Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yuletide Update

None too surprisingly, the holiday season has prevented me from writing for a couple of weeks, but I assure you all is well. Here’s what’s been going down:

As predicted in my previous entry, I pulled a B from my Latin class. I’m glad it wasn’t worse, but it does confirm the fact that I must have done terribly on my final exam. Of course, I’ll have the same professor next semester, and I plan on getting the test back and seeing if my final grade makes sense with the score I got. As I said, I have my doubts in that department. As for Greek, I got an A, which is probably undeserved given that I rarely went to class and, supposedly, we were graded on participation. Still, I won’t complain. Also, I took the GRE, which is basically like the ACT to get into graduate school. All of the graduate programs I know of require official GRE scores, so I had to pay the $115 and take a four-hour test, a decent portion of which was mathematical—certainly not my idea of a good time. Regardless, I got decent enough scores that I’m not going to worry about re-taking it, which is nice since I didn’t even prepare for it. And finally in the world of academia, I have settled on a list of about one-dozen graduate programs that I’ll be applying to. Speaking purely statistically, odds are I’ll end up in Indiana. About half the programs I’m applying to are located there (three at Notre Dame alone). On the other hand, I may get rejected by everyone. This could very well be my best bet, since most of the programs I’m interested in only admit a handful of students each year. We’ll see.

As for my first Christmas as a married man, it was great. Most of the day felt like a “normal” Christmas, as my wife and I stayed at her parents’ house on Christmas Eve and then hit my parents’ home later on Christmas Day. That’s been standard for a few years now, so it seemed like good old, once-a-year business-as-usual. But it was a lot of fun to come home to our own Christmas tree, by our own couch, in our own living room, and give our gifts to each other. It was traditional fare—games, clothes, books—but each and every Christmas somehow feels like the best one ever. And so it was.

Well, I have until January 9th before I’m back in school. Melanie is back teaching on the 3rd, so I’ll be lonely for a week. I’m sure I’ll need to take breaks from my grad school applications and write a blog now and again. So, expect a slight pick-up once the new year is here. Until then, I hope everyone is basking in the festivities of the season…

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thus Speaks the Broken Record

It’s only been an hour since taking my Latin final. I should feel a jubilant sense of relief, but because I’ve been so frustrated this semester—and because I know next semester is going to be much the same—the only relief I feel is a cognitive awareness that it is (temporarily) over. There hasn’t really been an emotional release, sadly.

This may be due to the fact that I unequivocally gave the worst test performance of my entire college career. This is not hyperbole. This is not drama. When we were given our exams, I was immediately aware of my troublesome situation. It was four pages of seemingly foreign material (no pun intended). We had to translate four snippets of Catullus (a Latin poet), three of which we had previously done as homework and one “sight passage.” I always do well on the sight passage because we are provided a fair amount of the vocabulary. As for the remaining chunks of poetry, one I had never seen before (due to my lacking diligence in the homework department), one was vaguely familiar, and one I remembered fairly well. Still, I had not actually studied any of these poems in preparation for the test at hand. And it’s not that I didn’t study. It’s just that one person can only study so much, and the enormity of the material precluded me from giving time to everything. (This is my continuous gripe about the teacher I had this semester—and will have again next semester for Greek—so forgive me.) Hence, half of my translations literally made no sense. I ended up with disjointed streams of words that didn’t even make complete sentences. And as for questions dealing with literary devices and themes, I bullcrapped most of them as well. It was a mess.

So all in all, I’m hoping to pull a B from the class, which seems feasible given the grades I’ve gotten on everything else. Still, a B would technically hurt my GPA, and this bugs me when I’ve put infinitely more time into this class than any other (aside from the last class I had from this professor). And, truth be known, I think my teacher docks you for non-participation, even though this isn’t officially required. Last semester, my final grade didn’t seem to reflect the grades I had received on individual assignments. I suspected I was getting punished for skipping out on “voluntary” and “non-graded” assignments and activities, and other people I know from the class felt the same way. This could be a problem for me this semester because a) I skipped many a class session, and b) I didn’t participate in a “non-graded” student-led lecture on a theme of our own choosing. Naturally, I pooh-pooh the whole structure of the class, but this shouldn’t give him the right to pooh-pooh on my grade. But he probably will.

So that’s my whining for the day. I had to get it off my chest. When I left school, the only thing that sounded soothing was to come home and write. Well, first I had to regurgitate my tired complaints to my wife, bless her soul. She’s heard them numerous times, but she’s always willing to lend an ear. Both ears, in fact. Now that’s love. But I best get going. My wife and I have to make gelatin salad for our family Christmas party tonight. Oh the joy…

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Final Countdown

I must admit, I’m proud that I haven’t whined incessantly about school this semester. Not that I’ve been having fun with it, but, unlike last spring, I’ve spared my blog audience all the boring details and complaining. At least for the most part. But now I’m down to the final 60 hours, and it would be wrong to go out without so much as a whimper. So here goes:

All in all, I’ve been very fortunate this semester. My class attendance has been shameful, but I’ve somehow managed to score A’s on all of my assignments thus far. This is especially lucky given the phenomena that, on two of my three Greek exams, we were tested on one of very few sections of material I had never looked at. And now I only have one thing left to do, which is my Latin final this Friday. I was blessed with a schedule that’s allowed me a week and a half to prepare for it, with no other papers or tests standing in the way. Naturally, I’ve completely disregarded this abundance of prep time and indulged in daytime television, personal reading, and old-school video games. But you know what? It’s been absolutely fantastic. Part of me wants to forgo any and all Latin studying and just accept my fate. This is especially true given the absurdity of the test material. As I’ve mentioned before, my teacher tests us on such copious amounts of material, it’s quite literally impossible to be adequately prepared. But I know I’d only regret such foolishness, and so, beginning tomorrow (famous last words), I must hunker down and be diligent.

But come Friday at 10am Mountain Standard Time (12pm Eastern), I will be free of all such academic concerns for the semester. I will giddily attend the three Christmas parties I have scheduled for the weekend and, if all goes well, spend the remainder of December once again immersed in personal recreation. Well, except for the one little problem of figuring out graduate school applications – but that’s a form of denial for another time. As for my readers, I hope you are all having a jolly good time of the season. And if you celebrate Christmas (or at least enjoy Christmas music), keep your eyes peeled for a new In the Key of Orange survey on the matter. It should be up at any moment…

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 5: Butchart Gardens

On our second day in Victoria, Canada, Melanie and I visited the stunning Butchart Gardens. Located about half an hour outside of town, this botanical masterpiece was easily one of our honeymoon’s greatest highlights. We began our journey at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the unofficial nucleus of Victoria, where we boarded a Gray Line tour bus, which then wended its way through the city and on to the lush garden.

My wife giddily awaits the Gray Line tour bus in front of the Empress. I originally thought those brontosaurus-looking trees (over her right shoulder) must have been manipulated to look that way, but we ended up seeing them in various places. I guess that means they’re natural, eh? How bizarre!

Because we went as a tour group (although, luckily, there were only about five or six other small groups on the bus), it more than doubled our price of admission. However, having not rented a car, we probably paid a minimum of 33% less than if we had cabbed. All in all, this made the Gray Line tour a brilliant option, and, even if I weren’t keen on the tour guide’s geographical tutelage (which I was), a non-overcrowded bus certainly felt more private and relaxed.

To describe Butchart Gardens, even with the help of photography, is ipso facto not to do it justice. Nevertheless, with no other options before me, I now present a selection of photographs taken at this beautiful locale. Because I know next to nothing about flowers, commentary will be limited. However, I am confident the pictures will speak eloquently enough where I cannot.

I think these are hydrangeas. Hypochondrias? Something like that anyway.

An awesome barrage of purple-toned blossoms dangle at one’s eye-level, as demonstrated here by my lovely spouse.

The entryway to the garden’s topmost attraction, the Sunken Garden. When you round that corner, you are struck by a display of such magnificent splendor that you are likely to gasp aloud. I sincerely did!

See what I mean!

…and moving the camera a little bit to the right.

Ross Fountain. Neat.

Based on the complimentary flower guide that came with the tour, I’m supposing this to be a chrysanthemum. Nothing says “faux artistic” like an extreme close-up!

One of my favorite photos. I believe these are dahlias. If you look closely, you can see crystal droplets of dew on most petals. Very cool.

Chrysanthemums? Dahlias? Both? Regardless, they’re gorgeous!

The pond in the Italian Garden. Bon appetit! (That’s Italian for, “I only know French!”)

Thus ends our excursion into the horticultural phenomenon that is Butchart Gardens. Anyone planning a trip to Victoria (or anywhere nearby) should make this a priority on their “must see” list. Melanie and I are certainly glad we did.

