Sunday, December 28, 2008

On authentic culinary experiences

When in an exotic location, people often want to sample "authentic" cuisine. I laud this impulse, and often have it myself. Oftentimes, though, eating in a restaurant will only give one a tourist's experience. To truly have an "authentic" experience, one must attempt to eat what the locals eat. "How," one might ask, "does one discern what the locals eat without a professional guide, e.g. a restauranteur?" The answer, we have discovered, is quite simple. Simply visit a grocery store for a few hours and do some intense price comparing. Cover all your necessary nutrients. The absolute cheapest meal will be the most authentic. Dismiss nothing! While in Seattle, potatoes are the cheapest source of carbohydrates (Idaho being our neighbor) and proteins are all pretty much comparable (because the price of fish is still higher than other proteins, but you get my drift). edit: see comments for Seattle culinary controversy. In New Orleans, rice and beans are by far the cheapest staples to be found.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fixed my iBook G4 optical drive (DVD/CD)

While this isn't in our mission, I thought I'd mention our experience with this computer and our trials and tribulations (and our troubles with tribbles).

We use a 12" iBook G4 that I received as a graduation gift in 2004. It has served me reasonably well, and I've been fortunate enough to know other iBook users who are less thrifty than I. As all iBook users know, the power cable is ill-designed, and I've had to replace that a few times (4) they don't make them particularly replacement-friendly, so I've had to purchase all-new power sources each time, even though it's only been the part that plugs into the computer that bent. Once, I was able to solder the end and got another few months out of the cable, but other times I just invested in the $30 generic brand power cord. My only tip for preserving your power cord (aside from "don't trip over it") is to save that little plastic cover for the end of the cord and store your power cord always in that when not in use. It seems to do a minor job of correctly bending a slightly misshapen tip back to its original working condition.

But all of that is digression from the important story of today. A bit more digression before we continue. About 2 years ago, I dropped this computer. It ceased to function properly. About 6 months later, the delightful Janeth Jones, a fellow Stage Manager at YTN, bequeathed upon me her non-functioning 12" iBook G4. Since I am handyman extraordinaire, I found, and put my hard drive in Janeth's computer. Everything worked beautifully until about 6 months ago when the optical drive (known to laymen as the DVD drive) ceased to function and ate Amelie's Lady in the Water DVD. We just used again... but I realized before we finished that the cord which connects the optical drive to the logic board (motherboard for PC users) was loose. I pushed it back in, and it works like a charm. The moral of this story is, if something is broken, especially your optical drive, check to see if it's plugged in before you take your computer apart. If we had known which cable was which (the orange cable is the one to the optical drive, it turns out) before we began, we could have just removed the RAM shield and pushed it in and saved ourselves about an hour of work.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A few Christmas pictures...

And since I'm still having troubles uploading pictures, even with my small success seen here, click here or copy and paste this link to see more Christmas pictures on Facebook:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Wisconsin

We are satiated and content after two days of eating our fill of extra delicious food and visiting with family and other loved ones. Have a peek at our photo album of Christmas Eve on Facebook, for now, because I'm having issues uploading pictures to our blog.

More pictures are soon forthcoming, and longer blogs!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Birthday Fun

Look at that pretty cake. Brendan made that for me for my birthday. It is one of my favorite kinds of cake, ever since I went to Vienna--Mohr im Hemd. Sooooo good.

It was so pretty I just had to keep posing next to it. 

And then I had to eat it!!

And then I felt sat-is-fied. Yummm.....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fun in the Snow

Brendan and Guy

+ Mariah

Apparently Brendan smells good

Guy says Happy Holidays to all

This is Zephyr

And here is Stina

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Big ole update

Okay, it's possible we'll never finish filling out those bullet points. At some point it becomes more important to share what's been happening most recently. If we do fill out the rest, we'll post it in the original blog where they occurred, and we'll let you know in a new blog so you can go back and read some interesting stories.

But now I'll start with now and work my way backwards until I start to lose track of days. Today is Wednesday. Brendan and I arrived in Wisconsin this afternoon around 12pm. We had planned to spend the day in Chicago with Brendan's parents, but his mom is just getting better from a nasty flu-bug she got over the weekend, so we got on another train to Milwaukee where his dad picked us up. This is the view outside their house:

Snow! Glorious snow! It's really beautiful here, and we're told it might snow another 10 inches or so the day after tomorrow. Today we're taking it easy after a night on the train.

