Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars

Kris and I met Dave and Karen on Sunday to see the new Indiana Jones movie, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This was a fun nostalgic throwback for me because I saw the first two Indiana Jones movies in the theater with Dave when we were much younger. (Much younger.)

Though I had hopes for the new film, they weren’t very high. I had seen the trailers, which promised new-style George Lucas instead of old-style George Lucas. (Translation: plenty of improbably CGI effects in place of story and characterization.) I’d also read how Lucas’ original idea for a new installment in the franchise was called Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars.

Let me state up front that I did not hate Crystal Skull. After my criticism of Peter Jackson’s Helm’s Deep, many people thought I hated that film. I didn’t. I just wish it had been better. And that there’d been one-tenth the CGI. (I did, however, hate Attack of the Clones.) I liked the new Indiana Jones movie, but only mildly. I don’t ever need to see it again.

Now I know many of you will tell me, “When you watch a movie like this, you should just enjoy it. You should turn off your brain and have fun.” But my brain doesn’t work like that. I can’t just shut it off. Besides, there are plenty of smart action flicks out there — why should I compromise just so filmmakers can have a license to be sloppy?

The acting in Crystal Skull was mostly okay. Karen Allen, who returns as Marion Ravenwood, is rather clumsy, but everyone else does a good job. Cate Blanchett makes a delicious Russian villain, though I get the impression that several scenes with her were left on the cutting room floor. Shia LaBeouf also does a fine job, taking the baton from Harrison Ford and opening the door for twenty more years of Indiana Jones films.

But my real problem, as usual, is with the script. I don’t like the script, neither on a macro-level nor a micro-level.

On a macro level, the story is sloppy. It feels like a patchwork, as if it were made up of several different ideas grafted together. Certain scenes go on far, far too long. The climax is lame in a George Lucas sort of way. The film just lacks an overall sense of cohesion that I would have liked to see.

But most of the problems occur at the micro level. This is yet another movie in which the filmmakers have become so obsessed with the neat stuff they can do (with CGI, of course) that they forget to be sure things make sense. Some examples:

  • At the beginning, the story focuses on the hunt for a relic lost inside a vast warehouse. “It’s a powerful magnet,” Indiana Jones declares, and to prove his point, he tosses metal stuff into the air. Look! Magic! The metal stuff is pulled toward wherever the lost relic is! And once the relic is discovered, we see that its magnetic force is so strong that it tugs at the dangling light fixtures and at guns and at other objects. Fine. But why isn’t it exerting this magnetic force all the time? Why is it only magnetic when the plot needs it to be magnetic?
  • Here’s a small spoiler. At the end of the extended introduction, Indiana finds his way to a strange small town in the middle of the dessert. He’s stumbled upon a nuclear experiment. When he hears a countdown broadcast over loudspeakers (why? to whom is it being broadcast?), he quickly tucks himself into a lead-lined refrigerator. Why? How does he know to do this? Worse, when the nuclear explosion occurs, the town is incinerated. Everything is vaporized. Except for the refrigerator containing Indiana Jones. That is thrown into the air for miles before it lands outside a prairie dog mound (without startling the prairie dog that lives there). Indiana tumbles out unharmed. Sorry. I can suspend disbelief with the best of them, but I can’t take it to the level of stupid.
  • Later in the film, a caravan of trucks is making its way through the Amazon jungle. (Well, it might not actually be the Amazon jungle, but it’s close.) There’s a big tree-cutter machine in front slicing down the overgrowth so that the other vehicles can pass. This makes no sense. When it cuts trees, the trees fall, right? Don’t they just fall into the path of the oncoming vehicles? And what about the stumps. Later, the vehicle caravan devolves into a race through the forest. I could buy this in Return of the Jedi because everyone was riding speeder bikes which had no contact with the ground. I can’t buy it here. And I can’t buy it when the race moves to the edge of a CGI-cliff, a cliff miraculously free of rocks and boulders.
  • Did you know that it’s possible to swing from vines like Tarzan at speeds much faster than those obtainable by jeeps?
  • The titular crystal skull apparently has the mass of a plastic resin skull. Shocking.

