Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Holiday Road Part 1

This past week, I was on a cross country trip to help ex-GF-Unit Jessica move to Arizona.  I am still not sure of all my reasons why I agreed to do this.  Part of it has to do with me liking her as a friend and wanting to help her be happy, part has to do with wanting her far away so we can go get on with our lives, part of it has to do with wanting to see the Grand Canyon, part of has to do with her families horrible sense of direction, and partly because I am stupid...and a bunch of other reasons too.

The plan was to leave at 6am on Tuesday morning.  That way we could get to our first stopping point, Estes Park CO, in plenty of time and enjoy the some of the sights like Big Thompson Canyon.  I stopping in at Jessica's on my lunch hour on Monday to see how packing was finishing up.  It wasn't.  To my frustration, she wasn't nearly as packed as she could have been.  You would think for knowing about a cross country trip for about 10 months that you would have time to prepare.  But this has always been one of the reasons that we weren't compatible.  I would think  I would be used to it and not surprised...but I still was.  I went back to work, finished up what I could and then headed over to help pack.

The family truckster may have once looked
like it was a little rusty, covered
in dings, dents and scratches.
Our family truckster started out looking as
bad as the Griswold's looked at the
end of the movie.
We packed from 4pm to 5:30am.  I was very angry and just wanted to get on the road...but Jessica had to pick up some items from family so we missed our original start time.  With the family truckster (2002 Kia Sedona - You think you hate it now, but wait till you drive it) finally loaded we ended up leaving about 9am.  It felt good to finally be on our way, but it didn't last long.  We made it almost a whole 10 minutes on the road before our first problem - many electronics including the radio, the clock, the temperature gauge, etc... were not working.  Although it was going to be a long trip, I was prepared to go without, just to get going.  I happened to check the windshield wipers and they were also not working.  This was not good news as several storms systems were scheduled to cross our path.  We pulled off the first exit into the old downtown area of Waukee to get it fixed.  Luckily it was just a blown fuse from someone trying to charge their cell phone with a cord that did not go with the cell phone.  Being very frustrated after being awake over 24 hours and with an 11 hour drive ahead of us, I made Jessica drop me off in the old town square/park or Waukee while the car was getting fixed.  It didn't take too long, but with the detour and the fixing it added a little over an hour to the trip already.  Jessica has no idea how close I was to just walking off and saying "Well....see ya" at this point.  I was SO close...if the repairs had taken much longer, I probably would have been gone.  Everything was pointing to this being a horrible trip, and often times when stuff continually goes wrong, I take it as god telling me not do this...I sort of had the feeling that I would be eaten by a bear.

It looked nice from the road but was abandoned
photo courtesy of wikimedia commons
I stayed with it, and finally, a little bit after 4 hours behind schedule, we were back on the road...again.  The next 12 hours involved, driving for a couple hours while Jessica rested before switching places.  It was a long day...mostly driving and not much happening.  One of the strangest things to happen was stopping in Sedgwick, CO.  Sam (Jess' son) needed to go to the bathroom and this was the nearest stop.  I was a little scared because the sign said "Population: 191" but it also said there was a gas station.  We didn't need gas at the moment but would need to stop in the near future so we thought we might as well fill up while we are here.  There was a nice looking gas station right off the ramp...but unfortunately it was closed and abandoned.  There was a smaller, older gas station just down the block.  It was pretty bizarre...out of 8 pumps, one pump worked...the others were missing hoses, missing nozzles, or taped down with "out of order" and "not working" signs on them.  You might say "Well they just don't get that much business to need all those pumps."  Which might be true, but the 20 minutes that I was there there were 3 other cars waiting to use this another might have been nice.  It has been a long time since I have used one of the vintage 1970's gas pumps with the rolling slot machine style numbers and had the clerk come out and check the pump for the dollar amount.  Other great things about this gas station - door knobs on bathrooms did not work, had to use a sliding bolt lock to keep door shut, and they "just got a machine to run the credit cards a couple weeks ago."  It was pretty obvious that no money had been put into this place in 30 years.  It is not the most hilly billy place I have ever been but it is probably in the top ten.  Sorry I don't have a photo...but I would suggest trying to avoid Sedgwick if possible.

