Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Jewel is still The Jewel if it is a bad game and cold

I don't go to many SF Giants games. It's not cheap (but there are ways to make it cheaper), it's not that close (but still, just a 45 minute train ride), and it's in San Francisco, which means it can be 90 down here and 55 up there. But when I do go, I am reminded of just how stunning the place is, and I tell myself not to be such a stranger.

Mush and The Great Plotnik (TGP) have already written about last night's outing (Blogmaid was also there, but she is still in denial about whether she has a blog or not) - if you look at their reports you will see some of the same pictures and hear some of the same stories, but I'll try to come up with something new here and there.

This is Mush and Blogmaid. Due to surprisingly light traffic and the decision to just go ahead and pay the $30 for parking (as opposed to trying to scam a free space behind a dumpster somewhere), the three of us got there about an hour before the agreed upon time to meet TGP (who had the tickets). So naturally we went shopping. I got a $22 t-shirt for $9. Blogmaid bought an outfit for RR (her 5-year-old daughter who gave up on baseball when Barry left the team - you can see the outfit over at Mush's blog).

TGP did the green thing and took Muni (motto: "On Time! Well, once in a while.") to the game. It took him about 90 minutes to go four miles. So we had a lot of time to shop and stand around waiting for him.

The Giants mascot, Lou Seal showed up for a photo op.

Blogmaid wanted a picture while Mush and I were too cool to go over there.

So she had to get some stranger to take this picture (which probably is the only thing, other than the new outfit, that will impress her daughter about this game).

OK, this is totally unrelated to the game, but look at this plant. Yes Mrs Notthat, I'm specifically referring to you. This is exactly the plant that you and your plant expert friend deemed a weed. There are a number of these in front of the stadium, and they looked great. (I had to take a moment to compose myself. It was a little embarrasing.)

Here are TGP (wearing that stupid Dodgers hat - there were a LOT of Dodger fans at this game - and a Warriors jacket, which just confused people that otherwise would have heckeled him), Mush, and Blogmaid (wearing the stylish radio headphones that both her and Mush used to provide important information to us, such as how to contact our local Pipe Fitters Union for professional pipe fitting).

I've added a special arrow to call out a guy that went from mildly annoying to really annoying over the course of the game. This guy loved to yell. Loudly. He tried to be clever, but he failed almost every time, and most of the time was completely impossible to understand. After a while he settled on just yelling "CHEEEEEEZE booger!" over and over again. His little group thought this was hilarious (I assume they did, otherwise they would have offed him). There's one (or more) at every game.

There are also these - people on their cell phones. (To settle a bet, I used my iPhone and the free internet there to do some important baseball-related research - I was amazed at how many people I saw with iPhones last night, all of them browsing the internet, shopping for winter gear.)

This was a nice romantic couple sitting in front of us. He had a great time. She shivered the whole game, studying some sort of textbook. Wearing a pink Dodgers hat. If it hadn't been for the hat, I would have felt sorry for her. He's still a jerk for making her come to the game. And for being a Dodger fan.

How cold was it? We were in the third deck and were fairly sheltered. So it was cool, but with no wind. At least until the 7th inning or so, when the wind changed direction and it got a bit nippy.

Blogmaid took this picture of me. They seemed to get a lot of humor out of my gloves. My fingers loved them though.

The other thing that happened about then was that the seaguls showed up. A LOT of seaguls. And since we were up pretty high, they were flying at about our level. They were amazing, although if you had any sort of bird-phobia, you would not have been very comfortable.

So it was a fun night. The cold was survivable, the annoying guy could be (mostly) ignored, the sausage and garlic fries were great, but the game was a bummer. Not only did the wrong team win, but it dragged on forever with lots of walks, errors, and pitching changes.

But now I'm feeling a bit hungry. Maybe a CHEEEEEZE booger....

That's it - move along...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Boy gets a Jeep and Darci gets a virus

Well, almost. There are still some details to work out, money to change hands, and papers to be signed, but if all goes well he should be driving his new wheels Monday or Tuesday.

