Monday, December 15, 2008

Damn it's cold out here!

So today the wind chill dropped the temperature down to -20. My power windows in my car are frozen shut, the doors were almost frozen shut, and ice glistens along every uncovered surface thanks to the 40 degree temperatures yesterday and all of that melting snow. Seriously, Minnesota, what gives? If you're going to be cold, then be cold- don't give me this wishy-washy, flip-flopping weather (though it was nice to finally get my car washed), as it seems to only bury us in even worse conditions than before! Grr...

So this past week has been pretty much the same as always at work- people come in, I deal with kids, and occasionally I help somebody. I've been working on a few projects simultaneously- trying to find free computers for a certain resident, working on some kind of recycling awareness program for the residents/staff, and still trying to get those #@#$ing GED orders through. It's kind of complicated, but basically I need 3 pieces of information about our company that nobody seems to know. Yay!

In non-work life, I've been spending a lot of time... and money... at Matt's game store, Chaos (located at Lyndale and Lake in Minneapolis!) Most of my time there has been spent dealing with the Warhammer 40k campaign that Matt is running. It looks like it's going to be pretty cool- we have a strategic map with all sorts of randomized terrain features on it like chemical plants, abandoned cities and whatnot. Some people got luckier than others with the whole randomized bit- Caleb's Tau got kind of screwed as he started with half of the territory that everyone else started with and kind of crappy resources, while Greg's Orks and my Eldar are pumping out resources like nobody's business. Pechous might have the greatest advantage, however, as he is in prime position to quickly triple the amount of territory he controls thanks to a multitude of strategically placed abandoned fortresses that he found... Well, I was planning on killing him anyway...

I also did some shopping at Chaos. Most of my christmas presents for family and friends is from there, and I also picked up the rulebooks for Changeling: The Lost and the new World of Darkness. Now, normally I wouldn't buy rulebooks because I can (and have!) just bittorrented them from online. But when I started that lucrative process I swore that if I was actually going to use one of those game systems for anything AND the book was not out of print I would purchase it.

So yeah, after Russell's game is finished I'll be starting a Changeling game. It's a different rule set, and the experience is very much different from vampire, but the game can go from glamour-infused whimsy to heart-stopping terror in two seconds, and all because you accidentally broke a promise to someone else...

More updates to follow as I have them. Until next time...

"A wanton waste of projectiles."
- Mark Twain's The Art of War speech, 1881

Thursday, December 4, 2008

T-Day Week

Dammit, forgot about the blog for a while again. Well, no time like the present to catch up, now is there?

In my last blog post I headed home to Elmira, NY to do some shooting in the woods. Unfortunately that didn't work out so well for me, as not only did I not see any deer until Thanksgiving morning but I didn't even see any fresh tracks until then. My dad and I were pretty frightened that he had shot everything in the woods, but the last day proved us wrong. We switched to the one part of our property that we had not hunted yet and saw tons of tracks, droppings, and even the occasional deer. Unfortunately I didn't get a good shot at anything, but oh well. At least I saw something after all.

Being home this time was... weird. I don't know why, but it just feels very different to be home again now that I'm out of college. I guess I'm beginning to no longer consider home "home" anymore. I've spent the last 4.5 years out here in Minnesota, and now I'll be with the parents for a grand total of 3-4 weeks out of the year. I guess the really weird part is how ok I am with that; it's not scary or even sad- it just seems right.

But still, getting to see the whole family was pretty cool. I got to help Hans along on his quest to construct the perfect board game (the latest sounds like some kind of weird cross between the rules of Call of Cthulhu and Epic Duels), drink amazing Belgian beer with my dad and Siegi, tease Liesel about her boyfriend, see my Orio, and even kid around Oma (though I got to be careful with the latter nowadays). Perhaps as a gift to the fact that we were all home my dad even got the Wii, which was a blast. I mean seriously, how can you make a duck-hunt rip off so much fun?

Also while I was home I got to catch up with some of my high school friends. We played the requisite couple of games of Euchre and also went to see Role Models. I would describe this movie as the only cute rated-R movie that I have ever seen. Sure, it has its boatloads of sophomoric humor, but there's definitely a lot of tenderness thrown into the movie... also a lot of geekery. We decided that the writers for the movie just wanted to have an epic foam sword battle movie, but had to make some pretty major edits to get people to watch it. The final scene in particular has some pretty jaw dropping feats of Assassin-style sword fighting.

I got back on Friday to discover two things: 1) I was alone in the house, and 2) the water was shut off. The latter was fixed by a call to Jason, but the former was not resolved until Sunday, leaving me to go a little stir crazy at home. I filled this empty void in my life by watching Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles on Youtube. It's actually a pretty good CGI cartoon, and a bit more mature than your average one. Of course watching the entire series in two days is a bit crazy... but I was pretty bored and drunk, in my defense.

Anyway, people came home, Teagle baked an awesome apple-cinnamon spice cake, and work resumed. There's some other, sometimes geekier stuff going on with me right now, but I'll leave that for another post.

Until next time...

"Thanksgiving Day. Let all give humble, hearty, and sincere thanks now, but the turkeys. In the island of Fiji they do not use turkeys; they use plumbers. It does not become you and me to sneer at Fiji."
- "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar" by Mark Twain

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Adventure, an Awesome, and an Airplane

Adventure: Downtown

So, after hearing that Russell was deathly ill with fever we decided to cancel Warhammer 40K round 2: metal mayhem. Now without a fixed point to guide my wanderings that evening, I chanced upon a call from Ms. Teagle. She wanted to know if I wanted to go see a play about one of her friend's travels around the world, so I said sure. I got her in the car and we headed out... to downtown Minneapolis.

Now, many of you may here the term "downtown Minneapolis" and not shudder in horror; in fact, you may laugh at those of us who do. Granted there is not as much traffic as in other, larger cities, but the layout is almost certainly more confusing. Streets are randomly decided to be one way, and many more are blocked off by the scattered bits of construction that pockmark downtown like chicken pox. The most dangerous and frustrating part of all of this, however, is the light rail. Normally a beautiful, well thought out thing in most cities of renown, the Minneapolis light rail is very dangerous in downtown because it looks like a normal street and is very easy to drive on to.

My personal experience with this happened that night. We wanted to make a right turn to try to find parking near the bar where the show was and accidentally turned onto the tracks, not knowing that the real street was actually in the third most left lane of the "street." Panicked, I pulled onto the sidewalk and assessed the situation with Teagle. Fortunately no trains were coming, but there was still the matter of getting from the sidewalk on the right side of the "street" to the actual street all the way to the left. The city planners seemed to have realized that their planning made no sense and thus made the medians seperating the two lanes of train and the lane of actual traffic by very low medians that can be driven over with care.

We managed to make it over the medians before oncoming trains flattened us and continued to try to find our way to a parking place. Unfortunately all right turns were denied to us by the light rail tracks, and this continued all the way until the tracks (and our road!) ended. 7 minutes of circling back around eventually got us back to our starting point, but still... what the hell, Minneapolis?

As a good note, the show was really good. It got me thinking about exactly what my "culture" is, and how typical it is of American, or any other culture on the planet. It also got me thinking about my heritage and how much that defines me. For myself, it does quite a bit, but I still think of my self as an American with German ancestry, not a German-American. There were some other good tidbits, like realizing just how different some cultures can be and exactly what some cultures find refreshing, fun, outrageous, etc.

Awesome: Danny Boyle

So, Danny Boyle is awesome. It takes a lot of people a while to realize this mostly because his movies are all so different from one another. In his directorial resume are such disparate movies as Trainspotting (need to see), 28 Days Later (probably the best zombie movie around despite the zombies not being the stars of the show)... and Slumdog Millionaire.

The last is his latest work that just debuted this past Friday. It tells the story of a boy and those closest to him, from his origins in the slums of Mumbai, throughout India and eventually back home, all in the search for who he is and to find his childhood sweetheart again.

The first really awesome thing about this movie is the fact that it is all told in retrospect as the main character is being investigated for cheating on India's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The second is that, while the movie can be lighthearted at times, it is also ruthless to its characters and subjects them to all sorts of real trauma, both physical and emotional, so it's a love story with something at stake. And the music is awesome, and every single person who saw the movie with us (i.e. the entire theater) enjoyed it, as well as 50 other screenings according to the pollster guy at the exit, which is kind of ridiculous. SO: go see it. NOW.


I went home to New York on Friday. Yay! On the way I got to have a philly cheesesteak in Philly. Yay! I then got to sit in the woods for 4.5 hours waiting for invisible deer. Yay! Then I played Heroes 5 and Fallout 3. Yay!


Until next time...

"We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: 'you don't know what you are talking about!'. The second one says: 'what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?'"
-Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Party, an Anniversary, and the 15th best invention of the year

So, on Friday our house decided to hold a party. There was no reason for this party other than we wanted awesome, so awesome we would have. This was a great idea for a couple of reasons. First, awesomeness is, by definition, awesome. Second, our house was a mess. In my family our rule is we clean the house up for parties but rarely at any other time, and it seems my house follows the same rule. So at least for a few hours before the party our house sparkled. Third, I had no other plans for the night, and drinking beer/ F_ _ _ Me punch with friends I haven't seen in a while sounded like a good idea.

We had plenty of beer and punch, and Josh went all out making even more stuff, like a cauldron of homemade chai, pigs in a blanket, beer-cheese dip and toasted french bread. Our guests also brought all sorts of awesomeness, like beer, brownies, swedish meatballs, and more booze. I got to see a lot of people that I see a lot, some that I haven't seen in ages, and even got to meet some new people. Unfortunately I had to go to bed at some point (stupid working on Saturdays...), but it was definitely a lot of fun while it lasted.

