Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas to Us

There was a lot of things that we had put off replacing while in school. We had some money now so we put it to good use. The first totally useless thing we bought was a new TV. We didn't have some since we moved to Oregon. I really didn't want to watch TV but I needed to replace the broken monitor we had. I admit the 47" TV we bought was overkill but it ended up being the cheapest one for the day after Thanksgiving sale that we got it from. We also got a stereo to handle the sound and it was a pain to run all the wires.
L. wanted to make our apartment look like it was not just some college apartment anymore so we replaced our couches, lamps, curtains, and bookcases with stuff that all matched.
As far as presents to each other Santa got us a Roomba to try to handle the vacuuming with how busy we were. It's funny the presents we got each other were little because of those big ones. L. got me some books and CD's and I got her a coat. All three of us got little remote control helicopters from Santa that seemed to be a hit with everyone even though no one could not fly them straight.
I felt really weird spending so much money but we had money saved in the bank. We had paid off all our debt besides the student loans and we setup the highest payment for those. I guess we saw it as a really good reward for us both finishing school.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas party

We finally had put away enough stuff that we had a clean apartment so we wanted to throw a house warming/Christmas party. L.'s brother T. had come to visit us for our Christmas present to him so between him, my friend D. and his wife and L.'s Aunt and Uncle's family we had quite a full house.
We were trying to decide on what to do and came up with a present exchange. Since we were busy unpacking boxes we had come across some really odd things so we thought everyone would get a good laugh out of it. It mostly went well with everyone getting what they wanted except the youngest kid got the DVD for "Lawnmower man". Luckily T. decided he wanted it so everyone got an age appropriate gift.
Originally we had planned to make one of my signature dishes of enchiladas for everyone but it didn't seem right for Christmas so I looked into it and came up with making the traditional ham, potatoes, and carrots for everyone. When I was looking into what to make I kept thinking of all the weird stuff that is associated for Christmas so I decided to make it to see what it tasted like.
Sugar plums: All I could find was it was a way to preserve fruit with sugar so I made up my own recipe and it was rather a hit. a dried cherry inside a dried prune inside a dried apricot. boil it in corn syrup until soft then roll in powdered sugar to dry it off.
Figgy pudding: It really does have a lot of figs in it. It takes 4 hours to cook so I understand why no one wants to make it anymore. I liked it but it was about 50% hit. I guess an acquired taste.
Wassel punch: I didn't realize it was impossible to get 100% cranberry juice as one of the ingredients, either it is juice cocktail with water mixed in or cranberry with other fruit juice. Boiling the orange slices really made this one good for me.
Roasted chestnuts: T. helped out by slicing each nut before we roasted them in the oven. They tasted like a Brazil nut to me, and just as much meat on them. Even though I bought them fresh from the store about half ended up being rotten so it seemed like a lot of work to find a good one. Most people gave up after being to try their first nut.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Winterizing

For some unknown reason I agreed to move to somewhere with snow. We had to deal with the snow and cold. The first thing I did was to get a hard top for my car. The torn rear window was letting in to much cold air. I went down to Philadelphia for a computer conference and while down there I bought a Miata hardtop that I had found on Craigslist.
The main reason I don't like snow is driving on ice. The best way I felt I could deal with this is to buy new tires. When I bought the car I found a strange little bolt that I couldn't figure out what it was for so I eventually threw it away. When I waned to take the tires off I realized it was the key to the lug nut locks. I ended up paying $10 a wheel to get them taken off. So much for trying to downsize un-needed things.
As far as the apartment it seemed a little drafty even though it is fairly new. We decided to put plastic over the windows. It was amazing how much of a difference in our monthly bill between that and adjusting the automatic thermostat did.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

applying for PhD

To work my way up at work I would sooner or later need to get my PhD. I still wanted to pay off more of my student loans but I figured I would try to apply to Columbia since it was the local school.
This meant that I needed to take the computer science GRE. The problem is that I didn't realize it until a month before test. I had to just show up and be on standby. The problem is when I asked they never mentioned I needed a paper. I learned when I showed up at the school they had no extras. I ran to the library, they were not open yet, I ran to the nearest Kinkos and printed one out. They had one test left but I started a 1/2 hour late. The worst part was that all this stress was a day before the Marathon.
A month later I call, no results. They lost my test. I kept calling and got mixed into the bureaucratic morass of a pseudo government/private company. Somewhere along the way their computers said I showed up for the test but no results. After another month they found the computer mistake. I should have left the results lost. It turns out not having time to study and then starting late does not lead to a good test score.
As part of my application to Columbia I checked a box that I was interested in external scholarships. I got a response that I was excepted for a full-ride scholarship. I started getting emails from other universities asking if I wanted to apply. Then I looked into the scholarship and found out somehow I had been accepted for a minority scholarship. It was frustrating that my grades were not considered anything to talk about until I suddenly became a minority student. Now universities from all over wanted to me to go there. As it turns out there was no moral dilemma of whither or not I would accept it since Columbia did not accept me. It was no surprise with the score I got on the computer science GRE. Well I viewed it as a practice run and it obviously showed a lot of flaws that I needed to fix for next time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Switching apartments

We signed the lease for this apartment sight unseen. Since moving in problems just kept coming up. It was a large apartment but the setup was just bad and it caused a lot of wasted space. There were only two drawers in the kitchen making it unusable. We could not fit our kayaks in the basement so we had to store them in the equipment shed and get permission to get them out. Without sidewalks we could not safely walk outside the apartment complex. It was not close to either of work places or the train. Basically it had nothing going for it. Boy am I glad we signed a short lease. With our decision to not buy a house it meant that we needed to find another apartment.
We originally were going to move into a house in the same city as where we worked. We pulled out at the last second though (literally we went to the Real Estate office where we were supposed to sign the contract.) because the owner was just to shady (wanted us to pay rent in cash) and we would have had to pay for an extra month of rent.
When we did find a good place moving was easy since most of our stuff was still in boxes. We just rented a truck for the day. The biggest problem that we ran into was the truck was 11'2" tall and could not fit on any of the parkways and a lot of roads because of the old stone archways over a lot of roads around here. I set the GPS to truck but for some reason I still had one close call where I had to be in the middle lane to fit under the large part of an archway. We also found out that the Truck rental place was closed on Sunday so unless we wanted to be charged for an extra day we had to get back by that night. This meant we only had time to make one trip and I was running up and down stairs with boxes. Needless to say I was exhausted but we turned in the Truck in time. My friend D. came by to help with the last of the boxes and the good new is that we found an excellent sushi restaurant right next to our new house.
Our new place fits us much better. (It meets all the requirements that we had when looking for a new house.) And to top it all off it is cheaper for rent too.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NYC Marathon

Since I could not really race for time I had to come up with a different reason to run the marathon. What I finally settled on is I would be happy to beat my time for when I ran the Los Angeles Marathon and I wanted to see the city of New York. I figured there couldn't be a better way to get my bearings then running 26.2 miles through all 5 boroughs.
The day before we went to the convention to pick up my bib. I was surprised at how efficient they could process everyone in line. From there we went to Tavern on the Green in Central Park for their pasta dinner. They were also very efficient in getting everyone through. They really had this thing down pat for the Marathon.
In the morning my wife dropped my off at the southern tip of Manhattan then drove over to my friend D.'s house to get some more sleep. I took the Staten Island Ferry to the starting line. There were so many people they had 4 different starting lines, then the roads merged together after they caught up in length. Right before it started everyone stripped off their sweats and other clothes that were keeping them warm and started running. There was trash and clothes everywhere. For the next mile I was working to keep from tripping over the discarded clothes. I then realized between the disposable clothes and special energy food and drinks, and the fact that most people traveled around the world for marathons. This sport is for rich people. It is to much like golf. I lost my desire to run another marathon at that point.
L. and I had bought iPhones because we needed to keep track of dates. It was the perfect tool to have for someone just enjoying a marathon by themselves. I could listen to music, take pictures, call people, and check my progress on the map, all in one device. I know I sound like a commercial but it did make me smile being able to use it.
The other thing that made me smile was that everyone was planning to cheer me on when I passed near D.'s apartment. They underestimated how fast I was going and I ran past the point way before anyone got there. I was doing pretty good up until I ran over the Queensboro Bridge. It seemed like it was just to big of a hill for me. For the rest of the race my time just kept getting longer and longer per average mile. Everyone has a chip in their shoe and you can log into a website to give statistics. It was nice that it could also email people when I hit mile markers. There was a lot of people cheering everyone on. After the Queensboro Bridge the people cheering for me in Upper Manhattan helped. I have to say that a little Jewish girl giving high-5's to runners is what put the biggest smile on my face though. A lot of people were handing out candy and stuff too.
I finished in 6 Hours, 10 Minutes. I beat my old time, so I was happy. Yes I could have done better had I had time to train properly, but I was happy that I was able to finish too with my hip problems. Everyone met me at the finish line. I was pretty beat and was ticked that I had to walk an extra mile after the marathon before being able to meet up with everyone. Since we ended in Central Park we had to take the subway home. While waiting for the subway I squatted down to give my legs a break. When I stood back up my brain was a little hazy but I realized something was different. I finally placed it, I couldn't see! I grabbed onto the pole next to me to make sure I didn't fall over or black out. As my vision slowly came back I told everyone that everything was black. L. said that I turned white as a white can be. We made it home without further trouble and I took the next day off from work to recover but I was no where near as sore as I thought I would be.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween

My wife L. had to dress up for work and all her co-workers decided to go with a super-hero theme. Basically they all wore a super hero T-shirt. L. asked me if I wanted to go in on it so I was Superman for halloween.
A few days before Halloween there was a 5k run at my work where you were supposed to run in your costume. It made it easy just to wear the Superman shirt and I ran with the whole time with an intern that was working for our group that I also ran with when we were in Arizona. She ended up winning the price for guessing how many candy corn there was in the jar.
Every year on Halloween night my friend D. gets excited about the Halloween parade in NYC. Now that we were living there he was looking forward to watching it with us instead of being in it like he usually was. As a last minute thing his work asked him to be in it. He agreed because he thought he could dress up. As it turns out it was just to be security to make sure no one got near the float. He was understandably ticked off. L., D.'s wife, and me ended up watching it instead. As we walked to the place where we were going to sit people kept yelling out "Hey superman" and it caught me off guard every time because I kept forgetting I was wearing the shirt.
3 million people seems like a lot and it is. That is how many people it was estimated watched or was in the parade. The official floats and costumes were very elaborate. Not on the order of Carnival, but they did remind me a lot of the Dia de Los Muertos costumes from Los Angeles. After the official parade, people who think their costumes are good enough are allowed to walk the route. People boo or cheer as a vote to how good people's costumes are. This year there were a lot of Senator Craig because of his incident in the airport bathroom. I personal favorite was a man dressed as a Samurai with a large painters palette and a toy referring to the scare about lead paint in chinese toys. D. says in past years he has seen people naked and painted florescent green and someone with a Bill Clinton mask on and his penis hanging out so I guess the police look the other way for that parade. After two hours of watching people we got tired and started to head to the subway. That's when all the people started to get in the way. We finally found D. at the end of the parade and compared notes on what costumes we liked best. It got us excited enough to want to plan costumes for the next year, but so far they are still just plans.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Visiting my Sister

A few days before driving down to Virgina to visit my sister I was leaving for work and quickly dropped the top to the car. I guess it was a little colder then I thought since the rear plastic window was frozen and cracked instead of folding. Well replacing the frayed top was on my list of things to do, but we would be making the drive with a crappy looking rear window.
My sister S. lives in South of Washington DC while her husband is getting his MBA. In the vein of just being able to jump in the car and go somewhere we decided to visit them. I guess we were expecting an 8 hour drive to go a little faster. I did enjoy driving down where it was a little warmer but we arrived Friday night/Saturday morning a little later than anticipated and I felt bad for waking them up. (At least it was not unannounced.)
Of course they were proud of where they lived and wanted to show us around. We went to the Saturday market in town and had fun seeing everything there. From there they took us on a drive of the countryside and we rode the ferry over to Surry, Virginia. A funny thing we saw there was a run down part of town that the nicest looking thing was a marble monument listing the virtues of a confederate general and how he defended the "southern way of life and values". The sad part was that it was fairly new.
We came back across the the ferry and drove to Jamestown. Now this was the Jamestown experience as it was now called since they found the real Jamestown. Like anywhere else they can make history sound good. I found it very interesting but would have been just as happy with them saying a "bunch of desperate people came here trying to make a buck" as "many people hungry for adventure and a new life". None of us were really into re-enactments so we didn't stick around to long.
Colonial Williamsburg was really interesting. That, and it was just so big. There were so many preserved buildings. The architecture was very cool. The thing that I noticed was the lack of rain gutters, instead they paved a groove in the ground.
We stopped at a ice cream hut called Sno-To-Go that had a different take on the Slushy. They called it a Stuffed Snoball. It was layers of shaved ice with flavoring mixed with layers of soft serve ice cream. Messy? yes. Good? surprisingly so. For my gourmet review: The smooth texture and flavor of the soft serve ice cream contrasted well with the bright colors and flavor of the shaved ice.
My sister has been working on her hobby of being a gourmet chef so we were treated to a delicious dinner of flavors I wouldn't have thought of together and then they introduced us to and we played our first game of "Settlers of Catan". I remember people at school having game nights with it and I could see how it could be a very involved game.
On Sunday we enjoyed the drive home with the top down because of the warm weather.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Trip to Arizona

My first business trip at my job I was going to a ASSETS conference in Tempe Arizona. This meant it was my first try at trying to use the company travel reservation program. When fiddling around with the hours I rolled it around to PM without realizing that it also rolled the day back too. Of course the company bought the cheapest tickets that were non-refundable, so I was arriving a day early, without a hotel reservation. I didn't realize my mistake until a week before leaving. I felt like it was my fault so I didn't want to ask for a reschedule or have to explain an extra hotel day so I decided to play it by ear. As it always turns out my plane was late so I really didn't feel like getting a hotel.
I instead enjoyed a late night drive of Phoenix. It was weird being on the west coast again, especially a warmer climate. There were parking lots everywhere. The roads were devoid of pot holes. Admittedly it was the desert but there was space everywhere. I could not resist stopping at Waffle house for some pecan waffles that I like so much. Both my wife and my friend D. had jokingly asked me to get them a souvenir so I bought them both a small cactus from Walmart which was open.
My friend D. was writing a book about the desert so I took a drive out of Phoenix to take some pictures of the Saguaro Cactus. It was very interesting being able to watch the sunrise over the desert. The quiet calm and small breeze made it so that I could feel my stress and tension just flow away. I then came back, checked into the hotel early, and caught up on my sleep.
The conference itself was very interesting. It is about using technology for people with disabilities. As with most of these conferences I took lots of notes as ideas popped into my head that I will research later to see if other people had already thought of them. As part of the conference they had busses to take everyone over to Arizona State University computer lab. I admit that I spent most of my time in the haptics lab. While it was fun to pull off virtual colon polyps the most interesting part was the equipment that I we were able to play with. As a stroke of luck my thesis advisor had her paper accepted there so we were able to chat a lot and she was also very interested in the haptics they had there too.
In the mornings I had brought my rollerblades so I went blading to keep myself in shape. It was weird with it being so warm here and wearing shorts when it was already cold in New York. On the second morning a co-worker found out I was blading and went running with me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Leaf Peeping

For the first thing to check off our "To-do list" was to see the changing fall leaves in the north east. This is serious business here, the term they use here to refer to us would be leaf peepers. The first thing we did was to check the leaf maps and leaf changing forecasts to go to the right areas. We booked our bed-and-breakfasts and we were off.
Our first stop was a cranberry festival in Wareham, Massachusetts. It just happened to be that week and I was interested in seeing how they flooded the bogs to harvest them. Yes it was touristy but so was everything else we were doing this weekend. It was actually quite interesting but there was only so many cranberries I could eat. We did get there early enough to see them sucking them up. I couldn't resist and picked a couple out of the water wiped them off and ate them. I must say they taste better fresh than when store bought.
We saw it all to fast so we decided to go see Plymouth Rock. After checking that off our list of things to do checked into the first Bed and Breakfast. and they recommended a nearby town for dinner. While walking around the old town we saw a wedding in one of the squares. Then it caught me, there were two brides. I thought if it were me I wouldn't want to pay for all the trouble of the all the pomp and circumstance of a normal wedding without the legality. Then I realized, wait we are in Massachusetts, this wedding is real. I suddenly felt real happy for everyone involved since they could all enjoy a real wedding instead of just having the ceremony.
The next morning we drove to Salem. It was October so everything was already decked out with extra witches everywhere. While very touristy I think they did a good job of acknowledging and paying respect to the innocent people that died because of superstitions.
We continued our drive up into Vermont. There were not that many more trees that were colorful then where we lived. The B&B here was great though. The people were very friendly. I would recommend Applewood Manor to anyone. The next morning we visited a marble museum because we got in free.
We drove home the next morning with still very few trees that had started to change colors. Everyone says it was just to warm which was not normal this late in the year. I know, everyone was saying global warming, but it could have just as easily been a warm winter. (I would rather rely on ALL of the data that says there is global warming rather than only my own personal observance making it true.)
We originally planned a four hour drive per day triangle but ended up driving a little more. It felt like the right amount in the car and made for a very relaxing weekend.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How do I fit in a Miata

