Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Portland: A Great Place! A Very Fun Weekend!

As I had hyped in previous posts, my Memorial Day weekend was spent in Portland, Oregon. The reason for the trip was my friend Ben Deschuytter's wedding, which took place on Sunday morning. In addition to the wedding, there were many events throughout the 3-day weekend that I will highlight below through explanation and of course... pictures.

I arrived in Portland around 5pm on Friday after an on-time and painless flight. Dylan was kind enough to take the 40 minute tram ride to meet me at the airport. This saved me the time and effort of having to figure out where to go and what to do in order to get to his house, and allowed us to hang out on the stop-filled tram ride back into the city that featured the Rose Garden; a.ka. the future home of Greg Oden and the Portland Trailblazers.

After a 10 block walk from the nearest tram station, we made it to Dylan's house. Regrettably, I didn't take any photo's of the inside of his place, which is very nice, but I did get this shot of the outside. Dylan and his four roommates have the 2nd and 3rd floors of the house. A two minute walk from his front porch are streets lined with coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and young people. Great spot.

That night Dylan and I went out to a few neat places in the city for dinner and drinks, and met up with one of his friends from Lewis & Clark Law school.

Saturday morning we slept in and then headed out for what turned out to be a 5+ mile walk all over Portland, including the beautiful park above the city that features these spectacular views (click to enlarge):

The later part of the walk that I don't have images of was spent walking around the blocks of the city and some of the nicer neighborhoods with huge amazing houses on tree lined streets with lush, green, yards.

Saturday night I left Dylan for the wedding schedule. Ben's Parents reserved a floor on a boat in the Willamette River - which is the river that bisects Portland into East Portland and West Portland. The boat ride consisted of meeting Ben's family, hanging out with Ben and his friends, dinner, speeches, and a very creatively composed slide show. Ben's best man Jacob is a video editor in LA and is fluent in many creative software programs. His slide show left many of us, including me, very impressed. Southward down the river we were able to see some spectacular multi-million dollar homes, which added a nice touch to the glamor of the evening. Here is what a few looked like, as well as some other shots of this night.

After the boat ride, three of Ben's friends (who also weren't a part of the 3-man wedding party) and I went out to a club/bar called Dixie's. We had a great time, and the best way to explain this place is by saying it had a remarkable resemblance to Coyote Ugly - yes, females were encouraged and very willing to dance on the bar.

The next morning after sleeping about four hours, we woke up and went to the wedding. Due to our lack of knowledge of the city and inability to understand complex directions, we turned a 30 minute drive into almost a full hour that was at times quite stressful. Luckily, we arrived at the 10:30 wedding at 10:31 and it didn't actually start until about quarter to 11.

The wedding was like no other wedding I had ever been to. I think this is mainly due to it taking place so early. As a result, there was no dancing, no MC, no alcohol, and the menu included bacon and eggs. Despite our heavy eyelids, the wedding was still very fun. The setting was pretty, the brunch was tasty, and we played a bingo trivia game regarding Ben and Kristi facts. Needless to say, I was much better at knowing the answers to the Ben-related questions, but my table had a Kristi expert so we did just fine. The wedding wrapped up at about 2pm.

Sunday evening I made it back to Dylan's house, where an old friend from Santa Rosa, Jason Pilgreen, met up with us. Before coming to Portland I had reached out to him letting him know I'd be in town. We hadn't seen each other since 2002, but had reconnected via MySpace over the past couple years. He left California several years ago to become a Duck at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Since college he has relocated to Portland. It was a lot of fun seeing Jason again, catching up, and seeing how well he is doing. Dylan came out with Jason and I before leaving for the Arcade Fire concert with one of his friends from school.

Jason was tired from a long weekend at Sun River for a bachelor party so he eventually dropped me off with Ben's friends, who were out at a few places in the city. Here is a group shot from later that night:

The weekend flew by and was full of fun times. I became very enchanted with Portland, a city I could definitely see myself living in. It's clean, beautiful, full of nice people, full of stuff to do, and is a great mix of city and small town. Yes, I realize that it rains quite frequently, but even with the rain, I still think it could be worth it. Plus, the rain keeps it clean and also keeps the price of living significantly lower than the much dryer California.

