Planning to vacate

Sunday was uneventful.  My dad left to get some pants while Jean and I went down the road and signed up for a storage unit.  We decided to get a decent sized unit so we could slowly move most of our small stuff to it over the next several weeks, then when our lease runs out in September we can hire someone to just move the big stuff.  We’re hoping to move to a rental house instead of a condo, and we’d like to move a little further north so we’re not still in gangster central.

After we paid for 4 months at the storage place we went to Home Depot to buy one of those heavy-duty circular padlocks.  After we got home, the three of us packed up the car and did 3 different runs over to the unit.  Our garage is about half as full as it was, but we still have lots more to move over there.

We didn’t do much last night except watch tv.  This morning I got up a little late and ended up not meeting Jim to walk because my dad woke me up at 1am saying he was hearing sounds outside.  I had to get a pistol and roam around the house to make sure everything was ok.  Unfortunately I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I only got about 3 hours of sleep last night.  Jean got ready and headed to work and I eventually left, but not at my usual 4:30am.

Work was pretty good – I got a lot done on the different things I’m currently working on.  Jean got into an arguement with her boss because he continues to mess over her by not removing “returns” they’ve charged to her sales record falsely for going on three weeks now.  My dad said he was going to get his driver’s license and register his car today.

After work I met Jean at the car repair shop and we turned her car in.  I’m going to be driving her to both of her jobs all week until we get the car back on Thursday.  It kinda sucks that the estimate was for like $830 and our deductible is $500.  I hope our insurance premium doesn’t go up.  We could have paid the entire $830 if that’s the case.  If it goes up, we’ll be shopping around for different insurance after I’ve been with this company for 9 years now.  That’s the way it goes though…

When we got home we realized that Jean forgot to get her garage door opener out of the car and my dad had mine.  My dad had his phone off and so we ended up knocking and ringing the doorbell for a while before he let us in.  Last night my dad and I talked about starting a diet today for like an hour.  We decided what we were going to do and everything.  I started my diet today and when I got home I was pretty disappointed to see that he failed.  He had been drinking for a while and ate 3 candy bars within the first 30 minutes I was home.  We had said no alcohol at all, cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and grilled food or stir fry for dinner.  If that wasn’t annoying enough, he had a note written to himself on the table about Linda, our neighbor.

I’ve asked him 3 different times since he’s been here to not talk to them because we have to live here even after he’s gone.  As usual, he ignored what I asked and told us “I talked to Linda for a long time today.”  I didn’t even want to hear the details because I was so pissed off.

Besides paying a ton to have Jean’s brand new car fixed and my dad breaking every promise he’s made since he’s been here, I’m pretty happy today.  I’m looking forward to getting to drive Carol-Jean around this week and I’m still glad my dad’s here.  I’m sure I didn’t always listen to him growing up and I know I’ve had my share of accidents in a car (2 deer!).

I have to work all weekend, so there won’t be much to blog about for the next week and a half.  I don’t really care much for the 4th of July as far as holidays go, so no big loss on having to work this weekend.  My dad starts his new job tomorrow and Jean and I will probably spend some time transporting stuff over to our storage unit this week.

Partying in the OC

Last night was fun except that Jean was at work and I wish she’d been here with my dad and I.  Jean left around 5pm for work and my dad and I sat around all night watching movies, having some drinks and talking.  Jean topped off an awesome night by picking me up some chili cheese fries from The Hat on the way home.

This morning we all got up kinda late and after I took the dogs out my dad and I watched a show about a couple getting arrested in Mexico for trying to smuggle 16 kilos of cocaine from Costa Rica to Amsterdam.  It was a true story and pretty cool – I wanna see the rest of the series, Locked Up Abroad.  Jean stayed in the bed until I left to run to work and pickup the invitation to Dave’s party that I’d left there.  While I was going to pick it up so I’d know how to get there, Jean went to Target and bought some wrapping paper so she could wrap up his LP Egypt book.

I left the house around 11:50am and was supposed to be there at 1pm.  The place is down the five in Orange County, about 5 minutes from where my dad will be working as of Tuesday.  I actually got there kinda early since I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get there.  I waited in the Pep Boy’s parking lot across the street from 12:30pm-12:45pm since I didn’t want to show up early and possibly ruin the surprise since it was supposed to be a surprise party.

My boss also showed up and he parked his car in the Pep Boy’s parking lot and rode over to the place where the party was supposed to be, Dave’s parents’ place.  We got there and met his parents and his dad had me move my car into a neighbor’s driveway so Dave wouldn’t see it when he pulled up.  Everyone I met there had heard about me and said “Matt?  Oh, you’re the traveling friend!”  Dave must have told them about our trip to Guate.  I met Dave’s younger brother, his sister, his parents, lots of neices and nephews, some childhood friends, and his daughter Sarah who I hadn’t met yet.  Scott and I were planning on staying for about an hour, but Dave didn’t show up at 1pm.  We found out after a few minutes that Dave was supposed to be there around 2pm.

While we waited we talked and had some good little sandwiches and some Heineken from a keg.  Dave’s dad was really nice and had a New England accent – he’s originally from Massachusetts.  Eventually we all hid quietly in the house and Dave came in and everyone yelled “Surprise!” and then sang Happy Birthday.  Dave looked bewildered and borderline upset for about a minute, then you could tell he was happy.  He gave everyone a hug and said thanks to everyone and then he opened some presents.  They were about to watch a slideshow about Dave when I told Dave we needed to leave.  He thanked us for coming and followed me out to the car to get his gift from me.  He liked his book.

I headed home and picked my dad and Jean up and we all went to Robin’s Dono (aka “The Dono”), our favorite sushi spot.  We had a great meal and Jean headed across the street to work while dad and I sputtered down Foothill Blvd (Route 66) so I could show him where to go for lots of different stuff.  We’re home now and both playing on our laptops.  Tomorrow I plan on going to find a storage unit for Jean and I so we can start moving some of our junk over there in case we end up moving soon.  Other than that, I’d really like to go see Wall-E.

Things are improvin’

Today I got the remaining 15,000 skymiles to complete my 20,000 American Express bonus miles for signing up with those idiots.  Still no mention of my free companion ticket, but I’m hopeful.  Monday afternoon we’re planning on dropping off Jean’s car to get fixed, and this afternoon around 3:45pm my dad showed up at my condo.  I’d been home for about 2 minutes and I heard a honk…  My dad wheeled in after driving across the country.

