Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 Lake Shasta Day 1

Every year since 1988, 22 straight years, we have taken a group to the El Dorado Inn at Lake Almanor. For the second time in that period, the Dorado changed hands in the last year. The new owners decide that they would not honor our reservations for this summer. All of the running amok around this decision and how it was communicated may or may not become a longer post in the future.

When Tomasin, Hunter and I skiied at Northstar in late January, we decided that we should try to go somewhere. Julie went to work and found the Tsasdi Resort at Lake Shasta.

Jack and I left Elk Grove about noon, stopped for lunch, gas and a couple of waymarks in Red Bluff and rolled into the Tsasdi about 3:45 p.m. It is a much easier drive than going to Lake Almanor.

Sharon and Janie wandered up over the course of the day. They went to the Sundial Bridge and had lunch in Redding and then stopped at the Shasta Caverns.

We have a big group this year: Bob Wallens; John Wallens; Snipes; Hunters; and Heringers. In total, we have more than 30 people.

Jack and I spent some time hanging out on the dock sitting in a patio boat that the Wallens have rented; first with Wallen and Jill and then with Sharon and Janie.

We finished the evening having a group dinner at the Basshole Bar & Grill.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

07/23/2010 - Prado - David and Goliath
07/24/2010 - Thyssen-Bornemisza - Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Tehama County Landmarks

California State Historical Landmarks in Tehama County
{GPS Coordinates of Site Location}

NO. 12 Residence of General William B. Ide - [map] - {40.1965,-122.225833}
NO. 117 Home of Mrs. John Brown - [map] - {40.172833,-122.231167}
NO. 183 First Tehama County Courthouse - [map] - {40.026395,-122.1213694}

List of California Counties

Shasta County Landmarks

California State Historical Landmarks in Shasta County
{GPS Coordinates of Site Location}

*NO. 10 Site of Reading Adobe - [map] - {40.391333,-122.200333}
*NO. 58 Old California-Oregon Road - [map] - {40.465833,-122.324667}
*NO. 148 Bass Hill - [map] - {40.7545,-122.323}

List of California Counties

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ESPN 30 for 30 - The Birth of Big Air

Jack and I watched The Birth of Big Air. This is the seventeenth installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 film series. ESPN aired the film just before the opening ceremonies of X Games 16 which are scheduled for July 29 through August 1.

The film looks at the career of Mat Hoffman. In 1987, at the age of 15, Hoffman was the youngest rider to enter the freestyle BMX circuit. He is credited with inventing many of sport's popular tricks. Hoffman had a very long career that included winning bronze and silver freestyle BMX medals in the 2001 and 2002 X-Games.

Hoffman is also credited with keeping the sport alive during the 1990's before the advent of the X-Games. After the boom of the 1980's faded and the sponsors disappeared, his production company organized some of the only competitions.

Frankly, this film was more than a little hard for me to watch in couple of spots. One segment interviewed his doctor and looked at all of the injuries and surgeries that he has experienced. Another segment ends with Hoffman getting knocked out and spending three days in a coma, while a third talks about how he ruptured his spleen and almost died. Throughout the film, Hoffman is interviewed so at least you know that he is still alive and was not killed in one of the stunts!

For me, this is an odd film. My passions definitely do not include freestyle BMX bikes or the X Games. I had never heard of Mat Hoffman. It was interesting, but it is not a film that I would recommend that someone go out of their way to watch.

The film is available on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

California Historical Landmark #934

Stockton Assembly Center
California State Historical Landmark #934

See this location on Yahoo Maps in Flickr
See this location on Google Maps

This landmark is located in front of the Administration Building at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds on Airport Way, Stockton, California. There are 24 other California State Historical Landmarks in San Joaquin County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 37° 56.290 W 121° 16.100.

You can log your visit to this landmark at

California Historical Landmark #934

Here, within the confines of San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, enclosed by barbed wire and housed in temporary barracks, 4,217 San Joaquin County residents of Japanese ancestry, predominately American citizens, were interned from May 10 to October 17, 1942 under Executive Order 9066. May such usurpation of civil, social, and economic rights, without specific charges or trial, never again occur.

California Historical Landmark #934

The Stockton Assembly Center was at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. Occupied for 161 days from May 10 to October 17, it held a total of 4,390 evacuees from San Joaquin County, with a maximum population at one time of 4,271. In the racetrack infield there were 125 barracks and another 40 barracks were on the east side of the fairgrounds.

No assembly center or fairground buildings visible in the 1942 aerial photograph remain, but many of the residences and businesses in the vicinity are still present. There is a State of California historical marker at the main pedestrian entrance of the fairgrounds.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire

On the outbound leg of the trip to Spain, I finished reading The Girl Who Played with Fire. This is the second book of Stieg Larsson's published trilogy.  I finished the first book in late June.

I have seen the book described as a thriller. Like the first book, it is murder investigation. The Mikael Blomkvist character is investigating a triple murder in parallel with the police. The author continues the themes of violence against women from the first book, but also folds in sex trafficking, police corruption and authority abuse. The book also provides a lot more background on the title character, Lisbeth Salander.

While the first book stood on its own, the second book does not. Things are not wrapped up at the end; there are several major hanging plot points that continue in the third book.

I actually liked the second book better than the first book. I gave the first book a solid B+ and would rate the second book slightly higher. Luckily, I had packed the third book for trip and started reading it as soon as I finished The Girl Who Played with Fire.