My flight home was Monday morning at 10:30am. Another on-time flight thanks to the great service at Alaska Airlines. The cool thing about flying in from the north on a clear day is being able to experience the magnificent view of the Bay Area. It was so cool I took out my camera to take some shots of San Francisco:

Suzi & Jeff's Wedding

Here are some pics from Jeff and Suzi Schnell's wedding weekend. It was in Las Vegas and was SO MUCH FUN! Suzi did a wonderful job, the decorations, flowers, food, and everything else was amazing. It was one of the best weddings I've been to, and I've been to quite a few :). Enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Stuck at SJC

This weekend is my best friend Suzi's wedding in Las Vegas. I just got to the airport for a flight that was scheduled to leave at 4:40pm. I stood in line at security for about 15 minutes (not bad considering the length of the line) and then got a spot right next to the gate. As I'm getting comfy, the attendant says that our flight is delayed until at least 6:30 due to an equipment malfunction in Philadelphia! Are you kidding me?!!?! So now instead of arriving in Vegas at 6, I won't get there until at least 8. Sucks...

But at least they have free wireless internet at SJC.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bosco Heads to Santa Rosa for the Long Weekend

Preparing to leave town for Memorial Day weekend started this evening.

This weekend I'll be heading north to Portland for my friend Ben's wedding, and Darcy will be in Las Vegas to stay at The Luxor and be a bridesmaid in Suzi's wedding. Both weddings are on Sunday, but our flights are Friday right after work, and we won't be home until Monday.

This situation begs the question: What are you going to do with Bosco? Answer: The same thing we did when we got married and went on a week-long honeymoon in Tahiti - drive him to the Innout Burger in Marin County where my mom will meet me to pick him up and drive him the rest of the way to Santa Rosa. Even though Santa Rosa isn't close (100 miles away), we are very lucky to have my parents so willing to take care of Bosco in these situations. My mom loves him almost as much as we do, and Mac (my parents Westie pictured below) is the one dog Bosco is actually happy to hang out with.

Some Highlights from our journey.

Bosco all packed and ready to go!:

Bosco getting nice and comfortable during the hour drive to Marin:

Saying goodbye to daddy (Darcy couldn't make the trip because she had a bocce ball game):

Bosco's excited to spend the next five days with his best friend Mac!:

Either Monday evening or Tuesday after work I'll be making the same drive back to Marin to get Bosco. We'll miss him but it's great to know he will be having fun and be well taken care of while we are off watching our friends get married in other states.

It's going to be really weird in the morning when I don't have a hungry dog to feed.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Guitar Phase

Life is full of phases. Whether it be video games, music, exercise, poker, card games, cooking, associations with people, reading, sports, etc, life is full of trends specific to given periods of time. Phases can be short-lived, or span over very long periods of your life. They can be reoccurring, or they can be one-time. Phases can also be subsets of phases. For example, Nintendo 64 is a subset of video games in general. Going even deeper, an often played game, such as Mario Kart or 007, could be subset of Nintendo 64.
A couple of months ago I started a new phase, THE GUITAR. It occurred to me that I needed a new hobby, and I've always wished I could play the guitar. Plus, it was something challenging that I could use as a source of fulfillment as I experienced improvement.

Initially, not knowing if I'd even like it, I borrowed my sister Trisha's guitar (who after taking lessons decided the guitar was not for her) and shopped online for cheap lessons. I found a guy online who charged $20 for a half hour who lived on the east side of San Jose. I booked my first lesson for an early March Wednesday at 4pm, right after work. When I showed up to the teachers address, having no clue what to expect, I notice his house was the most unsightly house on the entire street. Clearly they didn't care about the outside appearance of the house, and haven't done any outside maintenance in months, if not years! Initial impression: what have I got myself into? I knocked on the door and there was my teacher: An 18 year old just-graduated-from-high-school kid, who was in a band, and had no idea of his future other than that it included music. He was fairly nice, but being around him was awkward, and being in his house was somewhat creepy.

