Baba Birthday

And today you make it one year closer to 90. Congrats on truckin’ along!

Happy Birthday!

Remember Me

The other day I was thinking about back when I started this blog. Some of you might remember the days when I wrote up to 7 or 8 posts in a day. And I never missed a day. In fact, I still remember very clearly the day I decided to take a break. And it was so shocking at the time that Phil logged in and posted as me for a few days, just to keep the streak alive.

But things have to change, and it just didn’t feel right to me to keep on writing and writing. And honestly, a lot of those posts were pretty bad, and were written just for the purpose of writing, or getting comments, or putting up amazing post quantity numbers. Which was great at the time, and I think a few people enjoyed it, even if a few people really hated it, and made it quite clear, sometimes obnoxiously rudely.

And then time went on and the posting slowed to a few times a week, and now has settled on a few times a month, which is below what I’d like, honestly. But it is hard. For one thing, my life is much different now than it was then. When you are in college, things are constantly changing. You go to different classes every day and see 100s of different people. That opens up a lot of things to talk about. Or at least, a lot of different things to say.

Now my life is very similar every day. I go to work, and then I go home. And it is better. I prefer it. I have a really awesome wife, and a house that I mostly enjoy, and animals that are good fun. But I don’t think that anyone particularly wants to read about any of that. I know that I don’t want to read about that coming from anyone else.

So sometimes it is hard to think of things to write about. There is always roller skating. But that is about the weirdest thing that I do right now. I should probably do a better job of writing about when I travel, because I do that so often, and at least it is a theme.

Anyway, I feel like I say this a lot, but I’m not going to let this blog die. There may be someday, at some point in the future, when it comes time to end this little game that I’ve been playing. But I don’t think that it is anytime soon. Right now it sorta feels like that as long as there is the Internet in a similar form to what is there now, there will be Smackie.

Knit and Crochet Today

A short post. We have this channel here in St. Louis that is called Create-TV. It is a digital channel that is served up by our local PBS affiliate, and they have shows about cooking, travelling, painting, crafts, home improvement, and then for some reason, a show about knitting and crocheting. And it is seriously the most impossible show to understand I’ve ever seen.

The basic gist of the show is that this lady stands around where other people take yarn, wiggle their hands, and make a sweater happen. But any attempt to understand this process in any greater deal just makes my brain hurt. Literally. It is the same feeling that I got back in high school trying to understand Calculus.

I watch, and I really (and this is pretty embarrassing) try to understand what is happening. But it just doesn’t make any sense. And the host lady makes absolutely no attempt to explain any of the concepts that these yarn wizards are employing. They definitely assume a much higher level of knitting knowledge than I process. I have no clue what a “single crochet” is, so I’m lost basically from step one. And then they go so fast. Literally faster than the eye can follow, which makes for some really especially awful television.

So basically what PBS is doing is putting on 30 minutes of insanely complicated, completely unwatchable television. And what do I do? I watch it. Why? Well, it is on right after Katie Brown Workshop, which is my absolute favorite Create-TV show (even though the stuff she does is completely insane. I am drawn to it for some unknown reason) and seriously, what else are you going to do on a Sunday night.

Also, I feel I should make it clear that I don’t really have much desire to learn anything about knitting. I have like 50,000 other skills that I would like to acquire first. So really my complaints about this show don’t matter much, since I’m clearly not the target audience. But it does drive me insane at some deep level that someone out there is creating a TV show that is so completely unwatchable.

California The Sixth

I just booked my next trip to California to visit Phil. This will be the 6th trip that I have made there. (Seventh, if you want to count a trip that I don’t.) It is also only my second trip this year, which means that I have slipped. Last year I managed 3, but this year I don’t think that is going to happen. I blame several things, including my trip to Europe, and my multiple skating related trips. I mean, really, how many trips can one guy take?

But anyway, since this is the sixth time that I am going out, it means that I’ve done most of the “standard” stuff. I’ve been to the “big” sites and stuff.

Actually, now that I think about it, I haven’t probably done a lot of the big touristy stuff.

Anyway, this time I think I want to do entirely new things. I don’t know what yet. So if anyone has ever been out to the bay area, and has ideas for things to do that I haven’t done, please let me know.

Meetings

In the last 36 hours I have been to 5 hours worth of meetings. That is a much higher than average amount of meetings for me. And you want to know the thing that I have learned from all of these meetings?

