Tag Archives: Social

Tengo una resaca

Saturday was Cinco de Mayo, a popular day of celebration in states with a large Mexican population. It’s the celebration of winning a battle against the French in the 1800’s – I am rather ignorant of that area of history and geography. When Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were surrounded by the Bolivian army, I was confused. I though Bolivia was in Eastern Europe, and I couldn’t why they’d traveled all that way. Then again, I only recently realised that the Sundance organisation (TV channel, studio, cinema chain) was started by Robert Redford, and named after his famous role.

Anyway, to celebrate the day, and just as an excuse, we had a bunch of friends over, and we made Carne Asada tacos, which is marinated sliced steak. We found a recipe online and got to work. We found the recipe on About.com, which is weird in itself – About.com is a bizarre aggregator of information with multiple editors, in much the same way as the Huffington Post is a link-baiting, pseudoscience-peddling, horseshit-riddled parody of journalism.

We got a load of skirt steak – a cheaper, tougher cut, which is why you marinade it for hours and then slice it across the grain. Then I whipped up the marinade, which consisted of various citrus juices, tabasco, onion, tequila, and garlic. Once the meat was in there, we left it for about six hours.

The other theme of the party was tequila tasting. The guests brought several bottles, none of which I’d heard of, except one which I think was featured in Entourage once. Once people arrived, I fired up the grill and got the meat going while Cassie laid out the tortillas, guacamole, chopped cilantro (aka coriander leaves, which Cassie hates), onion, sour cream and various other goodies. Various people commented on the strangeness of an Englishman cooking Mexican food in California. Doesn’t seem so strange to me.

Once the Carne Asada was cooked, I sliced it up and we all tucked in. It was pretty good, if I say so myself. Tangy, with a little kick, and the sharpness of the citrus. Very nice. Everyone was very complementary, which is nice.

OK. Then we started tasting the various tequilas, and I have to admit I’m unable to relate the full story from here on. The tequilas were all very tasty and interesting, I’m sure. I slept on the sofa – or at least I woke on the sofa at 3am.

Sunday morning I was just able to overdress and walk down to the village and pick up coffee, lox bagels and doughnuts (hangover breakfast of champions). Sunday was a much more subdued day. We had tacos again in the evening to use up the guac, cream and tortillas.

Of course, what always happens with these parties is that we ended up with a load of booze in the fridge and elsewhere. We’ll just have to have another party soon.

Alex & Jason’s Wedding, Los Angeles, June 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve been back to LA. Cassie went down more recently to sort stuff out for our wedding, but this time we were guests at someone else’s – our dear friends Alex and Jason.

It was on a Friday, so I took the day off, and we made the well-worn trip from Oakland to Burbank on glittering Southwest Airlines (a trip soon to be made more relaxing and comfortable by the California High-Speed Rail system). SW are celebrating 40 years of being cheap’n’cheerful, so the in-flight magazine was full of pictures of stewardesses in orange hotpants. There was also the boilerplate American maverick success story, which is so common and predictable it makes you root for GE & Westinghouse.

Once we had wheels down and , we picked up our rental – a white Corolla, if you can believe it – and headed to Pasadena so Cassie could get her hair done. I wandered around the shops a bit, noting once more that J Crew have their muzak mix tuned perfectly to their demographic (Watching the Detectives was playing this time), before joining her at the salon while Carlos worked his magic. They recommended I check out the shop next door, and they were right to do so – Rocket Fizz is a chain of soda stores that also do all kinds of candy and foreign stuff, including UK sweets. I picked up a cream soda and a Double Decker, which I still have in my drawer.

Once she was done being primped, we headed downtown to the hotel – the glorious Los Angeles Athletic Club. The LAAC has a long history (well, since 1880, which is long for California) and they are rightly proud of it, with photos of men in leotards and trophies everywhere. The building is mainly taken up with sporting and socializing facilities, but the top three floors have some very nice rooms and suites. Our room was sumptuous and inviting, while also having all the functionality* that I crave so much.

* Re: Functionality. I can’t stand it when stuff is fancy and opulent, but doesn’t work. The Hotel Vertigo on Sutter is my go-to example. Trendy boutique hotel, fancy furniture, but no AC, no surfaces in the bathroom to put your stuff (it had to go on the floor) and no wifi or cellphone reception, so pretty useless for our purpose at the time – finding an apartment. Give me function over aesthetics – both if possible.