I got through the first lesson and left knowing the basics of tuning by "ear" and three chords; D, C9, and G. I returned a week later and learned the concept of rhythm, and practiced those three chords and their role in Sweet Home Alabama. My teacher's band (who actually opened up at Shoreline for Def Lepard last summer) had a gig the following week, so he told me the next week wouldn't work. I told him I'd reach him by email to schedule the next session. Little did I know that when I left, we would never contact each other ever again. It was too far, took too long with traffic to get there, and the house was repulsive outside and in. Even though this kid was a genius guitar player, his teaching left much to be desired. I hope music works out for him because if it doesn't, his business skills need a lot of work. He never followed up to try to get my business back!?

For a couple weeks, I played those three chords, mastering switching between them. Then Easter came, and off to the Bakers house we went. One thing led to another and I was in the middle of a jam session with my father in law, Mike Baker, and Sister in law, Meghan Baker, both experienced guitar players. As a result of this experience, I now had more material to challenge myself with - progress was made. Another thing I learned that weekend was that playing on Mike's nicer and more expensive guitars is much easier and much more fun than what I was playing on back home. Returning to my sister's low-end guitar was a downer. As a result, I quickly became motivated to buy myself a higher quality guitar. In addition to wanting something better to practice on, I was at this point convinced that I liked playing the guitar, and wanted one I could call my own.
Early the next week I bought a Blueridge guitar at The Guitar Showcase on my street. A fellow shopper who was thinking about buying it for his daughter recommended it to me. He seemed objective, and Darcy and I respected and trusted his opinion, so I bought it. I also bought a stand. At checkout, I learned much to my surprise and joy that the purchase of this new guitar included four free group lessons!

I've now been to three out of the four of these lessons and have improved immensely. I can play songs such as Come As you Are (Nirvana), Enter Sandman (Metallica), My Girl, Pretty Woman, Sunshine of Your Love, One (Metallica), Adam's Song (Blink 182), and a few more that are a little easier and not worth bragging about. There are others I'm working on but haven't mastered yet.

Here is the link to the training manual that I am learning from.

I've learned new chords, power chords, strumming techniques, etc. My teacher is very good, and I've already signed up for another month (this time I have to pay though).
I play every day that I can, trying to be respectful to Darcy by playing when she's gone. However, sometimes I play with her around and she doesn't put up a fuss if I play quietly. She is proud of me for taking it up, and I like to show her that I am improving. Every once in a while she tells me I'm sounding better, which feels good.

I'm hoping that my guitar phase lasts for the rest of my life. In order for this to happen, I will need to continue to come up with new ways to challenge myself. Initially, this means staying in lessons. Down the road, it may mean purchasing a guitar learning software program, and eventually introducing the electric guitar to my repertoire. I'm still in the early learning stages, but the progress I have already made has been great fun and very rewarding. I look forward to finding out how good of a guitar player I can become!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Weekend in LA

I went to LA this weekend, a place that I really haven't spent much time in my 27 years of living in California. My three childhood trips to Disneyland, a few drives south during college to visit Trisha at UCLA (including going to game seven of the Laker/Blazers conference finals in 2000), a job interview in The City of Industry, Mandi and Eric's wedding in 2004 in Palos Verdes, and now last weekend for Ben's bachelor party are my only recollections of being in the greater Los Angeles area.

Ben's best childhood friend, Jacob, lives in Los Feliz, which is very close to the recently burned Griffith Park, and also Hollywood. He lives with three other roommates in a neat two story house that is slightly on a hill, giving it a great view down into Hollywood. The view would no doubt be much better if it wasn't for the ever present LA smog.

I flew into Burbank at 2:30 on Friday, and the festivities began right away. We spent the afternoon enjoying beautiful weather, playing Nintendo Wii, watching the Warriors blow out Utah in what turned out to be their only win of the series, and capped the night with a poker tournement.

Saturday was spent around the house, playing video games, hanging out with a beer in hand, and watching NBA basketball playoffs. Ben's friends are a great group of guys and I enjoyed getting to know them.