In researching a new car I also looked at getting a Mini, VW cabrio, Saab 9-3 convertible. I ended up deciding on the Miata because I could buy a hardtop for the winter and I could buy it outright without needing to get a loan. I really liked the outside feel on the motorcycle. (The mini felt cramped even with the sunroof all the way open.
But a miata? I know, I am 6'5". Why would I drive a Miata. Well... it was not easy. When I test drove the car the guy saw my knees hitting the steering wheel and said I needed to move the seat back and looked kind of scared when I explained it already was. The arm rest pinched my leg to the steering wheel so I removed it and put in a smaller one. I took out the extra padding out of the back of the seat so my legs would fit under the dash. Now I fit.
I bought the car for $2200. So far $200 for a working radio, $800 for a hardtop, $250 for a new soft top, $300 for tires, $600 for new struts, $100 for brakes, and $300 for an engine sensor. I have no problem putting money into a car I know I can't sell for more than $2500. I figure as long as it is less then $300 a month then it is on par with financing a car. More importantly though: It is fun to drive.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Selling motorcycle

Commuting on a motorcycle is different than cross country trips. It had rained a few times when I was riding to work. New York roads are awful compared to Oregon. Potholes are normal and the way they fix them is to fill it with asphalt and let the cars pack it down. The problem is it does not do it in the middle where a motorcycle rides, so basically freeway speed bumps. Those are all annoyances but the thing that scares me is deer. They are everywhere here. I am surrounded my a state park and forest. I see a new dead deer on the way to work at least two or three times a week. The main reason though is convenience. I refuse to ride without gear on. Putting on and adjusting boots, pants, jacket, and helmet along with safety check take 5-10 minutes in the morning. Then when running errands I have a helmet and jacket to carry in one arm all the time.
My solution is I bought a Mazda Miata. It provides the open air riding but I will admit that the acceleration is not as good.
To sell my motorcycle I had to find the title. Hidden in one of the many packed boxes. I finally gave up and ordered another. It ticked me off because every week that passed and I would get less money for the motorcycle as the season came to an end. I finally got the title and sold the motorcycle for $2400. So owning it for a year and a half and a whole lot of miles had cost me $400. That seems reasonable to me. I may get a motorcycle again later. Probably a more of a touring bike, but drivers here are to aggressive and take all the fun out of it. I did ride through all five boroughs and would recommend a Sunday ride through Manhattan to everyone. Without the traffic it is fun.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Looking for a house

We had made sure that the lease on our apartment was as short as possible (4 months.) when we signed it because 1) We had to sign the lease site unseen and had no desire to be stuck and 2) We really wanted to get on with our lives and buy a house.
I had hated dealing with Real Estate Agents when here for Spring Break. My view of them had not really changed. I found a way around them though. I found a real estate website that gave a map of the area of the house. If you looked at the HTML code it listed the address of the house. With that info I could punch it into webpages such as google maps to see satellite pictures and zillow to get an idea on the range of neighborhood values. We had no problem getting financing and then went to a buyers agent to sign up. They had us rate what we wanted in a house. We had some ideas but had never listed them, this is what we came up with after we got home.
High Priority:
1)price of house (School had wiped out most of our savings.)
2)sidewalks around house (not being able to go for walks at the apartment was driving me crazy)
3)low commute time (I had had enough of traffic when living in California.)
4)2 bedroom+ (Resale value, office space, future kids, we are pack-rats)
5)off street parking (I did not want to deal with alternate side parking or snow plows)
medium priority:
1)cooking sized kitchen (I missed being able to cook.)
2)convenient to city center/shopping (We don't want to live in the middle of nowhere.)
3)storage-garage or attic (kayaks, bikes, camping, snorkeling... I guess we are outdoors people)
4)walk to train (Driving into NYC is a pain.)
Low Priority:
1)space to add on to house (Resale value.)

After crunching the numbers for what we still had to pay off, house fixing up funds, and income we decided to wait a few more months to make sure we would be able to swing everything. We could not be more glad we did. The market started sliding, then the prime mortgage scandal. Now the bottom has totally dropped out. I am glad we were cautious but it looks like apartment living for a while.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

11th of September 2007

This year living in New York gave me a different take on September 11th. I'm not a big fan of all the changes that have been allowed in government in name of higher safety lest another September 11th happen. So this was the 6th anniversary, and there was a protest for not being able to protest at the building site at ground zero. Between all the radio coverage, vigils, and what not I was surprised at the level of dedication still being shown by the local people as it is much higher, understandably, then what it is where I used to live. To me the concern level seems so much higher then say Hurricane Katrina that killed a similar number of people and caused much higher devastation but gets much less attention and money to make sure something similar does not happen. (If you don't believe me, what was the date that Hurricane Katrina killed thousands of people? For the record I can only remember the month and year.)
I just happened to be headed into NYC that day for a project with a co-worker that was from Scotland. On the long drive it gave us a chance to talk. She likened it to soccer hooligans. A whole lot of flag waving to appear to be a bigger fan. She is frustrated when talking to people how the statement September 11th was used as an unarguable response as justification to most arguments. Any questioning of authority was responded by questioning that person patriotism. She was told she couldn't understand since she wasn't American. Both of us were maddened by the people that say September 11th changes everything when just about every other country has been dealing with this stuff forever.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Things to do Before They are Gone

When we moved here we heard they were going to be replacing Yankee Stadium with a new one already being built. We decided that we should go see a game in "The House that Babe built" (i.e. the old stadium) before it was torn down. This being said neither of us is very much of a baseball fan. (I've been to two baseball games before this, both company sponsored events.) We looked it up online and found some cheapish tickets that were not that bad then thought to invite friends. Of course for us all to sit together we needed to buy them at the same time. My friends wanted to go but had friends staying with them so they call them to see if they want to go. Long story short: lots of calling to coordinate, they end up not going, we end up buying bad seats for more money since to much time passed. Moral: Do not try to plan spontaneous things with friends on a deadline.
The game was fun to watch. We got to see all the plaques and trophies before the game. During the game the dirt sweepers danced while doing their job. Everyone around us got plenty drunk and yelling. Cops were regularly pulling people out and arresting them for trowing things on the field. You know, a good family event.
Sorry, but professional sports teams are smart to convince people to get into contests of who can buy more stuff to show they are the biggest fan. We got suckered as they will be having the stadium open another season so next year will be the last year.

The other thing they were tearing out was all the rides at Coney Island. We wanted to go try that out while we could so Labor day weekend we headed down and rode the rides. Well L. and I were pretty wiped out money wise from the move so we looked at most of them. We did ride the Psyclone. That thing is so jittery I had a headache at the end from my brain knocking around in my head. I guess it is one of those one time experiences kind of things. We ate Nathan's hot dogs and walked the boardwalk. It was a really fun day but we found out, due to popular demand, and trouble getting building permits they would have the rides open one more year. Yeah I know, suckered again. But it was fun, and I we can now cross it off our list of things to do while living here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cleaning House at an old job.

So one of the things that really caught me off guard when I had an internet connection again was to find out there were job layoffs at my old job. All my old co-workers had received pink slips and were now counting down the days until the end. It is funny since when I left they had offered me a promotion if I didn't leave for more schooling. When I turned that down they let me know that a job would be open for me when I was done with school. I really liked working there and probably would have looked into getting a job there again if my internship hadn't turned into a job offer so fast. So the way I looked at it was I would have got a lay-off notice a month after starting work after the big investment of moving back there. Man, I was lucky it didn't happen to me.
I was still in contact with quite a few of the people there. They said they got pretty good severance packages and they must not have been that bad since a lot of them were going back to school or just taking a break off work for a few months. I am not sure I could do that. The first thing I did when moving to Oregon was try to find a job. Even when it was a low paying job it gave me an income to budget it with. To not have something lined up for my next source of income would have made me to worried to not enjoy any vacation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Training for a Marathon

Back while living in Oregon when I first got the news that I got a job in New York I was looking around at the information about the area and found the NYC Marathon. I signed up for the lottery thinking I would never get in (Only 1 in 10 do). Of course that is the kind of thinking that leads to getting in. Great, with everything else going on I had no time for training.
I was very out of shape from doing so much desk work for my thesis and such. I went to the doctor for a physical to make sure everything was OK. He said I had hip problems and should only do low impact exercise. So I asked, "So I shouldn't be running a marathon?" He chuckled and said no. He thought I was joking about a hypothetical question, then he rushed out and never came back. Yea, over-worked medical system.
So my answer was to do low impact training for the marathon. I decided on roller blading. I was good about training regularly. (Like taking them with me to Arizona.) There was an old train track path near my house that they had paved for use by bikes and runners called the North County Trail. It was perfect for training and beautiful since most of it was shaded by trees that changed color. I did have some problems blading on wet leaves when they fell.
My enthusiasm for blading got my friend D. and his wife excited and they bought their own set. My wife L. had to many bad experiences from the last time we had inline skates so she would ride her bike when we all went out.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My Wife Arrives

