Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I spent much of this week in Portland, OR for work. There is lots I could mention – mostly about food, but to keep this short I’ll just say that I had an artisanal Twinkie and it was DELICIOUS. I forgot to take a picture, sadly

posted by neil at 7:30 pm
under travel  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Weekend Trip: San Diego

I don’t expect to be doing much traveling this year – at least in the first 8 months – but we started the year out with a weekend trip down South to San Diego, to celebrate one of Mackenzie’s friend’s birthdays. I’d never been to San Diego before, so I was looking forward to whatever we did being new to me.

We arrived along with a few other friends around 6:30PM, and a couple of our friends from other cities who were driving down that day picked us up from the airport and brought us to Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant where we met out local friend and her coworker. There was a bit of a wait for a party of 10, but the margaritas made the wait easier, and the food was worth waiting for, and also pretty cheap. Actually – they split us into a table of 6 and a table of 4 and my table, the table of 6 ended up just paying the entire bill since we didn’t read it carefully and it was low enough that dividing by 6 seemed OK. I guess we forgot we were in San Diego!

The next day we headed out to the famous San Diego zoo. It was the last weekend of their “Jungle Bells” holiday thing, where there lights up around the zoo and it stayed open fairly late.

This was pretty cool later in the day, after it got dark, but from the get go, I was very happy. We started out with their bus tour, which is a good way to get a feel for the zoo, especially for a first timer (of course some in our party had been there before, but not I!). There were some good views of animals from the bus, like this lion:

After the bus tour we ate and, agains the wishes of many of the party, I got to walk around the reptile house. They were mostly sleeping, of course, but there were still some sights to see like this dwarf crocodile.

Even though we spent almost 6 hours at the zoo, I don’t think we saw more than 20% of it. Of course we spent some time eating and drinking, and with a group of 9 you might have to take things slow, but none of us were too bored, I don’t think, and everyone liked what we saw. As we stayed until round 6PM, we were able to enjoy the holiday lights as we were getting ready to leave the zoo.

After spending the day at the zoo we were all sort of tired, so we ordered in Pizza, drank a bunch of wine,

and watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch on DVD, which was a good lead on to our brunch plans the next morning…

We went to Lips, which is a drag show dinner club, that has a Gospel Brunch on Sunday. The show was pretty good and while the all you can drink Bloody Marys and Mimosas were nothing to write home about, there really was all you can drink, so except for our drivers, we were pretty sauced by the end of the show.

Almost all the non locals headed home after lunch, either via Air or Car, but Mackenzie and I along with a couple of more friends were on a late evening flight, so we hung around for a while, watching some TV and getting dinner from Smash Burger, which makes a tasty burger and some tasty fries.

Overall, it was a fun and quick trip, which makes me want to go back to San Diego to check out more sites and have more food!

posted by neil at 8:57 pm
under travel  

Monday, August 1, 2011


I finished the last post with me heading back to San Francisco, on July 11th. I had a four day workweek ahead of me before going on to my next weekend trip, but in the meanwhile, I went and saw the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

The movie was pretty good, and I think I would give it about 7 out of 8 rabbit turds, on the rabbit turd scale. I think that as a whole, the two parter was quite well done and reflected the novel quite well. What was not great was coming home at a quarter to four and having to get into work by 9am the next day. Luckily for me, my next trip didn’t start until Saturday, because the next trip was vegas.

Las Vegas July 16-18

This was a trip to Las Vegas for my friend Steve’s bachelor party. I won’t say much about this, but I will show a picture of my dinner that saturday.

And then back to SF for another 4 day work week. It took me until Thursday to really recover from the weekend but the week did feature a trip to AT&T park to see the Giants beat the Dodgers, and to see Brandon Belt come back up to the big leagues with a Home Run.

And then Friday it was on to the final trip of July.