We got spruced up and headed across the road to the venue of the wedding – the Oviatt Penthouse. I haven’t linked to it because it’s a shitty Flash blob that hijacks your browser, but the place itself is amazingLalique akimbo, such as frosted glass sculptures on the elevator doors.

The wedding itself (actually a civil partnership ceremony, because A & J are saving the real thing for when gay marriage is legal – a noble thought) was held on the roof, under the gaze of the banking towers. It was a short and very sweet ceremony, with the bride and groom exchanging simple heartfelt vows. Handkerchiefs changed hands.

Then it was cocktails, champagne, and a great selection of good beers – these guys are connoisseurs of all of these. Alex helped me find the cocktail that was right for me a few years ago, and I always try and have a couple of good six-packs in the fridge when they visit. We danced, talked, drank and danced some more, and finally left the venue to go back to the hotel for a nightcap on the roof. It was a bit breezy up there, but once we found where to plug the fairy lights in and hunkered down in the wicker chairs, it was cozy. After a final glass of fizz, I was falling asleep, so I left Cassie talking to the happy couple under the LA skyline…

Brunch was held in the Game Room, with the high-backed canopy chairs to prevent people seeing your hand, or how much bacon you took. I love the US tradition of the morning-after-the-wedding-breakfast/brunch – it makes sense when everyone is in the hotel. You get more of a chance to talk to people, swap stories, explain dance moves you demonstrated the night before, and get introduced to those you’d missed the night before.

Brunchtime drifted into lunchtime, and Cassie had arranged to meet up with a friend around the corner, so I took advantage of the fancy gym facilities and went for a swim. Lovely pool, with people jogging around a mezzanine balcony, and an underwater window that I couldn’t see out of, but which I could look in afterwards when found it.

Friend Jason was hanging around being all academic, so I joined him for a stroll to Cole’s, a nice old bar which does a pretty amazing Bloody Mary, complete with house-made celery salt and a heady kick. It made the stroll in the sun back to the hotel rather light-headed, while Jason told me about the fall and rise of Downtown LA. I hadn’t really been around that area before, as Cassie was based in Silverlake, which might as well be in a different city.

I needed a rest and a snack after swimming, boozing and strolling, so I ate the complimentary cheese and crackers while being disappointed by Red Dawn, which I’d not seen before. Weak ending.

Later in the afternoon we visited our friends Andrea and Igor and the adorable Isadora, who gets cuter every day. They served us sangria and a delicious spread of tapas, and we enthused about their daughter and caught up. Then back to hotel for another late drinks sesh with A&J in their fancy suite and on the roof.

After another splendid LAAC breakfast, and goodbyes to the wedding party, followed by a sneaky tour of the wood-paneled other floors, we took the Corolla for a run back to Burbank and Bob Hope Airport. The flight was the same as before, only north. It was then a case of retrieving the car, visiting the most desolate and hellish Safeway on the face of the earth, collecting our super-excited dog from his temporary home, and then Cassie driving home while Gordon curled up in my lap.

Fantastic weekend.

I Thought I Was The Bally Table King

Cassie’s company had a team get-together at the Pacific Pinball Museum at Lucky JuJu in Alameda, and I was able to go along a bit later, after all the speeches, eat some pizza, drink a beer, and play some pinball.

After leaving work I walked to the aptly-named Ferry Building, which is a 15-minute walk. The main part of the building is now a very nice bustling market, with local producers and deli counters lining up to sell you 100 varieties of mushroom and “tasty salted pig parts“, and behind it are the ferry gangways. I joined a pleasantly large number of commuters on the San Francisco-Alameda Ferry, and took the 20-minute trip to the island. The trip itself (on the same kind of catamaran boat that took us to Catalina this time last year) is not that exciting, apart from going under the western span of the Bay Bridge, but Alameda is an interesting place. I have a couple of friends there, and they rave about how nice it is, with its lower rents, high concentration of Victorians, and sense of being just a step away from the condensed city life of San Francisco. Other people I’ve met have said that moving to the East Bay is “quitting”, but if that means quitting caring so desperately what people think of you, and not being one of the self-elected cool kids, then sign me up. Anyway.

After Cassie talked in from the bus, she introduced me to a few of her colleagues, who’d been there since 3 and were thoroughly enjoying the beer and pizza, and were betting money on the more unique games.
I played on the following machines.

