Wednesday, December 31, 2008

First Mistake

Today marks my first screw-up. I made instant grits at work and didn't water them down enough and they swelled up in my stomach. I nearly threw up - had a couple of weak dry heaves - but they eventually went the right way, after some discomfort. I called the nurse and she congratulated me on not screwing up before this, and told me that I had no need to worry, just be more careful with grits and oatmeal in the future.

I'm 292.6 this morning. 40 pounds lighter. It seems like I'm losing about 2 lbs a day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Morning update

This morning, the scale upstairs (The one that reads heaviest) said 297.

Dec 26 meals:
Breakfast: soft-scrambled egg
Lunch: pureed hot dog with cheese sauce
Dinner: refried beans with cheese sauce
Protein goal met
Water goal met

Dec 27 meals:
Breakfast: soft-scrambled egg, milk added
Lunch: Soft cheese (I chewed until it was liquid before swallowing)
Dinner: Beef rib puree
(I cooked this for four hours at low heat in the oven, then put in the food processor with the broth that cooked out of it and it was delicious)
Extra: A scoop of sugar-free ice cream
Protein goal: Failed - I didn't make a shake all day.
Water goal: Failed, but I drank a whole 20 oz bottle of G2 over the course of the day.

We walked around the neighborhood on the 26th for exercise, and yesterday, though we didn't walk, we did go to the Super Wal-Mart twice and walked around the store while shopping.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Season's Eatings

First of all - the bottom line: Dec 25 - 301 lbs. That's 32 lbs lost. I expect I'll be well below the 300 mark by Monday, when I go back to work, and I'll never ever see that "3" digit in the first position on the scale again. Once I'm cleared for strenuous exercise, I'm going to work my butt off to get to 250 as quick as I can. I'm beginning to think that sub-200 lbs is a distinct possibility by the end of 2009. I've been slack on the walking due to the holiday. That will change tomorrow, I promise.

I got a totally cool 3-cup food processor for Christmas. The huge one we have was impractical to keep cleaning for such small portions.

Meals (approx 1/4 cup portions):
Dec 24 - breakfast: grits
Dec 24 - lunch: shepherd's pie
Dec 24 - dinner: refried beans with guacamole, cheese and sour cream
Dec 25 - breakfast: runny scrambled egg and grits
Dec 25 - lunch: ham puree with green pea puree and turkey broth
Dec 25 - dinner: organic peanut butter

I probably didn't get my protein goal on Christmas Eve. I'm pretty sure I did today, since I had a double-strength protein shake in the afternoon, and three high-protein meals.

Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch were absolutely delicious, and Christmas lunch was made using my new food processor. Awesome!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Good Tidings

Not only do I convey good tidings to my readers for the holiday, but I have good tidings to convey of my recovery as well.

No more stitches. They all dissolved today. The tape over them was itching like crazy, so I peeled it all off after softening them up in my shower this morning and there were no stitches underneath. The wounds look 90% healed, and after getting rid of the tape, the itching has stopped.

I did hit up against the stomach capacity limit today while drinking a protein shake. Felt like I had a reflux coming up (not a burning acid one, though). I kept it down, but now I have been reminded to not drink thick liquids so fast. Cheap lesson.

Tonight we go over to my folks' house for Christmas Eve dinner. We'll see what I'm able to eat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I would like to reflect on an issue that will come up for just about anyone having weight loss surgery.

Family - and what to do about their opinions and attempts to control you.

I have in front of me a printout of the pureed/blenderized diet guidelines that the doctor and nutritionist gave me. To summarize, it says:

  • You will be on pureed/blenderized foods for a month, in addition to the clear liquids you have already been taking. (and it explains why)
  • You may not have concentrated sweets or simple sugars. (and it explains why)
  • No gum (for obvious reasons, but it explains why anyway)
  • Avoid gastric irritants like chili powder and hot sauce and caffeine.
  • No carbonated beverages.
  • Don't drink within 30 minutes of a meal.
  • Portion size should be 1/4 of a cup of pureed foods, 3 times a day.
  • Increase fluids to 64 oz a day.
  • Protein goal is 70-90 grams a day.
So, my mom calls me yesterday and asks what I've had to eat. I tell her I had grits for breakfast, and had mushed up Turkey Spam into a puree with chicken broth and mayo for lunch. She went ballistic. You see, the rules given above - which couldn't be any clearer to me - were interpreted differently by my mother. She thinks it means:
  • Only eat wholesome foods
  • Don't mix ingredients
  • Nothing out of a can
  • Nothing fattening
  • You should be eating baby food
So we argue. Despite having written in black and white the absolute rules and the freedom between the lines - she wants to criticize my choices.

Folks, being fat means that you are at the mercy of every well-meaning person out there that wants to criticize you. Because, as we all know, if we had just followed their advice, we'd have never gotten fat in the first place. There's an idiot on a sports message board that I go to whose opinion is that fat people are all losers because we're incapable of following a few simple rules regarding burning more calories than we take in. Like it's that simple. Well, he thinks it is and therefore all the fat people in the world are just losers.

Anyway, one of the most important reasons for having this surgery was to get "My Diet" off the list of things that it's OK for someone else to criticize. Really, who asked for their opinions in the first place?

So get ready, anyone who wants Weight Loss Surgery in the future - these people will not give up their favorite subject easily. Critics will be critics, and after you lose your hundred-or-so pounds, they'll find something else to criticize.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advice for Future Roux-en-Y Patients

Here's my first round of advice for those who are contemplating doing this surgery in the future:

In the hospital:

  1. Gas-X strips (the ones that melt on the tongue). Take them to the hospital with you.
  2. Walk as much as you can while still in the hospital. Do it 30 minutes after every dose of pain medicine - right when it kicks in. Walking prevents pain.
  3. Get someone to stay with you in the hospital. If you wait for a nurse to help you walk, you won't walk enough. Don't be at the mercy of the call button.
  4. Males - get the catheter out as soon as you can. Make whatever deals you have to make with the nurses or doctor or devil. Walking with the catheter really sucks. If you prove to them that you can get to the bathroom whenever you need to, they should agree.
  5. Learn your pain meds and how long it takes for them to kick in and how fast they wear off. Try to be asleep when they wear off and plan activities for when they're fresh.
  6. Sit up in a chair as much as you can. Heck, you can use the hospital bed to do no-effort sit-ups. The idea is to move things around in your abdomen to get the gas to settle out.

At home:
  1. Continue walking as much as possible.
  2. Find a nice recliner to sleep in, preferably one that rocks so you can use momentum to get out of it instead of your abs.
  3. Figure out ways to avoid using your ab muscles.
  4. You won't start passing solid waste until you start on pureed foods. Have Milk of Magnesia around in preparation for that day. Take it before you have to. Your pain meds cause constipation, and your ab muscles are NOT ready to push that hard.
  5. Ever consider a bidet? Mine saved my life today. It beats a hot-water bottle.
  6. Get off the pain meds as soon as you can.
  7. Don't get impatient with your 'nurse'.

Checkpoint 1: Start of Week 2

Original Weight: 333 lbs
Current Weight: 305 lbs
Total Weight Loss: 28 lbs
Weight Loss Since Surgery: 15 lbs

This morning, I ate some thin grits made with chicken broth - about 1/4 cup. They seem to be digesting comfortably. After eating that much, I am no longer hungry. So far, so good.

Lunch and dinner were Spam Turkey mushed up with mayo. The big news is that the digestive system became fully functional today, with the help of Philips' Milk of Magnesia and the bidet I installed in the master bath. Thank God for that thing.

No pain meds today. I am now officially medication-free. We're going shopping tonight at Wal-Mart to find some tastier things to puree. I have in mind some sort of pizza-mush, or hot dog with mustard puree. I haven't had meat in weeks, folks.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some Questions Still Remain

Here I am, six days removed from surgery, and some mysteries haven't been solved yet.

For instance:

  • So far, all I've had are clear liquids and I haven't noticed any "full" sensation from my new small stomach pouch. Either the fluids (and this includes Jello) are pouring right through the stomach without pause, or I haven't approached the limit yet. Not that I'm anxious to push it. I wonder just how small that pouch actually is?

  • I've had "interest" in food, but no hunger pangs. I wonder when this will occur, or is that something I'll never have again? (God, please let it be so)

  • I keep wondering what will happen to the larger part of the stomach that no longer has a full-time job. It's still complaining loudly and producing gas and nothing else of benefit. Is it eventually going to accept its new role and shut up? Is it going to go crazy and dump a bunch of acids into my bowels when I start on pureed food?

  • Also regarding the unemployed stomach - what happens in the future if I catch a stomach virus? Do I have two separate cases of nausea?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Update

I slept all night horizontal in my bed and felt like a million bucks when I woke up. I feel strong, but probably a little too much, as I started mouthing off at Bernie when she scolded me for not taking my vitamin and before I knew it, I'd started a fight. I feel so stupid. I know I can't treat her the same way I do when my mom is looking after me. Mom's got a much thicker skin than Bernie does and just shoves it back in my face, but when I sass Bernie, it hurts her. I had to spend a couple of hours putting things right after that.

Anyway, I put on some "man pants" and went and got my hair cut, which was badly needed thanks to the pre-surgery high protein diet making it grow ultra-fast.

Later on, I persuaded Bernie to take me to the pharmacy so I could buy some Gas-X strips and Milk of Magnesia, which is what the doctor recommended for whenever my digestive system starts working again.

