Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Road to Paris...

The road to Paris is long. Certainly not as long as the Roman legions faced. And certainly not as long as Napoleon's army faced on the return from Moscow. According to google those trips were 1000 km  or 8 days 5 hours and 2760 km or 23 days 9 hours of walking, respectively. This is without sleep or restroom stops or breaks for coffee and pain au chocolate since Google does not need to stop for those things. So my journey of 62 hours, starting on Friday and arriving on Monday, is not something I should gripe about if I happen to meet a Roman Centurion or Napoleon in Paris. 

My route is longer in distance, especially since my frequent flyer tickets introduced a circuitous route that even the Romans would have wondered about. First leg to SFO, 348 miles (560km), second leg to Charlotte, 2704 miles (4351 km), and third leg to Paris, 4152 miles (6698 km), for a total of 7204 miles (11594 km). The highlights so far...

Day 1: Left home at 9:30 PM and arrived in Atascadero at the Rancho Tee Motel just after midnight. I have no clue why it is called Rancho Tee since there is no golf course in the proximity. There is a pool, just in case you are going on vacation and your destination is Atascadero. But aside from the retro Route 66 style sign there is not much memorable about my six hour stay.

Day 2: Left the Rancho Tee at 6:45 AM and arrived at SFO at 6 PM. 
Breakfast at Margie's Diner in Paso Robles was a bit more memorable. Breakfast was good but it was the menu that caused me to smile. 

After the Rancho Tee motel, Margie's Diner seemed a fitting place to continue the on the road theme.
So, the journey to San Francisco did not take 12 hours, 9 hours were spent with he kids and the most precious granddaughter in the world. Very fun interlude. Hung around the airport until my red eye flight at 10:20 PM to Charlotte, NC. 

Day 3 - Part 1: Arrived in Charlotte at 6:15 AM waiting for my 6:00 PM flight. See circuitous route note above... Considered going into town as I had plenty of time. We've seen Budapest in a 10 hour layover and Zurich in a 4 hour layover, and that one was with students. So 12 hours seemed sufficient to leave the airport and see the sights of Charlotte. The trade-off was relaxing in the airport lounge, reading, writing, perhaps even working, or leaving the airport to spend much of the day outside with 90 degree and 35% humidity weather in order to see the NASCAR museum. I'll save the NASCAR museum for a time when I can spend a more leisurely time seeing their collection of Monet and Rodan - Oh wait, it's not a museum as I think of museums. They describe it on the web site as not just a museum, "It was built to be a shrine ... To the sport we love." I would probably enjoy a few of the powerful cars they are bound to have but my religious fervor to make the pilgrimage to the NASCAR shrine is outweighed by the chance to be bored in the airport (or just about anything else).

So, here I sit, waiting...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Catching up on the weekend

Most of the time weekends are just a different kind of busy. Perhaps a bit less structured, a bit more choice in what is done, and more often the choices are for things I consider enjoyable activities. But the result is still a need to relax, to enjoy the moment, to think without having to come to a conclusion or a decision, and to read or take in something that is just enjoyable. The sabbath of orthodox Jews or some Christian churches seems a bit extreme to me, but that is more my cultural bias than any sense that my perspective is healthier or better. It probably isn't. So on the weekend I did not worry about accomplishing too much and I succeeded in that quite well. Here is the rundown...

I accomplished so much that I have forgotten what it was that I did not do, though I am sure it is on a list.

At about 11:00 pm, my hunger go the better of me and forced me to realize I had not eaten a real dinner. So the quest for something to drink and something lite to eat began. The fridge did not have much in it that I wanted to eat (11:10 pm). As it turned out, it had some stuff that needed to be tossed out (11:30 pm). I did feel quite accomplished but the empty fridge led
to an examination of the freezer which led to a radical cleaning of both (12:30 am). And the radical cleaning exposed bright and shiny shelves, clean white surfaces, and a really ugly bit of rust, overly visible when you opened both the fridge and the freezer. At this point, the refrigerator cleaning tools became a power sander, painters tape, and a can of spray paint. Isn't that what everyone uses? Section sanded, taped and painted (1:15 am). Oh, and, cleaning and painting caused me to move the refrigerator out from the wall. And you know what is behind a refrigerator... Floor and walls cleaned (1:45 am). Now, did I actually eat anything?

Slept in (see above), breakfast on the deck, errands, and cleaning. Nice list established of things to do.

Time at an engagement reception for the son of a good friend. The engaged couple was very cute and it was nice to hear how each they waited through long periods apart. It is surprising, though it should not be, to see a young man whose maturity you remember at 18 or 19 having become much more mature at 27. I know that the maturity that comes with marriage will be another surprise. They won't be a couple I'll see on a regular basis so the changes are likely to be more noticeable and each time I notice I will reflect on some aspect of his youth that stands in stark contrast to whatever aspect of life the new maturity shows itself in. Quite fun, but not really on the list for the day.