He's so happy he's practically vibrating. And I completely understand.

I was about his age when my parents bought my Toyota Landcruiser, which was very similar to this Jeep. Well, except this Jeep has air conditioning and it's green. And it probably won't spend as much time in snow, creeks, and deeply rutted roads as the Landcruiser did (although I'm sure it would if this area wasn't so infested with freeways).

Instead of a Jeep, Darci got a virus of some sort. She has no energy, is running a fever, and even turned down ice cream and Pringles. This can't be good. She had a doctor visit this afternoon, and for now, it's nothing serious. Except these not really serious virus' have a way of doing bad things to Riley. For now he is perky and rambunctious.

Although who wouldn't be perky and rambunctious if they got ice cream for lunch? Hopefully Darci will get better soon and Riley will dodge this thing.

I think those two are going to like that Jeep as much as The Boy.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"We've had a near miss with a trespasser"

I've always wondered what it felt like to be on a train that hit someone or something - would there be a sudden jolt as the brakes were slammed on, with sparks flying from the wheels and a loud screeching noise? People being jerked from their seats and backpacks and cell phones flying around?

Tonight on the train we were cruising along when I heard a clunk noise and we started to slow down fairly quickly. Once we stopped (Im guessing at least a half mile from when I heard the clunk) a conductor announced that we had a "near miss with a trespasser." "Trespasser" is a Caltrain codeword for anyone or anything that goes around the crossing arms and gates when they are activated. 

In this case, apparently a car did not want to wait and had driven around the arms and the engineer pushed the Emergency Stop button (or pulled the lever, or shoved the switch, or clicked the icon - I have no idea since I'm mostly making this up as I go). Before we could start going again, a conductor had to go outside and check the air lines and look for debris. So we sat for about five minutes and then were on our way again.

The emergency stop was not that much different than a normal stop when pulling into a station, and I'm sure this is on purpose to prevent people from getting hurt or spilling their beers (yes, you are allowed to drink whatever you want on the train, and some people really enjoy that, sometimes to excess).

If the car had not been narrowly missed I would have ended up sitting there for at least an hour, maybe two. Unless the train is damaged (and they rarely are), they make the passengers stay on it while the investigation carries on. I'm really hoping I'm never on that train, but chances are it will happen eventually.

That's it - move along...

PS: Actually, it nearly happened to me one other time. I had gotten off the train and into the shuttle bus. The bus had to wait for the next train though, so we sat there for a few minutes. Then we started to hear sirens - lots of sirens. It turned out that the train I had just gotten out of went about a half mile down the tracks and ran over someone. We drove by the scene in the bus (once it was clear it was going to be a LONG time before trains started running again) and it was not a good thing to see. Another trespasser bit the dust. Or the rails, as it were.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's not a sprint - it's a marathon (or a half)

I signed up today to do something that I couldn't have kept a straight face at the mere suggestion of doing previously - to train to walk a marathon.

The woman who runs the Basic Training class I take at work, Lerual (not her real name), is relentlessly perky and enthusiastic about all things related to physical fitness. Nine years ago or so, she and a couple others started San Jose Fit, a chapter of USA Fit. San Jose Fit's goal is to take normal people, and over the course of the summer, gradually get them to the point where they could seriously consider running or walking in a half or full marathon.

They (oh wow, it's now "We") meet at Los Gatos High School on Saturday mornings, have a little presentation about fitness-related things (like how to buy shoes, keep yourself hydrated, and avoid stepping in disgusting things that are really hard to scrape off your shoes), and then head out on progressively longer runs/walks. You are also given homework to do during the week, like walk for 30 minutes on Monday or spend an hour on Wednesday making fun of bike riders.

I mentioned this program to Mrs Notthat, and she was interested until I explained that the start time was 7:30 AM on Saturday mornings. This was a massive deal-breaker. When I left this morning, Idiot Dog Teddy could tell I was cheating on him, and did not take it well. Theoretically you can bring your dog along, but IDT would make for a very challenging walk, and not just for me. I promised him that he would still get his walk once I got back, but he still laid a massive guilt trip on me.

