Archive for the ‘Learn Something’ Category

Sailing in San Diego Harbor Jan 2011
There are several places in San Diego to take sailing lessons, or to rent small to large boats. I’m going to assume you want to do this since you are reading this post, so I won’t sell you on the beauty, peacefulness, and fun of sailing in San Diego harbor. It was always something that I had wanted to try, and I was not disappointed. I’m a retired Marine so I have access to lessons and boats on base which can save a lot of money. But you can also save money by looking for deals or by joining a sailing meetup group.

Sailing in Jan 2011 with my cousin and my youngest sonI took a basic sailing course at Fiddlers Cove Marina in 2007. The two-day course led to a certification for small sail boats. Since then I have been able to rent sail boats for very low fees on the two Navy Marinas in San Diego. I don’t go out as often as I would like to, but a couple of times a year I get the urge and head down to the harbor. At Fiddlers Cove I usually rent a 16 foot Catalina, these are small but very stable boats and are fun for sailing with 2-3 people. At the U.S. Navy Sailing Center Point Loma (April 2016 – which is now closed) I usually rent a 23 foot boat which has room for more people but it needs a lot more wind and is not as fun to sail, unless the wind is really strong.

If you can’t use the Navy Base Marinas, there are several other choices in San Diego to get your basic sailing certification. I’m listing the schools that seem to have reasonable prices. If you know of others, feel free to describe them in a comment.

Enjoying a July day sailing in San DiegoMarina Sailing – On Harbor Island – ASA Certification
Harbor Sail Boats – Harbor Island – ASA Certification
Mission Bay Aquatic Center – Mission Bay – USSAILING Certifications

Regardless of your level of experience level Meetup.com is another way to experience beginning to advanced sailing in San Diego. I haven’t tried this yet, so I won’t make any recommendations. Just search for sailing on the site and read the group’s description. I’ve had very good experiences hiking with Meetup groups in San Diego, so I would expect sailing would be great too.

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View from our backyard
I have been blessed with good health for most of my life, but occasionally I get sick and I hate it.  I really hate to just sit around. I don’t have the patience to rest, recuperate, and wait for my health to return.  I want to walk, hike, exercise, go to the beach, etc.  Sitting around or sleeping is especially hard when the weather is terrific as it was this past Memorial Day weekend (2011).

(Note: I started a draft post last year, but started to feel better before I finished it. Unfortunately I have another round of motivation for the topic.)

DC Mall run course April 5 2012I put this post on the shelf because I started feeling better and wanted to get back out there. In May 2011 when I wrote the first paragraph I had just returned from Kauai, and this time… April 2012, I’m just returning from Washington DC. I’m seeing a pattern, spring and travel. Both times I got a head cold which is far from the worst thing that can happen with your health. These short illnesses take us out of our plan for a week or two but don’t have a long-term impact. Last year I missed a few hikes that would have been nice in preparation for an August hike to Half Dome. This time I’ve just started training for a half marathon in August. I ran 15 miles last week, two 5 mile runs in DC and one around Lake Murray here in San Diego. I may not be able to run at all this week.

View from the couchWhat I have to do, if I don’t want this cold to drag out for weeks, is to take care of myself. Rest, take it easy, eat well, and take the vitamin C my wonderful girlfriend has been offering. While I probably shouldn’t hike, run, sail, paddle, or bike until I’m feeling better, I can plan to do those things. I can do research for inspiration. Read other blogs and write in mine. Talk to family and friends about what they are planning and what I’m planning. Catch up on some of my work and personal ToDo list. I should definitely rework my financial plan. I’m getting closer to some of my financial goals and need to tweak the plan, so I’m ready in the next 9-18 months to take advantage of what may be, finally, the bottom of the real estate price decline in San Diego.

We still have some things to unpack and some boxes to sort through. I have 3 or 4 books I want to read, and I need to dust off some of the things I learned in continuing education classes a couple of years ago before I sign up for my next college class this fall. Of course somewhere in there I need to find the patience to rest, recuperate, and wait for my health to return. Maybe I should just sit out in the backyard, have a glass of fresh squeezed OJ, and enjoy the sunset.

