Homer's Travels: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #46: Howard Creek Trail To Nordhoff Peak

I'd planned to hike the second part of the Los Robles trail this week but I changed my mind at the last second and decided to return to Nordhoff Peak instead. The weather forecast called for a clear day and I figured I should get up there while the views were clear. This time I would take the Howard Creek Trail up the backside of the ridge.

The trailhead is by a gate on Rose Valley Road about a half mile from highway 33. I was starting at a higher elevation so the amount of vertical was going to be less then the Gridley Trail. I walked around the locked gate and headed up the dirt road. My head must have been a million miles away as I missed the trail junction. Fortunately the dirt road ends only a quarter mile past the junction. I reached the end, looked around in confusion, and walked back towards the car. I saw the trail marker and I couldn't believe I'd missed it. It wasn't a big sign or anything but it was a standard park service trail marker as clear as the nose on my face.

I took the trail and headed for the ridge. This first section of the trail was a road once - a long time ago I would guess. The trail is dirt, gravel, and patches of disintegrating asphalt lined with tall bushes and shrubs. This changes when you reach the base of the ridge and begin climbing.

At the base of the ridge the trail becomes a narrow, well maintained path. The views as I climbed were nice, everything green and all. From one turn you could see a pond with a dock and picnic tables. It looked like a nice place to be on a hot summers day. The path continued up passing small patches of snow. Nothing big mind you but surprising nevertheless since the temperature had been in the 70s the past few days. The trail is mostly shaded and passes through forested areas. Forested areas always make me feel good - something about being surrounded by trees that warms my heart. On other parts of the trail you could hear the creek down below. The trail crossed three or four small streams that were feeding into the creek. The sound of the water was relaxing.

Howard Creek Trail ends at the top of the ridge which is about two and three quarter miles from the trailhead. The climb to the crest of the ridge is about 956 feet. As you crest the ridge you have a great view of eastern Ojai Valley. At the road I turned right and looked off in the distance where I could just barely make out the watch tower.

From the Howard Creek Trail-Ridge Road junction you follow the dirt road to the Gridley Trail-Ridge Road junction about a mile away. The road drops 671 feet during that mile.

The Gridley Trail-Ridge Road junction marks the inflection point on the road. The road starts to climb back up to Nordhoff Peak going up 758 feet in about 1.3 miles. On the way up I searched for a geocache that I had skipped last time, "Checkin' Out Nordhoff's Backside", and became the first to find it. Cool!

I reached the tower and, since there was no one around, I decided to search for another first-to-find cache opportunity, "Nordoff Ridge Tower". Unfortunately I could not find it and, after exchanging e-mail with the hider, I think it is no longer up there. Oh well, the chance to have two first-to-finds in a row didn't materialize.

I sat on the tower and ate my lunch before I attempted to take a 360° panorama. It came out but there are some serious discontinuities on the railing. You can see a bigger version by clicking on the panorama.

I started back down. The sun decided to become hot at this point and the hike down, then up, the ridge road became grueling. There is no shade on the road and I couldn't wait to get to the Howard Creek Trail to get in the shade. Since I had missed the park service sign on the way up, I was worried that I would miss the park service marker at the upper end as well. I was a little paranoid since it seemed longer going back but I saw the marker without any problems and started back down the trail. The shade felt wonderful.

I was hurting when I got back down to the car. Despite the fact that the hike was shorter that the Gridley Trail, being only 10.23 miles, and despite the fact that the total climb is less than the Gridley Trail, being only 2,385 feet, I was totally pooped. In other words, it was a great hike. A few pictures can be found here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What You Get When You Dump The Main Character

I used to think that the comic strip "Garfield" was a fairly dull cartoon. Then I came across this interesting take on the cartoon: Garfield minus Garfield. Some of the strips are surrealistic. Many are thought provoking. Check it out.

Open House, Crowded Car, and The Oscars - What A Day

Today we had our first open house. The open house went from 1:00 to 4:00 so, at 12:30, I loaded Homer into the car and headed for the beach. The Wife wasn't with us as she is chaperoning a school retreat in Santa Barbara.

It was a little sprinkley out so I didn't get to walk Homer very much and we spent most of the four hours sitting in the car. I have got to figure something else to do with Homer. He doesn't seem very happy sitting in the backseat of the car for hours on end. I, on the other hand, have no problem killing time with my reading. This time I had a Wired magazine to keep me occupied.

Homer and I got back home and the realtor had left a note. We had four parties drop by the house. Not that impressive in my opinion. Well, four is better than nothing I guess. No offers ... yet.

Now the house feels empty. The Wife will be gone until Tuesday so it's only us guys here. I think I will blow the night and veg in front of the Oscars. To compensate for the lack of a Wife, I bought a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Not the same thing but it will have to do.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Facial Hair Poll - Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

It's time to make a decision about the ol' facial hair. In the past I have been clean shaven, had a mustache, had a goatee, and, what I currently have, a full beard. Over the last 20 or so years have have periodically changed my facial hair style. It's time once again. I have decided to ask you my multitude of readers (OK, I've some minor delusions of grandeur goin' on here) to weigh in on my decision. I am temporarily adding a poll to the sidebar on the right so that you can vote. If you have suggestions for another style not listed in the poll, select other and let me know in the comments.