My wife had decided to go to a family reunion. She spent a month with family and visiting friends before making her own cross country trip. Now she was back and we had time to spend together.
With both of us being in school together we had been together a lot of time without spending time together. Out of the 9 years we have been married, 8 of those years were spent with both of us in school between Bachelors and Masters degrees.
Now we had every evening together, no homework, no projects, and no idea what to do with our time. In some senses we have to get to know each other again in a new context. Being away from each other for a month just accentuated being back together.
Both of us feel that after working on our brains so much we need to devote more time to working on other parts of us such as our talents and relationships. Our relationship with each other fits right into that category.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Stuff Arrives

Living in an empty apartment is kind of boring. I had my bed roll and sleeping bag from off my motorcycle and had ended up using it a week longer than expected. I had tried to move up the date for my stuff to be delivered to no avail. I had bought a frying pan but still mainly was living off of fast food, microwaved instant food, and the last of my MRE's from the trip.
They recommend having someone else there to help check off boxes as they arrive so my friend D. came over. As he checked off box numbers. Again there was a lot of just sitting there while they moved boxes in. D. would check them off the list and I would tell them where to put them. The only thing is that all the boxes were already written where they should go so I ended up doing less then D. since I only had to tell them where to put furniture.
Now my moving advisor (their term, not mine) had told me that on the west coast they only expected something to drink. (We had donuts and orange juice but none of the movers wanted it) but on the east coast they expected a tip. I pulled some money out of the ATM but forgot about it and they left without making any hints so I guess they were happy with the donuts and orange juice more then the west coast packers.
The main thing to remember is that professional movers put little bar code number tags on EVERYTHING. I think we will be finding these stickers years from now. I think we are pretty lucky that even with our stuff going into storage and coming back out nothing was lost and only an old computer monitor that needed replacing anyway was broken.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Job

I always find it funny starting work for a big company. The attempt to instill company loyalty at the same time as them telling you they have the right to fire you without any reason. I guess I am to cynical.
While my actual job is very casual I had to go to a three day training at the same building as all the high up people so that meant I had to dress up while at that building. I wore nice clothes under my motorcycle gear and just stripped off the gear in the coat closet so I didn't look weird. I still felt awkward walking into the building with everyone else in suits and me in a bright yellow motorcycle jacket, helmet, and pants.
This is the first time I have my own office. Up until this point I have always sat in a cubical. I don't know if it is just something to get used to but it seems like I am isolated and does not feel as much like teamwork when I can't just spin my chair around and talk to someone. I guess it is something I will have to get used to.

Monday, July 02, 2007

New Home

So I still had one week till work started and two weeks until all my stuff arrived. This means I only had the stuff I carried on my motorcycle, an empty apartment, and an empty schedule.
The first thing I did was to buy some new clothes while at my friends house. I felt kind of silly walking around NYC in my motorcycle pants but until I bought more pants it was my only option. On the 1st of July I had an apartment so I took the train home. My first to-do was to fix my motorcycle. Until that happened I had to explore my new town by foot. The road that I lived on had no sidewalk and cars were flying by. While it was fun to walk everywhere in town it was not safe to walk to and from home so I fixed my motorcycle as soon as I could.
The next order of business was to buy things for the apartment. There was a lot of stuff that was broken so we threw it away instead of moving it. I was able to fit things like a laundry basket, mop, and broom on the motorcycle through smart use of the bungee nets. Groceries presented a problem because a one gallon jug of milk filled up my side case. For all the trips I was careful enough to not buy to much food so I never had to figure out what to do if it would not fit.
I had originally planned to get here the weekend before starting work. This time off was much more enjoyable since it allowed me time to just ride around and figure out what was around. My wife also had mailed my laptop and some more clothes so when they arrived I could use the internet to figure out what was around.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cross Country Trip Epilog

This trip was not without incident. My little things of having my foot peg slip and my chain coming off do not compare to D. who had crashed into the side of a mountain because he got distracted by the scenery in Yosemite. He had spent a three week re-building his bike and healing before meeting up with me.
Originally D. and I had planned to ride north up to St. James Bay in Canada. That along with riding around Lake Superior and only riding around 200 miles a day would have made out trip a week longer. I guess the planning of someone with experience of riding across the country is something we didn't have. The St. James Bay part got cut because neither of us trusted his bike without a overhaul. We ended up riding much longer than planned for no real reason other then being in the riding mindset. If I had estimated the timeline better I would have gone to my sisters wedding. As it was, I had made the decision not to go because I thought it would have forced me to ride to many miles a day on my motorcycle which I considered dangerous.
D. was used to riding in New York City so going across the country he was speeding and cutting through traffic every chance he could. I had a lot less experience riding and was used to a much more laid back style of riding. I think our riding style got on each other's nerves quite a few times, but he never could answer my question: Why are you speeding when you are on vacation?
We both got burned out pretty easy. D. had been traveling for two months and after the crash no wonder he just wanted to be home. I had been going non-stop for months and a cross country trip is not the relaxing kind of vacation.
In reality though I think our trip went great. Out of what I stated above I enjoyed every bit of the trip. I was amazed at everything we saw and how many people thought we were doing something beyond anything they could do. I guess this was one of those things someone is supposed to do to have a "full life".

Friday, June 29, 2007

End of the line: Hartford, CT?

197 miles + 88 miles
After a late night we both enjoyed being able to sleep in. As we drove south it became very lush forest. All very pretty but that means it also contains something very dangerous to any motorcyclist, deer. It might total a car to hit one but a motorcyclist will be decapitated because of where their body is, and the sound of a motorcycle will startle them into their random jumping dance. We had seen a few the last night while looking for a hotel, but it was nothing compared to what we were seeing now. Deer off the freeway, dead deer on the side of the road. They were everywhere. As we were riding through in a blind corner I saw what I thought was a dead deer on the side of the freeway. Right at the apex of the turn it popped its head up and started right at me. It freaked me straight out. At the next stop I asked D. and no I hadn't been seeing things it freaked him out too.
The further rode the more I had the feeling sick symptoms building inside me. I just knew I had ate some bad french food at the Canadian border. When we stopped to get gas I couldn't take it anymore I needed a brake. We took a nice long lunch and I drank lots of water until I was feeling a little better.
We got back on the road and I was trying to keep up again with D. when suddenly when I twisted the accelerator it didn't do anything. I twisted the throttle again and the engine revved but no power. There is nothing like engine problems to snap you out the sick haze feeling. Great, I was stuck in between the car-pool lane on one side and 4 lanes of traffic on the other. Luckily, I had about the width of one lane with orange barrel cones every 100 feet. I looked down and saw the chain had come off the sprocket, crap. I didn't have enough space to get off and really work on the motorcycle so I pulled my cell phone out, stuffed it under my helmet and called AAA. The 800 number routed me through to New York AAA. They referred me to Connecticut AAA. They transfered me to the local AAA, who put me on hold while checking if my policy covered motorcycle towing. Finally after what felt like hours but was probably closer to 10 minutes of me yelling over the din of traffic a tow truck was on its way. I backed up my bike to a group of 4 barrels that were covering a drain to give me a little more protection from the cars flying by on both sides of me. A little while later an construction/emergency freeway truck pulled up and he lowered his crash barrier in the back for more protection. D. still wasn't answering his phone but soon showed up after he had noticed I was no longer following him.
The tow truck showed up and I had the choice to be towed off the freeway and put my chain back on or just be towed the 88 miles home. Either way it would be the same cost as one tow. Since I didn't know what caused the chain to come off I figured it best to get towed all the way, with D. following on his motorcycle.
I had set up getting the new apartment through my new job. I had never seen the place and didn't officially live there for a few days on July 1st. But I had no choice so when he unloaded the motorcycle we pushed it into one of the out of the way parking spots. Then I hopped on the back of D.'s motorcycle and he dropped me off at the train station to make it the rest of the way into NYC to his apartment. (His bike was pretty unstable with a passenger and all his gear.)
What a way to end the trip.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ride to Vermont