  • Captain Fantastic, based on the scene from Tommy where he plays against the Pinball Champ, Elton John*.
  • Orbitor 1, the uniquely strange, and incredibly rare machine with a sculpted transparent field which gives the sense of gravity pulling the ball towards and around the bumpers. Cool synthesized voice as well.
  • The Wizard, another one based on Tommy. Gawd knows why that movie has all these machines based on it. Good rendition of Anne Marget on the back glass.
  • Hang-Glider, which features the usual bikini beauties, this time lusting after a guy on a kite.
  • Xenon, with the sexy electronic voice giving it some.
  • A mechanical submarine torpedo game, with periscope sights.
  • A classic rifle shooting game with targets that flipped back and forth as you shot them.

I was a little disappointed they didn’t have the mechanical Killer Shark game I used to play as a kid, which you can see in the film Jaws. Only a bit though, because they had so many cool machines, and not a videogame in sight! Also really nice to meet Cassie’s colleagues, who all seem a fine bunch.

* If you watch the video, you can see “the digit counters fall” as Tommy scores 1000, 2000, 3000 points! A few people observed that the old machines gave you much lower scores. I suppose it was because the mechanical counters were more expensive and complex, so only using 4 or 5 was desirable. These were replaced with 7-segment displays, which guess were a lot cheaper, so you could reward players with 6 or 7 digit scores. The modern dot-matrix displays can show as many digits as you can cram onto them, and that and the invention of score multipliers, super bonusses, and other crazy scoring stuff, gives you the modern multi-million scores. It can be a bit frustrating to play a pinball machine and get a score of 17 million, only to find that the current high score stands at 193,535,777 by someone called “DIK”.

On The Cusp(id) of 2008-2009

~ Better two months late than never, that’s what I always (have to) say. This is one of those summary-style posts that simply serve to let the folks back home know what I’ve been up to. ~ 

As is now tradition, Cassie and I started the Xmas season with a nice meal at LA Prime, at the top of the Hotel Bonaventure in downtown LA. Steak, Vodka Gimlets (Dirty Martinis) and a bit of a view, along with the cool glass elevator ride, and the Logan’s Run lobby.

Most of Xmas Eve we spent driving up to San Francisco to stay with Cassie’s brother Don and his family, like last year. They have a beautiful house out in Orinda, and as they have the large (soon to be larger!) family, they’re the holiday destination.

The 24th is Cassie’s eldest nephew George’s birthday, and he was turning 5. He got the usual shower of gifts (kids these days eh, etc) and traditionally he had his choice of dinner, which this time was sushi. Actually he seemed more into the udon soup and tempura, which left more dragon rolls for us.

Xmas Day was as you’d expect. Pyjamas, paper, gifts, food, drink, toys, music. Cassie’s Mum (Mom) Joan did another fantastic job of feeding us. She’s great. Sugary rolls and strata for breakfast, then more deliciousness throughout the day. Coffee, however, was an issue.

Over the holiday period I was recruited as the new family engineer to try and get the built-in coffee machine to work. I managed it in the end, with lots of help from family friend Renee, printed instructions from the web, and frequent breaks to build up my patience with what turned out to be an astonishingly badly designed bit of kit. You have to open it with a key and remove half the fittings to clean it, and you have to clean it every time you make a milk-based drink. The instructions were poorly written and omitted key information. You can imagine the manufacturers response, “Oh no, it can’t do that. Why would you assume it could?” If I could remember the manufacturer, I’d recommend you not buying.

On Boxing Day (which isn’t anything except “day after Xmas” here) we drove into the city and went to the All You Knead Cafe again, where we met up with Taylor, Aaron and of course Chandra, aka burlesque artiste Ruby White. After a good lunch there in the bohemian surroundings, we wandered up and down Haight Street doing some shopping. Cassie wanted a new Jerry (Garcia) Bear plush toy for Gordon, and I was needing some clothes because I’d managed to leave a load of stuff hanging in Cassie’s closet in LA. There are loads of second-hand and vintage shops along there, with some pretty good stuff, including an original Thompson Twins t-shirt, which I would have bought if it wasn’t for the fact that it was 5 sizes too small, $30 and threadbare. An amusing and incongruous meeting: while browsing in the headshop where Cassie bought the bear, we ran into my San Diego office manager and his wife, who were just browsing as well, honest. No wonder he seems so relaxed at work.

