Thursday, September 07, 2006

Conséquences d'un accident de vélo

The consequences of a bicycle accident

Okay, I had to post this title "en Français " since MVG and I are in Montréal to get our Green Cards (that story will be another post).

So, as you may have guessed, there has been ANOTHER accident involving MVG and a bicycle. (It seems that she is a magnet for accidents this year) This time, however, MVG was actually not riding a bicycle. We were out for a run in the early morning along the Lachine Canal when out of nowhere (well, along a street) a dude comes flying along on his bike THROUGH A RED LIGHT and hits MVG. I saw the cyclist coming in my superior peripheral, but unfortunately MVG did not. It was kind of slow motion, as she tumbled over the front wheel and down to the pavement.

Thankfully, she was not hurt, and the cyclist was able to slow down enough to cause only a minor scratch. The cyclist was apologizing profusely (in French) to MVG, and she was saying "It's ok" back in English... I'm not sure either one knows what the other said.

Anyway, MVG insists that THIS is her last bicycling accident EVER.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Part I: How do you "Measure Up"?

Are you "Man Enough"?

So, here we are (MVG and I) in Montréal going through the process of getting our Green Cards. Here is the gist of what takes place:

  1. You go back to your country of origin
  2. In that country, you have a medical exam by a doctor specified by the US Consulate
  3. You get your results (at some point)
  4. You take the results to the US Consulate at a specified time and date along with the GC forms
  5. You go back to the US Consulate the next day to get your "Immigrant Visa"
  6. You go to a "port of entry" to the US, and meet with Homeland Security to exchange the Immigrant Visa for the Permanent Residence (Green) Card.

This post is, of course, about item number 2 (as a result of completing item 1).

It was a LONG day getting our medical exam. We had to give urine samples, fill out forms, get vaccinated against everything, have our eyes checked, have blood tests, get X-rays taken, and meet with a Doctor. It was a full day of fun and frolic. So, without going into boring details, here are the highlights:

  1. MVG is now a pin cushion - The nurse claimed that MVG has 'fragile veins', a.k.a. the nurse was unable to get blood from her.
  2. The US Consulate is chock full of perverts - The doctor, when we were in her office to meet with her, told us

    The US Consulate would like us to VIEW your genitals

  3. Someone may be following us - We aren't typically paranoid, but the doc also asked us if we were currently being followed by a doctor. After she said that, I realized that there have been strange people nearby, they may be doctors, I'm just not sure...

So, getting back to the "Genital Viewing", this one nearly caused MVG to burst into laughter (also, had her a bit worried... not sure what the doc meant by it). We were quickly going through all kinds of scenarios in our heads such as:

  • Perhaps there is a requirement for a person to "measure up" to get admitted to the U.S.
  • The doc just likes to see genitalia
  • The doc had a tiny spy camera, and now our genitals are on the web somewhere
  • Perhaps we'll have to parade around so everybody gets to 'view' our genitals

After the viewing, the doc just said "No lesions", and that was it... in all, it was an 'experience', I feel like a lab rat or something now.

Stay tuned for more...

Monday, August 07, 2006

By Request - Move update

Ok... I'm lame. I know it. But, moving is a busy time! (excuse).

So, here is the update on how the move went and all that jazz.

Utilities and stuff

So, when we last talked, I was telling the tale of woe about our Internet and Television options (or lack of options). So, the phone service provider (we went with DSL without local phone service, and opted to keep Vonage for our telephony provider) was able to hook us up with DSL... but, it was a two phase approach (phase 1: they had to install a line with a phone number - but you cannot make or receive calls on it), with the second phase taking 14 days to complete after the first phase - on Matmas day (phase 2: activate DSL on the line).

We were in the loft for TWO FULL WEEKS without DSL... what did we do??? Well, fortunately, there were 7 rogue wireless signals kicking around, so I did the only honorable thing and 'borrowed' some bandwidth for a while. I gave it back... we were only tempted for a short while to keep this as a permanent solution (oddly, that decision came when I couldn't get the internet connection sharing to allow me to rebroadcast the signal from upstairs to our routers down here...). Anyway, life is good now... we have the Internet back.

TV... now that is a new saga. We were unable to get any cable service in the downtown area, so we elected to get DirecTV installed... they offer a High Definition (HD) service, so we thought we would go that route... WRONG!

You see, we live on floor #4 of an 8 floor building, and there is a single dish providing DirecTV currently to the building. This is an old dish providing an analog signal.