That’s enough. I don’t have all day. This movie just feels like a Roland Emmerich-like production in which appearance matters more than substance. That’s a valid choice, but you know what? Movies made this way do not stand the test of time.

Again, I did not hate this movie. I had an okay time. I enjoyed the motorcycle chase. I liked Cate Blanchett’s villainess. I thought the story showed glimmers of promise. And I’m not saying that I expected the film to be a classic. I just wish it had more of the old George Lucas in it instead of the new.

Oregon Mist

It’s one of those days I love. It’s about 15 degrees centigrade (which is 59 for those of you in Oregon City), the skies are grey, and there’s a light rain falling. A perfect Oregon day: warm and wet.

Over the past month or so, Kris has developed a system to ensure I don’t spend my entire day on the computer. She pulled a dry-erase board out of storage, and every day before she leaves, she writes down a chore (or two) that I need to complete.

To many of you (all female), this probably sounds like a terrible system. I should just do what needs to be done, right? In theory, yes. In reality, I’m easily distracted. I like having the dry erase board because it lets me know which of those tasks in my chore cloud Kris deems most important.

Today my primary task was to weed the grapes.

When we planted the raspberries and grapes, their 20-foot beds were empty of weeds. In fact, we even planted some strawberries alongside the raspberry canes. Now, however, the grass has crowded its way in and is dominating the base of that row. It’s threatening to do the same by the grapes, too, but it’s being held at bay by a variety of noxious weeds. Including raspberries. (Those raspberries are invasive!)

This afternoon I went outside in shorts, a t-shirt, and a cap. No shoes. No socks. I spent half an hour enjoying the misty air, pulling grass, hoeing weeds. It was a soggy mess, of course, but I loved it. As I say, it’s one of those days I love.

Too Much Time Away

Strange. I haven’t written anything since last Wednesday or Thursday. Now that it’s time to get some stuff ready for the morning, I find that I don’t have it in me. My writing muscles won’t flex. They’ve atrophied. It’s great to take time off, but I find that this is sometimes the result — I forget how to write.

The solution? I spend an hour or two “freewriting”, simply jotting whatever is on the top of my head. Like this. Most of what I produce during this time will be unusable, but that’s okay. The point is to get the writing muscles working again.

The real trouble tonight, however, is I’d really rather be watching a movie. Turns out we don’t own Raiders of the Lost Ark — which is what I’m craving — so I guess I’ll get back to work instead.

Now and Then: How My Current Financial Situation Compares with a Decade Ago

I spent the 1990s addicted to credit cards. I was mired in debt.

Recently while cleaning the garage, I unearthed a box full of old receipts and bank statements. I spent a couple hours sifting through them, aghast at my former spending habits. It was like peering into the life of a stranger.

Addicted to debt
The oldest documents I have are from April 1994, less than three years after I graduated from college. Already I had $9,550.13 in credit card debt. (I also owed more than $5,000 on my 1992 Geo Storm.) Fifteen months later, in July of 1995, my credit card debt topped out at $19,965.74.

During this time, on a take-home pay of about $1,400/month (after taxes), I was deficit spending by nearly $700/month! I spent 50% more than I earned. I bought books and comic books and VHS tapes and videogames. I did not invest. I did not save.

[I spent a lot of money on books an comics]

How much of that stuff do I still have today? On a quick stroll the house, I found a handful of science fiction books I bought in those years. That’s it. Basically, I spent $25/day on nothing. I was an idiot.

From 1995 to 1998, my spending fluctuated. I’d dig myself a couple thousand dollars out of debt, and then fall back into the hole. It was as if I was compelled to use all of the available credit on my accounts. I can remember calling the banks’ toll-free numbers to find out which card had enough room for me to buy new comics. As I said, I was an idiot.

[$11.32 in credit available]

I also used every possible penny in my checking account. (I didn’t have a savings account.) A lot of times, I used more than every penny:

[I bounced checks all the time]

Running to stand still
During the time I was addicted to credit, I knew that I had a problem. I’m a smart guy. I understood the math. But my deficit spending wasn’t a math issue — it was a product of subtle emotional and psychological problems that I had to work through before I could get my spending under control.

One day, out of desperation, I cut up my credit cards. A local bank was promoting home equity loans, so I took one out and used the proceeds to pay off all my credit card balances. From the middle of 1998 to the middle of 2007, I did not use a personal credit card.