Bernie isn't eating properly. She's sympathy dieting and I have to put a stop to it as she's only 100 lbs to begin with. I'm not certain she had lunch or dinner today.

Anyway, I'm doing great. I've got ketone-breath, so I know I'm losing weight and burning fat. I'll step on the scales in the morning and see what I'm down to. I'm also working on photoshopping some slides to explain exactly what was done to me, which I will post on here eventually.

Only two more days, and I can have blenderized real food.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Update

Not much new to report. Discomfort level is better today. Drank a lot of water and protein drink. Actually ate some jello, which went down smoothly - better than some of the stuff I'm drinking. I'm starting to show some small level of interest in food, although I can't have solids yet. I'm going to try to sleep in the bed tonight and see how hard it is to get out of it in the morning.

The drain wound oozed just the tiniest bit - enough to make a little stain on the gauze. I think it's starting to close up. Gas pains are no longer a problem.

I really think that the good night's sleep I got last night paid off handsomely. I hope to improve on that tonight. I might let Dad take me in the car to get a haircut in the morning as the protein diet from the past two weeks made it grow amazingly fast.

In other news, I heard that a childhood friend passed away from cancer last month and it's bummed me out a bit. I learned while I was in the hospital that a college friend had been arrested for something heinous, so that's two tragic stories in the same week.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

First Day Home

I spent the night sleeping in the recliner last night. Good choice, because I can get in and out of it without using too many abdominal muscles. I got a 1.5 hour stretch of sleep and then about 4 hours after I walked, took some meds, and had my vitals recorded by my mom. Bernie finally got some sleep in a real bed.

This morning, I went upstairs (under supervision) and showered. My incisions aren't bad at all, but they are beginning to show purple bruises so they look 'interesting' - especially one on my right side. The place where the drain used to be is a big hole that looks like it was made with a corkscrew and it is an open wound. They told me to shower as normal and to leave the drain wound uncovered so it would stay dry. Well, I'm compromising, since I don't like to look at it. I've covered it with a layer of gauze so that it still gets plenty of air, but it's not getting touched accidentally. I've got very little pain, and none of it is specific pain, just general discomfort, like a huge bruise.

Now that I'm clean and presentable, I feel much more human.

Irritating note of the day: The scale that has already incurred my wrath once now says I weigh more than I did to begin with. I think I'm going to have to pitch it and get another one.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Skinny on Weight Loss Surgery

Cool title to this post, huh? :)

I'll start this narrative with waking up from surgery. The nurses in recovery gave me ice chips (only a couple of pellets, though) which they probably shouldn't have. I felt like I couldn't get enough air, which is a common theme for me when I'm in pain. They gave me oxygen and put me on my C-PAP machine (a little machine that delivers pressurized air to my nose so I don't stop breathing while I sleep), but it still didn't help me feel like I was getting enough air. Eventually, they moved me to ICU so they could monitor my blood oxygen continuously. I stayed there through the first night. The surgeon visited, then gave orders that I was not to use the C-PAP machine that night (he didn't want it to inflate my stomach pouch and stretch it), which meant I had apnea all night even though they gave me oxygen. I must have woken up every fifteen minutes from midnight to 6 am. I was lucky to have a chatty nurse that kept me company. I got up and walked around a little with her help.

The next day, they moved me to a regular room. I walked twice more. It isn't easy to walk with a catheter. My abdomen felt like it was inflated to twice normal size and everything inside was bruised. My abs were cramping and standing up stretched them and all the stitches inside and out very painfully. This is when I got to know my pain medicines. Toradol is an IV analgesic which they gave me every 6 hours. It lasted for four. I had the magic morphine button, but I quickly discovered that all morphine did for me was make me sleepy and didn't kill pain at all. Midway through the second day, they gave me Lortab liquid, which is what I have here at home, and that seems to actually make it bearable.

The worst part? Gas. The large portion of the stomach which they leave behind and disconnect from the esophagus is having denial issues about its demotion and is producing huge quantities of gas which have nowhere to go but down the intestines. Since they use a muscle blocker on the entire digestive tract, this gas doesn't move fast and hurts like a real SOB. The best remedy? Walking. The most painful thing to do in that situation? Getting out of a hospital bed when all your abdominal muscles are cramping up and standing up and stretching all those muscles and incisions. Once I figured out the timing of the pain medications, I was able to walk more often.

Today, I woke up and I was determined to do two things: Get rid of the catheter, and pass gas. I managed to do both by 6am and my life improved dramatically.

I forgot to mention that day one, I was allowed nothing by mouth - no water, no anything. I got to swab out my mouth with a little sponge on a stick and moisten my throat and lips with it. Day 2, I was allowed 30ml of water each hour. That means I got to wet my tongue and breathe the fumes every fifteen minutes. Today, I got all the water I could handle, which still wasn't a lot.

So anyway, tonight, I am at home, sipping Isopure clear protein beverage, and feeling almost human, and passing gas like crazy. I'm probably due to take some Lortab in a few minutes. Oh, and I can actually get real sleep tonight because I'm finally allowed to use my C-PAP machine again.

PS: I had a drain in one of my incisions. I had no idea how deep this drain went until they pulled it out right before I was discharged. I now know EXACTLY how it feels to be run through with a sword.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Der Tag ist Hier!

Well, tomorrow's the big day. I had a protein shake at 7:30 and that's my last sustenance before surgery. The bag is packed and ready to go. We'll leave the house around 8am and the operation starts at 11am.

I am not nervous for some reason. I am just ready to get this over with and get on with my life. Bernie, however, is terrified.

Anyone that has free time tomorrow after 11 o'clock, would you mind giving her a call and trying to settle her nerves? I'd appreciate it.

The doctor called me this afternoon and wanted to know if I had last-second questions or concerns. I sure didn't expect that. We really didn't have much to ask, since they've done a good job of keeping us informed of what we need to do.

I probably won't be back on the blog until I get home. If everything goes right, that'll be Wednesday. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday, Monday...

Had to work in an actual store today. My company asks us to spend a day working in a store that needs "holiday help" once a year. As usual, I come through it wondering what I'd do if I had to work that hard for that little money. It also makes me appreciate the work that actually keeps the company afloat. We have some smart people running our company (the ones at the very top, I mean - middle management, as usual, is full of morons).

I stepped on the scale Sunday morning and it said I had lost 20 pounds. I took the "one serving of meat per week" option as a reward. This morning, the scale took back 12 of those pounds, so I have no idea what I weigh, and I'm ticked off that my expensive digital scale is so inconsistent.

The point of the two-week liquid (plus veggies) diet is to shrink the liver and not necessarily to lose weight, anyway.

So now, I'm back on liquids and veggies only for the rest of the week, then a day of starvation prior to undergoing the knife next Monday. Somewhere in there is a holiday party that will tempt me greatly with lots of finger-food around. I'm going to it anyway and I'll just have to be strong, that's all.

I'm debating skipping band practice tomorrow, but I think I need to go. I'm just feeling lazy and as insignificant as one last rehearsal before a month-long break is, I'd probably feel bad for missing it.

That's all my thoughts for today.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Computer Troubles

Today is day 6 of the liquid diet, and it's officially gotten old. Today for dinner, I mixed curry paste with my cream of chicken soup and dumped in my veggies to make some sort of neo-laksa. It was about 5% as good as the real thing, which is about 100 times better than anything I've eaten lately. I'm eating a sugar-free snack pack of chocolate pudding as I write this, while Bernie is entertaining Fio and James at a Chinese buffet.

I'm trying not to think about chinese buffets.

Earlier this week, my computer decided to start randomly rebooting like it did when it was new and needed warranty work. Since it is now long out of warranty, I made an appointment at a local repair place (thereby losing my geek card permanently). After disconnecting it, I realized I should probably clean up any sensitive information on the hard drive first, and then I discovered it wouldn't boot up at all. So much for that idea.

Anyway, it turns out the power supply is toast and the video card too. The video card was probably the cause of the reboots, because it continued to cause them after the power supply was replaced. Once it was removed from the equation, the system was stable again. The repair shop replaced the power supply for me ($75 labor, $25 part).

In the meantime, Bernie's new PC arrived (this was a Christmas present, which I don't feel like wrapping, so she gets it early), and it needs a video card, so we drove down the street to a computer shop that the repair guy recommended. I bought two video cards, and decided to expand my system's memory to 2GB so I wouldn't be too far behind my wife's new PC, which has 3GB.

It turns out the guys who run the place are Chinese, and their parents are Malaysians who moved to Hong Kong, then moved the family to Charlotte 15 years ago. This probably marks only the third time we've run into Malaysians (I consider them Malaysian, even though they were born in Hong Kong) in Charlotte in the last 3 years, and all of them own their own businesses. Bernie got to chat with them in Cantonese, which made her happy.

So, to sum up, I've lost about 15 pounds in a week on the liquid diet, which I'm getting tired of. I have my PC working again with more memory and a better video card. Bernie has a new PC. Fio and James are visiting us, and we met a couple of Chinese Malaysians from Hong Kong in Charlotte. Oh, yes, I nearly forgot - the Christmas tree is up.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Day Two of Liquid Diet

Well, I checked this morning and thanks to the stomach bug and day one of the liquid diet, I'm about 10 pounds less already.

So far, it's not so bad. The shakes taste good and fill me up for about an hour. I'm filling in the gaps with carrots and Weight Watcher's yogurt. Some cream of chicken soup is lunch, and a salad with low-fat, low-sugar dressing is dinner. I even skipped the fourth shake last night because I didn't need it once I quit watching TV and all the McDonalds commercials.