Nothing.

That’s right. None of the issues that I went into the meetings hoping to get solved, did get solved. The first meeting was about this woman at work who completely lied about me. So the meeting was about how to make her happy with the software that I’m writing for her. We brought in some experts to look at what I had done. And you know what? They said that my software looked amazing. Just like the liar-woman had said herself a few months ago. But then, right after the meeting, we tried to get a hold of her. No luck. Not responding. What a shock. At least I think my boss now understands that I have been telling the truth about her and the situation.

Meeting the 2nd was at Dad’s work, to figure out an issue for how they do inspections and how we are tracking them in a piece of software I am writing for them. And you know what? After three hours, nothing was solved. If anything, we were further away from the solution than we were when we went in.

The third meeting was today. A planned follow up meeting about the liar woman. But she still hasn’t responded, so the meeting was basically pointless, and just ended up being over an hour of my boss talking about other things. It wasn’t bad, because I like my boss, but it didn’t solve the issue at hand. We actually even discussed stuff from the meeting I had at Dad’s, but we weren’t able to come up with any other solutions.

So I guess I’m just wondering, what is the point of having meetings? Do they accomplish anything? I’m not sure that I’ve ever really been in a meeting that has accomplished anything. In fact it seems like most things get accomplished when someone just goes and does something, and then faces the consequences later.

Which brings me to the point that I’m trying to make. I think that China has a very good possibility of bypassing the US in a lot of ways, such as technology, because at the end of the day the government can just say “Go do this. Build elevated trains in that city.” Here we have meetings and decide that we’ll put off things until the next meeting. Democracy.

Democracy has failed.

You Know What Sucks?

I had basically worked for 8 months on getting ready for Nationals. Which isn’t really THAT much time, but it feels like I had been preparing for a long time. For 6 or more hours a week I would focus on doing the same thing, over and over, to get it to the point where I was as good as I was going to be. And then I practiced some more, trying to make it even better.

And then it was time to compete. To show what all of this work had done. To show how good I was. And you know what I did? I screwed up huge in a way that I never had before. I did a combination of two things that had never happened to me, and combined they sent me to a lovely finish of 17th. It hurts to type it. I did that badly. THAT badly.

The pain has subsided a little bit in the 6 days since I competed, but mostly because I’ve been trying to think about other things. But I was driving home the other day and some music from my “get pumped up” playlist came on, and there is was. Failure.

So really all there is to do now is get back to practice and start over. I’ve got a year before I can make amends, but I also have a year to get better and fix things. And get mentally stronger.

But for now I’m taking a few weeks where I’m going to try to not think about skating at all. I think maybe I’ve had too much skating for a while.

Nationals

Tomorrow is Nationals, basically the culmination of what I’ve been working towards for 7 months. So wish me luck. I should be back with more regularity after this.

Upgraded

So there shouldn’t be any differences, but I just upgraded Smackie to the newest blog software version, and kind of had some big problems in the process. The whole site went down for a while, and I had to sort of put things back together from scratch. Luckily WordPress is a pretty good and mature piece of software, so I was able to recover my themes and settings and stuff. And there was never really any worry about losing the posts. But just in case something went wrong, let me know so I can take a look at it.

Nationals

Remember all that talk that I had going on about Regionals? Well the whole point of Regionals, really, was to qualify for Nationals, which I did halfway. So in a couple of weeks I will be heading out to the untamed wilds of Lincoln, Nebraska to be competing against that best beginners that are over 18 that the US has to offer.

And truth be told, I’m not really nervous. This year Regionals was my thing. I was aiming to do well there, and anything above that is just a bonus. So I’m going to go, have fun, watch some other people skate, and go out and do my best without stressing out too much about how well I do. If I make finals, great, and if I don’t but I skate my best, then that is great too.

I do have a few things to do to prepare for the competition, though. Well really only one thing. Putting rhinestones on my outfit so that I’ll be even prettier. I started last night, and it was really tedious, and frustrating, and I got glue all over my fingers. But I have to say, it does make the outfit sparkle. So that’s a bonus.

Finally, Nationals are going to be streamed live over the Internets. I’m not sure if my event will be one of the ones streamed, but if it is, I will post a link so that you can all watch me precisely go around in a circle. Which I know is what you all want.

