Saturday Edition: The Idler Wheeler Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw…

Kamel writes on Saturdays. He is mostly funny. Check it out!

I’m so excited.

Last week, I received my June free CD of the month (a perk of working for Sony). And this time, it was something I had been looking forward to for 7 years now! The new Fiona Apple album, called: “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.” I immediately ripped it and put it on my iPhone, because really how else does one listen to these “Compact Discs” anymore? I played it  through twice while at work and then ran home and told Lauren all about it. I loved it! And best of all, she is actually going to be performing live in concert next Month here! Ahhh! I must go to this one. All of this excitement means that for today’s Saturday post, I will gush like a 13 year old.

I’ve been a huge fan since her first album came out when I was in High School, back in 1995, starting with her awesome Criminal video. Making her the only singer I’ve ever liked consistently for the longest period of time. Others came and went, but she always stuck around. Now she only has four albums in the span of her entire 17 year career, but they’ve always been great and  they always age well. I still have them all in my iTunes and still listen to them regularly, never having deleted them. I usually get bored of a song or album after a while and delete it, which is why my iTunes only has around 600 songs (~4GB). I also delete albums who’s cover art I can’t find, but that’s another blog post on my OCD.

Anywho, next month, I will totally be there in Oakland to see her perform. I still have to get tickets, but that’s just a quick craigslist transaction away. And this time it will be easier because I have a real job, haha. Unlike back in 2005, when I could barely afford to go see her perform at the Warfield. That concert was epic! (All of the photos in the post and the video are ones I took from that day.)

Quick fun story from that day: It was the first time I had seen her live. She was really good, and funny, and a little crazy with how much she was into it. So me being me, I took a couple of shots and a video or two. And a random girl next to me saw a few of the shots, and later approached me in the parking lot enthusiastically asking if I could show them to her. She then gave me her email and asked me if  I could send them to her, because all the ones she took didn’t turn out. Random strangers who are into same things you are, are the best!

Another fun random thing, my favorite movie of al time is Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson. I watched it twice in theaters and a thousand more on DVD. One day, while watching the behind the scenes documentary, near the end when the director is working on an edit or something, low and behold, Fiona Apple pops in and starts being super goofy, acting out the story the director is telling. I didn’t know why she was there, but it was awesome. Later I found out that they had been dating for years, and he had directed lots of her music videos. Ha, two of my favorite people, a director and a singer got together. Creative magic.

Anyways, so this is my Saturday Edition post… Me being a total Fiona Apple fanboy because I got a new CD. Welcome to my LiveJournal <lj-cut>

Here is one of the videos I took of her singing “Extraordinary Machine”

Saturday Edition: It’s The End of the World Munchies!

It’s Saturday! And Kamel is up early typing away. I initially wanted him to write about his perspective on setting rules and boundaries on our marriage, from the post on Wednesday. But… the moment had passed. I want to open up the dialogue to include his perspective as well, but we’ll work on that some other time. Today there are more important things to discuss… like the end of the world. 

Lauren and I were having the Friday-After-Work-Cravings to eat all the things. As we do every now and then. We had watermelon with salt, lime, and cayenne. Then we had scrambled eggs over toast with butter. Then we had pretzel chips, chocolate coconut water and soy chips. Still hungry, we plotted what our next move would be. A quick trip to the mall to get Cinnabon? No, not this time, we should save that one for an emergency we said.

Which got me thinking…

“You know what? If there was an asteroid headed towards earth, and we were all going to die in 2 weeks…. I would just eat the shit out of everything noms on this planet and not give a flying fuck.”

Lauren laughed, and said, “Yes! Like all the really bad things, like McDonald Chicken Nuggets…. those are so good and so gross at the same time.”

I came back with, “And donuts, cream puffs, frosting out of the can with a spoon… no with shortbread cookies AS my spoon. mmm. And not just a sampling of each, but like A LOT of each.”

“Yes!” Lauren said, “Like how I say I could eat a dozen homemade cupcakes and you never believe me, except I COULD… and I would.”

“Everyone else would by crying and saying their goodbyes and we would be holed up in here with the blinds drawn eating.”

We talked about how we would easily ballon out, be in a state of bliss, and then accept our fates, happy, fat, and with deliciousness in our mouths. This is the stuff of dreams.

Tres leches cake, cinnamon rolls, whipped cream out of the can, oreos… BUT, we would have to mix in the savory too: fried chicken, steak fries, a 6 egg scramble? We would turn our dining room table into a big cheese platter and just scrape it off the the surface with ritz crackers – the butteriest of all. Yes.

And we wouldn’t give a shit because the asteroid is coming.

Lauren even freaked me out a little when she said “I almost wish it was happening!” Crazy girl, it all just sounded TOO GOOD. She figures it would be the best way to die. Plus since everyone on earth is going out at the same time, it wouldn’t be as sad. All of our loved ones, everyone we know, would all go together. No one left behind to mourn, and tons of delicious food to eat in the meantime.

I would probably eat lots of kit-kats, crunch bars, white chocolate, and sour patch kids. Mmm.

What would you eat if the world was going to end?

Saturday Edition: Cray Cray

This is Kamel. He writes on Saturday. Yay!

