at 1:47 PM, approval at 2:00 PM, new money at 9:16 PM.) I am not going to dog on any other funding agency, but NSF has it's sh*t together.

Tomorrow we are off to Grammy-Crab's to watch her in a play and to pick up the kids.

Well, I would say that this is a typically week, but, I honestly have no idea what a typical week looks like. So, I guess it is typically in that it is completely unlike any other week I have had in the last many, many months.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Home Again

Yesterday was a slightly long day. It started at 3:40 AM, Finland time. A quick trip to Amsterdam, breakfast at the McDonald's there (pure American food!), and a wonderfully long trip home to Detroit, put me home around 2:00 PM, EST (i.e., 9PM Finland time). Once I get home, the kids are so busy playing with the neighbors, they basically don't notice that I am home. Nice. Crab-boy was over at their house, and didn't bother coming home at all when told that I was home. Oh well. I got to take a nap on the couch, which is good.

Some pizza, some TV, reading to the crab-monsters, and some more TV, then bed time for the master-crab.

Today was a pretty good day. For I mowed the weeds for a bit, while Mama-Crab weed-whacked the super-tall weeds. Crab-boy helped both of us, found some frogs to play with, and rode around on the bike for a bit. Crab-girl was listening to a little book-on-tape. We went Blueberry picking (14.8 lbs!) in Dexter, then came home and canned most of them (pies, pancakes, and buckle in the future!)

As I made some left-over dinner for everyone, Mama and Dada Crab got into a lovely discussion about home-schooling. Yeah, that was nice.

Crab-girl made some ice cream after dinner, while I made blueberry pie (a little sour, but for the first time, with fresh blueberries, it was great). Then bed time for the crablets. TV for us. Soon to bed.

That, my friends, is my life.