31 March 2009

Length Between Posts = Too Long

Okay, I'm back. I know full well I've been slacking recently with only one or two posts in the last two weeks or so, but honestly, I have nothing to say. Monday through Friday, I hang around the house waiting for MPS to call, weekends I do my thing with various people, and elsewise, I'm probably asleep. Okay, so that's not entirely true. Here's a rundown of some interesting things throughout the past few days: 1. Helping Matt Move: Matt and his wife Angela (both previously mentioned here regarding game nights) moved into a new house out in south Mesa/Apache Junction area. This past weekend was their big moving day, which I went out to in order to help. About 10-12 people showed up, all family and friends, and we got them almost completely moved out of the apartment they were in and got their stuff piled in their house for them to sort through within 6 hours. Not too shabby, considering that includes drive time, lunch, etc. 2. Geocaching Awesomeness: After much deliberation, I decided to attend an Event Cache for a fellow geocacher's birthday whom I am loose friends with. (For Scott: this is where I was on Saturday eve, I don't think I mentioned it to you at your place.) Over 80 people showed up to partake in food, drinks, festivities, and a raffle. I didn't eat or drink because I didn't think I'd be staying too long, but I ended up staying for more than I thought and won a prize: an unregistered set of travel bug dog tags (you can make your own trackable item with this). So that was fun. Nice to meet some people whom I only know via their geocaching nicknames. Plus, the Event Cache was my 100th cache "find" - a milestone as far as the game is concerned, though I have a ways to go until I catch up to the people who have 10,000 or more finds! 3. Work: Remains nonexistant. I know I've only technically been a sub for 4 school days now, but I still haven't gotten a call about a job yet. Though, if my calculations are correct, there are 1500 subs in MPS and they use 250 per day on average. That amounts to one job per 5-6 days for me if their system is as random as they say it is. 4. Baseball: Okay, this isn't something I HAVE done, per se, but rather something I will be doing on Opening Day (April 6th). I am planning on seeing the Rockies take on the DBacks at their season opener with Scott, Travis, Travis's dad, and... someone else whom I don't remember right now. (My phone connection was spotty.) Apparently we are going to be sitting in the handicapped upper deck seats because of Travis' dad, which is cool - better than sitting in Row 512 of Section Nosebleed Central! 5. FIESTA!: Sunday the youth group at my church had a farewell fiesta for the youth leader Lee and his wife, who are moving on to south Mesa to be the heads of the new branch of Red Mountain Community Church, called Harvest CC. I am enjoying spending time with the youth group members more and more as the months pass by; they are cool people, and there's even a couple politicos like myself there who enjoy discussing politics. I guess it hasn't been so dull around here after all. I gotta say though, when it does get slow, it gets SLOW, and when it's not, time flies. Oh well, hopefully things even out to a good pace when (see: if) I ever find a real job!

26 March 2009

Substitute Teacher

Well, I passed orientation without going berserk or falling asleep through the "Don't Molest Children" videos, so I am now a certified substitute teacher for Mesa Public Schools. If you have children in this school district, please let me assure you I am joking (gotta love political correctness nowdays), and say that I'm looking forward to brightening the next generation of young minds. No, but seriously, the experience of going through the application process and waiting periods for becoming a teacher has definitely made me reconsider my plans for the future. I always thought it would be good to work for several years, then teach after I had gained some real-world experience in my subject (government). I don't think that's a good idea anymore. Teaching might just be the most underappreciated, sometimes-despised, politically correct profession out there. 1/2 of our orientation yesterday consisted of them telling stories of all the teachers who have been fired of late for kids lying to their parents about "being touched" by a teacher (which turns out was actually a pat on the shoulder for a good job or to stay in line or whatever). By the way, that's not directed so much at the females. No, it's only for the guys. I'm glad I've finally found a means of paying a couple cell phone bills here for a bit, but honestly, I will be miserable if I end up getting stuck in this job or becoming a contracted teacher because the economy doesn't improve or something.