The train trip was quite fine. Leaving New Orleans by train is heaven for bird lovers. It goes through marshes, wetlands, swamps...I'm not really sure what the difference is between all those, but it goes through one or all. What I'm trying to get at is there are cranes, herons, various types of ducks, and it's such a treat to see all those birds. The cranes, especially, were everywhere, sometimes congregating in groups of twenty or more. I wish I'd gotten a picture of that.

Brendan did try to take a picture of the mist at one point. You couldn't tell where the Mississippi met the sky. But by the time we got the camera out and ready, we were no longer right on the water. But you can still see how misty it was:

Well, you can sorta tell how misty it was. On Monday we didn't do very much. On Sunday we had brunch with Jocelyn and Nate and their upstairs neighbors whose names I've embarrassingly forgotten. A little later on Sunday we went to a Couchsurfing potluck and met a bunch of really cool people, and got to know a bit better some we'd already met. We talked a lot to a fellow hitchhiker and he showed us pictures of various signs he's used to try and attract rides. This inspired us to take a picture of our most recently used hitchhiking sign:

On Saturday spent some time internetting, and on our way home we talked to Jocelyn to see what she was up to for the evening, and she invited us to join her and Nate for a tacky Christmas sweater party later. We said maybe. And then we remembered how we want to start saying yes! to things, or at least yes. About a week earlier, we had turned down an invitation to go into a halfway-house and see what it was like and as soon as we walked away from that opportunity, we realized we should have said yes. We miss out on unknown opportunities when we say no. This trip is our chance to say yes more than ever before, because we don't have any obligations or work schedules. To sum it up perfectly and serendipitously, as we just read this for an upcoming book club meeting, "Unexpected travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God," from Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

So we decided to say yes! to the tacky Christmas sweater party. But Jocelyn and Nate weren't going until about 10pm and it was only about 8pm or so. And then Michael called. Michael is a couchsurfer we met playing tag football last weekend. He decided to stay in New Orleans an extra day and wanted to know if we wanted to meet him in the French Quarter. We, of course, wanted to say yes. So we did, and we decided that we might still make it to the party later.

We met Michael by Jackson Square and began walking towards Bourbon Street. On the way we visited a beautiful art gallery, with pieces that sold for over $150k. We spent some time discussing what we liked best and finding out the prices from the friendly and helpful curator, and then we went to Bourbon St. Our first stop:

Lafitte's claims to be the oldest building used a bar in the United States. The tall man next to Brendan is Michael, and the two outer gentlemen just happened to be nearby and when invited to be in the picture they enthusiastically joined. Suffice to say the rest of the night was somewhat debaucherous, yet fascinating. Mingling with all the drunk people on Bourbon St. is more enjoyable when one is also drunk, at least for me.

As the night was winding to a close and we were keeping Michael company waiting for the streetcar, we were chit-chatting and the word "couchsurfing" came up. A young lady standing near us asked if we were from New Orleans and we found out she is a couchsurfer as well, here visiting her sister. So our couchsurfing circle widened, and we were able to see her and Michael again at the potluck the next day.

On Friday evening we had the second installment of a World of Darkness roleplaying game Brendan is leading. We've made some new friends through this and they are delightful people as well as delightful role-players. My character turned into a werewolf!

And this is where my memory starts to fade and days run together. We probably rehearsed last week, and we probably spent some time at CC's checking our email, and we probably walked a lot. The delightful usual.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It snowed in New Orleans!

This is the cute house across the street:

This is our neighbor's car:

And this is a cactus. And that is snow on the ground behind it.

One day later, I am sitting outside as I type this. My fingers are a little cold, but I just have a fleece on and otherwise I'm perfectly comfortable. What is up with New Orleans weather?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2 more bullet points

  • Delightful Thanksgiving visit with Danielle and Michael and one of the cutest two-year-olds ever.
Brendan had Thanksgiving with his fiancee’s cousin’s wife’s mother’s husband’s parents and their extended family. We played obstacle football with a regular ol’ half-brother and an aunt’s boyfriend’s children. If we pretend that fiancee-hood and boyfriend-hood can be the same as in-lawness, that would make those kids Brendan’s step cousins in-law^3. Or, as Wes would say, his shirttail cousins.
We had deliciousness and played dominoes at the Thanksgiving feast. We watched the Seahawks get creamed by the Dallas Cowboys (we were in Dallas, so groans would have been ill-advised).
The next two days were spent enjoying the pleasant company of Dani and Michael and Andrew and Kalab, and the last night produced these delights:

Stina is thinking about writing a story titled The Boy in the Clock.