At work the next day my students didn't show up for the first class and were late for the second. Because of this we barely had time to get through the day's lesson before I had to shut down early because the other person at the site wanted to go home early. (CommonBond has a policy of having at least 2 people at the advantage center while it is open). So, I did some paperwork and headed home early.

When I got home I began unlocking the door only to have it opened for me by Rachel, who was staring at me with shock and some form of wrath.
"What are you doing home already?"
"I got off early from work."
"Oh, okay." *slams door in my face*
We have a long giggling conversation about my coming home early and ruining something; I don't remember a lot of it except for Rachel calling me "punk" a dozen times or so. We were celebrating our three year anniversary that day (woohoo!), so I can only assume it had something to do with that.

Anyway we calmed down and headed out to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. We arrived just in time to take a tour of the India: Private Places and Public Spaces gallery before the museum closed. It was a pretty cool exhibit, especially the video bits, and Rachel swooned over pretty much everything in the room. One thing that I found particularly interesting/disturbing was a video projected on a screen before which 72 mirrors were placed on the floor. For the most part the video showed the pictures of waves crashing against the shore, but would occasionally show pictures of horrific circumstances like the Holocaust, Indian train disasters, etc., with weird, disjointed sound bites from each as the water slowly turned red. Pretty weird, as I said.

After this we tried to head to our restaurant but I got the bus wrong and we ended up about 2 blocks from a Blockbuster. We figured renting a movie was cheaper than going to see one, so we said what the heck, rented Godfather Part II and headed to dinner, which was at a place called Moto-I.

Moto-I is the only sake brewhouse outside of Japan and it is located at Lyndale and Lake in Minneapolis. The sake is delicious and the food is rather expensive for the portions that are delivered, but we figured that our anniversary deserved a splurge. We tried three different kinds of sake and had bulgogi beaf and lettuce wraps, baby octopus and seaweed, some curry chicken dumplings, a tofu bun, and icecreams served with sweet potato candy. Delicious.

We then headed home to watch our movie... which was kind of weird. I popped the disk in and the first thing I saw was a car going through the snow. I was kind of confused as to why there wasn't a title screen, but I figured that would come later and promptly forgot about it. The plot seemed kind of confusing, like they were assuming that we had a lot of inside knowledge, but once again I assumed that there would be a flashback sequence or something that would explain everything. And so the movie kept on going, and got even darker than before... and then it was suddenly over. I spoke up and said "Wow, that was really short," at which point Rachel just started laughing and popped out the disk. Apparently we had only rented disk 2 of the Godfather, Part II by accident and had only watched the second half of the movie, and neither of us had realized it.

Any way, that brings us to today and me making pancakes for breakfast using an old family recipe. It also brings us to my trolling online and finding the 15th best invention of the year according to Time magazine.

Can you guess what it is?

Yup, it's Dr. Horrible., which beat out bionic contacts, shadowless skyscrapers, and the video game Spore, which only got the 20th place. The latter kind of pisses me off because... Spore? It's not even a very good game! Ach... oh well.

Until next time...

"What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light. Anniversaries are very well up to a certain point, while one's babies are in the process of growing up: they are joy-flags that make gay the road and prove progress; and one looks down the fluttering rank with pride. Then presently one notices that the flagstaffs are in process of a mysterious change of some sort--change of shape. Yes, they are turning into milestones. They are marking something lost now, not gained. From that time on it were best to suppress taking notice of anniversaries."
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1896

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life at Commonbond

So, I promised an update about work, so here it is. For those of you who don't remember/are too lazy to look back through my blog posts, I am working as the computer lab manager at Skyline Tower in St. Paul. This basically means that I run adult, teen and youth computer labs, offer education classes on the computer, and teach basic computer skills classes.

Lately I have been working on a couple of projects at once. About two weeks ago I heard from corporate that the Geek Squad at a local Best Buy wanted to volunteer somewhere and that I should try to get them to volunteer here. We've been exchanging e-mails since then, and I think they may come on board. This would be awesome, as I could really use their help putting together an advanced skills class, teach more classes and hopefully eventually get a projector for the lab.

The classes I have been teaching have had... spotty attendance at best. It seems that my two classes are in cahoots with one another because a) the word cahoots is awesome, and b)they alternate the days on which they show up. So Basic 2 will show up one day and Basic 1 will show up the next. When they do show up, they're pretty awesome, as they really want to learn stuff. The Basic 1 folks have so far learned what hardware and software are, can identify everything on the desktop, and learned to manipulate/create windows and folders. Next class will be a review class before I skip class again to go home and shoot things (pew! pew!), which kind of sucks because I want more time with them. Grr. The Basic 2 people are learning the joys of Microsoft Word; that should keep them busy for another 4-5 weeks or so, then it's Excel's turn to have fun.

There are also a couple of special projects that I'm working on. The one that is using up the most time is reworking our GED program. For a while I was stymied as to what exactly should I do, but I got a meeting together with the Hubbs Center, which is an adult learning center. A woman named Pam helped me out and realize many of the fundamental problems with our program and gave me some ideas as to how to fix them. Now I'm looking up a lot of reading comprehension stuff, as our main problem is getting the residents up to a ninth grade reading level, as well as trying to get money to buy GED and pre-GED books for the lab.

My other main special project is trying to get free computers for some of my residents and one guy in particular. He's a real character and has taken it upon himself to verbally trip me up at every opportunity. For instance, at our first meeting I was placing some papers up on the central message board in the lobby. As I was moving to the next board he called out to me and said "Hey, you dropped something!" I whirled around, but didn't see anything. I looked back to him quizzically and he simply grinned and said "Your smile- welcome to the family." Apparently he's been having lots of trouble sleeping because of his experiences in Vietnam and wants to take the GED at some point, but wants to be able to study at night in his room to fight insomnia. I've managed to locate a place that could help him, but I am currently still in negotiations with them. Hopefully that'll be resolved soon.

I also help people out with resumes and online job applications. Some of these are nice, as I know I'm really helping someone get a job. Sometimes, though, I just know from the outset that the person has no chance in hell of getting that job, and most of that is due to simple English deficiencies. I try to recommend programs, but mostly I fall on deaf ears.

But not everything is bad... though the kids and teens can be annoying as all get out sometimes. I like my coworkers, the people here generally like me, and I'm doing good for people for at least a year. Not a bad way to spend my time, I figure.

Well, I'll stop rambling for now. I've got much more important things to do, like watching the lab... and naming my Eldar army... and getting gaming feedback to Russell... and coming up with a question to ask William that isn't "Who killed the prince?"... yeah, real important stuff.

Until next time...

"In all the ages, three-fourths of the support of the great charities has been conscience money."
- "A Humane Word from Satan" by Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Return of the Blog

Wow, it's been a while since I updated this thing, hasn't it? Well, most of the reason for that was me studying for the physics GRE which absorbed my nights for quite some time. The GRE was last Saturday... but I didn't take it. The why of this is because ETS apparently never got the money for my test and never bothered to tell me about that until I called on the Thursday before the test asking for my registration ticket. Now, granted, there were a few things I could have done here- like, realize that there was such a thing as a registration ticket in the first place and check my credit card statements. But still... couldn't you send me an e-mail besides the confirmation e-mail that I thought guaranteed me a place at the test saying that you never got my money? Oyveh Maria...

Anyway, with that out of the way until freaking APRIL (grumble grumble death plot grumble) I now have a lot of free time on my hands. Some of this I have spent cooking things, and other parts of it doing geekier things... like brushing up on Warhammer 40K.

Now, before any of you freak out that I'm going to be broke playing this game, two things:
1. I'm already broke, how much worse can it get, and
2. I'm not actually buying any pieces, codices or books; just borrowing, proxying, and pirating like a good boy.
Since Russell is already gung-ho for Abaddon Chaos and Pechous wants to be the Space Marines I am forced to play with the Eldar, aka Space Elves. (No, seriously, they even have pointy ears and everything!) So I stole the codex from online and looked up army lists, deciding on Alaitoc because I love stealth and snipers, and they have them aplenty.

Another thing that I have done with my life recently is go up to Duluth to go see Rachel's parents and get my snow tires. While we were there the Carrolls took us out to Timberlodge Steakhouse (Would you like to load your [insert already kind of unhealthy food item here] with [insert incredibly unhealthy sounding dressing/food item here]?) and to a concert featuring the British Quartet Cantabile.

They were described to us as a "singing/comedy group", which sounded kind of wierd, but describes them perfectly. Basically they are an accapella group that has toured all over the world singing songs quite beautifully and/or disrespectfully, and ESPECIALLY if the songs in question don't have any words. For instance, their first song was a medley of a bunch of famous orchestral pieces where they sang all of the different instruments at once, mocking it along the way. They also sang some really beautiful pieces without a hint of irony; one that especially got to me was "Bist Du Bei Mir." It's a German song that can be sung in three or four parts, and I have sung it many times in my youth with my brothers and my church choir, and I also sung it the last time I saw my great-grandmother alive. Hearing it sung excellently before a crowd was really awesome and definitely put a smile to my face as I tried to sing along.

However, what was probably their best piece was also the last of their program, where they took a Frank Sinatra song and sang it as if it were a broken record, skipping their words, changing keys in wierd ways and speeding up and slowing down at random. All in all, hilarious.

