Monday, May 30, 2011

Exploring My Family Tree: Not Forgotten - New Chapters

Closing in on four years ago, I wrote a series of four posts on my great grandfather Victor Kuck after writing a post on one specific memory of him a few months earlier. Those four were written from information that I had compiled through my genealogy research and from my talking with my grandfather and still represent most of my knowledge on him. I'm sure my grandfather knows a lot more about his father, my great grandfather that I would find interesting but my grandfather is losing his hearing and refuses to wear a hearing aid so it makes conversations with him very difficult.  Because of this, I have a hard time getting him to talk about his father.

The Man In the Picture and Green Gumdrops
Not Forgotten - Part One
Not Forgotten - Part Two
Not Forgotten - Part Three
Not Forgotten - Part Four

I probably would have let those five posts stand as final had not recently I was able to access some pictures found in my great uncle's house, the older son of Victor, after he was permanently transferred to a nursing home. My grandfather has pictures that I will hopefully be able to see someday but for now, they are stored in a box down in Florida where they live in winter and not accessible to me. I have spent the last few days sorting through the photos and scanning them into my computer and though they don't provide much additional information, they do somehow flesh out my memories of my great grandfather. So over the next few weeks, you will probably see some posts on the subject to write his memory into the internet for perhaps future generations who may be seeking information about him.

Victor Kuck died in when I was 11 years old and his wife Grace when I was 15 so I have memories of them both. However, I have no memories of Victor before his strokes which robbed him of much of his memory and function so the best memories are of my great grandmother Grace whom I spent lots of time with over the years. So fond are the memories that my daughter's middle name is in memory of Grace. My great Grandmother Grace talked fondly of her husband after he died and looking back through the pictures, there is not a one where I don't see them deeply in love. There are literally dozens just like the one above where the only thing changed is the scene.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Body World

 Copyright: Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination
Heidelberg, Germany,

One of the perks of being married to a doctor whose employer paid to sponsor Body Worlds, an organization that doesn't come to parts of the world with population centers smaller than 3 million and our entire state just topped 3 million in the recent census and could hardly be called a population center, is that I got to be the guest to a private showing of the exhibit Body Worlds Vital. Being a student of the internet, I was familiar with the exhibit and thought it fascinating but never thought it would be something I would be able to see since it is mostly overseas. But a few weeks ago, the cards came together in the middle of the week and the daughter and I were able to drive up to the urban jungle (of a few hundred thousand souls) and meet my wife for a private viewing.

When we showed up, there were tons of people waiting in a long line for free drinks and appetizers but the lady who handed up a parking validation said we were free to go see the exhibit at any time. So despite our hungry stomachs, we opted to go see the exhibit first. It was love at first sight and I had a hard time picking up my jaw off the carpeted halls. What I had expected were what you see in the two pictures attached to this post, human cadavers that had been preserved with a plastination technique into spectacular art forms. While those were there, there were also dozens of cases showing parts and systems of the body in ways that I have never seen before. One of the exhibits had all the blood vessels in a human body preserved and still in the shape of the human who had them though all tissues, bones and organs removed. Another exhibit had a mouth, tongue, esophagus, stomach, intestines and rectum all strung out without the rest of the body interfering with the view. Another exhibit had a set of healthy lungs by that of a career smoker and yet other exhibits compared slices of an obese man with that of a normal man, etc, so forth and so on. I walked from one exhibit to the next feeling like the blinders had suddenly been yanked off my eyes and I was seeing the light for the first time in a long time.

My nearly five year old daughter was a cause of concern when we decided to go to this event and because of my parents being in the fields and scheduling, she had to come with us. I'm actually glad that she did come because she was as blown away by the exhibit as we were. The first 'whole' body that she saw caused her to hide behind my leg but after that, she was up there right beside them imitating the poses and asking all kinds of questions about what she was seeing. At one point we had to break from the exhibits to go and hear a short presentation and our daughter spent that time constantly pleading that we go back to see the rest of the exhibits.

