Monday, July 20, 2009

Second Slice of Americana

For whatever reason, this weekend turned out to be the weekend of Americana. I guess the minor league baseball game wasn't quite enough nostalgia of simpler times for us. So, on Sunday we headed to a county fair. The Alameda County fair, located in Pleasonton, CA which is about 45 minutes from San Jose.

The fair had a little bit of everything including farm animals, model trains, antique tractors, carnival rides and of course agriculture displays. The only drawback being that it must of been about 100 degrees when we first arrived at the fair. This kept the crowds to a minimum, but made us have seek shelter in the shade or air conditioning every so often.

I tried to tell this guy he had something on his face. Sadly, he just stared at me. Oh well.

Tonja had better luck talking with the animals.

Somebody get this guy a towel, a robe or something.

Good to see they are teaching the kids in 4h some useful life skills these days.

Perhaps, this makes me a nerd, but I was digging the model rail road displays.

For the drive-in movie theater, the builder of this rail road lay out went to the trouble of installing a mini LCD screen that he played real movies on. Very nice.

So, there you have it. The 2009 Alameda County Fair. It was pretty much the same as every other fair we've been to. But, itwas a good time.

I leave you with one last photo from the weekend...

Minor League Baseball: It's FANtastic!

Friday night we headed out to San Jose Municipal Stadium to watch the San Jose Giants take on the Modesto Nuts. Yep, the Modesto Nuts. Apparently, they grow a lot of peanuts and walnuts out in Modesto. If you couldn't tell, the Giants play in the California League (Single A affiliate of the SF Giants)

Everything about this game reminded me of why I love minor league sports, especially minor league baseball. The Giants do a very good job of presenting a fan friendly atmosphere with reasonably priced tickets, food and beer. Their stadium is older, but very intimate. Not a bad seat in the house. On this night tickets were buy one, get one free, so we got into the game for $7.50 each and were only five rows back from the field. I think that's the most entertainment for your buck of anyplace in Northern California.

We'd like to welcome the newest member of our family, a healthy seven pound plate of nachos.

Two words: Nacho Goodness

And now what I consider the best promotion in all of sports. The Giants have a promotion called the "Beer Batter of the Night". Basically, they designate a player on the opposing team as the "Beer Batter" If this player should strike out during the game, then all beer at the concessions stands is half price for 15 minutes after he strikes out. So, we're talking $2.50 beers, which is a great deal at a ball game. As you can imagine, people in the stands (including a ten year old sitting in the stands behind us, oh well) get pretty excited about this promotion. And you can tell the opposing player, get's pretty nervous about it. On this night, we got lucky and the beer batter struck out twice, which both times led to me running down the stairs to the concession stand line with a bunch of very happy middle aged men. Maybe it's the recession, but I've never stood in a line full of more excited and giddy people. Maybe half price beer is really the way to unite America. I'll have to remember that.

Strike One!

Strike Two!

Strike Three! And just like that, the rush to the concession stand is on.

Tonja enjoying her half price beer thanks to the "Beer Batter of the Night"#14 of the Modesto Nuts, right fielder Brian Rike. Thanks Brian, the fans of the San Jose Giants thank you for your two strike out effort.
Just to prove, we were actually watching the game and not just eating and drinking, here's a shot of the game. Final score, your San Jose Giants 17...Modesto Nuts 7. Great way to spend a Friday night in the summer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Not a whole lot going on this week. The weather has been hot. It was 97 on Tuesday and has remained in the 90's since then. I've discovered that most of the coffee shops I hang out in, don't have air conditioning. This was some what surprising considering how warm the weather can get here.

I'm guessing the hot weather is going to start to dry out everything to the point that the wildfires will start up again. Last year at this time half of northern california was on fire. So far this year, there hasn't really been many in the area. Although, we did see a hedge row outside the mall on fire yesterday. Kind of random.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Six Months

Note: This is a blog entry that stems from a conversation I had with myself in my head while eating Grapenuts cereal in my underwear this morning, so it might only make sense to me or to others who eat Grapenuts cereal in their underwear after not working for a few months. And No, I'm not nuts.


