Riding the Rails

Ben and I wanted to check out the light rail system in Denver, so today we hopped on the RTD and rode it downtown.

It was interesting. It wasn’t BART, nor was it the SF Muni. If anything, it reminded me more of light rail in Phoenix, although not quite as new and shiny.  It is definitely an easier and less stressful way to get downtown than taking the freeways; that much is certain.

I was hoping to begin my photographic journey of Colorado in earnest today.  I even brought out the “good” camera and lens, but I was uninspired and sorely disappointed with the results.  Perhaps I’m just a little out of practice with the heavy-grade equipment, but what does it mean when I get better pictures (or at least ones I like better) from my iPhone than I do from my DSLR?

One of the most interesting things downtown (at least from my very limited exposure so far) was the big blue bear at the Colorado Convention Center:

I love public art, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of all the new photo surprises that await me here. We haven’t even scratched the surface of downtown, much less the rest of the city and the mountains to the west.

One Week

We’ve been in Denver one week.  As I noted in a previous post, I’d forgotten just how stressful this kind of move can be.  Fortunately, at least as far as central Denver and Aurora are concerned, we’re starting to learn our way around, and that’s reducing he stress level considerably. For most tasks, I don’t even need to resort to GPS navigation. Illif turns into Evans as you go west and connects with the I-25.  Havana turns into Hampden as you go south and does the same. Parker turns into Leetsdale as you go northwest and terminates at Colorado Blvd. to the north and turns into Route 83 (taking you out of Denver) to the south. Yale is south of Illif; Colfax, 6th, and Mississippi are north. Quebec and Monaco are west of Havana, and Chambers is to the east. Colorado Blvd. is to be avoided at all costs if you’re in any kind of hurry to get anywhere.

I spent a couple hours at the storage unit this morning.  I realized the other day that there was all sorts of stuff stacked on top of the boxes that contain my 600+ vinyl record albums and with temps heading into the 90s later this week I needed to get them out from under that weight lest I end up with 600+ unplayable, oval LPs.

I think we’re going to plan on settling in Aurora.  It’s central to any of the five schools that Ben may be assigned to, and getting around from this location seems to be pretty easy.  There are a plethora of apartment possibilities available, all of which match the list of amenities that we enjoyed at my place in Phoenix.

Now I just have to find a job. Preferably not healthcare related. Been there, done that. Over it.

I met with two headhunters yesterday.  I’m meeting with a third tomorrow, and while I was busy rearranging the storage unit this morning, I got a call from a fourth who is submitting me on for a gig at a major telecom company.  The opportunity at NREL that I’d interviewed for went to another candidate from a different agency, and after learning yesterday that most of the available opportunities right now are healthcare related and offering significantly less money than I need sent me into a deep depression.  But it’s a new day and things will get better.

Fortunately my finances are in good enough shape that I do not have to jump on the first offer that comes my way.  On the other hand, it would be nice to start working so I don’t have to deplete the money that I’ve put away.

Of one thing I am certain: there is a company in Denver looking for someone exactly like me. It’s just a matter of making the connection.

The Denver Apple Stores

Before we left Phoenix, Ben and I visited all of the Apple Stores in the Phoenix metro area to get a photo of each (it’s a Geek thing).  We had nothing scheduled or pressing that we had to do today, and wanting to decompress a bit from the events of the past week, decided to do the same thing now that we’re in Denver.  We didn’t make it to all the stores today, but we made a decent showing.

Aspen Grove

Park Meadows Mall

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

We’ll hit the remaining two over the weekend.

I am continually amazed at how good the pictures are that I get from the Sony DSC-W330 Point-and-Shoot camera that Ben got me for Christmas last year.  Granted, they don’t have the detail that I get with my DSLR (at least not when blown up), but for posting to the internet, they’re great. And the fact that the camera fits in a pocket makes it all the better.

Keep Calm and Carry On

I had forgotten how stressful and disorienting a move to a new city in a different state can be.  The last time I moved somewhere totally new to me was 1986, when I relocated to San Francisco.  After six months I was still having such a hard time adjusting to life there that I was almost ready to pack it up and return to Phoenix.  There was no way I was going to do that, but I finally had to post an affirmation on my refrigerator that read, “San Francisco is my home. I love the City and The City loves me back.”  It must have worked, because I stayed sixteen years, and to this day—while I could never return permanently—I still consider San Francisco Home, as home with a capital H.

The Good

  • Ben is with me.  He is keeping me sane and grounded during this transition.  His patience is amazing.