For the rest of the afternoon we had a few cocktails and talked.  I had a great time and I’m so excited about my dad being here.  I want to take my dad and Jean down to Ensenada to go deep sea fishing in the Pacific.  I want my dad to go on a trip through the Copper Canyon with me, and a whole bunch of other trips are being planned.

Jean had to work tonight, and since it’s a little after 10pm I’m expecting her soon.  Tomorrow I am headed to my buddy Dave’s 50th birthday party.

Sorry I don’t have much for my post tonight, but tomorrow should be better.



My stress levels are rising

Today I was pretty stressed out.  The only time I felt good was while I was writing safe work procedures at work.  I think about 4 things are stressing me out.  I don’t want to deal with this damage to Jean’s car, I am upset about the parking situation at our complex, American Express is screwing with me again, the condo isn’t clean at all and my dad will be here in less than 24 hours, and then about a dozen smaller things like the heat, the economy, $5 gas, etc.

Yesterday I called the morons at American Express because I still haven’t received my 20,000 bonus miles I was supposed to get after my first purchase.  The guy I talked to yesterday said his notes didn’t show that I was supposed to receive 20k miles but he said I could fax my offer to him and then he’d call me back and let me know what he’d do to fix it.  Well, I dug up the offer letter and faxed it this morning around 6:30am.  He hadn’t called me by 1:30pm so I called them again and asked to be transferred to the extension he gave me.  Unbelieveably the lady said “we can’t transfer you to other extensions”.  WHAT?!  This guy said “tell any rep to transfer you to Stephen at extension blah-blah-blah in Salt Lake City and you’ll get me”.  Well, once again American Express proves why they are so far behind Visa and Mastercard, because they suck.  I can’t believe I have free Visas and MCs but I’m actually PAYING $150 for this terrible customer service.

Anyhow, the lady asked how she could help me and I just said “your all’s customer service is the worst I’ve ever experienced and I don’t feel like rehashing the same issues with you that I covered with Stephen yesterday”, then I hung up furious.  As if this wasn’t enough, that Stephen guy had said I wouldn’t get my “free” companion ticket until I am reenrolled for a second year with this card.  I explained that my offer letter said I’d get a free companion ticket every year and said absolutely nowhere on it that I had to pay a total of $300 to get one.  If you haven’t ever signed up for an American Express, DON’T!  If you have one, CANCEL IT.

When I got home I was so pissed off about these two broken down trucks taking up half of the spaces that I went out there and took pictures of the cobwebs all over one of the trucks.  Next I called Ontario’s City Code Enforcement office and this girl proceeds to tell me that if I live in a complex with an HOA (Housing Association), I need to handle it through them.  I explained that the president of the HOA is one of the two breaking city code and the second in charge of the HOA is the other one.  She kept repeating herself, “well sir, you’ll need to handle this through your HOA”.  I finally said, “ok, I’ve heard you every time, but if they are unable to handle this, what do I do next?”  She repeated herself three more times and I was about to start cussing her.  I said “if an HOA decides they want to deal with city codes by continuing to break them, is that the end of the line?”  She asked where the cars were parked and I said a parking lot and then she tells me it’s a police department issue because they can’t enforce parking lots or roads.  I told her this is a private parking lot available only to residents.  She repeated herself a few more times and eventually said either her or her boss would call me back.  That was 4 hours ago and I never heard back from them.  Now what do I do??  I think I’ll send a letter to the mayor explaining that his code enforcement department doesn’t do squat if they can pass the buck to someone else who has no abillity to enforce code.

My next fun task was calling our car insurance company to explain that a piece of metal damaged Jean’s car 4 days ago and we’d like them to fix it.  To make a long story short we’ll be dropping the car off to be fixed next week for the bargain price of a $500 deductible.  Neither of the two women I spoke with could tell me if our premium will increase or not.  If it does I’ll be changing companies after being with this one for 8 years.  Fun, fun.

The condo is a mess.  I don’t know what to do…  I’ve started picking up in the spare bedroom so I can blow up my dad’s bed, but there is clutter everywhere.  Jean likes having little piles of stuff all over the place and I’m not such a fan of that, but I guess marriage is about compromise.  She probably doesn’t enjoy some of the stuff I do.

My dad is about 30 minutes from Vegas right now and will be staying in Jean’s favorite spot, The Sahara.  Tomorrow he’ll be finished with the final leg by the time I get home from work.  I’m betting he’ll be exhausted, but I’m going to try and talk him into going out for sushi and a few cold ones.

I hope this time next week I’ll have a bunch of the things bothering me behind me.  Maybe I just need to start smoking again.  I’ve been done with my Camel Lights for basically 3 months (1 or 2 packs in there), but I’m thinking I’m about ready for one.

Getting ready for the weekend

Crap!  I don’t know what just happened, but I wrote a long blog that took about 30 minutes and when I clicked to “Publish” it disappeared.  Here’s the summary of what I wrote without the details:

This Saturday I’m going to Dave’s surprise 50th birthday party.  He’s the guy I went to Guatemala & Honduras with and I got him the Lonely Planet Egypt book as a gift since he may be meeting me on that leg of my next RTW.

This Sunday I’m going to see Government Mule, Bob Weir and Ratdog with Jim.  Basically it’ll be a lot of former Allman Brothers Band and Grateful Dead members.  Jim’s the guy I went to Baja with and he won the tickets be calling a radio station.

Jean is working all weekend but will be happy to spend the entire day at the malls since I won’t be around.

My dad drove from Lincoln to Colorado Springs today, stopping in Denver to buy new tires.  I provided the logistics for guiding him to a Sam’s Club and right now he’s staying with my cousin Jon and his wife.  Tomorrow my dad does the longest leg – Colorado Springs to Las Vegas (11-12 hours).

I’m planning on controlling my destiny once again and taking the path less taken by considering another move.  We’re tired of the idiots in this complex and I think it’s about time to rent a house.  We don’t want to buy because this housing crash won’t be at the bottom for another year or so and we don’t want to lose equity.  We can’t rent an apartment because there are NO places that allow two dogs out here (we found that out two years ago).  Our lease runs out in September.  I don’t want to deal with moving our furniture but I’d like to have guaranteed parking, a fenced backyard for the dogs and some privacy.

Charlie’s toe is looking much better and she’s almost done with her medicine.  My toe is looking terrible and I’m almost done with my medicine.  My toenail looks like it’s going to fall off but at least it doesn’t hurt.