Seeing the mountains come into view was like a godsend.
Sunset on the Mountains...Picture by Jessica.
We finally made it to Estes Park and our hotel around 10:30pm.  You have no idea how happy I was when the mountains finally came into gave me my 28th wind of the day(s).  It did make me laugh at the "stupid" GPS when we only had 32 miles left and it was still saying about an hour and a half drive time.  The GPS was right...the canyon curved around so much that it did take much longer than I would have guessed...when you plot out an 11+ hour looks much straighter than it actually ends up being. Hadn't really eaten much all day and every place was done delivering...but sleep was much more important than food, so I flopped on the bed and was asleep within a couple minutes.  I was disappointed that we didn't have more time to enjoy Big Thompson was dark when we drove through and the driving is a little tense.  Mostly the entire day sucked but it felt good to sleep after being awake 40+ hours and on the road for about 12 hours.

Day 1: ~700 miles, ~12 hours drive time

To be continued....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Minutes Hate


I recently returned from a cross-country trip in which a couple nights of camping took place.  I am not a huge fan of camping...being warm and comfy are good things in my book, but it is nice every once in a while - the campfire, the roasted marshmallows, the feeling of being close(r) to nature are all pretty cool once in a while.

But I hate tents.  Well not tents exactly, I think that tents have come a long ways and every time I set one up I am pretty impressed with how easy it goes and all the improvements they have made over the years - the collapsible poles, the breathable design, sewn-in instructions, pan style floors, etc... all great improvements.

But I hate packing up tents.  They give you this carrying case for your tent and you think to yourself "This is going to be awesome, this compact carrying case for this big convenient and portable."  It never works out like that though.  The tent will never go into the case.  Once used, you can never fold the tent back to a compact enough size to fit in the case.  The case has no extra room when the tent is new, so the slightest variation will not allow the tent to fit correctly in the case.  You try to fold it on the same folds that the tent came with but in the wild, on an uneven, rocky, dirty area it just doesn't work.  That is even if you can tell where you are supposed fold it...the installation instructions are great, but there are no instructions for tearing down and storing the tent, so it is up to your memory from when you unpacked it.  Often times, I will find my self setting up a tent after a long day of driving or late at night...the exact times when I am not going to remember how a tent came packaged.

These two items cannot be made equal.

I usually can't even get close - I may be able to get the main part of the tent in the storage bag but that leaves no room for the rain fly, the poles, the stakes, etc...  Heck even sometimes the main tent will not fit in the bag...and there is just so many times that you can fold and roll it before you just say "fuck it" and throw it in the car.  I try, I really do.  One tent that I own, I can *almost* get completely in the storage bag...I can get it and all the equipment it, but the storage bag only zips half-way.  No matter how many times I have tried to re-fold and re-pack, I can't zip the dang fact, I have ripped the zipper trying.  And this tent packs easier than most.  The tents on this trip did not cooperate, neither was close to fitting in it's original storage bag.  If the storage bag happened to be twice as large, it would have worked fine.  I understand the desire for compactness, but if such compactness is nearly impossible to achieve I would rather have a storage bag that works.

End Hate.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Beware the Prairie Chicken

It's the time of year when I put in the mind of pollinating. I pollinated corn for 17 summers...although the last few were only on the weekend due to my 'real' job. I finally stopped 5 years ago when I had LASIK performed on my eyes a couple weeks before pollinating would begin. I wasn't quite recovered in time but also the thought of getting jabbed in the eye by a corn leaf after I just spend $4500 getting them fixed gave me the willies. But I do miss it...a lot. This time of year I am always thinking of the smell of pollen in the air and rich, dark soil. The feel of dew on the corn leaves and the sun shining down relentlessly.

I also think a tiny bit about Prairie Chickens. A prairie chicken is a medium-large bird that used to be abundant in Iowa and across the central USA. Brown and white feathers and the males have large yellow comb and large orange circles on their necks that they can inflate...especially for putting on a display for the females or trying to intimidate males. Due to habitat destruction, prairie chickens are now on the endangered species list. A rather pretty bird really, but this is not what I am thinking about when I think of prairie chickens.