View of sunset from deck Mount Soledad on the right

My weekend in London was better than I expected, but Salisbury was the big surprise of my trip to the United Kingdom. Although I had done some research for London, I was too busy with work to figure out what I wanted to see in Salisbury. I rode the underground from Paddington Station to Waterloo station to catch the train to Salisbury. Because Salisbury is not at the final destination for any of the trains I found the train announcements and the main screens above the departure gates to be confusing. They flash the intermediate stops too quickly and there are too many possible platforms to leave from. I finally found some pamphlets for the train routes and determined what the final destinations were for the trains that passed through Salisbury. Luckily I had not missed any departing trains, and I had time to grab a bite to eat before the boarding. The train was comfortable and ran on time. It took about 90 minutes to get to Salisbury. The seats were like airplane seats and did not recline much, but I ended up sleeping a little. Once I got off the train, it was easy to catch a cab to my hotel and get settled in.

Old structure in Salisbury market areaThe business part of my trip to the UK was starting in the morning, but I had a couple of hours to walk around Salisbury before dark. It was wet and overcast, but the rain stopped for the last couple hours of the day. Salisbury is an old place, and has retained much of the character of a quaint English village. Although they had a small “modern mall” area in the center of town, the small shops that made up the bulk of the village area of Salisbury appeared to be doing well. The drizzly, slightly cold weather just added to the feeling of visiting a typical English village. It was late afternoon, uniformed school kids were on their way home, and the shopping area was bustling. Although I did not know what to expect, and was just wandering, I definitely enjoyed every minute of the walk around Salisbury.

The combination of very old buildings from the 1200’s and the modern shops are one of the things I love about Europe and Salisbury did not disappoint me.

Village market area Salisbury UK

Gate for an old city wall SalisburyWhen I got to the edge of the shopping area I noticed a cool old wall with a gate down one of the side streets. I decided to wander that way. As I passed through the gate I could see the edge of town and an open field, so I decided to head that way. As I got to the end of the street I was in for a surprise. When I look to the left there was a huge Cathedral. The spire at Salisbury Cathedral is Britain’s tallest at 404 feet. Salisbury CathedralThe picture does not show the true scale of the place. It was toward the end of the day, so after a quick look around the Cathedral I headed back to my hotel, went out for a little pub fare, and then back to the room to get ready for work the next morning. We had some good Indian food after work the next couple nights. Both restaurants had good food, but if you like spicy contemporary Indian cuisine, I would recommend Anooka.

I also finally found some time to do some research on the Salisbury area. There were several historical sites nearby; Stonehenge was only about 12 miles away, and on the way back toward the London airport. Since we would be driving, and would have time, we decided to stop and see Old Sarum and Stonehenge on the way to the airport.

Entrance to the inner fortress area of Old Sarum

The inner defenses at Old Sarum
In just a few pictures it is hard to see what Old Sarum is, but a plaque on the grounds show the purpose of the trenches and mounds. It is a very old fortress. Click the plaque picture to read more about Old Sarum.

Old Sarum Plaque

This was also the site of the original Cathedral for this area. There is nothing left but the foundations though because they used the material from the old Cathedral in the current Salisbury Cathedral.

Me in front of the ruins from the old Cathedral at Old Sarum

View from Old Sarum toward Salisbury. It is just a couple of miles from Old Sarum to the location of the Salisbury Cathedral.

View of Salisbury from Old Sarum

The closest approach to the stones at StonehengeAfter Old Sarum we stopped at Stonehenge. This really completed the trip for me. It is a very old place, in fact the exact purpose of the place can only be guessed. We took a walking tour with headphones, but ended up walking fairly quickly as it was cold and there was a steady breeze. For me, the best parts of the audio track described the construction methods and pointed out the examples of it on the stones that were no longer in place. The talk of legends was interesting too, but I would have enjoyed them more on a warm sunny morning!

The whole purpose of planning and adding some personal time to this business trip was to do research for a possible future vacation with friends and family. I was surprised by my experiences in both London and Salisbury. I would love to share both places with my friends and family and explore even more of both areas myself.

Here are a few more pictures:

A pony in a field just outside Old Sarum.

Horses and Ponies frequently had blankets covering them

The outer perimeter defenses were just as formidable as the inner defenses at Old Sarum.

Standing at the top of the outer defensive perimeter at Old Sarum

I snapped several pictures while walking around Stonehenge. I like this angle.