Sorry I didn’t provide more details on all this stuff, but I did the first time around and now I don’t feel like doing it a second time.  Sometimes blogging isn’t easy…

Parking blues

Here are a few more pictures from our trip to Vegas:

Jean eating our room service breakfast at the Riviera, Jean in front of an old gangster car at Primm (not Bonnie and Clyde’s though), the truck that had fallen off the 15 and caused us to sit still for an hour and a half in 110F temperatures, and a close-up shot of the world’s largest thermometer in Baker

I forgot to mention that Jean and I pulled off in Baker, CA on the way home from Vegas to stop at the the famous Mad Greek’s Diner.  I’ve seen the dozens of gaudy signs each time we drive to and from Vegas but decided to stop this time because a cold shake sounded pretty good.  I usually stop to pick up some “Alien Jerky” at this oddball store in Baker when we headed past there.  The place was packed so we drove through the drive-through.  We actually ordered more than we had in mind – I had a lamb schwarma and Jean had a grilled cheese with fries, plus I got my orange shake and it was awesome but expensive.

My dad has now left Chicago and is in Lincoln, Nebraska tonight.  Unfortunately his luck changed a little bit late today and he had a blow out while doing 70mph in Lincoln during rush hour.  He got over onto the shoulder and called AAA, but it took them almost 2 hours to get there and he had to pull all his stuff out of the car in order to get to the spare tire.  I’m just glad it wasn’t raining on him because I talked to him when he was going through Omaha and he said it was raining pretty hard there.  Tomorrow he’ll be heading on to Colorado.  Jon, if you’re reading this I think he’ll be calling you tomorrow.

As far as the title of this blog goes, our parking situation here at the complex has gone to the birds in the past couple of days.  Our neighbor has had this big conversion van for the 21 months we’ve lived here and it never moved up until about 2-3 months ago.  I even took pictures of the cobwebs growing on this thing once because I was pissed off about not having a parking space and this old beater just sits there taking up space.  Two or three months ago the van was moved to a fenced in dirt lot next door supposedly to have some work done on it.  I had hoped they’d just leave that jalopy over there, but low and behold it returned to one of the 4 spaces in front of our condo over the weekend.  To make matters worse the neighborhood association president has a big work truck that’s sat in another one of the 4 spaces without moving for more than 6 months now.  The spaces are common spaces to be used by 6 units and two of those four are occupied by vehicles that never move!

I think I’ll be reporting these the the city because junk cars can’t be left sitting in public areas or in plain view on private lots.  Now with my dad moving here we need the spaces and it isn’t fair that people that drive to and from work can’t park but two vehicles that haven’t moved in half a year or more just sit there.  Also, another guy here has three cars and takes up the other two spaces whenever he can.  I will be getting pictures of this to show you tomorrow…

A long haul home

I’ve made the drive between Vegas and our home in as little as 3 hours and 10 minutes, but today’s drive home set a new record for the longest amount of time spent driving between the two places: 6 hours and 5 minutes.  We sat in traffic for a little over an hour just south of Primm (“Stateline”) because there was a bad wreck that included a tractor-trailer turned over on it’s side down a 20 foot drop off.  We had pretty much smooth sailing from Baker all the way to Victorville, but then traffic got really heavy again and we crawled along through all the “High Desert” towns for about an hour until we made it to the top of the Cajon Pass to come down into San Bernardino – that’s when it cleared up.

Besides it taking forever, we had a few other bummers today.  We stopped at Primm Valley Casino because the owner bought the Bonnie & Clyde roadster that they were shot up in and it was supposed to be on display.  Jean saw it last year when we went up to Primm so I could bet on a few college football games while she went through the outlet mall, but I didn’t see it.  We walked around the casino for a while and checked out this other gangster car that Al Capone had owned, as well as a bunch of off-road trucks and sandrails used in the Baja 1000, but no Bonnie and Clyde car.  We asked a guy working there and he said Terrible (the brand of casinos) had sent it up to Reno to be shown up there for a while and then it would be touring their other properties for a while.  Crap…

The other bummer was that as Jean was cruising down the 15 just before we got off on the 210, about 20 minutes from our house, a piece of metal pipe about 8-10 inches long was bouncing around in the road in front of us when a car ran it over and sent it in the air directly into Jean’s bumper/grill.  We were doing about 75 mph and it bounced around on the hood a couple of times while Jean was swerving around trying to keep it from coming through the windshield.  We checked it out when we got home and it made some good sized scrapes on the front and about 4 dents in the front driver’s side quarter panel and the front edge of the hood.  Damn…  I was relieved that she didn’t whip the car over into another lane and underneath a semi, but she was pretty upset about it.  I don’t know what to do – will our insurance rate go up if I report it?  Would it even be worth reporting since our deductible is $500?  Should we get quotes on how much it would cost to at least get the little dents with chipped paint fixed?  Any suggestions from those of you reading this would be helpful…

Oh well, we’re glad to be home and just wish we could pick up the dogs today instead of having to wait untill tomorrow.

Yesterday I wasn’t feeling too hot.  I woke up way before Jean and decided that I’d rather get room service for breakfast instead of venturing out into the 110 degree morning air.  After a pretty good breakfast of corned beef hash for me and a stack of pancakes for Jean, she got ready and headed out to our bank that has a branch down near Bally’s.  I hung out in the room because the AC was working, sorta, and I still wasn’t feeling too good.  I ordered a movie on pay-per-view – Leatherheads.  The movie was fair.  Jean got back from the bank after getting a little lost since she usually rides while I drive when we’re in Vegas.  She picked us up lunch from the food court at the Riviera and then she took off to go down to the Sahara to play her favorite slot machines for a little while.  I rested in the bed and played on the laptop until she got back.

We were going to see O at the Bellagio and it started at 10:30pm, so Jean went to the food court again around 7:45pm to pick us up dinner before we headed out.  We left the Riviera around 9:15pm for the 10:30 show, but we hit a major traffic jam on the Strip at the corner of Flamingo and LV Blvd.  We sat in traffic alongside the Bellagio fountains for about 35 minutes, only inching along every light change.  We were a little worried that our hotel was burning down because we counted 6 different huge firetrucks screaming down the Strip while we were stuck.  Would a hotel cover your new laptop if you were out while the place burnt down?  We never heard what happened but thought it must have been big since so many firemen were responding to whatever it was.  We finally got into the parking deck and headed on into the Bellagio.  We made our way through the crowds and into the theater at about 10:15pm.

