Friday, January 26, 2007

Holidays 06 (pt. 4)

Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
The next step in my journey was a Red eye flight to Newark. I pretty much slept the whole time. Not that I slept well but it did make the trip go fast. Another thing that made it go fast was the fact that we arrived in Newark an hour early? How does that work? If we can get there an hour early why didn’t we just schedule it that way? I guess that is one way to pad your ontime arrivals.

Trained down to PA and spent the weekend in Levittown. Saw most everybody in the few days I had there.

Having been gone from work for so long, I decided to head back into NY earlyish on Sunday and head into the office to get settled. We had a bunch of new servers to put in so I coaxed Pop into coming up and helping me put them in. I thought it would be a fun day but unfortunately, we were missing the disk arrays. We also ran into trouble getting the OS loaded. It turned out later, after Jordan fought with this for a long time, to be a bad external CD drive we were trying to use. Ahh well. It is too bad we didn’t get it up. It was probably good for me to remember how annoying some of these things can be and how long it can really take to do seemingly simple things.

The week went too quickly. Went out for golden Tee on Monday. I think I actually won a game. W00t!

Was way too beat to go out on Tuesday w/ the pool people. Passed out on the couch as I got home.

The Twins came up on Wednesday. We went down to china town and went to Joe’s Shanghai for some soup dumplings. This is one of my favorite NY restaurants and I try to get down to 9 pell street when I make it to NY. Jesse was “not hungry” (or maybe was sketch by the food), but Becky dug right in. It was a good meal and I always like introducing people to good new things. Afterwards, we headed down to ground zero. Supposedly they started on the construction but it still looks the like the same hole in the ground. I really wish they would stop the bickering and build something.

This was the day that Bush had his Iraq speech. I missed it but we saw part of the dems rebuttal when we stopped for a bathroom break. It seems the Dems, even though they took congress are still very much, “That isn’t a good plan”, without offering an alternative plan. Ugh, somebody needs to step up and offer some options. I am halfway through the Baker and co report on Iraq and that seems to be a pretty decent plan. It even seems like Bush is following a good portion of it. Problem is, as seems to be endemic in the administration, is I don’t see them being up front about what they are doing. I always get the feeling that I am treated like a 5 year old child that has to be protected from the real plans. Anyway…

Thursday was the Christmas party. Had a good time, danced a bit, ate a bit, drank a bit more. The bar was a bit weak on the good stuff. The Vodka was absolute and the beer Budweiser, for example. I decided to switch to wine and, as Matt put it, “Bad white is usually better than bad red, at least it’s chilled”. After the party, we continued back to our golden tee bar. As fun as that was, I have had better thought out plans. The next morning, I had the option of dragging myself in and hurting all day, or sleeping a bit late and hopefully being useful. I chose the later and it was the right choice, I actually managed to get a good bit done.

Friday evening, I headed back up to the catskills. We did a couple little tasks, like putting up the mailbox, etc. Mostly just hung out in the country.

Came back early on Sunday, packed and got ready to head back to fair ol’ England.

Problem was, London had a big fuck you waiting for me. I returned to a stack of mail and a ruined bed. It seems the roof had leaked on my bed while I was gone and the whole thing was mildewed. Sweet! Looking through the mail, I had a notice that my council tax was overdue (though I am still waiting for a revised bill), another that says it was overdue so I had a court date and another that said I missed my court date and was found in default judgment against. I do like how they want 10 working days between any contact w/ them and their action on it but they can send me a letter to show up in person less than 10 working days away. So between the ruined bed and $1500 dollars in unexpected bills, it wasn’t exactly a welcoming feeling.

I got most of it straightened out. My landlord replaced the bed and I am dealing w/ the city. Ahh well… I am only back for a couple of weeks. First weekend in Feb I head to the Alps for some skiing. Since lat is in country, I am going to head to Den Haag the next weekend as well. Maybe Berlin the next so expect some updates in Feb.

Happy new years to everybody and hope everybody is well. Drop me a line some time.

Holidays 06 (pt. 3)

Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
I woke up on New Years Day feeling really quite good about the world. Not sure why exactly, just happy and hopeful in general. This is going to be a good year.

We went back to the flying star for breakfast. By the time we gathered and made it through breakfast, it was time to head to the airport. I took Jay and Devoney on to the airport for flights that finally seemed like they were leaving.

Since I wasn’t sure that anybody was going to make it out of town, I wanted to stay in town until they were on the plane. This gave me a perfect opportunity to go see Theresa and Blayne’s new car dealership. More Seattle friends, they recently moved out to Abq. to start a car dealership. I got the full tour of the huge building they are setting up in. Still some work to be done but it looks like a good place and the location seems good. In a car dealership area, it is on San Mateo right next to the busiest intersection in … something. At least Abq. but that would probably also mean in NM. It was good to see them and I hung out for a bit. Met Blayne’s family finally. They had been living out Abq. while I knew Blayne in Seattle. Good to see everybody doing well.

