Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wicked comes to San Diego



The unbelievable phenomenon that is Wicked The Musical rolled into San Diego yesterday, and I was lucky enough to have a ticket for opening night. Of course, my ticket was very nearly at the back of the theater, but I'm not complaining. Like Miss Delaware in the Miss America pageant, I was just happy to be there.

The performance was great, but not the best version I have seen. Of course, I have now seen it six times, so there has to be a better and a not better. Still, the show was enjoyable, and the audience was crazy about it. There was such an excitement, you could feel it in the air. The crowd even applauded when the house lights went down!

The show is sold out for its San Diego run, but there is a resident show planned for Los Angeles from February 2007 through December 2007... at least. Yep, it's a done deal that I will be going up to see it again. I just can't get enough of this show.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Superman Returns

Ric and I saw Superman Returns last night, and I have to say I enjoyed it. Despite a few WTF items - like a 23 year old Kate Bosworth playing Lois Lane (too young, too young!) - the movie was definitely worth seeing. I especially appreciated the respect and tribute they paid to the Christopher Reeve films - "I hope that this won't put you off flying. Statistically, it's still the safest way of traveling."

Of course, I have to admit I was distracted much of the movie by Brandon Routh, the newest Superman. Is it just me, or does he look like the long-lost son of actor Chris Noth?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wow.

The picture below shows what must be the gayest phone I have ever seen.

Late Night Phone Calls

For reasons way too involved to get into here, I have been thinking today about friends. Good friends. "Middle of the night, phone rings, I need to talk to you now" friends. At this point in my life, I realize how fortunate I am to have them. Not everyone does, and that is the sort of thing you don't know until the time comes and you need them.

Thank you, Andrea.

Live from Iraq... AJ!

What a fantastic surprise this morning. I woke up, logged on, and found this link in my email:
http://www.dvidshub.net/?script=video/video_show.php&id=15490

Our friend, AJ, was interviewed by a Pentagon reporter. This clip aired on their internal network, meaning that it appeared on all of the Pentagon and White House televisions.

AJ... I am so incredibly proud of you. I cannot wait for you to come home. First stop? In-n-Out Burger!



You can email our very own war correspondent, AJ, at orn919@hotmail.com.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hot. Hot. Hot.

Man, it's hot. Supposedly, it is only 89degs today, but it feels much hotter than that. And for the first time in a long time, it is humid. Ugh.

Fortunately, we have plans to get through the heatwave. Ric has gone with a buddy to Black's Beach, where he can frolic in the sand and play in the ocean, all without a swim suit. Hee hee. Me, I will be heading over to a friend's house shortly to swim in their pool.

I know it could be worse. It could be 125degs like it is in Palm Springs or Phoenix. It could be humid like it is in the South. And we could lose power, like the people in St. Louis. All and all, no need to complain.

But I am.

Date Night - Dive Night

Over the last month, Ric and I have started having a "Date Night" once a week. Each Wednesday night, we schedule time for just the two of us. We have gone to dinner, wandered around shopping, or just hung out. But it is our time to be together, just the two of us.

Well, this week we made an exception. We still had date night, but it was also dive night. During the summer, our dive shop has a weekly night dive. They bring barbeque or pizza, catch up with each other, and end the evening with a great dive. Ric and I decided to join them this week, even though it meant involving other people on our date night.

Wow. What a dive. The weather is beautiful, the water was as calm as a lake, and the skies were clear and full of stars. What a great way to dive, huh? We spend about 30 minutes diving, but at 106' below the surface, air tends to burn away pretty quickly.

Thanks, Joe and Katy, for hosting the Dive Night. We will definitely join you again next month!

Back To Work

We all say it, and we all mean it, but still I have to write it. The toughest thing about going on vacation is coming back to work. I checked my email Sunday night before returning to work, so I would at least have an idea of what my Monday morning would be like. Crazy hardly covers it.

I had intended to spend my time away from the office evaluating my career decisions and options. Instead, I put the office further behind me with every mile I drove. Now that I am back, though, I am again confronted with the realization that I do not enjoy what I am doing for a living. When it was new to me, three years ago, it was pretty cool. I had a chance to learn commercial escrow and work with the Marine Corps again. It was a win-win.

Now, though, the new car smell is definitely gone. Oh, there are still plenty of benefits to this job. One, I work with Ric in the same office. That is great. Two, I have a lot of autonomy. Within reason, I can set my own hours and come and go as I please. Three, the location and working conditions are fantastic.

The down side? I am just not enjoying what I do. I feel like I am pushing papers all day, and none of it leaves me feeling "yeah, that made a difference." Of course, what I need to sort out is whether this is about the job or about me. Because if it is the job, then leaving and starting somewhere else makes sense. But if it is about me - and I fear it is - then leaving does no good. Wherever I go, there I am.

