Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

During the trip to New Zealand, I finished reading Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. I bought the book last summer after seeing the author interviewed on the Jon Stewart Show. The book examines the events leading up to the passage of the 18th amendment, the years during prohibition and then passage of the 21st amendment.

The book looks at the history of alcohol consumption in the United States. The per capita consumption of hard alcohol in the 17th and 18th century is almost unbelievable. By the early 19th century, Americans were drinking the equivalent of 90 bottles of 80-proof liquor per adult per year. By the end of the 19th century, the country saw the rise of German brewers and an explosion growth in beer drinking and the number of bars.

I have always scratched my head and wondered at how they were able to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing the manufacture, sale, or transportation of "intoxicating liquors". The book does a nice job of showing how a number of factors came together at the same time to make it possible. A set of factors as varied as Woman's suffrage, the Jim Crowe laws and World War I and bad feelings towards Germans came together to push prohibition forward. Surprising to me, one person--Wayne Wheeler--was largely responsible for taking advantage of the opportunity and making the constitutional amendment a reality.

Interestingly, the 16th amendment allowing Congress to levy an income tax is largely the work of the prohibitionists. Through most of the 18th and 19th century, the United States government was largely financed by taxes on alcohol. In order to outlaw alcohol, there had to be an alternative source of income for the federal government.

The best part of the book is the years during prohibition. It is absolutely amazing how out of control things were. The criminal justice system was swamped. Organized crime expanded to deal with the lucrative business. There was widespread corruption among those charged with enforcing unpopular laws. Prohibition was an abject failure.

The book suffers a little from a nonlinear style at certain points as well as just the overwhelming number of people and places. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and would it give it a solid B grade.

As an odd footnote, the author Daniel Okrent is credited as the inventor of Rotisserie League Baseball, the precursor to modern fantasy baseball. He appears in the ESPN 30 for 30 film titled Silly Little Game.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chop Shop Records Signs Milo Greene!

Drew's new band has signed a recording contract with Chop Shop Records!

From the Chop Shop Records Blog

Hold for (roaring) applause…

Drumroll please…

It gives us great pleasure to officially welcome MILO GREENE to the Chop Shop Records roster!!

You are going to love this band! Milo Greene is made up of a handful of amazing artists from here in Los Angeles and features fantastic songwriting, cinematic harmonies, and amongst a slew of other things, an unforgettable live show! We could go on and on about them.

So here’s what you need to know…

Milo Greene has just started work on their full length debut album, which is slated to be released in Spring 2012. You can follow them during their recording process over on the PacSun Music Blog.

The first single is called “1957.″

Milo Greene is heading out on the road this fall with the ridiculously talented duo, The Civil Wars. The tour starts on Oct. 7th in Alabama with stops all over the east coast, pacific northwest, and wraps up in Phoenix on Nov. 20th. Many of the shows have already sold out, but tickets are still available for a few stops on the tour. This is definitely not a show you want to miss!

Twitter: @milogreene

There will be many more updates on Milo to follow so make sure you are visiting every day (which you already do, right?) and be sure to check us out on Twitter as well @chopshopmusic.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

California Historical Landmark #51

Sharon, Jack and I stopped here while we were in San Diego for the USTSA World Series in July.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse
California State Historical Landmark #51

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

This landmark is located in the Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma, San Diego, California. There are 71 other California State Historical Landmarks in San Diego County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 32° 40.320 W 117° 14.452.

You can log your visit to this landmark at

California Historical Landmark #51

This lighthouse, built in 1854, was one of the first eight lighthouses on the Pacific Coast. It continued in use until 1891, when the new Pelican Point Lighthouse began operating. The Point Loma Lighthouse became the site of the Cabrillo National Monument in 1913. During World War II, the Navy used it as a signal tower. Today the lighthouse remains the central feature of the Point Loma Preserve.

California Historical Landmark #51

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Memento

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Code Expiration: November 11, 2011

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Wilco - Whole Love

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Wilco - Whole Love

Code Expiration: December 23, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 PAL Flag Football SEAS versus Holy Rosary

While I was in New Zealand, Jack's flag football team, the SEAS Eagles beat St. Ignatius on September 11. Their only loss in divisional play last year was to St. Ignatius.

With the Outlaws playing baseball in Manteca, Jack chose to play flag football at Jesuit High School. The SEAS Eagles played Holy Rosary. They beat Holy Rosary handily last year.

