Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Ike Contribution

Brad and I were all set and trying for this baby thing to happen before Ike hit. Then comes the flood and washes away all of our baby stuff save a few clothes that were able to float inside the bins. (I could not put the crib out until this week, sniff) So, of course Brad and I thought now might not be the best time to make another Smith and put the whole thing on hold. Then low and behold a month later a giant pregnant sign on the test stick. Ironic.

I just hit three months and am due at the beginning of July. Things are going well, if I feel sick I just eat and that seems more like a bonus than a sickness. We do not know what it is, but we all know Milo's vote. He wants somebody he can Kung Fu with, play transformers, and all other types of shenanigans.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Milo's announcement

Milo has an announcement he would like to share with you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oh my, oh my, oh Dinosaurs!!

During our week long Thanksgiving break we took a break from the everyday and went camping at Dinosaur Valley State Park. I was a little skeptical what with getting into the 40's at night and being pregnant and sleepy, but away we went. When we drive up we find 2 gigantic dinosaurs roaming the camp. I definitely did not sign up for being hunted and sleeping outside but Milo assured me that he would protect me. So off we went on a hike to find dinosaur tracks and staying down wind of the carnivores. About two hours later 4 soggy shoes from river crossing and a pound of beef jerky later we made it back to camp safe and sound. We ate the heck out of some hot dogs and smores then snuggled in to our sleeping bags as the temperature started to drop. After a fitful nights sleep with 3 people in two sleeping bags and no frostbite we set off on the adventure of taming the giant dinosaurs and having them hold still long enough for us to snap a couple of pics. Camping wasn't so bad after all!

MILO 3.0

So we celebrated the upgrade of our Milo model this past week. We were a little apprehensive at the daily reminders that an upgrade was pending. No matter how many times you click, remind me later, it always sneaks up on you when it's time to upgrade to a new version. We are hopeful that the Milo 3.0 will address the bugs of last years model, namely the whining sound that one hears when the CPU has been working long hours, or the constant needs for reboots when the system acts up. There was always the problem with the CPU overclocking and no matter how many times we try to downshift to a more suitable RPM, the hard drive is always on the verge of melting. Granted, we haven't experienced any bugs that haven't been reported in other makes, but you never know... though we do suspect the monitor is way larger than normal! Milo 3.0 is sure to be an improvement.

Here are some picks from the birthday bash

So we are officially posting this about 30 days after the event, but hey if you don't know to expect that so sort of behavior from us by now, well then welcome.

So Galveston wasn't exactly trick-or-treat friendly this year, what with the Ike arrival, so we accompanied a few co-workers of Brad's to a party in north houston and some family friendly trick-or-treating.

Milo demanded that he be a dragon this year, so Brad and I went dressed as burned peasants.. the pictures don't do the concept justice.

The picture of us carving pumpkins was from earlier in the week. Milo as usual hammed it up for the camera. All and all it was a spooky good time

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Websites with cool photos

Friends have begun sending us wesites with cool photos of the hurricane. We thought we would pass them along as well.

If we come across more we'll post them

The Perfect Storm - A timeline of Hurricane Ike

Preface (needed when you have been aloof from many friends for many years)

Karrie and I have been living in Galveston, TX for the past two years. I have been working on my PhD at Texas A&M University and Karrie has been teaching first grade at Rosenburg Elementary. When we moved to the island we purchase a beautiful home in the hopes that it would not only provide a great place to raise Milo, but that it would also prove to be a wise investment that could potentially pay off student loans when I finished (insert foreshadowing here). We have always lived with the knowledge that every hurricane season brings uncertainty with a dash of excitement but little expectations. Which brings us to the August of 2008!

