Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Come Shot

Anyone who has watched a small modicum of porn (which I dare say is 99.9% of us) knows that unless there's a girl on girl scene, any scene in the movie will always end with a come shot. The true porn aficionado will point out that there are movies eloquently named "cream pies" where the man comes inside the actress. The scene will end with a lovely closeup of her vagina or anus dripping with semen. I argue that such movies are fetish oriented and deviate away from the norm. (how wonderful that we are talking about what's normal in porn!!)

If you haven't already clicked away from this blog entry yet then good, you understand what I'm talking about here. The whole thing lately has been irking me. Why is there a need to see the man's satisfaction come to a head? (I really have to be careful with the mis-intended puns here) I guess I'm weird for even caring about this as I usually turn off the porn and start looking for tissues before I even get to the come shot (or even the 2nd position change). If you catch my drift...

What's even stranger is that by having to show the come shot, the porn actors do stuff that we usually don't even consider doing because it wouldn't feel natural or as good as coming inside the mouth, vagina or anus. What I mean here is, that I wouldn't ordinarily pull out a few moments before having to ejaculate so I can come all over my wife's stomach, back, ass, face, hair, chest or eye unless I was practicing poor birth control. (and we all know how well THAT works!! coughJonathancough )

I suppose the feminist in me thinks that by emphasizing the man's pleasure, porn is inherently sexist.

Well, duhhhhh!!

Besides, women are capable of multiple orgasms. So, my sympathy towards sexism in porn is somewhat limited by that fact. You should also note that I say "capable", so if you're a woman who isn't having multiple orgasms I don't want to hear it unless your name is Lynn and you've been lying to me all these years.

The more I began to think of the cinematic nature of the come shot, the more I've noticed come shots in other genres aside from porn.

No, I'm not suggesting that men are ejaculating on a regular basis in summer action movies or on the local news. But, look carefully when watching certain formulaic shows and you'll see what I'm alluding to. The most obvious being a cooking show. For a half hour you watch this chef/cook prepare one or several dishes. The show usually doesn't end with a slow fade out on the food. No, the chef leans over his or hers own creation and takes a big bite and comments on how wonderful it is. The look of satisfaction on their faces is eerily similar to what's going on during the come shot in porn. You could probably photo-crop Rachel Ray's face while she's says, "Yummm-O!!" onto the body of John Holmes and get the same effect. (yet I have a feeling we're talking about fetish porn again)

I suppose all hard work (here we go with the puns again) deserves some attention and recognition and the come shot lets us see that every good deed gets its reward. It's just smacks of being creepy and cliche at the same time and that's not an easy thing to do.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Phish reunion?

Emphasis on the question mark. Short article in this months Rolling Stone issue quotes Trey Anastasio hinting at a reunion. Phish recently got together for a lifetime achievement award at the "Jammies". (and I always thought jammies were what you wear to bed...) It's only been about 4 years when they broke up. I guess a little jail time and rehab will wake your ass up and make you realize what got you where you are. In some ways I wish they'd wait another 8 years for when my kids are old enough that I can be that old hippie guy who follows them around and sells cheese sandwhiches for ticket and drug money. Either way, it'll be good to have Trey back in a clearer frame of mind. When he's sharp, he's one of the best guitar players in the world.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rooting for a rout

As I write this the Phillies are beating the Rockies 16 to 4 in the 8th inning. Last night they beat the Astros 15-6. Some may say that a rout like that gets boring. Not me- I relish a good old fashioned ass-whoopin. No heart attacks as you worry that they may blow a 1 run lead or need to pick up some runs to win. Just pure unadultered fun. The Phillies offense again is starting look like it has in recent years and hopefully we'll see even more games like the last 2 nights.

EDIT: Now it's 20-4 and bases loaded for the Phils!! BAHAHAHAHA!!

Online poker is rigged

well, not most sites, but do not play at Absolute Poker or Ultimate Bet

Ultimate Bet Cheats

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Phantom Five

Today I read an article/opinion piece that profiled the ownership group of the Phillies. It's a long article and somewhat poorly written in some parts, but the overall view of why the Phillies is run the way it's run makes it worth reading.