Picture courtesy of GregTheBusker @ flickr

A pollinator with apron

As a pollinator (much different than a detasseling) you were required to carry a lot of different stuff throughout the day. In the morning you would have a your knife and hundreds of Lawson 205 shoot bags (glycines), later you would be carrying mainly just your stapler, and after midday you would be carrying a few hundred Lawson 404 pollen bags, thousands of paper clips, you knife, pencil and memo pad, water bottle, etc... As a pollinator you were stocked with all kinds of accoutrements. To carry all your gear you were issued an apron. It was not like a cooking apron. It wasn't full torso and it wasn't for protection. Smaller, below the waist only and containing many different size pockets for all your different gear. To right is an example of what this looked like. White cotton, large deep pockets on the sides for larger items and smaller pockets in the middle front for paper clips and such. The whole thing wrapped around your waist and tied with long straps. Please forgive the crude drawings as it has been a really long time since I have actually drawn much of anything and this was done very quickly...although I think they actually turned out pretty good...see the safety glasses? And any pollinator will recognize the correct pocketing.

Performing the Prairie Chicken
So what does this have to do with prairie chickens? Well, many of the older, long time, regular pollinators played a game similar to the game in Waiting. The basic idea being that you would pull your testicles out of your shorts' zipper and let them hang underneath your apron. Then you would come up behind someone in the corn, lift your apron and make a gobbling sound...forcing the other person to look in horror at your balls. The sound didn't really sound like gobble gobble but that is the closest in is more a combination of gobble gobble and the stereotypical Arab alalalalalalalala yell.

I am not sure who came up with the prairie chicken name for it (although I have my suspicions)...but it is a perfect match. I always think the display was similar to the real prairie chicken male puffing out his orange sacs.

We didn't have the various poses as was 10+ years before that movie was made but the principle was similar. It was silly, it was stupid, it was fun....but unfortunately now summer always reminds me a little bit of testicles.

This post is dedicated to redacted who was always the dominant prairie chicken...and had the prairie chicken call perfected (and yes, who's balls I have seen WAY more than I ever would have wanted...and I would have been more than happy to have seen them zero times). Much love to all the people that I pollinated with over the years. Gobble Gobble.

Update - The Prairie Chicken Preservation Front has attacked this website and items have been redacted at their will. They are very much like the men in black.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

Don't Drown Your Food

It drives me nuts when someone gets a plate of food at a restaurant and the first thing the do is douse it in salt and pepper.  I'm not talking about a restaurant you go to all the time and you know the dish is going to need some salt.  I mean when you go to a new restaurant or try a new dish.  I am a firm believer that the chef is much better trained in the culinary arts than I am and knows better than I how to balance the flavors of the dish.  I always take a bite of my food before deciding if it needs additional salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, or whatever various sauces.  Even the simple French Fry I will usually try plain before starting to dip into the ketchup.  I think this works really well for me and I decide that most of the time meals don't need more salt, pepper, or whatever.  The chef did a really good job and me adding spices will only make it taste like salt or pepper instead of what it is actually supposed to taste like.  I always thought tasting first should be common practice but it is definitely not.  I see it all the time but it is especially noticeable when traveling for work and I am with someone who has never been to this town, let alone state, and the first thing the do when served their food is heap on the salt.  Bleh.

I guess I took the lessons of Louis the Lifeguard more seriously than other people.

Now, I kind of hanker for a hunk of cheese.

End Hate

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Little Disappointed

I am a little disappointed that I forgot that Marcy Playground was playing at the House of Bricks in Des Moines last week.  All last week I had the feeling that I had something to do over the weekend but could not remember what, where, or when.  Work has been particularly hectic the past month and my brain has gone from a good brain to a swiss cheese style brain stuffed with facts and figures for work but little else.

I am not a huge MP fan, but if you take away the god awful Sex and Candy they have a pretty solid alternative pop catalog.

To commiserate, here is Blood in Alphabet Soup.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Congratulations Hawks!

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for winning the 2010 Stanley Cup.  It has been a long time coming.  I can't wait for people to start calling me a fair-weather fan when I wear one of my collection of jerseys, sweaters, and t-shirts...because that is always SO awesome.  I wear them for 15 years and you don't notice...but now I am a fair-weather fan.

Chicago, I am proud of the way that you have turned around the organization.  It was almost painful going to games with crowds of under 10K because the United Center is huge.  Then the fans that did come just booed the opposing team instead of cheering for their own team.  It was not a happy or healthy atmosphere, thats for sure.  But look at you now, full houses of happy, cheering fans the past couple years.  It is great to see a team gives it's all and not give up when they are down a goal or two.  That is awesome.  I just wish the stand where the one guy made the footlong Chicago dogs was still there.  The Chi-dogs from the regular concession stands are not even close to his artistry.

