Saturday, December 15, 2007

Travels for Fun

Along with traveling for work this fall, Rachel and I were able to make it to several UT football games. The California game is well-documented in earlier blogs, as was my ranting following the Florida game. We also made it to several games in Knoxville, including the home opener against Southern Miss, Arkansas St. (me only), the woodshedding of Georgia, and the South Carolina cliff-hanger.
At each of these games, we were able to catch up with friends and enjoy the atmosphere of Knoxville on game-day (Steve and Erin Rodgers win "most loyal tailgaters" this year, as Steve made all Kennedy tailgates, and Erin missed only one. Mark Clark was also present at each tailgate. Prior to the Southern Miss game, we bumped into Rachel's Uncle Tommy at Gus's. We also saw Pace and Marin at Gus's (pictured in "Reflections"). Lindsey and Shaggy also snuck into town for this game.

The Big Orange BANDitos, shown as the Main picture of this blog were present at the tailgates for the Georgia game. If you read this blog and are not a UT fan, or if you are somehow a UT fan who is not familiar with the work of the BANDitos, please ask me about them sometime. They are well worth the explanation. Larry and Kerry Wray, Larry's brother Steve and friend, Cooney (just like a Brazilian soccer star, she needs only one name), and my college roomates - Tharp, Bean, and Timey and their MUCH better halfs were all present for this tailgate.

The weather turned cold for the South Carolina game. Johnson's wife, Erin, is pictured here "freezing". It was nice to reunite with Johnson for a win, following the debacle that we last attended together at Cal. The Johnson's have settled into TX with Shell Oil.

REFLECTIONS - Follow-up to the "Liquor Pack Mule"

As I had hoped, my recount of the lady that used her 4 year old boy at the Georgia game to smuggle liquor into the stadium, generated quite a bit of debate and banter amongst my blog readers. I wanted to follow-up on this particular topic, as many of you have provided some nice additional insight. Pace, pictured with Rachel and I at Gus's is the daughter of one proud Reed Stephenson - fellow blogger. Reed will be glad to know that his best friend, Bill Langston, volunteered Pace as a pack mule. Pace is WAY too classy for that task, at least until she enters college herself.

Others offered up the question, "Exactly how much alcohol could you smuggle in on a kid?" That is a very good question. One could likely turn this into a successful entrepreneurial venture by using a Cub Scout Den to smuggle the goods through security and then sell and distribute to others once in the stadium.

Perhaps the most astute observation was made by Mark Jones, Esq., who commented that he was, "pretty sure I could get at least a fifth in if I was carrying an infant."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Travels for Work

Since moving into my new job, I have been traveling a lot more. While we were living in the friendly confines of the Residence Inn, this was a little more palatable, as I was just exchanging one hotel for another. However, now that we are in our place, I dread traveling a little more (mostly because I miss my wife).

Over the past 6 weeks, I have traveled for work to Atlanta, Providence, Rhode Island, New York City, Orange Co., CA and Phoenix, AZ. The Phoenix trip was the highlight of my travels. I got to stay at a very nice resort. While there, we arranged meals with our larger customers who were attending the show. We took two of our biggest customers to Elements, where Chef Beau MacMillan cooks some AMAZING steaks (his claim to fame is that he beat Bobby Flay in an Iron Chef American competition). I typically don't care for high-end food (most of you know I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy), but MacMillan prepared the best Ribeye steak I have ever eaten.

I laid over in Phoenix for the weekend and had the opportunity to catch up with Jeremy Graves. He came up and spent the night on Friday evening, and we joined the Phoenix Chapter of the UT Alumni Association to watch the UT vs. Arkansas game. If you are ever in the area, be sure to join them, as they are a great bunch to hang out with. Their Vice President is a riot.

Reflections - What is this bathroom doing in NYC?

Before Thanksgiving, I rode with one of our Account Managers and Research Chemists to see a customer on the outskirts of NYC. It is amazing to believe that we are so close to "The City" now. We drove through Staten Island, across the bridge into Brooklyn, through Queens and to our final destination, which brings me back to my question - "What is this bathroom doing in NYC?"

