Category Archives: Travel

Liberty Scanners

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin

I don’t believe I have all the information about the new TSA body scanners, although I have read quite a few articles on the subject in the last few days.  I’m not usually the type of person to worry about things like BPA-free water bottles, high-tension power lines or anything else that might somehow make me sick without my knowledge…  I guess I just figure there are so many things to worry about in this world that we can’t all worry about everything.  (And apparently, I have chosen to worry about spiders and logging trucks).  However, of all government agencies, I think the TSA would be the least likely to be concerned with my personal well-being, especially when sacrificing it could in some way make them feel “safer” or look tougher.

Of the handful of articles and posts I’ve read, this one was the most interesting to me because, although the author notes that he does not specialize in radiation, he is a Ph.D. student who is clearly used to thinking scientifically and doing research the rest of us might not think to do (or even know how to do).  He itemizes every juncture at which the TSA has failed to conduct thorough safety trials or utilize critical thinking.  I highly recommend reading it, even though it’s long.

What this post showed me, assuming it’s all factual, is that there are enough unanswered questions to make me want to opt out of these scanners the next time I fly (if I’m even subjected to them).  Although having a TSA employee pat me down is not an exciting option either, I think there is less potential risk.

It is worth noting, however, that other people who may have been traumatized in some sexual way (which I have not) might find both of these options (the scanner and the pat down) horrifying for different reasons.  I can’t even imagine how difficult that experience would be for them.

In some ways, I also feel bad for the people employed by the TSA who have to perform these scans and searches.  Although I’m sure some of them are just grown-up hall monitors on a power trip, I’m sure lots of them are people who just desperately need a paycheck and wish they weren’t the face of the organization that’s implementing these rules.  These shirts and underwear are kind of funny, but they’re sending the message to the wrong people.  I bet lots of the TSA personnel are even less excited about these new regulations than the people buying those shirts.

The other thing is that you can’t out-think terrorists.  No matter what you do, they will work harder and try crazier things to bypass your systems, if they really want to.  People who want to endanger others MORE than they value their own life and safety are absolutely terrifying for that reason.  I’m not saying that there will be another successful terrorist attack or that there won’t… I’m just saying that this constant search for the terrorist-proof system is fruitless and only stirs up more anger and fear, which is exactly what we don’t need.

As you can see, I haven’t exactly organized my thoughts on the matter, nor am I ever sure I’m getting accurate information, but it’s frustrating to feel this new system has been implemented before proper testing and without concern for the peaceful, innocent individuals it affects.

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Filed under Bleeding-Heart Liberal, Deep Thoughts, Travel, Words to Live By

Ooooh Girl

My friend Brian shared this with me today, which made me think of a couple stories I’d like to share.  With you.  Right now.

In the fall of 2007, my brother was an intern for a US Senator from Montana in Washington, D.C.  He was living in a house with two roommates, one of whom was a family friend we’d known for years.  The family friend, who we’ll call Alison, is stunningly beautiful and sweet.  She also has incredible dark brown, curly hair that everyone in their right mind notices and admires. (This information will be important later).

The following are some of my favorite stories from Peter’s time in DC, as I remember them.  I have also included some random photos from Washington to set the mood.

One time Pete saw two elderly women get into a yelling fight across the street from each other, which escalated to the point that one of them reached into her plastic shopping bag and yelled, “Oh yeah?  You know what?  I got something for ya.  I got something for ya right here!” as she pulled out… a table lamp.  As Peter realized it wasn’t a gun and his heart slowed a bit, the woman started waving the lamp over her head and walking toward her opponent.  I believe this is when my brother turned down a side street.

Another time, Pete was walking into the Metro station to go to work one morning and a man on the street asked him for money.  Pete replied honestly that he didn’t have any, but then, feeling bad, mumbled something along the lines of, “But I’ll probably have some change later, when I come back.”  He had no idea that the very same man would be waiting in the very same place that evening, almost 12 hours later, when Pete walked out of the Metro station to go home after a long day of work.  The guy looked at him and said, “Where’s my change, man?”

Pete’s house didn’t have a washer and dryer, so he had to go to a laundromat to wash his clothes.  Once, he watched a man come into the laundromat from the street, open a dryer full of someone else’s clothes and pee into the open dryer.  Then he zipped up, closed the door, and left.  This story haunts me to this day, as I don’t have a washer and dryer in my current apartment and have to use a laundromat.