I am fascinated by the amount of coffee that everyone seems to drink. Whenever any two characters get together, they make a fresh pot of coffee. Additionally, the characters are always making sandwiches. I am curious if this is an accurate a portrayal of Swedish customs.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Gurrumul - Wiyathul

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Gurrumul - Wiyathul

Code Expiration: October 22, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Morgan, Jack and Drew

With Morgan on the west coast to teach at Sugar Loaf last week, we had a chance to get everyone together for dinner.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio

Code Expiration: October 15, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 Spain Day 12 - Home to Sacramento

When we travel, Sharon and I have always said that any day you end up where you were scheduled to be at the end of the day is a good day. [Cooperstown] [Chamonix]

We got up, packed up the room and asked the concierge where we could get a bite to eat in the area around the hotel. The only thing open at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning was a Starbucks!

It was about a 20 minute taxi ride to the airport. We took advantage of an offer to upgrade our transatlantic seats from coach to envoy. This made the first leg of the trip very easy. It is an eight hour flight from Madrid to Philly.

The plane got into Philadelphia on schedule at 3:15 p.m. local time, but just ahead of a thunderstorm. Once the plane was on the ground, the lightning and the rain cut loose. They actually suspended all gate operations and it was about an hour and fifteen minutes before we got our luggage. Although we got some odd questions at passport control, we breezed through customs and rechecked our baggage.

At this point, the fun began. Our flight to Sacramento was scheduled to take off at 6:00 p.m. Our plane was coming from Las Vegas and was forced to land in Pittsburgh when they closed Philadelphia due to thunderstorms. Over the course of the next four hours, they gave us updated times of 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. for departure. The plane from Las Vegas was on the ground with maintenance issues in Pittsburgh. Eventually, the plane arrived about 8:45 p.m and we loaded about 9:45 p.m.

It was 1:00 a.m. by the time the plane landed in Sacramento. We were originally scheduled to be in Sacramento by 9:00 p.m. This six hour flight went amazingly fast for me; I actually slept most of the way.

By the time, we collected our luggage and got home, it was after 2:00 a.m.

It was 25 1/4 hours door to door; from the time that we left the hotel until we pulled into the garage.

The question that Sharon and I debated on the way home is whether this was a good day; technically, we were not where we were scheduled to be at the end of the day [Sunday]. I say yes. I would much rather be home than in a hotel room in Philly on Monday morning!

Madrid to Philadelphia

Madrid to Philadelphia, originally uploaded by heringermr.

View of the Prado Museum from our hotel room

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2010 Spain Day 11 - Madrid

The plan for the day is to attack the first floor of the Museo Nacional del Prado. After having breakfast on the terrace at the Ritz, we wandered across the street. Jack had been marking off the rooms that we saw yesterday and the masterpieces listed on museum map. He was on a mission to see all of the rooms and all of the listed masterpieces. This took us another two hours and 45 minutes.

In total, we spent almost six hours over two days going through the Prado. At this point, Sharon was done with Spanish art.

We had a light lunch at the same place as yesterday; Jack and Sharon had seen some mini-hamburgers and wanted to go back for these.

On the corner across the street from our hotel and the Prado is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. After recharging our batteries with lunch, we attacked this museum. Originally a private collection, it fills in where the Prado and the Sofia are weak, particulary with Impressionism which is one of Sharon's favorites. We moved through this building fairly quickly focusing on pieces by artists that we are familar with. There were a couple of nice pieces, including ones by Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Degas. Sharon bought two nice prints by Degas.

At this point, we were all more than a little beat. We wandered back to the room and watched the end of Stage 19 of the Tour de France.

We had a drink on the terrace of the hotel before we started out for the night. Sharon has bought enough stuff that we are going to need another bag to get home. We headed towards Puerta del Sol and found a place to buy another piece of luggage.

From there, we wandered towards Plaza Mayor and then back towards Plaza Santa Ana looking for t-shirts for Jack and Sharon.. We had one more drink on the street across from where we were going to dinner.

We finished the evening with dinner at El Caldero Restaurante. Sharon was unhappy with the paella last night so we had seafood paella and Jack had veal.

I am amazed how late the Spanish eat dinner. We went to the restaurant about 8:45 p.m. and it was completely empty. About 10 p.m., it started to fill up and became very busy. This was true the whole trip; noone really starts to sit down to eat until after 10 p.m.

We wandered home down Calle Huetras, a street that we had not been on before. It was very active with lots of restaurants, bars and people. It was about 11:30 p.m. by the time we got back to the room.

Friday, July 23, 2010

2010 Spain Day 10 - To Madrid

We are heading back to Madrid this morning to finish up the trip. We had a quick breakfast at the hotel, packed up the luggage, loaded up the car and were on the road a little after 10 a.m. With a quick stop to fill the tank of the rental car, we were back in Madrid a little after 11 a.m. It was not a very interesting drive.

When I rented the car, I had requested a GPS. Hertz gave us a portable Garmin that set on top of the dash. It worked great the whole trip. It dropped us right where we wanted to go each time. I am not sure that I could have found my way in and out of the twisting streets of Segovia without it! Additionally, getting back to the rental car place in Madrid could not have been easier.

Dropping the rental car, we caught a taxi to the Ritz Hotel. We are spending the last two nights of the trip at this hotel. We have jr. suite room #219. The Ritz is right across the street from the Prado; our major goal for the next two days.