23 March 2009

Spring Break @ The Grand Canyon

While all of you guys were out gallavanting across the country, going to New York, Mexico, California, or elsewhere, I went on my own little Spring Break trip this past Thursday/Friday up to the Grand Canyon. It had been many, many years since I last went there, and this time I was able to do more than look at the big hole in the ground. Now that I've gotten into geocaching, there were a few "virtual" geocaches up there for me to find, so I hiked around the west portion of the South Rim collecting my finds.For those who know not, a Virtual Cache is one in which there is no physical box or treasure to be found. Instead, there are usually some amazing views, scenery, or other interesting features which the person who "placed" the cache wanted to share with other geocachers. In such instances, instead of logging a log book, as in other caches, the cache finder has to prove they were at a site by giving some specific information found only at that area and taking a photo at the site of them and their GPSr. The photo above is me at one location, where I had to take a photo and then email the cache owner information found on a US Dept. of Agriculture Survery Disk at "the Abyss" in the Canyon. The disk itself is below. I had to email the elevation of the disk (6,893.52 feet) and the location mark (241 + 28,74).After finding that cache, I went and found two others within a couple miles hiking distance. I never knew some of this stuff was out there! The Abyss (where the survey disk was) has some great views of the canyon and the Colorado river - it's essentially a sheer cliff face with a dropoff of 3000' or so. Near there, there's a monument to J.W. Powell, the first person to explore the canyon itself back in 1869 and then again in 1872 with a group of companions and some river boats. Also near the monument there are two other interesting features. One is a plaque by the Flagstaff Freemason lodge commemorating the conferring of the 3rd degree of Masonry by the Phoenix lodge back in 1913 at the Powell Monument. The other is an abandoned and closed down enriched Uranium mine. Apparently back in 1893, a prospector found copper in the area and opened the mine. After a while though, he found difficulty getting the ore out of the canyon itself, and the mine was closed. Fast forward to 1951: scientists found uranium at the mine, and reopened it to obtain materials for the Cold War arms race. By 1969, the ore had been mined out, and 19 years later, the parks service gained control of the mine. They're currently in the process of soils testing, and if that passes, trails may be routed near the area so people can see the abandoned mine. Pic below is me at Powell's monument.The third and final cache I found at the canyon was a virtual cache at Mojave Point, a jut of rock overlooking the Colorado River, which you can see below. It started getting darker by this point, and windy, so we ended up calling it a night and catching the bus back to El Tovar Hotel.
While I geocache, I like to take time to write my thoughts down to share later on my blog or other assorted social sites. My mom captured this photo of me at The Abyss being thoughtful and relaxed writing.
You know, though, the day after I got home from the Canyon, I found that a new geocache had been published just outside the park boundaries. So now I can't wait to go back and find this new physical cache!

15 March 2009


Ah, I really did forget how much I enjoy PLAYING baseball/softball versus watching it be played. Granted, I'm slow, I can't hit for beans, and I'm not much of thrower, but it sure is fun! I played today with a bunch of people Travis knows after he had invited me last night. (Yes, I had my SPF50 sunscreen on so as to stave off a repeat of 2nd-degree burn-mania!) There ended up being about 40 people show up to play of watch, so we had something like 2 teams of 13 with a couple people sitting out each inning. I am proud to say I didn't completely suck, making one out and backing up a few others. I played shortstop and 10th man (rover). Despite my 0-for-3 at the plate (groundout 1-3, lineout 5, and groundout 6-3), we ended up scoring 15 runs, beating out our opponents by a single run. Actually, the game was quite close the whole way through. After 5 innings we were tied at 7, by the end of the 7th it was 13-9 for the other team. In the top of the 8th, we busted it up for 6 runs (no, I wasn't batting that inning!), for a score of 15-9. They answered back with 1 in the bottom of 8, but the ninth was scoreless for both teams so we were able to hold our lead! It's too bad it's getting warm out now, so there's not much playing time left unless it's early in the morning, but I am hopeful I will get to play in one more game before it starts climbing into the 90's!

08 March 2009

They're NOT Hieroglyphics!

