Life

Updates on life, health, and goings on

Life Report/Trip Report

When last I posted way at the other end of this surprisingly long February, I had a job, and a potential house.  Since then, Tara and I have packed up, gone to a convention, moved across two and a half-states, and settled in at my parents’ house until we can get our San Diego house sold.

We actually started packing in late January, with the delivery of a PODS container (hereafter referred to as a/the pod).  It took some effort to get it loaded, largely due to a combination of lack of motivation, and never having the right things to put in it when we needed.  In the end, I suspect it could have had more volume, but was probably about where it needs to be weight wise.  At first, we intended to have the pod picked up while we were at Gallifrey One, but we were far enough behind that we postponed it until the following Tuesday.

Gallifrey One was nice, even if a combination of Tara having to go in for her last day of work in California, and trying to pack a few more things into the POD meant that we didn’t get there until after nearly everything but evening programming was done on Friday.  Comfortingly, most of the people I ran into up there didn’t see any problem with us being at a con less than a week before we were supposed to move.

We knew that we’d need help with the move, so we arranged for Ace Relocation/Allied Van Lines to pack at least some of our stuff and ship everything that wasn’t pre-loaded into the pod.  However, when I was talking to the Ace agent, I probably overestimated the amount we’d have packed, so both our estimate and the work order were short.  As it turns out, this was far from the only time where my communication skills failed.

On Tuesday February 16, the pod was picked up.  While this was happening, Tara and I grabbed lunch and headed over to Poway to pick up a Cruise America 25′ RV that would be our home during the final packing and moving process.  When we got back, we moved a few basics in – including Naga (who we wanted to have time to acclimate before adding the other cats).  We also got as much packing as we could done.

Wednesday morning the packers arrived early, and proceeded to do exactly as little as they could based on what was in their work order.  As a result, not even everything that we’d ask to be professionally packed was packed.  When the truck and loaders arrived, none of us were happy.  Given that Tara and I had crapped out on packing, we ended up contracting to have the loaders do a bunch of the packing (at a premium), which ended up taking the rest of the day Wednesday and into Thursday morning.  Additionally, this resulted in having things packed that shouldn’t have been – the worst being our mid-weight coats, and one of the cat carriers, specifically the more expensive soft one that Pabu needs to be in since she hurts herself on the bars of a regular one.

In retrospect, we should have gone ahead and had the pod picked up on Monday (or Friday), and had the packers there on Tuesday to pack everything.

As it worked out, Tara and I moved into the RV (parked outside our house, hooked up to an extension cord on a circuit that wasn’t rated for the full 30 amps required) on Wednesday night, with Naga.  This was the first (and so far only) time Naga has had us at night without other cats around.  But, she didn’t seem interested in snuggling – just making sandcastles in the middle of the night.

When we originally planned on using the RV, we figured that it would be easy and safe to put a tow dolly on it and pull Tara’s car behind.  However, the RV only has a 2,500 pound tow capacity, which Tara’s fairly light car exceeds on its own.  After a lot of back and forth, I finally it upon a solution during Wednesday night – Tara could fly back to San Diego in a week or so, and then drive her car back for about the same or less than the cost of the tow dolly.  (After a few refinements, Tara improved on the plan to avoid having to stay with anyone in San Diego, and we reduced the cost by using frequent flyer points)

Given the layout and bed size of the RV, Tara and I ended up in separate beds.  She took the bed that could be made out of the dinette, where I slept on the most permanent bed in the back (deciding that the over-cab bed would be better left to the cats).  This worked out since it kept her from needing to climb over me (or visa-versa) at night, and us from being crowded into a bed that probably wouldn’t have fit me anyway.

The rest of the cats joined on Thursday and managed to get along OK – albeit Naga and Pabu sometimes disagreed about who should snuggle with Tara at night, and none of them snuggled with me.

Late Thursday, we headed to drop Tara’s car off with the friends who will be keeping an eye on it, and picking her up at the airport when she flies in.  After that, we stopped at PetCo shortly before closing to get another soft-sided cat carrier, and, at Tara’s suggestion, some training pads to put under the cats in their carriers; as both girls have been known to have accidents when traveling.

It was on Friday that I discovered more communications problems.  First, I thought that we were good for the carpeting people to be in on Friday, but I needed to sign the work order.  So, instead the carpeting was scheduled for Monday and we had to wait for the carpeting guy to drive over with the order to sign.

We did manage to get the cats secured into their carrier, and everything in the RV and my car ready to go on Friday.  But, instead of the 10:30 or earlier I’d hoped for, it was nearly noon when Tara took the RV down to see The Kid, and I took a detour to sneak some of the stuff from the freezer and refrigerator that weren’t worth cramming into the overflowing RV fridge to a dumpster, and then to see The Kid.