Next stop: Vancouver.

*Confession: the pictures of my wife have been altered. While Melanie was admittedly ecstatic at having become my bride, these images do not convey her true smile. Using sophisticated technology, I have carefully replaced her face with that of another, in order to protect her anonymity. If you look closely, however, you can tell where the "stand-in" face ends and Melanie's real body begins. It's quite fascinating.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Potpourri No. 9

Lots of discoveries lately. In no particular order:
  • Every time I see the name Pierce Brosnan, I think of Bronson Pinchot. Despite the vast difference between them, it takes me a moment to realize my mistake. Though you do have to admit, Pinchot sure would make for an interesting 007. ("I'm Bond. James Bond. Now don't be reedikalus!") Too bad they’ve already found Brosnan’s replacement!
  • Retro Junk is a cool website featuring movie previews, TV commercials, and TV show openings from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Get nostalgic (and nauseated) by seeing just how corny those shows we used to love really were! Kids Incorporated, Small Wonder, Atari commercials, and much, much more!
  • Speaking of 80’s TV shows, have you been losing sleep over the whereabouts of Willie Aimes, formerly known as Charles in Charge’s best friend, Buddy? Well, worry no more. He’s been saved, and now he’s saving the world! May I introduce to you, BibleMan!
  • Find yourself pining over Emma Watson, who plays Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger? Were you born in 1987 or any year prior? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then this is the site for you. (Politely lifted from Best Week Ever)
  • Having been equipped with StatCounter, I can now see what Internet searches are bringing people to my blog. Sadly, I’ve now realized the mistake of having the word “sucking” in my title. Nevertheless, there are some search queries that are both odd and family-friendly and which somehow drop web surfers into my proverbial lap. As inspired by JL Pagano, here is a sampling:
    • Why oranges rotten
    • Funny dirty words
    • Bouncing ball box shadow illusion
    • Price of oranges in 2005
    • Hallow blocks made of garbage (currently, I’m the #15 MSN result for this search!)
    • What kind of oranges go with a pink carpet? (currently, I’m the #1 MSN result for this search!)
    • Pink pig wearing cheesecake factory (currently, I’m the #10 Google result for this search!)
That is all. (Thanks, Jessica.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 4: Getting to the Point

In Victoria, Canada, Melanie and I stayed at the Laurel Point Inn. It had a slight Japanese influence that made our room the most unique of the honeymoon. Although it was a suite, the room was not particularly large. The bathroom was probably the most luxurious aspect, although the balcony (which was separated from the neighboring rooms only by semi-transparent glass) had a breathtaking view of Inner Harbour and overlooked the hotel’s lush Japanese garden.

Our suite had the most telephones of any room on our trip. There was a phone on the headboard-of-sorts behind the bed, a cordless phone on the desk just in front of the bed, and another telephone right beside the toilet.

The bed, as located just behind the “living room.” If you click on the picture to see a bigger version, you may notice the little beige blob above and between the two pillows. That’s one of the three phones in our suite. About ten or eleven feet away, you can see the black cordless phone on the desk.

Just to give you some perspective, this is a picture from the opposite side of the bed. The room isn’t much wider than this, so you’ve pretty much seen it all.

The marble “coffee table” in the living room. I thought it was cool. I didn’t get a picture of the TV, but it was tiny and pointless if you were lying in bed.

Although I didn’t care much for the room, I thought it had the coolest bathroom of the honeymoon. It was completely tiled with a nice, inset deep-soaker tub on one side and a sleek glass shower on the other. Even the faucet on the tub was way cool. It spit out water in a broad, flat stream that descended at an angle into the tub. Rather than gushing straight down into the tub, it looked like a cascading waterfall. To quote Will Smith, I was jiggy wit it.

The bathroom doors, two Japanese-esque sliding doors (I’m sure there’s a cool architectural name for such things, but don’t ask me). They’re pretty cool, but you can’t lock them so be careful!

The right-side of the bathroom, looking in from the doorway. I can only assume that’s a doggy bed underneath the sink. It was one of many mysteries we encountered on the honeymoon, just like the overly common “shoe mittens” (later realized to be simple shoe-cleaning cloths).

The left-side of the bathroom. Here we see the glass shower, the final telephone, and the remote-controlled television right next to the toilet. Yes, I watched some TV while doing my business, just so I could say I did.

As I said, our balcony had a tremendous view of Inner Harbour and the hotel’s Japanese garden. Let’s take a look!

Here we look west (I believe), just glimpsing the harbor as it meets with two other waterfront hotels. That colorful spectacle in the foreground is the beginning of our hotel’s Japanese garden. Awesome, wouldn’t you say?

A longer, angled look at the pond that makes up the bulk of the Japanese garden. Here, we face east, spying what appear to be apartments or condominiums. Probably pretty pricey ones.

An external shot of the Laurel Point Inn. This was taken from “downtown,” zooming in from across the eastside of the harbor. As you can see, the Victoria Clipper ferries dock right next to our hotel. We had no need to use our taxi vouchers to get from the dock to the hotel or vice versa. It would have been embarrassing to use them.

I had originally planned on also writing about Butchart Gardens with this post. However, that would result in such a long post, I’m sure nobody would read it. But let me assure you, it will mostly be a slideshow, and a pretty darn good one at that. Once we’ve visited Butchart, we can move on to Vancouver, at which point our honeymoon will almost be over. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 25, 2005

That Was Then, Then is Now

Ending posts can be a pain in the rear. Long before the common public had even heard of a modem, I resented the non-imposed-but-very-real pressure to end my journal entries with a satisfactory snap of wit. Now that I’ve climbed aboard the blog bandwagon with its potentially limitless audience, this pressure has only compounded. But rather than kindling a creative spark with ingenious literary results, this has often led me to embrace mediocrity. In my most motivated of moments, you’ll get the obvious pun. The rest of the time, I’m content to close with an “until then…” or some variant thereof.

In no way do I feign originality by addressing this dilemma. In fact, one of the blogs I regularly read made mention of this somewhat recently. (I’m sorry to admit, I couldn’t find the actual posting—I thought I knew where it was, but apparently I didn’t. Feel free to identify yourself, fellow blogger, and claim your due credit.) This person pointed to an article that suggested the classical conciseness of “The End.”

While this is a none-too-shabby method I myself have employed on at least one occasion, I think we can trim the fat even further. Why not just a simple ellipsis? Once the thoughts we intended to share have freely been cast into cyberspace, why not just trail off with a simple dot dot dot? I realize this is what I have been aiming for with the superfluous, “until then…”. But why add the extra words? They serve no purpose. And a “…” must work because I use it again and again posting comments on others’ blogs. The purpose of eloquently flowing into silence is preserved, but the extra verbiage is avoided.

So expect the ellipses to continue, but say goodbye to the “until then”’s. Unless they seem completely necessary, I hereby banish them from this blog. It’s the end of an era, the end of an error, and the welcoming of a new and improved blog. New look, same great taste, etc., etc., etc.…

Monday, November 21, 2005


I’m an incredibly indecisive person. As it is, I have a really hard time picking “favorites.” Favorite foods, favorite movies, favorite books, favorite musicians. Unless you want a really vague response, just don’t ask. And when I force myself to make such lists (as I regularly do on In the Key of Orange), it is not something I take lightly. Even if you asked me to “just go crazy” and list the top five songs of Led Zeppelin as they come to my head, I couldn’t do it. Something inside me prohibits me from taking these things so lightly. Sure, the impromptu uttering of a top-ten list is in no way a binding contract. It is not as though I’ll go to jail for perjury if, in the midst of polite conversation, I unintentionally exclude Steppenwolf from my list of favorite books. But I feel like I will.

Regardless, I do have vague, in-no-particular-order notions of what songs, albums, movies, TV shows, and so on are among my favorites in life. And how do I know? Because I won’t want much to do with them. For years, I have known Barenaked Ladies to be my favorite band of all time (one of only a few things I can say with certainty). I own all their CDs and have been to several of their concerts. And how often am I likely to listen to them? Pretty rarely, really. And how often do I watch my so-called favorite movies? Hardly ever. And I own almost all of them.

The thing is, some things are so good they have to be given your fullest attention. They have to be savored. They are sacred and, like the top ten lists on which they appear, should not be indulged in carelessly. How hard is it to appreciate the scenery of the road you’ve driven down a million times? How hard is it to get excited over a song that’s on the radio almost constantly? Likewise, to overplay your favorite albums or movies is to destroy their grandeur.