What should I do with my facial hair. Here are the options:
  1. Full Beard. This is what I currently have. I grew a full beard following my pseudo-retirement. The Wife, Matron Of Honor, Best Man, GeekHiker, and Just A Girl have all seen me in a full beard. I am keeping it trimmed short as it has a tendency to puff out like a Brillo pad when it grows too long. This is too bad as it prevents the use of facial hair jewelry. The Wife thinks I have a little Earnest Hemingway thing going. The one downside is there is a lot of gray in there and it makes me look like an old Earnest Hemingway.

  2. Goatee. I have warn a goatee since before we were married (Over 11 years) and this is probably what I am most comfortable with. The goatee has a lot of gray but most my darker facial hair is in the goatee area.

  3. Mustache. In the late eighties - early nineties I wore a mustache. I'm not too fond of it anymore. Makes me look like some guy stuck in the seventies. My mustache is also turning gray.

  4. Clean Shaven. I haven't been clean shaven for a long time. It would make me look a lot younger as I wouldn't be showing all the gray but it would also mean more work in the morning having to shave and all.
So, what do you people recommend? I do not guarantee that I will follow the poll results but I will consider them when I make my final decision.

The Poll ends in two weeks so get a votin'

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #45: Gridley Trail to Nordhoff Peak

This week's hike was up to Nordhoff Peak. There are several ways to get to Nordhoff Peak including the Pratt Trail, the Howard Creek Trail, and the one I took, the Gridley Trail. Today was an overcast day and you could not see the mountains. This was a little discouraging. I was hoping to have great views from the fire watchtower on Nordhoff Peak.

The Gridley Trail starts at the end of Gridley Road in Ojai and winds up through Gridley Canyon on the way up to the ridge and Nordhoff Peak. The hike follows a narrow trail up a short distance until it reaches a road that goes through private property. After a short walk on the road the trail veers off to the left and climbs away from the orange and avocado orchards. The trail goes up, up, and up some more. Along the trail I searched for nine geocaches, finding seven of them. One of the caches was called "Lookin' up the Chief's Nose". Here is a picture showing the view of Chief Peak and, yes, that is up his nose (I've been on his nose!).

I'd not seen anyone on the trail and, after finishing off a cache, I got careless and let out some gas in a very petite manner. That's when I saw a guy and his dog coming up the trail. I hurriedly continued up the trail looking over my shoulder to see if he was going to catch up. That's when I say that he had turned around. Now this could mean one of two things. Either he had reached the 1.5 mile point and had decided to do just 3 miles today, or he passed through my cloud of anal vapor and noticed the odor of Channel no. 2. I really doubt that he heard my little indiscretion and I think he had just reached his turn around point ... I hope.

The trail passes a horse trough, horse tie, and a bench at the 3 mile point. Soon after that the trail begins to switchback up the ridge. There is a lot of vertical on this hike and I was really straining. My calve muscle felt really tight this morning and the climb wasn't helping.

As I climbed I was getting closer to the clouds. There was rain in the forecast and the clouds looked a little threatening. At one point I thought I heard some hard rain but it turned out to be the sound of a river down in the bottom of the canyon. By the sound there was a lot of water moving very fast. Unfortunately the trail is too high above the river to actually see it. Looking up to the ridge, most of the time I could not see the watchtower or even the top of the ridge. There was some sun for brief periods on the way up but most of the time the skies were overcast which limited the picture taking opportunities.

I finally reached the ridge road. The sign at the trailhead had said it was 5 miles to the ridge road. The sign on the ridge road said it was 5.75 miles to the trailhead. My GPS said 5.5 miles. Nothing like a consensus. I turned left and headed the extra mile along the road to get to the Nordhoff Peak Fire Watchtower. This last mile was a steep road that switchbacked up the ridge some more.

I arrived to the tower after two young ladies who had hiked up the Pratt Trail. The tower is about 20 feet tall and made of metal. It is located about 6.66 miles from the Gridley Trailhead. The altitude at the tower is 4,509 feet. The platform is a see through grate. At this point the wind picked up and it became quite cold. We sat down on the grating and I leaned back on a piece of grating that turned out to be quite cold. I put the jacket I had on earlier back on before I ate my lunch. I listened to them talking about their dance and music classes and complain about idiosyncratic band leaders. As we ate the cloud ceiling rose up to the point that we could see the Ojai Valley and Lake Casitas. Note the small patch of snow on the lower right side of this picture.

My lunch companions left before me and I took some pictures from the tower. As I looked up at the increasingly dark clouds overhead I wondered how wise it was standing on the tallest metal structure on top of a mountain while a storm was approaching. Not very wise I would imagine. I climbed down the tower just as a mountain biker arrived and I started back down the trail.

I headed down the trail going back the way I had come. I was planning to check out the two geocaches that I couldn't find on the way up but as I got closer the spitting that had gone on most of the hike turned into a steady rain. Since I was still two miles from the car I decided to cut my searching short and push on to the car. As I walked in the rain I was quite comfortable. My camera was safely tucked away in it's case and shielded under my jacket. I was wearing a water shedding jacket instead of the usual sweatshirt hoodie and I was wearing my new hat which has a wide brim. The hat was very good at keeping the water off my face and neck. One thing that did bother me were the droplets of water that formed on the brim. As I walked the drips would move back and forth along the brim which was kind of distracting in a weird hypnotic sort of way.

The hike was 13.3 miles long and there was 3,425 feet of vertical. This is a new record for vertical for me, beating out the climb up part of Mount Rainier. On these long hikes with large vertical change I often wonder why I do it. About one half to three quarters of the way through the hike I am usually in major agony. Why do I subject myself to this? I think it's the challenge - I want to know just how far can I go. Except for the sore muscles I'm currently experiencing, I usually feel really good after a hike. I guess that's why I subject myself to this masochism.

