Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Take a Relaxing Weekend Vacation (Part 2 of 2)

OK, so if you haven't read the first part of this wonderful how-to document, I would suggest going here and reading it first. It is not an integral part of the story, but it will help with continuity. Except the numbers are starting back at one. Mostly because I am too lazy to figure out how to get it to keep counting from #29.

  1. Once you get some sleep, you will feel better. The morning is sunny and perfect and the town is beautiful. It is also your birthday, so you are pretty sure that everything will work out the way you want. And, you won't have to drive anywhere all day.

  2. There are a few things that you notice right away that do not in any way deter you from having a good time:

    • The brewery next door won't serve food one minute after 10PM.
    • Your window looks out into the lobby of the building.
    • Your hotel room wall is right next to the ice machine and elevators.
    • There seems to be a large number of children running up and down the hallways.
    • The people upstairs apparently start doing calisthenics at 7AM.

  3. Despite these things, you are in a pretty good mood.

  4. Shower and dress quickly in order to begin your action packed (but relaxing) day.

  5. Get directions to a nearby breakfast eatery in the hotel lobby. There is one just down the street. As soon as you exit the hotel, a couple of teenage girls is a strange spandex uniform will run by. They are wearing race bibs, but there are no streets blocked off or other people around. Two girl race?

  6. As you arrive at your eating destination, notice more girls running, this pair is in matching skirts, and also in bibs. On further inspection of the street, there are multiple pairs of people dressed alike in various age groups running this way and that. Consider the possibility that yesterday's stress drove you crazy.

  7. Have a nice hearty bacon and eggs type breakfast. Food is decent, coffee OK, and you are ready to go!

  8. First on the itinerary is to visit Doc Holiday's tombstone at the pioneer cemetery a few blocks away.

  9. Wonder if you are really that out of shape when you are winded walking to the trailhead.

  10. When you get to the trailhead, some of your questions will be answered. There is a person standing there with a clipboard. She tells you it is the "first ever Oyster Race", and admits it is kind of like a race/scavenger hunt, but doesn't go in to details. Yay! You aren't crazy.

  11. Walk up to the pioneer cemetery. It is beautiful out, if a bit windy. The hike is not nearly as long as you remember, and the views are spectacular. A few runners go by, both going up and down. One even stops to take you and your boyfriend's picture, which is nice.

  12. The cemetery will be a little crowded and weird with all the race people, and there will also be people trying to quietly and reverently take care of the graves, which is a strange contrast. And then... and then... you see him....


  13. After a momentary panic where you start combining wild west stories with zombie fiction, you build up the nerve to go over and see what the hell.

  14. He turns out not to be a gunslinger zombie, ghost, or whatever, but a period actor (you assume, even though he does speak with a soft, educated, southern accent and is... kinda creepy).

  15. After a while, you realize that the runners are coming up to him, handing him random items like dental floss, and getting their picture taken with him. It is one of the check-in spots on the race.

  16. As you edge closer, trying to get a picture of the tombstone without getting in the way of the racers with the pictures, there is a crowd lull. (Creepy) Doc Holiday will turn to you and say, "Would you like your picture taken between runners?" "DO I?" You say enthusiastically, and get several pictures, and hold his gun. Which is awesome.

  17. You and your boyfriend leave shortly thereafter. You will feel proud that you were brave enough to get your photo with Zombie Doc Holiday.

  18. Head back to the hotel to clean up.

  19. While you are there, your parents will arrive in town (this was planned), and you meet them and some friends at the Glenwood Canyon Brewery for lunch.

  20. Drink beer.

  21. After lunch, head up to the Glenwood Caverns for a tour.

  22. Due to wind, you will not get to ride the tram up Iron Mountain, but an 80's style school bus with grinding brakes up a steep, winding, switchback road with huge drop offs on either side. Be reminded of childhood, and pretend it is fun.

  23. Once you arrive safely at the amusement park at the top, realize that you have a good 45 minutes before your tour starts.

  24. You will notice that the giant swing that goes over the canyon is closed because of the wind, but the gravity powered individually controller roller coaster is not.

  25. Your boyfriend will buy you a ticket, and you will sit in the cart, but you might be wondering what the fuck you are doing.

  26. It is quite suddenly your turn to go. You go, without thinking, but scream a little. Or maybe more than a little. As you pass the first turn, you can't decide if it is ironic in some way or just sad that you will die on your birthday.

