Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas from Buenos Aires. Alicia and I arrived a little after 10:00 this morning. We stepped off the plan lugging our winter coats and sweaters. We knew it was going to be warm, but not this warm. The high had to be pushing 100F today. Wow!

We kept a low profile today. We walked around the city a bit, and discovered Freddo for some ice cream. We scouted restaurants for tonight and tomorrow night.

But mostly we were just using today to adjust to the 5 hour timezone difference. We ended tonight with a pleasant meal overlooking Dique 3 at Puerto Cristal.

Tomorrow we're taking a tour of the city with a friend of a friend of a friend. Tomorrow should be interesting. We're looking forward to the day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, Alicia and I rarely get around to putting up a Christmas tree. We tend to visit our families over Christmas, so we live vicariously through their trees.

We mean well. We've gathered Christmas ornaments from all around the world. But our ambitious plans to put up the tree usually fall short.

So a few years ago we bought an artificial tree. Not exactly the stuff that memories are made of, but better than nothing.

Even so, years went by before we actually used it. But last year we did it!

It was fun putting up the ornaments, but we were still gone so much of December that we didn't get much chance to enjoy it. And the effort to enjoyment ratio was skewed the wrong way.

Last night we were at Rite Aid and we saw the perfect tree. We'd seen the same tree earlier in the week in Skymall on our flight back from LAX. But unlike Skymall, Rite Aid had the tree for $4.99.

Whereas our artificial tree leaves me feeling a little empty (it doesn't smell right... actually it doesn't smell at all... certainly not like Christmas), the new tree gives me a wonderful nostalgic boost. It reminds me of Christmas in my childhood.

Yes, we're now the proud owners of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

I love it! The price was right. The "some assembly required" took all of five minutes. And its sad, droopy, little twigs are delightful.

Putting it away will be a breeze. And there's no needles to clean up!

Merry Christmas, everyone! And may your holidays make you feel as warm and nostalgic as our tree has  made me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Up In The Air

I'm no Ryan Bingham (nor Clooney for that matter), but my jetlag lifestyle (err I mean "jetset") does resemble Up in the Air at times.

For the last couple years, I've had an on-going project tucked away in a dresser drawer. It chronicles through key cards the hotels I've stayed in.

To fully appreciate what the key cards represent, bear in mind that my hotel stays are typically 4 - 5 days and I only collect one key per check in.

Some notable key cards... 
  • Row 1, Column 7: Whoops. Didn't mean to include the key card from VMware Munich, but scanning these in took too long the first time. I'm not doing it a second time. :-p
  • Row 7, Column 3: A floating hotel... Spain > Italy > Greece > Turkey > Egypt > Malta > Spain.
  • Row 7, Column 4: The Conrad in Cairo.
  • Row 9, Column 5: The AmericInn in Madison, South Dakota. I'm Marriott Gold and Hilton Diamond, but I was a no one here because I'm not a member of the Matterhorn Club. ;-)

    P.S. How can it possibly be that there are only three entries for "Matterhorn Club" "Up In The Air" on Google? And this blog post is one of them? The Matterhorn Club line is one of my favorites in the entire movie!

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Throwin' In The Towel (The Techie Way)

    My flight home is delayed four hours.

    Apparently there's some nasty weather pattern in the midwest preventing my flight (which is stuck on the ground in TUS) to fly to LAX so that SWA can fly me back to SJC.


    But the cool thing is that sitting here on my rear I've been able to:
    Travel hiccups aren't fun, but it's pretty cool to live in a world that's so wired that I can do all the above.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Alicia's Unfortunate Encounter

    Short Version
    Alicia was in an auto accident. She's banged up and bruised. She has some possibly broken bones in her wrist and ankle, maybe a chipped tooth. She's going to be visiting the doctors and her dentist over the next few days.

    Long Version
    At the end of my run yesterday, I got a call from Alicia. She was crying and hysterical - understandably so.  The phone connection was bad and I was breathing harder from the run, so I couldn't entirely make out what she was saying. But I got the gist of it: Accident. Bleeding. Car totaled. Help.

    I struggled to stay calm and to calm her down enough to get info on how she was, where she was, whether medical help was there. I told her that I was coming to get her.

    Then it struck me. I had no car. When we're up in San Rafael, we rarely bring both cars. Alicia had the only car. This was an unnerving realization.

    Stop. Think. I don't know anyone up here whose car I could borrow. Think... Taxi. I need a taxi.

    I told Alicia that I was calling a taxi and would get there asap.

    I ran back to the house to call a taxi. "Geez, " I realized, "I don't even know the name or number of any taxi companies up here." So I hit the laptop and start googling.  I call the taxi. While I wait for the taxi, I google Avis. Crud, they close in a little over a half hour.

    I call Alicia back to see how she's doing. She's in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, so I tell her I'll meet her there.