The fact is, I don't know. I included this for 3 reasons: 1) I am establishing a pattern. I hope to include at least one bathroom photo of some relevence in this blog every 6 months (you can search my history to find my last bathroom posting); 2) Rachel will not like it. She is fun to annoy; and 3) It is thought provoking. I really have no idea what this bathroom is doing in NYC. Feel free to leave your comments on why you think it may be there.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sorry For the Absence

On Friday November 16, Rachel and I escaped from Captivity (the Residence Inn). We have finally moved into our place, and it is great to no longer be living out of a suitcase. Well that is not quite true, as I am still traveling quite a bit with work. However, we do have a place to call "home" again.

Now that we have internet access again at our house, I plan on writing several blogs over the next week or so to catch up on what has been going on for the past couple of months.

Mom and Dad came up for Thanksgiving and helped us unpack and situate furniture. Since we didn't have all of our kitchen stuff unpacked, we booked reservations at Maggiano's for Thanksgiving Day lunch. It was a massive amount of food, most of which, we ended up taking home with us for leftovers. We hung blinds, watched football and showed them around the area some. They agreed that the area outside Philadelphis is a little more rural than what they expected.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Vacation - Continued (Final) - Visit With Zo

First, Congratulations and shout out to Zo and Beth on the birth of Jake Lorenzo. Reports are that Jake and Beth are both doing well and that Mike is a little excited, although it would probably be difficult to detect. After finishing our tour of the Hearst Castle, Rachel and I set off towards San Diego. The difficulty in this journey is that there is no good way around Los Angeles. However, we lucked out and made it through LA in about an hour and a half. The highlight of our trip was dinner on our final night with Mike Lorenzo, the proud father mentioned above, and his wife Beth. This was the first time that Rachel and I had the opportunity to meet Beth. She is very nice and has no difficulty keeping Mike in his place. We ate at a great sushi restaurant and then went for ice cream at the beach. For those of you who know Rachel and I very well, you know that we are big zoo-goers. We could not pass up the opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo while we were in town, so on Wednesday, we visited the U.S.'s most famous zoo. It was really cool, as the habitats were extremely well designed. As you probably know, the pandas are probably the most famous animals at this zoo. We can now say that we have seen them. They really didn't do much. Very lethargic animals. I affectionately named the one in this picture "Larry Wray". I welcome blog-readers to hypothesize why.

My favorite exhibits are always the apes (note that this includes lowland gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees). I have included a video clip (I used Quicktime) of the baby orangutan playing with his father at the San Diego Zoo. Several families with small children abruptly left this exhibit, as two in the clan decided to get intimate. Rachel would allow no video footage of this spectacle.

My favorite of the apes is always the Eastern Lowland Gorillas, or "Silverbacks". They are large and in charge. The alpha-male pictured here was no different. This day was especially good for me, as they actually ran at one point. I had never seen one of them run. I gained a whole new level of respect for them, as they are not only huge, but really fast, much like Tim Tebow (I am watching him shred USC as I write this).

REFLECTION - Airline Price Discrimination
I learned in MBA school that an excellent way to make money is to segment your customers and then price discriminate amongst those segments, charging different prices to memebers of each segment. The airline industry has mastered this technique (I assure you that it is a valid tool and that airline earnings would be even worse without it).

Why do I write this, you ask. I can now say that I was a target of this price discrimination. I conducted a clinical experiment by buying 2 airline tickets from the same airline to different destinations from the same origination with both purchases made exactly 2 weeks in advance of the flight.

Flight #1: I fly from Philadelphia to Phoenix, AZ. I lay-over for the weekend in Phoenix and then fly to Orange County, CA on Sunday afternoon. I then fly back to Philadelphia on a red-eye flight Tuesday evening, arriving in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning. This flight logs over 5,000 miles and costs approximately $400.

Flight #2: I fly from Philadelphia to Knoxville, TN. I lay over for the weekend and then fly back to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. This flight logs 1,200 miles and costs about $200 more than Flight #1.

How can this be, you (and I) ask?

1) Knoxville is obviously a more attractive destination than either Phoenix, AZ or Orange County, CA, especially during football season.