The real trouble is when I smell food that I can't have. So far, that hasn't been so bad.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Diet Starts Two Days Early

Well, it looks like I'm starting my liquid diet two days early, thanks to Mr. Stomach Flu. Dad had it last week and got better right before Thanksgiving, so I think I have to blame it on him.

Skip the next paragraph if you don't want the gory details.

My stomach, which was already full because I got no warning whatsoever of getting sick, started filling up with gas and blew up to the size of a basketball before I mercifully got nauseated enough to throw up. That was not pleasant at all, but I completely emptied my stomach and scared the dickens out of Bernie because when I vomit, it sounds like a violent murder. I felt better for about 10 minutes, then the bloating started again. The rest of the night was spent waking up every hour to run to the toilet or to sit up so I could belch up the gas. I made sure I took a couple of sips of water each time so I wouldn't get dehydrated.

Then the fever started and every muscle in my body is throbbing and trying to cramp up. I've taken two Alleve this morning and it's starting to kick in, so I only feel moderately sick at the moment.

I guess I should be thankful, because Dad couldn't manage to vomit for three days and suffered a lot, while I got it over with in a couple of hours.

However, Bernie is now complaining of being nauseated - and that's not fair at all.

Anyhow, that's just more weight loss for me prior to surgery, I guess.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Funny Story

I showed the Lenovo computer online to Bernie and it has two features that were interesting.

First, it has an anti-bacterial keyboard. Cool, huh?
Second, it has a big button on the keyboard that gives you one-click access to anti-virus and recovery features.

Bernie looked at that and asked me how the keyboard cleans off bacteria when you press the button.

So I laughed and said it must release a mist of antibacterial solution when you press it.

She figured it out a second later and whacked me on the shoulder while I was laughing uncontrollably.

Black Friday

I love Black Friday. Usually, I spend Thanksgiving night making a game plan and get up early on Friday and try to get as many things on my list as I can, spending money like it was water.

This year...not so much.

It's sad, but there wasn't a darn thing I could say was a "must-have" item in any of the two-inch-thick stack of ads in the newspaper yesterday. I briefly debated going out and getting a new TV, but I really can't justify the expense, nor can I say that the deals out there were all that good.

Plus, I'm getting a reputation as the guy who buys a new TV every year. Can't have that.

I made a list and checked it twice and there was nothing worth my time and effort this year.

Anyway, I know that Bernie needs a new computer. She's been using my 5 year old hand-me-down PC ever since we got married, and while it's still working fine, it's a little slow for her.

So I looked in the ads and no one has a great deal on a desktop PC this year! The best one I could find was Office Depot had a HP Dual-core system for $399, and that's just not cheap enough to justify getting up at 4 am.

I ended up going online and finding a Lenovo IdeaCentre with slightly better specs for $437 and free shipping, so Bernie's getting her new computer for Christmas after all. I think we'll keep the old one around for her Dad to use when he comes to visit sometime next year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free baking tip

Take it from me, this made a world of difference, sort of like when the guy who invented the wheel showed it off to his friends.

Baking tip:
When rolling out dough, roll between two pieces of plastic wrap.

That one tip changed my world tonight. Wow. No more flouring the countertop and tearing the dough on the rolling pin. Plastic wrap. Like, wow. Whoda thunk it?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Char Siew is the word of the day

Since the Tar Heels, Panthers, and my fantasy football team have all decided to go into the tank this weekend. I needed a cheer-up. So, in the name of cleaning out the freezer, I turned all the pork into Char Siew, which is Chinese BBQ pork, and one of my favorite things in Malaysia.

Especially Seremban Siew Paus, which are flaky buns filled with minced Char Siew pork. Ahhh...Malaysia. I miss it so.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nearing the beginning

As of today, I have 10 days left in which I can eat 'normally'. Meaning, like I always have eaten.

As of Nov 30, I am on a liquid, high-protein diet. With raw veggies as my only solids.
This will continue for two weeks, when I check into the hospital for my gastric bypass surgery.

Following surgery, I will be ingesting only ice chips for two days, followed by clear liquids for a week (including soluble protein powder, 70g a day), followed by thicker liquids for another week or two. Then I get to eat pureed foods only, 1/4 cup each meal (if I can handle that much, which most people don't) for a few more weeks, following which I can have soft foods in the same amounts for about a month. After that, I can start working in foods that require a little bit of chewing, but the 1/4 cup quantities will be all that I will be able to fit into my stomach for the better part of a year.

The upshot of this is that by the time I work up to eating semi-normal foods in 1/2 cup sized meals, I should have lost approximately 120 pounds of excess weight.

Thanksgiving dinner will be, almost literally, my last supper.

I consider this to be a fitting end to a lifetime of unhealthy habits and the beginning of a new lifetime of new rules.

Say goodbye to the fat guy while he's here, everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Removing some Blogs from my list

I hate Facebook. I really do.

I once had friends that kept blogs. Since I moved from Raleigh, this was my only way to really keep up with how they were doing, what they were thinking, etc.

When they all joined facebook, I realized that this would be the end eventually, and, unfortunately, it's come true. Now, instead of being able to read about the important things that happen to them in life, or getting their true feelings on current events, I get a one-sentence feed of their grocery trips, moods, what they had for lunch, and generally very little of interest.

Unfortunately, this has also stunted my interest in posting on my blog, and thus, you see fewer posts from me.

I'm pledging to reverse that trend and try to post more often and even when I have little to actually say, I'm going to try to be creative and get on with my story.

In the meantime, I'm going to remove the 'dead' blogs from my blogroll. With much sadness and regret. I'm afraid the popularity of facebook and twitter spell the end of the blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Bernie and I discovered on Monday that we had a football-free weekend, so we sort of looked at each other and said "Let's go to Cherokee and gamble!" So I got us a cheap hotel room for Saturday night and we drove up there. Turns out there was a hot-rod show going on so we got some unexpected entertainment looking at all the old cars. We played lots of slots, lost a little money, and had a good time.

We're just getting home now after a long drive. Funny how the drive home seems 10x longer than the drive up there.

PS: We got gas for $2.15 a gallon in South Carolina on the way home.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Twenty Years' Hard Labor - Part II

Gary awoke on the cold, steel bunk. To the right of the cell, he could hear the noise of the security door being opened. It was still dark, but his eyes had adjusted to the darkness and he could see a dim shape approaching his cell, accompanied by the noise of a metal cart. The light of his cell abruptly snapped on, blinding him.

"Prisoner to the front of the cell!" shouted the guard.

Sleepily, Gary swung out of the bunk and shuffled to the front of the prison cell. Yesterday, he had been transferred to the state penitentiary. He hadn't heard from his lawyer in three days and assumed the worst.

"What's happening now?" he asked.

"Turn around so I can cuff you." said the guard. As he did so and the cuffs were fastened on his wrists, the guard said, "This gentleman here will be escorting you to the infirmary where you can be outfitted to begin serving your sentence."

Gary looked over his shoulder and saw that the guard was accompanied by an orderly with a hospital gurney. He turned around and saw that the gurney cart came equipped with restraints for his arms and ankles. A sudden wave of fear washed over him as he realized where he was going and how little time he had left as a living, thinking human being.

"Hey, that won't be necessary. I'll come quietly. I can walk - you can even put the leg shackles on me!" he pleaded.

The guard shoved the cell door open and put Gary in a restraining hold. "I assure you," said the orderly, as he stuck a needle into Gary's arm, "the cart is absolutely necessary, and you won't be walking."

The world swam around Gary's head. In his panic, he tried to fight out of the guard's grip, but he could feel his muscles going slack. Everything grayed out.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

UNC Blows out Boston College

45-24 (BC's last 7 was a end of game gift). This was a satisfying victory, with UNC claiming 3 more interceptions (leads the country), and Hakeem Nicks scoring 4 touchdowns.

PS: Next installment of "Twenty Years' Hard Labor" tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Twenty Years Hard Labor - Part I

I've been reading an anthology of horror stories - all about zombies.

So I'm inspired to try to write my own "living dead" story, and I've decided to write it on this blog. Hope y'all enjoy it.


“Twenty years of hard labor. Bailiff, escort him out of the courtroom.”

Gary sat in stunned silence. He looked over at his lawyer and received a sorrowful look for his trouble.

“Look, Gary, we can appeal. I’ll file it right away. We can probably get you out on bail while you wait for it to be heard. We will beat this thing, OK?”

Gary nodded, his mind whirling. Don was supposed to be the best, but from the first moment Gary had stepped in the courtroom two weeks ago, nothing had gone as the lawyer had told him it would. He felt the world crashing down around him now, and his legs were so shaky he needed help from Don and the bailiff in order to stand up and walk around the defendant’s table.

“You going to be okay, Gary?” the lawyer asked.

“No. I’m going to have the life sucked out of me - even though I’m innocent. Of course I’m not going to be okay!” Gary said sharply.

“I’ll come to see you tomorrow morning so we can sign the appeal papers,” said Don. “I’ll have you out on bond before they can chip you, okay?”

“Sure, whatever.” Gary replied. He turned his back on the lawyer and looked at the bailiff. “Let’s go.”

The bailiff clamped one cuff around Gary’s wrist, put his arms behind his back, and fastened the other cuff. Gary could feel the chill of the cold metal and realized that in a couple of days, coldness might be the only thing he would be able to feel. He shivered. Together, he and the bailiff walked slowly to the holding cell that would be his home for the next 24 hours.

