Archive for the ‘Brave New Jon’ Category

California Bound

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

So I’m off to the Best Coast for a little vacation. I’m headed to San Francisco, sailing on the bay, hiking Yosemite, driving down the coast to Los Angeles, out to Vegas, Hoover Dam, hiking the Grand Canyon in a day, things of this nature.

I’ll be hanging out in San Francisco from Wednesday lunchtime (ping me if you want to grab some coffee). The only real TODO (other than various non-touristy errands) is Alcatraz. Although I’ve been to San Francisco countless times – I truly love that town on oh so so so many levels – I’ve never been to The Rock. Thus I shall endeavor to hunt down Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage and the odd madman or two. My friend Alison is arriving on Friday afternoon (I’ve known her for half of my life, ever since I went to college the first time – her pet name for me was always “schoolboy”, which I also was at the time). We’ll head up to the redwoods, and then hook up with Sven on Saturday to see the KFOG fireworks. Linda will be there in San Francisco at some point over the weekend, too.

Sunday’s rough plan is to ensure that we have our Red Ford Mustang, and then head to Yosemite at some crazy hour (read: have breakfast somewhere near the park), do some hiking, then drive back to San Francisco and begin the long drive down California State Highway 1 (known in part, and therefore to locals, as the “Pacific Coast Highway”) towards Los Angeles. We’ll stay somewhere along the route on Sunday night, and then spend Monday finishing that drive, and then head out to Vegas. Monday night will probably involve some alcohol. But not too much as to be useless on Tuesday, as I’ve a reservation 6 hours away at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, I’ll leave the lodge around 5am, hit the South Rim trail head, and solo hike down to the river at the base of the Canyon. Then, I’m planning to hike back up to the top all within the day, and stay somewhere between the Canyon and Vegas. I’ll do the 6 hour drive back to Vegas early on Thursday, then pick up my friend Alison and drive back to the West Rim via Hoover Dam so we can do some touristic things, and see that glass skywalk (the one where you’re not allowed to even wear shoes, have cameras, or look at them slightly the wrong way). I’ve no specific plan for Thursday night and Friday…yet (if I get bored, there’s always Mojave). I expect to drop Alison at LAX at some point in the evening, or the afternoon, or whenever. She’s headed to Cambridge before me.

Saturday, I’m likely headed out to Ventura for some surfing with my favorite little local surfing school that I went to a few times last year…oh, and some alone time on that damned beach. Saturday night, I’m headed back to Los Angeles, flying back to Boston in time to arrive on the redeye early on Sunday morning. I’ll grab some sleep, then I’m driving Alison down to New York (actually, we’ll probably park in Connecticut and take the MTA train into the city), dropping her off with some friends, and maybe hanging out for a few hours in Central Park. I like the idea of lying under a tree for hours.

I wish I could say I’m going to be happy, even on vacation, but the reality is that I can only try my best. I’ll be on the Best Coast, and with some of my best friends, but of course, all along, my thoughts are likely to turn to Karin. It’s really cruel and usual punishment to think about her so damned much, but that’s life. I don’t think she ever truly understood just how highly I thought of her. All the damn time.


California Bound – Best Coast Fix

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

So I’m headed out to California for a vacation next week. It’s been more than six months since I was last over there, and man, do I need my West Coast fix.

It’s not that I dislike the East Coast, but my friends know I have a little thing about the West Coast of the US in general, and California in particular. I love that State (and a significant subset of the people) a little too much sometimes, but in general, California just seems to agree with me on so many levels. I’m flying over to San Francisco on Wednesday, and hanging out with an old friend of mine, whom I haven’t seen in person in over a decade. We’ll see the KFOG fireworks with my good friend Sven, take a day hike in Yosemite, drive down the coast to LA in a Ford Mustang convertible, head over to Vegas, hike in the Grand Canyon, visit Hoover Dam, and go surfing.

Yup, it’s deja vu, I did exactly the same kinds of things this time last year. But why mess with perfection? And anyway, last year, I generally squandered my vacation time indulging in activities designed to make me feel as miserable as possible, all over a girl, but I’m going to try to actually enjoy myself this time around.

Yesterday, while en route to the old (and the new) offices, I saw four California license plates on the highways of Massachusetts, and each time I saw one, as usual, it made me smile just a little on the inside.


My favorite song

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

So I’ve long been a fan of a certain Norwegian band, popular for “Take on me”, but also tremendously good at producing great music in general. I particularly like “Angel in the snow”, where particularly means I had it on repeat again this evening.

I like that kind of semi-depressing music. It helps describe my mood when I feel empty and hollow inside, which is just how I do feel when taking a long evening walk along the Charles, in the dark, or an early morning stroll along the beach. And the funny thing is that A-Ha have a whole string of similar music, spanning many years, and multiple albums. I’ve got most of it, including stuff they never released here.


Dating Godless Liberals

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

So I’m gradually getting more and more disenfranchised with the Boston dating scene. Meeting actually interesting people in this town is tough, especially if you’re a godless veggie liberal type who’s looking for such similar traits in someone else.

