Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Hi all. I took the family up to Oregon for Thanksgiving weekend to visit relatives. It took nine hours to drive up there because I forced myself to keep the speed at 55 mph. I just set the cruise control, took my shoes off and occasionally hit the overdrive button to disable the overdrive gear on hills. What an amazing reduction in fuel consumption. I have to admit that I used to take this trip at an average of 80 to 85 mph. Traveling at 55 only amounted to an increase of roughly one to one and a half hours. Ultimately, though, no matter what speed I travel at, my wife will never fail to add her two cents. When I'm flying down the road at 80mph, she's got the white knuckles gripping the door handle and silently screaming that I'm going to kill us all. And now that I'm cruising at a lovely Driving Miss Daisy clip, she's jumping up and down in the bloody seat, wondering when we're going to get there. I can't win.

We needed four-wheel-drive to get to my sister-in-law's cabin which is located at the river's edge at the end of a logging trail. That's always a fun drive for me. We don't get to use the 4WD very often here in the Bay Area. Just on trips to Oregon and the occasional trip up to the Tahoe area in the winter.

Traffic was relatively light and the trip went smoothly. I played Green Day on the car stereo to keep me awake.

On Thanksgiving day, we got to try some fly fishing on the river which is something I never tried before. I think I might get hooked on it. OK, that was a horrible pun. My apologies to all three of my readers. But I really enjoyed fly fishing, even without catching anything. It's very graceful, almost like a dance.
At one point, I swung back and hit myself in the forehead with the fly. So much for graceful.

That afternoon, we cooked not one, but two turkeys. We barbecued one and deep-fried the other. I liked the taste of the deep-fried turkey but the barbecued one seemed to turn out more moist. We also had fresh brussels sprouts from the garden and fresh mushrooms picked off the local hillsides. In addition, we smoked some fresh salmon and to top it all off, we finished with a homemade raspberry pie made with, you guessed it, raspberries picked from the garden. Quite a meal.

I took a few pictures while up there to share with you ...

This picture was taken from the back deck. Nice having a waterfall in your backyard, huh?

A snapshot of the river on a rainy afternoon. There weren't any salmon in there at this time, but I'll be back again to catch some.

This is Bert, a very large white dog. We still haven't been able to figure out how he stays so white when he's surrounded by all that mud. In his spare time Bert enjoys chasing after chickens that stray out of the coop up by the garden.

While meandering through the garden, I spotted these two salamanders fighting over an earthworm.

No trip to Oregon would be complete without a visit to the Loleta Cheese Factory on the way back home. We always stop here for the curds.

Here's hoping that your holiday was as pleasant as mine. Take care.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More Cars Than You Can Shake a Stick At

This is a more timely report. I went to see the 48th Annual San Francisco International Auto Show. Kind of odd for a guy who's giving up on driving. My father wanted to go so I went with him. Plus, I wanted to see what was new in the world of hybrid, fuel cell, etc. technology. Yes, of course I took public transportation. We took BART to the Powell Street station and hoofed it to the Moscone Center.

It cost $8 to get in. You would think that all these auto manufacturers would pay for admission seeing as this is just one big advertisement for them. Capitalist pigs...

Anyway, I took pictures and had a good time so here goes...

This Porsche Carrera really caught my attention. Just look at the size of the brake calipers! Holy Moly!

OK, that car had absolutely nothing to do with fuel efficiency and low-emissions technology so, after I stopped drooling over the Porsche, we did some more walking around this vast cavern filled with four-wheeled internal combustion engine glory.

And speaking of engines, I found this little gem tucked away in a corner of the Moscone Center. It's called the Rotoblock Oscillating Piston Engine.

It's a revolutionary design in engines. The pistons slide back and forth in a donut-shaped cylinder. This eliminates the need for a valve train. They claim it also has no need for liquid cooling, has a high power-to-weight ratio, and best of all, releases significantly reduced emissions into the atmosphere. Woohoooo! Initially, they want to incorporate these engines for use in portable generators, atv's, watercraft, etc. but eventually they want to put them into cars like these...