Well, I don't want to bore you too much, so I'll talk about how work has been going in my next post. Again, sorry about the delay in posting, and hopefully I'll be able to keep more in touch from now on.

Until next time...

"The reason I dread writing letters is because I am so apt to get to slinging wisdom & forget to let up. Thus much precious time is lost."
- Letter to James Redpath from Mark Twain, 6/15/1871

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Road Trippin' in the MidWest: AustenCon '08

This weekend milady Carroll and I headed out at 4 in the morning to go to the Windy City. The reason for our excursion was that Rachel had won the undergraduate essay contest put up by the Jane Austen Society of North America, or JASNA for short. She was then offered a chance to come to the JASNA annual convention, or, as I like to call it, AustenCon '08.

To help us stay awake on the trip down and up I had purchased a collection of 16 Sherlock Holmes radio dramas from the '40s. All of these dramas were brought to us "by Clipper Craft Clothes... with a finely sewn Clipper Craft suit, you'll be the smartest, nicest, and best dressed man in the room... for only 45 dollars!" I could probably go on, but then I'd want to kill myself. The dramas themselves were appropriately hokey and entertaining, and Inspector Holmes proved himself to be quite a dick (in more ways than one). I'll probably do a rant about that one later, after I've gotten my hands on some more Sherlock Holmes books. So far I've read Hound of the Baskervilles and listened to the dramas, and I want to read/hear more.

My first view of Chicago brought about two thoughts: 1) that the city looked pretty ugly from I-90 and 2) WOW that tower looks evil. Apparently the latter was in reference to the John Hancock building, which totally looks like a great big black monolith jutting up from the city and casting a huge, black, withering shadow on all it surveys. Oh, and our hotel was right next to it! As part of our package deal, we got to stay two nights at the Ritz-Carlton, which was fan-freaking-tastic. The room itself didn't really stand out (though the window sill was large enough to stand in), but the price tag more than made up for itself in the bed and bathrobes. I have never, ever slept in a more comfortable on more comfortable pillows than that one. And the bathrobes were soooo freakin sweet I wanted to steal some.

After we had dropped off our things in the room Rachel headed out to take part in the Con and I tried to fall asleep. Unfortunately I was still running on adrenaline and hunger, so that was a lost cause. I decided to head down into the bottom of our hotel that connects to Water Tower Plaza, a shopping mall on Michigan Ave. I went up to the 7th floor, checked out an Auntie Anne's and went over to check out a California Pizza when I recognize a familiar face staring at me from inside the restaurant shaking his head and laughing. It turns out that Des was going out to lunch with his OUTLaw people directly below my hotel. He directed me to a place called Wow Bao, which serves Bao (I know, what a surprise!). Bao are Chinese dumplings filled with awesome, and are relatively cheap too.

Des later caught up with me eating Bao and we headed over to his apartment, which was conveniently located 5 blocks from the Ritz. On the way I got a tour of his law school which is located almost directly next to the Ritz. The library was the most amusing part, thanks to the communal chess game (make a move and then flip the card saying which color's move it is), the supreme court collectible cards, and the incredibly distracting view of the lake.

We hung out together for a bit, came back to the Ritz to see Rachel and guide her to her next event, and then went out in search of dinner. Unfortunately all of the deep dish pizza places were filled to the brim, so we wandered into the city until we came to a place called the Hop House. When I have more money, I want to come back there, because the selection of beer is nothing short of amazing. I, poor person that I am, opted to instead to only have the Wild Burger Trio, which is a collection of three mini-burgers made out of various tasty animals. I chose kangaroo, ostrich and wild boar, and all were delicious. We then headed back to the Ritz, and Rach and I eventual passed out at some point.

The next day I got to see Des sing in front of the NorthWest alumni in his accappella group and tagged along as he went about his chores. Later I got word that I was invited to the AustenCon banquet and ball, and therefore needed to find a suit ASAP. For those not in the know, the ball at AustenCon is performed in traditional dress by many of the members, and I had been told that I couldn't come when we left Minneapolis. So, my top hat, leather gloves, tuxedo, dancing shoes... all of that about 7 hours too far away to help me. However, this did give me the opportunity to go shopping. I purchased a sweet new vest, a red silky shirt (the first red article of clothing that I own!) and some charcoal pants to match the vest. Shoes and socks were borrowed from Des.

The ball was pretty sweet- the traditional dances were lots of fun and Rachel's main AustenCon pal was a really interesting person to talk to. We also had a parade down Michigan Ave, which was very hilariously awesome in concept and in execution. We later retired to the hotel and called it a night.

The next day, several interesting things happened. First, I accidentally got the room charged to Rachel's credit card instead of to JASNA. Second, it started raining. Third, we had to be out of the hotel by noon and pick up the car by 3. The first was fixed after a period of frantic worrying and a great Thai lunch (though it is still on Rachel's card... stupid banks...), the second did not short out my laptop, and the third unfortunately made Rachel miss seeing Des' apartment and also stopped us from getting Dunkin Donuts coffee. Grr.

But, all in all, the trip was pretty fun for me. I got to have a lot of conversations with Des about my various mythologies that I daydream about, about what kinds of books we like, various tv shows, and other sundry topics. I got to buy a sweet new vest. And, I got to stay in a Ritz for (practically) free. Stay tuned for a special guest host who will explain even more!

Until next time...

"When you feel like tellin a feller to go to the devil--tell him to go to Chicago--it'll anser every purpose, and is perhaps, a leetle more expensive."
- Snodgrass' Ride on the Railroad, 11/29/1856 by Mark Twain

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

...and We're Back!

Hey all, it’s me again. Sorry about the dearth of updates in… forever or so. Life’s kinda gotten pretty busy.

So, last I left you I had completed my training with CTEP and had moved into my new site. Well, the trainings continued for a bit longer at Skyline, but soon I was in complete charge of my lab. Adult lab has been pretty easy to control, as the adults follow the rules (for the most part) and remember to sign in and out (for the most part). The kids, on the other hand… Well, let’s say I had quite a few imprecations to say about them on the way home from work. Basically what happened was as soon as open lab started a tidal wave of kids from the Homework Center completely spun me around and ran roughshod about the lab. I could barely keep things running properly, and control was pretty much gone as soon as they entered. After about 2 and a half hours of pure chaos, I collapsed against the door and decided that there would have to be a change.

Fortunately, my supervisor and I had a brilliant idea: use half an hour time slots that the kids would sign up for in advance. That way when the hour or half hour came around my newly purchased kitchen timer would ring, and one group of kids would go out and another would come in. My lab would work like clockwork.

Well, it kind of worked like that. Enough that I’m still doing it. I need to beat the concept into their heads a little bit more still, but it’s slowly working. And to deal with kids waiting for their turn I’m starting an art table where they can draw on used pieces of paper while they wait. That second part is actually quite the huge success, and I’m starting to think about expanding it into some kind of official system with prizes for designs and such.

But yeah, my work schedule right now: I get up at 8:30 on work days and get to work by 9:30. From there I run Adult Labs on most weekdays for the majority of the day, and then in the late afternoon run either kids, teens, homework, or open labs. I punch out at 6:30 and get home by 7. Dinner is generally served by 8 or so, and I need to sneak in 1-2 hours of physics GRE studying plus some work for CTEP or taking care of my chores around the house. This leaves at most 3 hours of free time in the evening, 1 of which is generally spent in decompression from the work day.
However, it's not that bad of a schedule, because I get Tuesdays, Sundays, and every other Friday off! It's kind of wierd, and I never get two days off in a row (Saturdays I work from 9:30-3:30 and every other Friday I have a Corps Day for CTEP), but breaking up the week into more manageable chunks is pretty awesome if you ask me. And since I have Tuesdays off I get to cook dinner for the house on that night. So far I've done rice pudding and chicken tortillas; and chicken w/ salad and turtle desert pizza (basically a big cookie!).
My Saturdays consist of work, and then some kind of fun activity in the evening. The old standby is the Arkham Horror game at Pechous' game store, but occasionally other things come up... like the bluegrass hoe down in Northfield put on by Aaron Cross' band The Last Known Whereabouts. Sundays are spent studying physics and geeking out with Russell's Vampire game (which is turning out very interestingly...). I even got to go down to Northfield for BLurie's B-Day and see all of the crazy changes that have happened there... and went to a Magic prerelease on Sunday. Yeah, total dork, I know.
But yeah, that's how my life is going right now- busy, but with enough break that I'm not actively going insane. This weekend Rachel and I are going to Chicago for her big Jane Austen Society gala event, and to see Des. So, just got to get through tomorrow! So, until next time...

The proverb says that Providence protects children and idiots. This is really true. I know because I have tested it.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

Monday, September 15, 2008

This weekend was filled with physics studying and geekitude. I'm starting to rework my way through my intro physics text to see if I remember all of the formulae for the chapters and am doing fairly well so far (though the occasional question with 2 variables still throws me for a loop...). I also got to play Arkham Horror on Saturday at Matt's game shop (we won, though it was close; Shub-Niggorath, Mother of Goatspawn, is one tough lady to take down), and continued the Vampire campaign on Sunday. I didn't get to do much in the latter besides a) find out that my patron was dead, b) negotiate some business deals, and c) become Granada's new head banker. Oh, what fun I will have...

Today was kind of my first real day of work in that I had some training but at the end of the day actually got to open my lab for the first time. It was a pretty easy day, as it was an adults-only lab and few people came, but I think I acquitted myself pretty well. I also got to work on my schedule, which is looking pretty sweet. I now have Sundays, Tuesdays, and every other Friday off, and work 5 hours on Saturday. I also got all of my vacation days settled through Thanksgiving, which is another relief. Tomorrow I try to run an open lab for two hours, which means lots of rowdy kids. Hopefully I will be able to control them well enough to avoid a complete devolution into chaos...

