Friday, April 29, 2016

Subaru Woes! The Best Possible Outcome to the Worst Possible Scenerio

Doc, I have this bad cough and no energy.
Subie is sick.   We knew about this "problem" for some time, yet, as with everything....we ignored it until it became a REAL problem.

And it did....Today!

Talking about car problems is a lot like taking about diseases and ailments that you have.    They interest you... And no one else.   But since this is my blog.....I get to write about things that interest me... most of the time.    And...if I keep this short and somewhat entertaining, perhaps I can do something where others fail.

On our way to Iowa city...just past the half way point....Subie started making a funny buzzing sound.   Two seconds later....check engine light is blinking...BLINKING!   Never seen that before.   Then the battery light pops on.   I pull over to see what the problem could be...and Subie stalls.    Not a good sign.

My first thought is it is the alternator....or possibly a fan belt breaking.   Nope.   But there is definitely something wrong.   Even Cheryl is concerned. ( Which terrifies me!)  After allowing the sudden wave of panic subside....we hatch a plan.   Subie is able to  start...but has to have a high rpm to continue without stalling.    We decide to head straight to the mechanic in Iowa City.  10+ miles of shear anxiety!

I'll spare you the drawn out drama and just come out with it....Head Gasket!    A problem we have been aware of for over two years now.   I recently had the head gasket issue re-emerge  a month ago during my last oil change.   It was a job that needed to be done, but we could never find the time ( or money) to just DO IT.

And so,   Subie had an "Episode" on a long, bleak track of Iowa country road.  Scaring the CRAP out of us so we would solve it NOW....Dammit NOW!

When I replay the other likely scenarios in my mind...they are all worse.   Cheryl has been driving the car to Iowa city ALONE for the last three weeks and this happened today.....the one day I'm with her because I had the day off of work.( good thing)  Our Phone disconnected us because it is  the 29th and they never remind us when to top up.(Bad thing)
   Subie...was able to limp the remaining 10 miles to Iowa city under his own no tow truck. ( good thing!)    The Mechanics were able to look and evaluate the car immediately.....(Really good thing!)   The price is going to hurt....but we knew that two years ago...that is why we have put it off this long.
Trust me!  I'm a professional...

And finally.   The Auto place had a Loaner Vehicle that we could putt around in until the repair is finished.   (Yeah!  Good thing)  The job will (hopefully) be finished Monday...and the Mechanic has done head gaskets on Subarus I'm guessing her has a little experience to draw from.
RULE #1 This always ends badly! the end, we are home.  Safe and sound... And Subie is in the shop seeing the doctor so he gets all better.   My hope and prayer is that he comes back better than ever and this dark, looming cloud of head gasket mischief will be behind us. I'm just happy Cheryl ( Or I ) was not alone when this happened.  Misery loves company and Cheryl and I are pretty good at being miserable.... This is why we Never Split Up!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Unsung Perks of Scoring From Home.

I usually rant about scoring.   And not always in a good way.  Don't get me wrong,  there certainly are a number of pitfalls to navigate around or over.   However,  from time to time,  the advantages of working from home shine through the misty, murky fog that is "Working".

For example....Today,  I'm scoring in my underwear.

Now I know some of you might find that "uncomfortable".....You would rather score papers naked.   But I have my own standards of decency and comfort.

I also get to take a break when I want and (Usually) I get to work the hours I feel like.   This recent project has a different schedule, but I still get to take a few "liberties".   ETS is unlike Pearson in that they demand you show up within 20 minutes of your start time.   Pearson used to allow you to score long as you were logged out by midnight.  It's a small inconvenience that I have to work around.

Other than that. I have been scoring this week and making money instead of simply playing video games while waiting for Cheryl to arrive from Iowa City.    We went out for a long run yesterday....In the rain.   Luckily, we managed to finish the entire 12 miles, but it rained on us for the first that made for a comfortable experience for the  remaining 10.  BUT...We did it.....Hooray!

I'm just kidding about the underwear.   I'm actually wearing clothes today.    But while suffering along on that bike ride next to Cheryl, ( In the rain!)   I thought up that cool line and joke and simply HAD to put it in the blog.   Weird, I know...But that is how my brain works.  And it is OBVIOUSLY not the first time this joke has been used.    I think the MEMES gave away my punchline like a drunken heckler in a nightclub.   But I put them in there for color.   After all,  What is a Bar without drunk people?   ( Answer:  Empty!)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cheryl's Race to Home..2016.

1st place age group!
The Trophy Table!
Cheryl ran the Race to Home today...and did pretty well.   She placed 2nd overall female.   Meaning there was only one woman that was faster than   Not too bad I guess.  The bad news is that even though she placed first in her age group....she did not get a medal.  And I was soooo looking forward to that.

The 2nd Overall Female Prize!
But...She did get a bat....which is kind of cool....and USEFUL!   Even though we do not play baseball,  we can use it for home security.   And keeping those rascally dogs at bay.  Cheryl urged me to think up a bunch of Baseball puns to add a little zest to the post.   I'll see what I can do....
Early Morning packet pickup.

