Sunday, September 21, 2008


Starting a new job has taken a toll on the frequency that we've been able to update this blog! Amazing how working all day 1) reduces the amount of time you have to write and 2) limits the number of blog-able experiences you have on any given day. That is, unless you plan on blogging about your job.

Let me say a few brief things about my job to quench the curiosity I know at least a few of you have expressed:
It's great. The people are supremely friendly. In fact, it's the friendliest new job I've ever had.  People stop by and ask how things are going, and go out of their way to swing by my cubicle just to say "hi"--let me add that I've known most of these folks for a week and a half.

One harmless little anecdote: the ratio of men to women in this workplace is way different than what I was accustomed to at Portland State. I'd say that it's the exact opposite, in fact. I've gone from an office that was predominantly women, to one that's probably 90-95% men. 

The other day one of my coworkers stopped by my desk and asked that I spread the word that they were having birthday cake in another part of the office. So, I walked around the cubicles, letting people know that there was birthday cake to be had. I've found that working with women, it's almost like pulling teeth to get them to come for cake. And when they do, they only want "just a small piece." In my current office, the word spread like wildfire. "CAKE?! WHAT KIND OF CAKE? IS IT CARROT CAKE? WHERE'S THE CAKE!?" Heads sprung up like whack-a-mole's from all the cubicles at the mention of it. When I walked down to get my piece, I found myself in line behind a whole mess of guys all waiting for their cake. AWESOME. This is my kind of workplace. 

Other interesting things--for the first time in 59 days, we had a big rainstorm move through Boise this weekend. It started on Friday night as some thunderstorms broke over the city. Big flashes of lightning and rolling rumbles of thunder. It started pouring during the night, and rained most of the day on Saturday. For those of you who find weather as interesting as I do, imagine this: Friday, there was a record high of 94 degrees; today, Sunday, it didn't even break 70. I think we got up to 67 or so. Throughout the week we'd planned a camping trip up to the McCall area for this weekend, but as Friday night rolled around, and we faced the reality of packing our gear and going grocery shopping, we decided to abandon those plans. When we awoke on Saturday morning to the sound of rain pouring down the steps in the courtyard behind our bedroom, we were so thankful that we'd elected to stay home.

Instead, we just enjoyed the city this weekend. It's amazing how quiet it is here in town on a Sunday. The downtown area is a ghost-town. The stores and boutiques are closed, and the restaurants are dead. We got coffee and walked around looking through the windows of places we'd like to return to eventually. The Co-op in town was also having a "Fall Harvest Festival" with farmer's market-style vendors all offering samples, a wine tasting, and a live band. We wandered through that for a while and tried some awesome pickles, salsa, mustard, and hot sauces.

Finally, this weekend we ate out at a great restaurant downtown. Any Boise-ites reading along, take note: A Taste of Memphis down on Idaho St (next door to Old Chicago, and just below the Rose Room), is a great barbecue joint with the world's friendliest owner and the BEST hush puppies EVER. They seem to be getting hit hard by the slow economy: the owner said she didn't know how much longer she'd be able to stay open. It's really sad--especially when the sub-par chain restaurant Old Chicago was jumping all night next door. Charlie has the Friday Night Special--homemade Gumbo with sausage and chicken--and hush puppies on the side, and I had the barbecued pork ribs with some stellar collard greens and potato salad for sides. I also ordered some sweet tea so sugary it made my teeth hurt. I have to say, though, as amazing as my ribs were, and as tasty as the greens were (with chunks of ham cooked throughout!), the hushpuppies really stole the show. I've never been a huge hushpuppy fan--normally they seem somewhat boring: deep fried cornbread? These were awesome--crispy, hot, bite-sized, and full of flavor and spices. WOW. Anyhow, if you're in the area, I highly recommend the restaurant and especially the hush puppies. The owner and her family are ridiculously nice as well. Unfortunately, though, if you're a vegetarian, the menu might be a little on the spare side--but, with barbecue and southern food, that's no real shocker, I suppose.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Here's a picture of what remains of the excitement last night. Turns out it was two buildings back from ours. There was a big yellow building I didn't even know about between us and the fire.