July 22-24 Lake Tahoe Camping

We went up to DL Bliss State Park on the shores of Lake Tahoe for our yearly camping trip and river float. The latter, well – it wasn’t much of a float. It was more of a river fiasco, truth be told. There was still snow on the tops of the mountain, and as that might lead you to believe, there was lots of water in the river systems. However, the river float is at the start of the Truckee river, where it flows out of Lake Tahoe, and this flow is controlled by a large dam. The dam was completely closed, because there was lots of water downstream, about two and a half times more water than one would expect. Unfortunately this meant that there was about 1/3 as much water as expected in the float area. The float was slow, shallow, and tedious. We didn’t even make it half of the route before calling it a day in a little over two hours. Our less was learned – if the commercial river rafting company is closed, don’t bother with the float.

We got back to camp a bit earlier than typical, and used the time to visit the beach at the camp site. This was fun, and we decided we wanted to come back again the next day before we left the area, which we did for a nice afternoon swim and lake float. This helped us avoid a lot of the traffic leaving the area, and as we were planning on stopping in Davis for dinner with Mackenzie’s sister’s family, it helped out our timing. We had a nice visit in Davis, but poor Orrin got stung in his foot by a bee. He took it well, was more annoyed than anything else at the problem. After dinner and some visiting, it was back home.

I am now in the middle of 12 nights at home, before heading to Redding this weekend to hang out at Mackenzie’s parents’ house with some friends (her parents are out of town). Unfortunately Mackenzie was out of town herself last weekend, to go to LA for her friend Melissa’s birthday. I skipped the trip due to all the traveling you read about above and the previous post. However, on the bright side, my friend Joan was in town from Toronto for a tech confernce. I got to hang out with her Friday night and Saturday, and wander around my home, San Francisco.

posted by neil at 8:03 pm
under adventure,travel  

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summertime Adventures – July 2011 (part 1)

This July has been jam-packed with adventure. I was away from home every weekend this month, until this, the last weekend. As such, I didn’t have time to keep up with my bills (I managed to pay my cell bill on the last possible day), let alone my blog. But as I am home this weekend, I have had time to go through the photos I took, a pre-requisite to the blog post. So here we go on a recap of the month:

July 4th Weekend – Donner Lake

Our friends Tori and Steve invited us to their cabin on Donner Lake for the July 4th weekend. It was a great weekend, jam packed with fun and food (all the couples invited took charge of a meal to prepare for everyone. Mackenzie and I took Sunday dinner, for which we did a tacopalooza – carne asada, carnitas, and chicken tinga, served with all the trimmings -I should make a separate post on this.

We spent most of the time during the days on or by the lake. Tori and Steve rented a speed boat on Sunday, which the group took turns using, and on Monday, July 4th, they rented a pontoon boat, which we could all fit on. We spent a great afternoon out on the lake (which was freezing cold, no wonder, there was stills now on the mountains).

As Tuesday was a work day, and in particular I had to be in by 9am, we had to leave before the firework show at the Lake. However, on our way back to San Francisco, we stopped at Mackenzie’s sister’s house in Davis, to visit her family and go see the fireworks. Her nephew, Orrin, who was about 16 months months old, had fun with Angry Birds on my phone, and watching the fireworks.

This is the full gallery of photos posted from the trip.

July 9th Weekend – Chicago

I was home for only a few nights before heading to Chicago that Thursday afternoon for my nephew Milo’s second birthday weekend. Thanks to spending several days in Burbank for work earlier this year, I had a free flight on Southwest airlines, which I took advantage of for this trip. This meant, of course, that I flew into Midway, which is quite a bit farther from my parent’s house than O’Hare, but my parents graciously agreed to ferry me to and from the airport.

The fast paced nature of the month makes the early part of the trip hazy, but I know that on Saturday my parents had Milo at their house, as they do almost every Saturday. We had a fun playing in his sandbox, drawing with chalk, and playing with toys.

I thought Milo was his normal, light-hearted self, but my mom was a bit concerned as he had a bit of a bowel issue that day. We took him home to his parent’s, and then I went out to dinner with my parents.