2) Phoenix is not nearly as attractive destination as it once was, as most women have heard by now that Jeremy Graves is in fact married and thus is no longer available. The OC has suffered since the cancellation of its critically acclaimed series.

3) Competition - This may be the most plausible reason. Multiple airlines with multiple time slots fly from Philadelphia to both Phoenix and the OC. Prices are driven down further, as Southwest is one of those carriers. You want to fly to Knoxville, you have less options, which means a higher price.

4) Economies of Scale - More people fly to Phoenix and the OC from Philadelphia than to Knoxville. This is likely because they have not heard what a paradise that Knoxville truly is. 300-person flights allow larger planes to be used, achieving economies of scale vs. 50-person flights, which use smaller planes. In competitive markets, prices are driven towards variable cost. Each additional passenger on either flight adds very little variable cost (just the incremental fuel to fly that person's weight and baggage). These total variable costs are more effectively distributed across a larger passenger pool, achieving economies of scale on the larger flights to Phoenix and the OC.

Whatever the reason, it stinks that I have to pay $200 more to go see my parents than to travel coast-to-coast.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Vacation - Continued (Again) - Hearst Castle

Rachel and I spent Monday evening in San Simeon. It was a neat experience, as San Simeon is sort of a throw-back to the 1960's. It is very small, and has no hotels, only motor lodges. It would seem that its only reason for being is to house tourists, like ourselves, who want to visit the Hearst Castle (if you squint, you can actually see it in the picture above).

Situated high on the hill, Hearst Castle was built by media magnate William Randolph Hearst in the early 1920's. Although the house is not as large as the Vanderbilt's Biltmore mansion, the grounds are amazing. It sits on 7,000 acres of land, all originally owned by the Hearst Family (from the castle, almost every bit of land that you can see was owned by the estate). It was home to Hearst, who owned SEVERAL MAJOR newspapers throughout the United States (he was a Rupert Murdoch on steroids). His home was the playground to Hollywood's elite, such as Carey Grant, Randolph Scott and others. Hearst actually owned a DC-3, which transported guests to and from Hollywood to the estate.

The grounds held 4 guest houses, in addition to the main house, each with multiple bedrooms. Guests could stay as long as they wanted, as long as they behaved. Hearst did not believe in telling guests to go home; however, it would be obvious to you if you wore out your welcome. Hearst did not allow drugs on his property, and only allowed drinking in moderation (if you got drunk, you were kicked out).

The grounds contained an extravagent Roman pool, where guests were allowed to swim and play. Hearst was a man of action, so guests were not allowed to sleep late and were encouraged to be active, while staying at the grounds. They could swim, horse ride, visit the zoo on the grounds, or play tennis on the outdoor tennis court.

Hearst was ahead of his time. The castle was designed by architect Julia Morgan during a time when female architects were not given second notice. Hearst was a champion of Women's Suffrage and did not discriminate based on color or religion, although he himself was a religious man.

Mine and Rachel's favorite place was the indoor swimming pool. It was built with bright blue tile enlayed with real gold and was supposedly designed to be viewed at night. As beautiful as it was in the daylight, I can't imagine how beautiful it must be in the evening.

Anyone who is ever in the area should make the Hearst Castle a must.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Vacation - Continued

Sorry for another longer Blogging absence. Things are still a bit crazy with Rach and I, as we have entered our 3rd week together in captivity - The Residence Inn (I'm now in my 8th week of living out of a suitcase).

Since I needed to organize the pictures from our vacation, I decided to use that opportunity to blog about the rest of our trip in California. After getting drilled in the Cal game, Rachel and I said "Farewell" to Caleb and Mike Johnson and headed off down the California Coast.

The drive was beautiful, and the weather was perfect. It was sunny and 70 for our entire trip. On the first day, we drove from San Fransisco to Monterey, where we spent the night. Remarkably, the picture to the left, is someone's back yard. I would hate to think how much the land is worth, and I certainly don't think I could afford the taxes on it.

Later in the afternoon, we drove 17 Mile Drive and went to Pebble Beach Golf Course. Lots of great pictures, which I have posted at the end of this blog. We bought some souveniers for the dads at the Pro Shop.