The only downer on this hike was the weather. I will have another opportunity in a couple weeks when I return to Nordhoff Peak, this time on the Howard Creek Trail from the Rose Valley side of the ridge. Hopefully I will have clear skies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Wife ... Astronomer

The Wife went outside tonight to see the Lunar Eclipse and she went out at the exact right time. We watched the shadow blank out the moon until is was totally gone - totally cool! I took some pictures but, without a tripod, only one came out half way decent.

Book: Thomas Friedman's "The World Is Flat"

My latest read was Thomas L. Friedman's "The World Is Flat", his latest defense of globalization. To begin with, I am currently a rabid free trader and I am a supporter of the whole globalization movement. Not everyone is a fan of globalization. Globalization has caused all sorts of disruptions with jobs being shipped overseas and all, but free trade has been one of the most effective anti-poverty forces in existence today.

I have seen Thomas Friedman on TV many times and I find him irritating. His writing is very similar to his on-air persona - irritating. I hate it when an author plugs his other books in the first chapter. Having said that, the book does build a good case for why globalization is happening, why it is good, why the United States could be the biggest beneficiary of globalization, and how the United States could squander that potential windfall with petty protectionism and poor preparation of its workforce. The book covers the what, why, and how of globalization and explains how the United States could fit in a globalized world.

There are parts of this book that should be taught in every high school and college in the country and makes this book a must read. Specifically the list of skills that will be need to create the "New Middle", the new middle class of the United States. The workforce needs to move out of the 20th century and be brought into the adaptable, continuously educated, flexible, and creative workforce that is required by the 21st century world. Not only must the workers themselves change but the support system set up by the State must transform to assist the mobile, adaptive worker.

Being the geek that I am, I connect with the high tech changes that have enabled globalization. I embrace technology as it becomes available (i.e. becomes cheap enough to afford and is useful). I also see the United States slowly, but accelerating, falling behind. While we are debating building border fences and penalizing industries for moving jobs and factories overseas, our fellow planet-mates are finding better ways of doing things. There is this sense of entitlement in the United States today. We have this air of superiority that is reminiscent of all the smugness seen in every fallen civilization that has come before us. We have our priorities completely bass ackward. One of Friedman's quote makes the point:
“In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears-and that is our problem.”
We need to prioritize education, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. We need to reinvigorate the work ethic that existed in this country last century. We need to teach problem solving not test taking. Most importantly, we need to teach our young the importance of constantly improving themselves.

The Best Man has personally been affected by the globalization movement - specifically outsourcing. He has witnessed the movement of jobs overseas. As I read this book I wanted to find fault in Friedman's reasoning but what I found was that the Best Man is a good example of someone who has the necessary skills to survive the upheaval. The fact is, he is surviving the upheaval and as a result his value is increasing. He is a member of the "New Middle."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Entertaining The MoH And BM - Day 4 And Epilogue

The last day of MoH and BM's visit, Monday, was enlightening to me and a little sad having to see them go.

We started with a lazy morning. Mid-morning we went to Denny's for brunch before heading to Pasadena to visit the Norton Simon Museum at the Best Man's suggestion. The museum showcases some classic art, some that I actually recognized. I have gone to a few art museums in the past and they have all made me feel the same - blank. As I walked through the exhibits and looked at the artworks I had a mini-revelation. While I recognize the significance, the beauty, and the skill imbued in each work, I really didn't care. This really bothered me. Rationally I knew that I should have some interest in the art and I was disappointed in myself that emotionally it just wasn't there. I discussed this with the MoH, BM, and the Wife and they suggested that maybe a class in art appreciation would be useful. I'm not sure but after we move I will be looking into it.

Another mini-revelation took place when we left the building and walked through the sculpture garden. As the MoH, BM, and the Wife looked at the sculptures, I was reading the little labels at the base of the trees that listed their type. I walked through the garden admiring some of the more unique arrangement of limb and leaf, totally blowing off the man-made sculptures. I wonder if that's my hang-up - I admire the natural and discount the artificial. As I had walked through the gallery I had thought that it would have been more interesting if they were photographs. Maybe to me a photograph is a representative of natural reality while painting and sculpture represent an artificial reality. Something to ponder (Obligatory obscure cartoon reference: Are you pondering what I'm ponder? ... I think so Brain but but if we get Sam Spade, we'll never have any puppies).

After the museum we dropped the MoH and BM off at the airport and the Wife and I headed home for a quiet evening in an empty house.

I had a great time with the MoH and BM. The Wife and I both agree that we want to be just like them when we grow up. They're totally awesome. The conversations we had over the last four days have got me thinking. Once I figure out what I'm thinking about, I will post about it. I'm looking forward to being able to visit with them more often once me move back.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Entertaining the MoH and BM - Day 2 Recap and Day 3

The end of day 2 (Saturday) was different than I expected. Instead of me going to bed early while the rest partied, we all sat down and played Scrabble for almost 4 hours. The Best Man and I were the only ones that were sober which made the games ... interesting. Some of the words were questionable and many of them can not be repeated in Homer's Travels. It all started with the BM putting down "BONER". The MoH put down "CRY" which led to her saying "Boner Cry" several times throughout the night. This seemed very funny to many at the table. I just wondered what a Boner Cry sounded like. In the end, I won one, the Wife won one, and the Best Man won one. I've confirmed that silly intoxicated people irritate the heck out of me. I really need to get over it.

