Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Christmas Adam!

Today is Christmas Adam, and it's the big holiday day for my family.

Let me back up and explain. Since my dad's a pastor, he works on Christmas Eve, and in the past he'd also worked on Christmas morning. That pretty much throws a wrench into the holiday family time, since he has to get to the church early and he has to be the last to leave. It mostly meant we had to wait until Christmas afternoon to have time together to eat, enjoy company, open presents, etc. And then, my sister, A., suggested we celebrate Christmas Adam. And since Adam came before Eve, that makes it today.

Mostly, we treat it like other families treat Christmas Eve. We have a nice dinner, and then we play games and get to open one present. While that was originally intended to hold us kids over until Christmas Day, sometimes it lead to a full-on excessive present opening shindig. Now that we're older, we have more control. Well, sort of.

We still eat way too much, and today we are each making a seafood appetizer to comprise the dinner. I believe there will be gumbo, lobster something-or-other, seafood pizza, and my entry, pairing two of my favorite foods in the world: crab-stuffed mushrooms. I guess we're sort of going with the dim sum approach to dinner -- lots of little bits make people full just like big plates of entrees. It should be fun, and I'm looking forward to how everyone will pull their pieces together. It helps that the family is full of good cooks. Yum!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Basketball Realization

The most recent basketball game I went to was a snorefest. A&M forgot to play about half the game (the first 10 minutes of each half) and then had to play catchup against SMU. The only redeeming quality of the evening was that SMU was still worse than us so we could still get the win.

While sitting there watching a game that I couldn't have been more detached from, I realized the player numbers were all five or less for each of the digits. I decided this is to make it easier for the referees to indicate who the foul is on. A three and a four is easier to handsign with one hand than a nine and a six. Of course, they could use sign language for the larger digits or they could use both hands, but it just doesn't appear that they do.

Does anyone know if that is an across-the-board rule, or are their basketball players with numbers above 55?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I Have a Mouth, and I Did Scream

A set of circumstances came together giving me a free ticket to the Texas A&M men's basketball game against Arizona. And so, my arm was twisted. (Ha. Like arm-twisting is needed when it comes to basketball or the Aggies.)

The game started out much like I expected. I had also gotten to go to a game two weeks ago against Jackson State, and the team generally looked like it hadn't yet figured out how to play together. There was confusion and a lack of energy and teamwork all over the court. We won the game, but it wasn't a pretty win. So, when you go out against a team like Arizona with all their talented players, you just have to play better.

The primary threats that I noticed were Jordan Hill, who pretty much shut us down inside and could hit most anything he posted up, and Chase Budinger, who could shoot from anywhere on the court -- inside, jumpers (including the turnaround), free throws, three-pointers from well oustide the arc, etc. And so, they got out to a quick 15-2 lead. We couldn't make a shot for anything, and they got virtually every rebound, offensive and defesive alike. It was like watching my old mid-nineties team, where you just want them to find a way to pull things together for a few minutes and not look like complete buffoons. Phrases like "moral victory" started dancing in my head. We pulled ourselves together a bit, and kept the deficit generally between 9 and 12 points through to halftime, where we trailed 40-29.

Reed Arena had a decent crowd, considering it's mid-finals weekend. I think it being a later game (8:30 start) meant a few more out-of-towners could make it. We hung in there in the second half, maintaining our deficit. At the worst, we were down by 14, but we never quit. And the second half team had more energy, more fire, and absolutely no giving up in sight. We started managing to stop them on their possessions. They started missing shots. They had a starter foul out. We were closing the gap. Down by 7. A few minutes later down by 5.

The critical point in the momentum of the game came with 6:30 left in the game, and the Aggies down by 7. Hill, the previously mentioned Arizona forward, was called for a technical foul. I didn't see what happened, since I was watching another part of the floor at the time, but Russ Pennell, the Arizona coach, didn't contest it, so I'm assuming it was legit. Josh Carter, the lone senior the Aggies have this year with any playing time to speak of, nailed his free throws and the crowd was loud and crazy and into the game. Regardless of the number of timeouts called by the two teams and for commercials for the rest of the game (4), the crowd was just right back into it each time, and how couldn't we be? We kept catching up and managed to tie the game at 62 with 3:30 remaining in the game. That was the closest we'd been since the opening tipoff. We immediately trailed again, but we could taste the possiblity. And then, with 20 seconds remaining, Nate Walkup, a sophomore, came off the bench and nailed a deep three to put us up 67-66. Elation! And then the reminder that Arizona gets the (likely) last position. Budinger, who'd been particularly hot in the first half, took the off-balance shot, we controlled the rebound, and time expired! We'd managed to get our only lead of the game when it mattered, and then we managed to keep it. Wow.

This game was part of a series of non-conference matchups between the Big 12 and the Pac 10. As far as the other games in this series, we've seen the following results:
Washington (54) at Kansas (73) -- November 24th
Colorado (62) at Stanford (76) -- November 29th
USC (72) at Oklahoma (73) -- Thursday
UCLA (64) at Texas (68) -- Thursday
Oklahoma State (65) at Washington (83) -- Thursday

Several games still remain:
Oregon State at Iowa State (today)
Baylor at Washington State (today)
Nebraska at Arizona State (Sunday)
California at Missouri (Sunday)
Kansas State at Oregon (Sunday)
Stanford at Colorado State (December 14)

There have been some close games, and in those, the home team seemed to win. I know that was the case last night, and I'm sure the result would have been different if the game had been in Tucson. I'm sort of thinking the Big 12 still has some work to do to play with these guys, but it's nice to have the games on the schedule.

