Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's a Mystery, It's a Mystery

Editors Note - just realized that an old draft of this was idea why.  Made a few corrections. Sentences cut off, bad formatting, etc... fixed  07-31-2010

Since I have had very poor lucky in getting a Woot Bag of Crap lately. I decided to do a Graveyard Mall Mystery Box.

Graveyard Mall is similar to Woot in the fact that they offer a different deal each day of overstock or damaged packaging products. Unlike Woot, they are not specifically tech and gadget oriented. Sometimes they have gadgets, sometimes home supplies, sometimes decor, sometimes clothing and sunglasses, sometimes comic books...they are all over the place. I've ordered from GYM several different times in the past and have both been pleasantly surprised and slightly disappointed.

I had seen the Mystery Box come up several different times but have never ordered it...mostly due to the fact that at $25, it was three times as much as a Woot Bag of Crap. The disappointment of not getting a bag of crap for a long time was starting to gnaw on me, so I decided to give the Mystery Box a try. The name Mystery Box is boring, so in my mind it became the Mystery Box of Crap. I figured this would help temper any expectations even though as I said about Woot's BoC, you are really just buying "hope" because you are most likely just going to get a box of crap.

After waiting several weeks, I was surprised at the size of the box and how heavy it was. Opening it, it was intricately stuffed with all kinds of items...stuffed, no padding material needed, there was no room and it was packed just right so that I wasn't able to come close to repacking everything so that it would fit back in the box. The funniest thing about the Mystery Box of Crap was the letter that came with it that said "Sorry, the Plasma TVs wouldn't fit in the box."  That in itself cracked me up and made the whole thing worth it.  Here is what I got for the money:

1) Russell Athletic Dri-Power performance fleece hoodie - black. I am not much of a pull-over hoodie are fine but pullovers are usually too much of a pain in the they mess up my beautiful hair. This is a nice hoodie, medium weight, supposed to wick away sweat to help keep you warm and dry. Also has the built in channels and openings for you headphones. Might be a good under layer for ice skating.

2) Jimmy Eat World DVD. A nice little live DVD with just a few songs on it. Looks like it was probably used at a promo or the CD get a free DVD type thing. Haven't had the chance to watch it yet, but I like Jimmy Eat World so I am looking forward to it.

3) Tree Frog Thermometer. Who doesn't love tree frogs and knowing what the temperature is? Combine the two and you have instant gold! I am actually using this product and it works pretty well, although it didn't quite stick the first time I hung him up and the fall cracked one of his legs (it is the thinnest plastic imaginable).

4) Emerson Research SmartSet Alarm Clock. This seems like a nice clock, sets itself automatically, dual alarm, jumbo screen, clock radio. If I needed an alarm clock this seems like it would be a pretty good option. Unfortunately, I already have several that I don't use anyway, so I gave this to my mom as she just happened to be looking for a clock for her basement. It is working great for her needs.

5) 10" Accent/Under Cabinet Light
. Not a bad light, not sure what I will do with it yet...maybe on my living room bookshelves. It would be better if there were two, but I am sure that I will make one work in some way or another.

6) Electric Pepper Mill / Wine Bottle Opener / Cheese Grater. I have a couple pepper mills and I don't have much use for a wine opener. Cheese grater might come in useful sometimes. Looks like it is a decent unit, although uses "C" batteries. I'm sure it needs the power of C batteries but C batteries are not something that I ever have on hand. Plus you know C batteries just seem like they should be used in something like a vibrator or something. It might get re-gifted to my dad who needs a new pepper mill and drinks wine.

7) Hanging Plant Elephant Bracket
. Originally I type "Elephant Hanging Bracket" but that sounds like something that you would hang elephants from and I don't think that this has the tensile strength to hold an elephant. It's cute and fun, I don't really have any hanging plants though. I gave it to my mom and she likes it and may use it in my niece's room.

8) Westinhouse StickUp Bulb. You can see from this packaging how full the Mystery Box of Crap was. This thing was shoved into a space in the box of Crap that it didn't really fit and the package suffered for it. The base was a little warped but the bulb and everything seems intact. It's a battery powered light bulb. Just stick up the base and pull the string...or not. I didn't seem that it also came with screws to hold down the base and even though I gave the string just a gentle tug, it all came crashing down. I think it will work great in my dark closet...once I decide to screw it down.

