Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Memoriam Memorial Day

This week's adventure report is late because the week started late because the weekend ended late because it was Memorial Day.  Now you know.

The weekend that ended late started on time and at the right place: Telegraph BrewCo.  I was joined there by Stephen and Doug, both co-workers.  It was a bittersweet time for Doug because I took the Foursquare mayorship of the location from him just before he got there.  I've got Telegraph, but he still has RightScale.  I'm working on that too!

Although it's cool to use a smartphone app to be "social" with a guy that's standing 3 feet away from you, that's just one of the benefits of Telegraph.  Other benefits include good beer, a nice space to socialize IRL (that's In Real Life for you normies), a friendly dog, and pretzels.  In no particular order.
The beer is as good as this photo is bad.
As we discussed last week, Diablo 3 is out, so we decided to LAN it up at my place on Friday night.  In support of that goal, the nice monitor that I had been using at work needed to come home.  It was too nice (read: "big") to fit in the frunk (that's a front-trunk for those of you more accustomed to having an engine up there).  Luckily, my car almost has a back seat and the back seat that it almost has is large enough for a "nice" monitor.
Roof down = infinite trunk space!
The Pintomobile was happy to help me with my monitor, but unhappy about being filthy.  I figured I'd reward her for her efforts by giving her a nice bath.  All clean and happy she set out to make some new Carrera friends over at east beach.  
I was hoping they'd make babies and leave a Boxster or Cayman for Melch, but no luck.  Maybe next week.
Memorial Day means the Santa Barbara Classic ultimate tournament.  A friend I'd made playing up north had picked up with a team from Sacramento and he and three car mates crashed at our place on Friday and Saturday night.  They were a pretty cool bunch but we didn't see too much of each other as they were busy playing and I was busy adventuring.  Here's a bad photo of them:
I missed playing in the Classic this year, but I was happy to go out and see a few games
On Saturday night we joined Ra and some of her friends for some wine tasting and Dargans.
Heading from the funk zone up State St.  First time on the trolley in the 8 years I've lived in SB
What other adventures do I have to report?  Well, I defeated the Prime Evil!  If that doesn't count, what does?

On Monday I caught up on some programming projects and joined Stephen, his wife Denise and Euge for a BBQ at Stephen's place.  Ribs, potato salad, beer (firestone and some not-too-shabby four-cans-for-a-dollar stuff too), apple cake, and a zombie movie.  I enjoyed the opportunity to watch a zombie movie and then go home to kill zombies in a video game.  It really tied the evening together.

By Tuesday we finally had to go back to work again but Tuesday night is time for our semi-occasionally-regularly scheduled cake decorating session at Ra and Eric's.  Truth be told, it was "coding and D3" night for me and Eric and cake decorating night for Ra and Melch.  I have a picture of their night instead of mine, because there's is cuter and more interesting.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to be.  I think it's a Japanese thing. =)
Yesterday was ultimate on the beach with a side show of Crazy Dolphin Time.  Crazy Dolphin Time is named after Crazy Cat Time, which is when your cat gets inexplicably energetic and bounces around the house without provocation.  Crazy Cat Time is usually late in the evening ("Late in the Evening" is also a Paul Simon song, but I don't think there's any relation).  Crazy Dolphin Time comes earlier, usually around sundown.

Disclaimer before we go any further.  I'm not a trained marine biologist, and nothing that I say here should be construed as legitimate marine biological advice.  Now that that's out of the way, a little bit on dolphins.

Most of the time when I see dolphins, they're "commuting."  There'll be a few of them together and I'll see them arc a bit out of the water just to breathe.  After each arc they go back under for a while and then pop up again 20 seconds later a bit further down the beach.  They move parallel to the coast a just past the breakers and after 10 minutes or so they will have traveled beyond your vision.

Crazy Dolphin Time is a whole different matter.  It means a bunch of splashing, jumping out of the water, and goofing off in the waves.  Instead of going parallel to the coast in a relatively straight line, they kind of hang out in an area for a while flipping out (literally).  It's a pretty entertaining thing that hasn't gotten old as long as I've lived here.

