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Day 1 of the Navajo Trip: In Which We Meet Chris

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From May 8th to May 22nd, I went with 27 students and 3 professors to New Mexico and Arizona to visit the Navajo on their reservation. The adventure there was unorthodox, to say the least, since our “schedules” were loose and subject to change at the last minute without warning. We also had no electricity, no cell phones, and we very rarely had running water. Communicating with the outside world in any way was discouraged, and we would spend hours isolated in the 3 vans we packed for the trip with nothing but each other for company. However, what we got out of this trip—new sights, new people, and a new culture—was worth all the risks.
So on the first day…
I had spent the night at the Common Good, which is Bowling Green’s local experimental living community, and I was awoken at dawn by the sound of people walking in to wait on the white vans to take us to New Mexico.
For about an hour, I rushed to get my crap together, then went out to the vans to figure out where the other kids in my van were. We were packing ourselves in, doing a headcount to see if everyone was there, when someone said, “Wait…where’s Chris?”
Chris was the name of one of the boys that had signed up to go on this trip with us. We all had different descriptions of him, though I’m fairly sure mine was the most honest: “tall, gangly, blonde hair and weird bushy eyebrows.”
Jamie, one of the drivers for our van (the drivers would rotate in shifts on the drive to New Mexico) got the papers and permission forms he filled out pre-trip, and started trying to call him. It was 7 am.
We were suppose to be on the road at 7 am. And we weren’t.
One of the vans, driven by Gordon Ricketts (one of the professors on this trip) zipped out of there in a hurry. Phil’s van (Phil being the British Professor who taught—surprise, surprise—American Literature) waited with us, though the other students in his van were getting impatient.
The students in my van—Lauren, Laura, Rachel, Andrew Peet (sometimes known as “Peety”), Madga, Natasha, and myself—were talking while Jamie was calling Chris’s number. Rachel remembered how Chris, during one of our pre-trip meetings late last month, was asking what kinds of electronics he could bring with him. He had a GPS, laptop, some kind of high-powered telescope…but the rule on this trip was no electronics, so he couldn’t bring any of that.
Jamie looked at us, hung up her cell phone, and said, “Guys…the number he gave was a Canadian number.”
“What?” we asked.
“Seriously! I looked it up on my phone–” she had a Blackberry that connected to the Internet, “–and the area code was for Toronto!”
Chris never told us he was from Canada.
So Jamie hops into a car with Gary, one of the guy in charge of the Common Good, and they drive off to the address Chris gave as his home address. Thankfully, it was in Bowling Green. Not thankfully, they came back and said, “His house number doesn’t exist.”
“What?” we asked again.
“Seriously! He says his house number on this street–” she points at the permission form in her hand that he signed, “–is 1123. When we looked, the houses jump in number from 1119 to 1200.”
We were all unsure of what to do at this point. It was 7:30 am—we were half an hour behind schedule—and we were still missing someone in our van that we didn’t know how to contact. Phil’s van and his students drove off and waved at us while we panicked a little.
“You know something,” someone, I can’t remember who, said. “I bet Chris is a Canadian Russian Spy.”
At the time, it made sense. Asking what electronic gizmos he could bring, giving us false phone numbers and addresses, and his bushy eyebrows had us fairly convinced that he was, in fact, a Canadian Russian spy whose real name was Boris.
We called Bill Thompson, who was another professor on this trip and was already in New Mexico because he took a plane and wasn’t able to drive anymore. He said to wait until 8 am, and if Chris (Boris) still didn’t show up, we could leave without him.
So we wait until 8 am. No Chris/Boris.
We drove off.
We were told this was the first no-show student this trip had ever experienced.
I was in the passenger’s seat, navigating for Natasha since she was the first driver of the trip. While I was sitting up there, we passed the exit to Wapakineta, Ohio at around 9:30 am, and I hear a half-asleep Jamie, woken from her nap, say, “Hello?”
She was speaking on her phone. It was Chris on the other end.
He said he slept in, and was walking over to the Common Good right at the moment to go on the trip. Jamie replied with, “Don’t bother. We’re down by Wapakineta, we can’t turn around.”
There was some more talking, and then she hung up the phone.
Of course, when we heard it was Chris on the phone, everyone was awake from their morning car naps, and looking over at Jamie. “Why was he late?” someone asked.
Jamie said, “The only excuse he gave was ‘I fucked up.’”
“Seriously?” Laura asked.
“Seriously.”
We were rather disappointed in this. We were hoping that he was talking to his Russian operatives to figure out how to infiltrate our society.
Despite the anti-climax, he became an almost running joke to the rest of us. Two days later, when we were hiking on a trail to see cave drawings in New Mexico, we would see graffiti left behind by tourists from years past, and I went nuts when I saw that one of the tourists left behind his name on one of the rocks:
“Chris!” I shouted, pointing at the name carved to be immortalized in one of the rock faces at the ruins.
Lauren jumped. “What the hell?”
“No wonder he didn’t join us in the van! He was here in New Mexico before us!”
Thus ends today’s story time. Next time, I will share the events of the second day on the trip (with photos) in which we get to Chaco Culture Canyon.
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Ok, I Obviously Lied; Plus, a New Story.