“Twenty years as a zombie…” said the bailiff. “hope you enjoy it. The girl you killed wasn’t much older than twenty.”

“I…didn’t….kill….anybody, you moron,” growled Gary. “I was going to marry that girl, in case you weren’t paying attention at the trial. I am the last guy who would want to hurt her!” Now his thoughts turned to Mary Ann and the night he came home and found her lying on the kitchen floor of their apartment, broken and bloody.

“So you’re innocent, just like everybody else, huh?” snorted the bailiff. “If I had a dime for every ‘innocent man’ we send to the graveyard shift, I’d be rich.”

They reached the cell, and the bailiff closed the door. Gary turned around so he could unfasten the cuffs through the bars. “See ya around, zombie!” taunted the bailiff, spinning the cuffs on his finger as he walked away.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Triple-Birthday Party

We had a birthday party for my Mom, my grandfather Carlton, and his friend Anne today at our house. Bernie did most of the work, but I contributed a mess of grilled chicken wings using the famous family rib rub and secret sauce, and some mini-barbeque sandwiches. Bernie made some Gyro-ish rollups using tzatziki sauce, chopped olives, and feta cheese, and she also made her Parmesan cheese puffs and some molasses cookies, and we served some store-bought mini-quiches and fried wontons. My sister brought some homemade mac & cheese and her patented devilled eggs.

We got an ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins. Mango Sophistication, no less. It was awesome, but I had to cut it with the electric knife, it was so hard.

We kept the nephews entertained with the Wii and some toys and a gingerbread halloween house.

Add in a big Panthers victory, and it was a pretty good day.

PS: I'm going to be selling my "Rib Rub & All-purpose BBQ Spice" at Bernie's craft fair next month.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dim Sum

We went to the Dragon Garden for Dim Sum this morning. Got there right as they opened up and took the first table. Bernie and I resolved last night that we would limit ourselves to just one fried item - all the rest would be steamed. Sum...EVER!!!
(note: pictures are not of the actual food we ate)

Shumai, Chicken Gyoza, Pork Potstickers, Short Ribs, Tofu-skin dumplings, Taro puffs. Yum!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nothing to See Here

Sorry folks, not much to talk about this week. I promise that I'll post something as soon as I get over this writer's block.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

VP Debate - Palin vs. Biden


I really wanted there to be some entertainment value from this debate. There was none.

The good news is that Palin held her own and did a lot to dissipate the hate-filled disparagements of her intelligence that have gone on all week.

I can't wait to hear what the fact-checkers are going to come up with from Biden's statements. I don't think he has McCain's voting record memorized like he pretended.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Incredible Charlotte Factoid

I was reading the local news website and ran across this statement:

According to CMPD, 80 percent of all crime in Charlotte can be linked to just 400 criminals who repeatedly walk out of the county jail and go back to committing crimes.

Wow. I knew that the courts were slack here in Charlotte, but that statistic is just amazing.

Maybe we should do what some cities do with homeless people - buy them a one-way ticket to some other city across the country.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Concert Accomplished!

The first concert as a member of the Charlotte Concert Band is complete. Despite no one in Charlotte being able to leave home due to a lack of fuel, we had pretty decent attendance. The new tuxedo held up and so did my lower lip. The key that I had fixed on my sax is sticking again, however. I think I need to spend an hour on saxophone maintenance sometime soon.

Secondly, the Tar Heels managed to beat Miami in Miami today. The season seems to be looking upward again, despite losing our starting QB last week. We're 3-1 and have a good chance to finish with 7 or 8 wins if everything stays normal.

Thirdly, I got The Force Unleashed for the Wii today. This is the lightsaber game I mentioned months ago. My arm is already sore from hacking and slashing, but this game ROCKS! I totally need online partners to duel with.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'll Be There For You

I've got this damned Bon Jovi song stuck in my head, and worse! My brain keeps thinking of new lyrics for the chorus.

I'll be there for you...these my words I swear to you
When you breathe, I wanna be the air for you...

New versions:
When you sit, I wanna hold the chair for you
If you're naked, I'll strip down bare for you
If you've got a quarter, I'll call someone who cares for you
If you pick the truth, you know I'll do the dare for you
If you go deaf, you know I'll swab your ear for you
If you cheat, I'll lie and say it's fair for you
If you drive, you know I'll shift the gear for you
If you're dirty, you know I'll wash your hair for you
If you play, you know I'll shout a cheer for you
If you cave, I'll look out for a lair for you
If you ride a stallion, you know I'll ride the mare for you
If you're a child, I wanna be the au pair for you
If you want steak, you know I'll cook it rare for you
If you're up, you know I'll take the stairs for you
If you die, you know I'll shed a tear for you
On Halloween, there's nothing I won't wear for you
You go to jail, you know I'll wait a year for you
If you get old, I'll dye my hair grayer for you
If you get mooned, I'll bare my derriere for you
If you paint, I'll go and rent a sprayer for you
If you want, I'll listen to John Mayer for you
If you hunt, I'll track down all the deer for you
If you fly, I'll pilot a new Lear for you
If you drink, I'll buy up all the beer for you
If you want cheese, I wanna buy gruyere for you
If you're bored, I'll watch Fresh Prince of Bel Air with you
If you like Dune, I'll be Jose' Ferrer for you
On Halloween, I'll give the kids a scare for you

Someday, they'll come up with a cure for this condition.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Three Hours and I'm Worn Out

I was admitted into the Charlotte Concert Band on Tuesday night, and participated in 3 hours of rehearsal for a concert taking place in two weeks. My lower lip is worn out. After 2 1/2 hours, it felt like a piece of leather that was nearly bitten in half. Then we played a song where the alto sax part had no rests. None. Zero. For the whole song. While they are playing, band members are usually thinking "please don't stop us" to the director. During this one, I was thinking "For the love of God, please cut us off!"

I had a blast, though. During my four days of frantic practicing, I only think I got back about 50% of my formerly mad skillz on the sax. Last night, I got to 65% after an hour. The first chair sax player wasn't there, but the rest of the section told me that she's one of those "unique" personalities and that meeting her would be an experience. I've met lots of musicians in my time, and I bet I won't be too surprised.

I need to get a spring replaced on my sax and the director gave me the number of a guy who can fix it. In Charlotte, there apparently aren't many places that do instrument repair in-house. I'm spoiled by my years in Raleigh where I could drive down the road to Marsh Woodwinds and talk saxophones and music with Rodney and the guys while they worked on my horn. How can a much bigger city like Charlotte lack so many things that Raleigh has?

Anyway, I'm happy to be back playing music again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Charlotte - Home to Green Lanterns

Okay, call me a geek if you must...I just think it's weird that not one but two people with the same names as the superheroes named Green Lantern just happen to be prominent citizens of Charlotte NC.

All we need now is a Charlotte Bobcat player named Guy Gardner.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

From Geek to Band Geek...again

Those of you who know me probably are aware that my social life, outside of my family, has been virtually zero since I moved to Charlotte four years ago. This week, I made a decision that should have been a no-brainer long ago.

I'm picking up the saxophone again.

I emailed the director of the Charlotte concert band, told him that I wanted to play, and he asked me come and play for him on Tuesday, rehearse with them that night, and play in their pops concert on Sept 27. I guess my resume impressed him enough that he's confident I can do that.

Now, I haven't played regularly since college (grad 1992), where I played in the wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, pep band, etc. Back then, I probably played about 4 hours a day, despite being a Biology major. I've played a few times in a temporary capacity here and there over the years since, but it's been at least 4 years since I last practiced. When you get out of shape on the sax, your lower lip loses the callus that protects it from your bottom teeth. When you first start playing after losing that callus, it hurts and bleeds, and eventually toughens up. Since I have a short timetable to get back into form, I'm practicing as long as I can every night. Yesterday was painful, and tonight it is not nearly as bad.

The director wants me to play Alto Sax, which requires more pressure to play than the Tenor or Baritone, which I have more experience with. This makes the job a little tougher and I don't expect that I'm going to be as good as I used to be right away.

It still feels wonderful to be doing something I know I'm good at, though.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Happy Birthday Dear Bernie...

I hope I look that young when I'm 35.

Love you, darling! :)

What in the Wide Wide World of Sports...

Go Panthers!

Aside from not scoring TDs in the red zone, I thought the Carolina Panthers played a pretty nice game today, beating the San Diego Chargers on their field with a last-second TD.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Official!

Today, I got the news I've been waiting for all spring and summer.

I've been approved for bariatric surgery. The operation is a go, and the date is December 15 - 3 1/2 months away.

I haven't wanted to blog a lot about this subject because I didn't want to jinx it, but now it's going to become reality, so I'll be a lot more forthcoming in future blog posts. I am committed to following the doctor's instructions fully, and also to put it all in this blog so that I can look back on it in the future. Hopefully, by documenting this process, I'll be helping someone out in the future.

Warning - Depression
First things first - when I committed myself to doing this, the doctor warned that many people get depressed while waiting for approval. He wasn't kidding. This summer has been almost as depressive as my last two years of college, when I had a huge problem with motivation. If it weren't for my experiences with depression before, and the ability to recognize it and deal with it, I'd never have made it through to this point. Being married to a wonderful, loving and supportive person like Bernie was probably the best weapon against depression anyone could have - and I've leaned on her heavily. I haven't come through this completely unscathed, though. My attention span and energy this summer have been a fraction of what I'm used to, with crabby moods and paranoia mixed in.

