Visiting Orange County

I’m a bit disappointed with how this picture came out. It didn’t look as smoggy as this does. I was down in OC for more than a week, and I was surprised at how clear it was. It seems to me that back in the 80’s the mountain’s didn’t come out so much.

Right after taking this picture I decided to find myself some good chocolate. I looked up chocolatier on my phone and it came up with 3. One was closed (it was coming up on 7PM) and two were Godiva. I certainly didn’t want to go to some mall and visit Godiva.

On a wild hair I decided to call the place that was closed. Guy picks up.
“Oh, hey – google said you’re closed. Are you really open?”
“Yeah. Usually we’re closed by now, but sometimes…”
“Great! How long will you be open?”
“Oh, ’til about 7:30.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I get there in about 10 minutes. It’s in one of these light industry strips. I step in and they have the front 12 feet sectioned off as a little store/presentation area. The work obviously goes on in the back. The guy comes up front and greets me.
“Hi! Are you the guy that called a few minutes ago?”
“Yup!”
“Here, have some chocolate – what kind would you like? Is this your first time in our store?”
“Something dark, please – yes… And it will probably be my last, too.”

He’s really friendly – maybe just a few years older than I. His wife (obviously) has appeared from the back. He looks at me concerned.
“Oh. Why is that?”
“I live a long ways away from here.”
“How far – where do you live?”
“I live in San Luis Obispo – “
She chimes in: “I left my heart in San Luis Obispo!”

They moved from SLO to Orange County about 30 years ago. Couldn’t find a job in SLO (a common complaint). They’ve been in the chocolate business for 26 years. Still go back to SLO a couple of times a year to visit friends. We chatted for a while; nicest couple you could hope to meet. It was just what I was hoping for in a chocolatier.

If you’re looking for good (and kosher!) chocolate that ships anywhere: http://www.luisachocolatiere.com/

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Dear Chicago

Dear Chicago,

Ellyn and I really enjoyed our week long visit a few weeks ago.

We enjoyed your grand architecture and rivers.

And we liked all the public art.

The art museums, too.

And the other museums.

We enjoyed your many green strips within the city.

But we could have done without the 90+ degree temperatures during the day and into the evening with 50-60%+ humidity.

Next time we come back it’ll be the spring or fall!

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Kurt & Ellyn go to the beach

Ellyn and I stopped off in Santa Barbara the other week and visited the beach (first picture). Wow, I picked up a lot of tar on my feet. Scraped a bunch off, but still had a lot. The internet informed me that you can get it off with oil – any kind! Mineral, vegetable, olive… Ellyn poured about 1/4″ into the little rectangular bucket she uses for foot soaks and I put my feet in and a few minutes later it was all gone! ‘Course I then had oily feet, so shower time. Next time maybe olive oil.

Today was the first real summery day, so we went to Morro Bay and walked up and down the strand.

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Carrizo Plain with Mom

We’ve got lots of rain this year, so we decided to take Mom out to Carrizo Plain National Monument. I think it’s going to peak next week, but it was pretty spectacular.

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Vancouver

Ellyn and I visited Vancouver for the first time back in January. We did it sort of as a last minute thing. We both had some vacation time and a wild hair, so we took off! Without much of a plan – which worked out pretty well.

We got super lucky with the weather. Vancouver is supposed to be always rainy and it was mostly clear for us. A little rain one day and a bunch a couple of nights.

We ate a bunch of good Chinese food. We wandered around the city. We saw a bunch of pacific north west art. And we generally had a great time.

I think the highlight for me was going up to the top of Grouse Mountain and snowshoeing. The base of the mountain is just about 25 minutes from downtown via public transit – which is pretty cool. Then up the gondola.

Snowshoeing was amazing. It had been pretty warm for the previous couple of weeks with no new snow, so it was super spring conditions – hard pack with lots of ice. Snowshoes have these little kind of spiky things on the bottom, so you don’t slip. Ellyn kept asking what I was grinning about. We would walk up these 20-30 degree inclines that I knew were impossible without ending up on your butt a dozen times with no problem at all.

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An eventful day

Yesterday was an eventful day for me.  It started out with a particularly productive day at work.  Nice when that happens.  It was interrupted by a SpaceX launch.

No, they didn’t launch from the top of Cerro San Luis, though it kind of looks like it from the picture!  I had no idea viewing might be that good from the driveway.  I will be less motivated to drive down to Vandenberg in the future – though watching the landing there a couple of months back was really awesome.  I was able to see all the way through the first stage and some of the positioning jets firing during the return.  Then the second stage lit up and I could see that for a bit.  Next time, binoculars!

