Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blue Skies


Went for a bike ride this morning. Didn't do much thinking, just pedaling. At the end of my ride, I took this pic. I had stopped at my neighborhood Chinese grocer (they kind of fill the niche of a local 7-11). I bought a Gatorade and sat on the stoop with my bike to my back while I drank. Across the street, the house/business has been newly painted and it caught my eye. I liked the contrast of the yellow against the blue. The clouds were nice too. My point is, beauty is where you find it. You just got to stop every so often and enjoy the scenery.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seven Years

Today was Tania's and mine seventh wedding anniversary. It sure doesn't seem like seven years, but only yesterday when we were married. Like I say in my personal info, "Married to a wonderful woman! We are so different, but also the same. We love and enjoy each other very much!" I can't really add anything. We spent the day painting the apartment (still), actually skipped lunch and went out for nice dinner. We went out to one of our favorite places, El Campay Grill and shared a plate of parilla mar and tierra, a Venezuelan style of a mix of grilled seafood, beef, and chicken.
A simple but nice day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sukhoi SU-30MK V(enezuela)

I like things that fly. I like birds and airplanes. Today I watched a pelican make a perfect 360 corkscrew to lose altitude and land on rock. Amazing!

I like the power of military aircraft. They are fun to watch. Living in New Mexico, the stealth fighters (F-117) would often fly over town on their training sorties. It is a real thrill to see aircraft, especially military hardware fly low and slow. You can feel the power of these machines.

The day before Christmas, the Sukhois were flying. These are Venezuela's newest jets. They are really amazing aircraft with vectoring nozzles allowing them to turn extremely sharp and quick.

On the first pass, they flew between our building and the beach; a lead and a wingman level with our apartment. I could see into the cockpits of the jets, but I did not have my camera handy.


They banked right as they passed over the water.

I could hear them flying, then they made a second pass. This time the lead headed directly for our building. I was looking straight down his air-intakes. This time I had my camera in my hand, but I fumbled the camera. Not sure if I had turned it on, or had it switched to camera mode. By the time I got a few pics off, I just got blue sky. I saw the jets belly just a few meters over our building so close I could see details like landing gear doors, etc.

They flew around a bit more and I was only able to get this pic, using the view finder. On this pass, they were quite a bit higher...several hundred meters higher. This was the best pic I got and its not very good.
Sukhoi SU-30MK V

Post Christmas Project Progress

I painted until about 3:00 then knocked off. About 3:30 my wife, Tania, had to rush off to a family funeral. A cousin of hers was killed by a drunk driver early Christmas morning.

I headed to my ex-pat Christmas dinner by foot. It was very enjoyable.

Today I got up and went for a bike ride. Kind of standard stuff. The sea was rough so I watched that for a few minutes.

Caribbean Surf

I got home about 10:00, vegged for a moment, then about 11:30 I continued painting this time in the entry foyer. Got it done by 3:00 and now I am finished with the light color and tomorrow will start on darker, contrasting color.

Foyer Area Paint and Light Fixture

Also done is the installation of our hallway light fixture. The bezel on this small fixture pretty much matches the shape of the fixture in the living room. I think I will rattlecan that aluminum intake grill white. I also want to do that with the breaker box (not shown) and the exposed pipes on the on-demand water heater.

Hallway Light Fixture and Air Conditioning Intake Grill

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

My favorite Christmas gift today! Flamingos!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Interior Painting Project

We've been living in our apartment for about 18 months. When you buy a new apartment in Venezuela it is unfinished. Our apartment did not have flooring, a kitchen, or air conditioning. The only thing that was semi-finished were the bathrooms (and they still need some tweeking). There have been many projects over the past two years; laying down a ceramic floor, air conditioning installation, a custom kitchen, building closets, light fixture installation, etc.

Most of the apartment still has the original base coat of a neutral color. Painting is a semi-small project so I am getting this project done while I am on break. I've been needing to do this for a while but it has been low on the priority list.

