Sunday, December 30, 2007

Where there's smoke, there's humor

Yesterday, we learned that there had been a fire this week at the home of our friends Jon and Michelle. They got out unharmed, as did their dogs. They even got their cars out of the driveway, which is good since that's the end of the house that was on fire.

When the fire was out, the fire and water damage (from the fire department) was mostly at one end of the house. The limited damage was good, but the main thing was that no one got hurt.

So what do we do? Well, this is what you must endure if you're friends of ours.

We grabbed a bag of marshmallows and two skewers and headed over there. When they came to the door, I held the stuff out and said, "oh no, did we miss it?"

Michelle looked at me for a moment and then burst out laughing. Mission accomplished!

I know, I know. I'm twisted. But my approach to adversity is to use humor. So why not extend the same therapy to friends? :)

Of course, I had to get a photo with the marshmallows outside the charred end of the house...

Jon, Marc & Michelle with the marshmallows and skewers

BTW, Marc is 6'1". So that should give you an idea of how big Jon is. He actually played for the Chicago Bears many years ago.

Anyhow, this is the kind of humor you have to endure when you're a friend of ours. All in all, I don't think it's too bad. It certainly seemed to brighten their day! :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

VP with a sense of humor

Years ago, I bought a nice coat hanger to use at work. I buy nice suits, so I got a good hanger to properly support the shoulders. Last week, the hanger fell apart.

It was the end of the day, so I just tossed the pieces on the little conference table in my office and soon went on my way. Luckily, before I left, I shot a photo with the camera in my cell phone, so I could show Marc what happened...

That was lucky, because I came in the next morning to find that it had morphed into something new, and then I was glad to have a "before" photo. Here's the "after"...

A head and torso shot

I immediately showed this creation to Donna, the de facto Office Manager (officially, she's "Executive Assistant to the Vice President"), and we laughed and enjoyed it together. Then I started to wonder aloud who in the department had done this. With that, she said that she couldn't say, but she could offer one thought: "Who here has jellybeans?" (Note that the eyes and nose are made from jellybeans.)

Yes, I should have realized right away. My boss, the VP, loves jellybeans (which is amazing, considering how amazingly fit he is for a guy in his 60s).

When I saw the boss, I complimented him on his artwork. It's nice to have a boss with a good sense of humor!

Okay, it would be nice to get my first year-end review at this relatively new (8 months) job of mine and be sure of how my boss feels about me (although I think I'm okay!), but, in the meantime, I wanted to share this as an example of the kind of guy I'm working for.

The artwork has been there for a few days now. I don't have the heart to dismantle it. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh, poop!

As some readers may recall, Marc and I once flew Maxjet to London. We loved its all-business class setup. We got our tickets on sale, so they didn't cost much more than a coach ticket on a regular airline. But even at full fare, Maxjet's prices were a lot lower than any regular airline's business class fare to London.

Today comes word that Maxjet is shutting down. The stories I've read all cited various factors leading to Maxjet's shutdown, but the "coup de grace," as described in the linked AP article was delivered this fall by American Airlines when it started service from JFK to London-Stansted (Maxjet's London airport).

I realize it's legal competition, but this really bothers me. Maxjet delivered better service far cheaper than the big airlines, so one of the big airlines went out of its way to crush them. If they manage to crush the other Maxjet-like airlines (EOS, Silverjet & L'Avion come to mind, as they're premium airlines that are cheaper than the major carriers), count on business and first-class fares going up. Not that we can afford the big carriers' business and first-class fares, but I really hate this.

I guess what I really hate is that someone with a sensible business model that put comfortable travel within our reach has been run out of business by greedy, inefficient old dinosaurs.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The kiss

You may have seen this before, either in an e-mail or online. It usually ends with "And people say animals are dumb," but anyone who knows me knows that I don't subscribe to that, especially when it comes to dogs. I know from my own experience that dogs can be very smart, and they're very appreciative, loyal and loving animals. In case you've never seen this, it's a touching little story...

She is pregnant.

The fireman had just saved her from a fire in her house, rescuing her by carrying her out of the house into her front yard, while he continued to fight the fire.

When he finally got done putting the fire out, he sat down to catch his breath and rest.

A newspaper photographer noticed her in the distance looking at the fireman.

He saw her walking straight toward the fireman and wondered what she was going to do.

As he raised his camera, she came up to the tired man who had saved her life and the lives of her babies and kissed him just as the photographer snapped this photograph.

Scroll down for the photo.

What a nice thing to say!

