Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mt Laguna

Took a drive today out to Mt Laguna in the Cleveland National Forest. There was snow on the ground and thick fog rolling in over the mountains. Beautiful.

I stopped to take a few pictures at an overlook that looks down into Storm Canyon towards Vallecito Valley. Click here to see a map of where I was when I took this shot with my Treo.

- T

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ali: Muhammad's 'Best Teddy Bear Friend Forever'

If you've seen a news program, newspaper or news website in the last two weeks, you know about Gillian Gibbons. She is the elementary school teacher from England who accepted the challenge of moving to Sudan to teach children, only to be sentenced by the Muslim-ruled government for letting her students name a class teddy bear Muhammad / Mohamed / Mohammad / Mohammed / Muhammed / Mahommed / Mehmed / Mahomet / Mehmet -- you choose your favorite transliteration. (How could there NOT be a standard translit for such a common name?!)

Somehow, what is supposed to be such an "important", "proud" and "holy" religion (Islam) felt SO threatened by a TEDDY BEAR that they had to IMPRISON a 54-year-old teacher and threaten her with lashings and execution!!!!

I would laugh and laugh at the silliness of such a religion and at any follower who felt this way - - if the situation hadn't been so dire.

And don't think I am only pointing and laughing at Islam. Recently the Catholic Church and its "Catholic League" have been imploring people not to see the new movie "The Golden Compass". Is their mythology SO weak and tissue-paper-like that the mere viewing of a fantasy movie will tempt thousands or millions of devout Christians away from god?

Wow. These religions have set up some pretty unstable Potemkin Villages that can be destroyed by a teddy bear and his CGI polar bear pals....

["See, ya got yer American League, yer National League and yer Catholic League -- they play the worst baseball of all, what with their cassock baseball uniforms."]

- T

Laughlin and Oatman

Work is getting in the way of my blogging and photo-posting.... I've got hundreds of new photos to sort through and post to my Picasa site -- in the meantime, here are two shots from our trip to Laughlin, NV / Oatman, AZ last month. Loved it and looking forward to going back sometime!!
- T

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ungrateful SOBs

Below is a quote from (and a link to) a great essay written by an ex-Coast Guard yeoman.

Have you ever seen a TV news story where someone is saved from some great calamity by a firefighter or policeman who put his or her life at great risk to save the poor sod -- only to have that person not thank the rescue worker, but rather thank God...?
  • In contrast, I have heard a number of people exclaim, "Thank God you came." I wanted to puke every time I heard that. A god had nothing to do with my crew and me being there. A god was not helping us save them at the risk of our own lives. Our skill, training and luck is what saved them, not some mythical being. There were times when I heard the "thank god" phrase that I wanted to throw them back and see if a god really would answer their prayers. But I'm a humanist, and human beings are more valuable alive and growing than floundering in the sea. Nevertheless, some days, the temptation was great.
- from "The Work Gods Are Too Busy to Tend To" by Karl E. Taylor

A heartfelt thanks goes out to anyone in a dangerous line of work, who puts himself or herself on the line for others.... Whether you hear it often or not, know that your hard work is appreciated by most of us.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chargers vs Texans

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beautiful Angry Sky

"[Red, purple and orange] colours arise from Mie Scattering, low angle scattering of light off dust, soot, smoke and (ash) particles. Mie Scattering (producing the colours of sunset and sunrise) is beautifully recognizable down-wind of and after dust storms, forest fires and volcanic eruptions that inject large quantities of fine particulate matter into the atmosphere." - Wikipedia

No real post today. Finally the fires nearest San Diego are subsiding somewhat -- but there is still plenty of smoke, soot and ash in the air. The Harris Fire to the south is now threatening areas east of Rancho San Diego near Jamul and points east. Parts of Camp Pendleton and areas of the Rice Canyon and Witch Valley Fires continue to burn....

Downtown, the wrath of the fires makes itself known through spectacular sunsets.

- T

San Diego Fires

The past few days here in San Diego have been difficult for many. More than 500,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Many are being housed in shelters around the county, including 12,000 people at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

Some early estimates of the cost of the fire damage are above the $1 billion mark.

