Two Thousand, Seven

Posted by Arlo on Jan 24, 2008 under Life of Arlo, Website

2007 Awstats

So, 2008.

Yeah, I didn’t get as much writing done over the break as I’d hoped. Instead, I fiddled around with WordPress a lot, both on my own sites and someone else’s. If you’re the type of person that likes to read this via the RSS feed – And why shouldn’t you? The new version of WordPress tried to stop me from including the whole entry, but I fixed it. I got your back! – you might click through and take a quick look at the new design. I frittered away a lot of time on it while procrastinating. Hope you like it the one time you see it.

Looking over my blog’s web statistics for 2007 was enlightening, though I doubt any of you care. Just a hair shy of 50,000 “unique” visitors last year. Well, not really. That statistic resets every month, so there’s no telling. But still… scary on so many levels. Who are all you people?

On a related note, I did an ego search on Google the other day for the word “midgett.” This blog is third on the list after Midgett Realty and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter! That’s insane. “Arlo” shows up on the second page, but I doubt I’ll ever climb to the stratospheric reaches of Arlo & Janis and Mr. Guthrie.

What else is new? Hey, remember my idea to create a hard-bound book out of all these blog entries? Well, once I got to work on it, I realized publishing is harder than it looks. Specifically, proofing, editing, and designing the layout for a manuscript is a bitch. I scaled the project back, however, and I’m almost ready to try self-publishing a volume encapsulating just the first year of the blog. If it turns out, I’ll move on to 2004 soon. Right now I have a nice, big Word file – boy do I love Office 2007, by the way – with copious footnotes, a table of contents, and 4 or 5 appendices. Only thing holding me back is the foreword. Anyone want to write that for me?

Also, with the end of 2007, my first timeline was officially complete. I slapped up a new one for 2008, but my life has been boring so far; nothing to report. I went ahead and archived the old one, though it makes me feel bad that I didn’t write about many of the things on there. Guess it’s time for a quick synopsis:

Oksana would like you to know that she had no input in the while-you-were-in-America color scheme remodel of her room.  Nor did she hang the pictures of herself on the wall--that was her niece

Back in April, Oksana received news from her brother that the four-bedroom apartment she inherited from her parents had finally sold. It had been on the market for a couple years because we could afford to stand firm on the asking price. When a local fisherman – local to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, not Juneau – expressed interest in it, he turned out to be quite dedicated. He was more than willing to pay the full asking price, but until the summer fishing season was over, he couldn’t afford to. His solution, which we weren’t too crazy about, was to give us half the money up front. I guess they don’t do escrow in that part of Russia. 

Even though there was no way we were going to get the full payment before summer, April was the only month Oksana could even think about flying to Russia. Work would be ramping up in June, her MBA classes continued through summer and fall – April was her window of opportunity.

So, Oksana enjoyed a little impromptu visit with her brother. She was only gone two weeks, but she managed to help her brother empty out their parents’ apartment, sign it over to him (so that he could complete the sale later), change her “official residence” to her brother’s address, and begin wiring back $5,000 each day – the maximum international banking transaction allowed.

I pretty much stayed at home and continued not knowing how to speak Russian.

Noah, milliseconds away from freedom

Not even a month after her return, we packed up again and flew down to San Francisco. My old college roommate, Noah, was about to graduate with an MBA from Berkeley. He didn’t know we were coming; his wife had deviously planned our invitation without him. With discipline nearing heroic levels, both sides kept the secret, and on a fine Saturday morning, Julie went out to get “balloons for the party” and came back with Oksana and me instead.

The look on his face – politely described herewith as “speechless” – when we walked into his house was alone worth the trip.

Sadly, we were in a rush. We spent the rest of that Saturday playing tourist at Pier 39, Sunday at Noah’s graduation and after-party, and Monday on the flight back to Juneau. Oksana, perhaps feeling a bit guilty about taking time off for her emergency Russia trip, still put in a half day at work when we got back.

Hanging out with Noah’s family was great, though, and I’m particularly proud of the fact that I was able to present him with a graduation card signed by almost every one of his former roommates and coworkers.

In June, Oksana’s life went into overdrive. The auto dealership she works for purchased another dealership and her workload increased significantly. She used to be the sole accountant for one dealership and now she’s juggling the finances for two. While going to school full time for her MBA.

It’s been seven months and she’s still working just as hard as when the dealerships merged. Excepting the vacations I’ve forced her to take with me, I honestly don’t think there’s been a single weekend where she hasn’t gone in to work for at least one day. Her weeks have gone from 40 hours to 60 at least, sometimes pushing 80 when it’s time to close the month. I have no idea how she manages schedule in time for studying – if I see her before next June, I’ll be sure to ask.

