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Archive for April, 2011

Our Upcoming Outpost

April 30, 2011 1 comment

We finally got our housing assignment! Now that we have a wifi connection, we’re able to check it out online. It actually looks like a really cool place but I don’t want to get our hopes up too much before we actually get to it. The internet has a way of giving things a false coolness.

The housing assistant had trouble finding a place near Palo Alto, so we’re ending up about 18 miles away in Santa Clara. This is right near San Jose and, according to the apartment’s website, we’re going to be living in the “center of the Techie Universe.” I’m a little less worried about not having an internet connection come May 9th when I’m back on the clock at CQL. It sounds like they have wireless routers dangling from trees out there.

We’ve never lived in such an urban setting, so this should be pretty fun. The hospital is 18 miles northwest of our apartment, which can turn into a pretty long commute during rush hour. We’ll have to feel that out. We were first counting on me driving Jen to and from work to avoid having to pay the monthly parking rate, but it’s probably going to be cheaper if she can take the Jeep. No problem. We do get a bit of a stipend for parking at the hospital, so it’s not going to be too much after all. There are lots of public transportation options so I won’t mind not having a Jeep. I’ll just be sure to take it on the days I go out surfing.

And we guessed right. This place was only friendly to small, foofy dogs. Our little girl wouldn’t have been allowed. Fucking fascists. Piper sounds like she’s having a good time watching the house and eating coasters, so I think she’ll be all right.

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Categories: travel

Sterling

April 30, 2011 Leave a comment

We’ve made it out to Sterling, Colorado on this first leg of the journey. It’s been about 16 hours and 1,000 miles with a few stops along the way. Whew!

We’re in a Best Western which is decent enough for a random road stop. It has the added bonus of having a window view of the neighboring correctional facility right across the street. There’s even one of those, “stay the hell away from hitchhikers” signs just down the road.

This is our sixth state of the day. The first several were unremarkable except for the clear blue skies and Adult Superstore signs every few miles. My favorite was the Chicago strip club billboard advertising “All of the liquor, none of the clothes.” Classy!

The west side of Iowa and most of Nebraska featured a gale force wind coming from the south, jostling our Jeep all over the road. At one point, we came up behind a pickup truck on the side of the road which, only minutes before, had its trailer blown sideways, flipping onto the shoulder. It was just a storage trailer with no one in it accompanied by a guy that looked like he had it under control. We only gawked. I guess that makes us the assholes.

On the plus side, we saw a real life tumbleweed rolling across the gas station. Sitting in the car, you felt the whole thing tipping back and forth in the wind.

The wind died down near the middle of Nebraska, only to come back in full force on the western side of the state, only this time it came from the south. That crap is killer on your gas mileage.

Oh, and Jen saw a bunch of cows chasing a large cardboard box rolling in the wind. Apparently it looked like a bunch of dogs chasing after a cat. Wish I saw it!

So here we are in our cozy little hotel overlooking the correctional facility, thinking about hitting the hot tub. Tomorrow we drive into the mountains, up to Silverthorne. We just checked the weather, and I think they’re getting snow. That wasn’t in the plan. Let’s see what happens.

Categories: travel

Tomorrow’s the Day

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Here we go! We’ve got the Jeep loaded to the brim and we’re one sleepless night away from heading west.

We still haven’t heard the final word on our apartment and it looks like we’re going to have to leave Piper back home with Melissa. We’ll miss you girl! You’re in good hands. Just don’t forget us!

I wish we could!

Now I’m just in that anxious mode where I keep thinking over and over about all the things I know we must be forgetting. We’re planning on getting up early, hoping to be on the road by five AM. I’ll probably be wide awake at three.

This first day, we’ll be driving as far as we can towards Silverthorne, CO, which means we’ll probably give up for the night somewhere in Nebraska. I’m hoping to cover as much pavement as we can on this first day, when we’re not yet sick of being on the road. Once we’re up in the mountains, we’ll probably take a day and go hiking and sightseeing.

Given that we still know relatively nothing about where we’ll be living, we’ve had to resurrect and old microwave from my bachelor days. Apparently I never cleaned it out the last time I used it. There was still a film of residue and blown up pizza parts on all the walls. Yum.

Categories: travel

Nuts

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

This weekend was a whirlwind of family and friend gatherings and getting nothing done. I did manage to get new tires on the Jeep and get the cargo rack up on the roof. After a good cleaning tonight, we’ll start loading her up.

I always feel like I’m getting ripped off when buying tires. This time, they told me they were going to have to cut off one of the lugnut bolts because it was rusted on and they couldn’t remove it. The best part is that they were going to send me driving away with four lugnuts on that tire since they said they couldn’t fix it there. I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t seem safe. They seemed a little too eager to start hacking away at my poor Jeep and send me away crippled with nothing more than a, “you should be fine,” and a slap on the back. Fortunately, one of them must have turned the compressor up to eleven and they managed to get all their nuts off.