Huge areas of the county have been affected. If you click on the picture to the left, you'll see the fires in Southern California and the smoke plumes blowing off the coast and out across the Pacific Ocean. The two large fires and the one smaller fire closest to the California/Baja California border are all in San Diego County.

For those of you who know the San Diego area, rest assured that the downtown area, the zoo, Coronado, La Jolla, Mission Bay, the beaches, Balboa Park, Point Loma, Old Town, etc are just fine! We have had no damage in any of these areas, besides some falling ash and hazy, smoky conditions.

In the north, the Rice Canyon and Witch Creek fires
moved in from the back country into some areas of northern and central San Diego County: Camp Pendleton, Fallbrook, Escondido, San Marcos, Palomar Mountain, Rincon and La Jolla Indian Reservations, Lake Hodges, Rancho Santa Fe, Ramona, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, San Pasqual, Barona, and the El Capitan Reservoir.

In the south towards the Mexican border, the Harris Fire affected
parts of Potrero, Tecate, Barrett Junction, Dulzura, all along Highway 94 and Otay Lakes Rd, Engineer Springs, Jamul, Otay Mountain, Lyons Valley and into the very eastern edges of Eastlake. The fire worked its way up Mt. San Miguel, taking out the KPBS transmission tower.

Many other areas that seemed to be threatened were evacuated but were
not reached by the fires. These areas include Solana Beach, Del Mar and Chula Vista.

The San Diego Fires continue, but seem to finally be waning a bit thanks to the huge efforts of the firefighters and the weakening of the Santa Ana winds. Today seems to be the turning point for the fires -- they aren't advancing to the west as they have been for the past 3 days, which means they may turn back on themselves and burn out.

Also, we're seeing many areas which are no longer under immediate threat being reopened and residents are being allowed back to their homes.

There are, unfortunately, many areas in the back country that are now threatened as the winds shift, including the historic town of Julian. I was there a few weeks ago and will try to post my pictures of the town later today to my Picasa site.

Here's a portion of a letter I sent around to friends yesterday. I've added a few links to the text:
Hello All:

I'm sending a quick e-mail with some information about the fires here in San Diego. First, thank you for the kind thoughts and messages. Maik and Andy: I just read your e-mail and it was nice to hear from you two -- and know that you're thinking of us. Michael: I was in a meeting here at work when you called and left your voicemail. We were discussing impact on the store here, whether we should remain open for the day, etc. Thanks so much for your call -- it was great to hear your voice when I finally got to hear the message!
Let me tell you guys right away: Dave, Tj., Bill and I are all OK. We're (luckily) in a small strip of the county that hasn't been affected much by the fires -- the winds are blowing the fires from the west to the east and there (so far) haven't been many fires directly east of us -- so, no fire and very little smoke and ash.
As Dave mentioned in his blog, we began to see the effects in the North Park area of town on Sunday evening. Dave had a group of us over for beer, bratwurst and good company. In the evening, we began to smell and see the smoke and later even saw the ash falling.
We've been in the middle of a long bout of Santa Ana winds -- this is when the airflow shifts from the usual cool, moist ocean breezes (west to east) and instead blows east to west from the desert, across the mountains and foothills and through the city towards the ocean. It isn't very often that this happens (maybe a few times a year) -- and usually has the same effects as the Föhn has in Bavaria: headaches, sinus problems, maybe some dry skin (because the humidity drops and the temperature rises) and tempers flare up a bit!
BUT, this time the Santa Anas were sustained for a much longer period and the humidity dropped all around the county to near zero. This, on top of very dry conditions over the past 1/2 year (almost no rain at all) combined to cause a huge fire hazard.
The two major fires are north and south of us. About 500,000 people have been evacuated due to increased fire risk. Thousands of them are right here next to the IKEA at our football stadium. Bill and I drove there yesterday and dropped off a few things -- things are calm, everyone has plenty of food and drink, they have their children and pets with them -- it is devastating to see so many people unable to live in their own homes, but at least they are safe. There are dozens of other smaller evacuation sites around the county and north towards LA, too.
Many, many acres have been burned already -- last I heard, it was 241,000 acres (almost 98,000 hectares). The scary part is they don't have it under control -- the two fires continue to burn towards the coast -- the area north of La Jolla called Del Mar and Solana Beach have both been evacuated -- the fires could reach the ocean if they continue to burn.
About 1000 homes have been destroyed -- but they don't have a good count yet -- not even the firemen can get into the burning areas. LUCKILY, very few people have been injured -- and only one death has been reported.
Most people were unable to come to work today -- we have just a handful of people working. But, there are very few customers, as well! Some co-workers have lost their homes -- I know of three personally who have lost their places. Also, many, many more have been evacuated and are staying somewhere other than their own homes.
Here's a great site you can go to and see some of the photos and videos from around the county.
And here's a site that shows the maps of which areas are burning or have been evacuated.