I think that's all that I have to say about Crazy Dolphin Time.  If you want to know more, consult your friendly neighborhood marine biologist I guess.

That's all that I have to say about this week also.  If you want to know more, consult me the mayor of your local neighborhood Telegraph brewery.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Dark Side of the Sun

Hey there blogmates,

It's been another week of crappy SB weather.
See, there are some little cloudy bits up there in the blue...
Melch got her glassware back from the glass blowing class that she took last week.  Sounds like she really had a good time doing that with Ra.
The new pieces pass the "it will hold whisky" test
In other Melch crafting news, she's been taking a continuing ed class on sewing and has this to show for it:
A tote bag, presumably to put sewing supplies in?
Saturday morning found me moving stuff around in our room - again.  The thing about having two people and a dog in a moderately sized room is that every last bit of space helps.  The many McMansion owners in our land probably aren't storing bicycles or the hard top roof of a convertible in their bedroom.  Heck, most 1 bedroom apartment dwellers wouldn't do that.  Still no complaints - billions in the world have less space than we do, and less stuff to put in the space that they do have.  Even compared to the McMansioners, I like the small space.  Smaller spaces force you to choose your possessions wisely instead of just surrounding yourself with stuff that isn't adding value to your life.

Home for Gani is wherever her bed ends up at the end of the fray.
Saturday morning is never just about Spring cleaning though.  Moving furniture and setting the allergies off on dust and mould were just pre-game warm-ups.  Saturday mornings are for ulty on the beach.

Melch and Gani in their natural environment
The game went alright, though I had a pretty violent head-on collision with another player after a pick near the goal line.  Bruised my knee and got a really annoying sliced lower lip that I'm totally not making worse by rubbing it with my tongue all the time as a nervous habit.  Not a happy injury, but could have been far worse.

Stephen, co-worker from RightScale, and Denise, his wife, happened to walk by near the end.  They were attracted by the outrigger canoe regatta (do they call them regattas?), came over to say hi, and stuck around for a bit to enjoy the weather and watch the dolphins.
Stephen, Denise and Tina watching the dolphins

After ulty and some German food at the Dutch Gardens, we joined some RightScalers for a BBQ at Magne's place, which is right behind a Buddhist centre.

Magne's got a really cool yard that was perfect for enjoying some food and beers on a Saturday evening.

On Sunday I had a lot of work to do, but we found time to head out to Adama, a local vegan restaurant.  Chris and Tina joined us for some interesting eats and a solar eclipse to boot.
Tina revealing the state of the eclipse
Other than that, the only thing that I have to report for this week is:

Diablo 3 is out, and it's not going to play itself, now is it?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Guinness for Strength

We knew that we wanted to visit Heather and her adopted town of London, but we weren't sure what, if anything, we were going to do in Europe besides that.  Paris, Ireland and Scotland were suggested.  Ireland made the cut.

In Ireland's favor?  I'm part Irish.  St. Patrick's Day fell during our trip.  Others had said that it was awesome and that we should go.  It was close.  It wouldn't be too expensive to visit.

So to Ireland we went.  The island is pretty small, but our time there would be very short.  We would arrive on Wednesday afternoon and depart on Saturday morning.  That would be two full and two half days on the Emerald Isle.  There would be no time for lazing about.

Luckily, lazing wasn't on our itinerary.  Wednesday morning found us up at 5am and out the door just in time for a 35 minute wait for the bus.  No matter - we had factored that fudge anyway and made our train in time.  The actual route was bus downtown, couple stops on the tube, switch trains, few more stops on the tube, train from London to Chester, train from Chester to Holyhead, ferry from Holyhead to Dublin and bus from Dublin ferry terminal to the city center.

The weather was gray and cloudy but North Wales managed to look awesome nonetheless.  It's on my list for a more in-depth visit in the future.