Day 3 (Sunday) started off with breakfast at Mrs. Olsen's Coffee Hut. This place which I've mentioned many times, has terrific food. We had pancakes (Buttermilk and seven grain), eggs, bacon, sausage, and the Wife's favorite, bangers and mash. We left very full and very satisfied. A good start to the day.

We left Oxnard and headed into Los Angeles. We ended up at the LA Cathedral where we celebrates Mass. The Mass was ... well it was a Mass. We walked around the Cathedral a bit and stopped by the gift shop. I took some pictures which I added to my
Cathedral Flickr set.

It was about 11:30 when we were done at the Cathedral. It was too early to go to the Mythbusters and we were all feeling full from breakfast (Mrs. Olsen's breakfasts tend to stick with you in a good way) so lunch was not a priority. We decided to drive to Olvera Street and walk around there a bit. We did some more shopping. The Wife purchased her third skull bracelet - you can never have enough - and we watch folkloric dancers in the central plaza (I've added pictures to my Olvera Street Flickr Set). We walked through the Chinese-American museum
nearby which I'd try to see several times before but had always been closed. It was interesting. One more thing checked off the list.

We realized it was time to go so back to the car we went and we drove up to Thousand Oaks. I downed some nasty tasting Emergen-C on the way which helped the rest of the afternoon. We arrived about 30 minutes before the show. We got in and it turned out our seats were just as good as I thought they would be. We had a great view of the stage and the large screen that hung over it. The theater, which houses 1,800, was sold out from what I could see. The audience was a mix of parents and kids. When the lights went down there was enthusiastic applause and the show started.
The host of the show was some lady from the local NPR station. She came on stage with Adam Savage and Jaime Hyneman. As the interview started I was amazed at how much they sounded like themselves. They pretty much said that everything you see on the show is them and that they basically do their own stuff. The banter on the stage was very similar to the banter on the show. Adam kept talking over Jaime just like on the show. It was all very interesting and funny.

Next they talked of shows that Discovery Channel wouldn't let them air. They actually showed rough segments for a show that will never air - Myths about Flatulence.
Now, if you know the Wife's family, and yes I am a member of that family now, you will know that we often obsess on the passing of gas. For some awesome reason, it just the peak of humor. So watching the segments about flatulence were soooo us. The first myth was that Pretty Women Don't Fart. Adam rigged up a pair of underwear with a Hydrogen Sulphide meter and a microphone and then they convinced Kari Byron to wear them for a day. She was ... reluctant ... but she relented. The Hydrogen Sulphide meter malfunctioned resulting in multiple false alarms and embarrassment. At the end of the day no sound was recorded so Adam asked her to come back the next day at which point Kari responded with a totally awesome fart amplified by the loudspeakers.

The next segment was, of course, Can You Light Farts. Adam builds a chair and films himself lighting farts using a high speed camera. For all of you who want to experience what we experienced,
here's a video someone recorded in another live show.

After the videos they set up a couple microphones and let people ask questions. It turns out that most of the questions the Wife had, about if the show was scripted or spontaneous, had already been asked during the interview so we ended up not asking any questions. A lot of the questions and myth suggestions came from 8 to 12 year old boys and girls. The questions and suggestions were surprisingly good. There was one little boy whose question was pretty much incoherent. The question came out something like this: Can ... ummm ... shoes ... really fast ... Buster .... Shoes ... On Fire ... If you run .... can ... ummm ....really fast ... This went on for about a minute but he eventually got the idea across - Can you run fast enough to start your shoes on fire?

What was really scary were a couple of
fanboys who looked like they spend their entire waking life playing video games and watching Mythbusters, asked some really hideous fanboy questions. One actually asked Adam to repeat a two word line that he had said when doing the Diet Coke-Mentos myth. The line was "It's Soda" and apparently the fanboy thought that was totally awesome. Scary.

They ended the show with a blooper reel and an explosion montage that was totally cool. Just the water heater explosions alone were amazing.

We all left the show thoroughly satisfied. A great show and a fun time.
It was now almost 4:00 and the Mrs. Olsen's glow was finally wearing off so we ended up a BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. We had some good food and the MoH and BM, both beer connoisseurs, declared the beer to be good. If you every go to BJ's, don't forget to order desert - the Pizookies are great! We ate, drank, and had great conversation before we headed home to relax and chat some more.

Day 3 was the best day of entertaining the MoH and BM yet. We all had a good time. The Mythbusters put on a good show and definitely was the high point of the day.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Entertaining the MoH and BM - Day 2 and 3

Day two (Saturday) was a little mixed. We received a call in the morning from the spa where the MoH and Wife were going to get their facials. One of their Facial girls had called in sick. As a result, the facials never happened. Bummer.

Instead of facials we had an early lunch of the obligatory In And Out Burgers. After a yummy lunch we made our way to downtown Ventura where voluminous shopping took place. The shopping spree ended with a stop at Ben & Jerry's for some ice cream. This kind of made up for the lack of facials. I didn't buy anything but I enjoyed some people and dog watching including this guy who had his ball and was very content on the back of a bicycle.

Once again the virus caught up with me, I ran down pretty quickly, and I was getting a little grumpy so I tried to keep my mouth shut, only being partially successful. I was glad when we decided to head home.