For those of you who know me well, you know I'm a map geek. Here's a Google Map link provided by KPBS, our local public radio station. They are updating it hourly and there's LOTS of information available about different areas, evacuation sites, temporary animal shelter sites, etc. Also, I found a Flickr photo pool of fire photos. Other local news sites covering the fires are: Union-Tribune, KNSD, KFMB, KGTV.

I'll post again in a few days once the fires are fully under control. It looks like the worst is definitely behind us.

- T

Monday, October 08, 2007


The past week has taken me to two extremes in Southern California: the desert of eastern San Diego County and Disneyland (now officially known as Disneyland Resort to include Disney's California Adventure).

My trek out to the desert started with an early drive out the 8 Freeway and then north past Cuyamaca and up into Julian. I made a quick stop in Julian to tank up -- and ended up taking a few pictures, too. (Pictures of the trip can be found through the Picasa link.)

From Julian, I headed up the Banner Highway and then south into Anza-Borrego Park.

I drove into Blair Valley where the real fun began. Here I took my Element about 5 miles through the desert sands to the Pictograph Trail trailhead.

This trail is right next to the Mortero Trail. Morteros are depressions made by Native Americans into the boulders and rocks -- using a pestle, they would grind various grains into flour. These morteros are in many of the larger boulders in the area -- I must have seen 15 to 20 of them, and I wasn't doing a very thorough search. I was REALLY here for the Pictographs.

Apparently, somewhere along the Pictograph Trail, Native Americans had left various symbols and drawings painted on the some of the large boulders here. I had read about them online and in a desert guide book -- and I wanted to see them myself.

I connected back to the Pictograph Trail after seeing the morteros -- my first mistake. I then began to hike deeper and deeper into Smugglers Canyon. This was great -- extremely quiet, very peaceful. It is strange, though, how it takes a bit of time to get used to the silence. At first it is almost uncomfortable and makes me a bit ill-at-ease. But, after some time, the quiet is really relaxing. (I wonder if this is what being in a sensory deprivation tank feels like.) Every once in a while, a bird would fly overhead and you'd hear the wings flap from hundreds of feet away. Or a small rock would roll down the canyon face and make a disturbance. But mostly there was just silence.

I went as far as I could into the canyon without really making a 2-hour hike into a longer daytrip. Still, no pictographs.

I doubled back and found the way uphill, out of the canyon, a lot easier to hike. I certainly didn't follow the exact same 'path' (there was no real path to follow in most places). But I guess I could see a bit further ahead and could make better choices.

Still, though, I was disappointed that I hadn't seen the pictographs. Hey, that's why I'd gone all that way to begin with. I kept a watching for any sign of faded drawings on the boulders, even turning around every few yards to see what I was passing. Nothing.

Toward the mouth of the canyon, almost where the valley started to flatten out into the desert again, I turned around after going forward a few minutes. Sure enough, there on a huge boulder behind me, was a set of crisp, clear, black drawings. I walked back to where there were -- you can see the pictures of them on the Picasa site.

They were pretty impressive -- not too sure what they might represent, but I did read that most of the drawings found in that area were fertility-related.

Then, I finished working my way up the valley and back to the truck before the long drive home.