A classic view of Stonehenge while taking the walking tour

OK… one more of me enjoying my research for a future vacation.
Me standing on a walking tour of Stonehenge, Jan 2012

Other posts about this trip:

London (January 2012 – Paddington, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, The London Eye, and The Tower of London)

Work Travel

Planning

I’m a citizen of the procrasti-nation.  Based on life-long observation of my family I believe I must be a native born citizen.  In the absence of firm plans I routinely find myself putzing around the house, surfing the internet, or (gasp) blogging.  It is too easy to allow loose, flexible plans slide to the right.  So if I want to stay active, I have to make firm, well thought out, and possibly even publicly published plans.  It is also better if I make those plans “with other people”.  If a firm plan only includes me, who really knows if I blew the plan off!  So for me living a full life requires planning a full life first.

Planning isn’t difficult unless you have a larger group of people who are all trying to fit a plan into their busy schedules.  There are normally 5 W’s but in this case the why is for fun, or a challenge, etc. so it really is just the 4W’s: who’s going, what are you going to do and what to bring, where to go, and when.  Often you know everything except the what and where.  You know you want to get together with a group of friends or you have a special date to celebrate, and you need to figure out what to do.  Having resources that give you ideas for things to do  on a particular date are priceless.  Whether it is the local paper or weekly magazine, their website, or some other online resource you should have those types of resources handy for planning. I plan to collect a list for San Diego and post it here.

Then there are the Bucket List events/adventures. For me these generally involve setting up backpacking permits, lodging, campgrounds, and hopefully getting a few family and friends to come along. I have several left on my list and try to get out at least once a year to one of them. In 2012 I’m planning to hike the Zion Narrows. I’ve been working on that for a month or so, but need to finish that up in the next month. In 2013 I’m hoping to hike near Mount Rainier or possibly do some mountain biking. I hope the Marine Corps Marathon is on for 2014, but that will take a long-term plan, and a lot of shorter runs between now and then. I love the internet, you can always find someone how has done it, tells you about it, and usually they have some great pictures too. I personally like the ones that have plans that you can use. Camping checklists, information for a particular place that they found by doing lots of research, or by going there over and over again. Hints and tips from people who have been there are priceless when you are planning.

Want to see some of my planning posts? Check out the tag – Planning.

Rock Climbers viewed from the climbers loop trail - Mission Trails Park San DiegoI had received the offers many times from the daily deal websites, “Learn to rock climb”, “beginning rock climbing”… but I had always passed on those offers. I had also seen groups of climbers while hiking in San Diego. So one day last year I got a wild hair, decided to try something new, and bought a couple Groupon vouchers. The class was with The Southern Terrain company. They do everything from beginning classes to major adventure trips around the world. Jenny Starting her chimney climbThe class was in Mission Trails Regional Park on the east side of San Diego. There are permanent climbing points in the park that make it quick to set up the equipment so you can experience several different climbs with increasing levels of difficulty in a 4 hour class. The instructors bring all the equipment (although if you have larger than size 10 feet you may want to bring your own climbing shoes. They also bring the experience necessary for a safe climb even for beginners. This particular class was for people with no experience. We started with a chimney climb that was physically challenging, but not technically difficult. By the time I finished the first climb they had set up the other climbing routes. One was fairly easy until you got to the top, the other was more advanced… a nice way to say, no way I was ready for that! The ropes you see in the pictures are really safety equipment and made coming down much easier. It was reassuring when the foot or finger holds were small to know that you weren’t going anywhere.
Me near the top of the chimney climb
The chimney only required keeping pressure against your hands and more importantly your feet by pushing with your back. This allowed me to feel pretty secure as I moved a hand or a foot to the next plant point as I went up the chimney. It is hard on your shirt though so don’t wear your favorite clothes to this class. Me near the top of the second climb.The second climb was up a fairly large crack in the rock. There were good hand and feet holds for most of the way up, but for me it was difficult to maintain balance. I had to focus on staying close to the rock face. To get up the last few feet required placing a foot on a very small knob out on the face of the rock on the right and using a pressure hold on the left. With running shoes instead of climbing shoes I could not get enough grip on the foot hold to move myself up. There was also a cheater rope, but I didn’t see the point in using that. Jenny standing at the top of the second climb.So I didn’t make it all the way to the top of the second climb, but felt OK about how far I did get. On the other hand, Jenny made it to the top 3 times, the third time without using the rope! I was very impressed. There were a couple of people who were able to get most of the way up the third climb. I couldn’t get past the hand transverse near the bottom of the climb. I think climbing shoes would have helped here too. There were no foot holds, but those who made it still pressed their shoes against the granite to help climb. Of course after the 3 earlier climbs (I tried the second one twice) I was pretty tired too. At the top of the third climb there was a round rock outcropping that you had to pull yourself to the top of, then press yourself up to get a foot on top of it. No one made it past that point.
I would try this again sometime, but I doubt I’ll become a “rock climber”. If an opportunity comes up to try this in a different location I will probably give it a try. If I was 20 years younger and 40 pounds lighter (which I was 20 years ago) I would be willing to put more effort into getting better at this. I didn’t go into this to become a rock climber, just to have a new experience. It was definitely a fun time and a great confidence builder. I would recommend giving this a try if you are in fairly good shape.