Anyhow. Yeesh! This looks like a storage shed or something that was attached to the back of some law offices. Not much of a storage shed any longer! What we saw last night, were the firefighters walking on the roof of the brick building. I think, for the owners, it was fortunate that it was a brick building and not a wood one. Scary.

Not exactly what you want to hear at 3 am.

The light flicks on in the courtyard area behind our apartment, shining through our blinds and onto the ceiling.

People are talking, though, through the window it's hard to hear what they're saying beyond murmured mumbles.

A chorus of sirens whines through the night, but that's not unusual since we live relatively close to a hospital.

Somehow Charlie and I both wake up right about the time that we hear the neighbor out in the courtyard say, in a flat, alarm-less voice, "Fire."

We look at one another, and I don't remember who it was that asked, "Should we go see what's going on?" but, we both throw sweatshirts on and walk out in our pjs.

The back courtyard is full of red flashing lights, and we can see them strobing in through our kitchen window.

We look out the front windows, and there are three or four big fire trucks parked in the street directly in front of our apartment building.

Putting flip-flops on, we go outside to try and see what's happening. Our neighbor from upstairs is on the porch next to ours, smoking a cigarette. He's in his pj's too. We talk for a minute: no, it's not our building that's on fire. He says that he thought about starting to pitch his worldly belongings from the window for a moment, though.

Idiotically, I say something to the tune of, "Wow, I think I can smell smoke or something," forgetting, of course that he's standing there smoking. Obviously, it's 3 am, and even though I feel wide-awake, my brain isn't firing on all cylinders yet. I try to cover it up by saying something to the effect of, "I thought I smelled something when I woke up, too."

Charlie and I decide to see if we can see better what's going on, and head part way around the block in one direction and then the other. We pause by the alley long enough to watch the fire fighters put a ladder up against a building just to the rear of ours. They climb onto the roof and stomp around.

There's water from their hoses all over the ground.

It's all kind of anonymous and dream-like. Some guy (I think he lives in our building, but I could be wrong, it was late, but he looked vaguely familiar), stops and asks if we're checking out the excitement in the neighborhood. We nod and mutter something inane and inarticulate, transfixed by the alien men in full-body equipment and the red blinking lights.

Then, assured that everything is under control, and that our building isn't going to burn down around our ears, we try to go back to bed and back to sleep. I distinctly remember Charlie's watch beeping at 4 am, however, and I think it was light out before I really, really fell back into any sort of a restful sleep.

In other surreal-ness, when I got up this morning, there was a lone bagpiper playing somewhere outside. I think he was practicing. It went on, quite literally, for TWO HOURS. Hello alternate reality Boise universe.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Summer vacation.

It's funny how in the course of a day, sitting around until noon in your pajamas can go from being something pathetic that you try not to broadcast ("Me? Noooo, I blow-dried my hair this morning, and I am DEFINITELY wearing pants right now. In case you were wondering, I was also DEFINITELY out of bed before 10 am, too.") to something decadent that you luxuriate in and maybe even taunt your close friends with a little ("Mmm... this coffee sure is good. It's even better IN PAJAMAS! Too bad I had sit on the couch all morning with the internet and a good book... What? You had to work?"). It's amazing the power that words, terms, and states of being can have on how we (and others) view our actions. When you're unemployed, lounging around in pajamas seems a little pathetic and sloppy; when you're simply waiting for employment to begin it feels like VACATION! And there is nothing wrong with pajamas until noon on vacation!

Wait, what's that? Employed? Yes, dear friends and family, Ariel's sweet summer vacation of 2008 has officially ended: yesterday I received a job offer I couldn't refuse, and this morning I accepted it. I start work on Wednesday the 10th.

It has been a PROCESS. In all, I've had NINE interviews this go-round, three of which were for the job I've just accepted, and most of which took place in the last week and a half. Overall, I sent out 33 applications (a large chunk of those I'm including sprung forth from two standard state position listings--so, I have to say, it sounds impressive, but really, it wasn't quite as much work as it seems), I was rejected from 17 opportunities, and I turned down one offer because the management and I weren't a good fit.