On offense, Jack played wide receiver. With Joe playing quarterback, Jack caught three long touchdown passes. On two of the catches, Jack was running a GO pattern and Joe hit Jack in stride for the touchdown. Joe threw a dying duck that Jack went up and caught in a crowd for the third touchdown. There was actually a fourth long touchdown catch that was called back because Joe had crossed the line of scrimmage before he threw it. Jack also caught a short pass for a two point conversion. Jack was covered tightly in the end zone with a man in front of him, but Joe threw a bullet that Jack went up caught. While Jack is not particularly tall, he was a head taller than Holy Rosary's defensive backs.

Jack also returned both of Holy Rosary's kickoffs [half-time and after their only score]. Both times, he was called for flag guarding. The first time for pushing off the defender [just after the picture above] and the second time for jumping.

On defense, Jack played defensive back. He had one interception. Jack also mistimed a jump for an interception and allowed a long reception. Holy Rosary failed to score as the clock ran out in the first half.

Jack played every down on offense and all but about four or five downs on defense. The only Holy Rosary score came on a pass when Jack was out of the game.

SEAS won the game by the score of 29 to 6. The record is now 2 wins and 0 losses.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Outlaws Baseball Tournament #13 Day 1

While I was in New Ze@land, Jack played in a baseball tournament on Saturday, September 10 and Sunday September 11. I hate not being there when Jack plays. At some point, I build a game log for the fall baseball season with the results and box scores.

This weekend, the Outlaws played in the TPR Baseball September Ends Tournament at Big League Dreams in Manteca. They played the Turlock Renegades in the first game. This is not a team that the Outlaws have faced before. While the Outlaws play as a AAA team, the Renegades were listed as a Major team. Watching them warm up, Randy, Ben and I were scratching your heads wondering how they could be rated as a Major team.

At the plate, Jack was 1 for 1 with one RBI, one run scored and two walks. In his first at-bat, Jack walked on five pitches. Struggling to find the strike zone, the Renegades starting pitcher walked the next three batters and scored Jack. They replaced the pitcher after seven consecutive walks. Jack had a great at-bat in his second plate appearance. With the count at two balls and two strikes, he fouled off four straight pitches before hitting a line drive in right center to score Jeremy. Jack tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second. In his third at-bat, Jack walked on four pitches and stole second. Josh hit a weak fly ball into left field that the left fielder trapped right in front of Jack. Seeing the ball bouce, Jack advanced to third. The field umpire ruled it a catch and Jack was doubled off second.

In the field, Jack played four innings at third base. He had on put-out and one assist. Jack caught a very high pop-up for the left side in the first inning for the put-out and fielded a grounder in the fourth and made the throw to first in the fourth inning for the assist. This is the first time I have seen him play on 80 foot bases and he does not seem bothered by the longer distance.

Collecting 11 hits and 9 walks, the Outlaws roughed up the Renegades by the score of 13 to 0 in four innings. The box score is here.

In the second game of the day, the Outlaws played the San Jose Cardinals. This is also a team that they have never faced before.

At the plate, Jack was 3 for 3 with two runs scored and three RBIs. In his first at-bat, he hit a 0 and 2 pitch in right center to drive in Aaron and Jeremy. Jack stole second and was thrown out trying to steal third. Jack lined a 2 and 2 pitch down the first base line to score Jeremy in his second plate appearance. He stole second and went to third on Josh's single. Jack scored on Breyton's single. In his third at-bat, Jack grounded a 0 and 3 pitch to right side. The second baseman knocked it down behind second base, but was unable to make a solid throw to first. Jack went to second on the throw. He went to third on an error on Josh's grounder and then scored to end the game on Breyton's fielder's choice. The game ended due to the time limit being reached.

In the field, Jack played five innings at third base. He had one put-out and two assists. Jack handled a high pop fly to the left side in the second inning. In the first inning, he fielded a grounder to the left side. The ball died on him, but he stayed with it and was able to throw the runner out at first. In the fifth inning, Jack made the last out of the game. He ranged far to his left to handle a grounder and throw the runner out at first.

The Outlaws won the game by the score of 6 to 0. The box score is here.

With two wins and no runs allowed in pool play, the Outlaws were seeded first and will play the San Jose Cardinals again in an elimination game on Sunday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 17

View from the room in Queenstown
Due to the time changes, this was a very odd day...

