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

Brazil: FAIL!

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

I thought a bit before posting about my cosmic FAIL! regarding our trip to Brazil.  But now that we’re finally here (and it’s hovering around 0 degrees back home), I figure it can’t hurt anymore.

Our flights to Brazil were supposed to leave from Orlando.  The original plan had been to fly down to Orlando, spend a day an a half there with Liz’s mom, then fly on to Brazil.  Liz and I have done a fair bit of international travel so we thought we had taken care of everything.  We get to the counter, the agent looks at our passports and informs us of our epic FAIL!

We somehow missed the part that Brazil is one of a handful of countries that requires that you get your tourist visa prior to departure.  Generally, this sort of thing is reserved for countries where we don’t have good relations or countries with closed borders (like China or Iran).  So yeah…  we’re at the ticket counter, we’re ready to go on vacation…  and we’re told…  NO VACATION FOR YOU (until you get your visa).

So after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we decided on a plan.  Drive down to Miami (we were already in Orlando) and visit the Brazilian consulate to get our visas.  Reschedule flights. 

The Brazilian consulate only accepts visa applications M-F from 10am to 12pm.  That’s right… only 2 hours a day.  Oh yeah… they absolutely, positively won’t turn them around on the same day.  Nope… they won’t even turn them around in 24 hours.  Yep, it takes two days.  So we decide we’ll drop off our applications on Monday, then return to pick up our visas on Wednesday.

Oh… but that’s not all.  Rescheduling international flights so near to Christmas is tricky if you don’t want to end up paying an arm and a leg.  As you can imagine, we’re already paying an “arm” to get to Brazil, we could get onto just about any flight we want if we want to throw in the “leg”.  We opt for the least expensive option…  which would only cost us a change fee.  Unfortunately, it means that instead of leaving Orlando on Saturday, the 13th, we leave on Saturday, the 20th.

So…  we lost a week in Brazil, but we gained a week in Florida (though parrt of it was spent tracking down our visas and getting a new flight).  So while it was definitely some piss poor planning on our part regarding the tourist visas, we still ended up winning by missing out on some seriously brutal winter weather back home in Illinois.

Oh…  and we’re finally in Brazil where it is going to be in the upper 80s for the remainder of our stay here.  It’s hot and sticky, and I love it.

Love,
–sam

Salt Lake City

Here’s what we learned on our trip to Salt Lake City…

  • About 80% of the population is Caucasian.  To give you a little perspective on that, I’m from Florida where the non-Hispanic white population is roughly 60%.  So yeah… 80% is a whole lot of white people.  Not that I have anything against that, it’s just an interesting factoid.  One side effect of this is that there appear to be a lot of blond people.  More than what one might normally see elsewhere.
  • Roughly 50% of the population of the city is Mormon…  more commonly called LDS (Latter Day Saints).  For the smart ones out there that means the other half is something else, and while we were there I saw several other denominations and religions.  Liz even noted that there were a couple of Buddhist temples.  I only bring this up because I had assumed that it would be Mormons as far as the eye can see.  Yes, there are plenty, but there is more diversity in religion than I expected.
  • That said…  Salt Lake City is like an oasis of diversity compared to the rest of Utah.  When the rest of Utah is included, Mormons make up 62% of the population.
  • There is a great public transit system in Salt Lake City.  The local train/trolley service is especially good.  Thought it does have an odd way of collecting fares.  You pay for your fare at the station.  However, there is nothing to stop you from boarding a train without paying a fare.  You could, in fact, ride for free.  The transit authority simply reserves the right to ask you to show proof of fare purchase if needed.  We rode on the train several times, and didn’t see one transit cop the entire time.
  • Liquor laws in Utah are weird.
  • The counter-culture is alive and well in Salt Lake City.  We saw a lot of punks around, especially downtown where the gutter punks seem to congregate.  Beyond the punks, we met some folks that may not fit into a pre-defined sub-culture, but are definitely anti-establishment (at least what passes for “the establishment” in Utah.  Apparently you have to show some outward sign of your counter-cultureness because by doing so you’re doing more than being trendy… you’re making a political statement against “the man” which in this case is the LDS church.
  • There is a sizable LGBT population in Salt Lake City.  Definitely larger than one would expect for a city this size.  Liz and I went to an anti-Prop 8 rally on Saturday with an estimated crowd of about 3000.  That would have been an impressive crowd just about anywhere, but amazing in Salt Lake City.
  • The Great Salt Lake is enormous.  Antelope Island is pretty darn cool too.  Liz kind of dragged me out there.  I just wanted to chill in the city, but I’m glad she got me to go.  Very beautiful.  I recommend it as a fun little side trip.