Things that help
What's really helped, I realize, is the C-PAPS machine that helps me breathe easier while I sleep. I've had it for two weeks, and my mind has gotten much clearer since I started using it. My back pain and neck stiffness have cleared up as well, since I'm no longer sleeping on my stomach with an arched back. I'm still having problems getting out of bed in the morning, but the reasons have changed - I'm doing a lot more dreaming before the alarm goes off. I think that's actually a good sign. I seem to remember that in my psych classes in college that REM sleep (dreaming) only occurs after you exit the deep sleeping stage where your body gets its rest. Dreaming rejuvenates the mind, and you don't get enough of it if you aren't having restful sleep.

Things that hurt
All the appointments and specialists that you have to go to in order to qualify for the surgery really take their toll on you emotionally. Basically, you are having to face the reality that there is something wrong with you and your behavior. The guilt from that realization is what really drives you down in the dumps.

Anyway, that's all over now. I have only three more appointments to keep before surgery - one for blood work, one for the nutritionist to drill the pre and post-surgery diet into my brain again, and one for the surgeon to look me over one last time before operating.

The date I picked is good for several reasons. Firstly, it means that I can have one last Thanksgiving meal before starting the two-week liquid/protein diet. Secondly, it means that I can convalesce over the Christmas holidays and use less sick leave/vacation time. Thirdly, it means that I can start the new year as a new man.

Things that motivate me:
I remember what I looked like when I weighed 220 lbs. I looked like a linebacker. I'm 320 today. I think I can expect to be 220 by the six month mark post-surgery. That'll be June 15, 2009. The surgeon says that I can reasonably expect to get down to 180 before I start leveling off. I haven't been that weight since I graduated high school.

I want to buy clothes off the rack at department stores again. Ones with sizes that don't begin with "X".

I want to be able to walk outside in summer without sweating.

I want to be able to sleep comfortably on my back without a machine - or a fan.

I want to tuck a shirt in without having to blouse it out over my waistline.

I want to be able to tighten a belt and actually see what hole I'm using.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Walked Right Into A Trap

I had an appointment for a EGD yesterday - something I had been told would only take an hour or so. When the appointment nurse tells you that it'll only take an hour or so, you generally start to think that you'll be able to walk in, walk out, and go back to work, right?


Okay, an EGD is an upper gastrointestinal scan. This means they put a tiny little camera down your throat and take movies of your espohagus, stomach, and maybe even a little further down. Wikipedia says that it usually involves them numbing your throat, ramming the little wire down, reeling it back in, and then it's over.

Armed with this information, I of course felt that the pre-printed brochure they sent me in the mail that said "You will be sedated. Bring a family member with you to drive you home" was probably an exaggeration, or a worst-case scenario, or maybe it was for people that were having some other, more unpleasant procedure being done to them.

Of course you know where this is heading. The name of this blog is a dead giveaway.

So, having fasted since midnight, I had a 1pm appointment. This is already not fair. I get checked in and they tell me to put on the little hospital johnny gown. Uh-oh. At least I got to keep my shorts on. At this point, I know my assumptions were dead wrong, and I get on the phone to get Bernie to come so she can drive me home.

Surely enough, they wheel me into a little operating room, shoot me full of knockout juice, and the next thing I remember, I'm sitting up and a nurse is handing me a Coke with a straw. There's no rum in the Coke, but I definitely feel like I'm two drinks past tipsy. I remember them telling me to go home and sleep it off, but that's about all I remember from my appointment.

When my head clears, Bernie shows me the little printout with the pictures of the insides of my digestive tract. It's empty, and having been starved all day, I'm just lucid enough to demand she take me to the nearest Chinese buffet.

That was my Thursday. How was yours?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I really didn't need to get hit with a stomach virus, but it happened anyway. Now I've used 2 sick days that I needed to hoard for surgery (whenever that happens).

I've been excreting black sand and water for 1.5 days. Yuck. Couple that with a mild intermittent nausea, and I think that adds up to a norovirus. Pepto didn't seem to work at all, so I started eating probiotic yogurt this morning, and it seems to be fixing the problem, so I can go to work tomorrow.

I haven't really felt all that bad, but when you gotta go all the time, you can't go to the office.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Travelling Weekend

This weekend, we drove to Wilson, NC to have a reunion with the members of my grandmother's family. Nothing really spectacular to relate - Eastern NC BBQ from Parker's of Wilson is still the reigning champion of pig cuisine.

We stayed overnight in Raleigh with some friends, Phil and Selena, and did some catching up with my friend Bert on Sunday morning, then we headed home.

We did too much eating during this trip. I feel guilty.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fitness assessment

Today, I had to get my fitness level assessed by the clinic. This is part of the requirements to qualify for surgery. Essentially, I was put on a treadmill and had to grade my effort on a 20 point scale at certain points of the exercise. Then I had to do push-ups. Then I had to show my flexibility by sitting flat with my feet against a wall and reaching forward to touch a sliding bar.

The treadmill scale was 1-20, with 16 being the point where you wouldn't be able to talk. I never got above 13 during the cycle, and my pulse topped out at 126, and was back down in the 80s two minutes after we changed to 'cool down' mode. I managed 12 push-ups (the normal kind) and I could have done more, only I had been leaning on the handgrips on the treadmill and my arms were partially asleep. I managed to touch the bar in the flexibility assessment, which the trainer told me most men couldn't manage to do.

All in all, the trainer told me I'm in pretty good shape, and I have a great attitude. She thinks I'll do wonderfully after the surgery. She was impressed that I've already started exercising and she even approved of the Master Cleanse that we did recently. She also told me that I have a lot of good dense muscle under the fat and that bodes well for not needing to have excess skin removed later on, as well as being a good indication of how much weight I can expect to lose.

Every appointment I've had during this process has been encouraging. I'm anticipating being fit, thin, and confident by this time in 2009.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

OK, 5 days.

I got through the morning of the fifth day, and finally got an urgent message from my stomach saying "get some food in here immediately". So I broke.

Lunch was the broth from some black beans we made in the crockpot + a few beans. Dinner was onion soup (veggie broth with sauteed onions and a splash of red wine), and I had a bit of a wheat roll before bedtime.

Today's been a challenge, because I'm in the bathroom a lot. I think it's subsiding, though. Breakfast was an egg sandwich on toast, lunch was a bit of meat on that wheat roll with mayo. I'm drinking a lot of black tea, based on something I was told at the bariatric support group the other night.

I've really noticed my face is thinner, by the way.

Tomorrow, I assume I'll be back to normal, and I'll devise a diet plan so that I keep the weight trend going downward. I also have a sleep study tomorrow night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Day Four

Four days on the Master Cleanse...only I can't drink the salt water flush because it makes me gag.

I'm not really in this for the cleanse anyway - this is for mental discipline purposes.

I kind of see this as a purging of the psychological need for eating. There's Mr. Eat-when-you're-bored over there, and I just had the master cleanse KGB agents throw him in the gulag. Mr. Eat-because-it's-time was executed and thrown to the dogs yesterday. We're still working on capturing Mr. Eat-because-you-smell-bojangles-and-you-just-gotta-have-it.

Anyway, it's day 4 without food. Yesterday was a real challenge. After dinner time (See how hard it is to purge the dependency on food? We define time by meals!) it was constant stomach growling and demanding food. Whenever you get that urge, you drink some of the lemonade, and it goes away. Reluctantly. The word 'satisfy' doesn't come into play here. The urge just goes away for awhile.

This morning, I noticed a difference in the mirror. My face is thinner. I can't pinch a lot of loose flesh on my face and neck. This is probably just 'water weight', but it is an encouraging sign nonetheless. I stepped on the scale and I think I've lost somewhere between 10 and 15 pounds in these four days. (Don't panic, folks. When you weigh what I do, that's not an alarming amount.)

Anyway - I find myself longing for the end of this experiment. The down side is that when you decide to quit, you still have to wean yourself back onto food slowly, so you can't just break down and get a cheeseburger. We'll see how much longer I can last.

My one goal is to last longer than Bernie. Even though she made it 7 days on the last attempt, she's having a harder time than I am this time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Second Time Around

Two weeks ago, I decided to ask Bernie if she wanted to do the Master Cleanse again with me, and we started it again yesterday.

I decided that I needed an exercise in discipline, so far as food is involved, anyway. Basically, fasting for 10 days (only drinking the lemon drink for sustenance) should break the psychological ties to eating that tend to derail my attempts to lose weight.

If you'll recall, I made it 1 day on this cleanse last time, while Bernie made it 7 days (we had a family event, so she ended it early). Today is the beginning of the second day, and so far, so good. I wasn't actually hungry at all yesterday - while I did have some mild urges to eat, they were based on habit, not hunger, and were easy to resist.

I'm intending to go all the way on this one - 10 days. I'm still deciding if I want to follow that up with a week or so of liquid diet, or just with traditional dieting. My rationale is that this will definitely shrink my stomach and break the habits of eating, so dieting should be very easy after the cleanse.

I've probably told everyone that reads my blog this in person already, but just in case you don't already know - I'm intending to have a gastric bypass at the end of the year. I've met the criteria, and have been going to various appointments to get all the prerequisites out of the way for insurance, etc. Once I've done all that homework, I can get on the schedule for surgery. The surgeon told me that the more weight I can lose before the operation, the better my chances are for having zero complications. Therefore, I'm trying to diet, exercise, and think rationally about food. I'm also practicing things like chewing my food better, so that I can be better prepared for life after a bypass.