After leaving The Kid a bit before 1, I went to find a place to dump the electronics recycling off in El Cajon.  The first place I had an address for turned out to be closed, but I found a second.  However, the route to it was blocked by a major accident investigation, requiring detours both to get to the center, and then to get onto I-8 east after dropping stuff off.  As a result, it was after 2:00 when we stopped for lunch – not in El Centro as I’d expected, or Yuma as my most optimistic plans had hoped, but at the Golden Acorn Casino about half-way between the Alpine and the descent into the Imperial Valley.

It was also at this lunch stop that we discovered that three of the four cats had managed to pee in their carriers, requiring us to replace their pads.  This left us with too few to make it to Albuquerque on our original plan if the trend continued.  So, after a stop near El Centro, I ran ahead to the PetSmart in Yuma to get more pads (and more toys since the one we got seemed to help calm the kitties in transit).  I left word to have Tara meet me at the Pilot travel center towards the eastern edge of town.

However, my memory was very bad.  The travel center I was thinking of was a Love’s center not a Pilot, so Tara went right past it.  However, she found another place to stop before leaving Yuma, and called me so that we could meet up.  It was at this meeting that we determined that it wasn’t a good idea to press on to Coolidge as it was already dark and we were already tired.

So, we located an RV park with an opening less than a mile away, and I drove the RV to the park and got set up for the night.  I hooked up to shore power (for the first time in a real 30 amp circuit using the weird connector) and city water (not that we trusted it that much).  I skipped hooking up the sewer line because the ground connection in the park looked about the same size as the hose we had, and I didn’t think we had any sort of a coupler for that kind of connection.

Saturday morning, I decided that the trip to Coolidge was short enough that it was still worth our time to try to get preview night tickets to Comic-Con.  However, this delayed our departure about an hour from when we could have left.  However, I was also worried because the “black water” tank of the RV was already showing 2/3 full, and I wasn’t sure we wanted to keep going with it that full.  Still not believing I could use the local sewer, we ended up driving about 20 minutes back into Yuma to a gas station where we could dump.  We waited another 20 or 30 minutes for the two RVs ahead of us to finish dumping before we could dump and hit the road.  I let Tara run ahead, and stopped at an Albertson’s to get a gallon of bottled water (I’d been unable to satisfy my nighttime thirsts for anything resembling a reasonable cost with what we could get at gas stations or convenience stores).  I also grabbed some sandwich makings figuring that we wouldn’t want to find a place to eat along the way (Yuma to Coolidge has a paucity of places to eat until one gets to the exit in Casa Grande for Coolidge).

I met up with Tara at the only open rest area along I-8 in Arizona not that long after she got there.  However, it wasn’t quite as open as it should have been: the bathrooms were closed.  It was also hot.  So, we had to fire up the generator in the RV to comfortably have lunch.  When checking things at the rest stop, I discovered that the black water tank still showed 2/3 full.

After lunch, the trip to Coolidge was fairly uneventful (except for a detour due to the exit from Eastbound I-8 to Westbound I-10 in Casa Grande being closed.

We got to Coolidge, and parked into our spot at the RV park where Tara’s parents spend their winters (in a “park model” RV, which is an RV in name only) mid to late afternoon.  Tara’s mom had made us dinner, so we had a nice supper and then turned in for the night.

On Saturday, since it was daylight when we parked, I went ahead and hooked up to the sewer system, opening both valves under the seemingly understandable assumption that that was the way to do it.  Later, I read the fine manual tucked in a nearly hidden compartment in the RV, and discovered that in a park situation like we were in, they still wanted the valves closed until ready to dump.

Sunday morning, we slept a bit later than optimal, and still had to do a bit of packing before hitting the road.  This was slowed down when Tara’s mom insisted on feeding us before we left.  I also chose to take advantage of the city water to attempt to flush whatever was causing the black water tank sensor to read wrong, which both added to our delay in leaving, and resulted in me nearly being trapped in a squatting position (not wanting to put my knee down in the rough gravel of the parking pad).

Since before leaving, I’d been debating the best route from Coolidge to Albuquerque.  Google maps kept insisting that the fastest route was to take US-60 past Qumedo and then cut up to I-40.  I’d been preferring the route up I-17 to I-40 – knowing that the route down south through Demming and Hatch was much longer (even if Google kept claiming it was an OK alternative).  Finally, I (foolishly) decided that we should listen to Google’s advice.

This turned out to be a mistake.  First, there was a lot of construction around Superior Arizona, which slowed us down.  Then, Tara was so worn out by the winding drive down into the Salt River Canyon.  So, we switched vehicles, and I drove the RV up the less winding side of the Salt River Canyon.  Even so, by the time I got to Show Low, I decided that staying on US 60 was not a good idea.  So, I found the alternate route to I-40 at Holbrook (a short hop, albeit one that was a bet westerly).

