Wednesday, December 30, 2009On Wednesday, I got up a bit earlier than I was the rest of the week -- which was already 5 or ten minutes than I often do -- so I could finish packing the stuff for the trip that could not be packed before we left. Since I wasn't sure which car Tara would want to drive to the airport, I left my bag and my carry-on by the door, and then walked up to the top of the hill to catch the bus (something I've done only once before, and also so Tara could pick me up at work on the way somewhere else -- Westercon in that case)
Work was pretty normal for the last few days of a project. I actually did more than I had the rest of the week, and should actually deploy my final fix early on Monday. But I was pretty much done before Tara called to tell me that she and Derrick were on the way (and let me know that they were in my car when she told me she couldn't link to my new BlueTooth speaker). She did say that the GPS expected her about ten 'til 4.
So, about 3:35 or so, I started shutting down, getting the things I'd need for the trip out of my backpack (iPod, headphones, etc.) and headed down to wait, expecting them in just a couple of minutes. Then I saw the weather. Although it had not, as I recall, been predicted, a deep marine layer had moved in, including as they often do in December, a fair amount of rain. This, and an accident in Oceanside near where they got on the freeway, had caused quite a bit of traffic delay. So it was about quarter after four when they finally arrived.
Once in the car, I suggested that we stop at the UTC food court for supper, and directed Tara to the back way into that neighborhood (taking roads towards the Sorento Valley train station, then getting on I-5 south at Sorento Valley road, but getting off one exit later at Genessee -- a route that proved much more efficient than taking I-805 one exit). But, we didn't take into account how popular the mall would be on a rainy Wednesday between Christmas and New Year's -- so we ended up parking in an area away from where we'd regularly parked when we were staying in the area (before we, or at least I, learned that it was just as fast to walk). So we had to find the food court from the Sears, which took a bit of time.
But once in the food court, we were able to make Derrick happy with a fish taco, Tara got a teriyaki bowl next to Rubio's and I went to the Indian take out and got a three curry palate (I do love Rubio's tacos, but with my neck still stiff, eating a taco seems like an unwise decision).
Once done, we got back to the car, drove to the parking garage (with me navigating instead of the GPS) and got to the airport. Once we were checked in (and actually before that thanks to various flight notifications I was receiving), it was clear that our decision to eat before hitting the airport was a good one. At San Diego, Southwest has two gate areas. The gate area we were in serves gates 1A, 1B and 2, and only has a small Chili's (but it does look like it has table service) and a Karl Straus Brewery which seemed to be mostly bar. So dinner past security could have had limited selections as well as the expected higher price.
My one concern with getting through security was that I'd decided to pick up a half dozen Hawaiian papayas -- since you can only get the bigger, less sweet, Costa Rican papayas in Albuquerque and not all that often. I'd had to get greener ones than I usually do since the place I went had no ripe ones, but they'd sat overnight and most of Wednesday ripening before Tara packed them in a former orange box (from Costco) and put them in a grocery bag to serve as one of our carry-ons (we had a total of three, plus Tara's purse, even if I often had two). But I'd also had her include the printouts from the TSA website assuring us that fresh fruit could be brought through security. When asked if there were any liquids in the box, I replied "only fresh fruit." I did notice that the person who asked did ask a supervisor or expert to look at the screen.
As it turns out, our trials with the weather weren't quite over. The flight we were taking to Albuquerque, a somewhat rare non-stop, originated in Sacramento, and had a slight delay on departure. But that delay was made much worse because the marine layer forced a change in the approach pattern and runway usage in San Diego. When flights have to approach from the West, they often take longer (due I'm sure largely to the added, unplanned, distance, but also possibly since they have to pass much lower than a departing plane does over North Island Naval Air Station). This caused a bit of a delay on our departure. But, since I'd gone ahead an paid the extra ten dollars (each) for "early bird" boarding, we had boarding numbers in the first group, and were able to get on board and find three seats together (after I realized that the front row wouldn't work due to no under seat storage) quite quickly.