On the way to New Zealand, we lost a day. On the way home, we gained the day back...

We packed up and checked out of the room about 10 a.m. Most of the hotels required us to check out by 10 a.m. The remaining group, including Geselbracht and Barb, headed to the airport. Geselbracht and Barb will be staying until early October. We caught a 12:30 p.m flight from Queenstown to Auckland.

Most of us boarded a 5:15 p.m. Air New Zealand flight direct from Auckland to San Francisco. Hunter is flying home on Friday through Japan. Although the flight to New Zealand seemed to go faster, the flight home was uneventful. We landed in Sacramento at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday morning! We had left Queenstown at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

It took about 45 minutes to get through customs, collect the luggage and get out of the airport. Sharon picked me up and drove us home. It was very nice to have her drop me off and pick me up. With a stop for a bite to eat, it was after 1:00 p.m. by the time that we got to the house.

It was a great trip. Someday, I would like to go back to New Zealand with Sharon.

Touring with the group was a different experience. Thinking about it on the way home, I came to three conclusions. First, I am very comfortable with who and what I am; I am very comfortable in my own skin. Second, I appreciate my health. Finally, I value my marriage.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 16

After breakfast in hotel with Mitch, Annell and Swedberg, I spent the morning wandering the downtown shopping for gifts for Sharon and Jack. I found a couple of nice things for both of them.

Heading back to the room to drop off the purchases, I bumped into Hunter. He and I wandered back to the downtown and had a light lunch. The weather has been gorgeous over the last two days with clear skies and temperatures in the 60's.

We met up with the rest of the group after lunch. The plan for the day is to go jet boating on the upper Shotover River with Skippers Canyon Jets.

Have I mentioned recently how much I dislike heights? This excursion included an hour ride to the site along a canyon road with some very steep drop-offs. One other member of our group was even less happy with the heights than I was...

The boat trip was definitely worth the hassle to get there.

We spent about 40 minutes on the river. This is definitely something that I would bring Sharon and Jack back to do. After the boat trip, the bus went farther down the road and made a short stop at a swing bridge that had been used for bungy jumping. There were some amazing views of the river.

When we got back into town, the group headed to dinner at the Botswana Butchery. I had a rack of venison that was good, but not as good as Sharon made for the dinner party several years ago.

After dinner, the group headed to a pub to watch the Tonga versus Japan game. Tonga won by the score of 31 to 18. I wandered back to the hotel room in the first half. I am ready to head home to Sharon and Jack. We fly out of Queenstown tomorrow about 12:00 p.m.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 15

After breakfast at the hotel, Hunter, Tomasin and I walked through town to the Skyline Gondola and went up to Bob's Peak. The view from the top offers a 300 degree view of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. We stopped briefly at a bird park where they were feeding Kiwis, but decided we were short on time.

Back at the hotel, the Tomasin's loaded up their luggage and I drove them to the airport. This was my first experience of the trip driving! Tomasin and Julie are winding their way back to San Francisco. Most of the rest of the group leaves on Thursday. Geselbracht and Barb are staying until early October.

When I got back to the hotel, most of the remaining group headed back to the Skyline Gondola. I headed back up with them. From the top, Swedberg and I took off on a hike. We dropped down from the peak to the Fernhill Track. This loop trail winded its way up a canyon and topped out above the tree line with some spectacular views. At the highest point, we were just short of 3,000 feet, more than 2,000 feet about the lake. From the gondola and back to our hotel, we covered about 5.25 miles. I am looking forward to building a couple maps of the hikes when I get home.

Just as we hit the trail going back towards town, we ran into Ryan, the guide that took us kayaking on Sunday night in Milford Sound. He walked the rest of the way into town with us.

After getting cleaned up, Hunter and I had drinks and hors d'oeuvre with Geselbracht and Barb. The whole group finished the night watching Italy play Russia in Swedburg's room. We ordered pizzas from Winnie's. The game was a blow-out; Italy won by the score of 53 to 17. I got bored in the second half and wandered back to my room to go through the pictures from Milford Sound. Everyone was down early; I was in bed and asleep a little after 10 p.m.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Lady Antebellum - Just a Kiss

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Lady Antebellum - Just a Kiss

Code Expiration: December 16, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 14

It very hard to portray the scale of Milford Sound in pictures. At one point, we were sailing very close to a wall that was twice as high as the Empire State Building.