  27. Eventually, you will have fun, and the ride will be over too soon.

  28. The cave tour begins. You walk into a dark pit inside of Iron Mountain. The tour is awesome, although you are a little distracted trying to get good pictures on your camera without a tripod.

  29. After the tour, you ride the freakishly old bus back down the mountain, survive the ride, and walk back over to the brewery.

  30. Eat snacks, more beer, and then head up to your hotel room for your swimming suit. Time to enjoy the hot springs!!!

  31. This is the first time you have gone swimming since getting lasik. It is everything you hope for and more. The pool is warm and smells of sulfer. Your long hair will wrap around your arms and try to drown you more than once. You will get yourself to jump off the diving board, and manage to not lose your suit. It is generally a good time.

  32. A couple hours later, you are beat. You and your party should head back to the hotel.

  33. Change your clothes and clean up a little. Head down to the brewery for dinner.

  34. Get carded for a beer even though you have been here more than once today, and you are 34 years old. Best. Present. Ever.

  35. Eat steak. Drink beer.

  36. Start nodding off at the table. You're done!

Chances are you will survive your drive home, and won't hit any traffic, your car won't explode and the brakes won't go out, and don't, whatever you do, think about work again until Monday morning. For the next three or four days, you will catch the smell of sulfer in your hair, and be happy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Take a Relaxing Weekend Vacation (Part 1 of 2)

The world is full of stress.

Quite often, when I have a birthday, I try to come up with something exciting to do. Last year I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. My happiness to be alive was totally life affirming, but not exactly relaxing.

This year I decided it would be better to take a nice calm mini-vacation in the mountains, and it turns out, this affirmed my happiness at being alive, too.

Because I am so nice, I have decided to share my experience with you, so that you, too, can take a relaxing weekend vacation.


  1. Plan at the last minute. This will ensure that the trip is exciting and unexpected. At the most, plan within a week of going.

  2. Rush to get some work on your car done. Change the oil, get the brakes checked and new rotors, because you always need new rotors before a big trip, it just happens.

  3. Notice that there is still a little squeak when you push on the brakes, but run out of time to do anything about it before heading over the continental divide to a little getaway 200 miles away. You use the engine to slow yourself down anyway, and dozens of miles at a 6% grade won’t be a problem.

  4. Leave work early. You won’t think about work while you are away. Monday is days and days away. Just leave a bunch of shit unfinished and take off!

  5. Go pick up your boyfriend on the way out of town. Wait until you get to the interstate to fill up with gas, because it is more expensive. That means better, right?

  6. Get to Denver right about rush hour, because the more cars there are on the road, the better.

  7. As you start to climb into the mountains on I-70, notice that your coolant indicator suddenly dropped to really really cold. Since the car seems to be running fine, and the oil temperature seems to be steady, try not to think about your car exploding into a burning ball of flame as you skyrocket off a cliff like a comet.

  8. Stop at McDonald's in Idaho Springs, not because you love McDonald's, but because you are hungry and want to be able to eat fast. You will love that you did this to your body later.

  9. Let your boyfriend take over driving, because he is willing to, and it will keep you from crying from all the stress.

  10. About 10 minutes later, have an almost-heart attack as a light turns on on the dash and a loud "BING" noise goes off.

  11. Pull over, and start looking through the manual, trying to find the indicator light that turned on. The car will rock from the wind of the passing cars. Don't find the light, but figure it is something to do with the brakes because it kinda looks like the light that went on. Your boyfriend will say something like, "The light is yellow, not red, so it's probably OK". And you will be thinking, "THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE BRAKES AND I AM IN THE MOUNTAINS."

  12. Keep moving, get off at the next exit to look more closely at the manual. You will eventually find the light in the supplemental manual, and it will say something like "Brake pads, brake fluid, your car will probably not explode, but ... maybe."

  13. After your boyfriend tests the brakes a few times, you both can start feeling more comfortable that the car is OK, and you can make it the rest of the way to your destination. You are going to be screwed no matter what you decide if the brakes go out. Best to keep your goal in mind, and continue.

  14. As your boyfriend turns on the car, there will be a new noise. It will sound something like this:

    flapflapflapflapflapflapflapflapflapflapflap flappity flap flap!