Well, hook up another dish moron! (you say)

Well, it isn't that simple (I reply). You see, the existing dish and antenna (for use when the dish service is down - so we can get local channels) have cables running through conduit in the building to the basement, where it is split out via various cabling devices to all units (1 cable per unit). The new dish would require 3 cables to run down the conduit (would have to fish a new one down), a new dish, and a new antenna. The equipment in the basement would need to be replaced for HD, and there would then need to be 2 cables run to each unit instead of 1 (1 for the regular signal, one for the HD signal)... hence, we now have regular, old, boring DirecTV... AND... they don't just display the channels you get in the set top box, no, they display all 70000000 of them, so essentially, every channel you select to watch is one that you do not get.

So, now we were stuck with crappy quality reception on our plasma TV... so, I had to do something about it. MVG got on the internet and looked up information on HD antennas, while I looked for an HD receiver to take the signal and pass it to the plasma (it is a monitor with no receiver built in). We ended up with an indoor HD antenna (works great), and a receiver that actually plugs in to the USB port on our computer so that our PC is now a DVR (we don't have to shell out the $9/month for DVR service)... we feed the DirecTV through it too, and can now pause tv. Actually, we will likely cancel the DirecTV, since we get 12 HD channels on the antenna. We also joined NetFlix.


This is another saga... (aren't they all).

When we moved, our funiture looked like dogmeat in the new place. Even homeless people were pointing and laughing at us as we hauled it in (MVG will NOT EVER move that couch again... actually, we have since sold it - dog snot and all). Anyway, it turned out (thankfully, our non-heterosexual male designer pointed this out) that we were in need of about 65 million dollars worth of new furnishing, paint and art.

We hired NHM to help us (thinking he would come in and 'voila', magically come up with a design for us)... after the first visit, he went away and said it would be about 5 or 6 more visits, then about 6 months for the CUSTOM furniture to arrive. After the second visit (which almost lead to a second mortgage), we fired him and sighed with relief.

Off we went to a furniture store in a panic to get something that was not covered in cat hair and dog snot. We found some, and the entire ensemble (sofa, big chair, dining table, 5 dining room chairs, lamp) cost about the same as the dining room table that NHM had in mind for us... AND the stuff we ended up with was not cheap, it was Italian... and (it seems) they make good stuff.

Anyway, the university student happily came and took the dog-snot couch for use in her dorm, and we have a nice 'minimalist' space. Unfortunately, despite not coming with cat hair and dog snot, those items have begun to make an appearance on the new furniture.

So now, MVG happily takes the bus to work (well, maybe not so happily), and I drive 3 days a week out to a far away land known as Warrendale (the Sewickley office moved further away), while working from home 1 day, and at the Hall of Justice the other day.

Speaking of working from home, I saw what appeared to be a 'jumper' on the bridge out of our living room window today... details to follow as they appear in the local news.


Bike Tales - MVG summary (to date)

So, as one of our friends pointed out, MVG's cycling has consisted of (in the past year):

  • Being hit by an unidentified flying object (thrown from a motorist on the other side of the road), resulting in a massive bruise
  • Crashing during an 'emergency braking' drill at cycling camp
  • Abandoning a ride in tears at the side of the road after VG takes a few minor wrong turns (in 100 degree heat) and ending up about 30 miles from home... after already riding about 30 miles (and being out of food and water).
  • Crashing (again) into a bush by the dinosaur at an incredible speed of about 2 mph... in public
  • Being chased down by two wild turkeys in the park

We're not sure what else can happen, but believe me, when it does, you will see it here first!


Wild Tukeys could not drag me away...

MVG Does it Again!

Just when you think you have heard it all, MVG has another cycling 'adventure'. This past weekend, MVG and I were riding to meet some friends for a ride at the now infamous dinosaur by the Carnegie Library. I'm not sure if there is bad karma for MVG on this route, or what, but while we were riding to the library, the latest incident occurred.

Turkey Trot

So, as we were going through the park on the way to the library, I passed two rather large wild turkeys (see image below). My guess is that they were of the 25 lb variety.