9) Rechargeable Electric Razor
. I don't usually use an electric razor so I can't tell you how this compares to others of its kind. I tried it out Tuesday morning and it seems to do an OK job. Maybe I will use it in the future if I need a quick touch-up to my manly Five-O'Clock-Shadow.

10) Sudoku game set. A hand-held sudoku game and a sudoku controller that you can plug into your TV. I like sudoku a lot, but I usually only play it on my phone. I might test it out and see how the difficulty level is as "genius level" on my phone usually seems a little easy now. If I don't care for it, I will probably give it to someone else that has more use for it.

11) Vent Filters
. This is a pack of vent filters...cut to size, place inside your vents and it filters out dust. I already use these on most of my vents. Now I have enough to filter my cold air returns also.

12) Open Ended Wrench Set. This is what formed the majority of the weight in the box. They look like nice enough wrenches although I have not tested them out yet. Wrenches are good, I already have several sets but I am horrible at putting the wrench that I used back in the proper place so it is always a chore to find the one that I need. I have also used them for unintended purposes like prying and hammering, so a few a little bent or beat up. New wrenches, I'll use them.

13) Pocket calculator
. A simple pocket calender where the keypad slides out like a slide phone. Nothing really special about it that I noticed but functional.

14) 20 Q Live game. Do you like to play 20 Questions but not have any friends? Then this game is for you. This is just a USB drive with the game on it, but the packaging is like 12 inches by 8 about a waste of packaging. Were they really that worried about theft? Or were they just trying to grab your attention. I haven't played it but the gist seems to be that you think of something, then you answer 20 questions from the computer game and it makes a guess at what you are thinking about. According to the box it "can read your mind"...whatevs.

15) Digital Voice Recorder. I really have no need for this. I don't record meetings and if I need to leave myself a note then I have my phone. Maybe I will give it to my niece to play with.

16) Emoticon Notepad. A notepad with a bunch of emoticons pictured so that instead of writing a message you can just check the emoticon that applies to your situation. I don't know it seems strange...seems wasteful to have a 6" x 9" notepad and just make a check mark. Plus I am pretty sure that it would take me longer to find the appropriate emoticon than to write a note. Plus it doesn't even have the dirty ones like:

( . )Y( . )

I would have had much more use for something like that. What is the emoticon meaning "Piece of Shit Waste of Money"?

17) Clock / Calendar / Key Holder / Voice Recorder
. I definitely didn't need to different voice recorders...or leave different messages for three sets of keys. This thing is just weird, I suppose it is nice if it is something you need but to me it seems pretty useless.

Not bad. Average price of $1.47 per item. It was fun going through all the packages to see what I got. Christmas in July...and like real Christmas you get some stuff you like and some stuff from your crazy aunt that you can't believe anyone would want. I still don't know if it is better, worse, or just as good as woot. What would do you think of the haul....oh maybe I should post a "haul video" on youtube just like a teenage girl.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One for the Underdogs

2010 Shuttlecock Classic
A couple weekends ago, top athletes from around the Midwest converged on Plattsmouth, Nebraska to compete in the annual Casa Albers Shuttlecock Classic. As highly trained athletes1, CT and I joined forces Wonder Twin style to take on the world. We knew the competition would be fierce, stakes were high, and the odds were stacked against us.

We were unafraid.

We knew we had the tools and we had the talent. Tools being a pair of badminton racquets and a black dress.

CT asked me earlier in the week if I wanted to attend a party / badminton tournament over the weekend...and I did, but I had prior engagements. I told him that I was unable to make it and that he should look for another partner...this was almost a disastrous mistake on my part. Luckily, my plans fell through and no one else was available so I was able to claim the spot of CT's badminton partner. It was at this point that I was informed that the tournament was following North Central Guatemalan Highland rules, therefore each team must consist of at least one female player, however, dressing as a female qualifies as a female player.

I was man enough.
Since it was Cam's invite and knowing that I would make a sexy chick, I agreed to be the female player. Originally, I thought that I would just wear a wig, or wear my normal clothes and claim to be an angry lesbian. I decided that if I was going to do something, that I might as well do it right - Executive Transvestite not weirdo transvestite. I headed to the Salvation Army Thrift Store to shop for a nice dress. Once I got to Salvation Army, I realized that I didn't have any idea what size dress I would wear and didn't want to be there all day trying on dresses as I am pretty lazy. I decided that I think that I am a size 8 and grabbed a nice black dress2 in that size. Good news! I am a size 8. With the dress in hand we picked up a couple Wilson racquets and were on our way.