Interesting, the Ritz was just reopening as we got there. There was a kitchen fire in the hotel three days ago and it has been shut down since then.

After we got into the room, we walked around the neighborhood. We had a lunch of tapas at Estabon Puro across the street from the Pardo and the hotel. From there, we attacked the Museo del Prado. We got one guidebook and one audio tour. Struggling to figure out a plan of attack, we eventually settled on concentrating on the ground floor. It took us a little over three hours to cover about 40 rooms. At that point, we decided that we would leave the first floor for tomorrow morning.

We finished the day with a drink and a snack in the terrace restaurant at the Ritz. We then wandered towards the Gran Via into a neighborhood that we had not been before. Sharon wanted paella for dinner and the hotel recommended a restaurant called la barraca. Neither Sharon or I thought that paella was as good as the dish we had in Barcelona at the beginning of the trip.

We got back to the room and to bed a little earlier than the last couple of nights. It was 11:30 p.m.!

Hostal del Cardenal in Toledo

Thursday, July 22, 2010

2010 Spain Day 9 - Toledo

The plan for the day is to explore Toledo. This city was Spain's capital until the 16th century. It has 2,500 years of Roman, Visigothic, Moorish and Christian history. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Moorish cultures.

After a coffee and a roll, we started the day touring the Cathedral with an audio tour. Started in the 13th century, it is considered the pinnacle of Gothic style in Spain. Sharon and I both agree that the French and Italian churches seem more impressive. All of the major Spanish churchs that we have seen have enclosed choir seating in the middle of the church that changes the way the interior feels.

From there, we went to the Santo Tome Chapel. El Greco's The Burial of the Count of Orgaz is housed in this chapel. It is considered one of his greatest paintings.

We wandered up to the Alcazar de Toledo; it is the former royal residence that dominates the skyline. We then headed towards the Plaza de Zocodover. We wandered around and finally had lunch at the Restaurant Alcazar in a little street off the plaza. According to one of the guidelines, Toledo has Spain's most confusing medieval streetplan. In the course of a day and a half, we had some adventures finding our way around.

After lunch, we visited the Santa Cruz Museum. The high point of this museum was 16 El Greco paintings, including a series of Christ and the apostles.

Sharon took off to do some shopping, while Jack and I had a shady spot in a restaurant on the plaza to have a cold drink. Sharon and Jack also bought a nice chess set; he has been beating me consistently on this trip. Eventually heading back to the hotel, I bought a bottle of wine. Our hotel room has a balcony with a nice view that is bigger than some of the hotel rooms that I have stayed. Sharon and I sat and read our books on the balcony and had a glass of wine.

Sharon did some more Christmas shopping on the way to dinner. We finished the day with a nice late dinner at El Cason de Los Lopez de Toledo. Keeping up a tradition, it was after midnight before we turned out the lights...

View from the Balcony of the Hostal del Cardenal

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2010 Spain Day 8 - To Toledo via Avila

My cell phone rang at 3:00 a.m.; it was Wallen. I rolled over looked at the phone, cursed him and went back to sleep. Up fairly early we wandered towards the aqueduct looking for someplace to have breakfast.

Stopping to get some money, the ATM machine ate my card. Luckily the bank behind the ATM was open. This kicked off an hour circus of trying to get the card back. No one in the bank spoke much English. I need to write more with our experiences with the language in a future post. After trying to talk to them, they told me to come back in 30 minutes.

We ended up wandering back to the Plaza Major and having breakfast across from our hotel. After a quick bite, I headed back to the bank to try and regain my card; fortunately, I was successful.

This is moving day. We packed up the room and had them bring up the car. The plan for day is to head to Avila and then on to Toledo. It was about an hour drive To Avila.

Avila’s fortified wall is the oldest, most complete and best preserved in Spain. We toured the Cathedral de Avila which houses one painting by El Greco. From there, we paid to climb the wall and walked along a section. We finished with a quick tour of the chapel at the Convent of St. Teresa and a great lunch of chicken and artichoke salad in a street just off the market square.

We had originally talked about taking the freeway back towards Madrid from Avila, but the GPS lead us on a course cross-country straight towards Toledo. It was a two hour drive across an interesting mix of countryside. Closer to Toledo, the terrain reminded me of the Sierra-Nevada foothills, but the earlier sections of the drive were unique. Leaving Avila, we passed through a fairly mountainous section with a different mix of trees.

For the second straight day, the GPS led us right to the hotel. We are staying the next two nights at Hostel de Cardendal. This hotel is a 17th century bishop’s palace built into the wall.

After exploring the hotel and relaxing in the room, we walked up to the Plaza de Zocodover. Toledo is built on the top of hill and is going to include more walking than anywhere else that we have been.

From the Plaza, we took a 50 minute tourist train that took us around the outside of the walled city. I was surprised because I had expected to tour the inside of the city. It included some great views of the fort, the cathedral and the city from the other side of the river gorge.

Wandering towards the cathedral, we found a place for a drink and a snack. We finished the night with dinner at Adolfo Vinoteca. We split plates of cheese, duck and grilled vegetables.

Leaving the restaurant, we give Jack the map and let him guide back through the twisting streets to a set of escalators near our hotel. I was amazed how well he did.

We were back to the room by a little after 10 a.m.; the earliest that we have been in the room the whole trip. Sharon and Jack finished the night watching an episode of the Simpson on the iPad.