Lauren was gone all week. She was up in… or down in… or sideways in Houston while I stayed here all by myself. Staying up until 2AM on average, waking up at 5AM and then oversleeping until 9AM. Working, then coming home to eat fish and rice, which I ate 3 days in a row. Playing video games all evening, watching movies, and running kamely type errands. The type Lauren really wants no part in, like buying new phones off craigslist, and then selling the old one to cover the cost or even make a profit.

On Wednesday I had to go up to the city to finalize a craigslist phone purchase. I had already bought the phone, sold mine and been happy for a week. I just needed the box and charger. Which were waiting for me in downtown San Francisco. The craziest place in the world.

As I usually do when I go downtown, I park in the 5th and Mission Parking Garage, and then walk to my final destination. And in these walks I always walk past crazy. Be it twitching crack heads who attempt to ask me for spare change, but end up sounding like this “ARG ERRR GRAAAR GUH GRRR HMMM.” Or Frank Chu, who I honestly believe is from another galaxy just as he claims. The man has figured out how this society really functions… he sells advertising to big companies on the back of his crazy sign. And this is not limited to the outside. I had to pee while downtown, so I do what I always do, and walk into a 5 star hotel and use their fancy lobby bathrooms (I’m NOT doing mall restrooms nor Starbucks downtown… I’m too bougie for that). But even there, I find crazy. Men going into the stall next to me, huffing anf puffing and making grunting noises as they unleash loud bowel movements. Ew. What’s worse is that afterwards, I see they are totally normal, successful looking businessmen who make enough monies to stay at the St Regis. Why are they so primal? (Lauren Edit: We will never know Kamel, we just won’t ever know…)

Anyway, I handled my phone transaction, walked back to my car and went along my merry way. But suddenly… I need gas. So I stop at the 4th Street gas station, right before the freeway entrance in SOMA: The scene for the craziest thing I have ever experience while living here.

As I pull in to get gas, this lady drives in from the exit and totally cuts me off, taking MY TURN! She pulls into the pump, and takes her sweet ass time getting out of her car as I quietly rage. Stuck behind her, with no other free pumps, I decide to just wait it out.

She gets out of her car, and I notice that she is really cute. Wearing an “anthropologie” type outfit, pretty face, nice hair, totally normal right? She looks at me looking at her and smiles, as I,  little embarrassed, look quickly away. I look back and see she’s still smiling but now focused on prepping her pump for gas. Still totally normal.

She puts the pump in, and as she waits, she starts lifting her skirt up. Up, up, up until it’s right below her underwear. I couldn’t believe this. Was I going to get flashed? She knew I was looking, she had made eye contact with me and smiled just seconds earlier. She then stuck out her leg, and began moving her hands around. She wasn’t looking at me, she kept her focus on the gas price counter. Me being who I am, decided to take a picture because when I later told this story to Lauren, I wanted photographic evidence. (Lauren Edit: Truth. I def asked if he had taken a picture even before he admitted to it.) So I snap a picture with my cell phone. I worried she would notice, but she didn’t. She just kept doing this:

This was still early on. The skirt went up higher and wider after this.


When she finished pumping gas, she lets go of the handle, but not her propped up skirt. She then moved her skirt up more, revealing her underwear!! (They were black) She leaves it up like this for a second or two and then drops her skirt back down, smiles to herself and starts putting the pump back. She grabbed her receipt, got into her car and drove away.

Did that just happen? Did I just get flashed by a girl in a gas station in SOMA? I really did.

This place is totally cray cray.

Saturday Edition: Fear Of Heights Adventure-ing

Remember how Sarah did the scary thing of chopping off her hair? And I did the scary thing of trying out rock climbing? … and surfing. On this Saturday Edition Kamel talks about his own fearful adventure-ing. This time involving a lot of hot air.

I’m afraid of heights.

It’s a very specific type of heights though, because I love flying on planes and love looking out the windows of really tall buildings. But, I’m terrified of being in open air, on tall structures that seem to be frail or dangerous. Like the observatory thingy in barcelona. While I was happy to have taken pictures from up there, I was actually terrified and moving very slowly the entire time. (Lauren Edit: I thought at one point he would start to crawl along the floor. But he didn’t.) Or in the London Eye, again happy to have taken pictures, but terrified most of the time.

So a few months ago, Lauren wanted to challenger herself and do something, yet again, that she never thought she would. Her master plan: Hot Air Balloons. It appears I agreed to this, but I honestly didn’t actually think we would. A few months later, she asked me to call Napa Velley Balloons to get more details. I talked to the lady, and let her know I’m terrified and would probably bail at the last minute. She assured me they are safe (But how safe can riding in a basket, loaded with giant propane tanks, a giant open flame, and no real control over anything except maybe height can be?). She also said that while the tickets are non refundable 48hrs prior to boarding, IF I did feel like I couldn’t hop on day of, she would not charge me. So that made me feel safe that I had an out.

I sat with Lauren while she booked tickets and then I tried not to think about it for a while. Until… one day Lauren and I decided to go lay down to take a nap, one week prior to the balloon ride. And I chose this moment to confess to her that I might not be able to get on the balloon because I was terrified and didn’t really want to do it in the first place. (Lauren Edit: Months later… MONTHS since we talked, planned, and bought the tickets.) I was scared of not being in control and of the height (2,000 feet in a basket). (Lauren Edit: But a plane is totally in his control, right?) This freaked Lauren out because she thought I was all ready to go, all in as you say. (Lauren Edit: No shit.) My mistake for not being more vocal about from the get go, but I thought I was since every step of the way I mentioned how I had zero desire to do this, and didn’t want to. (Lauren Edit: But there is a big difference between saying “I dunno, I don’t really want to, but ok.” To saying, “I can’t do this. I am too afraid and you should go without me.”)