In doing so, they also sold me an entirely new set of lugnuts, saying that some were US and some were metric, and all were shit. I no longer put up an argument because I was elated that they didn’t saw off relatively important parts of my car. Perhaps I should have researched, but $45 for shiny new lugnuts seemed like a good idea at the time.

And when I say Jeep, it’s purely out of habit. It’s technically a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but the thing looks more like a minivan. I used to fight it and argue that it was still cool, but I’ve since accepted the fact. I hope my minivan makes it to California.

Categories: travel

The Most Overlooked Part of the Easter Narrative

April 21, 2011 50 comments

ZOMBIES!!!! We all know the Zombie Jesus story, but a whole crapload of dead people were reanimated just after Jesus H. kicked the can. They took two days fighting their way out of their tombs before running amok within Jerusalem. It’s right there in Matthew 27.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Zombie mini-apocalypses must happen often enough in that part of the world that they’re not even worth recording. Come on! No one else even mentions it! I gotta hand it to whoever wrote the book of Matthew for having the foresight to include this enlightening event in the most infallible book ever written. If it hadn’t been for him, we’d only have one zombie stumbling around on Easter Sunday.

We’re not given a lot here, so let’s see if I got this straight.

Friday.

  • Jesus yells and dies
  • An atomic bomb of Jesus Juice rips through Jerusalem, causing an earthquake and a fucking curtain to be torn. OH. MY. GOD.
  • Zombies with halos wake up and start scratching at the walls of their damaged tombs

Saturday.

  • Zombies still trying to get out
  • Those that are out are wreaking havoc en route to Jerusalem
  • No one can repel zombies because it’s the fucking Sabbath

Sunday.

  • Ta-da! Zombie Jesus is back playing hide-and-seek and cooking fish at a campfire
  • Hordes of zombies, awake since Friday and undoubtedly hungry, finally descend upon Jerusalem

It took most of those zombies two days stuck inside their half smashed tombs before they could get out. Two days! While Jesus is out on holiday playing the last level of Doom III, a whole bunch of generally nice undead are stuck inside their graves scratching and moaning and breaking fingernails just trying to get a breath of fresh air. And brains.

This couldn’t have gone unnoticed. There have got to be a bunch of freaked out caretakers scared shitless because half their crop is trying to escape through damaged tombs. Did it make any difference that these zombies were holier than others? My guess is no. By the way, how could they even be holy if they haven’t accepted Jesus as their own personal savior? Something is amiss.

Back to the point. It’s Friday and you’re a caretaker of one of these graveyards. You’ve got a ton of cleanup to do after the earthquake and to make matters worse, a bunch of smug, holier-than-thou zombies are further damaging your tombs in their escape efforts. What do you do? Shit, they didn’t even have shotguns back then! I, for one, know when to get the hell out of town. I’d high-tail it out of Jerusalem, shrieking like a little girl all the way.

But, I have to assume that the general population of Jerusalem was more manly than me. These people get so pissed off at little things like someone having to work on the weekend, that they’ll fucking throw stones at you UNTIL YOU DIE. No, these people didn’t run. The caretakers are dutifully stuck to their job cleaning up the mess wrought by the explosion of the atomic J-bomb.

I don’t know how they’re defending against the zombies. We do know that none of the undead made it to the city until Sunday, so the graveyard workers must have been doing something right. My guess is they were busy throwing rocks like they were correcting a crowd of gays. It probably works pretty well for a while. These Jews have good throwing arms. But it can’t last long. They soon have a little bullshit called Sabbath that they can’t get around.

Good, observant Jews can only repel the undead until sundown on Friday night and then they have to twiddle their thumbs for a whole day, praying that the zombies are as holy as they say they are. Holy enough to remember the Sabbath.

What happens on Saturday is anyone’s guess. From my experience, the undead don’t have much concept of time. They’ve been underground or in caves for weeks and months, rotting and decomposing. How are they going to know what day it is when they wake up? I don’t want to question their dedication to their religion, but I’m guessing they don’t give a shit about this particular Sabbath. I bet they kept on clawing through the rubble of their broken tombs and digging out of their graves. It’s the caretakers of the graveyards I’m concerned with.

It seems they’ve got two options: Do you sit around on Saturday as instructed by the big guy, all the while glancing furtively out the windows across the yard to make sure the undead are still underground? Or do you risk breaking the Sabbath by either repelling zombies or running like hell? I’m assuming, of course, that it is considered work to kill the undead. I have no proof of this. These poor saps are backed into a corner. It’s either death by zombie or death by zealous law abiding Jew. I sympathize with these guys. I really do. Jesus had a bad weekend. These guys lived through hell and couldn’t do anything about it.