Before I get to the tournament itself, I have to thank Chad and Ann Albers who host this party/tournament every year. Thanks for letting me come to such a awesome party - great food, great times, great people, and as many shuttlecock jokes that you can imagine. I had a blast! I was amazed at your many flavored array of Jello shots...I don't drink and still I was mightily tempted. Thank you so much for all the time and effort that you put into really did show through. Can't wait to see you guys again next year.

Racquets Clashed
The tournament started off poorly for CT and I. 115 degree heat index - it was so hot, milk was a bad choice3. Our first match was against a pretty good team...they were competitive and psyched up. CT and I hadn't been able to practice together beforehand, so it took a while for our competing styles of 'cock-handling to merge into a successful orgy of domination. This first match was absolutely no fun, besides our own errors, any birdie hit or served over the net was promptly spiked down on our heads. There was never a volley that lasted more than two hits. Hit, spike, serve, spike. With much clashing of racquets, near misses to the head, shots into the net, and nip slips; we lost our first match by a wide margin. Things were not looking good for our heroes. While watching this same team play later in the tournament, we were shocked that they were actually playing more normal badminton with volleys back and forth...evidently they just wanted to start off big and create an air of supremacy. Ultimately, I think this match actually helped CT and I to develop a good playing strategy.

Although still sweating profusely4, we had acclimated somewhat to the heat and felt better during our second match. After our losing our last match so handily, I thought we would probably lose this match and be out of the tournament. We started off slow and the score was always within a point or two. CT and I started coming together more as a team and slowly our confidence grew. We won! Not by much, but it set the stage for our rise to power.

There were a bunch of cocks..
Matches continued throughout the day, each match CT and I would get a little better and win by a few more points. It wasn't easy, but we continued to develop our strategy and each consecutive match went a little more smoothly. We played better and better teams...teams that made it farther and farther in the first bracket. We quickly moved up the ranks of the second bracket (losers bracket since it was a double elimination tournament).

Throughout the day and between matches, many people told me that I could probably take off my dress now. I had made my point and there were a couple other all male teams with neither dressed as a female, but I replied that I wasn't going to lose the tournament due to a technicality. Which was true...I follow the rules, but I also thought it was a little intimidating. All teams would try to talk some smack before the match but after getting beat by a guy in a dress, I think there was more than a little bit of humiliation to the macho ego. It probably didn't help when Ann came out and clipped a small white bow into my chest hair.

Around 9pm, it was a little over midway through the tournament. It was getting dark but the temperature was not really going down. Hot, humid and sticky with bugs and mosquitoes, our resolved started to fail. We thought how nice it would be just to stay inside in the air conditioning and relax...badminton be damned! We forged our courage for one more game and we won again. We decided that it was best to stay outside in the heat as much as possible because going inside into the air conditioning just sapped our will to play.

Spoils of War...
The tournament culminated at about 1:30am. CT and I emerged as the winners of the second bracket to take on the undefeated winner of bracket one. With the other team being undefeated and us having lost one game, we had an up road climb...we had to beat them in two matches (best of 3 games each) in order to win the tournament. I'm not going to lie, we were worried. One of our opponents was huge and had been spiking and ruling the court all day. He had a big enough reach that he could pretty much get most shots without moving. CT and I vs Goliath. The setting was ominous, dark skies with clouds and lightning rolling in. CT and I won the first match but it was close. Play was tough, it was dark and hard to see and the wind was very erratic; taking the birdie out of bounds on the tiniest tap one shot and then blow it backwards the next. We were versatile however and were able to adjust our play style to the conditions. We won the next three games by increasing margins. I really think that struggling in the beginning helped us. We learned and tried different styles allowing us to adapt to conditions and opponents.

At 2am, CT and I were crowned the 2010 Grand Champions of the Casa Albers Shuttlecock Classic. As champions we received golden shuttlecock necklaces/medals, a bottle of Fighting Cock Whiskey, and this awesome trophy:

16 Inches of glorious Eagle Trophy

Waiting to be called up by the USOC
This trophy will soon be engraved with our names. It is a traveling trophy, so we get to enjoy it for a year and then must return to defend it. We will be there...but just in case, I may make a mold of the trophy so that I can always have a copy and remember my glory days. CT and I are now waiting patiently of the US Olympic Committee to contact us for the 2012 Olympic team.

I was going to post this right after the tournament but was hoping to get pictures from the hosts. So far no luck, but if I do get copies, they will be posted. Plus my normal photographer moved to Arizona, so sorry that they trophy picture isn't as awesome as it should be.