Today, as the title of this post suggests, I have a bit of a scratchy throat. Of course, I'll take it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Random Ten

"The Politics of Dancing" by Re-Flex on Living in Oblivion: The 80's Greatest Hits
"A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy on Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack
"The Sad Cafe" by Lorrie Morgan on Common Thread: The Songs of The Eagles
"Andante in C Major" by Mozart on Luthern Summer Music Camp
"The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" by Julie Brown on Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection
"(Get a) Grip (on Yoursel)" by Stranglers on Living in Oblivion: The 80's Greatest Hits
"Cello Suite #2 in D Minor" by Bach, performed by Pablo Casals on The 6 Cello Suites
"Farewell Blues" on Country Cooking: 26 Bluegrass Instrumentals
"(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" by R.E.M. on Eponymous
"When You Are Old and Gray" by Tom Lehrer on Song & More Songs

Not sure what's up with the eighties music followed by classical instrumentals. And then there's that weird seventies disco adaptation of classical music. The themes that iTunes comes up with can be a little odd, but when I've been gone for so long, what can I really expect?

* Acts I've seen live

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tea Fire Update

It appears that we dodged a bullet with our particular location. Unfortunately, many others were not so lucky. They are estimating 210 lost houses. That's 210 families whose lives have been materially altered in just a few days. I can't imagine, but my thoughts and prayers go out to them during the cleanup and rebuilding effort. I wish I was out there to help in some physical way.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tea Fire Continues

Ed. Note: As before, times are listed in Pacific Time, regardless of the writer's location.

3:55am My laptop power issues are now assuaged, but the fire is looking significantly worse this morning. The acreage burned is up to 2000 acres. At least 80 homes have been burned. There is no sign of the winds calming down at least until the weekend. That's at least a whole Friday to continue being blown around, when the fire has already gone zero to two thousand acres in 10 hours.

4:22am This morning's plan appears to include about 20 fire-fighting aircraft to supplement the 500 ground personnel from all around the area. Let's hope and pray that's enough to keep the fire out of the densely populated part of the city that the fire seems intent on blazing through.

5:03am Apparently, the helicopters are running in the night by using night vision technology. That has had a significant affect on the spread of the fire through some tree groves. Amazing what they can do.

7:20am The cities are now requesting that people curtail their water usage. The water reserves for firefighting purposes are dangerously low.

8:03am The current main risk to people in the area is breathing of the smoke in the air causing respiratory issues. Worse than run-of-the-mill smoke is smoke from burning poison oak, which is common in the burn area. Inhaled, the toxin does really bad things to the inside lining of the lungs.

9:03am The latest press release says there are 650 firefighters working the fire now. It's not expanding at the moment, as the winds are much calmer. However, we're still talking about 100+ houses destroyed, and a 3000 acre burn zone. And, of course, this afternoon is the big litmus test for how much they've actually gotten it under control. With the mandatory evacuation line just two blocks from our house, we'll be watching this afternoon very closely.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tea Fire At Home

Ed. Note: I may be in Austin, at the moment, but times are listed in Pacific Time.

8:31pm There is currently a fire burning not far from our house in Santa Barbara. GB has evacuated, and called to say he could not only see the fire from the house, but that if he walked outside it felt hot at 8pm. I am madly refreshing news site webpages, and praying feverishly. Will update when I know more.

9:13pm The first press release on this 3-hour-old fire is out, and seven houses are listed as having burned. None of the national news outlets have noticed, yet, and I haven't heard anything new from GB. Battery-life on my laptop is limited, but I'll keep checking on things. Ack. The not knowing is stressful.

9:29pm Heard from GB. He's out and safe, but it's hard to breathe outside. Keep the firefighters in your prayers. I'm going to try to sleep for a while and check again in the morning.

9:39pm Well, headed to sleep except that I heard from GB again. He's hearing 12 houses have burned, and the 50 mile-per-hour winds are the biggest challenge right now. Scary stuff when conditions are that volatile.

11:16pm Over 100 houses burned. 4 people with burns. More evacuations. The fire exceeds 400 acres. This one is bad, folks.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Random Ten

"The Vow" by Geoff Moore & The Distance* on Home Run
"Dancing Anne" by California Guitar Trio on Cg3+2
"For All You're Worth" by Petra on No Doubt
"It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You" by George Strait on Greatest Hits Volume II
"The Music of the Night" by Andrew Lloyd Webber on The Phantom of the Opera
"The Dance" by Garth Brooks on The Hits
"Talk Soup" by Weird Al Yankovic* on Alapalooza
"The Farmer and the Queen" by Shel Silverstein on Where The Sidewalk Ends
"Father & Son" by Cat Stevens on Greatest Hits
"Turn You Inside-Out" by R.E.M. on Green

Nothing stellar here. I do like "The Dance" in the liking-songs-that-cause-emoting-even-though-it's-a-bittersweet-emotion way. Otherwise, the rest of the pile I could take or leave. Maybe next week will be better.