We had to be at the Launch site in the Domain Chandon winery at 5:30am, this meant our friends Margaret and Jeff and both Lauren and I woke up at 3:30am and were in the car by 4am. We arrived at Domain Chandon and after a light snack, loaded ourselves into vans that would take us to the launch area. I was terrified.

I kept trying not to think about it, but I wanted to bail. I did not want to go up.

But! The time came and we all hopped into the basket. Up and over. I hopped in and immediately just wanted to hop out and wish the group a safe flight. But Lauren was super happy and bouncy so I decided not to be the party pooper. I stayed and thought it might not be so bad.

We took off. Up, up, up. Higher and higher. I was regretting this decision more than anything in my life. I was scared shitless and could not even look out. I was shaking and spent a good chunk of time looking down to my feet only. I kept counting up in my head and telling myself it would all be over soon. I wanted to go back down right away. We were scary high.

Lauren, meanwhile, was having the time of her life (you’ll here her story on Monday I’m sure) and so was everyone else in the balloon. I tried to peak out, but every time I did, I felt like I was going to die. So I went back to looking down and waiting for the time to go by. It was just 45minutes to an hour, so that’s not so bad.

After about 15ish minutes, I started getting antsy. So I decided to distract myself with something. And what better way to hide yourself from the real world around you than to bury your face in a camera’s view finder and take pictures. (Lauren Edit: My plan for Kamel from the get go, knowing he did have fears about height, was to surround him with as many cameras as possible. We had three on board, 4 if you can’t my phone too.) Perhaps even upload a couple to Instagram too, no? (I did, and one got 32 likes! More than any other instagram I’ve ever taken! Check it out here.)

Lauren kept trying to make me see it wasn’t so bad and that it was fun. But it was scary and I was done. But seeing her happy made me happy. So I loosened up a bit and started taking pictures with her. Showing her what I’ve shot and taking recommendations from her as to what looked cool (cos I was NOT really looking out). At this point we were only about half way through the trip.

A few minutes later, we descended down to a more reasonable altitude of just a few hundred feet. Not that this doesn’t feel as bad. The ground seemed closer and the balloon for some odd reason felt safe. Then we saw a lake, and the pilot said he would try to tap the water…. A splash and dash if you will. Once he did, he gained my full confidence that he totally had this shit. He could, on command, gently tap the basket’s bottom of this ginormous ballon and then take it back up a bit. Impressive. That experience, and the fact that he had been doing this for 30+ years made me finally feel a little safer. So I started enjoying the ride.

The ride went on for another 30 minutes, but we never climbed back up to that initial scary/insane altitude. Lauren was happier than a puppy hearing the sound of rattling car keys. And I managed to do two things:

  • Overcome the fear of getting on this death basket.
  • Take some pretty bad ass photos.

We then landed safely and calmly on the ground and proceeded to eat the breakfast of kings at Domain Chandon and drink champagne. The entire experience was epic, happy and absolutely a once in a life time event. Everything went better than expected.

Had I not gone, I would’ve missed out on this unique opportunity. I would’ve been on the ground, waiting and bored, unhappy, left out and never knowing what it would’ve been like. I’m really glad I got onboard. The entire experience was totally worth the months of angst and weeks of me being a cranky mess. Though I’m sure Lauren could’ve done without all of that, I’m happy she gave me the confidence I needed to hop on board. In the end we both have this epic memory to share for the rest of our lives. I wonder what other adventures are still to come? Even if sometimes… they scare the shit out of me.

Saturday Edition: Cinco de Mayo and Actual Mexican Holidays

People often think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence day and that all of Mexico celebrates this holiday in epic ways. It used to annoy me when people would be shocked that I wasn’t going to do anything for Cinco de Mayo. They’d be like, “Why aren’t you celebrating your independence? We do it here on July 4th and we celebrate yours on cinco de mayo!” Ugh. But you know, this doesn’t bug me anymore. I just kinda roll with it, since I’m sure St Patrick’s day is probably not the Irish Independence day either, but I mistakenly think it could be? ha. So these days only if people ask me, do I give them the scoop.

(disclaimer, this might not be the most accurate detail on how shit went down, since I learned all this way back in high school in Mexico.)

Story time!

A long, long time ago down in Mexico. The country was having issues with paying back a huge amount of foreign debt. So, the president at the time, Benito Juarez (who was the first totally native Mexican president and overall badass) had a great idea. He decided not to pay back any foreign debts for two years and instead focus on making the country rock.

Naturally, the lending countries of Britain, Spain and France were not okay with this, so they sent over armies to kick our asses and make us pay up. The President worked out deals with Britain and Spain so they turned around and went back home. BUT Napoleon had other plans. He decided this was the perfect time to attack Mexico, conquer it and set up a French territory so that he could then move up and conquer the US, who was currently fighting some sort of war of their own. (Lauren edit: hahaha)

So Napoleon sends over like 10,000 of the best French soldiers ever to Veracruz. Once there, they end up in Puebla. The locals did not like this one bit, so they gathered a few thousand men and kicked the French army’s ass out of their country. This took place on May 5th. 18something-or-other, but well after the actual day of independence.