The flight to Albuquerque was quiet, quick and smooth. As has happened, I think, every time I've flown from San Diego to Albuquerque in the last twelve years, we landed on the Northeast runway instead of the East or West runway (I'm not remembering the runway numbers off the top of my head, and wikipedia is being no help today since I cannot resolve or read the sideways FAA diagrams to get runway numbers off of them). This always causes some confusion since there are almost no visual cues that I recognize (especially at night) to tell me where we are until I see the airport.
Once landed, we quickly made our way to baggage claim, got our luggage and caught the bus to the rental car center. When we headed to the Avis preferred lot, I quickly determined that not only had my Avis preferred worked at Albuquerque for the first time -- previous times they either canceled my car, or tried to give me something completely impractical (a 2 door Mustang with no luggage space I could see) for a family with lots of luggage -- but also that I was the only one left with a preferred reservation that night. We quickly found the car. While I loaded the luggage and got the GPS working (I'd actually started it on the way over to give it a chance to discover we weren't in San Diego any more), Tara figured out, more or less, how to drive the car.
Because of my surgery, I'm still uncomfortable backing out in tight situations, including in strange cars, and changing lanes, so Tara was driving. I'd brought the GPS with us since I wanted to make sure that my familiarity with much of where we would be going wouldn't cause me to forget to give Tara a key direction -- like which of the numerous very similar and hard to see roads off of North Fourth is the one my parents have lived on for forty-one years. So, in spite of my minor misgivings when the GPS sent us what I've come to think is the quicker, or at least easier, way around (a change in my thinking that has come about in the twenty years I've not lived in Albuquerque) we followed its directions. That is, until in decided that it must be faster to go one (short) block past my parents' road to a one-lane, one-way road that happens to be, at least in name, the continuation of a semi-major road through the North Valley (while the real continuation is a connector road to my parents' road). I was able to get Tara to turn at the right place, and we made it to my parents' without any further trouble.
It was late, nearly or after midnight in Albuquerque, when we got there, so as we were coming in I locked up the house and turned off the lights, at least until my Dad emerged and told me that my brother and sister-in-law might still be coming down that night. So we unlocked the house and turned the front lights back on before heading to bed.
Thursday, December 31, 2009Thursday was a bit of a slow day. By the time I got up, it was obvious that my brother had decided to wait until Thursday to drive down, but hadn't had a chance to call or e-mail that he was on his way. So we weren't exactly sure when to expect him. What I did know was that we were planning on spending the evening at my younger sister's boy friend's house, and were planning on getting there between six-thirty and seven. We did, eventually, get word when they stopped in Trinidad, saying that my brother and sister-in-law should be there by six, which was about when we'd need to leave for the party.
The day was spent largely hanging around the house (mostly, for Tara and I, due to travel recovery). I did venture out briefly with my Mom to run to the post office, and then Tara, my Mom and I headed to the nearby Mall to do some browsing and calendar shopping. I ended up coming home with a Futurama calendar for the home office (Tara insisted that that was the one I should buy, and New Mexico calendar (which is sometimes a Balloon Fiesta calendar) would go to work).
When we got into the room where Tara and I usually sleep, I found a copy of We'll Always Have Parrots sitting on the table. While it is far from unusual to find books lying on any flat surface at my parents' house (I'm not a first generation reader by any means -- my parents' house could pass as a fanish house, except perhaps for the artwork which is mostly native american or similar), I was suspicious that this was left on purpose. A quick glance at the jacket summery (which starts "Meg Langslow knew that fan conventions for her actor-boyfriend's hit television series was going to be the ultimate in weird.") I confirmed that. So I ended up starting reading that (putting aside Even Money on my iPod for a few days).
The night before, when I'd pulled the base for the GPS out of my bag (the GPS itself was in my carry-on) I'd discovered that the clip to hold it to the base had slipped off. When I found it I put it by Tara's purse, but it got knocked off the table when she picked it up, and disappeared again. So as we were debating how to get to the party if one of my parent's had to keep waiting for my Brother, who was due about 6, the fact that I'd never been to the house, wasn't all that familiar with that neighborhood, my brother arrived. Before that, Tara and I were preparing to head up there using the GPS, with it again on my lap as had been the ngiht before.
