Sunday, February 27, 2005

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...


But you already knew that. So don't expect details. All I'm going to say is we sent Wen off well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Fear


Why am I always so afraid? Why can't I just lean over to the pretty girl who chose to exercise on the ellipitcal trainer next to me and go "after we're done getting sweaty together, how about I buy you a coffee?" Alright. I know why I can't do exactly that, but I could easily ask why the book she brought is just sitting unopened.

Maybe if I knew what I was afraid of. As it is I can't even tell if I'm more afraid of her saying yes or no.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Vegas Baby!


I finally bought my ticket to get my ass to Las Vegas this weekend to say goodbye to Wen's bachelorhood. I hope I come back mostly intact.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Fastrack kicks so much ass


I got my fastrak about a month ago, and I love how easy it makes it to go over the bridges here. (For my east coast readers Fastrack == EZ-Pass). I just blew right past all the traffic taking the Bay Bridge back home last night.

And I also love to take the Bay Bridge. Whereas the San Mateo feels very blase, the Bay Bridge always makes me feel like I'm going to the city, and always triggers fond memories of driving to N.Y.


Well here's what happened...


I got up bright and early on Sunday morning ready for a day of rafting. It was so nice to have preprgrammed the Mr. Coffee so that as I stumbled out of bed I had the smell of coffee to help tell me it was morning. I call Mike and he and I head off to Berkeley where we arrive on time at Mel's. That should have been the first warning (Kuliga time is usually at least 15 minutes behind the rest of the world).

It turns out that none of the online stations that read water flows where actually sending data, so there was no way to tell what was going on in the Sierras from the East Bay. Delton (one of Mel's raftin buddies) had apparently been burned in the past, so didn't want to risk going up with a chance of no water. But Mel promised a day of driving, looking at water, and laughing, so the three of us got in her Jeep and drove up to the North Fork of the American River.

When we got there it was raining pretty hard and apparently the flow was something like 2800 cfs (cubic feet per second -- because a normal volume unit would be too easy) and Mel's cut-off for safely running the Class 4 rapids there was 2300 with experienced paddlers. So we said goodbye to the north fork and drove around Auburn to the South Fork.

The north fork isn't dam regulated so had high flow with all the rain we've been getting. The south fork however is man controlled and they weren't letting much through. (The flow was like 600 cfs). So we sat, ate lunch and laughed away with the Kayakers we had met up with.

To make sure the day wasn't a total waste, one of the kayakers had some land up near Georgetown, and on it was a deck that needed moving. I suppose I should be happy I got the chance to burn off at least a few calories on Sunday.

But we got back to Berkely and met up with Giles for a beer and buritos. And while I didn't get a chance to get miserably wet, I know that I haven't laughed that much in a day in a long time. I'll have to go rafting again sometime soon.


Saturday, February 19, 2005

Anyone up for a cold, wet, and miserably fun day?


Apparently we're not out of the rainy season yet. I had plans to go snow camping this weekend to get accustomed to cold weather backpacking, and to learn how to traverse snow covered hills. Well it rained today (as was forcast) and so we decided that snow camping in the rain really sucks, and there's only so much fun to be had with travel scrabble in a tent.

So instead we're going white water rafting tomorrow. It should be a great deal of fun (in that cold and miserable way) to go down some class 4 rapids in the rain. I expect this to be the kind of trip that makes me either love or hate rafting, so it should be interresting to see where I stand in 24 hours.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Waiting for the dust to settle


Literally.

I got myself an ostrich feather duster today and cleaned house. I certainly hope no one with allergies shows up as there was a lot of dust in the air for a while there and I think it's going to take some time to all settle down to a vacuumable position. But my entertainment system is black again, and my fireplace is, well it's not red, but it's as close as it ever was. And it wasn't actually all that much work.

So does anyone know if you're supposed to wash a duster? And if so how?


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Progress


Mike got back from his teacher meeting in L.A. tonight and came by to pick up his car. Accompanying him was Mel, who got to to see my place for the first time. She made referrence to a previous conversation we had about making sure my place was in appropriate condition to entertain company. And the thing that actually made me quite happy was that her complaint about the current status of my living room is that it needed to be dusted. Easily fixed, and (as far as I'm concerned) a relatively minor offense. It kinda makes me wish I had gone and gotten that duster at BB&B yesterday.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Difference a Day Can Make


I came damn close to breaking one of my internal blogging rules this week. I share a great deal of myself here, but there are a few things that I try to keep away. I try not to talk about real personal stuff. By which I mean I try not to post any accounts of events that could be linked back to a person that they might not want broadcast to the internet. Of course that's not the rule I almost broke. I also don't want to post while bitter.

