Monday, November 29, 2010

The Frames at the Fillmore

Alicia and I saw The Frames last night. They put on a great show.

Missed having Marketa in the show.

Very pleased to not have a repeat of the prior show we saw.

The opening act, Tim Easton, was fun. Looked like he was having a good time on stage.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Life is full of strange coincidences.

Yesterday when I blogged about the Baskin Robbins turkey cake, I fully intended to include some snarky comment to the effect that I would rather eat a McRib sandwich than the turkey cake. Somehow it slipped my mind.

Today as I went past the McDonald's in Capitola, I noticed a banner flapping in the stormy wind. The McRib is back. :-p

I vaguely recall trying a McRib eons ago when I was but a wee lil' child. But I think that I should be forgiven for thinking back in my youth that a pork patty formed to look like a slab of ribs was something that a human should eat.

I also recall being a bit icked out when I noticed that the 'rib' portion of the slab was meat rather than bone. Even as a kid, that just didn't seem natural.

As I've matured over the years, I have been amused/nauseated the numerous times McDonald's has reintroduced the McRib. Many of those times they seemed to be attempting to reintroduce it but in such a way as to suggest that it was a new product.

While I will confess to a weakness for the occasional Egg McMuffin, I swore the rest of the McMenu off many, many, many years ago. As exciting as McDonald's may have been as a kid, as an adult, I don't miss it at all. And I most certainly don't miss the McRib.

It was a strange coincidence to stumble onto the McRib banner the day after thinking about it for the first time in ages. But far stranger is the concept of the McRib itself.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Let's Talk Turkey

Sometimes there comes a time in one's life when a group of people does something that goes so far beyond what is societally and morally acceptable that you simply must put your foot down and tell the world, "This is wrong!".

Passing a Baskin Robbins today, I saw this poster in their window. I can't possibly envision going "back for seconds" because the thought of having a first serving of turkey cake is vile.

Reportedly it tastes like cake + ice cream rather than turkey. (Whew!) It is prepared with your choice of ice cream flavors. But what flavor of ice cream looks most similar to white meat? And dark meat?

I'll begrudgingly give BR props for the cutlet frills and for finding an alternative use for ice cream cones besides serving as scoop delivery vechicles and masquerading as clowns.

But the shinny brown vanilla gel? Nasty.

And what gives with the piped icing? Is that a supposed to be a wing? Looks more to me like a poorly executed subliminal heart.

Hey, BR... You ain't going to trick my subconscious into loving turkey cake!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flying Lesson

On the way home from San Rafael, I stopped by Hayward Airport and took a flying lesson on last Monday.

Your question -- no doubt prompted by this photo -- is, "Which plane did you fly, Brian?"

I'll leave it to you to guess whether it was the Cessna 172R (in the foreground) or the Dassault Falcon 2000 (in the background).

For the record, I did attempt to talk Abel, the flight instructor, into letting me fly the other plane.

Before boarding the flight, I spent about thirty minutes practicing on a flight simulator. I've flown sailplanes a few times (twenty yikes! years ago), so I remembered the basic mechanics.

But before they even turned me loose on the flight simulator, Abel sat down with me and asked why I wanted to fly. Just for fun? A hobby? Did I want to learn to fly professionally? I don't imagine I'd ever fly professionally, but for many years I've entertained the idea of getting my private pilot's license.

If you'd ever seen me on a plane, you'd have had an inkling that I was interested in being more than just a passenger. Maybe you've seen me (or someone like me). I'm the guy on the United flight with the headphones on during taxiing, takeoff, and landing. That's channel 9 I'm listening to.

Channel 9 (a.k.a. "From the Flightdeck") allows passengers to listen to live radio communications between the cockpit and Air Traffic Control. I won't pretend to understand everything they're saying, but I do listen for my flight's call signal and the altitude/heading instructions.

I'm the guy with his face plastered against the window, trying to determine which runway we'll use.

I'm the guy who's pinned his compass to the back of the headrest of the seat in front so that I can determine our heading during landing so that I can retrace our flight path on Google Earth when I get to the hotel after the flight.

I'm the guy who notices that we have begun our descent before the pilot announces, "We have begun our descent."

I'm the guy listening for the sound of the flaps extending and the landing gear lowering.

I'm the guy critiquing the landing. Did the pilot flare skillfully resulting in a smooth landing or did the pilot mash the gear into the runway? I always love the former (and have been known to applaud) and I respect that sometimes mashing the gear to make contact is sometimes the right call. I prefer a gear mashing two point landing to the sometimes stomach turning one point landing.

In other words, I'm the guy that you called a dweeb. But I'm a (mostly inwardly) enthusiastic dweeb.

During our little chat, I could tell that Abel was trying to impress upon me the importance of understanding the theory behind flight. He wanted to discourage me from just wanting to hop in the plane and fly and to heck with how it works. Funny thing was, he needn't have worried about me. I want to understand the mechanics. I'm not just fascinated by the act of flight itself, I want to understand what's going on to keep roughly a ton of metal from plummeting from the sky.