By the time we finished touring the exhibits of Body World Vital, we went back to the room where the free drinks and appetizers were being served and though they had been picked through, there were still some left and we had some fruit though we skipped the drinks since I still had to drive home with my daughter all the way from the urban jungle so she could go to school and me work the next day. The plus side was that the crowd that had been there were all now in the exhibit which had been nearly deserted during our tour. We made up for the loss of appetizers by going down a new Thai place for a late supper. I had larp which is a meat salad and considered the national dish of Laos and was delicious.

But back to Body World. If you ever have the chance to see this, even if it means driving two hours each way rain through a pouring rain storm like I did, do so. This was by far the best exhibit I have ever seen and I would go see it again in a heat beat if I am ever within a few hundred miles. You won't regret it.

Copyright: Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, 
Heidelberg, Germany,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

At War with Creepy Charlie

There comes a time when one has to do something that goes against the very moral fiber of your being. In this case, I am having to actually do some lawn care. But first, let me explain. I have always been a low lawn care kind of guy. I do the obligatory mowing when the grass reaches a certain height and that has been pretty much it. However, after upsetting a few neighbors, in the interest of maintaining a 'good fence', I even added mulching a burning my leaves to that list. Still, there was a couple things that I held firm too and those were no fertilizing to cause the grass to grow even faster and no chemicals to wash off into the street and then the streams. I always enjoyed the yellow of the dandelions and those little blue flowering plants that my daughter calls Creepy Charlie.

But times change and so I am in a hard spot. My wife who is about to enter her final year in residency has gotten more than a half dozen job offers in the half dozen job interviews she did. Although we are still thinking about our options and probably won't decide until later this fall, we have narrowed it down to two. Although neither job would require us to move, one job would certainly be a little better if we moved closer to it. If she lives within 15 miles of that hospital, she can come home even when she is on call as long as she is within the time limit for reaching the hospital in case of emergency. We already live within 15 minutes of the other contender but at this point in our lives, we are looking to get a place with some more land and thus will probably move.

So with the likelihood that I will be selling our house perhaps as early as this fall or within the next year or two, I decided that I needed to increase the curb appeal. I need to reduce the weeds, green up the grass and maybe thicken it in spots so that I end up with a lush, green lawn that *sigh*, I have to mow more often. So earlier this spring, I drove to the local garden store and loaded up on some fertilizer and grass seed and then I bought some weed killer online that is good for dozens of the weeds I have including Creepy Charlie and Crab's Grass, another name from my daughter. The latter couldn't be killed by any of the brands found here in town.

Long story shorter, I fertilized the grass and spread lots of new seed throughout in early spring before the early spring rains came to keep it watered because I still haven't sunk to watering grass to make it grow even faster. The fertilizers impact is certainly noticeable and my lawn definitely greened up and is growing faster. Due to our very cold spring, I'm not sure I got very good germination on the grass seed but it did come up in some spots if not thinly all over so the grass though not lush is thicker than it was. But the toughest job by far in both degree of difficulty and going against my moral fibers has been spraying the lawn to kill the weeds.

I have been extremely careful by ensuring that I haven't sprayed at least 48 hours before a forecasted rain which is six times more than recommended and I have stayed aways from spots that see lots of running water like down spouts, the ditch out back, etc. So far I have sprayed three times, twice over the worst of the stuff and once over the rest of the lawn. While it did a fairly good job killing most of the miscellaneous weeds throughout the lawn, I'm still not sure it did anything on Creepy Charlie. Not only is Charlie Creepy but he evidently has some internal fortitude. Though the spray knocked the blooms down within hours and the edges of his leaves turned a lighter shade, I don't think he is by any many dead yet.