But before we skip ahead too far....let's change gears and switch things up  back to the beginning.
Cheryl checks out the Goodie Bag.

Time to dress light for the race
We were forced to get up way too early this morning.  We had a short window to pick up out packet in Davenport.   As with the previous race....doing a race for a second time is so much easier.    We missed the window, but still had an hour before the race began...and picked it up then.    Easy!   Cheryl inspected her goodies and had a much easier time securing her bib and chip.
  (Even though the safety pins were missing...)
Cheryl feels like she is being watched...
By someone...or some- THING!
Cheryl had to make a decision on how to dress and eventually went with the lighter clothes....since it was warming up rapidly.    I snapped a few pictures of he start.  To Cheryl's delight,  there were plenty of dogs there.

Herding the slow group along...
Race officials applying motivation
 I know that they are there mostly to provide motivation for the slow group.   But if they end up helping Cheryl run faster..then I guess that is a good thing.

Cheryl at the start!
Cheryl in the Fray...
Start photos are always a hit or miss thing.  Sometimes I capture Cheryl in focus and alone.....other times I strike out totally.   Today I mostly caught her shoes and a few glimpses of her back.  I quickly ran to the finish line to see if I could do better.

Cheryl runs by
As she ran to home,  I barely noticed that only one other female had come in before her.   When we looked up the results, we found out that she had, in fact, placed 2nd  as the over-all female finisher.
Cheryl running up to the gate.

It was a bit confusing at first because they did not have a medal for her...but then they remembered they handed out bats for the top three overall finishers for male and female.   Cheryl really wanted one of those bats...

Running home.
Just don't slide....

At the finish!

Time for Beer!
So after the award ceremony,  we headed back to home.   It was a late night and early morning...and I'm hitting the part of the day where a nap or anything else that does not require my brain sounds the most appealing.   So a result....I'm afraid this blog post will suffer a bit.   But who really cares what I have to say anyway?   It's all about the pictures after all.
Second only to Super Girl!

Cheryl show off her bat
I guess I should point out that Cheryl put in her second fastest official 5K time.   (22:32)  Second only to that infamous "Turkey Trott".   At least she did not hurt herself on this one.

Time to play Jedi Master
And pose with the T-Shirt

I think they spelled the "K" backwards.
   In reading past blog postings;  last year,  the day after this race,  we ran a long 20 mile run that ended in a melt down 18 miler.   Similar to what happened last Sunday.   So...I'm hoping that we already got that meltdown run out of the way and can look forward to a nice pleasant long run tomorrow without the drama or blood loss.   We shall see.

Friday, April 22, 2016

How Writers Influences the World...

Two things happen when you observe bad behavior....Either you follow their lead and join in, Or...  You learn what NOT to do and find your own way.   I guess there is that third option where you take the "bad things" and pick and choose which ones you want to make your own.   Of course I'm talking about writing.  Perhaps "Behavior" is the wrong descriptor.   But then it would have lacked the dramatic punch I was looking for.    And I know people are always looking for a "hook" in my blog posts.

So....back to the point.    I read bad writers every the form of High school essay papers.    To be fair....they are not Bad bad....They are simply kids learning the ropes of how to form an essay and sound good enough on paper to get into college.    In most cases...they simply lack the practice and experience that writing requires to look professional.   And...Some of the kids are actually pretty good.   If nothing else...they can be entertaining from time to time.

How does this fit in with me?   Well,   I find myself improving  (My opinion) ever so slightly with my writing as I page back through previous blog posts.   I really was not a very good writer when I first started this thing.  Mostly because....Like many high school students....I had very little to write about.   And I lacked a certain amount of "blogging experience" to know what to say and how to say it.  Basically....Kind of bland writing.

And so it is that today,  before scoring begins....I'm killing time writing another useless post once again.  I realized that these kids help show me what NOT to do and what to avoid.( Sometimes..)   And thus, they influence my writing for the better. (My opinion.)  Similar to Einstein and his stint at the Patent Office.   All those bright ideas flowing over his fingertips influenced him into being the great genius that he was.  I actually like reading these papers and I silently cheer for each one to score higher than a 2 in every domain.  ( not a bad score...but everyone should be able to get a 3 score point at this stage in their education.)

Now I know I still have mistakes and poor organization here and there.   I even miss a word or two.  I  usually only go over the posts three to four times before posting it..and still miss those mistakes.   Think about some kid who had to write an essay in 50 minutes or less!   Daunting!  But I appreciate those kids that reach for the stars and end up clipping a tree before they fall.  
They are developing a writing style that I would hope carries on into their adult years...even without college if they choose that path.  And they can only get better with practice.  Just like everything else in the world.  The Japanese say you need 10 years before you are considered a master of anything.  I lack that much dedication, but I see the foundation of that statement.   If you do something for ten years, you are bound to be "good" at it.  Let's hope after 10 years of writing blog posts and reading high school essays...  I can earn the label "Master!" 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Chasing Inspiration...And A Scoring GIG.

