Monday, October 31, 2005

How To Spend A Stressful 8 Hours On A Saturday

Alrighty, well, that's done. And it was just dreadful. I guess they say that everyone walks outta there saying they failed... But no. Really. Unless there is an inordinate number of C's in the last row on the scan tron, I think its Re-testville for me. I get the results in the (charmingly numbered) 13 weeks, and then have an ample 3 months to study for the next attempt. I was glad that I got through all the review material that I had, but wished I'd had at least an hour to look over circuits and economics. Yeah, those circuits killed me. Circuit question? Oh, well, the answer then must be C! Heh heh.

Oh, and the Cal Expo, or at least the part we were in, was like a really low rent university. We took the test in drafty cinderblock and linoleum rooms on folding tables and lawn chairs. And it was freezing. Lovely. Maybe if it had been warmer I'd have remembered something, anything, about circuits. Heh heh. Yeah, no, not really.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

And More

Just a quick update to the Wild West entry, The Hub has updated his site including a link to an entire gallery of pictures of our Wyoming trip. So there is actual visual documentation of the canoeing jaunt and the four mile hike that we did. And some just plain wondrous pictures too.

I'm madly studying for the titanic 8 hour engineering exam that happens next Saturday. Wish me lots of luck, and excellent multiple choice wild guessing skills. See ya on the other side.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Wild Wild West

I briefly mentioned the fun stuff we did in Wyoming, but have some further juicy details and priceless pictures that I MUST share with you. First in line is this awesome print found in our temporary fancy condo. It was labeled "Cinnamon Bear" but I think it should have been labeled "Cinnamon Bear Sniffing Other Cinnamon Bear's Butt." Awesome!

After The Hub's conference, our first big outing (as I was recovering from The Gulfport Contagion) was an excursion to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park. It was a gorgeous early fall day, sunny, breezy, and, well, all together lovely. At the lake we found that it was the last day of the season to rent canoes, and thus it was impossible to resist the siren call of the cute little vessels. Being all together feek and weeble, however, I was of no use with the paddle. I therefore propped the packs in the bottom of the boat and proceeded to nap. The Knight In Shining Armor that is my husband proceeded to paddle us completely across the lake for the next hour and a half, waking me up part way to see the bald eagle resting in a snag. On the opposite shore we then went for a micro-hike of about 200 yards, and then back to the canoe/napping. Husband. Strong.

Post Canoe Docking at Jenny Lake.

The next day we took the tram up to the top of Jackson Hole ski resort, and I actually managed a whole 4.2 mile hike. I did, however, not take any pictures so... moving on. The third day we took that trip to Yellowstone that I mentioned, and followed the aforementioned self guided walking tour of the geysers near Old Faithful. (You too can virtually take the tour here.) And again, I have to say, that geysers are COOL! Here's The Hub with Old Faithful cranking up on viewer's left, and some other neeto geyser spurting on viewer's right. COOL!

On the way out of the park we saw this cute little (600? 800 lbs?) guy munching grass on the side of the road, and yes, the picture isn't that great, but its my first ever Bison encounter, so I'm stoked with it. P.S. I was inside the car, ready to flee at high speed if'n he got a bee in his britches.

The next day was a bit chilly and drizzly, so we saw a movie and did some shopping in the hyper-western hamlet of Jackson. As a matter of fact, Jackson is so durned "western" that a few things seem to have gone slightly awry. Such as this red eyed, slightly demonic, antler arch. Yikes!

And in classic fashion, best for last, the creepiest thing of all was this Oh So Western Toilet Seat. Wow. Now that's some craftsmanship.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Oddly Obsessed With 80's Kids TV Shows

Cue the Muppets narrator from Pigs In Space...

IN THE CONTINUING SAGA... (uncue) make our Double Wide a livable space, we have finally gotten around to having some professionals install some brand new flooring. The rooms are, of course, not completely done, ie. trim and cabinets, but nonetheless, the changes are stunning if I do say so myself. The old master bath had BROWN CARPET, so the new lino is a veritable boon, to say nothing of the late acerbic wallpaper...

Old master bath vs. New master bath

Old hall bath vs. New hall bath

And that' s where my Queer Eye decorating confidence ends. See, the poor Hub and I busted our buns to get the guest-/sports equipment-/baby (if we get preggers)- room painted before the carpet folks came, to avoid the whole issue of getting paint on Brand New Carpet. And for some reason I thought Shrieking Smurf Blue would look nice with a sage green carpet. So now not only do we have the slight peeling paint disaster caused by the carpet removal, but I'm not so confident that the entire color scheme is, uh, workable.

But man, is that new carpet springy, soft and cuddle-able! I almost wanna marry it and become Mrs. Suzie Berbercarpet. Good thing it can't fix a computer! Heh heh. Just kidding hon.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Buckle Up!