Cathedral de Segovia

suckling pig

Roman Aqueduct at Segovia

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 Spain Day 7 - To Segovia

Overall, this has been my favorite day of the trip so far. We got up and had breakfast on the street near the hotel. My tip for the day is don't order the Spanish omelette.

We packed and caught a taxi to a Hertz rental car location. Using the Garmin GPS that we rented with the car, we were able to get out of the city and headed to Segovia. We had one minor incident. Reading one of the guidebooks, Sharon wanted to get off the freeway and take a winding mountain road. When we got off the freeway, Sharon did not think we were going the right way; there were no signs for Segovia. We ended up driving back in a circle for about 25 minutes before getting pointed in the right direction.

We are staying at the Hotel Infanta Isabel in Segovia tonight. This hotel is right on the Plaza Major of the town. Driving into the town though the narrow streets was an experience. Luckily, they actually had valet parking at the hotel!

After getting settled in the room, we had a bit to eat on the plaza right in front of the hotel.

Afterwards, we toured the Cathedral de Segovia. This church is very impressive on the outside, but less so on the inside. It does contain a number of very impressive chapels ringing the inside of the church.

Next we went to the Alcazar of Segovia. This fortified palace was a key fortess for controlling the region. We toured the 11 rooms. To Jack's disappointment the tower was closed.

We bar hopped back through the town and finally found a nice place to watch the end of Stage 16 of the Tour de France. In the breakaway group, Lance Armstrong was unable to win the sprint finish.

Looking for a museum, we ended wandering all the way to the other end of town to the Roman aqueduct. More on that later... We finally found and toured Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Esteban Vicente.

We headed back to the room and got cleaned up for dinner. On the way to dinner, we stopped and had a snack at a restaurant with a nice view.

From there, we toured the aqueduct. The aqueduct is amazing. Built 2,000 years ago to supply water to the Roman military base, it has to be seen to be believed. Over nine miles long, the famous section in town is 2,500 feet long and 100 feet high with 118 arches and 20,000 granite blocks. There are some great views of the aqueduct from the point where it enters the walls of the city.

We ended the evening having dinner at Meson de Candido.  All three of us had suckling pig; it was excellent.  By the time, we got back to our room it was after midnight as usual!

I really enjoyed Segovia!

Hotel Infanta Isabel on the Plaza Mayor in Segovia

Our room is the middle window of the top floor overlooking the plaza.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 Spain Day 6 - Madrid

Setting an alarm, we were up and moving very early. I made a run to Starbucks while Sharon and Jack got ready. We had breakfast again in the Plaza Mayor; Jack loved the belgium waffles.

The morning was spent at the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace). One of the guidebooks says that it is Europe's third greatest palace, after Versailles and Vienna's Schonbrunn. We took an audio tour of the 24 rooms of the palace plus the pharmacy and the armory. The pharmacy was particularly unusual.

Although it has been 25 years ago, Sharon has been to Versialles and Schonbrunn. She noted that the Madrid Palace does not have the extensive gardens that the other two have.

From there, we wandered through the Cathedral de Almudena. Sharon and I both noted that there are few churchs in the guidebooks for Madrid.

We had lite lunch in a small square about halfway between the palace and the Opera metro stop at Los Austrias Cafe and then took the metro back to a stop near the hotel.

The plan for the afternoon was for Sharon to go to a Bikram Yoga class and for Jack and I to hang out at the pool.

Wandering to dinner, Sharon did some shopping. We ended up wandering north of the Plaza Major into an area that we have not been. We had a drink on Plaza Puerta Cerrada and then a great dinner at Posada de la Villa just up the block. Sharon and I split roast lamb while Jack had rabbit with rice.

Sharon had a long conversation with a woman from Washington state whose family was sitting next to us. They are spending three weeks exploring Spain and North Africa.

By the time that we got to bed and asleep, it was again after midnight...

Breakfast on Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2010 Spain Day 5 - Madrid

Thinking I would wake up fairly early, I did not set an alarm. Unfortunately, after three nights of being up until midnight, I did not wake up until after 9:30 a.m. I glanced at my phone and it took me a few moments to process the time. At first, all I could think was it was showing the wrong time zone. It took me a few second to realize that we had slept until 9:30 a.m. We had a similar experience at the beginning of the France trip.

We had a great late breakfast in the Plaza Major. From there, we went to look for tickets to the bull fights. More on this later...

From there, we headed to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. One of the guidebooks described this museum as one of the most enjoyable modern art museums in Europe. Although neither Sharon or I would rate it that highly, it does have Picasso's Guernica. Guernica, a proud Basque market town in Northern Spain, was the target of the world's first saturation bombing raid on civilians. I was very impressed by this massive piece and the display of studies that Picasso did to prepare for it.

After a drink on the square in front of the museum, we wandered up and into the Retiro Park as far as the Estanque (the boating lake).

We had a late lunch at Plaza Santa Ana near the hotel. After lunch, we crashed in the room for a bit to escape heat.

The plan for the evening was to go to the bull fights. Frankly, this was more Sharon's idea than mine. We caught the metro to the Plaza de Toros and the Ventas Stadium. There were probably 10,000 people in the 35,000 person stadium with almost everyone on the shady side. It started about 8:30 p.m. We watched four of the six bull fights before calling it a night and catching the metro back to the hotel. I have never read anything about bull fighting; I am going to add this subject to my reading list for the future.

We finished the night with a very late dinner back on the Plaza Santa Ana. The three of us shared a large salad and grilled oxen that we cooked on a small stove at the table. It was midnight by the time we got back to the room and got the lights off.