Well, that's about it. I just have some physics studying and some searching for entertaining programs for kids for tomorrow's lab, so I better get to it. Until next time...

"What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it."
-Mark Twain

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The End of the Week, and Physics

Hey all, welcome back. Thursday was pretty low key at work- I pretty much just sat in my office rearranging things and looking through the massive piles of binders for useful tidbits of information. There were definitely some, like lesson plans for teaching basic comp 1 and 2 and examples of registration forms. So, I'm a little bit less scared now, and I got an idea to request a grant for a projector so I can lead classes by showing them examples on my laptop on the big screen. Should be cool.

That evening we had a massive undertaking to finish all of the lamb that was left (about half a gallon). We headed out to Trader Joe's (my first one!) to do shopping. That place is pretty cool, and has lots of really, really tasty looking things... like peanut butter filled pretzels. Totally started eating those as soon as I got home. They also have beer and wine, and a "make your own 6-pack" deal which I took advantage of. Despite all of these glowing aspects, I have to say I'm not the biggest fan of Trader Joe's. Sure it has a lot of organic foods and what not, but it also has one of the largest carbon footprints that I've ever seen, as everything is brought in from one of the two coasts. I mean, for the fresh vegetables and fruits I can understand as winter is coming (a moment of silence for poor Eddard...), but some of the other stuff just makes no sense. Where it really hit home was the beer. I'm generally the most eco-conscious when I'm buying beer and try to buy local, so it was with a bit of shock that I realized that all of the beer I had bought was from one of the two coasts. This probably wouldn't bother a lot of people, but it does for me. That and the fact that my pumpkin ale had "natural pumpkin flavor added..." bastards.

Anyway, Jason used the ingredients to make lamb green marsala (masala? I dunno...), my favorite Indian food, and it was good.

Friday I had more CTEP orientation, this time with our supervisors. It was actually really cool, as what we did most of the time was discuss technology issues and how they are going to change in the coming decades, as well as the ecological impact of these developments. Along these lines was a really cool video that we saw, which I provide the link to here, which gives glimpses of exactly how much technology is changing the world and what the future may bring. There is a discussion site for the movie that can be found here. I haven't checked the latter out too much yet, but if it's anything like our discussions after the movie it should be pretty cool. At the end of orientation we all said the Americorps pledge to "Get Things Done for America!", though about half of us read "persevere" as "preserve." Oh reading, what hast thou don'st?

That evening I took my first practice Physics GRE... and got about a 3rd right. Oy... yeah, there's gonna need to be a lotta studyin' before I can take this thing, especially in the memorizing of formulae and the refiring of my maths centers. I mean, seriously, is calc that hard that I can't do it reliably anymore? Oyveh Maria...

Well, that's about it. Until next time...

"We could use up two Eternities in learning all that is to be learned about our own world and the thousands of nations that have arisen and flourished and vanished from it. Mathematics alone would occupy me eight million years."
- Mark Twain's Notebook #22, Spring 1883 - Sept. 1884

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The 3rd Day

My third day on the job was once again more orientation. I started off by dropping Oanh at the science museum, and then headed over to the Common Bond Community headquarters. I learned about the organization and even got to write a little elevator speech about what it does and what I do... as follows:

"I work for Common Bond Communities, which is the largest nonprofit provider of affordable homes in the Upper Midwest. It builds and maintains homes for low income families and individuals while at the same time offering them services that allow them to gain new skills and access to resources, like internet and job training programs. I run a computer lab at an apartment complex called Skyline Towers and in addition to running the computer lab there I teach basic and advanced computer skills to the residents."

There was then the usual discussion about harassment policies, a lot of paperwork, and I was off about an hour early. I decided to spend my time at a Borders near Skyline Towers, where I began reading the new WOD book Changeling: The Lost. It actually looks really cool, even though I haven't even gotten to the actual system yet. Basically you play a human who was captured by the True Fae and brought to the beautiful, mad, and dangerous world of Arcadia, where the laws of physics and magic are bound by Contracts that the Fae make with the world and each other. You somehow manage to escape from your capricious and cruel master and make it back to the real world, only to find that either a) you've aged 15 years and only 2 days have gone by, b) you've spent a week in Faerie while a century has gone by on Earth, c) you return to find out that you were not missed, as a magical construct called a Fetch has taken your place in your family and with your loved ones, or d) any or all of the above. Oh, and did I mention that you are now part fey and must live in constant fear that your master/mistress will come looking for you and drag you back into Arcadia, even if you swear you killed them last time? It just seems like a WOD game where there is finally actual constant fear that Those Things Out There are actually coming to get you, and the sad part is that your magical powers, as awesome as they may be, are probably not going to be enough to stop Them.

Wow, that was a long interlude.

Anyway, I then headed over to Skyline Tower and had more orientation. I met the other Americorps people there and toured the surrounding area with one of the Americorps leaders, Yvonne. Turns out that there are great cheap asian and Ethiopean restaurants in the area, so at least I won't starve. I got to at least see my demesne, but time ran out before I could check out my predecessor's hand off documents and get my house in order. I'm going to head in early tomorrow to work on that before the day starts. My fellow Americorps people there seem really nice and cool, but I still feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, and real work starts on Monday. Hopefully some of my fears will be allayed tomorrow, so here's hoping.

When I got home I was completely exhausted from not getting much sleep the night before and just scarfed down some left over lasagna and took a two hour nap. I got up to go over to Teagle's house to see Project Runway, which was a pretty sad episode in that over half of the designs were not only terrible, but that two people were kicked off as well. Oh well, whatevs- Heidi Klum can still do whatever she wants and get eternal love from me... (btw, Rachel is ok with that last statement)

Oh, and the world didn't end last night. I actually derailed orientation at Skyline by broaching the subject, and spent the next 10 minutes explaining what the LHC was, how it could destroy the world, and why Science has the Right to do such a thing. It was a pretty awesome conversation, let me tell you. The next big step will be on October 22nd I believe, when the particle mashing begins. Yay physics!

Until next time...

"Scientists have odious manners, except when you prop up their theory; then you can borrow money of them."
- "As Concerns Interpreting the Deity", by Mark Twain

p.s. You can now identify yourselves as followers of my blog! Join 13:72 my readers, and we shall usher in a new age the likes of which the world has never seen before! *cue patriotic music, salutes, big shouldered military jackets, etc.*

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Did you know the universe could end tonight?

Cuz the LHC is firing up! To celebrate, here is a link to the live footage of the LHC, and here is an exceedingly fun and educational rap about it.

Yay physics!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The 2nd Day

My second day of work started out a little rushed, as I woke up 5 minutes before I was supposed to meet my new travel buddy to go to our meeting. Fortunately I can rush out of the house at the speed of light and was only 5 minutes late to picking up my carpool buddy Oanh. She's pretty cool, and is into board gaming, likes physics from a layman's and artistic standpoint, and is working at the Science Museum in St. Paul, and is therefore awesome. She also got me listening to 89.3 The Current, which has a lot of indie scene music. I think I still prefer 92.5 because of my classic rock addiction, but it is pretty cool. We also discussed why indie movies are tending to suck nowadays (they are way too self consciously trying to be "indie") and the distinguishing traits of the genre (kind of quirky, discordant music and an air of "we don't care if it's bad, it's unique and kooky!")

Training today involved a lot of going online and learning to use the CTEP website. It looks like it could be a really useful tool, if only to find cheap places to eat, recipes, and entertainment options. My 2nd year buddy Mark "Thor" Thorson set up a poll to see whether we wanted to start some kind of regular game night, and we got all positive responses (though about half only wanted to do so on without any kind of commitment and the other half wanted to do it about once a month). That should be pretty cool, though it may mean that I now have to actually learn all the rules to Arkham Horror... *shudders*

We also had to post biographies about our computer partners on the website, and in mine I had Thor put down that I was into geekery including pen and paper RPGs. This led me to meet Kate, a self proclaimed RPG fanatic who has played pretty much every kind of D&D and WOD game out there. She's currently in a game of new WOD Changeling, which I am definitely curious about and may join if I have time/ inclination. I also discovered that a) there is apparently a con in St. Paul in the winter called the Con Up North [or something to that effect] and b) she's into Magic. Yay geeks!

The rest of our session was spent doing a Q&A session about Americorps life with the veterans in our group. This was pretty informative, and I learned a lot about the things that can go wrong, how to get food stamps/ extra food, and how to deal with children (never, ever give them any ground. We don't negotiate with terrorists, so let's not start it with our children.) This kind of freaked me out, but I also came to realize that these people all got through their first year fine and are coming back for a second, so they obviously didn't screw up too much and actually enjoyed their position. Heck, one guy became involved with a children's tv broadcast without any kind of video production knowledge, and he's still in for the second year there! Coincidentally this guy, Steve, knows Teagle and Egerman from Trivia Night at the Nomad Pub. Crazy, eh?

As I may have mentioned yesterday, I have a lot of lamb at home now thanks to CTEP's generous policy of ordering way too much food at our gatherings. As a consequence of this I have made home made gyros pizza (yesterday), and today made lambsagna (once again delicious). I won't bother putting the recipe down here, as you can just find it on the side of the lasagna noodle box (just replace ground beef with chopped up lamb strips). Since we still have half an ice cream bucket left of the stuff, Jason is going to make lamb curry tomorrow, which will be awesome as I will probably get home later from work tomorrow (I get to see my site finally!). Now I am going to collect the information for applying to grad school, which will hopefully be completed by the time the week is out (ha, ha, ha.).