Anyway, I casually rode on past them, then looked over my shoulder to ensure MVG was close behind. Now, keep in mind that we are both Vegans, and MVG loves animals (she now hates birds, mind you). MVG decided to 'kindly' let the birds cross the road rather than ride past them. This would be akin to (in the eyes of the turkeys) a lion stopping to let some wildebeest past (a.k.a. GNU, and yes, it is Wildebeest and not Wildebeast, at least according to the ever correct Internet), but I digress. Anyway, 'prey' typically would be very nervous if a 'predator' stopped nearby after obviously seeing them. The choices would be (for the prey) 1) run or 2) try to fend off the predator (there were two of these turkeys afterall). They chose the latter.

The chase

So now, these two turkeys decide that they need to frighten off the predator by going into a military style flanking maneuver and 'clucking' and 'pecking' at MVG. In the mean time, MVG has now become terrified, and is frantically trying to pedal, but her feet are not actually on the pedals. Just when it seemed all hope was lost for MVG, she found the pedals and sprang forward, but the beasts pursued...

Eventually, they stopped their pursuit... MVG made her escape. Where was I during this? I was in tears from laughter. You have never seen a sight like this, it was just so funny (unless you are MVG).

I'm glad to say, that MVG made it out of the 'woods' and continued on the ride (although, there was an episode on some gravel later on that had her dander up).


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bush League


So, MVG had an incident recently on her bike... again. Alter-Ego, MVG and I decided to do some biking... MVG of the 'road' variety, and Alter and I were going to do some trails at the local park. We would all meet at the Carnegie Library in Oakland (Pittsburgh, not California) before heading back to our place.


So, Alter and I did the trail riding (although, it kind of sucked, and we ended up wallowing through some poison ivy bushes). We were on our way to the library when MVG sent an IM on my cell phone... I deftly replied with one hand while continuing to ride (I'm that good). Anyway, we met at the designated spot, then as a group, began the ride back to our place.

I lead the way... past the dinosaur (it is not alive, so don't panic) in front of the museum, with MVG behind me and Alter bringing up the rear... I'm not far past the dino when I hear a mighty yell "VEE-GEE" (coming from Alter). I quickly return only to find that somehow MVG has crashed into some bushes next to the dino. This image below shows the details:

In his re-telling, Alter said

I thought she just, you know, misjudged the turn. I thought she turned early, and went right into the bush.

MVG claims that she was trying to avoid a pedestrian, but nobody else saw this supposed pedestrian. To this day, the bush is all flattened down (not like in the picture above). It looks like a pack of wild dogs had a fight there.

Bush 1, MVG 0.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Donton (a.k.a. Downtown)

Veggie Tales is Moving!

Yes, you heard it here first... we're moving 'Donton' to a loft. We found a lovely place on the river just five blocks from where my office is (although, in a twist of fate, I will be starting a new assignment in Sewickley next week... you just can't win).

That there Internet

So, you know, you move downtown and everything is great, right? You have more and better access to stuff... so you would ASSUME! It turns out that FiOS (the Fiber Optic Service that Verizon offers) is NOT available downtown, so we can't have that. Okay, we'll stick with our Comcast service... NOPE, not available there either... perhaps we should just move to Adephia (sorry... not in that area either). So, we now are relegated to DSL with Verizon (not so bad, we were beginning to think we would not get any high speed at all... I NEED speed. We managed to get DSL without local service, so we can keep our Vonage phone service, and we'll go with DirecTV for our viewing pleasure... hmm, there is a kink there too... it requires a hard-wired local service phone line to provide the initial setup and 'on demand' content. According to the Vonage FAQ, there may be a fix... Stay tuned for the continuing epic stories relating to our move, I'm sure things will go awry in one way or another, and I'll be there to blog it.

- VG

Clang, clink, clunk

Blue Clouds overhead

So, I had my bike in a million or so pieces on Tuesday night for a good solid cleaning. You could eat off the rear cassette when I was done with it (it didn't really want to go back together, but I won out in the end). It took about 3 hours to fully clean the bike, but afterwards, it was gleaming and changing gears like never before.

That brings us to tonight... this has happened before (twice), but I thought it was due to needing adjustments, anyway, my bike has a NASTY habit of making EARTH SHATTERING CLANKING noises on very steep climbs. The noise is bad enough itself, but at the time, it also causes the chaing to slip (jump, skip, whatever) and negate forward momentum (not to mention put fear into me that something is about to snap). So, I made certain that my bike was adjusted perfectly today, and started the climb up Sycamore... 1/4 of the way up, it began the clank, clink, clunk trick. Only on the top of my pedal stroke, and only every 10 or so revolutions (clearly there is a link in the chain that is screwing up with a tooth on the chainring). I shifted down to my lowest gear (by this time I was stopped due to the 24% grade), and returned to the bottom of the hill to start over.
I began (again) to climb, making sure that everything was in alignment, and I was in my easiest gear (usually I am in the middle chainring and middle cog to start). I got about 1/3 of the way up before the clanking began - it was at this point that children ran in terror from the blue smoke that begin to erupt from my mouth... 25% grade, and I lost all momentum (in fact, the last clunk screwed me up so much that I began to go backwards down the hill). Clearly, there is a problem... I will have to investigate.