The ferry ride was gray also, but it did offer a chance to get some warm food and relax for a bit.  A calm before the storm that seeing an entire nation in 3 days was bound to be.
Irish-style breakfast on the ferry
We landed in Dublin, cleared immigration (Heather was very insistent that I discontinue my habit of conflating "customs" and "immigration") and bussed to the city center without event.  We had the beginnings of a plan but neither the middles nor the endings, so first stop was a pub with wi-fi and beer.  The beer was important to some (me) and the wi-fi to others (me and Chris).  We found a cellular shop for Chris to get his smartphone connected to the Irish internets, plotted out some possible hostels for our evening stay and planned our time in Dublin.

First on the list was Guinness.  The walk from where we were to where it was allowed us to see the river and some of the old viking section of town.  It was quite a walk.  We had all of our luggage and a full day of traveling behind us so it took quite a while, but it was worth it.

First view of the River Liffey
A site for sore feet
Getting ready for the tour
The factory tour was pretty neat as they go.  Way more built up than Sam Adam's in Boston, though that was pretty awesome in its own right.  It was more of a museum/tourist thing than a tour really, as the brewery was no longer in operation there.  There was plenty to see, do and learn and of course plenty of Guinness on tap.

They had a  whole floor basically dedicated to the old construction techniques for beer barrels.
Makes me wish that beer still came this way.  Far nicer-looking than a keg.
There were two things that you could do with your tour ticket: pour (and drink) a "perfect pint" at the taps located at the midpoint of the tour, or drink a pint on the roof-top observation deck.  Melissa and Heather chose to spend their tickets on the perfect pint, while Chris and I saved ours for the observation deck.  At the end of the day, I probably drank somewhere around 3 of the 4 beers anyway, so I have no complaints. =)
Melch and Heather with their instructor.  Serious business!
Fill it to the harp, then let it sit
This requires complete focused attention.
Sharing the "perfect pint"

While Heather and Melch poured, Chris and I took the time to relax in some conveniently provided easy chairs near the taps.  The ladies joined us and we all shared in the beerish goodness.
Not that bad!
They had a restaurant near the top of the building, but we were there too late and it was already closed. No matter though - it was the observation deck that we were really after...

Pretty nice-looking bar that they've got there.

It had been a long trip and a long day, but I watched the sun set over Dublin from the Guinness observation deck with a cold pint in my hands.
Tastes like victory.
Dublin Sunset
After more walking in the pursuit of a hostel for the evening, we got our rooms, dropped off our gear, and made tracks for the Brazen Head Pub which had been recommended by my aunt.

This pub was as old-school as they come.
If there's any way that pub could have been a better ending for that day, I don't know what it might be.  Neat atmosphere, champions league football on the television outside, and live music on the inside.  That didn't just hit the spot, it hit all the spots.  If you're the kind of person who likes really bad camera work, check out the videos below.  In my defense, it was late, I was tired, I wasn't trying to be all conspicuous about it, it was just a humble cell phone, I ran out of gas, had a flat tire, didn't have money for a cab, tux didn't come back  from the cleaners, an old friend came in from out of town, someone stole my car, there was an earthquake, a terrible flood... and locusts...

It was a pretty cool place.  Heather and Chris went back to bed before the band came on, but Melch and I had to at least stay for the first set before heading back to bed.  Honestly, I would have stayed until closing time if I didn't know that the next day would be just as busy as the last.  We paid our tab and walked back to the hostel, stopping to snap a few shots of an old church along the way.

The best I could do with my fancy camera back at the hostel
Once again, there are more photos from this adventure on line than made this post.  You can see them here.

Morning Commute

Not much of an adventure, but I just got a new video camera so I figured I'd test it on the morning ride into the gym.  The soundtrack wasn't added later - that was the car stereo.  I say as if the wind noise from the top being down wouldn't be a dead giveaway.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Merry May Miscellany

We'll continue the gradual recollection of the European adventures in due time and some other past adventures besides, but it's time to get caught up with the nearly-now.