The theater is gorgeous.  I loved the fact that there was tons of room between the seats so I could stretch my legs out and I didn’t have to even stand up if people were walking down our aisle.  I was pissed off that the short guy behind me somehow managed to kick my chair about once every 5 minutes for two straight hours.  I didn’t kick the guy in front of me once and I was probably 8-10 inches taller than the moron behind me.

Lots of people around us were taking pictures of the inside of the theater while everyone was making their way to their seats, but when Jean pulled our camera out of her purse and tried to take a picture an usher came up and said no pictures allowed and security will confiscate the camera.  What the hell?  She was obviously blind since flashes were going off all around us and the guy and his girlfriend about 10 seats over in the row in front of us were both standing up and posing for pictures while she was chastising Jean.  So that’s why we have no pictures of anything to do with O or Cirque du Soleil.  Our seats were both awesome and not-so-awesome.  We were 4 rows back from the stage and towards the center of the stage (two seats from the aisle between the right section and the center section).  The closeness ended up being cool because you could see lots of details, like the facial expressions of the cast and all the intricacies of their costumes.  The closeness also ended up being not so cool because for most of the show there was so much going on that you really couldn’t take it all in from that close.  I’d recommend sitting 15-25 rows back and in the center section if you want to see everything.

The show was big and impressive, but not my favorite.  It was our first Cirque du Soleil show and I didn’t really know what to expect.  I knew there would be acrobats but I thought that since this is their most famous and expensive show in Vegas that there would be awesome special effects and it would just be something that would blow your mind.  Actually it was more like a creepy ballet.  The tone, costumes and props were all like something from a Tim Burton movie – kinda scary stuff like hunched over skeletony guys, a dude with an old British aristocracy outfit on snapping a whip, a black guy in some leather bondage outfit playing with a Japanese fan, some dude with a goat head mask on dancing around, etc.  I could see children crying and not being able to sleep after watching this thing.  I enjoyed the show in spurts, like the 4 Chinese contortionists would did only about 5 minutes of poses, but they were incredible.  I also liked the part where they had three huge see-saw type swings going and the cast was doing these cool twirling/flipping high dives off of them.

The whole thing takes place in water so there was lots of splashing and we even got a little wet during the storm sequence.  The clowns weren’t funny and stayed on for way too long each time they came out.  I got really nervous when this girl came up the stairs into the audience looking for a volunteer and the spotlight was dead on me and she looked me in the eyes just as some guy started into the row behind me with a drink he’d just come back from the lobby with.  She ended up grabbing him and it all ended up being a setup because he was one of the crew, but I was scared anyways.  The acrobats who did the high dives and trapeze stuff were great, but the show had tons of synchronized swimming which was boring as hell.  All in all it was fun once but more like riding camels out into the Sahara – I’m glad I did it for the experience, but it was painful enough that I wouldn’t consider doing it again.  In fact, I doubt I’ll ever plunck down any money for another Cirque show, especially not $162 a ticket ever again.

Here’s my list for Vegas shows in order of greatness: Stomp, Blue Man, O.  On a scale of 1-10 Stomp would be a 9.8, Blue Man would be a 7.6, and O would be a 4.6…

After the show we fought the crowd again to get back to our car and then we headed back to our room.  We stayed up to watch another pay-per-view movie until about 3:30am – 21.  It was pretty good and made Jean and I want to start playing blackjack and counting cards immediately so we could rip off the Riviera for $2,000,000 before heading back home.  Unfortunately the long day of being sick and the cocktails I had while watching the movie wore me out and I put off our card-counting scheme until next time.

I’ll post a few more pictures from the trip tomorrow, but we didn’t really take many this time.  For those of you following my dad’s progress as he criss-crosses the country, he has now left Kentucky and is in Chicago visiting my little sister and her husband for the next 2 days.

Highs and lows

Yesterday was great and yesterday was terrible.  Around 4:30pm I drove down the strip and picked Jean up from the Fashion Show Mall after she’d been there for a couple of hours.  She said the mall was really nice and that it was enormous.  We left the mall and cruised past the Riviera and went down to the Sahara.  We were hungry and wanted to eat a late lunch at the Sahara’s restaurant we went to several times on our last trip here because I love their prime rib.  When we walked through the lobby the line to check-in was massive.  There were probably 150 people in a long line waiting for 3 Sahara employees behind the counter to check them in.  I couldn’t believe they only had three people working the desk because they have about 30 counters with check-in signs hanging over them.  If they weren’t going to open up more than 3 for these 150 people I’d hate to see what the lobby looks like when they have to actually man all the counters.

We headed through the casino and went to our little restaurant.  I wasn’t thinking because I got it rare and it was very rare.  I should have said medium.  I was a little disappointed that the horseradish wasn’t hot at all this time, but the food was good.  We left there and ran back to our hotel room because I wanted to get a quick shower before we went to our show.  We finally left the Riviera around 6:10pm because they started seating for Stomp at 6:30.  We took Paradise down to Planet Hollywood because the Strip (Las Vegas Blvd) is usually packed around the clock and you move at a snail’s pace.

We pulled into the parking deck down there are 6:35pm and I was getting a little nervous because the show started at 7pm and they usually don’t seat you late because opening the doors and guiding people to their seats would disrupt the show.  We got a little lost in the huge mall that separates the parking deck from the casino but eventually got to the theater around 6:50.  There weren’t crowds of people like there had been when we went to the Blue Man show last time, so we just waltzed right in and to our seats.  I tried to snap a few pictures before things started because you aren’t allowed to take pictures of the show, but they all came out kinda blurry because it’s hard to hold your hand steady for too long for those long exposures with low lighting and no flash.  The theater was covered in junk; it reminded me of this restaurant we use to go to when I was a kid – Po’ Folks.  I think that place changed it’s name at some point to just Folks, but it was like a kitschy southern fried cookin’ place.  Anyhow, the Stomp theater had hubcaps and wheel rims, plastic tubs and kitchen sinks, washboards and metal pipes, et cetera, everywhere.

The show started about 10 minutes after we sat down.  The theater was only about 60% full, which was a little surprising since it was a Friday night and this isn’t one of the high dollar shows.  I don’t want to go into too many details about the show, but I was blown away.  It was incredible!  The cast was about 16 people, around half were women.  They played everything from zippo lighters and brooms to 55 gallon drums and giant cardboard boxes.  The main guy was unbelievable – he did this one part where he was on the stage alone and doing nothing but making sounds tapping his feet, clapping, snapping his fingers and slapping his chest and thighs – it was absolutely amazing and a great beat.  Jean’s favorite part was when all the cast were out on the stage with these wooden sticks about 6-8 feet long.  They were beating the sticks on the ground and smacking them into each other’s sticks.  When that part was over and the lights went down for them to quickly change sets I just said “holy crap” and Jean started laughing.