I didn't get to finish the ride up the hill (out of fear of ruining the drivetrain), but I did get the full GPS report of the hill. Here is the elevation and grade diagrams (click the pics to get a bigger view).



So, it appears that Sycamore isn't as 'burly' a hill as it was touted to be. It has sections in the mid 20s for grade, but the average over the 0.6 mile climb is about 14% (those sections of 24% and 25% are rough though). I need to try that hill in the 'Dirty Dozen' that has a 30+% grade (just for kicks).

- VG

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

NOHO - in summary

Back to reality

Don't you just hate having to 'snap' back to reality? Despite the crash, we had a great time, and were sad it ended... I felt like I got just a small taste of what it would be like to be in some racing team or something.

We met some great people on the trip, and even have a few that we plan to visit (and hope will visit us). It is nice when you meet people who seem to be on the same plane of thought and share common interests. We also found Northampton to be a great place to visit, it was somewhat like Ithaca, NY (bookstores, nice restaurants, atmosphere, charm, cycle friendly).

The Camp
We loved the camp, and the coaches were great. We would recommend it, and may go again for one of their A/B ride weekends. Check out ride Noho, maybe they have something for you too!

The Drive
Okay, this is one part we DIDN'T really like. It took about 9.5 hours to get to Northampton from Pittsburgh, and it seemed to double on the way back. We left around 3:30pm on Sunday (destination - Rochester NY), and we pulled into the hotel at about 8:40pm, a little over 5 hours. The hotel was nice (we snuck the bikes in through the back door), but we were too tired to really enjoy it, and the open wounds of MVG negated any chance of pool or hot-tub activity.
We slept in, and got on the road from Rochester at about 11am the next day... arrived at the kennel to pick up Cherry around 4pm. NOTE:There was not a SINGLE Starbucks on any of the highways between Rochester and Wexford PA (where the dog was staying)

The aftermath
So, MVG is off work until Thursday (June 8), but I had to return on Tuesday (June 6). We took MVG's bike to the local bike shop... as suspected, a new rim is required for the back. They kept it overnight for analysis (x-ray, catscan, MRI) just for precautionary purposes... I wonder if my health care plan covers that (it was admitted afterall). Thursday, I will ride up Sycamore in Sewickley to get the grade of it (armed for the first time on that hill with my GPS).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

NOHO - Day 3: The Paceline Miracle

She's back!

So, Sheila made a return to the group today in dramatic fashion, churning along for a ride of about 41 miles. Needless to say, I was amazed that she 'bounced back' from the accident so quickly. Today, we reviewed the work from day 2, and once we were comfortable with the drafting, we formed a paceline and off we went. It was a nice-ish day (not too cold), but there was intermittent drizzle. We stopped at a book shop/coffee shop half way, then on the way back, we began to rotate the paceline (the leader would drop off and go to the back of the line in a rotating fashion).
A nice 'photo-op' presented itself, so the good Doc took this lovely photo of MVG and I in front of a waterfall (sorry for the delay fellow riders...), then we continued along our merry way. The end result was a ride of about 41 miles along gentle hills, below is a map of the route, as well as a profile of the elevation for the ride.

Click picture for bigger view

Click picture for bigger view


Something else that I discovered on this trip was the fact that Superwoman DOES exist... I could tell from her physique, as well as the stories that were being told that the Doc's partner (also a Doc) would be a formidable foe on the hills... I know that I would be scared to challenge her to a 'duel' on any hill, but at the same time, I'd love to go on a ride with her. We have invited Doc and Superwoman to visit us in 'The Pitt' for a ride sometime, so perhaps we will have a chance to try keeping up. We may also visit them in the lovely hills of Vermont.

Until next time, VG.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

NOHO - Day 2: Rain Riding

As expected, MVG did not participate in the cycling due to the injuries suffered the previous day... in fact, she stayed at the hotel in bed for a while in the morning. The cycling was delayed several times due to the driving rain (the 8:30 start was delayed until 10:30am, then again delayed again until 1:00pm).