347 miles
As we approached Ottawa we entered more and more urban areas until we were in the city. It was a very different kind of riding. We both wanted to go sight seeing so we found a parking garage near the capital. We walked around what I am guessing was the parliament building. It reminded me of Notre-Dame in Paris more than any buildings in the USA.
We had lunch at Mc Donalds since their food tastes better when out of the USA and I find it funny. From there we walked down the river to the library. On the way there was a Jazz concert going on in a tunnel. The echoing off the tunnel with the river right there made for a perfect lazy afternoon. As we continued down all of a sudden a row of police cars and a limo sped by with the Prime Minister. I guess this little river makes for an easy get away road from the parliament building. We wanted to go to the library to check email (I had no phone service in Canada and needed to make sure my thesis had passed the final check.) We had to get a library card. It seems odd that it was so easy for people out of the country to get library cards but I guess many people don't plan on stealing books.
We had planned to visit Montreal also but all the signs were in English and French on top of an unfamiliar city and the first real traffic we had hit in the trip we missed where we were supposed to exit off the freeway. We were both to tired to head back through more traffic so we would just have to visit later. D. is much more experienced on a motorcycle and there were many times on the trip I had a hard time keeping up. I had explained that I didn't like splitting lanes, especially when it is illegal such as in Canada. At one point in the traffic I guess D. got fed up and swung around a bunch of cars on the right for a merging lane and there was no way I could catch up. Since my phone did not work in Canada I guessed that I would be making the rest of the trip by myself. Surprisingly my experience with traffic in Los Angeles and specifically lane choice I saw and caught up with him.
We crossed back into Vermont on a little side road since we had got so turned around in Montreal. It was literally a guard shack next to the road. Again no problems, and no passports needed. The border guard was surprised that I had ridden my motorcycle across the country but was more worried about what a tank bag was and that I didn't have any fruit in it. Most importantly, I had now been in Vermont the last of the 48 contiguous states. (So I still have Hawaii and Alaska to go.)
Now back in the USA we just wanted to find a hotel. The problem was there was a Austin Healy car show and road rally that filled up every hotel we went to.I was using the GPS to pull up hotels in the area and call them now that my phone worked again, all full, and all parking lots full of Austin Healys. We repeated this for each town we drove through with the same results. We ended up riding until 1AM where we found a hotel with a room. There were other people checking in that had the same problem as us so it really was a problem.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ride to Pembroke

404 miles
Riding along the 14 was beautiful. It followed along the top of the great lakes for a while then a river for most of the day's ride. It always seemed like water was around the corner. This was defiantly a less used highway and we had the road to ourselves a lot of the time. People here were defiantly friendly. Every stop we made people were more then happy to talk.
We were rural enough that we started to have to watch how far it was to the next gas stop. In the vein of saving space my motorcycle did not come with a gas gauge, only a gas warning light. So I paid close attention to my odometer. In Canada I relied more on my tripometer. It was digital so easy to switch over to kilometers so that helped line it up with the signs to the next town. The problem came when the only gas station in town was closed down. In driving to the next town I was charting new territory on how far I could ride on a tank of gas but we made it without incident.
We had originally wanted to stop in Petawawa. If you have not heard of the town, neither had we. It was just in the right place to stop. However all the hotels in this small out of the way town were super expensive. My new job was paying for the move which meant that they would be paying for a few of these hotel stays. They did have a cap on the price though. So that means we decided to keep going, after another hour of riding we arrived in Pembroke. All the hotels ended up being pretty far off the main road. We found a hotel and went next door to a fast food joint for dinner. My friend, ever the writer starts up a conversation with the waitress and soon is taking pictures for reference for a book he is writing. We found some stuff on the menu that we didn't recognize and ordered it. It ended up being french fries covered with gravy and a corn dog. Greasy food does not go well with riding a motorcycle all day so we both fell asleep with nauseous stomachs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ride to Sault Ste Marie

416 miles
After putting so many miles behind us a pattern had emerged for riding. I was on a street bike. It was not made for long trips. There was really only two positions on the motorcycle, butt forward, and butt rearward. About every hour I would need to stop for about 5 minutes and stretch. Since I had a small gas tank every other stretching was done while fueling. Of course D. had more of a touring motorcycle so it was more comfortable and was able to go 250 miles (to my 160-180 miles) per tank so the frequent stops were aggravating for him. But it did allow for more comfort since we could switch from cold weather gloves and jackets in the morning to warm gear easier. It also forced us to take it a little easier since we were covering so many miles without meaning to.
We didn't feel like riding up and around Lake Superior would add to much to the experience so we decided to ride through Michigan as a shortcut. (Not to mention that it crossed off another state that I had not been to.) Again there were many small towns and everything was green and no real problems came up. The landscape was flat with short stubby pine trees. It reminded me of pine barrens. We had a small scare when we arrived in a town and all the gas stations we closed for the night. we finally found one open and got to ask about the signs we saw everywhere for selling "pasties". Apparently they are meat pies with the ketchup already baked right in. We would have bought some to taste the local fare but they were out.
We hit the Canadian border at sunset. Everyone had warned us to bring our passports with us with all the new laws about leaving the country. In reality they took one look at our drivers license and waved us through. They were more interested in us paying the toll for crossing the bridge.
Sault Ste Marie was a nice town to walk around after a long days ride but everything was closed at 8pm so we had a hard time finding somewhere for dinner. Our hotel room looked back over the river with only a view of the US. It made for a weird sensation. I was still able to pick up signal from across the river for my cell phone so it was nice to be able to call my wife still.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ride to Duluth

374 miles
For our next stop we rode to Duluth to visit D.'s friend. It would not have been that interesting to take the freeway so it was highways the whole way. Green everywhere, and lots of small towns. Everyone at the gas stops seemed really excited for what we were doing though.
It just so happened that's D.'s friend was the owner of Aerostich, a major motorcycle company. I figure between visiting the Aerostich factory and Sturgis we were down pat for required things to do for a cross country-motorcycle trip.
D.'s friend showed us around Duluth. He was very proud of his city. D. had met him when he was writing an article about the company and they were both very much into classic BMW motorcycles so I felt very much to be the odd man out in a weird sort of way. Both of them really ganged up on me for mentioning that I wanted to sell my motorcycle.
We rested here for a day. Being able to wash clothes is nice when you only have one set of clothes to change into. (I have really small saddle bags with a lot of space taken with camping supplies.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ride to Sioux Falls

378 miles
We paid for the parking for the whole year so we were going to use it! ($8 for a motorcycle seems a little overboard since they always stuff them in the unused corners anyway.) So they have a deal called "Breakfast with the presidents". A nice breakfast on the patio looking out onto Mt. Rushmore. It was one of those surreal moments since I couldn't turn my head without feeling like I was looking at a giant TV.
We could not resist, we rode the extra 10 miles and saw the statue of Crazy Horse. Of course this meant we pulled over onto the side of the rode, took some pictures, and rode on. Neither one of us saw any real reason to pay for more parking.
From there we headed through "Bad Lands National Park". D. tried to get me to take a shortcut down a dirt road. There was no way I was taking a street bike on a dirt road so we took the long way through. It ended up being a really interesting ride. The badlands are basically mountains that are 100 feet tall. Depth perception gets really messed up since it feels like you are screaming through the countryside when only driving 30mph.
Riding out of the Badlands and there was the sign for Wall drug. I couldn't resist, we went. It is a drug store that is famous because there is nothing else around, so they put up billboards for 100's of miles. It was every bit as cheesy as you can imagine, a complete tourist trap in every way.
This part of the ride was hot and dry. we had a small scare when an expected gas station was under construction. Luckily there was another station at the far side of town in the direction that we were going. However when we stopped I realized I was burning up, the first stage of heat stroke. I quickly drake a Gatorade and sat in the shade for a while. With the helmet, jacket, and gloves you get used to sweating constantly and the breeze while riding keeps you from getting to hot. I really had to get used to listening to my body.
We next stopped at the "Corn Palace". Yep a stadium that is decorated with dried corn. They spend $100,000 a year to re-decorate it. Surprising how many different colors there are in dried corn.
We hit a big stretch of nothing and then it got dark. We finally stopped in Sioux Falls. The problem, there was a little league baseball championship. All the hotels were booked. We finally found a hotel (on the 5th try.) and got the last room. While filling out the paperwork we got to smirk as they told 3 people they were full.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ride to Custer State Park

557 miles
So North Dakota was both on D.'s and my list as one of the few states that neither of us had been to. There really didn't seem to be that much in North Dakota and we didn't feel like visiting Fargo so we rode the extra little bit and then cut south on the first rode. It was the highway but it felt like we were riding back roads with all the deserted buildings and towns. We stopped for lunch by a lake in a small town. There were so many cottonwoods in bloom that it felt like snow. I felt like I had escaped Oregon to get away from the allergies and all the fuzzies were freaking my out.
Riding through South Dakota on motorcycles and not stopping in Sturgis seemed like a sin so we stopped for dinner. Of course we were a month early for the week long bike party but a lot of local rode motorcycles year round. Everyone seemed interested in D.'s motorcycle, a 1972 BMW.
We rode on to Mt. Rushmore and got there right at sunset. So parking was $8 but it was for the year so we decided to come back in the morning. We found a campground that was right around the corner and realized that we had rode another long day.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Meeting up in Billings Montana