But I have learned some things that are giving me hope. They list on the chemical bottle how to mix a batch for 1000 square feet. Evidently my ability to gauge a 1000 square feet are not what I think they are because the first two times seemed to do best where I stopped a sprayed a particularly thick patch of weeds and not so well where I sprayed lighter patches at a faster pace. So on my third batch, I concentrated on getting it applied a little bit heavier and it has increased the kill rate including portions of Creepy Charlie. According to the label I should wait 14 days between applications and only spray twice in the spring. The parts of the lawn that I have sprayed twice, albeit it the faster sprays that evidently weren't as concentrated as they should have been, still have quite a few patches of Creepy Charlie while the rest of the lawn that I only sprayed once but did a better job has a pretty good kill. So I think I will wait 14 more days and if the weather is still cool like it has been recently, I may go ahead and do the whole thing once again but again concentrating on applying it in more concentrated format like the last time.

The Lawn Nazi with the immaculate lawn that lives across the street has been eying me and I'm sure has probably thought that I've seen the light. He has over the years dropped lots of lawn maintenance tips in our 'over the fence' chats though I obviously haven't listened. He fertilizes about once a month and not only sprays multiple times a year, but crawls around on his hands and knees once a week digging out weeds with a little hand shovel. His lawn looks like the portion of grass between the fairway and the rough at Augusta National Golf course. Sitting here typing this and looking out the window at his lawn, I can't help but see that surely there is a compromise where I can get my lawn looking good enough to increase the potential value of my house without spending 40 hours a week maintaining it like the Lawn Nazi.

So the battle against Creepy Charlie and Crab's Grass continues this year and while I hope the rewards for winning will be rich, I certainly hope I don't turn into a Lawn Nazi as a result.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Crystal Griswold Is a Very Bad Girl

I suppose it started a couple months ago and I'm not sure when it is going to stop. But almost without fail, on every weekday when I get home from work, there is one perhaps two messages for Crystal. If they had been actual human voices, I would answer them and set them straight that Crystal Griswold doesn't live in my house and if I even knew her, she would be persona non grata anyway. But alas, all I get is robotic calls and they come in one of two flavors.

Flavor one is a call stating matter of factly that Crystal Griswold is being investigate for check fraud and that she needs to call an Atlanta, Georgia number to clear herself. The initial calls just stated that I, no name stated, was being investigated for check fraud. I however didn't have any misplaced checks making debits out of my account and rarely write checks so I wasn't overly concerned and just deleted them. I figured that if I was indeed being investigated for check fraud, a couple men in black would just show up at my door and ring the bell. But after a few weeks, they just came out an identified Crystal by name as their person of interest. The robotic calls will sometimes state that this call is for Crystal Griswold and by listening to the rest of the message I certify that I am Crystal Griswold. Of course I listen to see what kind of trouble she is in but they never have gone into specifics. The only thing I am certain of is that if they ever catch up with Crystal, she is probably going to be behind bars for some time.

Flavor two is a call stating that there has been a settlement reached and Crystal Griswold needs to call the same Atlanta, Georgia numbers to arrange how to receive it. Unless Crystal fell off the turnip truck yesterday, I'm not sure how anyone would fall for that ploy. I would bet large sums of money that any settlement is in the form of a pair of handcuffs. Sometimes they use the word prize, other times inheritance, etc.

Assuming that I have the correct spelling of her name since none of the telephone robots have been considerate enough to spell if for me to make sure they have the right person, a quick search pulls up at least two dozen around the United States. Only one comes up in Macon, Georgia and since all the calls originate from Atlanta, I wonder if she might be the one. Yet when I type the numbers on my caller ID into Google, they as often as not come back to some telemarketing scam which is always why I refrain from calling. So I guess I am resigned to the fact that I will have to come home and delete a couple messages off my machine every day until whatever computer program making the calls reaches its time limit where my number is removed off their list.

If by chance Crystal Griswold you stumble upon this post, please give me a call on my home phone with caller ID. I have a prize that I would like to give you.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Growing up on a farm in a very rural and very poor part of Iowa, sushi just wasn't on my radar. I'm sure I knew what it was but there just wasn't any desire to try some nor had I the desire would there have been a place to find some. There still isn't. I came from a meat and potatoes family and everything was well cooked except for our steaks which were medium rare.