Plaza de Toros

Saturday, July 17, 2010

2010 Spain Day 4 - To Madrid

Up about 7:00 a.m., Sharon sent me out to look for a Starbucks. Less than two blocks away, the Starbucks did not open until 7:30 a.m. so I walked to the Ramblus and explored a recently discovered Roman necropolis; it was on the Roman road into Barcelona.

Back to the room, the three of us headed back to the Ramblus and to the La Boqueria, a large market. We explored through the market, bought some fruit and ended up having breakfast at the Pinotxo Bar.

This is moving day. We will be heading from Barcelona to Madrid. After breakfast, we headed back to the room and packed. Checking the luggage with the hotel, we took a cab to the Miro Museum. Sharon and I had spotted it yesterday and were both thinking about it as someplace we would like to stop. It is up on the hill near the museum and the Olympic Stadium where we were yesterday with some great views of the city. This is the stop that Jack struggled with the most on the trip so far. He did not appreciate a blue dot on a white canvas (one of Mior's actual paintings) as modern art.

Taking a taxi back to the hotel, we walked a couple of blocks to Qu Qu (Quasi Queviures) for a drink and a snack.

Starting to Madrid, we took a taxi to the Sant train station and caught a high speed train to Madrid. It was an easy three hour trip with speeds up to 300 KPH (about 184 miles per hour). The countryside was an interesting. When we were in New Mexico, I wondered about what the Spainish were doing in that part of the world. There were sections outside of Barcelona that reminded me of New Mexico. There were also long sections that could have just as easily been the central valley in California and along the Sierra Nevada foothills.

We got to the Atoch train station in Madrid a little before 6:00 p.m. and took a taxi to the hotel. We will be spending the next three nights at the Urban Hotel. In contrast to the Hotel Palace in Barcelona, this is a very modern hotel.

After checking in and roaming the hotel, we started to wander the city. We went to Puerta de Sol and then to Plaza Major. One of the travel books has a pub crawl for dinner and we spent some time trying to orient ourselves for doing this on Monday night.

Sharon had made a reservation for dinner at the hotel in the restaurant Europa Deco so we headed back to the hotel for a 9:30 p.m. reservation. After dinner, we went back out to wander the area around the hotel. By the time we got back to the room, it was almost midnight. It was probably about 12:45 a.m. when we finally turned out the lights.

I made a tactical error; I did not set an alarm for the morning.

La Boqueria

Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 Spain Day 3 - Barcelona

Up early, we had breakfast at the hotel. The plan for the day is to catch an early on and off tourist bus and head towards Sagrada Familia. We caught the second bus of the day on the blue line just after 9:00 a.m.

I was not previously familar with Antoni Gaudi, but he is a major factor in Barcelona. It seemed like everywhere that we went they were talking about or pointing out a building or other feature designed by Gaudi. Our first stop for the day was Le Pedrera. This is described as Barcelona's "quintessenital Modernists building." We toured the apartment, the attic and the rooftop. The undulating rooftop with its 30 chimneys is spectacular!

Back on the bus, we headed towards Sagrada Familia. The line to get in was about 35 minutes long. We rented a great 70 minute audio tour for each of us. I was not sure what to expect. Sharon and I have visited Cathdrals all over the world, but even unfinished, I have not seen anything like Sagrada Familia. It is not expected to be finished for at least another 20 years. Even in an unfinished stage, it is amazing. My words and even pictures can not do justice to the scale and detail of the project.

From there, we got back on the tourist bus and wound our way across the city. Sharon had seen the Tour de France finish in front of the Catalan Art Museum last year. We shifted to the red line and finally made our way there. We had a late lunch in the restaurant of the museum. The front of the museum provides a great view of Barcelona. Although we had not really planned to, we ended up touring part of the museum. In particular, it includes Europe's best collection of Romanesque frescos. Jack was fascinated by this part of the museum.

Behind this museum is the Olympic Stadium built for the 1992 Olympics. Jack wanted to go into the stadium so we wandered up and into the stadium.

Catching the bus, we continued to wind our way back around to the Placa de Catalunya. By the time, we got back to the square, it was after 7:00 p.m. While I enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the city on the bus, it dragged towards the end.

We had a late dinner at Navarra near the plaza. Sharon and I had veal, while Jack had a hamburger. After dinner, we walked the length of the Ramblas from the Placa de Catalunya to the Columbus Monument. It is hard to describe the scene. It was a cross between Halloween and the state fair. After a stop at a three story McDonald's for dessert, it was after 11:30 p.m. before we got back to the hotel.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 Spain Day 2 - Barcelona

The plane finally hit the ground in Spain about 8:40 a.m., only about 20 minutes behind schedule. Both Sharon and I agreed that in our limited expereience set, this was one of the easiest trans-atlantic trips we have made.

It took forever to get the luggage. By the time, we collected the luggage, breezed through customs, caught a taxi to the hotel, it was about 10:30 a.m.

We dropped the luggage at the hotel. We are spending the next two nights at the Hotel Palace.

With the room not ready for a hour or two, we walked to the Placa de Cayalunya to check out the tourist bus. From there we wandered down The Ramblas. The Ramblas is one of the tourable pedestrian thoroughfares in Europe. We eventually stopped and had a quick bite to eat at Traverna Basca Irati, an interesting little place that Sharon found in the Rick Steven's book. It serves hot and cold Basque pintxos.