Tropical Storm Edouard

Back at the beginning of August this little storm pops up at of no where and decides to target the Texas coast. Most big storms form in the Atlantic and then barrel into the gulf, Edouard just decided to be. For a storm that formed just a few hundred miles of the coast, it made us realize, well here comes hurricane season. But like most storms, Edouard teased us with it's storm tracks and ultimately headed strait for us. So there was an afternoon spent in my lab disconnecting all of the lab equipment, backing up the files, moving desks, placing equipment in cabinets, packing freezers, storing chemicals, getting dry ice for more freezer packing, and covering everything with plastic. I don't know if reading the last sentence was annoying, but it can't begin to emphasize how annoying it is to pack up a lab for a storm. Karrie followed a similar, though on a much smaller scale, protocol for her own classroom. Then there were the house preparations. We had to dig out the plywood and the window shutters and put them up on the exposed windows. We had these things since we bought the house, and have always dreaded having to use them. It is no fun standing on a ladder in Texas heat and having your wife or coworkers hand you plywood to screw in place while you pray they hold the too small ladder steady enough so you can get the first screw in before you drop all of the others from your mouth. All the prep and Edouard stands us up for the big date. Like most Texas landfalls, Edouard scoots east just enough that we experience little to no wind or rain, leaving us the joyful task of taking everything back down and unpacking the lab. Edouard couldn't have come a more inconvenient time... a week before a major conference in Canada that I am presenting at, and a week before Karrie has to go back to teaching. But at least we had our once a year hurricane scare and so we were good until next year... or so we thought.

Hurricane Gustav

A few weeks go by and Karrie and I both found ourselves gearing up for the beginning of another semester of teaching, when Gustav decided to sneak through the western Caribbean and slingshot into the Gulf. Again there were days spent looking at the colored computer generated storm track lines and they danced around the gulf as Gustav tried to make up it's mind. In the end it looked like a Louisiana landfall was the most likely and we decided that we wouldn't even bother to board up or prepare the lab like we did for Edouard. No we were going to sit this one out. Still, we watched as reporters descended on New Orleans and Katrina was replayed all over again in the Big Easy this time with a happy ending to replace the groin kicker from the previous edition. Gustav didn't even bring a drop of rain to our island, so we gave sigh of relief and joked how the storm that just formed off South Africa was the next one to drop by for a visit.

Hurricane Ike... the little storm that could

So after Gustav there was another lesser known storm that tried to break through the eastern Caribbean into the gulf but just bounce off the islands. Hanna was her name, and she hit like a girl. She was big, but just couldn't get over those islands and so she ship wreaked all along the eastern coast. This was all going on at the same time as Gustav. Well where Hanna failed Ike succeeded. Ike gained strength and then he just barreled over the islands and Cuba and then entered the Gulf in much the same way that Gustav had entered. It is at this time I would like to switch to a daily timeline of events to better chronicle what transpired. I am probably also going to switch a lot between past and present tense, and I am sure there will be some past perfect and all those other types of tenses that you learned in English class and have since forgotten...sue me.

Monday the 8th of September

Karrie and I are watching the storm enter the Gulf and we are trying to read the storm tracks like tea leaves. Every few hours the models are updated on, and every hour we think we have some notion of where this storm may go, and that notion is that this storm is going everywhere and nowhere because Ike can't pick a state and stick with it.

Tuesday the 9th of September

We wake up and check the models again and think to ourselves, well it looks like south Texas is going to get a kick in the teeth but we are going to be all right. As the day wears deciphering the models goes from reading tea leaves to trying to watch scrambled cable, if you squint just right you might think you saw some nudity, but then again it could just as easily been Dr. Phils bald head. We're not to nervous because the tracks have south Texas taking it on the nose, but the is always that one computer model that just isn't like all the others and makes you a little nervous.

Wednesday the 10th of September

The day begins ominous, the storm looks like it's going to hit Corpus Christi, but the weathermen, weatherwomen, weatherpeople keep showing these models with crazy tracks that look a little too close to Galveston for my taste. I went to work and so did Karrie with the expectation that we may be doing a little bit of evacuating, but that this storm is still moving and that the track will keep shifting.

10am - I check the models again, and it doesn't look good. More of the models are trending east towards us. Now's a good time to mention that I have been sick for quite some time. I had a really bad sinus infection or something and today I had the worst headache... it just pounded behind my eye and it was so bad that I was having trouble seeing if I didn't cover that eye. I am not feeling well at all and so I decide that I am going to go home and crash.

12pm - the scuttlebutt around the lab is that we are going to have to go through all of the motions yet again to cover everything up with plastic. No one is excited, and everyone thinks that just like Edouard we are going to do it all for nothing. I am passed out at home on the couch but am checking in with the lab. I really don't feel well and try to go to the doctor only to be turned away because it is packed, and I mean packed with people. I'm told to go to the emergency room if I want to see a doctor, but that I will be waiting there for most of the day and night before I get in... great. I take some Tylenol and some Benadryl and go back to sleep.