One thing that did help was that on Sunday, Tara and I finally started taking advantage of the FRS radios we had with us.  (I finally, well after the trip confirmed that we could have been legally using a GMRS band and power off of my recently renewed GMRS license – but I didn’t know that then so our range was somewhat limited).  As long as we were within, more or less, visual distance of one another, we could communicate without phone service or the dangers of driving (a 25′ RV) while trying to use a hand-held phone.

However, it was already getting dark by the time we hit the New Mexico border.   I’d wanted to pull over at the rest area just inside of New Mexico, but they were closed (apparently for the night, as there were plenty of cars parked there, or just leaving, as we passed).  So, Tara suggested the Cracker Barrell in Gallup instead.

We appreciated the meal, and the time off the road, but it further delayed us on an already delayed day.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, albeit dark; and for me driving what I came to think of as a behemoth a bit stressful.  There was the side trip through Grants due to a badly labeled low bridge warning.

Upon arriving in the Albuquerque area, I followed family knowledge rather than Google and took Unser across the West Side.  Even at night, this was an odd trip knowing that the stretch from Paradise to Irving should have been known as Lyons, should haven’t gone passed either road, and the fire station on the west side of the road should have been a county station not a city station (or at least those were the condition when I last lived in Albuquerque and frequented Paradise Hills).

I also gave Tara the radio tour of some of the area – knowing that she was probably as tired as me, so having me make snide or tour guide remarks probably would be at least somewhat appreciated.

We got in late – after 10, and much later than I’d have anticipated or wanted.  (The fact that the clock in the RV was still on Pacific time probably added to me thinking it was earlier than it actually was most of the afternoon).

Monday, we dropped the RV off, and then got signed into both of our storage units – the original 10×30 unit the relocation agent recommended over having the local Allied agent store our stuff, and the 10×10 unit I added to deal with the extra stuff that we ended up hauling due to the movers not getting it.

Tuesday, I borrowed my Dad’s pickup and we took about half of the stuff we’d offloaded to the locker and put it away.  On Wednesday and Thursday we took over a few more loads and continued to organize and recover.

Friday, the movers arrived with our main load.  Due to the manager at the storage place finding an ideally placed unit, it took just two movers to unload and pack the unit (80% of the way from the back to the front, and all the way to the 15′ ceiling for much of that).

Yesterday, we took the last load up to the storage place (putting it in the large unit, since it was closer to the entrance and had room), as well as a few other errands.

Tomorrow, I start my new job – first with an online webinar with anyone else new to the contract, mostly at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, then by spending the afternoon at the badging office.  On Tuesday, Tara flies to San Diego and starts heading back this way with her car.

Life Updates

For the few people who only see my updates from my blog (or LiveJournal which mirrors my blog), here are a couple of updates on my life:

1: I have a new job.  I will be working at and for the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in (just south of) Albuquerque.  I don’t have a start date yet because they need to finish at least the preliminary security check.  That is in process, but there is still at least one piece of paperwork that needs to be completed and sent back to the contractor I’ll be working for – who are based in Huntsville Alabama.

2: Tara and I have an accepted, but contingent, offer in on a house in the Sandia Heights neighborhood in the Sandia foothills in far northeastern Albuquerque.  We’ll be moving to Albuquerque in a few weeks and living with my parents until we can close the sale of our house here.

3: Speaking of our house here in San Diego: it should be on the market about the time as when we leave town.  We’ve got some minor fixes that need to be done and will be easier done on an empty house.  We also believe that the house will show better without the cats in residence.

Transitions

This morning, I was called into a meeting with my bosses boss.  As soon as he asked for the meeting, I was pretty sure what the meeting was about, and I was right.  I have been given a sixty day notice that my job is being eliminated.  I am getting generous severance package, and Qualcomm is providing outplacement services which I plan on taking full advantage of.

I sent some more job applications out, before seeing advise from the outplacement agency not to start sending applications right away.  However, I’ll wait until I talk to them on Monday before doing anything more.  But, I intend to be as aggressive as I can in looking until I find something.

My hope is that I’ll be able to find something during the next sixty days that I can start in mid-December or early January.  Obviously, I’d prefer something in San Diego, or possibly parts of Orange County where I can fairly easily commute from Rancho Bernardo.  A job that could be 100% telecommuting would be the same as any job in San Diego.  If I have to relocate, we’d probably prefer Albuquerque since there is family there, and we have contacts who have contacts who might know how to deal with The Kid – who would probably have to relocate with us, but not live with us.  The Chicago area (at least as long as we could move back to the Bartlett/Hanover Park area) would be in play, as would Silicon Valley (provided the job was good enough to deal with the cost of living).  I’d consider Seattle, but Tara is less sure since we’d be further from family.

