30 June 2006

We have a place to live!

Tomorrow we are signing the lease and moving into an apartment in Walnut Creek. It's a suburb about 15 miles east of the city. We are right next to a BART station, so can zip into the city at any time. We are near the base of Mt. Diablo, where there's good hiking and biking. Tomorrow we move into a one-bedroom apartment, and in 3 weeks we'll switch to a 2-bedroom in the same complex. (Since there's a 3-week backlog with the moving company, it works out perfectly to have our furniture delivered to the 2-bedroom.) The 2-bedroom apartment is on the top (3rd) floor and there's a balcony for the cats to sit on. They've never had an outdoor area before and we think they'll enjoy it. There's a storage unit for Mike's bikes and workbench. We can have a grill on the balcony. There's a washer/dryer hook-up and a dishwasher, and it comes with one reserved parking space. It's sort of a bland pre-fab "living community" but we can live with that. We'll make our apartment cool on the inside.

28 June 2006

Whoa, looks like we missed some bad weather in the East: 6 reportedly dead in Northeast flooding.

We also missed wildfires in the West. Parts of I-80 that we drove through on Saturday night and Sunday morning, between Elko and Reno, Nevada, were closed Sunday night and Monday:
Nevada governor declares fire emergency.

In local news, we looked at an apartment last night. We didn't like it, but we love the neighborhood and are looking at another place there on Thursday. We had some super-terrific Mexican food at a taqueria near the apartment, which validated the coolness of the neighborhood for us. (It looks nice, with all those restaurants and coffeeshops; it's a relief to know at least one place serves delicious food.) Tonight we're looking at an apartment in our first-choice neighborhood. And we're checking Craigslist early every morning to get a jump on any new postings. Now that we know which neighborhoods we prefer, and which ones are ghet-TO, the pickins' have gotten slimmer.

27 June 2006

We Made It!

We arrived at Mike's cousin's house in Oakland Sunday afternoon, all safe and sound. We took a little tour of some potential neighborhoods, then this morning we got on Craigslist, printed out some potential apartments, and took advantage of free BART to go to some of those neighborhoods and walk around. ("Close to BART" doesn't always mean it's an easy walk; it's good we were able to test that before we got too excited about potential apartments.) We found a couple places we're interested in and hope to visit a couple more neighborhoods tomorrow.

The cats are fine; they're very happy to be out of their cages and out of the car. They're getting along well with the 3 dogs that live here.

We have dial-up internet here; I'll post more in a few days when we find a wi-fi coffeeshop.

24 June 2006

End of Day 2

It's the end of day two, and we're in Cheyenne, WY. Everything's going fairly smoothly so far. We stayed in Davenport, IA, last night and will get as close to Reno, NV, as possible tomorrow. The cats are fine. They whine a little bit in their cages but then resign themselves to sitting in the car, just like we do. At night they enjoy exploring the hotel rooms (and waking us up to play). Last night Grendel decided that sitting in his carrier all day wasn't confining enough so he slept in a cupboard under the bathroom sink.

We just ate at Outback Steakhouse, the only restaurant we can walk to from the hotel. We were too tired to drive to anything better, and Cheyenne doesn't seem to offer much variety anyway. There's lots of steak. We are in cattle country.

A few notes:
1. Ohioans drive slowly. I'm no speed demon, so when I'm flying by you on the highway, you must be a major slowpoke.
2. Nebraska is boring. But Nebraskans drive quickly. I guess they want to get off the highway as soon as possible, too.
3. The ipod is a godsend. After 2 days there hasn't been a repeat song yet.

Sleepy now.

20 June 2006

Nothin' to do

I literally have nothing to do right now. I can't remember the last time this happened. Mike's at the office for a couple hours. The apartment inspection happened a little while ago, so I'm finished cleaning. No one could give me a straight answer on whether the pet deposit covers the Grendel stain. What else would it be for? Is it just to be mean to us for having pets? Grendel needs to get a job so he can pay for his messes himself.