  15. The car is pulled over again, and the hood popped. You both peer into the bowels of the car, which seems way more complicated than it should be... maybe it's because it's an Audi, or maybe it's just that you try to avoid looking under the hood of a car at all costs. Either way. After a bit of peering, you notice that something seems to be tangled into a fan. You can't really point it out to your boyfriend, because the car is really hot, so you go back and get a pen out to point better.

  16. You point out the "weird looking thingy", and your boyfriend takes the pen, and points out where a wire is frayed and apparently has been ripped out. He starts explaining that the wire must have gotten caught and yanked out. As he points at where the other end came loose, he is no longer holding a pen, just a pen cap. This is because the rest of the pen has disappeared into the car somewhere.

  17. OK, one problem at a time. After some yanking, and pulling and cussing, you get the wire and all its pieces out of the fan. You put them on the back seat of the car, thinking it might help you later when you want to fix whatever it was that broke.

  18. You notice that a state trooper has pulled up behind you, with his lights on.

  19. You try not to look guilty, because you really haven't done anything wrong, but you fail. The trooper turns out to be nice, and just wanted to make sure that you weren't stranded in the middle of the mountains. He pulls off a little, and sits there watching you work.

  20. Now for the pen. Having changed the oil on the car for the first time in your life a few days before, with the help of your boyfriend, of course, you know that there is a little cover that is really annoying on the bottom of the car, with annoying screws, and is somewhat difficult to get to, and that there is no real way of getting the thing off without getting dirty. You, however, have an awesome boyfriend, and he does it for you. However, the pen won't be there. Just more pieces of the busted wire.

  21. It might help at this point to start cussing profusely.

  22. It's time to admit that the pen is gone, and it has fallen into a void. It isn't sitting on any of the belts, it isn't in the bottom, you can't see it from the top or bottom. It's just gone. Say, "fuck it" and decide to keep going.

  23. The car drives fine. The brakes work fine. You start thinking everything will be OK. You have convinced yourself that they probably didn't hook up the sensor right when they changed the brakes, and that the wire goes to the electric fan, which shouldn't be a problem as long as you don't get stuck in traffic. Probably. The trooper stops following you to pull over a speeder. Things are looking up.

  24. Stop at Dillon to use the rest room, attempt to wash some grease off your hands, smoke, and check the oil.

  25. When you check the oil, the dip stick will break. Not the long metal part, the plastic part that kind of locks onto the top.

  26. You will be emotionally drained by now, and have nothing left inside to care with, so you will keep going.

  27. Get to Glenwood Springs around 9PM, and check into the hotel. It is useful that the hotel is housed in the same building as a brewery, because you really, really want a drink about now.

  28. And now the fun can begin!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

All I Want from a Camera...

Dear Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Leica, and Every Other Camera Manufacturer Out There,

Don’t take this wrong, but I am a bit disappointed in the camera offerings out there at the moment. This isn’t science fiction. These problems should be solved by now. Can you please just make me my dream camera?

In case you have forgotten what I want, I have compiled a list of features that I would really appreciate in a camera, and the fact that I can’t get all of them has made me hem and haw about this Major Purchase for over a year. I would like this to be completed by my birthday on Saturday. I am OK testing a beta.

1) The camera must be small and light, so I can take it with me everywhere. This should fit into my pocket.

2) The lens does not have to be interchangeable if it can do all of the following:
A) Zoom
B) Have a fast Autofocus
C) Be capable of a super-macro (that means really close up)
D) There can be no color aberration, or line distortion.
E) I don’t care about your “laws of physics”. Just do it.

3) I must get a minimum of 1500 shots on a single battery charge.

4) An LCD is fine for some things, but it’s too hard to see in bright sunlight. The camera must include a viewfinder.

5) Stop with the stupid tiny sensors. Give me a nice, full sized sensor in the camera, and stop dicking around with “point and shoot” and “four thirds” form factors. Just make it big.

6) You don’t need to include a built in flash, because the camera should be fast enough to take beautiful night shots without a tripod and no flash needed. There should also be no noticeable noise at ISO 12800.

7) The camera must be shock proof, water proof, and capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. If I drop the camera into a campfire, it should work. If I climb Vinson Massif, it should not freeze. If I tie a string on the camera and set the timer, I should be able to dunk the camera into the ocean during a hurricane and get cool pics. This camera should outlast mankind.