  • Recovered dedication! Ride from Dallas to Houston with construction worker who was very hesitant at first, asked us if we had any weapons, specified that I (Stina) sit in front, but by the time we got to Houston was showing us pictures of his family.
After being dropped off Sunday morning by Danielle and Michael at a nice south-of-Dallas freeway exit, the blustery wind suddenly began to cut right to the bone. We decided to trudge to the next exit which we could see was in a bit of a valley and near a gas station so we could get out of the wind. We had sudden worries of Chicago hhiking. We trudged the mile or so and discovered two dogs very eager to become our friends at the gas station. Just as we were kneeling down to play with them, a Dodge Ram pulled up and rolled down his window. We hadn't even stuck our thumbs out yet, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but Vincent asked if we had any weapons, asked where we were going, and told us that Stina had to be the one to sit up front (I imagine he was worried Brendan would grab the steering wheel from him and run off with it). Once we were settled in and didn’t try to kill him, he told us that he had seen us walking as he had gone to get gas and had prayed over whether to pick us up or not. He told us God must be with us ‘cause he doesn’t usually pick people up.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rehearsing steadily

Just a quick note to say hello, and that we are rehearsing every day. We are focusing on 6-ball juggling, and we're spending a portion of each day writing. We are getting much better at 6-ball juggling! And one day this week we will go out with what we got and see what kind of response we get. And we will learn and it will be good.

More bullet points to be filled out soon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bullet Points Three and Four Filled Out

  • Stay in cheap hotel, discuss lack of dedication to hitchhiking/tent-camping.

The guys in the pickup truck took us as far as Vicksburg, and according to our estimations it was about another 350 miles to Dallas. It wasn’t quite dark yet, so we tried thumbing it some more. Nearby was a place called the Deluxe Inn, and a grocery store. That Deluxe Inn looked so tempting, and so much more comfortable than a tent would be. We called and found out it was $45 a night, and we made up our minds that if we didn’t get a ride we would stay there and stop off at the grocery store for dinner and travel food for the next day.

And then we got a ride. A very nice retired man said he wasn’t going far, but he could at least get us across the Mississippi. We mentioned to him that we’d considered the Greyhound (because at this point we were already a little concerned that we wouldn’t make it to Plano in time), and he was kind enough to drive us by the station to find out how much it would cost. It would be over $80, and that was too much, so he went on and took us across the river.

The place he left us was rather deserted. Down the road a little ways was a gas station and an “Adult Superstore.” By now it was pretty much dark and there were no streetlights at the highway entrance, and hardly any cars entering there anyway. We felt a little discouraged, because we probably wouldn’t get any farther that night, and now we were without the Deluxe Inn we’d already made up our minds about. We walked down to the gas station, though, to see if we could find anyone headed west.

We were hungry so we bought and ate some sandwiches, and then we walked around where truckers were parked to see if any were leaving. No one was, or if they were they weren’t headed west, and we felt shy about asking regular car drivers. We overcame that at one point and asked some people who were pumping gas and the woman we asked got a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face and suddenly seemed to lose the ability to speak, so we decided to try thumbing it at the gas station exit. We decided we would take the next ride either direction and if it happened to be east, we’d try and get back to the motel.

And that’s where we ended up. A couple around our age picked us up and took us directly to the motel parking lot. The couple was nice, though at one point we were afraid they were going to ask us to get out of the car on the side of the highway, but that’s a story to tell in person, so ask us when you see us next.

We got the cheapest room they had, which was tiny but all we needed. We got to watch some House and relax and take showers with good water pressure for the first time in two weeks. It was nice, but with our travel budget, extravagant and unnecessary. We could have just pitched our tent somewhere nearish to that gas station and started out hitching early the next morning. I don’t know that I believe in karma, but the fact that the next day we couldn’t get another ride out of Vicksburg and tried for 4 hours to do so before giving up and taking the bus makes me wonder how different things would have been if we’d been truly dedicated to the hitchhiking and tent camping from the beginning. We would have left on Monday instead of Tuesday and based on the time we made getting back to New Orleans, I’m sure we would have made it to Plano by midday Wednesday or earlier.
  • Greyhound journey to Mesquite, TX, where my cousin Michael picked us up.
I’ll just tack this bullet point onto the end here because there isn’t much to say about it. My dad and his internet skills helped us figure out when the next bus was leaving Vicksburg, and we called Michael and Danielle to make sure arriving by bus would work for them. They generously offered to pick us up in Mesquite, so we took 8 hour bus ride and made it there by a little after 10pm Wednesday. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bullet Point Two Filled Out

  • First ride in the back of a pickup truck (pictures will be included!).