So I will spend some time thinking about it, and I will most certainly blog about it again.

Long Drive Home

As good as the week's vacation was, the reality of it ending was never so clear as on the drive home. We left the campsite at 8:00am, and we were on the road all day long. It was over 400 miles to get home, and every bit of it was hot, hot, hot.

The worst part was driving through Los Angeles. The freeways are crowded, even on a Saturday, and a good part of the drive was bumper to bumper. Yikes. Where are all of those people coming from or going to?



So we made it home at 6pm, which was not too bad. But by then, I was ready for a long nap.

Thank you Santa Barbara and thank you Yosemite for a great vacation!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yosemite - More photos... of me!

Since it is my blog, and therefore all about me, I think I need to put more pictures of me!

It's not easy to get me and the falls in the picture, but standing on the fence sure helped.


Here I am, looking way cute even with natural backlighting.
-grin-


And looking up towards the camera always makes you look thinner. Whoo hoo!


Somehow I can even make Crocs look cute. (Those are the shoes, in case you don't know.)


And here I am with the ultimate make-or-break accessory, the cool hat.

Yosemite - More photos

And wherever we go, we take pictures of ourselves. And fun ones, at that.

This is Ric and I, on the Merced River.


And this is Ric, looking his usual sexy self.


And Ric again, not as sexy but still awfully cute.


And Grant, making friends with the locals.


And finally, Grant, enjoying the sun.

Yosemite - Photos

What else can I say? Look anywhere in Yosemite and all you can see is beauty.

This is the view as you arrive in the park from the South. This is called the Yosemite Valley Portal.


And this is the view from in the valley, along the Merced River looking up.


This is the Merced River again, but from farther in the valley. This spot is located behind the Pines campground area.


Another shot from in the valley, this time looking towards Upper Yosemite Falls.


And this is view into the Valley as you arrive from the West.

Camping at Yosemite

What can I say about Yosemite? It is an unbelievably beautiful place. From its world-famous peaks at Half Dome and El Capitan to the valley below, there is no place like it. How fortunate we were to be able to spend time there this summer.

This first picture is the most commonly seen activity around the campsite. Ric cooking. Yum.


And you can see that all creatures great and small enjoy his cooking. This poor guy ran off with a biscuit bigger than his own head!


And Ric's cooking extends beyond our own campsite. These four people - Suzanne, David, Sam, and Chris* - were our neighbors in the Upper Pines Camp Area. Typical Ric, he cooked way too much food and was fortunate enough to find some great hungry neighbors. Thanks, everyone, for the company, the Domino games, and Uno!

* The names are right... I think... but I will double check with Ric and fix them if I screwed up.

And this is the second campsite we had at Yosemite, up in Hodgdon's Meadow. It was warmer than the Pines, but it was still pretty. And we had plenty of room to set up the big tent!


And the other great camping thing to do - enjoy a campfire.

Channel Islands - Truth Aquatics

The dive trip was a 3 day live-aboard with a company called Truth Aquatics. They have a great reputation, so Joe (owner of San Diego Divers Supply) arranged the trip. We got a fairly good price per diver, and I am definitely glad I went along. I had a good time, but the trip itself could have been better.

So here is my review of the trip. I will add one disclaimer - I have only been on one other live-aboard, and it was fantastic. So this is not the review of a seasoned boat diver. But it is a summary of what I thought was good and bad. I may even email the link to this post to the owner of the dive boat company. Who doesn't appreciate constructive criticism?

What was great about the trip? Annie Crawley. She seemed to be everywhere on the boat. She filled our tanks after dives. She cleaned up in the galley. She gave us a presentation on the underwater world of the Channel Islands. Most importantly, she was friendly and always willing to answer any questions I had about the dive conditions and locations. She was, in fact, the perfect dive captain. (That may not even be a real job, but it works for me.)

What else was great? The food. Maya and Annie were in charge of the galley, and the food was delicious. There was plenty of it, it was served on time and piping hot, and they even managed to keep smiling and be friendly throughout the trip. Not easy when you are feeding 30+ divers and a hungry crew.

What else was great? Diving the East End Pinnacles. Each of the dive sites offered something unique and enjoyable, but the Pinnacles were far and away the highlight of the trip for me. The visibility seemed to be 50+ feet, and there was every sort of sea life to enjoy. Greg and I moved quickly through the currents to get to depth, and at 100 feet the water was calm. It was an incredible dive, and I felt like I was back in Hawaii. (Well, other than the water temperature. Brrr.)

And the not-so-great aspects of the trip? We spent a great deal of time searching for dive spots, which means we had less time than expected for actual diving. Our first day, Sunday, we only made three dives. That's it. Three. The next day was better with five, and the last day we only did two. So I dove every chance I could, and I only had ten dives on a 3 day live-aboard. That isn't good.