There was some brief discussion of how to get everyone up there, but we soon got two cars -- our rental and my parents' car -- loaded up with one parent in each vehicle and headed to the party.
The party was a lot of fun. It was mostly family -- both of my sisters, my older sister's husband, their two teenage sons and (eventually) four of their friends, including an exchange student from Viet Nam, my younger sister's five-year-old son, her boy friend (who was the host), and all of the occupants for the weekend of my parents' house.
Besides what many of my friends would call "stupid amounts of food" (but possibly a combination never seen at one of their events: considering it was almost all traditional New Mexican holiday food, with some cut up papaya thrown in -- the two that had ripened sufficiently for eating by then), and conversation, the main entertainment was various forms of "Rock Band" on a large projection system. Most of the night the Beatles version was in play, but at least for a while the Lego version was used instead. I don't think that there was any time that at least one of the gaggle of teenagers weren't playing.
The two youngest participants (including our technical teenager) choose to spend the night in another room playing games on the Wii.
After years of not being sure if Rock Band (or Guitar Hero) was a game I could play, I was finally talked into trying. First, I tried a couple of songs on bass on some Beatles tunes (call me "Paul" -- Not), and then on the Lego version on a couple of tunes as the "super easy" setting. I wasn't doing too badly once I got my tired brain around the idea of not hitting the "strummer" bar until the block actually hits the line. But I was having a terrible time with how I was holding my right arm (even after loosing the strap so much the next teenager to play it had to adjust it back up to even hold the controller). This made my arm very sore. So I next tried singing. First, I tackled "We Are the Champions" (and resisted, mostly due to the lyrics in front of me, singing parts of "We Are The Cub's Fans" instead), and didn't do too badly. My next choice (much to the annoyance of some of my younger "accompanists" was "The Sounds of Silence," since I'd actually sung that song -- albeit in the Choir at Hummingbird back before I was in high school. Alas, by then between spending much of the proceeding evening talking, and the state of my vocal chords, my range was shot. So, instead of singing where the song was written (and where both the guide vocals of Paul Simon, and my brother-in-law's much more experienced tenor voice were singing) I was several octaves too low -- but at least I was close enough to relative pitch to do OK. But after that, I was done with singing for the night.
After that, my younger nephew -- having spotted the song when looking for my two prior selections -- chose "Baba O'Riley." I'll admit, I wasn't sure what song that was, or if I was familiar with it, at least until the song started. Then, I recognized what I knew must be a Who song, but to me was mostly the theme music for "CSI: New York." That led us to within a few seconds of midnight (which the Fox rebroadcast of the New York celebrations had late by several seconds).
For us, the party continued for another half-hour or so to let the first round of drunks clear the roads, and then we headed for home. My only major mistake of the evening was to follow my Mom's directions home (take Central to Second or Fourth Street) instead of having Tara get on I-25 at Central -- but that might have gotten us home first and I don't know if I'd borrowed a house key yet. My understanding is that the party itself lasted quite a bit longer.
Friday, January 1, 2010Naturally, none of us got moving very early on New Year's Day. But we did get going about ten. I had made arrangements before we left to go rock climbing with my younger sister and her boy friend, and had even packed the equipment that Derrick and I have from when we were going somewhat regularly in Chicago -- so far, I've not been to any of the San Diego gyms since I don't have a belay partner and have been a bit shy about just showing up, which I know I should do. Since we were tired, the plan was to go sometime after noon. By about 12:30, I finally called my sister (and then using my Mom's trick, her boy friend) and confirmed that they were on the way. They reached my parents', and it took another forty-five minutes or so to actually get organized, by which time my sister had talked my brother into joining us as well.