184 miles
In the morning I could not resist stopping at some of the geysers and mudpots and taking more pictures. I wasn't in to much a hurry since the ride to meet up with my friend was pretty short since he was just in Billings staying with his friend.
D.'s friend was from the Navajo tribe, worked for Indian Affairs and was helping out a friend that was living with her that was from the Crow tribe. In the next 24 hours D. and I learned what must have been the complete history of both the tribes and a lot of US history from a different point of view. We got the grand tour of Billings, learned the history of Bull riding at the rodeo stadium, and overlooked the whole city from the bluff. Apparently to try to avert a small-pox epidemic some indian warriors rode their horses off the local cliff to appease the gods.
The next morning it had rained very heavy and everything was wet. I took the lambskin seat off my motorcycle and we were on our way. Since this was really what I consider the real start of the trip the rain gave everything a that new feeling as we drove away.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Anniversary in Yellowstone

Oh finally, I can relax. L. had taken a more direct route to Yellowstone since she was not visiting friends. She had brought her Mom and my friend that was riding cross country with me showed up. We all piled into the car and drove all over seeing the sights there. The thing about Yellowstone s that everything is so far apart you have to drive. There is also a lot of wildlife. Everyone stops for for the animals. I understand elk, moose, and buffalo. But why were people stopping for rabbits, raccoons, and prairie dogs. People were stopping for rocks thinking they are Buffalo. So we started referring to them as Rockalos.
In the evenings I was able to permanently fix the foot peg and really check my bike over top to bottom. and out cabin was right next to the hot springs so it allowed for evening walks.
So after two nights in a cabin at Mammoth Springs my friend headed north on his motorcycle to visit with friends and L. took her Mom to her sisters house that was close by, why? L. and I wanted to have out anniversary with only us.
I had booked the night at the Grand Lodge and it just so happened that our room looked out though some trees right to old faithful. It could not have been better. The funny thing about old faithful was it didn't seem like that big of a deal for the number of tourists there were. It was nicer and without all the tourists. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was weird eating Buffalo after seeing so many of them.
In the morning I said goodbye to L. and I drove north to meet up with my friend and L. drove south to visit with family, not to see each other for a month.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

riding to Yellowstone

685 miles
I knew that this day's ride would be a long one but I got off to a late start (10:30) talking to my friend in the morning. I hadn't really measured how long it would be but L. had said I should be able to make it in a day no problem.
After a few hours I was riding down the freeway at about 70mph and was stiff so I shifted my weight and suddenly felt the foot peg under my right foot give way and my foot hit the asphalt. I quickly steadied the motorcycle and pulled off the freeway. After my hands stopped jittering I looked over the bike. My right foot peg had rotated backward but all the parts were still there. It appears that the replacement brake pedal I had put on after my last slide didn't quite fit right and could turn suddenly loose. This was luckily the only problem I ran into for going non-stop and not being able to test all the stuff I had done to the motorcycle.
I was following the GPS and it had routed me north through Washington, Idaho and then Montana. I had lunch in Idaho and called L. that things were going well then I hit Montana. So the GPS said 3, then 4, then back to 3 hours left to drive. I realized it was giving me the time as the bird flies so the 4 hours I told L. would not be accurate. So each stop I was making I tried calling her, no signal. Cities in Montana are few and far between so pay phones calls to her cellphone were not working either. My cell phone in the cities was getting a signal but it was a recorded message that it was a different service and would cost extra. When I tried to OK the extra charge the phone would lock up.
So this repeated, over, and over. Stop after stop, and I just kept riding. I could not figure out a way to get the GPS to tell me miles instead of time left. It got dark, and I kept riding. It got cold, and I kept riding. I finally arrived at 2AM. After 15 1/2 hours riding and 8 hours later then what I had told L. I arrived at Yellowstone. I tried hard to ride through all the cabins quietly on my motorcycle. I found out L. had called the cops and did quite a good job describing what I was wearing. Apparently describing someone thinking they were in an accident is not a good thing to do a couple of days before your anniversary.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

riding to east Oregon

321 miles.
So Saturday was my graduation and Sunday I was hitting the road for a cross country trip on a motorcycle. My first stop was my friends house in eastern Oregon. As it turns out after packing up and leaving I didn't get there until 10:30. It really sucked because I really wanted to visit with my friend since sixth grade but honestly I was still going non-stop for the last 3 months and I really wanted to sleep.
This meant that I had to visit in the morning. We talked and then his mom called. The first things she wanted to say was to ask me when I was going to have kids, and how I could be so dangerous riding a motorcycle. I really didn't want to talk and get in a fight so I handed the phone back to G. without saying anything. She flew off the handle since I didn't answer her but I feel like I had lost the need to explain myself to anyone but my wife.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Graduation

So with some of both are families there we wanted to show them around where we lived so on Friday we drove them down to the coast to show them the sand dunes and light house. For my wife and I we enjoyed the sunset since we would not be seeing the Pacific Ocean for a while. I also felt that when I said I was going to ride coast to coast that I knew I could really mean it.
The next day L.'s graduation was the whole school of education so it was held in the basketball stadium. The entire court was covered with graduates and family filled all the stands. For how many people there were it went surprisingly faster then I thought. L.'s brother and mom along with my parents were all cracking jokes the whole time. The reality was that it was so hot in there I was willing to pay $3 each for 1 liter bottles of water. The after party was cookies and punch, everyone was drinking heavily.
My Graduation was only computer science so that was 8 graduate students and about 25 undergrads. It was outside and much more informal. Since my father was there I wrote in my middle name on the card. When I handed it to the announcer he read my middle name that I never use first. Oh well, it provided a good laugh for everyone. Afterward there was a jazz band that played then I showed my parents around campus and that was it. I was done. I walked off the campus for the last time. It felt weird since I spent more hours there between work, and school, and being with friends, and now it was all over.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Packing up to move

So my new work was pushing to have me start as soon as possible, but I still wanted to enjoy my ride across the US and Canada, and there was still all the loose-ends to tie up. This all means getting things done as soon as possible so that we can take off right after graduation. Since my new job was paying for my move the easiest way was to have everything packed up and gone before we graduated. Therefore living in an empty apartment.
We had to separate out anything we didn't want packed. We had to plan everything that we needed for our respective cross-country trips. I still needed to fix up a few things on the motorcycle so tools. We also had family coming to visit for our graduations so stuff for them. But all this had to fit in L.'s car since I wouldn't have room on my motorcycle.
Two packers came the first day. Anything and everything in sight was wrapped in paper and put in boxes. I see no reason to wrap up pens and shoes so they are padded, but so be it. According to them we had enough stuff for a 4 bedroom house stuffed into 2 bedroom apartment. It is easy to see how much you are a pack-rat when it is all getting packed but we had no time to sort out what we didn't want. It was so weird to sit there on the couch while people are packing everything up. I finished up 9 hours of homework. The next day 3 guys took 3 hours to pack it all in a truck and we wouldn't see any of it for a month.
It is amazing how big the apartment is with everything gone. L. had borrowed extra bedding and a air mattress from a friend for her mom and brother. My parents brought all their own. We showed them around the city and to the beach. It was weird since it was the first and only time we played host while living in Oregon.
Working on the motorcycle turned out easier than I thought. Once the thesis was turned in I had nothing to do. A complete change. I was able to fabricate brackets to attach side cases. Change the oil, gas, install a cigarette lighter to recharge my phone and GPS, install new turn signals, and put a cover over the seat so it would be comfier for long trips.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Finishing my thesis

So everyone has their story of how many times they have to submit, get back, and piddley little things they have to change for their thesis. I now have my story. I spent the drive drive down to the redwoods for Memorial weekend typing up a lot of it and had given to my advisor where it sat on her desk for two weeks before she looked at it. After many revisions she felt it was "good enough". My "Boss", the psychcology professor was so busy I know he never even read all before he signed off on it. The third professor on my committee read through it all and said it was needed to much work but considering all the work I had put into building everything he was OK with the amount of work I put into the project as a whole.
Submitting it to the college had it's own set of gotchas. Because of all the revisions I kept going back and forth with my committee I had to convince the graduate college to let me turn it in 3 days past the deadline for the spring term. I had used the word document they supplied as a template but still had to reformat little things like chapter headings and page number placements. My feeling is that so much time was wasted getting my thesis to fit some arbitrary standard for prestige reasons that extra research could not be done. Multiply that by the number or students and it is obviously a broken system.
As it turns out I graduated and left before hearing back from the graduate school of last minute formatting issues. L. had to make changes since I had no room for a laptop and mail in the final draft to make it in by the revision deadline.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

procrastination problems

So when you already know your future and it is so much more alluring then your current life is; it is just to easy to get burn out. Normally one person is there to cheer the other one up. But with both of us going to school and with how busy both of us are when either of us started falling behind it means that both of us fell behind because the other person had to get them back in line. (It sure felt like it was me doing more of the encouraging though.)
So our escape was TV shows downloaded from the internet, or renting them from the library. We would watch shows while writing our papers and there always seemed to be more to do so we seemed to burn though a lot of shows.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorial Day Redwood trip