On the way back to the house we stopped at the Bottle Shoppe so that the MoH and BM, beer connoisseurs both, could load up on the local beer fare. Tonight the BM, MoH, and Wife are planning to drink themselves silly (actually I think they've already started). Me, being a tea-totaler, will observe from the sidelines until I'm sick of it all and go to bed early. I want to be rested up for a very busy tomorrow.

Day 3 (Sunday) we are getting up early for breakfast at Mrs. Olsen's Coffee Hut, Mass at the LA Cathedral, Lunch somewhere, and the Mythbusters show in Thousand Oaks. I can't wait. I think I'll mix up some Emergen-C to take along just in case I need some extra Umph.

Entertaining the MoH and BM - Day 1 and 2

Day 1 (Friday) went pretty well. While the Wife was at work the BM, MOH, and I went to have lunch at the Cold Spring Tavern. The MoH and BM declared it delicious and an awesome place.

After our satisfying lunch we did two geocaches - one along Stagecoach Road, not far from the tavern, and another on highway 154 near Lake Cachuma. Both caches were park and grabs and were a good introduction for the MoH and BM to the hobby. Both were rather clever hides.

At this point I realized that there was just not enough time to do any more geocaches so we headed over to Lompoc to tour Mission La Purisima. The weather was perfect. Everything was green. We all had a great time. I took a few more pictures and added them to my collection of La Purisima Mission Pictures.

We then fought the bad Santa Barbara traffic to get home in time to meet up with the Wife and go to Pirates Grub N Grog. Just about then the bug, which had been pretty much dormant all day, decided to make a come back. It was kind of weird - I felt feverish but I didn't have a fever. I decided to bow out of the high school basketball game and went home to rest instead.

I finished off some internet news and Blog reading (Priorities, Priorities) before I drugged myself and got in bed. I managed to finish the book I was reading before turning out the light.

Day 2 (Saturday) will be occupied with facials for the ladies followed by shopping in downtown Ventura. A light and easy day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Entertaining the MoH and BM - Day 0 and 1

Everything went well last night when we drove down to LAX to pick up the Matron of Honor (MoH) and the Best Man (BM). We ended up getting there just 10 minutes before the scheduled arrival so we had a very short wait. When we got home Homer was excited to see them and to show them all his toys.

Today, Friday, the Wife is back at work so it's going to be up to me to entertain the MoH and BM. Our plans are lunch at the Cold Spring Tavern and a visit to La Purisima Mission. Along the way we will be doing some geocaches. They have never geocached before and have expressed an interest so I will do the introductions.

Tonight will be dinner at Pirates Grub n Grog followed by a basketball game at the Wife's school.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Still Bugged

The Wife did the smart thing today and called in sick. With the Matron of Honor (MoH) and Best Man (BM) flying in tonight we both need to be rested and as healthy as possible. Last night was not good for us. Both of our heads felt like they were going to pop like zits. This was not a desireable feeling.

This morning I was still congested but got up at my usual time and things drained and I was feeling pretty good. This afternoon I am starting to wear down again. This is not good as we pick up the MoH and BM tonight at 8:40 PM. I think another nap is in order and maybe some Emergen-C later on to give me some ener-g.

Adding to my misery is the fact that I was going to buy something for the Wife on Valentines but since we both feel crappy it's probably not going to happen. Not very romantic of me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh Poop!

Last week the Wife came down with a bug - probably a Cold or a mild Flue bug - and I've been keeping my fingers crossed. With the Wife she first showed symptoms on a Monday night and probably hit bottom on Thursday and Friday. She felt pretty good on Saturday morning but she pooped out in the afternoon.

Well, yesterday morning I had a mild sour throat. By the evening my throat was starting to feel raw. This morning I was definitely horse. I felt pretty good though. That is until now. Now, as I type this post I can feel the energy drain out of me. This is not looking good.

We have guests flying in Thursday night and this is not a good time for me to be succumbing to some virus. I think I'm going to take a nap now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Our First ... Chaotic ... Showing

Last Friday I received a phone call at a quarter to three asking if they could show the house. I said "Sure. When will you be by?" Her response was "We're in the area." At this point I went into a minor panic. I asked her when she would be there again and all she would say is "We're in the area." I told her that I could be out of the house in about 30 minutes and ran around the house like a crazy man putting things away and straightening things up. I managed to have everything pretty much ready to go in 15 minutes.

I got Homer in the car - I'd already walked him so he got to go out again - and drove down to a nearby beach. We call this beach Florence Saperstein beach because one of the benches is dedicated to Florence, a teacher, and the Wife usually rests on that bench when she rides her bike to the beach. When I got there I realized I hadn't packed Homer's leash so I rummaged around in the trunk and came up with a piece of rope long enough to work. I walked Homer on the beach for 20 to 25 minutes before getting back in the car.

While I'd forgotten the leash, and water for Homer, I did have my book - priorities, priorities - and I did some reading while Homer watched people and dogs go by. He would whimper each time he saw another dog. Poor fella.

At 4:00 I figured that they should have been there and gone by now so I drove back home and slowly cased the joint looking for evidence of a realtor. I didn't see any and then the Wife came out with a confused look on her face. I explained about the realtor and we looked for evidence of her but found none. Sure enough, at 4:15 the door bell rings and it's the realtor and her client. This time the my running around was accompanied by the Wife as we leashed Homer one more time and took a long walk around the neighborhood.

