Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"It absolutely will not stop until you are dead"

Arnold's feeling wonderful about the "great, great accomplishment" of a state budget that basically cuts education and social spending off at the thighs has passed in California.

Cuts, cuts, and more cuts -- and of course, no new taxes. Brilliant republican money policy that's worked so well in our country in the last decade!

A while back, I heard Arnold say that there was too much "fat" in their budget, and the legislators knew where it was. So let's look at the "fat" they cut:
Public education: $4.3 billion in direct cuts and another $1.7 billion in deferrals
Higher education: $3 billion in cuts
CalWorks: $528 million in cuts
Home health aides: $226 million in cuts
Medi-Cal: $1 billion in cuts
State workers: 13.8% total pay cut (in unpaid work furloughs)
Local-level governments: $4 billion in total cuts

According to the article cited above, "There are no new taxes here unless you count fee hikes to college students, pay cuts to state workers, and benefit cuts to millions who rely on state benefits new taxes. Rejected was a $1.50 per pack tax on cigarettes. Another item rejected was a $15 annual vehicle license fee hike. And the big one that has been rejected is the 9.9% tax on oil extraction that would have given around $1 billion to higher education and could have offset some of the cuts there."

Brilliant republican governance at work!
But hey, prisons went relatively unscathed! Good to know that they're investing in the future... just what that future might look like, however, is beginning to sound a little like a certain movie that starred the Governator -- in which a few rebels fought against killing machines....

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Well, I just got word that I will not be able to start school at all in the 2009-2010 academic year. Thanks to the Governator's budget cuts, the entire California State University system (of which Sonoma State U is a part) can't accept any new students. I'd hoped for a special enrollment exception, but it didn't come through.

I heard the State-terminator on NPR a few weeks ago talking about how they have to cut the "fat" and the "waste" in their budget to survive the recession. Since when did education become fat and waste?

I'm really bummed about this; I'd hoped to be able to continue my quest for a criminalistics degree. I have outstanding grades and a very good GPA, I'm a hard worker with specific goals in mind, and I'm trying to transfer from a very good school (Penn State). But it doesn't matter, thanks to the miracle of the Bush Economy (thanks, Tengrain) and the thievery of Wall Street billionaires.

The only way a college can make money is to get more students, yet they can't accept any more students because they don't have the staff and money to open more classes. What a ridiculous situation. It's like the conundrum of not being able to get a job with experience, but not being able to get experience without a job. It's stupid. But the state school system has no choice.

Guess I'll try other schools in the area, and just take basics and stuff I need -- then try to transfer to Sonoma State (which is the only school in the area with the criminalistics degree) later. Matty tells me he's hearing it'll take years to close California's budget deficit. That's pretty depressing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why is West Virginia only "almost heaven"?*

The reason is that Sonoma County IS heaven. Look at these photos from the Matanzas Creek Winery website: Holy moly. This winery, and thus these beautiful places, are only 12 minutes from Rohnert Park.

*No offense meant to either John Denver or the state or West Virginia

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Check out the forty billion wineries in Wine Country! Wow. They're everywhere! Here's just a tiny piece of the map, containing my future homebase:
So I've been getting lists of companies in the same industry as my current job, all in towns around Rohnert Park. I've got a list, complete with addresses, of 45 companies so far. I figure I'll compose a knock-out cover letter talking about how I know this industry and have worked in sales and marketing in this industry, etc. -- something that will maybe attract someone's eye if they're looking to fill a general slave position with someone who can do a little of everything and a lot of many things.

I'm blastin' out the resume all over that area, hoping that someone will at least want to talk to me when I get there. I really can do a lot of different things, and I'm a fast learner.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The route and stops are planned!

So Matty McMatterson will be coming on the trip with me, after poor Matt R. realized he just didn't have the money to make the trip. This will be even more fun now with my Matty!