One of my favorite stories, though, involved Pete and Alison walking on a main street near their house when a woman drove by, rolled down her car window, and yelled out the window to Alison, “OOOH girl you got good hair!”

In November of that year, my dad and I went to visit Peter in DC.  The three of us were walking along the same street where Alison’s hair was so aggressively complimented, when a woman came up next to us at a crosswalk and said, “I like your little jacket, Miss Lady.”  I was wearing my rain jacket at the time (see photo) and I was in the middle of a conversation, so I ignored the woman, assuming she couldn’t possibly be talking to me.

As the light turned green and we started to walk away from her, she yelled after my brother, “Tell her… Tell her I like her little jacket!”  Pete turned around and said “Thank you!” and then hit me on the arm, explaining that I should respond to people on the street who compliment me.

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Filed under I am not making this up., Travel

She is Ironman

Do you know what an Ironman triathlon is?

It’s a 2.4 mile swim, then a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a full marathon.  You know the cyclists that do century bike rides?  And the runners that do marathons?  Imagine doing both of those in one day AFTER swimming 2.4 miles.  That’s an Ironman.

See this?

That’s an Ironman, too.

Last weekend, my friend Julie and I drove to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to watch our friend Kara compete in Ironman CDA.  It was the most amazing, humbling, exhausting, mind-blowing, utterly overwhelming event I’ve ever witnessed.

We made a few signs:

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(In case it isn’t clear, Kara is a University of Oregon alum)

Then, we found a course map and made sure to be at all the right places in all the right times. This involved getting up at 4 AM to get to Coeur d’Alene Lake to watch the swim:

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This is what 2400 swimmers starting at the exact same moment looks like.

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She finished both 1.2-mile laps in about 1 hour and 30 minutes total:

Then it was onto the bike:

She’s on Mile 112 at this point.  Looks pretty good, eh?

After 7 and a half hours on the bike and transitioning to the run, she still looked like she was just out for a Sunday afternoon jog:

It was incredible.  She crossed the finish line at 10:35 PM, after 140.6 miles and 15 and a half hours:

Congratulations, Kara.  I am so, so proud and happy for you.

Now, welcome back to the world of the socially-active and well-rested.

(Special thanks go to Kara’s boyfriend Todd – pictured above in orange – for taking the really great photos).

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Filed under Sportsfan, Travel

Spring Training 2010

I just got back from a trip to Phoenix with Galen and his family to catch some Spring Training action. Thus, I bring you my top five favorite things about Spring Training:

Visiting Jess in her new city:
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Hanging out with Galen:
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Playing with the kiddos:
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Soaking up the sun:
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Umm… and “base-ball” or whatever this is:
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Go Giants!

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Filed under Sportsfan, Top Five..., Travel

Friends that feel like home

You know that feeling you get when you go home? Not the anxiety or the worry that some of us feel, but the warm part. You know, when your heart swells and every fiber of your being relaxes and you know you can just be yourself, because these people know you as yourself. And they love you for it.

I realized last month that that feeling is not limited to the house you grew up in or the place where your family lives.

Over the long weekend in January, Galen and I flew down to the Bay Area to visit his family and some friends of mine. Ben and Amanda moved last fall to a town about ten minutes from Galen’s parents’ house. My good friend Bean from Chicago was also going to be staying with them that weekend, so it was perfect timing.

As soon as Galen and I saw Ben, Amanda and Bean, I got that “home” feeling. These people know me. They may not know the intricacies of my daily life, but they know all the important things. And they are important to me. These are my people, and there is nothing like the feeling of being home with them.

So, to Ben, Amanda and Bean: Thank you for making me feel at home. I am so lucky to have you.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Travel

Aunt Tuna

Do you have a sibling?  Do you ever wish you could get back at them for all the damage they did to you (both mentally and physically) while you were growing up?  You don’t want to do anything horrible, of course, just give them some lasting token of the childish emotions you can’t let go of?

I’ve got an idea.  You know that terrible nickname you gave your brother or sister when they were younger that still embarrasses them to this day?  Teach your kids to call them that.

Believe me.  I’ve got an Aunt Tuna.

Yeah, you read that right.  My mom grew up calling her sister Tuna after a mysterious incident involving a cheerleading uniform that both of them still laugh about but refuse to retell.  My aunt has a real name that sounds nothing like Tuna, but I only learned that when I was about ten years old.  It still weirds me out when other people use her real name.  My mom calls her Tuna.  My brother and I call her Aunt Tuna.  My step dad calls her Tuna.  You get the point.