This victory was nice as a morale booster, but it was very short lived. Napoleon sent back a shit ton of troops and ended up kicking our asses and installing an Emperor, Maximilano in Mexico. This only lasted for about 3 years though, when the Mexican people had enough of that shit, sacked the castle and publicly killed the poor Maximiliano who honestly just got the crappy end of the deal (or something). Thus, the Mexicans became French free and independent once again. But this did not take place on May 5th.

Anyways, the May 5th battle is only remembered in the small Puebla region in Mexico and is not celebrated at all outside of that. Except for… in the US of A! Where the country goes nuts with sombreros, fake mustaches, poor Mexican impersonations and booze. Lots of it. Drinko de Mayo!

I honestly don’t know why they celebrate this here. Maybe it’s a commercial thing started by beer companies and bars? Or maybe because had Mexico lost on May 5th, Napoleon would’ve moved up and conquered the US since they weren’t really in any condition to fight what with their own wars and such at that time? But really, it’s more of an American holiday at this point that celebrates Mexican heritage. Mexican Independence day is actually on September 16th and it is one of my favorite Mexican holidays. Which brings me to the real topic of today’s post: My top Mexican holidays!

These are in no particular order:

El Dia de la Independencia

Every year on September 15th the 2 day long celebration of Mexico’s independence begins. First with concerts, music, dancing and people gathering across the country in local plazas and homes. My family always got together in the evening for the main event which took place around 11:30pm on the 15th.

In the country’s main plaza in the capitol (El Zocalo) the President of Mexico walks out onto the bacony of the national palace that overlooks the Zocalo (which at this point is filled with half the population of Mexico), holding a giant flag. He then proceeds to shout out the same little chant honoring the history behind the day. Mimicking what the one priest dude did back in Dolores when he declared Mexican independence from Spain.

At the end of his speech, the President then shouts out at the top of his lungs:




…and then rings a bell just like priest dude did. At this point the entire country goes apeshit for 2 days. Celebrating, eating, dancing, singing and of course drinking. My family and I would always watch this on TV. Once, we actually went to the Zocalo after the shout to check it out. It was nuts!

This was always my favorite holiday because we wouldn’t have school for a couple of days.   The 15th with the shout, the 16th with the actual parade and more celebration. And then on the 17th it was my birthday! So yes, 3 days of celebration for me! What’s not to love?

Last year, Lauren and I actually watched the shout on TV in our apartment here. I wanted to show her what it was like, and also I really missed this since it’s been years since I was in Mexico during that time. I’d love to do this again there for my birthday one day.

El Dia de Reyes

Or, the Day of the Kings. During Christmas time, after we get presents from our family on the 24th and from Santa on the 25th, we have one more day of gift receiving and celebration in Mexico! On January 5th, we go to bed and wake up to presents delivered by the 3 Kings (3 wise men). We get 3 presents – one from each King – and traditionally the presents go in your shoe, which we would leave out the night before under the tree.

Then in the evening we all gather for Rosca de Reyes, a giant circular cake with dried pieces of fruit on it. Now the fun part was that each cake, had a tiny plastic baby Jesus hidden inside it. Each person took their turn to cut themselves a piece of cake. And if your piece had the baby Jesus, guess what? You were obligated by law to host a tamale party in your house on your dime on Feb 2nd. NO EXCEPTIONS! Baby Jesus demands it.

So naturally this was my favorite part since we would see my entire family freak out cos no one really wanted to get the poor baby Jesus. And, as kids if we got it the parents would have to host the party. HaHa. One time, my uncle was cutting the cake and he felt the plastic Jesus under his knife. Without missing a step and with a full on poker face, he continued to cut… hard. Chopping the poor kid in half! We had tamales at his house that year.

Another fun memory was when our Rosca ended up having two baby Jesuses (Jesii?) inside it! This was a fluke, but later in Feb, we had two separate tamale parties. Yum.

El Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead. This is basically our “Halloween” since we don’t have Halloween. But instead of going out and about getting candy from strangers while wearing costumes, in Mexico this day is about celebrating death and remembering our deceased friends and family. (Lauren Edit: I hate this holiday with a fiery passion.)

The holiday is spread across 2 days (cos that’s how we roll… with multiple days off work too.) On November 1st, it’s about remembering those under 18, November 2nd is for those over 18. Each house sets up a little altar (or a giant one if you’re a little cray cray) to place photos of our dead people (our fallen brothers if you will). We then place their favorite foods and drinks and leave them there overnight. We love eating and drinking, so we figure we might still love it after we die too. (Probably not.)

We also place these delicious sugar and/or chocolate Calaveras (skulls) with hard candy and chocolate decorations all over the place. (Lauren Edit: Which I find unbelievably creepy) While we never eat the food for the altar, we do nosh hardcore on these Skulls and other goodies throughout Nov 1st and 2nd (and 3rd and 4th since we always have leftovers…) Finally, neighborhoods always get together and celebrate in the streets with fun skull art, sculptures, food, drinks, and over all happy celebrations. We don’t mind death in Mexico. It’s just part of life.