We started talking about specific routes and stops, and normally I am not good at planning stuff (just ask Kat, she'll tell you), but this time -- thanks to the wonders of the internets -- I was able to plan all the stops AND hotels and stuff!

I decided to give our patronage to the cheap but always clean Motel 6 chain. Once I figured that out, it was easy to plan!

I also decided to skip the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, because on the map it looks like it's kinda in the middle of suburbia and golf courses. Ugh. So we'll just have to look along the way for my Lesser/Greater Prairie Chickens!

STOP 1, Saturday, August 1: Hammond IN, which is right near Gary Indiana (hee hee hee Gary Indiana Gary Indiana Gary Indiana let me say it once again! Gary Indiana...).
Driving distance: 9 hrs 19 mins (counting a detour to drive through Gary Indiana hee hee hee Gary Indiana Gary Indiana that's the town that knew me when! hee hee)
Room rate(always for 2 full beds, non-smoking, pets okay): $55.99. And if we pay an extra $2.99, we can get WIFI!

STOP 2, Sunday, August 2: Lincoln NE, where we might be able to stay with a school chum of Matty's
Driving distance: 8 hrs 9 mins
Room rate: either free or $45.99

STOP 3, Monday, August 3: Cheyenne WY
Driving distance: 8 hrs 9 mins, and that's counting if we drive through that Pawnee National Grasslands (in Colorado) that I wanted to drive through.
Room rate: $51.99

STOP 4, Tuesday, August 4: Wells NV
Driving distance: 8 hrs 30 mins
Room rate: $40.99!!!

STOP 5, Wednesday, August 5: ROHNERT PARK CA!
Driving distance: 8 hrs 27 mins (going through Napa Valley!)
YAY! We're home! Free room! (well, after we pay rent...)

Wow. This is really happening.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Future birding: Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie!

While perusing my route along I-80 last night with girlfriend AB, I saw that just south of Chicago near Joliet, IL, lies Midewin (mih-DAY-win, according to an article I read) National Tallgrass Prairie. Sounds awesome! So I googled to see what might be in store for us as we cruise across.

Turns out, I might be able to see some really good stuff -- according to a Chicago Wilderness article:
As its prairies have been restored, Midewin has attracted growing numbers of rare grassland birds. In fact, the site first came to ecologists’ attention in 1982 when iologists visited it and noticed upland sandpipers. Birders will also observe loggerhead shrikes, bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, Henslow’s sparrows,
grasshopper sparrows, and many other species of grassland birds.
The Audubon ornithological summary continues, as this prairie is listed as an Important Birding Area:
Midewin provides crucial habitat for breeding Upland Sandpiper, Bell's Vireo, Bobolink, Dickcissel, Sedge Wren, Eastern Meadowlark, Henslow's and Grasshopper Sparrows, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Northern Mockingbird and Loggerhead Shrike.
During spring and fall migration, large numbers of migrant grassland and shrubland birds pause and rest at Midewin, while the small wetlands attract migratory rails, snipes, Marsh Wren and Swamp Sparrow.
This site was chosen as an IBA because it met the criteria for breeding Upland Sandpiper, Willow Flycatcher, Sedge Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, Bell's Vireo, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Bobolink. [I bolded potential lifers]
I could see a few lifers at this place! Nowhere, however, did I see anything about the ever-elusive Prairie Chicken (either greater or lesser). So I'll keep looking for that. I thought I'd seen mention of the Yellow-headed Blackbird as well, but nothing here. That would also be a lifer.

Still--this might be a great place to stop and check things out!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Moving date announced!

August 1, folks. That's when Matt Rupert, and possible Matty McMatterson (who's trying to wimp out on the boring drive and fly instead) will begin our epic car journey to California.

Of course, now that I've picked a date, I'm already wondering if I should fudge on it....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

When fears lurk

Sometimes, especially now when I'm sick and run-down and not feeling my usual self, I experience good old-fashioned FEAR about moving across country. It's not so much the move itself--after all, I've been ready to leave this burg for about four years!--but the fact that I'm moving into The Great Unknown.

