Saturday, July 25, 2015

Driving Pylons

My daughter just earned her driving permit, so we need to teach her how to drive. To make things easier, I looked at buying a few traffic cones to set up as barriers for her to drive around. But ones that are tall enough are also somewhat expensive - more than $10 apiece for the cheapest. We don't have a long term need for them, so I thought that we'd make some, instead.

This is what we ended up with. Five Below was having a sale on their summer items, including pool noodles for $1 each. Then we went to Lowes and bought four 5-foot lengths of half-inch PVC pipe ($1.33 each), four PVC crosses ($1.26 each) and four PVC tees ($0.54 each).

In hindsight, I could have made these with eight tees because we didn't use the fourth leg of the crosses. I'm not running back to exchange them.

To make these, cut two of the 5-foot lengths in half and attach them to the middle of the tees. Using the other lengths of pipe, cut four 2-inch segments and twelve 6-inch pieces. Use the 2-inch pieces to connect the crosses to the tees. The 6-inch pieces form three legs, two from each cross and one from the other end of the every tee.

The pool noodles slide onto to vertical, 2-1/2 foot length of pipe.

The final cost was $16.54 plus tax.

Another benefit is that everything is merely press fit together, so the pool noodles and PVC fittings can be used later.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

California Dreamin'

I'm in the process of plowing through the thousands of photographs we took on this vacation to winnow the collection down to the very best ones that tell the story of our adventure. So I'm going to wimp out on all that here and just post a link to the Story that Google concocted using my pictures.

Not the best photos, but nothing too embarrassing, either.

So have fun with that while I tell you how things felt during our trip.

The flights out were a bit delayed and Alamo suffered a national computer outage which, apparently, is common on Saturdays. That's silly. But we eventually got to our hotel, very late, with a car and our luggage with me half-dreading the following day at Disneyland.

Disneyland on five hours of sleep. Almost made it to the fireworks, but bailed right before them because we were done. By the end of that day I was limping with a huge blister on the bottom of one of my toes.

The drive to San Diego was nice. We had a quiet hotel on Point Loma near the marina. It was convenient to grocery stores and restaurants. Cabrillo was very nice. The San Diego Zoo was, well, it's just a zoo. We have one almost as good in Cleveland that doesn't cost a family of four $200 to visit. We found the panda display to be inferior to the one at the (free) National Zoo in D.C. Because we had heard all the hype, though, we went to the zoo instead of visit the rest of Balboa Park. In retrospect, that was a mistake.

Dinner was in La Jolla. I found that place to be a bit snooty and pretentious. It just didn't feel welcoming. Our destination was the Whisknladle, but we ended up at Puesto and had one of the best meals of the trip there.

I left the next day "open" on our itinerary so we went on a Seal Tour, similar to the Duck tours we had gone on in Seattle and Boston. The experience fell somewhere between those other two amphibious tours. Before leaving San Diego we wandered about Balboa Park a bit.

The next stop was Palm Springs. Desert. Since we had gone to Vegas in the winter, this was the first time our children got to experience desert heat. Our daughter didn't much care for it. The rest of us enjoyed the street fair that is put on every Thursday evening. The next day, we went to the top of San Jacinto. There, it was much cooler but I had to drag my son across a mile of rocky terrain on the short loop hike we took to five overlooks.

It is very Californian that there was a sign warning that pets were not allowed on the mountain tram. In other parts of the country there would be no such sign because, duh, pets stay home. Not so in California. Dogs are out everywhere with their owners, often unleashed. Not just at the appropriately named Dog Beach in San Diego, but on restaurant porches. Being dog people we weren't upset but it is different.

We were swimming at Ocean Beach, next to Dog Beach, when a golden got away from his owner and came to us. Evidently, he doesn't like leaving, so when his owner called for him he decided to find another human to play with. I snagged him and brought him to his owner who didn't seem like she was willing to wade into the surf to get her dog.

Another major difference is traffic. It's little different than what you'd find in NYC, except roads in and around LA are more likely to be curvy and hilly. An eight mile drive on a freeway doesn't take ten minutes. It takes twenty-five or thirty-five. You go zero to eighty to zero. You don't leave two seconds between your car and the next. You have a car length. Which means more accidents which means more stop and go-like-hell traffic. Driving around LA is technical and exhausting.