Climbing was quite good. While I didn't belay anyone (since the muscles required to lift my chin are the ones doing the most healing, I didn't want to have to be looking up more than I needed to for climbing), I did quite well -- topping out or nearly topping out on most of the routes I tried. My brother, who hasn't climbed since he was in the Scouts (where I'd been part of a climbing club in the eighth grade, and took a climbing class in college in addition to my indoor experience), also did well. I did find myself winded at the end of each climb. Derrick, on the other hand, decided fairly early to quit. First it was because he'd outgrown his shoes, but then because of some other excuse which I suspect was really "I'm tired from being up too late the last two nights." But his outgrown shoes were handed down to his cousin -- my five-year-old nephew -- who was inspired at least briefly by the gift to go higher than he had before.
After climbing, we returned home to find the rest of the family, as planned, had arrived. We shared (or at least as well as any group of fourteen, including three teenagers and a five-year-old) a good dinner -- we were split into two groups, and somehow Tara and I ended up volunteering to be the honorary children sitting in the living room, instead of joining the rest of the adults in the dining room. The meal was kicked off by my younger nephew being talked into singing the grace that they sing at Hummingbird in his very clear soprano -- which I'd not hear in person as a solo (not counting the previous night mixed with various rock artists).
Saturday, January 2, 2010Saturday we ended up sleeping in a bit more than planned, and then got a slower start. As a result it was lunch time before Tara and I really realized it. My brother and sister-in-law headed back to Colorado early that morning, to get home before dark and, I'm guessing, before Sunday.
But after lunch we left Derrick with my parents -- and expecting my younger sister to pick him up so he could come over to his cousin's house in accordance to an invitation from the previous day -- and headed up to Nob Hill for some shopping.
I'll admit, I'm still a bit surprised at the change in Nob Hill over the last twenty years. Nob Hill, which is just a few blocks east of the University, was still mostly standard businesses back then, with only a couple that attracted my attention all that often.
OK, I'll admit it. In college, I mostly headed that way (often on foot or bicycle from the University) to go to War Games West, which moved from Nob Hill and then vanished sometime over the last twenty years. I don't know if I ever stopped in at the Double Rainbow ice cream shop (which morphed into the original Flying Star) during that time.
But, now Tara and I enjoy the mix of galleries and funky shops -- different than the more upscale or high end galleries of Old Town or The Plaza in Santa Fe which we also enjoy. We first browsed in one shop, and its connected small native art gallery upstairs. We then headed next door to a eclectic shop. Shortly after walking in and seeing some of their merchandise (possibly the robot covered water bottle) I asked Tara "Will I regret letting you walk in here." Not long later, Tara informed me that I would -- she had found a reproduction robot that she both didn't have and wanted. After purchasing the robot, and a few other inexpensive items, we headed around the corner to a shop that carries mostly higher end contemporary furniture. We found several pieces for the home we could furnish if we lost all of what we had and hit the lottery at the same time (or just wanted to replace a lot of our stuff). We did come out of there was a new cutting board, that easily folds to put the cuttings into a pot or container, and a combination tea-pot and mug so I can bring some loose tea to work -- hopefully to get me to drink less pop at least when it isn't too hot, and to use up some of the loose tea I haven't been drinking around here. (But first I'll have to also drink up some of the bagged tea I have at work). After that we hit up the afore mentioned Flying Star for some warm drinks and a, shared, pumpkin spice cookie.
On the way home we stopped at the Frontier and picked up five dozen tortillas -- still at least partially expecting my mom to need a few more at home. I was able to not get a Frontier Roll because of the cookie a few minutes before, and the Frontier Roll I'd gotten at home the previous morning (thanks to my younger sister). We also replenished the eight-ounce Coke Zeros that Tara and I had consumed (actually replaced the one case we'd mostly consumed with two so my older nephew will be happy -- I guess he and my younger sister are the Coke Zero drinkers in the Albuquerque family) by making a not-quite-on-the-way home stop at a Smiths (chosen as much to use our Ralph's card as because it was the closest to being on the way home).
But, when we got home, my Mom had decided that we should go out instead. This was in part because the family that was joining us had been reduced (but by not quite as much as we thought). My older nephew had decided to go to the movies with some friends, and my sister and brother-in-law decided to stay home and enjoy a quite -- for once -- house. However, my middle nephew wasn't home, but was at his aunt's house with Derrick and her son.