Again, we’re left with scant information. We’ve only got two verses of absolute truth to deal with, and we’ve got to fill in the blanks. The main fact is this: zombies are slow. We have to calculate the time it took for them to stumble out of their burial sites to the epicenter of Jerusalem on Sunday, where they “appear” to “many” people. We all know what that means. Zombie fucking apocalypse, man.

I suck at this type of calculation, so I’m going to have to rely on divine inspiration. I wouldn’t be writing this shit if God wasn’t speaking to me, now would I? Here’s what happened. A lot of those caretakers took the high road and observed the Sabbath. They died. A few more ran like hell. They died too. The first rule about Sabbath is that you don’t fucking run on Sabbath. Zombies get a pass. They shuffle.

The rest of the caretakers? Those that could tell their story? They climbed trees or roofs on Friday night and sat shivering in the cold until Sabbath was over. Zombies can’t climb trees. A lot of those guys lost family. They must have felt like Noah, who was ridiculed for building a boat when there was no water. They were laughed at for high-tailing it up trees, only to see their mockers overcome by a slow-moving wave of brain-eating zombies. Holy and generally considerate brain-eating zombies, but there you have it.

Sunday morning must have revealed a massacre, but it’s overshadowed by Zombie Jesus’ game of hide-and-seek. The passage is so focused on that particular zombie that they completely forget to mention the destruction wrought by the roving gangs of holy undead. Instead, they soften the blow by saying, oh, those brain-devouring hordes were just “appearing to many people.” Such an understatement.

We’ll never know the death toll that weekend. We’ll never know what happened to these holy zombies. Did they start their own religion and eventually float into the stratosphere like Zombie Jesus? Did they get wiped out by a bunch of zealots throwing stones? Will they accept Zombie Jesus as their own personal savior so they won’t have to go to hell again? Did they reintegrate into their previous holy life as if nothing had happened, as if such a thing were possible? We’ll never know.

This Easter, don’t get caught up in all the hubbub about eggs and crucifixions. Remember those who took a stand against the undead. Those who weren’t afraid to back down from reanimated corpses, except for, well, a short time while they hid in trees. Sometimes you have to fight. Sometimes you have to run. And sometimes, the best thing you can do is to hide your ass from zombies and zealots. It’s about survival, people. Protect yourself from brain-devouring zombies. Especially Jesus.

Categories: religion

Ramping Up

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s starting to feel a little more real. Jen’s last night at work is tonight, and this weekend is booked with scattered social gatherings where we’ll be saying Hi and Bye to a lot of people before we take off next week.

There’s this stress that’s been bubbling up lately, too. We keep going over lists of things we need to get done and things we need to bring for our summer out west. Jen has worked through a huge pile of paperwork the last few weeks and is almost at the end, and we’ve been trying to wrap up all the various homeowner type things that we need to do. I think we’ve got it under control but damn, it’s overwhelming at times.

It’s just going to be so surreal when we finally step in that Jeep and start driving across the country. I know it’s nothing permanent, but for a couple of Michiganders who’ve never spent more than two weeks away from home, it’s a pretty big deal. Your mind just keeps going over all the little lists we’ve got until you realize you’re at work and you need to be getting shit done.

That being said, I gotta hand it to the folks at my office, CQL, where everyone has been really supportive. And yes, I am getting shit done, I’m just slightly more distracted than usual. Sorry!

I’m going on year number nine there. That’s longer than my tenure at the pickle farm. It’s gonna be quite a shift working remotely the entire time. Fortunately, for me anyway, it will remove me from a few of my more monotonous tasks (sorry, Sam!), and I’ll be able to get heads down on a few in-depth projects. I’ve been quoting some big projects lately that should be pretty fun to work on, and I’m looking forward to the attention I’ll be able to give them working remotely. I’m a nerd.

We still haven’t heard whether we’ll be able to bring the dog yet, which somehow is the biggest unknown at this time. I guess that’s a good thing. The recruiter said we should find out sometime in the next week or so. She also said we’d find out about our housing and address around next Friday. By then, we’ll already be on the road. That just seems surreal to me. We’re hopping in the car and driving out west to live for three months, and we don’t even know where we’ll be staying until we’ve started that journey. Unreal.

Categories: travel

Rope a Dope

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Last month we received a letter through United Airlines which promised a pair of free airline tickets anywhere in the continental United States if we sat through some presentation. Although the letter came from United Airlines, the presentation was from some other travel agency whose mantra seemed to be, “We’re not a time share.”

