Friday, December 31, 2010

Berlin- Awesome and Terrible

I never recounted my experiences from my last 2 weeks in Europe, I am disappointed I didnt put my thoughts in writing while they were fresh, my mind is constantly running at top speed (not going anywhere, top speed in circles) and I cant even remember my thoughts from 5 minutes ago, 5 weeks ago is long gone. On that note, I have tried keeping a journal of sorts with me at all times so that I can write down thoughts I have or interesting things I see or hear, I will often think, "na, I dont need to write that down, I can remember that," and so it is gone forever, or sometimes I will write like a little reminder, just a code word to start the thought process in my mind again, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. And sometimes I will use the person I am with as a notepad and present my thought to them and then I can ask them later what it was, or the conversation that proceeds makes it a significant enough event that I remember it later. Kari is lucky enough to be my notepad pretty often, and every now and then after some capricious cerebration comes to to surface she asks where it came from and it is quite fun sometimes to trace back my string of thoughts to something real that triggered it all. I will try to write it down next time something like that happens.

I was talking about Europe, and how I should have put my experiences to paper sooner. I met a guy named Ryan, the coolest Pirate in Santa Cruz, who sold me a beautiful old Raleigh bike and from my email he clicked the link to this blog, I saw him a couple times after that and every time he encouraged me "keep documenting your life man." I try, Ryan. My return from Europe has been full. Full of travels, decisions, people, adventures... wait... I didnt talk about my final days in Europe. Berlin! This city was awesome and terrible, awesome because of its history and terrible because of its history. We happened to be there during the celebration for the 20th anniversary of German reunification which filled the streets with carnival rides, food vendors, and thousands of people. We went down the Unter den Linden on our Fat Tire bike tour (we did one in Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, annnd London) early in the day and saw the stage and vendors and things being prepared among the Brandenburg Gate. Now that is no ordinary piece or architecture right there. As one of the first places we stopped in Berlin, I was amazed to hear the history of this one spot. The gate served as the entrance to the city since the 1700s and during the war it was one of the Berlin Wall crossings, right on the line. But before that, a couple hundered years ago when NAPOLEON and the French took over Berlin, he stole the horse and chariot and took it to Paris. NAPOLEON! Of course the French were defeated 10 or so years later and the chariot was restored. How cool is that? We went on exploring and the amazing history never ceased thoughout the city. The Berlin Wall, an event that will be remembered forever, it happened in my lifetime, and there it was right in front of my eyes. There are so many interesting things to say about all of this I cant go into it all, theres a story behind the rounded top on the wall, half a mile down the road is "Checkpoint Charlie", directly behind me is the only remaining Nazi building in Berlin (which remains despised as it houses the German equivalent of the IRS), there is just so much history everywhere, and amazing architecture. We saw and learned about historic churches, palaces, parks, we saw bullet holes from WWII battles, and numerous remnants of the destruction caused in the war. WWII was obviously a prevalent part of the experience, it was amazing to see how huge of an impact the war had, and still has on the culture. Sure the US was in it, but in Europe they were IN it, and throughout my entire trip the war would come up in conversation and explanation.

Berlin is home to one of the worlds prominent Universities, Humboldt University, which sits in the heart of the city. Educated here were impressive names like Max Plank, Karl Marx, and a guy named Alfred Einschteim that seemed to impress people. In from of the university was a square that held two identical churches with an interesting history of their own, but in the middle of that square was a reminder that even an institution of education such as this with such a proud history has dark marks which must also be remembered. A plate of glass stands out in the middle of a cobble stone square and under the glass there are white shelves lining an otherwise empty room. A nearby plaque offers a brief explanation and a quote. "That was merely a prelude. Wherever they burn books, eventually they will burn people too." -Heinrich Heine, 1820. This was the site where on May 10, 1933 Nazi students took 20,000 books from the university that were not in compliance with Nazi teachings and burned then in a pile in the square. The white shelves in the inaccessible room are big enough for 20,000 books as a memorial to the burnings. They acknowledge the history that has passed through the town, the good and the bad... and the absolutely terrible.

We experienced the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, when I say terrible, this is what I mean. The memorial is housed under ground, and above it is a field of 2,700 stele, which are huge concrete slabs, covering 4 acres. The slabs stand on rolling little hills and vary in height across the field so that when walking through you will at one moment be looking out over the stele and the next be standing in the dark with concrete towering 10 feet over your head. Below, in the memorial, the information is presented as a continuation of the stele above, sometimes as a hanging continuation of the stele containing information about a person or family and their struggle for survival in concentration camps or in hiding. One room was nothing but glass rectangles on the ground reflecting the stele above them, back lit to show letters from Jews being taken to camps, being held in camps, or desperate attempts to reach people who were already in camps. It was... well you can imagine. It was interesting to think how other people were experiencing the information, some people walking through crying, did they have some tie to those lost in the Holocaust? Maybe it was out of shame? How did the Japanese tourists take it in? Are they taught the history as freely as we are in the US? Standing there next to an Asian couple in my head for a second I felt like a local and that I was standing next to tourists and felt slightly ashamed of what we were looking at, then I remembered I wasnt at home, the US helped stop all this, I felt much better after that, that is not to say that I think Germans should feel personally ashamed of what happened, it was just a weird experience.

Oh goodness, by brief write ups never end up very brief do they. Quickly, the reunification celebration was great to be a part of, the kind of local cuisine is Mediterranean, like baba ganoush and falafel and stuff, weird, and the German public transportation system is the best in the world. Next, I am off to Barcelona.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Unfamous Rawlings Christmas Letter

For those of you not fortunate enough to be part of the Rawlings Family Holiday Card Mailing List, we have kept up the classically tacky tradition of writing a letter to summarize our lives since our previous installment. Yes, we know it is a Holiday faux pas, in fact we embrace that fact, and our loyal following insists that they enjoy receiving it every year, and so it comes without fail, on fancy paper, joined by a family picture and postmarked from Santa Claus, Indiana. And now you have the privilege of reading it as well, and though you are not quite getting the full experience, I hope you enjoy.


Rawlings Family Christmas 2010

Hey everbuddy! Hope this letter finds you all happy, healthy, and omnipotent. It has been another big year for the Rawlings, and an interesting one for me. Most of the year has been the same ol stuff. Lots of soccer, playing and reffing still. I started doing High School games this year, which has been an interesting experience. The big exception was a change in jobs. My KY work visa ran out, so I took the Operations Manager position at a new company, QTR Inc, in Evansville. It was a gut wrenching decision to leave my friends at Custom Resins, and a challenging start at QTR, but it is a great company with solid growth and potential. Well, we’ve still been able to get the boys to write their updates, so as long as you haven’t grown tired of the endless stream of family and friend’s newsletters, read on!