The Ride

We did go out at 1pm, in a drizzle filled sky. The rain only got worse, but by then we were soaked to the core anyway. MVG didn't ride (as previously stated, also another 'camper' skipped the ride due to the rain). The ride actually turned out to be pretty good, 17 miles. We worked on group riding skills (drafting and pacelines) both on and off the bike. We were in the rain for about 2 hours, then called it a day.

The Seminar

CoachThe classroom time was delayed until 7pm due to the late start to the ride. The topic was bike maintenance (adjusting brakes, derailleurs, and changing tires). This is a shot of the coach showing us how it is done. MVG came to the seminar, and got quite involved in it, she took a turn changing a flat (removing the tube, replacing the tube. There was also an exercise in removing the rear tire from the bike, as well as replacing it on the bike. MVG did very well, in fact, she is now soley responsible for the maintenance of our bikes! Here she is afterwards... unfortunately the bikes weren't cleaned up from the ride in the rain, so they were a bit messy.

So, despite the rain, and the injuries, day 2 turned out to be a pretty good day.

Note:Look at the recovery already taking place with MVG... I think the high quality bandage job helped :)

Friday, June 02, 2006

NOHO - Day 1: Emergency Stopping

We arrived at 'Ride Noho' in Northampton, MA on Thursday evening (June 1) where we met two other cyclists in the parking lot, and then met with the coach. We went out to eat (Indian of course) with our new found friends, before the camp started on Friday.

Day 1: Climbing, Descents, Emergency Braking, Rough Roads

So the schedule started with us riding along a trail, with a few stops for instruction (pedal practice, balance, and how to climb), then we got continued to a few climbs (although, they wouldn't be considered climbs in Western PA... more like flats). Anyway, after a brief break for an apricot square at the Williamstown General Store, we got to the Emergency Braking... This is where Day 1 got really interesting.

Emergency braking -> Emergency Room

MVG's EarSo, this is a picture of MVG's ear after her attempt at an emergency stop (which resulted in a stop in the emergency room for stiches)... but, I get ahead of myself.

The idea was, we climb a very short hill (probably about a 4% grade), then go down the hill to where the coach was standing to perform an emergency stop (grab the brakes, but don't lock up). This worked for MVG the first time down (although, she was not in the 'drops' of the handlebars), so the next time, she moved to the proper position and went off down the hill... pull... no, too much brake!. MVG launched herself over the handlebars (I think the pedals disengaged at this point) and landed 1) on her head, 2) on her shoulder and then 3) on her back. Thankfully she was wearing a helmet (destroyed by the crash) and a Camelbak (took the brunt of the back impacts).

MVG's HeadThe view from the top of the hill resembled somebody skipping a stone across a pond... I think there were three skips in all. The bike did NOT skip, it crashed down hard... better the bike than MVG. Everybody rushed down, she was a bit dazed and confused, but didn't lose conciousness (but as the pictures show, she did suffer some injuries). Coach called 9-1-1 to get an ambulance on scene (in case of any spinal damage), the police arrived within about 2 minutes to block the road.

To the hospital

So, this was a day of firsts. MVG's first ride in an ambulance, her first time on a backboard, her first time getting stiches, and our first experience with health care in the US (aside from the annual check-ups). We were pretty impressed with the care... one of our new friends accompanied us in the ambulance (turns out she's an ER doc... so we'll call her 'Doc') for moral support (and to translate for us). She was great - and a great comfort to MVG and myself. We got out of the hospital at about 2:00pm, would have been earlier, but the guy in the next bed had the nerve to stop breathing to get some attention, so the staff rushed over to help him instead of the important stiches to MVG's ear.

Well, that about says it for day 1 of Noho... more later on day 2 and 3.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Back from Big Tuna

The Hall of Justice

So, I returned from my 7 week stint in Altoona (a.k.a. "The Big Tuna") in time for the monthly in-office meeting.

One of my cohorts likened it to one of the Superfriends returning to the Hall of Justice after being away fighting crime. There were actually several 'versions' of Superfriends on TV (ranging from 1973 - 1985)... but, I digress. After careful consideration of the Superfriends, it was determined that I am to play the role of the Green Lantern. I'm fine with that. Really, the Green Lantern is similar to a character from Lord of the Rings - possessing one of the 'rings of power'... I prefer to think of it as Elven rather than one of the rings the 9 mortal men got (Ringwraiths).