3pm - okay, Dr. Alvarado (my advisor) has given the go ahead and the school announces that there will be no classes on Thursday and that everyone should prepare for a hurricane landfall. I head back to the lab to help with the packing. Ft. Crockett (the lab building) suddenly becomes very crazy. Everyone is racing around trying to make last minute preparations to get everything done. We had done this same dance four weeks previous, so we kinda had our system down. But still it was annoying and tedious and hectic. Things were getting serious.

4:30pm - A professor in the building happens to mention that they just saw Jim Cantore from the weather channel setting up his feed in front of the San Luis hotel which is directly behind Ft. Crockett. "Jim Cantore, it's like being dealt the death card, he's never wrong." some other professor exclaims. Now it's dead serious. Now it sinks in... we aren't just going to get some wind... we are going to get a direct landfall. Dr. Alvarado gathers myself and the other graduate students together in my lab and we go through our preparation and where we are going. The checklist is given and we set about to finalize the lab.

5:30pm - Karrie and Milo pick me up from the lab. We had completely shut down the lab and dry ice was in place for Dr. Alvarado to grab what ever research/materials he deemed absolutely irreplaceable and flee the island. We head home to begin preparing our home. We beginning putting back up all the boards on the windows and screwing them into place. The storm shutters go up. The inside of our home looks like a hurricane already hit it, there are clothes and toys and junk everywhere. I look and feel like crap... Karrie is getting worried about me and asks if I have eaten anything all day. I haven't. She gets me to eat something, I can't remember what... but it doesn't help much... the headache is back.

7pm - We finally finish with our preparations outside and begin focusing on cleaning up inside. We still aren't sure when we are going to leave to head to Dallas where both our parents are. Karrie, who up until now was scheduled to teach a half day tomorrow receives a call informing her that her school has been canceled. We are both so tired and it has been such a long day that we must have appeared as zombies scuttling about the now boarded window dark end house. The headache is so bad that I consider spooning out my eye to relieve the pressure, Karrie prescribes more Benadryl and shuts the spoon drawer. We aimlessly disconnect our computer and try to gather clothes.

8:30pm - We engaged in the task of trying to put Milo to bed and trying to eat some dinner. Milo isn't cooperating at all and we are just so tired. We still think we will leave in the morning. There is quite a bit of stuff still in our basement/garage/enclosed ground level area. We're talking a lot of stuff but we just don't have the strength to move it all. Where would we put it, and at this point we're thinking if it gets so bad that the garage floods, our roof would probably leak as well and we would lose the stuff anyway, it's a stupid thought, but just the kinda thought you have when you've been sick all day and have taken large doses of Benadryl.

10pm - We watch the news and see our mayor at a press conference make the statement that there is a voluntary evacuation order for Galveston behind the seawall, but that she is recommending that we "hunker down" and ride the storm out since we have "missed" our window of evacuation and Houston will be evacuating flood areas in the morning. Karrie and I look at each other in horror. In our minds we see all those highways clogged like during Rita a few years back and there is no way that we are going to face that kinda traffic with a 2 almost 3 yr old in a car seat. We decide to leave now. So we begin packing clothes. I remember grabbing some clothes and doing last minute preparations and Milo, who didn't ever fall asleep, just running up and down the house yelling stuff because he is so excited mom and dad aren't making him get in his bed. Sheer chaos. We decide not to move anything out of the garage because we are frankly to tired and are facing a 5 hour drive to Dallas. There is no way that we are going to face that kinda traffic and we just didn't have the foresight to think about what insurance will and will not cover... we figure we have insurance let's just go. We each have three changes of clothes and we leave. We also leave our external hard drive, our camera, and all our files...oops.

11:30pm- I can no longer keep my eyes from closing, the Benadryl wins, and Karrie switches places with me to drive. Karrie is a trooper, and she pilots the prius the rest of the way to Dallas for our 3:30am arrival at her parents.