* Acts I've seen live

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Bus Ride Irony

Tuesday, the busses were free to encourage people to go vote. You didn't even have to have a sticker or anything. It was a nice little sentiment. Then, one of the driver/maintenance unions that CapMetro uses went on strike on Wednesday. They trimmed down all the routes to just the main thoroughfare routes (which is fine with me, since those are the routes I use, anyway). As a consolation offering of sorts, the busses that remain in operation are all free.

I really do understand all this, but I just bought an unlimited pass for the month on Monday night. As an ultra-frugal person, I wish I'd just waited until the strike was over.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thank You

I'm feeling rather gushy and happy after last night's crowning of Barack Obama as President #44-elect. So, I wanted to throw out a few words of thanks.

Thank you to the American people, for heeding my request to give the Democrats the best chance they had to win the presidency. Thank you for voting and not just becoming complacent and staying home when it looked like the election was in the bag. Thank you for recognizing the Palin stunt for what it was and for seeing through the campaign of everyone's favorite Republican-with-an-independent-streak to recognize that 2008 McCain was not 2000 McCain. I love you all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Random Ten

"The Golden Age" by Beck on Sea Change
"Everything You Know Is Wrong" by Weird Al Yankovic* on Bad Hair Day
"Unanswered Prayers" by Garth Brooks on The Hits
"Home Run" by Geoff Moore & The Distance* on Home Run
"Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum on The Big Chill
"Why Georgia" by John Mayer on Room for Squares
"Can't Stay Here" by Cowboy Mouth* on Uh-Oh!
"So Cruel" by U2 on Achtung Baby
"Already Dead" by Beck on Sea Change
"Swan Swan H" by R.E.M. on Life's Rich Pageant

I wasn't sure if this was trying to be a separation ten ("Everything You Know Is Wrong", "Unanswered Prayers", "Why Georgia", "Can't Stay Here") or a Halloween ten ("Whiter Shade of Pale", "So Cruel", "Already Dead"), but either way it sure is scary.

* Acts I've seen live

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'll Think About It

In perusing lots and lots of Craigslist ads looking for places to live, I have come across some really choice ads including a guy who's looking for a live-in girlfriend for free rent or the guy that is very up front about how he is a nudist. However, when I came across this one, I was completely floored:

Share a large house with a pornographer, just you and me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Dealio

GB and I have separated. Since his job is in Santa Barbara, it made sense for him to stay there. The corollary to that is since my job is in Austin, it made sense for me to come here, not even pointing out that the cost of living for finding a cheap place to rent is way more reasonable in Austin than in Santa Barbara.

The short version is this: We're working on our relationship. Separation is not a marital death sentence. I'm fine, and I don't really want to discuss it any further at this time. Thanks for your concern.

Now that the albatross is flying (or some other mangling of that heavy metaphor), I plan to get back to regular posting of various things, including the people I have interviewed to select a room to rent and strange stories from riding the bus to work each day. I just love to people watch.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Random Ten

Here is what I got today from iTunes.

"Disappointment" by The Cranberries on No Need to Argue
"Concerto No. 1 in E Flat" by Franz Liszt on Favourite Piano Concertos
"If I Stand" by Rich Mullins* on Songs
"Romeo And Juliet" by Dire Straits on Money For Nothing
"Hymn" by Jars of Clay* on Much Afraid
"The Howling" by Rich Mullins* on The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 1
"Oh My God" by Jars of Clay* on Good Monsters
"The Breaks" by Rich Mullins* on Brother's Keeper
"Mind Games" by John Lennon on The John Lennon Collection
"I Just Shot John Lennon" by The Cranberries on To The Faithful Departed

I could talk about how many duplicated artists I had this week and how iTunes managed not to give me any of those duplicates from the same album. Or I could talk about the Rich Mullins/Jars of Clay festival that appears in the middle of the random ten. However, I would prefer to point your attention to the end of the list, where I get a song from John Lennon followed by a song about shooting John Lennon. Talk about Mind Games.

* Acts I've seen live

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Change of Venue

I have been purposely silent on the blog for anything too meaty, because I'm not really ready to talk about it. However, I am in Austin instead of Santa Barbara. Just thought I'd throw that in there. There may be more later, but for now, I'll be limiting the blog to non-personal-type posts.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Random Ten

Here's what I randomly loaded up today.

"My World View" by Audio Adrenaline on Don't Censor Me
"All You Need Is Rock 'n' Roll" by White Lion on Pride
"Nothing Tonight" by Trout Fishing In America* on Truth Is Stranger Than Fishin'
"You Get Me" by ZOEgirl on Different Kind of Free
"Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" by Manic Street Preachers on Send Away the Tigers
"We Live" by Superchick on Beauty from Pain
"She's My Girl" by Tom Lehrer on Song & More Songs
"Mumuki" by Yo-Yo Ma on Soul of the Tango
"Prom Night in Pig Town" by Trout Fishing In America* on Truth Is Stranger Than Fishin'
"Picture Perfect" by Michael W. Smith* on Change Your World

This was a fun pile of songs. There were a lot of favorite tracks off their respective albums, and some of my favorite songs of all time in the Superchick and Audio Adrenaline picks. There was also a ton of energy in this selection, so it was an appropriate set of selections that iTunes gave me. Do you think they make time of day a parameter in their randomization algorithm?