Anyway, here is a picture of me with my ring, you can clearly see in this accurate depiction of me that I am a 'Good guy', not an evil minion of Sauron.


Monday, April 03, 2006

New Yak - Did I SAY this was your stop???

The Flight

Our trip to the Big Apple started on a plane, much like the one on the right here... We got to the airport, no traffic to speak of, and made our way to the ticket agent... apparently, the airline owed me $1.03 on my ticket, so they refunded it to the DAC credit card that I no longer have... c'est la vie. Anyway, no problems with security (theater), and we got to the gate with time to spare. What a great trip this was going to be. We got on the plane, but WHOA! You would not believe the Nazi Fascist Broom-Hilda Waitress (a.k.a. Flight Attendant) on this plane. She was ALL New York (in the stereotypical sense of being a loud grouch). The first problem was that a person on the plane was (of all things) reading a newspaper. WELL... the Flight CANNOT commence until the emergency announcement was made, and the announcement WOULD NOT be made until that paper was down. There was LOUD P.A. berating of the newspaper reader.

I was the next victim. In a foolish act of recklessness, I decided to go to the washroom on the aircraft. We had reached (so I though) a nice cruising altitude, and the waitress was up and about. Well, blaring on the P.A.


Yes, there is NO question mark, although technically in the form of a question, it was NOT verbalized as a question, rather a command... one that I decided against following, due to a bladder that was about to blow.

Anyway, that was NOTHING compared to the next threat. As we were about to land, the dude across the aisle from us was daydreaming with his bag on his lap... (she had announced that ALL CARRY ON BAGGAGE MUST NOW BE STOWED)... can you see where this is going? P.A. time:


He was in a dreamland... didn't hear. Well, she marched right up to him, and tore a HUGE strip off...(sans P.A. this time)


He was very sorry... to have gotten on that flight I'm sure.

So, to recap, in a nutshell: 1 Flight, many threats.

The Bus

Okay, so we made it to New Yak in one piece, thanks to the vigilance of the waitress. We then took a bus to Harlem, before catching the subway to our hotel. The driver spoke a dialect commonly known as "microphone mumble", where he would mumble incoherent phrases into a P.A. on the bus to alert people as to where to get off the bus.

We were so kind as to start the next tirade. Being from out of town, we asked the bus driver when we should get off the bus to head down to our hotel near Central Park. He told us ‘Lexington Ave’. Then a line up of people approached, asking “Is this where I get off to go to ?”


Snap… Lose it!

We quietly got off at the next stop.

The Subway

No, this isn't a picture of the subway, rather a reasonable facsimile of a “homeless gentleman” who decided to hone in on MVG and I to ask for help (do we have a look that invites oddness?)

Anyway, to make a short story long…

(note from author: I’m skipping many details of the New Yak trip in this blog entry to keep this one to the ‘travel’ itself… I’ll put ‘vacation’ part in another entry).

So, we are sitting on the subway platform near Staten Island (we just missed the ferry), when we hear a drunken sounding person at the far end shuffling along asking people how to get to the hospital, he needs to get his broken leg (the one he’s walking on) fixed.


So, he continues the shuffle… RIGHT TO US and sits down next to me, breathing his foul, putrid breath onto me.

Hi shere… I needsh yor hep gettin to sha hoshpital. I broke mie leg, I need it ficksin. I got it fickzd, but not so good. Whersh the hoshpital?

(note the ‘drunken’ dialect).

MVG (kindly while I pretended not to notice the dank humid person next to me), explained that we were from out of town and did not know where the hospital was. She then tried to help him, asking if he knew in what general direction it was. He then told his life story (in slurrish drunken dialect)… then swung wildly around at the person on the other side and started all over… we made a break for it to the far end of the platform…

Shortly after this, we wore our legs to mere stumps as we completed our 256 blocks of walking around looking for somewhere to eat...

Later. VG

The Porn Super Highway - Tuna Tales

I'm not sure how many people realize this, but Highway 22 east of Pittsburgh (towards Altoona... a.k.a. The Big Tuna) is THE porn super highway. I first noticed the abundance of "Gentleman's Clubs" when I started my consulting 'gig' out here, but every trip I make back and forth seems to be a discovery of even more of these 'fine' establishments. Here is what I have noticed about them in general:

  • They are all made of shoddy sheet metal
  • All of them have at LEAST one half-ton truck in the parking lot
  • All of them are 'World Famous'
  • All of them (despite the remote locations) claim to have the 'hottest' ALL NUDE dancers

One of these (the WORLD FAMOUS Climax club) also offers a drive through, so you can get porn from the comfort of your vehicle.