The Camera Store...
Photography requires the proper equipment, except the proper equipment changes rapidly as understanding and skills improve. I am at the level where I have a way to go before I have exhausted the capabilities of the kit lens that came with my DSLR (digital single lens reflex cameras) or any of the lenses in the same line. I did quickly learn other lenses were required but from a quality perspective the kit lens and others in line are fine. My 18-55 mm zoom lens broke a while back and I was finally able to take the 30 mile drive to the store to send it in for repair. The sales person at the store said, "Wow, how'd that happen?", but followed it with, "But, yea, the product insurance will cover it." Yeah!

I also asked about a new camera that I wanted to see, in a purely window shopping frame of mind. This somehow resulted in a brief discussion of an $8,000 medium format camera. I was clear that it was way out of my league and my price range but the fact I knew the capabilities and why it was worth $8,000 gave me some credibility. So when I asked about new Pentax lenses for my current camera, he said, "No, we only have the 50-200 mm WR lens", in a tone that clearly meant you probably really would not be interested. In fact, anyone with my camera model would probably really appreciate the lens. Good quality, weather sealed, and not too big or heavy - a good lens but not a stellar lens.

His comment, "No, we only...", struck me the same way people respond to me when I speak the first couple of sentences in a foreign language with full sentences and a reasonable approximation of proper syntax. The fact that the sentences are along the lines of, "Hi, it is a pleasure to meet you. Unfortunately, I do not speak _____"[fill in language], does not minimize the positive impact of those sentences. My third and fourth sentences give away my lack of any real knowledge, but the first impression does not completely go away. They often think I still understand more than I actually do despite my obvious ignorance. There is a lingering sense of that first impression that causes people to respond a bit differently, a bit more as if I might understand or, at least, as if I am trainable.

My search for old used lenses and the discussion of the $8,000 camera caused the sales person to to assume that I would not settle for the basic lens. He obviously assumed that I, as someone who fully understood the value of the $8,000 camera, would not be interested in the kit quality 50-200 mm telephoto zoom lens. But, I was the customer so he did allow me to buy it. For now, the $200 kit quality lens will serve me as well as the $800 or $1000 high quality lens. For now anyway... The trip was such as success I was only sad that it had not been on the original list for the day so I could check it off.

Photos and Food...
It was now Saturday evening and I was hungry. I combined my desire to use the new lens with desire for food by stopping at a park along the ocean near a good sandwich place. Quite fun, but again not on the list.

Finally, I arrived home. I received a wonderfully random Father's Day present from one or more anonymous children. And I still had time to do a thorough house cleaning. Finally, something on the original list! Check. Yeah!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

And Another Day, quiet and pleasant...

Random Person Warning... No grand ideas or incredible insights will be found in this series on the mundane aspects of my day. It is written for those non-random people who may have some interest or stake in how I am surviving alone for a couple of weeks...

Today was all about work as the pressure builds prior to vacation. But this blog is not about work, that would bore even me to try to write about it. But the pressure work gives extends beyond work. So the news, that today I made some good steps to getting needed tasks completed, makes my evening much more pleasant than it would have been. Outside of work...

Up later than normal. Pleasant time on the deck in the June gloom, but, alas, not enough time. To work by 9:00 a.m., long lunch with friends, and then home at 6:15 p.m. Leisurely trip to the hardware store for a light bulb and then home for a light dinner. But, alas, no one to light up my life on my arrival home.

Tree next door, brown leaves about
70ish feet from my deck. I included
it only because I liked the little man
sitting on the branch. It is about 35
feet off the ground so even though it
looks like a toy placed on the branch,
I pretty sure it's just sticks.
Since the sun was setting I was not able to complete the goal of comparing my newly acquired telephoto lens to my other telephoto lenses. No sunset pictures but here are a couple in what was poor light...
Standard test shot from my deck to a telephone pole 150 feet
or so away... 

The light was pretty bad but If you zoom in on the full resolution original there is a yellow sign just below the transformer (or ???) that reads, HIGH VOLTAGE. It is quite clear. I'd say my $10 investment was worth it. If other lenses win the comparison test I have no fear that I could sell it for
at least $10. Plus, if I hear the Surgeon General warn not to come within 150 feet of High Voltage signs, I will be all set to scan the neighborhood for hidden High Voltage signs.

So, today was a good day, quiet but good. That's it for now...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Another day, structured silence...

Today was going to be all about work. Except for fact that the 8:00 a.m. appointment and the 6 p.m. appointment placed some barriers to the start and end of the work day. Not that I could not have started before 8:00 a.m. and gone back to it after 7:00 p.m. I knew I would not be up to making dinner when I got home so picked it up at Von's, chicken and clam chowder. Suffice it to say that my dinner was not up to the standards I have been setting this week.