I'm just sitting here listening to music. I'm not saying I'm not enjoying doing nothing. It's just a weird feeling, since there's been so much to do over the last few days. And so much to do in the days coming up. I keep saying to myself "Well, I could be doing..." but then I stop. There's nothing else for me to do to prepare for the trip.

Oh, I just thought of one thing. I have to suspend the Netflix subscription. That will kill about 5 seconds.

19 June 2006

The packing went very smoothly this morning. These guys came in, got right to work, and put all our belongings in boxes. This afternoon we rented a carpet cleaner for one last round against the Grendel stains. Grendel won. We can't get all the stains up. But, that's what pet deposits are for, right?

We're having some wicked thunderstorms this afternoon (forcing us to close all the windows just after we cleaned the carpets). We have the computer and the cable hook-up, so we're going to have a bottle of champagne and catch up on Deadwood tonight. We are tired.

18 June 2006

New Toy!

Mike got me an ipod! Yay! You can now add "pod dork" to the list of kinds of dork I am. I spent a couple hours last night transferring music from the laptop to the ipod and then creating a road trip playlist that's about 20 hours long. (You need tons of good tunes when driving through the middle of the country.)

This morning I felt the need to round out my collection with a few specific singles, so I went the the itunes store and bought some music. It's so easy and so addictive! You just click "buy song" and within moments the song is on your computer. But they don't show you a bill or running tab of how much you're spending. So, you click away, and then browse your new downloads and say, "Oh no! 99 cents a song times 20 songs!" Then you remind yourself that CDs often cost $20 and they usually have fewer than 20 songs on them. Plus, these are 20 songs that you really want rather than a CD that may have only 3 or 4 songs you like. I've fully recovered and I'm enjoying my new songs right now.

Today we have to pack our suitcases and make final decisions on what goes in the car and what gets packed up. We put the cat carriers and our suitcases in the car yesterday to see how much room was left. Not much. Mike needs to bring his equipment bag and we want to bring a cooler. It's going to be a tight squeeze.

It's just as well that we're driving because I think it's going to be too hot this week for the cats to have flown. The overnight low every night this week is predicted to be 75. The daytime highs are in the 90s. They'll be safer in an air-conditioned car.

16 June 2006

I'm exhausted

After much screaming and kicking and gnashing of teeth, we have our orders. Mike's on his way home from the office; I'm just about done with work now. I think we're going to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.

Our schedule next week:
Pack-out on Monday
Parentel units arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday
Mike graduates on Wednesday
We hit the road on Thursday

Oh, and the orders didn't include the 60 days' housing, so we're bunking with a cousin of Mike's in Oakland for a while.
I think I'm calmer today than I've been recently. Or maybe I'm just bored. I hadn't realized how much time I'd put in to worrying. Today I find myself with no phone calls to make, no emails to send. No back-up plans to create. No more waiting for an answer. We've resigned ourselves to driving. We know that will be the final answer. We don't believe the part about the 60 days' paid housing. Why should we? No other information has been accurate, so we won't believe anything until we see the written orders. Those orders have to come today. The moving company needs them for packing us out on Monday. I am mortified at the thought of what happens if we can't pack out on Monday. It is so horrible I'm mostly blocking it from my mind. I just keep telling myself it's so unlikely that I shouldn't even worry about it. I talked to our move coordinator at the moving company yesterday. She doesn't even need a written copy of the orders. She just needs the person who issues them to call her and tell her it's okay. A simple one-minute phone call is now essentially all that stands in the way of our move.

So, driving cross-country with a car full of cats. Should be fun.

15 June 2006

Even Newer News

Now we're driving! And we get 60 days paid housing in SF. That's actually a little easier to deal with at this point.

But who knows. Obviously it could change again at any moment.
Something is finally happening. Our Special Request has been approved, so we're flying. The travel orders will be issued "as soon as possible." No word on exactly when that is though. I don't want to get my hopes up that it could happen this afternoon or tomorrow morning, in time for us to make flight arrangements tomorrow. We lose a lot of time if we can't make the flight arrangements until Monday.