A week or two ago, after my Gulfport stint, I was in a cozy little airplane flying from Warshington, DC to Sacramento. Now generally, I love me a good Jet Blue flight, but this one was especially savory, as it was only about 1/3 full, so everyone had their own row to nap in, AND a choice of THREE personal televisions to watch. So I was nestled down with my micro blanket and my half-pint pillow, for a blithe few hours of Good Will Hunting and third run sitcoms. When what should happen next, but the captain comes on with an announcement.

Now this wasn't your ordinary announcement about drink carts, or seat-belts. No. This announcement contained that one tiny phrase that all airline passengers fear with the blackest of dread. ...Slight Engine Malfunction... At this phrase, all heads snapped around to the closest other passenger visible, and eyes opened as wide as saucers. The pilot continued. ...A warning light has come on, so we are going to do the safe thing and land the plane... in New York City.

WHAT? Safe thing? WE ARE OVER OHIO! Ohio is fine, what's wrong with Ohio?! I want to land in OHIO! But no. We were going to NYC. Which means that we had to then sit, for another horrifying 45 minutes, in a plane with some sort of slight engine malfunction with our innards turning to putty. Eeeegad. Thank goodness Matt Damon was the t.v., or I might have started thinking about our plummetous fiery deaths.

So to cut to the chase, we made it back to JFK just fine, got on another (functional) plane, and all got extra booze, free movies, and a free one way ticket to anywhere that Jet Blue flies. And we all had the option of watching Good Will Hunting twice. I do still like me a good Jet Blue flight.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Quick Way To Kill The Joy Of The Flush Pottie

I found a dead bird in our toilet yesterday. The lid was closed. I can't quite figure out the chain of events that led to this, but I'm pretty sure the Molly cat was involved somehow. Molly cats are bird toilet water drowning danger. (New favorite phrase structure borrowed from this comic strip.) There were horribly distressing signs of extended bird splashage. To add insult to an already ignominious death, I had to fish the poor thing out with the kitty litter scooper. I will choose not to read this as some gruesome omen, but instead just a really random, bizzare set of circumstances, that will never, ever, happen again.

Friday, October 07, 2005

I Actually Don't Look At Car Accidents On The Side Of The Road

So for those of you who are interested in the structural carnage from Gulfport, I have tried to set up my flickr account to perform a slide show for y'all. Be warned, if anyone gets angry at me because their property is part of my slideshow, all viewings will be discontinued. The whole process was very awkward, because no one really wants to be a tourist in someone else's devastation. So you will note that many of the pictures were taken from inside the vehicle, and I have not included any displaced or affected persons in the pictures. I feel like there should be some lesson learned from this show of devastation, but I can't come up with one in a neat little package. Don't build in flood zones? Stop global warming? They all seem a bit pathetic in view of what happened. I feel like I am part of a world wide rubbernecking, and am a bit disappointed in myself. So I guess the only reason that I am doing this is because it is one way to understand what the people there went through.

One day my sister and I were driving through our zone looking for returning residents, and seeing a lot of this devastation, and I kid you not, the song "Desperado" came on the radio. Soon to be followed by Sara McLaughlin's "Angel". I have never fought so hard to not cry. So hum along to yourself and take a look at this.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What I Did On My Summer Vacation With The Red Cross

After some frustrating organizational snafus at the control center in Montgomery, Alabama, and then a repeat performance in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the Sis and I eventually found ourselves in Gulfport, Mississippi with a crew of the craziest smart alecks I have ever met. Our crew bonded as a happy sixsome during our first few days of shipping air around two different states in stylish Budget rental trucks, and then despite our widely ranging ideologies, hung tight and fast for the rest of our tenure.

From the left, The Crew is as follows: Juneau Jen, The Colonel, Me, Domino Don, The Sis, and Bumper Car Jim.

Our crew was a small part of a fleet of 60+ panel trucks that worked in the Gulfport area. Each day we would load up the trucks at the warehouse and distribute the goods to an assigned sector of the community. And by loading up the truck, what I really mean is toting around cases and cases of donated goods in a parking lot with no shade in 96 degree heat with 96% humidity, building pallets of goods to try and match to the needs of the citizens of our sector. Folks were dropping like flies in that parking lot. Fortunately our crew, drinking in fluids like the desert sands, managed to maintain the sneaker side down and did not end up under medical supervision.

Me and Mad Hattie the panel truck.

After the loading process (an unfortunately slow event, lasting sometimes up to two and a half hours!) each two-person truck would disperse into the community. For most of the time we were split into male/female couples, which, despite my loud internal feminist protestations, probably worked out for the better, as it gave the community a choice of folks to relate to... does that make sense? Anyway, I therefore spent the first half of my Bulk Distribution time with Domino Don, working in a rather needy community right near the warehouse. Honestly, I think that many of these folks could have used the Red Cross help before the hurricane. So in a way our job was easier. We would drive down the tiny gridded streets and chat with folks out on their stoops as to whether they needed food, water and/or cleaning supplies, depending on what the warehouse had that day. The majority of times, once we stopped and opened the truck, we would gather a crowd of folks and empty out the truck in no time. We sure didn't have to go looking for folks to help. The first day of this, Don and I filled up the truck three times! (For some reason the warehouse crew got slower as the weeks went on, instead of faster, so at the beginning, loading was actually quite a snappy affair...)