One of my earliest memories was of the activities surrounding the JFK assassination. I remember my Mom watching TV and then getting very excited saying something like “Oh my God they shot him.” I believe the memory is of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot, she was watching the news after the JFK assassination and saw that live. My Mom was very pregnant and I had always remembered it as being the same day as my sister was born, but she wasn’t born until 4 days later, so my memory is a little off, of course I was only 3 years old. From that point growing up for many years JFK was a part of our national consciousness and through TV, our lives. I’m sure I don’t have many memories of him actually in office, but visions of those days are easily recalled because they were replayed so often in my childhood. That has changed over time. Much of the shine has come off the legacy of Camelot. Stories of JFK are rarely if ever seen on TV. Of course we have passed the 50 year anniversary of the beginning of his presidency and are approaching the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Our social memory is fading, just as it did for December 7th, and as it eventually will for September 11th.

The JFK Library is working to make much of their written, photographic, and movie archives available in digital form as part of an effort titled: Access to a Legacy = JFK. This process was begun in 2006, and has a goal of preserving the archives and giving greater access to them.

The films particularly show that this was a different time, both in their production, the dress of the people, and their behavior. In many ways it shows that the luster has not only come off the JFK legacy, but off the office of the President. I don’t believe that that is lost forever, it can be restored as I believe it has been in the past. It is interesting to watch these films to get a feel for how things were different at that time. Many of the films are silent, but an award ceremony for astronaut Major Gordon Cooper is a good example with sound. It is also interesting to see many of the politicians of that day, who were in the spot light for much of my youth in these films.

I started this post as a draft months ago, but the recent release of the audio interviews Jacqueline Kennedy did a few months after her husbands assassination brought my attention back to this post. Although there is a long article with some snippets from the transcripts on their webpage, it would be nice for the entire transcripts to be available digitally. Maybe some day, for now they will be released as part of a series of books. Jacqueline Kennedy had a unique perspective on her husband, and on his presidency, so I’m sure the interviews will be fascinating.

I’m not sure how I started getting an email from National Academy Press, but I’ve really come to look forward to their occasional book notices.  They usually list books from a fairly specific topic areas.  Most of the books can  can be read completely free on their site, but there are exceptions, especially outside of the science related books.  Occasionally pre-release books can be downloaded as a PDF for free.  Released books can be downloaded as a PDF for a fee.

Up until recently I had not gone to the site and just looked around.  The books I had looked at up to that point were all related to my work.  But in one of my recent emails I saw a book that I had a personal interest in.  They have a very useful “Topics” list on the left side of the page. In the areas that I looked they had a fairly good list of books to read. If you are looking at a technology topic list keep an eye on the publication date, because they keep books listed for a long time, and some of the information in these books may be dated.

This is definitely a good resource for learning something new.  Some fascinating books here!

Update: As of June 2, 2011 all National Academy Press published .pdf formated books are freely available. There are other related titles available on the site for a fee.

We’re leaving for Kauai in 12 days!  The planning for this trip was fun, and the whole trip is costing me less than 400 dollars for airfare, 7 nights lodging (on the beach), and a full size rental car!  But I don’t want to have to spoil a great evening on the lanai watching the sunset just to get a good Mai Tai.  So it’s time to practice a few different tropical drink recipes and find a good one.  I’ll make a quick trip to BevMo after the gym tonight and try out an interesting recipe I found on allrecipes.com there are several others claiming to be the best on the original at drinkmixers.com. I’m going to try out the recipe from allrecipes first, it is rated 4+ stars, plenty of good reviews, it looks interesting and sounds good.