One other part I really enjoyed was when 7-8 of the cast were hanging from the roof by some kind of bungee cords and swinging back and forth in front of a bunch of the “crap” I described earlier.  They’d all swing to one side playing all the wheel rims on the way as they fly by and then on their way back across in the other direction they’d play the plastic tubs or something else.  I also liked when the four drummers came out playing kitchen sinks.  The only part I didn’t really care for was when they played the newspapers.  And yes, they do have a part where 4 guys come out with 55 gallon drums attached to their boots and they stomp around and whack them with these long sticks while everyone else is hopping around playing something else, unfortunately that can stomping part only last about 2 minutes.

I actually enjoyed this show a lot more than Blue Man.  The cast worked so hard to entertain – running and jumping the entire 2 hours.  They had water poured on them while they were playing, had to climb a lot, and were constantly on the go.  I would highly recommend this show to anyone and I’d say besides being towards the center of the theater, there isn’t a bad seat in there.  Actually, the further back you sit the better because there was just so much going on that you couldn’t take in everything if you were any closer than about 15 rows back from the front.  Oh yea, the people in the front row got wet and had dust and sand swept off onto them and broken brooms tossed at their feet.

After the show we headed back to our hotel after getting some gas and a 2 liter diet coke.  Once we were in the room I had several cocktails while Jean played on her laptop.  Around midnight Jean went across the street to Slots of Fun to pick me up a Subway sandwich.  After about 20 minutes I got dressed and headed over there too.  Here’s the “low” part of the title.  To make a long story short, I ended up sitting down at the roulette table.  I was up about $80 at one point but didn’t leave until I’d lost $200.  I was very bummed, but headed back to the room with my meatball sub.  Jean headed downstairs to try and get lucky on the Riviera’s roulette table, but she ended up losing another $50.  We were destroyed on the tables and decided that we were done gambling for this trip, but then again I’d only played $10 on keno the whole time we’d been here and Jean had only played about $30 on the slots, so we hadn’t done too much gambling anyhow.

This morning I popped up around 8am and ordered room service.  The guy brought it up 40 minutes later and setup our little table for a big breakfast spread.  Their corned beef hash is really good.  Jean’s back asleep and I think today we’ll take it easy and lounge around for a long time because it is supposed to be even hotter today than yesterday – around 115.  Speaking of that, check out the photo below of the temperature on our way back to the hotel after stomp (Jean’s car show that it was 106F at 9:05pm):

Another show on the docket

After work yesterday we loaded up Jean’s car and headed up to Las Vegas.  We got to the Riviera Hotel around 6:30pm and had to waste another hour because the lady at the front desk told us the room we had was really far from the elevators and if we waited for a rush cleanup of another room they could get us much closer.  We played the penny slots and got some cokes.

We finally got into our room and then went downstairs and ate at a Chinese restaurant called Banana Leaf.  Dinner was ok, but after Jean played a few more penny slots we decided to head 1 casino down to the Sahara so she could play her favorite slots machines, The Sopranos.  It was HOT.  At around 9:30pm it was 99F outside, but that was a long way from the 114F as we passed through the desert near Baker, CA (just south of Death Valley).  I played some Keno while Jean played the Sopranos and eventually I told her I was exhausted and wanted to go back to the room, so we walked back and after I took a shower we played on her new laptop for a while before going to sleep.

This morning we woke up pretty late, around 9am, and walked next door to the discount ticket place where they sell show and restaurant tickets at a discount for stuff going on that day.  We asked about Stomp, which Jean’s been wanting to see, and they offered a 17% discount so we bought two tickets for tonight’s show.  After getting the tickets we went to breakfast at Denny’s and then decided to head on down to Planet Hollywood to pick up the actual show tickets because you just purchase them at the discounter but then you need to pick them up at the box office at least an hour before the show and that’s when they assign you actual seats within the section you paid for.  We drove down there and picked up the tickets and were lucky to get really good tickets – in the orchestra’s center section in the last two seats at the aisle.  Next we headed over to the Bellagio and picked up our tickets for O that we’re going to see tomorrow night.

After that we headed back down here to the Riviera and Jean played on the internet for a while.  At 2:30pm I drove her back down the strip and dropped her off at this huge mall.  I’m going to pick her up in a little bit and after a late lunch we’ll be heading back down to Planet Hollywood to see Stomp.

On another front, my dad has left Birmingham and is headed to Kentucky to visit family there.  I’ll post some pictures of his visit to B’ham soon, but right now I’ll post a few from Vegas…

Just in from Shanghai

Tomorrow we leave for Vegas after work, but not without first picking up our new laptop!  After a couple weeks for HP to build it, it finally left Shanghai 2 days ago.  After going from Alaska to Indianapolis it just landed in Ontario about and hour and a half ago.  I’ve already asked our neighbor to sign for it tomorrow morning and then we’ll pick it up from her before we hop in the car to drive up to LV tomorrow afternoon.

I haven’t ever used Windows Vista, so I’m a little concerned that we won’t like it, but other than that I’m excited about us getting a new laptop.  I can lay in bed after waking up late and then post a blog before getting up while we’re in the hotel this weekend.  I like Vegas because it really feels like a vacation.  You stay up late and sleep in late.  You eat and drink whatever you want.  You have the hope and tiny chance of getting rich.  It is great.

Today wasn’t much to talk about other than that the “June Gloom” didn’t last long.  It’s been clear skies all week and about 98F – 105F.  I’m guessing Vegas will be a tad bit warm since it’s the middle of a desert.  Luckily air conditioning is included in the price.  I’m betting the electric bills for the casinos on the strip are massive.  If my bill runs $250-300 for a tiny AC unit during the summer, what would a place like the MGM Grand with 3000+ rooms and huge common areas have to pay to keep that place cool during the summer?  Plus all the lights and flashing stuff in the casinos…  I need to build a little nuclear power plant in Henderson and make millions supplying power to The Strip.  Anyone out there a venture capitalist with a few billion you’d like to loan me to get started?

Jean will be home from her second job in another hour and then I’ll be trying to coax her into going to bed and getting some rest instead of staying up doing laundry and playing with beads.  She can be pretty stubborn though, so it’ll be an uphill battle.  I don’t like driving while she sleeps because it’s boring, but that’s probably what will happen tomorrow.  Maybe the new laptop will keep her busy on the drive up there.