Next Saturday is our first real session where I will get a better feel for how many people are participating in this, but I suspect it is a lot more than I would have guessed. Like hundreds of people. One of the perks is that you get a technical shirt. (No, I don't know exactly what makes a shirt technical - maybe it knows how to write shirt-based software.)

Look at this picture - the guy on the right is wearing the shirt from a previous year. The guy on the left is wearing the light blue version for this year. The more observant of you can probably figure out the problem with the light blue one (other than it not being black). So the shirts are being reprinted and we will get ours once they are ready.

In any case, I'm determined to see this thing through. I still need to get my knee repaired a bit, but I'm pretty sure that, even as it is, I could manage this process fairly well. I also have the bonus of seeing Lerual twice during the week and will benefit from her perky pep talks.

I suspect she could sell surfboards to farmers in Kansas.

That's it - move along...

PS: The logo on the back of the shirts are supposed to be the word "Whining" with a circle-slash over it. The new shirts have the words "No Whining" with a circle-slash, which is a double-negative, and means that whining would be encouraged. I suspect we would get banned from the trails with the amount of whining we could generate. Or at least me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My three day weekend

Last weekend was pretty busy. And productive. I took Friday off with the hopes of getting a lot of house-based chores done this weekend.

This was my workbench in the garage. My first task was to try to make this useful for more than just being a place to stack stuff. It wasn't easy, and the results show a workbench that is still pretty cluttered, but it is worlds better.

Next on the work list was the garden. Mrs Notthat and I headed to the nursery with a short list of vegetable plants to pick up.

Somehow Mrs managed to sneak some non-vegetable plants onto the cart while I wasn't looking.

She also managed to pick out some herbs and such for the deck planter. On the right you can see part of the windbreak I made for our orange tree. Our hope is to keep as many blossoms as we can on it - last year many of them were blown off by our blustery spring. The windbreak may not really make a difference, and could end up getting blown over on top of the tree tomorrow (50 MPH winds are predicted!), but at least the tree seems to be smiling.

Meanwhile here is the real garden with the drip system laid out. We have several types of tomatoes, two kinds of cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, green beans, Fresno chilies, and snow peas. Within a month we will shake our heads at how we put too much in here, but the homegrown tomatoes will make up for a lot of head shaking.

And as required by grandparent law, here is a token picture of the grandkids.

It's funny that Darci was caught red-handed playing with a toy she outgrew about three years ago.

And that's it. I left out the dog walk, Mrs Notthat having a gaggle of her friends over on Saturday night, and the mandatory time spent watching the final round of the Masters.

And the time spent nursing my sore old body.

That's it - move along...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A couple of signs (probably)

Two completely unrelated (probably) items today, neither involving a grandkid (probably).

Yesterday morning Mrs Notthat and I were sitting at the kitchen table when we were threatened by this squirrel.

Seriously, we had just caught this squirrel red pawed with a large chunk of a palm tree in its mouth and he was not amused. The window and screen that separated him from us seemed mighty flimsy when compared to the palm tree that he had (probably) just brought down.

We escaped with our lives by sitting very still. Once the squirrel was satisfied that his threat against us was taken seriously, he turned and left, although he still kept his eye on us, daring us to try to be a hero. My fear is that this is a sign of pending doom as squirrels the world over make their move towards world domination.

(Yes, I know it's possible that this was just a very stupid squirrel that mistook this chunk of palm tree bark for a walnut and was actually just staring at my Cheerios, but he still seemed very menacing.)

If I want to go to my work cafeteria or fitness center, I have to cross a busy ten lane freeway. Fortunately, there is an overpass that I can use. Even better, this overpass has no freeway access so it is fairly safe to walk on.