I'll make a longer, more detailed post about gastric bypass later on.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Would Walk 5.8 miles...and I Would Walk 5.8 more...

Yesterday, on a wild suggestion from me on Friday, Bernie and I got up, put on our walking shoes, and hiked down the road to the place where I work. This is 5.8 miles, according to Google.

I was impressed. We got there in just less than 2 hours, so we averaged around 3 mph for the whole trip, and that time includes a 15 minute rest stop at the Matthews United Methodist Church where we filled water bottles and cooled off a bit.

Since this was a one-way trip, we had arranged for my parents to be standing by to pick us up, and despite not answering their cell phones, they found us and rescued us almost exactly at the end of the line.

We celebrated afterwards with lunch at Five Guys, and liberal doses of Alleve when we got home. We're a little sore today, but no real issues. I've been drinking water like crazy today.

View Larger Map

Monday, July 07, 2008

The July 4 Vacation

Well, we're back from our July 4 getaway! We took a long drive from Charlotte to Snead's Ferry, NC, back to Raleigh and Chapel Hill, and back to Charlotte, visiting many old friends on the way. We decided to take my new truck instead of Bernie's Elantra, despite the difference in MPG. This was primarily for our comfort, as well as to get some highway mileage on my truck.

First thing, we had a bad omen. As we departed on Thursday afternoon, while backing out of the garage, I ran over Bernie's suitcase. There was apparently some miscommunication over what "My bag is in the back of your truck" means, and some harsh words were exchanged. We only lost a little sunscreen that squeezed out of the bottles, and the suitcase was damaged badly, but deemed trip-worthy, and it will be de-commissioned following the trip. Eventually, we recovered from this episode and got on the road.

Following 6 hours of driving, one chicken and eastern NC bbq dinner, and two stops for cheap gas ($3.95 a gallon!), we arrived at Ron and Tammie's place. They live and work in Chapel Hill these days, but held on to their house at the beach when they moved. They keep a motor boat there at the neighborhood dock, which is about 100 yards from their door. Snead's Ferry is a town located at the mouth of the New River (one of the oldest rivers in North America), where it dumps into the ocean. There are three bodies of water important to this area - the river, the intercoastal waterway, and the ocean.

View Larger Map

We spent the day on Friday on the boat on the river. Ron and Tammie did some kneeboarding while the boat pulled them, and we stopped on a little sandbar island where we grilled hot dogs for lunch. I raked for clams and got about a dozen, which we packed in ice and took home. After treating our sunburn and washing off the salt, we had dinner - Ron and Tammie cooked fresh fish and shrimp they bought right off the fishing boat. We had grouper and flounder filets, silver queen corn, green beans, peel and eat shrimp, fried shrimp, and garlic butter shrimp.

After cleaning up dinner we all got on Ron's father's much bigger boat and went upriver to the marine base, where we dropped anchor offshore and watched the July 4 fireworks on the water. Bernie had been nervous about being on a boat for a long time right after dinner, but it turns out that Ron's father's boat actually has a little bathroom on board!

The next morning (Saturday), we all got up and went shopping for fresh seafood. Bernie and I had taken a cooler with us, planning on bringing back a bunch of shrimp, but we ended up getting shrimp, scallops, a tuna steak, as well as the clams I caught myself - all fresh off the boat and packed in ice.

After lunch, we said goodbye to Ron and Tammie and headed up the highway back to Raleigh. We stayed with my friends Phil and Selena at their new house. They've been moved in for about a month now, so we got to see all their new furniture and stuff. Their house made me really want a bonus room, because theirs is fantastic. We took them out to dinner at Sweet Tomatoes (really good soups there, I must say), and talked until we were exhausted and went to bed.

The next morning was Sunday, and we visited with Chris and Elizabeth and their children Athena and Marcus that morning, then drove to Chapel Hill to see my friends Michael and Emily and Rich. We had a nice long visit and saw the amazing renovations that Mike and Emily have done to their home since we were last there. We also got to see their youngest child Lucy, who was just an infant the last time I visited. After we reluctantly left Chapel Hill, we visited with my Aunt Les in Raleigh, then drove back to Charlotte in the rain and got home right at bedtime.

We really had a good time, even though that's a lot of driving. Today is Monday, but I took the day off beforehand, knowing I'd need a day to recuperate. Looking back, I think Bernie must have had a really good time. Before this trip, she was very nervous about going on a boat. She's also always a little self-conscious about visits with my old friends, because she thinks I might be homesick for Raleigh. In both cases, she did great, and I think she's happy with how well she gets along with all my friends and family. It seems like everybody loves her as much as I do, and she's just another one of the gang. I'm so proud of her, and I hope it shows.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Truck is Back

The truck has been fixed. They replaced a solenoid on an emissions canister or something like that in order to solve the "Check Engine" light. As far as the A/C goes, they can't find a problem. I know they tested it on Max, but really, the problem is when it is set to normal and the temp isn't consistent. I'm sure I'll have to take it back sometime in the future. (Sigh.)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Truck's in the Shop

The air conditioner in the brand-new truck hasn't been very cold lately, so I resolved to get it looked at under warranty at the dealer tomorrow. Exactly 30 minutes after coming to that decision, I started it up and the "Check Engine" light came on. Nice timing, truck!

I asked Bernie if she'd mind following me to the dealer in her car tomorrow, then dropping me off at work. Then I thought about it some more and decided we'd take it over tonight and fill out the "Late Owl" paperwork so they could work on it first thing in the morning and we wouldn't have to lose any sleep. Then I thought about it some more and realized they don't close until 7pm, and I could drop it off while they were still open and explain in full what's wrong. So that's what we did.

With luck, the truck will be back in tip-top condition and we can take it to the beach this weekend. I'm going for comfort over gas mileage, cost be damned. Plus, it needs some highway miles put on it - it's only got 4800 miles on it in 6 months of ownership, and I'm paying for 12,000 a year on the lease.

I hope they have plug-in hybrid trucks when the lease is up in 2010.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We Won The Lottery!

We won $12 and spent $10 to get it. Then we didn't get the Sunday newspaper we paid for at Bi-Lo later on, so it's a wash.

On another note, what is it about Jon & Kate + 8 that is so entrancing? Last year, I was addicted to Deadliest Catch. There must be something about TLC.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lucky Seven Samurai

I finally got through The Seven Samurai tonight, thanks to Turner Classic Movies.

I know that a bunch of us guys got together years ago at my place to watch this movie, but somehow, I don't think we got more than 1/4 of the way through it. I remember making jokes about the fatalism of the villagers at the beginning of the movie.

Of course, this brings together a few observations about this movie that pretty much apply to any Japanese or Hong Kong movie involving swords:

  • Any Asian girl who cuts her hair short will be universally mistaken for a boy.
  • Asian firewood burns like it's been soaked in gasoline, even if it's raining.
  • Houses in villages burn like they're made from aforementioned Asian firewood. Simply speaking the word "fire" around them is usually enough to set them ablaze.
  • Wrapping armor around the shins is mandatory, but shoes are optional.
  • Wearing short robes with sumo thongs underneath is apparently fashionable.
  • Villagers and Samurai alike tend to be angry and yell a lot. I attribute this to the sumo thongs.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekends Go By So Fast

We accomplished a lot of stuff this weekend, but it flew by so fast that I'm bummed out.

One invention, instant curry laksa mix (just add water!), has been vacuum-packed in individual pouches for tasting by our beta-testers. That's an accomplishment in itself because we had to learn how to use our vacuum sealer for the first time. The mix is pretty darn tasty, but it's got a lot of red chili in it, as that's the way I like it. We may have to make a 'mild' variety with less chili after we get the results back from the testers.

My prototype invention has been assembled and will be tested tonight while I sleep. The air pump may need to be upgraded, as the effects are subtle at best right now.

We got rid of the last of the charity donation junk, bought some yard materials, washed all the laundry, changed the air filters, and still found some time for a father's day lunch at the parents' place. Good weekend, but far too short.

Oh yeah, and tomorrow, I start drinking whey protein drinks for breakfast instead of going to McDonalds. This is the first step towards some serious dietary changes in my future. More on that later.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

We Are Experiencing a Lull

Still not much of entertainment value going on in this household...

Dad had his surgery and recovery is going reasonably well - the issues he normally has with anesthesia are progressing...normally, and the actual results of the surgery seem to be very encouraging. He's got better strength in his legs already and his pain from the shoulder seems to be gone. The numbness in his hands is better, too. We're hoping he's at least pain-free in the arm forever from this operation.

For those of you who haven't heard, Dad has spinal stenosis in his cervical spine. This means that bone spurs are growing inside the spinal column and are pinching the cord, causing pain and partial paralysis which will worsen if not corrected. He had one surgery before I got married 3 years ago, and the surgeon botched it, leaving a fragment of bone embedded in the nerve to his left arm, which caused him a lot of pain and he lost a lot of use of the arm. A second surgery removed the splinter and relieved some of the problem, but not all. This year, he noticed his legs getting weaker and numbness in his hands and he went to another surgeon who decided he needed to have two more vertebrae operated on. As I said above, it looks like it went well.

We've had a week free of cat puke after banning the dry food. The automatic feeder seems to be working reasonably well and has cut down on Trouble bugging us for food all day, though you can never completely stop a cat from complaining. Trouble still likes to sleep on the concrete patio in the heat of the day. We put the canvas back up on the gazebo to try to prevent him from frying.