I know that it's the time of year when bitterness is in the air. A lot of people are too happy to notice it, but as the year winds up to it's 45th day a good chunk of us start to curse a certain saint. And I think that the fact that last year I didn't spend the day alone (though I did stupidly not make any moves on the pretty girl who did spend Valentine's with me) is contributing to make this year worse.

And it was a bad week. With Mike out of town I had virtually no social contact outside of work. And at work I let the bitterness get to me much more than I should. There has been apparently a noticable difference in my behavior throughout the week, and it culminated in a bad conversation over pizza on Friday. I definetly needed to be put in my place (like I was) when I stepped over the line. And in addition to 'get over yourself' lesson, I'm going to try to take away some rhetoric tricks so I don't look at the experience as a waste.

Actually, the grain of sand that allowed that precipitate to form came earlier that day, and almost got it's own post entitled 'Even the blood bank doesn't want the product of my heart'. I had actually been turned down from donating because of low iron levels. Seems silly with the amount of red meat I consume (and I like to think I get a healthy concentration of spinich in my diet as well). Of course I did some research and learned that coffee blocks iron absorption, so maybe it's time to cut back.

Of course a title like that makes me realize that I'm not actually creating a whole lot of metaphorical cardiac product, and definetly gets me thinking that I should start putting in some effort. But I've digressed almost to the point of bitterness again, so let's return the what this post is supposed to be about.

Starting Saturday morning it started to turn around for the better.

I went to a yoga class at my gym. I had to set my alarm to make the 8:15a.m. class and naturally wanted to go back to sleep when it woke me up so early on a weekend. And then the really weird part started to settle in. The fear. I was actually afraid of going to a yoga class. I couldn't entirely figure out what I feared, but there was definetly the same feeling I get before having to talk to people at a conference, or call someone I don't know that well on the phone.

I actually had to pull out the resolution-esque "don't let fear run you" in ordeer to convince myself to go. I think deep down I feared that I was going to get yelled at my the instructor that I was holding people back. I've gotta be the only person in the history of the world who actually feared getting yelled at my a yoga instructor.

But I went. And I joined the class. And I yoga'd (or whatever the past tense of a noun'ed yoga would be). I had picked the class that had expressly mentioned strength in the description (of course it had flexibility as well), and I guess I can see how people can get a work out from it (I'm not talking about Bikhram Yoga however. Doing anything in 105 degree heat seems like it would be a good exercise to me), but what I really liked was how at the end of an hour and a half, how relaxed I was. It was absolutely amazing how big a difference I had experienced in my emotional state.

Of course leaving the gym, I thought "well this is nice. I'll feel better for a couple of hours at least", and as it turns out I was remarkably good at estimating time this weekend. Fortunately there were two more events that day that helped twist me around more permanently.

The first of those is that Ishy and I finally found Fort Funston. This place is amazing. It's a huge sandy cliff over a beach with miles of trails, and literally hundreds of off leash dogs. I was so amazed at how well Ishy followed me (and my voice commands to call him), and just how nice it was to not have to worry about keeping him within 6 feet.

He played and romped with so many dogs and got so tired, that it was a delight for me to watch. Though he did get into his first real fight there as well. I'm not sure who started it (I was watching the waves during the time when whoever threw the first punch), but I did turn as soon as I heard growling and barking, and was surprised to see it was Ishy. I've never seen him bear his teeth before, and I had to actually get in there and restrain him. So did the other owner as the other dog was actually following my and Ishy as I led him away.

First off, I'm kinda proud that when they started at each other, I just jumped in to separate them, and wasn't worried about myself. I only cared that the two dogs needed to be separated. And secondly (and I'm glad he can't read this), I'm proud of Ishy. I'm proud that he can hold his own. I'm proud that if needed he could defend me. And he's got a helluva bark.

And after a good time at the beach I we headed home to spend some afternoon time resting on the couch. And then for dinner Andrew and Lexi invite me to come out to go to Izzy's. It's a steak and chops place right across the 101 (it's actually next to the airport, and there was an unmanned helicopter sitting just on the other side of the fence from the parking lot. I had to fight all my GTA instincts not to jump the fence and try to hotwire it). The three of us haven't gone out together as much since the dieting started (and Jaime and Ishy moved in), so it was definetly nice to go out and talk with people over dinner.

