July 31, 2010

The Day Before I Leave

1:30 - It's hard to focus. There's so much to do, and I can't decide if I'm wasting time or not. I'm not taking my external hard drive with me abroad. It will stay here, safe, so now I'm thinking about my laptop (whose battery has as of yesterday completely stopped working, so it's now a low-powered, light weight desktop for all intents and purposes) and how it's very very sick and it'll be a miracle if it lasts until next school year, even with the little one to take the pressure off. And I've decided that now, while I have the external hard drive handy and haven't installed photoshop or office yet, is the time to reformat it and start as clean as I can for the upcoming year. So I've got three computers up and running and transferring files, backing up etc... and the washer and dryer are both full and spinning, and I've still got a big mess of things to sort through from the road trip and stuff to try to fit into my suitcases for Scotland and Spain, and tilapia sitting in the fridge needing to be made into soup yesterday.

6:30 - Time is going by frightening fast, but I'm making progress. Almost all the laundry is done. All my files are backed up now, all my memory cards are reformatted. I've started packing in stages - first the camera bag, then the purse, etc... currently the technology and most important documents are all packed up, so that only leaves clothes and optionals, of which there will be few. Microsoft word is busy installing on both computers - tricky as one of them didn't have a CD drive, so I had to go through the network, and one of the letters in the product key was illegible. But hey, there are only so many possible letters, so eventually I got it to work. I still want to install PCtools and Photoshop tonight, because there could be problems with those that require phone calls. The camera software would be nice to do, too, just so that I don't have to bring any CDs with me. I tried calling for permission to return my spare battery - turns out I'm 3 days past the 15 day return limit, but I have a myriad of excuses for that and the person on the phone implied that if I called back on Monday I'd fairly easily be able to obtain an override from a supervisor. The fun continues...

8:30 - Word, antivirus, instant messengers, and media programs are all installed and running fine. Photoshop is installing now. I took Tidbit for a walk and saw my last American sunset for a while. It wasn't anything spectacular, but the colours seemed super-saturated, almost fake and grainy-like, even the blue. I'm making a shopping list for tomorrow: black socks, a white jacket, proper deodorant...

10:30 - The soup is finishing up now. I hope it's good. Lots of carrots and celery - maybe one cup each? - and a whole onion, and three yukon potatoes, and four tilapia fillets, and some vermouth, and a can of chopped clams in clam juice, and salt, and pepper, and thyme, and cayenne pepper, and garlic - and butter... and finally I'll add the cream and the milk. It hits me that I haven't eaten today, except for three pretzel m&ms and two town house crackers.

July 30, 2010

The Computer Saga

I am no longer angry with Best Buy. Two days ago, after a long and complicated mess involving misleading warranty details and backorders, I was pretty upset with them. I was leaving in three days for another country, the battery had finally arrived at the last minute (and, since I didn't have any idea when it would arrive, I had after two months paid 100$ for another one)... and a new battery didn't fix the problem. The problem was the connection between netbook and battery, and now I had three batteries I couldn't use. I went to the store and they said that they'd have to send it in for repair - this could take 2-3 weeks. Weeks I didn't have.

After talking to the store manager, hoping to negotiate free shipping to Europe post-repair, since it was their fault I didn't have this sorted months ago, he poked around and managed to replace the whole laptop for me, free of charge. Brilliant, mostly. Of course, I had to back up all of my files, and its a newer model of questionable improvement (it's supposedly faster, but it took a significant hit on battery life)... but all in all, it's a faster, easier, and better solution, and I still have the free battery from the warranty. Not bad at all considering what I paid for the protection plan.

As for Toshiba lowering the battery life, it seems just plain stupid to me, especially as the reason I went with this netbook originally was because of its excellent battery life. However, its still a pretty long life if the manufacturer's estimate can be believed, so I'm not going to complain. Much.

Pamplona Blog Up and Running

I've made a blog for my study abroad experience now: http://topamplona.wordpress.com/

Yes, this means I now have three personal blogs, this one, my travel one, and now a study abroad one. The travel one is to practice being a journalist (or something), the study abroad one is just useful to have for family, friends, or other study abroad participants who would rather not wade through the contents of a five year old, all-over-the-place blog to see what it was like to study abroad in Pamplona. After some deliberation, I even put the Pamplona blog on its own wordpress account, and am planning to make individual blogs for Bonn and Bergen as well, under the same account, when the time comes.

Oh, one more thing, if you read this blog regularly, I won't be neglecting it in favor of the Pamplona blog. I might steal some of the Pamplona content for this one, but I won't be rambling about my psychological state or random languages or anything like that there, so if for some bizarre reason you like that stuff, keep reading here! :)

July 29, 2010

Garmin Nuvi's Recent Destinations

Where I wanted to go the last two weeks:

Bridal Cave
State Capitol
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Sonic Drive-In
Sonic Drive-In
Columbia, MO
Jessie’s Last Stop
Kirby’s Corner Market
Casey’s General Store
Corn Palace
Falls Park
Sioux Falls
Motel 6 - Mitchell
Burger King
Badlands National Park - Pinnacles
Wall Drug
Chapel in the Hills
Thunderhead Falls
Ponderosa Motor Lodge
Custer State Park East
Fresh Start Convenience
All American Lodge
Diary Queen
Wind Cave National Park North
Mt. Rushmore National Memorial
Burger King
Motel 6 Wheatland
Hot Springs
Snyder Food and Gas
Noodles and Company
Grand Lake Lodge
Rocky Mountain National Park
Historic Stanley Hotel
Travelodge Estes Park
Sombrero Ranch
Budget Host Estes Park
Estes Park
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Garden of the Gods
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Dillon Motel
Manitou Springs
Days Inn Lawrence
Jade Garden Restaurant
The Main Squeeze
Columbia, Mo
Whole Foods
849 Burgundy Lane
Castlewood State Park
Kate’s House
St. Louis Zoo
Turtle Park
Gateway Arch Memorial
The St. Louis City Museum
First Watch Cafe
Cahokia Mounds State Park
Kate’s House
Forest Park Muny Theatre
Kate’s House
Lambert International Airport International Arrivals