I might get to the assembly phase of my invention this weekend, as I now have an acceptably powerful air pump and the radioactive isotopes have arrived (just kidding on the last part).

There is a little yard work on the agenda - I have to spray the crape myrtles before the japanese beetles arrive, and we need to remove the old weed-infested mulch from the garden and then replace it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Weekend Update

Not much going on here lately. Mostly looking for a new creative outlet.

Picked up the guitar again, practiced for a week and then went on vacation and haven't followed up with it since.

Thinking about finally doing the built-in bookcases for my computer room. It's been so hot here, that I'm not sure I could stand working in the garage, though.

Today, I had an idea for an invention. I went out and got some parts to put a prototype together, and if it works like I expect, I might look into a patent. I searched for a product like this because I wanted to buy one, but the internet has nothing like it being advertised for sale. So, maybe I'm the first guy with this idea! (and, no, I'm not telling what it is).

We're going to my sister's place for dinner tomorrow with the rest of the family, and I'm cooking beans in the crock pot, which is making the house smell really good. Ingredients: White great northern beans (dry), 24 oz of beer, water, tomato paste, dehydrated onion, salt, liquid smoke, and kecap manis (sweet thick soy sauce). I might add a little hot sauce tomorrow if it needs a kick. For the record, beans are great cooked with only beer and salt, but I decided to make it more like baked beans for the little nephews.

I bought an automatic cat feeder this week on amazon, and the cat boycotted the food for two days (Bernie was feeding him treats and giving him dry food, so he held out longer than he should have been able to). I stopped Bernie from spoiling him and he's eating from the new bowl now. It's a covered lazy susan with five compartments and a digital timer, and it rotates to a fresh compartment at each mealtime. This should solve the annoying "waking us up begging for breakfast at 5 am" problem. We hope.

All use of dry cat food has been banned in the house - the cat loves it, but can't keep it down.

That's about it - told you - nothing's going on down here!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Burning Popcorn Machine

Bernie and I went out for our "anniversary" dinner tonight. Our actual anniversary was Wednesday, but we obviously were not able to celebrate in the middle of the week, so tonight was the night. We went to see Indiana Jones at the local googolplex.

Of course, being me we're talking about here, some rookie concession stand employee figured that the popcorn maker didn't actually need any oil this evening, so with 15 minutes left in the movie, the fire alarms go off, the projectors stop, and everyone must evacuate the theater. We end up in the parking lot with a billion irate women being deprived of their "Sex and the City" premiere.

We do eventually get to go back inside after the fire department comes and turns off the alarms, and then we get to see the end of the movie.

(Seriously, though...the alarm goes off at the exact moment when Spalko is setting the skull back on the skeleton - the climactic moment in the movie - how likely is that to be a coincidence?)

Anyway, there you go. I can't go to a movie without a fire breaking out. On the plus side, I discovered on the way home that the local gas station stocks Mexican Cokes! With real sugar, not HFCS! Oh my gosh, that tastes so much better!

PS: Indiana Jones pronounces "Nuclear" as nyoo-cyoo-lar, just like the POTUS does.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Surprise! We Went On Vacation!

I just now realized that I haven't mentioned the vacation that we just went on and got back from in this blog. Oops.

We went to Puerto Rico and it was awesome. There's no time today to make a decent blog entry on it, and tomorrow is booked up as well with an after work program to attend and desperately needed grocery shopping, so it'll probably be Thursday before I can attend to this decently.

Trust me, though. We had a great time. Visit Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another Season Gone

When I looked at this morning, I saw that they had called the vote for David Cook by a wide margin. This of course contradicted the judges' commentary from last night, so I was looking forward to some backtracking tonight. I got it. Poor Simon had to make up some stories about the performances being closer after he looked at it on TV at home.

Well, this is the second year in a row I've called out the eventual winner early in the season, but it was pretty easy to narrow it down to the final two way back when there were 10 people still competing, so I'm not getting a big head about it - yet.

Congrats to DC, who was either sporting a new guitar tonight, or he just replaced his "AC" decal with a new one. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the guitar manufacturers signed him up to an endorsement deal this week, which would be a first for an Idol.

More observations:

  • I was entertained for two solid hours tonight (except for Jimmy Kimmel, the Pips spoof that went on far too long, and the "you are my brother" guy), and the performers were phenomenal.

  • The group numbers were all extremely good. I think they've been rehearsing for weeks while the competition was still going on in the other arena.

  • Brooke White had her "Idol moment" during her duet with Nash. On the final verse and chorus, the magic happened where two performers suddenly connect with each other, and you could see it on both their faces. This is why musicians do what they do, and it's also why they tend to do drugs - it's an amazing feeling and if you can't make it happen all the time, you look for it elsewhere.

  • I totally can't believe that Randy found an authentic Captain Kangaroo blazer somewhere.
  • Any doubters about the best performer between the Davids need only look at tonight's show. Cook was everywhere, singing harmony, singing lead, singing different genres of music, showing his incredible versatility. Archuleta isn't that great singing harmony, and can't do upbeat stuff, or move around while singing. I think Archie will be great someday, but he's got a lot of work to do in the meantime - he's got to become a musician to get to that next level.

  • Speaking of which - I nearly died laughing when I saw Cook's Guitar Hero commercial. In Archie's version, he was wearing shorts - such a Mormon.

  • I'm going to have dreams about fronting for ZZ Top tonight.

  • Carly looks better each week, and now that the pressure's off, her singing is light-years better than it was while she was still competing. She's lost a lot of weight in 20 weeks.

  • I'd forgotten, as did most of America, how good Jason Castro is when he's in his comfort zone. I read last week that he had been on stage only twice before he auditioned for American Idol, and only learned the guitar two years ago. He's got work to do, but he came a long way really fast, and experience could turn him into a force to be reckoned with in the future.

  • Did it look to any of you like when the fireworks started raining down at the end that the stage managers rushed the Idols into the audience rather quickly? Think that was a snafu?

  • Damn, George Michael is amazing. I wish he'd get his personal act together. Queen should have signed him up to replace Freddie Mercury.

  • I can't wait for DC's CD.

  • It's a shame I won't shell out the cash for the tour, because it should be great - the contestants that lost this year didn't lose for lack of talent, they lost because they broke under pressure. Like Carly, I think they'll really amp it up without the nerves being a factor.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

American Idol finals

Personally, I liked David Cook's songs better tonight. Archuleta was in the zone, however.

I prefer someone that won't reprise something they've done before and chooses something new over someone that had their best performance in week 1 and milks it again in the finals. That's the difference between an artist and a singer.

No predictions. We'll see how the voting goes. I'll be happy either way.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

We're Sale-ing A-wayyyyyy...

Yesterday was the neighborhood yard sale, and we were both busy and lazy all week, so we didn't prepare as completely for it as we should have. We spent Friday night hauling boxes out of the attic and sticking price tags on stuff, and it was 1 am before we realized it.

The next morning, of course, we had to get up at 6 am and set up for the sale. If you do the math, that's only 5 hours of sleep. This will come into play later in this story.

The neighborhood didn't have this sale last year, so the last time we did this was two years ago, and at that time, we had just moved in and had a TON of junk to get rid of. This time, we were shocked to see that there really wasn't a whole lot of stuff to get rid of. I had various power adapters, and computer junk, an old PDA, our old weed-eater, a hedge trimmer, and that's about it. We had an old waffle iron and our old rice cooker, and then Bernie had various soft items like place mats, and we had a lot of old clothes. The rest was very small stuff.

Compared to our across-the-alley neighbors, we were strictly small-time. The neighbor's son works for 1-800-GOT-JUNK, and he's been cherry-picking good stuff from the junk they collect. He had several 35mm cameras, an electric scooter, potted tropical plants that came from a pro football player that got traded to New York, furniture, etc. People were backing up their trucks to their garage all day.

Anyway, we were let down by the neighborhood association, which had sent a newsletter item saying the sale would be published in the paper and that a charity was sending a truck in the afternoon to pick up anything we couldn't sell. In fact, neither item was true, so the traffic was very light. At the end of the day, I was surprised to hear that Bernie and I had sold $120 of stuff.

Strangely enough, she sold 5 or 6 Malaysia keychains (you know, tourist-type souvenirs) that she had brought home from our last trip. You never know what's going to be popular.

Anyway, we loaded up the clothes that didn't sell and hauled them in the back of my truck to Goodwill, then went to our favorite sushi place for a late lunch.

Interesting side story: We discovered our favorite sushi chef's Servsafe certificate on the wall. His name is Jackie, but we saw his Chinese name on the certificate, and it's really Zhao Qi Chen. "Zhao Qi" Americanized to "Jackie" - so he's Jackie Chen! (Chen is pronounced pretty much like "Chan", folks, so bear with me). Furthermore, Bernie tells me that "Zhao Qi" means "The real thing" in Chinese. That's just a pretty cool name any way you look at it.

After lunch, we came home and moved the remaining boxes indoors and collapsed in exhaustion. At this time, I was reminded there is a party across the street in two hours and we have to make a cake for it. Bernie gets started on the cake, and I decide that I need to make a contribution also.