But getting rid of credit cards only provided temporary stabilization. I still lived paycheck-to-paycheck, spending every penny I earned. And I still had $20,000 in debt — only now it was in the form of a home loan. Eventually I discovered other ways to take on consumer debt. I financed a new car. I took out a loan for a computer. I borrowed from family. By 2004, my debts totaled over $35,000. Then, at last, I began to turn things around.

Addicted to saving
It took more than three years of focused intensity to become debt-free, but eventually I did take control of my finances. Since then, the financial inertia has helped me to save more.

During my quest to eliminate debt, I developed a positive cash flow of over $1,000/month. That continues to this day, which means I’ve managed to save $5,000 in my emergency fund, $1,000 in my Mini Cooper account, and an extra $500 designated for a future vacation. Plus, I’ve begun to save for retirement.

All of this feels great, of course, but sometimes I worry that I’m in danger of developing a different sort of unhealthy relationship with money. I’m addicted to saving. I feel like I’m perilously close to becoming a miser. It might be time to actually budget for fun.

Taking the first steps
How can you dig out of debt and begin to build wealth? First, recognize that it will take time. You won’t change your habits overnight. At first you’ll need to take baby steps, and even then you’ll fall on your face at times. Get back up and keep trying. Eventually you’ll move beyond baby steps; you’ll find that you can confidently make huge financial strides. Here’s some advice based on my own experience:

  • Set goals. The road to wealth is paved with goals. I spent like a fool when I was younger because I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. Find a purpose.
  • Stop using credit. You may not be able to do this immediately, but make it a priority. The longer you continue to add debt, the longer it will take to get rid of it.
  • Establish an emergency fund. Set aside some cash in savings as cheap insurance against life’s nasty surprises.
  • Practice frugality. Look for ways to curb your spending. Shop smart. Focus on quality and value.
  • Reduce recurring monthly expenses. Monthly subscriptions — to magazines, to web sites, to cable television — are like a cancer. Cut as much as you can.
  • Get out of debt. Find an approach that works for you, and begin to chip away at the deficit. Use the debt snowflake principle to make gradual progress.
  • Increase your income. Ask for a raise, or make money from your hobbies. Consider selling things you no longer want or need.
  • Try not to get frustrated. Don’t let your situation get you down. Don’t focus on the big picture. Do keep your eyes on your goal, but concentrate on taking small steps. Do the best you can at this moment. If you know you have problems in certain areas, work to improve them. Don’t expect to become perfect overnight.

The key is to get started. Looking back, I wish I had found the courage to begin digging out of debt in 1994. Instead, it took me ten years and tens of thousands of dollars to find the guts.

[I was paying interest rates as high as 18%]

This article is part of the MBN Group Writing Project for May. Here are stories from other participants:



What about you? How do your finances compare with a decade ago? Has your situation improved? What was your turning point? What was the most valuable strategy you found along the way?

Use raspberry leaves to make your own herbal tea

I drink a lot of herbal tea, but until recently I hadn’t considered making my own.

When we moved into our house, one of the first things we did was prepare an area in the yard for cane berry crops. We planted blackberries, marionberries, and raspberries. Now, four years later, the canes have grown humongous in Oregon’s favorable climate. They’re so long that we’ve criss-crossed them on their supporting wires, interlacing the thorny vines and creating a delicious green fence.

Most vigorous of the bunch are the raspberry canes. As much as we love the twice-yearly crop of delicately-flavored berries, it’s a continual battle — good-naturedly waged — to keep “volunteers” from sprouting among the grapes, the potato patch, the blueberries, and the lawn itself. They spread by determined underground runners that are fragile enough to break off at surface level with a firm tug, so you never get the actual root.

If You Can’t Beat ’em, Eat ’em!

Imagine my delight when I discovered raspberry leaves can be dried and made into an herbal tea! I’ve experimented with drying other herbs for tea mixtures, and made tisanes with fresh leaves, but the sheer number of raspberry leaves at my disposal makes me giddy! The tea tastes similar to black tea, but without the caffeine, and maybe with just a suggestion of the fragrance of fresh grass. It does not taste like raspberries!