I got home, excited but a bit skeptical about the pictographs. Could they be authentic if they looked so clear and dark? I did a bit more searching and found that the pictographs mentioned on the web were made with red and yellow pigments -- and much less clear. I'm guessing the markings I found were done recently by someone imitating older drawings....

Still, it was a great hike!

- T

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Street Scene 2007

It's Tj.'s birthday and we're at Street Scene!

Later we'll hear Ozomatli, Panic! At The Disco & Muse -- haven't even heard of some of the earlier bands, but we're enjoying the atmosphere and the beer.

- T

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pocket Shots

Saw this on the web yesterday -- what a convenient idea. It's sort of like
a modern version of the old metal flask. But, this won't set off any metal

Apparently, they are individual shot-sized plastic pouches of various
liquors: rum, gin, vodka, etc. You can toss them in a backpack, carry 'em
in your carpenter pants pocket, maybe store 'em in your glove compartment.
[Just kidding -- probably not a good idea.]

Then, when the urge for a pick-me-up hits, you've got the most important
part of the cocktail right there. Just add mixer and enjoy!

Honestly, it seems like it makes having liquor at your disposal just a
LITTLE too handy. And, should I be worried that it looks so much like a
10-year-old's Capri Sun pouch...?

But, I must admit -- as soon as I see them on my corner liquor store's
shelf, I'm buying a few!

Oh, one more thing -- I posted my Yosemite pictures yesterday.

- T

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Quick Update

To the left you'll see a snapshot from our trip to New Orleans. We were there for Southern Decadence over Labor Day Weekend. The picture is from the parade on Sunday. What a great time! (More pix at my Picasa site.)

We hadn't been back since Hurricane Katrina, and it was a relief to see that the French Quarter is mostly back to 'normal' (as normal as the French Quarter ever is...!) There were some damaged and even destroyed buildings, but they were few and far between. We spoke with our hosts at the B&B we stayed in -- they said that the majority of the Quarter had little to no damage. Their property had lost a few slate tiles, the attic vents had blown away, etc. No flooding or water damage.

As everyone knows, the rest of the city did not fare so well.... To the south and east of downtown, there are still large areas of the city that are in ruins. We didn't have a car so didn't venture out that way -- and I'm not so sure they need to have gawkers driving through their despair....

I did find out, just before we left for New Orleans, that you can volunteer your time on a short-term basis. One of the most organized groups is Habitat for Humanity. (My dislike of religious organizations is, in this case, outweighed by the good this group does for people in need. Also, since 1984, Jimmy Carter has been involved with the organization, raising my esteem for the group even more.)

If you're heading to New Orleans and will have a spare day to do some volunteer work in the area, check out this site for a list of ongoing projects in the New Orleans area and their daily need for additional volunteers. (As it was a holiday weekend, there were very few projects active that day, so we didn't get a chance to participate.)

Nightlife is, as usual, amazing in New Orleans. We ventured out to the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood on Friday evening for an excellent time at the Phoenix. They held a beer bust/street party outside the bar that ran until late into the night. We later ventured inside and upstairs to check out the rest of the bar.... Nothing like it in San Diego!

Rawhide and LaFitte's in Exile is where we spent the rest of the weekend -- except for a few crazy hours at Cat's Meow, the karaoke bar right on Bourbon Street. We had a great time, chatted with lots of other visitors to the city and enjoyed their three-for-one drink specials!!

While we were in New Orleans, our buddies R&H from Manchester were here in San Diego. They were on a whirlwind trip through CA and NV, but our timing was a bit off and they planned to be here in SD while we were partying in New Orleans. What bad luck! But, we made the most of the situation and Bill and I ventured up to Yosemite to meet up with them. We had a great time hanging out with them and seeing some of the sights in the park, but my complaint is that we only had the one day to spend with them. Still, it was wonderful to see them again! Favorite moment: sitting out on the patio at the Ahwahnee Hotel, drinking hefeweizens and watching the squirrels cavorting on the lawn.