Then while doing an internship late in my college career, that all changed. Another intern's roommate wanted to experiencing camping and asked me if I would take her and some of her friends camping for a night. I think it was the backpack and half a dozen tents that tipped her off. She was from Hong Kong and so were her friends and I don't think any of them had ever camped before. Long story short, the night we camped was very cold and I think they all spent at least half the night shivering in the nearby cars while I slept warmly in my sleeping bag. But sometime during the late evening hours over a campfire, we got on the subject of foods and my lack of knowledge or even experience around sushi was revealed and the girl said she would remedy that. I had no desire to eat sushi but it was one of those deals where I said it sounded great even though it didn't because I knew she was just being polite. I was wrong.

A couple weeks later, I found myself, the girl (I think her name was Melissa but I am no longer certain) and her roommate at a sushi bar in a much larger urban jungle than the one I frequent these days. They started me off easy with sushi rolls which were really good and I happily enjoyed them. Then they picked a plate from the rotating display and set it in front of me telling me it was unagi and very delicious. By then, my courage had picked up a bit and I tasted the unagi and found that it was even better than the sushi rolls. Only then did they tell me unagi was eel. I had a few more things that were also very tasty and then had raw octopus. Though that was over fifteen years ago, I still remember it clearly as being a bit like chewing a rubberband and probably of similar taste. Despite ending on a bad note, the overall experience had been positive until I got the bill and found out those small plates actually cost me almost fifty dollars.

Over a dozen years would go by before I found myself at another sushi place, this time with my wife and daughter in tow in our small urban jungle. At that time, I fell in love with sushi all over again and try to eat it a few times a year. It is still fairly expensive but with time, I have found a few places that serve excellent sushi at a fair price and you don't have to pay a premium for an atmosphere. The last sushi I had a few weeks ago, seen in the picture above was probably the best of all of them in both taste and price and I enjoyed it tremendously even if I didn't get my unagi fix.

I have a theory that most people would love sushi just as much as I do if they could just get around the mental road block that most Americans seem to have about it. The taste isn't what I expected nor is it very describable to those who haven't it before. I think the closest experience I can relate it too is eating a ripe piece of melon. Raw fish is very clean and refreshing tasting.

But let me take a step back and explain that though sushi is used to refer generally to a specific genre of food, notable raw fish, that isn't the case. Sushi refers to any fish served with rice. All the fish on the left side of the grainy cell phone picture at the top of this blog was sushi or raw fish served over a mound of rice hidden underneath with the exception of the shrimp at the bottom which was lightly cooked. Sushi can be raw or cooked. Sashimi is what I think most people equate to sushi and it is simply fish, raw or cooked served without any accompaniment. In the picture above, all the fish in the center of the plate, including the raw salmon hidden under the garnishing was sashimi. On the right side of the plate was a sushi roll which is can have raw or cooked fish and other condiments wrapped in rice and then seaweed and cut into bite sized chunks.

With that knowledge, I generally prefer sushi to sashimi though it is a bit like comparing which is liked better, $1000 or $999. They are both good but I think sushi tops out sashimi especially with a little wasabi paste added. It is also a bit easier to eat with chopsticks than thin pieces of raw fish. The most common raw fish served as sushi or sashimi here in the midwest seems to be tuna, yellowtail and salmon and I like them all. But nearest and dearest to my heart is eel or unagi which is generally smoked and brushed with some sweet sauce that reminds me a lot of BBQ chicken. For some reason, whenever I tell people that eel tastes like chicken, they never believe me.

I think that if people could just free their minds enough to try sushi, the majority would love it. I've been working on my parents to try to get them to eat sushi and though I have gotten them to eat Vietnamese food and love it, I still haven't won them over. They are still meat and potato people and though there isn't anything wrong with that, they are missing out. Now for some gratuitous sushi pictures from a different sushi eating session this time all rolls.

Three Sushi Rolls and Wasabi Paste

 The Iowa Sushi Roll which is of course fried and very delicious!

 A bite of salmon roll in my chopsticks

 This was called the Rainbow Roll and was wrapped in cucumber slices instead of rice.