Nowadays I have my favorite favorites, and I have my day-to-day favorites. These two categories do not always mix. For example, I often find myself listening to A-Ha’s 1985 album, Hunting High and Low. This is not an album I would ever consider one of my all-time favorites. It would never even occur to me. Yet when I’m browsing through the CDs I’ve ripped to my computer, this one tends to catch my eye quite frequently. And it always hits the spot. Given the evidence, I guess I’d have to say it’s one of my day-to-day favorite albums. So should I list it when I’m asked about my favorite albums?

To facilitate conversation, I’ve taken to recognizing items from both categories. Depending on the situation, I can delve into my day-to-day favorites to give a more accurate account of my listening/watching/reading/eating/etc. habits. If the conversation is more earnest, I can stick with the crème de la crème. The only problem is when you have to make a non-specific list (as in Blogger profiles) that cannot differentiate between love and fervent appreciation. Favorite lists can become ambiguous at this point, but such is their nature when given in-no-particular-order. So why do I still manage to take them so seriously? It must be one of my day-to-day favorite things to do.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 3: Romance Afoot

Victoria, Canada was the highlight of our honeymoon. Not only was it the sole destination we’d never been to before, but it was also the place we spent the most time—a whopping 32 hours! Located on Vancouver Island, the city is very pedestrian friendly, providing all the perks of a metropolis without abandoning its quainter qualities.

But our trip into Canada really begins at Pier 69 in Seattle. There we boarded the Victoria Clipper IV, the surprisingly swift ferry that got us to Victoria in just over two hours. It wasn’t your standard slow-and-scenic-loop-around-the-harbor type of vessel. Most of the time, the ride literally felt as smooth as a car on the interstate. Then there was the absence of a main deck that would allow the majority of passengers to mosey around “outside.” Instead, there was an observation deck that could comfortably fit six to eight people. This didn’t matter much as, once we were outside Seattle, there was little to be seen other than water. We were also given a “champagne breakfast,” which consisted of a miniature bottle of champagne and a breakfast basket of your choice. Melanie and I both went for the Danish and crackers-and-cheese combo. Like all the other choices, it also came with a cereal bar, juice, fruit snacks, and apple slices (instead of the advertised applesauce—though several slices were admittedly mushier than I would have expected). Adding to the thrills was the presence of Rick Steves, PBS travel guide extraordinaire. Mr. Steves appeared sans camera crew, so it took a while to notice a celebrity (yes, I use the term loosely) on board. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of him. Dang.

This gives you some idea of the thrust with which the Victoria Clipper IV moved through the water. Water was spraying out behind us like mad. You’d think we just ran over an orca.

The Victoria Clipper IV docked in Victoria. The observation deck atop looks more accommodating than it was. You can’t see all the crap that would get in the way of walking around it.

When we got to Victoria, the first thing I noticed was how small it was. Thanks to some tourist maps, I was already familiar with the city’s layout, but I had no idea how it would translate in person. When I saw that our hotel was literally next to the pier at which we docked and that the Hotel Empress (Victoria’s famous landmark and unofficial city center) could be walked to in a matter of minutes, I knew we’d do just fine without taxis or a rental car. This proved to be the best aspect of our honeymoon—seeing everything on foot. Being freed from the confines of an automobile allowed us to take in sites at leisure, stopping, turning, and looking around at a moment’s whim and without any concern for parking, crashing, or otherwise causing traffic jams.

Our view from the dock, whilst standing in line to go through customs. That’s the Hotel Empress on the right.

Because we arrived so early in the day, Melanie and I were able to spend several hours on the town. With my Frommer’s guide in hand, we ventured “downtown” for lunch. We chose the supposedly locally famous Sam’s Deli. Ignorant as to the currency exchange rates, we spent about $30 US on cold cut sandwiches, a shared bowl of soup, two cookies, a bottled water, and a can of Pepsi. Determined to eat some kind of seafood during my trip to the great northwest, I had a shrimp and avocado sandwich. Being such mild flavored crustaceans, my sandwich was more texture (cold and goopy) than taste. Melanie’s turkey and avocado sandwich was also so-so. If we had spent even half the price, we would have been fine with it, but it’s definitely not a place I’d voluntarily recommend.

This is the Parliament Building. It has nothing to do with anything in my post, but it’s a tourist attraction nonetheless. It was located about halfway between our hotel and the Hotel Empress, featured above. Melanie took this one, mostly trying to get a picture of the sky.

After walking around a bit, we made a two-mile venture to another Frommer’s hot spot, the Craigdarroch Castle. We arrived just ten minutes before they closed the doors, which meant we had about forty minutes before they would actually kick us out. The battery in our camera was dying, so we didn’t get as many shots as we would have liked. The billiard room and an ornate, hand-carved, black throne-of-a-chair were two particular pieces I wish we could have captured. But I am pleased with the photos we got, most notably an amazing stained-glass window. All in all, it was probably the nicest mansion (re: not a castle) I’ve ever visited, but perhaps a bit underwhelming given our expectations. Still, we had fun, and our long walk to and from the place gave us much time to peruse the city.

Almost every room featured stained glass, but this was by far the most impressive and beautiful. And, being a very amateur photographer, I’m pleased that I was able to capture the luminescence so well. Kudos to me!

Craigdarroch’s unofficial uvula. This odd piece of décor hangs down from the ceiling in the main stairway. I don’t know its significance, but it looks cool. And the lizard seems to be enjoying himself.

This organ was located between floors in a little nook within the stairway (this photo was taken from the same spot as the above photo, only looking down). A cool little niche if you ask me. And, as solid as it looks, that is actually a stained-glass window right above it. Nifty!

The castle and one of its visitors. Wait, is that me? Uh oh, my anonymity is slipping!!

Later in the evening, Melanie and I were both exhausted but once again in need of food. We wanted something a bit more relaxed, perhaps a pub or something with upper-scale casual food. Turning again to Frommer’s, we settled on The Pacific Restaurant, the purportedly laid-back, family-friendly restaurant at the nearby Hotel Grand Pacific. I called to see if it would be easy to get a table, and I was informed that a window table was available and would be saved for us. Impressed, I hung up the phone, and Melanie and I once again took to the street. Upon arriving at The Pacific Restaurant, I realized we had been duped. It was dark. Piano music was playing in the background. The menu featured shucked oysters with raspberry shallot mignonette, Cornish game hens with red onion confit, goat cheese panini, and other seemingly mythological entities. It was a far cry from casual. And the favor of holding a table by the window for us? With only one other party in the restaurant, it was hard to feel flattered. Four or five other tables had an equally generous view of the harbor.

Luckily, the food wasn’t all that bad. At least in my opinion. And the waitress seemed nice enough. I tried the Roasted Moroccan Albacore Tuna Rigatoni, while Melanie strove for casualness with the Jack Daniels Alder-Smoked BBQ Steak Sandwich, which was about as normal as one could get. Even so, it featured shaved Brie gratin, sun-dried plum tomato relish, and was served on a garlic baguette. It cost us about $60 US, and I’m still not sure what exactly I was eating the whole time. There were these chewy ribbons in my food that were a textual cross between linguine and a fruit roll-up. The only similar thing I’ve seen was at the Vancouver Aquarium, which does not exactly put me at ease.

Next time, I’ll tell you about the hotel we actually stayed at and about our trip to the unbelievably beautiful Butchart Gardens (the first of Frommer’s recommendations to actually get it right). This was probably the very coolest place we ever ended up, and I’m excited to share pictures of it. So until then…

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I can only remember laughing in my sleep once in my youth. I was quite young and dreaming in cartoon. The big bad wolf was chasing the three little pigs, and just as the wolf’s jaws were about to snap down on one of the porker’s heads, the pig miraculously transformed into an astronaut. In place of his fat, pink noggin was the astronaut’s helmet. The wolf, whose teeth had just slammed down on hard plastic, was stunned. His plan was foiled, and my infantile mind (I was probably four or five years old at best) delighted in this sudden turn of events. I woke up giggling.

Given the rarity of such somnambulist joviality, I find it interesting that twice in the last seven days, I have woken up in a fit of laughter. Last week, I was dreaming that one of my best friends and I were getting snow cones. Something about the guy who was serving us was incredibly funny. Now that I’m awake, I have no idea what it was. And I’m not 100% sure I ever did. All I know is that, while we weren’t outright teasing the man, I could tell from our fervent attempts not to laugh that he was the butt of our joke. That’s all I can remember.