I’ve started reducing expenses – suspended piano lessons, reduced the number of DVDs Netflix will deliver, dropped premium channels, canceling newspaper, etc.

There are a few other things I need to do soon.  I need a new suit since my really nice suit fit about 100 pounds ago.  I’m sure that there are a couple of others, but I cannot think of any.

I’d appreciate prayers/good thoughts.  I’ll accept any job leads that you want to provide (thank you already to Glenn and Susan – I’ve followed up on your leads already).

Musical Updates

For much of the year, and into last year, I have been (was) taking music lessons.  First voice lessons and then piano lessons.  Of the two, the voice lessons have been more successful.  However, those ended in the spring when my instructor moved away and I’ve not resumed them with a new instructor – at least not yet.

I still have three piano lessons scheduled this month, but may put them on hiatus as well to let some other things calm down (mostly some house rearranging and minor remolding – replacing the flooring in two rooms as part of the rearrangement).  Hopefully, once rearranged I’ll be able to set up the keyboard in my new office without it taking up the whole room and may feel like I can practice and resume lessons.

But, overall, I’m thinking that singing is my strength.  So, that is what I should focus on.   I will need to go back to the songs I worked on when I had voice lessons and try them again – recording them and listening back so that I can be sure I’m still on key, pitch, etc.

But, I’d also like to expand my {word I cannot spell well enough to fix with spell check, that means list of works one is able to perform}.  I’ve got a few songs that I have lyrics and accompaniment tracks for that I could work on.  Obviously, most of these are mainstream songs – although thanks to a program that does an OK job at stripping vocals from sufficiently complex tracks (it fails miserably if the track is essentially mono) I have a couple of filk standards (“Mal’s Song” and “Hope Eyrie”) available.

However, I’m running into an odd problem.  Having only recently discovered it, I’m finding Stan Rogers’ “White Squall” a very inviting song to learn to sing.  [It is a bit odd to think that someone from New Mexico enjoys songs about The Great Lakes, many of which are disaster songs – fictional or non-fictional.  On the other hand, I spent many years in the Chicago area, and my dad’s family comes from Grand Haven, Michigan].  But, karaoke-version.com doesn’t have a version.  Nor have I turned any up in my other searches.  And, I cannot strip the version I (currently) have because it is from Apple Music making it a DRMed AA3 and the program needs a non-DRM MP3 to work.

Another thing I’m thinking I should try a bit is song writing.  One idea I have is to take my grandfather’s story about an ancestor who ended up working in Chicago (or Milwaukee) as an operating engineer for a hotel boiler; but would periodically swap jobs with a friend who worked a steamer crossing to Grand Haven.  This song would fit well with “White Squall” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (another song I’m tempted to learn).

One other thing that I’m still tempted to do is pick up and learn (or refine to correct skills) a cajon and/or other hand drum.  At least short-term, I think if (when) I start spending more time in filk circles these might be useful instruments.  Longer run, these might also become what I’d be likely to use should I end up doing more formal performances; relying on either accompaniment tracks or (preferred) someone else providing accompaniment.

Musical Ambition

I’m reposting here two posts that went initially to Facebook and Google+, one from October 25, and the other from October 26:

October 25:
(Tara will probably complain, but) I picked up a Jamstik as a late birthday present/right hand exercise. It arrived the other night and I’ve been working through the tutorial.

I’ve already figured a few things out, however:
– I’ll probably want to still get a real guitar and take lessons from a live person. I don’t know whether to go through the Poway Adult School, Palomar College, or go the private lesson route.
– I need to build up the calluses on my left hand.
– my (literal) fat fingers make it hard for both of the chords the tutor has tried to teach me: E and A.
– the tutor program has an “arcade mode,” based on Guitar Hero and the like. I find this much harder to do since I have some eye-hand coordination issues that still require me to do too much thinking before fretting the correct string(s). Even in the other mode, I pick the wrong string a high percentage of the time.
– I find it easier to use headphones – otherwise the actual sound of the strings kind of distracts me.
– I need to stick with this in order to get myself up to the level I’d like to be at: enough to at least accompany myself in filk type settings (which, sort-of includes the monthly worship sessions at our church)

October 26:
I did a bit of noodling tonight. Mostly working on E and A chords. I still have to look at reference and think to get my left hand correct.

I’m also having a problem with the E chord that tends to make the Jamstik sense the third string (C?) as being fretted on the second fret, not the first. I don’t think it is because I’m swapping my first two fingers. I also think I’m going to need to trim my nails.

I located a place for lessons. I decided to give their voice lessons a try first – since I already own the instrument.