El Dia del Amor y la Amistad

The day of love and friendship. This is Valentine’s day. But with one major difference. In Mexico, this day is about celebrating all loved ones, spouses, family and friends alike. We show appreciation for those who are close to us on this day and it’s not just about couples. I always did prefer this, since no one was ever left out. Unless of course you were an asshole who hated everyone and had no friends.

We would do the same things. Give candies, cards, chocolates, obnoxious balloons, flowers, puppies, etc… but to everyone we loved, cared for and were friends with.

I bet more people would totally get into this day here in the US if they made it more about love and friendship and less about having a S.O. Like me, I never had a girlfriend in middle school or high school (ps I was living in Mexico City during this time). BUT. On valentine’s day I always had tons of cards, candies and chocolates. Noms.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Saturday Edition: JUMBO BUCKS!

After a brief hiatus, Kamel is back with Saturday Editions! Weee!

Hola! Hoy es Sábado, y eso solo significa uno cosa! Es hora de mi edición para el blog de Lauren! Esta vez voy a escribirlo todo en español! jajaja (hasta mi risa sera en español).

Just kidding. Post for reals:

Every now and then Lauren and I walk down to the liquor store and buy two scratch tickets. I know… tax for the stupid, but hey, it’s fun! And unlike regular lotto, we win a few dollars every now and then. Sure, we end up using our winnings to buy more tickets (Lauren Edit: And candy), but at least they were free.

A few weeks ago, on an average evening, we find ourselves at the liquor store buying two scratch tickets yet again. When we got home, Lauren set the tickets on the table, one for me and one for her, and we begin to scratch it. The game is called Jumbo Bucks and the rules are simple: You uncover the 4 numbers at the top. Then you uncover 16 numbers below. If any of those 16 match any of the 4, you automatically win whatever value is listed under that number. So in theory, you could win 16 prizes.

We have a specific way of doing this where we uncover the 4, and then one by one we reveal the 16 numbers. BUT we do not reveal the prizes unless we have a winning number. Even then, we do not uncover the prize until we’ve finished with the whole card. This helps out when we lose, cos we never know “what could’ve been.”

Anyways, back to the story. We sit down on the couch and we each start scratching our own cards like a couple of 75 year old retirees. I uncover my 4 numbers, and begin uncovering the possible matches. The 1st was not a winner. But then this happens:

2nd Number – Me: “I win!” Lauren: “What? already?” Me: “Yeah! I’ll keep going…”

3rd Number – Me: “I win” Lauren: “…okay?”

4th Number – Me: “I win again!” Lauren: “uh….”

5th Number – Me: “I win! Again!” Lauren: “hmm…. Okay” (At this point I think two things are happening with her. The first is she is upset she is not the one winning (Lauren Edit: Ha! Only a little true.) and the second is she’s trying to accept the fact that it’s probably not a big win even though deep down she secretly is wishing these are $100,000 wins (Lauren Edit: This one is very true.))

Numbers 6-9 didn’t match, but when I uncovered number 10…. Me: “I WIN AGAIN?”

11th Number – Me: “Lauren…. I win again.”

12th Number – Me: “Okay so I won again, BUT I’m 99% certain these are just $1 wins so don’t get excited okay?” Lauren: “Okay, I won’t. I mean I’m not.” (But secretly she thought, “Well, maybe $100 wins?”)

13th Number no win. I have 3 left.

Numbers 14, 15 and 16 – Me: “I win the last three!” Lauren: “Oh… I didn’t win any. Let’s see the big reveal!”

At this point we are both a little freaked out because, who wins this many times on a scratch card, right? Are we going to be cashing in big? Are we gonna pay back our student loans? (Sad that we think about paying back those instead of saying, “Yay free vacation to Bora Bora!”) But snap back to reality. (Lauren Edit: Whoop, there goes gravity.) I assure Lauren that it’s just $1 wins, which would be $10 total. Not bad since these cards are $5 each. She said, “Shut up and uncover it already!”

I uncovered one by one, and sure enough they were $1 wins. But the whole thing was kind of amazing. We were way richer for about 5 minutes, in our minds.

We cashed it in a few weeks later and bought new cards, kit-kats, a dove bar, diet cokes and probably a slim jim. We’re old people.

Saturday Edition: Achievement Unlocked, Fly on the 747

I love aviation. I have model aircrafts. I can identify aircrafts as they fly over us or taxi around airports (even though Lauren does not care). I’m always researching and learning more and more about what makes these things fly. My favorite moments during a flight are ALWAYS the takeoff and landing. Because during the takeoff something amazing is happening, and science is making this giant piece of aluminum filled with hundreds of people get off the ground! And landing, because it’s essentially a controlled crash.

Check out one landing in St. Maarten:

Since I was a little kid I have always wanted to fly on the legendary Boeing 747. The giant, double decker, four engine behemoth that is so impressive that the United State chose it for the President as Air Force One. The problem was I had never traveled to a location that required this aircraft. Since it is designed for the long hauls, flying to Mexico City from Miami, or to Seattle from San Francisco never requires anything larger than a 737 or A320. And for the one time I got to go to the UK for several months, they booked me on United, which uses the 767, and while large does not compare to my goal aircraft.