Last night it happened again, only the laughing was much more intense. Even when I came to full consciousness, I had to take a few moments to chuckle. This time, the dream centered on a magic trick being performed by none other than Fred Willard (I feel I have an extremely high ratio of celebrity “guest appearances” in my dreams—it’s a subject I’ve thought about posting on before, and I probably will someday). The trick went something like this: two little kids climbed under a tarp that was covering a swimming pool. The tarp then transformed into solid ground. The audience was supposed to be in suspense, wondering how the kids would get out of the pool. Fred then went over to a black gym bag sitting on the newly formed ground. He was leading the audience along, reaching into the bag and saying something like, “I wonder what’s in here!” The obvious expectation was that the children would be pulled up out of the bag, presumably coming up through some hole that the bag was covering. However, when Fred pulled his hand out of the bag, he revealed nothing more than a human bone. He screamed in an “oops, that’s not what’s supposed to happen!” type of way. I woke up with guffaws aplenty.

While the humor in these dreams aren’t built upon uplifting moments or anything overtly positive, I can only assume it’s a good sign that I’m having them. To wake up laughing would suggest my life is going pretty well, or so I would hope. Either that or I’m just going crazy. Regardless, I’ve had fun with it and thought I would share. And it also gave me a reason to start a post with the letter z, which is something I’ve never done before. Talk about dreams coming true!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 2: Off to See the Wizard

The day after Melanie and I got married, we flew to Seattle. It was really an overnight detour on the way to our ultimate goal—a ferry ride into Victoria, Canada—but the 8am sailing time prevented us from taking a flight on the same day. While staying in Seattle was a practical necessity, Melanie and I were more than happy to spend a few hours there. And to frost the cake, our hotel came compliments of my father’s Holiday Inn rewards points. Since we would have flown into Seattle anyway, all this extra night of fun cost us was the price of dinner, and we would have done that had we stayed home. In short, we had a free ticket to the Emerald City.

Funny enough, our free hotel room ended up being one of our favorites. We had less choice about where to stay than at any other point on our honeymoon, but we couldn’t have been more pleased. We stayed at the downtown Crowne Plaza. We were given a room on the 32nd floor with a fantastic view of the city. In one direction you were greeted by the towering cityscape; in the other, you saw the humbler side of the metropolis, with old buildings, aged churches, and, further in the distance, residential neighborhoods. And for the little boy in me, there was the quirk of an elevator equipped with a card reader. Rather than push the floor you’d like to go to, you simply swiped your room “key” and the elevator knew where to take you. Magical!

The only half-decent picture of or from our hotel. Notice my wife hiding behind the TV cabinet. But was she hiding from the camera or from me? Hmmm.

While visiting the city two years ago, Melanie and I had eaten at The Cheesecake Factory, a delicious chain restaurant of upper-middleclass proportions. With Utah being devoid of this fine eatery, we were quite eager to return. As luck would have it, it was just a few blocks from our hotel. After settling into our room, we took a short and enjoyable walk to the restaurant. It was loud and crowded. We had to wait several minutes just to get to the counter to put our names on the waitlist. When we finally reached the hostess, we were told it would be a fifty-minute wait. But just as we were turning to join the hungry horde of loiterers, a manager came up and asked if we were both over 21. Because of all the noise, I thought he was asking us if we belonged to a group already seated in the restaurant. I was about to say “no” when, fortunately for us, my wife, who has much better hearing than I do, answered in the affirmative. He then told us that a table for two had opened up in the bar area, which was first-come, first-serve, and that if we wanted it, it was ours. We wanted it.

For those who don’t know, The Cheesecake Factory offers tons of selections. Their menu is something like twenty pages long. For an indecisive person such as myself, this can be quite a challenge. But alas, choices were made, and excellent ones at that. We started with the ultra-delicious avocado eggrolls with Thai peanut dipping sauce (pictured below). I then had a chicken and potatoes type meal while Melanie had a spicy pasta dish with chicken. They were both exquisite. But of course the restaurant’s true claim to fame lies in their overwhelming selection of cheesecakes. Melanie had the Toblerone® Swiss Almond Cheesecake while I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie-Dough Cheesecake. Stuffed as we were, we took the cheesecake to go and headed back to the hotel.

The Cheesecake Factory’s uber-delectable avocado eggrolls. They’re upper-middleclassalicious!

When we got back to the room, I wanted to take a quick, cool shower before throwing on a complimentary bathrobe and climbing into bed to relax and enjoy my dessert. I basked in the luxury of it all. My only disappointment, which was minimal, was discovering that my cheesecake was thoroughly chocolate. I realize the name should have tipped me off, but I guess I had just expected chocolate swirls or something. I’m not a big chocolate fan, so this wasn’t really the style I was hoping for. Still, it was tasty. Very rich, but tasty.

The Seattle Cheesecake Factory shortly after two thoroughly gorged honeymooners depart the premises.

And that does it. That was our simple night in Seattle. Not much to it as there wasn’t much time to be had. But it was a lovely, easygoing way to spend the evening before our early morning commute. Because of the simplicity of the evening, there are limited pictures to share. All attempts at scenic photography failed miserably. But, to get a better idea of the hotel, feel free to click here for its webpage. I promise that tales of Canada will be more interesting, as will the pictures. Until then…

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Potpourri No. 8

Another honeymoon tale will soon be posted. For now, I will yet again catch you up on some recent events. Sadly, they are not all positive.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink
After finally getting my dishwasher fixed (or replaced, rather), there seems to be a problem with the kitchen sink. There’s a leak—not just a drip, mind you, but an all-out pouring—whenever we turn on the water. Particularly fond of draining into the cabinet below is our garbage disposal. The sad thing is, this makes our ability to wash dishes even more disaster prone than when our dishwasher was broken. After all, then we could at least wash dishes by hand. But now, whether using the dishwasher or our bare hands, using the water means a flood beneath the sink. Do I really need to articulate my frustration with this place? And I haven’t even publicized the broken toilet and lack of hot water, which existed when Melanie and I first took over the place. Luckily those were fixed before we were actually living here, but they still took a week-and-a-half to get them done. I’m seriously beginning to feel swindled.

Sawing Blogs
Not that it will matter to most, but I’ve removed Orange Theology and In the Key of Orange from my profile. The pages still exist—and, in fact, they have recently been updated—but I don’t want them listed on my profile. Then again, I don’t want people to think they disappeared because they are no longer listed. So why have I done this? Because I consider Sucking on Oranges to be the main page, the primordial hub from which all other blogs of orangeness sprang. To visit these other fine pages, just click on the links found to your right. Or, do as thousands of others have done and bookmark them today!

If you’re looking for something interesting to do around the Web, let me offer a few suggestions. For starters, I’ve added just a couple of new blogs to my sidebar. Give them a look if you’re feeling antsy. If those don’t satisfy your cravings, take a look at some of these online oddities of late:
  • Are you familiar with the newly elected mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan? Do you think he won with the promise of new vending machines in the lunchroom? Hmmm.
  • Is Swearing Wrong? Student philosophers shoot the $#!^ here.
  • If you peruse the newly added blogs on my sidebar, you’ll meet Jessica Benet. And if you meet her, she’ll introduce you to the Diva Cup. Make sure you check out the official Diva Cup site, as linked to in her post. One thing’s for sure—unless you wish you hadn’t, you’ll be glad you did!
  • Not quite ready for the Diva Cup? Perhaps you’ll prefer the professional appearance of this parody webpage promoting premenstrual tampons for pre-teens. Can you say that ten times fast?
  • Gary Larson once speculated that the real reason dinosaurs went extinct was lung cancer. Maybe he wasn’t that far off! Check out the surprising sponsors in this cigarette commercial!
That’s it!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Dishwasher Safe (Finally!)

I interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this important announcement. Ladies and gentleman, Mr. and Mrs. K now have a working dishwasher. Or at least, so it seems. Perhaps I ought not jinx it by sharing this momentous achievement in the midst of a wash cycle, but I can scarce contain my glee. Then again, you will not be able to share in my joy if I don’t first share the preliminary tale of woe. And so, let me digress…

Although it has been just over a month since Melanie and I took possession of our new apartment, we have only been living here for about a week and a half. That’s because we spent October moving stuff in and getting the place ready for our post-honeymoon occupancy. Now that the honeymoon is over, we’re finally attempting to live life as normal. And, blessed as I was at my previous residence, life as normal has always included a dishwasher. Like many people, I hate washing dishes more than any other household chore (perhaps because it’s one of the few chores I’ve spent much time doing, but still). When we found this apartment, we were wooed long (or at least a few seconds) before spying the dishwasher, and it was with sincerest gratitude that, last Friday, I finally loaded it up and took it for a test spin.

Perhaps I should have been more suspicious when the appliance sounded more like a garbage disposal than any dishwasher I’d ever known. But, after checking to see if a spoon had somehow dropped down into a gear or something, I was convinced it must just be a quirk unique to our particular model. Sure, it was obnoxiously loud, but at least it was working. And who knows, maybe it was just working out a few kinks after going unused for a while. It’s not like I had any idea how long our apartment had been vacant before we nabbed it. Maybe the dishwasher just needed some time to “wake up” and get back to its normal routine.

