September 19, 2004
I kinda slept in a bit today, getting up at 11:00a. The four hour time difference, the hella long flight (after getting up at 3:30a), and the blacked out room made getting up early to tour around a bit of a non-starter. I can't remember the last time I slept in that late; usually the kids won't allow it.
I went up to visit El Morro, the huge fort that protects San Juan harbor. It's pretty amazing, but unfortunately the power was still out, so it wasn't open. After a nice lunch of a local pork dish at El Patio de Sam and some shopping, I headed over to the Bacardi distillery for a tour and a little tasting.
They do a nice job here; the tour is complimentary as are two drink tickets. They have a big pavilion where you can enjoy nice rum drinks and taste all but the highest end Bacardi rums. Unfortunately, the new visitor's center was damaged in the storm and closed; however, they still had a nice tour showing the distillery, teaching people when the use the different Bacardi rums in different drinks (e.g. Bacardi light for dry drinks, Bacardi Gold for sweet drinks, Bacardi Limon anywhere you'd use vodka, Bacardi O anywhere you'd use gin, etc. The tips are on their website too.) The gift shop was a nice surprise too; unlike most factory gift shops, the prices were very reasonable. The rum, in particular, was a super value compared to buying it at home. Even better, they had several varieties that aren't available or are hard to find in Washington. Picked up a bunch of those...
After my little tour, I hopped back in the car and drove out to Mayaguez, home of the University of Puerto Rico. This is a 2.5 hour drive. This is the first time I've driven somewhere I don't speak the language, significant since the road signs are in Spanish. As a little tip for those who would do this, learn the cardinal directions in the local language if nothing else. "Exit" and "Only" are good too. I got to my hotel without too many issues despite the fact the stupid website had the location of the hotel completely wrong. When I unpacked my suitcase, I discovered all my clothes were extremely damp after having been in my trunk all day in the super humid (although not raining!) weather. Had to iron everything to dry them out.
Once again, I was mislead by the hotel advertising as once again, "high speed internet access" means they have fast access somewhere in the hotel. Once again, it was one computer in their "business center." This business center was just their sales office with an extra computer. I'm hooked in via dial-up in the room now; no fun.
Oh well, time to review my notes for tomorrow and go to sleep. Big day of grilling college students tomorrow...
September 18, 2004
Once again, I'm on the road for work. This time, I'm in Puerto Rico for a little recruiting at the University of Puerto Rico. I arrived in San Juan this evening on the tail of Tropical Storm Jeanne. Fortunately, it's not raining or blazing hot, but it is muggy as hell. After living in Seattle for 14 years, I'm a wimp now around humidity.
The flight was long, but uneventful. Between Seattle and DFW I was sitting between two soliders from the Stryker brigade at Fort Lewis who were returning to Iraq for their last 45 days on this tour. I hope they come home OK. After a surprisingly good lunch in the DFW airport (super great shredded bbq beef sandwich and green beans cooked to near goo with ham), I found myself on the plane next to a so big he was four inches into my seat. Fortunately, the gods of travel were smiling on me; the exit row aisle seat behind me was open and the flight attendant took pity on me. Score one for luck.
I had good directions (I thought) from the airport to my hotel (the El Convento, a converted convent in Old San Juan), plus I had my GPS unit. What could go wrong? He he he.
So, the streets in Old San Juan are not especially well marked. Plus it's dark, being night and all; on top of that, huge areas are still blacked out with no electricity. Every few blocks there would be some scraggly guy trying to direct traffic, presumably to help people find parking spaces for tips or to direct cars toward bars or something. I swear though, it was the same guy all over town. I was totally confused.
After taking a huge tour of Old San Juan, I finally blundered into the hotel and managed to get checked in. Thank, God, it wasn't raining hard or I may never have found my hotel.
A big glass of rum with lime juice made everything OK. At least there's power here. I wound up having dinner in the hotel since the few places I wanted to try were still powerless. It was OK, but the campiranas (rum, lime, and simple syrup I think) that Michelle recommended made everything just fine.
The "Highspeed Internet Access" touted on their website is apparently this shared PC in the library. Not enough to sync my mail, but enough to spam my blog.
Anyway, I'll tour around San Juan a bit tomorrow and then out to the UPR campus is Mayaguez. I may stop at the Areceibo radio telescope for a little geek tour since the Bacardi factory tour is closed on Sundays. Damn it. Hopefully, it won't be dumping rain tomorrow.
Time for bed.
September 14, 2004
Every so often, I feel like I get some validation that through my kids' common sense and some decent parenting they might just turn out alright.