Married

So I haven’t posted since regionals, but there is a good reason. I’ve been getting ready to get married, and now I am. And to be honest, it doesn’t really feel that different than before I was married. But that is probably a good thing, because I was happy then, and I am happy now.

It is a little weird, when I think about it. I think it is mostly weird because it feels like something SHOULD be different. Life there should have been some big revelation or something. But that hasn’t been the case. Today was just like any other Sunday, including going to skating practice in the morning.

But then I think about it a little more. “Whoa, I’m married.” I think a big part of me never really expected that to happen, and yet, here I am.

So we’ll see. Day one has been good. Hopefully the rest will be pretty good as well.

The Recap

3:20 – Sunday morning.

I woke up.

Puking.

Nerves.

Panic attack.

As bad as I had had in a long time. I was terrified to go out there and have to compete. And I had no practice time on the floor. And everyone the day before had told me how they all slipped. And slipping was my biggest fear. It had been for months.

I tossed and turned for a few hours, but didn’t get any real sleep. So around 6:00 I got up, got ready as best I could, packed, met up with the rest of the team, and headed to the rink.

I was a mess.

I got dressed and put on my skates. The nerves built up, but it also felt good to get my skates on. At least a little bit of a familiar feeling. I thought I had about 40 minutes to relax and get ready. They called my name in about 20.

So I went out onto the practice figure circle. I was shaking, but my coach Sherri was there, and my other coach Keith was on the side, and the rest of the team was standing there for support.

I started warming up. And I was shaking. Bad. No food in me. Dehydrated. Terrified. But the practice went okay. I didn’t do terribly. I didn’t do great. But I made it around. I stayed on my skates.

And then they called my number. So I went to the referee, and he told me what I had to do, and wished me luck. And I skated out to the circle. Three judges were waiting for me. And I started. And they followed me, staring at my feet. And my leg was shaking. And my arms were shaking. But I guess my practice took over, and I made it around. One down, two to go.

So after I was done I went over to Sherri, and she told me that I had done well, Keith told me to just improve on the next two. But the next one was the figure that I was dreading. The figure I was most afraid of slipping on. And it was onto the practice circle to try it out. And I slipped. And then I slipped again. And then I started, but I slipped halfway through. And on top of that, my form was completely thrown off. I couldn’t concentrate because of the slips.

Sherri saved the day. She had powder for my wheels. It made them grippier.

And it was back to the referee, and back to the judges. I started the figure. I didn’t slip. Downhill from here, I thought. Nail this, and you’re home free.

And I made it through as best I could, considering the circumstances. One more to go.

Back to the practice circle. And I warmed up, and then went again. The last one was a little too fast. Not my best. But I finished. I did it. I made it through, and gave Sherri a hug.

It was time to wait. An hour until the results were announced.

I just sat there, nervously waiting. I was glad it was done, but I really wanted to do well. Four of us competed in my event. I wanted to come in third. To at least beat someone. But I have only been skating seriously for about 7 months. There were guys in my event who have been doing this over a decade. So I was scared.

Courtney (another team member) told me she thought I did well. But mostly people didn’t say much. Superstition, maybe.

And then it was awards time. So I waited while they announced all the other awards. I stood there thinking “Third would be good. Second would be really nice. And I know it will never happen, but how cool would it be to hear my name called first?”

“And now the results of Novice B Mens Figures. In first place, skater #117, Nathan Halley.”

Flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to do. My eyes definitely got a little watery. I skated out, got my medal, and gave Pat (another skater from the team who was helping people up to the podium at the time) a big hug, and got up on the podium. With a big dumb smile on my face.

The rest of the day wasn’t quite as great, but I did my best, and came away with something that I’m really proud of.

As a sort of epilogue, in writing this I realized how… lets say “emotional” I came across. And I have seen figure skaters on TV and seen them cry and stuff and go to their coaches afterwards. And I always thought it was a little… fruity. Not fruity=gay. Fruity=fruity. You know. But then I got out there and did it, and for some reason, it is a really emotional, and emotionally trying sport. So I totally understand. After you’re done, you totally want a hug from your coach and to just sit and not think about anything for a while. I get it.