Oh, and one more thing. I was trolling and found this article about how an english prof wants to get rid of standardized spelling. I, for one, am appalled and horrified at the possible consequences of this.

Well, that's about it for now. Until next time...

"...simplified spelling is all right, but, like chastity, you can carry it too far."
- The Alphabet and Simplified Spelling speech by Mark Twain, December 9, 1907

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pizza, Playing, and Perforation

So, in the past five days I have been playing a lot of board games with my free time, in particular Arkham Horror, Heroscape, and of course the old stand by, Magic. These were the main activities of my Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday I continued the theme by going to pester Pechous at his game store, Chaos Games. They have a pretty cool selection (though their Magic stuffs are a bit overpriced), and they have some really cool promotions. On Wednesdays they have an open board game night with a ten dollar buy in. The store people then take a game off the shelf, open it, and the participants play a game of it. Whoever wins gets to take the game home. Pretty awesome, eh? I might go to Friday Night Magic in the future, though I will probably wait until Shards of Alara comes out... yay exalted critters! Also, later that night Jason, Caroline, Brandon, Rachel and I all went out to the Chatterbox Pub in St. Paul, which not only has a wide selection of classic video and board games but also has homebrewed ginger ale, rootbeer, and several microbrew beers. Plus, awesome sweet potato fries and reasonable prices.

Continuing the theme on Sunday I participated in the first session of our Vampire game. I, Massimo, a glassblower on the lam from Venice in Granada arrived in town with my twin mortal brother Niccolo and managed to glean all sorts of information about the city from my many contacts, learn about my competitors in the lead business, meet a man who calls himself the Prophet of Sin, and successfully woo the associate Prince of the city, a lovely lady who styles herself as the "Lady of Shadows" because I am a)damn good looking and b) awesomely rich and c) know how to make gifts for the ladies, such as a black glass dagger doped lightly with silver and gold with the arabic word for shadow written in silver inside the blade. Damn straight.

But I've been doing some non-geeky stuff as well. On Friday night I went with Rachel to hang out with her Admission Possible people at a party. It was pretty fun, they had good beer, and amazing munchies (best spinach dip ever!). We went from there to Brandon, Carl, Peter and Hillary's apartment to watch 21 (baaad movie is baaad) and chat for a while. Apparently Brandon, peter and Hillary are moving to a place that is 3 blocks from ours, so that's pretty cool.

On Sunday I went to see Tropic Thunder. That was a fairly ridiculous movie that had the right amount of ridiculousness but needed two things: more Robert Downey Jr. and less Jack Black... especially less almost-naked Jack Black.

Today I went to my first day of CTEP work, which was just orientation. I signed a lot of forms, learned about the organization, and ate a lot of good food. At the end of the session therewas still a lot of food left, and since we had gyros for lunch I got to take home two huge serving trays full of onions, lettuce, tomatoes and lamb. Of course the only thing I could do with these heaping helpings of food was to make pizza, which thanks to Mr. Food's Pizza 1-2-3 I know how to do!
I decided to do a variation on the traditional cheese pizza by whipping up some wheat dough with crushed red peppers and placing spaghetti sauce, lamb, mozzarella, onions, and tomatoes on top of the pizza. After cooking I put lettuce on top of the pizza for ambience and to give the false impression of nutritional value. This pizza, like the stuffed eggplant one, received rave reviews from the house, and was compared to "heaven in pie form" by at least two different house mates.

Yeah, I've got a bit of an ego- so sue me.

The recipe for the dough is as follows:
Take 2 1/4 cups of flour (all-purpose) and mix it with 1 package (1/4 ounce) of yeast and 1 teaspoon of salt in a non-stick bowl. Then, in a seperate glass, mix 1 cup of very warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pour the mix into the flour mix and mix it all together (yay mixing!) Knead the dough until it is fairly uniform in texture and appearance and leave it in the bowl to rise for 35 to 40 minutes.
After this time punch the dough down and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Now you should be ready to spread the dough onto your baking sheet (coated with some non-stick substance hopefully!) and make your pizza.

To make wheat dough, replace 1 cup of all-purpose flour with wheat, and to add crushed red peppers just add 1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper to the flour mix.

For cheese pizzas, I recommend baking for 15-17 minutes at 450. For stuffed pizzas, like my eggplant pizza (which has two crusts draped around the filling), bake for 35-45 minutes at 400. And speaking about that recipe, why don't I give it to you?

Take some olive oil and heat in a large skillet on medium. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and saute for about 1 minute, then add a large chopped onion and the peeled and cubed contents of two eggplants. Saute this for 15-17 minutes, then pour in 1 1/4 cups of pizza or spaghetti sauce, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and stir well. Pour this mix on top of one pizza crust, then place the other crust on top of the mixture and pinch the edges together. Now bake as above and enjoy!

That's about it for now; tune in later this week for more Americorps postings and delicious recipes for lamb! Until next time...

"When I'm playful I use the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales. I scratch my head with the lightning and purr myself to sleep with the thunder."
- Life on the Mississippi

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ron Paul!

So, on Sunday night Rachel and I visited Teagle and Ben and played Killer Bunnies with them. Basically it's a card game where you try to kill the opposing people's bunnies and keep yours alive while gaining carrots (including hopefully the magical game winning carrot) and using all sorts of ridiculous weaponry to win (like mini black holes, ebola, and anthropomorphic flamethrowers).

On Monday we headed out to Lake Cedar to swim and then went to Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream Parlor for dessert. And man oh man, can they make ice cream. I ordered two scoops of Chocolate Coyote, which is chocolate ice cream mixed with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Soooo freaking delicious. That night we finally saw the elusive Karen and played Heroscape with the crew at Russell's. It was a lot of fun that saw Rachel and I destroying each other with robo rats, zombies, orcs riding T-Rexes and the Deathwalker 8000 eliminating an entire mindless horde in one turn.

That night I had lots of trouble getting to sleep, so I spent most of today in a kind of a daze. Because of this I ended up sleeping through part of the Ron Paul convention, which I had gotten free tickets for at the Liberty Parade. After a quick dinner I hopped a bus for downtown and got there in time to hear Ron's speech. It was pretty good- I agree with a lot of his sentiments, particularly in regards to limiting the power of the executive branch, the futility of the war on drugs, the overprescription of prescription drugs and the need for peace rather than war, but I'm a little fuzzy on how exactly he intends to do these things... as well as some of his other suggestions. I'm going to look into it before I pass judgment, but some of the things he mentioned seemed a little far fetched or not particularly well thought through. Anyway, here are some pics from the convention:

edit: Oh wait, I forgot a hilarious anecdote that involves Dr. Paul's introducer, Barry Goldwater Jr. I'm not sure what exactly he said this in reference to, but here goes. "So, there's this backwoods farmer who is a little eccentric and keeps really good care of his pond and goes out every day with a pail to take care of it. So, one day he goes into his barn, grabs his pail, and heads out to the pond, only to find three women swimming in it. The women shriek and swim to the opposite end of the pond and say 'We're not coming out while you're standing there!' So, the farmer shakes his head and says 'Now, I didn't come out to this pond to see y'all swimming naked, and I certainly didn't come out to this pond to see y'all getting out of it naked.' He raises his pail and says 'What I did come out to this pond to do was feed my alligators.'"

Yeah, kinda random, eh?

Until next time...

As early as 1865 or '66 I had had this curious experience: that whereas up to that time I had considered myself a Republican, I was converted to a no-party independence by the wisdom of a rabid Republican. This was a man who was afterward a United States Senator, and upon whose character rests no blemish that I know of, except that he was the father of the William R. Hearst of to-day, and therefore grandfather of Yellow Journalism - that calamity of calamities.
- Autobiographical dictation by Mark Twain, January 24, 1906

The Liberty Parade

On Sunday Rachel, Becky, Ben and I headed over to the aptly named Liberty Parade, which was a very peaceful and artistic protest of the RNC. After the parade there was a free concert, with at least one band that I liked, called Stacy K and the Groovestains. They had a kind of rock folk feel to them, and the artistry on their cds is pretty awesome (see above).

The Parade and the concert were part of the UnConvention, which is a protest without a political focus or agenda and belonging to no party (though Ron Paul supporters, Democrats and eco-peeps seemed to be in large numbers among the constituents) that want to remind us about the importance of liberty and free speech in America. They have another gathering slated for Thursday that I'm going to attend called the Peace Island Picnic.

But yeah, for some pics of the parade, go to my Picasa album located here.

Until next time...