* Acts I've seen live

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Foundation, Befores And Afters

I want to give you some before and after shots of different parts of the perimeter of the house. This set is from the back corner, shot from under the house.



Then, I have some shots from outside the laundry room. This is the current entrance to the basement, so some of this concrete (like the step) was there before.



And here's the side of the house where you used to be able to see roots growing into the base of our world. This was the part of the foundation that convinced me that we had to do something sooner rather than later.



Here is the same part of the house, but from underneath, instead.



Then there's the basement room that will become the office.



In case you can't tell, we are very pleased with the result. And now...Project Office!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Foundation Project Complete

Well, I didn't do a very good job of chronicling the foundation job as it was being done, but I did take pictures. Now that the project is done (Yes!! It's DONE!!!), I wanted to show you how it turned out.

First, though, I have to say that these contractors were amazing. I didn't know anything about foundations before (except that ours was bad), but they were happy to drop everything and learn me in the ways of French drains and footings and concrete forms and soil investigation and much more. My questions had to be terribly annoying and elementary, but I felt a lot better about the end result, mostly just because I was involved along the way. I couldn't believe how great they were about fielding the random additional requests we made along the way with no additional charge. The teams (we had two during the duration of the project) kept the area clean and picked up every day before they left. I even had a party in the midst of the construction, and no one would have even known. If anyone needs foundation work in the Santa Barbara area, please contact Joe at EGR. By all means necessary. It won't be your cheapest quote, but the work will be of the highest quality. I even had to have a gas line moved in the middle of the project, and the contractor who did that work (who we've worked with enough to trust, as well) made an unsolicited comment about what a great foundation they were putting in for us. He wanted to know who they were for future work he might need done on other of his projects. Needless to say, I have volunteered to be a reference for them.

And now, on to the project recap! First, they supported the house on stilts using two-by-fours and bottle jacks. This was incredibly interesting to me, since I've worked with these kinds of jacks previously. I knew they were cool, but I wouldn't have guessed they could hold up a two-story house. Once the house was stabilized, they jackhammered the old foundation out of the way, and dug a more even perimeter. The new perimeter met the requirements of the soils engineering review, as it got down to original packed down stuff. Coming from Texas, where bedrock is at 4-6 feet, it was weird to hear they just wanted it to be on original dirt, and not all the way down to bedrock. During this period of time, the house was suspended on the jacks and temporary support beams. It was surreal looking at these ditches in the ground with house above it. All the removed dirt and rocks from under the house went into this 15-foot-by-9-foot-by-4-foot dumpster. There were three completely full dumpsters for the first half of the new foundation, and after that I lost track. Since we also had some digging done in preparation for a future basement, my guess is something in the neighborhood of ten dumpsters were filled in the completion of this project. Then, it was concrete day! Forms had been put in place and the dark gray stuff was oozed into place to dry and make the switch from being something that had to be supported to something that was doing the supporting. I just can't tell you enough how big a project this was, and what a big difference it made in our comfort with the stability of the house. Now we can go work on fun projects that are more exciting, visually.

I also want to give you some before and after pictures, but I think I'll put those in future posts as I can get to them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Did She Really Say That?

I just watched Sarah Palin's speech from her rally in Ohio today.

At the 4:40 mark of the video, she asserts the following:

"Our campaign is about the future. It's about these kids who are here today. And, you know, our opponents...Our opponents, for a campaign that likes to talk a lot about the future, our opponents, sure really, talk a lot about the past and point fingers backwards. And they look to the past, because that is where you can find blame. But we join you in looking to the future, because that's where you find the solutions."

I understand how something like this could play well. No one wants to be involved in the blame game. It could also be a little bit of a veiled attack on how there's not a lot of voting history in Obama's record to compare to the long history that one can look at with McCain. However, at the 12:55 mark of this video, she says:

"It was just a couple of weeks ago that Joe Biden said to a voter that he's against clean coal. And Barack Obama has opposed offshore drilling. Now, you heard the other night in John McCain and Barack Obama's debate kind of a flip-flop on that, but you gotta go with someone's record, where they'd been in the past to let you know where they're gonna lead you."

So, let me get this straight. Your history is off-limits as a blame-game tactic, but you have to look at your opponent's record as a predictor of future actions. While I completely agree with the latter position, you can't have it both ways. Either we're looking forward or we're learning about how these people will lead us? I really don't see how those are mutually exclusive methods for looking at a race.

One other thing, when you're trying to oust the incumbent political party from the White House, blame seems a terribly effective tactic.