1. Highly trained in this case meaning a former high school and college athlete and someone who has never played a sport outside of phys ed class...can you guess which one I am?
2. Every girl should have one.
3. How hot was it? From about 4:30pm to 2:30am, I drank about 15 cans of pop and several glasses of water and ended up urinating a single time all day.
4. Being a lady, I didn't sweat...I glowed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

Fiber One Commercials

Those Fiber One commercials where the people argue that the product can't have fiber because they taste so good are annoying but the newest one (I couldn't find it on youtube yet) is the worst.

Have you seen it?  They are doing a taste test outside for the Fiber One granola bars type thing and the ladies tasting them are like "How'd you do that?  How'd you make the fiber taste so good" and "You're a magic man, you made this taste like chocolate" and "Oh, this one has chocolate chips..."

 Tastes like chocolate?...That's unpossible!

Really?  You are surprised it tastes like chocolate?  The bottom is dunked in chocolate (or at least carob) and the top is drizzled with it.  I saw this commercial twice last night and each time I was even more pissed at how stupid it was.  Oats are pretty bland, if you add anything with flavor to them it is going to taste like that substance instead of nothing.  These types of commercials make the customer seems so stupid that I really don't want to buy the product at all.  Advertising: You're Doing It Wrong.

End Hate

Friday, July 23, 2010

Holiday Road Part 5 - the Conclusion

Sunrise over the Canyon
Photo by Jessica
click to embiggen
Jessica wanted to wake up early and see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon.  I did too, but I also knew that I would need more sleep to make the final part of the drive...I was still exhausted from staying up all night packing and then driving to Colorado 5 days ago.  I was torn at first, get up and experience the Grand Canyon or sleep...the deciding factor happened to be Sam.  If we both got up to see the sunrise, we would also have to wake up Sam and take him too.  I was not in the mood to deal with him yet, so I decided that I would go back to sleep after waking Jessica.  I woke Jessica at 5:30am giving her plenty of time to find a spot to take sunrise pictures at 6:30am...or so I thought.  Did you know that Arizona doesn't believe in daylight savings time?  I didn't, so it was actually 4:30am local time.  It was surprisingly bright for 4:30am, but it all worked out since the sunrise actually takes place around 5:30am.  You would think I would notice the difference between 4:30 and 5:30am but with the full moon, it was still plenty bright out for early morning.  Anyhow, it wasn't until we went to checkout of the campground that we noticed our clocks did not match that we realized that there was no Daylight Savings Time in AZ.  The nice thing was that for once, we were up and about earlier than the time we had to leave.

Hanging Out off the Grand View Trail
Photo by Jessica
click to embiggen
We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon going to various viewing spots on the Grand Canyon and taking pictures and just enjoying the beauty of the place.  Sam and I decided to do a little hiking on the Grandview Trail.  Although I would have loved to hike to the Horseshoe Mesa...we were not properly equipped.  No packs, no water besides the single small bottle that I brought along.  We went about a mile (it is about 8 miles to the mesa) before turning around, it was getting much steeper and the temperature was rising.  It was supposed to get 120 degrees in the canyon today.  My favorite quote was from the little park guide about hiking and said something like this "Remember that temperatures of 110+ degrees in the shade are common inside the Canyon...and you will not be hiking in the shade."  Jessica didn't join us as she was even less equipped...she was wearing flip-flops.  She did meet us a small way down the trail as we were climbing up, but I made her turn around because it was about to get pretty rocky...but I was proud that she at least tried it.

Toward the Horseshoe Mesa
Photo by Jessica
click to embiggen

We then headed back to the Watchtower because although Jessica and Sam had spent 40+ minutes there the day before when it was raining, somehow they didn't make it out of the gift shop and up into the tower itself.  While they checked out another gift shop, I decided to climb up to the tower's patio and enjoy the view and wait for them.  While waiting (much longer than I thought I would have to), I noticed this large bug flying around...and he also noticed me.  It was about the size of my thumb, black & white and had huge antennae.  Sort of like the Asian Longhorn Beetle pictured here but with more I didn't think the Asian Longhorn had made it this far West.  Maybe it was a Giant Mesquite Bug or a Leaf-Footed Beetle...I am not sure even though I got a pretty close look at it.  You see this bug was not happy with me, actually I am pretty sure that he was not happy with my Speed McQueen t-shirt.  This particular t-shirt was black with a with a white Speed McQueen logo.  I think the beetle saw it as a rival or a threat.  He flew and landed in the middle of my chest looking up at the logo.  I tried to gently brush him off...he gripped tighter, he reared up on his back legs, and basically started hissing or buzzing.  I tried to grab his antennae and pull him off, but he was gripping really well and now bobbing up and down.  Finally, I decided that I good solid flick was probably in order.  It sent him on his way but he flew around and landed close by...still glaring at me menacingly.  I decided it was time to go find my fellow travelers.