Those pix haven't made it to Picasa yet -- I'm runnin' a bit behind on my photo-uploads, but I have good reason. A week or so before our New Orleans trip, I suffered a hard-drive crash on my Powerbook. It's up and running again thanks to the guys at Cry Wolf, but I am still dealing with the aftermath: most of my applications are gone, settings and preferences need to be reset -- and, worst of all, I hadn't copied my photos from iPhoto in a LONG time. If I were to go into detail about what I might never retrieve from the old drive, I might break down and cry right here...!

Don't mention "backups" to me right now. I thought I had everything backed up on my external drive. It seems, though, that I had the wrong settings in the program and there was only a partial backup being done each week -- NOT including any of my photos, music, etc. Aaargh!

OK, enough for now. Until next post (hopefully a bit more regularly than every month!), you can view the pix I've been posting at Picasa.

- T

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Döner: decent...

Yesterday Dave got the keys to his new place. We brought a few bottles of wine and some classy plastic cups and helped him celebrate his new digs. The location is great! 1 1/2 blocks from Morley Field in a really nice area of North Park. His deck is destined to become the new outdoor dining mecca in San Diego. And, now we're practically neighbors again. I think I was a bit closer in Hamburg, but his new house can't be more than a mile away.

And now, on to the review! We dashed home from the döner place last night and dove into dinner. I guess the consensus was: decent.

Tj. and Bill both had the lamb. They liked the flavor, but the meat seemed to be typical gyros meat -- much more processed than what we're used to.

Dave and I each had a Geflügel-Döner -- ok, they just call it chicken. It was tasty, but I think a bit too much mint was added to the mix. Gave it an unusual flavor.

Our biggest complaint -- they do NOT serve the döner kebaps in Fladenbrot/flatbread. Instead, they use what is the most common of all possible foodstuffs here in SoCal -- tortillas....

Fine, it was like a Turkish burrito instead of a döner, but it still tasted good. (Dürum Döner is what the wrap-like döner is called, at least at all the Turkish places I know. Hey, Kebab Shop: offer both types of döner, put a bit more cacık on it -- and I'll be a regular!)

I'll go back for a lamb one next time -- oh, and for another salad, which was great. Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, lettuce, flat bread/pita cut into triangles and some delicious hummus. (Sad when the salad was my favorite part of the meal....)

- T

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Döner in San Diego?!

Tj., Bill and Dave are inside ordering - we can't vouch for 'em yet, but
I'll write more later after we chow down!

- T

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

We packed a lot into just one day today....

After working part of the day today -- [why, if it's called a national holiday, are so many places allowed to be open? Couldn't we survive just one day every few months where only public transportation, convenience stores and a few restaurants were open? Who else is old enough to remember when a holiday meant businesses were closed and most people were off work for the day and could spend time with their family and friends???!!!] -- I dashed home, changed and left for the AFC Bears pool party at Steve and Mike's place.

They've really got a killer location for summer parties. There's room outside in the yard to set up a bar, a buffet area and a grill, they have a big pool, lots of seating and space.... I've been to two pool parties there -- the place and the crowd are both memorable!

After quite a few hours socializing at the party, Tj., Bill, Dave and I headed back to our place, had a quick bite to eat and then drove to Bill's office building downtown. It is one of the top places in the city to see the fireworks -- 30 floors up, just off the bay, and balconies you can go out on for unobstructed views. Here's one of the shots I took this evening.

Happy 4th, everyone!

- T

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Great Dim Sum Find!

This is a shot of Chinatown in San Francisco. As long as I lived in SF and as often as I have visited the city since then, I never get enough of Chinatown (and the great food you can get there!) My favorite? Cha siu bau. Hands down. (There are a multitude of spellings and transliterations -- the one I wrote [and not the Wikipedia-preferred spelling] is the one I'm most familiar with.)

Our first day in San Francisco started with our schlepping our bags from Oakland to downtown San Francisco.

Ugh. How did they build BART in the '70s and not connect Oakland International Airport to the system? Who planned that fiasco? According to Wikipedia, about 14 million passengers traveled through the airport in 2004 -- and it must have increased since then. And still, the nearest BART stop is at the Coliseum -- about 4 miles (6.4 km) away. In order to get to the City, unless you splurge on a cab or limo, you must take the AirBART shuttle bus from the airport to the BART stop. It costs only $3 (exact bills ONLY!), but can be packed with travelers and luggage. Also, depending on traffic (and maybe the route the driver takes?), the ride can take more than 20 minutes!