Knowing that this was our last vacation before the end of the term, and the fact that we had gone crazy with the stress of school, and soon we would be moving to the other side of the country, we decided we both needed a vacation otherwise procrastination would overtake us. Actually I spent Friday and Saturday hard at work and just couldn't take it anymore. So Sunday morning we decided to drive down to the redwoods in northern California.
L. Drove while I typed my thesis. We bought an AC converter from the store before leaving so I could power my laptop. It was a pretty drive down and it was nice to have the GPS. When we got there I emailed the first draft from an open wireless point at a cafe while we ate lunch.
It was weird being able to spend some money since I had already got the sign-on bonus from the new job. We had been so tight with money for two years it was nice, but I felt guilty to get a nice hotel room with a jacuzzi.
So all the really tall trees are in central california. These redwoods in Crescent City are all the really fat ones. We had fun walking though the state park which felt like you are a miniature person among all the huge trees and ferns. You half expect a dinosaur to go walking by. We also stopped off at a place that had a giant fiberglass Paul Bunyan outside. After looking around at the redwoods there is a cable car to the top of the mountain. We decided to walk down instead of talking the cable car back and had a nice allergy free stroll through the forest. It really was a needed relaxation.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

History is never written by the busy

The device that was supposed to be built by the electronics guy at the school was given to me half done because he ran out of time. This means I have to solder 256 wires to a metal plate an inch and a half wide. So with the plate in a clamp, I used a pair of needles in my left hand like chop-sticks to hold the wire. My ring finger and pinky fed the solder in and my right hand held the soldering tool. Any extra extra solder was scratched off with a needle.
Working for the lab has slowed down. (Everyone else is busy writing papers so don't need much help gathering results from the computers.) This is the one break I have since I can just sit in the lab and work on my thesis.
I am so busy now my average schedule between work, school, homework, and thesis, gives me 3 hours of personal time a week to wash clothes, dishes and the such. I know I am over-loaded. I can feel that I am pushing myself to hard. But if I want to finish on time, and I don't have a choice since I already have the job waiting, then I don't have any other choice.

(This post was written retro-actively because there is no way I had time for frivolous stuff like internet posts.)

return of the alergies

Well the rain is gone. The grass is green. People are coming out of hiding, and you know that means- Allergies. I can't skip out on them this year like I did last year by going down to San Jose.
This year we are a little more prepared. L. went right away to the doctor and they were quite experienced with dealing with all the allergies in the area. They gave her a cocktail of drugs and they seem to have worked, she is able to leave the house. I finally just got an inhaler.
It is just awful that all this happens right at the end of the term when all the drugs and allergies make it harder to think straight just when you need your brain the most. The allergies here from the sod farmers make it so I would never want to live here permanently.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Problems with my thesis

There is just something about electrocuting peoples tongues that brings people out of the wood-work. So, because my experiment involves inducing electricity to people I have to get a medical OK from the FDA saying that this is not a medical device. The problem being that no one in computer science has done anything like this before so I am more depending on my contacts in psychology to help me out for this one. There is so much documentation I must prove that this this thing is safe. I built in double fail-safes and fuses plus have resorted to only running the thing off of AA batteries to make sure there is no chance of an overload. So it is more a case of change this document and re-submit. This sentence needs to be here and re-submit. I kid you not, this bulleted list needs to be copied to the next page instead of just referenced, then re-submit. After 4 1/2 months magically I get an email for the all clear, 4 months longer then the previous record.
There are technical problems too. I am a computer science major. electronics are not my area of specialty. I have designed this thing as far as I can figure keep running into problems. I hunted high and low I finally found out we have a technical department to help build prototypes for research. The problem, since I am not funded under anyone else's research I have to pay for it myself. I was able to convince the professor that was advising me on my thesis to cover the consultation costs out of her research budget. I ended up making a deal with the electronics guy. Since he does not know software I will write the firmware for another personal project he has going on the side and he will design and build what I need and I only have to pay for parts. That's great since I don't have $1000, so around $300 for parts is much better. The only problem is that I don't need another thing to do on top of all the other stuff. I still have to write, you know, the thesis.

Friday, April 13, 2007

getting healthy

So the end of school is in sight. It is like coming out of a haze and realizing... my goodness I have been sitting around a lot studying. I am really out of shape.
As part of our tuition we get full access to a new gym on campus. (Yeah, that's what the higher tuition cost went to.) So we both decided we would put it to good use. For starters we decided to spend the $40 and get the health check and personal trainer. (When it is another student it is much cheaper.) Turns out when I get a pain in my back or hips the way to get rid of it is to exercise, who knew?
I have been using the work outs as a break from school, and since the stress from school is pretty constant that means I have been working out pretty regularly. Imagine that, I stick with something to see results. L. has been doing the same for the same reasons and has also seen differences. Now the ominous part... what happens when we graduate and don't have a gym right next door to us all day long?

The awsome power of hippies

Living in a very liberal area is a very good source of free comedy. The problem is that there are a lot of protests, but they are "preaching to the choir". A good example is the protest marches. There can be big groups chanting, waving signs marching down the middle of campus. The only hitch is when they reach the edge of campus the group turns around and marches the other way. (Can't be late for class.) That big of a group changing directions is funny to watch. It's like when in small towns the parade will double back for and second trip down main street and all floats have to turn around. I guess as long as the media is there covering it, that's how the message gets out.
The times that messages don't make it outside is a little spot called "the Free Speech area". It is a small amphitheater next to the area to eat lunch...ahh, captive audience. In reality there is usually someone there yelling about something and it provides good entertainment to anyone eating lunch outside. Again more just wasting energy rather then changing minds.
One thing I have found useful is the display of information. Studying human computer interaction involves a lot of displaying information in an easy to digest matter and some protesters have mastered this. For one protest against the Iraq war they used the small construction flags usually used to mark underground pipes. A flag for everyone that has died- so 50,000 white flags covering most of the green areas of campus and 3,000 red flags for the US soldiers that died in one small patch of grass. It was easy to see the disparity and why one group would be mad at the other.
The other display I liked was a chalk drawing on the road. As I rode my bike in onto campus there was a large red stripe drawn on the ground. As I went further it was joined by other stripes and at the very end, the punch-line, it labeled all bars in the bar graph as the national budget with of course the longest being the defense budget. It was just smart to have it facing the way it was so people arriving on campus would receive the impact.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring classes

For my last term it was all about the thesis. 9 credits worth.
The other 3 credits was an introduction to 3D programming. It was a requirement but I had fun in the class. I got along well with the professor and ended up asking him to be on my thesis committee. The projects were fun too.
For my group project I was tired of trying to make things to help people. I wanted to try something in the other direction. They had just installed a 3D screen complete with polarized glasses. I convinced the person I was working with to try to create a display that could make someone fall over. The view was looking down the inside of a cone. the walls were made up of cones rotating in the opposite direction of the cone itself. The cones were squished to create an artificial horizon that was also slowly rotating. Everyone was sitting so no one fell over but one guy did say he felt nauseous.
My other project was to test parallax vision. I wrote a program to track the head and move the image accordingly. Moving the head back and forth made the image pop out of the screen. It worked.
I got an A in the class which is good since I used it as an escape from my thesis.

Monday, April 02, 2007

House hunting in New York

My new job would pay for a house hunting trip but it had to be within 90 days of my start date. This trip was one week before the 90 days because this was the last vacation before graduation. I guess this was one hiring perk I would not be able to take advantage of. But since the main point was to check out the area and since L. had never been here before it was nice just to drive around to try to become familiar with the cities in the area.
I had emailed my future boss that we were coming and she had set up a lunch even though I had already met everyone on the team. They all felt it was much more cheerful to have a lunch when someone is arriving instead of when they are leaving. I was just terrified that I would be totally out of my league when I started working so I was asking everyone at least which programming languages I should learn but they wouldn't tell me. We did get their opinions of all the towns they liked and didn't like.
We started out with the idea of seeing all the cities now then working with a real estate agent when we were back in Oregon. The way that we got around everywhere was buying a GPS. We would punch in to drive to a city center or city hall. The GPS would guide us there and I was always surprised to find a little brochure describing the city or calendar of events of something. Once there I could find an open wireless connection and use Google Earth to see a satellite photo of what was around. Yes, technology is very cool, and I learned my way around very fast this way. We just wanted to make sure we would not be living next to high school stands like we currently do and all the noise we currently have to deal with.
Now that were were also looking for "For Sale" signs they started to really pop out at us. It was amazing just how many homes are really for sale in any area. The only problem was that none had the price or info. This meant that we had to deal with real estate agents. We were really just trying to get an idea of how expensive everything was and what neighborhood that bought you into.(Something you can't tell from the picture in the advertisements.) Of course all agents want to show houses so they were no help. We did finally find one agent that just printed out their listings and let us drive around. That is defiantly who we will be coming back to when we come back. We could just punch in a route of homes we could afford and go on our own tour.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Birthday 2007