I simply tug up the young raspberry sprouts (under one foot tall) and let them dry between two window screens, laying flat on the sidewalk for a few days in the sun. (I bought my screens at garage sales.)

After the leaves have dried, steep about half an ounce in water and sweeten with a bit of honey or sugar if you like, or add a splash of lemon juice. I usually use boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes, but there are proponents for steeping in cold water for several hours and then heating the tea if you want to drink it hot. Supposedly this reduces the tannins extracted from the leaf material. Tannins can make tea taste bitter, but I’ve never noticed bitterness with my homemade raspberry leaf tea.

These leaves, once thoroughly dried, keep well, and should see you through the winter until your next “crop” is available. You can also mix raspberry leaves with other dried herbs. The raspberry leaf tea serves as a great base, and blends well with citrusy herbs such as lemon balm (which also grows like a weed around here) or lemon verbena, or mint-family herbs. Just make sure everything is very dry so it won’t mold in storage.

Moderation in All Things

As with any herbal tea, care should be taken not to overdo it. There’s always conflicting advice on the internet, but the general consensus seems to be that this tea should not be drunk during early pregnancy due to its relaxing effect on the uterus.

For the same reason, it is also sometimes recommended to relieve menstrual cramps and labor pains, and herbalists say it alleviates other ailments as well. I can’t vouch for any curative properties: I drink it because it tastes nice, is absolutely free to me, and is my SWEET REVENGE on those persistent prickly raspberry canes.

Edible Weeds

We also have chickweed and lamb’s quarters in a few neglected corners of the yard — maybe a salad is in order!

This is another great reason for us to avoid using poisons in your yard and garden. J.D. and I know that even our weeds are organic, should we choose to eat them, and many weeds are edible. Don’t have raspberries in your yard? There are dozens of delicious wild plants that can be harvested and enjoyed, and not just for tea. Surely some grow in your area.

What do you harvest from the wild? Do you make your own teas? Your own salads? What precautions do you take about identification and collection sites? Who did your learn from?

Not sure where to start? Here are a few links to help you get the idea.

Motor Trend 1971 — 40 cars under $2500

While cleaning my office last Saturday, I stumbled upon a pile of old magazines. Most of these are copies of Modern Mechanix from the 1930s and 1940s, but the issue that caught my eye was the July 1971 edition of Motor Trend. Who wouldn’t be tempted by a Buyer’s Guide that offered “40 cars for under $2500”? I took a break from cleaning to see what I could learn.

[cover of the July 1971 issue of Motor Trend]Some industry experts [forecast] a small car penetration of more than 40 percent in the near future. It is no small wonder, therefore, that more and more automobile companies are getting into the sub-compact field, particularly in the United States.

That this is true is borne out by the ever increasing number of these cars on the road and in the showroom. Whereas a few years ago a person in the market for a small car had only Volkswagen and maybe Renault to choose from, there are now many new names to consider: Subaru, Pugeout, Fiat, Honda and Datsun to name a few. In fact, more than 40 cars on the American market now have sticker prices under $2,500; most of them are foreign.

So, for your interest and edification, on the following pages is a complete small car buyer’s guide listing specifications and prices for 40 of the best-selling compacts in the United States. Included in the guide is a list of options, with prices, which most car buyers want on their vehicles. All this is done with an eye on the price tag, trying to stay under a magical, mystery retail cost of $2,500.

There’s no question that small cars were much more popular during the 1970s and 1980s, but did they ever reach a market penetration of 40 percent? And how many are there now? When we were in London last summer, I was startled by the prevalence of small cars — it made me realize just how few you see on the road in the U.S. The small car market has been lethargic here for the past decade or more, but that may be about to change.

If gas prices continue to increase, more people will consider smaller cars. It’s already beginning to happen. At Kris’ office, a couple of her co-workers are purchasing “commuter cars”. They’re not selling their SUVs, but they’re looking for something small and fuel-efficient for their everyday commutes.

It seems that back in 1971, fuel efficiency wasn’t even a consideration. Take a look at the Motor Trend Buyer’s Guide (which lists “forty, count ’em, forty cars you can buy for under $2,500”). There’s no mention of fuel economy:

[The buyer's guide lists 40 cars under $2,500]
Click to open larger version in new window.

