Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What if god disappeared?

From brilliant satirist Edward Current.

His other videos on the Tube are also worth watching.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another weekend < yawn >

After last weekend in San Diego it's been a relatively quiet weekend here. I started off yesterday by doing taxes for Jayson and myself. I didn't run into any problems, but mine are somewhat time consuming. Between the two it took about four hours...fun fun. But, at least it's done. I don't usually wait this late to get them done, but as long as I'm not late (which I'm not) I'm not gonna worry about it.

I've been spending a lot of time lately trying to figure out what new tires I want for my truck. The tires on it are shot, and after only 25,000 miles. I'd like to put it off but I can't any longer. As part of the process I'm going to be raising the front end so that the truck rides level; from the factory these trucks ride with the back higher than the front. I want to get rid of the lower front end and there are several companies that make kits to do that. By doing that I can get slightly larger tires than what's on there. I'm probably obsessing over the new tires but since they're rather expensive and I won't have a chance to change them out for a long time if I don't like them. I've narrowed it down to a couple of different brands and now my only hesitation is the size. I think I've got that narrowed down too. Now that I know I won't have to pay the IRS anything I'm ready to go forward. I'm hoping the truck looks every better once I'm done.

Anthony and I threatened to go to the gym both days this weekend, and then didn't. It's funny how laziness breeds laziness, but it sure did with us this weekend. Instead we took a nap yesterday and then did quick trip to the grocery store. Today I enlisted Anthony's help to remove a dead plant out front. We had a jasmine plant that had almost died in a pot on our balcony at our condo. Once we moved in here it took off after being planted in the ground and had grown up to cover a small fence by the front patio. Sadly it was no match for the snow this winter and it was completely dead down to the roots. So, we cut it off the fence and I pulled it out of the ground. I was sad to see it go since I've had the plant for almost 6 years, and it had such an up and down history. But, such is life so we'll get something else to go there.

So that's it for a boring weekend. We'll maybe get upstairs to fold laundry, and that will most likely be the highlight. I guess I won't complain about a quiet weekend once in a while.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekend in San Diego

Last weekend we were in San Diego. It was Anthony's first trip there and for Jayson and me it was our first visit in 10 years. The impetus for the trip was to visit Anthony's brother and family, but we also added visits to my friend Rick and Jayson's friends Jim and Khristie.

It was kind of weird being in San Diego again. It brought up lots of memories for me, some good some bad. I was surprised how much I remembered about the place and was able to direct Rick through areas he wasn't familiar with. Seeing the place again reminded me of the things I didn't like about it when I lived there. It's just not the place for me.

Thursday after we arrived we spent the evening with Jim and Khristie. Actually, we spent some time wandering around Old Town before meeting them for dinner. Old Town is kind of interesting, although it's really nothing more than a lot of shops and restaurants in old buildings. It still has a nice feel. I used to joke that when visitors would be in town and wanted to go to Mexico I would drive them around up and down the freeway and then end up in Old Town. It's really what people think Mexico will look like, although Old Town is much much nicer than Tijuana. Dinner with Jim and Khristie was great. It was as if we'd seen them just last week and we were picking up right where we'd left off. Anthony and Jayson had fish bowl-sized margaritas, and of course finished them. It's funny to see Anthony, who says he doesn't drink, down 64 ounces of margarita.

The next day we spent tooling around town with Rick doing some sight-seeing. We made a trip to to Balboa Park, which is still one of my favorite places in San Diego. Anthony, Jayson, and I spent some time wandering around the main prado area but had to keep the visit short. We spent the evening with Anthony's brother and sister-in-law, John and Amber, and their two daughters, Olivia and Elizabeth. It was the first time Jayson and I had met any of the family but it was nice. They made us feel very welcome and comfortable. We had dinner at their house and then "hung out" just chatting and getting caught up.

I should insert here that our "rental" car for the weekend was Rick's Mercedes E55 AMG. It's his weekend car and was very generous in letting us use it. I had a great time driving it, sometimes too great. I definitely tried to drive the car as it was meant to be driven, namely fast. It was a real treat to drive it, and the fact that John and Amber lived 50 miles north of Rick meant that I got to really enjoy the drive.

Anyway, spent Saturday with John and Amber again and this time John drove us around Camp Pendleton. We actually didn't get to see much of Amber as she was running errands a lot of the day. Camp Pendleton is huge and it took a couple of hours to just touch on some of the highlights of the place. Still, it was interesting to see the place, and to spend time with Anthony's brother. John and Amber had plans for Saturday night so it was back to San Diego for the evening.

We had made reservations to go to one of my favorite restaurants, Cafe Eleven. It's been there for, as we found out, 24 years and I've been frequenting it for about 18 of those. The food was just as good as I remembered, and some of the same people were still working there, and remembered us. It was a nice dinner and evening, other than the fact that somehow I left significantly less for the bill than I should have, but I got it straightened out.