Essentially, we may luck into a World Series title in the next 5 years with this incredible core of players like Howard, JRoll, Utley and Hamels but unless the current ownership group is replaced I doubt we'll ever have an organization that holds its upper level employees responsible for wins and losses. Here's hoping for dumb luck.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Please, please, please, make it so, RyHo!

The Phillies first baseman, Ryan Howard, went 3 for 5 last night with 2 homers and 4 ribbies. That may not seem out of the ordinary for the big guy but this year it has been. Slumping thru most of April and May and with JRoll out for a few weeks I was amazed that the Phillies stayed above the .500 mark with only one good starting pitcher. You can thank Utley and Burrell and their hot streaks in the early going for that.

Ryan really hit the homers far too, so let's hope this a new trend and he's emerging from his slump. With Howard back at his old ways, JRoll in the lineup and perhaps some pitching help from Benson or Happ and we can make another run. The next few weeks the schedule doesn't look so scary, so hopefully they make the best of it. Cross your fingers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

LOL Donkaments

Poker when played optimally will lead to winning money over enough time and hands. Of course there will be short term variance that will lead to losing streaks despite how skilled you are. Tournaments have an even higher variance due to the escalating blinds and antes (forced bets) that create players to act with hand holdings that are less than preferred and players will try to bluff and steal more often than in cash. The increased luck factor obviously takes out some of the skill. The more players that play in a tourney, the more luck is a factor over skill. It's why guys like Chris Moneymaker and Jerry Yang have won millions of dollars in the main event of the WSOP.

The higher variance of tourneys has led the posters over at 2+2 to nickname them "donkaments". The donk part refers to "donkey"- lingo for a bad player. The posters there even raised alot of money to donate to Barry Greenstein's charity to get him to say the phrase, "LOL Donkaments" on the TV show, High Stakes Poker.

This past Saturday's home tourney reminded me of why donkament is such an apt name. Never have I seen so many inferior hands win over statistical favorites. One player even called an huge all-in pre-flop bet with an ace and ten of hearts to be dominated by his opponents aces. Less than one times out of ten will the ace ten suited win, so it was a big suck out when 4 hearts hit the board and the poor player with aces went home in 4th place.

Personally, I even beat 4 to 1 odds to win a huge hand that propelled me to a 2nd place finish. The blinds started to get big and it was time to start making some moves. I was dealt a king and queen of diamonds so I came in for a raise. I ended up with 3 other callers (BAH-No respect!!) so already the pot was large before the cards came out. The flop was ragged as it contained a 9, 10 and 5 with 3 different suits. Since I was the preflop aggressor and there was a decent amount of chips to be won I figured I should take the first stab at it. I bet the size of the pot and I got a quick call from Chris, the others folded.

Chris is a solid player, but his flat call made me suspicious. It meant one of two things to me- he had a huge hand and was trapping me (possible but unlikely) or he suspected me of stealing (which I was) and had a "bluff-catcher". A bluff-catcher is a hand that probably beats most of my holdings if I'm bluffing. So, he could have hands like AK, AQ, 88, 77, 66, etc. I ruled out jacks or better because I think he reraises preflop with those. I think this type of hand is the most likely and therefore I think I can move him off the hand with an all-in bet if a favorable turn card comes. If I get called by nines, tens or fives then "c'est la vie" and I go home.

The turn card was a 4, so unless Chris was fucking around with a 78 the card is a good one to make the bluff with as it likely hasn't hit Chris. I take a little time to count out my stacks and then push it in and announce my all in.

I get instacalled.

He turned over pocket 8's which really surprised me. That basically told me he thought I was bluffing the whole time as there really weren't many hands that he can beat except for a bluff. Pocket 7's were the only holding aside from a bluff that I could have that he could be beating and even that hand would be me bluffing at the pot. A10, A9, 78, K10, J10, 10's, 9's, 6's, 5's, jacks thru aces wre all strong possibilities for me to have in my hand. Chris went with his gut that I was making a play and made a great call here. I have to give kudos to him.

Unfortunately for him, the bad luck was high that night and the queen came on the river and I won the huge pot and took the chip lead. (I had about an 18% chance of winning with a jack, queen or king) He lasted a little while on a short stack but never recovered. My respect for Chris' game has risen over the past year and I somewhat regret inviting him to the game. (not really tho, because it's mostly for fun)

I eventually got heads up with a 6 to 1 chip lead but as luck would have it my opponent doubled up twice with some small bad beats to me and I had no choice but to go all in with an ace three and lost to his ace queen. Shame the worse hand wins trend stopped there.