This brings us to Sunday, the day of Milo’s birthday party. The party was to be held at his house, and his dad, my brother, was going to cater it, as he did last year, and the main course was to be smoke brisket. The plan was that my parents and I would watch Milo again during the day, as Keith and Sarah prepared for the party, and then he would take him back for his party around 3pm. However, I woke up to the news that my brother was violently ill, had slept in the bathroom, and was not able to make the food. Sarah, while not a cook, is a great super-connector, and she enlisted one of their chef friends to help her with the brisket, and other friends to help set up for the party.

Our morning with Milo was fun, although he did seem a bit off. He took a longer than usual nap, and we set out for him to be late to his own party. Things started to turn concerning right before we pulled up to the house, as Milo puked a bit in the car. Thankfully we were almost there, so we rushed him home, and his mom changed him, and as he seemed that he was OK, he was able to attend and enjoy his party.

In hingsight, maybe he shouldn’t have been eating deviled eggs, as he threw up again an hour or so into the party. I helped Sarah get him cleaned up and changed, and all the poor kid wanted to do at that point was watch his favorite TV show, “Martha Speaks”. Keith, who was still pretty out of it, took him into his bedroom and they watched tv together. So not only was Milo’s dad unable to attend the party, but Milo got knocked out of it too. I carefully washed my hands after getting him cleaned up.

At this point, I was roped into assembling my parents’ gift to Milo – a pretty awesome kitchen set. Despite the small size of this project, it was incredibly complex, and took over two hours to assemble. Milo came out, part way through, to supervise.

Then Monday, the day I was to go back, I woke up at 7am to my mom telling me that both her and my father had gotten violently sick. Bleh, I thought, and went back to sleep, to be awoken by some thunder a bit later. It turned out that the thunderstorm knocked out power for my parents’ house along with a few hundred thousand other houses. This was the second time his summer my parents had no power for more than a few hours, and after the last storm my dad had gone out to buy a generator. I helped him (well did most of the work) to get it set up and running so that they could have power for the duration of the outage (which turned out to be about 24 hours more). However, I also got picked up by my brother to spend the day with him and in theory get a ride to the airport. But since Milo wouldn’t nap, and ended up running errands with the two of us, and Sarah was also Ill, I took a cab to the airport from their house, instead of subjecting Milo to another long car ride. Oh, while I was there that afternoon, we put together my present for him, a push bike, and I played ball with him in the house.

This post has turned out to be quite long, and since I promised I would post something tonight, and need to watch true blood, I will leave this as TO BE CONTINUED.

posted by neil at 9:38 pm
under adventure,Milo,travel  

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chicago Trip and Etc.

Mackenzie and I went to Chicago earlier this month for my friend Nancy’s wedding, and also to see my family. It was planned for a pretty short trip – fly out on Thursday evening, and return to San Francisco Sunday Afternoon – but more on the travel schedule later. We met my friend Erin at the airport, as we were flying out on the same flight, and sharing a rental car for the first day or so.

We were flying American, which meant we went to the newly reopened Terminal 2 at SFO. The new terminal is fancy, and it seems fairly upscale in the concessions. We decided to grab some food and a drink at the Cat Cora lounge, as it was something new and different that we heard about. The cocktails were good, albeit pricey (but hey, it’s in an airport) and the food was OK. Definitely better than the last few restaurant meals I’ve had, but that’s not saying much. I’ll probably try one of the other venues next time I fly from Terminal 2 after work and need food, however.
The 6:30PM flight got us in to ORD around 12:30AM, and it took about an hour more for us to get our luggage, pickup the rental car, and drive to the hotel.

The next day the three of us met up with my old friend Scott and his fiance Kira for lunch. They were staying at the Hyatt Lodge at Hamburger University, which was couple of miles from our hotel. We met them there, so we could check out the McDonald’s campus area and the unique hotel. It was interesting, but I haven’t had a chance to post pictures yet. I am a slacker… After we decided that lunch choices at the hotel were not sufficient, we went over to the Oakbrook Mall, which was about midway between our two hotels, to find food. We ended up at a place called the Clubhouse, which was basically like a Friday’s dressed up as a fine dining restaurant. Well, that is not exactly fair, since the food was pretty good. Also, the portions were astounding – my lunch portion of Chicken Pot Pie was the size of a dinner portion out here.

Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, it was time to get ready for the wedding. I wore a suit for the first time in well over a decade (I actually bought a suit for the wedding), and took the occasion to go all snazy, and wearing a pocket square. Since, as I said I was too lazy to post my pictures from the trip, here is a photographic proof, from Facebook:

The wedding was a delightful affair – low key, because that’s how Nancy rolls. My friend Scott was her ‘Man of Honor’! It took place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate an Tudor revival mansion from around the turn of the Twentieth Century.

While there was a breakfast planned for the next day, related to the wedding, we could sadly not attend. We had to get Erin to the airport for her flight, and then we planned to go to my Parents house to spend the day with them and my nephew Milo. I feel that was a pretty good win, since he’s super cute. And there are no pictures, not because I didn’t post any, but because I didn’t take any. But we had a good time going out to my parent’s local hot dog/gyros place for lunch with him, and then running around the mall. While he napped in the afternoon, Mackenzie and I went to visit my 94 year old grandma, who recently fell and hurt herself and was in a rehab facility. It was great seeing her, and I love her dearly, but I wish we were able to visit her at her house.

For dinner on Saturday my parents took Mackenzie and I out to Wildfire, which is a steak/seafood restaurant that I had been to a couple of times before and enjoyed. Even though it is a chain, and part of a giant restaurant group (Lettuce Entertain You), I can recommend it as a place for a tasty, not terribly expensive dinner. I will say that they definitely know how to cook a steak in the midwest!

So far, everything was going as planned, but a snag was about to enter the story. at around 4:20AM on Sunday my phone rang. I picked it up and there was an automated message from American Airlines telling me that my flight was cancelled and we were rebooked on a flight that sounded like it was about half hour earlier – but instead of going nonstop ORD-SFO, it was to have a stop at DFW. That sounded like a drag, but, the only other choice I had was an earlier flight that same day, also through DFW, but at least it was a more convenient time for my Dad to take us to the airport.

When I woke up, I confirmed when the flight actually was, and it was the next day (Monday), not the same day. I called the airline and saw if there was anything we could do, but we were screwed. So not only did we have to fly with a connection, we had to burn another vacation day. It’s a good thing that we were staying at my parents and didn’t have to worry about accommodations!

And there were some bright sides to this, too – we would be able to spend some extra time with Milo and my brother and sister-in-law! We had already planned to have brunch with them, but we got to have dinner with them too, and be with Milo until his bedtime – which was super cute, as he showed us his artistic renditions of his family with crayons! (he is only 22 months old, so they were very abstract). For tracking purposes, I’ll say that we had brunch at The Portage in Portage Park, Chicago. It was a good brunch, and they had an all you can drink Bloody Mary bar – my parents were there so I could only drink two, but still not bad! And we did carry-out pizza and salad from perennial favorite Lou Malnati’s. So yes, our extra day was put to good use – we also saw Bridesmaids in the afternoon, during Milo’s nap time, which we enjoyed quite a bit.

So now we get to Monday, the day we were supposed to be back to normal – and we leaft for ORD at around 8am. Our flight was at 11, but a bit of extra time isn’t so bad. We ended up taking off about 20 minutes late due to some service issue, but we had enough time between flights in DFW that we weren’t worried. We got to DFW, took the train between the terminals of our two flights, and grabbed a sandwich to take on the plane with us – and then we got to the gate and found out the flight was delayed. And the delay kept going up – it turns out that someone had flushed a coke can down the toilet, causing a vacuum leak. But it took them something over 3 hours to figure this out. Well, eventually we took off, and got back to our flat around 9PM, pacific time. That’s a 15 hour travel day – to something that should have been about 6 or so hours, if we had been able to take our original flight, or the NONSTOP flight that I payed for. Oh yeah, we also weren’t able to sit together on our flights. Needless to say, I sort of hate American Airlines a lot right now.

