Beijing and the Great Wall Adventure

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The mass of people that represents China was no more evident than when we arrived at the gates to the Forbidden City. We encountered many Chinese tourists while in Taiwan, but nothing prepared us for the masses that visit China’s capital city, including the short elderly women who attempt to clothesline you (ask Nichole). The pushing and pressing of the crowds were sometimes too much, giving a whole new meaning to breath-taking.


Ancient History!

I can’t even tell you how many ancient and amazing temples we visited in both Taiwan and China. Most of our time in China was spent walking between various ancient structures: Forbidden City (13 miles walked), Temple of Heaven (15.5 miles walked), Summer Palace, Drum and Bell Tower, etc.

IMG_3824DSCF6776IMG_3727Nichole conferred with Confucius. She is now overflowing with wisdom.



From the cold, gray heart of communism we snapped a great selfie with Mao’s portrait…

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Taiwan Teddy Tourism

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Obviously Nichole and I love international travel. This is our latest international adventure.

Nichole had been very young the first time she visited Taiwan and I had never traveled anywhere in Asia, so we planned a trip, packed our bags, and prepared for a new experience. My wife’s uncle, Todd, studied Chinese in college and ended up completing a year abroad in Taiwan where he fell in love with his wife, Jackie. They have two awesome boys, Austin and Colin. We couldn’t have asked for better hosts and tour guides throughout our trip!

The flight to China I think is the longest that I have ever flown. We took the cost saving route and had an extra long layover (8 hours) in Houston. Nichole slept a lot (read: the entire flight) and I watched all the movies from the past year that I hadn’t seen. We finally landed in Beijing…

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Second Anniversary of Picturesque Rocks & Isles

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photo (5)Nichole put together a great island hopping, northern Michigan; Pure Michigan anniversary itinerary! We both love northern Michigan (mostly in the summer, but also for skiing occasions), so it was going to be great!


We drove up to Petoskey State Park where we would camp near the beach for the week. Our campsite was nicely located across from a water spigot and a short walk to the showers and the BEACH!

photo (6)We were able to sit on the beach along Little Traverse Bay and watch the beautiful Michigan sunset every night if we wanted. My little red Aveo was packed tight with all our gear and bikes on top. We set up camp and fell asleep to the sound of Lake Michigan lapping the shore just on the other side of the sand dunes.

Monday (2nd Anniversary!)

We woke up to the sounds of a more lively Lake Michigan…

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The Epic Return to Fort Lauderdale

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A handful of people have heard the story of our Fort Lauderdale layover adventure en route to Peru. Here it is in full:

En route to our honeymoon in Peru (the country, their tourism bureau has a hilarious promotion where they visit Peru, Nebraska and share cultural traditions – very entertaining, but I’m getting off track) we had a layover in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It’s Florida, they have beaches, it’s the summer, and we have roughly 5 hours or so to kill – why not head to the beach?

So that was our plan after we landed. We were very excited for Peru and also excited to get to the beach. We made our way down to the baggage claim area with the rest of the passengers. I thought that it made sense that transportation could be found there too. We walked all the way to the end of the…

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Personal Cartography in Detroit, 2012



Many cartographers like to take inventory of their personal cartography near the year end. I figured it would be a fun experiment to map my own personal journeys and travels of 2012 on top of my foursquare check-ins.

I had to reconstruct my travels from my Google Calendar and Foursquare check-ins after losing all my GPX data when my Garmin was stolen out of my car. I think this made the exercise that much more interesting and challenging.

Being a community health worker, I was driving all over the city and metro area every day. Data shows that I typically use I-96 and usually check-in at locations in Midtown. Sadly, my job doesn’t let me walk or bike very often. I am resolved to ride my bike more in Detroit during 2013.

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Major outbreak of AT&T disables population, no end in sight

Recently, I have come down with a serious case of AT&T. The last time this happened was in 2010 and both times it lasted over 3 weeks. What is AT&T and how can one acquire it, simply by attempting to access reliable internet service from the telecom giant known as American Telephone & Telegraph company.

Here were my common Symptoms:

  • Desire to tear out hair when hearing digital voices
  • Outbursts when encountering elevator music
  • Serious mental fatigue from being on hold (often referred to as “fried brain”)
  • Aversion to calling any “helpdesk”

My most recent case of AT&T lasted for 3 weeks and ended in a very unsatisfactory conclusion. From that experience I decided to do some number crunching to compare my cases in 2010 and 2012. The measures I used were:

  1. Number of people involved in my case (direct contact)
  2. Personal time spent: on hold, waiting for technicians, and during technician visits
  3. Internet speeds promised by representatives and speeds actually accessed (only 2012)

My first measure was based on how many people that I was in direct contact with regarding my case of AT&T. Direct contact is defined as an in-person technician contact or human-over-the-phone conversation. My case in 2010 involved a high number of people because AT&T had not yet developed its digital voice system to direct “helpdesk” calls to the right place. As a result I had to talk with many people and be transferred often during my 2010 case. In 2012, the number of people I spoke with didn’t spike until my issues involved billing and my call was dropped twice (9/28). I know there were also a higher number of people dealing with my 2012 case from the main office and technical team, but had no way to track those numbers.