Wanting to make sure I hit Taos before dark, I headed out in the mid afternoon. The roads ended up being more clear all the way up then they were in Abq. I think Abq. just doesn’t have enough plows.

Cruising back through Taos was nice. I was really sorry Jay didn’t make it up, I would have liked to show him Taos. Met up w/ a bunch of Taoseno’s at orlandos for dinner. Hung out next to the fire pit outside waiting for everybody to gather.

Headed up to the Pennington's after dinner. This is the house that always reminds me that I wanted a house of my own design. His father was in construction and it has great, thoughtful, well designed touches all over the house. And the views are amazing.

Everybody was still a bit rundown from new years so it was a mellow evening. Matt taught us a new game. The game was very fun. We divided into teams w/ about 4 people on each team. Everybody put 3 famous names (historical, celebrity, whatever) into a hat. Then for round, team A would have 1 minute to get their team to guess as many names as they could without saying the name, one point for each correct guess. After their minute, Team B would get the hat do the same thing. Once you go through the hat once, you put all the names back in and you have another minute to get your team to guess the same set of names, but this time you can only say one word for each clue. Round 3, is the same set of names but this time you have to pantomime. We played a couple of rounds, it was a good way to pass the evening.

Woke the next morning and headed out for breakfast burritos w/ Zach. He went to run errands and I went to find Rohm. Found him, home with his family, as hoped for… Another tough day, we hung out and chatted all day. It is always nice to see them, Rohm still has that easy smile.

Eventually, I headed over to Zachs to find Zach and Ian playing City of Heros. I jumped on for a second. Wow, that game is fun. I tell you, these massively multiplayer games are dangerous. I have to stay away for the same reason I stay away from Heroin. It is just so addictive. I know many people that play and only one that has managed to quit. Many have tried but few can kick the habit.

We headed over to the Taos Inn for a going away party. Pleasant dinner/chat and then back to Zachs to sleep.

Next morn, I went and found Ky’s new place. Another super cute family, he is living over by the hospital with his lady and two daughters. Hit El Taoseno for a breakfast burrito. I have been going to that restaurant for, what, 20 years? I think I have had not the breakfast burrito maybe 3 times. Afterwards we came back and played a bit on the computer. I put in Google earth and zoomed around the world with Tatayana.

Ky headed to work and I headed over to Rohm’s for another tough day. We even broke out the magic cards.

Back to Ky’s around 9, we stayed up late shooting pool in his computer room/den area. Another great time, hanging out w/ an old friend.

Woke the next morn a bit early so I could get a picture of Tata before she headed off to school. I think I was feeling better than Kayum this morning but not by much. We spent the morning on the couch. Eventually, it was time for me to get off my ass and head to Abq. for my flight.

Back in Abq. I stopped at a little market and picked up a bunch of chili before heading over to Theresa’s dealership for a bit. We gathered a large posse and went out for one last NM dinner. It was ohh so good but a week of nothing but food smothered in chili and cheese is taking its toll on my digestive system. I need a salad or something.

Holidays 06 (pt. 2)

Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
We got up fairly early the next morning and began the drive to NM. It was a pretty easy trip until we hit Socorro. That is when we hit the storm. Albuquerque doesn’t rain much and snows almost never. This storm dumped 26 inches of snow in the NE. 14” on average through the city. The roads were closed from Albuquerque to TX, AZ, and CO. You can go south if you want to get out. Apparently Angel Fire had 50” of snow. The mayor came on and asked people not to come. You know you are in trouble when the mayor of a ski resort is telling you not to come skiing. Albuquerque still had roads closed 3 days later. And all of that was still nothing compared to Denver.

We met up with Zach and Ian for dinner in Albuquerque while we planned our next move. To my surprise, Ian showed up with his friend Cleo. Cleo and I have a habit of meeting in far flung places. A Seattle friend, last time I saw her we were in NYC. She was with her sister Devoney. After dinner, they all headed off to the Rev Horton Heat concert and we went to find lodging. We ended up staying with Jay’s uncle up in Cedar Crest. His uncle, Chuck, even took us out snow plowing the next morn. If I had laid odds on things I didn’t expect to be doing on this trip, I would have bet heavily against snow plowing. But it was a nice way to pass the morn, cruising around sketchy mountain roads, plowing, trying not to get stuck.

