Apr 22, 2008

White water and red legs

We got up at 7 and hit the dusty trail out of Globe. We drove north on a long and winding road up onto a plateau and down into the river valley. The river was less than 40 miles outside of Globe, but it still took us about an hour to get there. I thought that my Prius would have been the most impractical car there, but there were also two corvettes also parked at the end of the dirt road. The staff sorted us out, and outfitted us with splash jackets, a helmet, a life vest, and a paddle.

The staff were the same kind of people as ski instructors, real laid-back, outdoorsy people, typically younger, with really leathery skin, some dreadlocks, a scruffy beard, and really faded clothes. They do the jobs they do because its a lifestyle they love. The people that run the tour actually camp a little downstream, and live there for three months at a time, only going to town one day a week if that. The day is filled with rafting and guiding tourists, and they probably have great parties at night with all the other companies guides also camped out there on the riverbank. Probably not much of a future, but its really living for the day. The woman who guided our raft actually migrates between a few states to guide on different rivers, and occationally works on the rivers in south America.

Anyway, they put the four of us in one raft along with a cooler filled with lunch and a collapsable backboard, since we were going to float through a really remote wilderness area inaccessable to almost anything else, and they also threw in a satphone for extra safety.

We had a twenty minute introduction to rafting safety which mostly consisted of what to do when you or someone else falls overboard, and then we took our positions on the boat. I was excited and a bit nervous with the first rapid, but we blasted through it and it was really fun, a bit like a rollercoaster except you're actually there in the wild. We rafted through a few class three rapids, a lot of class two rapids, but mostly class one rapids, which is technically the same as a kiddie pool. We took a bathroom break at the guide's camp, and then rafted downstream until we stopped for lunch at a series of rock ledges, almost exactly at the point where the saguaro cacti begin appearing again.

Before we reached that point, we passed a small trickle of water coming off of a huge salt deposit which forms a small grotto. The guides informed us that this spot was where the Apache believe life began. Actually, the natives believe this river is sacred, and carefully control which parts of it can rafted in thier lands. This idea of the sacred river stuck with me and hit more strongly when we landed 26 miles downstream. The drive back was along a rough dirt track, which crossed streams, ran along ridges, and up and down hills, two hours of very rough driving across an extremely harsh landscape. I reflected on how the water effortly glided us through the barren, arid land, the sheer quantity of water in the river, the source of life in the desert, and I began to understand perhaps, why it was seen as sacred. The river was sacred to the guides as well, in a way, they respected it, and feared it, taking many safety precautions and not only for the sake of the paying passengers.

I thought about the river much farther downstream, this sacred thing, and it really seemed debased by the mass of floating partygoers going tubing, beer, piss, vomit, marshmallows, empty cans, all join the racous group and flow along that same river that Apaches revere and has taken many lives farther upstream.

We floated through some really spectacular wilderness, some of the hills we passed had the densest saguaro cacti growing I've ever seen. We floated through granite canyons, eroded into wild fluid shapes by the river. Overall, I enjoyed it as much for the landscape as for the rapids.

We hit less than ten really cool rapids, the ones that left you drenched and scrambling, most of the time, we were paddling. We had a really nasty headwind which would stop our raft dead in the water while the river flowed beneath us. In order to advance, we pretty much paddled 14 miles. The last stretch was the worst, with tons of wide open water and vast pools to cross. We were all exhausted from the paddling, and the guide actually hopped in the front seat to boost paddle us along. I steered the raft.

After we landed, they had cold Tecate for us, and some snacks. We all changed clothes and loaded up into the open truck, with the two rafts stacked above us. Due to the headwind, we were about an hour late, and the camp actually sent out a second truck to rescue us since there was no other way to communicate out there. The ride back was beautiful with the sun setting against the wilderness, and our truck charging over the peaks and valleys filled with trees and cacti. We were bounced all over the place in the back, with a fleece blanket pulled over the legs of us four in a row.

We got back to camp late and mom got us a photo that one of the staff took. I drove us back to Globe and we stopped for dinner at Dairy Queen. I was really badly sunburned on my legs and even on the backs of my hands. I was nauseus and shaking, and then I drove back to Phoenix. Almost. We were stuck for about 30 minutes in stopped traffic waiting for an accident to clear on the 60. I dropped taylor back off at his dorm, mom at her house, and we finally got back home around midnight. I layered on aloe gel all over my knees and calves and slept fitfully on my back.