I'm watching The Big Lebowski this afternoon. I've been feeling verrrrry un-Dude-like lately.

14 June 2006

Freak Me Out

Do you hear that nervous whimpering coming from the corner? It's me. I'm really at my wit's end with this non-information situation. I've tried to stay positive the last few days, while there was still plenty of time for things to work out. But that time is getting shorter and shorter.

My latest fear is that because the orders are being issued so late the person in charge of getting our airline tickets (assuming we're flying) will laugh his ass off, saying "You need those tickets when? Sorry, it takes at least two weeks! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

The moving company is scheduled to come pack us out on Monday (we have the rental bed until Thursday). I was supposed to have called them by now to let them know if they're moving the car or not. At this point I think it will be easier if we drive. We can pack the cats into the car and hit the road for 3 days. It will be a pain, and it will cut down our house-hunting time, but it will be cheaper and I believe ultimately easier than trying to make flight arrangements for the cats on such short notice.

I've heard so many horror stories about horrible moves, but I assumed a domestic move would be a piece of cake. Unlike an overseas move, our luggage won't be plundered by pirates, so what should I have to worry about? Sheesh.

13 June 2006

This morning I did something I don't do nearly as often as I used to, or as often as I should now: I went running. Yesterday I found out the Race for the Cure 5K happens in San Francisco at the end of September and I decided I'm going to do it. I don't have delusions of the 20-minute 5K I was capable of 10 years ago, but I'm hoping that with some effort I can manage sub-30 minutes. I feel so slow and old right now.

You'll see I added the link to my column on the left there. It's a daily reminder to register for the race as soon as I have a permanent address. I'll badger everyone for fundraising purposes later this summer.

Travel Tech Trauma: Yesterday Mike spoke to someone in a supervisory position who could not officially confirm or deny our request to fly instead of drive, but saw the travel budget we've been approved for, and based on the amount of money in our approved budget, surmised that we will be approved for flying. Oh the bureaucracy! We "should" get the travel orders later this week. We should get them later this week? We have to get them this week! We have to go to San Francisco next week!

Summer Reading

I'm about halfway through the book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. The core of the book is the story of a young woman and her child who were murdered by Mormon Fundamentalists because God told them to do it. There's a lot of history and background information about Joseph Smith and Mormonism and the fundamentalists and polygamy.

I'm trying to look at Mormonism in a detached way. It's a relatively young religion in comparison to the other big ones, like Christianity, Islam, et al. I'm sure it took all those other established religions several hundred years to become established and many people certainly felt threatened by Jesus and thought he was a crackpot. So maybe the Mormons just seem so weird to observers in this day and age who don't have the luxury of so much time removed. But I can't get over the fact that Joseph Smith had a pretty good reputation as a con artist before he decided he was a prophet. And every time somone points out a mistake in his orders, "oh, wait, here it comes,... God just gave me another prophecy. We should definitely do this instead of what I just said." How can people actually believe Smith's fairy tales?

I guess part of my, hmm, not skepticism so much, as I feel something stronger than that... I definitely have a problem with Mormonism but I think it has a lot to do with my problems with religion in general. The faithful believe anything they are told by an authority-, father-figure. And a lot of those faithful end up being major hypocrites. ("Sex is for reproductive purposes only. Let me just molest these young children... Oh no! I must have been tempted by Satan!")

The Mormon Fundamentalists are the ones who practice polygamy. The official Mormon church does not endorse it. I suppose that in general, polygamy shouldn't bother me. On some level, it's a personal preference for a man to have sex with several women and for those women to be okay with it. The part that is abhorrent is when those "women" are 14-year-old girls being forced by their fathers to marry old men, oftentimes uncles, stepbrothers, or other male relatives. Attorneys general are not spending enough time prosecuting these sick men and protecting those children. Freedom of religion can only be argued so far. It's still illegal to abuse children.