8) The camera should not cost more than one fourth of my take-home wages for one month.

9) I should be able to get this camera in some color other than black or silver. If computers figured out how to stop looking so freaking boring, so can cameras.

10) The camera should be able to read my brainwaves, and figure out what I am trying to do before I even do it. I should not have to manually adjust anything, ever, unless I want to, and then it should be intuitive and convenient to navigate the menus.

11) I expect this camera to be there for me. It should make me happy when I am sad, and it should comfort me when I need comforting. It will not judge me, or nag me, or tell me I am not good enough. This camera should love me as much as I love it.

Thanks for listening, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Leica, and Every Other Camera Manufacturer Out There. I look forward to hearing from you.


P.S. I have actually purchased a used film camera that does none of these things, but I bought it for $60, and you don’t get any of that money. Think about it. That’s $60 you lost.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I will be the Best Dressed Girl in the Rockies

I am not sure when this happened. Part of the joy of hiking is that you don’t really have to buy anything as long as you have decent shoes, and a way to get to the mountains. Bring some water. Pack a sandwich. Maybe even a jacket in case it gets cold later. There isn’t a whole lot to it.

In the last two years, everything changed.

I realized there is a WHOLE NEW WORLD out there for the discerning gear shopper. $60 baseball caps, $160 pants made JUST FOR HIKING, ultra-light-weight toothpaste, and waterproof toilet paper. It was almost as much fun to shop for hiking gear as it was to actually hike.

When I spent over $20 on a pair of socks, I realized it was getting out of hand, and that my desire to be the it-girl of the mountains was expensive.

So… I decided to stop impulse shopping at REI, and that I should figure out what I really want/can use, and don’t already own. Not all the stuff I want, mind you, but stuff that would actually impact my hiking experience.

Sad as it is to admit, the only thing I actually need is a new pair of boots.

Yes. I have hiking boots. I have two and a half pairs of hiking boots. There are the really comfy trail-runners that are made of mesh and completely useless below 40 degrees (these are the counted as half a pair). There are the mid-weight hikers I bought when I first started hiking again and didn’t realize that Colorado may be kind of like a desert, but I will always end up walking in water, and waterproof boots are kind of necessary. And then there are the ones I end up using most: The Most Uncomfortable Boots in the World: the boots that make my feet curl in agony as soon as I look at them.

Other than the boots, I could survive in relative luxury in the woods for an extended period of time, provided I had, you know, food and stuff.

So anyway. On Mother’s Day, I took my mom to Eddie Bauer to go shopping. She likes all that out-doorsy stuff, and there was a pair of capris that she had been drooling over a few weeks back.

While she was trying them on, I browsed the store and thought, “See how good I’m being? I love that $50 button down, but I am not going to buy it. I love that dress (which is confusing because it is obviously not meant for hiking), and it’s only $80, but I am NOT going to buy it. I won’t even try it on.”

This lasted about 10 minutes.

Because then I saw it.

Alone on the rack, glowing florescent red among dull blacks and grays, it was shiny and it was underneath a sign that said “FIRST ASCENT 40% off”.

It was like love.

It was one of those things I WANTED, but could not quite convince myself to buy because the usefulness seemed limited. It was an ULTRA-LIGHT WEIGHT DOWN UNDERLAYER. And it was RED. And did I mention it was shiny?

Thinking the sign was a mistake, and not seeing any other down jackets around, I refused to let my hopes rise. I figured it wouldn’t fit.

But it did.

Then I thought, “No way is it on sale. No. Way.”

My dad saw me looking at it, and came over to investigate.

“That’s a nice jacket,” he said.

800 fill down, light, stuffs into its own pocket, warm, red, and shiny: Yeah, Dad, it's nice.

“Yeah,” I said in the most non-committal voice I could muster. I pointed at the sign. “I wonder if this is included in the sale.”

“You should ask,” he said.

I took that as permission, and prepared for disappointment. My heart skipped a beat as I walked up to the cash register.

“So,” I said, attempting disinterest, “Is this included in that discount back there?”

The clerk scanned the tag, “Oh yeah,” she said, “It’s ringing up at $109.”

At this point, I dropped my passive disguise. “SCORE!” I said, “I’ll take it!”