(I also need to decide if I should get an electric guitar so I can practice without disturbing Tara. On the other hand, that is what the Jamstik is for.)

Writing Again

For the last week or so, I’ve been dabbling with writing.  I’m not resuming As of Yet Unnamed Fantasy Story.  Instead, I’m working on something that I doubt I’ll be sharing (or at least sharing broadly and publically) for personal reasons.

However, doing this has brought a couple general things up that I’m going to share:

I’ve been using Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php) for this.  I’m finding I really like how it works.  It lets me organize things, draft scenes and sections, store notes, etc.  It also takes care of formatting the story – it will even generate .epub and .mobi formatted e-books directly (albeit without the ability to embed fonts).

What I’m writing is alternate history.  Especially for real-world and alternate history, I’m finding that the Internet now has tons of good (and not so good) places to get information to ensure at least some accuracy.  My story touches the legal system, and I’ve been able to track down both a general overview of the legal process, and the actual laws of the state where my story takes place.  This has let me make surgical changes in history but make sure that they (I think) fit somewhat seamlessly into an otherwise recognizable world.

Google Maps and Google Street View are also quite useful in visualizing settings that I’ve not actually been to – or haven’t been to recently.

If my next project is more shareable, I’ll let you know how my dabbling comes out.

Comic-Con So Far

Here it is Saturday night, and I’ve not posted much about what I’ve been doing at Comic-Con.  I’ve posted a couple of things to Google+, Facebook, Twitter and one to LiveJournal without hitting my WordPress site. {For those reading this on one of those, I usually cross-post things from my blog to all of the above, and often post the same – or very similar – things on Google+ Facebook and Twitter that don’t end up here}

Wednesday, I took the day off to help with setting up the Conjecture + Westercon 68 table.  Since we didn’t need to be anywhere until 11:00am, when we picked my vice-chair and the stand for the banner up in La Mesa, our morning was fairly relaxed.

After picking Kae, my vice-chair, up, we drove to the Convention Center and parked next door at the Marriott.  We had two boxes of stuff, the banner stand and a loose poster tube with the Westercon 68 banner.  It turned out that getting this stuff from the Marriott to the convention center wasn’t trivial.  Tara took the larger and heavier box on her scooter – which wasn’t as easy as she’d originally thought.  I had the other box and the banner stand, and Kate had her own stuff and poster tube (I think I’ve got the distribution right).  With this stuff, we had to work our way from the parking garage, to the sidewalk along Harbor, and then up to the front of the Convention Center.  Once we got in front of the Convention Center, we needed to work our way down to the doorways in front of Ballroom D.  Ballroom A is the closest to the Marriott, and was were Volunteers were being allowed in to get their credentials and assignments.  Ballroom B had the disabled entrance, but it was mostly unused.  The people lining up to be the first to get their badges were outside of Ballroom C, where they would later enter.  So we had some cross-traffic to deal with before we could go in.

It didn’t take too long to get Kate her badge (one of our two exhibitor badges) and Tara and I the stickers that granted us access until the floor officially opened.  Nor did it take long to set up the table once we found our way up to the Mezzanine.  The only thing we were lacking was tape to tape up the banners.  So, Tara and I shortly left – getting the car out just shy of it being parked into a third hour (at $7.00/hour after the initial $8.00 hour).  We then headed to see if we could park at Old Town (no spots) and then on to Qualcomm Stadium – stopping briefly at Lowes for the missing tape.

We boarded the trolley, and headed over to the T&C to get our non-preview night 4-day badges.  The ride and walk from the trolley station to the exhibition hall at the T&T was a bit longer than I’d expected – mostly because I didn’t expect them to be sending us in the furthest door into the furthest end of the T&C’s convention center.  {This is MUCH further than any of the space being used for Westercon 68, except for the hotel front desk, and we’ll make sure people coming from the trolley to check in know that they can call for a golf-cart shuttle from our foyer which is much closer to the trolley station}.

After we got our badges through the regular lines, we were briefly directed over to the disabled services desk there, but some communications mistakes kept us from getting our disabled sticker and attendant’s badge there.  We returned to the trolley, and proceeded down to the Convention Center and back up to the mezzanine, to find the table fully set up and ready to go.  Tara and I waited up there until the exhibition opened, went down and talked with some of our friends (but didn’t buy anything, because we’d already bought them or they weren’t available), and headed out for dinner before heading home.

Thursday, we got a reasonable start and made it to Qualcomm Stadium in time to catch a not-unreasonable trolley.  We arrived, and promptly found the disabled line for Ballroom 20.  We were let in fairly reasonably and Tara got a good spot.  However, due in large part to one person with five or six attendants, I ended up sitting in the middle of the row behind the row for the attendants and non-chair using disabled, where I remained until the third panel – when I finally was able to get the seat behind her.