What can you do? LOL Donkaments

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who's Ed McMahon?!!

Just this past Saturday night I played in my regular home game and poker tournament. (report coming up tonight or tomorrow) At the final table I am sandwiched in between two guys in their early 20's, Tim and Chris. I was fairly manic-y that night as I usually am during poker events. The previous night I was up until 3am with insomnia due to racy thoughts. So fueled solely on a manic high I was more Brian-ish than usual. (Wow, two made up words in one paragraph!!) I was singing at times. I was making inappropriate jokes (like joking about Tom sucking on his Mother's tit with her right next to him). I was also doing silly impersonations. In other words, I was my usual obnoxious self.

Certain phrases and words said by others were triggering my brain to sing songs that those words or phrases reminded me of. So, when someone announced that he had a pair of sixes by saying, "I got sixes", the Schoolhouse Rock song, I Got Six popped into my head and I started to sing it. Tim curiously started to look at me as I was singing the song, "I got six, that's all there is. Six times one is six- one times six." "Is that a made up song?", he queried.

I fully expect someone of Tim's age and generation to not know the Schoolhouse Rock catalog of songs. Especially as I Got Six is one of the more obscure and less popular ones. The Schoolhouse Rock animated shorts were beloved by my generation as they played in between the usual mix of Saturday morning cartoons. Most of my core knowledge of the multiplication tables, American History and the preamble to the constitution, basic science and human physiology and grammar was due to me being a typical kid couch potato every Saturday morning. I weep for Tim's generation as they did not have Schoolhouse Rock's catchy tunes beaten into their young impressionable brains. He did a have a glimmer of recognition when I told him it was the same guys who made I'm Just a Bill and Conjunction Junction.

I felt a touch old as I thought about that but then I felt even older a few minutes after that. After a interesting card came out on the turn on one hand I screamed, "Hey-o!!" in my best Ed McMahon impersonation. (well, it really was an impersonation of the late, great Phil Hartman impersonating Ed, but you get my point.) I followed up my initial Ed catch-phrase with a "You are correct sir!" and an Ed laugh. Chris then asks me, "Who are you impersonating?" I didn't know if I should be insulted as I thought Chris didn't recognize the impersonation because I was doing it poorly. I sheepishly replied, "Ed McMahon" Then the shock and awe bombing began with the next question from Chris-

"Who's Ed McMahon?"

"Are you serious?!" I incredulously replied somewhat out of line.

After some explaining that Ed was Johnny Carson's sidekick on the Tonight Show and he's the guy who delivers the big Clearinghouse sweepstakes check, he did know who Ed McMahon was. He then made the comparison to him being an Andy Richter and since he was close enough, I let the subject drop. A person who was a pop culture icon to my generation and to the 2 or 3 generations before me was becoming a footnote.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Chris is dumb or anything like that for not knowing who Ed McMahon is. Quite the contrary as Chris appears to me to be a very intelligent, mature and funny young man. (good poker player too) Looking up the tonight Show on wiki, I see that Ed and Johnny said their goodbyes in 1992. While 1992 doesn't seem all that long ago to me, it's 16 years!! Chris was around 7 years old when Ed for the most part left the TV scene. Unless Chris' parents were completely neglectful or had weird ideas about when to put children to bed and what to let him watch on TV, It's understandable that he wouldn't instantly recognize the impression or name as I do. It's just like when I got a dirty look for not knowing who Ernie Kovacs was when I was in college. (I do now, having seen alot of his stuff, he was brilliant and groundbreaking)

So there you have it- what was once a star is now a memory. I am a bigger old fart than I previously thought (yet again, it seems to be getting worse...) and my only solace is knowing that someday Chris might finding himself saying, " 'Who's Andy Richter?!!' How could you not know who Andy Richter is?!!"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Accessible art

This week we received a note from Jonathan's art teacher that his art work will be on display at the North Penn high school for 2 nights in their gym. While this sounds like another brag about my son (and I do like bragging about his wonderful talent), it really is about something else entirely.