I hope all our house showing don't go that way. I think next time I will leave a note with my cell number on it and ask the realtor to give me a call when they leave. I want lots of showings but man it's going to be a pain in the a$$. The only one who got something positive out of this was Homer. He's seen more new stuff and got more exercise in the last week then he usually gets in a month.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy New Year And Friends

February 7th was Chinese New Years. Yesterday, Saturday, the Golden Dragon Parade was held in Chinatown to welcome the Year of the Rat. Our plan was just to go down to watch the parade but our plans changed after I received an e-mail from GeekHiker (GH). It turns out that Just A Girl (JaG) was visiting with GH and they invited us to go to Disneyland with them. We thought it over and, since this would be my last opportunity to see the Golden Dragon Parade and we both have been to Disneyland several times, we offered to meet them for Brunch instead.

At GH's suggestion, we met at the La Brea Bakery in the Disney Downtown district. We thought it might be a little difficult meeting up since we had never seen each other before but it turned out easier than we thought. Certain characteristics made them stick out from the crowd. Introductions were made, we bought something to eat, and sat outside to chat. We had a great time talking about hiking, travel, geekdom, and many thing in between. The Wife and I agree that they're good people and we enjoyed our almost two hours with them. It's nice to be able to call them friends without having to preface it with on-line, internet, or blog.

GH suggested doing a hike together near Mugu Peak. It just so happens I had one planned in the area for the middle of March so, I hope we can coordinate a hike together. I e-mailed him the information this morning so we can start planning the route.

We parted ways around 11:00 so they could enjoy Disneyland. Handshakes and hugs were exchanged and JaG took a group portrait that may appear in her blog sometime soon.

We ended up hitting traffic on the way to Chinatown but we managed to find good parking near the beginning of the parade route. We walked around and I took some pictures waiting for the parade to start at 2:00. The Wife scored some cool bracelets including one skull bracelet that looks like the skulls are carved out of teeth. There was quite a crowd lining Broadway and we found a good vantage point that allowed a clear view of the parade.

The parade was pretty cool. It started off with a bunch of motorcycle police clearing the way and doing coordinated motorcycle riding. This was followed by the Dragons, marching bands, some floats, martial artists demonstrating their skills, dancers, and cars carrying a multitude of honorary grand marshals, the Mayor of LA, the Chief of Police, the Sheriff, and other grand poo-bahs. One strange participant - an unplanned participant I think - was a lady carrying either Lady Liberty's torch or the sparkling plunger of Democracy. She was dancing around in front of the mayor's car. A bunch of bicycle cops surrounded her and, after chatting with her a little bit let her continue her dance to democracy. The mayor, who was talking to the crowd over a loudspeaker, referred to her as "our own goddess of Democracy."

Cool as it was it was too long. About an hour and a half in (the parade was three hour long) the Wife's medication (She's been fighting a bug all week) started to peter out and we were both pretty tired of it all. We made our way to the car and made a surprisingly quick getaway. I ended up with quite a few pictures. I've posted the
best here.

I have decided that I am not really a fan of Parades. I have been to three - The Rose parade, the Doo-Dah parade, and the Chinese New Years Parade. My favorite was the shortest and silliest - the Doo-Dah parade. I was kind of disappointed about all the non-Asians in the Chinese New Year Parade. I assumed it would be a lot more Asian feeling than it turned out to be.

On the way home we stopped at the Outback to have a steak dinner before heading home. We were exhausted when we got home. I am sad to say that we were in bed reading by 7:30 and the lights were out by 8:30. The Wife has an excuse - she's fighting a bug - but I have no excuse. We were both exhausted and ended up sleeping 12 hours! It felt good though.

I'd expected the parade to be the highlight of Saturday but I was wrong. The highlight of the day was meeting GH and JaG, enjoying good conversation, and having faces to match with the comments.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #44: Los Robles Trail - Part One

I have been taking my hikes from a list I found on the Ventura County Star website. Some of the hikes are one way hikes - You park a car at one end, get a lift to the trailhead, and then hike back to the car. This is fine and dandy when you have someone to give you a lift but, since I like to hike during the week and the Wife works, I don't have anyone to give me a lift. So, since I still want to do some of these hikes, and I am stubborn, and I want to hike during the week damn it, I came up with a solution - divide the hike in two.

The first hike that I tried this was the Los Robles trail. The whole trail is about 12 miles long one-way. I decided to split it into two 6 mile sections. Each section would then become a 12 mile There-And-Back hike.

The Hike has two parts. The first part of the hike starts at the intersection of Potrero Road and Wendy Road in Newbury Park. I've done a couple hikes in the region already. You take the Wendy trail for about 96 yards before taking a left onto the Los Robles Connector. The connector is a 0.6 mile trail that follows a wooded stream on the south and a green meadow on the north. Since Potrero is only 96 yards away there is some street noise on this part. The trail curves back to the road where you cross over to the Los Robles Trailhead. I'm not sure why the Star had you start on the Wendy Trail. There is plenty of parking at the Los Robles Trailhead. My only guess is that the gate hours are 9:00 to 4:00 so if you wanted to go earlier you would have to park at the Wendy Trailhead. I arrived here before 8:00 and the gate was open so I'm not sure there is a real reason to start at the Wendy Trailhead. Oh well.

From the Los Robles Trailhead you head up and over the top of a ridge. The trail follows the other side of the ridge. From the trail you have views of the conejo valley and the cities of Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks. While the views are impressive, I'm not much into urban sprawl and the view on tract homes and people's backyards. Unfortunately that was pretty much the entirety of this hike. The ridge parallels the 101 freeway and the trail follows the ridge. As you walk you are followed by the sound of traffic, and the occasional leaf blower and wood chipper - delightful. Every view I saw was interrupted by a roof line, a chimney, a fence (the wood fences were OK, the chain link not so much), or a rundown ranch building of some sort.