We took some pictures, but they weren’t all that great.  If I get a chance to post them.

–sam

How I’ll Spend My [Insert Title Here] Vacation

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

As I noted previously, I was shocked to find out that I had only used 4 vacation days this whole year.  Well, here’s how Liz and I will be using up the remaining 19 vacation days I have.

In mid-November we’re going to spend a few days in Salt Lake City.  We’re staying at a local hostel, and I expect it will be a nice change of pace for us.  It will definitely be nice to spend some time away together for the first time in a long time.

That will be followed by a “staycation” during the week of Thanksgiving.  I’ll be taking the whole week off, but it will largely be spent doing stuff around the house.  Cheap stuff that doesn’t cost a lot of money (because sometimes you need to be redundant).

Then the big finale…  we’re going on a trip to Brazil to visit my dad in mid-December.  He hasn’t been feeling well, and it doesn’t sound like he’ll be coming back to the States anytime soon.  We’ll be staying in my dad’s condo for two weeks, and then we’ll finish out the trip with a week in Orlando.

I can’t wait for this vacation.  I’ve been so stressed out at work that today I actually yelled at someone, which is somewhat uncharacteristic of me.

–sam

Boston!

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

I’m in Boston this week… working.  Fortunately, my nights have been pretty good.  Ate some good raw oysters Tuesday night at East Coast Grill in Cambridge.  Last night I had a fried platter of fresh local fish, clams, etc.  It was a slice of heaven.  Top it all off with a few pints and you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m flying back home tonight so I’ll be home with Liz for the holiday weekend.  As good as the food has been, I can’t wait to get home.  :)

–sam

Word Collage: Philadelphia

Wake to bells from domed cathedral outside my window
No Laundry at the Hotel! Directed to 10th and Race St.
Walking to the Laundry in China Town, cold ears don’t warm easily
Asians everywhere… even the street signs are in Chinese
Laundry is through convenience store…
Man behind the counter gives me change and soap
An idle hour passes
Local cast of characters wends their way through china town
An old man waits for his clothes to dry and talks wearily to a young man
Asian mother folds clothes, then bundles child for cold
I follow suit with my clothes and buy a trash bag to carry it home
Take a different route home and stumble across a market
Vendors hustling falafel to flowers, cheese to chow mein
Bustling coffee shop is a cacophony of half-heard conversations
Walking back seems quiet, maybe empty… I want to stay outside watching, breathing
Philadelphia

Mr. goes to Washington

Well,
I’m flying to D.C. tomorrow to present at a conference for the Systems Analysts at my company. Sounds pretty dry and boring doesn’t it? Well… that’s because it IS dry and boring. Fortunately, the people are usually pretty fun, and I’ll be happy to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while. 🙂

Then when that’s done… I’ll be heading up to Philly to watch present at a conference. It will be her first time so I’m excited for her.

–sam

Thailand Tidbit…

Dogs… yes… Dogs!!!

Dogs are everywhere in Thailand… you can’t walk down the street without seeing at least one skinny, mangy mutt searching for food, sunbathing, drinking from a puddle, playing with pack mates, sleeping, etc. ad nauseum.

Before anyone starts jokes about people eating dogs… I would like to note that dogs are considered one of the lowest animals in Thailand. People there do not eat dogs. However, they do tolerate them… and some are even kept as pets, but that is still quite rare in Thailand.

It seems odd coming from a country where dogs are revered (possibly a bit too much).

Anyway… back to the dogs. What’s really odd about the dogs is that they have no owners… and yet they aren’t wild dogs either. They lay in front of the doors of storefronts. They walk around the streets of Bangkok. They parade around as if they were solid members of the community.

And I suppose they are. I mean… would you rather have a few mangy dogs running around or some less friendly, disease-carrying vermin running around?

Lucky for Thai people… there are no Rotweilers or Pit Bulls. Thai dogs are just mutts… some appear to have Ridgeback blood, but I seriously doubt there are many pure breeds in Thailand.

The only pure breeds I noticed were usually pets. Thais seem to like poodles and other curly haired dogs as pets. I don’t think these dogs are native to Thailand, but these are the dogs one usually sees being pampered like a pet. I even saw one walking around with what appeared to be a diaper. I suppose that’s better than walking around with a pooper scooper.

–sam