Fast forward thirty minutes. Journeying to the bathroom, I suddenly notice a large circle of wet carpet smack dab in the middle of the hall, just below the closet that houses our water heater. More skeptical than panicked at this point, I open the closet door and inspect the tiles directly surrounding the water heater. They’re completely dry. Odd. I return my attention to the carpet and follow the swelling expanse to its only possible origin—the heater vent. Peering closer, I find a thin stream of water trickling from the metallic slats. It’s as though the Hoover Dam has been miniaturized and jokingly transported to my hallway by an evil genie. Hmmm.

With a sickened sense of expectation, I look to the kitchen door. A tiny peninsula of dampened carpet smiles back at me. Moving closer, I find in place of my kitchen a linoleum lagoon. Instinctively, I claw for the lever on the dishwasher door and pull it towards me, stopping it in its soggy tracks. I pull open the door, as though discovering some obvious problem (that I’d somehow missed before) will magically turn back time and prevent the partial soiling of my home. And what do I find? A quiet, undisturbed sanctuary of dry, dirty dishes. In stark contrast to my newly acquired wetlands, there is not a drop of precipitation to be found inside the dishwasher. I’m bugged. I’m befuddled. I’m balding – which has nothing to do with a broken dishwasher, but since I’m complaining anyway….

Needless to say, I head straight to the phone and dial up the main office of my corporate landlord. In what I’m quickly learning is an unfortunate set of circumstances, my landlord does not live on the premises. Rather, my building is owned by a corporation that owns dozens (if not baker’s dozens) of rental units across the city. I was hoping that such a situation would ensure professionalism, but so far it has only made me feel detached. And so it was when I told them of the partial flooding of my apartment. I was politely informed that, because it was after 3pm, chances were slim that somebody could come over that same day. Instead, I should expect the problem to be fixed sometime on Monday.

I was exasperated, but ultimately helpless. I mopped up the floor, sopped up the carpet, and plopped myself onto the couch. Sure, the water had been taken care of, but what about the smell? An overwhelming stench had accompanied the flood and was beginning to permeate every room of the apartment. I thought it was the unavoidable result of dampened carpet, but I quickly learned the smell was much worse in the carpetless kitchen. Could it be the wood of the cabinets somehow? No matter. At least it would be gone by Monday afternoon.

When Monday afternoon had come and just about gone, we had not yet heard from anyone regarding the dishwasher. I called our landlord. I was told that someone would check on the status of the work order and get back to me shortly. By Tuesday afternoon, when still no one had gotten in touch with me, I called again. All I got was an answering machine, assuring a prompt reply. I left a message explaining the situation, making it clear that I expected a fixed dishwasher sometime that day, and informing them to call me back as soon as possible. When an hour and a half had passed and still no one had called me back, I tried again. Once again, I got the answering machine. I regurgitated the same information from my previous message, hung up, and waited just over an hour before giving them yet another call.

This time I spoke to a real (supposedly) human being. I was told that my being ignored was a total surprise, as someone should have responded long ago. Nevertheless, she would make sure someone came over within the next couple of days and get the problem fixed. Nearly ready to scream, I told her that I was guaranteed a working dishwasher on Monday, not Thursday, and that I had already had to call numerous times just to get nothing done. She promised she’d see what could be done and, feeling hopeless, I hung up.

Much to my surprise, a repairman showed up at my apartment not much later. He only tinkered around for about ten minutes before pronouncing his victory over the machine’s maladies. Excitedly, I re-started the dishwasher. It was still loud and grinding, but—perhaps due to my wishful thinking—it did sound a little bit better.

But it wasn’t. Ten minutes later, a small pool of water was spreading across the kitchen floor. Furious, I immediately called the landlord and, yet again, was forced to leave a message. Desperately I pleaded with the non-existent entity on the other end of the line. I begged that, if it were at all possible, the repairman be contacted before he was out of the vicinity. I hung up the phone, willing the slackers at the corporate office to turn from their computer solitaire just long enough to hear my one message. Now. Now! Now!

But my efforts were in vain. Nobody called back. It would be the middle of the next morning before I’d get in touch with a live person. And much to my depleted delight, they did get somebody out here right away. And a different person, thankfully. Of course, all this person did was assess the problem and tell me it would be fixed the next day, but at least he seemed competent. And at least I wouldn’t have to call anyone again (knock on wood).

Thursday morning, the repairman showed up just as he promised. He dislodged the dishwasher, revealing the source of the horrific odor. Sludge of some unknown source had completely coated the floor beneath the appliance. As I sat in the corner and choked, the repairman/hero used a snow shovel to remove the grime. It took a staggering two trips to the garbage can to completely rid my home of this foe. This placated me enough that, when the repairman announced he needed yet another part and would have to return tomorrow, I was more than grateful. Apparently, they suspect a mouse had chewed through some of the pumps and seals and whatnot. Who knows for sure.

Today, as I got home from school, I noticed my dishwasher had a new appendage—a button offering me the option to “temperature boost” my wash cycle. The repairman had promised me that, if he couldn’t obtain the necessary part for my dishwasher, he would replace the entire unit with a dishwasher from another (presumably vacant) apartment. The new button tells me this is what happened. And I couldn’t be happier. Praying for divine intervention, I started my new dishwasher and began writing this post. As it turns out, the cycle is already complete and the dishes are sparkling. The floor is dry, but my eyes are flooded with tears of joy. Finally, I can get on with my life.

Finally, my life is dishwasher safe.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 1: A Grand Experience

Months ago, Melanie and I made reservations at The Grand America Hotel for our wedding night. Generally content to stay in such modest accommodations as a Super 8 Motel or Holiday Inn Express, Melanie and I had splurged and reserved not just a room, but a luxury suite at the city’s finest hotel. Pulling up to the main entrance of the hotel, we were immediately greeted by a charming bellhop who promptly unloaded our luggage and had our car valet parked. Making our way through the palatial lobby, Melanie and I reached the front desk, still dressed in our full wedding day regalia, and gave them Melanie’s maiden name, under which the reservation had been made.

“Hmmm,” the woman at the front desk said after spending some time clicking and typing various bits of information into the computer. “I don’t see it. Could it be under another name?” Although we felt relatively certain we had made the reservation under my wife’s maiden name, we offered them my surname. “Nothing,” the woman said. “Do you have a confirmation number?”

I did have a confirmation number. It was tucked neatly away in one of the bags the gracious bellhop had just taken from us. “Keep looking,” I said as I made my way back outside the hotel. Luckily, the bellhop was right there. He led me to a room where our luggage sat in limbo, waiting for a room assignment before reaching its destination. I felt particularly tacky reneging, at least partially, on the bellhop protocol. As it was, I had already stiffed the guy when it came to a tip because I had no cash on my person. But I promised I’d come back later and make it up to him and, with my bag in hand, made my way back to the front desk.

As it turned out, they had dropped a letter from Melanie’s maiden name, making the reservation difficult to find. But the confirmation number quickly resolved the issue and, soon enough, Melanie and I found ourselves in a 22nd floor suite.

The hotel certainly strove for lavishness. It is no surprise that a simpleton such as myself would experience a few firsts here. For starters, they had offered us complimentary bottled water and cookies (non-bottled) while we were checking in. But the room itself had many unique features. Among them was a doorbell, a separate marble tub and glass shower, a scale (although I don’t know who, in the midst of a supposed vacation, would want to worry about weight), and complimentary bathrobes. Then there was the service, which was top notch. It seemed that everyone in the hotel, both that evening and the next morning, knew who we were. We were congratulated by almost every employee we looked at, and when Melanie and I went out for a stroll later in the evening, the original bellhop greeted us as Mr. and Mrs. K. What a memory! (And yes, I did finally give him a tip.)

More impressive than anything else was our balcony view. It looked directly down into a picturesque (it’s true, I even took pictures) courtyard, as well as offering a handsome view of the city (just east of the city center). The photo below is of the courtyard at approximately 5am, when Melanie and I woke up for no good reason and decided to goof off on the balcony. The next shot is (obviously) a daytime shot of the city view. Should you be interested in useless trivia, that main white building on the bottom left is the city courthouse. The gothic building surrounded by trees is called the City and County Building. So what, eh?

Melanie and I had a great time on our first night, but, as fancy as it was, the best was yet to come. Oh, except at 7am when the alarm clock in the hotel went off. Apparently somebody forgot to turn it off that morning. Or else they were playing a mean joke on the next guests. As sleep is apt to do, our main priority whenever the alarm sounded was simply to shut it up. And so, we ended up pushing snooze until about 748am, when we finally turned it off for good.