Overnight, the ship anchored in a cove in the sound. I got up before 6 a.m., showered and went up on deck to see the sun rise. Swedberg was the only other early riser.

After breakfast, the ship cruised the sound looking for penguins and seals. We got a chance to see a number of Crested Fiordland Penguins and some seals. The ship headed back out to the Tasman Sea. Along the way, the captain stopped at a number of waterfalls. At several points, he parked the front of the boat under the waterfall.

About halfway out the sound, the crew put up a couple of the sails. The ship went further out into the Tasman Sea than last night. Eventually turning around, we cruised back up the sound on the other side. It was a very nice morning. We got back to the dock and unloaded about 10:30 a.m. This is definitely one of the high points of the trip!

Back in the car with Tomasin, Julie, and Hunter, we headed to Queenstown. This was more than a four hour drive. We stopped and hiked at Mistletoe Lake and then had lunch in Te Anau. It was after 4:00 p.m. by the time we reached Queenstown.

We are starting the next three nights at the Scenic Hotel Queenstown. It is a very nice room with a kitchen, living area and balcony overlooking the downtown and the lake.

After getting settled, Hunter, Tomasin and I headed downtown to scout someplace to have dinner. Although the area seems a little like Lake Tahoe, the downtown is much nicer than any of the cities around Lake Tahoe, The downtown is right on the water with a wharf.

Eventually, the entire group got together for a late dinner on the waterfront. I am going to have to try and figure out the name of the place. I finally broke down and got rack of lamb. By the time, we ended the evening and headed home it was after 11:30 p.m.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 13

Up early Tomasin and I wandered around Te Anau. It is a very small town on a large lake; it reminded me of a smaller Tahoe City. It is almost spring in New Zealand and Te Anau is more of a summer resort town so it was very quiet.

After breakfast, we packed up the rooms; we had to be out of the hotel by 10:30 a.m. Most of the group spent some time shopping in the small town.

About noon, we took off for Milford Sound. We will be spending the night on a ship called the Milford Mariner. Traveling with Tomasin, Julie and Hunter, we made stops and took short walks at Mirror Lakes and The Chasm. We saw a pair of Keas, the only species of alpine parrots, at The Chasm. The last part of the drive is pretty spectacular, particularly the section leading up to the Homer Tunnel. We got to Milford Sound about 3:30 p.m. and boarded the boat about 4:30 p.m.

The boat holds more than 60 for overnight trips. There were only 22 people for our trip and we made up 12 of the total. Although I was supposed to share a room with Hunter, they were nice enough to give me a separate room at no charge. The boat cruised out the sound to the Tasman Sea and then anchored just inside the sound. Technically, the sound is actually a fjord.

At this point, they had water activities. Most of the group chose to go out in a tender for a nature tour. Swedburg and I went a guide named Ryan in kayaks. We spent more than an hour exploring the shore just the three of us. I had a great time. At one point, I chased the tender with the rest of our party in it. I am going to try and get some pictures of me in the kayak and of the boat with the sound in the background from some of the people in the tender.

Back on the boat, we got cleaned up for dinner. They served a great buffet dinner. After dinner, there was a nice slide show of Milford Sound. Tomasin, Hunter, Mitch and I finished the evening visiting on the upper deck until they shut everything down.


The Kea is a large species of parrot found in forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand; it is the world's only alpine parrot.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 World Cup Rugby Day 12

After three nights at Home Stay B&B's in Invercargill, we are starting north today. I had a lot of trepidation about the B&B when I first walked up to it, but it turned out o.k. This was due partially to the fact that we stayed pretty active and got out for the day.

It took us awhile to get going. By the time, we had breakfast with our hosts, packed and loaded the cars, it was after 10:30 a.m. We stopped to put more expensive gas in the van. Hunter and I spent some time at Starbucks logged on to the wireless, while Deb et al shopped. I was more impressed with downtown Invercargill than I expected to be.

Some of us met for lunch at O'Shea's Irish Pub for a quick bite to eat before the game. I ended up going with Tomasin to transfer some of the luggage to one of the vans; the luggage for four people will not fit into the one car that we have.

Afterwards, we headed to an afternoon rugby game. This is the last of the five Rugby World Cup matches that we will see. We saw Argentina play Romania. Argentina whopped Romania by the score of 43 to 8. We had general admission tickets and ended up standing in the south end zone. The weather was beautiful.