Yesterday morning, once again, I went out on another hike, this time with my friends' church in Mesa out to Gold Canyon, AZ and the "Hieroglyphics Trail" in the Superstition Mountains. It's a 1.5-mile one-way trail which ends at a rock formation known as "The Petroglyphs" in Hieroglyphic Springs Canyon. There are no hieroglyphics here, though - those are Egyptian. The early discoverers of the rock carvings misnamed the site. Anyway, early Saturday morning, around 7am we all met up at the church - there were roughly 40 people on the hike ranging from little kids to people in their late 60's or thereabouts. We piled into vans and carpooled out to the area, about 6 miles east of Apache Junction in the Superstitions, with the trailhead starting out in the Gold Canyon community. I was with Scott, Matt and Angela, Travis and Kim, and Scott's mother-in-law Diana.
It was a good 50 degrees or thereabouts when we began the hike with the sun just peeking over the horizon to light the trail. The path itself was pretty rough with lots of loose rock and gravel for the first mile in, turning into big boulders for the remaining half-mile. We all slipped a couple times each on the way up and down, but thankfully, no one fell into a cactus! The trail also provided ample opportunities for some great photos. The two below are a couple of my favorites from the many I took. The first is a view of the westernmost side of the Supers from the trail, about 1/4 mile in:
This second photo is a view of the eastern side of Hieroglyphic Springs Canyon:Finally, after bushwhacking our way through the final quarter mile of trail, which was a really nice little riparian area alongside the canyon wall, we reached the Petroglyphs, a rock formation like a mini-mountain inside the canyon. The face of the rock wall is covered in petroglyphs, and at the bottom in shadow in this photo, are little pools of water and a stream. We ended up climbing to the top of the hill.
Made it to the top, and let me tell you, there was not much room to sit on those rocks! It's sort of like a ridge with sheer drops on both sides!
The pool of water formed by the rainwater. The stream gets about three feet higher during monsoon season with all the rain we get, and it's dangerous to hike in the canyon at that time.
However, when it's not raining, the flowing water makes everything bloom this time of year - the reds and golds near the bottom of this photo of Gold Canyon from the top of the Petroglyph mountain are the spring flowers in bloom on the desert flora.
We all had a great time, despite some sunburn (I got 2nd degree sunburn on the trek on my knees) and a few slips and slides on the loose rock. I also like the fact that I'm starting to wake up less sore after a good hike like this since I've been sort of conditioning myself for the past two months!

I'm hoping the weather here stays nice for another month or so, as I would like to try the Treasure Loop 2.4-mile trail out in the Apache Junction area before it gets to be too hot!

And for those that are inquiring, there did happen to be one (and only one) geocache along this entire trail, and yes, I did get it during the hike yesterday!