On Monday, Melch and Ra got together for some cake decorating.  I helped by eating some of the frosting.
I'm pretty proud of this cake.  Of all the cakes that I haven't helped to make, it stands out as being the most recent.
On Tuesday, "Cirque Dreams: Pop Goes the Rock" was coming to the Granada.  The Granada is awesome, anything with the word "cirque" in it is bound to be awesome, rock is awesome, and pop isn't all that bad, so why not?
Cirque, pop and rock?  Turns out it was exactly what it said it was.
Embarking on the pop-rocking circuit were myself, my special lady friend, Oura, Ra and Eric.  We didn't just hop right in though.  Watching a show is like running a race.  You don't just show up and sit down for a few hours.  You have to warm up first.  Warm-ups were held at the nearby Tupelo Junction, where I'd never been.  Review: I'd warm up there again.

Oura and Ra warming up

Melch was born ready, but came to warm-ups anyway
Once we were good and limber, it was off to the Granada to... wait for a bit because we were early.

We were ready for them, but they weren't ready for us!
After taking some time posing, we made a quick trip to Starbucks for the others to get some emergency provisions.  I'm not a coffee drinker, but I'm always happy to take a look at the kinda-interesting-but-not-interesting-enough-to-get music CDs and such that they have in addition to the drinks.  After that it was back to the Granada where the doors had opened.  Which was good because boy did we all need to check our phones by then.

I'm just barely old enough to remember waiting for things without a smart phone,  but I've already  forgotten.
 There was eventually a show or something, but I don't have any photos of that.  You'll have to see it for yourself.

The rock went pop mid-week.  The rest of the week had programming, ultimate on the beach, some Arch Rock Fish happy hour with Chris, Tina and Vadim and which I have no photos of, and some more ultimate.

Saturday morning was a normal beach ultimate game for me, but Melch and Ra went glass blowing!
I told Melch that I was behind her new trade 100% so long as she can make me something from which I might consume whiskey.

Saturday dinner was at Oura's, where her mother was in town and some awesome Cambodian hot plate preparations were on hand.  My only regret was that I had but one stomach to give to the cause.
Epic East Asian Eats

Saturday was scone baking which I hear was awesome.  Melch and Chris manned the kitchen battle stations on that one while I helped the dog defend our bed from loneliness.  I don't get up too early on Sundays.  My Sunday sloth means no scone photos, but I can assure you that they were delicious.

I eventually had to get out of bed.  For starters, while I might sleep through scone MAKING, I wasn't about to sleep through scone EATING.  Beyond that, I had to call my mother for mother's day before it got to be late on the east coast, and I had errands to run.

Modeling lady's blouses wasn't on the list for our CostCo trip, but who can ever go to CostCo without straying from the list at least a little bit?

CostCo didn't have the the GoPro that I was interested in (more on that later, I hope), but they did have Cuddle Groups.
Cuddle Groups seem awesome, but I decided not to get one since I was worried that the sequins from my new blouse might get caught on the 3 piece woven cuddly goodness.

CostCo isn't something that you attempt to tackle alone.  We hopped a ride with Ra since Melch needed to pick her car up from Ra's place anyway.  After the shopping was done, we went back to Ra's place and joined her and Eric for some Sunday dinner at the nearby Tee-Off surf-and-turf joint.  Once again, the weekend food schedule was costly in dollars and calories.  On the other hand, that's the stuff that adventures are made of.  You don't see my boring weekday fare making these virtual pages, do you?
Tee-off always gives generous portions, but you can't tell from the photo because I've been enjoying said portions... generously.
Smartphone LED flashes do away with the red-eye problem by making eyes an unsettling white instead.

In summary, another boring, terrible and otherwise unremarkable week in Santa Barbaria.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Information Vegetable, Animal, and Mineral

You might recall from previous discussion that Heather, our long-time friend and short-time hostess, was a practitioner of the botanical arts, which are actually sciences.  She had botanized at Kew, and by the time of our arrival, she was botanizing at the Natural History Museum in London (the purveyor of  informations vegetable, animal and mineral to which our adventure owes its title).