Don and family were off for an Xmas vacation on the 27th, so they left us in charge, with a short list of things to do, mainly involving Hollywood the hugely fluffy white cat, and Nora the pug, aka The Walking Meatloaf. We had to drop Nora off at the kennels, so we headed out to Clayton to Camp Four Paws, which looked like loads of fun for dogs, with large field scattered with toys and exercise equipment. On the way back, we stopped at a farm shop for something, and ended up being shown the shop’s collection of exotic birds, all chattering and squawking away in the barn. Strange little place.

In the evening we looked for somewhere nice for dinner, eventually settling on the Wood Tavern in Oakland. This had been recommended by Don and Darien, and we weren’t disappointed. They were very friendly, the food was great, the refilled cocktails were delicious, and the fact they (accidentally?) forgot to charge us for our entrees was very nice. We left a huge tip, and left quickly.

Saturday saw us back in the city at Chandra’s, for a little gathering to talk, listen to music, and experiment with a bottle of Pisco. It was also my first experience of a Sloppy Joe sandwich, which was very yummy. We started out trying to make proper Pisco Sours, but as these things often do, it deteriorated into random drink mixing. Singing about the Pisco Disco to the tune of Copacabana – “the hottest place in San Francisco” – are you proud, Petty? Really?

Back in LA on New Year’s Eve, I noticed a pain in my jaw, which grew into a huge throbbing and a swelling. I called my dentist (also on his holidays) and he phoned through some penicillin to a local pharmacist. Cassie also had a stinking cold, and she was popping the pills too. So it was that I saw 2009 in with drugs coursing through my veins, avoiding too much alcohol. Brought back memories, it did! (Not really.) It was really nice though, if quiet. Friends, decorated sheet cake, champagne, toasts, midnight kisses. Had I not been in pain and dosed up I would have been up for much more.

On New Years Day we were both fine as far as drink effects go, but we were both still feeling rotten with swollen faces and runny noses. So we ended up watching Arthur while drinking Perrier and eating leftover crudites with onion dip. Not the start of a diet, I hasten to add, we just didn’t feel like anything more. Just to add to the health kick, the next day we walked round Silver Lake reservoir with Gordon the dog, who loved getting a good trot in.

Then just before I had to return to San Diego, we had dinner at Brian and Stacy’s, where we stuffed ourselves after taking an axe to the Xmas tree and burning it in their garden fire grate. Those dry resiny needles went up like rocket fuel. One cute little treat we’d picked up at Gelsen’s was chocolate dipped fortune cookies, which had the usual mix of cold-reading nonsense (“things will change in the year ahead”) and the wrong lottery numbers, made palatable by a coating of chocolate. Talk about sugar-coating the bad news.

The cookie was right though. 2009 is going to be a biggie.

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

There’s lots of talk about Twitter at the moment, so here’s my two cents worth penny’s worth one Expat Trading Token’s worth.

  • I like it, I use it. If you don’t like it or don’t use it, fine. End of.
  • It sounds stupid” – OK, don’t use it. You’re probably right, and we’ll all thank you when this blows over for your incisive thoughts. Well done.
  • “What use is it?” – None, some, or plenty. Take your pick.
  • “Most people on Twitter are just saying nothing in a big cloud” – partially true, completely the point. Move along.
  • If you have the word “marketing” in your bio, I will block you.
  • I don’t often use the “@” reply thing, but I do use it sometimes. Some people’s twitterstreams are full of simple “@[insert name here] LOL!”, and they use it all the time. Fine by me.

Many people have tried to write dictionaries and rules of etiquette for Twitter, a lot of which have been bullshit attempts to codify something, and thereby claim it. “Oh yeah, I compiled the Twictionary” – piss off. Most people don’t use these words, and the etiquette thing is even worse. Some people think it’s rude not to follow everyone who follows you. As far as I’m concerned, I follow people I find interesting, whether I’ve met them or not. But I like to have been introduced, physically or otherwise.

It was very interesting to follow people’s reactions to the US Presidential Debates, live, as an auto-updating Twitter stream. It seemed that 75% of the people commenting were Democrats. There were also many bots – programs out there posting regularly, created purely to snark. My observation was that most of these were Republican.

I like Graham Linehan’s take on the whole Twitter.

Ignore those grumpy luddites in the broadsheets and elsewhere, who don’t understand it, can’t be bothered to learn how it works and are frightened at the prospect that people are entertaining themselves in a way that doesn’t involve accepted media forms.