My dad made it safely into Birmingham today and went out to dinner with my sister and her family at one of his favorite BBQ spots.  I hope he enjoys it because that’s one of the big differences between the South and the West Coast – basically no good BBQ places out here compared to back there.  In another year he’ll be craving carne asada and bean burritos instead.  ¡Olè!

I almost forgot, here are three more things I’m adding to the list of things I want to see/do in the next several months:

Watts Towers

Slab City and Salvation Mountain

Yosemite National Park

Watch your fingers

I spent most of my day in a class that covered harassment, safety and environmental concerns at work.  The movie we watched about harassment was more offensive than almost anything I’ve heard in the plant.  In one of the segments two employees were walking through an office making jokes about Mexicans and said, “We do Mexicans drive low-riders?  So they can pick lettuce while they drive.”  A friend of mine sitting next to me, a Mexican guy, laughed at that one.  Next the guys on the video said, “What do you call a 21 year old Mexican in 9th grade?  Gifted.”  Nobody in the room laughed out loud at that one…  The video did the same thing for Jews, homosexuals and a few other groups.  Afterwards they gave away knives to people that went up in front of the class and answered some quiz type questions and someone asked why none of the Mexicans were volunteering once they realized it was for a free knife, and the answer I heard was, “they all already have them”.

The harassment part was good and I think my company is as harassment free as a company as diverse as we are could possibly be.  After that we had the obligatory speech about how protecting the environment was everyone’s resposibility.  I think we do a great job on protecting the environment because all the management I’ve dealt with in the past 2+ years are actually very concerned about it.  California is so strict on environmental conctrols that it is extremely expensive to not care about the environment.  Next was the safety segment, but I was getting uncomfortable by that point because the AC was working so well that I was freezing.  I swear it was in the 50’s in the training room, but outside it was like 98F and when we went out there for breaks I was having to squint because the sun was so bright and I could literally feel my basically bald head and my face burning in the blazing sun.

The safety portion was a little too graphic because they showed pictures of a bunch of puncture wounds and lacerations that have happened at our plant, plus a picture of a hand where about half a finger was pinched off.  Honestly, I knew from my interview out here before being offered the job that they are very serious about safety, and their devotion to it has only increased since then.  I am 110% positive that safety is #1 at our company and it is a comforting thing to know that production doesn’t supercede safety.  I’m no longer annoyed by wearing my safety glasses or hearing protection – I just put them on by habit whenever I walk out of my office.  I also am use to wearing long sleeves now, even when it’s 110F outside.

The end of the safety talk was the part where we all (about 80 of us) went outside and a guy that works for our plant security poured gasoline into a box and set it on fire and had a guy from the crowd use a fire extinguisher to put it out.  My head felt like it was on fire; being bald has it’s disadvantages…  I was actually called out by name and told to be the “backup” for the guy who volunteered, but he didn’t need one so I stayed put.  I was just sad to see $20 of oh-so-expensive gas being set on fire.

Tomorrow my dad starts has trek westward.  He’s heading to Birmingham first to visit my older sister and her family.  I wish he’d post details from his trip on his blog as he crossed the country, but I’m guessing he won’t.  Dad, I don’t know if you’ll read this or not before getting out here, but be careful and enjoy seeing our country on your way out.

Jean and I are excited about heading up to Vegas on Thursday afternoon.  Tonight we were looking for bead stores up there and I think I want to go to one of those badass gun stores where you can shoot machine guns.  Jean wants to go see Stomp, so if we can get cheap tickets for it at those places that discount seats on the day-of, we’ll go.

The Lakers just got stomped by the Celtics and now it’s over.  There will be some sad LA fans at work tomorrow, but Kobe just can’t win a championship with Shaq.  Shaq was incredible and Kobe is just really good.  I think I’m going to be a Clippers fan!  I need some local teams to watch, so I think I’ll go with the Angels, Clippers, Ducks, Chargers, and UCLA (just so I can go to the Rose Bowl).  Too many Dodgers, Lakers, Raiders and USC fans out here – they make me sick.  Roll Tide!!

Acrobatics over engineering

Today the American Express saga ended…  I have won, sort of.  I did succumb to their requests and send in all the junk they wanted in order for me to pass their triple-dog super terrific verification process, but in the end they had to agree that I am legit – not a credit card fraudster.  They even gave me 500 skymiles for not being able to charge our new phones to the card.  I still hope they go out of business and whoever came up with their verification process gets his toenails yanked out by pliers, but I’m also happy that I can start earning miles now.

After work Jean whipped up some chilli bravo and then headed off to her second job.  I ate dinner and then fell asleep for a while.  After I got up I went ahead and bought tickets to “O”, the cirque du soleil show at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip.  I checked out all 6 shows from Thursday through Saturday and bought the best tickets available.  I sure do hope the show is awesome.  We had a lot of fun at Blue Man back in December, so I suspect this show will be fun too.  The down side to this whole Vegas show thing is the cost…  We spent more on two tickets to “O” then on three nights at a hotel on the strip.  We’re in the first 5 rows, but it cost $165 each for the 90 minute show.  Jean will have to do pretty well on her penny slots in order to make back that money.

At $165 a ticket for an hour and a half, I’m thinking I should have become a trapeze artist instead of an engineer.  Engineering is fun and all, but flipping around in the air and traveling around the world showcasing my awesome skills and being paid like a baseball star sounds pretty good too.  I think they had something like 3 lower sections of 20 seats across and around 13 rows of these $165 seats, so that’s around $130,000 a show.  This doesn’t include the upper orchestra or the balcony, which are cheaper but have more seats.  I’m guessing each show brings in $350,000 – $400,000 in ticket sales.  They do two shows a day, so that’s at least $700,000 a day just in ticket sales!  I’m about to go install a high wire in the den and start practicing.

Jean just got home so I have to go…


Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, dad!  I can’t wait for you to get out here in another couple of weeks.  Also, happy father’s day to all the other fathers out there (Forney, Stephen, all my uncles, etc).  Jean and I are working on it, so hopefully next year I’ll be celebrating too.

I worked today, but I didn’t get as early as I wanted so I ended up staying pretty late.  I was surprised how many other people were there, but it was mostly maintenance guys checking on jobs at the mills because our lines are down for several days for an “outage”.  I spent an hour or so trying to find some data I needed in different reports and eventually I found what I think I need, but I’ll have to do some calculations tomorrow to see if it is actually the numbers I need.  I also wrote some software for several hours but got burned out on it after a while.