Textured Paint (without flash)

Hallway Ceiling (without flash)

I started the prep work for painting the interior of our apartment the other day and yesterday actually started painting. I my first section of using textured paint for the ceiling of our short hallway. Kind of cool stuff. Its very thick and grainy, like puddy. I rolled it on with a coarse roller. This morning I touched up the edges using a sponge brush.

Wall Colors (without flash)

Today I started on the walls. We are painting the hallway, 3 walls of the living room a "Sea Sand" color...a light yellowish color. A couple of walls, 1 in the living room and the wall on our bar, and above the cabinets in the kitchen will be a burnt orange color called "Grand Canyon". The Sea Sand is looking good with our dark cabinets. Hopefully the Grand Canyon color will too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some Pics from my SD1000

Vertical Bucket Brigade

Mariana

Fish at Playa Santa Fe, Edo. Sucre, Venezuela

My Litespeed at the Summit of the Antennas Ride
(sea-level to about 700 meters in 20 km)

Trials Competition at El Morro, Lecheria, Venezuela

Taking a Break at El Morro

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nearly 48 Hours without Internet

Amateurs

Bird on a Bar

Harold

Heading Home

On Friday night the Internet went out. It just came back on. Its been sporadic lately...not really sure what's going on.

I've slowly been prepping to paint the living room/kitchen. Now I think things are ready, I will lay down the newspapers and plastic bags tomorrow (no plastic tarps here) and begin painting. I am ready for a change. In Jan/Feb, I plan on buying some new furniture.

Since being on vacation, I've been riding. Did a good ride on Friday, and another on Saturday, a little spin today. Been getting more fit (a relative term) therefore I'm enjoying single speeding again, but my knees/legs are feeling it (why I went for a "easy" spin today). My 32:18 can be a tough gear for certain climbs.

A few of pics from Saturday's ride. Just goofing around with camera angles.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

18 December, 1995/1996

FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Two years in a row I almost died on this day.
- 1995: I crashed on my bike and apparently landed on my head. I became self aware about 3 hours later in Urgent Care at the Gila Regional Medical Center. Still my most expensive bicycle ride. Cost something like $4000 in medical bills. I had no insurance at the time.

- 1996: I was in Orange County, CA when I pulled in front of the offices of Bike magazine a Toyota pulled behind me. A guy got out of car walked up to my car and put his automatic pistol in my face. He said, "Orange County Sheriff's Department! Put your hands where I can see them, or I will shoot you! I will shoot you right now!!"

Anyway this led to me being handcuffed and placed in a police car for about 2 1/2 hours. They rifled through my car looking for a gun and money. They thought I was a bank robber. I was only let go after a FBI car with bank employees inside drove by to look at me. I wasn't their man. I was let go, but the FBI took my picture because "I looked like a bank robber." I cut my hair after that.

You can read more about this in the April 1997 issue of Bike magazine. Look in the Splatter section. There is a picture of me in the back of the black & white sheriff's car.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vacation: Recreation, Projects, and Leisure

Today...The Merlin at a Brief Rest Stop
Recreation: I've been on our winter break and really enjoying it. I've been getting up at 6:45 and out the door by 7:30 to ride my bike. Today I felt really good and strong. I charged up "The Rails" on my single speed Merlin, then up "The Fausto" trail. Just felt good all morning! I still love this bike...its going on 13 years old.

Paint and Stuff


Projects: Yesterday, Tania and I finally went to a paint store and bought 3 gallons of paint. 2 gallons are of a sandy beige color (which I forget the name), and 1 gallon of a darker orangey color called Grand Canyon. We are trying to find colors that will go well with the dark cabinetry I chose for our kitchen. I think we did well.

Our Kitchen before Painting
I went to our local Home Depot-type store, EPA, and bought a bunch of preparation material. I need to put in one more light fixture in our small hallway space. I did not like any of the fixtures I saw at EPA. I want to go downtown to a lighting store tomorrow and buy a fixture I saw earlier in the year.

Some of this prep material is texturing material for the ceiling in this little hallway.