This year's finals and even playoffs in general were some of the best that I can remember.  All the teams seemed so well matched for each other.  Sure, I wish there were some differences - I wish Phoenix and San Jose would have done better...but overall the quality of game play and the match-ups were top notch.  Seriously every game in the finals was great...2 overtime games, several 1 point games - it felt like no one was safe and either team could win any game.  Great hockey.  Plus the first year that many people probably have been able to watch hockey in HD - it makes a difference and it is wonderful.  HD makes the games so much easier to follow - unlike the FoxTrax glow puck system used in the late 90's (although I do have to say it was a nice try to help get new people into the sport).
Congrats've earned it.



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ape Puppets and Big Schlongs

I don't watch MTV.  Besides flipping past hoping for some videos, I have maybe watched an few hours worth of MTV in the past couple years.  Jersey Shore - sounds horrible, so I never watched.  16 and Pregnant - although I like the idea of slutty teens, knocked up teens really not a turn on.  True Life - bleh.  My Super Sweet 16 - why would I want to watch something about spoiled rich kids. Etc...  Flipping to MTV makes me feel like Bowman in 2001: A Space Oddity -  "The thing's hollow -  it goes on forever - and - oh my God - it's full of Shit"

However, when I was flipping past this last weekend I happened to catch a commercial with Warren the Ape.  Warren the Ape from the awesome show "Greg the Bunny."  Warren Demontague - the drug addicted, gun toting, helmet wearing ape puppet.  You may know that I am a sucker for muppets and obviously I was already in.  The commercial talked about Warren's new show coming coming next Monday (June 14th) - right after the show about the kid with the big schlong.  I don't know if you can imagine an ape puppet saying schlong out of the blue, but let me tell you that it is awesome.  I can't wait to see the Warren show.  I hope Count Blah and Tardy the Turtle make a guest appearances.

The show about the kid with the big schlong happened to be The Hard Times of RJ Berger.  It happened to be premiering the following night, so I decided that since they were giving a show to Warren a show that MTV might actually be onto something that I like.  I went in with low expectations and found it to be pretty darn good. The idea almost seems generic at first - the dorky loser and his chubby friend each in love with the various high school hotties, but both invisible to everyone except to get picked on by the jocks.  Typical high school drama...until RJ is accidentally depantsed in front of the crowd at a basketball game.  The losers' fortunes start to change when everyone realizes that RJ has an extremely large penis.

Obviously, sophomoric humor - dick, fart, and sex jokes abound.  A lot raunchier than I would have expected, almost like watching a TV version of the American Pie movies.  I am not always in the mood for this type of thing but at the right time it is pure gold.  I would suggest checking out episode one which I am sure is being re-run over and over on MTV all week.

The Chubby Kid, the Slutty Free-Spirit Girl, the Lovable Dork, the Hot Girl, and Hot Girl's Jock Boyfriend

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

"Companies Going Green"

I am all for going green and eliminating waste and pollution.  That is a good thing and we should all strive to do it.  But I hate how companies try to induce you into paperless statements by making you feel guilty that their paper statement is wasting paper.  I just don't believe a company when they say they are "Going Green" and would like me to help by switching to paperless statements.  I am sure a very small percentage of the desire for me to change is the desire to be more eco-friendly...but it is a very, very small portion of the reason.  It's all about money...and them making more of it.  Just tell me the truth - it costs a lot to print and mail statements.  Postage, envelopes, return envelopes, paper, toner, machines/people to stuff envelopes, people to process incoming paper payments.  It costs a lot of money.  Sending out an email telling me that I my new statement is available online is virtually free.  How much does bandwidth cost?  No much compared to a paper bill.  Online statements are also available to those who get paper statements, so it is not like you are adding money for storage.  The only cost is a single, automatic email.

I can't even guess how many thousands of dollars this going green saves large companies.  I am sure it is a lot.  But instead of fooling people about "going green" why not just offer them a minor portion of the savings?  Oh that's right - greed.  The going green you are concerned about is the green that is going into your pockets.  Which is fine, just don't lie about your motives.

Oh and credit card industry?  I guess some people will switch who are concerned about the environment, who aren't concerned about saving you money.  After all, you keep raising interest rates and invent new fees for customers that have been with you for nearly 20 years and never missed a payment.  I guess if you really wanted to go green, you could stop sending me the new card and debt consolidation offers that you send out EVERY week, even though I have called and asked them to be stopped...oh, you will screw me out of a little more money if I take advantage of the offers, I guess that means it is OK to ruin the planet.