04 March 2009

Payson Geocaching

So, several of you have wondered what exactly this "geocaching" thing is. Well, I'm not only going to TELL you today, but I'm going to SHOW you! (Meaning, of course, I finally got around to getting my pictures from last month developed!) The pictures below are from my geocaching trip to Payson, AZ with my mom and sister. We found five caches this day ranging from the uniquely well-hidden to the ordinary to the kind of hard to find. A good mix, as it were. So, right then. Geocaching is a sport of sorts whereby participants use both the internet and a GPS receiver to find objects hidden by other geocachers around the world (literally, there are caches almost everywhere!). First, you log on to the geocaching website at www.geocaching.com and you pick out caches which you want to find. You then download their coordinates (like N33 51.189, W111 45.990, where N and W are north and west, and the numbers correspond to degrees and minutes of longitude and latitude) to the GPS receiver, which I am modeling below. The cache hikes I am showing you here are "Lookout Mountain", "waterfall", and "Pioneers Remembered." My GPS unit below is a refurbished Garmin ETrex Legend C, for those who care.Basically, you are trying to find the stuff seen below: the green ammunition box I'm holding in my lap is the cache container. These may be as small as a dime (and are damn hard to find!) or as large as, well, whatever you can hide adequately without it being found and destroyed by non-geocachers. Typically the containers, if they're large enough, hold SWAG (an acronym for Stuff We All Get). SWAG is just random little things that people can trade in or out of a cache when they find it. Sometimes it's cool stuff, like coins of the world, supplies (spare batteries, flashlights, carabiners, etc), or even gift certificates; other times you find lots of toys, games, puzzles, and other assorted "McCrap" for kids. You should not ever find food (animals would destroy the cache to get at it) or non-family friendly stuff. The other thing I'm holding is the yellow geocache logbook. A find doesn't count unless you sign the logbook, so that's the most important thing you will find in any cache. Sometimes the logbook is a tiny scroll of paper (inside a microcache), other times it's a mini spiral notebook, or even an "official" logbook like the one in this picture. For these larger ones, it's pretty fun to read what others have written about their hike to reach the cache. This logbook's entries stretched back over 2 years, so there were a lot of fun stories about what people did or saw on the way.
The reason people participate in this sport is widely accepted to be twofold: first, hell, it gets you off the couch and outside! In late January-early February here in Payson, it's just barely cold enough at midday to need a light lacket, and partly cloudy so the sun's not baking you. The second reason is the thrill of the hunt. When you were a kid, didn't you always want to find buried treasure like the pirates in stories? This sport provides the opportunity to do so! (By the way, my sister is giving me a look like "did I ASK you to take my picture there, Andrew?")
The thing about geocaching is, you never know where the cache could be hidden. This time, we searched all over this bloody tree until we finally found the cache at its base. Sarah climbed the tree to try and get a better view. Many times, the cache is camoflaged. This particular cache was a coffee can, pretty large in size, but because it was made to look like a pile of tree bark, it took some actual searching. It was definitely worth it when we finally realized what was real and what was not! (Other caches like this I've found include a stump, a fake electrical box on the side of a light pole, and a fake cactus!)
Sometimes, you have to get messy in the quest for the find. Here at the "waterfall" cache, we ended up getting wet after trying to cross this iced-over stream. The pic below is of me PRE-getting wet! In my defense, I totally thought I could make it over the ice without slipping....
Other times, it's just a pretty straightforward hike on a well-manicured trail. But the views are magnificent! Behind me here is the town of Payson with the White Mountains (I think) in the distance. This is the first time I'd been up to the forest again since last summer, and it was AMAZING to be back among real trees that don't try to gouge out your eyes as you walk near them!
Finally, you end up at the end of the trail making the find in the hollow of an old tree, an outcropping of rocks, or under an electrical box in a city. As Ben's father said in "National Treasure," "You found the clues they left behind for you to find.... You did it...!"

03 March 2009

DBacks-Cubs Spring Training

Yay for the start of Spring Training baseball! Yesterday, I went out to HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa to watch the Diamondbacks take on the Chicago Cubs in a battle royale between my top two favorite teams. My seats were awesome, as you can see in the photos below. I was on the right side of the Cubs' dugout about five rows back from the field. Primo foul ball territory; in fact, I did have a couple that were hit right at me, except low, so they bounced off the tarp or the bottom of the wall and flew elsewhere. This first photo is the DBacks batting practice about an hour and a half before game time.
My seats were so good, in fact, that prior to the game, people crowded the small area just in front of me to try to get players' autographs. Alfonso Soriano, #12 in the picture below, was a fan favorite as he threw during Cubs' warmups just before the national anthem.
During the national anthem, many of the Cubs' position players lined up in front of us during their warmups. You can see (from left to right) #25 1B Derrick Lee, an unnamed trainer, #4 CF Joey Gathright, #17 2B Mike Fontenot, #37 P Angel Guzman, #49 P Carlos Marmol, #62 P Marcos Mateo, #58 P Jose Ascanio, and #55 C Koyie Hill.
On the basepaths, the Diamondbacks had plenty of runners, collecting 12 hits, 3 hit batsmen, and 7 walks during the game. All told, that's 22 men on base! This photo, taken during the Diamondbacks 8th inning, shows DBacks shortstop Wilson on first just before moving to third on a single by pinch hitter Watson.Bottom of the fourth, and Josh Whitesell is ready at first base.New infielder Josh Whitesell gets time on the basepaths before being driven in by a pair of doubles by Hallberg and Wilson in the top of the ninth inning.I know you can't see it on the scoreboard via this picture, but the final score is Diamondbacks 9, Cubs 1!