We had dinner at the wharf in Monterey that evening. It is a neat little town, but lots of tourists. The next morning, we got up and went to the Monterey Aquarium. The jellyfish to the right is a shot I took at one of their tanks. The otters were our favorite. They are so playful and energetic.

We left the Aquarium a little before lunchtime and went to Carmel by the Sea. This was Rachel's favorite part of the trip. It is a quaint little town with lots of shops. We bought a couple of trinkets for ourselves and then had lunch at Clint Eastwood's restaurant. It was a pretty darn good cheeseburger.

After lunch, we left Carmel and drove through Big Sur National Forest. Rachel was actually successful in getting me to take 2 hikes while we were there. This is an excellent shot of a huge redwood tree. They are really spectacular. Ironically, this trail led to the most pitiful little water fall I have ever seen. The trees were beautiful though.

Luckily, the second hike that we went on had a much better waterfall, pictured here. We then left Big Sur and spent the night in San Simeon.

I am including some additional pictures below, including one of the gas pump at the station entering Big Sur (if I didn't include it, noone would believe that I actually paid that much for gas).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jackpot - We Have a Place To Live

8th day in captivity - Rachel and I have now officially been homeless for 8 days. However, hope is near. We close on a new place on November 14. After much debate and some solicited help from our blog readers, we went with another townhome. Although not one of the original 4 options listed, this one is in the same development as the townhome that we liked the most (as did the majority of readers) in the original blog.

This one does not have a finished basement, but it does have a finished loft though, so there is still room for an office and "man den". It is also already painted with neutral colors, which was an important criteria this time around, as Bill "Pops" Langston would be unavailable for Alternative Fall Break - Philadelphia and the painting of the Kennedy's home, as he and Erin celebrate the arrival of Carter Langston (see blog links). Congratulations guys!!!

The townhome is 20 minutes from my current work location and 10 minutes from a train station, which will take me to work, once our office moves back to center city.

There is a breakfast area adjacent to the kitchen, which looks out onto the farm. I am excited about this part, as I think it will be a cool place to drink coffee on Saturday mornings.

Another advantage of this townhouse is that the kitchen has more room and counter-space than our townhome in Chicago. It also has dual ovens, which is kind of cool. The selling point for me was that the gas fireplace comes with a remote control (quick, sign Cedric the Entertainer up for more Bud Light ads, cause this has potential).

All readers are invited to come visit when they get a chance. We love visitors!!!

Reflections Part II - Distinctively Southern I am a southerner, and I will always be a southerner at heart and by action. I still do peculiar things that many refined southerners would consider - "redneck". Clark likes to point this out to me on occassion. Still, after living in the north for 3 and a half years, I occassionaly run into things when I visit home that never would have crossed my mind before. Now, I find them "strange".

For instance, during our visit for the Georgia game, I stopped by the bank that I have used since I was a child. I used to take pennies from the piggy-bank there when I was 3 years old. On this visit, it struck me odd that a gentleman at the teller window would be depositing checks, without his shirt on. If this was not funny enough, one of the tellers, who had been in the back room, came by and greeted him, "Hey Ted!!!" Apparently, she didn't think it was that strange.

Even more impressive... Rachel and I marched from our tailgate at the G-10 Garage south of Neyland Stadium to our gate at the north end of the stadium. As we were approaching the gate, we noticed a family of four in front of us - mom, dad, a 6ish year old girl and a 4ish year old boy. Before I continue with this story, I would like to state that this appeared to be a somewhat normal and middle-class family, not someone who wreacked of "redneck".

The mother had the boy by one hand and a "road coke" in the other. As we approached the gate, her husband told her, "You better finish that, or they'll take it away from you at the gate." She quickly turned to Rachel, standing behind her, and replied, "That's OK, I got more where that came from." She then proceeded to tell my wife how she had airplane bottles of liquor stuffed in the 4-year old's shorts waist-band. "I just tell him to keep his arm down as he goes through security. They never check the kids," she proudly explained to Rachel (Bill, at this point, I would like to personally offer to take Carter to his first Tennessee football game as soon as he is able to walk).