I loved these little cars. They're from a company called ZAP which stands for Zero Air Pollution. The three wheelers are called Xebras and they travel at up to 40 mph with a range of 40 miles on a fully charged set of batteries. The four-wheeler is the OBVIO which is a "Trybrid" car that runs on gasoline, electricity, and alchohol (great at parties).

ZAP has another car named Worldcar H2(seen here on the right). It is a combination fuel cell/electric hybrid (total babe magnet). Ladies, please try to restrain yourselves when I pull up to the curb in this testosterone factory.

Well, as you can see, there was a lot to look at. We even ventured upstairs to the exotic car collection area where I spotted this Bentley on sale for the low, low price of $235,000.00

I'm thinking it's better to ride in the back of this car rather than be up front behind the wheel.

That's all folks. Thanks for stopping by. I'm headed out of town for Thanksgiving. I'll be back next week for another post on how my holiday went.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fair and Balanced

OK, I know this story is a bit dated, but it's been eating away at my brain, therefore I need to print it out so I can move on. I'm talking about Bill O'Reilly's comments on San Francisco's recent passing of Measure I which opposes the presence of military recruiters on high school and college campuses in San Francisco. Keep in mind that this is not a ban on military recruiting but rather a way of encouraging city officials and school administrators to focus on the creation of scholarships and training programs that would reduce the appeal of the military to young students. A ban on military recruiting would put schools at risk of losing federal funding.

So here comes O'Reilly getting all bent out of shape that the citizens of San Francisco actually left their homes and committed that unforgivable American sin of going to the voting booth and speaking their minds. And Bill's response to this outrageous act of freedom?

O'REILLY: "Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead.
And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."

So let me see if I've got this right, Bill. You actually want terrorists to attack monuments in American cities? And this one just happens to be a memorial to firefighters. Nice going, O'Reilly. Welcome to The Hate Factor, ladies and gentlemen.

For more laughs and/or insults check out www.sweetjesusihatebilloreilly.com

For high school/college students, there is a way you can have your name removed from recruiters' lists.

Federal public law 107-110, section 9528 of the ESEA, "No Child Left Behind Act" requires school districts to release student names, addresses, and phone numbers to military recruiters upon their request. Students are then called at home by recruiters and pressured to join the military. The law also requires the school district to notify you of your right to Opt-Out from this by requesting that the district not release your information to military recruiters. The completion and return of this form serves as your request to withhold your private information.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I'm trying to wean myself off of driving my car. So I picked up an abandoned bicycle which was lying next to a construction site up the street from my house. The bike was in pretty bad shape. The front wheel was facing a different direction from the handlebars, the chain had fallen off the sprocket, both tires were flat, and there was rust here and there all over the bike. But I figured I could fix it up and use it to commute to work.

Well, I went about buying tires, inner tubes, reflectors and other items I would need to get this poor bicycle out on the road again. A can of spray paint, some chain oil, a little elbow grease, and two days later I was ready to take her on her maiden voyage. I picked up a bus schedule and a backpack and headed off for the bus stop. The bus stop is about a ten-minute ride from my house with a couple of steep hills but nothing too severe for this bicycle/public transportation rookie.

I have to admit, it's nice to get out in the fresh air and take a ride to the bus stop. But, after the first couple of days of doing this, my legs were KILLING me. I also started walking short distances from the house. I felt really good about all the exercise I was getting, thinking back to the times when I would actually get in the car to drive three blocks to the ATM to take money out. It's amazing how lazy I had become regarding the car. It was as if I couldn't go anywhere without the car.

The bike seems to be holding up well, and so does the weather. I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do when it starts raining. I got caught riding on a couple of soggy days so far and I learned two important things:
#1. A fender for the rear tire would be REALLY nice.
#2. My brakes don't work very good at all in the rain.

As I write this today, I've been avoiding use of the car and taking advantage of foot/pedal/bus power for about a month now. My legs still hurt occasionally but I do a lot of stretching and that seems to be helping a lot.

Well, I hope I haven't bored you to tears. I hope to be back to write more soon. Take care 'til then.