And apparently Andrew's job is preventing them from spending Monday together. I don't want to let that make me feel any better, but it does just the same.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Be Careful How You Make Your Wishes


Well today included an interresting run of luck. For lunch we headed to Armadillo Willy's for some BBQ. Last time we were there, they had a chile dog for a lunch special which looked really good so I ordered it. The cashier seemed O.K. with it, but after I sat down and started waiting for it, he came in to let me know that the special had been cancelled. He replaced it with a different dish which actually would have cost me a couple of bucks more, so I figured it was alright that I didn't get my dog (though I'll probably have to break down and find one Wednesday night).

Then, later in the afternoon, Stephen comes into the engineering room and lets us know that he managed to find one of the straps to hold stuff to his motorcycle. And like everytime Stephen comes by to talk it's a tale worth listening to. He had apparently been sitting at his desk this morning and was going over the last time he had had the strap (because it was at that point lost), and he remembers that he had it last a week or so ago out in the street in front of the office. So he looks out the window, and there it is in the gutter.

It's at this point that he mentiones how glad he is that no one ever cleans the street there, and jokingly I mention that if he ever sees the cap to a coffee mug down there he should let me know. I had lost one almost 3 weeks ago. And this is the point where he tells me that he knows right where it is.

Well now I have my coffee mugs cap back, and I start thinking that this must be my lucky day (it's even suggested that I go buy a lottery ticket to make sure I take full advantage). The part of my brain that believes in magic (that I just can't beat down regardless of how much science I need/know) starts to believe in it and is convincing enough to persuade me to grab 'The Professor and The Madman' to read when I go out to dinner.

Well, here's where we'll need some explanation. I needed a new book to read since I had finished my last on Friday. So I went to my overly large book queue to pull something out and start to read while I went to get some ribs for dinner. Just before Christmas, Rich had leant me 'The Professor and the Madman' to go through, and so I grabbed it to read figuring that it was going to be the most enjoyable book to read with some chance of a woman walking over to start a discussion about it.

And to my surprise, the part of my brain still under Disney's control was right. Sort of. A woman did come over to remark that my book was a good read. Unfortunately she was about 40 years older than I had hoped for. I'll have to remember to be more specific about my requests in the future.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

This Weekend's Lessons


Some tasks need to be completed without a metric of progress

I have a problem with futility. Actually it's the exact opposite of the problem that computer in WarGames had. I'll often set to task on a problem and get frustrated at a lack of an appreciable metric of progress. I've been trying to work on that, and it seems to be one of those things that really signifies growing up.

I mean when you can't just put something down and have someone else magically fix it, you have to work through the pain and get it done yourself. This would be the lesson that was going through my head as I sat for hours at the brakes.

Washing dishes with a multitude of little cuts can be a painful experience

So another result of my time with a wrench this weekend was a whole lot of tiny cuts on my hand from every time a tool slipped and my fingers where thrown against some sharp steel edge. The broken skin wasn't exactly painful (the cramps were what was taking up the majority of my nerves bandwidth) at the time. However when I did the dishes after dinner tonight, I definetly notices a whole lot of spots on my hands that were unhappy about having soap on them.

Well growth comes from pain...

100W light bulbs are bright

Yeah. OK. In todays global climate, I probably shouldn't be wasting energy. Even if my landlord pays the electric bill. But the lights in the laundry room (both of them) went out this weekend, so I needed some new bulbs. I figured I'ld get some nice bright 100W bulbs, and I got a whole bunch extra so I could add some light to the rest of the house.

It made a huge difference, and I certainly wish I had gotten them before I blazed my way through the end of the Dark Tower series.


PITA and Unitaskers


The next time that I read that an automotive procedure is a real Pain In The Ass I'm going to think twice about doing it myself.

I finally got around to replacing my rear brake pads this weekend. It hadn't been an emergency before Christmas, so I had put off doing it for a while, and finally thought that this weekend would be a good time to get my hands greasy (Figuring that if I got out my testosterone that way, then I wouldn't feel bad about not watching the Super Bowl). I took Ishy on a failed expidition to find Fort Funston in S.F. yesterday (don't go on John Muir Road, it's right off of 35) and got back at 2:00 P.M. yesterday. Figuring that gave me 3+ hours of daylight, and that an hour per tire was a good measure (it was right for the fronts with no experience, so I figure it would be good for the more challenging rears with some experience) I lifted the car and started to work.

All was well until I got to the part where you have to push the fully extended (because the pads are so thin) piston all the way in to make room for the new fuller pads. On the front axle you do this by applying preassure with a C-clamp before you remove the calipers. On the rear axle (since it's where the emergency brake goes), you do this by actually screwing in the piston. And the only grip you get is these two small notches at either end of a diameter.

So there is a 'proper' tool for this (we'll come to that later), but without it you have to do what I did which is to apply about as much torque as is reasonably possible to a pair of needle nose pliers while applying also as much force as is reasonably possible to keep the points wedged into the notches and rotate clockwise. After an hour or more of gruelling work, I finally was able to get the first piston in place and reattach the caliper to the rotor.

The problem is that the last few turns were easy, and so drunk on power I figured that I could get the other one done with plenty of time before the sun went down. Boy was I wrong.

After two hours of grunting and turning I finally conceeded that the dark and hunger were winning. I think part of this was that the other piston had been extended further, and that also the muscles in my hand were a cramping tired mess. I went to get dinner and tried again for another half hour or so with a head lamp before finally giving up for the night.

But, I'm extraordinarily paranoid and live in California, so my mind kept running to thoughts of earthquakes in the middle of the night throwing my car off the jacks and onto it's poor untired rotor. After some extremem mental anguish I went and put the tire back on inspite of it's brake not being attached, just in case it fell in the night.

Anyway, this morning I took a walk to Pep Boys and found the 'proper' tool for the job. Usually I'm against unitaskers (I liked Alton Brown's reasonings here), but this was a $10 tool that was going to save me hours of work, which easily made it a cost effective decision in my book. Anyway the break piston tool (that's really it's name) is a cube with 3/8 inch holes on all the sides (for a socket wrench to attach) and little nubbins of all sorts of shapes to fit whatever your pistons notches happened to look like.

Even with the tool though, the operation was still a major PITA and took anouther half hour of gruelling arm work. Mostly the problems stemmed from not having a third arm (I hate how often that's the case with mechanical work) but eventually I made do. And am now driving with a very safe amount of brake pad on all four tires.

Of course after I violated my poor Sally like that (Lifting her dress and leaving her ass facing the street all night, and then grinding away at her again in the morning), I figured I should give her a treat, so we went to the car wash. She looks very pretty now, I just hope she forgives me.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Now that I don't have to worry about writing this more than once


Apparently Punxatauny Phil saw his shadow yesterday. And while the east coast is going to enjoy 6 more weeks of winter, I'm just going to have to be content with the sunny and 70 weather we've been having this week. Luckily I can suffer with the top down and the wind in my hair.

Unexpected Kindness


It's the little rays of sunshine that you don't see coming that tend to hit you the hardest. Scootie-puff-puff was at climbing tonight. Perhaps that deserves some explaining...

We've taken to setting up an initiation ritual by starting with names the squinks will really hope don't catch on at school. We haven't figured out what demonstrate that they are ready to leave their nicknames, but I'm sure we'll know it when we see it. And I'm half responsible for the name Scootie-Puff-Puff. I like to think of it as the fun half.

But anyway, he came out tonight, and his mom came to pick him up. When she did she gave me a bag of chalk to thank me for being there. As it is, I'm mostly going because I have a great time climbing, and I enjoy spending time with the kids. Sometimes I forget that I'm actually making some sort of difference in their lives.

Thank you scootie's mom.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Elections


Back in November I remember thinking about people in Detroit waiting on line for eight hours to vote with pride. I realized that I don't know if I would make such a sacrifice for democracy (though I suppose I'm unlikely to ever vote in a district where that's a problem). But yesterday 60% of those eligible to vote in Iraq did so under the threat of beheading. Those people fucking deserve democracy.

5.11-


It's been so sweet the last couple of times at the gym. I had started to get complacent with the climbs I had been working on (mostly because they were at or above the level Mike was at before his injury) and was resisiting the urge to push further. I finally got over that.

There's been a couple of 5.11- routes that looked do-able so I've been trying them out and finding that, while extemely challenging, they are in fact within the high end of my capabilities. It's so sweet.

And at least one or two have been challenging for technique reasons. This means that do-better (one of the squinks who needs that nickname to convince him to actually do work) can't quite manage it. It's always a little annoying to see how easily the endomorphs take to climbing, what with their low body mass and all. And he needs to have some real challenges to actually force him to learn technique. So it's not just my self delusions that are being fed here either.

And Mike's shoulder injury appears to be almost fully healed, so he's been keeping right up with me. I know it drove him nuts when I got a head of him, and I'm enjoying the on-par status now that keeps us pushing each other.