What I found the most disturbing about these establishments was not anything on a moral level, but the fact that I have to drive 90 miles to get home from the Big Tuna, and the (believe it or not) traffic jams that they cause can really put a dent in my travel. I swear that a 1980's style Camaro caused a 10 minute delay (it had to cross oncoming traffic to get a porn fix... only one lane each way, no shoulder), and a further delay was caused by a half-ton truck with a gun rack in the window.

Route 22, mind you, is also the Speed Trap Super Highway. I think the minimum number of people on any one trip (I have made 7 now) that have been pulled over is 3, one trip I saw 6. Fortunately, I have not been speeding. The speed limit ranges from 40 - 65 mph, and makes jumps in speed (up or down) at random intervals, in places where the police can conveniently hide.

What to do in Tuna

So, what is there to do in Altoona? Basically, work. There is a lack of amenities here, such as:

  • NO Starbucks
  • NO Qdoba
  • NO Barnes and Noble Booksellers
  • NO decent food of ANY kind (aside from Sheetz of course)
  • NO bookstores of any kind (that I can tell)
  • etc.

I did manage to go to a state park for a run... unfortunately, it is 15 miles (a.k.a 30 minutes each way on single lane road) to the park, so I drove for as long as I ran. I was going to bring my bike with me this week, but as usual, the weather looks crappy (rain, rain, snow, rain).

Anyway, I'm sure I will have some more Tuna Tales to Tell...

Later. VG

Monday, February 20, 2006

Meatball... Meatball... Meatball...

MVG and I were walking our dog around the complex last week, when we saw a very funny sight. It was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit, a cold day by any standards... we were just joking about this fellow who lives on the far side of the complex whom we were used to seeing outside topless (I think he is a Sumo wrestler) over the summer... anyway, MVG was sad that we weren't going to be seeing him on this cold day.

We round the corner, and run into a large roly-poly bulldog (we found out the dog's name was Meatball). Cherry let out a throaty growl... around the corner comes the Sumo wrestler, in NOTHING but his boxer style underwear... yelling “Meatball... Meatball... Meatball” I think the dog was embarrassed by his owner's attire, so he pretended NOT to know this person. It was such a funny site... IT WAS ONLY 12 DEGREES!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Freedom (it isn't free: it costs $1.05)

So, this 'tale' of freedom has many aspects. It has ups and downs, you will laugh, you will cry, but in the end, it has a happy ending.

The party

After my last day with my former employer, a coworker of mine organized a small gathering (only invited the working class, no management) at a local watering hole (a.k.a. Bar). We ran home to let out the dog, then went to the bar. Weren't we surprised to find two members of management at the table? (this is rhetorical... the answer is yes). On the bright side, if you were going to drink with leaders, these two were the sort you would want to drink with.

Day 1 of Freedom: journey to the border

My first actual day of freedom from employment involved a drive to the border to get new immigration documentation (I'm not yet a green carded dude). When we got to Buffalo, I had to pee so badly, that we couldn't stop at the border (you have to leave the country then re-enter), we just shot off to a rest area. We decided (since we were way past the border now) to go to Niagara and get the documentation there. Mistake It seems that the Niagara crossing did not have a NAFTA specialist on duty on Thursday, so we got some riff-raff dude who decided he didn't like my education, so I couldn't get a visa. The lady (she was the go-between, the riff-fraff didn't actually talk to us) was kind, and suggested we come back tomorrow (a real dude will be in @ 9), or we could go to the Buffalo crossing (they have a dude that is in at 8). Keep in mind, they actually TOOK my old visa (since I no longer work there), so I was (after this visit) completely without status in the U.S.

Day 2 of Freedom: the border revisited

So, we got up bright and early (after a VERY UNEASY night of sleeping), and went to the Buffalo crossing (it is only about 10 miles from Niagara – approx 18km for you Canucks). We sat in the little room, then my name was called. The (very terse) officer told me that he couldn't help me, and that I had to go back to Niagara since that is where I was denied yesterday.