Becky: I lead a pretty mundane life compared to everyone else in the family. I am still working my school nurse job at Bosse High School and my admission nurse job at St. Mary’s Hospital. I spent a lot of my summer break in West Virginia and Pennsylvania helping and visiting family. I doubled my garden space this year but the bugs got most of my squash. Seems squash bugs are are most prevalent in this area of the midwest. We are still eating fresh tomatoes from the garden though. My new project is finding a good, used car before the end of the year. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Mark - The year started off with nothing but photography: photography jobs, photography classes (my first!), work at the studio... what else are you going to do when it’s cold?! Speaking of cold, during Pittsbrugh’s snowmegeddon I did a photo project on Pittsburgh parking chairs that got some local attention and is now featured on the wikipedia page for parking chairs! Then my class ended, my photo jobs dried up, and I was jobless. Taking advantage of this joblessness I visited Brendon out in Santa Cruz for a week of west coast debauchery and succeeded admirably. Lucky for me I immediately found a good paying dream job leading bike tours in and around Pittsburgh. This included things as small as leading groups of summer camp kids around the trails of Pittsburgh on day trips, to 350 mile journeys between Pittsburgh and Washington DC (I did this trip many times over the summer) and everything in between. In between bike tours I worked on two farms, one 70 miles outside Pittsburgh (quite a ride), and one about 8 miles outside the city. I did mostly infrastructure work on both of these including building a large greenhouse out of most recycled wood and quite a few rock paths and patios. As summer faded I spent more and more time at the farms and less time on the trails, and I also moved into a nice old house on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh overlooking downtown and the surrounding hills. As soon as the bike tours ended I joined an old friend Phil on a cross country adventure that took us from west to eat by way of Salt Lake, Yellowstone, Badlands, Minnesota State Fair, Apostle Islands, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Erie sailing on Gottalife, and a visit to the farm Gillian was working on for our one year anniversary. It was a pretty spectacular way to cross the country (8 National Parks AND we skipped the great plains). To finish up the year I made another boat delivery down to the Bahamas, we saw lots of whales, a Great White Shark do a full breach, and all kinds of other exciting things like a spinnaker explode, sonic booms, and 40 ft seas. Due to breaking too many sails we had to make a three day pit stop, and to brighten spirits after beating the snot out of ourselves in 7 days of upwind sailing (gentlemen never sail to weather!) my girlfriend came down and brought good weather with her. She joined us on a beautiful gulfstream crossing and we cruised through the rest of the Bahamas at our leisure. This brought us back to a cold wintry Pittsburgh just before Thanksgiving where I plan to start hibernation soon. With no winter jobs and plenty of money saved from the summer I’ll be taking time off in the winter to catch up on photography projects and learn a couple new skills (welding and woodturning are at the top of the list). Another winter project is remodeling my website, which I expect to be getting up and running around February. You can reach me as always at OR or just if either of those don’t sit right in your stomach.

BRENDON- It’s a frosty Philadelphia fall morning. Six AM and I’m returning from a grueling shift of toy sorting at “R Us”. Unable to sleep I sit and think about the big decisions I have ahead of me. A glimmering white angel pops up on my shoulder. I am not getting enough sleep. “Do the sensible thing,” She says, “Make yourself a home, find a real job, you have had your adventures, now settle down and make a life for yourself.” As I ponder her immaculate wisdom I am joined by a writhing mass of pasta and meatballs levitating over my other shoulder. “Forget that sparkly chick!” The Flying Spaghetti Monster proclaims, “Go have some fun, follow your wonderful girlfriend around the country, she will be done with school in a year, have fun while you can. Besides, you have a letter to write for the Holidays, what would you say?!” It is hard to disagree with that logic, but I am still torn. As I think, the FSM extends his noodly appendage and strangles the angel on my other shoulder. That settles that, I am going on an adventure.

And so it was. I finished my time in Philly (and at Toys R Us, whew) and continued across the state to Pittsburgh, where Kari had her first placement. Kari had two three month internships left to graduate with her Masters in Occupational Therapy. It turns out it is tough to get a good job for 3 months, so I wound up stuffing papers in envelopes and filling ink cartridges, it wasn't so bad though, I love that city and being with my friends and family. Our cross country drive was next on the agenda, and when April came around we set off with a car full of junk and a mind full of California dreams. Through Dallas, Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas, we made our way to home in Santa Cruz with our 3 new housemates we found on Craigslist, luckily they turned out to be 3 of the awesomest dudes you'd ever hope to meet. There is nowhere in the country like SC, with a general laid back attitude and a trust and respect present through the community, it was great to be a part of it for what time we had there. I immediately bought a board and got into surfing, SC has the best surfing in the country and I loved it, I finally got a hang of it... just before I left. The job search was brutal, after giving up on anything biology I landed a job in tech services at the Beach Boardwalk amusement park, working on anything with a computer involved, CCTV, audio, telephones, so much more... it was pretty crazy, and I loved it, working on the beach all day with a great group of guys around people that were just there to have fun. I ended up spending 6 months there, staying to finish the season at my carnie job while Kari finished her last 6 weeks of school in Philly. The people I met and experiences I had in Santa Cruz I know will stay with me for a long time, but my time there had to come to an end. The adventure continued as I left SC for a backpacking tour of Europe. My two friends and I left in the middle of September for Europe where we traveled for 2 weeks, and on the day my friends flew home Kari flew in and the two of us continued for another 2 weeks. Ready? Amsterdam and the bicycles, bustling streets, “coffee” shops, canals, street performers, and women in windows with red lights... The Swiss Alps and snowboarding on a glacier in 50 degree weather, and the little ski village and the parties they throw, Milan and the best pizza I ever hope to eat, Rome and the immensely impressive architecture, Vatican City (I saw the pope!), and everything is so old! Munich and Oktoberfest, and the beer, the trip to the Monastery, and the beer, the beer, and the beer, and Kari! Prague and the castles, the clubs, the museums, and the astronomical clock, Berlin and the history! the Wall, and the 20th anniversary of German reunification, Barcelona, the beaches, the Spanish Inquisition, and Montjuic, Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the French Revolution, the art, the bridges, the buildings, London, the people, the Palace, the buses, the markets, the airport... home... I'll just keep it going, Kari and I took a little trip when we got back to check out possible places to live, so, LA, the sprawling extravagance, the peeeeople, Santa Cruz, the friends, the citywide Halloween party, Denver, the mountains, the city, the job opportunities... the Uhaul, the drive, the apartment, the new home. What better place to be for the holiday season than nestled in the Rockies. We are just getting moved in and are finally settling down for a while, it is nice to have a home, and I am sure that sparkly chick is happy too. So, I am a Denverite (Yes, still a Steelers fan) and we have a two bedroom apartment, the 2nd is for you when you come out to hit the ski resorts. As always, you can fill in the gaps by reading my blog at, or email me at Happy Holidays!