The art show was for the entire North Penn school district, from Kindergarten to the 12th grade. I was astounded as to the number of pieces of art that was on display. I know that North Penn is a huge school district but the amount of work that was on display from just high school students filled 4 long hallways filled with kiosks. Upon closer inspection I noticed that alot of the art work was digital photography and manipulation of photos.

Most of us have a certain level of creativity and we can imagine designs, pictures and ideas rather easily. Unfortunately, the problem we run into is that most of us can't draw worth a lick to express what ideas we have onto paper. So unless you can draw, sculpt or paint you are shit out of luck when it comes to creating art. (I'm excluding things like acting and writing as "art") Even with training and instruction the ability to create art is mostly innate. While artists will benefit from art schools and courses, unless you have that natural flair that someone like my son, Jonathan has to begin with, it usually won't improve your ability enough to make people notice or have the quality be acceptable to yourself. Most of us don't have that access to create our own art.

It's a shame really. While art is accessible in the sense that anyone can try it and do whatever they want without "rules", it isn't accessible enough that anyone can do what they want and translate what's in their head to the paper, canvas or clay. But after attending last night's show I'm starting to think that has changed.

Aside from clever internet pictures where you put your head on muscled body or make a cat say some funny things, photo-shopping and digital photo manipulation is making the creation of art more accessible to a new generation. You don't even have to have the ability to make a perfect circle because the computer will do it for you. Plus you can even do things that may not have even been possible to do with a traditional art medium. There were some really clever, scary, disturbing, moving and inspiring things that I saw some 14-18 year olds doing with their digital photos. While it may never gain true acceptance into the art world, it does allow us regular schmoes to express ourselves in areas that we couldn't do before.

With accessible art and tons of free internet porn for the next generation I don't feel so bad any more about global warming, peak oil production and depleted social security.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What the heck is up with Myers?!

As I write this the Phils are losing badly to the Braves because our starting day opener, Brett Myers, has let up another big lead.

I've heard reports that he doesn't have the velocity once had. Maybe he's a basket case and isn't pitching with his head. Maybe he was screwed up by being in the pen last year.

Whatever the case may be, I hope he gets it straightened out, because the Phils need him if we wish to contend. Eaton is falling back to suckitude again, Moyer can't last forever, and Kendrick is spotty at best this year.

Cross your fingers that Happ continues his success in the minors and Kris Benson can make a come back.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Feast or famine

You ever get the feeling that work is almost always really boring and not much to do or it's incredibly hectic and stressful?

There you are sitting at your computer and you're doing your best to look like you're busy but in reality you have nothing to do (or if you do have something, you're either putting it off or don't feel like doing it). Whether you're tweaking your fantasy football team or looking up sexual positions on Wikipedia you eventually find yourself getting lulled to sleep and then BLAM!!! The phone starts ringing, orders are pouring in, problems pop up, you only have 20 minutes til the UPS man arrives to pick up and then the chairman (aka Dad) comes in and starts making more work for you and also yells at you because you used 6 extra cents of postage by accident.

When I sold cars, we would refer to this phenomena as "feast or famine". Meaning you could go 3 weeks without selling very many cars and at not very high profits and then have a bonzer week where you sell 3 used cars at asking price and get paid handsomely. There was no real balance as to when customers came calling.

For me the long stretches of ennui are far worse than the whirlwind of harried activity and juggling you had to do when you were busy. At least when you're all over the place trying to get things done in an expedient manner, time flies by and before you know you're at home relaxing (albeit tired) or doing something you really want to do. Besides, my ego needs to feel like I've accomplished something, even if it's that I put together 143 packages to go out by UPS that day. I can at least say to myself that something was done.

There's something to be said for consistency. But ultimately, life needs variety and surprises in order to function better. So I guess a little feast or famine is a good thing for your character.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Do you know the way to San Jose? Trip Report part IV, Final report

I've wondered if I caused my blog to come to a grinding halt with this long winded trip report. Nonetheless, I will trudge on and finish for the one or two people who who wished to be bored.