Leisure: Tania and I have been taking two hours naps in the afternoon. I guess I'm tired because these naps feel great!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Venezuelan 1st Birthday


Saturday, my wife Tania and I went to celebrate Tania's nephew's first birthday. It is a big deal in the Venezuelan culture. Families usually go all out celebrating a child's first birthday. Though not at this one, I've been to celebrations where there is rum and scotch for the adults, games and pinatas for the children, and lots of food and drink for all. Saturday's celebration was a low-key family affair. It was very nice.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Seppuku

Almost committed seppuku on this morning's ride. First time that I can recall in 20+ years of mtn biking of having an accident of this type.

I was riding with a big group. As I was approaching this third world storm/sewer drain. Name:  g1.jpg Views: 10 Size:  289.4 KB
Note the missing grating on the left. A rider was stalled on the right side, taking up the best line. I tried maneuvering around his left.

Something happened. I got crossed up and started falling towards that big hole.
Name:  g2.jpg Views: 10 Size:  267.8 KB

So instead of falling into the big hole, I think I leaned forward, then discovered my handlebar was right there. I landed square on the bar end with my gut, about halfway between sternum and bellybutton.
Name:  ab1.jpg Views: 9 Size:  181.5 KB

Fortunately I am using WTB Trials grips, and that kept me from committing hari kari.
Name:  g4.jpg Views: 9 Size:  162.0 KB

Another look at the hole I was avoiding.
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Lesson learned...make sure you have your handlebar ends properly plugged or have grips that cover the end of the handlebar.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Priorities


Had a weird conversation with my wife this afternoon while stuck in traffic. She says, "I don't like our car anymore! I want a new car!" With more questioning, it turns out that her cousin just got a new Hyundai and she says it is a nicer car than ours...and she says our is old and looks like a taxi.

Well, there's a reason for that...Our car is a five year old Kia Rio...basic white...was imported to be a taxi, but I bought it instead (doesn't have taxi markings). I got it brand new back in 2003 because it was cheap...and I wanted urban camouflage. The A/C is ice cold, the car is rugged, runs great, and best of all, its paid for! Now she wants an SUV.

I told her no because I don't want to pay $25,000+ for a new car (price for a basic Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage) especially with the pending Venezuelan implosion that is bound to happen in a couple of months.
I suggested I get a new bike instead.

Her reply..."You're just making it worse!"

pic: Canaima Nat. Park (Gran Sabana district), Venezuela, Christmas break 2006. A road trip in our "taxi".

Note: I just posted this in the DR Forums but I liked it so I did a cut and paste number for here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gaitas

Gaitas are Venezuela Christmas music. Originated in the city of Maracaibo, they are a sign that Christmas season is here.
These students came from a neighboring school. I found it very entertaining. The instruments are a cuatro...a small 4-string guitar, the tambor or drums, maracas...the gourds with sand, seeds, or beads inside, a "furruco"...a drum thing a stick sticking out of it (it had a cool sound) and, charrasca...the scraper-looking thing (like a cylindrical cheese grater).


video

note: This was all shot with my little Canon SD1000, hence the limited quality of picture and sound.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Photographic Fun





My students think I am weird because I like experimenting with my camera. Here's some stuff I took today at our Winter Production rehearsal.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Merlin...again


I like this pic. I took it yesterday. I let Oscar ride my Merlin to see what he thought about the whole single speed thing. I rarely get to see my bike in action. I find this bike a thing of beauty.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Happy Birthday Daddy! R.I.P.


Today would have been my dad's 76th birthday. He died at 64. I still miss him.

I believe my dad gave me this photograph. Here's the story how I found it...

I found this photograph about 6 months after his death when I was doing some work alone at his house. After his death, we had cleaned the house from most of its valuables. I was walking by a large speaker box he had and noticed a Ziploc bag that I had never seen before. I looked inside and there were several documents; his birth certificate, his social security card, and this photo. I asked my brother and sister-in-law if they had put it there or had seen it before. No was the answer. Maybe my other sister put it there one day, but I don't think so. We walked by this piece of furniture all the time and had never seen anything on it until that day I was alone.

Anyway, its the only photo I have of him with me. Today I finally scanned it into my computer so now I can make copies of it.

My sisters and brother have the other photos of our dad, but I keep this one in my wallet. I figure he is about 9 or 10 years old. Looking at this photo now, I looked much the same at that age.

