Thursday, November 29, 2012

October 2010: Signs Everywhere!

Hmm. In my, eh, haste to keep my blog from falling more than two years behind, I overlooked these pictures I took in Seattle. They were actually taken in July, not October, but I'm including them here. Chronologically speaking, they should have appeared somewhere between Stone Mountain Redux July 2010 and July 2010 Travels in New Mexico - Part I.

The sun is setting here. When I took these, I was traveling to Seattle a good bit. So much so that these pictures were about the only ones I took in downtown Seattle. Now two years later I don't travel much anymore, so these might be the last pictures of Seattle I take for a long time, maybe forever.

These are also probably among the last pictures in my blog here that will have been taken with my old Kodak C875 camera, because it was around this time that I started using my still-current camera, a Kodak Z915. These are both point-and-shoot cameras with some options, so don't be expecting any DSLR wonderment here. Although the Z915 had more megapixels and zoom, maybe some different picture-taking options, and would actually operate on two AA batteries, I have this nagging sense that my C875 was a little easier to operate and might have taken slightly better quality pictures than the Z915 at an equivalent resolution. I think the first blog post that featured pictures I took using my C875 was the one titled "International Pool & Spa Expo and Backyard Living Expo" in November of 2006. So that's about a four year run for my old camera, which I think I bought on sale. Not bad!

"This is the city. Los Angeles California. I work here." Or did. For a few days. Two years ago.

It was early that morning in the City of Angels. I was working the counter at Scan-N-Go. My name is Wilson. I wear a badge.

OK. That's about as far as I am going to take that. This is my room at the Westin Bonaventure. It was a nice hotel. I rode in the same elevator that Schwarzenegger rode a horse into in True Lies. I worked in the lobby of the Los Angeles Convention Center where Jackie Chan filmed the end of Rush Hour.

The Westin was nice, but here's the thing . . . do you see the convention center anywhere in these pictures? No. Why? Because it's a mile away, that's why. Every morning I set out on a brisk 15-minute walk. The streets were empty. Nobody gets up that early in California.

One night I heard a helicopter outside my window. It just hovered there for the longest time. This picture is about how it looked outside at the time.

So I set the camera for a long exposure. It turned out it was a police helicopter, just hanging around with its lights off. I don't know what they were doing. Eventually they just flew off into the night.

I have been waiting two years to post this picture on my blog! My brother was going to school at UCLA's Anderson School of Management at the time. It's kind of crazy, but we were both a couple blocks off of the same road (Wilshire Boulevard) at the same time, only I was in Los Angeles and he was in Santa Monica about 15 miles away. So after I finished up the show, I met up with him and he drove me back to his apartment. I was opening the refrigerator to get some milk, I think, and this is exactly what I found. Pizza and beer. This is not staged at all. It was an absolutely iconic bachelor fridge. Awesome!

Here is my brother, removed from his man cave, standing in front of the Batcave!

And here I am. Now, in spite of the fact that I know where the Batcave is, I am not the Batman. I have gone over this before. Naturally, there is a geocache here, and naturally, I hunted and found it.

The cave is man-made (duh, of course!) and is also known as the Bronson Caves, which name is, according to Wikipedia, indirectly related to Charles Bronson. For those keeping score, that is the third action-movie star I've named in this action-packed episode of my blog. It's a regular Hollywood blockbuster!


The Batcave is actually in Griffith Park, which is also home to the Hollywood Sign, and the Griffith Observatory, shown here. There was some sort of function--a donor appreciation function, I think--going on at the observatory at the time, so all of the observing we did was on the outside without the aid of a telescope.

There is lots to see from Griffith Park, but as you can see, it was a bit cloudy and foggy that day. I still managed to find some geocaches, though!

I also saw a coyote--I think, you tell me--in the middle of this park, which I will remind you is municipal park outside of downtown Los Angeles. Go figure.

I also saw a raven. I'm really not used to seeing ravens in the wild. This one was pretty big.

So the sun was setting on my visit to Los Angeles. I said goodbye to my brother and . . .