All freeway overpasses in this area have been used at one time or another to post protest banners related to the current hot topic of the day (such as the war, the global warming crisis, the labradoodle hair trimming crisis, etc.). This overpass is littered with leftover bits and pieces from some of these banners.

What's always amazed me is that the protesters will often use padlocks to secure the banner to the fence, requiring a locksmith to pick the locks and ensuring that it won't easily be taken down. Of course, a reasonably sharp pocket knife can get around that problem.

So why even bother wasting perfectly good padlocks for a job that a tie wrap would be just as effective at? There are probably a dozen of these on this side of the fence.

Nobody ever said that the labradoodle hair trimming lobby was bright.

That's it - move along...(probably)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A busy, potentially productive weekend

The weather was beautiful this weekend - perfect for getting the garden going and handling a few other chores. Let's see how that worked out.

Saturday started out with the traditional walk of Idiot Dog Teddy out at Bayfront Park. Several times a year there is some sort of peculiar jogging/bike riding/costume wearing contest held there. The two blue fuzzy things are Thing One and Thing Two. You can also see a nun to the right. This thing is odd, even by California standards.

Once we got back, Mrs Notthat and I were able to spend a couple of hours pulling weeds and working in the garden. And that ended the productive part of the weekend.

WHM and a friend went to a concert that required her to stay in some posh country club up in Napa on Saturday night. This meant we were volunteered to watch the grandkids during those periods when the dad was at work. When WHM dropped off the kids, the first order of business was to open the box for them that came from my parents.

Darci got a stuffed puppy that wimpers and wags its tail and does other cute things. Riley got a truck that hauls cars (three included!).

We then headed outside to paint the odd little plaster things I made with a bit of leftover sheetrock plaster. While this picture makes it look like Mrs Notthat was putting on Darci's helmet in anticipation of the painting getting completely out of control, she was actually taking it off. (Sadly, shortly after this Darci sufferred a severe head injury in a freak paintbrush incident. Kidding!)

Darci wanted to make more leftover plaster to make more odd little plaster things. Riley is not so keen on getting his hands dirty (although he couldn't resist tasting it).

Darci also likes putting on all her pads and pretending to ride a skateboard.

Meanwhile Riley had fun creating all this automotive carnage.

Since we were having friends over for dinner, we ended up spending the time after the grandkids left cleaning the house and cooking. The Boy showed up after work with this pizza.

This picture does not do this pizza box justice - it was huge and actually had to rest on the shifter for the drive home in the race car. It contained about a quarter of a pizza left over from work and ended up having nothing to do with dinner (sorry The Boy).

Look at this stunning tree.

I have been nursing this thing along for three years now. I have had no idea what it is and Mrs Notthat has been threatening to do it in for a long time. One of our dinner guests is a trained plant person of some sort (allegedly), and in her opinion, it was a weed and a danger to our other plants. I think she was bought off by Mrs Notthat.

Here is a closeup of the leaves.

Hopefully one of you will identify it and I will be able to make Mrs Notthat regret that she gleefully sent that majestic tree to the great compost heap in the sky.

The grandkids showed back up this morning and we spent most of the day out in the backyard.

Our backyard tree drop its leaves in the spring, after it has grown its new leaves. So we (sort of) raked leaves. And Riley played in the plant cage I made a few years ago to protect a plant from IDT. (Ironically, I killed the plant when I tried to remove the cage from around it last year.)

Darci and Mrs Notthat finished painting these odd plaster things. And then this afternoon the grandkids were picked up and the productiveness of the weekend could officially get going again.

You can probably guess how that went.

That's it - move along...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Give my knees to the kneedy

Thank you John Prine for that line.

Fridays are supposed to be easier. They are the end of the work week, and where I work, most people work at home which makes it quiet there. The Boy doesn't have school or work, so there is no hurry getting him moving. And I usually don't have to spend the better part of the morning reading five-year-old Motor Trend magazines in a variety of waiting rooms.

Fridays are WHM's early day - REALLY early day. If NCN goes to work in the morning, it means we end up with the grandkids very early. Like 6:50 this morning. And they were raring to go.