Friday Random Ten

This week, here was my lineup:

"Work Hard" by Depeche Mode on People Are People
"I Got The Joy" by Carman on The Absolute Best
"A City on a Hill" by Patsy Moore on Regarding the Human Condition
"When a Man Loves a Woman" by Bette Midler on Experience the Divine
"Frank's 2000" TV" by Weird Al Yankovic* on Alapalooza
"Blame It On Me" by Barenaked Ladies on Gordon
"Manhattan Skyline" by David Shire on Saturday Night Fever
"How Can I Tell You" by Cat Stevens on Footsteps in the Dark
"Ridiculous Rose" by Shel Silverstein on Where The Sidewalk Ends
"Wait" by White Lion on POP 83 Gold & Platinum Volumn 5

This was one messed up random ten. Who knew that such a mess of bad tracks existed in my collection? I find myself trying to blame other people for the crap in my iTunes, and then I realize most of it is my own fault. I thing I see the possibility of a purge of the bad music in my future.

That said, there was one decent track in there. Maybe I can just blame the ruining of a perfectly bad random ten on the Barenaked Ladies. Well, I guess I have to blame Mr. Silverstein, too, because who can't appreciate this poem?
Her mama said, "Don't eat with your fingers!"
"Okay," said Ridiculous Rose.
So she ate with her toes.

* Acts I've seen live

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Reverse Vampire

This week, I went down to the blood center and donated a pint. So the title of this post refers to me. I don't need no stinking blood!

I haven't given blood for a long time. I've always done it when there was a blood drive being done where I was, but I hadn't sought it out since I sold plasma to supplement my grader's income in college. Recently, I decided it was high time to work towards completing that first gallon (two more to go). I found where to donate here in town, then proceeded to catch the flu. Once I'd been better for a while, I was ready to get in and lose some blood.

The process is quick, taking longer to determine if I'm healthy enough to give blood than to actually drain it out. Afterwards, as I drank orange juice and ate crackers, I found myself chatting with the phlebotomist about why more people don't donate blood. Since only 3% of eligible adults in the US actually donate, I just can't accept that all those people are needle-phobes. Apparently, most people don't donate because they've simply never been asked to do it.

So, I'm curious -- do you donate or don't you? If not, why not?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mother-in-Law Visit Number Two

This weekend we were visited by my mother-in-law, her husband, and another couple they were traveling with. They were here just two days and stayed in a hotel instead of with us, and it made the whole visit so much more pleasant.

There were still comments I didn't know what to do with. I like to have ready-made retorts to use, because I'm not particularly witty in an off-the-cuff conversation. In elementary school, people would call me the standard "four eyes" and I would let them know I have six, which usually took them aback and shut them up. But do you answer "You're too skinny," with "Thank you" or "I really do eat, I promise"? It's one of those comments like another one I got recently -- "You were too young when you got married." If you leave out the "too" in either comment, it becomes non-confrontational and almost a compliment. With it, though, it carries a judgmental tone of "what could you possibly be thinking" that I just don't get the point of. Oh well, that's just one of those things I'll likely have to deal with the rest of my life. There's a good chance I'll stay thin and I'm pretty sure I'll be married for a long while. Any witty comebacks I can put in the back of my mind for future occurrences of these phrases?

Other than the random comment about my size repeated five times in two days that led to awkward silences on my part, it was a really nice visit. Saturday night I made onion tartlets followed by salad with homemade basalmic vinagrette culminating in pork tenderloin with skillet roasted new potatoes and a roasted corn/leek/bell pepper succotash-y thing, which was all really good. I'm not sure what sort of crazy confidence comes into play to make a strict recipe-follower like me decide to make something new and untested and straight out of my brain for guests, but I'm glad it worked out.

Anyway, I was just glad that this visit went so much better, and didn't make me contemplate murder or the ripping out of hair. Maybe there's hope for me, yet.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tiptoe Through The Tulips: Dyckia tuberosa

This spiky plant with the bright orange flowers took me an inordinate amount of time to identify. See, someone had told me it was in the Puya family, but that turned out to be a dead end to go down, and had me waste a lot of time looking for a plant I don't have. The bloom has lasted a long time, so that helps with giving me more ways to look for this thing. The flower is on about a two- to three-foot stalk, and the ants really like the flowers, so that's what you see in this closeup. Being vaguely related to the pineapple, I guess it's sweet and tasty to them. Be careful if you're trying to weed near this plant, since the spiked leaves have additional spikes along the leaf edges, making it extra scary and cruel to gardening hands. I've gotten several cat-scratch-looking cuts from getting too close to this particular plant. Finally, I kinda like this out of focus look at the flower from above. No real reason, since you can't see anything to identify it from. But, it gives an idea of just how far the bloom ends up being from the spiky leaves at the bottom.

Monday, October 06, 2008

One Less Thing to Worry About

I got some test results back, and I am not a carrier of any of the 23 types of cycstic fibrosis they can test for. While they still give me a 1/16 chance of passing it to my offspring based purely on the fact that it's in the family, I'm not that worried. My aunt had everyone in her family tested when my cousin was diagnosed and she's comfortable with the results that her other two kids aren't carriers. I'm guessing they haven't decided to stop testing for certain types of the gene, so if she was comfortable they tested for the right variety, then I am too.

Now we can go try to conceive with reckless abandon, I guess. We can just worry about the eight million other things that could go wrong, instead.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Random Ten

This week, I got the following from my randomized iTunes playlist.