During the first part of last night's festivities, our dinner with friends, one old friend/colleague (we used to work together, but I left government and he became a judge) looked across the table and said, "you know, Jess, you don't age. You always look the same."

Now, part of that is either driven by kindness or delusion, since I very well know I have a lot less hair and a lot more fat than I used to, but it still was such a nice thing to say! Since this came from someone who just isn't the type to give compliments easily, I was floored. I thanked him, but I really didn't know what else to say!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Buzzed blogging

We've had a fun evening. We went out to dinner with some old friends. After that, Jeff took the train out, and we picked him up at the station, so he can stay over.

Once we got here, Marc and Jeff started making cosmos. They make really good ones, and they serve them in these big 10-ounce martini glasses. I've had five so far, and Jeff is making my sixth as I type this.

I feel so relaxed. What a nice evening!

Oh, and yeah, I think "buzzed blogging" is the right title. I don't really feel drunk, although we did have a big dinner (thus slowing the alcohol absorption), so it may catch up with me, especially as I'm about to hoist drink number six. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rugby photos!

I know what you're thinking. It isn't rugby season, is it? You're quite correct, but I never posted photos from the finals, so why not start sharing a few? (Besides, it beats another rant! I don't want to be a downer!) :)

By the way, you may notice that things look a little different this time. That's because it had rained, and things were quite muddy. It also was quite dark out when I was shooting, and I didn't go high enough with the ISO, so some of these have a bit of blur. In some cases, it adds to the action, but in others it's just blur. Have a look (and click on each for larger versions)...

I'll stop there. More to come!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pull to the right and stop!

Why is it so hard? What's wrong with people?

I was looking out my window at work yesterday, and I witnessed an all-too-familiar sight, an ambulance with its lights on and siren blaring, waiting to make a turn because the traffic wasn't stopping for it.

Really, what's wrong with people? Does someone have to grab them one by one and scream, "what if that was someone you love in that ambulance?!?!"

Perhaps you're thinking, maybe they didn't see it in time. Well, that does happen, but I don't accept that it's usually so innocent. First of all, in many cases, the people aren't paying attention to where they're going, and that's simply unsafe. If they paid better attention, they'd usually have plenty of time to stop. Second, I think lots of drivers really don't give a shit. If anything, they see an ambulance as something to follow so they can get through traffic faster.

Do I have any evidence of this? Sadly, yes. Not scientific evidence, but it is first-hand evidence.

One day, back in my government days when I drove around in an unmarked police car, I was in the car when I saw an ambulance coming up behind me, trying to make its way through tight highway traffic. People were taking their sweet time getting out of the way.

Seeing which hospital it was from, I knew we probably were heading the same way. So I slowed to let it come closer, maneuvered in front of it and then activated my lights, too. Magically, the traffic started to part. Do people move for an ambulance? Not really, but if they see a police car, they soil themselves and quickly move out of the way.

So the ambulance followed the path I carved through traffic until the traffic loosened up. Then I shut down my red lights and pulled over one lane, slowing down to a more normal speed. The ambulance went past us and whooped its siren in thanks.

So yes, people actually see ambulances and don't care enough to get out of the way. There should be a day when such people answer for behavior like this. It never ceases to amaze me.

When I learned to drive, I was taught that there was one rule for what to do when an emergency vehicle approached with its lights and siren going. Whether it was coming towards you (because it might have to cross the line into your side) or coming from behind you, you should pull to the right and stop. It's really not a hard rule to follow!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thou shalt not miss

When I heard that the Colorado church gunman was killed, I was pleased. He was a murderer, and he had to be stopped. When I heard that a female parishioner stopped him, I thought two things. First, I was amazed that someone had a gun at church, but I understood when I heard that people had pitched in to protect the place after earlier shootings. Second, I thought, "good for her." Yes, I know it's sexist, but I really didn't expect a woman to have stopped him. Not that a woman couldn't. In fact, my Mom was the best shot in the family. It's just that it's usually the men who can't wait to re-enact scenes from the Wild West. So I thought, "good for her!"

And then I heard that she was crediting God with helping her. As she said, "It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God." *sigh* God wanted this guy stopped, so He steadied her aim? God was directly involved, and the best He could do was help this person make good use of a primitive weapon? (Let's face it, folks, a weapon that uses a chemical reaction to create gases to push a small metal projectile out a tube is a pretty primitive weapon, especially if you happen to be God!)