After remembering that we'd been to Garduño's the last time we were in Albuquerque for a too-short visit (between Denvention and arriving in San Diego to start work), I suggested we go to The Range instead. This change was not objected to, and we headed North to Bernalillo once my sister arrived with "four boys in the car." Dinner was nice, although the two younger participants both showed their lack of sleep -- the five-year-old by dozing off before dinner was over (and shifting to be next to his mom instead of his grandpa before the drink orders even arrived) and Derrick by having to be convinced that their "fish and chips" (a blue corn dusted, pan fried Tilapia when we are sure he was expecting heavily breaded fish whitefish) was not what he wanted. We finally talked him back into the black bean chicken tostada appetizer (which I heard him choose before Tara directed him to the entré page).
The food was good. After eating we stopped briefly in their gift shop, where Derrick got a Range Cafè t-shirt. I picked up (or so I thought) a Rail Runner t-shirt for myself. But, when we got home, Tara discovered that the shirt was a child's large instead of an adult large. So Derrick got two new shirts, and I got none.
Sunday, January 3, 2010Sunday was our return travel day. We got up earlier than we have all trip, and after a quick shower, I did my packing. After breakfast, I did a quick check and set up notifications for the MDW-ABQ and OKC-PHX legs of the flights that we'd be flying on so I'd have some warning if we were in for delays based on incoming flights.
We then got going. Tara talked me into getting the GPS going -- now that Derrick had finally gotten directions he could understand and had found the missing part -- to get us back to the rental car area. But, we also had to defrost the car. This was not going well until I discovered that Avis had left us an ice scraper.
We made it to the airport quickly (but this time I overruled the GPS twice on our route before we got too far from my parents') got the car returned and joined the check-in line. That was when I realized that Sunday, as I should have expected, was a heavy travel day. But we made it though the line to get our bags checked without too much delay, and security was quick -- even with five dozen tortillas now in the box that had contained the papaya, and found our gate.
The main flight drama of the day was due to the earlier ABQ-PHX flight being first assigned to the same gate, and then delayed from 9:45 to 10:45 a mere five minutes before our 10:50 departure, and then moved to a different gate. So, when we were lining up to board, another couple came up and was confused by the fact that we had the same bordering numbers. Once I noticed that they were on the other flight, I suggested that they check at the desk for where their flight was. I think they went to the monitor instead (and I hope that they found their flight in time).
The ABQ to PHX leg was quiet, but a bit longer than optimal since we took of and landed the wrong directions. Once we got to Sky Harbor, we found the San Diego flight just two gates over, and across from a very crowded, small, food court with a Nathan's and a Pizza Hut. After confirming that there were no pizzas at the CPK express, Tara and I got pizzas from Pizza Hut, and Derrick got a chili-cheese dog from Nathan's (but thought that it should have less chili).
The flight to San Diego was also smooth and quiet, and arrived a bit early. But it took quite a while for our bags to get to the baggage claim. On top of that, most of the flight insisted on standing right against the carousel. So, when our bags came down, I had to force my way between a guy who was paying more attention to his phone call than what was going on around him, and an (I believe) unrelated woman who was equally ignorant of the fact that I had a bag I could actually pick up.
After that, we headed to the bridge over to where we could get the parking shuttle. At the far end of the bridge, after telling Tara that I could handle the escalator if she could, but thinking she wanted to take the elevator anyway, I had to run to catch up with her for a bit. But we got our parking shuttle quickly and got to the garage and headed home.
The last minor glitch was because I'm still programmed to head towards Rancho Bernardo so I usually take the 163 from the Airport and don't think about I-5 north (and tend to expect it to be hard to get on I-5 north). So I got Tara heading in a direction she didn't want to go, but we compromised and she doubled back to get on I-5 north.
All in all this was a good trip. I'm considering doing some light looking at possible jobs out there sooner rather than later, but I'm not going to make any strong plans to leave Qualcomm at this time.
It was nice to see so much of my family, and think it might be fun -- if the logistics and other factors can be worked out -- to actually see the entire family one of these days (both nieces, the great nephew and the two grand-nieces stayed in Colorado).