I like the bicycle lanes, though. And I detest the motorcycle lane-splitting. Yes, I know it's legal and some claim that it's safer, but I keep my mirrors adjusted to see the adjacent lanes for cars. I don't have them pointed along the side of my vehicle, creating blind spots, just to see lane splitters.

I also noticed that lanes are a bit narrower in California. I guess that's what you get when you create more of them on a right-of-way, but it didn't feel comfortable.

While I'm complaining about the driving let me just say the prohibition of having items attached to the windshield is dumbass. Having your phone's map at or near eye level is a lot safer than having it on the console between the seats. Windshield mounts don't cause problems in the forty-nine other states. In an area like LA, where the most aggressive drivers are the Prius owners (Napoleon complex applied to cars, evidently), it's dangerous to have to flit your eyes towards to floor to see which direction you need to turn next.

LA drivers never seem to "thank" one another for letting them in. They sort of expect it, which seems odd given how aggressive they drive. Much the same in NYC. It's probably a factor of having just too many people.

Where Palm Springs was hot, Santa Barbara was cool. The Pacific is cold in California. That makes the temperature universally pleasant on land, but limits the fun of swimming.

The fireworks in Santa Barbara were fantastic, but at the expense of crowds. People came from hours away just to see the display. Food choices there were limited and overpriced. The best food we had on this trip was at Puestos in La Jolla, Big Dean's in Santa Monica, and Grandview Palace in Pasadena. Those were also the least expensive meals we enjoyed.

In Hollywood we had plans to visit the Hollywood Bowl, tour Warner Brothers Studio, and walk around Hollywood Boulevard. We hit a snag, though. At the Bowl I mentioned that we were only going to visit for a while, but we got stacked parked so we had to stay for the whole rehearsal. That was bad because we'd miss our tour time (and that was another $200). I called Warner Brothers and postponed our tour for the afternoon, so everything got shifted a little later. That shift meant that our son would be a bit whinier than I had planned during the tour and the walking, but we dealt with it. As always, Hollywood was crowded with tourists and those whose living is made entertaining them.


On the last day of our vacation we went somewhere that my wife and I had heard about our entire lives - the LaBrea Tar Pits. No, nobody calls them the Wilshire Asphalt Seeps even if that would be a better description. But it was both fun and educational. My wife also got to see Slimmons; Richard Simmons' exercise studio. At least, we got to see the front door. We also drove down Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Boulevard, and the Sunset Strip before calling it a vacation.

The flight home was a bit eventful, too. Our son is still learning the fine arts of toileting and an airplane can be a challenge for anybody. It was too much for him and he soiled himself. We had a brief layover in Baltimore, but we were flying through and were not supposed to deplane. We didn't even have boarding passes for the BWI to CLE leg of the journey. But a flight attendant got in touch with ground ops for us and we were able to clean up our son in the airport family restroom rather than attempt it in an airplane lavatory. Kudos to Southwest for that.

Rhubarb and Blueberry

We just returned from our family vacation. This year, we spent a couple weeks touring southern California. I will get to those posts soon.

In the meantime, I've spent this weekend trying to readjust, with limited success. While it's very nice to drive on uncrowded roads and shop in familiar markets, I'm still jet lagged.

As a therapy, I made a rhubarb sauce.

We bought a fistful of rhubarb stalks. I took a half cup each of water and white sugar in a sauce pan and brought that to a boil while stirring. Meanwhile, I cut the rhubarb into half-inch pieces. Once the simple syrup was boiling, I reduced it to a simmer and added the rhubarb pieces. This was to simmer for ten minutes.

Halfway through that process, I decided to take a handful of blueberries that we had left over, smash them with a fork, and add them to the mixture. The result was a tarty, berry-like sauce that will go well over vanilla ice cream or velvety pound cake.

Tomorrow, I will return to work. I am a little apprehensive not knowing what to expect, since I disabled my work email on my phone for the duration of my vacation. I believed that my family deserved my attention, undivided. I'm not sure that was any better than quietly monitoring the progress of my projects, but what is done is done.