Another roll, this time Spicy Tuna, about to meet its demise for the second and final time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Camarones Rancheros

Grainy cellphone pic of Camarones Rancheros

It was the perfect storm. I was craving some really good Mexican food, the kind that makes me want to sit along side some plank sided building deep in the shade with a serape slung over my shoulder and an ice cold beer in my hand while I watched a pistol dual on the street in front with squinted eyes. You know, authentic Mexican food and not the Americanized stuff that is everywhere these days. The other part that makes this storm perfect was that my wife was on call for three weekends in a row meaning I would be spending more time up in the urban jungle than I had for the first third of the year and as luck would have it, just up the road a piece from the BEST MEXICAN FOOD EVER.

I have blogged about Los Laureles a couple times and eaten at it a half dozen more. But after my second stop, I have been in a rut and have gotten the chimichanga which is heavenly. When you have found perfection, it is hard to order something else. But for some reason on my last trip, I was in the mood for something new and thus after a few minutes of debate, selected Camarones Rancheros or in English, shrimp in ranch sauce.

At first when the soupy dish was set in front of me, I had my doubts but one bite later I was in heaven one level higher than the chimichanga heaven. The shrimp were lightly cooked so there was no toughness or chewiness and the sauce with jalapeƱos, onions, tomatoes, corn and avocado swimming in broth was a very flavorful combination. With one hand wrapper around a fork and the other holding a corn tortilla, I was in a happy man.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Started As a Complaint But Turns Into a Rant

The perfect storm happened just as we arrived back in town from our trip to San Diego. The day prior to our arrival, the lone grocery store in town had shut it's doors for the last time and three days later, would open them up again in a shiny new and much bigger store just a few blocks down the road. So since our refrigerator was bare of essentials that must be replaced every so often, we were out of luck. My wife went off to our apartment in the urban jungle and my daughter and I started the work week by making meals from our pantry and freezer waiting for Tuesday when the store would open.

Tuesday rolled around and as I drove by the new store on my way to work, the parking lot was absolutely packed. Tuesday evening as I drove back the other way, cars were parked across the street in empty lots and people were hoofing it across three lanes of traffic with full shopping bags. It looked like a bee hive in reverse with worker bees headed in empty and hordes heading out loaded down with food. Deciding that I would rather gnaw on a frozen pork chop than deal with hordes of people sure to be gawking and taking their merry time, I kept on driving.

Wednesday was the same, Thursday was the same, and Friday was the same. I was beginning to get tired of looking into my pantry and freezer and having to decide what my next victim was. Plus, I was starting to crave some fresh milk, fruit and veggies. Saturday morning, we were up at the crack of dawn and made a dash to the new grocery store. Big whoop. The aisles were still narrow and though there were a few more of them, there wasn't a much bigger selection of foods. Sure, there were still chicken broth but now there were three brands to choose from instead of two and so it went as we went down the aisles.

After seven years of shopping, I pretty much knew where everything was so I could get in and out in under twenty minutes even when buying a full shopping cart worth of food. We maybe filled up only half a cart and it still took us almost an hour and I had to stop and ask for directions several times to see where they had stocked certain items. It is a nice store, and I suppose there will come a point where I'm glad for another brand to chose from on certain items and yes it was kind of handy having an attached liquor store so I could pick up a bottle of brandy for my famous beef stroganoff but then I could have done all that stuff at the old store.

When it comes to shopping, something I hate, I guess that I'm just against change. Bigger and newer is not always better. Usually it seems like it means just more of the same old cheap crap. Everyone that has been to the new store ahead of me raved about how nice it was but in the same breath said that they thought that the prices were high. Did they expect the new store to pay for the building and 100 additional employees by lowering prices? They are all drooling with the news that our old Walmart here in town is going to be replaced with one of those new Super Walmarts and is slated to open up late this fall. I don't shop at the old Walmart and I certainly won't shop at the new one so this one doesn't affect me. I'm sure the increased competition will bring down the prices at the new grocery store as everyone seems to want and instead of having one store doing relatively well for itself and paying its employees accordingly, we will have two stores in the throes of mediocrity with many hundred people being paid accordingly. Progress!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Missed Opportunity

Up the bay from the U.S.S. Midway and the harbor tour boats, I walked by this collection of nautical vessels at the Maritime Museum several times and wished I had the time to tour them. I didn't see how much the price tag was but assuming it was the standard fare in the area, it probably would have been worth it. In front, is the U.S.S. Dolphin which is the deepest diving submarine in the world and still holds the record among active submarines. Behind that is the Berkeley steam ferry which used to work in San Diego Bay over a hundred years ago.