The trail along the ridge is not flat and goes up and down like a roller coaster. This makes it a real workout. Along the way I found 13 geocaches including three that were on the Rosewood trail that connected up with the Los Robles. I was tempted to do some more on the Rosewood trail but I noticed the trail was heading down more then I was willing to go back up. I went back to the Los Robles trail and continued east.

As I approached the 6 mile point the trail started to head down. About three quarters of the way down I decided to stop. My GPS said that I had walked about 6.04 miles. I should have gone a little further but the idea of having to go back up deterred me. I found a place to sit down that was out of the way of the speeding mountain bikers and ate my lunch and rested a bit. I was really tired which didn't bode well since I had five to six more miles to go to get back to the car. I marked my turn around point on my GPS for when I do part 2 of this trail.

The way back was uneventful. Yes I was tired but I just plodded on. The day turned out to be warmer than I expected and I was sweating a bit by the time I made it back to the car. The total distance was 10.97 miles and the total vertical was 787 feet. Not much vertical but the roller coaster nature of this hike made it a lot more - Up, Down, Up, Down ... The spurs I took for the geocaches caused me to miscalculate my turn around point. I should have gone another half mile.

You may have noticed that I haven't linked to any pictures. That is because, for the first time in the year since I started hiking, I took no pictures. There just wasn't anything along this trail that struck my fancy. A little disappointing. It wasn't all bad as I got some good exercise. I just don't like urban hikes and this one felt more urban than most.

Next week there will be no hikes as we have guests visiting. My next hike, in two weeks, is to Nordhoff Peak - nothing urban about this one at all. It will also be more challenging as there will be over 3,000 feet of vertical. I can't wait.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Beach, The Ducks, and The Caravan Of Realtors

Today we took one more step towards the big move. Our realtor organized a "Caravan of Realtors" to show off the house. Since most realtors don't want to meet the actual people who live in the house, Homer and I got in the car and we drove down to nearby Hueneme Beach to kill a few hours - four hours to be exact.

This was the first time of hopefully many that I will have to evacuate the house to allow it to be shown. I wasn't sure what to do because having a dog in your car is a little limiting. I'm not one of those people who leaves their dogs in the car unattended. It doesn't seem fair to the dog. But then, I've never been in the situation where Homer was with me and I couldn't just go home. I decided that Hueneme Beach was a good choice as it was close by and there are lots of places to walk along the beach. I had my camera with me and I was going to see if I could get some pictures while I was out. You can find the pictures here along with other pictures I have taken at Hueneme Beach.

I decided to start by tiring Homer out and we headed out on a walk. Dogs aren't allowed on the beach and, even though most people ignore that rule, I kept to the sidewalks. The sidewalk follows the beach and a channel that winds through some apartment/condo complexes. The channel was full of ducks and even a few geese (At least I think that's what they were). A mother with a stroller was feeding the ducks and she attracted quite a crowd. I was surprised that Homer was pretty good around the ducks and he even stood still so I could take pictures - he usually at the end of his leash pulling me along.

We had a good walk and got back to the car after about an hour. Great, just three more hours to kill. I got in the car with Homer, opened the windows to let the cool sea breeze in and read for another two and a half hours. Homer sat in the back seat watching all the people walking along the beach. Every now and then he would growl at a passing dog. He eventually got bored and laid down. So did I - I rested my eyes a little bit before we headed back home.

While this was delightful, I'll have to come up with an alternative plan. I think Homer was a little bored. I may have to investigate dog parks in the area so he can run around a bit.

When we got back I found out between nine and a dozen realtors had come by. The note our realtor left sounded a little disappointed in my opinion. Oh well, it's a start. Now we sit back a wait for the offers to roll in.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Movie: Once

I don't like musicals. I always think it is strange when people bust out in song in the middle of a movie. "Once" is a musical. I liked it. The Wife liked it. We bought the soundtrack. It's probably not for everyone but the music seemed to fit and is quite interesting. Very relaxing. Not really quirky like my usual tastes but good never the less.

The movie is set in Ireland and follows a "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy" - slash - musician who is trying to win back the heart of his girlfriend. He meets an immigrant girl who takes a liking to him and encourages him and his music. She is trying to repair her marriage and family. In the end they both appear to get what they want. It was not an ending that I expected. I guess that is what sets it apart from similar movies.

If you have a chance, go see "Once". It is also available on DVD.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Grilling The Mythbusters

I mentioned the Mythbusters a few posts ago. I said I would say more later. Well, later is here so here goes. The Matron of Honor (MoH) and the Best Man (BM) are visiting this presidents day weekend and on that Sunday I scored some tickets for a Mythbusters show. The show is modeled after Inside the Actor's Studio and is hosted by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. Here's Ticketmaster's description of the affair:
"Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage take you on a behind-the-scenes look at the Discovery Channel's Mythbusters with a hilarious and entertaining "Inside The Scientist's Studio" style presentation. They will bring stories of myths gone wrong and outtakes of segments never seen on air. They will answer questions about their unique personal chemistry and the mad science behind making one of the most popular shows on television. You can give Jamie and Adam your suggestions for myths they should bust on future programs" - From Ticketmaster.com
Your mission, readers, if you choose to accept it, is to leave suggestions in the comments for myths to be busted or questions to be asked and we will try our best to suggest/ask them to the Mythbusters. Our seats are in the fifth row so we should be able to get their attention.