Two thoughts related to this list:

  • The Volkswagen Beetle has held its price well. In fact, I found a 1972 VW Bug on Craigslist for $2,350. You could have bought the car in 1971, driven it for 37 years, and then sold it at a profit! So much for depreciation. (Ha! But then, as a couple people have noted in the comments already, inflation makes $2,000 in 1971 worth more than $10,000 today. So that theoretical profit is just that — theoretical.)
  • In 1985, during my junior year of high school, I worked at Burger King with a guy who owned a 1971 Ford Maverick. He loved that car. He worked like a dog to earn money to spend on that thing. “Wanna race?” he’d ask every night after work. I never did. I was driving my father’s 1983 Datsun 310GX, and wasn’t willing to take any chances.

This issue of Motor Trend also contains an interesting article about a plan to rent Minicars (small cars designed to reduce congestion) with the Select-A-Car System. Now this sounds like a way to rent a car.

[photo of the Select-A-Car System, which looks like a cross between a phone booth and a vending machine]

Imagine you jet into Los Angeles, make your way to the vehicle garage, and find the Select-a-Car machine. You insert your credit card into the key dispenser to select your vehicle. To make the car start, you have to insert the credit card into the vehicle’s dashboard.

[photo of credit card being inserted into dashboard]

“It could be,” says the president of Minicars, the brains behind this contraption, “that once the public gets used to using the Select-A-Car System eventually regular cars could be phased out in favor of genuine Minicars.” A grand vision, sure, but 37 years later we know it didn’t happen. Not even close.

Though this issue includes several articles on smaller cars, it also contains a sneak preview of “1972 Detroit cars”. There was nothing small about these monsters:

[The new car preview highlights some BOATS]
Click to open larger version in new window.

Now those are some cars.

The best part of reading any old magazine is looking at the advertisements. They’re a window to the past. (Those Modern Mechanix from the 1930s are fascinating.) For example, today we know Motorola as a manufacturer of mobile phones and microchips. But in 1971, they were all about car stereo systems:

[Advertisement for Motorola stereo products]
Click to open larger version in new window.

I love the illustrations here, and I love the ad copy:

WRAP-AROUND SOUND in a 4-channel, 8-track tape player. 4 amplifiers and 4 deluxe 5-1/4″ Golden Voice Speakers matched to circuitry wrap the sound around you. Motorola’s TM920S makes turning on a car tape player a whole new happening.

And, of course, there are the ubiquitous record club ads. I never figured out how these companies made money giving away so many free records, but then I know I poured a lot of my own cash into them as a kid, so maybe they knew what they were doing:

[This record ad pitches 8-track tapes]
Click to open larger version in new window.

My favorite offering in this ad? Orson Welles‘ “Begatting of the President”. I had to look it up. It’s an anti-Nixon satire!

And, finally, I was of course intrigued by a brief profile of the Mini Clubman, a “highly popular” car in England:

[photo of the 1972 Mini Clubman]

This year, the Mini Clubman arrived on U.S. soil. Maybe someday I’ll own one.

Three out of Three

Here’s a good old-fashioned Foldedspace post for you long-time readers who pine for them.

Last weekend I exercised my heart out. On Saturday I went for a 12 mile run and a 29 mile bike ride. Before my ride with Paul and Susan, I prepped my bike for the road.

“That’s strange,” I said as I futzed with the gear. “I can’t find my bike computer.”

“What’s a bike computer?” Kris asked. How long has she lived with me? And she still doesn’t know what a bike computer is?

“It’s a little square electronic device that straps to the handlebars,” Susan explained. “It tracks how far you’ve gone and how long you’ve been on the bike. It’s pretty cool.”

“And I can’t find mine,” I said. “Somebody has misplaced it.” I didn’t name names, but I knew that I had left it on the kitchen table, but it wasn’t there now. I went for the ride without it.

On Wednesday, I paid bills. Kris and I have gotten in the habit of paying our mortgage a month early (and we pay a little extra to principal, too). This makes us feel good. But it also means we received June’s bill in mid-April. That, too, I had left on the kitchen table, but now that it was time to pay it, I couldn’t find it.