My first post (not keen on using the term tweet) was in August 2007. My usage patterns have varied since then, as it has faded in and out of usefulness. I usually use the web interface, as I post from work. I also use Twitterfox, Motwit on my phone (which shows up as “web” in the stats below), and I will be trying TweetDeck soon. Here are a few interesting views, created by the myriad tools out there.

This post’s title comes from the wonderful, uplifting and tender song by Middle Of The Road, posted in my playlist on the “musical Twitter”, Blip.fm. Let’s see what the chattering late-to-the-party journos make of that.

San Francisco, October 2008 – It Was A Trip

I’ve been doing a bit of zooming around the West Coast in the last few months. Back in mid-October (yes this is one of those “about time too” posts – the Xmas 2008 post is coming soon) was a nice trip up north. Thursday night after work I scuttled through the streets to catch the Surfliner to LA. After an uneventful train journey up the coast, watching the last of the sunset over the Pacific, my bird Cassie picked me up from the beautiful art deco Union Station (as used by Ridley Scott for the interior of the LAPD in Blade Runner), and we grabbed some food in Chinatown.

In the morning we (or should I say I?) finalised packing, and then met some folks for a nice breakfast at Dusty’s, a favourite of ours. We’ve taken to sharing breakfast plates, because with the rosemary potatoes, toast and jam and everything else, we realised we didn’t need two omelettes as well. So this time was the Dusty’s special (with a side of crunchy American bacon) and their delicious strawberry and orange juice, and of course much coffee. Then we hit the road.

It’s not the most scenic of voyages, driving straight up the 5, but it’s a lot quicker than driving up the coast, less hassle than flying, and until the California High Speed Rail gets built, it’s pretty much the only option.

The first night we stayed in leafy well-to-to Orinda, with Cassie’s brother Don and his family. It was gratifying that her nephews were pleased to see me; Bennett especially likes to use me as a trampoline. We ate dinner with Don and Darien at a nice little restaurant with a big gnarly tree impinging on it. We were tired after our trip, so we didn’t indulge too much before hitting the hay in Darien’s immaculate guest room (mucho Resto).

In the morning Don was making pancakes, so I grabbed a couple for the road, and Cassie and I drove to the BART station for a day in San Francisco. The BART trains and tunnels were used in THX 1183 before they went into service, that is, the original version of the movie, before George Lucas did his thing and cocked it all up with CGI. Pillock.

The first thing we did was to go to the California Academy of Sciences, newly refurbished with its famous turf roof. This was my idea, and while I’m all for these museums and galleries, with their agenda of opening up science to families and so on, but they do get a bit samey after a while. I do like looking at these displays, especially aquariums (aquaria?), but with the emphasis on educating the little ones, adults do end up reading how important water is quite a lot. Perhaps there’s a niche for a grown-up’s Natural History Museum, complete with dioramas and hands-on wheel-turning and button-mashing, but with the emphasis on the more adult side of the world of nature. Should be fun.

Sadly the Planetarium was fully booked. This was a real shame – I haven’t been in a planetarium since I was a boy, when my parents took me to London and I went to Madame Tussauds, had the shit scared out of me at the Doctor Who exhibit, and then even more shit scared out of me in the Chamber of Horrors, with its displays of famous serial killers and methods of execution. The recent idiotic (or deliberately misleading) comment from Republican presidential hopeful John McCain about a $3 million “overhead projector” reminded me that I want to go to another one. They’re probably improved since 1980.

We were due to meet Cassie’s pal Chandra at Haight & Ashbury, so we rode a taxi  with a funny and very enthusiastic driver, and hopped out right outside the Ben & Jerry’s right on the corner. Lunch was at the All You Knead Cafe, a bohemian joint with great burgers and veggie diner cuisine combined with old faded formica and psychedelic murals.

We hung out in San Francisco, met up with Cassie’s old high school friend Taylor, and went for drinks at Zeitgeist (where we got free cake by the happy accident of sharing one of the big outdoor tables with a birthday party), followed by a walk through the city to another bar, this one a nice relaxed pub, with stools at the bar, friendly barman (gave Cassie free drinks, eh?) and fun decor, motorbikes hanging from the wall, those Borg-recharger spark things, and classic neon signs.

To round off the evening, Cassie and I had a late dinner at Firefly before walking down the hill to catch a late BART ride home, which was kept lively by a contingent of screeching drunken cougars and their hopefully-embarrassed prey.