"On A Night Like This" by Buckwheat Zydeco on Zydeco Essentials
"The Dream of the Dolphin" by Enigma on The Cross of Changes
"Piano Sonata #8 in C Minor" by Beethoven, performed by Wilhelm Kempff
"You Don't Bring Me Flowers" by Neil Diamond on The Essential Neil Diamond
"Blind Man" by Lynn August on Zydeco Essentials
"78 Eastonwood Green" by Rich Mullins* on A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band
"The Old Songs" by Joe Jackson on Laughter & Lust
"Snow Day" by Trout Fishing In America* on Merry Fishes to All
"Who's on the Lord's Side" by Petra on Unseen Power
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Mannheim Steamroller on Christmas Live

I got a surprisingly large number of instrumentals -- the Enigma, the Beethoven Sonata, the Rich Mullins' entry, and the Mannheim Steamroller. So, with half of my random ten having nothing more to say, I guess I don't either.

* Acts I've seen live

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tiptoe Through The Tulips: Euphorbia Milii splendens (Crown of Thorns)

Euphorbias encompass an enormous amount of variety among the different species. Some look very much like a cactus, with large diameter stems and branches, and then some look like really spiky rose bushes with dainty flowers. This week I'm profiling the latter type (the other type is also in the yard and will get it's own day in the spotlight).

In researching this plant, I have found that mine is way too tall and gangly. This is supposed to be more like a bush than the four-foot-long spiky stem ending with six leaves and a smalle cluster of pink flowers like I have now. These tolerate significant pruning, and should be pruned to promote a fuller plant. I also found out how to propagate this plant, and it's one of the more tricky cutting propagaters to deal with (cut it, soak in water to prevent the sap from all leaking out, let it dry and callous over the cut, and then plant it with sparse amounts of water until the roots come out). However, if I cut it back, using the cuttings to make new plants and to promote the existing healthy (but lanky) plant to grow fuller, maybe I'll be in a position to replace the plant with rooted cuttings if I ended up pruning too far. Hopefully I don't go the other direction and kill the plant by too much pruning while also failing to get the cutting to root. I just keep hoping that my brown thumb is getting a little greener through all this research and learning.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Random Ten

I hadn't done a random ten since my concert roundup this summer, so I was ready to get back to my iTunes list (and away from the homogeneity that was the Pandora selections). Here is what it sent my way as a welcome back present.

"You Picked Me" by A Fine Frenzy on Single of the Week
"Overture" from The Phantom of the Opera
"Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" by Neil Diamon on The Essential Neil Diamond
"I Hold Your Hand In Mind" by Tom Lehrer on Song & More Songs
"Acrobat" by U2 on Achtung Baby
"Big City" by Merle Haggard on His Epic Hits: The First Eleven
"On the Wings of a Dream" by John Denver on The Very Best of John Denver
"The Everlasting" by Geoff Moore & The Distance* on Pure and Simple
"Needful Hands" by Jars of Clay* on God of Wonders
"X Amount of Words" by Blue October on Foiled

And the randomizer wins! This has got to be the weirdest collection of songs I've ever had come up. Current rock, old rock, Christian rock, old country, show tunes, and novelty music. How does that all fit in a single random ten? It's wacky, but I liked it. Welcome back, indeed.

* Acts I've seen live

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tiptoe Through The Tulips: Crassula perfoliata (Propeller Plant)

After a bike-riding hiatus I'm back to chronicling my backyard plant identification journey. Thanks to Amy for the tip on this week's plant. We both have this in our yards, but she was faster at figuring out what it was. I did look up the official name, though.

Sometimes called a red crassula or a scarlet paintbrush, this succulent took a very long time, probably three weeks, to come to full bloom. Initially, the flower was a set of barely-colored buds, like you see here, and then the red color became more prominent, and then each of the little buds opened into small red flowers with yellow centers. My camera appears to have eaten the pictures from that stage of the blooming, so you'll just have to take my word for the fact that stage was really pretty.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day Seven Summary

Thursday was another long day, but motivated by the knowledge that we were "almost there" for the last three or four hours, GB just kept going. Let me step back a bit, and share some pictures from previous, as well.

We spent parts of Tuesday in the Muir Woods. There is something about really big trees that makes a person only able to take pictures of very small things. Well, at least this person.

Here we have some of the ferns that were everywhere in the cold dark underneath of the forest. I think they make the air cooler just by being there in the shade. It's probably psychological, but I couldn't help feeling like I was in the frozen foods part of the grocery store instead of the cereal aisle whenever I was around them.

The bark of the redwoods and the enormous douglas firs is just wild to look at. It's so intricate that I felt like I could have taken bark pictures all day long and still not actually expressed how different it looks from each angle and on each tree.

Speaking of bark, this is a closeup of another tree with some of its bark stripped off and moss growing on it. I think I want these colors in my kitchen one day.

We headed north, and spent the next day driving through the redwoods, and spent the next afternoon in the Jedediah Smith park, with these beautiful views along the river. We camped there for the night.
We'd packed the camping gear in case we ended up having to stay in an unpopulated place at the end of one of the ride days, and it came in very handy for an enjoyable night in the woods.
Amongst all the enormity of the trees, I loved capturing the delicacy of something like this dainty white flower in the groundcover. And sorrel is just one of my favorite plants, so I love to photograph it any time I find it.
This redwood sorrel that we saw everywhere in the park was large like the trees and purple on the undersides of the leaves. It still had the great tart taste of the more common yellow wood sorrel.