To conclude, I will offer a few more pictures. The first is the sexy marble tub and glass shower. The second is the sink. Not much to it, but it gives you an idea. Everything was gold. Gold equals fancy, you see.

Next is the living room, complete with the remains of our room service dinner. As you can see, the décor is a bit grandma-ish, but the couch and everything was very comfortable.

This is a sampling of the wet bar. Despite the temptation to eat something just because we’re not used to having a wet bar, we left it intact. And it’s a good thing. According to their price list, those normal sized bags of M&Ms cost $3 each. Jiggawhat? Yeah, that’s right.

Thanks for tuning in. I probably won’t blab at such lengths with subsequent honeymoon posts. I’ll try to keep it simple and to the (interesting) point, and perhaps keep it more picture based so you have something to do besides read. If you’d like to see more pictures of the Grand America, simply click here to visit their site. Until then…

Monday, October 31, 2005

All Hollow's Eve

I expected my next blog entry to deal with my honeymoon. Instead, I’ve decided to intersperse my tales-from-the-honeymoon series with other “regular” posts, so as to keep things fresh and titillating for my readers. (Aren’t “fresh and titillating” the exact words that always come to your mind when you read my blog???)

And so it is that, inspired my dearest mother’s most recent post, I have decided to examine my thoughts on Halloween. It is a day that, for an incredibly mature adult such as myself, has very little aesthetic appeal. Not once this year, nor in any year of recent memory, has the thought of relishing in Halloween festivities even occurred to me. I’m as likely to skip past the overflowing Halloween displays at my local grocery store as I am the feminine hygiene products. It is adverse to my very nature to even consider pausing to peruse such paraphernalia.

Lest you think this is the adult in me talking, I have no memory of extreme Halloween excitement existing within me as a child. I have vague notions of delighting in my costume year after year, but never did I ecstatically await the end of the month once October rolled around. Never did I foam at the mouth as I anticipated my early evening descent into the city streets, eager to claim my bounteous booty of bubble gum, Blow Pops, and Baby Ruths. And never, even when the said spoils had been seized, did I struggle with eating them in moderation. The only items to tease my tastebuds were candy bars, and even then I was an exclusionist—nougat-dominant bars such as Milky Way and Three Musketeers had no place in my diet, nor did chocolate-only confections (a plain Hershey’s or, heaven forbid, a Special Dark). In all likelihood, 96% of my candy would end up in the garbage sometime around Valentine’s Day.

No, the only Halloween excitement for me was donning a new identity, whether it was the Purple Pie Man or a punk rocker, a classic Mafia man or Dr. Pickanose (a character of my own making, complete with novelty Groucho Marx eyewear), a hermaphroditic devil or a Greek god of beauty (wrapped in a toga made of Rainbow Brite bed sheets). But as I’ve gotten older, the only costumes that sound clever enough to be worth wearing are also not worth the time and/or effort necessary to obtain them. (The only temptation I have had is dressing up as Socrates, because I am a philosophy guy, and having my wife dress up as Play-Doh, because she is a Kindergarten teacher. Because this pairing would not only provide a clever play on words but would also utilize our personal interests, it is the most worthwhile idea had in years. But even still, we haven’t bothered.)

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not anti-Halloween or anything. If I see a kid reveling in the occasion, I’m going to find it cute. I might, every other year or so, go to a haunted house or rent a theoretically scary movie, just because the excuse is there. When I have my own kids, I certainly expect to get caught up in their excitement. And, even now, Halloween affords me the annual tradition of eating hearty beef stew and delectable Parmesan breadsticks at my in-laws’ house. This is a tradition I look forward to and would be sad to miss. But, in and of itself, the holiday seems rather pointless. It may very well be the first holiday I’d give up if one had to be relinquished. Heck, you don’t even get a day off work or school (unless you live in Nevada, where the state’s “birthday” is October 31st). Maybe if I had more of a sweet tooth, I could find the onslaught of candy worthwhile. As it is, I find All Hallow’s Eve fairly hollow.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Introducing Mr. & Mrs. K

What an exciting few weeks it’s been. I’ve gone from living on my own, to living with my parents, to living with my wife (!). In the past eight days alone, I’ve slept in seven different beds. I’ve been on airplanes, buses, ferries, taxis, and choo-choo trains. I’ve checked and claimed (and packed) my baggage almost as many times as I’ve brushed my teeth! And now—finally—I’m simmering down into a newfound sense of “everyday life” that is simultaneously foreign and utterly familiar. It’s splendid and wonderful and not altogether real. Yes, I feel like I went to a wedding recently, but was it really mine? Crazy!

The wedding and the honeymoon went off (almost) without a hitch, except of course for actually getting hitched. It’s funny to think the whole thing is over after months of preparation. No more will wedding plans occupy my thoughts. No more will I readily find excuses for avoiding the stresses of academia. In fact, I’ve already taken a Latin test since my return, and tomorrow I will be tested in Greek. If it weren’t for living in a new apartment, you could probably convince me that the whole wedding was a dream, at least during the daytime hours when my wife is off being the breadwinner.

I hope the honeymoon will provide some interesting reading over the next several posts. I’ll probably make a single post out of each day of the trip. And yes, I’ve got plenty of photos to engage all my loyal ADD readers. But, to whet your appetite, I’ll share some photos from the wedding day itself. To protect my highly-prized anonymity, I won’t be sharing anything terribly interesting, but still.

To begin with, here is a picture of the wedding cake. It turned out even more beautiful than we could have imagined. And I like this photo, which comes courtesy of Amie-J. The lighting gives a very classical feel to it all. Very cool.

Here’s my wife’s bouquet. We asked for a variety of flowers in a variety of purples. We weren’t completely sure what to expect, but it turned out beautifully. Don’t you agree?

And finally, here is where we had our wedding luncheon. The food was great, although the portions were considerably smaller than I expected. Still, no complaints. It served our purposes rather well. We only had about 60 guests, and we all fit snugly into one upstairs room.

There you have it. More photos and stories to come. And I promise they won’t be completely boring, “here is the hotel” type of photos. I’ll try to say something interesting. Until then…

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bye, Bye Bachelorhood

Unless something goes completely kooky, this will be my last post until after I return from my honeymoon. It’s coming down to the final 36 hours or so, and after a week of non-stop mayhem and stress, I am finally relaxing enough to get re-excited. Almost everything that needs to be done is done, and what hasn’t been done is, at this point, such a lost cause that I’ve given up worrying about it. So I’m finally able to focus on what really matters to me and what really brings me joy—beginning my life with Melanie. It’s a welcome change, as school has been nothing but a frustration yet again. Unfortunately, I’ll be coming back from my honeymoon to two tests with only about a day to prepare for them. I know I’ll be hating it at that point, but, in the meantime, I’m more than happy to have put my academic concerns on hiatus.

Speaking of my honeymoon, I originally promised to give more details about it, which I never did. From time to time, I’ve made brief asides that allude to my honeymoon plans, but I’ve yet to give details ... until now. Despite the delay, I’m quite enthusiastic to share them. If the honeymoon plans are executed with the same finesse and quality of service with which they were setup, it’s going to be an awesome trip. I’ve been nothing but impressed with the companies I’ve dealt with, and, at the risk of jinxing everything, I’ll go ahead and start promoting them now. Should the honeymoon turn out to be a disaster, I’m sure you’ll hear about it soon enough.

Day one: Melanie and I will be staying locally, but luxuriously. We’ll be staying downtown at The Grand America Hotel, arguably the fanciest hotel in Salt Lake City. We’ll be staying in a suite, complete with a private balcony, bathrobes and slippers, and an Italian marble bathroom. Should we be so inclined, room service will be available 24-hours-a-day. There’s also two separate swimming pools, one indoor and one outdoor. The outdoor pool is probably closed for the season, but it exists. Fancy, eh?

Day two: Melanie and I fly to Seattle where, compliments of my father’s hotel club bonus points, we’ll be staying in a downtown hotel for absolutely free!

Day three: Melanie and I catch a ferry to Victoria, Canada. We’ll probably freeze—it’ll be a particularly wet time of the year, even for the Pacific Northwest—but it should be a beautiful trip. And Victoria, according to those who have been there, is absolutely gorgeous. We have to get to the pier first thing in the morning, which won’t be fun. But it’s one of our favorite areas on the continent, and we’re willing to put up with some heavy-duty cuddling to keep warm. We’re newlyweds, after all!