  • Denver is beautiful.  It still amazes me to look to the west and see snow on the mountains. We haven’t had a chance to do much exploring yet, but I cannot wait to start. It was 85 degrees today and we had light showers.  It was 102 and sunny in Phoenix. Do the math.
  • We got a local address where mail can be forwarded.  The Post Office had some pretty strict residency requirements for getting a box, so we went with one at a UPS store (at an exorbitant rate, I might add) instead.
  • I got a call from a new recruiter today, and I’m meeting with her in person next week.
  • I had my first Pinkberry last night.  I’m not a huge fan of frozen desserts, but I have to admit it was pretty damn good.

The Bad

  • The extended stay hotel we’re staying at has definitely seen better days.  The rooms are small, the kitchenettes are a joke, and while it seems clean enough it just has that skeevy feel about it that does not inspire a great deal of confidence.  I’ve stayed at Motel 6s that were classier.  We definitely do NOT leave our Macs in the room unattended.  We’re only committed to a week at a time so it’s not like we’re trapped there or anything; we’re still debating whether or not we want to find a different place and pay more.
I half expect two twin girls to appear out of nowhere and say, "Danny, come play with us."
  • The traffic in Denver is horrible just about any time of day.  It’s easily as crazy as what I remember of the Bay Area, and although I’ve yet to see any of the abject stupidity that marked Arizona drivers, on the whole they don’t seem to be an especially courteous lot either. There also is no logic whatsoever behind left turn signals. Sometimes they’re before the traffic direction, sometimes after, and other times during.
  • I got a call from one of the headhunters that I’d been working with regarding a job while we were driving up here. Unfortunately the top rate they were willing to pay was way below the minimum I need to live (never mind the amount I was making at my last job), and I’d have to pay for my own health insurance. No thanks, I’m not that desperate yet.  I’ve only been out of work less than a week.

The Ugly

  • I swear I left my brain in the apartment in Phoenix.  After so carefully putting everything I thought I might need until we got permanently settled into separate boxes that would not go into storage, I stupidly packed away into storage both my Social Security card and my birth certificate.  It’s been so long since I’ve had to look for a job I completely forgot that I would at the least need the Social Security card to get employed. Yesterday afternoon, after having the movers unload the truck and stack everything so meticulously in our storage unit, we had to tear back into their work in order to at least find my birth certificate so I could order a replacement Social Security card.  And wouldn’t you know it, when I went to the SS office today, they didn’t even need it.  I’ll have a new card in two weeks, and in the meantime they provided me with some official paperwork telling prospective employers that the card is being replaced.
  • Even with navigation on my cell phone, I am still getting lost, going in the wrong direction, and having to make some moves in traffic that I am amazed have not resulted in a vehicular mishap.  In short, I’m driving like an out-of-state asshole because I haven’t got a clue where I’m going half the time.
  • The internet at the hotel sucks.  I mean seriously sucks.  It’s worse than being on dialup. And if that’s not bad enough, for some reason my Verizon broadband card is acting all wonky as well.  I get five bars (better than I ever got in my office at work), but the connection speed is only marginally faster than the wireless at the hotel. I do NOT understand it.  We’re heading to the Verizon store tomorrow to have it checked out and if it comes back with a clean bill of health we’re going to be spending a lot of our free time at Starbucks or Peets over the next few weeks.
  • Ben is an official student at DU today and bought Office 2011 Mac (something we’ve been putting off getting) at the university bookstore.  He was going to purchase the Home and Student edition which provided three licenses, but the girl at the counter said, “Oh, you don’t need that, you need 2011 Standard.”  Ben asked about the number of licenses included with it, and she told him it was two. So instead of paying $139 for the Home and Student, he picked up the Standard version for $89 and thought he’d gotten a great deal.  That was, until we got back to the room and after successfully installing it on his Mac tried to load it on mine.  “Invalid Registration Number.” Fuck. Me.  Since it’s already been opened and activated we can’t return it, so now we have to shell out another $89 for a second copy of Standard—that we didn’t even need to begin with because neither of us uses Outlook!

But even with all the negativity the past couple days, almost by magic, while we were shopping at Target today, I ran across this and took it as a message from the Universe.  Things will get better.  These are just growing pains. I just hate this feeling of being unsettled and having to live out of boxes…

UPDATE: I am a dork.  I must’ve been fat-fingering the Office serial number.  Ben tried putting it in tonight and it worked just fine. D’oh!

Afternoon Soundtrack

On the eve of our move, and after having said so long to so many of the people and places that have been so much a part of my life for the last 9½ years, I need a little atmospheric escapism.

And Fringe is one of the best damn shows on television right now. I’m so happy it was picked up for a third season.

Down to the Wire

I apologize if that last post was a little snarky, but longtime readers of this blog know that’s not out of character for this author.

Anyhow, on a more positive note, Ben and I have two more days before everything is packed up and we hit the road.  While my experience with previous moves tell me to calm down, I still can’t help looking around the apartment and wondering how all this stuff is going to fit into a 16-foot truck.  (I’ve done it before, so I know it’s possible, but I’m still nervous.)