Okay, this is fun... back to Niagara. We get there, and the officer takes our paperwork (after the initial border lady gives us the 5th degree). He goes off for about 30 minutes, then calls me in. He proceeds to tell me that I do NOT qualify for a TN Visa (a temporary Visa under NAFTA) since I am a permanent resident of Pennsylvania. This was a long conversation (but I won't give all the details here), that ends with him telling me that I will not get the work Visa that I require to start my new job. Whoa! This is NOT good. He also tells me that without status, I cannot return to the US!

Ugh. He then asks if I have been informed about the L2 visa (it is a 'spouse' visa for someone who's spouse has an L1 class of visa). He tells me that if I get an L2, I can then apply for an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) and work anywhere doing anything in the U.S. I say “Great, I'll take it!”... unfortunately, I do not have the proper documentation with me (I only brought what I needed for the TN, not the L2).


At this time, he takes pity on me, and decides that he will give me the L2 without the documents (I am supposed to have the marriage certificate, and the document of MVG's L1). He figured that since he saw the stamp in MVG's passport, that he knew she had an L1, and we “looked like newlyweds”, so we must be married (he did quiz me to see if we were some of those crazy Canadian common-law people).

YAY... I have my L2. Wah! I can't work for 90 days!

I called my new employer (Planet Awesome to use Tenzil's term) with the news... They were shocked, but told me not to worry, they would take care of me and ensure that everything worked out.

That very evening

So, our friends from our past lives in the Cancer Capital of Canada arrived for an evening of fun and frolic. We partied, drank, ate 'Veggie' burgers and watched a movie. It was a great way to unwind after the close call at the border (MVG and I briefly thought I would be going back to CCofC with them until the green card arrived).

Day 3: Planet Awesome Party

So, on day 3, MVG and I went to Planet Awesome's winter party. Fantastic. Any doubts I may have had (none actually) were quickly gone after this affair. They are a great group of people, all of whom are smart. Fantastic!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stages of successful job termination

So, Tenzil and I were talking on IM today, and decided that there are 8 stages in successful termination of employment (employee initiated).

Stage 1: Announcement

This stage has a lot of different elements... anxiety, excitement, nervousness. Even if your job REALLY sucks, it is still difficult to walk into the boss's office and announce the intent to resign. For me, it was glorious. My boss was in Calgary, so the announcement was over phone.

I said " I need to let you know, I'm giving my notice of resignation. I have a great opportunity that I need to take"...

Stage 2: Communication Frenzy

So, after the announcement, everybody (I mean everybody) wants to talk to you. Find out where you are going, why, did you TELL them the truth about why you are leaving? This lasted several days. I gave my notice on Wednesday, so this stage ate up the remainder of the week. There is much grinning, high-fiving and congratulations during this stage. Also, I ended the week by meeting with the CIO about why I am leaving (this took 2 hours).

Stage 3: Transition

Okay, really, I began this ages ago, but, I still had some stuff to hand off to some poor slobs. This took about a half a day. Most of my time in the transition was used to go to the gym... this stage also has some aspects of stage 2 (stragglers).

Stage 4a: Clean out Desk

This runs into stage 3, and involves taking everything from your desk that you care about, and shoving it in boxes. It also involves a few trips to the stationery closet to ensure that your home stationery needs are met. Any *junk* that you don't want, you kindly give to people as gifts (such as chipped coffee mugs, and other crap).

Stage 4b: File purging

This is related to 4a, but is a sub-stage that involves dumping files in the 'shredding' bin, garbage, recycling etc. It also involves purging your data from the hard drive. This took less than a day. (I did notice today that much of my 'work' actually got deleted that may at some point be needed, but alas, I don't care).

Stage 5: Google Earth

This stage is termed such for Tenzil... he used MOST of his two weeks in this stage, I have about 2.5 days of time in this stage. It involves playing around on Google Earth and basic web surfing, magazine reading and loafing around.

Stage 6: Mild Depression/Elation/Drinking

This is when you feel mild depression at the thought of leaving a place you worked for so long, yet elation that you are going to try something new. This is a very small (one hour) section of the stage that then ends when you go out with the 'former' coworkers to end the stage with some drinking.

<future stages>
The following stages are Tenzil's for now, I have not reached them yet

Stage 7: Omigod... what have I done

This stage is a one day (first on the new job) where you think "What have I done, I can't do this", especially if you left a corporate job where you can disappear and do nothing to take a job where you actually have to work. This stage is short - about a day if you go somewhere good.

Stage 8: Planet Awesome

You then realize "Hey, I belong here. I can do this." You also realize that the new employer is really great. Tenzil is still in this stage.