In Victoria, we’ll be staying at the Laurel Point Inn. We’ll be right on the water, in a suite with a (supposedly) spectacular view. Again, we’ll have a private balcony, a marble bathroom, and, in lieu of bathrobes, kimonos. Should we wish to further broaden our cultural experience, there’s also a Japanese garden onsite!

Day four: At our own leisure, Melanie and I catch one of the many daily ferries going from Victoria to Vancouver. Upon arrival in Vancouver, we’ll check in at the Marriott Vancouver Pinnacle Downtown. Given that this will be the most casual hotel of our trip, we’re quite blessed. Yet again, we’re promised a room with a view of the water.

Day five: Our vacation package (purchased through the fine folks at Clipper Vacations) includes tickets to the Vancouver Aquarium. Aside from that, we’ll be living spontaneously. We don’t depart Vancouver until 9pm, when we catch a train back to Seattle. Sadly, the sun will probably have set, obscuring what would otherwise be an awe-inspiring view as we travel back into the States. We’ll get to Seattle fairly late, spending our final night in the hip and contemporary Hotel Ändra. Our suite once again offers complimentary robes, but we’re getting a large, flat-screen television instead of a water view. Given our late arrival time, neither would get much use, so that’s fine by us. The unique decor promises to be charming enough. It’ll be a fun place for the honeymoon to conclude.

As stated, our vacation package was purchased through Clipper Vacations, and it includes not only hotels and the Vancouver Aquarium, but the ferries, train, and several taxis as well. Melanie and I definitely feel we got a good deal, and the customer service representative I spoke with was phenomenal. He asked us where we were staying on nights that weren’t part of the package and freely offered suggestions for getting to and from such places. He also said to call him if a concierge is ever less-than-helpful, or if we simply want dining suggestions, etc. In short, he offered as much information as he could, even when it wasn’t part of what he was selling me. He put me completely at ease, and I appreciate that.

Naturally, I’ll be telling you all about it when I return. And, if all goes well, I should have ample pictures of the hotels, the scenery, and anything else worth noting. I’ll do my best to make you jealous. But until then, it’s on with the wedding. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be a married man. There’ll be a Mrs. K in my life. Our new apartment will give birth to most of my blogs of the future. It will be a new life. Crazy. So until I’m a husband, take care....

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Home Bittersweet Home

Benny K here, coming to you live from my parents’ house. I’m just past the half-week mark of again living with those who begat me. The transition, I am pleased to say, has been relatively smooth. I sleep comfortably, I am well fed, and, despite my initial concerns, my homework responsibilities have been maintained with diligence. The only downside is an unavoidable lack of organization, since most of my stuff is now located in the new apartment though I am living here. While I have only brought along the basics, it is laundry—both clean and dirty—that most readily poses a threat to the limited space consigned to me. Then again, having ready access to a (free!) washer and dryer almost compensates. I’ve done more wash in the last 24 hours than I have done in months. Oh, I probably shouldn’t admit that....

Truth be known, it’s been kind of fun hanging out with everyone. Rather than spending my “lunch breaks” parked in front of a television alone, I can now enjoy the company of those I hold dear. Even if this still results in watching crappy daytime television, at least I have someone at whom I can roll my eyes. It’s kind of nice. When I leave here in just over a week, I’m sure I’ll be sad to lose that. I’m sure I’ll feel the loss of being a witness to my family’s life, rather than someone who just gets the biweekly recaps and abridged best-of’s. And I’m hoping, just hoping, that perhaps my presence is a positive one for them as well, for whatever it may be worth.

Well, the move from my old apartment to the new apartment went lickety-split thanks to the many recruited volunteers. My brother, his wife, their son, and their son’s friend lent eight wonderfully helping hands, as did Melanie’s mother and father (well, they only lent four, but I’m sure they’d have lent all eight if they were born mutants). Due to the overwhelming abundance of help, it seemed my old apartment was empty before I had much cognizance of what had happened. I guess you couldn’t ask for it to go much better than that. Now that the new place is chock full of familiar items, I can see just how easily it will feel like home. I’m very excited about this, and I’m glad Melanie and I have made the “goofy” decision to leave the premises (biologically) vacant until we return from our honeymoon an official married couple. We don’t want it to feel like either one of us is just moving in with the other. We want it to feel like our home from the get-go. So far, so good.

I guess that’s it for now. My birthday, as humble as it may have been compared to many years past, was one of the best ever. Melanie and I got some chores done (I’ve been fitted for a tux, so all we have left to do is get a sign-in book for the luncheon), and then we went to dinner and a movie, as I so amazingly predicted in my last post. There weren’t many movies to pique my interest, and I didn’t want a heavy drama on my day of celebration, so we went for the romantic comedy Just Like Heaven. It lacked development and thus was ho-hum until the last few minutes, which were finally somewhat entertaining. Mark Ruffalo, despite the thinness of his character, pulled out some charm, so that made it watchable. After the movie, we celebrated the rarity of going to dinner by partaking of Tony Roma’s all-you-can-eat ribfest. Gluttony ensued, at least on my part. Sadly I missed out on what could have been the neatest experience of the night—Gary Coleman was dining at the table directly next to ours. I actually heard his voice and thought it sounded familiar, but I dismissed it and never noticed who it was. When his party dismissed, the waitress was excited to ask us if we noticed whom we were sitting by. When we said no, she excitedly gave us the whole spiel, which of course didn't amount to much, except that, apparently, Mr. Coleman lives in Utah.


Friday, October 07, 2005


Being the weirdo I am, I take note of such insignificant matters as what letters have or have not been used as the first letter in the title of one of my posts. After today, the only letters I won’t have used as a first letter are U, V, and Z. Those will have to come, but for today, I finally found a way to start with the letter X, and that is by celebrating my 27th birthday, Roman style.

Originally, I didn’t think I would announce my birthday on here. You know, protect my anonymity and discourage identity theft by keeping myself as enigmatic as possible. Now anyone who reads this will know right away that my birthday is October 7, 1978. But what’s the sense in living in paranoia? Anyone who would make the effort to find out more information on me, thus making my birth date even slightly useful, could probably have done so without the assistance of my blog. I’ll save my regret for the day I end up like one of those people in the Citibank commercials. Until then, I'll enjoy sharing my day with my cyberfriends.

So what’s on the agenda for my “big day”? Sadly, it’s much more chore-oriented than I would like. But I guess that’s okay. It’s started off well enough. My fiancée bought me some Krispy Kreme to be sweet. I’ve already eaten the original glazed, but I still have left a raspberry Bismarck (does this really have to be capitalized? My word processor seems to think so) and a cinnamon apple filled (which is probably my favorite of the Krispy Kreme clan). And we’ll probably go out to dinner and a movie tonight, which, after a month of frugality, will seem very special. Other than that, I need to do some shopping, get fitted for a tuxedo, and probably move more of my stuff. I have until tomorrow night to be completely out of here, but there’s still more left than I would like at this point. Oh well.

But to give my readers a bit more substance, aren’t birthdays a funny thing once you’re out of high school? It is at this point that age becomes ambiguous. Once you can’t fall back on what grade you’re in to give you an automatic chronological framework for your life, it’s hard to remember how old you are. You honestly have to stop and think about it for a minute. In college (and in the work field), your peers are all different ages, so there’s nothing to go on. In fact, being 27, I sometimes remember that, for all I know, my fellow students think of me as “the older guy.” Not because 27 is all that old, but because I have a receding hairline and a beard and, ever since my early 20’s, some people have honestly assumed I’m in my early 30’s. So it’s weird to think I’m chatting it up with these 20-year-olds that I think of as being the same age as I am, and maybe they’re thinking they’re talking to the “middle-aged” guy in class or something. Then again, there are students I have assumed are younger than me that have ended up being older. So I probably shouldn’t assume so much of myself, even if negatively so.