Working our way back towards the hotel, we dove into a neighborhood called the Barrio Gotic. It is the area surrounding the Barcelona Cathedral. Although we had not planned to, we ended up touring the Catherdeal. The high points included all of the chapels that line the walls and the 15th century choir that dominates the interior.

We eventually wound our way back to the hotel. With only little sleep on the plane over the 18 hour trip, we all crashed for a nap for an hour or two.

By 4:00 p.m., we were ready to go again. We found a yoga place for Sharon near the hotel and then jumped on the Metro. The goal for the late afternoon was the Picasso Museum.

Standing on the street trying to get our bearings to the Museum, I realized there was a third voice to the conversation. Jack had one of the guidebooks open and was vocal in his opinion about which way to go. This is definitely going to be a new dynamic. It is hard enough sometimes for Sharon and I to agree about directions!

We wandered through the La Riberia neighbor to get to the Picasso Museum. I really enjoyed this. It focuses on his earlier work. I read volume one of a series on his life.

Jack and Sharon then decided that they wanted to tour a Chocolate Museum.

Wandering back towards the Metro, we stopped and had some sangria at the Placa de L'Angel. I am enjoying Barcelona. I will organize some general throughts over the next several days.

We finished the day with a late dinner on the Mediterranean. We took a taxi to the waterfront and had a late dinner at Restaurant La Fonda del Port Olímpic. Sharon and I both had fisherman's paella, while Jack had lamb chops. It was 11:30 p.m. by the time we got back to the room and down to bed.

All and all, a very successful first day!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2010 Spain Day 1 - To Barcelona

Up early, we caught an 8:20 a.m. four hour flight from Sacramento to Philadelphia. After a quick bit to eat and a two hour layover, we caught a seven hour flight from Philadephia to Barcelona, Spain. Scheduled to take off at 6:25 p.m., the flight to Barcelona took off about an hour late, but they hope to make up most of the time. We should be on the ground in Spain about 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

California Historical Landmark #510

Francisco Solano Alviso Adobe
California State Historical Landmark #510

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This landmark is located at 3459 Foothill Road, Pleasanton, California. There are 35 other California State Historical Landmarks in Alameda County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 37° 39.649 W 121° 54.798.

You can log your visit to this landmark at

California Historical Landmark #510

This building, erected in 1844-46 by Francisco Solano Alviso, was the first adobe house to be built in the Pleasanton Valley. It was originally called Alisal-The Sycamores. Following the Battle of Sunol Canyon, General John C. Frémont withdrew to this building, which became his headquarters for several days.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - The High Wire - Hang From The Lights

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - The High Wire - Hang From The Lights

Code Expiration: October 8, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 Sugarloaf

For the eighth year in a row, Drew is working for two weeks at the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp.

Morgan is flying in on Saturday and is working the second week of the camp.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Second Season of Ally McBeal

Sharon and I finish watching the second season of Ally McBeal on DVD.

We finished watching the first season in September of 2007, almost 2 3/4 years ago!

Although the DVDs are now available domestically, I bought Sharon a box set in June of 2007 through Amazon from a reseller in China.  It has had some quality problems.  I need to replace them now that the series has finally been released in the United States.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


With me struggling with flu symptoms for the last two days, Sharon and Jack joined Tom, Becky, Kevin, Eric, Tim, Kathy, Erin, Eileen and Janie for dinner at Centro and Spamalot at the Music Circus.

When I asked Jack what he thought of the show, he said "it was hilarious." Jack's favorite part was the French guards hurling insults at the Arthur and his band.

My favorite part from the film has always been Huge Tracts of Land...

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Ampeater Review - Hank and Pigeon

There is a write-up on Morgan's music on the ampeater review. You can download two of their songs from this site.

AEM110 Hank and Pigeon

New York City, more than any other place I’ve ever lived or visited, isn’t so much an objective location as it is a flexible concept. My New York isn’t Your New York, and it’s definitely not His or Her New York, or god forbid, That Guy’s New York. Most people carve a comfortable space for themselves that’s situated between the extremes of Gotham City’s criminal dystopia, Sex & The City’s 5th ave glitz, and GG Allin’s East Village nest of debauchery. Somewhere in this mess of fictional bubbles is an objective portrait of the city at large that accounts for the millions of people struggling to reconcile their fantastic projections of life in the big city with the reality that most of us wake up, go to work, do some shit, go home, eat some shit, and go to bed. We value good art as a culture because it pulls us just a little bit outside this reality and into the liminal space that separates the daily grind from what we always thought life would be like “when we grew up.” That’s good art, but truly great art keeps us there long enough to grasp whole handfuls of fantasy. It’s a precious thing. The dream isn’t to escape the metropolis but to feel like we’re living inside some highly stylized version of it that could only exist in someone’s head, and for but a moment at that. Filmmakers have it easy, they can literally mold a world and present it to viewers, and writers have hundreds of pages to describe and expand upon their thoughts, but songwriters have a meager 2 to 5 minutes to do the same, and so pop songs seldom grant listeners this level of creative freedom. But when I hear Hank and Pigeon, I imagine two people, living in a New York that’s not mine and can never be mine; a New York in which pigeons become trapped inside apartment walls, in which people stand on opposite street corners talking on the phone, in which songs are written like letters to a friend, and in which all of this can be boiled down into a simple melody.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

My book for June was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Talking with Sharon's brother Tom at a crab feed last year, this book was on a longer list of books that he was recommending. Then, in late May at an organizational meeting for Jack's all-star baseball team, I mentioned to one of the other parents, Patty, that I was looking for something to read next. She recommended the book and brought it to practice the next day.