So peaceful
Photo by Jessica
click to embiggen
After looking at crap in the gift shop for way too long, Jessica and Sam finally headed to the Watchtower.  I decided to wander a little ways off the beaten path and just relax.  I went and sat of the edge of the Canyon and watched the ravens and swallows dive for flying bugs in the canyon and the geckos scamper around the rocks.  It was late afternoon, the sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and it was was so peaceful and the ravens were so graceful in flight that it ended up being my favorite part of the Grand Canyon.  Surrounded by beauty and nature.

Eventually it was time to leave and head South to our final destination.  I was sad to leave the Grand Canyon as there was still so much that I wanted to do, but I was also excited to get this trip over with...this move had taken up way too much of my life the past couple months.  I may have reminisced how it was lucky we didn't arrive at the Grand Canyon 4 days earlier because there probably would have been two more 'accidents' to be added to Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon.
If we'd arrived a few days earlier, this would need updated.

Most of the drive from the Grand Canyon was uneventful and Jessica and Sam slept 90% of the time.  It was an easy but fun drive...mostly downhill with lots of twists and turns and good speed limit....there was one point where the road straightened out and the speed limit dropped (which made no sense) and I was getting pretty drowsy during that stretch but it turned curvy and picked up pace again.

We finally made it to Phoenix (and no armadillo sightings...sadness) and my god is it a jumbled mess or interstates and highways.  Luckily, Shelia was there to pull us through.  When we first arrived at Jessica's new house I thought Shelia had made a mistake.  It felt like Boyz N the Hood (or maybe Friday?) - little stucco style houses, metal security gates on the front doors, and not so much upkeep going on, everything looked a little ragged.  I was expecting see Doughboy and some low-riders and hear AKs in the background.  It did not look like a house that five people would all now be living.  Once we got inside, I (and almost certainly Jessica) was pleasantly surprised.  The house was twice as big as it looked from outside and everything was pretty nice.  It could be a nice home.  We arrived on Saturday night but I didn't fly out till Monday morning...I honestly didn't think the family truckster would make it without any problems, so I built in an extra day into the schedule.  The family truckster performed admirably (despite the first day and the blown fuse).  It was nice to actually have a day that we didn't have to do anything or be anywhere.  I took Jessica out to eat one last time.  We went to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and had a great meal.  Hopefully that helped make up for me having her take me to Mortons Steakhouse in St Louis for my birthday a few years ago (the original holiday road).

Jessica I wish you the best of luck in life.

Day 5: ~250 miles, ~4 hours drive time, 
0 armadillos seen (mission failure), 
0 people killed on the trip (mission success) 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

Idolizing Criminals

There are few people that deserve to be idolized - people that are positive and do good things for the world and for their fellow man.  I wish there were more but it is very difficult to become well known by being a good person.  Unfortunately, we then turn to idolizing people who are just well-known like rock stars, sport stars, and celebrities.  Most of these people do not deserve your hero-worship.  By setting them above all others most people tend to then idealize their idols.

I always laugh when others are shocked that so and so celebrity does something wrong.  Tiger Woods and Jesse James (modern) cheating?  Mel Gibson being a drunk racist?  Hugh Grant hiring a prostitute?  Yes it is all too bad but not really surprising.  These are all just normal people with normal problems and issues but they all get amplified due to fame and money.

Don't get me wrong, I understand, I did this too when I was younger.  Dave Mustaine (and Megadeth) could pretty much do no wrong for me and I single handedly donated thousands of dollars to him through concerts, t-shirts, and that I am sure went straight into his veins in heroin form.  It wasn't until a local show had to be canceled due to an alleged overdose or suicide attempt that I started thinking that maybe he wasn't perfect and I shouldn't treat him as such.  Now, I try to separate someone's art/entertainment/job from who they are as a person.  I can still respect Tiger's golf game without liking who he is in his personal life.