At 7 o'clock the cabs came to drive us down Hollywood Blvd and eventually to Blowfish Sushi on Sunset Blvd between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. On our way we passed the famous spot of the Oscars. Our cab driver was talkative and said that leading up to The Oscars five surrounding blocks around Kodak Theater are closed down for security reasons.

I was familiar with Blowfish Sushi since I have been to the one here in San Jose located in Santana Row. Needless to say, the food was delicious, and in case you wonder how the food looked, here's a visual for you. Also included is a picture of me washing my hands in the bathroom at the sushi restaurant. It's a sink/faucet like I've never seen before and everyone got a kick out of it. I'm sure there are sinks like it in posh establishments everywhere, but to us it seemed "very LA".

After sushi we went downtown LA where we had a couple suites in a hotel called "The Standard". It's a very hip hotel, with a very metro feel to it. The top of the hotel has a pool and bar 15 stories up in the heart of the city. It was pretty neat to be there. Here is a picture of the outside area atop the hotel the next morning.

I will see everybody from this weekend again Memorial Day weekend for Ben's wedding. I'll also get to hang out with my good friend Dylan, who is attending law school there at Lewis & Clark. I've only been to Portland once, and it was very short. I was there for Cal Poly soccer when we flew into Portland and then drove south to Corvalis to play Oregon State. We got to walk around downtown for a few hours, but I don't remember it that well.

Be sure to check back in after Memorial Day weekend (if not before) to hear, and see, how my trip went!

Friday, May 11, 2007

LEED Accredited Professional

So, the last two weeks I have been studying for the LEED Accreditation (v2.2) exam, which I took yesterday and passed (yeah!!!). I can now officially call myself a LEED Accredited Professional. For those of you who don't know what LEED is, I'll fill you in. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It consists of design recommendations and a rating system for construction projects that strive to be "green."

"Green Building" has been around for a while, and may make you think of tree-hugging liberals who only use one "square" of toilet paper when they go to the bathroom, but that's not necessarily the case. The LEED philosophy is becoming widespread in the construction industry, and many builders/owners use their recommendations even if they are not going to try to get certified as a LEED project.

Some of the items that LEED design focuses on include energy and water efficient building, indoor air quality, minimizing site disturbance, recycled materials, reused materials, wastewater management, and waste reduction.

I have to say that studying again (after 4 years) was interesting, and I was so nervous going into the testing center yesterday. I've never been to a Prometric testing center before, and didn't really know what to expect. They have cameras filming you and recording audio in the room to make sure you don't cheat. The test was all computerized and within 20 seconds of completion, you are given your results. Devcon paid $250 for me to take the test, so I was under a little pressure to pass, but luckily I did. Hopefully my new knowledge new title, LEED AP, will come in handy sometime in the future.

Check out the US Green Building Council web page if you would like to learn more...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tougher Loss for the Dubs

I'm in an emotional state that combines frustration, anger, and disappointment. The Warriors game 2 loss last night in Utah is very tough to swallow and move on from considering they had them in a chokehold, and then let them off the hook. The Warriors were ahead by three points with 16 seconds left and on the free throw line shooting two free throws - AND THEY LOST.

They proceeded to miss three out of four free throws in the last 16 seconds of the game to let Utah force overtime, and then blow them out in the extra five minutes of play.

This series is not over as we've yet to play even a home game, but right now, this really really hurts and our backs are now against the wall more than ever in game 3.

Once again here is how I feel about last nights game: Frustration. Anger. Disappointment.

I still have faith though. Come on Warriors, you can do it! Take a lesson from your opponent who lost the first two games of round one on the road against Houston and ended up winning the series.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Tough Loss for the dubs

Everyone that knows me knows my heart and soul is into the Warriors playoff run. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire game last night that had them going down to wire against the Utah Jazz, and eventually losing 112-116. Derron William and Carlos Boozer stepped up big time for Utah, and AK-47 Andre Kirilinko had a nice game as well. For the Warriors, it was great to see Al Harrington back in the mix.

It's a best out of seven series and we are far from out of it. The Warriors need to rebound better and just continue to play hard Warrior basketball and they should be fine. I see this series going six if not seven games.

