Massive Update!

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

Well, it’s been like 5 months since I had enough time to think, much less post anything substantive to the good olde series of tubes more commonly known as the internets.  Well, I lot has happened in that 5 months.  Here’s a quick rundown (with bullet points for emphasis)…

  • The puppy is now 7 months old.  She’s big, but she was the runt of her litter so while she’s big, her siblings are actually much bigger.  Kiko, the pug, had his 8th birthday recently.  He’s due to have some tooth surgery, but is otherwise healthy.  Lilith, the cat is going crazy, but that’s normal.
  • How sly of me to post about the pets before getting to the really big news.  Liz, my lovely wife, decided several months ago that things weren’t working out in her PhD program at Illinois.  She did some soul searching and decided that a clean break was best.  She needed to find a program that worked for her, and more importantly, she needed to find one where she could have a mentor.    Long story short, Liz opted to apply to the U of Utah in Salt Lake City.  She was accepted and she starts this fall.
  • I’m glad that last bit got your attention.  I’m sure you’re wondering what I was wondering.  This is not the best economy for Sam to go move cross country.  What’s he going to do?  And what about the house?  This is the point in time where I must explain to you that there is a world of fairy tales.  In this world of fairy tales things like serendipity, fate, and good luck mysteriously intertwine to make for all the happily everafters we often dream about.  I could be cruel and say… “This is not one of those stories.”  Well, cruel isn’t the right word for it because it would be a lie.  This is in fact one of those stories.
  • One day, out of the blue, my boss calls me and explains to me that my talents are underused in the Chicago office.  Well that certainly piqued my interest because I thought the next sentence was going to be something like…  and it seems we wouldn’t be needing your talents at all.  You see we’ve had a few layoffs in the last year, and I thought my number might have been up.  Instead, he explained that my talents would be better used in the Circulation Systems department.  Not only that, but things had already been arranged and my new boss would be calling me with the details.  I was sitting on pins and needles for a week until I spoke with my new boss, but the bottom line was better than I could have ever hoped.  My new job wouldn’t require that I report to any particular office.  I could, in fact, work from just about anywhere I wanted to.  Sure, it would be nice if it was close to an office, but I could even work from home.  I think you’re starting to see the fairy tale now.
  • Around the same time, Liz and I decided to test the market and try to sell the house.  We didn’t use a realtor.  Instead we hired an attorney to handle the paperwork, then we listed our house on Craigslist.  Yes, Craigslist.  Within a month we had an offer on the house.  Yeah… something like fate might be at work here.  Initially, the offer was really good and we thought we might actually make a little money on the house.  Unfortunately, the arcane art of house appraisals put the kaibosh on that.  Sure, we’ll lose a little money, but considering the kind of money that people are losing on their houses these days…  our $2K loss (from the price we paid, and doesn’t include money we put into the place) doesn’t seem so bad.  Well, even fairy tales have their harrowing moments.
  • So… on the second week of June, Liz and I, Liz’s old friend Shannon, and our pets got into the Penske truck and made our way west to Salt Lake City.  It was a fun trip that was only slightly marred by the sad news about the house appraisal.  If you’re moving cross country, I highly recommend the Penske truck.  Cheaper than U-Haul and the truck was pretty spacious (we were able to fit our lives into a 16′ truck).  As an aside, I would like to thank everyone that helped us pack.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Even if all you did was come over and hang out for a few minutes.  It was great to have the moral support.
  • A couple of months ago, I happened to make online friends with Madeline Boudreaux, an SLC local.  If she didn’t know it before, she now has a friend for life.  When Liz, Shannon and I arrived in Salt Lake City, Madeline offered to help us move our stuff into our new place.  She enlisted her partner, Paul, who is a pro at this sort of thing.  Well, with their help (and some very nice neighbors too) we were able to unload the truck in record time.  Now that’s what I call a great welcome.

That’s the big news.  Liz and I are now in Salt Lake City.  We’re still unpacking.  Sorry for the super long rambling post, but it was the only way to get everything out.  If you know something about Salt Lake City, please share it.

Oh yeah…  it’s really nice to live in the same city as my partner in life and love.  I knew our situation was tough before, but now that I’m out of it, I can see it for the hell it truly was.  There may be some aspects of Salt Lake City that I probably won’t like, but I can deal with that if it means I don’t have to make that long ass drive each week.

Hugs, Kisses and All That!
–sam

What I’ve been up to…

I’ve been relatively quiet lately…  here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Working!  I tallied up the total number of vacation days I’ve used this year.  The total was 4.  That’s right, I’ve only had 4 days off of work this whole year.  How sick is that?  Well, I plan on remedying that over the next couple of months (more news to come).  Other than that, work itself, has been going relatively well.  Still lots of changes, but I feel relatively safe right now.  By safe I mean, that I have been busy as hell working a lot of different projects.
  • Commuting!  Up until last week I had been commuting to Chicago by train and bicycle.  It’s been great.  I feel less burnt out when I’m done with work.  I feel a little more motivated to actually go to work each week.  And that’s why winter has me worried.  The colder it gets, the less likely it is that I’ll be able to commute by bike.  Which means that I’ll need to start driving again.  Let’s just hope that gas prices stay low this winter (yeah right!).
  • Volunteering!  I have been volunteering time to two community organizations.  The Bike Project is a bike collective in Champaign-Urbana.  It gives people a chance to learn how to fix their own bikes and to build their own bikes from donated used bikes.  They also do things like give away bike lights, build bikes for underprivileged kids and other organizations.  I also volunteer a little time at WEFT, 90.1, a local community radio station.  Champaign-Urbana is blessed with several community radio stations.  My “job” at WEFT is to open the new Rock, Indie Rock and Pop music that comes into the station and get it ready for the on-air folks.  It’s a simple job, but it does afford me the opportunity to listen to a lot of new music (some of it actually decent).
  • Gaming!  I still play D&D every week.  I play in a game in Chicago and one in Champaign-Urbana.  I also play some board games here and there with Liz and her school friends.  I would love to play more board games, but oh well…  you can’t have everything.
  • Politics!  I’ve been really sucked into the elections and the campaigns.  I read a lot online and as I mentioned in a previous post I’ve done a little phone calling.  Go Obama Go!
  • Fostering!  Up until last week, Liz and I were fostering a rescued Bernese Mountain Dog.  Carly was adopted last week by a family in New Jersey.  I had to drive her up to Chicago so she could fly to New Jersey to meet her new family.  Carly was a real sweetheart, and I think both Liz and I will miss having her around.  If you’re wondering about Kiko.  He’s just fine.  🙂