Out of the camping site, we knew there was still a ways to go, so GB headed out the "door" and was on the road around 8am. It was a little later than other days, since camping requires you to live by the setting and rising of the sun, which wasn't until about 7 in the morning. He headed into the cold mountain air, and I went back to the last town and got a bit of work done.

Once I left town to chase him down, I got the pleasure of the beautiful scenery GB had been enjoying all morning. The mountain streams. The neverending lines of trees. The sunshine warming everything up. The reflections off the water. I could have stood there and soaked up the natural beauty for days. But there was a bicyclist that was waiting for me to catch up. Apparently I lollygagged a bit too long, and he was well passed our rendezvous point by the time I caught up with him.

In fact, he had passed this sign before I caught him:

We met at Grant's Pass, ate a bit and tried to decide what to do next. GB was tired, but he wanted to just go until he was completely out of steam. We were so close, you see. So we mapped out the rest of the route to keep us off the highways, and I leapfrogged him in the car pretty close. That turned out to be a good idea, since he was going through the liquids really fast. We'd started the morning in our coldest start of the trip, and we were ending it in the hottest afternoon. The temperature was up in the mid-30s (mid-90s), and the sun was beating down on him hard. At Medford, we saw a sign that said we were just 7 miles to Ashland, so GB pressed on, and we arrived in town about 6 in the evening. The route for the day ended up like the map below.

It was such an impressive ride, and so much was learned about future trips we might want to take. One lesson is the next time we come to Oregon, we're taking the train. It was a great experiment, though. Now we're enjoying our weekend, and we'll head back on Monday taking all the freeways we've had to avoid for the last week to get back in a fraction of the time it took to get up here.

Statistial Summary:
  • Time on the road: 10 hours
  • Time in the saddle: 7 hours 37 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 67.4 km/hr (42 mi/hr)
  • Average speed: 25.4 km/hr (16 mi/hr)
  • Distance ridden: 194 km (120.5 mi)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Days Five and Six Summary

Short entry today from the tenuous internet connection I have in this fast-food restaurant. The VERY long ride into San Francisco was pretty hard on the knee. I think there is a reason the bike leg of an Ironman distance triathlon is 112 miles -- the body is not really supposed to go longer than that and be able keep going. So we slept in on Tuesday, and took it as a rest day. We toured the Muir Woods a bit, and were completely enthralled by the redwoods and a recently fallen huge douglas fir. We spent the night in Eureka, and spent yesterday in the various redwood forests, culminating in camping in the Jedediah Smith Redwood Forest last night. Beautiful stuff, and it was nice to be outside with the sounds of birds chirping and chipmunks scratching rather than ice machines running and traffic zooming by.

Today GB left from the campsite headed north. It's all in the mountains from here on out and it's way colder than down at the coast (though the sun does come out), and both of those things make life much tougher on the knee, so we'll see how far it goes.

Assuming we have an internet connection later tonight, we'll keep you posted on how today goes!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Day Four Summary

Today we're going to start our summary with the end of the day.

Woohoo! GB made it all the way to, and across, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco! There's just nothing like following up a difficult day cut short with a really, really great day -- the longest ever, in fact! I know I'm using a lot of exclamation points, but it just seems appropriate for today.

I have to confess I was a bit dejected after Day Three's ride, that it was going to be all over. I was hoping we'd get to Half Moon Bay for the day, but was expecting a similar knee-induced end of the day about Santa Cruz. Instead, I left the hotel in Monterey in time to meet up with him in SC, but he was doing great, and just kept going. I then proceeded to get lost trying to follow the route. And now I understand why GB was getting lost -- there are large sections of highway where bikes are not allowed (primarily through cities), and so you have to take these winding routes through residential and city streets. Just find one turn not labeled, or the street name changes since the maps we have were made, and you're completely out of whack and trying to find your way back on track. This time, he had no problems, but the Soquel Drive to Soquel Avenue transition was too much for me. Go figure.

I did manage to take some pictures, though. As I proceeded past this cliff up the way, I found they were growing strawberries up there. I hope those berries are as happy as the cows and sheep from the day before.

Since he was continuing on, I continued, too. When I passed him back on the highway, we went with the five-minute refueling stop, and he kept going. I stopped to take a picture of the beach village of Pacifica in our rear view mirror, first, though. I do love how I managed to catch this lunch-time surfer with a wave building behind him. I have no desire to learn to surf, myself, but I like watching them. This guy was the last one finishing up, or I would have tried to get some pictures of them catching some waves.

I don't really have a reason for this picture, but I took it the same day, and just like it. It's where the train meets the beach, and resulted in me getting sand all over the car.