Alan: Welcome back everyone to the wonderful world of Mark and Brendon showing off. I left you guys last year in the magical location of Clearfield, PA, the home of my lovely almost 1 year girlfriend. This 2 lettered young lady and I went into our previous semester with a new wind, and it was flipping freezing man. It was a pretty tough semester, my favorite class of course was biochemistry.. Bet you don't know how your body digests food, how does that make you feel? But in all seriousness it was my second semester of humanities with an amazing professor. The beginning of the semester was coupled by one of the most snowful winters EVER. With that, I took all my friends to Seven Springs to ski with Brendon.. I guess we are but a smidge compared to european vacations and international shenanigans. Our other fun trip was a weekend in our wonderful nation’s capital. We stayed at my friends Aunt’s house just outside the city and rode the metro into the city, I felt so.. urban! Of course we toured all the monuments, and i elbowed the President in a game of basketball. No pain no game Prez! I woke up in a strange room with a single hanging light and a horrible headache, the last thing I remembered was black suit yelling THE PACKAGE IS DOWN! What is with him being called “The Package” anyway? I digress, we went through a couple museums and saw a thrilling documentary of the life of Sardines.. What exactly counts as an “Ocean Adventure” to those people is beyond me.. that's false advertising in my book. We had a fabulous time in D.C. the highlight of which was the Spy museum I think. Once I apologized at the YooHoo Summit and was pardoned, we thanked my friends family and were on our way back to school. The semester flew by and in the end, to keep the metaphor going, I had the wind at my back and it was smooth sailing. Did I mention I was on the Dean’s List Sea? Summer was upon us, and parting was such sweet sorrow as I bid farewell to Mo-town and my fair maiden. I traveled to the mysterious flats of Indiana with the hopes of finding a new summer job. As fate would have it, a technician at my Dad’s plant just had knee surgery so i was called upon to fill the void. It just so happened that the void was from 6 PM to 6 AM. So this summer i transformed from Alan to OWLan. The nocturnal lifestyle isn’t all that bad once you live it for a week or so. Our vacation was going to California to visit Brendon and Kari in Santa Cruz. This was the first time I had ever seen the west coast. No one told me that the water was coming from frickin Alaska though! I had to at least get one body surf in before I was thawed 500 years in the future, yes there are jetpacks, but no cute trash compacting robots! It was exciting to see San Fran and drive “The One.” The coast was amazing. Not to mention I got to see the origins of the Olson twins when they were still innocent little girls. We even tested the cars power steering down Lombard Street. Our other tangent was a trip to Monterrey where we lived it up in the city and toured a very interesting aquarium. This time I’m not being sarcastic. It was a very cool place. Sadly our visit had to end and it was back to the nightly grind. It wasn’t long before I returned to WV and moved into my new place here to live with my cousin Tim. Before school started I made a couple trips to see old friends in Pittsburgh and up to Clearfield once more. Before I knew it, Chemistry was upon me, and it was back with a vengeance. It’s like it is gunna be my job or something, you know what I mean? This semester has been another tough one, only a couple weeks left, and I eagerly await the results. I look forward to this break and seeing everyone again. Happy Holidays everyone! May the Noodle be with you!


Now wasnt that beautiful? And keeping in the spirit, I thought I would share with you the tree topper I created after a jolt of inspiration by a pasta colored length of garland hanging in the store.

Take a moment to appreciate His Noodly Appendage as it gracefully dances with the boughs.Happy Holiday everyone!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pa Pa l'Americano

I wrote a couple entries during our travels, but lacked the time to complete them and the internets to post them. So now after a whirlwind of activity on our return from Europe I have had a chance to get them online. Here is a semi complete post I wrote on the way from Barcelona to Paris.

10/6/10, tenth month. October is the tenth month. Gotta get that through my head. For the past few months I have been writing the wrong number for the month, like all of the backup batteries throughout the entire boardwalk key scan system have the wrong month on them, I signed numerous checks, various forms and papers with the wrong month, and I also booked a flight from Barcelona to Paris with the wrong month. Good thing flights are so cheap here, it was a $20 flight and we rebooked for the same price, but seriously, how stupid. It has been a while since I updated, Kari and I have been going nonstop since she flew in last Sunday. We left the day after Kari got there so we had to cram in the munich experience as well as we could. It was basically straight from the airport to Oktoberfest, beer, went to Hofbrauhaus, beer, saw the glockenspeil, beer, delicious rotissery chicken, sleep. Great day. It really is a gross display of drunkeness at oktoberfest, as we walked down the hill before even entering the grounds we were greeted by a little brawl being broken up by cops treating the kids in ways that would make national news in the US, and after we walked by they took off right by us to stop another totally unrelated fight that started just 50 feet in front of us. Navigating the tents was the next challenge, you have to be at a table to get beer, and if you get there any time after 11am there are no tables, so after scouring 3 tents for an empty spot I devised a strategy, just look for a beer maid going down a row, stand next to a table in the row, and when she comes by just pretend you belong. "swei bier bitte". Those women are impressive, holding 4 one liter mugs with one balanced on top in each hand. 10 liters of beer at once, pretty intense. We did eventually find a table with some friendly germans and stood on the tables singing along to songs, some in english (sweet caroline, YMCA, and the like), some in german, it didnt matter, we were just having a good time.

Our next stop was Prague. The Czech Republic. It sounds so foreign. It was, of course, and loaded with history and impressive gothic relics. The biggest castle in the world, buildings from the BCs, an intricate astronomical clock. I wish I had more history on these places, we took a bike tour to learn what we could, but it turned into a pretty terrible experience. City Bike tours in Prague, what a sham. Well first of all, the Czech is not part of the European Union, so we had to get Czech Crown, which is about 20/1 with the US dollar, so when I got money out i got a single 2000 crown bill. Well the stinkin tour cost us 500 crown apiece, 5 of us followed Nikolai as he flew through the Prague streets without even a glance behind him to make sure we made it, somehow we all did, bounding over curbs, carrying our bikes up steep muddy hills, and swerving through traffic. His broken english and limited knowledge made for a pretty pathetic tour, and what he did tell us about I am fairly certain was made up on the spot. We did make it to some pretty awesome places on the journey though, it is a beautiful city. That night we experienced what FHM magazine said was one of the top 10 adventures in the world, the Prague Underground bar crawl. A young chick from louisiana started it 5 years ago, she and about 30 others met at the first bar, we drank free for 2 hours, played some foosball (or kicker as some here call it), and the rest of the night was a jumble of clubs, drinks and dancing, we met some germans, some aussies, brazilians, it was a pretty great time, though i wouldnt even give it top 10 adventures of my life, Im not sure what FHM was thinking.