Regionals

So this weekend is it. The event of the Century. Actually, no. It is the event of the weekend. Regionals! All the way up in glorious Minneapolis. There will be fun! Festivities! Frivolities. Actually, likely not much of that. Probably a lot of roller skating. And some sitting around.

Anyway, I guess I’m prepared. I have more practice tonight and tomorrow, but let’s be honest. At this point I’m not going to make any great strides or anything. At best I can hope to fix a few small issues, and get my various steps a little more ingrained.

What I am not prepared for, and I don’t think I can be prepared for, is the mental aspect. The things I’m doing aren’t that physically complicated. It is difficult to do them well, but they aren’t insanely tricky. But mentally, they can actually get you. There are a ton of things that you have to remember, and in the end, it is a mental game. This has been reinforced to me the last several days by my coach and several of my fellow skaters who keep telling me that you have to be mentally tough.

Well here is the thing. I am not mentally tough. I am the absolute king of psyching myself out. I can psych myself out of anything. And it has already begun for skating. I’m already convinced myself that I’m going to screw up a takeoff or something, and that will surely make it a reality, which only convinces me more, which only assures it even more. It is a vicious, vicious cycle.

So I’m going to do my best, but I really don’t have any clue what my best is. But hopefully I’ll have some fun, and it’ll be an adventure regardless. And honestly, I don’t really care what position I come in. I mean, after all, it is just roller skating.

Vacation

I am on vacation right now in Lake Tahoe. Right now I have a couple of thoughts about it. One, the area is really pretty. Two, it is high up and it makes it really hard for me to breathe. I’ve been having a hard time for the last couple of days, which isn’t a lot of fun. Three, I do not want to go back to work. I really like this extended vacation that I have been on. And it has been quite a joy to get to ride on so many different airplanes and go through different airports. And luckily I still have a bit more of that to do before the end of the month.

Anyway, like always, I have been neglecting this. And as cliche as it is, life has been really busy lately. It should calm down pretty soon, though. Regionals are coming up in 2 weeks, and after that I should have more free time to devote to other things. Then again, there are so many other things, that perhaps it is wishful thinking to think that after Regionals things will calm down.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Charley! Can’t wait for the dog park tomorrow. The rain better stay away.

Several Facts About Now

I haven’t done this in a while, but I’m going to give you a list of things that are going on right now. I don’t feel like going in depth about any one particular thing, but instead I’d like to touch the surface of a few things.

– I go to California tomorrow. I’m visiting Phil and Helen for a long weekend. Then I come home for a week, and then I go to California again, this time to Lake Tahoe, for a family vacation. Then I come home for a week, and then I go to Minneapolis for Regionals. I have a very busy month of travel. And not a very busy month of working.

– Speaking of Regionals, I am completely unprepared. To the point where I am starting to get very nervous, and am very worried that I’m going to make a fool out of myself. And so of course thinking those things has a way of freaking me out. So we’ll see. I desperately want to do well, but I don’t know if it will happen.

– Kelly and I have gone on a planting spree. We have two new bushes planted in the front of the house, and still have a blackberry plant, 2 lilacs, and 2 other undefined plants to go. I really don’t like the process of planting things, but I definitely like the way the yard looks when plants are added to it.

– “Community” is my favorite show on TV right now. In the last month and a half they have had an episode that was a shout-out to Goodfellas that was incredible, and an episode that was a send up to action movies, that is possibly the best episode of television that I have ever seen. And I am not exaggerating. It was that good.

– I had my birthday last weekend, and it was a lot of fun. I had French food, and then pizza, and got lots of good presents, and even got to go skating on my birthday! Does it get any better than that?! I don’t think so.

Well that’s about it for now. I have to finish packing and get to sleep. I have a long day tomorrow.

My Insulin Pump

I wear an insulin pump and it keeps me alive. If I didn’t have it, either I would die, or I would have to give myself a bunch of shots during the day. So it is pretty much the most important possession that I own, in a lot of ways. It is a really good friend. And yet, I don’t treat it very well. What I mean by this is that I don’t like for it to be known that I have it. I don’t really go out of my way to hide it, but I also don’t go out of my way to flaunt it. I keep it in my pocket and all of the tubes tucked away as well as possible. I’m not ashamed of it, but I also don’t really want people to know that I have it. It is just sort of a strange mental thing. I like to appear “normal”.