We slept in the next morning, as well as can be expected with three young boys running around above you (the guest room is downstairs beneath the kitchen). Maybe the pounding was in my head, I’m not sure. The next morning we left Orinda to drive north over the Golden Gate and onward to Santa Rosa, to visit with a friend of Cassie’s.

I’ve found that in the US if you add “West” to a street name, or forget to add it, you find yourself on the complete opposite side of town. So it was that we arrived at the Homeless Mission. A quick phone call corrected the error, and soon we were settled in the comfy living room of Cassie’s old friend Erin, meeting her partner and her cute son Bodie (sp?). He was engrossed in an episode of Thomas the Train, which is the US version of Thomas the Tank Engine. I think they changed the name because mentioning a tank offended the gentle people of this most pacifist of nations, and instead of Ringo Starr, they have Alec Baldwin voicing it. Bodie has this fantastic habit of not saying yes when answering a question in the affirmative. Instead he says, “Oh!” in such a way that you expect him to follow it up with, “… I do declare!”. Pretty damn cute.

For dinner we picked up a good takeout pizza and a takeout jug of good beer from this micro-brew pub, where a band was playing some original stuff to an appreciative and varied crowd. Having scoffed the pizza, we then finished off the beer and stayed up late debating the economic bailout and watching more Thomas the Train.

We had to head off back south the next day, so we strolled to A’Roma Roasters for some brew and an American-style Breakfast Cake. Santa Rosa, or what I saw of it, was beautiful, with autumn trees, wooden houses, and the old rail tracks that were used for the Handcar Regatta.

After that we hit the road again, and much later I was tiredly crawling into a taxi to take me home from the station. Home.

~

I took a load of photos, but my camera got dropped while it’s lens was extended, and now it seems to be knackered. I’m sure it will be fine to get the card out, but that means I’m in the market for a new camera. January sales…?

Geek Bonfire Burny Burny Fun Time

Went to a San Diego Geek Bonfire last night, organised by Mitch Wagner of Information Week, and Gina Trapani, editor of Lifehacker (which I comment on sometimes). We met at one of the concrete fire pits provided by the city in this lovely little cove. When I arrived, there were already a bunch of people there, and there were a couple of families with children playing in the water.

I stuck on a ‘Hello my name is…’ badge and dived in to talking to people. I met several nice friendly geeks, many of whom were told about the High Speed Rail link I’m working on – some were even interested. (joke) Vote yes on Prop 1a!

Among the new people I met and swapped geek info (Twitter usernames, moo cards etc) were the above mentioned Mitch and Gina, A Kovacs, Lightwave Will, and many more. (I left the cards I collected at home today, soz)

Small World Update – one of my current crop of blogs I read is Bad Astronomer, which I mentioned the other day, and it turns out A is a friend of Phil Plait, and was lucky enough to be on the recent Galapagos trip. It was fascinating hearing about that, especially the sea lions.

We hung out, ate toasted marshmallows and drank soda-pop-drinks, and discussed all sorts of stuff. Short incomplete list below.

  • What is a geek?
  • Ringtones
  • Cartones (I reserve a TIE fighter sound for me)
  • Twitter on iPhone vs Palm (iPhone wins because of weird code on the site)
  • Spaced
  • Doctor Who
  • Marine Boy
  • Speed Racer
  • Battle of the Planets / Gatchaman
  • Daleks
  • The Clone Wars
  • Trains
  • Maglev from LA to SF, suspended over the 5, and why it won’t happen
  • California High Speed Rail
  • Vote YES on Prop 1a this November
  • … and many other geek topics.

One set of photos is here. After the beach got a bit too dark, despite the roaring fire, I drove to O’Connells Bar for some “Tech Karaoke”, which was pretty good fun. Despite a huge range of songs, I couldn’t decide what to sing, and ended up doing My Life by Billy Joel again. I left before I was due to do Veronica by Elvis Costello, which is probably a good thing.

More geek fun please!

Yay To Freedom – July 4 2008

Sign on the way to Coronado Now that the 4th of August has passed, it’s probably time to write about the 4th of July. Photos here. Cassie came down to SD with Gordon, and we went across town to Coronado, where her brother Don and his family had rented a marina house, complete with yacht, waverunners, terrace and all mod cons! Pretty amazing, really.

During the weekend we spent some time on the Dog Beach at Coronado, which was packed with people and dogs. Those retrievers really love to retrieve, and they don’t care how big the waves are – they have to grab that orange floating dog toy that looks like it might have uses in the bedroom, if you catch my drift.