Monday was hell.

Apr 21, 2008

A global tour

In order to celebrate mother's day, mom took me, Saori, and Tay whitewater rafting on the salt river. My previous experience with the salt river involved hot tubes, lots of college freshmen, and copious quantities of beer, so I was surprised to discover that before it becomes a floating house party, the Salt actually has some class 3 to class 4 rapids. This occurs way up, north of Globe, and deep in the heart of Apache lands. As the trip left the shore at 8:30 AM, several hours from Phoenix, I suggested we spend the saturday afternoon in Globe, so we would be fresh for the trip. I was curious about that part of Arizona, too since the 60 was the one road out of town I've never taken.

We left town after a leisurely morning, picking up mom first, then tay, and stopping for some Indian food on the way out. We grabbed some road supplies at Gold Canyon, and passed on into the wilderness.

I was impressed with the drive. It was as scenic, but not as hilly as the beeline out to Payson, and we very quickly passed through Superior, which looked like a cool little mining town. After less than two hours we arrived in Globe at the Days Inn where we got two rooms, one with a view of the pool, and one with a view of the hill directly behind the parking lot. My car actually got the best view, overlooking the town from the rise the hotel was situated on. Our check in girl was very confident on her views of the rafting companies. She thought Mild to Wild was fine, almost as good as the one she liked better, and that Chacos Mexican restaurant was much better than Irene's Mexican restaurant.

After we dropped our stuff off, we drove to the historic downtown of Globe, which was less than a quater mile long, now mostly bars, antique stores, secondhand clothes, and Tae-Kwon-Do studios. This old mining town was a dangerous place. We stopped for coffee at a small coffeeshop, which seemed to be filled with late teens and beatniks who were too cool for the sellout downtown phoenix art scene. It was a really nice place, very picturesque, and the blackboard announced happenings like the Globe Poetry Forum.

The town of Miami was a lot more happening. The downtown looked older and poorer, but there was a vitatlity there that comes from a more diverse use, definately helped by the local "boomtown" festival occupying the main street that weekend. A dry wash ran through the entire downtown, crossed by arched concrete bridges, which looked very Venetian. It was bizzare but a nice contrast. I'm still not sure what the festival was for, although the display of old gasoline engines turning wheels probably relates to it. Mom bought us all funnelcake which immediately sank to the bottom of our stomachs like the Titannic and slowly rusted. We wandered through an independant art gallery, with artworks which looked just like the art at first fridays, although we all picked up cheap woven trinkets from Mexico.

We went back to the hotel and played cards for an hour or so before heading off to a Mexican restaurant which was not terrible, but really made you wonder how bad the other place was. We parted ways after getting back to the hotel, planning on meeting at the car in the morning.

Apr 18, 2008


I got my new laptop this week. It came into work monday, after I tracked every few hours from production to shipping over the week. After my previous laptop, a 14", I was a little worried that my new laptop at 15.4" would be really big and cumbersome. I was impressed. Its a little thicker than my last laptop, but the depth is very manageable, and the width is really not bad either. Reasonably light, about the same as my previous machine.

My old laptop was a graduation gift, a dell inspirion with upgraded graphics, software, etc, really a top of the line machine. It lasted 4 years handily with very few problems: I had to replace a keyboard after spilling lemonade in it, and the disc drive pod had to be replaced. After awhile, the power system began to get worn out, and the machine slowly taught me how to turn it on, making it more difficult and complex with each passing month. At first, it was that I had to hold it at a certain angle to turn it on, then I had to phyiscally jog the machine to catch. At the end, I became very proficiant at flexing the casing in just a certain way to get some lights and THEN striking the secret spot. Finally, the touchpad became screwy and the pointer would fly around the screen clicking randomly. It was time to get a new laptop, especially since it would not be making the ardorous journey through graduate school.

I was sufficantly impressed with Dell to get another one, a Dell Precision M4300, a fairly new series to the Dell line for businesess. Actually this one really caught my eye as the series is specifically marketed to professionals who use especially demanding programs like CAD, 3D modeling, and graphics-intensive work. I wanted a powerhouse, and with my tax rebate, I got one. This machine is really fast, less than a minute to start surfing the net from pushing the on button. With the draft-N wireless card, I'm flying on the net. It's really exciting. I even went out and got a new backpack to carry it around last night.