Recently, I asked my mom if she had a bit of a “gotcha” moment the first time one of us said the words “Aunt Tuna,” as if this was some type of retribution for all those years of annoyance and frustration her younger sister put her through.  (Can you tell I’m the older sibling, too?)  She thought about it for a minute and then said, “I’ve always called her Tuna.  I can’t imagine calling her anything else.  So why would I teach you guys to?”  I suddenly wished my younger self had come up with a better nickname for my little brother than “Bud.”

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In early December, we went to Tennessee to visit Aunt Tuna on her farm in the mountains.  I hadn’t been there in ten years, so it was interesting to see how many things were different and how many were exactly the same.  She has the same horses but not the cows; she lost three dogs but got a puppy and a new cat.  The house was just like we left it, although I had grown so it seemed to have shrunk.  It was also the first time I could remember being there in the winter.  There’s something fascinating to me about frozen mud and kudzu vines that survive the frost.  These are not winter concepts I am familiar with.

Aunt Tuna’s house (in summer):
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Aunt Tuna and Toby Kramer (the gigantic puppy):
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Other photos from the farm…
The most inviting chair in the world:
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Snow! And kudzu!
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The tin man sits on the covered porch of a southern home, admiring the fresh snow.
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Last but not least, my mom sent me this photo of us on a hike.  From left: my brother, me, my mom, Aunt Tuna (notice the dress with leggings and red rubber boots.  Always a fashion plate – even when the rest of us are bundled like the kid from A Christmas Story, add hiking boots).

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Filed under Sweet Home Montana, Travel

Fifth Wheel

Instead of a funny story or anecdote, I am going to tell you what happened to me today between the hours of 2 and 7 PM.

I was driving back from Umatilla when one of my front tires popped like a balloon. Of course, I’ve been meaning to learn how to change a flat ever since I was 15, but haven’t quite gotten around to it. Plus, I was off the side of Highway 84, which isn’t a great place to learn, especially if you’re teaching yourself.

So I called AAA, and I’m amazed they didn’t greet me by name, considering how often I’ve been calling them recently. They asked me where I was so they could figure out where to send the tow truck. I had no idea. I told them I was definitely somewhere between Boardman and Arlington. They informed me this was a distance of 25 miles, which is not particularly helpful. They said the tow truck would be there in 30 to 40 minutes.

Then an incredibly young and incredibly sweet state trooper stopped by to make sure I was okay. I told him a tow truck was on the way, but I didn’t know where I was. Rather than look at me funny, he told me exactly which exits I was between. I resisted the urge to kiss him and instead called AAA back.

I sat in the car on the shoulder and waited. I watched in the rearview mirror as trucks came around the corner behind me and tried to give my car some space when they passed. I almost freaked out when an “oversize load” (A HOUSE ON A FLATBED TRUCK) came around the corner. Luckily, there wasn’t anyone in the left lane, so the house truck could move over. At this point, I got out of the car, stepped over the rail and walked around on the hillside for a while. I called Galen and asked him to tell me about the Seahawks game so I had something else to think about.

The tow truck came and the driver had most of his teeth. He also brought his wife along, which I found rather amusing, (because I was a little delirious and) because I was feeling a little vulnerable as a lady all by myself and wishing I had a buddy… and then he brought his wife. He asked where my spare was and then got really pissed off that there was stuff in my trunk on top of the spare. (The rather funny part is that I had already moved most of the big stuff into the back seat so it wouldn’t be too bad). I mean, really, who puts shit in their trunk?

He got the spare out and informed me it was flat.

He tried to inflate the spare, but the little valve thing (technical term) was broken. He had to tow me to the nearest town (ten miles) to get a part to fix the little valve thing. On the way, he explained to me that I can call a junkyard and buy a spare tire that isn’t flat for $25. His wife started smoking a cigarette in the truck and he asked her if it was “one of the ones she found.”

We got to town. He got the part, fixed the spare, put it on the back tire and put the good back tire on the front. (While he’s doing this, his wife very sweetly offers to get me something from the gas station across the street. I didn’t know if they sold liquor, so I said no thanks). The guy told me the old tire was shot, then threw it in my trunk. I asked him if I could drive all the way back to Portland on the spare and he said it would be totally fine – I shouldn’t think about it. Which, of course, made me think about it the entire 140 miles back to Portland, while I drove ten miles UNDER the speed limit.

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Filed under I am not making this up., Travel