But all this is fine or at least understandable...these people at least contribute something to the world through their acting, music, sports entertainment, or whatever.  There is at least some reason to like them.  What I don't understand is people that idolize criminals.  I know that most criminals are just normal people that made mistakes and bad choices in their life.  Many are actually very decent people if you get to know them.  I am not talking about being friends with someone in prison or giving a person a second chance.  I believe both those can be a good thing.

I hate when people idolize someone for their crimes.  Sure there are some famous criminals that stood for something and deserve to be idolized - these are people that fight against a corrupt system - Robin Hood, the early American revolutionaries, etc...  They were fighting against injustice and thereby branded criminals.  Idolize these types of noble rebellion people all you want.  Do not however idolize the petty criminal who has done nothing good in his life.  I am talking about people like Colton Harris-Moore.  These people have done nothing to deserve your respect - what injustice was Colton rebelling against when he stole people's boats, planes, etc...  None, it was just in it to have fun for himself.  But yet his facebook page had over 90,000 fans.  How big of a loser do you have to be to be fans of a petty criminal?  I have heard someone say that he was rebelling against materialism.  Really?  Someone that steals really expensive boats and planes really isn't fighting against materialism...he wants to be a part of it.  It wasn't all to escape.

Grade-A Doucher

I know that people have always been attracted to these kind of outlaw personae - Billy the Kid, Jess James (old west), Bonnie and Clyde, etc...  I think people tend to live some kind of vicarious freedom from society through criminals.  I understand the appeal of the whole Antihero character - who didn't love the guys in the movie Pulp Fiction or the Punisher in comic books.  However, it is different in real life compared to fiction - real people get hurt, there are victims of crimes.  Real criminals don't deserve your idolatry and respect for committing crimes.  You can respect this type of criminal for changing their life around, you can like someone despite the crimes they committed, but to like or respect someone BECAUSE of the crimes they committed is just stupid.

End Hate

Friday, July 16, 2010

Holiday Road Part 4

When last we left our daring band of travelers, they had escaped from the dangers of Colorado into the unknown perils of Utah...

During the stay at the motor inn, I sort of felt like I was in a horror just seemed like the type of place where you would be killed by crazed hotel workers or guests.  It felt very Vacancy, but luckily I am awesome like Luke Wilson.  In actuality,  it ended up being a nice enough stay...even if the HBO was fuzzy and I couldn't deal with the thought of a freezing cold shower in the morning.

No such luck...
Getting into desert country, my goal was to see a wild armadillo in the next couple days...armadillos are sweet.  The driving was pretty boring - desert on both sides with an occasional view of mesas and canyons...there were a few interesting things.  Like free range is weird driving at 70mph and having cows laying and standing next to the road.  I was a little tense at first getting ready to stomp on the brakes in case one wandered onto the road, but none ever did and I eventually realized that seeing loose cows on the shoulders of the road was new to me, but seeing speeding cars was not new to them.  I also found it strange that there would be a sign that would say "Deer Crossing, Next 5 Miles" and then two miles down the road there would be a sign that read "Deer Crossing, Next 11 Miles" and then a couple miles later "Deer Crossing, Next 3 Miles."  This continued for the next 30+ miles....lots of deer crossing signs but the mileage listed didn't make sense.  Like the signs were out of order or they were just randomly posted to remind you...I did see a couple deer (looked like mule deer) off in the distance, but luckily they were outnumbered by deer crossing signs 5 to 1.  No armadillos though.  I was also happy when I saw my first saguaro cactus of the trip.  It really made it seem like the desert then.

Although very frustrating at times and despite the lack of armadillos, I was having some fun on the trip.  It was a part of the country that I had not really gotten a chance to see.  I had been to Colorado for a family vacation when I was younger and have been to Las Vegas...but never really had a chance to explore much.  I can't say that Utah is the most interesting place in the world, but it was neat seeing the huge expanses of nothingness.  Plus with the scenery and the iconic catcus image,  it all almost seems fake.  You almost expected to see the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote run past.  I may have silently said "meep, meep" to myself every time I passed another car.

Of course once we entered the Navajo Nation, we had to stop at a couple crap stands* - you know, the stands that sell handmade jewelry and pottery and the like.  I did want to stop at one, just to see what it was like but Jessica wanted to stop at everyone that we passed...luckily I was able to keep focussed and we only stopped at two.  One was by Tuba City, AZ by the Elephant's Feet monuments.  Mainly because I would have something to look at while Jessica shopped for whatever crap jewelry she was looking for.  Elephant's Feet was very aptly named.