In other news, we went strawberry picking at our CSA’s farm in Dixon, CA yesterday and it was deliciously fun.

posted by neil at 9:13 pm
under daily tribulations,food,Milo,travel  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Airport Notes

OAK – great parking. I can’t say much about the services here, but at least I was able to get coffee and a donut of decent quality before my flight. The free wifi seems to be only normal http ports, which is a pain.

BUR – free wifi that works almost right (no success in setting up a vpn tunnel through it). Very fast security. Awful food choices.

posted by neil at 10:56 pm
under travel  

Friday, June 18, 2010

I am not AWOL

I’ve been meaning to post for a couple of weeks about strawberries. Really, I have. But I’ve been too busy (more on that in a later date), and also, I had to go on my first work trip in over 7 years this past weekend, on something like 7 hours notice.

The nice part about the trip was that it was to Chicago, so I was able to see some family and friends. This, of course, included my nephew Milo, who is super great, and I can’t wait to see again next month for his first birthday!

And, even though I had to extend my stay by an extra night, I was able to accomplish what we needed to accomplish on the customer visit.

I hope to have the time to post something more interesting (well, at least less useless, but probably also less cute) soon, as I have a couple of things backlogged.

posted by neil at 10:11 am
under daily tribulations,travel  

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Second Trip First (Katie’s Wedding in Kansas City)

I’ve taken two trips by air in the past few weeks. Because they were so close together, I didn’t have time to post about the first one before going on the second. So, I’ll be posting in reverse order.

I went to Kansas City, MO for my friend Katie’s wedding. This was a short trip – my flight out of Kansas City was scheduled to take off 49 hours after my flight from San Francisco. I say schedule, because the latter was late – which made my trip out pretty annoying. We left about an hour late, which was bad because I had a connection to make in Denver, and only about 45 minutes to make it. The reason for the delay was mechanical – evidently a bird strike earlier required them to need to do extra maintenance. Anyway, once I got to Denver I had to go to the Frontier customer service desk to get a new flight. The guy who was working there must be the most patient man alive, because there were a lot of irate people in the line. Me included, but I kept my ire to myself. It wasn’t his fault. I got standy on a flight out 2 hours later, and confirmed on the flight 4 hours later. Either way, I was going to get in to Missouri a while after my friends, who I was supposed to meet up with and drive back to our hotel, and then on to the BBQ the night before at Katie’s Mom’s house. The BBQ was the reason that I woke up at 4:30Am, so I could drive down to Park ‘N Fly and make my 6:15 flight. SFO to MCI is not a very well serviced route – the only direct flight I could find was in the middle of the afternoon on Midwest, which would have gotten me in at 8:30 or so – too late for the BBQ!

Well, I made it on the earlier of the two flights, but it was delayed so we didn’t actually end up taking off until about 15 minutes before the second flight was scheduled to. I have no idea if that flight was delayed or not, but based on my track record with Frontier, I have to assume so. So far they are 100% (2 for 2) for me. Anyway, I got in to MCI around 5:30, and after walking around pretty much the whole circular terminal, I walked outside to find out every door had a rental shuttle stop. Soon enough I was on the bus and over to Hertz, and and from there, it was a quick drive to Katie’s Mom’s house, and a beer! Luckily for my friends, Katie herself was able to pick them up from the hotel and take them to the BBQ, so it worked out well for everyone.

The BBQ was fun, but man it was hot outside! At around 10:00 or so, we drove back to the hotel (The Q hotel and Spa in the Westport district). I checked in, and got one last drink in the hotel bar with Scott and Andrea before crashing hard at about midnight, and sleeping soundly until 8:30AM.

Saturday, I just bummed about in the morning, getting an english muffin at the hotel breakfast, and then around 11:30 or so, I got in touch with Scott. I had decided to go to Okalahoma Joe’s BBQ in Kansas Ciy, Kansas, as an excuse to check that state off of my list of states. It’s also supposed to be about the best BBQ place around the area, as well as one of Anthony Bourdain’s 13 places to eat before you die (a fact which I didn’t learn until Sunday morning). The Hotel was only about half a mile from the state line, as is the Gas Station restaurant where scott and I ate lunch. We got there at a good time, because the line to order was only slightly long when we got there, but it was snaking outside into the parking lot by time we left [insert picture here]. It was pretty good but also mighty filling. We stopped off by the state line on the way back so I could take some goofy pictures XXX, before heading back to the hotel.