    When I get there, she's in a chair in the hallway of the ER. They've got her blanketed and icing her wrist. I was very relieved to see her.

    I knew that she hadn't completely lost her sense of humor or appetite when she said to swing by Arizmendi and pick up a potato pizza. She had been talking about the potato pizza since the day before.

    While on my errand they X-rayed her wrist. When I returned, we sat around for a while awaiting the results. The good news was the the X-rays didn't show any signs of any obviously broken bones in her wrist or hand. The nurse said that there still remained a possibility that a particular bone could be broken, but that it wouldn't show up on the X-rays. We'd just have to make another visit to the doctor in a week for a follow up. I won't pretend to understand why the X-ray wouldn't show it.

    While we were sitting around in the ER, I sent out a text to family and friends. The softie part of me thought it was touching how quickly the responses started arriving. The geeky part of me thought it was really freakin' cool to live in a world of instantaneous communications.

    So much for my "Machete don't text" bravado.

    They splinted her wrist, put her arm in a sling, and sent us on our way.

    The rest of the night was spent talking about what had happened, sending/receiving more texts, cleaning her up, and struggling to get her to go to bed.

    So what happened? Many of you have asked. Here's my understanding of what happened.

    Alicia was shopping at Corte Madera mall (labeled The Village of Corte Madera in the lower right corner of this map).

    She headed north on Redwood Highway (i.e. the frontage road, not highway 101).

    She intended to get onto 101 at the Lucky Drive onramp. Ironic, huh?

    Traffic is a little heavy for the frontage road. The speed limit is 30MPH, but they're moving 20 - 25 MPH.

    As she approaches the Cost Plus, she sees an older man in a white SUV. He's in the left turn lane of the Cost Plus parking lot. He intends to head south on the frontage road.

    Their eyes meet...

    And then he guns it.

    Alicia's thinking, "There's no way you're going to..."


    I've crudely drawn Alicia's intended path (red) and the guy's intended path (blue) in the map to the left. If you look closely, you'll notice that their two paths cross. Hence the "BAM!".

    He smashes into the front right portion of Juan (our name for the Volvo).

    The impact pushes Juan into the southbound lane of the frontage road.

    Juan ends up pointing NNW.

    But wait, the old guy's not done yet.

    From what I surmise, he keeps his foot planted on the accelerator. Juan and the SUV end up side by side pointing the same direction. He's still accelerating, so instead of merely destroying Juan by crushing the right headlight, the right fender, the hood, and the engine itself, he drives forward with the cars side by side and ruins the entire passenger side of the car from the rear brake light to the headlight.

    What's that you say? A picture is worth a thousand words?

    As you can see, the impact has caused the tire to burst, the hood to crumble, and a chunk of the car to fold in on itself.

    The shattered windshield was bowed outward, presumably the result of the passenger side airbag deploying.

    My photos don't do justice to his handy work. Those aren't white racing stripes going from the rear to the front of Juan. Those are the gouges he left as he accelerated forwards.

    Thankfully the airbags did what they were designed to do.

    Guess I won't need to change the wiper blades this winter after all.

    So what kind of vehicle can go from a dead stop and cause such carnage within a dozen or so feet?

    Meet the '91 Land Rover Range Rover.

    In defense of the Range Rover, it fared quite well. About all you could see was the bent in bumper thingy on the front, a slightly askew headlight, a tweaked side panel up front, and a tweaked side panel in the very back (remember those fabulous "racing stripes"?).

    The Range Rover did what it was designed to do. It was a tank.

    I'm not so sure just anyone should own a tank, however.

    Some good samaritan jogger immediately stepped in to help when the accident occurred. He got Alicia out of the car which at the time was filled with smoke (apparently from the air bags deploying).

    There was an ambulance and a tow truck in the parking lot of the Cost Plus. They were on the scene immediately.

    Within a few minutes the CHP was there.

    All things considered, we're fortunate that the scene unfolded as it did. I'm grateful that there was immediate medical assistance.

    I'm also grateful that we weren't both in the car. Before you think me a jerk, consider my reasoning. When we're in the car together, I almost always drive. So Alicia would have been riding shotgun. Given the physics unleashed by the impact, I think it's a fairly safe assumption that her head would have hit the passenger window. I shudder to think how that could have turned out.

    We didn't have a clue yesterday about who the older man was. Alicia was rushed to the hospital before the guy identified himself. For all we knew, it could have been a hit and run.

    We managed to piece together his identity, his license plate, his insurance company, etc. with a few pointed questions at the tow yard. Sounds like he was okay.

    Thankfully there were no fatalities and the injuries are painful but blessedly minor. And the car, it's just a car.

    Juan... May he rest in pieces.

    Joking aside, I'm so relieved Alicia survived.