Back to the work day. When I finally decided to take a break for lunch at 1:30 p.m., my parting comment was, "I am going to go out and do something fun." That was prior to actually believing there was something fun I could do at lunch. I ran an errand and once this was accomplished I was conveniently close to my favorite local camera store (the only local camera store). They do most of their sales online and the store seems as if it is mostly a place to coordinate the online sales and develop film for students at the local photography institute. They do have some vintage cameras and lenses. And some old but not quite vintage lenses that are fun to look through. So, since I was just a couple blocks away, I went in to see what there was to see. 

The box of stuff for $10 held items that were banged, bruised, or just too odd to keep around. A shattered filter left on what was otherwise a reasonable looking telephoto lens caught my eye.  Wrong lens mount. It is not that I need another manual focus telephoto lens, it is the hope that I find one markedly better than my existing telephoto lenses. I bypassed that lens but then found one that intrigued me. The glass was free of noticeable scratches, the aperture seemed to work fine, and it had a unique lens mount adapter that seemed pretty cool. And for $10 I figured the cost benefit would be well within reason. 

The only problem, work and other commitments prevented me from actually using the lens in the daylight. So, while I wait for an opportunity to compare my new 70-210 Tamron lens to my other lenses, I did a quick test in poor light. I have determined that this lens is great if you need to take a picture of a Trader Joe's cookie perched on a faucet from several feet away.  

This and a visit to the new grocery store were the excitement for the day. So, for now, that's about it. 

Another day part two...

Monday continued...

So, in my rush to post I forgot to post the most interesting aspect of my day on Monday, at least in the eyes of one non-random reader. I arrived home to a big box from Amazon. This is always fun, but especially when it is near my birthday or Father's Day. This present was packing cubes to insert into my luggage. So instead of spending my evening on the five other things that were planned, I packed. not actually with the intent of packing for my next trip but to test out my packing cubes. So, here is result.

Very fun!

Now I have to decide if I can squeak through the next ten days without the clothes I just packed.

So, that is it. Monday is done.

Another Day

Just in case a random reader reads this, you probably want to skip this series as it is filled with the mundane trivia of my life every couple of days. No consistent thread, surprise ending, an inspiring take-away is likely to be found. The same is true for non-random readers, but then you may actually have some interest in something that is mentioned...

It was a quiet Monday morning, work looming ahead, but work always looms ahead on Monday morning. What did not loom ahead was 5:15 a.m., as my consciousness of the day was 6:04 a.m. I am not sure if the alarm went off and I successfully repressed it or if I simply failed to set it. Fortunately, I did get in an extra bike ride to make up for missing the Spin class.

Work, as I said loomed ahead, data complexities promising to challenge my claim as a developer. Then it was over, the chipping away at the complexities continued. Finally, an opportunity to have a nice dinner with no big evening agenda. Sunday night's salmon, asparagus and peaches could not be topped, but hamburger on fresh ciabatta bread with tomatoes and grilled asparagus & peaches held its own.

The highlight of the day was a brief three continent Hangout (as in Google) and a call to France. The lowlight of the day were all of the things I thought I could get done that did not come close to happening. Hence, this is being finished on Tuesday. A forced stop at Simone's to avoid being sucked into the void before publishing something.

That is it, at least until Tuesday...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Home alone, day 2...

As my lovely spouse spends her time improving her French, in France of course, I am left to manage the home front. There is not actually too much to manage. One thing is essential and this is not something that I do well. That is, keeping track of the mundane activities and occasional interesting tidbits that I can share with her in answer to the inevitable question, "So, how was your day?" (Or "What did you do today?" Or some other variation.)

Putting her question in context is important.  The question will usually be presented to me immediately after she tells of her adventures at the local market attempting to buy _________ (fill in blank of an essential item you have never had to buy in French). The story will likely be quite entertaining, possibly embarrassingly funny, and end with a cup of tea and a croissant in the neighborhood cafe. My answer will be something like,"I bought a potato at Ralph's to go with my Salmon. I went to Ralph's because Albertson's was closed, I mean permanently closed. But I did get a five dollar coupon for Haggen's, the new store that is taking over the Albertson's facility." Somehow, after hearing her French adventures and sharing my one bit of local news, I'll likely forget to tell her that I skipped Sunday School to chat with a friend from Turkey. And in the moment, I'll certainly forget to tell her of the morning sermon or the passage that Jane shared. Since the passage was about wives submitting to your husbands, perhaps it would be better not coming from me. I'd probably mention the bike ride to Carpinteria, but beyond mentioning that I saw  a seal, a snake, and a squirrel there is not much there to hold her interest. 

And she definitely won't want to hear of the dishes that I finally put away or the ones I need to wash that I think can wait until tomorrow  - or next month. There are some things she just doesn't need to know.

But I will send her the pictures of the friends from Turkey, especially what turned into an impromptu photo shoot of the 19 month old hamming it up for the camera and the 5 year old trying to "gently" pick up a lady bug. The lady bug survived.

So now when she asks, "What did you do today?" I can say, "I did this and this and this. Oh, but you've already read the blog." That's about it.