Tonight Jean and I ate some leftovers and watched I Am Legend, which was pretty good.  I read that the original book that the movie was made from was based on the last guy on earth living in LA instead of NYC, but in the film we watched it was cool to see NYC in an apocalpytic way.  LA isn’t as dramatic of a cityscape as NYC because it’s not as dense – LA is spread out over a massive area whereas NYC is packed into a much smaller area.  The same distance you’d drive to get from one side of LA to the other could put you in 3 other states if you were in NYC.

I also would like to say congratulations to one of my college buddies, Wendy Foster, who just had her first baby, Ryan James Williams.  Speaking of babies, I got some cute pictures of my sister’s kids today and instead of posting them here, I’m hoping she’ll post them on her website that she’s all but abandoned.

Right now Jean is washing her hair and I’m watching the Lakers give up another huge lead to the Celtics in what is most likely going to be the final game of the championship series.  They just showed all the celebrities in the Staples Center for tonight’s game: Denzel, Jack, Matt Damon, Sylvester Stallone, etc.  I could have sworn that I heard the other night that tickets on the floor for the 4th game were going for $35,000.  Unreal…

I’m about to be bored with this game so I think I’ll read a little bit about Egypt and hit the sack a little early.  We don’t have much planned for this week until Thursday when we’ll be heading up the 15 to Las Vegas.  I still haven’t bought tickets to any shows since those bastards at American Express STILL haven’t authorized my card, so tomorrow I’ll be putting them on the good old debit card.

Timing is everything – Our afternoon in LA

We woke up around 6am this morning and Jean did laundry and picked up around the condo while I rolled around in bed for a little while longer.  Eventually I got up too and got ready while Jean ran to get us some breakfast.  After we ate, she got ready and we headed into LA in her new car…

Like I’ve been saying recently, there are a number of things I’ve been wanting to do in LA, but with the “cheap” gas at $4.49 right now, driving the 35 miles into LA just to piddle around seems too expensive.  I decided it would be worthwhile if we could knock out a number of the things I wanted to do in one single day though, so I’d laid out the three places I wanted to go.  We’d drive straight into LA on the 60, the 10, or the 210 (we chose the 210 to the 57 to the 10), and then we’d make a small loop around LA and come back the way we came.  The loop was literally a perfect circle because if you imagine a clock, the Getty Center was at 9 o’clock between Brentwood and Bel Air, Universal’s CityWalk was at 2 o’clock between Hollywood and Burbank, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall was at 4 o’clock in Downtown LA a little over 1/2 mile south of Dodger Stadium and Chinatown.

I had also wanted to go see the Hollywood Bowl, but today they had a concert going on – The Playboy Jazz Festival.  I just wanted to take a little tour of it and check out the small on-site museum, but I figured that would be a no-go while they had an event going on.  I may have to wait until winter, but then again I’m guessing they have concerts then too because it still doesn’t get that cold even in December in LA.  I was really bummed when we passed the exit for the Hollywood Bowl because it was at 3 o’clock on our loop, just off the 101 as we drove the 15 minutes between Universal and Downtown.  Maybe next time…

I hoped we would have been out of here by 9am this morning because the Getty Center was our first stop and it opened at 10am.  I wanted to get there at opening to avoid any crowds, even though I guessed there wouldn’t be many people because it isn’t exactly the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Disneyland.  We left Ontario around 10:30am and got to the Getty Center around 11:30am.  You can visit the center for free, but the catch is that you have to pay $8 for parking – not a bad deal if you have a few people in your car.  I had no idea what to expect of this place, and even though I’d heard of the name “John Paul Getty“, I had no idea who he was.  I still don’t really have much of an idea who he was (I need to read the wikipedia link in the previous sentence myself!), but I do know he had a ton of art and loads of money.  Apparently he was a philanthropist because he’d given this enormous building full of his private collection of art, plus a second massive home/building in Malibu full of art, to the people of LA and they can go check it out for free.  He has all kinds of art: paintings, sculptures, ancient European texts, tapestries, etc etc.  He also has some pretty impressive gardens on display.  This place wasn’t close to the Louvre or Uffizi, but it did have some famous artwork, including pieces by people like Seurat and Van Gogh.  The place was massive with 4 or 5 main buildings of at least 3 floors each.  We decided not to spend all day here and to just focus on one section.

Jean and I went to what I think was called the “West Building”, which had the photography collection on the lower floor.  They were really only showcasing two photographers and oddly they were both from Germany.  The photos were great, especially some of the portraits of German farmers from the 1910’s and 1920’s.  We spent probably an hour checking all the photos out and then we headed outside.  The Getty Center (in LA – not the Getty Villa in Malibu) has two big gardens; one garden is a cactus garden and the other is a sprawling landscape with lots of trees, grass, flowers and a little stream and waterfall.  The cactus garden was neat because it had a view looking over part of LA and Jean and I noticed a bunch of the cactus plants that she has collected on our back porch.  Check out the pictures below – I liked the squatty round cactus.

The other garden was really impressive.  We walked down a big hill using a winding pathway that zigzagged through some trees and over tiny bridges spanning a little stream.  On our left side there was a large shaded patio with tons of tables and chairs where people were out having lunch, and all along the grass there were people laying down and talking or reading.  At the bottom of the hill there was a sunken area with a little circular hedge design and it was surrounded with thousands of colorful flowers.  I was actually blown away by it because usually when people “ewwww” and “ahhhh” over flowers and trees that are changing colors in the fall I can’t enjoy it because they are greens, reds, browns, etc.  I’m colorblind!  I can’t tell the difference and unless a flower is a brilliant primary color I don’t even notice it.  If they’re faint blue or yellow sometimes I can see them but usually only if it’s like a 30 acre field – a handful would never show up on my radar.  These flowers at this place were bleach whites, yellows as bright as the sunshines kids draw in kindergarten, deep purples like that dinosaur Barney, bright cherry reds like the apples you see in commericals, and the deepest blues you could imagine.  I was loving it and trying to use my cameras macro setting to get close-ups.  Unfortunately my hands are about as steady as a 95 year old heroin addict suffering from DT’s.  Most were blurry, but a few came out ok.  I loved the garden!