"Irreverence is the champion of liberty."
-Mark Twain

Monday, September 1, 2008

State Fair, New Deliciousness, and Pi

So, on Friday night Rachel, Becky, Becky's friend Dan, Jason, Caroline and I all went out to the Minnesota State Fair. And let me tell you, the place was packed.
It seemed like everyone had come out for the same purpose as us- to pay a lot of money for really tasty food that we probably shouldn't have eaten. My tally for the fair was:
an apple cider float with cinnamon ice cream
buffalo and peppers on a stick
wild rice corn dog on a stick
garlic french fries
deep fried cannoli
mini doughnuts
peanut butter gelato
and, by far the most ridiculous of all (even more ridiculous than spaghetti and meatballs on a stick) was the following. So, we were walking down one street trying to get to our meeting place, and we began randomly naming off foods on a stick that would never work. There was peanut butter on a stick (I believe it can work!), soup on a stick, etc. As we turn the corner, I jokingly name hotdish on a stick. Of course, the first thing that greets my eyes is this:
What it is is potato and meatball hotdish that has been deep fried, put on a stick, and served with mushroom bisque dipping sauce. It was quite delicious, and the same place offered something called an Uffda treat as well. For those not in the know, "uffda!" is the word said by stereotypical Minnesotans as an exclamation of surprise, enjoyment, disgust, etc. What an Uffda treat is is cheesecake placed inside a waffle bowl, smothered in caramel and drizzled with pecans. I ordered one at the same time as another guy, so the entire booth was soon yelling out "Uffda, Uffda Uffda!" pretty regularly and raucously. Needless to say, it was pretty good.

We didn't do much else at the fair besides walk around, pet the goats, and take a glorified ski lift from one section of the park to another. Still, it was pretty fun, and my body almost died. Yay!

The next day I didn't do much; just sat around the house and tried to complete a webcomic that I was reading. It's really good, and I suggest anyone who's into those to check it or its sequels out, as both are definitely entertaining. What I did do, however, is make macaroni and cheese!
What you do is take 1/2 + pounds of mild cheddar, 1/2 + pounds of extra sharp chedder, and cut them into cubes. While doing this boil a pound of pasta and cook to al dente. Once that's cooked, pour in the cheese, some salt, some pepper, tomatoes (preferably a small can of them with juice), mixed vegetables, 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I would also recommend stirring in some amount of cayenne, chipotle, or other spices to taste. Mix these in the pot, then pour them into an oven safe dish that you have greased somehow (I used a 3 quarts Pyrex dish that I greased with butter). Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, and serve! You may want to use more cheese than listed depending on how many veggies and tomatoes you add.
Yay house! Unfortunately that's all the time I have now, but I'll have another post up tomorrow. So, until next time...

edit: Oh, and one more thing: Teagle, Pechous, Ben, his boyfriend, Rachel, Zoe and I went out with Anna Duane to celebrate her last nights in Minneapolis by going out to a club called Pi for dancing. Apparently it is mostly a lesbian club, but the people there were welcoming and it was a lot of fun.

Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but afer all, the Scotchman would shake his head, and say, "Where's your haggis?" and the Fijan would sigh and say, "Where's your missionary?"
- A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain

Friday, August 29, 2008

Not too much to report from today, though I did do some pretty cool things. I spent most of the morning watching Venture Bros. on SurfTheChannel, and then headed out to Lake Calhoun for some exercise. The lake is located approximately 5 blocks from my house, and is pretty awesome. There are over 3 miles of biking and walking trails around it, and plenty of spots for swimming. It was an almost perfect day, with plenty of blue sky and lots of sun. I decided to circumnavigate the lake, and at the half way point did some laps of the enclosed deep water swimming area. I was afraid that the water was going to be too cold, but I was pleasantly surprised with almost perfect temperature water.

That evening Rachel, Jason and I made delicious Thanksgiving sandwiches, which are sandwiches with turkey, lettuce, cranberry sauce, cream cheese, and optional grapes on them. Really delicious and really quick- I suggest you try them out.

After this we walked up to William's bar in Uptown to see the last speeches of the Democratic National Convention. The bar is pretty amazing- they have over 300 different kinds of beer, and a downstairs peanut bar that has at least 20 beers on tap. I ended up ordering an Anchor Porter, an authentic Belgian abbey ale, and even a beer from Africa called Tusker. The convention was pretty amazing- everybody made really good speeches, especially the spattering of middle and low class America that was invited to talk on stage and of course the man himself. Barak and his people seemed to hit on a lot of the areas that I care about, especially foreign policy and veterans' affairs. I hope he can follow through on all of those pledges he made, so for right now I think I'm going to cautiously throw my hat in the ring with him. Cautiously, because I hate the political party system and loathe having to support one of the Big Two, but unfortunately what are you going to do...

Then again, we have the Republican National Convention coming to St. Paul in just a few days, and we all know what a spectacle that will be. Stay tuned for more information on my plans for the RNC, because what else am I going to do with my last week before work starts? So, until next time...

"To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals."
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Welcome to Minneapolis

Hello all, I am writing this post from my fabulous new room in Minneapolis, MN! (address: 3532 Fremont Ave S). It took Rachel and I a while to get the room in order, but we've pretty much got it set now and it looks awesome.

On Sunday I got in to Minneapolis at about 2 in the afternoon and began unloading all of the stuff from my car. When I was about a third of the way done I got a call from Rachel, who had headed off to a restaurant with her parents just before I got there. Apparently when they exited the restaurant they found that their car had been towed away, as they had parked in a no parking section of the street. So, I hurriedly threw the contents of my car on the ground and picked up the Carrolls and took them to the impound lot of Minneapolis. Many jokes about their newfound criminality made up the trip and wait, and soon I was headed back to the co-op with Rachel in tow.

Later that night we met up with Teagle, Ben, Pechous and Russell at the Nomad World's Pub for trivia night/ 2 for 1 drinks night. While my team decidedly sucked at the former (go Vagabonds of Destiny!), the 2 for 1 deal on beer was amazing, as they had a pretty good selection of beers on tap. We decided to crash on Pechous' and Adam's couch for the night as it was late, I was drunk, our bed hadn't arrived yet, and the public transportation system here kinda sucks. Buses are fine and all, and getting to ride for 2 and a half hours on 2 bucks is not a bad deal, but trying to figure out which bus you want to take, which corner of the street the correct bus will come to, and how long the ride will take is a very difficult process. I guess there is some kind of public transit/ease of driving quotient at work here, as driving is not bad at all.

The next day we took the bus home, only getting out incorrectly once, and cleaned up our room to fit the bed in. It's actually a really cool bed, as the box spring on the bottom is split in half for easier carrying. The guy who dropped it off kept expounding on how great a deal we got, and if we wanted to sell it we should charge a lot due to its rarity and functionality. I also built two stacking chests of drawers to hold my clothes, which were a bit difficult to work at first but later got much easier.

That night we went over to Pechous' again (via public transit, got really lost, called Pechous, and got on the right track... stupid metro website...) for games and Pizza Luce. The latter is an amazing local chain with pizzas like barbecue chicken and baked potato. The game we played was called Arkham Horror, where you play as investigators trying to stop Cthulhu's monsters from invading the world and ending humanity. One of the really cool features about the game is that all of the players are on the same side; you either defend humanity, or monsters kill you all. Well, unless you get the mission Join The Winning Team, where you join the monsters by sacrificing your allies... It's pretty fun, but is a bit complicated and has way, way too many pieces and bits of information to keep track of. In our game we just managed to seal enough portals to stop the Big Bad Ugly from coming through; probably in another turn he would have made it and really given us a beating.

Today so far we bought groceries and did some reading. I finished Joss Whedon's X-Men series (killing characters for fun and profit! yay!) and started rereading Watchmen when Rachel isn't reading it.

...and pictures of the room!

The entrance to our room, with the rules
Our bed, with Rachel reading Watchmen
Showing off the corner where all of our shelves are; the bookshelf was, of course, the first thing set up in our room.
And finally, the view from inside of the room. Yay!

Until next time...

" is less trouble and more satisfaction to bury two families than to select and equip a home for one."
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Coming to a State Near You (Well, for most of you...)

Hey folks, I'm currently in a lovely hotel in Escanoba, WI after driving for 16 hours, and will be in Minneapolis on Monday by 3 or so; if you're in the area, give me a call or drop by 3532 Fremont Ave S. And as a bonus present, Rachel will be there!

p.s. Lake Michigan was really pretty today!

p.p.s. if you are ever in Mackinaw City, WI, be sure to check out Mancino's Pizza and Grinders. I had what is most likely the best hoagie I have ever had called a cherry chicken club. Italian bread, covered in cheese, cherry mayo, dried cherries, and chicken, and all toasted. Holyfreakingshitamazing. Pic below

p.p.p.s. dammit, can't get photos from phone to pc! aarrrgghhh!!! edit: got it working!

p.p.p.p.s. I just kinda wanted to do this one for the heck of it. Yay!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Love that Dirty Water...

Hey all; just got back from Boston last night, so I've got stuff to say. Yay!

The reason for this trip began with Rachel's parents. They and two other couples from Duluth wanted to go to Boston, see a few Red Sox games, and enjoy the sites. Fortunately for me one of the couples dropped out, so Rachel got invited to come along and, by extension, I was as well. I headed up on Wednesday and met Rachel at the hotel her parents were staying at. It's called the Liberty Hotel, which is a pretty ironic name when you consider that the hotel used to be a prison. (Keeping with the theme are the two hotel bars, the Clink and the Alibi) It's really posh- heck, they even give you fresh plums at the reception desk. Plums! Who'da thunk...

The first night I wandered around the city with Rachel while killing time before dinner. We wandered over to Faneuil Hall and found a really cool (though overpriced) comic store that had a bunch of Dr. Who action figures and accessories (TARDIS USB port! Sonic screw driver pen! Dalek web cam!), and lay in the grass in the park at North End and picked out animals in the clouds (including a penguin, a dragon, and a bird-fish). We then ate a delicious meal at one of the Italian Quarter's many restaurants, paid way too much for parking, and headed off to Nik's house, which is about an hour outside of Boston. We got there in time to see him before he went to bed (early work and all that), and soon followed suit after catching up.