This ship was a replica of the British Royal Navy frigate Rose. Later is was converted to the HMS Surprise and used in the academy award winning film Master and Commander: Far Side of the World.

The Star of India seen above it the world's oldest active sailing ship and was built in 1863.

Above is a B39 Soviet Union submarine, one of the largest diesel and electric ones ever built. No word on how it ended up at the San Diego Maritime Museum.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When the Phrase 'Pain At the Pump' Has a Totally Different Meaning

On my final half day in San Diego, I decided I would gas up the rental car before we got near the airport because I know any gas station right by the airport will have their prices jacked up higher than all the others. So I pulled into a station just a few blocks from our hotel, inserted my credit card and began to pump gas. About ten seconds later the trigger lock that holds the trigger up so I don't have to clicked off. I figured I hadn't gotten it all the way engaged and tried again only to have it click off after ten seconds. So I held the trigger with my hand only to have the same thing happen yet again.

Somewhere around this time I started paying attention to the digital readout when I noticed something even more startling. Whenever I squeezed the trigger, the gallons display kicked over .001th of a gallon about every half second. This seems pretty fast in text but calculating that out, it would take me approximately 2.8 hours to put 10 gallons of gas in the rental car.

So leaving the nozzle in tank, I walked up to the cashier settled snuggly behind her iron bars and bullet proof glass and told her something was wrong with pump four. She looked puzzled so I went on to explain that it was only dispensing gas at a mere trickle. That registered with her because she then informed me that the power had went out the night before and the computers were down. I'm not sure how that affects how fast the fuel dispenses but I accepted it and started walking back to the car.

There was a full size cargo van that had been at the pumps when I arrived and as I walked past, the guy having overhead my conversation informed me that he had been here already for twenty minutes. I chuckled, paid for the 0.3 gallons of fuel I had managed to get into the car at this point and drove away. I wasn't being paid hourly as the cargo van guy obviously was and went down the street to the next station where things worked much better.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Random Pictures With No Blog Post of Their Own

This was from inside the San Diego Convention Center taken from a descending escalator. I'm not someone who is 'into' architecture but this place was a gem.

This was a pedestrian bridge from the Convention Center to PETCO park just out of the picture to the left. There is also one of many pedicabs that patrolled the area and were constantly following me hoping that I would opt for riding instead of walking. I even saw one pedicab that had huge speakers pounding out base so if you drive one of those cars, you would feel right at home.

In the middle of the historic Gas Lamp district, I was walking along and spotted this door across the street. Since I don't often see Philippine related things too often in the middle of large cities, I was excited as I crossed the street to see what was behind the door. Unfortunately it was locked at three in the afternoon on a Wednesday and there was no sign stating hours, not even a number to call for an arranged appointment. When I got back home and Googled it, there isn't even a website.

What I wish I had the agility, balance and strength to still be able to do. Now I look at that and see a dislocated arm, stretched shoulder muscles and me lying in a motionless heap on the pier where this post was found.

I found this person sleeping in their tarp and they were just one in a long line of homeless people camped out next to that chain link fence. What struck me as ironic as that just across the street was a huge luxury Embassy Suites Hotel and on the other side of the chain link fence was a huge Naval Supply Center (NSC).

I have seen lots of graffiti but this is the first time I have seen it on a plant. These names were carved into the leaves of this plant somewhere in Balboa park.