And because of all the moving around, we never really knew when we would be diving. So many times we would wander below deck to nap between dives. Unfortunately, when the Captain found a spot, he would make his announcement AND his dive brief immediately. But since we were below in our bunks, we could barely make out anything he was saying. By the time I got topside, all I heard was "the gate is open." (And that is why Annie was so helpful. I would always ask her to repeat the dive briefing, and she did. Each time.)

Other criticisms? Not too many. All and all it was a good trip, and I know the Captain struggled against strong currents, swells, surges and tides. It just felt like many of the crew were just sort of hanging out, rather than being there to help us with our dive needs. I am pretty low-maintenance in that respect, but I would like a little customer service. I tip very well, and I think the dive support folks could make the effort to pick my fins up off the deck after I board the boat, instead of just dropping them to the deck so the next diver walks all over them. Little stuff like that makes a big difference, and that is really why I am paying for the convenience of a live-aboard.

So, there you go. A good trip that could have been better. I give it one-fin up out of two. I am sure I will go out on the boat again, but I doubt it will be anytime soon.

Channel Islands - Boat Life

And some photos from the boat.

First, this one, showing what was an everyday occurrence. While the Captain was moving the boat to our first morning dive spot, we enjoyed a great breakfast, coffee, and a lot of "did you see what I saw yesterday on the dive?" conversation.


After breakfast, we would make our way outside, where we could get into our wetsuits and our gear and get ready to dive. In this picture, Austin and Vitaly are preparing for the dive.


Normally, entering the water is easy. Go to the side of the boat, jump in, signal "OK" to the Dive Master, and descend. But with the current running strong, we had to make a bow entry. That means we went in from the front of the boat, at the dive line. The Dive Master said, "just get in and descend... I will watch and know that you made it in okay." In this picture, you can see Greg at the line and me jumping in.


Later, when the crew had all the divers safely back aboard the boat, they broke out the fishing rods and worked to catch their own dinner.


And this was the view at night. Incredible, eh?

Channel Islands - Sea Life

The cold waters of the Channel Islands support an incredibly diversity of life. I was amazed by the bright colors and abundance of fish, coral, and plants. These are some of the pictures, but there was just too much there to capture in one trip.






If you are interested in seeing more, check out the website for our 2nd Captain aboard the boat, Annie Crawley. She is an incredible photographer and artist, in addition to her work assisting divers.

Channel Islands - Diver Photos

Despite the party atmosphere aboard the ship, we really were there to dive. Of course, I did manage to bring the party with me. Note the horns still on my head as I begin my first dive.


And this is Joe, our fearless leader.


And this is Austin, my fellow diving Marine and assorted madman.


Not pictured, of course, are Greg, Joey and Vitaly. They were with us, of course, just not so willing to jump in front of the camera.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

After The Party

After the party at The Neighborhood, we made our way back to the boat. The red spray paint in my hair was not fading anytime soon, so I decided to just enjoy it... and the expressions on the faces of my fellow divers.

Here I am, bright hair and all...


And these are the other party favors... the devil horns! And yes, I did dive with them.


And I was not the only one with red hair, remember.


And here I am with my fellow diver, Vitaly.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"The Neighborhood," or How We Learned To Love Red

Ever have one of those nights where fun things just happen? No planning, no effort… just a great night?

Saturday, Greg and I drove up to Santa Barbara for the dive trip. We got in to town early, caught the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, then when to board and check in. As we were dragging our gear to the boat, we ran into our friends from San Diego. We quickly set up our dive gear, left the rest of our stuff on our bunks below deck, and headed out to town for “two drinks. Period.”

Well, you know what they say about good intentions, right? We left the boat about 8:30, intending to have a couple of beers and get right back. No one wants to try to dive with a hangover, so a late night was out of the question. Following the Captain’s advice, we walked a few blocks to a cool little bar called “The Neighborhood.” And what a night to be there. It was Liz’s birthday, and apparently her favorite color is red. We know this because there was red everywhere in the bar – mardi gras beads and masks, tinsel, plastic crabs, confetti, and a can of red hairspray. Take note, because this last item becomes important.

So we are minding our own business, shooting pool and enjoying beer. It’s me and the roommate Greg, plus diving buddies Austin (Marine Corps SSgt) and Vitaly (a Russian kid who looks 15 and grins all the time). Austin and I discover the can of hair spray, so we decide to have some fun. I think this picture really sums it all up.



For the rest of the evening, people kept coming up to us asking how we knew the birthday girl. When we said we didn’t, and that we just used the red spray on our hair because we thought it would be a kick, everyone loved us even more. So much so, when we were ready to leave the bar at 11:30, the waitress bought us another pitcher and the party-organizer insisted we all had to dance together.