It sounds like it will be fun. The Wife is asking her students for suggestions/questions as well.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #43: Happy Camp Canyon

Thursdays are hiking days and this Thursday I hiked the Happy Camp Canyon. With a name like Happy Camp, how can it not be a good hike. This is the 43rd hike that I've done over the last year. When I started hiking a year ago I doubted that I could keep up the one hike per week pace. I came pretty close doing a hike every 1.2 weeks - not bad if I say so myself.

Happy Camp Canyon is located near Moorpark. This is a popular horse trail so watch out for horse exhaust. There are three parts to this hike, each different from the other giving this hike some variety.

The first part is the trail from the parking area to the kiosk. This trail is about a mile one-way and crosses a rolling meadow which was very green after the rains we had last week. When I got out of the car the winds were whipping and I thought it may not bode well for an enjoyable hike but fortunately the winds died down once I reached the canyon itself. Since it was still early, the wind was really cold. This time , though, I was prepared as I had some gloves in the car. They were there from our failed whale watching tour. On the way to the kiosk the wind did manage to blow off my new hat. I had to run to catch it and managed to spear it with my walking stick after chasing it some 15 - 20 feet. I'm a pathetic runner so it must have looked comical. Fortunately there wasn't anyone there to witness my flailing. I'm not sure I like wind on hikes. I'm sure GeekHiker would agree. It keeps you cool but it really plays havoc with the ol' hat.

On the way to the kiosk and gate I found a couple geocaches: "
Happy View" and "Happy Rebirth".

The second part of the hike starts at the kiosk and gate and follows an Edison road along the floor of the canyon. This part of the hike is sheltered from the wind and is relatively flat. There is evidence of a stream or river in the bottom of the canyon but there was little water. I assume this is because all the rain we had just seeped down into the sandy soil of the canyon. The soil here is almost like beach sand. The width of the river bed hints at flash floods and a lot of water in the past. I lost the trail where it crossed the riverbed but managed to get back to it quickly.

As I walked along I could hear birds singing and there were birds of prey flying overhead.

The canyon was ravaged by fires in 2003 but the vegetation is coming back nicely. The only evidence I could see were a few burned out Oaks that looked like they belonged in a Halloween display. The canyon is lined with oak trees that were leafing out. I imagine this part of the hike will be beautiful later this spring once the trees are fully leafed and the wildflowers start blooming.

I found four geocaches along this part of the hike: "
Happy Bush", "Happy Bobble Head", "Happy Camp, Still", and "Happy Valley". The last two geocaches took me on short spur trails into side canyons and meadows.

On the way back to the main trail from one of the spurs I munched on some SweeTart Hearts that the Wife had put in my hiking kit. I ended up with two 'Kiss Me', two 'Be Mine', and one each of 'Kiss', 'Love Ya', and 'Yes'. They were originally a gift to the Wife for Catholic Schools Appreciation Week. (Thanks Ashley!). I'm able to confirm that they were sweet
and tart at the same time.

The second part ends at the
William W.Mower III trail rest area. The area has a couple picnic tables and places to tie up horses. I took time to stop here and eat some lunch. To reach this point I had hiked about 5 or 6 miles. I contemplated a lost hat left behind by someone as I ate my lunch.

After a rest I started the third part of the hike. The trail narrows and climbs up to the top of the ridge that had been on my right side during the second part of the hike. The trail climbs over 1,000 feet before you reach the top. The trail is steep and washed out in places and, in a few years, may be difficult to navigate unless they do some trail repairs. Once the trail reaches the top of the ridge, it flattens out and becomes much easier. As you walk west along the ridge you have views of the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark to your left and Happy Camp Canyon and
snow covered mountains to your right. Awesome views on both sides. I found one geocache on the ridge: "Happy Campin' Baby".

The ridge trail, more of a road actually, takes you back to the Kiosk and gate area. I rested at the gate watching some
bees go about their business.

At this point you follow the first part of the hike back to the car. I located one last geocache, "
Off Broadway Again", before reaching the car.

This was a nice hike despite the brief fight with the wind at the start. The rain we had last week really greened up everything. This spring will be a lot better for wildflowers. The green and the cool air made the hike invigorating and relaxing. Total distance was 11.25 miles with 1,230 feet of vertical.
A few Pictures are here.

Friday, February 01, 2008

On Selling Things

The Wife and I like to read. In preparation for our upcoming move I posted most of our books on Half.com. Recently we sold a book to the following address (I have changed the person's name):

First Last - F99029
PO Box 5004
Delano, CA 93216-5004

The address looked a little strange and I thought Delano was nearly a ghost town. The book was returned in the mail with a piece of paper stamped "Unauthorized Mail" taped to the envelope. I removed the paper and was surprised to find a form from the North Kern State Prison Mailroom that declared that the book was an Unauthorized Item. The form listed 45 possible violations. My envelope apparently violated two of the rules
  • Rule 9: No padded, bubble, or cushion envelopes
  • Rule 27: All books, magazines & Newspapers must come directly from a publisher/vendor.
This explained the weird address. I guess Prisoner F99029 won't get to read his book. What book did he try to buy? Malika Oufkir's "Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail". Heh. I guess he doesn't get enough imprisonment from his everyday life. I was nice and provided a full refund to Prisoner F99029.

Speaking of selling, the sign went up on our house today. Wish us luck!