Last we left the story, we we both got dressed up in fancy clothes and boarded the wine train. It was our anniversary night so I splurged for the glass top seats so we could have the best view on what would be a romantic night. The meal itself was very nice, the service was top notch. It was like having a gourmet meal on a moving (slowly- about 10mph of you ask me) train. Aside from the fun of watching our waiter pour drinks while rocking, there wasn't much benefit to eating a meal while on a train. I can't say that I recommend it. Even when the train stopped before dessert, we went to the back of the train for a look-see and all there was a tin shack and a dusty road. Plus the view was repetitive with mostly vineyard after vineyard and some strip malls thrown in. Most vineyards didn't even decorate towards the side of the train tracks.

Despite some disappointment, we had a very nice time. It's hard to feel slighted when you have a beautiful woman staring lovingly into your eyes the whole time.

The next day we went on a bus tour that stopped at various wineries. The benefit was that you could taste to your heart's delight and not have to worry about getting inebriated and driving over a hillside cliff or into the wine train. Our tour guide was a middle aged woman who dressed as if she were 25 and had a fun attitude. She probably had danced and slutted up the disco floors in the 70's and 80's. Her fun outlook, however, was infectious as it was genuine feeling and not a forced saccharine of "Hey, I'm a wild and crazy tour guide and let's party!" kind of feeling. Her knowledge of the valley and the wines was very astute and she took us to places we probably wouldn't have gone since they were mostly smaller vineyards and tasting rooms. Towards the end of the end of the day and having bought 11 bottles of wine, I was getting really sick of drinking. Lynn also was feeling the alcohol as she started to really miss the kids.

We had a small Italian dinner at a cafe that night and called it an early night. (we are soooo lame, aren't we?) The next morning we had our breakfast and made our way towards San Jose. The GPS was getting really annoying as it seemed to tell me to turn on the wrong ramps several times. I was ready to throw the system out the window, had I heard the voice saying, "recalculating" one more time. Eventually we found our way to the Winchester mystery house.

Had you not heard of this place, you should visit the wiki page about it as it's a really neat place. The tour was among my favorite parts of the trip. Our tour guide was a 60-something Texan who loved to laugh loudly at his own jokes. It was truly scary. It's one thing to laugh at your own stupid humor, but it's another thing when that laugh is loud and boisterous. I've making Lynn laugh over the last week as I've been imitating the tour guide a few times. We then had a nice dinner at a pub that made it's own beer. Much like an Iron Hill Brewery, it was anice cap to our trip. The next morning we made the 7 hour trip home and finally got to see our kids, whom we missed terribly at that point.

So, that was my trip. I'm sure I left out some details, but I was boring enough. Tomorrow, I'll post about something nutty again.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Whine -Trip Report part III

We arrived in Napa in the mid-afternoon and with nothing in our bellies but some cherries. We did a quick check in at a beautiful bed & breakfast located right in town. The proprietor let us know where the diner, Taylor's Automatic was located. This was a place that we saw on Food network's Drive-ins, Diners and Dives that we thought looked pretty neat. I ordered a burger that had an onion ring with blue cheese in the middle and bacon. We also ordered some buttered garlic fries that tasted fantastic. It was like diner food with a Napa gourmet twist and it was dee-lish!

By the time we finished our late lunch, there really was no time to visit any wineries since most closed by 430PM. Luckily our B&B room had a jacuzzi tub for 2 and we took a nice long soak. It was perfect and fun and I'll spare you the details of what else we did in the room. (altho, look for me to upload some digital video soon...) We eventually poked our heads out and checked out other parts of the inn. They had a table with some cards and giant checkers. So I jokingly used the checkers as poker chips and we played each other heads up for a few hands. (red was $5 and black was $10) The game soon changed into blackjack and then the wildest game of Crazy Eights I've ever played. The damn game just wouldn't end. I kept picking up spades and diamonds and Lynn kept picking up clubs and hearts. After 20 minutes we called it a draw and went out in search of food and wine.

We went into the main town of Napa and found a wine bar that had some decent food. We shared a cheese plate and had some soup and started to drink some copious amounts of red wine. Lately I've been into Red Zinfandel and Lynn has been liking the Syrahs. Before I could get too drunk we made it back and called it a night.