On the 4th itself had a very nice BBQ at the holiday house, with Cassie’s famous potato salad, her Mum’s amazing BBQ beans, and of course delicious homemade burgers and franks. Cassie’s Dad was kind enough to explain the reason for Independence Day. He told me about an evil empire that oppressed its people, and how a small colony of this empire broke away and fought for its freedom against the angered oppressors. Sounds exciting, I wonder who wrote it.

July 4th Yacht Trip The whole gang took a ride on the yacht, a 30-ish-foot speed cruiser type thing, all bow, with built-in ice bucket and white leather seats. We cruised around SD Bay, past the maritime museum with HMS Surprise, the naval base with the USS Ronald Reagan, and into the marina. This was packed with people and their boats, all moored up, all different sizes, BBQing on the back, kids playing in dinghys and inner tubes. It was really nice – everyone flying the flag and having themselves a time.

Waverunners Cassie and I had a zoom around on the Waverunners – they were amazing fun. I managed to hit 45mph on mine, while Cassie was a demon at over 50! You really feel the speed when you’re bouncing over the waves, with the wind bashing you as you go. My waverunner kept cutting out if I got too much “air”, but 45 was quite fast enough, thanks very much. I let out a few involuntary woops as we zipped up and down.

On the evening of the 4th, Cassie and I sat on the terrace by the fire pit and made S’mores. My first time. Definitely not my last, even if Hershey’s chocolate is rank.

Labor Day is next!

It Was Full Of Comics And Toys

Comic Con - Thursday evening Now that I seem to live in San Diego (don’t quite know what happened there) it only seemed fair to go to the famous Comic Con at San Diego Convention Centre. Brian’s friend got us free weekend passes, which was very kind, and he is staying in my guest room for the weekend. Sadly I had to work yesterday, but I scurried down the road (the Con is about 6 blocks away) after work, and met him after his full day of seeing the sights.

The place looked just as crazy as the news reports show, with swarms of people laden down with poster tubes, bags, badges and all the paraphenalia you would expect. By the time I arrived, it was winding down for the day, but there were still many people dressed up to the nines in appropriate (and some inappropriate) costumes.

We had a quick look round, and I took some photos of a couple of things that caught my eye. B knows so much more about this stuff than I do, so I’m happy to let him guide me around. I was taken with the film props for sale at $20,000 and up. Yes please!

Food was required at this point, so after braving the swarms from the Con overwhelming the Gaslamp Quarter, we drive up to Lefty’s Chicago Pizza in North Park, which is so word-of-mouth it doesn’t even appear in my Garmin! We enjoyed a couple of slices of delicious sloppy cheezy goodness, with fresh tomatoes and basil, then swung by one of B’s old haunts, the Zombie Lounge, which he was sad to see had been changed into The Radio Room by new owners. The old electric sign remains though, as does his old friend who is a barmaid, so if she’s there next time I go, it may be worth dropping a name.

Later in the evening, we got the call to drive out to Winston’s over in Ocean Beach, where klown-fi micro-circus crazy band Gooferman were playing, supported by Dr Madd Vibe, AKA Angelo Moore from Fishbone. The Doctor was playing when we got there around 12am, and he has an amazing voice, some keen moves, all over a laptop playing grooves and chunky instrumental backing. Then the klowns stepped up and did more of the laptop rock thing, with added guitar and deep bass, and a melody line played on a rubber chicken. All this with whiteface and leaping about.

Then home with the seabreeze blowing in the Volvo, and a possum crossed the road. B says they’re vicious.

The Perfect Surprise

So as I was saying, on my birthday proper I went for a nice dinner with Cassie. We also planned to have dinner again, at a nicer place, on the following Friday. The plan was to let LA know I was here. Turns out they already knew.

Cassie told me that we would have a nice meal relatively early on Friday, then we’d go home in time to meet a couple of friends who would bring a birthday cake. I was looking forward to seeing that bunch again, as I hadn’t seen them yet this trip.

Come Friday, Cassie and I dressed up (well kind of in my case), and we went to Café Stella, which is a really nice place, even if the cheese plate looked like they were taking the mick. The food was great, the suggested wine was really good, and of course, sitting at a table in the covered outside area, in the balmy Silver Lake evening, was delightful.