It seemed kindof inapproriate to me to go to a natural history museum while on vacation, rocks being rocks and animals being animals wherever you are, but the National Museum in Prague was incredible. We walked in unaware of what we were getting into and ended up spending more than 4 hours wandering the exhibits. Thousands of specimens of rocks and minerals were enough to occupy and amaze you all day, but it led into thousands more of fossils, huge rooms full of taxidermied animals and skeletons, specemins like a stuffed giraffe and an entire whale skeleton, anthropological exhibits of the culture of prehistoric man and human evolution in the area with rooms full of artifacts and bones. I loved it, and Kari did a great job of pretending to. Just outside of the museum we had Italian food better than any I had in Rome, in Prague, weird. I am going to just have to do a whole seperate write up of the culinary experiences, that is an adventure in itself.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oktoberfest is in Tents

I am now in Munich Germany looking at the glow of Oktoberfest from our platinum club hotel room a few blocks away from the park where it is held. Freakin nice. I have 2 more days here in Munich with the guys and then they leave and Kari flies in, it has just been a whole mess of awesome and it is not going to stop. Switzerland was a blast, the high points all being because of a little snowboard shop called Popcorn. I demoed a Burton board from the shop and it was awesome, it was a $1500 board, so it better be, and it did not dissapoint. we took the half hour gondola ride up to the glacier in the morning and rode until the slopes closed at 2, they close it early because the afternoon sun melts the snow and makes for bad conditions, but while we were out there it was great. I was surfing the snow all day, i felt invincible on this board, it carved like a dream, was responsive, light, fast and nimble, and it was all great until I went for a jump in the snowboard park, i tried a few times and the park was just way too big for me to handle. I hit it, biffed the landing, and it was fine, but then when i got up and was boarding down the icy landing ramp I caught an edge on my nice new sharp edged snowboard and next thing i knew i was lying in thge snow and couldnt breath. Really it was no big deal, I fell unexpectedly and a hard sunglasses case in my pocket jammed into my chest and knocked the wind out of me, but then i was sitting there and couldnt breath and i kind of freaked out a little bit. I am a pretty level headed person, reasonable, unflappable you might say. Well that flapped me. I think that somewhere in the back of my head I was having some kind of post traumatic episode, lying on the ground unable to breath I thought maybe my lung collapsed again, maybe thats something that if it happens once it is easier to happen again, so i am contemplating the fact that i am dying right now, rocking back and forth trying to make something happen and I finally ghet one big breath in, that felt so good, but if you have ever had the breath knowcked out of you you know what it is like after that, you cant breath back out and when you finally do it comes out in a terrible groan, so i sat there struggling to breath in and then groaning out as i rock back and forth for a little while. I finally got back to normal and boarded back to the bottom and sat there for a minute trying to figure out what just happened to me, both physically and mentally. I was really freaking out, like i was scared to go down thge slope again, but i wasnt about to let myself get in my own way... so I went and booked it down the next slope and it was fantastic and i was fine. But man was that a weird experience, i wasnt quite right for the rest of the day. The night before we hit the slopes we went to the "discotech" that we heard was world famous for its parties. It was at Popcorn, the snowboard shop, which turned into a rockin dance party at night with a full bar and a DJ. We partied all night with mostly locals, we were the only americans in the whole place, which made us instantly awesome, and we knew every song they played because they played the exact same music you would hear at a club in the states, and we had a great time.

Heely segway shoes, they have a wheel in the heel like heelys and the mechanics of a segway.

The train ride to Rome was interesting, we spent most of the trip trying to converse with 2 Italian women and a German couple and learnig what we could of the italian language, it was pretty fun. We stopped in Milan and explored the city a bit, got some pizza at a little cafe and it was magnificent, I ate pizza at least 6 times in Italy and none of it even came close to the caliber of the Milan pizza. Our waitress didnt, or wouldnt, speak english so ordering was a bit difficult, I saw what I figured would be sausage pizza and went for that, Jon took a shot in the dark at a Napoli pizza, and when it came to Zack he looked up wide eyed in shock and pointed to Jon and said same as him. Our pizzas came out, my delicious sausage pizza, and... I kid you not... it turns out Jon and Zack both ordered sardine pizzas. It was salty and fishy and really not very good, edible, but definitely a mistake, a ridiculous hilarious mistake. So all in all great dining experience for me, not so much for the others, and we went on to Rome. Our hostel was great, one of our rommates joined us for the evening, he was from a navy ship not much smaller than an aircraft carrier that stays out at sea almost all the time and just sits, loaded with weapons and vehicles, to act as a first response should quick action be needed in the area. That night I put my Vibram 5 fingers on for the first time and the response was unexpectedly insane. They are shoes that have toes, like toe socks with soles basically, and people freaked out about them. I talked about them in the hostel bar till it closed, went around the corner to a bar and the manager sat down with us and we had little bargaining war as he tried to buy them from me, he was ready to take my offer of 60 euroes and the sandals he was wearing, but he decided he would see what he could find online first making me promise to come back the next day. I didnt, i bet he was pissed.

Dang is the Colleseum big! That was impressive. The city was full of historic sites that even today were incredible to see, to imagine what it must have been like when it was built to see such incresdible feats of architecture is mind boggling, no wonder Rome was so powerful. A full days walk got us around to most of the main points in the city, and on day 2 we went to the Vatican City. People... I saw the pope. not a picture, not even through glass, just me lookin at the freakin pope. There was a ceremony on the vatican grounds and he was there in front of thousands of people, including me. I snuck my new swiss army knife past the guards. The Vatican museum started with an extensive display of egyptian art, which totally blew my mind. I thought it was going to be entirely devoted to catholicism and its history but the first 3 or 4 rooms were all egyptian artifacs and information about their culture and religion. The rest consisted of a ridiculous amount of roman sculptures, some out of place modern art, some truely impressive paintings, a couple hundred gift shops, and last but not least, the sistene chapel. The effort put into every detail in the chapel made it an incredible sight to behold, that guy was good.

After another train ride and talking the night away with a new friend from Berlin we are now in Munich enjoying Oktoberfest. They serve beer in liters here. A liter is a lot of beer. A lot of good beer. One thing i was not expecting was the rides. There are more, bigger, better rides here than at the amusement park I have been working at for the past few months, it is insane, we rode a roller coaster that just flings you through the 5 olympic rings, got flipped and turned and flug on other rides, then went and ate a delicious bratwurst and got a liter of beer, standing on tables and clanking sloshing cheers with random passersby as we do our best to sing along with thousands of others crowding the massive tents, what a crazy place to be! The famous Munich glockenspeil. Dissapointment. Traditional German clothing. Awesome. There are more people walking around in lederhosen and dimdl than not. I feel out of place without leather pants and suspenders on. Who ever thought that would happen. The guys kind of look ridiculous, and the girls, well, i dont look, but i have heard that they look pretttty good, with their shirts all down to there and skirts up to here. Thats what they tell me.

