Sunday, April 24, 2011

losing my religion

I've never been a religious person, and so the only holidays I can really keep track of are those that fall on the same day every year, like Christmas. Easter is a vague concept that floats around somewhere in the spring time and can only be pinpointed with a Google search. I had a better grasp of it when I was in high school, but that's because my high school was Catholic, and when I was living in Switzerland, but that's because I got time off for Easter (most of the official Swiss holidays are Christian ones: Easter, the Ascension, and Whit Monday being three examples of Swiss holidays that fall sometime in the first half of the year). Because they impacted my vacation schedule, I kept very close track of them, and because I knew they were national holidays, I also expected and accepted that everything would be closed on those days.

Coming back to the States, where we skew towards non-religious holidays, like Martin Luther King Day or Presidents' Day or the Fourth of July, Easter again became an amorphous floating holiday with no relevance to my schedule, especially since I no longer bother going to stores, for the most part, because online shopping is so much better for people like me (read: lazy people who don't want to put on pants to go buy things).

For some reason, however, today I decided to go to the brick-and-mortar stores at the Stanford Mall to browse around. Malls are modern altars to capitalism and consumerism and all the other -isms that we take so seriously in the New World. People congregate in malls the way they once did in churches. Imagine my surprise, then when I arrived at the mall, and it was closed. Everything was closed. Even Neiman Marcus, the ultimate shrine to secular consumption, was closed. For Easter.

This is the worst of both worlds -- a religious holiday that doesn't give me any extra days off, but which nonetheless closes down all of the stores. Pick a side, America -- if you're going to close down shop for religious holidays, then give me extra time off. If you're not going to observe religious holidays, then make everything else run on a normal schedule.

(On a side note, Jesus, why don't you want me to go shopping? It's good for the economy, helps keep unemployment in check, which helps the poor -- I doubt Jesus would be opposed to a little bit of retail therapy for the greater good.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

meeting chicks

We were up in San Francisco last weekend at a coffee shop in Noe Valley, and one of the customers had a small chicken perched on her arm.

A chicken.

I asked her about the chicken, and she said it was the class pet for a kindergarten class. When I was little, our class pet was a guinea pig.

Only in California would a chicken be a class pet and spend weekends at a coffee shop.

travel style

It's interesting how my goals and style of travel have changed over the years, partly from changes in perspective and interests, and partly from changes in income and free time.

Student days (lots of time and no money): budget travel, fitting in as many "traditional" sights as possible per trip while minimizing transit, food, and hotel costs.

Expat days (some time and some money in a location convenient for travel): frequent travel, fitting in as many trips as possible while minimizing transit and hotel costs, seeing some traditional sights and some quirky sights, and splurging on specific interests, like food and diving.

These days (insufficient time and sufficient funds in a location inconvenient for travel): infrequent travel to far-flung destinations, splurging on hotels, food, airfare, and diving, and spending more time being lazy than seeing sights (unless they have quirky appeal).