The very idea of killing in God's name is strange, regardless of the reason. As God said in an interview after 9/11, "No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

Okay, seriously, if God wanted to stop this guy, why wouldn't He have stopped him himself? Just smite him. Or, better yet, reach into the guy's mind and show him the error of his ways. But no, this churchgoer thinks God was helping her aim.

The icing on the cake? Her shots didn't kill the guy. He finished himself off. Yes, I'm sure her shots stopped his progress, but God's help couldn't deliver a fatal shot?

Please. What is it with people? Bad enough when some football player thanks God for winning a game, because God has nothing better to do (like maybe helping starving people or saving some of the many species we're wiping out), but what kind of Christian takes from his/her bible studies that God (especially under the teachings of the New Testament) is going to help with killing?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Video: Fountain in La Jolla

Each time we visit La Jolla, we find ourselves stopping at this fountain, if only briefly. It's both fountain and sculpture, and I love it.

It also says something about this town that this is what one finds on a street corner.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Interesting blackout photo

One of the memorable events of the last half decade in this part of the country was the August 2003 blackout.

On Friday, I hosted a seminar in Manhattan (part of my duties this year as president of a professional organization I've been involved with for years). The seminar's subject was emergency preparedness for hospital employees. As you can imagine, that's a topic that we've addressed quite a bit in New York.

During the seminar, one of the presenters shared a satellite photo taken during the '03 blackout, and I thought it was neat. Of course, that makes it good for blog sharing, so here it is...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I wish I'd said it so well!

My thanks to Knottyboy who posted this first, thereby allowing me to see it.

This is worth watching. I may send a dozen roses and/or a box of candy to Keith Olbermann. This is magnificent.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

On to La Jolla!

I never finished posting trip snapshots. So now some shots from La Jolla...

The view from our room in La Jolla

The bedroom... and oh was that a fun bed!

The shower back there wasn't bad either!

But we didn't just have fun in the room. If that were the point, we could have stayed home! We went out to do some (too much) shopping and see some sights...

One of the locals greets us

Nap time

There are a bunch more photos, but I'll just post a few of them. I like this series, because this seagull was funny. He'd land on the rocks as the water receded and then take off when a wave was about to hit. Then he'd land a little farther down the rocks and repeat the whole process, wave after wave...

See him in the middle of the shot? I know he blends in a bit.

Spreading his wings as a wave approaches

And he's off

And he finds another rock for a brief stop

Now the wait for the next wave

That's it for trip photos. Hope you liked them.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Video: First snow and a nice fire

Yesterday, we saw our first snow of the season. (I tried to post this yesterday, but YouTube was messing with me, so I had to kill the post.)

I shot this video with our little Canon PowerShot camera. I probably should have used the real video camera (which almost never gets used). Anyhow, sorry for this being a little jumpy, but I wanted to share this anyhow. It was a nice day, so the least I can do is share a minute or so of it!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Isn't he easy on the eyes?

Sitting here flipping channels, I ran across a show called 20th Century Battlefields. It's hosted by a British father-son team, Peter and Dan Snow. This particular episode is looking at some key points in the Korean War.

But what really has kept me watching is Dan Snow.

I couldn't find a really good photo of Dan Snow, one that would really show his handsome face and lovely chest (he does look good in a t-shirt!). This photo is as good as I found.

Even if history and/or military stuff isn't of interest, you may want to pause in your own channel flipping long enough to admire Dan. Yum! :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More Catalina photos

Time to share more trip photos...

The Avalon waterfront

A tribute to bald eagles and reminder of the effort to rebuild their population, once wiped out on Catalina by DDT thinning eggs to the point that they couldn't mature enough to hatch. The shells were too thin and would break. Now there are some signs of success in rebuilding a sustainable bald eagle population on the island, but there's still a long way to go.

In the background, we see the island's true leading bird.

This plaque on the front of a replica of a bald eagle nest offers some explanation of what has been happening with bald eagles on Catalina. I know I always tell you to click on these photos for larger versions, but clicking on this one will let you read the text, since I linked it to the full-res version of the shot.

The replica eagle's nest (with seagull on guard duty)

Three replica eagles with the replica nest

The Catalina post office, located in a sort of shopping court

The view from the post office

Everyone uses a golf cart to get around!

Driving back up to the Inn

Better view of the Inn

View from the bedroom

The view while standing at the door to our balcony

Avalon Harbor from our balcony

Looking back toward the California coast from our balcony

Better view of the casino from our balcony

I think that will do it for Catalina, at least until we next manage a visit to the island. Next up, some photos from La Jolla!