July 28, 2010

In Between Days

It's that time of the day in Florida when everything is glowing, hit by the orange sideways light of a long sunset. This happens almost every evening, but I haven't learned to avoid avoid the feeling that I should go outside and watch it. After all, Florida has such lovely sunsets, and I really shouldn't mope around the house when I could run down to the beach asap, camera in hand, and get a few shots. This is one of the downsides of living in Florida. My subconscious, fed on a history of childhood vacations here and the energy of the tourists that sometimes outnumber the residents, won't let me accept the scenery as ordinary or let me concentrate on my real life. I'm not on total vacation, I have things to do and sleep to catch up on, but its hard to silence the voice that says, "Go out and play while you can, you're in the lovely tropics, the sun is setting, hurry now, hurry!"

Bah humbug, I say.

Liisa left yesterday. Our road trip was fantastic. We ate Rocky Mountain Oysters in Manitou Springs, saw eight hundred year old Native American cliff dwellings, went on a prairie dog safari, had elk, buffalo, and coyotes step feet from the car, played with snow in the alpine tundra, drove on the highway to the sky, nearly stepped on a rattlesnake at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, went horseback riding for nine long hours on silver-dusted mountain trails in the Roosevelt National Forest, got old time photos taken at Wall Drug Store, temporarily adopted some parents in Deadwood, saw Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, drove through the otherworldly Badlands, learned to rock climb and even scaled a 180 foot granite dome, saw Mitchell's Corn Palace and the Falls of Sioux Falls, had a terrific and classy meal in Omaha, Nebraska, took a boat through a thunderstorm that gave way just in time to reveal a fiery and brilliant sunset, explored every inch of the new Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, and more. Best of all, I got to show Liisa my own places, people, and things, as she showed me hers two years ago.

It took me a day and something of a conscious effort to remember that I could now put things in the shotgun seat in the Forester. I wasn't used to it being empty. More than that, I wasn't, and still am not quite, used to being alone. One of the last things we did was trade CDs - I gave her the two I had in the car, which included her new Dixie Chicks favorites. She gave me a CD her sister had burned for us, labeled Suomi. I played it all the way to Maxine's house, and back home, and it turned the backdrop of Spanish moss and palm trees into a dream-scape.

Scotland is only a few days away now and I'm not ready for it yet. I need sleep, some tech work, sleep, an apartment in Spain, sleep, time to do laundry and finish packing, sleep... I should just be able to catch up before I leave, but without much time to spare. Today I woke up early at Maxine's and drove to the beaches to go to Writing Club one last time before I leave, and immediately afterward I had a dentist appointment - tomorrow I take Tidbit to the vet and have one last lunch with my mom. The long and painful mini-laptop-battery saga is almost over, though. They agreed to replace it free of charge (!! :D), but I panicked and took it back for one more night to make sure I have all the files backed up, so I'll get the new one tomorrow. I resumed looking for apartments with renewed vigor. There are new ads up since I left for Missouri, so I've made a new list and started sending emails. If I don't have any leads by the time I get to Scotland, I'll call from there with cheaper European rates and Lucia standing by.

And this is a big one: I got my passport back, with a Spanish VISA in it. ^^ So I'm clear to fly...

July 02, 2010

Going Up

I feel like I’ve always been told or expected that growing up means taking things more seriously, but so far I feel like its just the opposite. They say I’m pretty mature and settled for my age and I feel like quickly, quickly, things are shedding their drama, their chaos, their gravity, if the three are tied together. When I was very small a day was a week and so much was full of mystery, was frightening and dizzying and wonderful/horrible to think about. And as I got older I mastered some of the basic things but still I used to go for runs around the neighborhood and find a quiet place when things built up too big inside of me, when I glimpsed the thought of taking control of my own destiny and the world and my own position within it seemed too scary. Things back then could be tragic and beautiful and I listened to soundtrack music and waited for my own epic to sweep me into things unknown, wild, and dangerous. And once because of a boy I lay on the ground and wanted to die, and some people thought I was too young to feel that way but I know this - that I am too old to feel that way now.

Even in college, as a Freshman, as a Sophomore - I infused certain things with too much drama, too much importance, and connected them in my mind with music, and when I listen to those songs now they fill me with a sort of wonder when I feel the things I felt then, and already those feelings are alien to me, feel odd, a bit silly, and I realize only now certain undertones of fear, the sense of being swept away by destiny - not any grand destiny, just ordinary life - and I think to myself that those undertones aren’t in my life today, that right now, exactly now, I have finally moved past all of that, now I know what’s up and can’t be ruffled by such things. Right.

Of course it may also be a matter of changing the object in question, tackling more difficult stages, but even if I keep moving up like this what happens when I reach the top? It can’t go on forever and it reminds me of the way deep mysteries started vanishing, mirage-like, until the end where you realize things only have this sort of gravity because people decide they do, and of course you yourself as a person included, but for a moment if you sort of step above yourself and look down and even this perspective vanishes… and there are no mysteries. Or maybe you die before things become too clear.

Anyway, I keep climbing, and thinking that I’m clear-sighted at last, because there’s so much that can only be seen in retrospect, looking back and laughing at the things that were so important, that I held onto then, sweaty palmed and desperate.