So when we were looking for tickets to Barcelona, I made it a little goal of mine to seek out a 747 for the initial flight. And sure enough, British Airways delivered! They had a special sale, with the first leg being a non-stop SF to London flight on a 747-400!!!! Not only was the price right, the schedule fit perfectly well too, so boom tickets bought.

The days following the ticket purchase I was really excited. I kept telling Lauren random facts like, “Did you know we will be flying at Mach 0.92 (614mph)?! That’s almost the speed of sound!” or Did you know it has the largest passenger interior volume of any commercial airliner, which is equivalent to more than three houses each measuring 1,500 square feet?” I learned that facts like these actually freak her out, so I kept them to myself. =)

So fast forward to the day of the flight. I was super excited. Waiting patiently. The plane hadn’t arrived yet (being 2 hours delayed). Then suddenly….

Wow. wow. wow. Look at this giant plane! I cannot wait to board.

Since we were delayed and on a tight schedule I didn’t ask to see the upper deck or the cockpit (Which I’ve done on other flights and the pilots LOVE showing me around their controls). Yes I’m 8 years old.

The flight felt different. You can really tell you’re on board something much more powerful. The taxi to the runway was smooth. The takeoff felt really heavy and took a while to get off the ground. During turbulence, and boy there was some nasty bumps, I always felt safe. Like the plane was like “I got this shit!” Amazing.

About 6 hours in, we were approaching the polar regions and I noticed the ground speed was almost at 700mph. This means we were almost at the speed of sound (767mph) and I got excited. I wanted to tell Lauren, but she was OUT. All cozied up, face on the head nubbin and snoozing hard.

We spend a total of 18 hours on the 747 during both flights. On the one home, the entire flight was in this eternal daylight since we were heading west. It was fascinating how much it felt like we were time traveling. Thanks to the light, we managed to take a peak out the window and saw the arctic. I also had a chance to take a photo from our little cabin in the middle of the plane.

I think now that I’ve completed this goal of mine, I should update it a bit. Next up, fly first class on the upcoming 747-8. I mean look at this:

Anyways, I leave you with a video that makes me wish I was a pilot. Shot by a pilot of an A319 (the planes you fly with Virgin America) while flying into Brazil.

Saturday Edition: In the United Kingdom 2007

Today’s Saturday Edition (actually on Sunday) is Kamel’s 6th installment! Woo hoo!

Last week Lauren posted a blog about her trip to Paris alone. This reminded me of the time I went to the UK back in 2007 where what was supposed to be a week long work trip turned into a Two and a half month stay. The majority of the time, I was in Knutsford, England. A tiny, middle of nowhere town that reminded me of Hot Fuzz. This was the first time I ever met my friend Kellam too. After months of being in this purgatory together, we became great friends.

So during this time, I had a total of 4 days off, not counting travel days. So what would you do if you had a day off after working 16+ hour days for 2 weeks in a row in the middle of the UK? Stay in your hotel room and sleep all day? (That’s what Kellam did!) Nope. I got my ass up early in the morning and took the Train down to London.

I only had a few hours to walk around and explore since I had to catch the afternoon train back and had to work the next day. But this first day, alone in London was EPIC. I saw so many things, I didn’t even know what they were! So I learned as I wandered into new areas. I walked into Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, took the underground “tubes” left and right and finally went back to the station to get back to Knutsford.

For the next 2 weeks I was antsy to have another day off. I couldn’t believe that I was in the UK for the first time ever and I was wasting time working and eating and eating and eating. My friend Kellam did as well, to the point where half way through we had to buy new clothes. 🙁

In these pictures I am about 220lbs (I’m 175 now). Kellam also gained her share of weight, to the point where half way through the trip we had to buy new clothes. 🙁 In a two month period of time I ended up gaining 20-25 pounds. And, as you’ll see, I used to think I was cool by not smiling in any of the photos, so I’m dead serious in everything. However, I was incredibly happy and having the adventure of my life during all of this! So yeah…

Oh and, Lauren wants me to make sure I tell you that she did not marry this guy. The guy who doesn’t smile in photos and when he does, looks like a total creeper. (She asked me to bold this)

In fact, every place I went to had amazing Ice Cream booths with the most delicious ice cream you’ve ever had! While going through photos, I was excited enough to document, many times, my ice cream obsession. Instead of, ya know, taking pics of say, the Tower Bridge behind me.

Anyways… 2 weeks later was my next day off and I did the same thing. Woke up at 5am and was on a 6am train. This time though, I decided to go north to Edinburgh, Scotland. I didn’t know anything about this place other than what Kellam had told me and from what I’ve seen in Braveheart. But man, this place was AMAZING.

Again, I had just a few hours to walk around and try to cram as much as possible before having to board back and return to my purgatory. The day was super sunny and full of people. I saw Edinburgh Castle, walked down the Royal Mile, sat in some Park whose name I don’t remember, and even got a ticket for “Terrorism”. I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I was tempted to check into a hostel and call in sick the next day. But I had no cell phone or computer, so LucasArts would probably think I ran away with the expense monies or died. So I went back to Knutsford and worked, worked, worked.

Lucky for me, just a few days later we had another window to take a day off. So boom. I’m back in Edinburgh. This time though, it was cold, windy and cloudy. But I still had an amazing time.


Again, I could not refuse the tasty Ice Cream at the Castle.