So after the flight simulator and after a refresher on flaps and rudders and ailerons and the like, we walked out onto the tarmac and to the plane.

As we got closer to the plane, I (being the thoughtful husband that I am) thought it would be a good time to check in with Alicia to see if she was still onboard with the plan to accompany me and the flight instructor. I knew that she would likely be having second thoughts the moment she saw the size of the plane.

To her credit, she didn't back out. I think she regretted it later, but she didn't back out.

Abel let me taxi out to the runway. One thing I do on planes (and boats) is struggle with oversteering. As we taxied, I swear my feet were treating the rudder like bicycle pedals. I'll learn to finesse it one day.

When Abel received clearance for us to take off, we taxied out onto runway 28R, throttled up, and as I pulled back on the controls, the plane became airborne.

To this day, I'm always exhilarated at that moment when the plane takes to the air. How utterly amazing is it that we humans can fly?

Runway numbers (e.g. 28) indicate the direction the runway points. Runway 28 is roughly west. So as we took off we were flying roughly towards SFO. Abel pointed out that we needed to remain at a lower altitude -- here's the cool part -- and I knew why. The airspace into OAK and Hayward overlap.

We banked to the right and headed east. Somebody help me here... What's the name of the mountain range to the east of Hayward. Anyway, we flew over those and below I could see highways 580 and 680, so we must have been over Pleasanton or Livermore.

Abel had me practice climbing to altitude, maintaining a heading, turning, and other basic skills.

When we circled back towards Hayward, I was able to spot the airport based on having paid attention so many times flying into Oakland over the years. I rarely fly into Oakland these days, but I remember it well.

I can't take credit for the majority of the landing. Abel lined us up with the runway and kept us on the glide path, but he did let me do the flare. I'd love to say that I did a fabulous job, but then I remember that Alicia was in the back seat and that she'd probably have a different recollection.

I don't have any immediate plans to pursue that pilot's license. I know that I'm going to be busy traveling for the rest of the year. But come next year, Watsonville Airport is not far away. :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another Weekend in the Bay Area

Believe it or not, there's a point to this post. The following paragraphs recount the events of last weekend. Maybe those details will interest you; maybe they won't. But for me, writing about this weekend is an expression of gratitude. During a time when the economic downturn is clobbering so many, there is so much in my life to be grateful for. The events described below are not atypical for me. It was a fairly normal sort of weekend, but any one of these events could be a highlight in the life of someone less fortunate.

We began Saturday morning at the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. We picked up some tasty Emerald Beaut plums and Flavor Grenade pluots from Frog Hollow, a half round of Andante Minuet cheese, and a salami sandwich from Boccolone. The farmer's market has come a long way since when we lived in SF. It's great seeing it thriving and watching all the people enjoying it.

On a side note, I was really surprised to see how much the downtown Santa Cruz farmer's market has grown. Naturally it's a fraction the size of the one at the Ferry Building, but it too has grown.

But our regular farmer's market is now the one in Aptos at Cabrillo College. I like the SC farmer's market better, but driving to Santa Cruz from Aptos has gotten ridiculous in the last few years. Seems like there can be traffic now regardless of the time or day. Lame.

After the Farmer's Market, we headed to the warming hut at Crissy Field to meet up with Lisa. Alicia met Lisa something like a year ago, but I've never met her. I'm intrigued to meet Lisa and hear her stories about traveling around the world. I'm always interested in hearing from others who have travelled extensively. I love hearing about where they went, what they did, what they saw, who they met, and how they accomplished it.

I'll have to wait to meet her, however, because our timing got messed up, and I had to high-tail it over to Fort Mason while Alicia and Lisa took a walk along Crissy Field. BTW... Can anyone actually confirm that Lisa exists? Alicia says that she does, but I'm beginning to wonder. Hmmmmm...

I was at Fort Mason for the Ski & Snowboard Festival. I'd heard about it through Groupon, and went in hopes of scoring some winter gear for our upcoming trip. We've already told some of you where we're heading, but I'll keep those of you who are reading in ongoing suspense. I didn't walk away with any gear, but the groupon was worth it anyway since admission to the festival included three lift-tickets. :-)

By the time I was done with the festival, Alicia was just about to begin her walk with Lisa. It didn't make much sense to continue shuttling back and forth, so I said I'd start walking westward towards them. From Fort Mason, I walked along the water through Marina Green Park. There were countless sailboats on the bay, and even though it was fogged in over at Crissy Field, the sky and weather were gorgeous where I was. I had a clear view of Alcatraz Island.

As I walked along Marina Green, I spotted something across the yacht harbor that I'd read about not long ago. I'd wanted to see it, so I decided to take a detour. I turned right at towards the yacht club and eastward out on the jetty (or is it a spit?). At the end I found it: The wave organ.

The wave organ, built in 1986, is described by the Exploratorium a "wave-activated acoustic sculpture." But it's one of those "you've got to see it hear it" sort of experiences. SPOILER ALERT: You can hear it and read about it on the Exploratorium website.