The next day we had decided to visit a few wineries on our own before going to the wine train for our anniversary dinner. That day was our actual anniversary. Lynn's co-worker had recommended 2 wineries to us when she heard we were visiting Napa. We plugged the address into the GPS system and quickly learned it was 90 minutes away!! I guess she thought that any winery in CA is close to each other. (we later found out that Napa valley only produces 6% of California wines.) Not to be daunted by the trip, I trudged forward as it was something my wife wanted to do and it was my anniversary and I was willing to do whatever made her happy.

Of course just as we got close to the Rte 101 exit to Healdsburg the GPS system was flashing low battery- no problem- we'll just plug it in and let it charge as it works....


It didn't charge at all and it the damn thing just quit on us!!

So, he we are in a place I have no idea where I'm at, no maps, no GPS, and no idea on how to get back to the Inn! I called Alamo to complain and to see what could be done. They said it was like to be a fuse in the charger that needed replacing and to find one at a local gas station. We eventually stumbled on an auto parts store and after not finding the needed fuse at first we did find the necessary fuse in a box of 20 assorted fuses.


But wait!

Murphy's law is still in play here....

We ended up on winding curvy roads again but this time there was a big bicycle touor going on at the time. It was impossible to pass the bikers since you couldn't see if someone was approaching on the other side of the road. So, basically we're stuck going 15 MPH down these roads and when we finally got to where the GPS said the winery was- THERE WAS NO WINERY!!


Fed up I did a U-turn and headed back towards the highway. I saw a random winery and immediately drove in.

My impatience turned into some luck. The winery was called Everett and the people there was perhaps the friendliest people we came across the whole trip. The man did at first chide me because of my Phillies attire (the Phils beat the Giants the night before) but it turned out to be a pretty good batch of wines, plus the view was fantastic- it was situated on top of a hill that overlooked the valley and wineries. We bought a few bottles and headed towards the other winery recommended by Lynn's friend. That did turn out to be the right address and we found some nice mustards to buy aside from a few bottles of wine.

We didn't have time to visit Mondavi or Berringer's due to our reservation but even though we were out of the way, it was worth the trip.

Next up-- the wine train and getting sick of wine...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'm becoming an internet superstar!!

Well, not me, but my ciggie bird is. She may not be as big as Chocolate Rain yet, but she's getting some love over at neatorama. A fellow poster at recommend that I submit the pictures to them and they posted it. Soon I will rule the interwebs!!

Now, where do I collect my checks?

link to the story

ESPN/Harrah's shakes up the WSOP

A few things happened to the World Series of Poker format while I was away-

For starters, here is the ESPN TV schedule for this year's WSOP events:

• July 22 - Event 1: $10,000 pot-limit hold 'em
• July 29 - Event 2: $1,500 no-limit hold 'em
• Aug. 5 - Event 3: $1,500 pot-limit hold 'em or Event 4: $5,000 mixed hold 'em
• Aug. 12 - Event 5: $1,000 no-limit hold 'em with rebuys
• Aug. 19 - Event 45: $50,000 HORSE
• Aug. 26 - Event 50: $10,000 pot-limit Omaha
• Sept. 2 to Oct. 28 - Event 55: $10,000 no-limit hold 'em main event
• Nov. 4 - Event 55: WSOP main event final table preview show (10pm)
• Nov. 11 - Event 55: WSOP main event final table

No stud events with the exception of the HORSE event (mixed games consisting of Hold Em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Eights or better stud.) I know that TV ratings are getting weaker and weaker for poker so it's a bitter pill to swallow to see less variety. A shame that they cut the HORSE down to 2 hours, 6 hours last year was perfect and fulfilling.

The other big change is that they are stopping play when the final table is established and will restart play in November, either a few hours before the televised event starts or a day or so. (I'm uncertain at this point)

That is big news to say the least. I think it could suck but if it helps boost the excitement of poker again to it's 2004/2005 levels then I'm all for it. Collusion could come into play. Players who made it to the table via some luck may get some coaching and may change how the game would've been played. Plus someone could die in that 4 month period!! I really hope it works and nothing taints the game. Poker has come a long way to get some respect and not be associated heavily with cheating, The Absolute Poker scandal didn't reach a big audience but a collusion scam at teh WSOP would be a huge media event that I'd hate to see come to pass.

Cross your fingers and hope ESPN and Harrah's knows what they are doing...