It just so happened Spring Break, our trip, and my birthday all coincided. It was nice to have my birthday during Spring Break because it meant that I could enjoy it without having to worry about what homework I should be doing otherwise; and I could enjoy my birthday in a different place then Oregon.
About the only place I had not visited in New York after previous visits was Coney Island. Luckily it warmed up for my birthday so we decided to go.
That area of Brooklyn has a very Russian or Ukrainian influence. There were many stores selling meat and potato pies along with other unknown food so we bought some pies with unknown filling from a woman that spoke no English and headed for the sand.
For some reason I had developed a craving for flying kites. So we had previously bought some kites with the intention of flying them at Coney Island. Unfortunately, there was no wind so no one really got to fly their kite that long, it was fun trying though.
We decided to walk the boardwalk so we went back to put the kites away and put more money in the meter for the car. When I had closed the door it flipped the paper over showing we had paid so there was a ticket on the car. Happy Birthday to me.
Of course all the rides were not open yet on the boardwalk since it was still to early in the season. But it was cool just to see everything. Even with everything only being closed during the winter there was enough weeds and it looked deserted enough to seem like we needed to do some crime solving in the mystery machine at the old abandoned amusement park. Sorry, I thought it was cool to see all the old amusement rides.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring Break

While most people would want to go somewhere warm for Spring Break we wanted to check out where we would be moving to. So for Spring Break we flew out to New York to check out the area. Flying from Oregon to New York was a difference between night and day. In Oregon spring had already started and it was green everywhere with flowers, and chirping birds and frogs at night.
Anyone who has ever been to Newark, New Jersey knows how depressing it is. When we landed it was all run down industrial factories and weird smells. There was still snow patches in most of the shadows and freezing cold still. Driving farther north and into New York everything was still dead and brown. It was weird not to hear the sound of animals but we didn't notice until the sound was absent.
We both had this feeling of dread come over us of not knowing if we were making the right decision of moving here. The up side, well no allergies obviously with everything being dead so I guess there is always a trade-off. (Actually with how hard both of us were hit by allergies in Oregon we both wanted to see if we were allergic to anything in New York. Unfortunately we would not know until we moved there.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

crunch time at end of quarter

So there is no time for anything. In the interest of trying to cover all my bases I have found it better to plan how to spread my work out so it can be used for multiple purposes. Previously I had written a research paper that had been used for two classes. After a little editing that paper made a good chapter for my thesis. As part of the original research paper I had to also give a presentation. I gave two other presentations off of the same slides. I also used the software I wrote for my thesis as the requirement for my class project in my UI programming class. Without using work for multiple needs I would not have got everything done since I had no time for myself. I added it up and it turned out that on average I had about 4-5 hours a week to do personal stuff like washing clothes and grocery shopping. I admit that some things suffered like me programming for a class while I was working, but I still got everything done they asked for.
The funny thing is that everything has to be cleared up by the end of the term then there is nothing to do for a week for Spring break.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Things not normally seen

It is hard to convince people Eugene is different. I have told people about the people that mow the lawn or wash their car in the rain and they respond that it is out of necessity. But there is more.
I saw a man pulling golf bag from bike. He had one of the large golf bags with the two tires on it with all the clubs sticking out the top with the little socks on them. The handle for the golf bag was hooked up to the back of the bike as if it was a trailer.
Another was a man juggling bowling pins while waiting for a bus. Now it might seem an interesting way to pass the time but I have seem others juggling while walking down the street. I know juggling is popular here and I guess you need to practice some time.
I live about 50 feet from the high school bleachers so I hear a lot of games. I heard the announcer once trying to settle the crowd after booing from an referee call, then tell two fathers to get off the field or the game would be called. I was leaving the apartment so I looked over to see what game was being played, not football or baseball- they had full bleachers of rabid fans for ultimate Frisbee.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

becoming a teacher... against my will

My father was a 5th grade elementary school teacher. I grew up with the knowledge of teachers not getting respect, or pay, they should. I had no desire to become a teacher, and in fact actively avoided it, because of this knowledge. Somehow fate sees otherwise.
I guess it is because I have the Graduate teaching fellowship to pay for my schooling. I recently started receiving the teachers union magazine. It caught me off guard because I recognized the symbol.
Then I realized, I got off lucky for my masters degree only doing research. If I went for the pHD to get the full research job then there is really no way out of teaching something. And once I do have my pHD my fall back career would always be a professor. It's not that I abhor teaching, I have done a lot of training at two of my jobs. A lot of people have told me I make a good teacher or trainer. It is just so deeply rooted in my subconscious brain that teachers get paid so badly. No matter how many times L. tells me, and I know it is not the case for university professors it will not leave my head that I could make a good living if I taught anything.

Friday, February 02, 2007

problems with the insurance company

I really don't know how else our insurance company could have screwed up more. L. rear-ended another car in October. Of course with the car still drivable we reported it but didn't get around to it until now. The insurance co. sends out someone to estimate damages of $598, $500 deductible so we get a check in the mail for $98.... wow. I never cashed and just took it to the repair shop and signed it over to them. The repair bill $2600 (With 2 trips from the insurance guy to the repair place approving damages, adding an extra week to repair time.). Gee, you think the insurance guy gets a bonus to low-ball his report. We had insurance for a rental, $30 a day. Oregon says normal rental is $22/day so even though we are covered the insurance tries to send us a bill for the difference. We never spoke to our assigned insurance person over the phone, always another line, or voice mail. So each time we called was 1/2 hour ordeal since the other people could not pull up our file. This does not bode well for people with maybe 20-40min of free time a night.
We had heard other's insurance nightmares so we thought going through AAA would avoid that, but in Oregon they contract out to American Commerce Insurance. Frankly I plan to avoid both from here on out.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

L.'s Birthday

So what do you do for your wife's birthday when low on money? In reality the trip to Utah was her present and also the main reason why we didn't have any money but that seems pretty cold to not celebrate somehow. So I decided to go for maximum payoff for the money. Add to this that L. was now commuting so was using the car everyday so I would need to get everything home by bicycle or foot. So I got streamers- bright, and instant impact as it makes things look very different, and festive. I also made a cake (Angle food cake since its good "diet" cake. Topped with whipped cream and strawberries on the side.) I couldn't resist ton of candles but did not go with the Barbie Happy birthday plastic cake topper. So for her present she got a bottle of the good bubble bath.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Becoming a rain expert

It's funny, everyone thinks it's strange for it to be raining while it is sunny. I've noticed this while living in Oregon since there is the chance to contemplate rain a lot. I realized this has to do with everyone thinking that they are the center of their own universe. I mean if it is raining then there must be a cloud over them or at least close. But, for it to raining and not sunny then the sun must be blocked out by the cloud. The sun would have to be directly over them too. Everything in a nice line from the ground to the sun. Personally I've started to notice it sunny more often when raining now.

There is a false idea that Eskimos have 20 something words for snow. The idea did get me thinking about all the different kinds of weather I have experienced here that were never experienced in the weather void of California. Weather starts as fog, then heavy fogging is about the same as misting, heavy misting is the really annoying one since the drops are still small enough that gravity has no effect so it gets in your eyes as you walk. When it got really cold we had freezing fog. Finally fog you could feel (even if annoying), like thousands of specks of white dust in the air. Snow makes everything quiet, freezing fog made everything almost silent.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Years

Since we were in such a hurry to beat the storm on the way to Utah we skipped a visit to my friends house in Oregon. We decided to spend New Years day there instead. It was nice that all the snow had melted off the roads by the time we left so our drive from Utah to eastern Oregon went smoothly. G.'s wife had bought the a copy of the game canasta and said she wanted a re-match first thing through the door. I did not want a repeat of the last time we played so I wanted to see how good I could loose. Of course no one could know so I had a lot of fun deciding who's pile to build covertly (If you are not familiar with canasta helping the person on the left is easiest, then on the right, with the opposite player the hardest because you have to force someone else's hand.). This of course led to a normal 6 hour game into 8 hours and people started complaining that the game was going to long so I switched gears and in two rounds got 3000 points to cross over 5000 and win. I have to say I felt like I was playing God, but everyone came away with a much better mood from the game with no one the wiser (as long as they don't read this, and in that case... Hey guys)
So 2007 will be a busy year. We will be finishing grad school and moving to New York. We will have to start our real lives (get real jobs, buy a house... all the stuff we have been using school as an excuse to not do). I have also decided for sure to write a thesis and have signed up for the proper credits, so its no more just yeah if I want to, there is no turning back now.