When the game was over, we loaded the cars and headed to Te Anau for the evening. We are spending one night at the Distinction Te Anau Hotel and Villas. After a couple of brief brushes with the law, we ended up in the The Moose next store to the hotel having a bite to eat and watching Ireland beat Australia by the score of 15 to 6.

Although I usually pack enough clothes so that I don't have to do laundry, I got my pants very dirty on the Stewart Island hike. Consequently, I decided to wash a couple of pairs of jeans. By the time that the laundry was done and I got down to bed, it was almost 12:30 a.m. We are heading to Milford Sound tomorrow.

Friday, September 16, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 11

The plan for the day was to head to Steward Island. After a quick breakfast, we were out the door by 8:30 a.m. and headed to Bluff to catch the ferry. It is an hour ferry ride from Bluff to Stewart Island. We took the 9:30 a.m. ferry and were on the island about 10:30 a.m. The first half of the ride was pretty rough; there were 4 to 6 foot seas.

Once on the island, the group split up. Swedberg and I found the information center. They recommended a hike called Ryan's Creek. We covered about 7 miles in a little more than three hours. A large part of the hike was near the shore of Peterson's Inlet. It was a little muddy. We got back into town a little before 2:00 p.m. and got lunch at the pub near the ferry building. I really enjoyed the hike.

While Swedburg and I were hiking, Tomasin, Julie, Hunter and Deb took an excursion to Ulva Island. They were disappointed with this tour; they did not see any wild life. While they did not see anything, Swedberg and I at least saw a New Zealand Pigeon (picture below) and lots of deer tracks.

After they got back, Tomasin, Hunter, Swedburg and I checked out the pub. Tomasin and Hunter played pool against a couple of local fishermen. One of my few regards of the trip is that we did not spend the night on Steward Island and close down the pub. I think that we could have had a tremendous time hanging out with the locals. Unfortunately, we could not get the hotel arrangements in Invercargill lined out in order to make the excursion; the B&B's would not let us split up nights.

The group caught the 3:30 p.m. ferry back to Bluff. While rough, the sea was calmer than it was in the morning.

We went straight to the Marist Rugby Club to watch Oregon State play Marist. Oregon State got beat up pretty badly; they were outscored by 5 or 6 trys to 1. After hanging out in the Marist clubhouse for a bit, we headed to Cobb & Co to watch the USA versus Russia rugby game and have some dinner. The USA beat Russia by the score of 13 to 6. Most of us headed back to the B&B's and were done for the night after the game was over.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 10

Although we got a very slow start to the day, I was very satisfied with the end result. Hunter, Deb, Swedberg and I had breakfast at the B&B. Waiting for Hunter and Deb to get ready after breakfast, it took us a while to get on the road. We made a stop for gas; it costs almost $8.00 a gallon. From there, we headed to the Starbucks. It claims to be the Southern most Starbucks in the World. Talking to Geselbracht later, he pointed out that the latitude is about similar to Vancouver, British Columbia.

It took a while to drag Hunter away from the wifi and his email, but eventually we started towards the Catlins. I was not paying attention to the GPS or my iPhone we got started off slightly in the wrong direction.

The plan for the day was to head to Curio Bench. When we were almost there, Swedberg spotted Tomasin's car at the Niagara Falls Cafe. Tomasin had texted me earlier that they were also planning to head for the Catlins. We joined the Tomasin's and the Geselbracht's for lunch.

From there we headed to Curio Beach. This beach is home to a petrified forest. I was not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised at the number of petrified trees that you could see in the rock. Hunter and I spent some time exploring the length of the beach. I was amazed at how much child like wonder Hunter brings to this kind of experience; it was like exploring the beach with an 8 year old

The next stop was McLean Falls. This was a 40 minute hike through what felt like a tropical rainforest up to a very nice waterfall. The vegetation was very different than anything that we had seen so far in New Zealand. The waterfalls exceeded my expectations.

We wound our way back to the B&B and then headed to the Ascot Place Sports Bar to watch the USA versus Russia World Cup Rugby game. We finally got the whole group together for the first time in a couple of days. USA won the game by the score of 13 to 6.

After the game, the group dwindled in size. I got home and to bed about 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 9

Tomasin and I wandered the grounds of the castle before breakfast. After breakfast in the carriage house, we packed up and loaded up the cars.