Our To-Do list remains long, although the most pressing item—breaking down the aquarium and transferring all the fish to my sister—was finished yesterday.  If we were moving directly into another apartment and not into a hotel, I would’ve moved the fish with us (been there, done that), but that wasn’t in the cards this time.  I will miss the Clown Loaches; they’ve always been my favorites and have tripled their size since I got them, but I know they’ve gone to a good (and much larger) home and will be fine.

The goal today is to return the cable equipment to Cox and get all the remaining loose items boxed up. If we get that done, we might actually have a little bit of a breather tomorrow before everything happens on Monday.

I Give Up

Three weeks ago I put in a new W-4 at work to maximize the amount of money I’d be getting out of my last two paychecks.  I understand why it didn’t show up on the check immediately following the change since it was put in mid-cycle, but it didn’t show up this time, and I fully expect my final check in two weeks won’t reflect the change either. I’m half tempted to start sending emails, but at this point say fuck it, because I really want nothing more to do with the utter incompetence that has been a hallmark of working for that company for the last seven years.  Is it really that hard to do a payroll change? Apparently the answer is yes.

“Breathing is hard!”

UPDATE: I sent an email through my gmail account to the payroll director and she responded almost immediately saying that she would take care of it.  On a lark, I tried logging into my old company webmail, and guess what? Still works. Am I surprised? Not in the least. [See above.]

It’s actually good that my account was still accessible, because my former supervisor had sent an updated letter of recommendation for me there.

So Long, Farewell

This is the last view I have of the workroom/office I’ve occupied for the last two years. And in advance of our move to Denver, as of noon today, my employment with the healthcare company I’ve called home for the past seven years has come to an end.

The going-away lunch with my team was surprisingly bittersweet.  I am leaving my facility in very capable hands however, and wish him all the luck patience in the world. He’s going to need it.

I Must Be Psychic

Every day I drive 16th Street to and from work. About two years ago, the City of Phoenix tore up and resurfaced the one-mile stretch between Bethany Home Road and Camelback.  I never thought that bit was in particularly bad condition, but whatever. Who am I to question their wisdom? The mile south of Camelback to Indian School Road, however, was horrific.  I had assumed at the time that they’d redo that part as well.

Wrong.

And of course, over the next two years the surface has gotten much worse.  Patches, potholes, cracks…the list is endless.

Six months ago I was joking with Ben that they’d probably get around to resurfacing that part of 16th Street just as we were leaving town.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Seriously.

So It's Come Down To This?

Anthony Weiner’s penis?  Seriously?

The talking bobbleheads are all atwitter (no pun intended) about the fact that a married, elected Democratic official sent a photo of his penis to one or more women. Really?

While it is rather unusual for a Democrat to get caught up in a situation like this, let’s all remember the incredible number of sex scandals Republicans have been involved in over the past decade.   Larry Tap-Tap-Tap Craig and David Diaper-Boy Vitter are the top two who come to mind, but there are many, many others. And while they were not elected officials, let us not forget two other luminaries of the right, Ted Meth-and-Rent-Boy Haggard and George Lift-His-Luggage Rekers.

Where was the outrage from the talking heads when these men were caught with their pants down?

Seriously America, it’s time to get off your faux moral high horse and GROW THE FUCK UP.  As Lizz Winstead tweeted:

Exactly, Lizz.  Exactly.

Worth Repeating

When You’re Straight…

You get your name in the paper for getting married.
You get looks of admiration when you hold your partner’s hand.
You get a tax break for being married.
You get to keep your kids no matter how bad a parent you are.
You get to stay in the military if you engage in non-consensual sex.
You get AIDS, and you’re an “innocent victim.”
You have a life.
You stand up for your rights and it makes you a “participatory citizen.”

BUT…

When You’re Lesbian or Gay…

You get your name in the paper for committing sodomy.
You get spat upon and jeered at when you hold your partner’s hand.
You can’t get married.
You get your kids taken away from you no matter how good a parent you are.
You get kicked out of the military if you engage in consensual sex.
You get AIDS, and you obviously “deserve it.”
You have a “lifestyle.” not a Life
You stand up for your rights and it makes you a “militant homosexual.”

It’s the hyprocrisy, stupid!

STOP THE HATRED.

Dodged Another Bullet

Can you see me smiling?

If the original factory warranty has expired on your car and you don’t have an extended warranty, run—do not walk—to your insurance company and get mechanical breakdown coverage if it’s offered.

Seriously.

It turns out it wasn’t a simple repair on the car.  It wasn’t a broken linkage and it wasn’t a blown slave cylinder. It was the entire effing clutch.  But thanks to Geico and a little foresight on my part, what would have been a $1300 expense cost me only $250. Granted, it’s money I still didn’t need to spend, but two fifty is a hell of a lot better than the alternative.