We are now getting ready for the monastary, if i survived the vatican in the presence of the pope, i am pretty sure i can get through this without any smiting. we will see. Pictures will come once i get home and get the time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


9/14 over the atlantic- I did not expect to be this excuited to be llanding in Europe. I think "giddy" is appropriate. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, most importantly on the agenda, get a load of this, you may remember my last home in Pennsylvania before moving to California was on California Ave, and then my last home in California before moving to Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania Ave. **Cue Twilight Zone music** Crazy right? I am going to have to find a Hawaii Ave. And speaking of a place to live, I dont have one! After legitimately trying to get a job for the last few months, I have absolutely nothing to show for it, not even a phone call. The closest I have come to getting an interview is the first sentenceof the 3 rejection emails I have received. Thank you for your interest in a position with our company, after reviewing your application... bla bla bla. At least some real person looked at my resume, I am probably more excited about those rejection letters than I should be. My resume was recently reviewed by someone at Pioneer for a job working with corn hybrid crops, i know that because of the rejection letter, but at least I know that.

9/18 On the train to Saas Fee Switzerland- There is nowhere in the US that is anything like Amsterdam, though I think Santa Cruz is one of the closest. The architecture is amazing, all of the buildings have an aire of importance, maybe arrogance in their old age. I suppose I am just not used to seeing such old buildings and the architecture that goes with it, I have only been exposed to it in history books and movies, so to see it in real life it just seemed important. We made friends with a couple on the train earlier today and they live in a building that was built in the 1500s, I cant even begin to appreciate the history that their one building has been through, but it isd all like that, this whole freakin continent. Its so old. Beautiful buildings, the city is right on the water, parks throughout the city, a canal system throughout the city, it was awesome. Of course, that is what they made it for, to look so great, it is one gigantic tourist trap, we literally met 2 actual Dutch people the whole time, one of which on the train out. We were in a crowd of about 150 people watching a street performer and he was desperately trying to get someone to say the Dutch word for torch, but literally nobody within earshot of this poor screaming man knew the answer. All tourists. We had an opportunity to see the real Holland with a Dutch girl we met through our hostel mates, but my travel buddies had other plans, we rented bikes and toured the city, which was a great experience. The streets are packed with bikes and vespas, the occasional car honks its way through the crowd, but bikes rule the road my a great majority, you are free to go anywhere and park your bike any time without worry. WWII is a much bigger deal here. Everyone in Amsterdam speaks perfect english. There are Swiss Army men everywhere in Switzerland. You get weird looks when you go into a coffee shop and only get a coffee. Shared hostels = no sleep.
We have checked in to our bed and breakfast in Saas Fee, it is nice here at the resort, but we can see the glacier and the peaks 10,000 feet up covered in snow and people walking around with ski equipment, its weird. The bus ride up was incredible, winding through the valleys of the alps, through tunnels and over bridges, surrounded by centuries old villages, mountain streams and waterfalls. This is gonna be good.

9/19 It was good. More on this later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why My Mom Didn't Know About My Stitches Until the Rest of the Internet

I'll keep this short. I was in an awkward position at the top of a ladder, I cut a zip-tie and the knife continued through and grazed, GRAZED, my knuckle. I put a bandaid on it, it was fine, continued with my day for a couple hours but my swampy hands wouldnt allow a bandaid to stay on for long and i had to go to the nurse to get some tape. I tried to get the tape without showing her the cut, but my boss happened to be in the nurses office when i walked in. So she saw it, and she freaked out. This 20 year old nurse was freaking out like my finger was about to fall off and insisted I go to the ER, and my boss had to agree with her. She started filling out paperwork, recording that the cut was 1/4 inch deep... a security guard that was in there who was an EMS corrected her estimation, he said 1 mm, that was more like it. A paper cut. I protested as much as i could, insisting i would sign any paperwork to absolve them of responsibility, asking if I could wait till tomorrow to see how it looks... just really trying not to make my supervisor drive me to the ER at 8 pm. It didnt work. So I went, all of it workers comp of course, got the stupid stitches in my paper cut, and that was that. Then when it came time to get them out, all of the nurses at the boardwalk either said that they legally couldnt, or had never seen stitches like that and didnt know how to take them out, and I couldnt find on google how to properly take them out, so I made the mistake of going back to the ER, and you know what happened then.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dominican Hospital Disappointment

I am pissed. It is 1 am, I just got back from the hospital, Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, CA, where I went for the minor procedure of getting 3 stitches removed, it was the worst experience I have ever had in a hospital. I died in one once. This was worse.

I showed up about 11:30, I went late to avoid the more crowded daytime hours thinking the wait would be minimal, it wasnt, though I cannot hold that against Dominican, thats just how it happens in the ER. I give my basic info to the first receptionist and was almost immediately called to receptionist number 2, "wow, that was fast" I said with a look of hope on my face "Oh," says receptionist #1 "Dont let that fool you, we are really slow here." Awesome. After receptionist number 2 I take my seat in the waiting room and inhale the stale hospital scent mixed with the stagnant aroma of multiple cups of old coffee left on the table next to me. As I sit amongst fellow patients and the friends and family of those who have already been admitted, I am inevitably drawn to the television. Dominicans waiting room television policy: think of the kind of television that would be least appropriate for a hospital waiting room, turn that on and turn the volume up. We are watching a show based on hurting people, how funny it is, and being rewarded for it, MTV's Silent Library. In the hospital waiting room. My head is buried in my hands, the only man more miserable than me is being rolled by on a stretcher, a punk kid fights to stay quiet as he gets whipped by a jumprope in the whirling hands of a boxer, I have been here for 12 minutes.

The wait continues in a similar fashion, the occasional stretcher, the moments of hope when a receptionist starts calling names, the fat man with nipple clamps attached to RC cars. I try to zone out, slip away from the waiting room. "Jackass up next." You've got to be kidding me. Back to back episodes opening with Johnny Knoxville getting kicked in the balls by kindergartners. An hour goes by. Finally the moment of hope turns into actual progress as my name is called. I get up, walk with the nurse and I swear I did this, she asked me how I was, and, im serious, I smiled. I looked into her eyes, smiled and said I was doin alright. Somebody saint me. Get the pope. Damnit St. Brendon is already taken.

So I am finally getting somewhere as I follow the doughy figure adorned in urban camo scrubs to my room. She gets her suture removal kit and starts poking at my stitches, apparently the doctor put them in very tight and she will have to do some digging to get under the stitch. Great, fine, please, I told her "dig to your hearts desire, I can handle it". So she starts digging, and no, no iodine, no alcohol, not a single sterile wipe or even a request to wash my straight-from-work hands. I had three of these funky stitches that are only showing the knot on one side, as my skin had grown over the tight loop on the other side. She successfully got her snips under the knot, a quick snip and... wait, no I dont think you quite got it, you just snipped the ends of the knot off, I can see the knot still there in my skin, you see there are only two tiny pieces of the suture in the tray, oh you are moving on to the second one, okay. She snipped the second one successfully and to my surprise it pulled all the way around the other side with no trouble. On to stitch three and she snips it fine, just has to pull the remaining piece, and... she cuts it right off, leaving every bit of suture in my skin that was already in there. She continued to suggest that she had taken out the sutures and I would question her every time. When I point at the black knot still clearly in my skin on the first stitch she said it often will look black at first. When I ask if it is okay that some of the suture is left inside, she tells me she thinks we are lookin great. She is wearing urban camo scrubs. I am confused and full of suture bits. Nobody is looking great. She leaves to get the doctor, telling him "Room 20 needs a final look, I just took his sutures out."