This morning I came to the some what jarring realization that I've been out of work for exactly six months today. Crazy. Based on everything that is going on with the economy and how marketing jobs have been hit hard, I knew when I got laid off, there was a good chance it would be for an extended period of time and six months even seemed possible, but I am surprised how quickly it has come and how up in the air everything still seems.

However, I'm optimistic that good things are on the career (and noncareer) horizon. And by no means do I regret this time off. Although, it is mentally tough at times. It has been a great opportunity to take a time out and reflect on my own life, observe others in the world around me and most importantly relax (as much as one can relax in this situation).

Like most people, so much of how I define myself has been very closely intertwind with what I do for a job and I'm sure it will be again. And when a job goes away, you definitely loose a big chunk of who you believe you are. But with that loss, you also gain the time and the ability to look at yourself in an entirely different light. You get to see yourself with many of the layers of everyday life (daily grind) stripped away. The daily and all too often excuse of I don't have time to do this or do that are no longer valid. If I end up not working out one day, it's because I didn't want to, not because I didn't have time. If I end up not running an errand that Tonja asked of me, it's because I didn't want to or something else became more important (to me) on that particular day. Basically, you become a lot more honest with yourself, and in that regard I think I'm learning something important about who I am and what my motivations are. And in the end I think this will make me a more productive and effective person, not only in my next job, but life in general.

This down time will end soon. My schedule will be returning to hecticness, with our upcoming move, wedding planning and continued career evolutions. And I will likely welcome this return of "normalcy". But, I'm thankful for what I have now and what I've learned about myself over the last six months. And what I'm sure to learn about myself over the coming months and with each coming challenge. Onward we go.

Photo Credit: Ernie Button

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Probably a good thing this never caught on...

Last week, we stumbled across an interesting place in San Jose, The San Jose Historical Museum. We were actually walking around a park looking for the Japanese Gardens, but instead stumbled across a street that was closed to traffic, but was surrounded on all sides by old historical buildings. It looked like it was a street taken directly from the 1920's or something. And since it was the middle of the week, it was pretty much deserted. Upon further investigating, we discovered the entire street made up the San Jose Historical Museum. Basically, a 12 acre piece of land has been set a side as a historical preservation, in which 26 historical building have been moved to. It's kind of a hodge podge of historical buildings, that don't quite fit together, but each one has an interesting history. After walking around for a while we came across this strange tower standing in the middle of the street...

I was a little confused and intrigued by this tower. As it turns out it's a half scale replica of an actual tower that was built in the middle of San Jose in 1881. The original tower was 237 feet hight and held six carbon arc lights with attached reflectors. The idea was to do away with street lights and have the tower provide enough light to cover the entire city. This seems like a slightly flawed idea, but none the less the tower was built and stood until 1930 before collapsing in a wind storm. I found an interesting article about the tower here...

A few highlights:

Even with 24,000 candle power the tower was not up to the task of lighting downtown San Jose effectively. The problem was distance. As any schoolchild can tell you, usefull light, when transmitted in free wave form, diminishes inversely as the square of the distance. Even if you concentrate or beam the light, you end up with only one fourth the light you emitted at every doubling of distance. By 1884 the towers lights were used only for weekends, holidays, and festive occasions.

Ducks crashed into the tower and plummeted to the street below. Some say the fowl were drawn to the bright lights - like moths. Cops favored "the Tower Beat" because ducks could be recovered and sold to local eateries.

And my favorite...

Another hazard was the proximity of the tower to saloons. On Saturday night, liquored-up San Joseans tried to climb the tower.

The Tower Saloon was located in a building on the lower left. It became a favorite launching pad for San Joseans wanting to climb the tower--after consuming the requisite quantity of liquid-courage.

That's what I call entertainment. Anyway, that's it. Just a little piece of quirky San Jose History.