Head fer dem dar hills!! Trip report part II

Even if you haven't been to San Francisco before, you are probably aware of the many hills the city is situated upon. Walking around the city gives you a heckuva workout to say the least. I think that's why most people who live in the city aren't fatties. So, when we arrived by ferry to Alcatraz island, I thought we'd get a rest from walking up and down the streets of San Francisco.

No such luck.

Alcatraz is essentially a huge hill in the middle of the bay. Once a military post to protect the new city and it's gold mines, it was converted into a federal prison once the need for such a post was outdated. The prison was built at the acme of the big hill and one has to ascend up 4 steep inclines to start the tour.

Having already walked to the ferry boat from Fisherman's wharf, we were huffing and puffing rather heavily by the time we could start our audio tape tour (well, I was, Lynn is in shape.). The tour itself was one of the best parts of the trip. I am fascinated by mysteries as I already posted last month. The Alcatraz escape is right up there with the DB Cooper hijacking as far as peaking my interest levels. What I found strange is that the audio tour and park rangers never call it an escape but rather an escape "attempt". They acknowledge that the 3 men got over the fence and into the bay but since they deem it likely that they got killed by the frigid waters and torrent currents they never say that it was possible they escaped. Myself, I hold more faith in Clint Eastwood to think that the water could have taken him.

After the tour we headed back to the piers and wharf and had a decent meal on Pier 39. I loved sampling the local brews of Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam and some Portland wheat ale that was very tasty. I figure since we were were going to Napa, there was no sense in partaking of wine until we arrived there. (and I'm glad we waited) The long day of walking caused an early night for us again and I think we still hadn't adjusted to the new time zone completely.

The next morning we had to check out and make our way up to the Napa valley. We decided to do a driving tour of the rest of San Fran and I even made my way down the treacherous Lombard street. Lombard street is so steep that they built switchbacks for a stretch of the road. Even scarier was parking on the next street down so we could get out and take pictures of the street. We had to park perpendicular to the street and it felt like our car could tip over with just a stiff wind. It was hard just getting my door open as I had to fight gravity to get out of my seat. Soon after we made our way to a few spots in the Golden Gate park. The park was beautiful and had all sorts of flowers and plants we didn't recognize and had an interesting pillar with statues in one part surrounded by a pond. The statues face away from the viewer with their heads down as if they were purposely trying to ignore us and/or moon us.

After the parks we ventured out to the Golden Gate bridge. I wasn't expecting much as I thought it was "just a bridge", but I must admit it has some mystical quality about it. It's a truly impressive bridge and it has much more much character than say the Walt Whitman. Driving across it, however, wasn't any more thrilling than any other bridge. (My favorite bridge drive is the Chesapeake Bay bridge) We set the GPS system to take us to Muir redwoods park and of course we encountered even more hills. Lots and lots of twisty and curvy hill side roads led us towards the park. I was very glad that I was not drunk or impaired in some fashion.

We eventually came across a roadside vendor and since all we had for breakfast was some coffee we bought some really delicious cherries. It was fun driving thru the curvy roads and spitting pits over the cliffs. Once we got to the park we started out on a 3 mile hike thru the woods. Being on the east coast, you just never get to see trees with trunks so wide and tall. I highly recommend going on this hike. Of course, the hike consisted of walking up hill and walking alongside a narrow and winding trail on the ridge. It was alot of fun and scenic.

The rest of the day consisted of traveling to Napa and checking in at the B&B- more on this soon...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Don't play Punch Buggy in California; Trip report part I

Don't you just hate when people go on and on and on about their vacations? They gab and jaw about what they did and where they went on their trip. And if you're really unlucky you have to look at a bunch of photos (or worse- home video tape) of themselves in front of landmarks, people they met, restaurants they ate at and the places where they took a dump.

Well guess what?

It's my turn to be that annoying person. Except I'll blog about my trip over a series of posts over the next week and I doubt I'll post any pics of our trip. Honestly, do you really need to see my fat ass hugging a redwood tree? (altho, that really does give some perspective as to how big the trees really are) So, sit down and get some sunglasses so you can pretend to be paying attention while you're really asleep...