After plowing we headed into Abq for breakfast. When renting the car, I made sure to get an AWD vehicle. Thinking it might be useful in Taos, in case we wanted to go up to the mountains or we got some snow and had to get through the canyon. I had no idea how necessary it would be come. We had a ford escape, I guess they make a hybrid model too. That little fucker was great in the snow. I could hardly even make it slide. Saw people stuck and helped people get going all over town but we could get anywhere in the escape. Maybe it is just the first traction control car I have driven but I was quite impressed.

We made it down the mountain and met Ian and gang at the Flying Star in the Nob Hill neighborhood. Nice neighborhood actually. It became our neighborhood for the next couple of snowed in days. We got a hotel a couple blocks away. Good location, Ian lived around the corner and Zach not too far away. Most of our snowed in time revolved around this area and it offered enough to keep us interested. The flying star was our breakfast spot for the whole time, which was good b/c it was a great café/restaurant with a nice feel. I wouldn’t mind having one of these in my world.

Since Abq was shut down, we decided there was little to do but drink so we hit the bar and spent a cozy day warming up in an Irish pub nearby. Really didn’t accomplish much but hanging out chatting. It was pleasant enough to be an accomplishment in itself. Eventually we got dinner and retired to Ig’s for more of the same. Tough day.

Enter New Year’s Day. We probably could have made it up to Taos but it was still iffy and we had to be back the next day for Jay’s flight anyway. It felt like we were really just going to drive up for the party at Matt’s house and then turn around and return. I like those guys and all but a 2 hour commute for the party was a bit much.

We made a good day of it anyway. Went over to Zach’s and played with his 360 for a bit, that is a pretty system. Got Big Tom to come out and we all went to shoot some pool. It was good to see Tom. He has a new daughter to attempt to balance out his 2 boys. Everybody sounded like they were doing well. Shot pool for a while and then Ian showed up and announced we had dinner plans. A friend of theirs was going to make an Indian feast. Hmm, that is valuable green chili space that is being wasted but it is hard to pass up a home cooked meal.

As a side note, other than that meal, I think I was successful in having green chili in every meal in NM. Ian kept asking what I wanted to eat and I kept telling him that was a dumb question. I have to get my season’s fill of green chili, I have no room to waste on anything else.

Back to New Years. Just before dinner, we got word that Devoney, who was supposed to be flying out, had her flight cancelled again. We couldn’t leave her stranded in the airport for New Years so we swung by increased our party by one.

It was about this time that one of our party started really getting loaded. I knew he was in trouble when somebody handed him a wine sized bottle of a (Russian?) stout. One of those gourmet type, 11% jobbers. He tipped back his head and drained the whole thing in one burst, complete w/ overflow spilling down his chin. Uh-oh, here we go… Just after dinner, he fell into a snow pile. When I asked him if he fell or dove he replied “I don’t know”. Now I have been out w/ him before and knew that all would be ok but I think the rest of our party was a bit sketched out by the whole scene. Ahh well, it’s New Years.

After dinner, we headed back to our neighborhood and dropped the car off at Ian’s. W00t, now I can start drinking! We called a cab to go to the club and hung out for a second waiting for it. It actually came quite quick. On our way down the hill though, in this old rear wheel drive cab, the cabby hit the breaks and mutters, “Uh oh!” Heh, not really what you want to hear as we slid towards an intersection. He managed to pump the breaks a bit and get us stopped on the still very icy roads.

So next stop was Pulse. Ian and Zach have a history with this club. They both worked there. I guess it is the preeminent gay club in Abq. I have ended up there a couple times with them. Tonight, I was feeling a bit low energy so I had my reservations. Once we got in and started dancing though, I realized that this was a good call. Good vibe and a lot of fun was had, with one minor bump.

About 15 minutes before midnight, we were walking from the hip-hop to the house room. I don't think there was any specific incident, maybe just the loaded look was enough. In any case, a big bouncer comes up and grabs our loaded one by the head and tells us he is too loaded to be in here. “Give us 10 minutes through the new year”, I ask. “This is not negotiable!” is the reply as he drags my buddy out by the head. Fucker. Ig was the only one of our party in sight so I told him to stay and I would go take care of this.

We found each other outside the club and started heading back towards the hotel, looking for one last new years drink on the way. In this way, new years passed. 5 after 12, we stopped in a really strange little local bar and had a new years toast. We hung for a short time before we went and poured him into a bed in a nearby hotel.

Back to the club, I decided that with all the timezone jumping I was doing there was no real reason for me to be stuck in mountain time for new years. I decided I had just as much claim to pacific time as mountain time and I got back to the club about 10 mins before my new years. Happy new years! We danced for a few more hours in to the night. A random night truly but all and all a good night.

Holidays 06 (pt. 1)

Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
Whooo boy, what a trip. I think we won.