All and all, an incredible evening of fun. There is a certain amount of freedom being in a new town, not really caring who thinks what about you. And as it turned out, our being there and being a bit wild encouraged everyone else to let loose, too. So, Happy 30th Birthday, Liz. Glad we could be there to make it fun!

Friday, July 7, 2006

Vacation

This blog is about to get quiet, my friends. I am on vacation and will not have internet access until sometime after Monday, July 17th. When I get back, I will have lots of photos to share.

I leave tomorrow night for Santa Barbara, where my friend Greg and I will board a boat for our three day scuba diving trip in the Channel Islands. We will be diving fools, enjoying the scenery below the sea and the great food aboard the boat. Sounds like a perfect dive trip to me.

Then, Tuesday evening, I will head up to Bakersfield and spend the night with my brother.

Finally, Wednesday morning, I will join Ric and our friend Grant in Yosemite.

What a great vacation, and I am so ready for a break!

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

My Friend, Greg

One advantage of getting older is that there are countless opportunities to connect with people from the past. Tonight was just such an opportunity.

To me, at the wise old age of 20, Greg was just about the coolest person ever. He was young and sexy and edgy in a way I knew I would never be. Think Richie Cunningham meets The Fonz. Okay, now ignore that reference to Happy Days, because we met in the Marine Corps in 1986. But we connected, he and I. Despite our differences - or perhaps because of them? - he and I hit it off. As it turns out, we both made each other feel smarter and just a bit better than those around us. And of course, he also introduced me to Everything But The Girl and Henry Rollins, so how could he not be cool?

Fast forward to tonight, when I enjoyed an hour long phone conversation with Greg that seemed to fly by in a moment. Talking to him now felt comfortable, like we have not been apart for all of these years. (I know that is incredibly cliche', but it's true.) He is living too far away from me - Lincoln, Nebraska - but he is doing well. Hearing that was the best thing about the phone call tonight.

And to Greg, I say this. I have missed you, my friend. I look forward to having you back in my life.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Is There A Middle Ground?

(I have been kicking this around in my mind for a while, but I am finally going to take the time to put it down in writing. After reading it, please provide some feedback. Am I totally off the mark here? Or do you feel as I do?)

What happened to civility and an exchange of ideas?

Let’s start with a simple analogy. Imagine I need to buy a new vehicle to get back and forth to work. I can buy a car or a truck. Either choice would meet my basic needs, but they each would offer additional (and distinct) benefits. A truck would allow me to haul my bike around with ease and a car would offer comfortable seating for additional passengers. There are pros and cons of either decision. And choosing one means not choosing the other.

Because this is a simple analogy, ultimately, I choose a hybrid of both. I buy a truck with a full extended cab, so I can haul items and have room for passengers. I get the best of both worlds.

But in the real world, where Republicans are trucks and Democrats are cars, there is no middle ground. I am forced by closed minds to choose one or the other. More than that, I must only see the positive of my choice and view the other option as completely wrong.

In today’s political and social world, there can be only one side. Compromise is a pipe dream, because to do so would be to acknowledge that there may be merits to an opposing view. But I think seeing the world as black and white, with only one side having the answers, limits what we can do.

In my opinion, the world is full of middle grounds. There are so many opinions I have that are to liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals:

  • Women should do everything possible to avoid an abortion, but the choice to have one should always remain theirs.
  • It’s possible to be politically aware without being politically correct.
  • I can make decisions from the heart without being a bleeding heart.
  • I can be spiritual without being religious.
  • I think families with a father and a mother are great, but not automatically better than non-traditional families.
  • Gay men and women can serve honorably in the military, not because they are gay but because they, too, are proud Americans.
  • Providing drug treatment and counseling to addicts is far better than throwing them back on the streets without help.

Well, that’s enough examples. My point is simple. I believe that holding complex views is a sign of intelligence, compassion, and wisdom. Other people believe it is a weakness, an inability to make a decision.

The bottom line here is that I think, in the current political climate, that we are expected to support every decision and statement made by those who share our party label and disagree with everything from the other side. Democrats must act as if every Republican idea is stupid and dangerous, and Republicans must act as if every Democratic action is morally wrong and weak.

Can it really be true that one side is 100% correct? Anyone else have an opinion?

Saturday, July 1, 2006

What Used To Be

I was going through whole photos the other day, and I was pretty shocked by what I saw. I know I put on a lot of weight over the years, but to see picture after picture was tough. I know that I don't want to be that person again, so I put the worst of the worst together into a collage. It's my reminder of where I was, acknowledgement of where I am, and encouragement for where I am going.