Around 2:30 we met down in the lobby, dressed in our fancy wedding attire, and also ran into Phil and Michelle, who were also staying at the hotel. We all drove over to Screenland, the movie theater where the wedding was taking place. I was sort of surprised that Phil was still at the hotel, as he was the officiant for the wedding! It was a good thing I rented the car (I mean, I’m sure people would have figured an alternate out – the hotel had a car service, plus there are cabs somewhere in Kansas City, I’d reckon), and even though 5 people in a Yaris is not super comfortable, none of the drives were particularly long. It was also nice that I brought my GPS on the trip – sure, it confused me a couple of times, and I had to alter routes a bit, but it did a pretty good job of getting us where we needed to be, and in particular we got to the theater in plenty of time.

The wedding itself was pretty neat – movie trailers, then a simple ceremony, featuring an infamous story about Lynard Skynnard as the “sermon”. Soon enough the bride and groom were kissing, and we retired to a decent sized room elsewhere in the building for the reception. The food was all vegan, and decent to delicious. For dessert there were cupcakes that Katie herself baked, which is pretty hardcore!

Because I was transportation for Phil, and he was needed for some official pictures, we ended up staying to almost the bitter end (I have to admit I was pretty bored for a while at the end, because I only had a few drinks – I was driving after all). We made plans to go to this ludicrous bar right across from the hotel – America’s Pub, but well, we never actually made it there. After going to the hotel, we headed over to McCoy’s pub for dinner, and a couple more drinks, and met up with a couple more friends who were staying at a nearby hotel. Dinner was pretty good (they have excellent Macaroni and Cheese), and after that and some weird conversation (sorry), we headed back to our hotels and ended the night 11PM or so.

Today, I was up at 6:30, and slowly got packed and checked out of the hotel. I was driving Phil and Michelle to the airport, as their flight was (so we thought) 9:30, and mine was 9:45. It was about a 30 minute drive to the airport, where we learned that their flight was 9:10 – they still should have had enough time to make it to the terminal from the rental car return, and the airport wasn’t very busy – and since it has security checkpoints for every 5 gates or so, I am pretty confident they made it on time.

Anyway, I got a snack at starbuck’s before entering the secure area and boarding my flight on Midwest Airlines. The plane is a Boeing 717 – a model I’ve not been on before. I seem to have lucked out with a seat near the front of the plane, which is only 2 x 2 instead of 2 x 3, and as such has a wider seats. So far this airline seems to be pretty nice. Not very useful to me for most of the flights I take, but something nice to know.

posted by neil at 1:23 pm
under travel  

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rock Star In Training

Here is a highlight of my Seattle photos:

And also, the entire gallery.

posted by neil at 7:01 pm
under photography,travel  

Monday, March 16, 2009


I went to Seattle this weekend to visit my friend Steve and his family. Last time I was there, in september, his daughter Holly was 16 months old and barely talking. Now she has a pretty good vocabular but not much in the grammar departmen :). She really is an adorable kid, though, even if she is a bit ADD – yeah I guess little ones tend to be that way but Steve and Jum both say she’s a bit more so than her peers.

The famous Seattle weather was in full form so we didn’t get to do as many outside things as last time. But we did go take pictures at the Japanese garden, which was the place for holly to look at ducks, and validated taking the SLR along on the trip. I also got to hang out with just Steve a fair bit – we saw the Cinematic Titanic Live show Saturday night (I laughed so hard I hurt) and saw Watchmen yesterday afternoon during naptime. I liked the movie ok, and I think it was just about as good of an adaptation of the source material as possible, but that still only makes an above average movie.

I’m writing this on my phone at the airport, so I am unable to add any pics – they are still on my camera – but I’ll post again later to highlight some.

posted by neil at 11:20 am
under adventure,travel  
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