Thursday the 11th of September

9/11 passes in what we can only describe as a horror filled hazed. We wake up to reports that Ike isn't just gaining strength, no we're told that he is just gaining size. When we left the conventional wisdom was that Ike would make landfall as a CAT3 or 4 bringing a moderate storm surge. Today, they are saying Ike will make landfall as a CAT2 or 3 and that the storm surge will be 20ft because Ike is growing to a diameter of 900miles. What's worse is the track has Ike converging dead on with Galveston. We learn that the mayor changes her tune and orders an immediate evacuation of the island. "Certain death" is the phrase used to describe the result of those who stay. We both have coworkers and friends that were forced to work today and haven't yet left the island, we hope that Rita like traffic doesn't prevent their escape. We both have knots in our stomach and we have problems trying to fall asleep. At some point I take Karrie aside and we share a moment of reflection, a moment that is ours alone, but a moment that cements our resolve that we can endure a little longer.

Friday the 12th of September

We wake up to images of the Gulf of Mexico level with the seawall, waves are already coming into the city and landfall isn't for more than another 12 hours. Freak out doesn't begin to describe our emotional state. We travel to Sulphur Springs to see my older brothers new medical practice and home. Anything to try and get our minds off the storm. We make small talk and Milo plays with his cousins, but again we are both preoccupied mentally. We try to avoid the computer and TV, but we see enough to know that this storm isn't going to jog around our island, and we begin imaging worse case scenarios. A 20ft storm surge removes our house, at a minimum we lose everything in our garage to water. The crib, the washer and dryer, all the much stuff do we have done there? How much money is going to float away? $1000? $2000? Maybe $4000? We both try every distraction we can think of, but the ride home from Jeff and Kari's is a long silent one, and neither of us dares to break that silence. We go to my parents apartment and there we set in for a long night. Ike will make landfall around 2am, and we know it's going to be bad. Images from around noon had shown us a city already flooded, and we knew that our house was standing in high we could only imagine. I'm most nervous about my research in the lab... 3years of work that were suppose to lead to a degree and a life, suddenly could amount to three more years of work. Nyquil brings sleep, morning brings a rude awakening.

Saturday the 13th of September - Landfall

Ike hit the island square on. The 50mile wide eye passed over the city bringing an eerie silence and the second eye wall brought a fury that devastated the city. The storm surge wasn't as big as they had predicted, thank God, but the city flooded. Karrie and I have never watched so much weather channel only to be shown the same images over and over of the seawall and none of the city. Where's the fly over? Why won't they show images of the east end, how come nobody is showing us our city. All day we are either in front of the TV or on the phone talking with other residents. Nobody knows what happened. Nobody has a clue as to how bad it was. As the day rolls on our anger boils. Report some news people, give us some images... but no one does. The media coverage is all of the seawall and nobody reports on the rest of the city. Fear sets in about the lab when we realize how bad the storm was. We know that it survived without flooding, but we are hearing reports that the power went down on Friday and I know those freezers are getting warmer by the hour. The island looks bad and they aren't going to let people back on anytime soon.

The days following landfall

The days that followed were roughly the same. We scoured for information, found little. We would receive and make phone calls as the rumor mills ramped up. Everyone was in agreement, the media was being supressed and everyone feared the worst. Second hand reports would come off the island speaking of high death tolls and bodies. There were glimmers of hope from some reports that the flooding wasn't too bad in our neighborhood, but nothing concrete. We would hear tales of people sneaking on the island and stories of complete flood outs that would bring tears as we mourned for friends losses. Each day brought more desperation, my research was slowly dying in freezers and there was nobody trying to save it. Frustration was channeled torwards professors that left things behind in their own flurry to escape the island. Reports that the island would remain closed for weeks if not months only fueled the rage. Karrie and I schemed, oh how we schemed. There were too many phone calls to count, too many favors that were asked. We were both pushed to our breaking points. I left one morning to drive to houston, only to turn back we I saw the pitiful state that houston was in. No gas from madisonville down to houston on I45. Gas lines were a mile long, and the situation looked hopeless. I can't describe the feelings of helplessness that we both experienced. We felt like we should both be doing something, but there was nothing to do but sit. We both had so many questions that we couldn't find answers for. Where still being paid? Did we even have jobs? How are we going to pay our mortgage, and how will we ever sell our house? We choose not to remember much of this time... it was not happy, and it was not short. Days passed like weeks and we both lost our minds several times.