When you finally arrive at the BART station, you now have to figure out the pre-paid fare card system, put enough money on the card to cover your ride and then insert (and retain) your ticket in the turnstile. Keep the card handy -- you'll need to re-insert it into a turnstile at your destination in order to leave the system....

Finally, you get on the appropriate train (from Coliseum you catch either a Daly City or Millbrae train) and head to your destination -- SF!

[I'll be fair -- other cities in the US didn't immediately see the advantage of connecting airports to public transportation systems either. Chicago has both the enormous O'Hare Airport and the smaller Midway Airport. But, they didn't connect the airports to the CTA train system until 1984 and 1993, respectively. San Diego International Airport has no trolley connection to the airport -- but there are shuttle buses that run right to downtown, and the airport's already basically in the city center -- it's only 2-3 miles away from Broadway.]

Unless the airfare is much lower flying into Oakland, or you're renting a car (not recommended if you're just visiting SF), I highly suggest flying into SFO. Travelers coming through SFO fare much better nowadays -- the BART line finally connected to SFO in 2003. Also, in the very near future (August 2007), the mega-cheap airline Southwest will begin flying into/out of SFO again. Hurrah!

OK, on to food. We walked from Market down 9th to our motel in SoMa. (Is it still a motel if you don't drive there?) Room wasn't ready, but we checked in and checked our bags. Then, instead of hanging around wasting time for 20 minutes, we decided to head out for lunch!

We didn't have anywhere in mind -- just didn't want burgers or the like. Bill had done a lot of online dim sum research before we headed to SF, but unfortunately he didn't have any of the info with him. So, we started doing phone and Treo searches and, while walking toward and then through Chinatown, happened upon a few reviews for Hang Ah Tea Room -- not really a tea room, it turns out, but the 'oldest Chinese restaurant in Chinatown', so they say.

There were enough reviews to warrant checking it out -- and was it worth it.

Getting there was half the fun. You head up Grant through the Chinatown Gate. Pass the many shops (you can get souvenirs after you fill your belly!) and head up the hill. When you come to Sacramento, make a left up the hill. Go past Waverly (but come back later to see what the less commercial side of Chinatown looks like). On your right you'll see the Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground. (I kid you not!) Go just past "Woo Woo" and make a right on Pagoda Place. The Hang Ah Tea Room is at the end of the alley on your left, at the back of the building.

When you go in, take a good look at the old pictures of Chinatown and some of the residents from last century. Then, head into the dining area and behold the neon poster paint motif! It is a sort of lime green/yellow, I think. Don't let this discourage you. Get a table, a menu and start ordering from the a la carte section. Don't be distracted by the full meals -- a la carte is where the good stuff is! You can supplement your dim sum selections with some chow fun like we did, but it's not necessary if you like fried foods.

The three of us filled ourselves with delicious dim sum, had an order of chow fun, soft drinks -- and left the place paying about $30 total. A great deal, really good food, nice friendly service -- what else could we ask for?

- T

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My New Role Model

"The people I hang out with have sense. They'll just say something like 'Thanks, I was getting a little thirsty.'" -- commenting on her habit of occasionally tossing a drink in the face of a friend, for effect

“I've dated men my age, younger than me and older. The only difference is the young ones are quicker at taking out the garbage.”

"Come on - phone sex is the biggest joke."

"I still sweat bullets if I go on The Tonight Show, but I tell myself, 'You can either have fun tonight or you can be shy and miserable.' You ask my friends or anyone I work with now -- nobody would say I was shy."

....I think Lara Flynn Boyle is my new role model....

Gay Pride in San Francisco

Our weekend in SF was excellent -- until the Monday we flew back. I ended up with the flu and flying home with a fever -- in fact, I was so delirious, I thought I saw Mr Magoo in a dress....