I have never had so many people come up to me and say something about a book I was reading. Over the course of three weeks while I was sitting and reading the book at lunch, five different people stopped and asked me about the book or made a comment about the book. This is very unusual. I think that it is a function of how popular the book is right now.

The book is set in contemporary Sweden and was written by a Swedish author who died before the book was published. It is the first book in a trilogy. In places, you can tell it is a translation; the structure of some sentences is odd. The book also suffers from being too descriptive in sections: I went here, I did this and then I did that.

It is a difficult book to characterize. At its heart, it is a murder investigation, but that is a simplification. There is a lot going on in the book. The author weaves together a number of themes including violence against women, the incompetence of investigative journalists, the moral bankruptcy of big business and Swedish Nazism.

The book won a number of European book awards. I would rate it a solid B+. I enjoyed it enough that I started the second book of the trilogy.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

California Historical Landmark #586

Cresta Blanca Winery
California State Historical Landmark #586

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This landmark is located at 5050 Arroyo Road, Livermore, California. There are 35 other California State Historical Landmarks in Alameda County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 37° 37.390 W 121° 45.380.

You can log your visit to this landmark at

California Historical Landmark #586

Here Charles A. Wetmore planted his vineyard in 1882. The Cresta Blanca wine he made from its fruit won for California the first International Award, the highest honor at the 1889 Paris Exposition, first bringing assurance to California wine growers that they could grow wines comparable to the finest in the world.

California Historical Landmark #586

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

2010 Cal Ripken 11U Northern California Tournament Day #3

Back at Rohnert Park for the third day of the Northern California Cal Ripken Tournament, Laguna played Concord.

At the plate, Jack was 2 for 3 with a strike out looking and two singles. In his first at-bat, Jack struck out looking on three pitches. He was not alone; more on Concord's pitcher later. In 13 plate appearances, this was Jack's only strike-out of the tournament. It is actually his first strike-out in 38 plate appearances dating back to May 30.

With the score tied 0 to 0 in the top of the fourth, Niko led off the inning with a single up the middle. Jeremy sacrificed him to second. Jack hit the first pitch for a hard grounder through the left side for a single in his second plate appearance to move Niko to third. Niko scored and Jack moved to second on Josh's bunt single. With Breyton and Jordan striking out looking, Jack ended the inning at second.

With the score tied 1 to 1 and two outs in the top of the sixth, Jack hit the first pitch for a hard grounder through the right side for a single in his third plate appearance. He went to third on an error by the second baseman on Josh's grounder, while Josh went to second on the throw. Breyton struck out swinging to end the inning.

In the field, Jack played fifth innings in center field and one inning at third. He had one put-out. With a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the second, Jack made an incredible catch on a sinking line drive in left center.

The pitcher for Concord [James Biles] was a giant 11 year old. He threw all six innings [84 pitches, 58 strikes and 26 balls] for Concord. Biles struck out 13 batters; 7 of those strike-outs were looking. Laguna scratched out 4 hits. Jack had 2 grounders, Niko had a line drive and Josh had a bunt single.

Laguna lost the game by the score of 2 to 1 and is eliminated from the Northern California Cal Ripken Tournament.

Starbucks Pick of the Week - Josh Rouse - Duerme

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks Pick of the Week - Josh Rouse - Duerme #fb

Code Expiration: October 1, 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010

2010 Cal Ripken 11U Northern California Tournament Day #2

Back at Rohnert Park for the second day of the Northern California Cal Ripken Tournament, Laguna played Oakland. Laguna lost to Oakland in last year's tournament by a score of 6 to 3.

At the plate, Jack was 0 for 2 with two walks, hit by a pitch and reached on an error. In his first at-bat, Jack walked on four pitches. He stole second. Jack tried to score on Josh's single to right, but was thrown out at the plate. Jack walked on five pitches in his second plate appearance. He went to second on Josh's walk. The inning ended on Greysen's fielder's choice. In his third at-bat, Jack hit a fly ball to right on the first pitch for an out. Jack was hit by a pitch in his fourth plate appearance. He stole second and went to third when Josh walked to load the bases. The inning ended on Breyton's fielder's choice. in his fifth at-bat, Jack hit a 1 and 0 pitch for a hard grounder to the left side. It went through the shortstop's legs for an error. Jack was forced out at second on Jeremy's double play ball to end the game.

In the field, Jack played eight innings at third base. He had one assist and one error. In the seventh inning, Jack handled a high chopper to the left side and threw the runner out at first. In the top of the eight with two outs, Jack stopped a grounder on the left side. Looking briefly at the runner going from second to third, he lost the handle. When he got hold of the ball, he rushed his throw to first. It sailed high and the runner was safe. I charged Jack with an error. Unfortunately, this error allowed the game winning run to score.

Leading 4 to 0 in the top of the sixth, Laguna gave up three singles and committed three errors to allow Oakland to tie the game. Oakland went on to win by the score of 5 to 4 in eight innings. This is Laguna's first loss of the tournament. They will play Concord tomorrow night in the loser's bracket.

I have probably watched Jack play 130 baseball games, 30 basketball games and 20 football games in the last two years. This was the most gut-wretching loss I have seen. As a parent, it is hard not to get invested in the games. This loss had the biggest emotional impact on me of any of these games.