So, I still don’t have boots that don’t make my feet cringe. I hesitate to buy more than two or three books for my Kindle a month at less than $10 each. I desperately need a new camera, but can't commit. I won’t buy myself an iPod even though I have lusted after one for at least 3 years. I can't even convince myself to get a Netflix account for $15 a month. But I didn’t even hesitate to spend over $100 on a jacket of limited use.

At least now I’ll stylin’ out in the wilderness in my new shiny red coat.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Toma-toes are Ripened on the Vine

I spent the better part of yesterday thinking that the plural of "tomato" was "tomatos", and that the word "tomatoes” was a made up word that didn’t make any sense.

I kept wondering what a “toma-toe” would look like, and decided that a toma-toe would just look like a regular toe with an extreme version of athlete’s foot, and maybe some stems.

This is just further proof that my brain cannot be trusted.

After a day of agonizing about why I misspelled “tomatos” on my grocery list, it occurred to me that “tomatos” didn’t look right, either.

So I Googled it.

And yes. My brain was definitely lying to me.

Just like every time I try to spell “definitely”, my brain insists that it should be “definately”, even though I know there isn’t a goddamned “a” in it. After the 4000th reiteration, you would think I would be able to spell it right. And you would be wrong. I know how to spell it, but my brain tells my hands that I should type it the other way, and it won’t stop.

And then there is the math. I am required to do simple math on a regular basis at work. Simple addition and subtraction. If it looks complicated, I pull up the calculator on the computer, but most of the time, my brain will provide me an answer faster than I can type (and I can type pretty fast).

You would think I would have every single math subtraction combination memorized. I mean, I worked retail. I can count change. But no. 100 minus 65 equals 35. 47 minus 44 is 3. 102 minus 47 is 55. 135 minus 65 is 65. Only it isn’t. It’s 70. I see the 100, I see the 35, and my brain just throws in a plausible looking number without asking. And what’s worse, I don’t question it.

This is why I can’t be a scientist. No matter how awesome my logic is, my brain succeeds in sabotaging everything I do.

So yesterday was Mother’s Day. Dad wanted to make an omelet (not homelet or omlett) for her, but we didn’t have enough eggs.

Dad: I am going to the store to get eggs

Mom: You should make a list.

The list was made. Tomatoes. Mushrooms. Peppers. Cheese.

I went with Dad to the store so I could go get some Starbucks for my mom. Starbuck’s was a madhouse, and I was in there for a good 20 minutes.

We finally got home, and I was thinking this would be more a brunch than a breakfast.

Dad says, “Hey, I forgot the eggs. It wasn’t on the list.”

Maybe having a sabotaging brain is hereditary.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How Trolls are Clearly Ruining my Ambitions as a Photographer

I like taking pictures that don’t suck.

But more than that, I like taking pictures, even if they do suck.

The act of taking a picture is completely awesome. Sometimes I imagine how great it would be if I had a camera attached to my head on “continuous shot” at all times. Except I would have to organize them, and choose favorites, and it would turn into this huge infinite cycle when I took pictures of organizing pictures of taking pictures of organizing pictures ad nauseam.

So what I do is take a ton of pictures all the time, until people start ducking and cringing every time I am around. But a picture of my mom scowling is only funny the first fifty times, and eventually I start thinking I should try to take better pictures. This is another situation where quantity eventually leads to quality.

In thinking about taking better pictures, I start thinking about artistic pictures. I figure I should start from the beginning. There are three main categories of photographs, each one capable of being split in to subsets of those categories. Basically, photographs are nouns… they are people (portraits), places (landscapes), or things (things, obviously). Mixing the three in interesting, creative, and thought provoking ways is what makes pictures “better”.

My favorite photographs to take are landscapes (my favorite photos to look at are not, but fuck that, I am completely not cool enough to take the pictures I want to take, and also, I would be copying other peoples awesomeness, so I take pictures of mountains and trees and shit). Taking landscapes allows me to blatantly brag about my accomplishments as a hiker, without making me look like I am completely stuck on myself.

In order to increase my awesomeness as a photographer, I decided I needed to plan out a picture I wanted to take, and not just go snap-crazy everywhere I went hoping for the best. I decided I wanted to take a picture of Longs Peak at dawn, with the moon setting behind it (preferable a full moon, but I would take anything except maybe a new moon, because that would be pointless).