[some photos already posted on Picasa -- more SF stories and photos to come]

- T

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Nature versus nurture versus gay bombs

Today I'm sharing a link to a buddy's blog -- you won't believe the ridiculous news story he writes about.

Apparently, from the same outfit that brought you $600 toilet seats, there is now the $7.5 million plan to create gay bombs. In an effort to distract the enemy during time of war, the military spent millions upon millions of dollars trying to develop strong aphrodisiacs that would turn enemy soldiers gay.

The military claims they've since abandoned the plan.

(The story goes on to say that the Air Force proposed this idea in the mid-90s -- but I think the enemy was already using it on my Army unit back in the 80s!)


Sunday, June 10, 2007

I've found Bush's base!

Albanians lined up to welcome President Bush to the capital of Tirana on Sunday.

[photo courtesy Damir Sagolj/Reuters and the New York Times]

Recent polls put President Bush's percentile approval rating somewhere in the low 30s/upper 20s. I'd assumed they meant among American voters.

Bush On Tour has been in Europe for the past week. Along with attending the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm in Germany (a beautiful seaside resort built in the 18th C. on the shores of the Baltic -- wish I'd had a chance to visit...), he has been wowing fans in Prague, Poland, Rome and elsewhere.

(To be honest, he's actually been riling up citizens in various countries throughout Europe, causing protests and political actions to erupt in places that haven't seen this much unrest since before the fall of Communism.... But we won't split hairs.)

Oddly enough, the only place he's arrived to flag-waving onlookers has been New York Washington Chicago Los Angeles Poughkeepsie Tirana, Albania.

It seems the Albanians are infatuated with GWB. Apparently, from afar, the Albanians have come to love our president. The Albanian prime minister greeted him as “the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times.” Wow. Ever in all times? Alexander the Great, Saint Paul, Attila the Hun -- Bush is greater and more distinguished?

I was reading recently about groups in the South Pacific that worship the strangest of gods. One area of Vanuatu reveres Prince Philip (Queen Elizabeth's husband) as "simply divine". Elsewhere (on the same island, no less) there are some who worship a mythical WWII-era American known as John Frum -- it's called a cargo cult.

Albania has issued three stamps recently with President Bush's likeness on them -- they've also named the street in front of their parliament after him.... According to the NYT, even the Iraq War is popular there. Sorry Saint Paul, apparently your missionary work has been superseded.

- T

Friday, June 08, 2007

Blog and Life Revamped - Part II

This picture is from Big Springs, Nebraska. It's a small town just off of I-80 in the western part of the state, close to the Colorado border. It was one of the towns we stopped in (if only briefly), on the remainder of the January trip from Wisconsin to California.

We hit a lot of states in a short amount of time: Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, the tiniest northwest corner of Arizona, Nevada -- and, finally, California.

I really enjoyed the drive back through the center of the country. My only regret is that we didn't have additional time to stop and see more of these small towns.

Some highlights: I was amazed by how historic and picturesque Dubuque, Iowa looked. Beautiful old brick buildings in a valley along the Mississippi. It would definitely be worth another visit sometime, if I were in the area.

I would have liked to see the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln -- I've seen pictures and think the architecture alone would be worth a stop. (And not just because of its nickname: The Penis of the Plains. [Thank you Wikipedia for that bit of trivia.])

If Big Springs, NE (just off the interstate) was that photogenic, imagine what was to be found even further from the highway?

One disappointment (no offense, Coloradans!) was eastern Colorado and Denver. Not the highlight of the trip, by any means. Dusty, unappealing -- and Denver itself was pretty unattractive and ramshackle. We drove through mile after mile of body shops, strip malls, drab residential areas with little appeal. (It didn't help my overall impression of the city when we got into an accident with my newly-purchased Element in Denver. Luckily, the damage was none too severe (just some rear bumper repairs needed). We completed the drive and had the repairs done in San Diego.)

I DID really like the rest of Colorado west of Denver. What an amazing sight -- snow-covered mountains climbing up into the sky, deep valleys down below and I-70 right in the middle, hugging the side of the mountain as it heads west. I wish we'd seen more of it in the daylight -- thanks for driving through Colorado that evening, Tj.! I was in no mood to drive after having the accident in Denver....