It's true!  For some people.
Finding inspiration is similar to trying to grab the wind with your hand.   You feel it there...but when you try to hold on to vanishes.   And so it is for me whenever I go out with Cheryl on these midweek, mid-long runs.   I'm not a morning person...yet I look forward to getting up early with her and going out.  I  grab a coffee and a donut or two and hook up the bike.
Today was a pleasant day.     Cool at first and warming up before the sun was blocked by the clouds.   The wind was gentle and the rain held off until we were finished.   In all,  I nice day for a run/bike.

I save the planet!  One alien at a time..
And so it goes that I felt the spark of inspiration that urges me to eat better, exercise more, and try not to be a slothful bum.   However,  I know that I will eventually go back to flopping on the couch and logging onto the computer to play X-Com.   ( An awesome Video game where you defend the earth from alien invaders)   My moment of enlightenment evaporates like a poof of ozone.  I am not
Bible!  YEAH..It's in there!
very good at quoting scripture....but the Paul knew what he was saying when he wrote:  "The spirit is willing...but the flesh is weak"  ( Ok,  maybe Timothy....or of those guys....It's been a while since I re-read it... and Google won't give me a straight answer.)

I was prepared to rant about my online scoring fiasco today...but I just got an email clarifying up the confusion and hopefully everything will work out now.   If that is the case,  I can start making money on the couch instead of collecting dust and eating endless bowls of raisin bran.   I begin work tomorrow at 10:15 sharp!

Missing: ACT, SAT, ETS, MIA!
But the other "problem" for me is that Cheryl has tomorrow off!   I guess that is not really a much as a distraction.   Even though she is not working tomorrow..( or today!  She has today off as well!)   at college board,  she IS scoring the ACT at home as I write this.    So she will probably score the ACT while I score the SAT   ( and make more money...because ETS pays better.  yeah!)  I know that is probably an alphabet soup of acronyms that makes no sense to the non-military or academic lifer,   but no one other than Barb, David or Eric read this blog anyway.   And THEN they probably only look at the pictures.  ( I know I do...The pictures are cool!  And the best part...Sometimes.)
Ah yes,  Reminds me of my English Comp class.

Cheryl often tells me when I force her to read this:  My focus wanes and my transitions are sloppy or weak.   (Is she NEVER off the scoring clock?    Will she continue to evaluate  everyone's writing even when she is not getting paid?) So... I started this post about how my inspirations towards being a better person....(and better looking!)  often disappear the moment I am allowed to fit comfortably back into my butt-groove on the couch.   With a little luck and better weather,  I'll be able to get out there and at least bike around the block a couple of times before camping out as a "professional" scorer.   It's an ugly job...but someone has to do it, right?    I shall do my best to help the next generation of high-schoolers get into college ( or Not...) while maintaining my good looks.   We shall see.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cheryl's "Blood Sweat and Tears" run

We just finished an almost 16 mile training run at the trail. I'm not sure what it is about anything over 14 miles, but once we cross over that distance,  Cheryl's mind freaks out and shuts down.

Ah, but it always works out...somehow.   By now,  "melt down" runs are a familiar thing.   Almost routine!   I count on at least one "melt down" run before every marathon.  It seems odd that this would occur after Cheryl's successful first place run yesterday....However,   it has been a tough week.

But first,  allow me to explain the  title of the run...

The sweat part should be obvious.   It started out pleasant overcast and cool...but at exactly the half way point...the sun came out.   With the sun comes the extra 10-20 degrees and punishing radiation that saps your strength.   Ah well....we have run in the heat before.....LAST YEAR!    This was possibly the hottest day so far this year.   Having run in mostly cool or cold takes a while for your body to acclimate.

The blood.    Cheryl scratched herself on a serious thorn bush.. ( possibly a wild raspberry...or those tree crawlers that tangle the country side of Iowa.)   And it bled...A LOT!   After a quick inspection,  the wound was superficial...but that was a serious gusher of a blood fountain!   This,  of course,  FREAKED HER OUT.....especially after Tuesday's experience. ( same leg too!   Her left leg has the worst luck lately..)   Luckily,  I was packing Bandaids. And after applying  firm pressure and a tourniquet to stop the bleeding,  we were able to patch up the hurty spot and drive on....but that was the beginning of the unraveling.
 The straw the broke the camel's back....I can understand why.  

The pressure of the dog "encounter" and the separation from me should take its tole on anyone's mental health.   I play a key role in Cheryl's life, after all.   I pet/bribe with treats the "would be dog assailants" and act as a distraction so she can safely trot by.   As for the job...I provide the driving experience and mechanical know-how to operate the Subie properly.   It's...kind of a big deal.

Ah well,   at least we got that one out of the way so now we should be able to expect smoother longer runs in the future.   We shall see.


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