“Do you know where the mortgage bill is?” I e-mailed Kris. “I want to pay it, but somebody has misplaced it.” I was pretty cranky actually. First the bike computer and now the mortgage bill. I looked online. I could pay the mortgage bill via the web, but it cost $11 to do so. Ugh.

“I wish I could find my bike computer and the mortgage bill,” I said every night for the rest of the week. “I sure wish I could find them.” I never named names, but I knew that Kris was responsible. I had checked everywhere for both items: my desk, my books, my pockets.

This morning I was preparing to go to the gym. Because it’s a glorious day, I decided to ride my bike into Milwaukie. “It sure would be nice to have my bike computer for this ride,” I said. “And where are my biking shorts, anyhow?”

“Your biking shorts are where they’re supposed to be. They’re where I put them. In your exercise drawer.” I checked the drawer. Sure enough, the biking shorts were there.

“Now all I need are the bike computer and the mortgage bill,” I said.

“Well, one out of three ain’t bad,” Kris said.

I sat down at the chair in my office to put on my socks. “Yes, I really wish I knew where the bike computer and the mortgage bill were,” I said. I wanted Kris to admit that she had misplaced them. Then, for no reason whatsoever, I opened my desk drawer.

“Huh,” I said. “What do you know?” There was my mortgage bill, exactly where I had put it. (But why had I put it there? That’s what I want to know.)

Kris looked at me and shook her head. “Two out of three ain’t bad,” she said.

“I guess I misplaced that,” I said, setting the bill on my desk. I idly began to clean up the gadgets in the far corner. “But I’m still missing my buh —”

I stopped.

There, underneath my Skype headset (which I had used last week to interview Tim Ferriss), was my bike computer. Just where I had left it.

“You know what I think is the best part of this story?” Kris asked. I didn’t really want to know, but she told me anyhow. “I wasn’t responsible for any of those.”

“I know,” I said, sighing. “But you’ll notice I never named you explicitly.”

“Oh, I know, but you were blaming me in your heart. I could tell.” She’s right. I was blaming her in my heart. I was certain she had misplaced the things that it turns out I had misplaced. But what have we learned over the years, dear readers? Kris Gates is always right. And that’s part of why I love her.

New Schedule

I seem to have found the key to my productivity: delay my gym trip from 7am to noon. Instead, I focus those first five hours of the morning on Get Rich Slowly. It’s amazing what a difference that makes.

Though I spend plenty of time on miscellaneous blog tasks (checking stats, design work, answering e-mail), I only have 4-5 hours of writing in me a day. During the first two months of my pro blogging career, I didn’t begin writing until ten or eleven.

I’d get up and go to the gym, come home, eat breakfast, shower, do some chores, catch up on web sites, etc. Before I knew it, ten or eleven had rolled around. After that, my four or five hours of writing put me into the late afternoon, and I’d begin to feel pressured. I didn’t like it.

This week, however, I’ve reversed things. I get up at the same time (between six and seven), but I go straight to writing. It should be no surprise that I’m most productive during these hours — it was between seven and noon that I used to do most of my writing at the box factory.

At about noon, I have a bite to eat, and then I head out for my exercise. Sure, it’d be better to get my exercise done earlier in the day, but I can’t be in two places at once. And my schedule the past two days has been very nice. It’s good to know that most of my work for the day is done by noon. It keeps me happier during the rest of the day — less stressed.

Today has been especially productive. I finally wrote my review for the new Robert Kiyosaki book (may go up tomorrow, but may delay til next Tuesday), then went to the gym for an awesome upper body workout. I powered through sets that had been dragging me down. I bought some Hot Tamales on the way home (yes, Nicole, I’m still shunning sugar, but I do let myself have a treat from time-to-time), sat outside with Toto and Max, then went upstairs to answer e-mail.

Later in the afternoon I conducted an interview with Tim Ferriss (of The 4-Hour Workweek), which gave me a chance to try out Skype. Not bad. I love the fact that I can record the conversation for later transcription. That means I don’t have to type notes while I’m talking to him. It also means I can try to shape it into a podcast sometime in the future.