For the record, I have had paperless statements on everything I can for years.  Not to go green but because I just threw them away anyways...I know what I owe.

End Hate

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sticks and Stones

I have been called Geek or Nerd much of my life.  I understand...I definitely am.  Yes, I play video games and I like Star Wars.  I read Sci-Fi and comic books and liked learning in school.  I've attended a Star Trek convention.  I was awkward, shy, wore glasses and my mom made me wear corduroy pants throughout junior high (this was well before corduroy made a comeback and was just considered horrible).

I may have once called my self these names but it has been years since I have thought of myself in those terms.  Not because I am all of a sudden cool and suave and interesting to the ladies...that I am not.  Not because I now dislike all the things that nerds and geeks love...I still love them too.  I stopped thinking of myself as a geek or nerd because it almost became cool to be a geek or a nerd in the past few years.  Lord of the Rings and comic book character movies are now popular culture.  Big Bang Theory is in it's third (or fourth) season and watched by millions each week.  Star Trek was re-made and a lot of non-fans liked it.  Internet memes that are passed to all.  Popular actors and actresses all claiming to be geeks.  People knowing who Steve Jobs is.

I don't know...I just don't feel that type of geek/nerd.  Geek and nerd always felt like you had to be an outsider by definition (yes, even though Revenge of the Nerds taught us that we are all geeks inside).  I just don't feel like a geek/nerd part of society.  I just find mainstream geek kind of weird.  Maybe I like being an outsider.

But what can replace these words?  The closest I that I have found to describe myself is Dork and Loser.  Both dregs of society.  You don't want to get mixed up with a guy like me.  I'm a loner.  A rebel.  I proudly proclaim myself to be both.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

Email Address Changers

Do you have friends or relatives that change their email addresses constantly? I do, some of them seem to change their address 3 or 4 times a year. It is so annoying. To me the whole point of having an email address is that it will always be there. Even if you haven't talked to the person in a year, you should be able to reasonably hope that their email address is the same.

There are times when you have to change email addresses - when enter the witness protection program, you change jobs, graduate from school, somehow your email provider screws up your account (this happened to me with my original Yahoo account and it ended up being much easier just to start over), new features on one system work better with your cell phone, etc...

There are reasons to change...but the people who constantly change do not have good reasons. Here are the trends that I have noticed.

  • They tend to use their ISP's assigned email address. This is fine if you plan on staying with your internet service provider for a long period...but they bounce around from ISP to ISP trying to take advantage of every little promotion to save 50 cents. Get an ISP and stick with it or go to a web based email. Web based is so easy and in many ways better. Every time you change it causes me more than 50 cents worth of annoyance and after the third time I am probably just going to remove you from my address book because you aren't worth it.

  • They don't really think out their email name. Did you really think that "HotLover69XXX" was a good user name? You feel comfortable sending your mom or a business an email with an address like that? That is actually tame compared to some that I have received from customers at work but you know what I mean. Most likely you probably won't want this username forever. Sure it is fine to have as a specific purpose email like if you hang out at adult friend finder or something...but it seems a little narrow minded for general use. But people also include their girl/boy friend's names (Rachel_Jim@...) or a host of other stupid narrow minded mistakes. I guess that wouldn't be too bad if you were married but if you have been going out for a few weeks, I don't see it as it is not like email accounts are hard to come by, you can each get your own. Personally, I find it easy to use first and last name or initial and last name or some form thereof. It won't always work for everyone but some combination will work for most.

  • Their inbox is full or crap. These people tend to sign up for every stupid newsletter and updates from every sight they see...because hey it is fun to get email! But quickly they sign up for some much stuff that they have 100 emails every time they log it. It takes mental power to deal with all these and they just don't want to go through and clean up their own mess and unsubscribe from this crap. For them it is just easier to start over.

  • They don't understand SPAM filters. They complain that they get all this crap email for Viagra or whatever...but they don't take the 2 minutes to learn how to engage their SPAM filters or mark items SPAM so their filter learns for the future. It is time to start over again! Eventually every email address is going to be harvested by a SPAM bot, learn how to use your filters and tag stuff that is inappropriate.
Seriously, get a web based email address and stop annoying me with your constant switching.

End Hate