Over the past year, I’ve been on many “dates” with girls from a certain online dating website. And most of them turn out to be nice enough people, but few of them are interesting enough that I’d want to hang out in the medium-longer term (read: they have to be interesting enough that I’m not just thinking about Karin instead). Remove statistical noise, and the significantly large percentage who are just doing it to take their mind off an ex-boyfriend (thus not really looking for anything but friendship), and you’re left with quite a depressingly dull and boring Boston area dating scene. I’m actually not exaggerating, it really is that bad. I’m not quite at the point of focusing exclusively on longer distance stuff (read: obviously Californians), but it’s almost getting there.

The typical process goes something like: a). review matches. b). remove “matches”. c). contact the one (or maybe two) people I might have something in common with. d). wait a very long time before more “matches” appear. A “match”, as far as dating goes, is someone who is in their 20s, single, liberal/very liberal, non-religious, and who has interests beyond whatever they do for a living. Smoking is usually a deal breaker too. And although nerdy computery types are interesting, I usually find I get on better with lawyers, biologists/medics, artists, writers, activists, etc. Someone with a brain, but preferably not someone who does exactly the same as that which I do for a living.

Although I have many friends with differing viewpoints to my own, the religion and politics things are really areas I’m pretty inflexible on if I’m honest about it (and, if they’re honest, so are most girls) when it comes to relationships. My reasoning comes down to longer term viability, family, things of this nature, where I know such differences have a strong potential to become intractable problems. And anyway, you’d think I’d find what I’m looking for in Boston and Cambridge of all places, but it feels like dating in any major city – everyone’s too busy, these people exist, but you just never find them.

I’m about done with it :)


I’m going vegetarian

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

So, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I’ve finally decided that I’m going to go vegetarian. Not vegan – I’ll still eat dairy and eggs for now, but I have decided to give up seafood in addition to not having eaten meat in three years.

I gave up meat one day a few years ago. I got to a point where I had a personal epiphany. I realized that animals were being slaughtered in brutal ways, sandwiched into machines, and squirted in plastic containers in regular geometric shapes before being sold for consumption by people who prefer not to know where it comes from. I realized that I am actually only comfortable eating food I’m willing to prepare from scratch myself – and I can’t bring myself to kill animals. On some level, I actually respect those who are willing to do this; at least they’re consistent all the way.

Back in the 1990s and early 21st century, I was the biggest consumer of KFC in the UK. I could have won a prize for my unhealthy diet, and those late night trips helped me invent the notion of “4th meal”, way before Taco Bell corporation trademarked it. I was huge (over 215lbs – I am now generally under 165lbs and trying to get down to 154), very unhealthy, and I loved to eat murdered chicken covered in whatever sauce was available, with a few sides, and some chips (US: French Fries). Then, one day, I woke up. I realized this was unhealthy, and worse, that I was contributing to a global problem that is the meat industry that cares only about profit, at all costs (environment, animal welfare, etc.).

Religion came into it on some level too. I’ve never been religious, per se. But it’s only in recent times that I’ve actually moved myself from the “agnostic” to the “atheist” pigeon hole. And in so doing, I’ve re-evaluated my importance in the world. There is no “god given right” to eat animals. They’re not lower life forms who deserve to die for our pleasure, and we should not be killing them to put them on our tables at night. As human beings, we don’t need to eat meat to enjoy ourselves, but society chooses to do this – especially in the US, where everything contains some kind of meat unless specifically labeled otherwise. Just ask American Airlines, next time they fail to supply a vegetarian meal and offer to take the meat out of it for you – this has happened on several separate occasions.

Actually, it was a slow bubbling process to reach that realization – that I should stop eating meat. I guess I started to really think about it when I went to a mechatronics lecture given by the IEEE back in the last century. I was probably the only “highschool” kid there, and don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the term. Essentially, without going into mechatronics on a larger level, the presenter talked about the most elaborate and most highly automated cattle slaughtering machine yet conceived. Literally, a cow goes in at one end, and burgers come out at the other. You can completely remove yourself from the process, just like we enjoy doing in other aspects of our modern day lives.

It’s funny how you can kid yourself into thinking it’s ok to eat seafood when you’ve given up meat. I guess I labeled salmon as somehow a lower form of life, and oysters, well, they clearly didn’t even deserve the time of day. But after one too many exercises in self rationalizing my actions, I’ve decided I can’t continue to kid myself into thinking it’s ok to eat fish and sea food and not eat meat too. I’ve simply got to give up that tasty salmon because it’s the right thing to do. Not because I particularly dislike the food – quite the contrary – but because it’s the only rational and right thing for me to be doing at this stage in my life.

And don’t worry, I won’t tell you what you “should” or “should not” do. That’s entirely your call – and that’s another way we can distinguish ourselves as human beings, by not trying to convert others but solely by living our own lives in ways in which we feel morally comfortable within ourselves.


Exercise is the new black

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

So, I’m not one of these New Year’s resolution converts to the gym. In fact, I joined the latest gym last summer, but I did start going regularly again recently. And I’ve progressed to going every single day again.