Outside of the Natural History Museum
Roof of Natural History Museum
She was on vacation for the majority of our stay, but she had to get some work done before she (and we) shipped out for Ireland, so on Tuesday she went in to work and we came too.  It was like a happy little "bring your Yankee to work day" that only we were celebrating.  She showed us around for a bit and then sent us on our merry way while she went up to her office to do that voodoo that she best.

Our merry way took us through the museum, which was pretty neat.  It was pretty similar to our native Smithsonian in some ways, though it appears that they had way larger collections in a lot of categories.  The British Empire was pretty extensive at one point, a fact which I suppose helped a bit in the collecting.  A lot of the behind the scenes work at the museum is all about cataloging all of that stuff.  Taking really hi-res photos, figuring out and encoding where on the planet it actually came from, etc.

They have a pretty cool dude supervising it all:
When they needed a statue to overlook the main hall, they naturally selected Charles Darwin
The building architecture was kind of a fusion of styles.  I'd classify it mostly as "old school," with a little bit of "epic," and a small but noticeable influence from the "cool" camp.  On the whole, it worked.

More arches
The main hall
Stairs and gargoyles
Gem Hall

Not a bad museum as they go.  Got to see some cool stuff, but even walking through the building with none of the exhibits would have been worth the trip.

Following the recommendations of several folks we'd run into, we moved on to the adjacent Victoria and Albert Museum for some unnatural (man-made) history.  They weren't as cool about photographs, so you'll have to trust me on the details.  They had paintings, sculptures, tapestries, weapons, iron works, and I think on the third floor they had the holy grail, but I'm not sure because we didn't have enough time to see everything.  What we did see was pretty neat.  When it comes to history, Britain just has more of it than the US does.

We didn't have enough time to seek the holy grail in the V&A because Heather was wrapping up at work and it was time for her regular knitting club meetup in Hammersmith.  Compared to the average member of the knitting club, I was significantly more male and significantly less of a knitter.  The club members were welcoming enough despite my pair of minor disabilities, but I took my leave for a bit anyway to search for food and drink.  It was actually a pretty perfect opportunity for me to pursue some more of my pub tourism.  While Heather was pretty tolerant of my pub-lust, I feel like she probably didn't get much enjoyment out of it.  In any event I'm sure that she preferred the knitting.

I found an excellent pub nearby, although I must admit that my sole criterion for "excellent" at the moment was "within site of the coffee shop where the knitting club met," as I didn't have time stray too far if I had hope of returning before the knitters were done.

The William Morris Pub in Hammersmith
The pub turned out to be more excellent than I had thought it would be.  Pretty inexpensive food and drink, free internet and a proper British newspaper left on the table by a previous guest.  They were even about to have an Ale tasting, though not for another few days (it was set for St. Patrick's Day, which I had every intention of celebrating in Dublin).  I drank in the English atmosphere, my phone drank in the free wifi bits and my liver drank in the English ale.  Life was good.

After the pub and the knitting, we walked home from Hammersmith to Putney, fought off a bit of the sleepies, and rallied for a trip to the local pub with Heather, Chris and Patrick (brother to Heather and acquaintance of mine from back in the Virginia days).  The occasion for the pub visit was that Everton was playing Liverpool in footy, which is football, which is soccer.  That and the Coat and Badge was Heather and Patrick's local pub and we wanted to see it before we left for the Emerald Isle.

The Coat and Badge is named after the prize that is awarded to the winner of a prestigious boat race down the Thames.  To qualify you must be a waterman, which means a long apprenticeship and probably some other stuff besides.  Back in the day, they needed a ton of watermen in London to get people from the one side of the Thames to the other (they had a bridge, but apparently it was always falling down).  It's kind of a proud tradition and if you won the race, you got a coat, a badge, and your name written on the wall of the pub.  If the number of names on the wall of the pub were any indication, they'd been running the race for many a year.

Dinner was bangers and mash, which is English for "sausage and mashed potatoes," washed down with Doom Bar Ale, which is English for "Doom Bar Ale."  The football game turned out to be pretty entertaining and the pub was nice and cozy.  A fine end to another fine day in London.