Tomasin stopped by the game for a few innings. Although I was very distracted scoring and by the events of the top of the sixth inning, it was nice to see him.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

2010 Fourth of July

For first time since 2004, we stayed close to home for the Fourth of July.  Sharon, Jack and I set off fireworks in the front of the house.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Back from Rohnert Park

On the way to Jack's game on Friday, we stopped in Yountville. We went wine tasting at Hope & Grace, had lunch at Hurley's and toured Bardessono. I have eaten at Hurley's before when I went to the EPIC Venti meeting. Touring the Bardessono was interesting; it is one of only three Leed Platinum certified hotels in the world. Sharon is talking about going back and staying there for a night in August.

We checked into the Doubletree Hotel Sonoma Wine Country on Friday afternoon. After Jack's game, we had a late dinner at the Bacchus Restaurant and Wine Bar in the hotel and finished the night in the hot tub.

We wound our way back home on Saturday. We stopped in downtown Cotati for a quick bite to eat at Cotati Coffee. From there, we headed to the Bouchaine Winery. Sharon and I stopped here when we celebrated Valentine's Day in Napa. Sharon is a wine club member at this winery. We did a walking tour of the vineyard as well as a wine tasting. They recommended that we stop at Cuviason so we made a stop there. This winery has a very nice hilltop location with some great views.

We finally rolled back into Elk Grove about 3:00 p.m.

Friday, July 02, 2010

HOME RUN! [2010 Cal Ripken 11U Northern California Tournament Day #1]

The Laguna Youth Baseball 11U All Stars are playing in Cal Ripken Northern California Tournament in Rohnert Park. The tournament starts July 2 with the championship game on Friday, July 9. It is a double elimination tournament. Laguna played Windsor in the first game.

At the plate, Jack was 2 for 4 with a home run, a walk, four runs scored and six RBIs. In his first at-bat, Jack hit a 0 and 2 pitch off the end of his bat to the right side. Jack was thrown out at first, but Niko came around to score the game first run. Jack drove a 1 and 1 pitch into center field in this second plate appearance. The center fielder for Windsor played the whole game in left center. He had to run to make the play and the ball went off his glove. I scored it as an error on the center fielder. Niko came around to score the second run of the game. Jack stole second base and went to third on Jeremy's grounder to third. With Jeremy trying to advance to second and drawing the throw, Jack raced home to score the Outlaw's third run.

With Laguna trailing by the score of 6 to 3 in the top of the fifth, Jack walked on five pitches to led off the inning. Jack stole second and scored on Jeremy's blooper in right field. Laguna scored four runs in the inning to lead by the score of 7 to 6.

With Laguna leading 7 to 6 in the top of the sixth inning, Cooper and Niko both walked. Jack drove a 0 and 1 pitch back up the middle to score Cooper and Niko in his fourth plate appearance.

At this point, Windsor finally replaced their starting pitcher. With two outs, James, Cooper and Niko all hit the ball hard to the outfield to get on base and Jack came back up again. With Cooper on second, Jack crushed a 2 and 1 pitch into left field for a home run! The fence was 210 feet, but there was a fifteen foot wall; the ball cleared the fence by at least 5 feet. Sharon and I were probably more excited than Jack was! While Jack has had a couple of inside the park home runs in the last month, this is the first one that he has hit over the fence. After the game, the people running the tournament gave Jack the ball in a case.

In the field, Jack played three innings at third and three innings at first base. He had one assist and 5 put-outs. In the bottom of the second, Jack fielded a slow roller to the left side, but rushed the throw and threw a one hopper to Breyton at first. Breyton could not handle the throw. I charged Jack with an error. When the runner stole second, the Outlaws threw the ball into center field. The runner advanced to third. The throw to Jack at third from center field was in the dirt and rolled to the fence. The runner then tried to go home. Jack got to the ball and threw a strike to Josh to get the runner out at home by five or six feet and end the inning. At first, Jack had 5 put-outs on throws from the shortstop and pitcher.

In spite of giving up 5 unearned runs on errors and passed balls, Laguna blew the game open in the top of the six to win by the score of 17 to 6. With the win, they avoid having to play Saturday or Sunday and will face the winner of the Washington Manor and Oakland game on Monday afternoon.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Next Stop, Rohnert Park

Pony Express Halfway House

Pony Express
Halfway House

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This marker is located Located at 6130 Silveyville Road, Dixon, California. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 38° 27.660 W 121° 51.500.

A list of Pony Express Waymarks that I have visited can be found here. You can log your visit to this landmark at

Halfway House Pony Express Station
Halfway House Pony Express Station

The station was located 90 feet southwest of here and called the "Halfway House" or Slivey's Hotel. There was a telegraph station and some other businesses here.

The first Pony Express Trip through here was on April 23, 1860 and the rider was Sam Hamilton. He left from Sportsman's Hall about 12 miles east of Placerville at 8:50 p.m. on April 22, 1860 and arrived at 1:00 a.m. in Sacramento. He had covered those 55.3 miles averaging 13.3 MPH. He was then told that he had to ride on to Benicia with the mail.

He left Sacramento at 1:10 a.m. with a fresh horse. He crossed the bridge over the Sacramento River and was on his way. He arrived here around 3:15 a.m. and left within 5 minutes on another fresh horse for Gillespie's Store in Vacaville.

Halfway House Pony Express Station