By the end of this day I was exhausted from all the walking. I had seen King Arthur’s Seat, The ruins atop the hills, Mary King’s Close (a creepy, and possibly haunted underground area of the city where people with the plague went to die), churches, downtown and I even saw a wedding. I almost fell asleep on the train ride back.

Many weeks later, we were finally done with work on a Thursday and my boss gave me two options as a reward. One, they would pay to fly me back home that very night (I was scheduled to fly back on Sunday.) Or, stay until Sunday BUT this time in London and at a really nice hotel – on them. Ha! What would any sane person pick? So back to London I go to check into my new Hotel, The Leonard.

This place was so much larger than my little shoebox room in Warrington. I made plans to see as much as I could of London during the next 2 days. And boy did I go nuts.

This time I was able to go inside the Tower of London, where I saw some really impressive things, like Longshanks’ bedroom (the evil king from Braveheart), the carvings on the walls that high profile prisoners made while awaiting their beheadings.

I also finally got a chance to see one of these dudes.

And towards the end of my last evening there, I even got a chance to ride the London Eye! AHHH! I was so scared, but so excited. Riding this made the last 2.5 months of hard work feel worth it just for the pure happiness I felt while seeing these incredible new cities.

So happy, that I accidentally let a smile, with teeth go through.

Bye London

Saturday Edition: The Change Marriage Brings

The Saturday Edition is a post by Kamel. This is the 5th installment.

Something big changed in my life once I got married. But I didn’t really notice it (or maybe I did, and it took me a while to accept it) until recently. My technology purchasing habits completely changed. Here are some examples of how I used to roll:

  • I used to purchase 2-4 Blu-Ray movies each Tuesday (new release Tuesday!) at either Best Buy if I was impatient, or Amazon when I used to have Prime.
  • I would upgrade my gizmos around once a year. New larger TVs, new Macs, new iPods, new gaming consoles, new Receivers, Routers and Speakers. I always had to have the latest ones. And if the doodad was new, I’d just buy it day 1. I waited in many lines starting at 4-5am.
  • I would always haggle in stores. And get my way about 90% of the time.

Now, I didn’t just up and buy new stuff. I wasn’t a billionaire. I was clever about it. I would know when something new was around the corner and then I’d sell my current gadget on craigslist, ebay or to friends/family before the new thingy came out. I would use the cash earned from that and usually just pay a small “upgrade fee”. Sometimes I would even end up making money! I even did this with my brand new car and ended up going from a new 2004 model to a new 2007 model (back in 2007) without paying a dime and with no increase at all to my monthly bill.

So now that I am married, I realize that all this crap is no longer just mine. It is ours. Same goes for our income and expenses. The whole, mine and yours is out and now its just our money and our expenses. And you know what? I really like this, even if it was hard to transition into. For example, the iPad. I wanted one. Lauren did not ever want to associate herself with one. We argued, and we ended up not getting one. BUT THEN, my dad gave us one as a gift. (Lauren edit: This actually caused some major, major fights.) Fast forward 1 year later… Lauren uses the iPad considerably more than I do. “Can I have the iPad?” is a line I hear a lot before going to bed, or when we have downtime. (Lauren edit: this is true, I must say. But I still think it’s a TOTALLY USELESS TOY and has no real function in the world. And is overhyped and is basically a giant phone.)

For movies and games, she said I could buy as many as I wanted, so long as they didn’t overflow our movie shelf. (Lauren edit: It’s not just a “shelf” it’s two three-shelved movie cases.) So if it was full and I wanted new ones, I’d have to sell some old ones. This was actually a brilliant idea. It keeps the house neat while keeping our collection fresh. Though for games it’s been harder since I get tons for free and am not allowed to sell them. But we just toss those in drawers or I keep them at work or give them away.

Anyways, so I got the feeling several weeks ago that a new iPad was around the corner, so I went into old Kamely mode and began to lay out a master plan for how to get one. I would sell my current one, take the cash and use it to buy the new one. Since most people don’t know a new one is coming, I could still get almost the full original value back for it. Meaning I could have my new iPad for just around $50. I tell the Lauren my plan and she says “NO, you’re not selling our iPad”. Why? “Because we don’t need the new one.” Now… she has a good point, we don’t need a new one. So I try to convince her a bit, but in the end even though she said, “Go for it if you really need one,” I didn’t. She was right, we can skip this one for the time being. (Lauren edit: What he didn’t mention was that he also just traded in a bunch of stuff to buy a PlayStation Vita while I was at work and he had a day off. I don’t think that we constantly need to keep financing the latest and greatest. I also am annoyed by the 18 month turn around that apple has that keeps everyone buying buying buying. So I don’t want to feed the beast.)

We make decisions like this together. And I like it because I never really had anyone to bounce plans off of before. I just sorta did them and sometimes I’d regret it later (Like selling my 1940s Leica to get a PS2 and games one time…) and sometimes I love it (Sold my iMac and got a MacBook Pro and made about $500 in the transaction). I have Lauren help me foresee the bad ones and she encourages me on the good ones. For example, last week she was all in for my DS to PS Vita swap I did at Gamestop. (Lauren Edit: See?)