No job yet, no idea how I'll pay my bills -- these are legitimate fears. My usual tendency is to just say "things will work out." That's kinda my mantra for my whole life; I may spend some time worrying over things, but usually I just figure that things will work out.

No problem is so big that it can't be worked out or changed or whatever; at least, that's what I've found. Many times in my life, I thought that things just couldn't get worse; I was overdrawn at the bank, or I didn't have a job, or I had a job and money and stuff but I was in a bad relationship or breaking up or whatever. Things looked pretty low, and I spent a good deal of time worrying. But in the end, I always knew that things would work out--time would heal whatever physical or emotional wounds I might have suffered, and the money situations or job problems would be fixed by waiting for my next paycheck or selling a guitar or whatever I needed to do to get money. This philosophy has gotten me through some pretty rough times over my 44-plus years, so I figure it must be right.

Still--there's fear involved in moving someplace you've never been. Sometimes the fear rises up and whispers to me that I should just move back to Texas and live with my parents or my sister, where I know I would be taken care of if anything bad happened. Yes, I would have a certain security (although I doubt my parents would allow me to just loaf while they paid all my bills, dammit!). Yes, I would know where things were, how to get to the grocery store and stuff.

But I would also know other things: When I lived in Texas, I always had trouble finding a decent job. I also never really found anyone there who was right for me -- the longest relationship I had was less than three years until I was with Kat (who wasn't from Texas). If I were to go back, it would be like going backwards in my life. I don't want that.

And so I just keep hoping--hoping I'll get a job, hoping I'll find some nice people to hang out with, hoping that things will work out for the best. They always have.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Planning ahead

The way Matty tells it, I’m already going to have a girlfriend when we move to California: Iron Chef contestant Jamie Lauren of Absynthe in San Fransisco! He and Christine have eaten there a couple of times and both times got to talk with Jamie and mentioned me, and Matty told me this past weekend that Christine ate there and once again mentioned little old me!

It’s good to know these things in advance, you know?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The road ahead: I-80

This will be my first post about my researching into just what attractions are there along Interstate 80, our proposed route to California. I’m guessing I’ll just divide up the posts by state, although I probably won’t do one for Utah, as I’m scared shitless to even drive through that crazy state. Why, you ask? Read this book. You’ll understand.

So I googled “guide to Interstate 80 attractions” and got this site. “Stellar,” eh? I’ll be the judge of that, Mr. Chicago Sun-Times.

First warning sign: the article starts out, “it is unlikely to be mistaken for a scenic route.” Oh dear. Well, let’s see… WAIT – it costs money to see this guide!? Now hold on – I am NOT going to pay any money, much less $7.95, to read something that is written like this: “Uncle Otto ('auto,' get it?) is the fictional tour guide for this westward journey - and the apparent alter ego of Parks, who heads Travel Guide Publications, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.” NO. WAY.

Next google link: an entire web site dedicated to interstates! Ike would be so proud.

So it starts off with a cool graphic:

Right off the bat I can tell this site isn’t gonna stoop to “Uncle Otto (‘auto,’ get it?)” bullshit, thankfully. Nope, the prose is going to be very dry and information-packed: “Interstate 80 is a major transcontinental corridor connecting California and New York City. From the city of San Francisco to a few miles west of the Hudson River in northern New Jersey, Interstate 80 traverses various terrain and states. Its highest point is located at Sherman Hill Summit in Wyoming between Laramie and Cheyenne at an elevation of 8640 feet. The highest point of Interstate 80 east of the Mississippi is near Milepost 111 in Pennsylvania.”
zzzzzzzzzz*snort* huh?

What? . . . Okay. I’m awake.