I am sitting there looking at my hand that still had the majority of the stitches left in it when the doctor comes in, a red headed dude with a mustache, he looks like the MAD magazine kid 30 years later. A quick glance at the job and he turns into a fountain of "It looks like we are going to be fine." About three of those and he heads for the door, it was no longer than 10 seconds he was in the room before he starts to leave. I ask him to wait, ask him whether some of the suture could stay in, show him the knot still in my skin, show him the few bits of suture in the tray, tell him that only one came out. The fountain starts again, 7 more "It looks like we are going to be fine." Though apparently I am convincing enough for a second look and after taking an actual look at me, he does see the knot still in my skin! After acknowledging that I was right, he wants to just leave it in, but I insist he could do whatever it would take to get it. Camo pops around the corner "He has been so brave!" With little effort Dr MAD fishes it out, cuts it and pulls it through, painless, simple. Again he tries to leave. Again I stop him. There is still another stitch, the third one. He takes a look. "It looks like we are going to be fine." The stitch is in there, just like the first one was. Is that okay? "It looks like we are going to be fine." I sit, mouth gaped, as he walks out the door. Camo nurse comes back in and I continue my protest with her, and I start to get an attitude. I never ever get to that point with people, especially strangers, I was being totally dismissed and it was getting to me. I ask her how it was okay to leave the stitch in there, which she insists was normal. Why did I have to come in to get it removed if you were just going to leave it in? I thought you would clean it and take all the stitches out, how am I done here? I ask her all of this in an uncharacteristically rude tone and she dismisses it all. I sign some pink piece of paper in a huff, though I shouldnt have, and storm out the door.

I don't know what I can do about it, but I feel like I should do something. I know that removing sutures is not the most important thing on the doctors plate, but to address my concerns like they did, and for the nurse to insist that she had completed a procedure that she clearly hadnt, the doctor to completely fail in his faux check up if not for my insistence that he do something, it was horrifying, degrading, seemingly unsterile, and definitely a waste of my time, I am 100% certain that I could have treated myself better at home with a swiss army knife, with just the scissors.

What can I do?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Navi Boobs

When I watched Avatar for the first time I was amazed, along with the rest of the audience, by the fantastical world that was created on the screen. I saw it twice, and both times after the show I said something about how ridiculously far fetched it was for life to come about in a way so similar to our own, most notably I laughed out loud when the first navi woman came on screen and she had breasts, wearing a bra. But when I expressed my amusement at this fact afterward, both times I saw the movie, I got the same response- "Well of course they would have boobs, why wouldnt they?" Well why would they? Breasts are for mammals, they are mammary glands, so you are telling me that life formed totally separate from ours, evolution followed the same path through random mutations to the genetic code and ended up with virtually the same creature, only blue, that feeds its young through 2 mammary glands on its chest. Well of course, right? Evolution creates the perfect organism through its workings, so ending up like a human is the only way to go, humans are the pinnacle of evolutionary perfection right? Right? NO WAY! Evolution is far far far from perfect, and I dont think I am disagreeing with anyone when I say that humans are also quite far from perfect (except the millions who believe that we are created in the image of god and we are actually what perfection looks like... what a disappointment). Evolution does not always give you the best possible outcome, it can only do so much to make progress. One good example is a nerve in the giraffe, the laryngeal which travels from the brain, all the way down its neck to the heart, around an artery, and then all the way back up the neck to connect to the larynx, without serving a single function anywhere besides the start in the brain and the end at the larynx. This pathway works perfectly fine for our distant ancestors, but the wasted energy and space that the mammalian neck, especially the giraffe, exhibits is an astounding example of the imperfection of evolution. For the record I tried to see if James Cameron, the director of Avatar, had anything to say on the subject, and when he was asked why the Navi had boobs, he said it was because it will be humans that are watching the movie and thats what humans want to see. I am so glad he didnt try to justify it any further than that.

Now I dont want to go on too long about that, I think everyone knows that Avatar was far fetched, I wont even get into the fact that they were relying on the DNA of the Navi to be of the same construction as our own, you know, our inefficient system of ATGC, all coding the same proteins through the same mechanisms... just ridiculous... so ya, I wont get into that. But this did lead me into a more interesting train of thought. When contemplating the imperfection/incompletion of human evolution, I tried to think of a way that the human population was still evolving. My brother said that he thought there was much evolution to still occur, that we will soon overpopulate the planet and bring ourselves to a point where we will be competing for resources and there will actually be a fitness curve for various traits allowing success in such a society. I disagree, first I think that humans posses the intelligence to keep ourselves from getting to that point, and even if we were to reach that point, I think that genetic traits would have nothing to do with our ability to survive. With human politics and such advanced social networks, it is the situation that one is born into that often has the most to do with how their life is lived. Just because one boy is born in a third world country and another is born to an upper class family, does not mean that the genetics of the upper class boy are more "fit" but he will have a better chance at survival.

Could we still be evolving? When looking at the evolutionary fitness of a human individual, ultimately it is the rate of reproduction which determines fitness. You only have to look at: can they have lots of babies. And tell me in todays society who cannot have babies... everyones doin it. I thought for a while trying to think of a trait that still could be evolving, its not like people who are taller reproduce more, or smarter, or better vision, or better athletes, or have better backs... We have all kinds of problems that seem like they would be selected against in a primal kind of society, but with the complex society that we have developed, well, everybody is having babies, we have reached what seems to be a self imposed evolutionary standstill.

There is one factor that I think may be acting on the human population today. Going as much as I can to the heart if the matter, I think there may be one trait that would lead to a better reproduction rate for humans, and that is the ability to reproduce later in life. The human population has extended its lifetime well beyond what we are made to live, like I said, evolutionary standstill, we were made to die in what we now call our middle aged years, and yet the life expectancy is on a constant rise. This changes the oh-so-important reproductive habits as well, as we are now educating ourselves and being taught abstinence and birth control all through high school and college, which, physically, are really our prime baby makin years. The social norm for having children has been climbing right along with the age expectancy as the human body's age of fertility stays relatively even. Now improved health definitely plays a factor in how old a man or woman maintain fertility, but there has got to be a genetic factor as well. This trait, I think, would be selected for in todays society. If one woman can have a child at 47 and the next at 48, it may be a small difference, but thats all it takes to change the presence of a trait in a population, and I think that is a conceivable possibility. So, I guess it doesnt look like anything is going to happen with our not quite fully evolved bipedal anatomy, male pattern baldness is not going anywhere, we are not evolving into a super intelligent race, and sadly the women of the world are not evolving into (i dont know where this idea just came from, but its awesome) a perfect blend of the Jessicas (You know-Alba, Simpson, Biel(,Rabbit?)), but hey, in the future, women could be popping babies out when they are 70 years old, so there is that to look forward to. You know, by that time we will probably be artificially altering the human genome so maybe all of those things can happen... and you know what that means- Jessicas everywhere.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Keepin California

The plan was to drive across the country with Kari, have my fun in the California sun, and then drive back with her, right now, in the end of June. It will come as no surprise that I have decided to stick around California for a bit longer than planned.