By the way, he never really grew into those ears of his.


Happy Birthday Daddy!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Super Bike






I rode a super bike today. A 2007 Rocky Mountain Vertex Team. A friend, Barry, a true Rocky Mountain-phile, is upgrading his stable of RMs and making room for the newest generation Vertex which is full carbonfiber , so he put this one for sale. Since I didn't really need (I always want) a new bike, I passed this info to my friend Jack who was in the market for a new Rocky Mountain bike.

The bike is a 2007 prototype, build for the Rocky Mountain race team for evaluation. Only 6 were built. It is a hybrid of technologies; scandium alloy making up the front triangle, and carbonfiber making the rear part of the bike. The resulting combination is incredible!

Here is an evaluation that I wrote up and e-mailed to Barry:

I am kicking myself now for letting Jack have the deal of the century. All I can say about the 2007 Vertex Team is that I am very impressed. I gave it a pretty good test this morning on our limited trails.

Climbing: The first climb was the entry trail. On the Litespeed I usually approach this trial in the small ring and probably the 2nd or 3rd cog down. 30 or 28 (or whatever it is...its a 34-11cogset). I approached on Vertex the granny ring, and biggest cog in back (don't know what Jack has on there). What was most noticeable climbing this steep incline was the bike's balance. It is nearly perfect. I shifted forward on the saddle maybe a cm, but no more. You can see in the pics I am leaning forward a bit but I don't think its terribly exaggerated. The shock was on about a medium setting, no bobbing problems whats so ever. The rear end of that bike is somewhat perplexing. It feels plenty stiff at the BB, no noodley lateral feel at all, but you can feel it flexing somewhat and hooking up. Excellent traction! Smooth! I cleaned the entry trail on my first attempt with ease. I was surprised and very pleased.

The second climb is "La Falla", its a more gradual climb, doable on my single speed with great effort. On the Litespeed I approach this hill in the middle ring and somewhere in the middle of the cogset. My first approach on the Vertex was with the fork fully locked out, middle ring, probably 3 cog down from the top. I climbed it easily. I forgot to give the camera to Jack so we did it again. This time we opened the fork to full-squish mode. I rode up, got hung up the gravel at the bottom and had to turn around and restart. On my second try with the shock full open, I cruise up the hill. You can see the pics of my body position, etc You can see, again I am leaning forward a little but only moved up on the saddle a few millimeters. Minimal shifting of weight.

Descending: I rode down the Fausto Trail which has a technical, cambered/rutted 180 switchback, I ended up kind of dragging my right foot as an outrigger after the switchback mainly because I am not used to the grabby-ness of disc brakes. I was skidding the rear tire more than I would have liked, therefore the rear end was swinging around back and forth. It was not the fault of the bike, more of a pilot error.

After the Fausto, I blasted down The Rails. These are some steep concrete two-track. What can I say, I almost hit a curb at the bottom of the first section because I was going way too fast. The Vertex is extremely stable! Continuing on the second part, it gets even more steep for about 200 meters or so. Super stable...I blasted through some broken concrete, over a "rubble bridge" and to the bottom. I was about half-way down this section when this popped into my head..."Boy howdy...ever cyclist needs to ride a bike as good as this one."

Bikes are fun!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Italian Club

Fellow teachers, Daniel and Matthew, and myself, have started going to the Italian Club which is just down the street from the school. They have a full-sized soccer field with a (crude) track, an aerobics dance floor/gym, a weight room, and a great swimming pool.

We've been walking over after school, run/walk a few miles, then lift weights for about an hour, then go for a cooling swim. I might bring my bicycle after the Christmas break because they also have a large open space area behind the soccer field that might be okay for some riding...the director of the place thinks it would be. Sorry, no pics as of yet. We hope to make this a routine of about 3 times per week.