An an engineer, I am fairly decent in abstract thinking, at least when it comes to spatial recognition. However, it didn't dawn on me what this was showing until my third or so look at it. Perhaps that is why when I go into modern art galleries I feel as if I could do the same thing and it wouldn't cost someone thousands of dollars to buy it.

Being not familiar with the flora of the west coast, I'm not sure what this tree is but it had a massive root system on top of the ground.

Due to having a passport that was only a few weeks away from expiring, I didn't cross the border into Mexico but I did make it down to Imperial Beach which is literally a stone's throw from the border. I found this sculpture on my walk down the beach.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rosecrans National Cemetery

I consider myself a well read and traveled individual and yet sometime I still get caught by surprise by my lack of knowledge. Up until my trip to San Diego, I would have told you that there was one National Cemetery and that is Arlington. When I drove by this cemetery on my way to Cabrillo Point, I immediately knew from the rows of marble tombstones that my knowledge was flawed and as it turns out, we have 146 of them. So on my way back, I pulled off and spent a while walking through the hallowed grounds of Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Most of the military people and their spouses buried in this cemetery are from World Wars I and II though according to their website, they have casualties from the San Pasqual in 1846 to more modern wars like Korea and Vietnam. I didn't see any Gulf War I or II burials but since it is still an active cemetery, I'm sure there are some.

It was a very peaceful cemetery and had gorgeous views overlooking both the Pacific Ocean (top photo) and San Diego Bay (bottom photo).

Once again, it reminded me of the price of our freedom paid for with our most valuable treasure, the blood of our soldiers. Another reminder that the decision to go to war should never be taken lightly.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Miscellaneous Pictures From My Harbor Tour

I'm not sure of the whole story on the preceding two pictures. The harbor tour captain said these were bait barges where fishermen stopped to purchase bait from the shack in the middle of the two barges every morning. I suspect that the rest of the story is that they must dump their old bait onto the barges for the sea lions.

The Coronado bridge pictured above was pretty impressive. I had initially thought that it was curved to match up with a major thoroughfare on the island (technically it is an isthmus) but I found out the reason was that they needed to increase the length to gain height for ships to pass over without making it horribly steep. Since all the military ships were docked to the left of this picture and the way out to the ocean was to the right, this makes sense.

The waterfront structure with the tee-pee like sail peaks in the center was the San Diego Convention Center where my wife spent most of her time while I was off galavanting around.

The above two photos are just miscellaneous shots of the buildings along the bay front and the huge boats. As someone who would like to build boats as a business someday, boats always fascinate me. If I were ever to come into a huge chunk of money and would somehow get beyond my normal practical and fiscally conservative self, I would love to buy a big boat and just live in an ever different harbor as the days passed me by. However, after watching many seasons of the Deadliest Catch, I'm not sure I would venture out beyond the harbors very far.

The spouses of the doctors who were attending the conference all met in the south tower of the Hyatt Hotel pictured in this photo. It was a very opulent hotel and I'm sure I would never fork over the dough to stay in such a place which is why we stayed in a plain Days Inn a little ways further down the road. The spousal meeting was to inform us of all the tours the conference was organizing for us and the times they were leaving. I opted out of them since there was no price break and the last thing I want to do is to be herded around from point to point on someone else's schedule. I got my fill of that flying to and from San Diego. Also, I was definitely younger than most of the spouses and definitely one of the few men present. I was worried about getting caught up in a group hot flash.

Which I suppose is why I found myself on this boat one morning touring the harbor with six other people. Due to the overcast skies, cool temperatures and breezy nature, I spent most of my time alone out on the open deck while the other five sat inside breathing stale air and watching the world pass by through nose smudged windows. Suckers!