I landed a pretty awesome job at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and after the... less than awesome... temporary jobs I have been grappling with over the past year, I figured that staying in California to finish with a fun exciting job would be a good idea. I walked into the HR department at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as I spied it while biking by one day about a month ago, and the lady behind the counter told me I would be perfect for their tech services job, she wouldnt even let me apply for the other jobs. Well I applied, I interviewed, I second interviewed, and I was accepted. After learning the start date, I told my future boss that I would have to take a week and a half off to drive my girlfriend home, this after being told I would have a tough time getting more than 3 days off in a row, and to my surprise he said that would be fine. I started working 3 weeks ago and I have loved every minute of it.

The first 2 weeks of my employment were spent assembling the bandstand on the beach for the free concerts that we put on every friday during the summer, we have bands like Herman's Hermits, Blue Oyster Cult, Eddie Money, Spin Doctors, and I cant forget Cory Feldman's band, singing about global warming and saving the environment. I am not allowed to publish some stories I have on the internet, but be sure to ask me if you get the chance, good stuff. So, days are spent erecting trusses for all of our equipment, raising and positioning speakers, lights, cables, monitors. I spend almost all day playing in the sand, working on the beach, and climbing around 25 feet up in the trusses. All of this interspersed with calls into the tech services department about problems with various rides in the park, so I would have to stop playing in the sand and go flip a switch at one of our rides and then give it a couple test runs. I love my job.

I am currently fulfilling my duty to drive Kari back home to finish school, it has been a great adventure on the way back, taking the northerly route, through Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois. I will post later about our experiences on the trip.

I have a personal little game I play sometimes, it is played at stoplights when there is someone behind you, the objective is to have the person behind you take their foot off the brake and scooch forward a little bit and you get higher points by making them move with the least movement yourself. You have to decide between moving quickly but not very far to give a sudden dramatic movement that will cause the driver behind you to take their foot off the brake, or making a slow lengthened movement that would travel about the same distance as the quick movement but take longer to do so, therefore giving more time to catch the attention of the driver behind you and getting the nudge forward. You may also then notice trends in car/personality types, equating type As with BMWs and the like, impatient, in a hurry, more likely to make the nudge. Motorcycles are resistant to the nudge. Vespas however are quite willing to nudge. Youll see.

Next time you make bacon, dont just make bacon, add some flavor. Maybe dump some brown sugar and ground red pepper into the frying pan... delicious. Then the next time, if you can resist the brown sugar again, pick out your favorite seasoning blend or a barbecue dry rub and sprinkle them on, the possibilities are endless and almost always turn out well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Santa Cruzin

Santa Cruz, California. It consumes you.

I decided after the last couple posts of pointless drivel just regurgitating what I was doing with my life I would only post when I had something interesting, thought provoking, constructive to say along with the status updates, or at least a good story. Turns out I dont have that many thought provoking things to say these days, or maybe just not the time and motivation to put it to words. Santa Cruz has a way of taking up your time, what with things like surfing, biking, climbing, beaching, etc all at your immediate disposal, or really just sitting outside enjoying the sun is a common time taker.

Constructive thought for the post: I have started drinking dirty martinis and when I couldnt find a way to make your own olive juice, I decided to make it up. 8 olives and a small garlic clove, mush 'em, put them in a sauce pan with 2ish cups of water, add a splash of vinegar (I used balsamic, red wine vinegar might have been a better choice, or maybe just red wine for that matter...), add a bunch of salt, like 5 tablespoons, just do it to taste, bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour. I put it in a jar unfiltered, just made me a test tini and its pretty good. Really though, I have no idea what Im talking about, I mean, I have consumed like 8 martinis, but I know what tastes good to me, it feels good to order a martini and know what you want. Dirty, extra dry.

Whew, being constructive is difficult, anyway, back to me. Santa Cruz has just been a whirlwind of awesome, it is going to take much longer than the three months I planned on being here to really get a good grasp on the area. So... Im staying until September. I got a job at the Boardwalk, a seasonal deal, the summer season ending in September, so I am going to drive Kari back home and fly back out here. I applied for a few jobs out here, the ice cream shop didnt hire me, the tourist trap candy store didnt, the coffee shop didnt, so I changed something, I figure it was the degree in bio, why would a bio grad keep such a menial job for any significant length of time? For my application to a grunt job at a photo lab I tried to think of the most boring, useless degree possible, so I could just tell them I didnt like the possibilities in my field. Communications. I told them I was a communications major, and it was an easy task convincing them I would rather handle hot metal photo plates all day than do any job that a communications major would do. They were looking for a longer than September commitment though, and I couldnt convince them that I would stay for as long as they wanted me. Maybe even a communications degree was too much. I didnt tell the Boardwalk that I have a college degree at all. The Boardwalk hired me. Not only did they hire me, but after telling me that I probably would not be able to take off more than 4 days in a row, I explained that I would need to take 12 days to drive home with Kari, after a couple days deliberation, my future boss, who interviewed me, said that it would be ok... I guess I made a good impression. An intelligent, motivated worker without the worries of a college graduate, what more could you want? It looks like I am going to be the first line of defense for the tech services team at the boardwalk, troubleshooting sound, electrical, computer problems in the park. Seems like it will be an interesting job and the timing is great, I will finish up the job and head to Europe.

So now, after the first wave of guests have come through, my brother will be here soon, Karis friend, thencmy friends, then my family... then we drive back. We have a pretty full schedule for the next month, but a good kind of full. The best kind of full.

Topics to address in the future: West coast people, blood type diet, Na'vi boobs. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


California here we come

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Evansville, Indiana; Dallas, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Mathers, Grand Canyon, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Santa Cruz, California.

We have made it to Albuquerque and it has been amazing. We did lots of planning for things to do as we are bored out of minds driving through the deserts, the monotonous expanses of nothing. We have not needed any of it, sitting in the seat for hours and hours straight takes a bit of a toll, but it is endless entertainment watching the world change outside the window, that might change as the states get more square, but I dont think so, I am loving it.