Being the in the gym helps me unwind. It’s a very good way to relax, by pumping some weights, using machines, whatever I feel like. I originally joined the gym back in the summer – having not been to any such establishment since living in the UK – as a means to take my mind off thinking about a certain someone. But over time, I stopped going regularly – mostly (would you believe) because it’s a few blocks from my apartment, I’m a sensitive little flower, and I don’t like walking over there in the cold(!). What a lame excuse. I’ve told myself that’s plain crazy, and also noticed I’m addicted to driving everywhere. Heck, I’ll drive to a Starbucks that’s further away on a cold day, rather than walk a few blocks. Like any American, I really do love my car, and I really do like driving almost anywhere, at any time.

I’m a member of the Central Square, Cambridge, BSC (Boston Sports Clubs) but tonight discovered the one in Wellington Circle, Medford. I was late (how unlike me) and realized I was going to miss the 8pm (how very British – closing way too early to be useful to modern lifestyles – but this is “New England”) closing time. So I decided to actually try another one for a change. I discovered that Wellington Circle is only a few minutes from here (oh the joys of finally having a vehicle). And that one is simply amazing. Not only do they have a pool, basketball courts, sauna, and all of the frills, but the basic equipment is interesting and also brand new. I spent an hour there and am already looking at either transferring (I can only go off peak right now), or upgrading to a “passport” account. It’s funny that I was going to cancel my membership, and now I’m looking at going much more!

On the subject of fitness, tomorrow, I’m going hiking with some guys from the office for the first time. We’re hiking Mt. Monadnock, in New Hampshire (check out the historical USS Monadnock designation used in civil war vessels), and I’m hoping to simultaneously avoid any Presidential wannabes, who decide Monadnock would make a bizzare staged photo-op du jour. As a direct consequence of our little expedition, I decided to check out EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) in Harvard earlier on. It’s hardly MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op), but it’s not REI either. They seem to be fairly clueful, will go out of their way to help you, and didn’t mind the amount of time I spent trying things on. I even made them strip down one of their display mannequins to get me the snow pants (ok, alright, trousers) in size medium. This was after the skinny assistant told me he was several sizes larger than me and needs a large.

I’ve joined the gym in the office too, and yes, I do plan to go climbing again with the folks up in Westford. But I need to go to the gym a lot more before I’m pulling the kind of weights that I need to in order to be a good climber. Right now, I can adequately manage 110lbs on the chest press, but I’m 160lbs at the moment. Although this is a far cry from the 210lbs fatboy, the thinner version isn’t yet toned enough to be doing serious aerobatics. Anyway, if you’re looking to find a workout partner in Central Square, want to go hiking (half day-full day hikes only at the moment, I’ve got too much else on to spend a whole weekend somewhere), please let me know. Now to try Bikram Yoga.

And yes, Andrew, I do want to go to the ‘dacks soon.


HOWTO: Drive a convertible in a New England winter

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Photo: Driving an MX-5 in a New England winter.

So we’ve had a bit of snow over the past week, especially last Thursday. I was out earlier shoveling snow for the second time, all in the aid of driving my MX-5 in convertible mode, in the middle of winter. Zoom Zoom Zoom!

The first thing you need to know about New England winter is that it’s nothing like ye olde England winter. Here, we have actual snow – not frozen drizzle – and it comes down a few feet at a time, when it feels like it. The roads are generally cleared reasonably quickly (although in MA, they like to wait until the storm is over, which is ridiculous), but remain somewhat slippery, and obviously outside parking is quickly swamped.

I had my first real “digging out” experience on Tuesday. The weather having been bad enough to keep me from going outside over the weekend, and the several feet of snow covering my car having frozen into thick layers of ice, meant that it took 4 hours to get the car out again. At one point, the wheels were turning but the car was absolutely stuck. And I went through 4 packets of ice melt in the process.

But I learned a lesson. If you’re going to dig out, you need to do an all or nothing. There was more snow. This undid a lot of Tuesday’s effort. So, last night, I went out at midnight and spent a few hours completely removing all of the snow and ice from my parking – including many buckets of warm water, and scraping away of every last bit of ice. I shall now endeavor to keep it like this, and clear immediately after snow, because that’s the only way to prevent it getting that bad in future.

Anyway. A car covered in snow isn’t very usable as a convertible. It takes me about 45 minutes to fully desnow and deice a snow covered vehicle, dry her, reassure her that she’s still loved, and things of this nature. By 2am this morning, my car was completely clean, dry, and the soft top was functional again. I worked all night, then drove into the office, continuing in my pledge that I’m going to have that top down unless it’s actually snowing on me, or I have a passenger not quite as insane as I.

My driving gear consists of multiple layers, a winter coat, hat (with side ear protection), scarf, heavy duty gloves, and sunglasses. I’m still debating getting some ye olde British racing goggles. So far, I can tolerate temperatures of down to -5C (23F) without too much hassle, adding a little wind chill at highway speed, for good measure. I’m probably quite insane, but I’m not letting New England get between me and my Californian wannabe lifestyle.