The group spent two hours exploring downtown Dunedin. The main square is shaped like an Octagon. Wandering around with Tomasin and Julie, we eventually wandered down to the train station (pictured above) and then headed back to the cars.

It was a two and half hour drive from Dunedin to Invercargill. We made a quick stop for lunch along the way. It is interesting country. Most of the road was rolling green hills with thousands and thousands of sheep. I have never seen so many sheep in my life. It is spring in New Zealand and there are baby lambs everywhere.

We are spending the next three nights in a Home Stay Bed and Breakfast. The group is spread out over three different B&B's. Hunter and I plus the Swedberg's are staying at one place, Tomasin's and Geselbracht's are at another and the Wren's and Holland's are at a third. This will be a little different.

After getting to the B&B, unloading and having a quick bite with our hosts, we took off the rugby game. We saw Scotland play Georgia at Rugby Park Stadium. It started to drizzle just after kick-off, but Hunter and I were about 20 rows up and very dry and comfortable under the roof.

In game full of penalty kicks, Scotland beat Georgia by the score of 15 to 6. We were sitting in section packed with loud Scot's.

After the game, we split the group up into two vans. While one van headed back to the B&B's, the other stopped at Cobb & Co. It was after midnight by the time I was back to the place that we are staying and out for the night.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 8

Up fairly early, I wandered the grounds of the castle and took a few pictures. After yesterday's rain, the morning was very nice: clear, cold and windy. Our stay at the castle includes breakfast. After breakfast in the carriage house, the entire group loaded up and headed off to explore the Otega Peninsula.

The goal for the day was to see penguins. We headed to Penguin Place. After a brief talk on the penguins, we loaded into the bus and headed towards the beach. We ended up seeing about a dozen yellow eyed penguins, a couple of seals and two blue penguins. They have a series of blinds and houses built on the beach. These penguins traditionally live in the forest. The organization is working on restoring the habitat. In total we spent over two hours here. It rained for about an hour in the middle of the tour. While I had some initial trepidation about how much we would get to see, I was very satisfied with the end result!

From there, we continued up the peninsula to the Royal Albatross Center. After some debate about who was going to do what, Tomasin, Hunter, Deb and I went on the Albatross and fort tour. After a brief film, we went to a hilltop observation center. We got a chance to watch two eight month old chicks work on their first attempt to fly. It was very cool. From there, we took a tour of Fort Talaroa and the Armstrong Disappearing Gun. This was also definitely worth the price of admission.

Afterwards, Tomasin, Hunter, Deb, Julie and I had lunch at the Portabella Hotel Bistro. Most of us had a nice bowl of seafood chowder.

By the time, we got back to the castle, it after 4:00 p.m. Geselbracht and Barb had arrived. The size of the group is now twelve.

For the second straight night, we had dinner in the castle. I had beef. We were in a different room than the previous night with two Australian couples. It turned out that the husband of the older couple sitting across from us was a vet who known someone that Hunter knew at Davis and was from the same small town as Tomasin's cousins. Although the service was slow and we had to listen to the story about the castle for the second time, I enjoyed the evening.

We are heading south tomorrow to Invercargill.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern [book]

Code Expiration: October 28, 2011

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Bobby - We Saw

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Code Expiration: December 9, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 7

view from the room!

This is a travel day. I set for alarm for 4:50 a.m. We loaded into the van at 5:45 a.m. for the trip to the airport. We are flying from Auckland to Dunedin on the South Island. Julie wandered up to the gate about 15 minutes before boarding. She left San Francisco on Saturday night and landed in Auckland about 5:40 a.m. on Monday morning. The group is now 10 strong.

We took caught a 7:15 a.m. flight. We were on the ground about 9:00 a.m. Collecting the luggage, we headed to the rental car terminal The group has three cars for the next ten days.

At the rental car counter, the person suggested Capers for a late breakfast. It was about a 35 minute drive into downtown Dunedin. With Tomasin, Hunter and I in one car, we successfully found our way to the restaurant. With Tomasin driving and me navigating, it was a little bit of an adventure. Driving on the left side of the road is going to be interesting!

After breakfast, we wandered briefly though the downtown. This would be an interesting place to explore, but i am not sure that we are going to get much of a chance. We are spending the next two nights at Larnach Castle which is about 10 miles out of town up a winding road.