Tuesday Scheming

Monday night we finally received a call from a coworker of Karrie's who said that her husband who had been on the island once, would be returning again by boat on wednesday. We made arrangements to go as well, and in a moment of last minute preparations found ourselves in Spring, TX at a house with no power. I don't think I have ever paced so much in my life. I'm sure my shoes were practically worn through. The plan was to use a boat to sneak onto the island around 61st and then meet people with cars that could transport us around the island. Sounded simple. Well after meeting the other 2 people that would accompany Adam (karrie's coworkers husband) and I we found ourselves trying to repair a boat motor in a boat that had already been launched. I couldn't help but smile at the irony, but at least I could see the island. After about 30minutes of tinkering, we got the boat started but had lost our guide that was suppose to help us navigate through all the sandbars to get to the island. We tried anyway. The water was a little choppy that day and as soon as we entered the bay I received a call from Karrie that said they had opened a look and leave policy for residents to drive onto the island and she was heading down from north houston. You got to be kidding me! We discussed turning back but figured we were so close so we went on...only to ground ourselves on a sandbar. I jumped out of the boat to land in calf high water and push our boat got to be kidding me! After getting off the sand bar I convinced the other that it was better to just go back and drive on the island. By the time we docked the boat and met up with karrie it was already 1pm. We hadn't seen much traffic from the boat on the causeway...but that was almost an hour ago. And by the time we got to the 10mile exit traffic was at a standstill. We met up with a coworker in traffic and discussed plans to document damage and get stuff out of the lab (our true mission in all of this). We didn't get on the island until 3pm. Maybe we should have just gone by boat...but whatever. Karrie and I raced to our house to find a scum line that was almost over my head.

The water came within 2ft of our first floor. Everything in the house was okay... but the basement looked like a mud bomb had gone off. Everything had floated around and was deposited all crazy. And the stink was unbearable. The outside of house had seen better days and the backyard was a trash dump. We'll let the pictures speak for themselves. We grabbed our clothes and emptied our refridgerator and then got out of there. We had other houses to document for friends and we were in a hurry. They wanted us off the island by 6pm or else they would fine us $2000. We weren't worried about that, we even considered staying the night to try and clean the stuff up... but we had to get to the lab and clean it out. At this point the trip became a little...shall we say...upside down. My coworker who also had gotton on the island texted me to say they ran by the lab to grab a notebook and that they were leaving. I tried to text them and call them to tell them to stay but they wouldn't answer. They just left. That left out the possibility of sending the lab samples with them and staying the night to clean up, now we were in a panic to get everything done in time. We went by friends houses and took pictures and then we went to the lab. I have an electronic key card to get in the building...unfortunately all of the doors wouldn't read the card... they had been damaged. We couldn't get in. We called my coworker to find out they had a physical key but that they had already left the island. A can't count how many four letter words were shared on that phone call. We had come so far, schemed so much, and we couldn't get in. I had a nervous break down and called my boss who tried to talk me down. I wanted to break the glass door, but knew in doing so I compromised everyones research. Then the thought occured to me to try the second floor doors which were often unlocked. I searched for a way up to the 20ft to the second floor. I found a small antenna pole that wasn't attached to the building but was sort of cemented in the ground. I say sort of, because it wobbled like a pendulum as I scamppered up it and lept to the second floor.

I tried all the doors and they were all locked except the last one. I raced down stairs and let karrie in the front door. We emptied the freezers to find some of the samples still cool and placed them into the coolers with dry ice that I had brought. We tried to salvage all that we could. Karrie can attest that my hands were shaking and I was talking to myself the entire time. Later she would swear that I had totally lost my mind, but it didn't matter... a goal, an objective had been reached. Whether it will later prove to make any difference... we don't know, but at least we know we tried everythingwe could to save the lab.

Which brings us to the present

We are in the process of trying to get our insurance in order... we are pretty sure most of our personal property lost in the garage will not be covered. They don't like to pay for things if they have too. Texas A&M Galveston students and faculty are being relocated to college station next week and I'm not entirely sure what that will mean for me. Karrie has yet to hear any details from her school. So we are in limbo here. We both are trying to find things to fill our time...but nothing really does. They have closed the island and we aren't expecting a return for a number of weeks. You may think that it would be nice to have time off from work, but I assure you it is not fun. It is tedious annd boring, and mind numbingly dull. We don't wish to spend lots of money since we have no idea if a paycheck will arrive at the months end, so we sit and wait, and wait. We're thankful for what we do have, and we are hopeful of the future, but if we are honest with ourselves and others, we dread this purgatory in which we now find ourselves. Thanks Ike.