We drove all the way through the Rockies and stayed the night in Grand Junction, CO -- then continued on through Utah the next day (another place I definitely want to get back to -- the bit we saw driving through was stunning), arriving in Vegas that evening. Bill flew in from San Diego and met us there -- the three of us had a great couple of days partying, seeing some of the changes/remodels at the casinos, gambling, eating too much.... Typical Vegas entertainment -- over-the-top and lots of fun.

We completed the trip back from Vegas the last week of January -- we got back to San Diego, I settled in and then reality (work!) started again on February 5th.

OK, now we're up to date -- I can blog in 'real time' from here on out!

- T

Saturday, June 02, 2007


OK, we interrupt my previous train of thought for this quick request. Who among you few readers of this blog have an LCD or Plasma TV? What are your opinions on: which is better -- LCD or plamsa and why? which has the wider viewing angle? is 1080 resolution necessary? 1080i or 1080p? burn-in problems? Panasonic, Philips, Sharp, Sony, Vizio, Westinghouse?

We're probably looking at either LCD or plasma, a cable HDTV DVR box, HDMI connector to the TV, and still using our TiVo boxes for non-HDTV shows (which we will then view on the new TV).

Tips? Reviews? Things to watch out for? Any help is appreciated. I've scoured the web for data, but this is one topic where there is TOO MUCH information available -- much of it contradictory....

- T

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Blog and Life Revamped - Part I

OK, first things first: what do you think of the blog's new look? I especially like the embedded slideshow of my most recent Picasa photo album. If you click on the photo, it will take you directly to the pictures.

Now for an update on my return to San Diego.

I arrived in Chicago and was met by my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. We spent my first night back in the States in Gurnee -- home of a big outlet mall north of Chicago. (Also home of Six Flags/Great America, but there wasn't much going on there the 2nd week of January!)

We drove north into Wisconsin and up to Green Bay -- then headed up the Door County peninsula to Sturgeon Bay.

Summer or winter, Door County is just beautiful. (Lots of pictures here.) It was great to spend time with my family. My parents' new place in town is just perfect for them -- all on one level, making it easy for my mom to get around and near everything Sturgeon Bay has to offer. (By the way, if you're in the market for a great year-round Door County home in Fish Creek, WI, my parents are selling their previous home. Make an offer!)

Toward the end of January, Tj. flew out to Wisconsin to join me in Door County and hang out with the family, as well. But, as much fun as I was having in Door County with the parents and my sister and her family (especially my little nephew), I was eager for us to get on the road.

Once I saw an Element, I realized it would be an ideal vehicle for me -- lots of room, fuel efficient, very utilitarian -- great as my back-and-forth-to-work vehicle, but also useful for short vacations, shopping trips, etc. Here's mine!

[to be continued]

- T

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

US troop deaths reach 3,000

Depressing, disgusting, unnecessary, embarrassing....

We also passed an important milestone in the Iraq War sometime during the Christmas week: more US servicemen have been killed during the Iraq War than there were victims of the attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Thank you CNN for the photo. We see far too few photos to remind us of the human loss associated with this -- or any -- war.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

My New Year's Eve was wonderful. Maik and Andreas had a small group of friends over for raclette, fireworks viewing from their rooftop terrace, good conversation and 'Gesellschaft'. What a great time! (I took some pictures, but left my camera at their place. Look for them to be posted in Picasa later in the week.)

I'm quickly approaching my travel date. This week should be fairly relaxed, though. I need to ship a few more things to San Diego this week. I plan to find a box tomorrow, load it up with books and computer cables and such, and mail it off.

Thursday I'm meeting up with some co-workers for another round of bowling. They're a competitive bunch -- let's see if I can improve my game a bit this time around!

Then, sometime this weekend, I will get together with my Hamburg buddies for a final, going-away dinner. I am going to miss the close friends I've made here, but I take comfort in the fact that I will be seeing most of them at some point in San Diego. (Nice to be going back to a destination that is really a tourist magnet!)

(Thank you to Fotocommunity for the photo.)

Ciao for now.

- T