Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pretty Things

If sociology were a science (if), it would have ways of demonstrating that online social networking utilities all trend toward higher levels of self-obsessed inanity. Facebook, for instance, started as a way for Ivy League undergrads to discuss their classes in a closed, online community. Now it's a forum to discuss which Twilight character your illiterate friends most closely resemble. Unfortunately, it's also the closest thing to a religious ritual that I have.

Spending four years 9,000 nautical miles from home can put considerable strain on personal relationships. Ask my last three girlfriends. But for a preponderance of the people I know, the amount of work required to maintain an open dialogue is almost negligible. Especially if dozens of people are going to read my 92-character status update. Between Facebook, and about two hours a week on AIM and Skype, you really don't lose a whole lot while you're away. Coming home and reintegrating myself into old social circles is nearly seamless. It just takes a little bit of conscious, persistent effort while I'm gone.

I'm hoping this blog becomes an extension of that. It's pretty obvious, I guess, but I want people who wonder "why the hell isn't Patrick answering his phone - what is that guy's problem?" to be able to answer their own question with a click. And hopefully I'll figure out the Blogger network a little better and keep up with friends' writing. [I'd highly recommend trying it, by the way. Even if you don't particularly enjoy writing, there will be people who read it. Also, it's cathartic. (I loves me the bad break-up blogs).]

On that note, you may have also noticed that this page no longer looks like something a teenager uses to write shitty poetry on.

Let's all keep in touch now, y'hear?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stuff, and how much of it you need

"Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them."

Moving to Casablanca will mark the third time I've relocated to a new country (4th if you count the eight weeks I studied in the UK). When I went to New Zealand, I took a full backpack, army duffel bag and two suitcases. This time around, it will just be the backpack. 75 liters, plus a carry-on.

There are practical reasons. I’m not actually going to be in an apartment right away. I’m going through Spain first, and then I’ll be in a hotel for the first few weeks in Casablanca. So lugging suitcases around for that would be exhausting (and infuriating when I actually had to find something in them). As it turns out “how far am I willing to carry this?” is an interesting standard by which to measure an item’s value...

You’re standing on an island and I present you with a plasma television and a small comfortable folding chair. You can take either one, but you’re going to need to carry it 20 miles back to your camp on the other side of the island.

When I think about it, and am totally honest with myself, not much of the crap I own holds onto its value when I increase the carry factor. The nearest corollary to this measure I can think of would be frequency of use. In my case, as I suspect is the case with most people, there are only about a dozen items that I actually use with any regularity. If you graphed it (which I will, because I’m a nerd), it would look like this -->

I’m bringing my toothbrush, but I’m giving the expensive jacket I never wear to Goodwill. I love my books, but they're not going to impress anyone (why else does someone keep books?) in a box under my parent's steps. I’ll put those green items at the top of my backpack. The blue ones will be packed in descending order.

I have my philosophical reasons for packing light, too. But rather than starting to quote Aurelius, I’ll defer to what most of you probably already know about me: I’m novelty obsessed. It’s hard to do new stuff if you weigh yourself down.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Route

When airlines determine the price of an international flight, they do so with an economic model that is most closely analogous to cutting off a chicken’s head, throwing it into a running centrifuge and seeing how many feathers come flying out. That is to say, it makes very little sense. A flight from DC to Casablanca, for instance, will set you back about $1,400. Another flight, on the same airline, from Portland to Madrid, is less than half that. And a third flight, from Portland, to LA, to Bogota, to Madrid, is $800. It’s a blood-and-feather-spattered matrices of figures as long and as wide as there are cities on earth and dollars in your wallet.

It’s kind of fun, though. Having financed college, and never owning my own car, plane trips are the biggest ticket item I’ve ever spent my money on. And like any childish, novelty-obsessed itinerant, all the potential ratios of dollars spent to miles covered has enthralled me. I nearly had a stroke one year when I found a route from my school in Auckland to my home in Portland that included a free layover in Fiji.

As far as I can tell, there are no routes directly into Casablanca from anywhere in the US. All of them are routed through Europe. And a person would have to have pretty poor priorities in life to touch down in Europe and then immediately leave without poking around a little. So the route into Casablanca that I’ve settled on is this:

Everything between Madrid and Casablanca, obviously, will be done overland.

Honestly – look at everything around Casablanca. Simply flying in without taking in the scenery would be like leading a blindfolded child into Disneyland and putting them onto a single ride. Wasteful.

If my rambling weren’t evidence enough, I’m pretty excited about this whole thing. Looks like my parents and sisters are going to come and visit over spring break of next year, too. And my most adventurous little cousin will be studying in Senegal. Awww family.