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Yeah, remember how back in June I said I would update regularly? Well I lied. Sorry. I have no excuses.

In other news, I decided to make a challenge for myself: I’m scripting out an entire graphic novel in a 220-page sketchbook this month. That means I’d have to make 7 or 8 pages a day! Whew!

Why am I doing this? Well, because there’s a particular story I want to tell, but I have yet to write the rough draft. So this project will serve as the perfect way to get a first draft of the story done.

What’s the story? I’m not telling….for a number of reasons:

1) I don’t want any criticisms yet for the story. I just want to let the ideas fly without worrying about editors, inside or outside of my own brain.

2) The idea is going to change in subsequent drafts, and I don’t want to get people who say, “Oh, why’d you remove the talking donkey and the samurai?!” or something like that. I don’t want to answer that because I have more important shit to do.

Notice I said nothing about being afraid of people stealing my ideas?

Anywho, next post I’ll share what happened when I went out to New Mexico back at the beginning of May. I’ll start with the van-ride down on the first day, because there were some shenanigans that happened…

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I’m alive! I promise! A brief summary of things I did.

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I realized today that I haven’t updated this blog in a while, and though I’ll get the chance to this Friday, I thought it would be urgent to let you know that I am, in fact, alive and kicking. I just haven’t been able to use the Internet for a while because:

1) at the beginning of May until about the 22nd, I was in Arizona in areas where Internet was a luxury similar to having a house with indoor air conditioning, which wasn’t often. As amazing and life-influencing as the experience was, it was not conductive to blogging, and so I had to relent. But then,

2) when I got home, my mom informed me that her wireless router had broken, and for the week that I was there, I had to live without Internet once again. However, I didn’t mind, since another week or two without it wouldn’t kill me (one of the many things I learned at the beginning of the month was what I could live without and no matter how many nerds may argue with me, Internet is one of those things).

3) once the week was up, I went back up to Sandusky, Ohio, to start my summer job. The apartment I’m staying at didn’t get its own internet connection until last week.

4) I was too busy drawing and reading.

I’m one of those few people that can live without television, and because of that, I have more free time than most people because I’m not watching what happens next on Desperate Housewives or, God forbid, Jersey Shore (thank you, ex-roommate, for showing me why reality TV is overrated with your addiction to the Kardashians. I do not miss listening to them at 8 o’clock in the morning). So with all this free time, I’m not only drawing and practicing my comics, but I’m also reading a HUMONGOUS stack of books this summer. I just finished reading:

Omega the Unknown by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple
Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud
Sleepwalk and other stories by Adrian Tomine
Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabriel Soria, and Warren Pleece

…and a couple of other books which I can’t remember right now. I’m currently reading:

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra (which I may stop reading, but haven’t decided yet)
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens (which I may stop reading because he focuses entirely on the monotheistic religions and doesn’t bring enough focus to other faiths. I myself am rather spiritual, but I love to read material that makes me think because it doesn’t fit my beliefs. However, his book is starting to prove to be a personal vendetta against Christianity and Islam rather than an objective book on multiple faiths like I had hoped for. It IS interesting to note the arguments he makes about religion being amoral and wish-fulfilling, though.)
Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Zen and the Art of Anything by Hal French
Something Under the Bed is Drooling: a collection of Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (I’m in love with this collection)
No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty (the guy who founded National Novel Writing Month)
How NOT to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
Scott Pilgrim vs the World vol. 1 by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Two Flowers for the Dragon vol. 1 by Nari Kusakawa
Daniel X, the Manga vol. 1 by James Patterson
Bone by Jeff Smith (I never got the chance to finish reading this series. Now’s the best time since the library has all the volumes)

…and a LOT more. Next week I’ll post my reading list and see if I come up with any new names and titles.

Now, a brief synopsis of what I was doing at the beginning of May…

After finals week, I went with thirty other people in three white vans to Arizona to stay on the Navajo Reservation for two weeks. I was excited, but tried to keep my expectations low so I could enjoy it.