Monday, July 6, 2009

4th of July Camping at Lake Tahoe

We headed out to Lake Tahoe for the holiday weekend...I've always wanted to say that. Although there are a lot of different things to do and see at Lake Tahoe, we opted to camp and take in some of the outdoor activities. The clubs in South Lake Tahoe will have to wait until next time.

It's about a four hour drive from San Jose, although due to traffic and some insane road construction on I-80, it took a little longer. But we still arrived at our campground located at 9300 feet at Mount Rose by mid afternoon.

Pretty nice campsite (disregard the guy fixing his pants), although no showers. But, that's what the lake is for, right?

Friday, we headed for Tahoe City on the Northwest side of the lake and rented a two person kayak. The weather was perfect for kayking. Mid 70's and fairly calm winds. We paddled a few miles down the west side of the lake and took in the sights. They're wasn't as much boat traffic on the lake as I expected. Perhaps because we were on the less busy side of the lake or the economy has had an impact on where people are spending their vacation time. The sights included some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, some stupidly large houses and a lot of nice boats.

Tonja looking back to see why I'm not paddling.

Notice the focus on my face. I looove kayaking!

It doesn't really show up very well on the camera, but the water at Lake Tahoe is really a vivid blue. Much like you see in smaller alpine lakes. This explains all those "Keep Lake Tahoe Blue" bumper stickers you see...I guess they're not trying to keep Republicans out of Tahoe.

After kayaking we ate lunch in Tahoe City and walked around a bit, before heading back to camp.

Our campsite was about 20 minutes from the lake. However in that 20 minuter drive, we climbed about 3,000 feet. My car was not happy about this. No matter how I shifted, my car wouldn't do more than 45 mph going up the incline. But, we made the drive each time without any problems, other than holding up a few SUVs.

A little camping grub.

On Saturday, we managed to find the crowds by heading to South Lake Tahoe, since that's where the best fireworks display is located. The area was pretty choked full with people, so we skipped walking around downtown and headed to the beach and staked out an area to hang out and wait for the fireworks. It was a pretty hot day, but a breeze off the lake kept it bearable. And it cooled off quickly, once the sun dipped behind the mountains. The fireworks were pretty good. They had a few that I'd never seen before and they used an interesting if not somewhat unconventional set of songs. One country song about sexy tractors raised a few eyebrows, but whatever. It was a good weekend with good weather and a fun 4th of July.

One last shot of us at South Lake Tahoe waiting to see the fireworks. Don't worry I only wear the cowboy hat at designated events, such as camping, rodeos and firework displays in locations where I don't know anyone. The hat is actually great on hot days.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dirty Job

Every now and then during my time off, I've been helping out Tonja's cousin (Dave) with some projects. He runs a handyman/small scale remodel business. I've worked on a number of random jobs with him. Everything from bathroom remodels, to door installations to a little demolition work.  I actually enjoy the work as it been interesting learning some of the tricks of the trade. I'm sure these skill will come in handy in the future, especially if we end up buying a house. One of the most frequent jobs he needs help with is plumbing.

So, yesterday I gave him a hand on installing new copper pipe in a house that was having a bathroom remodel done. Sounds easy enough, except for the fact that all of the work has to be done in the crawl space underneath the house that is about 2' high. I've worked in two such crawl spaces since I've been helping out Dave and to be honest they are not quite as bad as I expected. Yes, it's narrow, there are cobwebs and lots of rocks and dirt, but so far I'm forutnate not to have run into any live spiders or dead rats, as based on stories I've heard, that is the worst. We met a plumber at Home Depoe who had three pretty narly scars on his arms from Brown Recluse spider bites. Needless to say I wear a jacket with long sleeves.

The most frusterating part of the experience is just not having much room to work. It's takes two or three time as long to do anything since you are laying on your back trying to cut or sodder things above your head. And it usually takes 10 minutes just to get in and out of the crawl space. But, I've learned a lot and feel pretty confident that I could tackle most plumbing jobs in any house we might own some day.

A few glamarous photos I took with my phone.

Yeah!...just enough clearance for a bucket.


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