Also, Mormonism, both fundamental and "regular" is patriarchal to the point that women (and men) are brainwashed to believe that men are in charge and women are property. I feel so bad for the children who will never know another way of life.

In other religion news, I there are two articles about the Amish at
Christian Science Monitor today. One is a book review on Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish by Tom Shachtman. Rumspringa is a period of time, starting when a child is 16, when you leave the Amish community and experience the “English” world. The Amish can only be baptized as adults who choose the religion. Children are set free and given the choice to return (it must be nice to have that choice). And about 80 percent of the teenagers return. The Amish community is so far removed from the rest of the modern culture that kids find they can’t deal with the different world. Rumspringa was also brought to mainstream attention a few years ago in the documentary Devil’s Playground. It’s definitely worth watching to see what these kids get in to while they’re experimenting with English tempation.

The other Amish article on
Christian Science Monitor is a column by an author of Amish mystery novels. I’d really like to read some of those and see what sort of mysteries the Amish get themselves into.

Totally unrelated: Ken Mehlman is on CNN right now. I can't stand that jerk.

12 June 2006

Some points of possible minor interest:

*According to another friend out in SF, the apartment-loft thing is not in a nice, charming neighborhood. Kids, that's why we don't lease apartments without seeing them in person first. You can't trust anyone else's opinion to be the same as yours.

*Within moments of my stepping back to smile at my sparkling clean apartment, Grendel got sick and puked. Twice on the carpet. Once in the kitchen. He's working on a hairball. I think we'll need to rent a carpet cleaner to pick up some of the puke stains. Most of them come up with a great cleanser my mom found (Simple Solution Cat Stain and Odor Remover, available at PetSmart), but a couple stains are really stubborn. Oh, how I hope we get an apartment with little-to-no carpet!

*Mike has his final practical exam this week. Keep your fingers crossed for him.

11 June 2006

Weddingness

I've been temporarily brainswashed by the Style channel's marathon of wedding-themed tv this weekend. I'm aiming for Spring '07. I have lots of stuff planned out in my head. All I need is a date and a location.

Yesterday in the mail we received a save-the-date card from a friend who we never imagined would get married. This morning I went back and looked at the card, to make sure I hadn't dreamt receiving it. We got home late last night, and had had a couple drinks with dinner, so maybe the card was a hallucination. Nope. It's real. We're still a bit stunned by it.

I went ahead and designed our own save-the-date cards this morning. I really needed a break from cleaning and packing. And everyone else is planning their wedding! I'm jealous!


In other news: We are in love with this apartment-loft thing. Mike's cousins in Oakland say it's in an okay neighborhood. But it most likely won't be available by the time we get out there. I'm keeping my eye on it because you never know; maybe they're holding out for just the right nice, quiet, steadily employed couple.

09 June 2006

Sigh

Some things are starting to come together. We still don't have an answer on the Big Question, but some of the smaller issues have been resolved.

We can re-register Mike's car by mail. We won't get the stickers by the end of the month, but we'll be on record as a registered car. Once we get to CA we can probably get a temporary registration card while we wait for the stickers.

The property management office reduced the amount we have to pay for breaking the lease, and it looks like a good portion of it will be covered by our reimbursable moving expenses.

Yesterday we assaulted the travel tech again with messages. If no response by COB today, then on Monday we are going over her helmet and contacting her supervisor. This is a last-minute ploy that is very much frowned upon unless absolutely necessary, and we feel that by Monday it will be necessary.

On our plates for this weekend: house-cleaning.

Have you tried MetroMint mint water? It's so tasty!

08 June 2006

Don't Eat Fatty Foods if You Don't Want To Be Fat

I recently read Don't Eat This Book, by Morgan Spurlock. It's a follow-up to his film Super-Size Me (when he ate McDonald's food for 30 days to see what would happen). And in related news, I've been sucked in by the train wreck of a show that is Honey, We're Killing the Kids.