After careful research into the matter, a bit of guessing, and some hopeful ambitions, I found what I thought was the perfect location to take my picture. From the top of a 9,200 foot mountain that has a nice cliff on the west side, and an uninterrupted view of Longs Peak and the Continental Divide. I even conned a good friend into getting up at 2AM in order to climb a mountain and be at the top at dawn so that I could take a picture. It was going to be fantastic.

It was also going to be freaking cold. It was January. But what an accomplishment! It would be SO WORTH IT, and I would be able to take some AMAZING pictures, and it would be on purpose!

And this is how the whole thing went down…

I slept for a couple of hours. More like drifted, I didn’t really sleep. This was partly because my sister was out visiting Colorado and was having a small party in the other room, and partly because I was far too excited to really sleep. Yes. I am a nerd.

I had originally come up with the idea several months before. After comparing charts I found on the internet between sun-up and moon-down times, I came to the conclusion that the first time this would happen anywhere close to one another would be sometime in December. Along the way, my shoot location changed from a nearby intersection, to a spot up in Estes Park, and eventually the top of Crosier Mountain. My friend and I scouted out the trail a couple of weeks before P-Day.

The trail starts around 7,000 feet, and climbs a little over three and a half miles to 9250 feet above sea level. When we got to the top, I knew it was the ABSOLUTE PERFECT PLACE AND IT MUST BE HERE. The west facing cliffs had an incredible view of the Continental Divide. I could see Longs, Meeker, and the Never Summers, plus a bunch of other impressive peaks that I couldn’t name.

I double-checked my calculations, and determined that I am completely stupid, because I had been looking at the wrong time zone.

I tried again. Choosing Denver as the closest place I could find, I came up with a new date:
January 11, 2009
Location: Denver (which would be close enough) (I hoped)
Sunrise: 7:20 AM Mountain Time
Moonset: 7:53 AM Mountain Time

I couldn’t tell if the time was given in Daylight Saving Time or not, but figured they were still 33 minutes apart, and I was pretty sure the sun didn’t rise any earlier or later than that in the winter.

What was even better was that it would be one of the brightest full moons of the year.

Before I went to “sleep”, I packed up some food, a tripod, warm clothes, hot water in a thermos, my camp stove, a backup camera, headlamp, and extra batteries.

Amazingly enough, my friend was still game to go, even though we had calculated that we would need to be at the trail head by 3:30 AM if we wanted to get to the top before dawn. That meant we needed to leave my house by about 2:30 in the morning. No matter how you might try, that is still night time and still an insane time to get up.

The sky was clear, barometer stable. But I had fears. My fears gnawed at me.
What if it was cloudy?
What if we didn’t make it to the top before dawn?
What if I can’t get my camera to focus, or it malfunctions in some way?
I will get pneumonia.
There will be wolves! (And I don’t care if there aren’t supposed to be any wolves left in Colorado. Since when did a wolf do what it was supposed to do?).
I am afraid of the dark.
I am afraid of failure.
I am afraid of everything.

My friend picked me up at 2:25 AM. More props to her, because she agreed to drive me, and we got to the trail head about a quarter after three. The moon was like a spotlight above us, and there wasn’t a hint of a cloud in the sky. This was going to work!

Hiking at night is a surreal experience.

We didn’t use out headlamps much because of the brightness of the moon, and the openness at the beginning of the trail. All of the colors were washed out, and almost grainy in the poor light, but it was good enough to walk.

As we moved into the trees, I noticed that the night breezes were making the trees move and creak in creepy ways. I could hear what sounded like murmuring around me, and a high pitched squeak.

I thought it must be cows.

I don’t know if you know this, but cows make some super creepy noises at night. We didn’t talk much. Step, step, squeak, groan… murmur, murmur, murmur, snap, step, step, stub my toe slightly, squeak, and so on.

At first, I didn’t mention my creeped-out state to my friend. I kept thinking, “Cows. It’s just freaking cows. Don’t have a cow, it’s just a stupid cow, damn it, what the HELL was THAT?”

I finally couldn’t take it anymore.

I stopped for a drink of water.

Me: “Wow, those cows sure do make creepy noises at night, you know?”

Her: “What do you mean?”

Me: “You know, all that moaning… it almost sounds like someone else is out here and talking.”

Her: “…”

Me: “But you know, it’s probably just cows. Or the trees. Or something.”