Grand Canyon Watch Tower
Photo by Jessica - click to embiggen
After an argument over evolution (one of us looking at and understanding scientific evidence, one not so much) we make to the Grand Canyon.  Just as we arrive at the Desert View Watchtower it starts to sprinkle. I think it feels great after being cooped up in the hot family truckster, so when it starts to rain a little harder I offer to go back to the truckster and get umbrellas for Jessica and Sam.  On the way back, it doesn't just pours and HAILS.  Sure it was nothing major, pea and small marble sized hail...but it was odd.  I never expected to be walking through a hail storm at the Grand Canyon...I expected hot and dry.  Instead, I am walking through streams of water that quickly turn orange and blood red due to the soil.  A consequence of having fun and splashing through the red puddles were that my toenails were dyed a nice light orange-pink for the following week.  The storm was bad enough that power throughout the park was temporarily out.

Rain over the Grand Canyon
Picture by Jessica - click to embiggen
It stormed off and on for the next hour...and Oh My God, the Grand Canyon!  Usually I am disappointed in tourist destinations: Hoover Dam - meh, Mt Rushmore - boring, London Bridge - OK, Las Vegas as a whole - shiny.  But the Grand Canyon?  Breathtaking.  TV and pictures just don't do it justice.  It is incredibly huge and beautiful.  I know I had seen pictures in the past and was like "That looks really big..." but you have no idea until you actually see it in person.  I am sure I wouldn't have appreciated it as a little kid but now I was definitely able to appreciate the wonderment.  The Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains are two of the most spiritually satisfying places that I have ever been.  The Grand Canyon is seriously worth the trip.  If you are going to embiggen any photo today, this is probably the one you want.

Dusk over the Grand Canyon
Picture by Jessica - Click to embiggen
After the rain, we decided that it is late enough that we should probably find our campsite and start setting up the tents.  While I was setting up the tents, Jessica went to get supplies - firewood, hot dogs, more blankets.  It is probably a good thing she left because just as I finished setting up the tents, I look over and see a tarantula and a foot and a half from our tent.  It is a pretty large one too...a little smaller than my fist.  Jessica is terrified of spiders (and bugs in general) so of course I look for some sort of container to place him in...but no luck.  I'd just like to say that it was weird seeing a tarantula just sitting there...I've see tarantulas before in people's aquariums, but just to see one right by where you are going to sleep was a little disconcerting.  Jessica did leave her camera at the campsite for me to take a picture.  I was a little afraid that Sam would kill the tarantula to 'save' his mom, so I suggested we take a small hike while awaiting Jessica to get back.  It was a completely different environment from Rocky Mountain National Park.  It's not that it was filthy - it wasn't, but there was enough small pieces of trash lying around that it was obvious that you were surrounded by humans and not out in the wild.  Plastic bottle caps, small pieces of paper, broken glass...again not a lot but just enough to kind of ruin feel of nature.  Also, it was much noisier.  In RMNP campground it seemed like everyone was really appreciative to been in a natural setting, in the Grand Canyon you could hear people yelling at each other, radios, and just general noises of civilization.  Sam and I walked back to camp and Jessica arrived a short time after.  Our spider friend had moved on by this time, so I showed Jessica the picture and told her that we saw it on our hike.  I knew if I told her that it was 18 inches from our tent that I would get no sleep that night.
Campsite Visitor
Photo by me - click to embiggen

Elk - no goring this night
Photo by Jessica - click to embiggen
It was a full moon (or would be in a day), so although it was evening there was still plenty of light.  We decided to drive around and see what we could see.  We saw a small group of elk along the road.  Many people (including us) stopped to take photos and some people approached on foot.  It was obvious that the elk were pretty used to people and mostly ignored them, continuing to graze.  However, one guy kept getting closer and closer.  Even though they are used to humans, these are not tame animals.  The buck started to take a little bit of offense and I thought I might get to see someone trampled and gored.  Unfortunately, the guy finally came to his senses and stepped back a ways.  We then drove to one of the view points.

Sitting on the edge.
Click to embiggen
What I really like and was pleasantly surprised about the Grand Canyon was that it wasn't fenced off or have safety barriers all over the places.  There were a few, but for the most part you were free to walk where you wanted and fall into the canyon if you wanted.  I wanted...well not to fall, but to be on the edge.  To feel that adrenaline rush when I know that if I slipped or lost my balance or if a rock shifted underfoot that I would probably die.  That's not to say that I acted crazily or stupidly.  I was safe...but I was on the edge.  I wish these pictures had come out better.  My stomach was a little queasy sitting was literally about an 800 foot drop and then I would bounce 600 or so feet before reaching a stopping point.  It was FAR.  I sat on several other rocks and hung my feet over edge, but none of them was as scary as this.  This type of activity totally freaked Jessica out, so she stopped taking photographs and wouldn't even look at me when I was near the edge.