Inspection also uncovered a small leak in a power steering hose and that the front bushings need replacement.  Both are also covered under the policy (albeit with a $250 deductible for each) and while they shouldn’t be ignored, neither one was something that had to be repaired before moving to Denver.  Of course the shop also came up with another list of routine maintenance items that total around $1500, but those can be done piecemeal as funds allow.

Interestingly (or not) enough, Anderson is actually driving much better.  The amount of resistance I’m feeling in the pedal is about what it was when I first noticed the problem the other day, but it’s definitely working now, and shifting is so much smoother than previously.  In fact, the amount of force required to depress the pedal previously was not normal.  Go figure.

The shop told me there was .9mm left on the clutch plate; 1.0mm being the spec for replacement.  So yeah, I was overdue.

Now I know that with my particular driving style a MINI Cooper clutch will last approximately 60,000 miles.

Anderson Has Issues

When Ben and I were pulling out of the carport to go to lunch yesterday, I noticed that something was “off” with Anderson’s clutch. At first I didn’t realize what it was, but as we drove out of the apartment complex, I realized there was no resistance as I pushed the pedal down. It was very odd. And while I could still shift gears, it required more force than usual.

I immediately pulled back into the complex and returned to my carport. Low clutch fluid? I thought the MINI had a hydraulic clutch, but I didn’t remember ever seeing a reservoir mentioned in the car’s documentation or seeing one anywhere in the engine compartment. Just to be sure, I popped the hood and looked around. Nope. Only the brake reservoir, and the fluid level in that was fine. (It turns out it’s a shared reservoir system.)

I waited as Ben went back inside to get his keys since he’d be the one driving us to lunch, and all sorts of horrible things started running through my head.  While it was hopefully something as simple as a broken linkage (or perhaps a leaking slave cylinder), what if it was something much, much worse? Anderson’s factory warranty ran out about 5,000 miles ago and visions of dumping all the money I’d put aside for the move to Denver into a very expensive car repair kept flashing before my eyes.  So much for it being a happy birthday.  Of course, on top of everything it was a holiday weekend, so I couldn’t even call the shop to make an appointment to bring it in.

When we got home I went online, and started searching for “MINI clutch pedal no resistance.” It didn’t help my anxiety level one bit. There were two schools of thought: one said bad slave cylinder (apparently they’re all plastic) or broken linkage (both relatively inexpensive to repair) and the other said complete clutch replacement (white knuckle panic attack).

I pulled up my auto insurance policy to verify that I at least had towing covered, so that wouldn’t be an out-of-pocket expense, and—praise be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster—discovered I had completely forgotten I was also carrying “mechanical breakdown” coverage.  I had added it to the policy a little over a year ago when I realized that Anderson’s factory warranty would be running out in short order and there was no way I was going to pay the outrageous amount quoted for an extended warranty.

I spoke with the insurance company today and I think can relax a bit. Supposedly no matter how bad it is, the most I will have to come up with is the $250 deductible. They said all I had to do was inform the shop I had the coverage, provide them with my insurance policy number and the direct phone line to claims and they’d take care of the rest.

So first thing tomorrow I’m calling for a tow and taking poor ol’ Anderson in to be looked over.

And in the overall scheme of things, it’s better that it happened now and not in two weeks, or—gods forbid—on the way to Denver.

In 1980…

This is what approximately $2000 worth of stereo equipment looked like:

Sure, it doesn’t look like much now, but at the time (with the exception of the speakers) it was state-of-the-art stuff.

The only items I still have are—amazingly—the speakers (woofers refoamed and cabinets resurfaced several years ago), although I did pick up another 1300Mk2 off eBay about a decade ago and still use it to spin my vinyl.  I’ve also had several sets of the Micro Series components over the years, but always end up selling them because their general lack of inputs and outputs make them impractical for use as a main setup in this age of DVRs, DVDs, and the multitude of other tech that you might want to attach to your stereo.

Morning Soundtrack

Besides the iconic Bohemian Rhapsody, my other favorite cuts on this album are Prophet’s Song and ’39—which seems to be about a group of volunteers leaving earth on a mission to discover a new world, only to return and discover that while they’ve aged only a year, a century has passed on earth:

In the year of thirty-nine
Assembled here the volunteers
In the days when lands were few
Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn
The sweetest sight ever seen
And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day
Sailed across the milky seas
Ne’er looked back never feared never cried

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew

In the year of thirty-nine
Came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news
Of a world so newly born
Though their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and grey
Little darlin’ well away
But my love this cannot be
Oh so many years have gone
Though I’m older but a year
Your mother’s eyes from your eyes cry to me

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand
Cannot heal me like your hand
For my life’s still ahead, pity me.