Holy cow, the wind was crazy. And it was cold with that wind blowing! But a couple of friendly-seeming guys took us from Jackson to Vicksburg in the back of their pickup truck, and little did we know that this would be the first of several rides in the back of a truck.

It's kind of like a faux-hawk.

I think it took me about a half-hour to comb all the tangles out of my hair. On the way back, I made sure to braid my hair before hitchhiking.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bullet Point 1 Filled Out

* Ride from New Orleans to Jackson, MS from roofer who'd just gotten out of jail for a traffic violation and was on his way home for Thanksgiving.

We waited until Tuesday to leave because we thought we might have a ride all the way to Carrollton, TX, which is very close to Plano. We’d posted an ad on Craigslist rideshare, and this is part of what I mean by lack of dedication to hitchhiking. We were trying to find an easier way, and we could always try and find easier ways, but that isn’t the point. The point is to get out there and hitchhike, trusting people so that they will trust us back.

The ride fell through, so we set out Tuesday morning. We took the streetcar to the edge of the city and a highway entrance, and then we held out our “Dallas” sign and put out our thumbs. Within five minutes, we had a ride with the roofer. He was going all the way to Jackson, MS, and he thought we might have an easier time getting from there to Dallas. Since it ultimately shaved 150 miles off our journey, we went with him to Jackson.

The roofer had gotten out of jail at 1:45am that same day. He’d been in since Friday night and said it was for a traffic violation, but he also mentioned cussing out the cop. He said the New Orleans jail was one of the worst he’s ever been in, and he’s been in and out of jail and prison since he was 26 years old. I think he said he is 39 now.

He was born and raised in Louisiana, but his parents had moved to Mississippi several years ago, so he goes back and forth between the two states for work and visiting. He’d been hitchhiking just before Thanksgiving one year ago when his current boss picked him up and asked him if he needed a job. He is in between roofing jobs right now. His boss has a cocaine addiction, and sometimes his addiction comes before paying his workers their full wages, so he (the roofer) is thinking about looking for work in Jackson until his roofing boss calls him for another job.

He’s got a girlfriend in MS. He said he met her on a job. She is friends with one of his co-workers and she came by to see her friend, and the roofer was introduced to her. The way he recounted their meeting was matter of fact. She told him she needed a man around. She left but came back another day and he asked her if she really needed a man around and she said heck yeah, she needed a man around. So he went over and they ended up watching a movie together and now she’s got a man around.

He drank two beers over the course of the drive to Jackson. At first this made us wary, never having been in a car with someone who is driving and drinking, but he sipped them very slowly over three hours. He loves his beer. He said he doesn’t mind working hard all day as long as he can have his six-pack afterwards.

It was a very interesting ride. There is a category of people who pick up hitchhikers in order to have someone to talk to on a long ride. A 19 year old girl who gave us a ride from Bellingham to Everett back in September fit this category, and so did this guy, though they live utterly different lifestyles. It took very little prompting on our parts for him to tell us so many details of his life, and it is one of the things I love the most about hitchhiking.

Monday, December 1, 2008


There's much to tell of our latest hitchhiking venture, and not enough time right now to do it justice. But here is a synopsis of our adventure, and please look for filled out bullet points in the days to follow:

  • Ride from New Orleans to Jackson, MS from roofer who'd just gotten out of jail for a traffic violation and was on his way home for Thanksgiving.
  • First ride in the back of a pickup truck (pictures will be included!).
  • Stay in cheap hotel, discuss lack of dedication to hitchhiking/tent-camping.
  • Greyhound journey to Mesquite, TX, where my cousin Michael picked us up.
  • Delightful Thanksgiving visit with Danielle and Michael and one of the cutest two-year-olds ever.
  • Recovered dedication! Ride from Dallas to Houston with construction worker who was very hesitant at first, asked us if we had any weapons, specified that I (Stina) sit in front, but by the time we got to Houston was showing us pictures of his family.
  • Angel hanging from the rearview mirror of next ride. Made it to Beaumont, got to ride with real live wranglers (one of whom was a nine-year-old girl).
  • Camping in woods behind a church.
  • 5 rides today got us from Beaumont to New Orleans. One couple even passed us and then got off the next exit and doubled back in order to pick us up.
And here we are! Safe and sound and we got back by 3pm. Sweet! Faith in hitchhiking wonders renewed. Check back for more, and often!