The next day we wisely decided to take the train into Boston for the day. We began by eating at a great restaurant called Fajitas and 'Ritas, which serves awesome fajitas and margaritas (though I am biased against the latter). We then stopped in a used/antique book shop that had a really cool selection and from which it took me about half an hour to pry Rachel away from once we decided to go. (And I believe she's still upset about that...) After that we went on the Freedom Trail, a self guided walking tour of Boston through the eyes of history. I have a lot of pictures of it still on my camera (well, cell phone...), and will post a link to them with captions once I get them off it. But it was a lot of fun and walking, and we got to learn some interesting things and see a lot of cool sites for little money. We also made a few unscheduled detours from the path, including one to a place called Mike's Pastries, which is an amazing patisserie in the Italian Quarter. I got something called a lobster tail, which is basically what you get if you take a cannoli and make it in the shape and size of a lobster's tail. Huge, but delicious, and will probably chop at least 5 years off of my life, but so worth it.

Later that night we went to the Red Sox game. Fenway is a pretty fun place, even though they made the idiotic decision of cutting off our seats from the nearest exit by putting two seats right in the middle of the aisle. The game was basically over in the second inning when the Sox scored 8 runs against the Rangers. Still, Sam Adams and conversation kept the game interesting.

The next day Nik got off work, so we spent the day hanging around with him. First was mini golf at the aptly named Mulligan's. Now, they didn't have any of those fancy moving windmills or anything, but what they did have was a spinner in front of most of the holes. Each player spins it and is assigned a disability or power from the spin. For instance, you might have to play the hole with your foot rather than your club; do the first shot blind; have the power to switch the positions of the balls on the course after the first shot; and permanently swap scores with another player if you got a hole in one.

We then headed into the city to go see the Blue Man Group, which Rachel's mom heroically got us tickets for that morning. The show was really, really awesome, but I still don't know exactly how to describe it. They use a lot of different media at the same time in the show to make music, entertain the audience, and just do really cool stuff. Check 'em out on YouTube- they are freaking awesome.

Rachel and her parents left us to take their plane that was leaving the next morning, so Nik and I decided to head home, eat guacamole and watch Dr. Horrible that night. The next day we drove through heavy traffic to Hingham to see Russell, who was apparently in Boston for that week (or possibly day) only. We basically just sat around and talked for four hours about various things (oh MAN this campaign is going to be fun...), ate a delicious meal, and said our good byes.

Now that I'm back in Elmira, I'm beginning to realize exactly how little time I have left here and how much stuff I still need to do. So, apologies in advance if my postings become erratic.

Until next time...

"Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities."
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Down By the Sea...

Hey all, sorry about the delay- got a little carried away with the housework and geekery yesterday to find time to post. But now I'm here, so here we go!

A Midsummer Beach Bum

As I stated last time, we decided to forgo our third New Hampshire vacation for a trip down to the shore in Berlin, Maryland, where the Ryans, friends of my parents, live. The trip down was pretty uneventful- nice weather, including a brilliant rainbow, characterized the voyage. We got down late at night and stayed up a bit drinking and chatting with the Ryans before heading to sleep.

The next day we got up early and went over to the Peach Festival at the Ryans' church in Ocean City. The Festival does indeed have peaches, but it also has plenty of other food and a sizable flea market where the proceeds go towards the church and their charity. I got a whopping huge burger, a big bowl of peaches and ice cream, and purchased a cheap zen water fountain thing for my desk and the most badass coffee thermos that I have ever seen. Seriously, the thing is at least a foot and a half tall and feels like its made out of steel rather than that namby-pamby nalgene stuff. I'm pretty sure that it would make a pretty effective weapon or hammer in a pinch, too, because it definitely has some heft to it. After I had bought it I found out that it was actually Mr. Ryan's old thermos, and that he had earlier joked about finding a buyer for it with my parents. Well, shows them...

We then headed out to Assateague Island. The island is special not only because of its spectacular beaches, but because of its interesting assortment of wildlife. There are your herons and other birds of course, but also small deer... and wild horses. They got there thanks to a Spanish galleon that had sunk off the coast a few centuries back. A few of the horses on board managed to escape and have now adapted to the salty vegetation on the island, becoming smaller and more potbellied in the process. We didn't see any of the horses until we drove back from the beach, but in the past we have swum almost next to them on hot days.

Saturday was a beautiful day for spending at the beach. The temperature of the land was 75 degrees and the water was 69, so it never got too hot or cold in either environ. The sky was almost perfectly cloudless, and the water was incredibly clear. I spent the afternoon floating in the surf or sitting on a lawn chair drinking a beer and reading more of The Chronicles of the Black Company (a really good book- I'll do a review of it when I finish it).

We then headed home to eat steamed and seasoned blue crabs, which are just about the most delicious yet annoying things in all of creation. I say just about because the Ryans had another couple over to cook, and the husband was amazing. He created what I now want to characterize as "the steaks of Heaven." Seriously, these were the most delicious things I probably have ever tasted; even the fat was too good to pass up. This succulent steak was served with sauteed onions and followed up by desert kabobs and coffee liquor.

Seeing as we were already stuffed, I objected at first to my sister Liesel and her boyfriend Tim's idea to go down to the Boardwalk, but was wrangled into it to save the Ryan's daughter and my pseudo cousin Erin from having to be alone with the two. As I predicted, we ate even more at the Boardwalk, because 6 or 7 crabs, a steak, onions, and kabobs were clearly not enough. There we got enough fries to fill a bucket larger than my head, deep fried oreos (Tim's idea), and Polish ice (served by actual Poles!)

The Delaware Adventure

The next morning we got up and went to church with the Ryans. The pastor there was a hoot, and his sermon, about the different kinds of "storms" that we face in our lives, was pretty good, if a bit long on the personal examples (though the one about losing the buffalo steaks did make me cry a bit). What we didn't realize at the time, however, was that it was quite prophetic.

A little bit after we took off from the Ryans my mom noticed that our battery gauge was dropping down. We unplugged everything, turned off the AC, but it kept on dropping. We managed to eke out enough power to get the car into the automotive department of a Walmart, where we got the battery changed after a 40 minute wait. (We were actually pretty lucky- they had originally said that it was going to be 4 hours before they would even look at it) We started on the road again, but we noticed that the gauge was continuing to drop. This necessitated our stopping in Smyrna, Delaware, where we went to a local Autozone to get a new alternator and wait for a mechanic. This meant a lot of waiting around, as the mechanic originally went to the wrong Autozone before coming to pick us up. Still, the wait wasn't bad- I got to get an exceedingly delicious apple from an Acme, got to read some more, and Bug and Tim got Chinese food. Our mechanic was really friendly and really quick, and we headed off yet again. We got a little lost on some of Delaware's smaller highways while trying to avoid the interstate, but we made out pretty well...

That is, until God decided to pour His Wrath upon the world.

Our first glimpse of The Wrath was the sky turning a sickly black color in front of us, with lightning streaking out all over the place. Then the rain started, pouring down so hard that even when we were at a complete standstill we could barely see the road in front of us. We later heard hail hit our car as the rain continued to pour and the lightning and thunder continued to duel in the skies above. Fortunately I am still under Thor's protection (see Road Trippin' in the Northeast: New Hampshire Strikes Back! for the origin story, blog fans! -ed), so we made it through the storm ok, but it was still a pretty tense 20 minutes.

The rest of the ride was nice and quiet, and we reached home just after my brother did from his excursion at the beach. (he also had car trouble- seems his oil was actually smoking...) I'll have another update sometime today probably about the last two days before I head off again, this time to Ye Olde Boston Towne to meet up with Nik and The Girl (yay!). So, until next time...

The corpses of doomed men fall/
the gods' dwellings are reddened with crimson blood/
sunshine becomes black the next summer/
all weather is vicious; do you understand yet, or what more?
- a reference to Ragnarok in the Voluspa

Friday, August 8, 2008

I Love Piracy...

Reeeaaally quick post today, as I, Liesel, Tim and my mom are headed down to Berlin, MD to go to Assateague Island for the weekend. In addition, as mentioned above, I have come to love piracy in limited doses. Take for example, all of the geek books that you can download with it! I have Song of Ice and Fire D20, the entire collection for the HERO system, and have debated downloading EVERY SINGLE OLD WORLD OF DARKNESS BOOK IN EXISTENCE, all for free.

Quick note about the HERO system: it's really, really cool. If you can think of a heroic power or character, you can easily build it using the system. Want to fly with wings? Sure! Want to use magnetic fields instead? Go for it! It has a ridiculous amount of depth, but fairly easy implementation. Might be cool for a campaign at some point...

But yeah, Pirate Bay = teh awesumxorz, and I'm headed to the beach.

See ya!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The End of the World... and Ringtones!

Hey all, got a quick post for you. First, I came across this film while checking out Geeks Are, a tech and geek site. It's a docu-drama about 5 different possible endings of the world. It's pretty cool, even though a few of the "endings" wouldn't actually end the world, just the world as we know it.

Second, I was recently introduced to a really cool free ringtones site where you can find ringtones for basically any song and make your own. So, I have a challenge for you all. I'll give you a list of people on my contacts list that I don't have ringtones for, and you will nominate songs/sound effects/whatever for their ringtones, but not your own. Here goes:
Ben Egerman
My dad
Justin Hager
Rachel Teagle

And if you don't see your name on there, and your name isn't Karen, Russell, Ms. Carroll, Greg, Nik, or my Mom, I don't have your number and therefore can't add a ringtone! Yay!

"It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone."

-Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tree people, 5 minute cake, Wrongcards and more!