A couple of weeks ago, I caved in to an impulse and bought the "As Seen On TV" pancake puff maker. I thought I'd try it out and see if it could make something for the party. After looking in the freezer, I saw only some ground beef, so I decided to make cheeseburger pancake puffs. Ground beef, dehydrated onion, ketchup, mustard, cheese. Darned if the filling didn't taste just like McDonalds! Anyway, the pancake puffs are the real deal - they came out very nice, using the normal old Bisquick recipe. I made a huge mess of the stove top in the process, dripping batter everywhere, though.

So after a quick shower, we dash over to the party, pausing in the process only to toss a soccer ball back to the kids from across the street, who manage to kick it over our fence three times in 15 minutes while we are trying to leave. I tell them they need more practice - but not here, because we're leaving and can't get the ball for them any more today.

Once we get to the party, it turns out to be a good thing I made the cheeseburger puffs, because the neighbors bring the kids along (the puffs disappear once the kids figure out what they were). A couple of hours later, we come home and decide we're too tired to clean up. I stay awake about 30 minutes before I can't keep my eyes open any longer. We've been on our feet all day since 6 am, on 5 hours sleep, and even though it's only 10pm, it's bedtime. Zzzzzzz.

That's a whole weekend of work in just one day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No Surprises

Well, it looks like AI's going to play out as expected.

Syesha had two good performances with her choice and Randy's choice of songs, and did as well as she could on the idiotic choice from the producers. Can someone please tell me why Lythgoe and Fuller would pick a dance track for a singing competition?

Archie had a good performance on Paula's choice of song ballad, a mediocre performance of the producers' choice of song ballad, and a bad performance of his choice of ballad...whoa, wait! He did something upbeat by his own choice? Okay, my mind is blown. Too bad he messed it up. I caught a couple of mumbled lyrics in there, followed by some shaky notes. I tell you, if he wanted to do something upbeat, he should have picked "Cherry Pie" or "Pour Some Sugar On Me". I know it sounds weird, but I think his voice would actually work in hair metal music.

David Cook was 2 for 3 for me tonight. Simon's choice was a challenge with "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", and he mashed it up pretty darn well. David's choice was only average, and he was off-pitch quite a bit while singing it. (Dunno why David doesn't do well if he's the one picking the genre). His last performance was "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" with Diane Warren in the audience, and he faked everyone out by starting with the orchestra accompaniment and stuck with it much longer than Aerosmith's version, sticking the bridge in before the chorus and finally rocking out on the chorus at the very end.

It'll be the Davids next week.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Song Choices and How I Would Have Done It

I've gotta say, I've been HUGELY disappointed with song choices all season on American Idol. Aside from David Cook and Kristy Lee Cook at the end of her run, I don't think we had anyone make a well-considered musical choice on any show.

So with that in mind, I'm going to lay out how I would have chosen songs for each Idol this season.

Top 12- Lennon/McCartney:

Singer Song Choice Better Choice Comments
Chikezie Eze "She's A Woman" "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window " He could have wailed on this one
David Archuleta "We Can Work It Out" "Day Tripper" I can actually hear his vocals working on this up-tempo song
David Cook "Eleanor Rigby" "Eleanor Rigby" This was the good choice of the night and the first indication that DC was special
David Hernandez "I Saw Her Standing There" "And I Love Her" He should have stuck with Beatle ballads
Jason Castro "If I Fell" "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
He's the only one that can pull off the slightly more twisted Beatles songs.
Michael Johns "Across The Universe" "Why Don't We Do It in the Road? " Michael really needed an injection of testosterone at this point in the competition
Amanda Overmyer "You Can't Do That" "I Saw Her Standing There " A much more appropriate song for her voice
Brooke White "Let It Be" "Let It Be" One of only three decent song choices that night
Carly Smithson "Come Together" "Penny Lane " This early in the season, she needed to show a softer side of her vocals
Kristy Lee Cook "Eight Days A Week" "Yesterday " Anything's an improvement over that hoe-down version of "8 days a week"
Ramiele Malubay "In My Life" "The Long and Winding Road " This would have been more memorable
Syesha Mercado "Got To Get You Into My Life" "Got To Get You Into My Life" The last good song choice of the evening

Top 11 - Beatles:

Singer Song Choice Better Choice Comments
Chikezie Eze "I've Just Seen A Face" "I Got A Feeling" Good song for belting out his baritone vocal
David Archuleta "The Long And Winding Road" "Do You Want to Know a Secret " The girls in the mosh pit would love this one
David Cook "Day Tripper" "Come Together " I'd love to hear what he'd do with this song
Jason Castro "Michelle" "All I've Got to Do " Guitar strumming, happy-go-lucky, head bobbing. It's Jason all over.
Michael Johns "A Day In The Life" "I'm Only Sleeping " Good, laid back song with strong melody line in his range
Amanda Overmyer "Back In The U.S.S.R." "Back In The U.S.S.R." Good choice
Brooke White "Here Comes The Sun" "Hey Jude" Piano song.
Carly Smithson "Blackbird " Blackbird Good choice
Kristy Lee Cook "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da " She'd have been much more memorable with an uptempo song like this
Ramiele Malubay "I Should Have Known Better" "I'll Cry Instead " Upbeat and in her vocal range
Syesha Mercado "Yesterday " "I Should Have Known Better" This was a much more appropriate song for Syesha than Ramiele

Top 10 - Birth Year:

Singer Song Choice Better Choice Comments
Chikezie If Only For One Night - Luther Vandross No change Chikeze sounded good on this one
David Archuleta
You're The Voice -John Farnham Cherry Pie - Warrant Admit it, if he'd actually sung this, you'd be a fan, right?
David Cook Billie Jean -Michael Jackson No change This was his breakthrough moment of the season
Jason Castro
Fragile -Sting Faith - George Michael Upbeat, guitar strumming song. Right up Jason's alley
Michael Johns We Will Rock You /We Are The Champions- Queen No change I can't blame him for trying Queen after his triumph in Hollywood
Brooke White Every Breath You Take - The Police No change The judges liked it, so I don't see a reason to change it
Carly Smithson Total Eclipse Of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler No change Good song for her, but not so good performance.
Kristy Lee Cook God Bless The U.S.A. - Lee Greenwood No change This was the moment she turned it all around
Ramiele Malubay
Alone - Heart I Think We're Alone Now - Tiffany The cuteness factor of her singing this song is irresistable
Syesha Mercado If I Were Your Woman - Stephanie Mills No change I actually liked this.

Top 9 - Dolly Parton:

Singer Song Choice Better Choice Comments
David Archuleta Smoky Mountain Memories Great Balls Of Fire Dolly actually recorded this one. He'd have impressed me if he'd have chosen it
David Cook Little Sparrow No Change
Jason Castro Travelin' Thru No Change
Michael Johns It's All Wrong, But It's All Right No Change
Brooke White Jolene Me and Little Andy This song is so sad that Brooke would have made Simon cry
Carly Smithson Here You Come Again No Change
Kristy Lee Cook Coat Of Many Colors No Change
Ramiele Malubay Do I Ever Cross Your Mind Jolene She needed a strong song in her mid-range with some attitude
Syesha Mercado I Will Always Love You No Change

Top 8 - Inspirational Songs:

Singer Song Choice Better Choice Comments
David Archuleta Angels - Robbie Williams No Change Excellent Choice
David Cook Innocent - Our Lady Peace I Believe I Can Fly - R. Kelly His smoky low range would work well here.
Jason Castro Over The Rainbow - Israel
No Change Jason's best song all season
Michael Johns Dream On - Aerosmith Eye Of The Tiger - Survivor Dream On isn't inspirational. Eye of the Tiger makes you want to work out.
Brooke White You've Got A Friend - Carole King I Can See Clearly Now - Johnny Nash Slightly less predictable and it's got a little beat to it
Carly Smithson The Show Must Go On - Queen The Rose - Bette Midler Replacing depressing with inspirational.
Kristy Lee Cook Anyway - Martina McBride No Change She really performed this one well
Syesha Mercado I Believe - Fantasia Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves Getting her out of the Diva copycat business. This is a fun song, too.

Top 7 - Mariah Carey:

Singer Song Choice Better Choice Comments
David Archuleta When You Believe No Change One of the few times I liked what he sang
David Cook Always Be My Baby No Change This was a triumph. He could have recorded this.
Jason Castro I Don't Wanna Cry No Change For Jason, this was pretty good.
Brooke White Hero Through the Rain This would have been perfect for her understated style
Carly Smithson Without You I Still Believe I can't believe she didn't pick this in the first place.
Kristy Lee Cook Forever No Change Even though she lost the vote, this was one of her best performances ever.
Syesha Mercado Vanishing Vision of Love This was the one week she could be forgiven for singing a diva song.

Top 6 - Andrew Lloyd Webber:

Singer Song Choice Better Choice Comments
David Archuleta Think Of Me - 'Phantom of the Opera' No Change Archie had probably been saving this idea all season
David Cook Music Of The Night - 'Phantom of the Opera' No Change The bravo performance of the night
Jason Castro Memory - 'Cats' Crazy - Starlight Express This is the only song I can find from ALW that Jason could have pulled off
Brooke White You Must Love Me - 'Evita' No Change This would have been good had she not screwed it up.
Carly Smithson Superstar - 'Jesus Christ Superstar' No Change "All I Ask Of You" would have doomed her. Too bad she got voted out anyway.
Syesha Mercado One Rock n' Roll Too Many - 'Starlight Express' No Change Darn good choice. This marked Syesha's rise up the rankings

...and that take us up to two weeks ago. I've been writing for 3 hours, so I'll catch up on this another time.

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