I’ve actually passed this sign:

The first low point of my research (besides Uncle Otto): the total distance to San Francisco is about 2800 miles, give or take a few due the fact that we’re not going to SF but instead to Rohnert Park. Oy. The longest road trip I’ve ever taken was State College PA to Fort Worth TX, all done in about 35 hours. That was about 1400 miles. This trip will be TWICE that. Wow.

On the bright side, I’ll have Niblet, Matty, and our interesting friend Matt Rupert with me. So there's that.

Okay. So... Ohio. First, the link at the interstate-guide site doesn’t work, so I’m switching to this one. “Mile by mile” – man, doesn’t that already make the trip seem even longer?

Holy crap, this site is so anal-retentive that it actually DOES go mile by mile, exit by exit, with summaries like this for Exit 2:
Junction State Route #49, Access to U.S. Highway #20, Windwood Hollow Golf Course, Community of Berlin, Ohio. South access via State Route #49 to communities of Edon, Ohio - Blakeslee, Ohio - Edgerton, Ohio - Hicksville, Ohio. North to Columbia, Ohio - Nettle Lake, Ohio.
Wow, that’s some excitement there. Okay—I won’t bore you with all that. Let me just skim the list here and see if there’s ANYTHING that stands out….

...campground features showers, flush toilets, a dump station... – oh dear.

...Fort Imagination at Woodlands Park... – something tells me that this place just isn’t as imaginative (or fun) as it sounds.

Exit 110: State Highway #4, Portland Road, Harris Road, Parker Town, Ohio. North to City of Sandusky, Ohio-Port Clinton, Ohio - North access to Erie Sand Barrens S.N.P. South access to communities of Reedtown, Ohio - Attica, Ohio - South to Historic Lyme Village - Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum. – hmmm. Might be some birding opportunities at Erie Sand Barrens SNP! Will have to check this out.

Exit 135: North access to Amherst, Ohio - Vermilion, Ohio - Lorain, Ohio. – Lorain, OH: birthplace of Toni Morrison, the greatest living American writer. Wow. But it’s kinda out of the way. We'll see. It might be worth it to take a photo with a sign like "Welcome to Lorain, birthplace of the greatest living American writer Toni Morrison!" because I'm sure they have such a sign. Why wouldn't they?

Exit 228A: North access to Mosquito Lake State Park Campground. Who would go to a “mosquito” lake?

So I’m guessing that tourism will not be a big player in Ohio. Still, we could stop for the night there, perhaps in a hotel near this Erie Sand Barrens place. Mileage from State College to Erie Sand Barrens SNP: about 300; that means it’s only about five hours’ drive time from here, which doesn’t really make much of a full day of driving. And a google search of this Erie Sand Barrens SNP turns up a whole lotta nothing. Let me hear from ya, Ohio: is Erie Sand Barrens SNP a dump? A cool place? Worth a stop? Full of birds?

If there’s nothing in Ohio, we may need just need to keep going and consider stopping in Indiana for our first night. Which leads me to sing at the top of my hoarse little voice:
Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana
Let me say it once again!
Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana,
That’s the town that knew me when!

God, I love The Music Man.

Okay—Indiana. Back to the mile by mile site: (look alive, people!)
Exit 1: United States Highway #41, Calumet Shopping Center, Community of Munster, Indiana, Community of Maynard, Indiana, Riverside Park, Market Square, Munster Community Park.

Who knew the Munsters were from Indiana? And that so much stuff was named after them?

Exit 3: Kennedy Avenue, Dowling Park, Homestead Park, Optimist Park, Community of Highland, Indiana. Franklin Avenue, Highland Chamber of Commerce, Highland Library, Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve. -- OOOH Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve! That’s got prairie chickens written all over it, and I really want to see some prairie chickens! Will need to do more research on this as well.

Exit 10B: … Community of Gary, Indiana. If you’d like to have a logical explanation
How I came upon this elegant syncopation,
I can say without a moment of hesitation,
There is just one place that can light my face!

I love that bit!