She did get a raise for the extra work – a 25% salary increase – which would be a goodly pay bump in any other situation. But I’m still trying to figure out how twice as much work translates into a quarter more pay.

As if she didn’t have enough to think about, right when work was getting stressful, Oksana received a call from the FBI. Here’s a hypothetical for you: Someone with a local number leaves a message on your voice mail identifying himself as an FBI agent… What do you do? Oksana said she was very busy (which was actually true) and that she would call him back.

Later, we looked up the local FBI number from the web page of the division office in Anchorage. Oksana called and got the same guy who left a message on her machine. Guess he was on the level.

Turns out, he wanted to ask her some questions; the kind that you apparently can’t ask over the phone. She told him that she wasn’t comfortable meeting him alone, and wanted me to go with her. He tried to talk her out of it. “It’s just a few questions.” “There’s nothing to worry about.” “There’s no reason for your husband to be there.” “Is it the language thing?” Oksana stuck to her guns and he finally relented. I’m proud of her; if the FBI tried to push me around, I’d probably be all, like, “Yessir, whatever you want, sir. No quiero ir a Guantanamo.”

Anyway, she scheduled the interview for a few weeks down the road so we could have plenty of opportunity to wonder what it was all about. Was there a problem with her upcoming citizenship? Did we trip some sort of red flag with our money transfers from Russia? Had her father been some sort of international espionage agent, working to bring down the U.S. government with scheming acts of terrorism?

Actually, we didn’t think that last thing at all, but damn if that wasn’t what it was about!

The interview itself was very informal, and I don’t know how much my presence influenced that. A local agent, casually dressing in jeans, a flannel shit, and an Eddie Bauer fleece vest, sat us down in a cluttered office/storage room on the 9th floor of the Federal Building. He started by confirming that Oksana was who he thought she was – 26, female, from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, etc., etc. He then explained that he was simply asking routine questions that the head office had sent down, that their international espionage section had sent down. The key point seemed to be, “Are you the daughter of one Boris Gregorievich Kadachigov?” which she was, but when she supplied her father’s birth date, the whole interview essentially came to a stop. “Oh,” said the agent. “Okay, must be someone else, then.” Just when the conversation sounded like it was going to get interesting, too!

The whole mood in the room lightened up after that. The agent, obviously through with the formalities of the interview, explained to us why they sometimes have to follow up on espionage leads even after a person dies (because the person replacing a spy in an embassy, say, will often also be a spy), and Oksana, for her part, became less defensive. Me? I pretty much just sat there and continued not saying anything at all.

We left the office feeling relieved. Nothing to concern us, especially since Oksana was about to receive her U.S. citizenship. But since then, we’ve heard rumors from more than one source that information about foreign nationals is still being collected – locally – under the authority of the Patriot Act. Scary amounts of information, too.

Oh, well. I guess we’ll just have to make extra sure to fill out all the necessary paperwork if we ever want to sell a rogue nuclear submarine on eBay.

The Capitals (We're not moving!)

In June, I got talked into going to Anchorage for an ultimate Frisbee tournament. Alaska Airlines was offering a huge mileage plan discount, so my flight only cost 10,000 miles and about $5 in taxes. Good deal; made chipping in for the hotel and rental car easy on the wallet.

This was my third ultimate tourney in Anchorage and the first one that actually qualified for regionals. Not that we were competing, we just went for fun. We brought some good players with us, picked up a couple more on the sidelines, and proceeded to have a good time despite the consistently rainy weather.

There were ten teams on the roster, and you could pretty evenly divide them between “serious” and “fun.” I believe the official rankings put us fifth at the end of 2 days (and 6 or 7 matches.) I like to think of our team as the one that dominated the fun teams, but I wouldn’t argue if you told me we just got whipped by the serious ones.

Oksana and a dead sea turtle

In August, Oksana and I went to PAX, of course. I wrote about that in detail, but only mentioned in passing that the follow-up to that trip was a quick jaunt to the East Coast. We spent a week with my mom’s side of the family on the beach in Nags Head.

We had ambitions of comparative HDTV shopping while we were there, but we pretty much just stayed tethered to the beach house. The weather was near perfect and the ocean uncommonly warm (seriously, like 80 degrees warm.) We spent time with family, cooked big meals, and ate peaches. A tiny bit of excitement was generated when a large sea turtle of some sort, obviously dead and drifting for some time, washed up headless right in front of the cottage. Mostly, though, I stayed in the hammock and read books; the mark of a great vacation.

And you know, barring a divorce, I’ll probably never get to grow a goatee as long as I did last year. That should be documented, shouldn’t it? I’m glad you agree. Here’s your picture of me bringing sexy back: 

In retrospect, maybe she doesn't like the Circus Lenin look...

And that’s about it for 2007. Next up, more about Australia. Just as soon as I quit fiddling with the site…