Ready for the Winter Break.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Love is Purple

It was good to be home for the weekend. Tania put the purple sheets on the bed. We like those sheets. We have a phrase about them, "Love is purple!"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An ExPat Thanksgiving



We had our staff Thanksgiving last night and it turned out pretty good. We had lots of great food including turkey. We had all the usual stuff, like stuffing, but there were other typical foods such as mash potatoes, corn, various salads, etc. My chile rellenos turned out okay. They were a hit with everyone. Not quite New Mexico rellenos, but they were good. I liked them. Today we had another Thanksgiving dinner at school. I helped serve which is an interesting experience, seeing what other people like to eat. When I finally had chance to eat, I described I eat my Thanksgiving plate like a miner approaches ore. I start at one end of the plate and work my way to the opposite end. Kind of weird, but that's how I eat my Thanksgiving food.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chile Rellenos!!!!


I am trying to make one of my favorite New Mexican dishes for tomorrow night's Thanksgiving dinner at Aaron and Ada's (my boss and his wife). I am making chile rellenos! These are long green chiles stuffed with cheese, then battered and fried! Very tasty! The chiles here are not like NM big jims or anaheims. They look similar but are not hot at all. They are very mild but have a good flavor. Tonight I roasted the chiles on the stove top, let them sweat in a plastic bag, then peeled the skin off. I have them in the fridge now. Tomorrow I will stuff them and bread them and deep fry them! I hope they turn out. More news tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quiet Election Night and Experimental Photos





Yesterday was election day and last night was expecting some kind of celebratory reaction from either side, but nothing happened. Its still not clear to me what has exactly happened but it looks like Chavez's party lost most of the major positions he needed. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Last night I was messing around with my camera's shutter speed. Here are a few pics. I like the color in them.

Then there are a couple of astronomy pics. One pic is of Jupiter and Venus, and the other is a long exposure of the stars. Click on the star pic to open and enlarge it. You'll see lots of little stars. I couldn't even see these...neat little light bucket my Canon is!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Election Weekend

I don't like political posts, but this weekend are regional and governor elections in Venezuela. This could be critical to the future of the country. Because of travel restrictions in place, I am stuck in El Tigre. I won't get back to Lecheria until next Friday. I will try to get some pics of happenings this weekend. More later...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Anzoategui Day Weekend


We had a 3-day weekend which is always nice! Unfortunately I had a fight Thursday night (after a stressful 3-hour drive) with Tania and she was really pissed. To piss her off even more, I went to KE Cool (a small sushi bar) downstairs and met Daniel and Matt for a couple of beers (I had 4). This really pissed her off. I never know what to do in this situation. She can get very stubborn, but so can I. I can be a real idiot!

I posted a pic above that pretty much describes that I was in the dog house. I was the dawg supreme.


On Friday, I woke up fairly early and rode the Merlin SS solo around El Morro. I went up the "Falla" (Failure) trail for the first time in a while. I cleaned it! It took some effort but I did it. I rode around for a couple of hours and when I got back, Tania was gone. Gone to Anaco...Ugggh!

Oh well. She needed to cool down and so did I.
I took Oscar to lunch at Anna Julia for pizza, then spent the rest of the day vegging, napping, and being Internet guy.

On Saturday Oscar and I rode a lap (backwards...meaning climbing the Falla again...easier that time) of El Morro together, then we h
ooked up with the group. We rode a second lap in the usual direction which meant to ride up "the Rails". I can clean the rails with the SS but it is a major effort! The slope is right at the limit of what is doable with my strength and conditioning these days.

I took this vid of Oscar. video

Tania showed up Saturday afternoon after I called her. I apologized. I was a jerk...BIG TIME.

Sunday no riding, just vegging and getting ready to head back to El Tigre. I took Tania and Oscar out for breakfast, though Venezuelans do not do breakfast too well.
Breakfast is always disappointing here...its not like a big breakfast you'd find in a typical restaurant in the USA. or even something regional like huevos rancheros in New Mexico. Anyway, the restaurant we ended up at was on the Paseo Colon, so I got to watch boat traffic move about. Saw a ship approach from the horizon which was interesting to watch.

On a completely different topic...

Since being back in El Tigre, I've rediscovered streaming Internet Radio. Right now I am into KCRW from Santa Monica, CA. I used to listen to this station back in the Mimbres Man days when doing business in Los Angeles...actually made the 405 freeway fun to drive.