I have a busy weekend ahead of me: lunch with Matt and PB on Thursday, dinner with The Tim on Thursday evening, family dinner on Friday night, marathon training on Saturday morning, bike ride with Paul and Susan on Saturday afternoon, brunch with Alan on Sunday. Something tells me one or more of these things is going to have to be set aside!

Sick and Tired

Kris is sick. I am tired.

It’s 5:38 on a Saturday afternoon, and we’re both in bed, ready to sleep. We may not get up until morning.

Kris started getting sick in the middle of the week. “I always get sick after our trip to Sunriver,” she said when she first began to wheeze. “And you always get sick before or during.” I had a severe allergy attack two weeks ago (about when the magnolias were blooming), which was when she first noted the pattern.

Kris stayed home sick on Wednesday, but went to work on Thursday. She also went to her Excel training on Friday. When I picked her up from that class, she was a sneezing whining mess. “I feel awful,” she said. “Take me straight home.” She went to bed early last night.

This morning, I ran ten miles. Our starting point was just a mile from Rosings Park, but it took me twenty minutes to drive there. Because the Willamette River divides Oak Grove from Lake Oswego, it took me far too long to reach my destination.

I bumped up a pace group today, moving from “no target time” to the four-and-half-hour goal group for the marathon. (Ugh. Lousy sentence, but I’m not editing it.) Our first mile was flat, but miles two, three, and four were all uphill. (And downhill on the return, of course.) As usual, I started poorly, but really felt good by mid-run. My last mile was ragged, but I think I’ll improve with time.

“I’m starving,” I told Kris when I got home. I showered and changed so that we could go to the Canby Garden Show.

“Hurry up,” she whined. She was still feeling sick.

“Can we stop at Burgerville?” I asked. “I’m starving.”

“What did you have for breakfast?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t eat before I run.”

“That’s stupid,” Kris said. “What would Pam say?” (Good question. What would Pam say?)

“It’s not big deal,” I said. “I just eat after.” But by mid-afternoon, it felt like a big deal. When we got back from the garden show, Kris and I both took a nap. Then, while Kris continued to sleep, I went downstairs and drew a hot bath. After eating a raspberry yogurt and some beef jerky, I climbed into the tub and soaked for twenty minutes. Half an hour. An hour. Two. Mostly, I slept, luxuriating as the heat of the water soothed my tired muscles.

Now I’m upstairs in bed, writing this entry, forcing myself to keep my eyes open. Kris hasn’t left the bed since two o’clock. She is sick. I am tired.

A Day at the Office

I’ve just returned home from my morning workout, and am sitting at the computer writing a piece for Get Fit Slowly. I can hear Maxwell thumping around, but I’m not really paying attention. Soon, however, the thumps turn into squawks, and then to growls.

Max and Nemo wrestle a lot, so I’m not too concerned. They take turns being the aggressor. Sometimes Max pummels Nemo. Sometimes Nemo pummels Max. They both love it.

As I’m typing, the growls and cries become more distressed, so I go to the bedroom to see what is the matter. Max is on top of Nemo, chomping him. Nemo is trying to thumper his way out, but is having no success. The fur is flying. Literally. Chomp chomp, thumper, growl.

Being a good father, I don’t break up the fight. Instead, I stand and watch as they roll around on the bed. Toto is sleeping on a chair in my office. Simon is sleeping on the kitchen table, in a box of my clothes. He’s been there for the past twelve hours. Or had been there. Here he comes now.

Simon comes clump clump clumping up the stairs in a fat cat run. He’s heard the squawking and yowling, and wants to see what’s the matter. He charges past me, hops onto the bed, and stares at his brothers. They stop wrestling. They look at him. He looks at one and then the other.

I can’t tell if they’re saying something in a secret cat language, but both Max and Nemo fall apart, moving away from each other. Simon continues looking from one to the other. Then he looks back to me as if to say, “Dad, it’s your job to keep them from fighting.”

Max hops down and goes to the guest room for a bite to eat. Nemo slinks downstairs. Simon curls up on the bed and falls back asleep.

Footnote: As I’m writing this, the cats take turns coming into the office. First Max comes charging in, flails around on the floor, then barrels downstairs. A couple minutes later, Nemo strolls in, sits down, gives himself a bath for five minutes, and then leaves. Toto is still asleep on the chair. Maybe she’s dead!