Andrew (7) wanted to talk about racism and race relations this evening. Not sure why, but he asked why black people used to have to sit in the back of the bus. "It just doesn't make any sense." During our discussion, I told him how interracial marriage was once illegal (which struck him as incredibly stupid given that almost half his friends are from interracial families) and how some white people in Seattle tried to run all the Chinese out of Seattle in 1886. "That's dumb" he said.
On the one hand I'm super proud of him. On the other hand, I'm amazed that what's obvious to a seven year old was not (and is not unfortunately) to so many adults for so long.
I'm so happy that the ten year old Assault Rifle Ban expired yesterday. This was the most useless, feel good piece of crap legislation ever foisted onto the American people. Even if you think banning guns from law-abiding citizens will make even a dent in crime, banning them because they're scary looking vs. some metric about lethality seems crazy even for the anti-gun nuts. I'm sure we all felt safer that people couldn't buy rifles with bayonet lugs after the rash of bayonetings prior to the law. The folding stocks also increased the danger to the population; gotta ban those too. What utter rubbish.
I celebrated by buying two new high capacity magazines today for $30 each. The pre-ban mags were usually around $100 during the last decade -- if you could find them. My old ones were getting pretty beat up. Even though owning the mags makes me want to go on a shooting rampage in a local mall (if you believe that guns make people evil like the anti-gun rights people would have you believe), I think I'll be able to control myself for now.
September 12, 2004
My brother Ives and I went to see the Funk Brothers last night at the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville. The Funk Brothers were the studio band for Motown during the heyday of the label. They recorded more number one hits than the Beach Boys, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles combined, and were the subject of the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. This year they were award the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award.
As expected, these guys were really amazing. It was an incredibly fun show with tons of energy and the audience singing and dancing along. Joan Osborne opened the show and also sang a few songs. I hadn't really heard much Joan Osborne before aside from her big hit One of Us. She's got a great voice and was very entertaining.
If I could only listen to one genre of music, it would be Motown, so I really loved every minute. What a great, great show.
September 11, 2004
I finally went to the XXX Root Beer Drive-In today for lunch. This Issaquah, WA restaurant was the first drive-in restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to a fun 50's car atmosphere (they have huge classic car get togethers here), they have great root beer (I think I saw in The Week Magazine that they were on the top 10 best root beer in America list.) The burgers and milkshakes were good too.
Anyway, I can't believe it's taken me 14 years to go there. It won't be 14 years before we go back.
September 5, 2004
I have never been particular successful making truly great s'mores. In particular, the chocolate never melts; I've always envisioned a sticky, luscious mix of melted chocolate and marshmallow squishing out between the graham crackers. But last night, I think I hit on the right approach (now obvious).
First, the marshmallow must be thoroughly melted and hot. This means a long roast time to get the inside as goopy as the outside. No flaming torches here. Lots of turning and patience here.
Once you have the completely soft marshmallow and assemble the s'more, you need to let the whole thing sit for a few minutes so the heat of the marshmallow can melt the chocolate. This is hard with eager kids, so in practice, I could only do this after handing a frankly half-done s'more to each kid. M-m-m.
I suppose you could this with chocolate sauce instead of a chocolate bar, but that seems like cheating and frankly un-American.
That said, I discovered that I like just marshmallow and graham cracker better than the normal way with chocolate. It's a lot less cloying and doesn't have any of that annoying waiting around.
I camped in the backyard last night with the boys for the first time. We had a little fire (in a Weber Smokey Joe) to roast hotdogs and marshmallows for s'mores. The guys had a lot of fun; Andrew told us ghost stories. When he ran out of ghost stories, he started reciting poems. In both cases, the spirit was willing but the recollection was weak. We even survived a heavy squall that passed (thanks, Doug, for the great tent.) I also learned the value of a sleeping pad (which we did not have).
Finally, it's clear that I've learned from years of parenting. Andrew stepped out in the middle of the night to pee. Right before he started, I had the foresight to yell "not on the tent" and heard feet shuffling. Whew.
September 4, 2004
Well, it probably had to happen. Andrew broke his arm this week (simple fracture of the radius.) He tried to jump up to some monkey bars, missed, and fell funny. Fortunately, Michelle and I were there and had the car close by. He'll be in a cast for six weeks.
Michael, of course, is capitalizing on this. He has discovered he can inflict a great deal of pain on Andrew if he (in Andrew's words) delivers a "critical hit" on Andrew's cast. Mean little dude.