Fortunately we had some leftover strawberry pancakes and LOTS of syrup, so feeding them went pretty well. The picture up on top is kind of fun. At first glance it's not that easy to tell if Riley is enthusiastically laughing or screaming in unbearable pain. It turns out that he was screaming right after banging his nose on Darci's elbow when he dived on top of her.

Like I said, they were raring to go.

At the last minute Mrs Notthat remembered that The Boy had an 8:30 physical therapy appointment, so there was a bit of a rush getting him going.

And then I had to do something I have never had to do in my life - get an x-ray of a body part not directly involved in chewing. My right knee has been fairly painful the last couple of weeks, the result of me trying to be more aggressive in my walking/jogging/don't be so dang overweight program. So I went in to have it x-rayed and then have the x-rays looked at by a "conservative" specialist ("conservative" meaning that he is not of the "cut first, ask questions later" club).

After filling out a bunch of paperwork, four different x-rays were taken by a nice lady who seemed very relieved I had worn shorts and didn't need to remove my pants. 

After waiting for the x-rays to be ready, I walked up to the specialist's office where I got to fill out a lot more paperwork and wait a LONG time before seeing the guy. He only looked at one of the x-rays then tried his best to make me cry by pushing, pulling, and twisting my knee. His conclusion is that I've got a partially torn meniscus, the pain is caused by ragged edges that tend to work there way into painful positions (and can work there way back out), and the recommendation is to go in and clean it all up. The good part is that this is not like what The Boy went through - since I'm old he won't even try to repair the tear, so the recovery is all of about two days.

So it looks like sometime in May I will have my first operation (again, not counting those involving my teeth).

At work our division had an "all hands" meeting this afternoon where attendance was more or less required. This meant that most of our group was in the office, which meant it was not a nice calm and quiet Friday, which meant I actually had to be reasonably productive. Looking. At least until the meeting, where all I had to do was pretend not to doze off.

The meeting was followed by a beer bash that had biscuits and gravy and an excellent bean dip.

Really. So it was an odd Friday, but not all bad.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Riley wins, we get shaken, and TV show reviews

Following are a few short odds and ends to tide you over until something actually blog-worthy happens (which will be on Friday, almost for sure*).

First, Riley had a doctor visit yesterday. Once it was over, his one question was "do I get to go home?" So many recent office visits have ended up with him spending the night in the hospital that, being able to actually go home afterwards was a novel experience. He's an amazing kid that hopefully can stay reasonably healthy. And get used to going home after seeing a doctor.

Second, we had an extremely minor earthquake on Monday. It was just big enough that you could figure out what it was before it stopped, but small enough that there was no damage. Not that that didn't stop our local TV stations from babbling on and on about how nothing was damaged and how this did not mean that The Big One was going to hold off on giving Nevada ocean-front property any day now.

Third, I have recently discovered two TV shows that are immensely entertaining. 

One is from the BBC, is six years old, and the entire run was only eight shows, each about nine minutes long. It was a spoof of a cooking show called Posh Nosh, currently being shown at odd times on the local PBS station. This is a hard show to describe, other than it is filled with absurd terms (they have interrogated a lemon and embarrassed, then annoyed a batch of vegetables), strange ingredients, and clever subtitles. If you get a chance, watch an episode or two. Just don't expect to actually learn anything about cooking.

The other is a new show on ABC called Better Off Ted. The previews I had seen were not encouraging, but I ended up joining an episode in progress last night and found it to be very good. It was clever, funny, strange, and best of all, did not have a laugh track. I tried to get Mrs Notthat interested in it, but failed. She just kid of shrugged and wandered off.

But I think it's worth checking out. Note that my track record has been that when I start to like a new show, it invariably ends up cancelled within a month or so. 

So don't wait too long. 

That's it - move along... 

*I promise it won't involve a basketball and hope it won't involve a hospital visit. But it could get close to that.