Since things were going well, so far, I went on to Half Moon Bay, got gas for the car and found a cafe to sit in and use the internet connection to get a little work done. GB wandered in behind me within about fifteen minutes (how does he do that??). He sat there about 10 minutes, reloaded up with food and liquids, and said "Golden Gate or bust!" as he headed back out the door. I worked for a little bit more, and then collected my things and headed north. My plan was to find a hotel for us to stay in near the bridge, and then if I had to go back and pick him up, at least we'd have a stopping point already lined up and ready for us. And then I kept not hearing from him that he was too tired to go on and needed me to come get him. After getting settled into the room, I headed out to the far side of the bridge to pick him, and the timing worked out pretty much as perfectly as it could have, and I caught him just finishing the ride across the bridge.

What changed for today? A lot, actually. GB wrote a retired cyclist coworker asking for strategies for riding with a bum knee. He heard back on two primary pointers -- keep the knee out of the cold wind and let it warm up slowly for the first hour or so. He did that -- he wore his warm polar fleece-lined pants, and rode real slow for the first hour. But that wasn't all. There was also the hot-tub therapy and the rest day the day before for at least an hour. And there was the mountain of Advil consumed to keep inflammation down. Or that the sun actually came out for the day, lifting one's spirits and making for a more pleasant day in the outdoors. And he didn't eat anything but Clif bars the whole ride, after a day of eating lots of carbs. Who knows what actually did it, but I'll take the results.

Statistial Summary:
  • Time on the road: 10 hours
  • Time in the saddle: 9 hours, 37 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 65.5 km/hr (40.7 mi/hr)
  • Average speed: 24.9 km/hr (15.5 mi/hr)
  • Distance ridden: 193.6 km (120 mi)
  • Calories burned on the ride: 6573
  • Calories consumed: 3670
  • Protein consumed: 120.5g
  • Unsaturated fats consumed: 61.5g
  • Weight: up 1kg from the start
  • Number of wrong turns: 0 (but 473 or so for Heather)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Day Three Summary

The knee was a problem before the day even really got going. But GB tried anyway, and he still got a pretty good ways up the road before officially succumbing to a rest day. It didn't help that the day was so foggy and cold that he never could warm up, or that the route was so confusing that wrong turns were made and additional mileage had to be covered. By about 11:15 this morning, we made the call to go back to Monterey and hit up the Aquarium and stay in a more comfortable place than last night. We did find a place with a hot tub, so he also soaked some sore muscles in that to try and recover some go-juice for tomorrow. We had certainly built in about a day and a half contingency on the trip, and we only used about a half day today, so things are still looking good for the overall trip, even if today wasn't the perfect ride. Here was our route for the day:

Regardless, we made the best of it, checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, eating on the water, and doing some serious relaxing and recuperating. And since I don't have a lot of stuff to write about the riding today (and because I have a high-speed connection today, and not just a wimpy one), I'll leave you with some pictures from the first three days.

This is from day two, where you can see the wax paper effect that the fog was having on us. Even with the fog, though, the craggy rocks breaking up the ocean's approach to the beach is awfully pretty. I think I could watch waves crash into rocks for hours without ever getting bored.

Here we have the bridge to the mountain that floats in the clouds. Honestly, the ocean is just down there in the whiteness, but it was really odd to be able to hear the waves but not see any confirmation through all those layers of wax paper. Most of day two had scenes like that. It was nice when we were up on a hill above the clouds, but as you descended back into them, it turned cold and wet.

And this is what most everything looked like below the fog level. The colors get washed out and visibility goes down quite a bit. I still love how the cliffs dive into the ocean, even if the overall look is clouded over.

And then this one is almost like a mountain scene with some white stone that looks like snow and those dark evergreen trees.

Check it out! I found a road mileage marker sign that is actually in both miles AND kilometers! It's a metric-conversion-proponent's dream to see such a thing in this country, and I was so excited to find it that I pulled over and took a half-dozen pictures of a road sign.

This morning we came across this bridge -- the Bixby Bridge. It spans two cliffs that overlook an ocean inlet, rather than any kind of creek or river, and that added to its coolness factor.

Here's a cow and some sheep enjoying their bit of pasture land overlooking the ocean. Well, at least I sure hope these animals are enjoying their prime bit of real estate while they eat up some tasty grass. Of course, I suppose they had access to any of this land they wanted before we came along.Wait. Domesticated animals weren't in this part of the world until we came along. So I take back my take-back -- they should appreciate what they have and look up from that tasty grass every once in a while. And not just because crazy people with cameras are around.

Continuing with the animal theme, I like this picture of the jellyfish that I got at the aquarium. Such simple and complex creatures at the same time. They sure do move through the water beautifully.

And, of course, the obligatory on-the-bike photo. See? GB really is riding his bike! This was from the first day as GB was cruising along through the relatively flat part of the route. Oh, how I long for those days of innocence. :) Just kidding, but there really are only so many ways I can take pictures of him as he rides by.

Statistial Summary:
  • Time on the road: 4 hours, 15 minutes
  • Time in the saddle: 3 hours, 15 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 57.2 km/hr (35.5 mi/hr)
  • Average speed: 22.7 km/hr (14 mi/hr)
  • Distance ridden: 73.8 km (46 mi)
  • Calories burned on the ride: 2356
  • Calories consumed: 3180
  • Protein consumed: 91g
  • Unsaturated fats consumed: 74 g
  • Weight: Not too worried about this today
  • Number of wrong turns: 2