I had some doozies as far as interviews went, too (I can write about these because they were either for jobs for which I was turned down, or for positions that I ended up turning down myself).* I interviewed with someone who may well have been drunk (perhaps it was just said individual's face and way of throwing back their head when they laughed, but wowza... that would have been tricky to handle in a supervisor!), I had an exceptionally combative, aggressive interviewer whose immediate purpose, it seemed, was to try and catch me in a contradiction and to fluster me out of my poised interviewing comfort zone, I had a four-hour interview that didn't even result in a thanks-but-no-thanks phone call (or even a real hand-signed signature on a piece of paper), I was turned down for a job IN an interview for being too skilled and qualified for the position, and I had a couple big let downs for awesome interviews I thought I'd nailed.

Wow. I'm glad it's over.

The timing feels right, too. As the days start to shorten, the temperatures mellow, and the nights and mornings grow chilly, it feels like time to give up on summer vacation and turn my mind toward "real life" again. I think that a job is a good step in that direction.

I'll be entering into an industry that I know virtually nothing about (don't worry, MY job is within my knowledge/comfort zone, just not the company's overall industry), and working for a much larger immediate office than I've been involved with before. But, having met the people, and having had the opportunity to get to know the company a little, I think it's a good fit and that it will be a good challenge for me. I look forward to starting.

I also look forward to not worrying about things like eating out on occasion or picking up a new pair of shoes. Yes, Otto, I can afford to buy shoes AND cat food again! You don't have to eat Hobo spiders any longer!

* * *

Aaaaand now on TV there are adorable elementary school children in hard hats with shovels breaking ground on a new elementary school. The cuteness has made me lose my train of thought, so... consider this the most recent update!



*In the interest of keeping my new job, and keeping positive relations with all potential co-workers and clients, I'm making the decision right now not to blog about work in any sort of a specific or derogatory way. If something exciting and big happens, expect to hear about it, otherwise just assume all is peachy. :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

And a good Labor Day to you, too!

Our apartment looks like a campsite exploded in it.

In our library room, you'll find Charlie's tent, our two plastic bins of camping gear, a pile of stinky laundry, and various other bits and pieces that suggest we might have spent a weekend in the woods. Our kitchen plays host to half-eaten bags of trail mix, a sink heaping with camping dishes, and the remains of a lunch I'm trying to scarf down before attending to it all.

So, if you guessed that we spent Labor Day hiking and camping our little hearts out, you hit the nail on the head.

In somewhat of an 11th hour decision, Charlie and I selected the Eagle Cap Wilderness area as our Labor Day destination. The forecast called for "abundant sun" on Saturday, clouds on Sunday, and chilly "fall-like" temperatures for Sunday night. So we packed sweaters, gloves, and a bit of wool and polar fleece, and hit the road early Saturday morning. When it comes to getting out of the house early in the morning, Charlie and I are not yet experts. We'd determined that our departure time needed to fall between 6:30 and 7:00 am, since we had a 5 hour drive to the trailhead in Eastern Oregon (yuck). We left close to 7:30--I was feeling a little disappointed with our inability to get out the door, until I realized that just by the sheer magic of driving west, we'd gain an hour as we crossed from Mountain to Pacific time zones.

Saturday we had a gorgeous day of hiking full of rivers and peaks, blurred in my memory by a sweaty forehead and a trail that just never quit with the uphill climbing. Charlie, on the other hand was a robot when it came to reaching our destination. I don't think I ever saw a drop of sweat on his brow. When I'd arrive at a top of a tough patch, huffing and puffing like a locomotive, and trying to keep sweaty strands of hair out of my face he'd be standing there, gazing out over the view, cool as a cucumber, ready to move on. In all, we only did 6.3 miles, and about 1800 ft of elevation gain. I think I need to get in better condition before we plan any week-long loop hikes.

Our first night at the campground was nice. The lake was beautiful, but packed full of people. One of the funnier moments of the trip occurred just after we'd chosen our campsite. The clouds had blown in and the wind had picked up, and, with Charlie vouching that the coast was clear, I quick stripped down to my skivvies, and was one leg into a warmer pair of pants when a woman from the next campsite over comes bounding over the ridge "Halloooo"-ing with a smile. I sat down quick on a crumbly log (I probably have slivers in my butt that I don't even know about), and tossed my pants over my lap. It turns out she and her husband were on a eight-day backpacking trip with their two daughters and two dogs and she'd forgotten to bring along soap. They were planning on fishing, and that seemed foolish and pretty grimy without anything to wash-up with. First of all, let me point out that their daughters were probably 6 and 10. It took me a few minutes to get past the fact that they were planning a trip of that caliber with kids that young. Wow. I almost forgot that I didn't have any pants on. After asking for just a moment so that I could get dressed, we were able to get them a baggie of campsoap and send her on her way.