In the end, this part of my life will never go back to the way it was. I won’t be single, spending money any way I want to, I won’t have unlimited space all to myself to fill with gadgets and gizmos. But it works out so much better this way. We lay out plans and if one of us says no with a good reason, we change it up and do something better or nothing at all. It saves us from making mistakes and obtaining way too much unnecessary crap. (Lauren Edit: Amen.) And for a few things, Lauren just let’s me do my thing without any involvement in the purchasing. Like when it’s time to get a new car and I have to be a tough haggling customer with the dealer (as you SHOULD). Lauren would rather just pay the sticker price and be done with it, HA, so I’ll get us the deal and she’ll be happy to hear about it later. All of the give and take that marriage presents, makes us both better people. I think the partnership of it all is one of the best parts.

Saturday Edition: The Reveal

You all know the Saturday game by now, right? Let’s get to it then. Kamel, you’re on.

You guys totally made my day with the awesome comments on Lauren’s giveaway post from Wednesday. There’s some pretty hilarious nerding out that’s been going on undetected, that’s for sure. In the end, she used to pick out a winner (I saw her do it, it was legit.). Now, before I announce who that winner is, I decided to use my “Saturday Edition” to write my thoughts on each of the games that were part of the giveaway. Here we go:

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t actually played this one. BUT, I played the previous two and they were the most amazing video game experiences ever! They are basically very well written and beautifully shot movies that also happens to have perfect controls and are extremely fun to play. Not only that, but watching someone play is just as fun. Check out this ad that touched on that.

So yes I haven’t played part 3, but just take a look at the game’s trailer and tell me you wouldn’t want to play/watch that! I’m totally Nathan Drake. (Lauren Edit: Please review this post for all the reasons Kamel is, in fact, not Nathan Drake. Carry on.) No I am, Lauren! I’m not Batman, I don’t always have my shit together, but I am Nathan Drake! He stumbles around, he doesn’t always know how to use his weapons. I am Nathan Drake!! That’s me! (Lauren Edit: Ok, sure.)

LittleBIGPlanet 2
Ahhh! So yes, this is another game I haven’t actually played (I don’t have as much free time in my life as I once did, but then again I haven’t had this much fun in my life either, but that’s a whole other story.) Anyways, like Uncharted, I played the first LittleBIGPlanet and it was pretty much endless fun. It’s a side scroller like the old Mario games, it has a narrator that sounds like the voice from Hitchhiker’s Guide and you can create and share your own levels. I’m sure the sequel is just as fun as the original. Here’s a peak.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Yes, I’m a loser and this is another game I have yet to play! Again, I’ve played 1 and 2 so at least I know the early part of the story. It’s very creative too. You play a young bartender named Desmond who’s ancient ancestors used to be Assassins (the good kind set to rid the world of evil, obviously). The game is set in the future and some mysterious people (I’m sure by this game you know who they are) have kidnapped him and hooked him up to a machine that allows him to replay his ancestor’s past so they can find out how things really went down.

Lauren calls this one “The Hooded Man Game” and every now and then she watches me play. She also thinks the main character (young Ezio) is hot. (Lauren Edit: He is totally hot.) He is an older man in this game though, as you can see in the trailer. This trailer also helped us find a talented new musician named Woodkid, whose album we purchased after hearing his song in the trailer.

L.A. Noire
FINALLY! A game I have played long and well enough to give a genuine opinion. This game is very simple, you’re a rising police man who is trying to make it as a detective. Set in 1947, you have to solve different cases all leading up to a serial killer. Each “level” is a crime. You start out by watching the crime, but without knowing who did it. Kind of like Law and Order. You then take control of the character and play detective. Collecting evidence, searching for clues and interviewing witnesses. This last part is my favorite because sometimes they’ll lie to you, or withhold facts and if you have the proper evidence or a gut feeling based on their “tells” you can call them out on their bullshit. It’s so much fun and makes me feel like a badass 40s detective. Add in voice acting from half the cast of Mad Men and it feels even more genuine.

Anyways, Lauren doesn’t like watching me play this one because she thinks I’m too mean or make too many mistakes which frustrates her (I’m not the best with details or short term memory). She also isn’t a fan of the time period. Boo! I love it, it plays out like L.A. Confidential in a Grand Theft Auto type 1947 LA. Check out the trailer for yourself.

Final Fantasy XIII-2
I have never played a Final Fantasy game in my life. But since I helped them bring this one to release, I figured I should check it out. I’m only about a couple of hours in so I don’t know where the story is going, but so far I’m liking it. It starts out a bit cheeseball-y and the music (I think) is a little off, but once you get past the intro and start putting pieces of the story together it becomes more interesting. The visuals are fantastic and the gameplay while complicated, makes a lot of sense after a few battles. You can tell that an extremely talented group of people put this game together. I just wish the voice acting was a little bit better.

The game, as you can see from the trailer, plays out like a 12 year old’s fantasy pretend world. Where there are evil forces and time travel and epic battles and energy explosions and “cool” (weird) costumes! Lauren is not a fan, (Lauren Edit: Because the girls need to put on some GD pants already! And it needs to stop sexualizing 12 years olds… but I digress.) so this one requires my headphones, but it’s turning out to be a much better story than I thought. Not bad. Perhaps I should check out the older Final Fantasy games one day.

And as you’re all waiting for the big announcement… Erin of The Familiar Wilderness (on behalf of her sister) is the winner! YAY! Congrats!

Lauren will be in touch with you to arrange the shipping and what not. =) Have an amazing Saturday everyone! And thanks for playing.