penguin and mountains

…are better from up close.


doing my part

So I’ve always wanted to find out what comes out of those vending machines in gas station bathrooms. No, not the tampon/pad dispensers that are always out of order: the ones that promise colored, flavored, extra-nubbly, glow-in-the-dark condoms.

Well, on the drive from Austin to San Jose I found myself in Nevada, having done my business, three quarters in hand, ready to unlock the mysteries of the gas station bathroom condom dispenser.

Little did I know that I was about to discover an oft-neglected but clearly essential front to the War on Terror: novelty condoms. Yes, dear reader, you no longer have to be content to express your patriotism merely through Osama bin Laden toilet paper. Now you can purchase anti-terrorist condoms.


terrorist's helmet

Yes, it’s the Standard Terrorist’s Helmet: Standard Issue for All the Little Pricks, complete with limp rifle graphic. Ha ha! Stupid terrorists!

Then, the patriotic humor continues on the sides of the package:

caution: may fall off

Caution: May Fall Off—the laughs continue! Stupid terrorists!

Flip it over, and there’s more on the back:


… which is where we see the true brilliance of this groundbreaking anti-terror strategy: Directions: Not Needed Since Most Terrorist Can’t Read and Caution: This product is usually too large for most terrorist.

See, we’re going to fool the terrorists into learning incorrect grammar, so that after hours of studying the back of their standard issue “helmets” they’ll stumble out of their holes and start confusing singular and plural nouns.

They’ll stick out like bloody sore thumbs! Stupid terrorists!


dreams of yippie heaven

My current (half-hearted, ill-fated) attempt at exercise is to head out for a morning bike ride through Hyde Park. I fill up my Camelback, set my watch alarm to go off in a half-hour, and cruise the neighborhood.

I may not be getting much of a workout, but it gives me time to sightsee (ogle the funky houses and coo at people’s cats) and think (talk to myself). Today was a beautiful morning, cool and breezy after a few days of rain, everything washed clean and dappled in sunlight.

I pondered the lives of these people with wildflower lawns and antique VW wagons and came to the conclusion that, while I may not harbor yuppie dreams of a McMansion, wealthy husband, convertible Mercedes, and babies (not that that will surprise any of my friends), I do have a clear vision of yippie contentment: a purple Craftsman bungalow in a neighborhood dotted with “American for Peace” signs and rainbow flags, front porch with wind chimes, sporty little hatchback, and ten cats.

I am, of course, currently moving in the exact opposite direction from that vision… I don’t know that purple would go over that well in Senegal.

And then there’s this:

duval house with for rent sign

One of the saddest sights I’ve seen in a while. One of you should jump on it right now—2/1 on Duval, pre-leasing for August. Great house, great location, and a swanky red wall in the living room that we really don’t want to have to paint over 😉


spontaneity pwns

hat on dash

So yes, I had a good reason for not updating for the past week. George needed to get his car to San Jose, I didn’t have any pressing engagements, so I drove out west with him.

Sunday we did the usual boring drive to El Paso (I managed to sleep through Fort Stockton. Damn shame.) then spent a day there. Got ice cream, saw Shrek 2 (not as good as the first, but a priceless hairball scene). Communed with George’s mom’s turtles.

friendly turtle

Tuesday, drove through Petrified Forest National Park, saw a bunch of wood, headed for the Grand Canyon.

free wood!

Wednesday got up early, saw the Canyon. It was indeed big.

canyon in iPod

Drove to the Hoover Dam. It, too, was big. Overheard a guy on a cellphone saying “You’ll never guess where I am right now…” (Mentally finished the sentence for him: “Hoover FUCKING Dam!”)

Clare points to dam

Drove down the Las Vegas Strip, was thoroughly horrified.

Las Vegas trees

Continued to Death Valley National Park, which was 200 feet below sea level and 10 degrees over 100. However, found the fancy-schmancy resort next to the campground, had a veggie burger, and spent a few hours in the pool before returning to the tent to sweat until 5AM, when we packed up and got the hell out.

Firebird in Death Valley

Lots of foreign tourists. At one point we were the only English speakers at the pool, I think.

Thursday, aforementioned drive out of Death Valley, which involved multiple 4000-foot swings in elevation. Drove up US 395, which runs along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas—one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever made. Hit up Yosemite National Park, which was beyond gorgeous. It was sublime.

the Sierra Nevadas

Saw the Ansel Adams view of Yosemite Valley. Took pictures. Couldn’t camp in the Park because most of the campgrounds were still closed due to snow. Stayed in an over-priced Motel 6 in Merced.

Yosemite Valley

Friday, stopped in Livermore, where George will be interning with Sandia. Picked a random neighborhood and found multiple unprotected wireless networks so we could look up directions to his future apartment.

Drove into San Jose, surprised Bryan (he didn’t know I was coming along), bought food, bought board games, cooked food, surprised Leslie, played board games. Watched Shrek.

Bryan drinks beer with his feet

Saturday, toodled around at Barnes & Noble until Leslie finished her schoolwork for the day, saw Harry Potter 3 (far, far superior to the other two), went back to the apartment and napped. George and I drove out to Half Moon Bay, stuck our feet in the very cold water, poked stuff that had washed up on shore, then had yummy dinner. Watched Evita, fell asleep, got up early and I flew back to Austin on Frontier Airlines, which has pictures of wild animals on their planes.

Clare in cold Pacific

All in all, a good way to spend a week at the start of summer.