The allrecipes.com Mai Tai I tried was good, like most tropical drinks, it was sweet and you could get feeling pretty good without realizing it.  It called for pineapple juice, was very sweet, and possibly a little weak tasting even though it had two shots of rum in a small tumbler.  Some of the comments I saw on the drinkmixer.com recipe definitely put down making a Mai Tai with any recipe including pineapple juice.  So I’m going to give one of the purported “original” Mai Tai recipes to compare the taste, so Trader Vic, the inventor of the Mai Tai doesn’t haunt me while I’m feeling no pain but drinking too fruity, too sweet, concoctions that should not bear the name Mai Tai!  The only juice in a Mai Tai should be lime juice, who knew…

Update:  Could not find a ready source for a Martinique rum, and the point of this is to be able to make these Mai Tai recipes on Kauai, so I decided to look for other rum choices.  I found a great page/post that investigates that very topic:  http://www.amountainofcrushedice.com/?p=1692

Update: On Kauai had to pick a light and a dark rum, and couldn’t find a Jamaican or Martinique rum, no Orgeat syrup, and no orange curacao so standard substitutions led back to Mai Tai like drinks and then we just started improvising tropical drinks. For more info on our trip see Kauai – Part 1

Sailing in San Diego HarborI started sailing about 5 years ago.  I don’t go as often as I would like to, but then there are so many things I love to do.  Learning to sail has been on my Bucket List since I was too young to call it a bucket list. For some reason it took years to get around to learning.  I think it was working in San Diego and seeing sailboats on the harbor every day that finally led me to go for it.  I still have very basic qualifications and sail small boats, but I really love spending 2-3 hours on the water on a beautiful, breezy day.  I would love to go at least twice a month, but realistically get out more like every other month.  I don’t think it would be worth it for me to own a boat at this point in my life, but may consider that at some point … post retirement maybe when I have a lot more time.   Me Sailing in San Diego
The nice thing about sailing is it is easy to learn, and once you learn it is like riding a bike; you never lose it.  You can get a little rusty though, so watch out those first couple minutes if it has been awhile. I really enjoy taking family and friends out to show them the peacefulness and beauty of sailing. I usually give them a quick lesson and a shot at the tiller. I have only been on a larger boat once, and it was really awesome, but I really, really enjoy the simplicity of skippering a small, but stable boat, say a 16.5 foot Capri.
If you’re interested search in Google for sailing lessons and the nearest city/town with a marina. I was lucky to be able to take my lessons at a Navy marina here in San Diego, and can rent boats by the hour from the same marina for a very reasonable rate. When you are looking for a place to learn to sail be sure that the instruction is certified and that you will gain certification that will allow you to rent boats at most marinas. Also be sure you understand what types of boats you’ll be qualified on and the limitations of your certification.

It’s all about the wind.  Be sure you find a good website that gives you forecast wind speeds for the area you will sail in.  It can be very disappointing to get to the marina only to find that the flag is laying against the pole.  I’ve gone out under very low wind conditions once, and it was a little irritating.  Today when we first showed up at the marina there was no wind, but I had looked at the forecasts and knew that the wind was expected to pick up by 1pm.  We went to waste some time nearby, and as you can see by the pictures the wind eventually picked up as forecast and we had a great time on the water.

If you live somewhere with a large body of water nearby, I recommend giving sailing a try.  There is nothing as satisfying as the boat ripping through the water under wind power.  And of course the best thing about the wind is that it is FREE!

I was discussing the KhanAcademy.org site with a coworker recently and he pointed out the availability of free online college courses.  Want to take a course at Yale?  They offer uncredited college courses at Open Yale courses.  If learning is the goal, how can it get better than that.  How about Computer Engineering courses at Stanford?  These are free too at Stanford Engineering Everywhere.  Want an even bigger name how about taking classes at MIT?  Also free at MIT Open Courseware. For an up to date list you can go to Universitiesandcolleges.org/free-online-college-courses. I take at least a couple of courses for credit each year and for my first free online classes I will do some review to prepare for the more advanced Java courses I will take next year. Later next year I plan to go back even further and update my understanding of the introductory computer science courses.

I love to learn, the opportunity to learn from top professors at preeminent universities is very attractive to me.  I like getting credit for new learning, but to review, update, and even possibly improve on what I have already received credit for makes sense to me.  I may also take advantage of this to learn things that are not necessary for my job but that are of interest to me as credit for those courses is not as important as the learning.