I was trying hard to not let the near panic into my voice. I think I might have failed.

Her: “I didn’t even hear it until you said something.”

Me: “Ha ha.. yeah.. sorry…. Um… what do you think that squeak is?”

Her: “What squeak?”

Me: “I don’t hear it now. I only hear it when we’re walking. Why don’t we keep going?”

We started up again, my friend being noticeably quieter. I know we weren’t talking before that, but now she radiated silence. I was berating myself for bringing up the subject at all, when she said, “I think the squeak is my gator strap, but that groaning is kinda weird. Do you think it’s the trees?”

Me: “Oh yeah. There is a little breeze. It isn’t trolls or anything.”

Then we were quiet.

We were quiet for a long time after that.

Why the fuck did I have to bring up trolls?

Hi, I am Laura, and I have this urge to escalate any disconcerting situation. The idea of mountain lions, bears, wolves, and God-knows-what-else isn’t enough for me. I also have to start worrying about trolls, demons, ghosts, vampires, and fuck knows what else. I am not doing this to be mean. I’m scared, too.

On the other hand, I don’t think I have ever made it to the top of that mountain so very fast. Seriously. We got to the top at about 6AM. We didn’t stop. We didn’t take breaks. We might have been walking a wee bit faster than usual.
The first brightening of the sky was starting at the top. And suddenly, our clear open sky of no clouds was gone, covered with a grey layer of piss-me-off clouds.

The wind picked up.

We hunkered down behind a rock to drink hot cocoa and start my camp stove.

I had never used it before.

I couldn’t figure out how to use it now. Don’t laugh. I couldn't get it to light.

We spent some time screwing around with it, before it dawned on me that it was brighter out. It was MUCH brighter out. Oh, shit! I am going to miss the dawn!

I jumped out from behind the rock and ran into a wall of the coldest wind in the world. It was heart-attack stopping.

I jumped back behind the rock immediately, and put on more layers, almost unable to talk.

I tried again, slowly.

Going slow didn’t really help, but I did finally made it to the edge of the abyss.

The sun was underneath the clouds, and turned the entire divide into a glowing pink line of amazement. I started snapping pictures. I would snap, and then turn away from the wind to warm my numb fingers. I was wearing leather mittens with down linings, completely waterproof and windproof. It took approximately 1.5 seconds for the piercing numb to reach intolerable levels and I would turn away, thaw a little, and then turn back again to snap again. I don’t know how cold it was exactly, so I will just call it 1,000 below zero with a wind chill factor of 100.

A minute or two of my little spinning routine, and I was not only a little dizzy, but my brain had sluggishly started thinking about something other than the trolls in the trees coming to get me when my back was turned. I realized something was missing.

Where the FUCK was the moon?

I backed behind another outcropping enough to pull back my sleeve and check my watch. It was 7:20 AM. The moon wasn’t due to set for another 33 minutes! And actually, the sun wasn’t supposed to start rising for another 2. I don’t get it!
I had a clear, uninterrupted view of the Continental Divide from the southwest all the way almost north. THERE WAS NO FUCKING MOON! THE INTERNET IS A LIAR! IT WAS STOLEN BY TROLLS!

Anyway. Here are the beautiful failures that I took that morning. I battled trolls to get them. I did it for you.

You’re welcome.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Zombies are Coming

I am totally having a work crisis.

Between being completely overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to do, being somewhat bored with the actual work I am doing, and fighting the zombie uprising, I have been completely wiped by the time I get home.

What this means in real terms is that my personal life is suffering. I don't have the energy to paint, to draw, to work on my five-gazillion projects, to run as much as I should, or hike as much as I would like. I have decided that in order to combat this sad state of affairs, I would start a blog. There is definitely something to be said for quantity when quality is lacking.

As I sat down to write, I realized that part of the problem is that it feels like work is all I have to write about, unless I want to talk about my friends and loved ones in disparaging ways in order to get a laugh (this has not been the best policy in the past, as my friends and loved ones stop wanting to hang out with me when I do this, and I end up having to write about work again, or even worse, myself). So I am left with “the Job”.

Let me start by saying it is a job. This is not my career. I am not in love with my job, but I don't absolutely hate it beyond reason. It is also notable that at two and a half years, this is the longest time I have ever held on to any job.