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Military Power Than You Can Shake a Stick At

I am starting off this picture heavy post with a few words of explanation. San Diego is home of our entire Pacific fleet of ships so before this trip, I had been searching for a way that I could tour the harbor to see these massive things. I had naive hopes that I might be able to walk down some pier where they were docked and see them that way but unless I were to suddenly become a boat mechanic, I don't think I had a chance. So after researching, I opted for what I felt was the next best thing, a boat tour. Of course the boats really didn't advertise that they gave tours of the Pacific fleet but they did advertise tours or either the north bay, south bay or both. Being familiar with the satellite views, I knew that I would be plenty close to the military fleet to satisfy my curiosity so I signed up for the full bay tour. Below are the pictures that pertain to the Pacific fleet from that tour. The other pictures will probably be shown in a future post. Also note that all boat names are from my recollection and are subject to being wrong due to the time elapsed and the decreasing vigor of my firing synapses. 

Please forgive the lack of close up on this picture. My camera initially crapped out and wouldn't zoom out, possibly from the sand I got in it from my gulf trip this past Christmas. By the time I got it working, we were past this area so you need to open up this picture and zoom in close to see the Los Angeles class nuclear sub docked in approximately the center of this picture. On the right center is a pier and this is our military dolphin training center which is why those sausage-like barriers are in place with fences below them that go to the bay floor. They train the dolphins to sniff out mines and do remote surveillance. Although not mentioned due to political correctness, I wouldn't be surprised if the dolphins could also deliver explosives to enemy ships.

When we got to the south side of the bay where most of the routine maintenance of war ships takes place, we had a visitor keeping tabs on us. This little military police boat kept us under surveillance and as I was snapping pictures, I couldn't help but wonder if my picture was being taken and run through some facial recognition database.

Although they told me what this boat was, i have completely forgotten. I suspect it was a boat that could launch amphibious vehicles from the back end judging by the large gate on the stern.

The ship in the foreground is the guided missile destroyer the U.S.S. Milius which is from the Arleigh Burke class. The ship in the background is the U.S.S. Peleliu which is a Tarawa class amphibious assault vehicle that I believe mostly carries an assortment of helicopters.

This one is the U.S.S. Dubuque which is an Austin Class Amphibious Transport Dock ship to help land Marines and their gear onto shores around the world.

This one is the U.S.S. New Orleans which also is an Amphibious Transport Dock ship to help land Marines and their gear onto shores around the world but of the newer San Antonio Class.

This ship is the U.S.S. Makin Island which is a Wasp class Amphibious Assault ship that mostly carries an assortment of attack helicopters.

This one is the U.S.S. Dewey which is another Arleigh Burke class Guided Missile Destroyer.

This one is the U.S.S. Mercy which is the largest hospital ship in the world and last saw duty in the Indonesia tsunami.

The ship on the left is the U.S.S. Pearl Harbor which is Harpers Ferry class Dock Landing ship but the one on the right I can't remember nor can I see any hull number to help me identify it. I suspect that by comparing it to the next two ships seen below, that it is a recently completed Lewis and Clark class Dry Cargo ship.

As alluded to above, these two ships are Lewis and Clark class Dry Cargo ships currently under construction. The one in the background is nearly complete compared to the one in the foreground with only a partial hull completed.

This ship is the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard which is another Wasp class Amphibious Assault ship and was currently dry docked for maintenance. What I wouldn't give to be walking along side the hull inside the dock.

This ship is the U.S.S. Rushmore which is another Dock Landing Ship but of the Whidbey Island class.

This ship is the U.S.S. Princeton Ticonderoga class Guided Missile Cruiser with the towers currently wrapped so they could sandblast and repaint them. She was crippled in Desert Storm by two land mines but has since been repaired and is in good order.

I don't have much information on this one but according to Wikipedia, this is an experimental four hulled ship built by Lockheed Martin called the Sea Slice which is supposed to be a wickedly fast and stable platform from which guns can be fired.

Surveillance from the air? Actually there were lots of helicopters flying overhead all during my stay in San Diego. There were at least 50 of them on the ground in front of two huge hangars at the north end of Coronado Island where the military has their base located.

Finally coming full circle, this is the U.S.S. Midway which was one dock over from the pier on which the harbor tour boat I was riding was docked signalling that my trip was over. I enjoyed seeing all the ships but really wished I could have seen the largest in the world, the U.S.S. Ronald Regan which is currently on duty in Japan.