The first two panels were preview showings of the pilots for Intelligence and Star Crossed – both mid-season launches.  Both Tara and I enjoyed Intelligence, but found Star Crossed to be less interesting.  The former has some similarities to Jake 2.0 and Chuck, except the enhanced agent was an agent before hand, and the show is strictly serious action-drama.

We mostly ignored the panel on Beauty and the Beast, but really liked the panel we’d really waited for: Psych.  Psych was its typical love-fest between the audience, writers and cast – but fun as usual.

After that, we got a late lunch, early dinner (it was about 3:30 or 4) at Burger Lounge, and then spent some time at the part of Petco Park that has been turned into Nerd HQ for Comic-Con.  We then found the parking lot that has been turned into an extension of Comic-Con with some tent and trailer exhibits and the food trucks and tent vendors.  After that, we found our way back to the Convention Center for the facilities (which we couldn’t find in the parking lot) and then – at my suggestion – worked our way back and found the 12th and Imperial trolley station giving us very good seats and easy loading for our trip back to Qualcomm Stadium.

Late in the day, and even when we got home, I was noticing some burning pain in my right heel and some aching under the balls of both feet – but mostly the right foot.

Friday (yesterday as I write this) we got a similar early start, and got in line for Ballroom 20 again.  They moved the overflow disabled line to a more sensible location, but did cause some concern since we could observe that they let three groups into the room before they let anyone out of the overflow disabled line – but it turns out they were doing a good job of enforcing the reserved seating so we got pretty good seats (same rows, but further from the center).

The first two panels were great – one with the writers from The Big Bang Theory, and one on The Legend of Korra.  The latter included a full run of the first episode of the second season.  We then partially tuned out for the panel on Bones.

The best, and most anticipated, panel of the day was the panel on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  After receiving a partially standing ovation, Joss Whedon answered a question (possibly by a plant) about showing some clips with a statement to the effect of “We had a bit of trouble with the lawyers getting permission to show any clips, so we’ll just show the whole pilot instead.”  Of the three pilots seen, this was by far the best – a good follow-on to The Avengers, with elements expected both from Marvel and from Whedon.

After this, Tara and I got lunch from one of the tent vendors, spent a bit of time in the exhibit hall and returning a phone call (from Thursday) before splitting for two evening panels.  I went to one featuring Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, moderated by Wil Wheaton, which was a lot of fun.

Over the course of the day, my heel continued to hurt off and on, but more on than off.  So, I decided that I should bring my cane with me today.

This morning (Saturday) we got another good start and got to the convention center at about the same time.  Once we got into Ballroom 20 for two pairs of back-to-back related panels, I took an extended bathroom break and tried to pick up some stuffed animals for Tara from the Nick store (Pabu and Naga).  But, I was too late.  (We have a different plan for tomorrow that should work better – hopefully without costing us seeing the Doctor Who panel).

In the first pair of panels, we saw an 18-minute preview of the new series: Once Upon a Time: Wonderland, and then saw a good panel on the parent show Once Upon a Time.  Afterwards we got a panel with the full voice cast of Futurama and a panel with mostly writers for The Simpsons.  The panel on The Simpsons also featured two performances by The Spring in Springfield – a quartet that performs many of the songs from The Simpsons, albeit mostly from earlier seasons.

Today we had a not-quite-so-late lunch at The Old Spaghetti Factory, checked on the staffing at the fan table, and headed over to see the final Warehouse 13 panel (boo, hiss. SyFy).  This was also quite a good panel, although several of the cast were a bit broken up and knowing that in just about six-weeks their run on this show is over.

After that, we grabbed some yogurt at the other branch of our local (4S Ranch) frozen yogurt place – Sweet Things – in the Hilton.  They’ve cut their hours back for Comic-Con; that is their closed hours, so they are open from 5:30am until 2:30am.  And they were hopping in there.

We made a quick run back over to the exhibit hall so I could take a look at the $50.00 Game of Thrones pop-up map book (which looks good, but I’m not going to get it this weekend), before heading home.

Tonight’s trolley ride was less pleasant than some.  First, we had to get a couple to vacate one of the priority seats so that we could fold up the bench for Tara to park her cart.  Then, having had one confrontation already, I chose not to try to kick anyone out of the other seat.  So, Tara had to listen to one of the people we evicted complain about her until they got off, and I ended up standing for the entire run.

While the cane did help my feet, they are still sore.  And, I managed to leave my wrist-brace in the bathroom the first time I went, so my right hand is griping a bit as well.  I’ll use the cane again tomorrow (and I think I know where another brace is, so I may be able to help there as well) but if it is still bothering me on Monday, I’ll probably go to urgent care and get it overanalyzed only to be told to rest it up and take anti-inflamatories.