Okay, that’s my attempt at deep thinking for this week. Give me a break, it’s my birthday. And it's early, and I'm tired, because I got up early. So I'm very rambly. Deal with it. Maybe in my next post, I’ll discuss my social security number.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Potpourri No. 7

  • To those who donate incredibly generous bags of groceries to hungry friends, know that you are incredibly appreciated and loved. Thank you for your overwhelming kindness.
  • I’m down to the last few nights in my apartment. While the summers can be quite miserable here, overall I have been quite happy to call this place home. Many developments have taken place while I’ve lived inside these walls, and I’ve learned much about myself and my dreams and goals in life. I will be sad to leave the general downtown area, and I will miss the quick and easy accessibility to campus. It is with mixed emotions that I will leave (though when I’m doing the final cleaning, sadness will probably be the primary emotion). It will certainly be an interesting experiment to live at home again for the two weeks prior to my wedding. Has anyone seen the Albert Brooks film, Mother? Not that one has to do with the other, of course…. (It is a good film, though, so feel free to check it out.)
  • Speaking of film, someone has edited a new trailer (i.e., movie preview) for Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1980 horror flick, The Shining. This is an absolute must-see for anyone familiar with the film. The end result, comprised entirely from clips of the original, is a Shining fit for the whole family—a lighthearted family drama with plenty of comedic moments. I have seen this alternative approach trailer in a few places around the Web, but in the interest of promoting the blog of a personal friend, I will give kudos to Marginalia. However, to save you the effort of clicking a mouse button more than once, you can simply click here to download the file. It’ll take a few minutes, but I command you to do it.
  • I’m starting to get a sore throat. I haven’t been sick in a long time, it seems, and I’m not really all that interested in doing it now. Bummerrama, as I so often say in “real” life.
  • I have been reading a handful of new (to me, anyway) blogs lately. I usually test them out for a little while before I’ll slap ‘em onto my sidebar, but keep your eyes peeled. There may be two or three new links soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Starving for Attention

September is finally reaching its end. This is good news for me, who, due to recent wedding expenditures, has found myself in a virtual state of poverty. Okay, this might be a slight exaggeration, as I do have my most basic of needs met. But, when it comes to grocery shopping, September has been an exercise in restraint. Quite literally, I have limited myself to buying only bread and milk this month (that’s right, not even Mountain Dew!). One time I did splurge and buy some pepperoni and French bread to make homemade pizza, but other than that, I have limited myself to what’s on the shelf, save for the milk and bread.

In many ways, this has done me some good. I am finally eating food that has been stockpiled in my cupboards for months and, in some cases, for years. No, I’m not kidding. Such choice items include Ramen Noodles, a plethora of breakfast cereals, and, as I happen to be having for lunch today, Fiddle Faddle®.

I have also basked much in the generosity of family and friends. It turns out a starving child is ten times more likely to visit his parents, or so I have gathered. Thanks to the generosity of these fine people, I have had the pleasure of dining on everything from Belgian waffles to soft-shell tacos to chicken strips to General Tao’s chicken. Not so bad for a month of economic struggle. Why, I’ve even discovered (thanks to a donation from my mother) that albacore tuna is like steak compared to the tuna I have always eaten. Thanks, Mom!

As I prepare to move out of my apartment, I’m sure I’ll be glad to have used up much of the food that resides here. I just wish I were more excited about eating it. Denied the fresh ingredients that could literally and figuratively spice up my culinary lifestyle, I am reduced to eating pre-packaged products once purchased for the sake of ease, but often overlooked for something more scrumptious, whether homemade or (in my more affluent days) dining out.

Oh well. Here’s to better times. I’d give an official toast, but all I have is water. Sorry.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

An Amazing Night for Television

Just a reminder, tonight is the debut of The Amazing Race (it's on CBS @ 9pm on the coasts, 8pm Central and Mountain). It is one of the only television shows I would strongly recommend, and I urge anyone and everyone who has not seen it to sample its wares before crossing it off your list. I realize "reality" TV is not for everyone. It seems to carry a stigma that is not altogether unjustified. I dare say The Amazing Race is an exception.

There isn't much more I can do. The choice is now in your hands, gentle readers. I hope you will make the right decision.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Going Postal

Although I recently reported that everything was going incredibly smoothly when it comes to wedding plans, Melanie and I have finally had our first snafu. Not that it was something horrible, but it was the first thing to be even somewhat problematic. Believe me, I’m not trying to complain. I couldn’t be happier with the way everything is turning out. Or at least not that much happier. But, to fill you in, here’s the shamelessly long story:

As most of you probably know, the United States Postal Service has machines that “read” most of the envelopes that come through their system. This impressive bit of technology allows the separating of mail to be, at least to a large extent, fully automated. Because this has proved such a valuable time saver for the USPS, anyone wanting to mail a sqaure envelope—a shape that alludes the technological prowess of the mail-reading machines—is subsequently punished by paying an extra twelve cents per parcel. Melanie and I were already aware of this extra cost when we ordered our wedding announcements. We knew they would cost $.49 a piece to be mailed. But, to be honest, we were more than happy to pay the extra postage when the company that printed our announcements told us we could have the post office do the actual stamping for us. Rather than spending several hours affixing the stamps ourselves, we could take our announcements en masse to a local post office and be done with it. We were overjoyed.

Come last Tuesday morning, Melanie and I take our stockpile of announcements to the local PO. After waiting in line for several minutes, we reach the counter and gleefully deposit our box of envelopes before the USPS employee, asking him to please stamp and mail the contents thereof. The man working the counter then informs us that, contrary to what we may have heard, the post office is not able to handle such requests. We can either buy the stamps and put them on ourselves, or we can drive down the road to a printing store that, for a nominal fee, will stamp them and mail them for us. Having basked in the mentality that we were about to be done with the whole affair, Melanie and I promptly decide it is worth the extra cost to have the print shop do our dirty work. Somewhat disgruntled but ever full of hope, we drive down the road.

When we arrived at Printing Express, I once again heaved the box into my manly arms and, with my beautiful fiancée in tow, proceeded into the store. Much to our dismay, the woman working the counter tells us that Printing Express is not able to handle such requests. She does inform us, however, that we can drive down the road to the post office and, for no fee whatsoever, have them stamp and mail our announcements for us. Understandably frustrated, Melanie and I return to the car, where Melanie proceeds to call the company that had originally printed our announcements. She explains the situation and asks if a particular post office must be patronized in order to have our needs met. The woman on the phone tells us of her own first-hand experience with a post office that both stamped and mailed her invitations, and, in a miraculous twist of fate, she tells us the location—about a mile due east of where we are sitting.

We quickly drive to our next location and position ourselves in the unsettlingly long queue. After a dozen minutes or so, we finally reach the counter. Not wanting to provide the postal representative any ammo with which to decline us, we politely request (rather than ask) that she handstamp and mail our box of wedding announcements. Like the man at the original post office, she is quick to inform us that this is not an option, but that we can most certainly use this opportunity to buy the stamps that, at our own convenience, we can adhere manually. Standing fast, we assure her that we had been told the post office could handle our handstamping request. Caving under our pressure, the woman concedes that she can handstamp our announcements, but, in what seemed a bit of improv on her part, she informs us that the Post Master General has limited such handstamping to twenty envelopes per customer. If we really want them to do this, she says, we will have to go through the line over and over until we are finished. Not wanting to be outdone, I promptly take my position back in line while Melanie waits for our first twenty letters to be processed.

Is all well that ends well? Far from it. By the term “handstamping,” Melanie and I had understood that the postal employee could use an actual rubber stamp to quickly imprint a “postage paid” label on our announcements. As it turns out, in order to handstamp an envelope, the postal employee must place an individual piece of mail on her scale, type the zip code to which it is being mailed into the computer, enter some other information, and then wait for the computer to print out a sticker that gets placed on the envelope. She must do this one unit at a time, regardless of matching zip codes or any other similarities. Needless to say, we quickly learned that an abundance of time could be saved by purchasing the stamps and doing it ourselves. In the end, they had won. We forfeit.

Is the story over? Not quite. By the time we had reconciled to doing the stamping ourselves, we were fully aware that $.49 stamps did not even exist. In order to obtain the proper postage, Melanie and I would be forced to buy nearly 200 $.48 stamps and the same number of $.01 stamps. Our stamping efforts would be doubled, but forgoing the handstamping “service” offered via the post office would still be well worth our time. What we didn’t realize (until it was too late) is that self-adhesive $.01 stamps are also non-existent. So, having already made the decision and ordered the stamps, we find out that we’ll also have to tear each $.01 stamp from its perforated stronghold and taste of its bitter poison in order make it stick. Our loss, it turns out, was more brutal than we had imagined.

I think Melanie is quite right in supposing that the non-availability of $.49 stamps is a postal conspiracy. As the post office is fully aware that square envelopes require this exact amount of postage, and as wedding announcements are likely to compose a large amount of USPS business now that electronic communication is all the fad, how can it be that $.49 stamps do not exist? Interestingly, Melanie and I had three different postal employees at two different locations try to sell us on buying $.60 stamps, “just to avoid the hassle of putting two stamps on every invitation.” From what they said, it seems a lot of people do this, and I’m not surprised. Had we known the $.01 stamps were rip-and-lick, we very well may have purchased the $.60 stamps ourselves. Anytime anyone does this, of course, it brings in an extra $.11 per invitation for the post office, which would certainly add up to a decent amount of revenue at year’s end. But I suppose it’s just like every other establishment, whether a bakery or a dress shop—if you know someone’s buying something for a wedding, there is no such thing as price gouging.