Exit 15B: United States Highway #6, State Highway #51, Calumet Prairie Nature Preserve, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Interstate Highway #90, Mock Park. WHOA More prairies and lakeshores! This just might be the place to stop.

Okay—mileage from State College to Gary Indiana, the town that knew me when: 554 miles, an estimated 8 hours and 50 minutes of driving. Holy hand grenade.

Well, if we drove about nine hours, we could stop in Gary (too exhausted to sing at this point) and do the prairie birding stuff in the morning. Because yeah—after driving nine hours, what I REALLY want to do is WAKE UP EARLY.

Don’t look now, but there might be a flaw in this plan. Comments?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Long time no write

It has been over a month since I wrote in this blog--life gets busy. I'm currently battling a cold that's keeping me from birding (and writing in the bird blog) and thinking (and writing in the impeachment blog). So you faithful three followers: I apologize, but it's not like anyone is getting much more from me!

Still, things have been hurtling forward toward our moving date of July 26 (a date Matty picked, could be random, could mean something -- ?). For my part, I've applied for a couple of jobs, but I fear there's no way I'll get anything until I'm out there. Still--gonna try to keep putting my name out there; one never knows.

Also, and this is exciting: I've looked at the map of our route, and I've come up with some particulars:
1. Our route will be Interstate 80 all the way west, except for a short piece in Ohio where it's 90/80. Same diff.
2. We will travel through the following states: PA, OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, WY, UT, NV, CA.
3. Some specifics I was able to glean from my tiny atlas (a bigger one would have more detail):
Indiana: we'll be skirting the border of Michigan a large part of the time
Illinois: we'll go through/around Chicago and Joliet, home of the prison
Iowa: we'll pass by Adventureland Park, which might merit a stop
Nebraska: we'll go through Omaha and Lincoln, the capitol city
Wyoming: we'll go near Flaming (gaaaaaayyyaaayyyayayay) Gorge National Park! want to stop there!
Utah: just drive like hell to get away from the mormons
Nevada: we'll drive through the Great Basin (?), and below Black Rock Desert, and through Reno, the biggest little city in the world

After that, it's all California. I imagine by that time, we'll be bleary-eyed and soooo ready to get there.

I will have to do some research on the route through each state; there's got to be more to do and see than just a few big cities. I'm hoping to get some birding done in Nebraska, as we'll be kinda in the "great plains" area.

Any suggestions about stopping places on or very near to I80? please let me hear 'em in the comments!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Job huntin' in California!

Sorry I haven't posted more on this blog -- I have been so busy, what with traveling around and stuff.

This morning, Matty sent me some job prospects along with the idea that I could move out there for a good job, sublet a place, and wait for him to arrive. That would be some pretty wild stuff for me, but the idea of leaving now sounds positively dreamy!

I noticed that he found all these job opps on Craig's List--I really need to explore that thing more. All my friends are always finding cool stuff, selling extra junk, etc. on Craig's List. I feel at a disadvantage, though, seeing as how I only have computer access at work. Hmph.

Back to the jobs--all are editing/writing positions, including one with Acoustic Guitar magazine! I'm going to work up some cover letters, polish my resume, and see what happens. It would be crazy to leave suddenly, but--I sure could use some California sunshine.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yelp.com RULES

So I've decided to keep track of all the cool things I learn about my future home state of California, and I thought a blog would be the best way, so that I can get comments and share ideas with everyone.

Matty McMatterson told me about this yelp.com, where you can look for cool stuff of any sort in any city in America! So my first search? Mexican food! I've been so deprived for lo these almost-six years, living in State College, home of Mad Mex (fake California-Mex, with the only good thing on the menu being the margaritas) and QDoba (if you call that Mexican food, just stop reading now).

I found a little place that seems to have nothing but good reviews, Las Guitarras de Cotati. Not only are the reviews all good, but the translation is The Guitars of Cotati (Cotati being a little city on the south edge of Rohnert Park, where we'll be living). Already I like this place!