I can now successfully say that not only do I have a greater appreciation for accepting chaos and chaotic situations, talking to people you otherwise wouldn’t want to be in a room with for more than five seconds, showers, beds, ice cream, living in the moment, and realizing that reality is not about discovering your individuality, it’s about being part of the people….

But I now dearly miss the taste of Fry Bread more than I missed the taste of ice cream the entire trip. Navajo Fry Bread is delicious!

I WILL be updating more on that because I took a gazillion pictures and kept a sketch diary on my trip (which includes a primitive-looking comic strip and a contribution from a traditional Navajo painter). I want to share what I experienced with all of you as the week goes by. So with that said…

I’ll do my best to update my blog everyday this week, though we shall see what my work schedule permits.

P.S. I love my job up here in Sandusky. Being a caricature artist is awesome.

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Web Hosting: What Not to Do

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I hope that this story I share with you all will serve as a cautionary tale. If you are thinking about hosting your own website or blog, please read on, and hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes as I did.

So during Christmas break one year (I think it was two or three years ago now), I got the idea in my head that I should do what everyone else is doing and host my own website. The advantages seemed obvious to me: I could post my artwork on my own domain name (which, if you don’t know what that is, that’s the “yournamehere” part of www.yournamehere.com), I could not worry about censorship from some overhead entity, and I could make a community around my stuff. I didn’t really think too much about the problems that could come with this, and I jumped in headfirst.

I checked around to see what kind of hosts I would want to work with, and I eventually decided on DreamHost. I can’t remember exactly why I picked it, though I think a portion of it was that if I wasn’t satisfied, I could contact them and get my money back within 60 days. That, and they had an option for just having a website hosting package for a month (most places do it in yearly installments) so I was like, “Well if I don’t like it, it’s only a month and I can let it expire or something.”

Here’s where the problems started.

I was ready to go, and I purchased a plan. I thought, “Oh, they say it’s $10 a month, so they’ll only want $10 for the upfront costs and an extra $10 for the domain registration (buying my own name).”

That’s not how it works.

When you make a purchase for web hosting, they expect you to pay for the YEAR, UP FRONT. So my assumption of a $20 purchase became a $122 purchase in less than 5 minutes. Not to mention the registration fee of yet another $10, so the total cost was $132.

I was freaking out, mostly because at the time of purchasing, I was a first-year college student and I didn’t have an ass-wad of cash in my back pocket, but I went through with the purchase, anyway, thinking “Well, these hosts are suppose to make making a website easy, right?”

No.

No they did not.

What I got after the sudden price jump was a “control board”, or a set of fancy links on the side of the page, that I had no idea what the terms meant. I don’t remember all the terms I encountered, nor do I care to. But I distinctly remember feeling the sensation of going over my head and having a slight panic attack.

I thought, “I’ll just make things easier and put up a WordPress blog, since I have no clue how to code stuff.” And fortunately, this host had one-click WordPress installation.

Problem was I didn’t know how to operate WordPress after it was installed.

So after about twenty minutes of this overwhelming madness, I decide that I no longer want my own website or hosting, so I go to call DreamHost to cancel my subscription.

DreamHost does not have a phone number. All they have is a “Help Forum” and “Help Wiki”.

Let me just say I hate “Help Forums” like vegans hate meat. I find Help Forums completely unorganized and they always ask THE SAME STUPID QUESTIONS that are absolutely irrelevant to me, and anytime I ask for help on a complicated issue, the user just reply with very general advice and completely ignores the specifics of my question.

I could be like “I can’t access my external hard drive on this computer because of the operating system not being compatible, but all my important documents are on it. Is there any way to get this information?” And some shmuck will answer, “Did you try plugging it in?”

So instead I found their email address, sent them a message saying I wanted to cancel, and within about two weeks, I no longer had a subscription with them and I got $90 back (they didn’t return the money for the domain registration or the cheap set-up fee, which I can live with).

So if you are thinking about getting your own website, seriously think about it. Look into as many hosts as possible, and generally ignore ANY advice you read on forums that discuss web hosting: half of the people on those things are trolls and don’t provide an objective view. If you know people who host with particular web hosts, ask them about their experiences. That will tell you more than any forum will.

Also, I read somewhere to “avoid any sites that say ‘unlimited (insert some feature here)'”. Ignore that. If you find a web host you like that promises unlimited whatever-it-may-be, just go for it. I haven’t heard of any problems from those kinds of hosts…so far.

In the meantime, however, I know I will keep using free blog services like BlogSpot. They’re easy to control, interactive, and best of all, free.

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