01 March 2009

Job Hunt Update Post

Yeah, so it's been a while since I last went on a rant about still - STILL - not having a job. So I figure one's in order, since I don't really have anyone else to talk to about it, and since I don't really enjoy dumping on other people anyway. It's been, as of today, one full year since I started my full-on job search. One year ago today, I was a senior in college, just about to complete my bachelor's degree, and a resident assistant for Mountain View Hall at NAU. Since May 13, 2008, I have been jobless, save for two months of temp work during the elections. In this time, I have sent out hundreds of resumes and applications and only received a scant few letters in return telling me I'm not qualified or some such thing. My biggest fear is that I'll never find a job for which I'm suited and I will end up being one of those 30-year-olds working in a crappy retail job still living with their parents or something. It scares the Hell out of me. I've been on the verge of complete clinical depression for a while year now, and having experienced what it is like during last summer I don't ever want to feel that way again, but I don't know how not to when I'm doing everything I know how to do to find employment and nothing is happening in my favor. But what frustrates me the most is not know what it is I'm looking for. Most of my other friends, even if they don't have their dream jobs yet, at least have that goal as a beacon for measuring their success. Some want law school, others a career in nursing, and still others are looking to work for Congress. But me, I consider myself capable if not good at several different things, none of which I want to make "careers." I've always loved politics, but going through an election cycle every two years is exhausting, emotionally draining, and completely underappreciated. Not to mention that I don't think I've yet found a candidate whose ideals match my own. I am also pretty darn good at customer service and clerical-type things, like being a receptionist or sales associate. However, the thought of myself being stuck selling crap people don't need to people who look down on anyone with a name badge sickens me to my core. It's a fine "job" for people in high school and college looking for supplemental income or as a second job kind of thing, but in no way should retail or "customer service" ever be considered a profession. I actually can think of one "profession" which I think I would enjoy, which would combine one of my favorite activities with my job, and that would be working in baseball. But with that being a nine-month job which I don't know how to "apply" for, I'm kind of at a loss for how to proceed in the field. My mom thinks I should go to law school and become a lawyer, but I neither desire to work in professional law nor have the money to spend on a law degree. I can't even really pay for a Master's degree at a local university, but I am going to try to fake it, I think. To top the disappointment of the job hunt off, I have no one to relate to when it comes to talking about this stuff. Everyone else I know has a job, crappy retail-ish as it might be, and my family's advice is simply "get anything you can and make some pocket money until something better comes along." Nice sentiment, and very supportive of them. (Please note sarcasm.) So what kind of job am I good at? What's going to be intellectually satisfying and make me happy while working at it? Regardless of the money involved - it's never been about the money for me...? I don't know. I'm tired of looking endlessly without any returns on my hard work. I'm tired of jumping through hoops, like converting my resume into eighteen different formats to satisfy employers who are probably going to ignore me anyway. I'm tired of writing cover letters trying to explain why I should get a job at Wal-Mart. I'm tired of applying online instead of talking to a real person about what my qualifications are. I just want this to be over.

The Amazing Race

Okay, I know most of my friends who read this blog aren't huge into the whole "reality TV" thing, and to be frank, I'm not either. I don't do the whole "American Idol" craze, or the "Survivor" thing, but one reality show I really do love is "The Amazing Race." Basically, eleven teams of two people start somewhere in the USA, and travel around the world, stopping at destination points and completing challenges along the way in order to eventually cross the finish line up to a month later and win $1 million. The challenges range from the exciting (skydiving, bungee jumping) to the physically intense (mountain climbing, ice drilling) to the gastronomically illuminating (eating the delicacies of foreign lands) to the intellectually draining (memory exercises, detail-oriented things). I've seen people go to Thailand and eat crickets, dodge giant spiders in Perth, and wade into croc-infested waters in Darwin, Australia. Now, I'm not the most physically fit person ever, but I still think it would be incredible to be on a show like this. Think about it - interacting with local cultures to try to find a way to get around Japan, Russia, or Germany. Skydiving over the Amazon Rainforest. Visiting the Great Pyramids in a race around the globe! Screw the million bucks, I'd do it for the experience of a lifetime!