Yes friends, this lady was using her own 4 year old son as a liquor pack mule.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Goodbye Chicago... Hello Philadelphia

Sorry it has been so long since I have updated the blog. Thanks to those of you who complained to the management (Rachel) about my delinquincy in updating this page. I will do better in the coming weeks, as our life will hopefully return to some level of normalcy. Here is an update of the past few weeks:

1) Rachel worked in Chicago, while I worked in Philadelphia. It was a bit like dating again. She even thanked me for visiting when I showed up in Chicago for a weekend a few weeks ago.

2) We found a place to live in Philadelphia. I will write more on this in my next entry (complete with pictures).

3) We caught up with many friends the weekend of the Georgia game - Larry and Keri Wray, Salim, Cooney, Kristen, Steve Rodgers, the guys I lived with in college - Kevin Tharp, Brian Bean, Tim Hylund, and the always entertaining Mark Clark. Sorry if I left anyone out here. The only thing better than beating Georgia is taking them out behind the woodshed!!! That was a great Saturday. Following the game, several of us went to Laddy's and Amy's house to watch the LSU vs. Florida game and indulge ourselves into some of Amy's fine cooking.

4) Rachel and I sold our house in Chicago. Thanks to the ridiculous relocation practices of Cartus Corporation (Rohm and Haas's relocation firm), this process was exceedingly painful. With the help of our real estate agent, we were able to hold the deal together, and we received confirmation that our house was sold on Friday. Hopefully, I will not require triple-bypass as a result of this process. If you ever move to Chicago, I can recommend an excellent real estate agent and also give you the name of a home inspector to avoid!!!

5) Please congratulate Rachel on her new job. She interviewed last week and accepted a contract position part-time through Thanksgiving near where we will eventually live. This position has the prospects of moving to full-time after we are fully relocated after the Thanksgiving Holiday.

6) Last night, Rachel and I spent our last night in Chicago. We went to a "Toast for the Fallen", which was a fundraiser for the families of fallen U.S. soldiers. We met, Greg Taunt and Matt Adams (and Matt's "pre-wife" Heather), two of my friends from Kellogg. Heather is his "pre-wife" because they do not like the term "fiancee". It was a great time, and we ended our stay in Chicago, much the way we began it, staying at the same hotel, where we had first visited with Mark Clark 3 and a half years ago, when we began our relocation.

I have decided to conclude my blogs with a segment entitled "Reflections". The purpose of this segment is to spawn deep thought,inform, and hopefully, entertain. I welcome comments on this segment.

This Reflections topic is - Restroom Hand-washing Automation
As I have been traveling more with work lately, I have found myself pondering a technological question, "What is the appropriate level of restroom hand-washing automation?"

There are 3 essential pieces of hand-washing equipment in public restrooms - 1) soap dispenser; 2) sink faucet; 3) drying apparatus (this tool is typically manifested in one of two forms - dryer or paper towel dispenser). Each one of these tools comes in an automated or unautomated form. These options provide 8 (2^3 for those desiring mathematical proof) combinations of automation on this equipment (NNN, NAN, NNA, ANN, AAN, ANA, AAA, NAA, where N = non-automated and A = automated). I am pretty certain that I have seen all of these combinations in my travel over the past month.

I belive that ANSI, OSHA, Congress, the SEC or Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore should take on establishing a standard for this equipment, as I do not believe that all of these combinations meet the logical cleanliness threshold. I will attempt to provide a logical ranking of acceptable practice given the absence of such standards:

1) AAA - complete automation of all devices minimizes the opportunity to spread germs. The travel plaza at milemarker 13 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) is an excellent demonstration of this high-level of automation.

2) NAA - I do not believe it essential for the soap dispenser to be automated, as one should be able to disinfect germs after charging said soap from dispenser. However, the sink faucet and towels should be automated, as both of these devices are used after the germs should have been cleansed. This appears to be the most frequently used package in modern restrooms. Examples include Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, IL, Atlanta Hartsfiled International Airport and the travel plaza at Ohio mile marker 235 off of the Ohio Turnpike.