We eventually found our way to the castle and checked in. The rooms were not ready yet so we had a couple of beers in the cafe. When we finally got into the rooms, we ended up having a lazy afternoon. With the rain coming down hard, we stayed close to the rooms. There are 12 rooms in the old stable buildings with some amazing views of the bay. After having my own room for the first four nights, I will be bunking with Hunter for at least the next two nights. Hunter and I spent an hour or two divining the mysteries of life. I wandered out for a few minutes in the rain to get some pictures of the castle.

Our stay includes dinner in the castle both of the next two nights. I chose lamb rump. We headed down for cocktails at 6:30 p.m. The group for dinner included the ten of us plus a newly wed couple and a welsh father and son pair. It was a lively and interesting evening. I have to admit that I got more than a little animated by the end of the dinner.

Hunter and I finished the night talking to Julie in her and Tomasin's room before finally crashing about 11:00 p.m. The plan for tomorrow is to explore the Otega Peninsula and see penguins!

To Dunedin

Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 6

Over the first three days on the ground in New Zealand, we have had great weather. About 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I woke up with the wind blowing hard. Sleeping a little later, I eventually wandered down to breakfast. It started to rain during breakfast.

With an earlier rugby game in the afternoon, my plan for the morning was to visit the Auckland Museum. Tomasin decided to tag along. At this point, it was raining very hard. We grabbed a cab up to the museum and spent about 2 hours wandering over the three floors. My high points were the Maori artifacts and the display of the giant indigenous birds. Tomasin and I also sat through an odd interactive display that illustrated the impact if a volcano erupted in the Auckland harbor.

When we left the museum, it was pouring. We caught a cab back to the hotel.

Swedberg arranged for a van to pick us up at 1:30 p.m. and take us to the Australia versus Italy game. Due to some miscommunication problems, Tomasin ended up with about 4 extra tickets. I kept him company outside the stadium while he tried to sell them, including a brush with an undercover officer and a lengthy discussion with the police.

For the first time on the trip, I sat with Swedberg and his wife Deb. We had seats on the third deck just about the 50 yard line. I enjoyed sitting on the side because I felt like I could see the plays develop. With the score tied 6 to 6 after 52 minutes, Australia pulled away to win by the score of 32 to 6.

We caught the van back to the hotel and watched the second half of the USA versus Scotland game. Deb made a pasta dinner for the group in the kitchenette.

With a very early start planned for the next day, I crashed in the room about 11:15 p.m.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 5

After a continental breakfast at the hotel, Tomasin and I caught a cab to the Ferry Building. The plan for the day was to take the 9:15 a.m. ferry to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto is the youngest and largest island volcano just off the Auckland Coast. Like Friday, the weather was very nice: clear skies and surprisingly warm.

It was an hour hike to the top. From the summit, there were spectacular 360 degree views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf Islands. The volcano has a fairly large crater.
On the way back down from the summit, we explored a side trail that included a series of lava caves.
We hiked back down to the wharf and caught the 12:45 p.m. ferry back to Auckland. We had some mexican food for lunch near the ferry building and then caught a cab back to the hotel.

Swedberg arranged a van to take the group to the evening's rugby team. We saw France versus Japan at the North Harbor Stadium. This stadium was about 30 minute drive north to the suburb of Albany. It was a very competitive game. With France leading by the score of 25 to 21 with about 10 minutes to go, they scored three quick trys to put the game out of reach and win by the score of 42 to 21.
We had arranged for the van to come back and pick us up after the game. We headed back to Parnell Road and had a late bite to eat at the Ivory Bar watching England narrowly beat Argentina. I wandered back to the hotel fairly early and was in bed and out about 10:30 p.m.

Friday, September 09, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 4

This turned into a very long day. Up early, we had a continental breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards, we had a van take us to the ferry building. While there was initially some debate, at the last minute, everyone in the group decided to go wine tasting on Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island is about a 35 minute fast ferry ride from the downtown. The weather was absolutely beautiful: clear skies and temperature in the 60's. A tour bus picked us at the dock. The first stop was a high point with views of the island, surrounding islands and the bay. From there, we made stops at three wineries: Kennedy Point, Wild on Waiheke (also a brewery) and Stony Ridge. We had lunch at the Stony Ridge Winery.