Some pertinent background before I start- My wife and I like to play a game in the car called "Punch Buggy". It's a simple game and it's fairly common among children everywhere in the United States. Basically, if you see a Volkswagon Beetle, you hit the person next to you twice and wipe away the hit (as if to say that you didn't really mean it?) and shout, "punch buggy". Needless to say, it pays to be alert if you pass a WV dealership or else you'll end up bruised pretty badly. My wife and have added a variant where we get to give an extra set of punches if we espy a classic Beetle made prior to the newer style introduced in the 90's. Those are obviously only spotted once in a blue moon. We don't really hit each other all that hard. We do love each other, after all, and despite my wife's sadist tendencies to want to get smacked on the ass, we don't want to inflict bodily harm on each other. I think our competitive egos are bruised more than our bodies.

The night before the trip we had to sleep downstairs on a couch and easy chair as my in-laws were sleeping over as they had to watch the kids the next morning and we had to leave at 4:20AM for a 6:05AM flight. The adrenaline of knowing we were going on an exciting trip made it even harder to fall asleep and at 3AM I was awoken by 2 huge charlie horses in my thighs due to the weird sleeping position. My painful dance around the room stirred my wife to wake as well. Thus we arrived in San Jose after 7 1/2 hours flight time including the transfer in Chicago really, really tired.

We stumbled thru the airport and after getting our luggage we lumbered about looking for the rental car shuttles as we moaned, "Brains!! More Brains!!"

Okay, so maybe we weren't really zombies but we felt like them.

We decided to get the GPS system at the rental place for the extra money so we could just plug in the addresses and have the system tell us where to drive. Having only printed Google maps of our hotels, my reliance on the GPS quickly became apparent to me to be a mistake. The system at first was telling us we were north of San Francisco! San Jose is clearly about an hour south of the city, so I had to blindly go north as Lynn fiddled with the unit. Eventually we just turned off the GPS and started it up again and it started to work fine. (why is this the solution to fix almost everything these days?) We arrived at our hotel in San Fran in the Union Square area shortly around 1PM Pacific time. It felt like 9PM to us.

The car ride to San Fran made it clear that Californians really love VW Beetles. Our game of Punch Buggy was turned up a few intense notches as there were Bugs everywhere. Their ubiquitous nature made me hover my fist over Lynn's thigh as I drove or else I'd get beaten from the multitude of bulbous cars. Not only were there a ton of new Beetles, but I was simply amazed as to how many classic Beetles we stumbled across during our stay. I think we are lucky to spot a classic Beetle about once a month or 2 months during our regular game. At the end of our trip I counted that we came across 16 classic Beetles.

After our check in, we decided to walk around a little bit and found a place to eat in a small cafe in the area. We also stopped in some art galleries and had a look see. We went back to our hotel to have a little nap. That little snooze turned into a 4 hour coma. We woke around 7PM and composed ourselves and took a stroll towards Chinatown.

After a small missed turn we found ourselves at the famous gate to Chinatown of San Francisco. It was a majestic gate and it welcomed us as we walked up the hill. The rest of Chinatown was a huge disappointment. It was gift shop after gift shop. Most of the stuff was cheap as well. Of course that didn't stop us from making a few purchases. I did find a stone with a Chinese character of the word, "luck" written on it for a poker card cap. (to hold my cards in place so the dealer doesn't accidentally muck them when I'm in a hand) My wife also purchased an iron tea kettle and cups that was comely. I was surprised to find that there weren't very many restaurants at all. The first restaurant we came to immediately we avoided because I figured the first one you come upon had to have been bad or too expensive. After a few blocks of walking we realized that there weren't any more restaurants around until we finally found one on a steep hill at the end of Chinatown. Almost ravenous at that point we sat down and ordered up some of our favorites.

I can honestly say it was close to being some of the worst Chinese food I've had.

It seemed to be Americanized Chinese food. I guess they didn't get the memo that most of us nowadays prefer the authentic cuisine and not the overcooked, salty, and bland food that our parents liked. After our disappointing meal we grabbed a cab and had a rollercoater like ride back to our hotel. The hotel had a hip restaurant next door and we stopped in for a few drinks and then went to bed. The next day we were going to the Wharf and Alcatraz island.

to be continued...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hatching a smoke

Just got back from my trip- don't have much time to tell you all about it yet, but a quick update- The baby birds are hatching!!