In order to prepare myself for my future blog-writing, I wrote down a list of my daily tasks:

1) Get out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn.

2) Commute.

3) Get to work and log in. I then immediately take a cigarette break.

4) After I smoke, I head down to the cafeteria. I usually don't get more than a soda or a coffee, but I enjoy the walk.

5) When I get back to my desk, someone usually asks me to go smoke again, which I do.

6) About 30 minutes after I arrive, I start looking at my email in order to get started with my tasks for the day. This entails making a list of things I plan to do outside the normal day-to day tasks I always have to do.

7) Before I get going, there is usually someone who works on a different floor, different location, or different mindset who calls me to interrupt.

8) 30 – 40 minutes later, I can get started with “work”

9) Usually I don't. I check Facebook instead.

10) By 10 AM, I am ready to work. For real this time.

11) I have about 30 minutes of actual work, when I realize I am pretty hungry.

12) I take my lunch at 11.

13) I get back from lunch, and realize that the world has exploded.

14) I berate myself for having not worked harder in the morning, and start to work frantically and start getting things done in record time.

15) I start to feel like all is not lost. I can do this. The work is monotonous, but not going to kill me.

16) Then I realize that I have an hour of two worth of meetings in the afternoon, so maybe it will kill me because there is no way I can go to the meetings and finish my work for the day. I start making excuses for the things I haven't done but should have done before they are even overdue. I haven't prepared for the meetings, but figure I can throw something together about ten minutes before the start.

17) I keep working.

18) Twenty minutes before the first meeting starts, I get up to smoke. At that exact moment, the phone rings.

19) Having worked technical support and customer service, retail, and every other shitty customer facing job that there is, so I have both a pathological fear of the telephone, and an psychotic aversion to not answering it.

20) I pick up the phone.
Me: Hi, this is Laura!
There is a silence, and then... very softly at first, I hear it. It is a kind of gargle noise. A scratchy voice is preparing, and then... “........brains......”

I am not sure if you are aware of this, but the majority of large manufacturing corporations in the United States are overrun with zombies.

I don't mean that they are just a bunch of employees with no thoughts in their heads beyond consuming everything in the world... well, that might describe them, too, but I mean for real walking undead creatures with a lust for living flesh. I forgive you if you don't believe me, but you have to understand that between corporate bureaucracy, large maze-like structures, key-card only entry, and a host of other factors, the zombies are as much a part of corporate culture as performance evaluations. There are statistics and metrics, but no one really knows how to solve the issue, so it is kind of left alone and ignored. Some of the zombies even continue their normal work functions, so they are much cheaper that other employees to keep.

And honestly, I don't really mind it. Most of the zombies in my building are in the humidity controlled areas behind closed doors, so I don't even have to deal with the smell.

The issue is with the recently “promoted”.

For a few months, they retain enough of a spark to hit the redial, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

21) So anyway, after I deal with the zombie (I'll go in to this more later, I think), I only have about 5 minutes to prepare for my meeting.

22) I spend about three of those minutes looking for the calendar entry, and another two dialing in. Our conference call dial-in is one digit off from a “TALK TO LIVE SINGLES” sex line, and for some reason, I always get that one on the first try.

23) The meeting begins. I announce myself, and then go on mute in order to continue working on other projects.

24) This is a delicate balance between paying attention enough to know what the hell is going on, and being able to work. For the sake of continuing my list, we will assume that in this case I am successful and there are no awkward silences that I realize someone asked me a question and I have no idea what it was.

25) About 4PM, I am two thirds done with my work, and the meetings are finally over.

26) Meanwhile, new stuff has come in that I haven't even looked at.

27) I compile a new list for the following day of all the things I haven't finished, all the things that came in while I was working during meetings, and the daily tasks that I forgot to do today.

28) At a quarter to five, I back up my work, close everything down, and at 5PM sharp, I leave.

Needless to say, I am a bit flustered and ridiculous by the time I get off work.

So I don't feel like I am creative enough.

So... coming full circle... this blog.

Because if I can't bitch semi-anonymously online, what the hell is the point of the internet?

P.S. Suzi wins for being the first to comment. Unfortunately, I accidentally rejected her comment because I always screw up the first time I use new-fangled things. Suzi, I am sorry. The rest of you (all 2), please feel free to comment, and I won't delete you. Unless you deserve it.