3) AAN & NAN - I believe that the sink faucet is the key automation device. Again, the germs from the soap dispenser will be eliminated with proper scrubbing. Assuming that no "unclean" hands use the non-automated papertowel dispenser, then it should be germ free, as it should only be touched by clean hands. This is the exact setup in the bathrooms at Kellogg. While I believe they should be able to automate all features of the bathroom (and all other aspects of the building for that matter), given the tuition, this setup does achieve my standard for cleanliness.

4) NNA, ANN, ANA - These are all unacceptable standards. Regardless of the level of automation of the other apparatuses, it is essential that the sink have the motion detector. Without it, any germs washed off during the cleansing process will be reacquired when the washed hand is used to turn off the germ-infested faucet, which was recent turned on by the uncleansed hand. Unfortunately, these conditions still exist routinely - Philadelphia Airport and the Travel Plaza at mile marker 135 on the Indiana Turnpike.

5) NNN - while no less safe than the combinations listed in 4, a completely unautomated bathroom lacks any imagination and is "dull" in addition to unsanitary.

Word of advice - when encountering any of the scenarios listed in "4" above, please use the drying towel to shut off the faucet, thus providing a prophylactic barrier for your clean hand. If a dryer is used instead of towels, you must make a decision between your health or abusing mother earth's precious resources.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Owe So Many People "Thank You's"

DISCLAIMER: If you are a Tennessee fan who is taking things in stride after this weekend, do not read any further. Also, if you are easily offended, have high blood pressure, a heart condition or are pregnant (Schwie, your tough; you'll be fine - keep reading), you should not read further. After my trip to Gainesville this weekend, I realized just how many things I have to be thankful for and how I need to say "Thank You" more often than I do. So, here is my list of "Thank You's" following our trip to Gainesville:

1) Thank You Phillip Fulmer for your $1 MM donation to my alma mater. While I am sure this money will be put to good use buying maxi-pads to wrap up Eric Ainge's injured pinky or extra cups for Coker's additional marijuana testing, you might have considered hiring a special team's coach. Spotting each team we play 7 points on punt returns is a strategy that is not paying off.

2) Thank You Mrs. Ramke, my second grade teacher, who taught me all of the math skills that are necessary to analyze Saturday's game statistics:
a) Net Rushing Yards - FLA 255 is greater than TN 37
b) Total Net Yards - FLA 554 is greater than 298
c) And most importantly, Score FLA 59 TN 20

3) Thank You Arian Foster, for giving us all a chuckle last week, when you used the word "equanimity" in the correct context when describing Eric Ainge's poise, proving that you are a student athlete. I really wish that would have geen all you "gave" last week. Instead, you "gave" Florida 6 points with your pitch to the linebacker at the least opportune moment. With your huge vocabulary, you must be a literature major, because your performance in big games never lacks the element of Shakespearean tragedy.

4) Thank You to the Florida fans, who were trying to make me feel better (they were actually heckling me) by saying "Tennessee - 2nd in the SEC". I WISH!!! We may be the 2nd best team in East Tennessee this year, as Maryville high school is looking pretty strong again. Thanks also to the Cave Man who posed for my picture... Classy.

5) Thank YouUrban Meyer. You are an arrogant prick and remind me why I hate everything "gator". I hope that the next coach at Tennessee remembers you throwing the ball in the 4th quarter to run the score up and pays you back some day. I also hope that LSU stomps your guts out this year (although Les Miles is in the same category).

6) Thank You Notre Dame for giving me something to cheer for (or I should say against) this college football season, as I would otherwise have nothing to cheer about. Although it is too late to get you on our schedule this year, reading that you were blown out... AGAIN... and that Rick Clausen was sacked 6 times almost made me feel better.

7) Thank You Kentucky for beating an over-rated Louisville team. Your victory makes me realize that we have the opportunity to accomplish what no other Tennessee team has in my life-time, finishing dead last in the SEC East. Vanderbilt may be the only team that stands between this team and immortality.

8) Thank You Laddy and Mark Clark for your eternal optimism in the face of this game. Laddy, let this stand as your first lesson in Tennessee football. Clark, you should have known better. (Laddy also wins text message of the game with his "my confidence has subsided" text during the 3rd quarter).