We caught a packed 2:00 p.m. ferry back to the harbor. When we got back to the downtown, it was crawling with people there for the opening ceremonies. Tomasin and I caught a cab back to the hotel to drop off some wine and sell a couple extra tickets to Friday night's game.

We walked back to the downtown and then started along the fan trail. Eventually, we caught up with part of the group. The fan trail turned out to be a little bit of a death march. It was a marked trail all the way from the downtown to the Eden Park Stadium with a few bands and other activities along the way. I think that it was marked as less than 2 miles, but felt a lot further.

Eventually, we got to the stadium and our seats. They had an hour long opening ceremony focusing on New Zealand themes followed by the game. New Zealand ran over Tonga and won the game by a score of 41 to 10.

With New Zealand way ahead, Tomasin and I wandered off in the second half and, after a little bit of an adventure, caught a cab back to Parnell Road. We finished the night with a late dinner at Non Solo Pizza watching the end of the game on a big screen. By the time I got back to the hotel and down for the night, it was after 11:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup - Day 3

In spite of a pretty full plane, I ended up having a row to myself on the flight from San Francisco to Auckland. I was able to stretch and get some sleep.

After a 12 hour flight and a 19 hour time change, we were on the ground at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday. It took us about an hour and a half to get through customs, collect our luggage and get to the hotel. As part of the tour, there was a van waiting at the airport to take us to the hotel.

Dropping our luggage at the hotel, we walked about 20 minutes to the waterfront and the downtown. Both Tomasin and I bought jersey's for Mikey and Jack. We found a place to have breakfast and then headed to Sky City to pick up our game tickets for the next two weeks. We will be seeing five games over the next 10 days, including three in Auckland and two in Invercargill.

Heading back to the hotel to check-in, Tomasin and I took off cross country over a couple of hills and through several parks and a university campus. It turns out that I may have my own room for part of the tour. Swedberg's sister and her boyfriend cancelled at the last minute and at least some of the rooms were prepaid. There is an extra room that I am using for the next four nights rather than bunking with Hunter.

After getting checked in, we finally caught up with Hunter. Hunter, Tomasin and I headed to Parnell Road near the hotel to explore. We had a light lunch at a very nice causal Italian place (I am going to have to figure out the name later) and then pub crawled down the street. We ended up talking to the chaplain for the USA Rugby team.

From there, we found a market and got some provisions. The rooms have small kitchens with little refrigerators. I am actually pleasantly surprised by the rooms. They are big with a sitting area and a view of the Auckland harbor.

The Swedberg's and Holland's headed down to the harbor for dinner. Eventually, we grabbed a cab and caught up with them at the restaurant. While Hunter wandered off, Tomasin and I caught a cab back to the hotel. After being on the move since Tuesday morning and only sleeping a little on the plane, I crashed hard in the room a little after 9:00 p.m.

To Auckland

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 2

New Zealand is 19 hours ahead of California. Combining the 13 hour flight late Tuesday with the crossing of the international date line, we are scheduled to land in Auckland at 5:40 a.m. on Thursday. We essentially lose Wednesday. We will gain the day back at the end of the trip when we arrive back in California at 10:00 a.m. after leaving New Zealand at noon!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

2011 Rugby World Cup Day 1

Twenty years ago next month, Tomasin and I spent ten days in Ireland, Wales and England playing rugby and watching three games of the 1991 Rugby World Cup. We traveled with about 30 people under the banner of the Tennessee Long Rifles. In October, I am going to post the itinerary from that trip along with the few pictures that I have.

About a year ago, Tomasin called me and said that he and Swedberg were putting together a small group to go to New Zealand for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The group includes the Tomasin's, Geselbracht's, Swedberg's, Holland's (from Jackson Mississippi), Wren's (from Santa Rosa), Hunter and I. I get the pleasure of rooming with Hunter for the next two weeks!

Eight of us left San Francisco at 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday night on a direct flight to Auckland. Julie and the Geselbracht's will be joining us early next week in Dunedin, while Hunter flew out early for a few days in Thailand. We will be spending four days in and around Auckland on the north island before jumping to the south island with stops in Dunedin, Invercargill, Te Anu, Milford Sound and Queenstown. We are seeing the opening ceremonies of the 2011 Rugby World Cup on Friday night immediately followed by a game with the host New Zealand All Blacks playing Tonga.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Hugh Laurie - Police Dog Blues

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Hugh Laurie - Police Dog Blues

Code Expiration: December 2, 2011