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I expect that a variety of things will strike me as odd about CA and particularly L.A. in the first few months of living here. I wrote a long post about a few of these seeming oddities, but rather than waiting to give you one novel-sized post, I’m going to do a series of much shorter posts. This is the first in that series.

Two months ago on a quick trip to check out the city of L.A., I couldn’t understand why there were so many cops on the streets. They were everywhere!  I saw a police vehicle every few minutes while driving around. Perhaps I was in a high enforcement area at the time, although I doubt it. Dallas uses a lot of red light cameras for enforcement. Actually, it’s a full fledged program. That means the city can use their officers in other ways. There’s a big debate about the implications of traffic light cameras. This is a good summary and assessment of the situation. In Dallas (which is clearly a car culture), police are very rare on interstates or major roads. Clearly, enforcement is dealt with differently in L.A.

So I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised that upon reaching the CA border there was an inspection station. (Honestly, I thought it might be a sort of immigration station, especially since it was on the border with AZ.)

The following transpired: An agent glanced in the car and, upon seeing the cooler in the backseat, riffled through it to pull out the remaining apples I bought at the grocery store 2 days earlier. She “confiscated” them and handed us a notice that the car had been “inspected” for the safety of CA agriculture.

Now I am fully aware of what invasive species can do to landscapes. (I did a stint on the Utah Conservation Corps several summers ago where we battled a few of them.) But the process just reminded me of when I returned from a semester abroad (during the Mad Cow scare of 2001) and the customs agent took my orange (that I had picked up in Schiphol airport but not eaten on the plane). Or the more recent example is the entire 3-1-1 liquids inspection to fly, which we all know is meaningless. My guess is that those apples will be burnt in some huge incinerator, just like the mounds of oranges burnt in The Grapes of Wrath (we are in CA after all).

Here are some general updates.

The stay discussed in Not a typical hotel went very well. The place looked just like the pictures, there were clean linens, etc. I even learned that our host worked for my company until a month ago (not exactly a small world because it is a large company, but still a neat connection). I hope to use the site again with a bit more advance planning when traveling to expensive cities.

This week I had the pleasure of seeing a Cirque du Soleil show. This one. It was a really great show. The acrobatics and music were stunning. But I couldn’t help but compare it to the experience of watching the same show on tv*. I’ve always been biased toward watching performances on a screen. The camera angles, focus, zoom, and speakers just create such a perfect combination that I’m so spoiled. I hate it when I can’t see and hear everything that is going on, in perfect clarity. This isn’t an issue with the seats; I could practically touch some of the performers. Click on the link above and watch the video. Even with the energy of the crowd and the newness of everything, when would you prefer a performance in person?

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a restaurant pre-run, where they test all of the equipment, staff, food, experience, etc. It was really a lot of fun. The place buzzed with energy. Everyone was excited to be there, the staff were running around in every direction, and the food was, of course, delicious. In exchange for the free meal (if I remember correctly, it included everything for several courses except alcohol), we had to complete surveys about the food, staff, setting, experience, etc. What a deal!

So when my company invited me to a test of a new facility that will be opening soon I jumped at the chance to check it out (that was planned long before the trip above). Yesterday, I drove to the facility, and as soon as I stepped out of the car I was treated to a dizzying number of staff trying to help me. Did I need help with my bags? Do I know where I am going? Is there anything they can do for me? Would I like water? This was all said with extreme cheeriness (the way I assume Disney park employees are). Once I got beyond the hordes of people trying to help me, I checked out the facility. It was well worth the hype I had heard. The building and area were gorgeous, the food was delicious (oh, and there was so much that I just kept eating), the rooms were very nice (with lots of small touches to make them very comfortable), and there were interesting company features throughout the building (to make it both more functional and entertaining). I was so excited about everything that I couldn’t sleep until early this morning (although that might from the myriad of desserts I tried last night:)

Hopefully, there will be more interesting updates to my adventures in the near future. Keep your fingers crossed!

*I don’t actually have a tv, but this is easier than saying a wide-screen tv, computer monitor, or projector in each place.

Note: For some of you, this post is under the heading of “Too Much Information,” but I think that it’s particularly important to work against our natural inclination to cherry-coat our lives for public consumption.

Thursday I woke up with a swollen right hand and a light rash on the sides of my abdomen. Both places itched terribly. By that evening, I had to take antihistamines to make it bearable.

Friday was worse. This is a picture of a fraction of the rash on one of my sides.

A nurse practitioner gave me a script for steroids and more antihistamines. While the itching was somewhat controlled, the rash continued to spread Saturday. I felt a bit like when Spiderman unlocks the black spider-suit and it covers him. Luckily, I was able to see a doctor Monday. Among other things, he ordered a huge dose of steroids to be administered just like in the movies!

It was the most painless experience I’ve had with needles, from blood draws to vaccinations. And more importantly, it seems to have worked. The rash on my legs still itches, but everything is slowly clearing up.

Despite the completely unknown cause, I’m thanking my lucky stars it happened when it did; a week later would have messed up my Yellowstone trip, which I leave for tomorrow!

This happened to me and my work, although on even more specific topics, on a couple different occasions in Afghanistan.

Dilbert.com

The only real difference is that the person/people/donor who tasked us with the assignment was rarely the same and never in the room…

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