Work goes on as usual. Some days faster, some days slower. The project I'm working on finally got a sign-off from the client regarding the program of spaces, so now I'm back on the main line of work, picking up redlines and updating our revit model from CAD. (Picking up redlines- the way most firms work is that workers draft a drawing, then they print it out and give it a supervisor who checks over the work, marking it up with a red pencil or pen, and hand it back to the drafters. They "pick up" the redlines, correcting the drawing.)

There has been a lot of shifting around the office lately. When I first started working, the first floor had about six people, younger, and more design oriented, while the upstairs had all the drawing production, principals, older drafters, code people, etc. Now its all mixed up, and there's about a dozen people downstairs now.

Today was a busy day. Half day at work, filled the car up with Sam's Club gas, ran to the bank, took Suki to the vet for a follow up checkup (vet said she was fine, not showing any clinical signs of infection), and played Kingdom Hearts for a few hours on PS2. After our old controller died a few weeks ago, we picked up a wireless controller made by Nerf. Its actually pretty cool since the body is made of the nerf football stuff. Light, resiliant foam, with the controls built in. Designed to be dropped, tossed between players, etc. and cheaper than the Sony.

Apr 5, 2008

Alexanders, not-bad, semiproductive, extended day.

This morning, I took the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE.
This is a necessary step in the application process for applying to most graduate schools, even though my personal GRE will probably mean very little in my application to architecture grad schools, as they tend to look much more heavily at portfolio work. In terms of preparation for the GRE, I read two books of tricks, techniques, and practice sets and did a few parts of the test online. In terms of total time studying, I spent about an hour every other day of the week for the past two weeks in preparation. I wouldn't say I felt extremely prepared, but I felt confident enough in the strategies I'd learned.
The night before, I had a hard time falling asleep, although I slept well through the night. This morning, I got up at 6:30, got dressed and drove over to ASU where the test was administered. I was early, so I got a breakfast burger and a small cup of coffee. Little performance enhancing drugs called sugar, protein, and caffeine. The testing rooms were hidden at the end of the corridor on the third floor of a mostly locked building. Absolutely no signage of any kind. There were only six of us who signed up today to take the test. After a few forms to fill out, they took my photo, checked my ID, and assigned me to a computer to take the test. The GRE is a computer based test which adapts itself to the tester, asking harder questions when the tester gets a right answer, and easier questions when the tester gets a wrong answer. It was kind of funny going through the tutorial of "how to use a computer," obviously geared to people who have never used one. How these people will manage in graduate school, I don't know. The parts about how to use a mouse was the best, as it demonstrated what to do if your mouse is stuck at the edge of the desk, and the importance of making sure the cord comes out the top of the mouse (away from you), not to the side.
Anyway, the test was long, started with two essays taking up an hour and a half. It was nice, I admit, writing essays with a keyboard instead of by hand. I think I did really well on those. Then came math, verbal, and in my case, another math. The entire test ran just shy of four hours long. Math was really depressing. I didn't feel very good about it, I used up most of my time at the front, and rushed through the last questions, barely finishing the session in time. For both sections of the math.
At the end of the test, I elected to keep my scores (hey, I paid $140 for this!) Out of a possible 800 points, I found I scored 620 verbal and 620 math. I was shocked my scores were the same, and I was disappointed that my verbal was so low. However, when you look at my scores in terms of percentiles of the test takers from last year, 620 verbal is a higher score than 89% of the test takers, although 620 math is only higher than 51% of the takers, so after all, a good verbal score and an average math score.
After the test, I walked over and picked Tay up from his dorm. It was about noon, so he was mostly awake. I took him to MacAlpines with Saori for a milkshake and a burger, and it was pretty good although we really stuffed ourselves. Afterwards, we did a little shopping, hitting up best buy and then Red Modern Furniture. Red Modern Furniture sells new and original mid-century modern furniture. Really cool, funky pieces, great quality, beautiful cabinetry and woodwork, and unbelievably expensive. As I put it to Taylor, if you were to find this piece of furniture at Goodwill, it would cost literally 50 times more at Red. A red, single molded fiberglass chair was sitting outside which had apparently been sold. Taylor ventured $20. The real price: $1100. Needless to say, we don't actually buy things there, although the furniture is great and the staff are really cool people.
We took Tay back to our place, and we played cards for a few hours before finally dropping tay back off at his dorm. All in all, its been a long day.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende