Monday, September 17, 2007
Austin City Limits
Austin City Limits was one big hot and sweaty mass of humanity. And it was great, as we expected. We suffered through the heat, had our daily slushee around 5:00 -- those things do wonders to cool you down, and anxiously awaited the sunset. As the sun goes down, everything starts to seem better. It's cooler. The music is better. It gets hard to see anything in the dark except that there are bodies everywhere, and the whole experience becomes surreal.
We drove up on Friday morning and stayed with my college friends Leila and Brian. Despite the fact that they live less than 4 hours away, I hadn't seen them in two years. They moved from southwest Austin even farther out to Driftwood about a year ago, so this was the first time I'd seen their new house. Though they do live in the boonies (albeit a convenient mile from the Salt Lick), their house was beautiful. We didn't spend a lot of time there with the music festival and everything, but we did have time to play their Nintendo Wii. Extremely fun -- and a surprisingly good workout. Our arms were sore the day after playing an hour and a half of tennis, boxing, golf, bowling, and baseball.
Staying there also gave me the chance to go biking with Leila on Saturday morning. She's training for the 40-mile ride as part of the Livestrong Challenge next month, so she's been riding and spinning a lot. We drove to one of the areas that's popular with biking and rode about 17.5 miles at a leisurely 14 mph average -- and finally stopped because my front tire was losing air at a fairly rapid rate. (I haven't found the culprit yet, but I haven't actually taken the tire off yet. Will do that tonight.) It was a nice ride, though even the relatively small rolling hills of Austin did a number on this flatland cyclist. I was puffing and panting on any incline. As we finished putting the bikes back on the car, I lifted up my shirt to wipe the sweat off my face and trapped some kind of insect in there. It must have been a bee. When I lifted my shirt again in response to a stinging sensation, something fell out and there was a stinger stuck right there in my tummy flab. Ouch! I pulled it out, and the sting really hurt for a bit. The pain went away after a while, but then the itching started. It still itches like crazy. Itch itch itch.
Yesterday was Leila's birthday, so we celebrated with brunch at a restaurant downtown. The service left a little to be desired, but the food was great. Jose and I wandered around downtown Austin for a few hours after that before heading over to the final day of the festival.
ACL itself was, as previously mentioned, a blast. Favorite acts included Andy Palacios and the Garifuna Collective (a band from Belize that we discovered on Friday), Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, and The Decemberists. The worst act we saw was Regina Spektor. She's very popular right now and I'd heard her most popular song on the radio and thought it was ok -- but I hated her performance. Ugh.
We had to leave after Decemberists (though heard some of Bob Dylan while waiting in line for the buses) to head back to Houston. I drove the first half feeling fine, then proved that as soon as I hit the passenger's seat, no matter what, I fall asleep. I feel really bad for making Jose drive from 11:45 - 1:30 with no one to keep him entertained. I am no match for the passenger seat and its sleep-inducing qualities.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
There's nothing like a four day week, especially when there are two four day weeks in a row. I'm off to Austin tomorrow morning for a weekend of music at Austin City Limits. I'm trying not to think about how much I'll be sweating in the heat. The daytime can be pretty miserable. But everything is forgiven in the evening, when the sun goes down and the music goes up.
You can follow me on my Flickr stream if you're interested; I'll try to keep it updated.
Monday, September 03, 2007
On Friday night as we sat at the gate for our flight to Ohio and waited to board the plane, Jose, Nick, Heather and I managed to offend nearly everyone in the area with the following:
"Why are we going to Cleveland again? Is there anything good about Cleveland? Oh well, at least we're getting the hell out of Texas..."
However, after an absolutely fantastic 48 hours, I'm happy and a little bit surprised to report that the song is actually true -- Cleveland does rock!
We flew in on Friday night and spent the late evening hours hanging out in the breakfast area at the Holiday Inn Express. Not the most auspicious start to the weekend, but it was all we had. Saturday morning came bright and early with a return to the breakfast area for cinnamon rolls and coffee. It turns out that not a single one of the four of us is really that much of a morning person, and we sat at breakfast for an hour trying to wake up.
We headed downtown in search of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As we arrived, we realized that the museum was right next to a small airport right on Lake Erie that happened to be hosting the Cleveland National Air Show all weekend! Very exciting. There was a balcony at the Hall of Fame where we were able to sit down and watch the aerobatic performances for a little while -- we could see the end of the runway without a problem. It was a great view.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame turned out to be really cool. I had pictured just a bunch of signed guitars, but the whole place was very well done. Someone (and probably many someones) obviously put a lot of time and effort into getting that place going, because the amount of items that they have in their collection was really impressive. Yes, there were lots of guitars, but there were also tons of other items. The red jacket that Michael Jackson wore in the "Thriller" video. A sheet of paper with Aerosmith's lyrics to "Walk This Way," along with plenty of other lyrics scrawled on paper by other musicians. Costumes from various tours and music videos -- Madonna is one skinny woman, judging from her clothes. John Lennon's report cards and doodles. Bono's first guitar. Receipts from Elvis's hotel stays. Johnny Cash's tour bus. Pieces of the plane that crashed, killing Otis Redding. Plenty of stations with headphones to listen to music, and huge displays of tour posters, CD covers, album art, and photographs.
Sadly, photos weren't allowed, but it was a great museum, and I'd highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in Cleveland. We were only able to stay for a couple hours, and we could've stayed for more. I mean, we didn't even see the actual Hall of Fame exhibit, which was a movie and multimedia presentation! But we did see the Thriller jacket, so, you know, priorities.
We had to leave the museum a bit early because we had to find a mall. Why, you might ask, did we need to find a mall? Well, Nick managed to leave Houston with only the shoes on his feet. Which were old worn out sneakers. Which probably wouldn't have gone very well with the nice pants, dress shirt, and tie he brought to wear to the wedding. We set out on foot to find a mall called The Galleria that was a short walk away. We found the mall, but it was strangely empty for a Saturday afternoon. Most of the stores were closed, and the whole thing looked slightly abandoned. One of the few people in sight was working in an art store, and she recommended that we try Tower City Center, an 8-10 minute walk farther from where we'd left our car. It was 2:00. The wedding was at 4:00.
Off we went. We arrived at the mall, which was much more of a mall than the first place, and Nick was able to find some shoes at Payless while Jose and I went off to search for a black belt. (Jose had forgotten his, which was funny enough but paled in comparison to Nick's forgotten shoes.) The only ones we found were at Brooks Brothers, and they were $88. Needless to say, Jose went to the wedding without a belt.
We speed-walked back through downtown and got to the car at 2:40. Nick drove like a Texan and got us back to the hotel right at 3:00. We calculated that we needed to leave by 3:30 to make it to the wedding with some time to spare, and we hurried into our respective rooms to iron, primp, and get dressed. We were back in the car at 3:35 and headed to the chapel, which was about 8 miles away.
It was a nerve-wracking drive, but we knew we'd make it. It would have really sucked to have come all the way to Ohio only to miss the actual wedding ceremony. We finally turned the corner onto the chapel's street and breathed a sigh of relief. The chapel was only a quarter mile down the road, and we could see the steeple. And that's when we saw the train.
Just before the chapel, a train was crossing the road. We could see the steeple of the chapel just beyond the train tracks. It was so close, and yet so far. We came to a stop behind at least 10-15 cars backed up in front of us, and the fact that there were so many cars ahead of us reassured us that the train had probably been passing for a while, and would end soon. It was 3:51.
But the train kept going, and going. It was 3:54, then 3:57. The clock clicked to 3:59, and then 4:00. Panic set in.
"This is unbelievable!"
"This is the longest train in the entire world!"
"I can see the freaking steeple!"
"Melissa is going to absolutely kill us!"
At 4:01, a second train appeared. A second train. There were two sets of tracks, and while the first train continued to slowly pass, a freaking second train joined the fray. At 4:02, the first train finally ended, but the second train was still passing.
"You have got to be kidding me!"
"I cannot believe there are two trains!"
"I'm going to throw up."
"Melissa is going to kill us and then revive us, just to kill us again!"
At 4:04, the second train finally ended. We had sat in the car for the longest 13 minutes of my life watching two trains pass between us and the wedding chapel.
We parked and ran across the street to the chapel. Thankfully, we were not the only guests stuck behind the train, as there were at least a dozen others running across the street with us, and the ushers and grandparents were gathered at the front of the chapel laughing at the absurdity of it all. They, of course, had been able to see the train as well (apparently the train passing lasted for 16 minutes all in all), and the wedding was postponed by 15 minutes to let everyone arrive.
The ceremony was lovely, and afterwards we blew bubbles as the newlyweds came out of the chapel to board a limo bus bound for the reception. Melissa's "aunt" made this amazing piece of artwork that was posted on the back of the bus, a drawing of Matt and Melissa and all sorts of things significant to them and to their lives. It was really cool.
Jose, Nick, Heather and I wandered down the street from the wedding chapel to check out a covered bridge and small park and decided that Cleveland really wasn't so bad after all. We drove to the reception past lovely houses and tall trees and green fields and started to realize why Melissa likes Ohio so much.
The reception was held at a country club. The hors d'oeuvres were tasty, dinner was fabulous, and the reception was one of the most fun that I've ever attended. The DJ did a great job on song selection (maybe Matt and Melissa helped) and everything was perfect for dancing. Maybe it was the open bar with much joked about "top shelf liquor," or maybe it was the fact that we knew we'd never see any of those people again except Melissa, Matt, Kelly and John, but we danced like crazy. We even got Jose and Nick to join the crowd! Each time any of us tried to sit down for a breather, Kelly would appear to pull us back in. At midnight, the DJs finally wound things up, but people lingered for another 20 minutes. I figure that's the sign of a good reception -- when people stay even after the music stops.
We didn't even get to sleep in the next morning, since we were off to Melissa's house at 11:00 for lunch with the family, bridal party, and other out of town guests. It was great, but we could only stay for an hour. From there we headed back downtown to see Indians take on the White Sox at Jacobs Field.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous the entire weekend, and it was pure heaven sitting at the baseball game under the shade of the upper deck's awning, feeling the breeze off the lake and watching some baseball. The air show was still going on, and the Air Force Thunderbirds highlighted the show during the 8th inning of the game. We could see them in formation as they flew around downtown to do their stunts over the lakefront airport. Every so often, one of the planes would fly past such that the shadow crossed the baseball field, which was just too cool.
At one point, the crowd in the upper deck of left field started to shout and cheer. The Indians were losing 8-0 at that point and there wasn't much to cheer about, so we were confused for an instant -- and then the roar of 6 F-16s shook the stadium as they flew directly overhead, the shadows of 6 military jets streaking across the outfield grass. I'm sure it was hell on the pitchers to concentrate amidst all the engine noise, but it was awesome for the crowd.
We had such a great time in less than 48 hours that it was almost sad to have to drive from the stadium to the airport. I'm now officially sorry that I ever made fun of Cleveland.
I put a set of photos on Flickr, and you can enjoy them here as well.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I realized last week that for the first time ever, I am poised to finish the year without using all of my vacation time. This is utterly appalling to me, and I am even more upset about it than I am when people tell me that oh, it's ok that they'll miss seeing the baseball game because they'll just Tivo it (which is to say, quite upset). Obviously this excess of leave means I have not taken enough vacations this year.
Sadly, I don't think this is a problem I'll be able to fix. While I have two (possibly three) more long weekends planned for 2007, there is no big trip this year. No Greece, no Machu Picchu, no Patagonia. To make up for this, I can look forward to not one but two very large trips next year.
Last week, one of Jose's best friends from college was in town to visit her fiance, who is a Ph.D. student in geology and was interning for Chevron over the summer. We had sushi up in town and Jose and Meryl got caught up on the three years of events since they'd last seen each other. She and James, her fiance, are both very nice and they're getting married next July in her home state. Did I mention that her home state is Alaska?
So next summer I will finally get to go to Denali. We're already planning to take a solid week off work and go to the wedding in Anchorage, spend some time in Denali, and take in whatever else there is to see. I can't wait!
The other big trip is a long jaunt to Japan sometime in the spring. We weanted to go this fall, but we just couldn't squeeze it in among holidays, already-planned activities, and the various shuttle missions and their possible slippage. Japan!
2008 is gonna be awesome.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
A Whale of a Tale
I mentioned that we took a whale-watching tour on Saturday morning. It was one of the cooler little side excursions I've ever taken, as 1) I had never been that far out into open ocean before and 2) I had never seen real live whales before, at least not in their natural habitat. They gather at Stellwagen Bank about 20 miles outside Boston Harbor. We got a lot of great views of the whales, and the photos don't really do it justice. The only way it could have been better would've been if the whale had jumped out of the water or something. They came right up to the boat and even swam under us a few times. They seemed as curious about us as we were about them.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Think I'll Move to Boston...
I didn't have a chance to pick up Harry Potter on Saturday, so when I saw it at one of the airport newsstands at 4:50 a.m. yesterday morning as we walked to our gate for our very early flight, I stopped and purchased a copy at full price. Ten minutes later, the airport Borders opened offering the same book at 40% off. Borders proceeded to mock me again in the Cincinnati airport. Who knew that the airport store would open at 5 a.m.? Not me.
I read 285 pages yesterday, between bouts of napping. After the 3 hours of sleep we got before heading to the airport, once we got home I slept from 1:30 to 5:30. I took a nap that was longer than my previous night's sleep! Though funny, I worried that the nap was too long and I wouldn't be able to fall asleep last night. Silly. I crashed again at 11:30 p.m. The book is good so far, but I still don't have a clue how it's going to end. More questions than answers so far.
The Harry Potter mania is amazing to me, not because of the particular characters or subject, but simply because the mania is about a book. Has this ever happened in my lifetime? Such anticipation, such excitement, parties everywhere? It's happened for movies, for technology (iPhone anyone?), for sporting events. But as I passed through the airports yesterday, I spotted the thick book and orange cover peeking out from under dozens of arms. On my flight from Boston to Cincinnati, four of six people in my row were reading it -- only Jose and another man were immune. The guy next to me sat down, looked at my book, pointed at his, and just said "yeah, me too." All this for a book? It seems unprecedented to me.
Our vacation in Boston was absolutely exhausting. Exhausting and awesome! We had a great time and walked all over that freaking city. There are very few fat people in Boston, probably because they can walk everyone. It's no coincidence that Houston is regularly named the fattest city in America; you don't want to go outside in the heat, and even if you wanted to, you can't walk anywhere. Houston is a city designed for vehicle travel alone. Most places don't even have sidewalks.
But Boston is, of course, incredibly walkable. We walked all over Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Newbury Street on Thursday, we walked the entire Freedom Trail on Friday with another lap of Newbury and across the Mass Ave bridge, and on Saturday we walked from Fenway back to Cambridge across the bridge again. In four days, I estimate we probably walked about 30 miles.
I'll be posting more photos as I have time, but for now I'll share the batch of "look at us" shots.
On Saturday, we took a whale-watching tour from the New England Aquarium. It was Jose's idea, and it was awesome! After traveling about 20 miles off-shore, we came across a trio of humpback whales that seemed just as interested in us as we were in them. They came right up to the boat and we got some great views. Here I am doing my standard "arms in the air" thing on the front of the high-speed catamaran, as well as both of us on the boat.
After the whale-watching tour, we had just enough time to grab lunch before heading to Fenway Park for the Red Sox-White Sox game. The Red Sox won big, 11-2, so it was a lot of fun despite the guys behind us that couldn't hold onto their beers. Seriously, when you're paying $7 for a beer, you think you'd be able to avoid spilling it! Oh well, it's part of the Fenway experience I suppose.
On our walk home, we stopped along the Massachusetts Avenue bridge to enjoy the view of the skyline at dusk. It was very pretty, so we asked a passing man to take our photo. I told him that we wanted the skyline in the background, but apparently this was too difficult for him, and so our photo looked like this.
Some people just cannot take a photo! We waited for a bit until another man passed by, and asked him to take a photo for us. Again, the photo was crap. What gives? Finally a third man passed by, and he had a digital SLR. I decided to go with the assumption that a guy with a nice camera should be able to take a decent picture, and fortunately I was right.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
At the end of May, Jose and I bought 2 tickets to this Saturday's Red Sox game. This, of course, necessitated actually going to Boston, so voila! We bought plane tickets a few weeks ago and here we are! Just a random, awesome vacation in Boston. Jose went to college here and this is the first time he's been back since graduation. He wants to move back here. The bad thing is that I want to move here too.
Yesterday we left Houston at the ungodly time of 6:45 a.m. which meant getting up at 4:00. Despite getting about 4 hours of sleep, we made the most of our afternoon here. We checked into the Hotel @ MIT, which is just a fabulously nerdy as it sounds. There are equations on the blanket on the bed, old photos of MIT on the wall, the lights look like circuit boards, and there's a atom on the carpet in the elevator. There are robots in the lobby, and giant prints of MIT patent applications on the wall behind the check-in desk.
We walked around the MIT campus yesterday as Jose talked and talked about his memories of college. "I must be boring you," he said. But he wasn't. I liked hearing all his college stories. I know I'll talk his ear off with the same thing whenever we visit Atlanta together.
We stopped at the MIT bookstore so he could finally embrace his alma mater with a sticker for his car and a few other things. They had ads up all over the place for the Harry Potter release tomorrow, so I went ahead and reserved a copy of the book at the MIT bookstore. I can start reading it on the plane home on Sunday.
Last night we met up with his friend Seth and Seth's friend Sarah and had sushi and then went to hear a musician described by Seth as an "extreme cellist." Sounds a little sketchy, right? But the guy, Erik Friedlander, was actually amazing. He sometimes played the cello normally, and sometimes played it rather like a guitar. It was pretty amazing that he was making all those sounds and all that cool music with a single instrument. Definitely worthwhile. Even crazier was that the concert was just being held in some little gallery in Cambridge. One room, a bunch of folding chairs, on some random street. This is the kind of stuff that just doesn't happen in Houston.
We crashed by 11:00, exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before. This morning we went on a run-slash-walk from the hotel, across the Charles River, along the Boston side, back across the Longfellow Bridge, and back to the hotel. It was almost 4 miles, and Jose has not run in quite a while, so after a few miles of run-walking, we pretty much walked the entire last bit. It took us over an hour, so I hesitate to count it as a run, but it was still good exercise. I hope to get in a solid 4-5 mile run on Saturday. This city is a great city for running.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I'm in Boston! More later.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Ok, what gives? Why have plane ticket prices suddenly gone through the roof? Is it the higher gas cost? What? My mom is coming to visit next week and the cheapest reasonable ticket I could find was $350. Now I'm trying to find a ticket to Boston in mid-July and I could get it for $260...if I left Sunday morning at 5:35 a.m.! Any reasonable times are $350 or more. Suck.
The first lesson in "how to fly the space shuttle" was on the DST. I don't actually know what DST stands for. (Dynamic Systems Trainer? That's an educated guess.) Anyway, the DST is a computer that's hooked up to the translational and rotational hand controllers (i.e. the sticks) so that you can practice flying the shuttle. It's like a shuttle on a desk top.
First of all, I probably should not have attempted to do anything that required serious thought yesterday, as I am still recovering from my cold-that-strangly-had-no-associated-congestion-just-the-achiness-and-general-malaise and as such, my head has been very fuzzy. Trying to fly the space shuttle with a very fuzzy head is hard. I found it very difficult to concentrate.
Secondly, I am going to have to get a little space shuttle model and label it with the +X, +Y, and +Z axes and sleep with the darn thing under my pillow in hopes of learning through osmosis what the body coordinate system is, because I can't for the life of me remember it. For the record, +X is out the nose, +Y is out the right wing, and +Z is through the belly.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Jen and Becca reminded me that I still owed everyone photos from skiing in Colorado. So there they are.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Snowmobiling was way more awesome than I expected. We rode up to the top of a peak to see for miles around, then rode across a ridge, down the mountain, into a field where we got to race around and go over bumps, and finally through the trees where Jose and I got our snowmobile stuck in a deep bit of powder. The mountains are so incredibly beautiful.
Gavin, Jen, me, Jose, and Becca way up high!
Jose having fun in the "playground." He hit 65 mph -- I only made it to 50, so I'm not quite sure how he did it.
Snow blowing off the ridge.
Oh yeah, we got our snowmobile stuck in the powder! (For the record, Jose was driving.)
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I don't think I've ever been this sore in my life.
First of all, Vail can suck it. "Green," they say. "This run is a beginner run." What they don't mention is that in the middle of their green runs, there always seemed to be a blue-level steep slope. And every run, no matter what the level, ended with a steep dive back down to the life. I'm sure it's a lovely mountain if you are an intermediate-to-advanced skier, but not for moi. Thankfully, we went to Vail on our second day -- if we'd gone there on Sunday, I think I would've gone down half the mountain on my butt.
On Sunday we did our first day of skiing at Beaver Creek, a much friendlier mountain. The basics came back to me quickly enough and we had a very nice day there overall. Jose and I stuck to the greens all day and had a lot of fun. I don't think our friends -- the ones that have been skiing since they were kids -- understand our motivation for skiing. They keep telling me to push myself, go faster, etc. What I really want to do is just have fun cruising down the easy greens.
Why? Here it is: skiing scares me. It just plain scares me. I don't really feel like going down the steep blues until I want to.
But the nice, wide easy greens are awesome. I love doing them. I love being able to look around a little while I'm cruising down the mountain. I like not having my feet cramp up (though with the rental boots I ended up with this time, that may be unavoidable; foot pain like I've never experienced in my life) and I like just having fun.
So I'm looking forward to hitting Breckenridge with Jose on Thursday and Friday, where there are reportedly much nicer green runs, and I can get new rental boots, and I can stop feeling like I'm skiing out of control and like all of my toenails are about to fall off. :) Because there are moments when I like skiing, and I want to like skiing. Last year at Tahoe was awesome. This year has been hit-or-miss.
Today Jose and I took the day off and relaxed in a major way -- watched a lot of TV, walked around town, had lunch at a bakery/deli, watched a movie, and more TV. We basically don't want to move because our calf muscles scream when we do.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I put Kent's photos from
I put Kent's photos from last weekend up in the gallery to go along with mine.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Photos from the recent trip
Photos from the recent trip Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness, and my drive from the Denver airport to Keystone are up in my gallery. Most are mine, but the ones at the end were taken by Jose using my point-n-shoot.
No pics from the conference, of course, because who wants to see pics of people watching presentations?
Sunday, August 20, 2006
I made it to Keystone
I made it to Keystone tonight, after dropping Jose off at the airport and wallowing in self-pity for a bit. I'd just gotten over the fact that I'm now going to be alone for the next few days when I checked in to my hotel room and found out that I've been upgraded -- to a one-bedroom condo. All this room and all these amenities! And it's only me.
Camping was lovely, despite some gloomy weather Friday and Saturday. We didn't end up trying for Mt. Audubon today because we didn't get up early enough ("we" really meaning "me and Jose") so the four of us went up to Blue Lake instead. It was lovely, and was only 700 feet up instead of the 2700 to the top of Audubon. ;) I'll post some photos tomorrow once I get a chance to download them all.
This afternoon as I drove away from the airport I saw a tornado! Only I wasn't quite sure it was a tornado at the time. It was lighter than all the clouds around it -- almost like a sideways S-shaped beam of light coming down from the dark clouds. It didn't look like any tornado I've ever seen on TV. But I later found out that there were tornados east of Denver that delayed Jose's plane, so it was a tornado! That's the first one I've ever seen. It was very far away, so no worries. I can't believe I didn't stop to take a picture, but a lot of other people did -- check it out.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Ron, Buzz, Nick, Steph, and
Ron, Buzz, Nick, Steph, and others just got back from a trip to Alaska. I was originally planning to go, but life and a lack of vacation time got in the way. I was just looking through Ron's photos, and glanced at this one of Denali, or Mt. McKinley, and thought "oh well, it doesn't look so big."
Then I looked above the layer of white clouds.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Summary of the weekend, in
Summary of the weekend, in words and photos!
We got to the trailhead for Smith Creek Trail in Unicoi State Park just after 10:30 in the morning. It was a 10-mile round trip to Anna Ruby Falls and back, and the sign said to expect 6 hours to make the trip.
Despite growing up in North Carolina, I've never done any hiking in the Appalachians! (I know, horrible.) The most noticable differences from all the hiking we do out west are 1) the lower altitude and 2) there are trees everywhere! Even when we topped out on a ridge, we couldn't see anything beyond the trees.
We arrived at Anna Ruby Falls a bit before 2:00. They were very pretty, and we sat for a while admiring them. They are formed by two creeks that meet and tumble down to form a third creek -- Smith Creek, the trail's namesake.
We needed to refill our water bottles, but we didn't take the "rocks are slippery" sign seriously enough, and Becca slipped. I had to retrieve her water bottle from this eddy.
We had dinner that night in Helen, an incredibly cheesy "alpine village" on the Chattahoochee River complete with copycat Bavarian architecture and things like funnel cake and beer houses.
Becca ordered crab legs. What none of us realized is that she would receive like ten crabs worth of legs.
On the way back to Atlanta yesterday, we couldn't resist stopping at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. Yes, where Cabbage Patch Kids are made. We giggled a lot and actually watched "Mother Cabbage" give birth under the "Magic Crystal Tree" with help from Intern Jerry. It was amusing and slightly disturbing.
We made it back to Atlanta in time to have a late lunch at Doc Chey's with Carter and Kent, where Karen iced the finger she hurt when she tripped on the trail the day before in the darkness of a thunderstorm, and we all had a grand old time making faces for the camera.
And a good time was had by all!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
My brother left on Monday
My brother left on Monday for a couple months in Europe. Jealous? Me? Naaaaaaaah.
I got into London this morning about 6:30 and mademy way on the tube to a hostel in London. I then went and walkedaround for a while. I saw a big park with lots of birds and then stayed around buckingham Palace for about 2 hours waiting for and watching the changing of the guard. It was cool, but it took way too long. Then I walked down and saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Winchester Abbey was closedto tourists today. Then i rode the tube to the London Museum,but was so tired I didnt spend much time there. Im back at the hostel now and am going to take a nap for a while so that I'll be able to do more tommorow.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Today I got to work
Today I got to work at 10:00 -- truly a new low for me. I blame it all on my vacation hangover.
Going to Tahoe with some of my favorite people was the best vacation I have had in a long time. Patagonia was also awesome, of course, but something about this past week surpassed even that. Maybe it was the complete lack of internet access, maybe it was getting to celebrate my 28th birthday by skiing my first blue (intermediate) run ever, maybe it was a boy. Who knows, but the fact is this: I went on vacation and didn't think about Houston at all. (At one point I was asked "where are you from?" I answered, without hesitation, "North Carolina" and then had to backtrack with a "well, but now I live in Houston.") I didn't think about work at all. (I might have been hard-pressed to tell you where I worked if you'd asked me. I might have had to think about it for a moment.) Below are some highlights (more to come when I get other people's photos -- for once I didn't try very hard to get good shots).
Becca riding the magic carpet with me to the top of the beginner hill, all because I told her there was a hot Argentinian at the top:
Lake Tahoe on the evening of my birthday:
Me and Jose, the non-skiiers. We can ski now!
Proof that I was skiing blue runs by the 4th day:
Jen, Cari, and Steph before they made me ski down a cat track that would've been easy if it hadn't been narrow and scary!
Lake Tahoe from the top of a run at Alpine Meadows:
Blurry me playing in the powder:
Hot-tubbing with Cari and Matt in the snow:
It was an awesome vacation, and being back at work is a shock to my system. I have so, so much to do in the next few days.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
What does it look like
What does it look like to sit underneath a glacier? Well, a bit like this. (The photo is of Jen and I marvelling at all the blue ice of Glaciar Viedma.)
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Becca posted her photos. Some
Becca posted her photos. Some favorites:
+ Me doing my photo thing again
+ Me doing my photo thing again part 2
+ I can totally lift this glacier
+ Dude we're on a glacier!
+ AE Female Mafia strikes again
+ Me and Sargento the horse and Martin peeking in the background
+ Gavin and me waiting to see some ice hit the water
+ This is a funny Becca self-portrait
+ Jen looking appropriately windblown (it was crazy windy)
+ Me and the Cuernos!
+ Me and the Cuernos - silly/scary version and I have bread crumbs on my lip, nice.
+ Me looking cold cause it was freaking windy
+ Shooting penguins (shooting with a camera)
+ Penguin action shot
+ Me in the Santiago hostel (with the camera that was apparently permanently attached to my hand)
+ Funny airport sculpture
+ Enjoying our NOT FREE welcome drink in Santiago
Friday, March 03, 2006
Some favorites from Karen's photos,
Some favorites from Karen's photos, including many silly ones of me. (So sue me, I like funny photos of me in exotic places. I like to prove I was there.) I've got plenty of scenery shots that I took myself, so I like a lot of the shots Karen got of all of us. :)
+ Me, probably digging into my "camera store"
+ Here's where we are!
+ Little Nacho!
+ Me and Fitz Roy (I'm totally printing this one for me to remember forever)
+ Me taking pictures (this happened a lot, but in this one I have crampons!)
+ Baileys with glacier ice
+ Yep, that's a lot of meat
+ Martin! Yay Martin.
+ Required Rio Gallegos LSO photo
+ Martin needs a bigger car
+ Las Torres!
+ Chillin' out
+ Jen crossing the sketchy tree "bridge"
+ Crazy Americans (and we wonder why we're perceived as loud and obnoxious)
+ Cocoa anyone?
+ Spying on the penguins
+ At the Santiago airport :(
Friday, March 03, 2006
Patagonia photos. Only 300 of
Patagonia photos. Only 300 of them, and only converted to JPG, no post-processing done yet (and some of them need a little).
The basic route map, courtesy some webpage Karen linked to.
Karen's photos are up also.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Brought back from Patagonia: +
Brought back from Patagonia:
+ 665 photos, or almost 5 GB
+ 1 cool Chile Region XII (Magallenes) flag
+ 14 Argentine pesos (about $4.60)
+ 2000 Chilean pesos (about $4)
+ a handful of Argentinian and Chilean coins
+ 2 plastic bags of dirty clothes
And, sadly, 1 tricky bug that seems to have an incubation period of about a week. Jen was sick before we left. Gavin got a little sick while we were there. And tonight I'm not feeling so hot myself.
It's not even 7:00 yet and the sun is already down. What's up with that?
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Back in Houston. Sleepy and
Back in Houston. Sleepy and feeling a little under the weather, but still basking in the afterglow of a great trip.
Monday, February 27, 2006
I´ll bet you didn´t expect
I´ll bet you didn´t expect this many blog updates from way down in South America. It just goes to show what a truly small world it has become, I guess. The Internet is everywhere, and we can´t resist using it.
We are in Santiago, finally having left Patagonia behind. I miss the mountains already, though Santiago at first glance (we have only been here for a few hours) is lovely. The weather, at least, is nicer than Buenos Aires. BA was hot and humid. Santiago is dry and cool.
We´ve had a couple days of mostly travel. Yesterday we were met in Torres Del Paine at the catamaran dock and headed down the long road to Punta Arenas. It took from 11:00 until 6:00, stopping only to get some lunch, and then for an hour at the penguin colony an hour outside of town.
This morning we had just enough time to do a little souvenir shopping in Punta Arenas (very little, since we don´t really have room to carry souvenirs), and then hopped on our flight to Santiago.
Tomorrow we see the city, and then tomorrow night we climb on an overnight flight to Atlanta. We get to Atlanta at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. or something, then finally get back to Houston at 10:30 or so on Wednesday morning.
The end of vacation is hard. Going back to my "real life" always takes some adjustment.
See everyone in Houston soon...
Saturday, February 25, 2006
I´m in the middle of
I´m in the middle of nowhere, yet they have internet. It is somehow fitting to the current state of the world. And I am an internet junkie. I couldn´t resist the call of the monitors.
Patagonia is still TOTALLY AWESOME. At the moment we are at Refugio Paine Grande in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. We expected to find a fairly bare bones building to go along with the name "refugio"...however, this place is great! It´s like a mountain lodge -- with a breath-taking view of the Cuernos del Paine, I might add -- for only $30 a night!
I am really sad that our trip is coming to an end. Tomorrow, on to Punta Arenas with a stop to see penguins, then Monday to Santiago, and Tuesday night we get on a place back to the US. I will miss Patagonia.
TONS of photos to come, of course. Everyone is making fun of me for my heavy backpack full of my "camera store´s worth of stuff" but I shall have the last laugh.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Argentinian Patagonia is awesome. El
Argentinian Patagonia is awesome. El Chalten was awesome. Fitz Roy was awesome. Ice trekking on a glacier was awesome. Today we are in El Calafate and off to ride horses and see another glacier.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Hola from Buenos Aires! We
Hola from Buenos Aires! We are here, and did a bunch of stereotypically Buenos Aires things yesterday -- Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada, Cemetario Recoleta, a tango show at Cafe Tortoni, and a steak dinner. Today we head for the mountains! It is hot here in the city -- almost Houston-like in its humidity, though not quite as hot, and with a nice breeze. I'm ready to get to the cool air. And penguins. And glaciers. And mountains.
Friday, February 10, 2006
I just realized that the
I just realized that the last time the Olympics were on, I missed the last few days because we headed off to Peru. This year, we'll miss the last few days because we're heading off to Argentina and Chile.
I like this trend.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Photos from this past weekend
Photos from this past weekend are up. A trip report will come eventually, hopefully this weekend.
And yes, the photos in that gallery have already been through one round of "weeding out" for those of you with short attention spans. Fact is, I take a lot of photos. Deal with it. :)
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Monday morning: Yesterday morning: This
Farewell Houston, I am moving to Seattle.
Sigh. We had a wonderful weekend traipsing around Seattle, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park, despite the fact that we seemed to experience two of the small handful of rainy days they have out there this time of year. It was gorgeous in Seattle on Thursday for the baseball game and hanging out -- you could see Mt. Rainier clearly in the distance. But as luck would have it, it was cloudy and misty such that I could only see glimpses of the mountain the next day when we were actually hiking on it. (To be fair, the sun was out in spurts earlier -- we just arrived at the top of Skyline Trail moments too late.)
Saturday was pleasant as we drove to Olympic, met Jen, and hiked into the backcountry. Sunday was again cloudy, cold, and rainy but we hiked to the top of a pass anyway and had a decent view of the valley and some glaciers. Monday dawned clear and cold (I was not fully prepared for waking up to frost on Monday morning!) and it was sunny again for our hike out. In a departure from our norm, this backpacking trip was easy going in (descending) and hard going out. To get back to the car we had to climb more than 1500 feet over about 5 miles, which doesn't sound like all that much until you learn that the first 2+ miles are downhill, leaving only a little more than 2 miles for the climbing. These weren't just switchbacks -- there are steep switchbacks. We hiked out on some of the steepest trail I've ever climbed, and made it back to the car in about four hours.
Here's the route we did at Olympic. Yellow is the dirt road we drove along to get to the trailhead (~6100 ft). Blue is the hike in and down to the valley and Moose Lake (~4500 ft), red is the dayhike up to Grand Pass (~6300 ft) and back, and green is the hike back out.
We said farewell to Jen at Hurricane Ridge and headed out to the coast -- from glaciated mountains to the Pacific Ocean in two short hours! We watched sunset before heading to a hotel for the night (a change of plans once we realized it'd be very nice, for us and for other travellers, if we showered before having to fly home). Yesterday morning we hiked along the beach to Hole-In-The-Wall before piling back in the car for the lazy drive back to Seattle. We'd hoped to catch the ferry across Puget Sound, but ended up driving back around through Tacoma because of worries that taking the ferry would be cutting it close on arriving at the airport in time for our flight.
(If you need proof of how much of a dork I am, just know that crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge -- twice! -- was one of the highlights of my trip. If you don't know why, then be relieved because you are either 1) not as much of a dork as me or 2) never took high school physics. If you want to be a dork, here's why I love the bridge.)
We got back late last night, tired and not wanting to return to the humidity. I got home to find that my air conditioning, which had been running when I walked in the door, stopped running when I turned the temperature down from 80 degrees. I couldn't make it go, so I slept in a warm apartment all night. Booo. This morning, it suddenly turned on again without any input from me. I am mystified.
Anyway, I'm back and have a zillion pictures and a full trip report to come soon.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Off to Seattle, Rainier, and
Off to Seattle, Rainier, and Olympic! Updates when I return, or I may send photos to Flickr (see at left).
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Photos from last week have
Photos from last week have arrived. See them in the gallery.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Houston is just as I
Houston is just as I left it: hot and sticky.
My calf muscles are so incredibly stiff and tight and it's a bit painful to walk. I'm doing the old lady shuffle in style.
Yosemite is one of my favorite places on Earth.
So much to say, but I will start with the plane flight back last night. I was disappointed to be on the right side of the plane, where I was able to overlook Oakland as we took off but not San Francisco. This fact, however, was more than made up for when I was able to see not only Yosemite and Half Dome from my side of the plane, but Longs Peak silhouetted against the setting sun and storm clouds in the distance as we landed in Denver.
So, what have I done since I last updated...
Thursday night we stayed with Gavin's step-grandmother, Sigvor, in Berkeley. First of all, she's Norwegian, so she speaks with a very cool accent of a foreigner completely fluent in English but retaining the lilt of their native language. She has lived in the US since the 50s, I believe, but is obviously still very attached to Norway.
Rich probably worded it best when he said: "You know how sometimes you meet people, for just a moment, and even though you will probably never see them again, you'll never forget them?" Sigvor is one of those people. She was always smiling, very quick with a joke. She spoke about everything from what it was like living under German occupation in World War II to the time she met Robin Williams and didn't like him very much; it was impossible to stop listening to her talk, even if I had wanted to.
For years, she has been opening her home to visiting Norwegian (and a few other foreign nationalities) students as a sort of short-term "hotel" where they can spend a few nights until they find permanent housing for the year. As a result, there are always students coming and going, with backpacks and sleeping bags covering the basement. She often makes dinner for the group ("I think my dining room table is in photos in half the living rooms in Norway!", she said), though the night we were there was reserved for "family night" and consisted of Sigvor, Gavin, Gavin's parents, Tolief (this year's preferred student to whom Sigvor has rented a room), Rich, and me.
As if it weren't clear after all that, I'll just say that staying with Gavin's grandmother was a real treat. Oh -- and even if she weren't such a cool person, her house is absolutely incredible with a view that covers Berkeley, the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, Alcatraz, the Marin headlands, and far in the distance, the Golden Gate. Awesome house belonging to an awesome person.
So. Friday morning we got up and lazed about Sigvor's house before hitting the road around lunchtime headed for Yosemite. Traffic was heavy through the hills beyond Oakland and into the first part of the central valley of California, but things smoothed out past Modesto and after a late lunch at In 'N Out, we arrived at the Yosemite Bug Hostel around 5:00. After checking in quickly, we headed 25 miles up the road to Yosemite.
The drive to Yosemite is a little misleading -- the scenery, while impressive, gives no hint of what is to come. You drive along mountain roads through the valley formed by the Merced River, taking in hills and pine trees and some outcroppings of granite here and there. You see the sign for "Yosemite National Park" and even get as far as the ranger station still thinking, hmm, this doesn't look all that great so far, just normal run-of-the-mill mountains.
But suddenly, looming in the distance directly ahead of you through the pine trees is an enormous slab of granite. By enormous, I mean more then 3,000 feet tall. El Capitan is an incredibly imposing site, and just as I did when I first saw it three years ago, I couldn't help but say "WOW." As you continue to drive along the valley, El Capitan falls behind you and jagged Sentinel Rock and Glacier Point rise on the right. Finally, you come around a bend and are met with the piece de resistance -- Half Dome. It's amazing at any time of day, but when viewed in the late afternoon as it was when we drove into the park on Friday at about 6:30, the setting sun makes the sheer granite face shine. It is an awesome sight.
We headed back to the hostel after dinner at a pizza place right outside the park entrance (where they forgot about our pizza, so it took much longer than planned). After that it was lights out.
We got up at 6:00 Saturday morning and headed into the park. I'll have many, many photos in the next day or two but for now you'll have to imagine the view as I show you the route we followed! We began at the trailhead to Four Mile Trail that leads to Glacier Point. This trail was first created in 1872 and really was 4 miles long. Today it is 4.5 miles after being lengthened by the National Parks Service to improve some of the steepest sections. Be assured, it is still pretty dang steep in places -- it covers 3,200 vertical feet in only 4.5 miles. Here is the trail, highlighted in blue:
It took us about 3.5 hours to make it to Glacier Point, as we stopped and took many photos of the spectacular view looking west down the valley towards El Capitan, as well as across the valley to Yosemite Falls, which were pretty bare (not much water). We definitely picked the right time of day to do this part of our hike -- this was 85% of the uphill work for the entire day, and it was entirely in the shade, since the sun was shining on the opposite side of the valley.
We reached Glacier Point just before 11:00 and were met with many other tourists, since there is actually a road that goes up there. (This begs the question of why we decided to hike. We hiked because it is fun.) Gavin and I had ice cream at the cafe, and we all took in the marvelous view of Half Dome, Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls (we were finally in a position to be able to look east along the valley). After lingering at Glacier Point for almost an hour, we began the second part of our day, following the 8.5-mile Panorama Trail that passes Illilouette Falls, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls on its way back to the valley floor. These 8.5 miles were almost all downhill except for a short section where we had to climb maybe 500 vertical feet back up in order to follow the lip of a canyon.
The first part of the descent, 2 miles to Illilouette Falls, was very exposed, and I got a bit of sun despite use of sunscreen. In addition, we seemed to be walking through an area that had suffered a fire five or ten years ago. There was a lot of growth on the ground, but most of the trees were dead trunks.
I hadn't inspected the map closely and didn't realize that Illilouette Falls even existed, so they were a pleasant surprise and were really beautiful. Just past the top was where we had to begin the second (thankfully much shorter) ascent of the day. We soon reached the top of the ridge and started our descent to Nevada Falls. As we reached the trail juncture 0.2 miles from Nevada Falls, I suggested we walk over to see the top before retracing the 0.2 miles and heading down to the valley floor. We didn't quite make it to the top though, because we were stopped a few hundred feet from the top just before a rescue helicoptor landed on the rock next to the falls. The hiker who stopped us said someone had died, however, we aren't sure whether he was actually telling the truth or just telling a sick joke. The fact remains that the helicoptor did land. However, we'd seen the helicoptor fly to the top of the falls two previous times that day, and it seems unlikely that three people would need medical help in one day, so I hope it was doing something else.
We headed slowly down the trail towards Vernal Falls below, stopping to take many photos of Nevada Falls as they came crashing over the rock. Vernal Falls is not quite as tall, but still very impressive. We took the mist trail that runs right next to the cascading water, and though there was not as much mist as there was three years ago when Becca and I took that trail, it was still fun.
We finally reached the Merced River and the end of Yosemite Valley at 5:30. Gavin had actually run ahead in the last half mile and had already gotten on the shuttle bus to go back and get the car, so Rich and I cooled our heels on some rocks while we waited for a bit until Gavin returned. We hadn't been too crunched for time, but it was certainly nice and did save us a half hour or so in the end.
After stopping at the store for some dinner, we took the almost hour-long drive back up to the top of Glacier Point, where we had just been 7 hours earlier -- on foot. (Sad, eh? Heh heh.) It was dark when we got there, so we found a good spot, sat down and waited. A spot on the horizon grew lighter and lighter and the clouds began to glow and suddenly the moon slowly climbed above the mountains. It was only one day past full, and the light was dazzling -- no flashlight needed. The light shining off of the granite wall-filled valley was beautiful, and I got some great night photos from the top of Glacier Point, and also from the valley floor after we drove back down. We finally arrived back at the hostel past midnight, exhausted.
Yesterday was simply a day of travel as we drove back to San Francisco (the return trip, minus traffic jams and plus Gavin's lead foot, took a mere 3 hours). We had some time to kill so we drove through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park before heading to the airport for our 4:45 flight. A quick jaunt to Denver and another flight to Houston and we were home just after midnight last night. Of course with the drive from IAH, I didn't get home until after 1 a.m.
And it is hot. And sticky.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Quick update: Gavin's public risk
Gavin's public risk sessions yesterday went very well. We met interesting people from ACTA and Aerospace Corp and the FAA and had lots of good discussion.
My presentation this morning went well. I was nervous and I think it showed a little, but overall I got the information across and was able to answer all the questions asked. I got several compliments from attendees, and the room was surprisingly full -- about 40 people, some of whom obviously came just for my topic.
San Francisco still rocks. This afternoon we're renting bikes and riding to the Golden Gate Bridge (along the water where it's not too hilly).
The conference is now officially over and we're off to Berkeley and then Yosemite. I may not (probably won't) get another chance to update until I'm back in Houston on Monday, so adieu!
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
NASA has a bad habit
NASA has a bad habit of making space appear boring.
The luncheon speaker today was from NASA Headquarters, and he spoke for about twenty minutes on the Vision for Space Exploration. He spoke from a canned set of Powerpoint slides, and the tone of his voice exuded detatchment. He seemed more excited when he joked about missing his dessert (which wasn't that good anyway) than he did when he spoke about exploration of the moon and Mars.
The topic was questionable in the first place (speaking about the "nation's interest" and how we are a "world power" and as such must be involved) in a room where a sizable percentage of the audience is not American), but even if I ignored that aspect, I couldn't shake the sinking feeling of listening to someone talk about something that should be exciting! challenging! new! different! and make it sound old. boring. ho-hum. uninspired.
Lately I have seen more and more evidence that NASA needs a spokesperson. NASA needs a PR department. We need to stop using managers to sell our work to the public, and stop using engineers to run our press conferences. Instead, we need a group that can effectively take our message to the media and to the public. Let's stop deluding ourselves into thinking that we can simply give technical presentations and bureaucratic stump speeches and the public will fall across our feet professing that what we are doing is cool and worthwhile.
NASA needs to sell itself! If the military can use recruitment ads, why can't NASA? If the Department of Homeland Security can run TV commercials, why can't NASA? If the Postal Service can sponsor an athletic team, why can't NASA?
Our message is not getting out there via luncheon keynote speeches in dim rooms showing the same set of slides that every manager must get upon arrival and speaking with a twinge of boredom creeping through.
To convince the public, you have to convince yourself. And then sell it.
Monday, August 15, 2005
I'm checking email while watching
I'm checking email while watching HBO. A movie was starting, and I had no idea what it was, and then...holy crap! It's So I Married An Axe Murderer. Which we love to quote. Which takes place in San Francisco. Which Rich said he would endlessly quote if we go to Alcatraz. The giant cappuchino cup is currently travelling through the screen, soon to be delivered to Mike Myers. "Excuse me miss? I believe I ordered the large cappuchino? HELLO!"
Life is full of strange coincidences.
The first day of the conference went well. I saw eight presentations, some more interesting than others, but unfortunately the two I wanted to see most were both no-shows. (One was a neural network ballistic propagator that Kara referenced in her thesis and used in doing the background of our paper; the other was a guy from Boeing in Colorado doing debris footprints.) Ron spoke this morning about lunar and martian powered descent. There were also morning and afternoon sessions about a lot of the Return-to-Flight GNC work, including the Rbar maneuver or, as the media referred to it, the shuttle's "back flip" that allowed some of the spectacular photos taken during STS-114. Most of the other presentations I saw dealt with Mars entry and descent, but there was also one very cool one about Venus aerocapture.
Tonight: A's game.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Did I mention how much
Did I mention how much I adore San Francisco? No?
I love this city.
Five stories below my window, the cable car bell dings and I hear the cables grind as the car moves slowly up California Avenue. We are staying at the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero Center, and of course it is lovely. From the window of my room I can't see too much -- buildings, including the Transamerica pyramid. But the other side of the hotel leads to the waterfront, with a great view of the Bay Bridge. The rooms are insanely expensive but we're on the conference group rate. Better yet, AIAA has sprung for free wireless access for all conference attendees, so I can avoid paying $10/day for Internet.
I am amusedly appalled by the assumption that if you can afford to stay in this hotel, you can afford to spend even more money on all the little extras. We have a mini-bar in the room. If you want it cleaned out so that you can simply use it as a fridge, you have to pay $10. We had the car valet-parked, which was a jaw-dropping $41 per day. (The other option, we were told, was $30 per day down the block, with limited access to the car. Tomorrow we must remember to call Roz to see if parking is covered in our travel, otherwise, we'll be looking for cheaper accomodations for the rented Chevy Malibu.)
This morning we had breakfast at the Peninsula Grill in Palo Alto, a place I remember well for their amazing milkshakes. No one had one for breakfast, but the omelette was yummy as well. From there we drove to the Stanford campus where Gavin and Rich indulged my hour-long trip down memory lane. Last night I drove us through campus but the darkness prevented any great views unless you knew what was there and could picture it in your mind; I smiled as we passed my old apartment and I saw the sidewalks and paths where I first started running. This morning we walked through the quad, past the bookstore and student union, around the aero/astro building, and back to the quad. I took many photos, and simply revelled in the cool breeze, warm sun, and the beauty of the sandstone and red-tile rooftops.
I lived there for such a short time that often I feel as if my three quarters at Stanford are just a dream. The streets seemed both familiar and foreign today. Being there as a student three years ago certainly had its bad moments, when I was angry or stressed or sad or scared. But it also lent itself to some of my happier days. I don't remember as many specifics as I thought I might, but I can't shake the ghost of the good times. Nor do I want to.
More than anything else, I simply remember my time at Stanford and in this beautiful area as a time of contentment despite all the other issues I had. I remember many days spent riding home from class, staring up at the brilliantly blue sky, wind in my hair, smile on my face, thinking:
This is it. This moment. This is perfection.
And so it was nice to relive those days today, if only for one hour.
We picked Kara up at the airport just before noon and checked into the hotel. We walked about 2 miles along the Embarcadero, from the hotel to Fisherman's Wharf, where we had lunch (clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl) before heading to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream. I had the most amazing chocolate raspberry sundae -- MMM. We rode the tightly packed cable car from there back to the middle of downtown, and then walked down one of the famously steep hills and through the skyscrapers until we arrived back at our hotel.
We are all a little jet-lagged and about to head towards bed. After all, the conference awaits us bright and early in the morning, and there are a lot of interesting topics on the agenda. Ron's paper is up in one of tomorrow morning's sessions, so I am looking forward to that. Tomorrow night we hope to make it to the A's-Orioles game in Oakland.
I love this city. I love this area. It's good to be back.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
8/13/05, 5:58 p.m. PDT Ah,
8/13/05, 5:58 p.m. PDT
Ah, the beauty of owning a laptop. I sit on a 747 winging my way from Houston to San Francisco (via Denver; we are currently on the second leg). I’ve never been an a 747 before and am amazed/appalled at the size of this thing! If I poke my head out into the aisle and look forward, I can see where the fuselage of the airplane begins to curve towards the nose. With the flight deck up in the 747’s infamous hump, I guess the seats on my level just….end…at the nose of the place. They should really put a window there!
I have only flown United once or twice before, and I had forgotten that they have a channel of the audio system devoted to the Air Traffic Control comm. It’s pretty interesting to listen in, though I’m sure Becca, as a pilot, would understand much more of it than I do. Our call sign for this leg is “United 595 Heavy” and we’ve been doing pretty much the norm. I did hear our pilot request a change in altitude during a prolonged period of “light chop,” and we recently had traffic go past a mile to our left (and at a different altitude), so that was neat. Now that we’re getting pretty close to San Francisco, the comm has really picked up. They’re talking to all sorts of planes, telling departing flights to transfer to LA Center, Oakland Center, etc. Come to think of it, Karen would probably get a big kick out of this as well.
This morning I shot a race down at Galveston Island State Park. I shot it solo, instead of my usual freelancing, so that was exciting. Jay, one of the most active guys in the local running community, asked me to shoot it so that they can put together a photo album for the man who came up with the idea for the race but has recently had health problems and it in the hospital. I was shooting for that purpose, but had quite a few people ask me if the photos would be available online, so I’m going to make it happen. I’m currently about 75% of the way through renumbering all my photos to reflect the bib number of the person pictured – a tedious and manual process that I can think of no way to effectively automate. Anyway, I’ll throw all the photos up on my site and see if I sell any prints!
My ears just popped and the captain said we’d be on the ground in 20 minutes, so I guess that means we’re descending! San Francisco, I’m back!
Friday, August 12, 2005
I just made a reservation
I just made a reservation for Rich, Gavin, and me to spend tomorrow night at a hotel in Palo Alto.
I can't help but smile when I think about it. Tomorrow night I'll be back in California, back in the shadow of Stanford, back in that beautiful beautiful place. I am so excited that the fact that I will technically be working Monday through Thursday at the AIAA conference doesn't phase me. I'm pumped, I'm gleeful, I'm just plain giddy at the thought of being back in the Bay Area for a week.
We'll stay in Palo Alto tomorrow night, and have dinner at one of the great restaurants. On Sunday morning, I can go for a run up Page Mill Road, and around campus. I'm about to jump for joy at the mere thought of it.
Just before lunchtime, we pick up Kara at the airport and then check into the awesome conference hotel in San Francisco, on the Embarcadero next to the water. We'll spend the afternoon playing tourist, and I can visit the bridge! Monday through Thursday will be spent at the conference (our day-long entry risk session is Wednesday, my presentation on the Mars neural net is Thursday morning), with nights free to go to an A's game, and wander the city.
Thursday night we're staying in Berkeley at Gavin's grandmother's house, which overlooks the bay and the city and beyond. Then we'll spend two nights in Yosemite and be stunned by the beauty. Since I've done Half Dome and it's a more intense hike than we want to do this time, I'm hoping to hike to Glacier Point or Yosemite Falls. Gavin and Rich shouldn't be too hard to convince.
We'll be back late late late on the 21st (or, more accurately, early early early on the 22nd). Extensive photos to follow then, if not before. With my new laptop and the rumored wireless internet available at the hotel, I may be able to update on the go! :)
I'm so excited I can barely stand it!!!
Thursday, August 04, 2005
I've been reading the blog
I've been reading the blog of a former coworker now spending time in Paris, and he had a great bit today:
"I discovered a new church, a gothic cathedral practically hidden by the surrounding apartment buildings, next to the gym. It is named "Saint Merri" for a famous French abbot. The church was built in 1550 and has stained glass and oil paintings from the 13th century. It is a completely forgotten church - there isn't even a parish there anymore, just a weekly gathering of Catholic "modernists" who gather to support Human Rights. In any other city this cathedral, complete with flying butresses and classic gothic architecture, would be a jewel. In Paris it is a forgotton unused storage space with some renegade liberals running an outreach program."
Ah. I need to get out of the country. I went abroad for the first time in 2001. This year will be the first year since that I haven't left the U.S. at least once. It's a bit sad. Perhaps I'll find a cheap cruise to Mexico or something this fall.
Oh, and my laptop is already kitted, built, and in testing phase. Next comes boxing, and shipping. Whee!
Monday, April 25, 2005
I have been putting off
I have been putting off buying a plane ticket to Atlanta for Katie's graduation (on May 7), hoping the price would come down. On Saturday, I was about to buy one for $300, tired of waiting, and annoyed that plane tickets are becoming more expensive. When I expressed dismay, figuring that as soon as I clicked "purchase" the price would inevitably drop, Mom told me to just wait a couple more days. So I listened to Mom. This may have been a mistake.
If anyone can find me a plane ticket from Houston to Atlanta, leaving May 5 evening or May 6 and returning May 8 for less than $350, I'll...I dunno, love you forever, or something.
UPDATE: Jen is the winner of my eternal love (sorry Gavin). She found me a deal for $330, which still makes me go ugh, but on the plus side, it leaves from Hobby and includes a rental car. I will be pimpin' through ATL in my compact car. Woot!
Friday, April 15, 2005
To bed, to bed, to
To bed, to bed, to rest my head, before starting the MS150 tomorrow morning. Crappy camera phone pictures to be sent to Flickr, so watch the three-photo bar at left if you're interested.
Monday, April 04, 2005
excuse me, I believe I ordered the *large* cappuchino? HELLO!
I know that the above line is from So I Married An Axe Murderer, a film which I believe is set in San Francisco, but that scene in the coffee shop, and that line, always make me think of Seattle.
I have a nice, if wet, weekend in Seattle with Jen and Irwin (Jen for the whole thing, Irwin for a quick two hours). We went to the Public Market, I made a quick pilgrimage to the first Starbucks, I saw the men throwing fish, and almost ran off the road while staring at Safeco Field and wishing it was a day later and I could catch a game. We also spent an entire afternoon tiptoeing through the tulips (and daffodills) at the Tulip Festival about 60 miles north of the city.
Alas, I have fallen out of first place in my NCAA bracket, as I knew I would. I am currently third, with no possible points remaining. If UNC wins tonight, three people will pass me including both Katie and Joel (punks didn't pick their own school to win). If UNC loses, I'll remain in third. But I'm rooting for Carolina-lina. (Rah rah.)
Less than a week remaining until the Yuri's Night 5K! Lots left to do.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
So I am in Seattle.
So I am in Seattle. It's colder here than I expected, and I forgot both a raincoat and an umbrella. Fortunately, it has only rained about half the time. Today we're off to see men throwing fish, and fields of tulips.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Nancy got this nice picture
Nancy got this nice picture of Cari, me, and Jen in Whistler last weekend. (Good wine, by the way.)
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
My Vancouver/Whistler photos are up.
My Vancouver/Whistler photos are up.
Two cautions: there are 400+ images, and they are not all in the correct order due to having been taken on two different cameras. If you wait until tomorrow, there will be fewer photos (and you can see just the 100-200 "highlights") and they will all be in chronological order. But if you just can't wait, they're there now. :)
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
she flies through the air with the greatest of ease
Wow, everybody else is ahead of me in posting Whistler pictures. Jen M put together a gallery last night that is very cool. Of course, the time it took her to put that together is probably the same as the time it took me to just download all of my photos. Yeah, I take an obsessive amount of photos. Hmm.
Anyway, I have mine almost ready to go, I'm just trying to weed them out to form a "highlights" album of 100 or so, in order to avoid complaints about having to slideshow through more than 600 shots.
Oh, and Jen got this great shot of me upside down, arms flying, on the last Ziptrek line...
And here is Rich's perspective of my acrobatics...
And here's one of my yet-to-be-posted shots, the required "AE Mafia" photo of me, Jen and Becca. (Or, as Irwin called it "Return of the Air Babes.) Our fourth member was absent, but three outta four ain't bad.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
I am back from Vancouver and Whistler/Blackcomb in one piece with no broken bones. Hurrah!
We arrived in Vancouver late Wednesday night, and Becca, Jen M and Becca's aunt Diane immediately headed up to Whistler while the rest of us spent the night at Cari's ISU friend Ruey's house. Ruey was really cool, fixed us a huge breakfast the next day, and showed us all around the city. Vancouver is a really lovely city; I could totally live there. We went to a city overlook (pretty), the Capilano suspension bridge (touristy but fun), and finally ended up in Stanley Park where we rented bike and rode along the 5-mile seawall around the park and under Lions Gate Bridge. We couldn't have asked for better weather -- sunny skies and cool temperatures. That night Becca's aunt Nancy arrived from Portland and took Gavin and Cari with her on up to Whistler while Rich and I stayed in a hotel. The next morning we walked all over downtown to Gastown, where we saw the steam clock, then to Chinatown, and then back past the many high-priced shops of Robson Street.
That afternoon we made the beautiful two-hour drive up to Whistler, and finally everyone was in one place: six of us from Houston, one from Portland, one from DC (Diane), and two from Seattle (Jen O and Irwin). Cari's other ISU friends Beth and Tyler came over from Victoria on Saturday as well. It was great to see/meet all the non-Houston people, especially Jen (who I hadn't seen since Daniel's wedding more than a year ago) and Nancy (who I hadn't seen since Peru).
Saturday arrived and it was finally time to try skiing. Whistler has had a very bad winter, apparently; there was no snow in the village, and not much on the bottom half of the mountain. As luck would have it, there were no half-day lessons offered in the morning and the bunny slopes were all on the bottom (i.e. snowless) half. Cari was kind enough to take me up to the top where she taught me to snowplow and stop (sort of) on two very small, very short inclines around the lifts and the mountain host headquarters. Skiing was, in chronological order:
So I learned how to ski, sort of. And how to turn, sort of. And not die. Hooray! It was a frustrating experience, both from the difficultly of doing it and from the feeling that it should be easier. Everyone else skis without any problems, and I know it's because they've all been doing it for years, but it was disheartening to be the only one who couldn't even stay upright. But I'd go again. And hopefully get better. And the views from the mountain were spectacular.
Sunday morning we went to Ziptrek and got to fly down four ziplines as long as 1,100 feet back and forth across the creek that runs between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It was so much fun. The last line was a "freestyle" line so I got to tip over and go down the line upside down, feet wrapped around the rope and hands dangling free to the creek below. SO MUCH FUN. I took a video as I went down the longest zipline that you can watch to get an idea of the experience. FUN.
Sunday afternoon we drove to the next town north of Whistler to hike a little more than a mile to a waterfall. While there, we decided to go a little off the "official" trail and climb to the top of the rock next to the point where the water went over the falls. Our little, slightly not allowed sidetrek was definitely worth it for the view.
We got back late last night and I haven't downloaded my pictures yet, but Becca has:
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
leavin' on a jet plane
FYI to any regular readers of this blog: I'll be wandering Vancouver and skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb for the next five days. Trip report when I return next Tuesday! :)
Friday, February 25, 2005
don't cry for me Argentina
Carter called last night to announce that he and Steve are flying to Buenos Aires in April to spend 10 days exploring Argentina and a bit of Uruguay. I'm so insanely jealous. Steve somehow ended up with a free airline ticket to anywhere in the world, so they're splitting the cost of Carter's ticket (two-for-one, basically) and going to Argentina. So so jealous.
I'm dying to go to Argentina or Chile, the southern part, Patagonia. Everywhere I turn lately, I keep coming across these spectacular photos taken in Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile, and I just feel like the place is calling to me. Or haunting me. In a good way. In any case, the place looks so beautiful and I want to go.
I just have to keep reminding myself that we are going to Ecuador this fall. Ecuador. Ecuador. More Andes. I love the Andes. Must work on my rudimentary espanol.
Friday, February 18, 2005
oh canada / my home and native land
I have Monday off work for President's Day, and had fleeting thoughts of leaving town for the long weekend. Becca searched high and low for a last-minute flight+hotel deal to anywhere on the Yucatan so that we could relax on beaches and see Mayan ruins, but no luck. I'm not too disappointed because it's better for me to just save the money, but it definitely would have been nice to get out of Houston. So then I thought about heading to a nearby state park to camp on my own for a night, but the weather is looking very blah and noncommittal. Showers and overcast skies.
In the end, I've decided that Sunday might be a nice day to finally check out Armand Bayou Nature Center, which is only 10 minutes away. Maybe find the geocaches that are hidden there that I haven't yet checked off my list, take some photos, walk the trails. I'll wait to see what the weather is like...
I'll be getting out of Houston soon enough anyway. We're taking a big group trip to Vancouver/Whistler in three weeks and I'm starting to get excited as plans come together. For this trip, "we" includes myself, Becca, Cari, Gavin, Jen, Rich, Jen O, Irwin, and Becca's Aunt Diane and Aunt Nancy. What can I say -- when we do trips, we do them big!
We fly into Vancouver on March 9 and half of the group is heading straight to Whistler to ski, but Rich and I (the little- to non-skiiers) are going to spend a day and a half in Vancouver. Cari and Gavin are going to spend part of that time with us, and Irwin too. We're going to stay with Cari's friend Ruey one night, then spend Thursday riding bikes through Stanley Park which is supposed to be very pretty. Rich and I will head up to Whistler on Friday, and Jen O will come up for the weekend as well if she can escape work. Finally, Cari's friend Kelly coincidentally will be at Whistler that weekend as well.
Whew! Everyone is scattered for the first couple days, but by Friday night we'll all be at Whistler/Blackcomb. On Saturday I'm going to attempt to learn how to ski (I've only done it once before, when I was in 8th grade). On Sunday, we're going to do this very cool Ziptrek thing across the valley.
Becca's done a great job with the planning so far, and it sounds like we've managed to work out a plan where everyone can do what they want! The funniest part so far was when we called to confirm our plane tickets, and didn't realize that we needed to talk to the international ticketing department. Yeah, Canada is another country, apparently. ;)
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Pictures: Enchanted Rock
I posted a few pictures from our weekend trip to Enchanted Rock. Find them in the gallery.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
queen of the rock
so i had a nice labor day weekend. friday night, becca and jen and i drove to enchanted rock, west of austin (and north of kerrville, for my mom who likes kerrville). we didn't leave until 6 because becca had to work late, and got stuck behind two wrecks. it took us two hours just to get to katy, and traffic sucked pretty much the entire way to san antonio. there were so many cars on the road, and again yesterday coming back, that i wish it was three lanes the entire way to san antonio. as it was, we were moving around 70 mph, but still mired in a stressful field of endless cars.
we got to the park around midnight and fumbled in the dark for a while before finally finding our campsite, which was ideally located beneath a lot of trees and next to a dry (at least for the moment) creekbed. we set up our tents and hit the sack. saturday we woke up and headed towards the rock. enchanted rock is just like stone mountain, except a different type of rock. this one is pink granite, which looks pretty cool.
we hiked up to the top, which didn't take very long, and wandered around for a while. the top was really big, so there were lots of areas to explore. there's even a cave, which we explored from the top, but didn't venture too far into because we didn't have flashlights. from there, we walked back down and went farther back into the park, where we ate lunch and then continued around the loop trail for 2 miles or so until we were back at the campsite. it was just after 2:00 and was getting really hot, so we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging and napping and reading under the nice shady trees. it started to rain late in the afternoon, so we retreated to our tents for a while. during a break in the rain, we had spaghetti for dinner, but then turned in for the night around 9:30, when it began to rain again. it was actually a pretty cool lighting storm, lighting up the entire sky every few seconds. it was fun to watch the sillouette of enchanted rock flash against the sky.
gavin arrived late saturday night around midnight. sunday moring we got up to an overcast sky, but the rain had stopped and the weather was wonderfully cool! for august in texas, we had amazing weather. anyway, we bypassed the summit trail and instead headed up to the top of turkey's peak, a neighboring rock. it was actually more fun to climb that one than enchanted rock (e-rock is just a gradual slope that you hike up; this one involved some scrambling and true climbing, which was fun). i reached the top first and enjoyed a minute or so by myself, watching people hike up to enchanted rock, before becca, jen, gavin, and the three dogs joined me. eventually we climbed back down and went looking for the bottom side of the cave. we found the entrance, but by this time it had begun to drizzle again, and the rocks were getting slippery, so we decided to leave exploring the cave as an activity for a future trip.
we continued around the back side of enchanted rock, taking shelter under a large boulder at one point when the rain picked up. when we emerged to follow the short trail back to camp, we found that it had been turned into a mini-waterfall! the trail ran between enchanted rock and neighboring little rock, and all the water running down the two rocks converged on the echo canyon trail and turned it into a river! not wanting to soak our feet or risk slipping and hurting ourselves, we instead followed the longer trail around the back side of little rock, finally emerging about a hundred feet above the parking lot and having to scramble down some slippery rocks to get there.
by the time we got back to the campsite, the rain had stopped, but we were pretty wet. so we sat under a shelter and played cards for a few hours while drying out and trying to avoid the millions of fire ants. it was a nice afternoon. around 6, becca and i headed back to fredericksburg to pick up some ice, and gavin and jen rescued to dry firewood from the car. we made a nice campfire and cooked hot dogs and ate smores. it started to drizzle just a bit more, but not for long. it was almost chilly outside, making it pleasant to sit around the fire and chat.
yesterday morning we packed up and headed back to houston. the drive didn't take quite as long, but thanks to yet another traffic jam and a half hour lunch stop, it was 4:00 before i got back. i didn't even stop at my apartment; i went straight to the climbing gym, where i warned everyone that i hadn't showered since thursday and then threw my arms apart and said "who wants to be my partner?!?" :) we climbed for a few hours, and i tried a few new (and harder) routes. it's cool that i can see myself improving so quickly; yesterday i climbed halfway up a route that i never could have done a month ago. maybe in a few more weeks i'll be able to make it to the top!
after climbing, it was home for a shower (ahhhh) and then off to dinner at esteban's. finally, it was home again home again jiggity jog, to a messy apartment. but my bed felt great last night.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
there went the bride
I guess it's just not a good rock climbing night if I don't come away scraped. Either that, or I just had a bad Monday. Yesterday morning I cut my finger while slicing a tomato. Then last night I scraped my elbow falling off a past-vertical wall, and later pinched my finger in a carabiner. Today, I'm sporting three bandaids. Mmm.
I realize that I never actually said anything here about my trips last week. The AIAA conference (which I mention first because it was definitely the more boring of the two halves of my vacation) was interesting, and Becca's and my tag-team presentation of our DPS jettison design paper went well. In fact, our session chair even nominated us for best paper of the conference! The award won't be announced until later, and we probably won't win, but it was still exciting to find out we'd been nominated.
But the wedding was, of course, the highlight of the weekend. Carter gave a nice summary of events on his journal a week ago, so I won't repeat what he's already written for me (I am such a mooch!), but everything about the wedding was lovely. Friday afternoon was lunch at Mellow Mushroom, followed by trips to see where the church and reception hall were, followed by amusement in the hotel room as Natasha tried to figure out how to iron her bridesmaid dress without melting it.
Friday evening was the rehearsal, followed by dinner at Maggiano's. Good lord, the food was so good. Especially the salmon. Mmm. Anyway, the restaurant was perfect for such an event; they had a second floor that consisted only of private party rooms, each with space for 30ish people and with a small (but fully stocked) bar. The bartender amused me the entire night. At one point, Claire (James's very cool and very hilarious sister) and I were standing at the bar talking when the bartender turned to us and said "you look like you could use a couple shots." We gaped at him for a moment. Then there was a moment of wondering whether it was appropriate to do shots at a rehearsal dinner. Looking at each other and shrugging our shoulders, Claire and I said "well, ok." So the bartender made a random pink concoction, and wouldn't tell us what it was until we'd downed them.
They were actually really good, and thankfully not too strong. Turned out it was vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice. In what proportions, I have no idea.
Saturday we awoke bright and early, showered, I put on my new dress, and Carter and Kent were looking really snazzy in their tuxedos. We were at the church by 8:30, where the boys joined the other groomsmen, and I began my job as go-to girl. I adjusted tuxedo vests. I pinned flowers on the boys. I drove rose petals over to the reception hall. I fetched people when needed. At 10:30, I started greeting people like a madwoman. I was on a roll!
One of the fun things about the wedding is that I got to see so many people I hadn't seen in a long time, people who aren't close friends, but who I still enjoy talking to. But of course the highlight was watching James and Chrissy get married. When the groomsmen had taken their places, James walked in with a huge smile on his face. Now, James is a guy who always has a huge smile, but the one he wore during the ceremony was even bigger, I swear. Chrissy looked absolutely beautiful in her dress, and as she was walking down the aisle, she had a smile big enough to match the one on James's face. They both looked happier than I've ever seen them; it was awesome. I love weddings.
After the ceremony, Christina and Sara and I skedaddled to the rehearsal hall, where we again greeted all the guests and then got down to some serious post-wedding partying. As James was so fond of pointing out, there was an open bar. ;) But more importantly, there was good food, and lots of dancing, and really good champagne for the toasts. The reception hall, though unassuming from the outside, was actually really nice on the inside, and the decorations were cool. The entire ceiling was covered in white christmas lights, like stars. Very nice.
Anyway. That is the 15-minute summary of the wedding. Now someone else needs to get engaged and plan a wedding for next summer so I can keep my streak going. It's been four years now...