On the book. It confirmed many suspicions I had and reaffirmed things I already knew about not just the health effects of junk food, but the business practices behind the "big food" companies, like the "cradle-to-grave" ad campaigns designed to suck kids in as toddlers and keep them as brand-loyal consumers through adulthood, until they die of heart attacks or diabetes. Spurlock's book doesn't go into as great detail as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation did a few years ago, but it's a quick, easy read and a good primer on the subject. I consider it a refresher course, and it renewed my spirit in eating fruits and veggies. It also gave me the perversely delightful feeling of being "better than average," since I apparently do a lot more walking and eat a lot less junk food than "average" Americans. I do watch a lot of tv, though, so I'm not wholey terrific.

Speaking of tv: On Honey, We're Killing the Kids (Monday nights on TLC, also re-run about 100 times on weekends), a doctor uses space-aged technology to predict what couples' children will look like at the age of 40 if they continue eating junk food and watching too much tv. The parents are always horrified by the grotesque images, and they agree to follow Dr. Lisa's plan. At the end of the show, Dr. Lisa re-predicts what the children will look like, and they always, of course, look more attractive. I can't stop watching, even though I have a number of concerns about the show:
1. Dr. Lisa is not mean enough. Most of the parents are fat, and she never comes out and says, "Look, you fat parents. You've been living this lifestyle for 30 years, and look at yourselves. Why are you so surprised that your kids will look just as bad if they follow the same lifestyle?" I'd like to see Dr. Lisa really lay it on when the families detour from their healthy plan.
2. These parents can't be that clueless. It seems like common sense that high fat, high sodium, high sugar diets followed by too much tv and too little excerise results in fat kids. These parents always seem surprised that candy and chips are bad for their kids. They are always surprised that eliminating sugar and increasing excercise reduces behavioral problems in their kids.
3. At least one of the parents gets mad at the cameras following them around. Why did you volunteer yourself to be on a tv show????
4. The editing is done to show all the ways the families are "bad" and do not stick to the healthy plan. But at the end of the program, Dr. Lisa always shows positive results. Wait a minute... I saw that kid eat one vegetable. I'm supposed to take your word for it that he's eating 5 servings of veggies a day now? The results are inconsistent with the images the producers choose to show the audience.

Sometimes Mike and I find it hard to believe that we are that far off from being "average" Americans in terms of our eating habits. We look at our peers, who are mostly relatively healthy, fit youngsters like ourselves, and think we're right on track. Then we drive through the Midwest. Or watch tourists waddling around the National Mall. And we see a lot of people who are the targets of junk food empire. Are we actually being snobs? Is this post incredibly un-PC?

A Plea

Please stop asking me about the move. I will tell you everything as soon as I know it, I promise. It may seem unbelievable, but there has been no news since the last time you asked, honestly. I'm not avoiding you. I'm just too tired to say it again.

I'm angry. We're supposed to move two weeks from today and we STILL don't know if we will be allowed to fly or if we have to drive. Our travel tech is not returning any of our calls or emails. I want her fired. I want us to be trusted as responsible adults who can move ourselves without some government cog's so-called assistance. If she were actually being helpful and informative, I'd appreciate her and love her to pieces. But she is useless and doesn't deserve to have a job (except that she's a government office worker, so she meets the minimum requirement of being a warm body in a chair).

I really want to enjoy this adventure of moving to a great city, but I don't like not being in control of it. I'm too anxious to be happy about it right now.

I know this blog has been somewhat single-tracked lately. Believe it or not, I've been doing other things besides panic over the moving arrangements. I'm getting lots of work done (since I won't get paid for the 2 weeks I'm not working during the move) and I'm reading some good books, and we're going out and socializing on a regular basis. It's not all bad right now. I just get taken over temporarily by the anxiety. I'll try to work on some book reviews for a little change of pace.

05 June 2006

Static

No news on the moving front. Seriously. In the last week nothing has changed; none of our questions have been answered. We move across the country in less than 3 weeks, and we still don't know if it will be by air or ground.

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...