During the meal, Cassie sent a couple of texts, which I don’t mind – I need to send messages as soon as I remember as well. Then as we were finishing up, the waitress came round with our coffee, and asked if we wanted to look at the dessert menu. Cassie looked at me and then said that we would skip dessert, as we were meeting friends at home. The meal was pretty pricey, but excellent. We’ll be going back there.

I drove us home, then I walked up the steps, unlocked the front door, and opened it just as the aprtment full of guests turned on the lights and shouted, “Surprise!”

It was perfect! I had literally no idea. The place was full of people I hadn’t seen for ages, and was strung with stars and stripes bunting and a big ‘Happy Birthday’ banner. You see, it wasn’t just a birthday party, it was a surprise birthday-and-welcome-to-your-new-life-in-a-new-country party.

As we walked through the door, a glass of bubbly was pressed into my hand, and Brian stepped up to make a short speech and toast. I was too busy gasping and gaping like a fish on a carpet to remember exactly what he said, but it was spot on, and everyone cheered and drank the toast – none more so than me. I was then presented with my first gun – an inflatable M16, in camoflage pattern, with USA stencilled on the stock. I slung it over my shoulder and carried it for the rest of the night. I don’t want no teenage queen, I just want my M16.

I say I had no idea, and it’s true, but thinking back, little things I’d dismissed turned out to be relevant signposts. The bathroom had been cleaned, and candles put out. People I’d wanted to meet for dinner earlier in the week had bailed out, or asked for a raincheck. It was like an M Night Shallamallamayan film, only without the intelligent design advocacy, and very enjoyable.

There was a cake, an amazing Red Velvet beast with cream cheese frosting, and barbecue, and lots of food, and music, and people being nice to me. It was organised by Cassie, with loads of help from Brian and Stacy, whose wedding I attended in October, and Sarah, and lots of other people all in on the deceit.

Obviously it look loads of organisation, and part of that was the detailed instructions Cassie left for Brian and Stacy so they could set up while we were at dinner. Here’s a bit of what she wrote.

Hi guys,

I thought I would put down on paper some last minute stuff that I won’t be able to do because it would arise too much suspicion. But first I want to thank you guys again for your help with this. It could not have been pulled off without you.

Kitchen:

  • Extend the kitchen table by pulling out the sides under the table and push it up against the window. This will allow the food and cake to be displayed and provide as much room in the kitchen for mingling as possible.
  • Fill the blue ice bucket found in the laundry room with ice for people to put beer in. You can put the Champagne in there too.
  • Display the cake on the table when it arrives with Sarah Cohen. You can put the plates and napkins and forks out too.

Living Room

  • I will have the iPod set up on the speaker dock set to a playlist for the night. It’s called “Cocktail Mix.” Just press play at some point when people start to arrive.
  • Please make sure the curtains are closed.

Bathroom

  • Keep the bathroom window closed until we get home. We will walk right past it on the way from the car to the house.

Outside

  • Please do not plug in the green/blue lights in the back where the BBQ is. I will be parking in the driveway when we get back and Matt will see them if they’re on. We can plug them in when I get home.
  • Don’t worry about anything in the back. Just keep in dark and quiet over there and we can set it up when we arrive.

Our Arrival

  • I’ll text you when we are paying our bill which will give you a 15 minute or so head’s up. At that time you can make sure everyone has their champagne glasses assembled and the champagne ready to be poured. Please have two glasses ready to hand to us when we walk in the door.
  • When we get close to our place, maybe as we’re turning on the street, I will call my land line and let it ring once or twice. That will be your signal to be quiet and have your glasses ready. We will park in the driveway and walk up the stairs. I will have heels on so you will hear us arrive.
  • Make sure the door is locked, both the door knob and the dead-bolt. I will unlock the door, open it and hopefully Matt will be right by my side. Make sure you tell everyone to get eyes on Matt before they yell “Surprise!”
  • Brian, I would love it if you would make a little toast to Matt when he gets over the shock of the surprise and has a glass in his hand. It’s totally cool if you don’t feel like it but there just seems to be a need for some sort of formality as long as everyone is standing there with champagne in their hands. Anything you want to say would be great.

After all that, I want you to drink, eat cake and relax. Thanks again. You are awesome.

And that’s exactly what happened. I ate cake and drank as well. Lots of booze and cake.

Thank you Cassie, and Brian & Stacy, & Sarah, and everyone. I’ll never trust you or anyone ever again.