So after 8 or 10 hours of this hard labor in stifling heat, shuffling heavy boxes in and out of an un-airconditioned truck bed, with an occasional lunch break in a mercifully air conditioned chain restaurant, we would wend our way home to the luxury of our accommodations. Heh heh.

The accommodations were affectionately known as the Shake N Bake Oven. Have you ever had a pajama party with 600 of your closest friends? In an airless muggy warehouse? With no running water? I have. And it was FUN!

This was actually the second shelter we stayed in, but we were there for the majority of our stay. The first staff shelter was an elementary school that had running water AND air-conditioning, but those pesky school teachers wanted it back to actually start the school year. Durn them. So it was off to the warehouse on the Navy base.

Honestly it wasn't too bad when we first got there, but unfortunately it got hotter every day we stayed in Gulfport, and therefore so did our un-ventilated accommodations. The good thing about our new location were the amenities provided by the industry that supports the western forest fire crews. We had hot prepared meals and showers all provided out of 18-wheeler truck containers in the parking lots around our warehouse. The unfun part was the porta potties. Outside in the sun. All day. You'd wipe down your seat, paper paper paper it, do your business, and then spend twice as long picking the paper off your sweaty hide. Ew. And I have a question to all you men out there who read this blog (two, three of you...) why is it that there is always a puddle of piss below the urinals in these porta potties? Is your aim that bad, or is there some sort of engineering design flaw that causes a distressing splashback. Or are you all just gross? I need to know.

So now we were fed, and showered, and the next obvious step is to get some much needed rest. The first few nights I passed out from sheer exhaustion, but as the mercury rose it became more challenging. About three nights in, I hunkered down in my cot and did nothing but some serious sweating for the entire night. I now know what a glazed ham feels like in a 350 degree oven. Stewing in my own juices. Marinating, if you will. Thank heavens no one studded me with cloves. Definitely not sleeping though. So a couple of my crew mates and I moved over to the Ritz. And by Ritz I mean a rickety old wooden flatbed truck in the parking lot, as demonstrated here by The Colonel and Juneau.

Ah, sweet relief. Except for the West Nile laden mosquitoes. And the fact that it wasn't much cooler than the Shake N Bake. But I was beggin, and I sure wasn't choosin, so it was better than nothing. And the really amazing thing about all of this is that I had a home to come home to. This was a temporary situation for me. My house wasn't blown to smithereens like some of our clients' homes were.

So all in all I feel like an exceptionally lucky individual. I met some amazingly resilient people, all of whom were incredibly nice to us. Even in what was deemed "unsafe neighborhoods". Even when I got Mad Hattie stuck on someone's trailer when trying to back out of their driveway. And they had to drive their tractor over to drag the trailer sideways to uncouple the two. Oops. Sorry. Most folks I talked to felt amazingly lucky to be alive. I will forever be in awe of how genuinely polite everyone was despite their varied situations. I also got to see some staggering destruction by good old unpredictable Mother Nature first hand. I have some pictures of this stuff, but it'll have to wait until next time. The people are much more important.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Of Illness, Eruptions, and Computer Mortality...

Hello Blogosphere! Did ya miss me? Sorry for the radio silence, The Hub and I are on our anniversary trip to Grand Teton National Park, and are, uh, busy. And The Hub sorta kinda accidentally dropped my laptop and sort of kinda killed it. He's really, really, sorry though, so I think I'll keep him anyway!

So to quell those nasty rumors going around after my departure from the Gulf Coast, I will fess up with the facts. I did, in fact, get sick after Gulfport, but a quick visit to the doc during my one day back home assured us that it was nothing other than the common cold, and after the ingestion of many vitamin C laden fluids, I am again in fighting shape. A slightly boogery and phlegmy fighting shape, but swinging nontheless.

So now we are in the lovely little Teton Village, Wyoming, and well, it snowed last night. I can't believe the climates I have experienced in the last two weeks. Tropical heat and damp to high desert dry to snow! It's wacky! That and I have now spent the night in every contintental American time zone all within a week. My internal clock now reads "naptime" as a constant. Of course I have always been rather napperific, but what with the illness and all, it is straying into narcolepsy. Good thing I took a week off from my back-hoe driving job, huh?

The Tetons are cool, but sometimes I have a hard time enjoying goofy touristy things. I hate feeling like a poseur in a land full of genuine residents. It is like living in Tahoe and making fun of the tourists, only I AM THE TOURIST. But then we went up to Yellowstone and did the self guided tourist walk around the geyser basin by Old Faithful, and WOW! Forget all that nonsense, because geysers are COOL!

Well, we head home tomorrow, where I will have my very own old computer to work on, and I will spin many a picture enhanced thread of Red Cross travail, airline snafus, and goofy tourist exploration. So nice to chat with you again, and the fates be willing, we'll be seeing a lot more of each other as of tomorrow!