So in this spirit I ordered my skating pants with some special inside pockets. That way I can wear my pump and keep it on the inside, so that no one will know that I am diabetic while I am skating. I don’t want to be judged differently because of it. And I don’t think that I would be, but you never know.

And then over the last couple of days, I changed my mind. I think that I’ve decided to compete with my pump clipped to the back of my pants, on display, for everyone to see. Why? To get favor from a judge? To make people feel sorry for me? No. It is because maybe at the competition there will be some little kid, or some young teenager who has diabetes. Someone who is really embarrassed that they are “different.” Someone ashamed or scared or just having trouble with their diabetes. And it isn’t silly. It is really hard for kids and young teenagers who have this disease, from what I understand.

So maybe if they see someone out there, someone a little older than them, who has the same disease that they do, and is still able to do things, like compete in an athletic event, that it will make them feel a little better about themselves. Or maybe just let them know that they aren’t such a weird total freak.

Who knows? Chances are that I won’t be competing in such a situation where someone would notice. And maybe they wouldn’t even care. But based on the chance that maybe there is, I think I owe it to them, and especially to myself, to own this disease and show that it is okay. That it isn’t the end of the world and that we can do anything that people with working pancreases can do.

Tests Completed

So for everyone who was wondering, I passed all of my roller skating tests, which means that I am able to compete at Regionals, so that is exciting news. The tests went well, and it was fun to be judged and have a sense of validation of all of the work that I have been doing.

Now I just have to get ready for Regionals, which is going to be a huge task. I am nowhere close to being able to compete at a high level, and I really only have a few weeks left, and I’m going out of town twice before the competition. But after a lot of thinking and worrying, I’ve decided to go ahead with it. What is the worst that can happen, right?

In other news, life is extremely busy right now. House, wedding, skating, life. So it has been hard to find the time to write things on here. But I haven’t forgotten about this. No worries.

Concerts

If you know me reasonably well, you know that I’m not a huge fan of concerts. I don’t really like being forced to listen to songs that I don’t want to hear, I don’t like being surrounded by strangers, the sound quality is never that good, and you’re just kind of “stuck” there. But I still end up going, and sometimes I enjoy myself. Very rarely I’m even pleasantly surprised, like last year when I discovered The Felice Brothers, who are now one of my favorite bands.

Last week Kelly and I went to see Ben Folds, for what seems like the 15th time since I’ve known Kelly. I’m not really a fan of his music, but I am a fan of the man, Ben Folds, so I went. The concert itself was pretty terrible, but it got me thinking, and conversing with Kelly. I put together the top 3 bands, past or present, that I would like to see live, and what I would give in order to see them. And so here, in reverse order, I present my list of the 3 concerts that I would most love to see.

3) Nickel Creek. Amount I’d be willing to pay to see them. $1000.

I’ve seen Nickel Creek live 4 times, and each time it has been an incredible show. But they are on an indefinite hiatus, which could mean that I might never see them again. They are definitely one of my all time favorite bands, and they don’t have many bad songs. They also put on a live show that always managed to be exciting as well as intimate. About every six months I check in and see if there is any hope of them touring again. So far, no such luck. But I can keep hoping.

2) Cat Stevens (from the 70s). $2000.

How badass would it be to see Cat Stevens in his prime? Maybe even more than my number 1 choice, he doesn’t have a bad song. I never get tired of listening to his music. And from the videos I’ve seen on youtube, it looks like he put on a hell of a show. Now, I know that there is a possibility I could still see him, since he has started performing again as Yusef Islam. And that would still be awesome. But I’m not sure it would be #2 on the list awesome. But the Cat. Yeah, that would rock.

1) The Beatles. Absolutely anything and everything. I can’t think of what I wouldn’t be willing to give up to see them.

Maybe it is easy to say that I’d give up pretty much everything I own to see the Beatles live, even just once, but I totally would. More than any other form of art for my entire life, the Beatles have moved me and changed who I am. If I could only listen to one band for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t even be close. They are hands down the best band ever, changed music and our world, and if somehow I had the chance to see them perform live, even though by all accounts their concerts didn’t live up to the majesty of their albums, I would do it in a heartbeat. There is no question about this. They are #1 by FAR.

So there you go. The top three concerts that I would like to see. And maybe 1.5 of them could actually happen. Maybe this is why I’m so unhappy with concerts in general. Completely unrealistic expectations.