Over the past couple of days I've been doing two things: painting my Oma's house, and navigating the internet with Stumble. The latter, obviously, has been a bit more interesting than the former, and I thought that I should share some of the better findings that I have... found. Damn. That kind of got away from me...

-Pooktre: basically, it's a website that shows all of the living furniture and tree people that this Australian artist has created. All of his stuff is really cool, especially the chair that he created out of a living tree. And it's not like he carves them while they're alive- no, he forces them to grow into people, chairs, and gazebos.

-Semiconductor: this is a film group that takes various scientific concepts, like nanotechnology or electromagnetics, and uses videos to show us how truly weird and wonderful they really are. The magnetic field video is my particular favorite, as it shows how they expand in (almost) every day places and look really freaky when in the visible spectrum.

-Tastespotting: food porn. And by food porn, I mean more of the "I'm watching Top Chef and getting reeeaaally hungry" and not using food in porn... Anyway, really, really good looking dishes here, and the best part is you can click on them and find the recipes! Along this line are hundreds of camping food recipes and the 5 minute chocolate cake (note: have not tried yet, but will post results).

-The Webtender Drinking Games: tons of drinking games sorted by name, type of game (i.e. dice, cards, nothing, etc.) and expected intoxication level post-game.

-The Daily Puppy: the cutest site on the web. A new puppy everyday, as well as pictures of puppies when the grow up. Makes you want to say Ohmygoodnesslookatyou!Yeslookatyou!Aren'tyouacutelittlepuppyohyesyouare!
And yes, that is one word.

-Subnormality: one of the best web comics I've come across in a while. A little too militantly atheist for my complete approval, but a lot of its comics do stop and make you think about why the world is the way it is. Also, a sphinx occasionally shows up to complain about society and eat people.

-Wrongcards: the wrong card for every occasion. Some of them might be a bit... disturbing, and all of them are definitely cracked out, but where else will you find a free e-card collection that includes 6 cards designed specifically to prepare people for the coming Zombocalypse?

And one more thing: to see how truly awesome Google's calculator is, ask it what the answer to life, the universe, and everything is. Until next time...

"The castle-building habit, the day-dreaming habit--how it grows! what a luxury it becomes; how we fly to its enchantments at every idle moment, how we revel in them, steep our souls in them, intoxicate ourselves with their beguiling fantasies--oh, yes, and how soon and how easily our dream-life and our material life become so intermingled and so fused together that we can't quite tell which is which, anymore."
- "The $30,000 Bequest" by Mark Twain

Monday, August 4, 2008

Road Trippin' In the Northeast: New Hampshire Strikes Back!

New Hampshire Strikes Back!

Click on the pic above to see all of the NH picks!

So, just 3 hours after returning home from The Philadelphia Adventure our party lost Timmy Tim Tim etc. and gained my mom and the Herzl-Betz Auxiliaries, Greg and Danielle, for the journey North. The trip was pleasant- we had pretty good weather, and the only stops we made were for coffee and beer. The latter was due to an urgent request from Siegi and my dad, who had already driven up to NH on their motorcycles and were tired from cleaning. Oh, and there was something about a radioactive bat as well, but I've forgotten that bit...

We got to NH very late, around 2:30 in the morning, and promptly fell asleep. It was probably due to this that we didn't get started on our first hike the next morning until about noon. By that time the sky had become cloudy and a light drizzle had begun falling sporadically. Siegi and my dad, who had gotten up early, joked that everything had been perfect between 7 and 11 that morning- the buffalo had been out, the sky had been blue, unicorns were spotted on the hills, etc.

Still, events would prove that our delay was quite fortuitous. We decided to climb Mt. Sugarloaf, a relatively easy hike located in the White Mountains that takes less than an hour to ascend and is often covered in wild blueberries. As we followed the trail, we noticed little plastic bags hanging from some of the trees. Inside the bags were envelopes titled "I Love Megan" and sealed in wax with a heart. Sensing ridiculousness, I was naturally very curious as to what was going on.

The terrain was quite slippery and muddy thanks to the rain, but eventually all of us, including the little dog, made it up the mountain, when the sun decided to come out and play again. At the top we found a small tarp with another of the letters hanging outside of it... and inside of it, a white dress. Traversing the bald top of the mountain, we discovered a table set up with champagne glasses, a mound of portable cooking equipment and supplies, and a man putting on a tuxedo. Apparently the man had decided to propose to his girlfriend of nine years after months of deciding how to do it properly. Seeing all of the effort and ingenuity that he had put into the proposal, I don't see how she could say no, especially considering how she was beaming when we encountered her on our descent. One thing was definitely for certain: this man has definitely set the bar for ridiculous proposals. I'm sure I'll find a way to top it when the time comes, but daaaaamn will it be difficult.

The remainder of our day was spent at our house playing games, as it rained the rest of the day except for between 7 and 11 at night. (dun dun DUN!) Munchkin was trotted out for a few short games, but the true game of the night was, as usual, Life. Every year that we have come up to New Hampshire we have played Life almost every night for time immemorial. Some of you may be wondering how we manage to be captured by this game. The answer: getting far, far too much into the details of exactly why everything is happening to you in the game. Some examples from our game on Saturday night: Greg began the game as the first member of his family to pursue higher education and became a very well paid policeman who caught people who ran too fast (spun a 10) and too slow (stock bought on 1), though his ire was directed more at the latter than the former. Unfortunately only a little bit after he had bought a home with his wife he was fired and forced to work as a police themed stripper to make his bills. To reflect this he declared that his wife was staying with her mother until he got back on track and removed her from the car. Later Greg got to switch salaries with another person, which was emblematic of his finally making it in a big budget action movie. His wife came back (he bought her pearls), and life was good... until I stole his salary, symbolizing his brief stardom and new life as a bit star. His loveless marriage resulted in no children (probably due to his wife leaving him during their younger years) and he unprofitably retired to a retirement home, where he spent the rest of his days wishing that he hadn't landed on that "You lose your job" space...

You can ask Rachel about my career in Life, because it's all her fault that I lost. Damn Tibetan orphans stealing all of my money and distracting my other 4 kids from their studies...

ANYWAY, on Saturday we traveled to Mt. Cabot and began our ascent early enough to get the majority of it done between 7 and 11, the magical hours when everything is awesome in NH. Mt. Cabot has a special place in the lore of the Herzl-Betzes, as it was on that mountain that our entire family almost died. When I was only 2 or 3 we were climbing the mountain when large black clouds came rolling in and unleashed great gouts of lightning and rain. I vividly remember running down the mountain as fast as my little legs could carry me as lightning and thunder crashed around us, visualizing a forcefield that would protect us all from the storm.

Therefore it was rather eerie when we found most of the trail to be overgrown and, due to the recent rains, basically a muddy stream bed. We joked that a curse had befallen the mountain the day we ran, but nervous glances at the sky affirmed that it was indeed still sunny out. The ascent was slow, as large swaths of mud and slippery rocks threatened to end us at every step. Greg, the dog and I got to show off Matrix-style wall running as we desperately tried to avoid sinking into the mud. We were partially successful- I still got one shoe pretty much filled with the muck, but still not bad considering.

We eventually made it to the lower outlook after about an hour and a half of hiking and enjoyed the spectacular view. After about a half an hour we glanced at our watches and noticed that it was already 10:30. We worriedly glanced at one another and slowly looked out across the valley. Sure enough, grey clouds could be spotted on the horizon as it was, after all, almost 11. The descent was much quicker than the ascent, and Greg, Siegi and I paused to wait for the girls at a stream crossing. The sun was shining, the water was refreshingly cool, so it was alright. After the girls finally arrived, I looked up through the trees and saw only grey. It was after 11.

Fortunately we managed to make it back to the car before the storm hit. After washing up back at the house, we headed into Littleton to do some shopping. Littleton, NH has two amazingly cool stores: the Village Bookstore, and Chutter's Candy Shop. The latter is famed for having the longest candy counter in the world, as you can see from the picture on the album. It's a pretty sweet place (no pun intended), with all sorts of random candies that you would never find anywhere else. For instance: watermelon flavored coconut bars; candy chews called Mint Juleps; and more fudge than you can shake a stick at, with flavors including Reese's.

The rest of the night was spent packing, as well as the next morning. Our drive home had a few interesting side quests, including:
- hurriedly dumping our trash in a dumpster behind a supermarket before the employees came back out
- Greg answering every single conceivable question about his choice to become a priest and what he can and can't do (the latter consists of two things: sex, and acting out against the Church)
- finding an incredibly hippie diner called the Moon Dog Cafe that served amazing curried chicken salad wraps and other food. Hell, they even made a ham and swiss sandwich amazing by piling on unbelievable amounts of those two ingredients. And they let the dog in!
- shredding my tongue, almost dislocating my jaw, and getting at least 3 times my daily sugar intake maximum, all from the same jumbo jawbreaker
- and ordering drive thru at the slowest Taco Bell in existence.

All in all, the trip was a lot of fun despite the rain. I also got to talk a lot with Greg about my superhero comic idea, and heard a lot about his possible plan of writing a story about aliens that are governed by Catholic morality and have found increasing amounts of faith as their technology level increased. Unfortunately I may have to borrow them for my comic and kill them... *sigh* Leave it to a guy called Dr. Wrath to destroy our first contact species to fulfill his twisted sense of protecting the Earth...

That's it for now; until next time...

"Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven & hell & I have only a vague curiosity about one of those."
- Mark Twain's Letter to W. D. Howells, 5/20/1891