Next we stopped for Jean to buy a coke before hopping on the tram to ride back down to the parking lot, then we headed over to Universal Studios.  Universal has the main theme park which was the one on tv last week where two famous exhibits burned down.  The park costs money, but they have this thing called the CityWalk that is free, except once again you have to pay a pretty hefty parking fee.  The CityWalk is really a touristy outdoor shopping center with lots of restaurants, bars, a movie theater and a bunch of stores.  I thought I wouldn’t care for this place because I hate malls, but I ended up really liking it because it is nothing like the malls you’re use to.  They have huge King Kong gorillas hanging off buildings, indoor skydiving that you could watch through plexi-glass tubes, cool restaurants that we enjoy eating at like Buca di Beppo and Tony Roma’s, and stores devoted to such things as the Raiders and video games.

Our main mission was to find somewhere to eat lunch because we were hungry.  We thought about Buca because we love their food and the chianti, but really that’s a place for a group to eat at, not a couple.  Next we passed the Hard Rock Cafe and Jean went bonkers.  I like HRC and always try to go there when we’re in foreign cities that have ’em.  Jean likes to get t-shirts from all the ones we come across and this was no exception.  She didn’t insist that we go there, but I could tell she wanted to.  We walked a little further and were actually about to go in Tony Roma’s because I love their ribs and haven’t been there since a trip to Tokyo about 5 years ago when I was at the Roppongi store with some buddies from work (Mark, Zach and Nathan, plus a guy from Long Products but I forgot his name).  After checking out the menu I told Jean that if she wanted to go to HRC I had no problem with that because they were both about the same type of food as far as I was concerned, plus they’d both put an equal sized dent in my wallet.  She wanted to go so we turned around and headed back to the Hard Rock Cafe.

As we were walking up to it I noticed there was a huge crowd just inside the door and I pulled out my cell phone to see what time it was because I thought “holy moley, that’s a massive crowd for a late lunch”.  It was around 3:30-4pm.  Just when we walked through the second set of doors I looked over to my left and about 15 feet away was a guy on a small stage talking into a mic.  He just finished saying something that I wasn’t paying attention to right as we walked in and the crowd started cheering.  I thought almost instantly that these people couldn’t possibly all be waiting for a  seat and if they were we would be turning around and going to Tony Roma’s because it would have to be a 2 hour wait.  People were smashed into all the aisles and surrounding all the people sitting at their tables.  Just then some music started and I recognized it immediately – Walk This Way.  You all know the first few chords to that Aerosmith tune…  It was like a puzzle had just been put together and I knew what it was, or in this instance I knew what in the hell was actually going on.  Those people weren’t here to eat, they were here because Aerosmith was blasting and the guy on stage was DMC from that famous rap group that started the entire rap thing back in the early 80’s, Run DMC.  I looked over at Jean and yelled “that’s Run DMC!”  She was smiling and dancing already.  I snapped off a few pictures and did about 10 seconds of video on my little digital camera before the song ended.  DMC gave high fives to about 5 of the little kids on stage singing with him and left.

Amazing!  Talk about being in the right place at the right time.  If we’d shown up 4 minutes later we’d have missed it.  The reason they had him there was because this weekend was the 37th birthday of HRC and they were partying.  People were going nuts.  We put our names on the list to be seated and within 5 minutes the little handheld buzzer went off and they led us to a booth right behind the stage.  I kept trying to get a picture of this girl that I thought had to be part of his entourage because she looked like a female Lenny Kravitz, but she ended up being our waitress and just dressed up like someone from 1971 to celebrate to anniversary.  We had a great lunch, chicken fingers for Jean and a pulled pork sandwich for me.  I got to keep the big glass beer cup and Jean got yet another HRC t-shirt.

After we left HRC we stopped by a little kiosk to check out croc flip-flops (not the normal sandles), and also to watch people doing the indoor skydiving.  After that we hopped on the 101 and headed to our final destination, the Disney Music Hall.  This was the first time I’ve ever been into Downtown LA.  Usually we go to the suburbs around it, like Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Long Beach, etc.  We were down there between all the skyscrapers.  The only reason I wanted to see this place is because the building’s design is pretty sweet.  A modern art looking series of metal shapes.  I really wanted to take their free tour, but this was like the only weekend out of the next two months that they aren’t offering the free tours.  I’ll need to go back when we do the Hollywood Bowl…  Anyhow, the plan was to just pull up on the side of the street and get a few pictures.  This place is where the LA Philharmonic plays, plus that have operas and other things like that here (Hollywood Bowl has the LA Phil there too, but mostly concerts like Tom Petty and The Police).

We did exactly what I’d planned – drove by the building each direction and snapped a few pictures.  There wasn’t much traffic on the street so I had time to stop next to the red curb without any hassle.  There were people in tuxedos getting out of limos so I’m guessing an event was about to begin.  We, on the other hand, pressed on home.

We both had a wonderful day and now we’re already thinking about Vegas next weekend…  Here’s some pictures from today:

Chef Jean to the rescue

Jean is gone to the grocery store to pick up stuff to make chicken with the noodles with the cheese for dinner.  I wanted Indian and she wanted pizza, so we compromised and she’s cooking something we both like.

I got a package from today with some books I ordered to help plan for my next RTW trip.  All three were Lonely Planets – Egypt, Laos and Vietnam.  I hope to put in some time planning for the trip this weekend.  I’d also like to try and figure out a sixth place to go.  Right now I’m pretty sure of Southeast Asia (Vietnam & Laos), Southern India, Ethiopia, Egypt (maybe Petra in Jordan), and Patagonia (southern Argentina & Chile).  The ticket includes 6 stops so I still need one more.  I had been leaning towards some island in the South Pacific, like Fiji or Palau, but after checking into it I’m thinking maybe not because all the other places should cost about $30-45 a day (hostel, food, transportation, site-seeing, everything), but those islands are more like $80-120 a day.

I need to find somewhere else and have a backup for Ethiopia in case it were too dangerous once I got closer to leaving for the trip.  What makes it hard is that all the places really need to be either south of the equator or barely above it because it’ll be December through March for what I’m planning, so I don’t want to go anywhere where it’ll be cold.  I’d love to do China, Mongolia, Russia, Iceland, Estonia/Latvia, Ireland, Alaska, South Korea, and Greenland, but it would be way too cold.  Any suggestions?  My dad and I want something safe, cheap and exotic, and the Skyteam (Delta, KLM, etc) have to fly there too.

Tomorrow I’m planning on going into LA with Jean but we haven’t decided what we’ll be doing for sure.  I’ll post the details tomorrow night.  I hope you all have a good weekend.

Dad, fax your stuff to Delta to get those miles they missed!  We’ll have to make reservations for the trip in another 6-8 months and so we’ll need 140,000 miles each before then.