Sunday Jayson was leaving around noon so we had breakfast at DZ Akins, a Jewish deli that's always good, and then dropped him at the airport. Anthony, Rick, and I played tourists the rest of the day going to Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs, and seeing a little of downtown. The highlight for Anthony seemed to be getting to drive the Mercedes from Sunset Cliffs to where we had dinner in Point Loma. I'm glad he got to experience it at least. After dinner we were all tired so we watched a movie at home and called it a night. Monday meant that Anthony and I had to leave so we had a big breakfast out and then killed some time driving around Mission Hills, just so Anthony could more of San Diego. Rick dropped us at the airport and we had an uneventful flight home.

It was a good trip, and made for a nice weekend. It was great seeing Rick, along with everyone else. Rick was very generous in hosting us and providing us not only his car to use but also a very nice and comfortable place to stay. It's like visiting family whenever he and I are together. I just wish he and I lived closer to each other.

As is usual, here are some pics from the trip:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Really overdue post-Houston post

In typical fashion for me, it's been almost two weeks since I posted anything. I felt kind of busy after getting home from Texas so haven't written anything since then. The trip was, in a word, great. It had been a long time since I had spent any real time with my father and step-mother and it was nice to do. We spent a lot of time just chatting and catching up on life. My father and I would run some errands in the day, usually have a lunch out, and maybe just drive through some of the local areas. On the weekend we did a lot of sight-seeing and that was also lots of fun. Saturday we drove south to the USS Texas and the San Jacinto battlefield monument. Both were interesting but the Texas, a US battleship built in 1914, was really interesting. I love boats of any kind and it was great getting to crawl all over this huge ship that was chock full of history. The lower-deck areas were open and it was fascinating to see just how the crew lived on the ship. The accommodations were very "rustic" to say the least. We thought we'd spend about 30 minutes on the ship but I convinced my step-mother Sharon that it wasn't difficult to negotiate the ladders below decks and we ended up spending about two hours on board. I took lots of pictures, but sadly lots of them look alike.

The San Jacinto battlefield monument wasn't as interesting, but still was enjoyable. It's a big tower built in the 1930's to commemorate the battle between Texas rebels and Mexico. It was the battle that led to Texas becoming a US territory, so it was a fairly important battle. There was a small museum with some interesting pieces and then the tower itself. Sadly, being approximately 60 stories up in southeastern Texas still doesn't give much of a view. It's from the ground, it's flat from above.

Sunday we decided to drive down to Galveston since we all like the area, and we wanted to see the damage from Hurricane Ike. There was clearly visible damage starting in the Clear Lake area and it got worse and worse as we got closer. Galveston seemed to be rebuilding well, and that was good to see. We decided to catch the ferry over the Bolivar since Sharon had heard the damage was really bad there. The eye had passed right over the eastern end of Galveston Island so Bolivar was in the very dangerous northeastern quadrant of the hurricane. On top of that, the storm surge was much higher than anticipated, about 20 feet at Bolivar. Making things worse, most of Bolivar is no more than 4 or 5 feet above sea level. One can do the math and figure out how much water was covering the area, and add breaking waves from the winds and it was pretty ugly. We expected a lot of damage, but weren't prepared for how bad it really was. We first stopped in a residential beach neighborhood and it had been mostly wiped off the map. The houses before the hurricane had been built on stilts to protect them from storm surge. Sadly, it didn't make any difference for most of the houses. Where there were rows of houses before, there was just a collection of sticks poking out of the sand. We found sinks, light fixtures, ceiling fans, floor tiles, and all kinds of other evidence of the houses sticking out of the sand. Everything metal was turning to piles of rust after being inundated with sea water. Sharon and I commented on how quiet it was and I realized that there was just no life anywhere. On the beach in Galveston there were manyh seagulls and other types of birds, and as we drove out of town we continued to see lots of birds in the trees. In Bolivar, there was nothing. No birds had returned to the area and it was completely quiet. It was eery not having any sounds of nature.

We drove further east towards the town and the devestation just went on for miles and miles. When we reached the town, or what was left of it, it looked like a bomb had gone off. Many of the buildings were destroyed, and those that were left were uninhabitable. It was amazing that it had been 5 months since the storm and what we were seeing was after considerable cleanup had been done. After a while it became overwhelming and we decided to head out. Unfortunately the devestation continue for miles and miles as we drove out of the area. It was interesting to see the power of nature, but also very sad to see how the lives of so many people had been disrupted. Not to mention the couple or more dozen people who were killed in Bolivar when the storm went through.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit with my father and Sharon. It was a real treat for me, even more so because they not only paid to get me there, but insisted on paying for everything while I was there. It was a very nice gift for them to give me since I do enjoy spending time with them. And of course, here are a few pics.

Update: This post was long enough (OK, more than long enough) but I meant to add a link to some before and after pics on the USGS site posted here.