Hello to Tucson, Arizona! Arizona was the second stop on my "the border is out of control" tour. The first was El Paso, where a stray bullet from Mexico wound up in City Hall. I meant to see more of Tucson, but there were absolutely no rental cars available at the airport when I landed, which was a first for me. So I had to wait until the next day when one--one--became available at a downtown Enterprise location. I was looking for a four-wheel-drive vehicle; what I got was a Toyota Yaris, which is a subcompact. But at least I had transportation! There were some scratches on the car door when I returned it. I don't know if they were there before or not, but the Enterprise manager came out and said they weren't into the paint and could be buffed out, so they didn't charge me for any damage! What a relief! If I go back to Tucson, I will rent from Enterprise!

Transportation was important, since one of my main plans was to seek out a particular geocache in the Sonoran Desert National Monument, south of I-8. The cache name is, appropriately, Signs, although it's named after signs on the ground, not the ones posted all around. The cache was not on this mountain, I just passed it on my way to the cache. I would bet there was one on that mountain somewhere, though!

This is the road into where the cache was placed. Did I mention I was in a Yaris? A two-wheel-drive subcompact car?

I mentioned that this was south of I-8. Part of the reason I wanted to travel in this area south of I-8 was to find one of these ridiculous signs. This sign is our federal government telling its citizens that it has lost control of the land in the national monument and that we would be safer leaving it to the drug runners and human traffickers to use. Unreal. The BLM was "surprised" at the negative reaction the signs got from people. This is unacceptable.

Smuggling operations are rampant in this part of the country. In fact, as I went further off road into the park, a beat-up gray pickup truck with these two young guys in it came barreling out of some other part of the park onto the trail road and drove past me headed out of the park. The passenger in the truck looked at me kind of wide-eyed--although I don't know if that is because I had just stumbled into their smuggling operation or if it was because I was off road out in the middle of the park in a Yaris. Or maybe it was both. That was weird encounter number one. I don't remember if it was before or after I came across this sign, warning me again. I think if it came down to the beat-up truck vs. my Yaris, I am afraid the truck would win rather easily, in pretty much whatever kind of contest would happen out here.

Should I mention that I was in the Yaris again? It was around this sign, I think, that I became aware of a propeller-driven plane circling the area, kind of at a low altitude, as if they were maybe searching for something or somebody. I never did bother to look up. I figured they weren't looking for me and I for sure knew I wasn't looking for anybody out here. I'm counting that as weird encounter number two.

So, after all of the signs and the close encounters of the odd kind, I arrived at my destination. That's the hood of my Yaris in the bottom of the picture. I now wish I had taken a picture of it!

And here is the view looking towards the back of the car. Did I mention that the path to the cache was off the off-road trail road? Go Yaris!

And the view to the left, with the corresponding corner of the driver-side door in the lower part of the frame. Hmm. Should I also mention that half-way into the drive into the park, the check engine light came on?

And the view to the right. There is not a lot here, huh!

Ah, but there is a cache here! So honestly, with the pickup truck bouncing around somewhere out in the park, and the plane circling somewhere overhead, and the car engine maybe getting ready to self-destruct, I kind of hurried up my signature in the log book, quickly replaced the cache in the tree, and got on my way out of the area. On my way out of the park, I passed a group of three law enforcement officers, one of whom was staring through binoculars back at where I came from. One of them looked at me briefly while I was driving by, but they were clearly looking for somebody else. Weird encounter number three. And then, just as I was exiting the park and getting back onto a paved road, there is this guy standing there, dressed like he was from an episode of Miami Vice, leaning up against a large white BMW sedan smoking a cigarette, just sort of hanging out by the road. Weird encounter number four. I have no idea what I was in the middle of there. It was just a bizarre series of encounters. But I got back out onto the Interstate OK, and once I got moving again, the check engine light went out. I was done with my border adventures and headed home!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 2010 Primary; My 40th Birthday Party; a Geocache; and Poolesville Day 2010

Catching up with my blog again in a race to keep it from falling over two years behind. So as I promised in June 2011, this is a brief history in pictures of the 2010 campaign season and my run for Congress. This is a picture of my e-bumper-sticker in my car window. I thought it was a neat alternative to trying to distribute ordinary bumper stickers. I figured everybody who wanted one could have one whenever they wanted one. I never did do any tracking to see how many people actually downloaded it. I still think it's a neat idea. My aunt and uncle took it a step further and printed out not only the e-bumper-sticker, but also copied an article on my candidacy and taped that below the e-bumper-sticker! That was cool!