We didn't get rid of them entirely, though, as the two girls spent the evening and most of the next day galloping around the lake side, sneaking behind trees, and making a game out of spying on the neighbors (us). We were continually entertained by little blond heads dashing about and giggling, and snuffly dogs checking out our tent in the morning.

Our first night on the lake was nice. We hiked a little up the hill behind our site and found a campfire ring (we were too close to the lake in our site for one), and had a nice crackly little fire. It was a chilly night, so it was much appreciated. Saturday night, both Charlie and I woke up at some point to the sound of ice pellets hitting and rolling off the tent. Chilly indeed!

Across the lake.

Our original plan had been to spend one night at Minam Lake (pictured above), and then climb a ridge and camp our second night at Mirror Lake. But, the combination of soft feet and new-ish boots left me with quarter-sized blisters on both my heels. By the time we reached the lake, they were looking awful, but hadn't burst yet (hooray for moleskin and creative band-aid-ing). That, and hearing from a few hikers that Mirror Lake was thronged with people, I asked Charlie if perhaps we could consider staying put at Minam Lake, and taking a day hike around the area on Sunday instead. He was fine with that idea, so we packed up and moved to a new campsite on the other side of the lake and set out in search of another little lake in the area: Blue Lake.

According to our guidebook, Blue Lake was only .9 miles from where we were and we'd gain about 400 ft in elevation getting there. We saw a signpost in a cairn of rocks pointing the way, but it didn't really seem to indicate much of a trail. Charlie thought that we should take the thinner trail, but I talked him into taking the more well-trod one, with the thought that maybe the sign had gotten spun around a little.
Of course, that wasn't the case. We didn't end up making it out to Blue Lake, but we did find ourselves in the Minam River Valley. It was beautiful, with sweeping green valley walls, and granite peaks looming overhead. There was also an icy wind blowing, which made us decide to turn around after a short lunch stop.

Minan River Valley

When we arrived back at our campsite, the wind was still blowing, and we unfortunately had to spend an absolutely outrageous amount of time pumping water (my filter needs to be replaced, and it started giving up the "volume" ghost on this trip--water was still clean, it just came out veeerrrrryyyyy slowly). By the time we'd finished with that (squatting unceremoniously on a rock in the lake with cold water pouring over my hands doing the same repetitive motion again and again, all with that darn cold wind blowing), I was kind of stiff and cranky. I decided to go take a nap in the tent and try to warm up. Charlie was kind enough to get a picture.

Not my finest moment.

He was also kind enough to find a bunch of wood and get a crackling fire going. It took great effort, but I dragged myself out of the tent and joined him. And I was glad I did. We spent the rest of that evening by the fire, until about 8:30 (it was dark), it began SNOWING. It was small, pellety snow--it almost looked like it should have been in a snow globe. We washed dishes at super-speed and threw our things together, and threw ourselves into the tent. It was somewhat hilarious, but also extremely cozy to fall asleep with the sound of snow on the tent roof and walls.

We woke up to 1/2" coating everything, and a layer of icy water frozen on the rainfly of the tent.


Monday was a quick day. We ate breakfast in the chilly air (somehow redeemed a little by the dusting of snow--I told Charlie that I think it was probably just as cold as the day prior, but somehow my brain understood the temperature better because I could see the snow), and enjoyed an amazing, still morning on the lake before we packed up and hit the trail.

Monday morning lake.

It was a quick hike out, and a long drive home, but we had an amazing time. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to share it with family and friends. So, clear your calendars--we're hoping to get back to this part of Oregon next summer, and you're cordially invited. Hearing large groups of campers laughing across the lake on Sunday night, made us wish we had a few more faces in our camping party. So, who's on board? :)

Oh, and finally, one parting shot--we're still adjusting to a few things about not living in Portland, and about living in a more "outdoorsy" place. Spotted on the highway headed home between Baker City and Boise. Idaho plates, but I think he bagged half of Oregon!

Heading home.