The next thing to happen was that I was able to see Venus, which was pretty close to the crescent moon, after watching the launch.  It looked just like a star, hanging there in the middle of the day – I had no idea what it was.  I checked back 30 minutes later and it was still near the moon in the same spot.  And again an hour after that.  Thanks to my friend Mark for pointing out it had to be Venus.  Anyway, it was visible until much after noon when we had some clouds roll in.

Finally, I experienced a kidney stone.  I don’t recommend it.  At 5:15PM I thought I had gas.  At 5:45 I sent Ellyn off to have dinner with Mom & Sis with my apologies.  By 6:30 I thought it was food poisoning.  Around 7 I had no idea, but there had been no movement, so to speak, and I was in quite a lot of pain.  Ellyn got home about 8, collected me, and we went to the hospital.  She knew it was serious when she suggested that’s where we were going and I said “yup” with no discussion.  I visited the ER, got all the best drugs, and was feeling no pain.  They did a CT scan and urine sample and gave me the news.  Turns out it was quite close to the bladder (which is good news, since that means it’s nearly passed).  We went home, I took some more drugs, and went to bed.  This morning all was fine.

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Half a century

Last week I turned 50.  That’s older than I ever imagined being, and it’s older than I imagine I am.  Maybe that’s because I think of 50 as old but I don’t think of myself as old.

50 years is both a long period of time and a short one.

It’s funny to look back.  I don’t really think of a time before computers and after.  Computers didn’t meaningfully  exists – to me – until I was about 12.  Maybe that’s too young to matter.  Cell phones didn’t exist until I was about 30.  I don’t really think of a time before cell phones and a time after – they are just something that happened along the way.  I do distinctly remember being handed a cell phone and not knowing how to use it.

It’s funny the things that happened that I don’t think about.  Everyone knows that cell phones are recent.  But I mentioned to a “young” co-worker that I skied growing up and he asked if I meant skiing or snow boarding.  I explained that snow boarding did not exist – and that was a revelation to him.  Is that what it is to be old?  To know when things came into being?  To have experienced transitions that younger folks don’t realize happened?

Looking externally, the world has changed much more and much less than one might hope.  Growing up, the threat of nuclear annihilation was absolutely real.  Just a given.  Not so much any more.  Russia was the big enemy.  Germany was divided.  South Africa was under apartheid.  None of that was going to change without a lot of bloodshed.  But it all did and with practically none.  When I was born we were at war with Vietnam.  Nobody had walked on the moon.  The world population was about 3.5 billion.

The year before I was born – 1967 – there were still 15 states with ‘Anti-miscegenation laws’ (barring interracial marriage).  Which is crazy from both perspectives.  As a nation we argue about the validity of complaints about the treatment of people of color, but anyone older than 60 can remember a time where it was illegal in about 1/3 of the states to marry someone ‘of the wrong race’.  On the one hand it’s nice to think we should just get over it.  On the other hand it’s shocking to think that we should already be over it.

50 years before I was born it was 1918.  It was WWI.  Airplanes were brand spanking new.  Automobiles were very recent.  Nobody had climbed Mt. Everest.  Television was not a thing.  Plastics were not a thing.  Interracial marriage was illegal in most states (which  did not yet include Hawaii & Alaska).  Women did not yet get to vote nationally.  The theory of continental drift was roundly rejected (pun intended).  The world population was about 1.9 billion.

There are people that are 100 years old.

150 years ago – just 3 of my lives back to back – it was 1868.  5 years into the reconstruction after the American civil war.  Radio is not yet invented.  The electric bulb is not yet invented.  I guess people read a lot.

This country is just short of 250 years old.  That seems like a long time, and maybe it is.  But it’s just 5 of my life spans back to back.  Maybe I’m old and that’s a really long time.  But that’s not how I feel.  I feel like there have been a lot of changes very very recently and we really don’t have all that much experience.

I look back and I’m impressed with all the progress we’ve made.  I’m aghast at where we started.  I’m shocked at how well things are going in general.  I’m frustrated that they aren’t going better.  I’m hopeful because we haven’t all killed each other and in general most  things really do seem to be going in the right direction.  Slowly, and yet insanely quickly.

Is being old the ability to blather on for a long time?  If so, I’ve been old for a while 🙂

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