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...

"...it 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 Sexy.com, 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
Liesel
My dad
Danielle
Des
Justin Hager
Kyle
Siegi
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

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Road Trippin' In the Northeast: The Philadelphia Adventure

So, I've been traveling all over the Northeast this past week and just got back from rainy New Hampshire. Since I've been away for a while, I think I'll split my trip log into two parts, beginning with my trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

The trip was conceived as a birthday present from my sister to her boyfriend, hereafter known as Timmy Tim Tim Tim Tim Timmy, as I have taken to calling him behind his back. Their plan was to head down to our apartment just outside of Philly and go to an OAR concert on Wednesday night. Seeing as they are barely 18, my parents decided to send me along as a chaperone of sorts. Timmy Tim Tim... etc. is a good enough kid- has a good sense of humor, knows his place, generally likable- but still, gotta keep on eye on him.

The trip began well enough- I decided to let my sister get some highway practice in on the first leg of the journey, which was the high adrenaline affair that I expected it to be. After that I took over, with Hallisson guiding us past traffic jams to Philly. It was a pleasant trip, filled with nice conversation, a lot of OAR music and occasional rants on my part against the other drivers. We eventually made it to our apartment, which is located in the borough of Narberth, which is located just outside of Philly. It's a very quaint, almost Pleasantville-esque neighborhood, with a downtown consisting of lazy one way streets and plenty of mom and pop shops scattered among the pricy and trendy independent merchants. The reason I have an apartment down there is because my Oma and Opa used to run several apartment buildings there and still own that building. My Oma keeps the first floor tenant free so that we always have a place to visit when we want to go down to Philly.

The first night was fine- we went to a good Japanese restaurant within walking distance of our homebase and had amazingly delicious eel dishes there. (side note: Snow peas make delicious appetizers in lieu of bread) We then went to the local movie theater and bought fairly pricy tickets for Hancock, as Liesel and Timmy Tim etc. hadn't seen it yet. While watching it I came to the realization that my brother Siegi is either Hancock or Will Smith, because a lot of his vocal patterns, facial expressions and body language were exactly the same as my brother's... plus I could totally see him as an alcoholic superhero who's just trying to do good. (Hi Siegi!). We then retired to the house, watched some I Survived a Japanese Game Show on our exceedingly old black and white TV (vacuum tubes people, vacuum tubes in the tube!) and went to bed.

The next day the adventure began. Now, those of you who know me well will question my use of the word "adventure". For me, adventures are generally bad things- I either get lost, hurt, or something bad happens to me or others around me. Well, here it's pretty accurate. We began by heading over to IHOP for breakfast (8 dollars); not bad, just way, way too much. We then headed over to U Penn to check out the campus (parking: 13 dollars), but no one really had any information for me as apparently all of it is now online for the graduate program. Though, in their favor their bookstore looked like a B&N and there were nice tennis courts right next to the physics dept... and its 15 minutes from my apartment by train.

We piled into the Alpacamobile and headed to the Philadelphia Zoo. Unfortunately, Hallison decided to prove her evil nature by taking us on the Schuylkill Expy (pronounced School-Kill). That was pretty harrowing, as the directions came fast and furious and ended up with me half a city in the wrong direction before I could finally get my bearings. Even when we got to the Zoo it took us 15 minutes and 2 U-turns to figure out where to park, as the nice lots were for members only. It turns out that non-members get to pay 12 dollars to park in an incredibly sketchy alleyway that is bordered by razor wire on one side and a chain link fence leading to the railroad tracks on the other. We also had to park half a mile from the entrance, which did not put me in a better mood. We paid admission (20 dollars) and got to go in. The Zoo was pretty cool; lots of very interesting animals in awesome exhibits (golden tamarins walking across the path in front of me!), awesome factoids (pumas can jump 30 feet across and 16 feet up!), and peacocks roaming freely throughout the zoo. However, it was exceedingly hot that day, and we had forgotten to pack water (3 bucks a pop). Fortunately the drive home was a bit easier this time, and we retired home to eat delicious cheesesteaks from the winner of the 2006 best cheesesteak place in philadelphia (located in Narberth across from the movie theater!).

We then headed to the concert but not terribly early, as our tickets had defined seats on them. I programmed Hallison to take us there without using the highway, which not only saved us a lot of aggravation but also took us on one of the most unique paths I've ever driven on. In downtown Philly the most dominating feature is easily the city hall, and the streets don't let you forget it. Instead of moving in the normal grid pattern, the streets all go around the city hall in a big circle, forcing you to recognize that it exists and is older and more powerful than you. This was kind of annoying from a driving stand point, but the effect was really cool. Finding the concert was a bit of work, but eventually we found parking in a formerly empty lot (10 bucks). There were plenty of tailgaters there, which should have prepared us for the concert...

As soon as the concert began, I really, really wanted some whiskey. The concert had beer selling for 7 dollars a bottle, yet people still bought it in large quantities. I know this because it became a popular past time during the concert (which was standing room only, I might add) to throw the bottles into a different part of the crowd. Two of these bottles hit me square on the head (thank God they were plastic), and at least one hit Liesel. Also, drunken crowd surfers nearly knocked me to my knees with a blow to the back of my head as they crashed to the ground in my direction, which did not put me in a better mood. And the cover band was really annoying- they kept on trying to get crowd participation, but a) nobody knew the words to their songs, and b) they weren't very good. OAR, on the other hand, sounded much better than on the cd, and to their credit they did what they could to calm the crowd down and just get everyone to enjoy the concert. Still, in the end I think I'll just stick to music at home, as I don't think they're worth the aggravation.

We got home uneventfully, I got my whiskey on the rocks, and it was sleep time again. In the morning we headed home, but the adventure was not finished with us. Getting out of Philly we ran into a huge, 7 mile long traffic jam that not only pissed me off royally but also got me distracted enough that I accidentally went through the EZ Pass lane instead of the ticket lane at the toll booth. This resulted 2 1/2 hours later (at least 1 1/2 of which was traffic) in $22.75 in toll instead of our usual $3.25. After that, however, things finally became smooth sailing- Hallison took us on a very meandering root to save us more traffic woes and led us to a little gas station on route 6 that had this:
Yeah, read it and weep!

The lack of money is the root of all evil.
- More Maxims of Mark [Twain], Johnson, 1927