Moon over the Grand Canyon
Photo by Jessica - click to embiggen

Day 4: ~280 miles, ~4:45 driving time, 0 Armadillos seen

*by crap, I mean tourist trap stuff.  Much of the stuff seemed to be well made and they had a nice assortment...but there was a little too much Kokopelli for me to take it serious.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trying to do Some Good...For Once

On August 10th, I will be participating in Easter Seals Walk With Me, an event that's all about putting hope within reach for people with disabilities. I'm participating with my friend, Angie Plager. Angie was injured in a car accident a few years ago becoming paralyzed. Angie is a quadriplegic, she has total loss of use below the mid-chest area, and partial loss of use of her arms.  You may remember me writing about her here.

After her injury and rehabilitation, Easter Seals was really able to help her family out by providing a hospital style bed, and accessible shower benches for her home, among other items and assistive programs.

With the help of Easter Seals, many other charity organizations, and the help of friends and family; Angie is now able lead a good quality life. Angie has gone on to graduate college, volunteers for many organizations that help the disabled like the Spinal Cord Association of Iowa, helps disabled and newly injured people find the resources that they need, and was voted Ms Wheelchair Iowa of 2009.

I know times are tough for everyone and if you are able to donate, any amount would be greatly appreciated. If you are not able to donate, please keep Easter Seals in mind for the future. Easter Seals really does a great job of helping disabled, autistic, and people with special needs.

You may donate to Team A.W.O.L. (Access WithOut Limitations) in the form of cash or check (made out to Easter Seals) to me, or by credit card by clicking the Donate link below.
Click here to Donate.

If you have any questions, please ask.  Thank you for any donation you are able to make.

Thank you!

Trust me...this logo is a little creepy..I mean what exactly is that sticking out of the abdominal region of the yellow person.
Glancing at it, it almost seems more of an advertisement for devotees.

Alternative title of this post: Give Me Your Money!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

You Wanted the Best...

I've been a Kiss fan since I was preschool/kindergarten young.  I remember getting the Kiss Dynasty album for my fifth birthday and how excited I was to sit and listen to it.  Soon after this Kiss were declining and I didn't really listen to them that much...getting instead into Prince and Michael Jackson and the regular pop music. However in late 6th grade, my love for Kiss was renewed when I started going to the used record shop.  I picked up Destroyer, Hotter than Hell, Love Gun and of course Alive II.  All the great albums that came out when I was too young.

I listened to them over and over.  Alive II was incredible to me since it was a double album and had so much great Kiss music...but it also had the one thing that I hate the most about Kiss, the one thing that makes me almost sick to my stomach because I've heard it so many times.  Probably the one thing that makes the members of Kiss want to put a gun to their temple every time they play live.

Before the song #1, side #1 - Detroit Rock City, there is a guy introducing Kiss at the concert and he saws the following phrase "You wanted the best, you got the best.  The hottest band in the world....KISS."  Fine, fine whatever.  There was something somewhat similar on the Alive I album.  It didn't bother me at first, but with each subsequent listen to the album it annoyed me more and more.  It annoyed me for the same reason that radio DJs annoy me.  I don't want to hear your stupid yammering, just play the music.

So good...except for the intro.
But the Alive II album was huge.  Multi-platinum huge.  Everyone that likes Kiss has this everyone knows this phrase.  You can't see a Kiss concert without this introduction.  I remember when I first saw them live and the announcer had this introduction, I was like "Huh, he did that thing...kinda funny."  Over 20 years later it is still happening.  Every concert, every live performance, every radio station interview, even cover bands, and commercials...any time that it is ever marginally applicable, some idiot has to say this line.

It is so cliché, so generic, so painfully predicable that it makes my stomach turn every single time.  I did want the best, I did want Kiss...but I do not want your idiotic originality.  Please shut-up and just let them get on with the show.  If you are going to introduce a band, why not do it your own way rather than the way ten thousands others have done it.  It really is not cute, fun, or awesome.  Dear guy that said this on the Alive II album - I know this is not your fault.  You can not control what other copycat douchers do.  All the same, I still want to punch you in the junk.

End Hate.