If you Google their phone number, 866-437-7729, you get a whole set of planted videos that make it all seem legit. We’ve made it a point to avoid these types of presentations but we were bored and looking for an excuse to travel, so we figured that we’d give this one a shot. If I was able to zone out for an hour and a half and come out with free airline tickets, I’d count it as a win. I didn’t mind jumping through a few hoops.

The presentation day came and it turned out to be some company called Pretentious Asshole Network, but they went under the pseudonym Global Vacation Network. They had us fill out a questionnaire in which we stated that our ideal travel destinations were Traverse City and Copper Harbor, Michigan. We stated that our travel accommodations primarily involved camping or staying with relatives. It was amusing during the presentation when our appointed overtanned douchebag would get on a rant about all the amazing places where PAN could get accommodations, and he would throw in places like Hawaii, Costa Rica, and fabulous Traverse City with an overzealous wink.

It had all the typical trappings of a time share presentation, although they kept going on about how they weren’t a timeshare. From what I understand, they first separate you from some ridiculous sum of money up front, that day preferably, then they staple a member badge on your forehead for a feeling of self importance, and from then on they assume the role of being the sole limiting factor for any future thought of any vacation planning you may do. Besides the elite status you have of being a member, you now have the added ability to schedule and rent a condo for one or two weeks a year in exotic locations such as Traverse City.

Of course, their shtick was that it only costs around one or two hundred dollars per week for the condo and several hundred more per year in maintenance fees. Assuming you forget about the extra thousands upon thousands of dollars they tore out of you in that first day of consensual financial rape, it ends up being a pretty good deal.

To clarify, PAN probably isn’t completely full of pretentious assholes. I just have a natural loathing of salespeople that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I imagine that there are a few people here and there that actually save money over their long lives by squeezing everything they can out of PAN every year of their lives. If your vacation plans can be planned out months in advance, within absolute blocks of Sunday to Sunday, and you only ever want to stay in one place per vacation inside a condo, this may actually work out for you. For us, the notion was far too limiting.

But that didn’t stop our own personally assigned salesperson from promising all sorts of other bullshit after the presentation when we were herded out into the raping room. We told her that we don’t vacation that way. We told her we love to camp and drive multiple places on vacation. Somehow, she promised that the exclusive member badge stapled on our forehead would save us all sorts of money if we were only to drop thousands and thousands of dollars into her lap right then. She said it all with a straight face. It made no sense.

The thing that really gets me about these types of crappy presentations deals is their incessant badgering that you’d be an idiot not to buy their load of crap that very instant. They assume that’s what you’re there for and feign personal injury when you explain you’re only there for the allegedly free airline tickets that roped you in in the first place.

The problem is this: As our sun-kissed Jersey Shore presenter explained, we were getting an exclusive, never before heard of price on the initial financial gutting, as long as we bought into it today. If we walked out the door, Suntanned Sam explained with heart-wrenching empathy that they were legally unable to offer us the discount price on any other date. If I remember correctly, for all the other saps that bought into PAN outside of one of these meetings, they pay an additional five thousand dollars.

They are buying your ignorance. They’re imposing a five thousand dollar fee on critical thinking. You have no time to compare their product with anything else out in the world and instead you have to take them for their word, and they seem ready to promise limitless benefits to their members.

These sleazy sales pitches offer an interesting study into how the human mind works. Their business model is built around our innate fear of losing something we don’t even have and how that overpowers our common sense, raising the chance of acting on an impulse. It’s amazing that so many people actually sign up for the program on the spot. It’s really a lifelong commitment that, up until ninety minutes ago, most of the people buying into it didn’t even know it existed. I find that fascinating.

What’s more is that, for those who buy into it on the spot, there now exists the need to justify their purchase. I seriously doubt that anyone who bought into this thing actually takes the time to do the price comparisons or research after the fact. That would be like admitting defeat. Instead, I imagine there’s a need to justify the costs, and one common way to do so is to rope in other friends. And that is exactly how PAN says they get the majority of their customers: through referrals.

In summary, no, they’re not all assholes. But the way they sell their product is slimy and makes them look like assholes. Their condo swapping scheme probably works out all right for a lot of people, but I doubt the majority of them actually save money over the average Joe during their lifetime of vacationing. The best thing I learned from this experience is that if a company puts that much effort into shunning a critical evaluation of their product, it’s best to walk away. Save your time and money and do a little research on your own.

And, as we figured, the free airline ticket thing is a crock of shit. We received a packet in the mail from Millennium Travel and Promotions which explained what “free” really means. There are all sorts of hoops to jump through and different fees to pay that it would probably end up costing more than buying the tickets on your terms and flying when you want. Oh well! Lesson learned and no money lost.

Categories: travel