After the wave organ, I turned around and continued westward across Crissy Field. I remember Crissy Field before its renovation. The renovation began when I moved to SF in 1998, and they did a wonderful job. From Crissy Field, there are fabulous views of the bay, the Palace of Fine Arts, Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel and Alcatraz islands, and -- of course -- the Golden Gate Bridge. But all of these views are enhanced by the renovation works themselves. The restoration of the land to its former condition makes me appreciate how man and nature can co-exist.

After meeting up with Alicia at Crissy Field, we headed to the East Bay to visit Alicia's sister, Denise, and her family. Oh wait, how could I forget. We stopped by the Cheese Board to pick up a couple corn pizzas. Yummy.

After Denise's we headed over to meet up with my cousin Bridgette. She and her family moved to California a couple months ago, and it was great to catch up with her and find out how she was adjusting to the move from the East Coast to (of all places) Bezerkeley.

Later that evening we met up with her sister, Kristen, at Paisan. Kristen brought her boyfriend, Bill Holzapfel. It really interesting meeting him because he has regularly travelled to Antarctica for over a dozen years to work on the South Pole Telescope. I've wanted to travel to Antarctica for over fifteen years. I first got bit by the bug when I was traveling around the world. Specifically, when I was in Christchurch, New Zealand, I read about a study-at-sea program being hosted by one of the local schools, and I started investigating the possibility on a whim. The timing didn't work out -- I literally missed the boat -- but I've been intrigued ever since. Alicia and I have talked about going to Antarctica off and on over the years, but we've never pulled the trigger. Maybe one day we'll go.

Today was a lower key day. We met Jody in Napa for lunch at Bottega, followed by wine tasting at Louis M. Martini. Since I don't drink, I invoked the Designated Driver provision of our marriage agreement which states, if you want Brian to drive you around the wine country, you got to buy him lunch and/or dinner. Lunch was superb. I had the duck confit. :-)

On the way back to San Rafael, we we -- as always -- amused to see the Oreo Cows. Stop by and check them out next time you drive by.

When we got back to San Rafael, I began a race against the clock. It was getting dark, but I wanted to plant some tulip bulbs before the sun set. When I was done, I ended up with what, to the casual, just looked like a bunch of terra cotta pots with dirt in them. But some time early next spring, I'm hoping to see tulips blooming.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fear No Evel

Just uncovered some photos from the Halloween party taken with someone else's camera. In the photo to the left you can see the lovely Frida (a.k.a. Alicia plus a unibrow) and my entire Evel Knievel costume.

Now I know that I'm biased (having spent untold hours sewing the costume), but have to say that my Evel costume has a few things on Mr. Colbert's.

Notice the USA #1 arm patch and the EK belt buckle. Plus my belt, unlike Steven's, isn't upside down. I'm sure Mr. Knievel would have appreciated attention to details like those.

Steven's costume did have one thing on mine. He did have the cape. :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Somewhere in New York

I landed at Rochester around 6:30pm yesterday. The sun was already setting, so any hopes of seeing the fall colors were dashed.

What to do? What to do? Manhattan's 350 miles away - too far.

So I opted to visit Niagara Falls. I've been to the Canadian side with Alicia, but I've never been to the US side.

The first thing I was struck by is that the Canadian skyline is much more colorful and picturesque than I remember the US side being.

I like the skyline in this shot, but I love the way the blackened water drops into the glowing abyss.

In this shot, the lights from Canadian side backlights American Falls with a reddish glow while the falls themselves are forever stopped in a blurry motion caused by the slow exposure.
I love this shot for the way it captures the lighting. Not quite sure how I managed to capture this shot. The lights slowly shift between different colors. Somehow this shot captured bluish green, purple, white, orange, and red lighting.

FYI... The falls in the foreground are American Falls, and the red/purple/orange falls one-third of the way down the picture are Bridal Veil Falls.
I enjoy the way this shot draws my attention to American Falls and the ghostly mist while topped by Bridal Veil and the skyline.

I wanted to to use the 30D, but I left it in the trunk. I would have needed a tripod and the park was darker than I'd have liked. Perfect for great photos, but perfect too for camera snatching. I'm happy with how my little Olympus pocket camera performed. BTW... I didn't modify the color in the photos. That's just how the light looks. Great for night shots.

The Olympus also takes (decidedly non-HD) videos. Be sure to turn down your speakers before viewing. The audio isn't very good and the falls are quite loud (as were some of the tourists who - though muffled - can be heard over the sound of the falls!).

I'm sitting in the Red Carpet club in Dulles, and the WI-Fi is slow. I better stop uploading photos. I've got a plane to SFO to catch.

Having see both the US and Canadian sides of the falls, I'm ready to render my verdict. Both sides are are spectacular, but I'm going to have to give this one to our neighbors to the north. The impact of standing right beside Horseshoe Falls as it gushes past is profoundly striking. In fairness to the US side, I didn't venture onto Goat Island; it looked too dark and uninhabited. Here's the path I did take. Maybe the view would have been better from Goat Island. I'll have to find out the next time I visit.

Go to either. Better yet, go to both. Remember to bring your passport to get across the Rainbow Bridge.

Shout out to my parents... They honeymooned at Niagara.