There was a lot of worry about getting out of London at the start of the trip. Flights had been cancelled for days on account of the fog. I was overhearing stories of people trapped in Heathrow for 2 days. Virgin said that they were unaffected and indeed, I had no problem getting out. It made me start wondering if the longhaul flights have better radar that allows them to not worry about the fog. That makes sense but does that mean that the continental flights don’t have the fancy radar?

The flight was very easy, going west is always easier than going east. We stopped at a great Italian restaurant in the Bronx Italian section. Around 184th and Arthur Anderson, called Dominics or similar, it is one of those great hidden gems. No menus, family style dining. They come out and tell you what they are cooking tonight and you pick a couple things. The other people at the table were very friendly and recommended some dishes. We ordered some of our own and some of their recommendations. Of course, their recommendations were far better. Simply fantastic chicken dish.

After dinner we headed up to the Catskills for Christmas. Everything came together nicely, other than the bottle of wine that broke in my luggage. It was, of course, red wine but most of the presents made it. And we figured out that dish washing soap and hydrogen peroxide gets red wine stains out very well.

Day after Christmas, we headed back into the city to meet up with Aunt Beth and Uncle Gerald. We went to the natural history museum and saw a show at the planetarium. There were a bunch of young kids running around the museum and we wondering how much of this they were “getting”. I was quite impressed when I saw a group of 10 years olds run right up to a topographical globe and pointed out the Himilayas. “Oooh, lets find the Rockies”. I guess our educational system is doing something. We stopped in Korea Town for a meal before I caught the train out to Newark for the next phase of the adventure.

Jay picked me up in Tucson in a small little desert airport. We headed up to his parents place and pretty much called it a night. Finally dug into some real Mexican food before we headed out to the Tucson outdoor zoo. It was called something else, but it was basically a zoo of all the indigenous plants and animals of Arizona. We walked the whole thing and felt very cultured afterwards.

After lunch (more Mexican) we broke so people could get ready for the big night out. Before that though, we hit the hill top resort for the twilight toast. Because seriously, who can pass up free tequila? We got maragrita’s at a very picturesque spot in front of a fire overlooking Tucson, At twilight, they passed out a shot of tequila and told a story about Pancho Villa. We toasted to a story in which Pancho Villa had to drink more tequila than the bride to be’s father. Nice setting for a drink.

Then came the hail. Marble sized hail and freezing rain, in Tucson? Go figure. After a bit of trouble getting the limo to show up on account of the weather (and they had forgotten our reservation), the guy finally showed up. Things got a bit hazy at some point but I am pretty sure we hit every bar in Tucson. We finished the night out on the mesa in true southwest style. Yup, we won.

Not exactly feeling our best the next day, we decided not to hit the road just yet. Instead, we went to the Titan museum. The Titan missiles were our way of assuring peace through Mutually Assured Destruction. As stupid of an idea as it sounds, it seems to have pulled us through the Cold War. The basic premise was that if you shoot at us, we are going to shoot all of these huge missiles back at you, ie if you take us out we are breaking the earth. Each of these missiles carries a 90,000 megaton detonation, this is equivalent to a multi thousand car train loaded with TNT stretching from Arizona to Kentucky. The Titan missile site is the only remaining, though non functional, site of the original 54, spread in 3 locations with 18 missiles each. The missiles are spread out around a 90 or so mile radius south of Tucson. As they were very careful to point out that it was “our biggest”, or the “US’s biggest” weapon, I have to assume that this is not the biggest ever produced. The museum was quite cool. The height of late 60’s technology, it is completely dug out and placed on big shock isolation springs. This means that it would take basically a direct nuclear strike to take it out. Inside the complex, which is all underground, was nearly entirely a “no lone zone”. This meant that anywhere you were in the complex, other than the kitchen, you had to be in sight of somebody at all times. Even just stepping behind a control panel or something, you had to have somebody watching you. For 20+ years, the one in Arizona was set to “Target 2”. Still classified, nobody knows what target 2 is. When asked how they were sure these would fire when needed, they told us about their testing program. 42 times over the 20-odd years of the program they removed a missile, removed the nuke, and sent the missile and team to the test center. Some time during that week, they were called upon to fire. The target was a small island I had never heard of. Out of the 42, only 2 missed by more than 100 yards. “You don’t have to be that accurate with a weapon system like this”, the guide remarked. Indeed, the fireball itself is 3 miles in diameter. At some point in the late 80’s (IIRC), we signed a Non Proliferation treaty to disarm many of our massive weapons. To show that we, and the Russians, had done this, we disabled the various parts of the installation (drilled holes in the rocket’s fuel tanks, etc) and left them outside for 30 days so the satellites could document what had been done. Then we salvaged what we could and filled in the silo.

The museum was especially packed because it was raining. It rained all day? This is just the weather fucking with us, which would continue to be a theme on this trip.