These are the traditional yard signs I encountered as I made my way to the Washington County Republican Club picnic. I probably should have gone early, but for some reason--probably work--I didn't. About half the candidates whose signs you see here lost.

This truck window didn't have any room left for one my e-bumper-stickers. Half the candidates with stickers here lost, too.

I wound up sitting at the picnic table with the staff of the local Bartlett office. I got to have a nice chat with Mrs. Bartlett, anyway. The emcee at the event announced all of the candidates present for all of the offices that were up that year--except me. I didn't make a fuss. Most of the people there knew me anyway.

A couple weeks after that, I arrived in Pangborn Park for a 40th birthday party.

That would be my 40th birthday.

That means I get cake!

Another fun idea I had (at least I thought so) was to create signs for kids to color in. I wondered a little bit if kids really would color in letters of a sign instead of a cartoon. I discovered with my trial run at my picnic that kids will in fact color in anything. Here Caleb, the son of my friends Jason and Stephanie, takes a break from coloring his sign to have his picture taken.

Emily, his sister, was more diligent in her coloring.

I also discovered that kids' parents will color right along with them. This was done by Stephanie.

What I thought was that people could put these in their windows like this. This would be fantastically better than a bunch of preprinted yard signs. My goal was to give people who were committed to the process a way to be personally involved. It seemed like people were motivated to take things into their own hands for the elections of 2010. I wanted to give those people a way to do that!

This is from the sample Republican primary ballot for 2010. I received 3,860 votes, which worked out to 5.5% of the total. I actually finished third in Frederick County, which was interesting. There are no prizes for second, or third, or fourth place, however. Bartlett went on to easily defeat the Democratic challenger in November.

Since I wasn't going to be campaigning anymore after the primary, that gave me time to do some geocaching! I went over to HCC to find a new cache there and to see if I could rescue an old one that I had found before. When I got to the campus, I was greeted by heavy machinery like this.

This bulldozer sits where once a bunch of trees sat. It was making way for a parking lot, which has since been completed.

Unfortunately, it rather indiscriminately plowed away the cache with the trees, it seems. The hand points to where the cache should have been, surrounded by trees and brush. There was no rescuing this cache! I think it was an ammo can cache, too. That's too bad! Construction on campus claimed a couple caches that I had found before.

I found this cache while my car was being bombarded by stinkbugs. They were everywhere and apparently very attracted to my clean car. It was stinkbugmageddon when I got back to my car. It was also kind of a losing battle because they just kept coming.

Speaking of losing battles, this nice-sized wasp nest was responsible for me getting stung some more. I was stung twice on my fingers here; that, plus one sting I got geocaching earlier in the year, plus the other three I documented earlier here in my blog, means I got stung a half dozen times in 2010. I haven't beat that record yet, but I am working on it. More on that in a subsequent blog entry, probably sometime around 2014 if present trends continue.

I also had a chance to go down to Poolesville to join my friend Jeff for Poolesville Day. They have a car show the same day as the parade. This is one of the cars I thought was interesting. Seems like it would be noisy to have the engine in the car with you in the back seat, but there it is.

This is an old Bonneville. I like these huge old cars. They just take up the whole road.

This is the rear end of a Cadillac El Dorado.

Here's the interior. I can almost imagine this entire car being made out of chrome. That would be awesome.

Here is an engine pre-EPA. This is what we need to make cars run. Everything else in your engine compartment, including the increased cost of making and maintaining all of it, is required by your government to make the car run.

There are motorcycles to go with the cars.

This was an interesting entry. Sure, I think of Indiana Jones movies when I see it.

It's not all hotrods and choppers. Well, maybe these are hotrods to farmers.

This is a picture of a walking carpet, also known as an alpaca.

This is a calf.

This is a piglet. I think I can still call it a piglet.

And this is a goat kid.

There are also inflatable moon-bounces and whatnot.

This little girl doesn't get to play in the moon bounce. Instead, she gets to walk around carrying a placard. Doesn't she look happy? Scott Graham lost in the general election.

They decorate the memorial for Poolesville Day.

It was a nice day for Poolesville Day in 2010.

Jeff also had a cookout on this day. There's a lot of meat loaded up on this grill!