9) Thank You to the Florida linebacker that reminded me of the great biblical story of David and Goliath. In the 2nd quarter, outweighed by your opponent by 85 lbs, you did not cower. Instead, you ran full speed ahead, blasting our right guard to the ground and then ran 5 more yards to make the tackle. That moment provided clarity for me of where the game was headed.

10) Seriously, Thank You Sarah and Greg for being excellent hosts this weekend. It was great to see you guys. Greg, you are a true gentleman. Having only hung out with us a few times, you were gracious enough to pick us up and take us to the airport at extremely perverse hours. My apologies for the effects of my "cheap" ticket search. We really enjoyed spending time with you guys. Thanks also to Salim and Kelly Bradley for hosting us (and arranging a parking spot) at your tailgate. It was wonderful to see you guys; I wish we could have hung out longer. For those who have not heard by now, Kelly is 5 months pregnant.

This rant was quite therapeutic. I promise to drop my negativity and get back to more traditional blogging after I re-hydrate from the game. I haven't been so hot since Larry Wray lured me to Greve by telling me it would be air conditioned.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Vols vs. The Hippies

Last Saturday, Rachel and I met up with some more friends in California and went to the UT vs. Cal game. In addition to Caleb and Mike Johnson, we also met up with Paul Davis, a good friend of mine from UT and the person who sheperded me through Analytical Chemistry (now a Chemistry Professor at Pacific Lutheran University) and Ken Achacoso, a comrade of mine from his Rohm and Haas days and an avid footballer, having grown up in Baton Rouge and attended the University of TX before being trapped in Pac-10 Land. Not pictured, are Jerry Becker and his friend John, and about 12,000 other UT fans that we fellowshiped with at The Bear's Lair.

Berkeley was a slightly "different" footballing experience. First, the stadium may have held 72,000 fans, but it was not set up logistically to deal with that many, as the concourses were a constant miserable traffic jam. "Tightwad Hill", pictured here, was a neat little concept (although I understand the TV announcer made some week accusations).

Perhaps the strangest spectacle of the trip, other than the 20+ missed tackles by the defense, was the Hippies in the Trees, who were protesting the proposed stadium expansion. We had many a laugh, as we explained to the Cal fans several scenarios that might transpire if anyone attempted to halt a stadium expansion at an SEC school.

This time, I want to throw a shout-out to Erin Langston's blog on Southlake Carroll football (they play this weekend on TV at a highschool in Miami). Not that I don't enjoy the pregnancy blogs, but this one was spectacular.

Monday, September 3, 2007

San Fransisco

On Friday morning, I picked up Caleb and Mike Johnson at the Oakland Airport. We picked up Rach at the hotel and headed to San Fransisco for the afternoon. San Fransisco is a great city to visit. Like Chicago, it is very clean.

We began by driving Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world. As shown in the photo, it is very steep and very curvy. We saw Eric and Nan Beaty and one of Rachel's residents while driving around. We then headed out to the wharf for some dinner. We met up with Brian Bean, one of my roommates from college, and Shane Pledge and Derek(?), some more of our college buddies. It was great to catch up with them for a while. They then headed off to the Oakland A's game, and we continued to walk around Fisherman's Wharf for a while.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Napa Valey

I finished my last set of finals for Graduate School on Wednesday night, and Rachel and I caught a 6:30 AM flight from Chicago to Oakland, CA on Thursday morning. We were greeted at the airport by Warren (aka Maurice), who drove us around wine country all day. We visited 4 wineries - 1) Andretti, 50% owned by Mario Andretti, 2) Sequoyah, named after the large trees in the vineyard, 3) Darioush, the swankiest of the joints that we visited, and 4) Del Dotto, which is one of the more famous Napa Valley vineyards due to the caves dug by the Chinese in the 1800's.

The vineyards were very pretty. Rachel and I are far from wine connoisseurs, so it was a bit like "the Bevery Hillbillies go wine tasting". It was also amazing in that it was 75 F on the coast and 105 F inland. We learned alot about wine making and tasting through the process.

At the end of the last tasting, we were dropped at our hotel, where we ate dinner and prepared for our adventures the next day.