 

Too Much Time on the Road

I’m tired. Yesterday, I drove up to Reno and drove back today (538 miles each way – 8:48 travel time according to Google Maps).

Yesterday, I didn’t get on the road until after 11:00 due to delays at this end, and had The Kid with me (I was taking up to a treatment facility in Reno that, hopefully, will be able to deal with his issues). As a result, we had lunch at the Lake Elsinore McDonald’s I use as a way-point I used to make sure that my car’s GPS didn’t argue with me about taking I-15 through the Inland Empire rather than the slight shorter, but actually slower, I-215 route.

However, my car’s GPS apparently thinks that freeways are much faster than non-freeway highways, so it tried to run me through Sacramento. Having driven both of the Sacramento routes within the last week and the US-395 route two years ago, I still argued with it until it gave up and quit trying to send me to I-5, somewhere around CA-60.

Because I had The Kid with me, I couldn’t keep listening to A Storm of Swords, so had planned on listening to music; but could not get my iPod to play properly through the car stereo until I got a 3.5mm audio cable in Bishop (I couldn’t find one at the Arco in RB, nor at one of my other pit-stops, nor could I find the one that should be in my office), so I ended up listening to KNX for several hours.

We stopped for dinner in Bridgeport (it was too early when we hit Bishop, and I could tell it would be way late by the time we reach Nevada), at a burger walk-up that wasn’t too bad.

We arrived late – after 9:00 – and it was after 10:30 when I got settled into my hotel.

Said hotel, a Baymont Inn, was not that nice. The room was fairly clean, but the bathtub was stained and they forgot to give me soap (which I could have gotten from the front desk, but it wasn’t worth it for the short night).

I stopped back by where The Kid was about 9:00, only to find that all of the paperwork had been sent here by FedEx, so I could have left earlier. My early trip wasn’t quite as quick as I’d have liked. I ended up stopping in Carson City at a Lowe’s to make use of their facilities (and briefly look at blinds to appese some of my guilt), then at a McDonald’s Minden for a supplement to my breakfast, and finally at the Wal-Mart in Minden to track down something to keep the tea stain on my shirt from becoming permanent.

As lunch time was nearing, I took a detour (not really worth it) onto Mammoth Scenic Loop, and grabbed lunch at the Pita Pit in Mammoth Springs. This added a bit of a delay – and probably more than just doubling into Mammoth Springs would have – but was at least a recognizable option rather than the sometimes gamble of small-town restaurants. I probably could have held on to Bishop, since it is much closer to Mammoth Springs than I tend to think it is (even after less than a day).

I made another stop, at Manzanar National Historical Park. I spent more than an hour there – and could have spent more time in the visitor’s center museum alone. I cannot say that I enjoyed the visit, after all this park records one of the darkest chapters in American History, but I felt it was worth it. The reconstructed barracks and mess hall are quite telling, as even with possibly better construction, sand and dirt were everywhere in all three buildings. As I was there, I kept thinking that yesterday would have actually been a better day – today was mostly overcast and not that hot, but yesterday when I had made a pit-stop at a rest area not too much further south it had been over 100 degrees and the wind was blowing; which would have probably made those barracks even more depressing.

The last legs of that drive are the worst. I ended up stopping for dinner near where CA-58 crosses US-395, selecting my dining spot as much on the strength of “its not Burger King” as for any other hope of a good dinner. However, the dinner wasn’t bad.

The drive across the Inland Empire was after dark, and I got slowed for some construction on I-15 between the county line and Escondido (which my GPS tried to route me around, but I ignored it since I couldn’t see the back-up it told me was coming).

I suspect that sometime in the next month (and possibly again regularly for a while afterwards) both Tara M Oakes and I will be making that trip. Given that we’d need to be able to spend part of one day in Reno, I’m thinking that we’ll need to go about as far as Bishop after work on a Friday, the rest of the way to Reno on Saturday and then home on Sunday. At least if we’re both in the car, I won’t have to do all the driving.

(FYI, based on Google maps, I’ve driven about 2,099 miles over the last 8 days – all without a co-driver, and mostly with only myself in the car)

Third Day Concert Report

Last night, I saw Third Day at the San Diego County Fair.  This was a good concert, and the third time I’ve seen Third Day live.

Previously, I saw them in December 2007 in Hoffman Estates during their Christmas tour, and two years ago at the San Diego County Fair – that time as part of a mini-festival that also featured Mercy Me, John Mark McMillian, a third singer I don’t recall, with brief appearances from Jamie Grace (who did a longer set on one of the smaller stages earlier) and Trevor Morgan (who was touring with Third Day and did a couple of songs in the middle of their set)

This was the first time I saw just Third Day.  They did a nearly 90 minute set.  During that 90 minutes, Mac Powell’s only breaks were during instrumental solos and briefly between songs.  Other than that, he was either singing or talking the rest of the time.  Mark Lee (lead guitar) and the support musician on the keys had a few more breaks – during long song introductions.  The rest of the band had a longer break during a short acoustic set (vocal, piano and acoustic guitar).