Going through Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, it was not much different than the northeaster travels I am used to. I was hoping that would change as we entered Texas, but not a single tumbleweed crossed our path between us and Dallas, slightly disappointed, but it was still Texas. Our wonderful hosts took us through Dallas/Fort Worth, sampling the cuisine, buying souvenirs, attending the dog show, the usual. We went with Mick to scope out the huskys at a dog show in Forth Worth and had a hell of a time really just mocking the whole situation. The range of crazy you can find in a place like that is phenomenal, watching the people prance around with their little dogs, pampering them, cuddling them, it was just ridiculous. They had professional photographers going around to get pictures of owners and their dogs, so Mick and I got pictures with ours, they even put us up on their website (be sure to browse through the other photos, noticing how many of them are just people), I think ours deserved best in show, dont you?

So now we are at a hotel in Albuquerque preparing for our trip to the grand canyon where we will be camping for 2 days before heading to Las Vegas. I thought $15 a night for a camping spot at the canyon was pretty decent, and then I booked a hotel on the Vegas strip for the same amount... oh well. There are lots more things to talk about and pictures to share, but we are on the move, so we gotta get movin. Come back soon for some hopefully spectacular views of the Grand Canyon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

High up in the hills of California... Avenue.

Hey internet, been a while since I updated, I started writing this like a month ago and just didn't finish, so, here goes.

Well, I have made the move to the other end of the Pennsylvania turnpike, made another visit out to Indiana's early morning dew, and prematurely fulfilled my calling to "high up in the hills of California". Ironically Kari and I have rented an apartment at the tippy top of a hill... on California Ave. Ha! We still have plans to move to Santa Cruz in April, into the bottom apartment in her grandmother's duplex. It looks like it will be amazing, the house is at the top of a hill and the beach is at the bottom (This just in, might actually be too good to be true, the owners are looking to sell the place thinking they can get over a million for it... more on this later). The past month has been full of hustle and bustle. Moving to Pittsburgh, touring this half of the country for family time over the holidays, a trip to Vegas, I have literally only spent a week of the last month at my own apartment. It was great to see all the family, the gathering are starting to grow, with cousins getting married and having babies and all that junk. There were 32 Aunts Uncles and cousins at the Rawlings gathering, and that wasnt even everyone. So many Rawlingses.
Right, so since I started writing that, our California accommodations have changed a bit. Kari's grandma let us know that the landlords are kicking her out and selling the place cause they think they can get like a mil for it. And she has to be out in a month, after living there for 13 years... something tells me there is more to this story that she isnt telling us. So we have been looking online for places to live and it looks like we will be able to find something for a reasonable price, or maybe we will just have to live out of the car, whatever, itll be good. We already have loads of people that are going to come out to visit, so I guess we will have to get a place. And hey, if you wanna experience the west coast with a free place to stay, come on over.

My employment status has elevated to "occasionally" with a trip to a temp agency Staffmark. I worked 4 days last week stuffing tax audit booklets into envelopes for the state of WV, and I just accepted a job sorting through Netflix returns from 3am to 8am tomorrow. It is simple, mindless work, and though even the simplest task takes its toll after 5100 repetitions (about how many times I figure I repeated the same arm motion when stuffing envelopes), the hardest part about it is the mental agony I go through just sitting there without a single mental stimulation all day. I think about lots of things, sometimes thinking that I should write the idea in my blog. That got me thinking about how long it has been since I updated last, though I have been unemployed for most of the time between posts. I realize that I always have something to do while I am sitting at home, something to occupy my mind. I play Nintendo, read articles, look for jobs, Stumble, my mind is too busy with other things to think my own thoughts through. It is a good reminder that I need to give my mind time to do its own thing. I am still as forgetful as ever, so i dont remember most of the things that I thought "hey, I should remember this", which is why I started carrying around a memo pad, though they dont give you breaks of any sort with the work I am doing, which im pretty sure is illegal, no 15 minute breaks, 8-4:30 with just a 30 minute unpaid lunch.

I didnt know what to expect when I started this envelope stuffing job, for some reason I was expecting some kind of slave labor set up with a bunch of sad old women sitting at cold metal tables in a room full of printers supplying them with an endless pile to work on. I show up to "Triangle Systems", enter the room in the back of a business park, turn the corner, lo and behold, there are 10 tables lined up in 3 rows and beyond that the whirring and clunking of 3 huge printers spitting out the 8000 booklets we are to stuff today. An old lady comes in and sits down next to me. We go through the procedures, the strategies for moistening the envelope glue (luckily we dont have to lick every one, not after what happened to George Costanza's fiance), and she avoids me for the rest of the day, like I was trying to talk to her about her kids and stuff and getting one word answers. Worst old lady ever. She has been stuffing envelopes for 8 years and you can tell. In my boredom I counted how many envelopes I do in a day, around 1600, and figured out I make about 4.5 cents per envelope completed.
I also completed a research study with UPMC, they are doing studies on brain injury patients. I went in and did a little memory test, she started by reading a list of numbers and asking me to repeat them, adding more as she went. I think I got up to a list of ten for that. Then she went on to letters, same drill. Then the tough part. She read a list of letters and numbers mixed together and I had to go and pick out the numbers and give them back in numerical order, then the letters in alphabetical order, I got up to 9 but couldnt handle the list of 10. She said that I was doing so well that she was having trouble keeping up herself as she wasnt used to going that far with it. I dont know if i was actually that good or if she was just used to working with more serious brain injuries... ha, but i think i did well. They then took me through some memory drills on a laptop which were fairly simple, one had to do with letters, like, is this the same as the letter we showed two letters ago, and one was spacial, like, is the dot in the same box as two boxes ago. The laptop exercises were repeated while I was getting an fMRI, so I layed in the scanner for about an hour, clicking buttons on a glove in response to the exercises, it was kind of a crazy experience being in there. It is freakin loud, and not like mechanical noises, but highly variable notes that sounded like they were coming from speakers. I dont know if it is the different magnetic resonances that make different notes, but whatever it was it was really distracting, I started getting into the rhythm and I started to make music out of the noises, haha, and kept losing my concentration on the test. I am going to try to get my results, could be interesting. They referred me to another test that is testing acetylcholine medication on TBI patients, so I am going to start that one soon as well, the first payed 100, this one will pay 250, maybe I will just do this for a living, professional guinea pig.

Ah I didnt even touch on Vegas (click that blurry picture, its a pan of the strip I took, its not actually blurry), admittedly it wasnt as exciting as my last trip, but as always it was a rockin time, did a lot of gambling, saw Cirque Du Soliel's Ka, caused some trouble, good time had by all. I also have to mention our adventure at seven springs last friday, we got 27 inches the night we decided to go, the boarding was awesome, it is not often you get to snow in serious powder like that in PA, but needless to say we were not going home in that. We sat at the bar well into the night, found ourselves in that state of special sleepyness that comes after a night at the bar, and slept on the floor in a meeting room at the hotel. So, I am finally settled in the burgh, its good to be back with all my friends and closer to all my family, and I am looking forward to the next couple months before the Californiadventure begins. Life is good.