It's always tough when you play that well on the road and end up losing. Some say it's better to get blown out and save some energy for the next game. I say this loss is much better for their confidence. Just like how they bounced back in game 6 (albeit at home) after a tough loss in game 5 against the Mavericks, they will do so in game 2 against the Jazz.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Weekend In SLO

This weekend Darcy and I returned to San Luis Obispo, where we met, and where we share many memories. The reason for the trip 3 hours south down highway 101 was for the annual 7 a-side soccer tourny that I had played in while at Poly. This year, much like six years ago when I turned 21, it fell on Cinco de Mayo - my birthday - so we splurged and stayed at the Madonna Inn.

Some thoughts and comments about the weekend.

- Change: The town has developed quite a bit since our days as students. Not only are there massive dorm projects both finished and in construction, but there are new educational buildings, and Mustang Stadium is much improved as well. The visitors side bleachers were torn down and in their place is now the newly built home side that expands over the road. It appears to be state of the art, is very nice looking, and was a much need improvement. Off campus there are some changes as well. Firestones grill is much nicer than before, with a new floor, a new much larger bar, HD Plasmas, and upgraded tables that are stuck in the floor. The booths have also been removed and replaced with tables that are much more suitable for larger crowds. Kitty corner to Firestones is of course the new development where there used to be a parking lot.

- Soccer: Our team didn't play that well together in my opinion, but still managed to win a couple games. We squeaked into the playoffs and lost in the first round. The group of guys were cool, and it was fun meeting some new people. Darcy, Crissy, and Elena served as our fanbase throughout the weekend. The highlight of the weekend for me was scoring from way out on a volley against another team of former Cal Poly players.

- Bar Scene: Saturday night we of course hit the town for dinner and drinks and what ended up being a little dancing. We had a great time at the library, a bar we previously didn't think very much of. Although I am not a crazy bar kind of guy, I do think that San Luis Obispo has a great bar scene. There are many diverse options for people with different goals and ideas of fun. Frog and Peach had a band playing, The Library had a DJ, Firestones had every sport imaginable on its large screens, and Mission Grill was for seeing people you know, catching up, and reminiscing about old times. And there is Woodstocks open til the wee hours for a late-night snack.

- Nostalgia: Not an hour went by that I wasn't longing for the day that I lived in the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo. I love it! Perfect weather, young demographic, no traffic, beach, Firestones, awesome downtown, and the list could go on and on.... But as I got to thinking, there are things about the Silicon Valley that I have grown accustom to that SLO cannot offer. For example, I live 10 miles from an international airport, am near Arena's that play host to major concerts and various sporting events, etc., I have shoreline in my backyard, and have reasonable access to San Francisco and the East Bay. I conclude that although the SLO-life has its benefits and was a great place to go to college, right now I need access to the large economy and the major events that the Bay Area plays home to. Could I live in SLO someday though? Never say never.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Warrior Fever

The whole bay area and people around the nation (with the exception of the greater Dallas area) have caught what I like to call "Warrior Fever". And they should, the Warriors haven't made the playoffs in 13 years, they have a ridiculously fun team to watch, and they're in a position where they can upset the number one seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round. It's really no surprise that many people who two months ago couldn't have named three players on the team, are now emotionally devoted to this team.

Me, however, I have been devoted all along. As a life long Warrior fan you can imagine the last two months have been rather fun for me watching the Warriors come together and play consistent winning basketball, make the playoffs, and now put themselves in position for the upset. I went to game 3 and am going tonight to game 6. I was nervous for the outcome of game 3, which the Warriors won convincingly, and am even more nervous tonight's game. I want this game so bad and fear the emotional trauma it will bring me if they happen to lose. I know they still will have the opportunity to win game 7 back in Dallas, but no betting man would want to bet on them winning that one.

Tonight is the night, one of the most meaningful basketball games in Warrior history, and I'm going. Let's see if our boys have it in them to shock the NBA world - and send Warrior fans all over the bay into a state of euphoria!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Our Wedding

Jeff and I got married on September 16 of last year, here are some pics from the wedding. We've been married for over 7 months...I guess that means we are still "newlyweds."


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