And that should get you up to date on what’s been going on lately.  Watch for another post about what’s coming up!

–sam

Introducing…

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

As I have hinted at in the past, Liz and I decided to get a roommate/tenant.  At first we were hoping to get a grad student, and we had some interest from a few.  Unfortunately, none of those really worked out.  Grad students can be flaky (my wife excluded, of course).  We also learned that the majority of students did not want a rental over the summer, and if they did, they only wanted it for the summer but not the fall.

So instead of waiting for some awesome grad student to contact us, we went on the offensive.  We looked for folks that were actively seeking a roommate situation on craigslist, on facebook…  wherever we could find.  Liz eventually ran across an ad for Tim.

Tim is a local guy.  He works at one of the few factories in the area on the 3rd shift.  He’s also a fan of hot rods and belongs to an online international metalworkers club that meets once a year for a week of camping.   Tim is not a grad student.  We’re perfectly happy with that.

Of course, we had some trepidations about offering a room in our house to someone we don’t know.  It’s not like we’re a rental company that’s going to go out and do credit checks on people.  Do we even need to use a contract?  What about reporting this on our taxes next year?

In the end, we decided to use a contract.  I found a few examples online and played around with them until I had something that worked for us.  I also checked the Illinois Attorney General’s website on info for tenants and landlords.  I just wanted to make sure everything we do is legal.  Sure, to protect our interests, but also to protect Tim’s interests.

So far things have been good.  Tim, as noted above, works the 3rd shift from 6pm to 6am.  In generally, I see him just as he gets up and leaves for work.  We haven’t had to interact much, but I suspect that this will change once we all fall into a more normal rhythm.

Probably the hardest thing about having Tim as a roommate is that he sleeps during the day… so we really can’t make a ton of noise during the day.  No jamming out to that Cult song.  No singing at the top of your lungs in the shower.  You get the idea.  For the most part, though, it’s a non-issue.  If I really feel like jamming out, I can put on the headphones.  It’s the other stuff that we have to work around.

Here’s to looking forward to a year with Tim.  May he become a friend over that time.  :)
–sam

Next Weekend is Made of Awesome

Two things are happening in Shamu’s Bandana (Champaign-Urbana to the uninitiated) next weekend of vital importance to national security to all of you awesome blossoms out there (well, maybe only to the ones that live here, but you get my drift).

  1. The Pygmalion Music Festival. Who knew that Shampoo-Banana had its very own music festival. And the lineup looks pretty awesome!
  2. The Urbana International Beer Tasting & Chili Cookoff. Two great tastes that taste great together? Move over Reese’s it’s time for the two best things in the world to have their very own day! As the young kids say… Oh Hells Yeah! It’s On!

That is all my dear friends. Let that be a lesson to you. Just when you thought the gods of good times have forsaken you… they might just be out planning a kickass weekend just for you.

–sam

Orlando… Sucks… or Does it?

There is one thing about Orlando that is both good and bad. If you want it, you have to make it yourself.

In other words… if you want a vibrant art scene, you have to make it yourself. If you want to sip coffee and listen to a “real” poetry reading not just an open mike… you have to make it yourself. If you want to add culture, you have to add it yourself.

That’s great in the sense that Orlando is a bit like a blank canvas. Anyone can come in and add a little bit and make a huge impact. I always thought that it was because Orlando was a small pond, and those people were the proverbial big fish. But Orlando isn’t really that small. Orlando is a large and growing city, and there are plenty of smaller places with better music, museums, and culture.

So… Orlando Sucks… but only if you don’t have the gumption or the wherewithal to make a positive change. Personally, I don’t have the money or the time to do much of anything about it. When opportunities present themselves, I support local artists. I’ve read poetry in public venues here and there, but open mike night was never my spiel so I stopped. I visit museums and art galleries. I try to support local businesses that support arts and culture.

What’s really weird is that I used to think Orlando was headed in the right direction. I have always been part of the underground… whether it was the music I listened or the places I frequented for recreation… and definitely the people I counted among my friends. Orlando had a vibrant underground when I moved here. Somewhere along the way, the underground faded, but the heartbeat could still be felt. Then around the turn of the century, something shifted. Most of the underground gave up, and moved away. The few that remained soldiered on, but a new generation of people had by then filled the void that was left by this mass migration with insipid boy bands and places that catered to that image and lifestyle.

So… for me Orlando isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but a go-getter with the right set of tools could make Orlando something to truly be proud of. I’m not that go-getter. Orlando Sucks… ;p