I couldn’t help myself from noticing some of the technical details.

The fair was providing image magnification (imag), so I sometimes paid a bit of attention to the shots, but only spotted two of the cameras, and deduced where a third was.  There was a hand-held cameraman fairly visible on the stage much of the time, and there was a camera position in front of the stage at stage right.  There was also a fixed camera looking over the drummer – so clearly the video crew had worked with the band’s tech crew during setup.  There had to be at least one more camera that had a good view of center stage based on some of the shots.

From where I was sitting, I could also see someone just off stage right who spent much of the evening doing something to guitars for Mark Lee, who swapped them out after nearly every song.  Sometime this was clearly to switch from electric to acoustic, but I think it was also to re-tune the guitars (which was probably what the guy off stage was doing).

Towards the end, once it was full dark, I could see that just off of stage left there was manned console.  At first, I thought it might be the lighting console – which could have been there as well.  But then I realized, it was probably the monitor board.  I’m fairly sure that on a show of this scale, and for a band of this level, the main mixing board sits somewhere in front of the stage so that the operator can use his (or her) own ears for the mix.

On a different topic, I think I was witness to something spirit directed.  During the introduction to the song “I Need a Miracle” from their most recent album, Mac Powell interrupted the story of the song’s creation to share the gospel.  He mentioned that he doesn’t normally do this, and since I’ve seen Third Day twice before (and have a copy of a fourth concert), I have good reason to believe that this is the case.  So it is clear to me that something moved him to share at that point – someone in the audience needed that message.  (Anyone attending the fair could sit in the second level – possibly better seats than I had paid for – or stand in front of the stage, so there were probably people who had never heard of, or heard, Third Day in that audience).

Musical Aspirations

For some time, I’ve had some thoughts about learning a new instrument.

Off and on from the 4th grade through college, I played Alto Sax in various bands.  (I ended up dropping band the last year at each school: part way through my 5th and 8th grade years, moving from Marching/Symphonic Band to Concert Band my 11th grade year, and then no band class at all my 12th grade year, being unable to schedule Marching Band during the fall semester of my 5th and final year at UNM; and was only in the “zoo” band during one spring semester during those same 5 years).  After leaving school, I pulled out my sax on rarer and rarer occasions, and finally sent it home with my sister, brother-in-law and The Albuquerque Boy Choir a couple of years ago – after The Boy Choir tour took them to San Diego – so that they could donate it to Hummingbird Music Camp.  (I presume that it has been played more over the last couple of years than it had over the preceding 20).

However, I keep looking at other instruments that I might be able to use in more social situations (and potentially in worship – but that is much less likely).  The ones that most appeal to me include guitar, autoharp and some forms of drum.

Guitar has some appeal because it is fairly flexible, and classes are fairly available both from specialized sources and places like community colleges.  Learning on an electric has an added appeal that I could use one of the amps that feed into headphones, so that I could practice without disturbing anyone else.  On the other hand, decent guitars aren’t super-cheap (I’m seeing prices in the $100-$500 range for recommended begineer models), and they aren’t trivial to learn, making me more concerned about getting frustrated early on and quitting.

Autoharps aren’t as common as they were years ago, but they seem to be a fairly easy to learn option, at least for playing chords.  On the other hand, they are even more expensive than a guitar, harder to tune (more strings), and not offer as many options beyond chords.

I’ve not always been a fan of drums – largely a bias that comes from the personality of a lot of the kids who play drums in middle school, high school and college band – or at least traditional drums (snare, trap-set, etc.).  However, I’ve been specifically thinking about the Bodhran since I appreciate how it works in much of my favorite music.  Some form of hand drum (conga or the like) has some appeal since I already find myself slapping out beats on my legs, chair, and the like when listening to music – so I may already have some ability with those kind of drums.

However, both time and money aren’t in infinite supply and I have a fair amount eating both these days.  As frustrating as this is, it probably limits or delays how soon I could actually make a serious commitment to learning a new instrument.

Also, it is becoming clear that I will soon have to transition from walks 4 days a week and an hour with the personal trainer one day a week, to something – probably Taekwondo, since there is a close-by school that looks good – to give me a more regular and intense workout.  This will further eat into both my time and money supply (unless it ends up less per week than the personal trainer).

But, I’m still thinking and won’t turn down any suggestions both for instruments to learn, ways to acquire one easily, and how to learn to master (or at least become a competent apprentice) them