The company has given greater control and access to representatives to be able to deal with “helpdesk” issues, reducing the number of transfers. I am happy that I don’t have to deal with as many people, but this seems to have increased the personal time that I need to spend dealing with my case because it never reached the right people and my problem persisted.

Unfortunately, in both cases, my personal time spent managing my cases was abhorrent. My case in 2010 took almost 20 hours to reconcile with the majority of this time being spent on hold or in transfer. In 2012, my personal time went over 24 hours after being asked to block a 12 hour window for a technician to be able to come and work on my line. My 2012 case involved AT&T “chronic facility issues” which sounded like a systemic issues with poor quality internet connectivity.

It wasn’t until after the 6th technician who came out to my house told me to call billing that I was then informed that the internet speed promised during my first call (08-24-12) was completely impossible because my area was on “lock” for 6 mbps.  Three weeks, 24 hours, and the first representative I talked with couldn’t even tell me accurately what was available in my area? Shouldn’t this be basic?

A healthy dose of prevention could have saved me a lot of trouble and the company a lot of money in both my 2010 and 2012. I was compensated $370 in 2010 and roughly $280 in 2012 (not including technician pay). This telecom giant needs to be more receptive to customer needs and increase the reliability of both their “helpdesk” system to tell customers honest information and their technical systems for delivering good internet.

A study has found that American consumers are paying higher prices for slower connections. It’s an epidemic and truly there is no end in sight.

Hot Air Balloon First Anniversary

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Nichole had the most amazing idea to go hot air ballooning for our First Anniversary. She found a place in northern Michigan near Traverse City where you float over the Traverse Bay in the early morning.

We made the long drive, but it was well rewarded by a perfect dinner at Amical in Traverse City. The most amazing seafood that we both thought had ever graced our stomachs. Nichole still wants to go back again. If you are in Traverse City, this is a place not to miss.

We camped out at Interlochen State Park along with numerous family reunions and pop-up trailers. We needed to purchase firewood before we reached the campsite and I was sure there would be some for sale along the way. We passed a few places, but never saw them in time to stop. Finally, we came upon an old white ranch style home with…

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“How’s Married Life?”



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Yesterday, November 12th, marked our third month of married life – but it feels like we’ve been married for longer.

We’ve heard the “How’s married life” questions many times now and I can’t help but think that a one word answer of “great, amazing, or wonderful” just doesn’t suffice. Honestly, married life for us is very similar to the year before our wedding. We were living in Ann Arbor together, paying bills, figuring out each others’ habits, and enjoying finally living in the same city together.

Married life is less of a married thing and more of a good communication thing. Being married didn’t fix anything or alter how we treated each other, but rather it solidified the connections that we had already made with each other. It also officially and legally bonded us, but the most important piece is that we have learned to understand and cherish one another.

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Recipe: Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

We have discovered the perfect Halloween/ Autumn seasonal recipe! Nichole and I had been searching for a good meal to make that included pumpkin  (besides the famous pumpkin dark chocolate cookies). Many of the dishes we found were made with squash or didn’t sound very appetizing, until Nichole found this great spicy pumpkin soup recipe.

This is a great meal to use the season’s favorite vegetable to boost your list of healthy, delicious, and warm meals as the weather cools off and (hopefully) before any snow falls.

We adapted our recipe from this entry on

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 pie pumpkins (seasonally available)
  • (1) 14oz can of coconut milk
  • Red Thai curry paste
  • Olive oil


  1. Cut the pie pumpkins into quarters (I suggest using a strong knife, serrated is better – see above), be sure to save some of the pumpkins seeds to roast and add to the finished soup.
  2. Roast the pumpkin quarters at 350° for an (1) hour.
  3. When the pumpkin has cooled, scoop it off of the skin into a good sized pot.
  4. Put light olive oil on a cookie sheet and roast the saved pumpkin seeds for about 6min on each side, until crisp and crunchy, but not burnt.
  5. Add the can of coconut milk and 6 teaspoons of Red Thai curry paste and bring to a simmer.
  6. Use a food processor, blender, or hand mixer to puree the delicious mixture while adding cups of water to attain the desired consistency.
  7. Eat with garnish of parsley leaves, sourdough bread for dipping, and a chilled glass of Reisling wine.