News from April 2007

Balboa Park, San Diego, Renaissance Fair

Occurred April 20, 2007 (Permalink)

		Spreckels Organ, Balboa Park
Spreckels Organ, Balboa Park

Time for a vacation! I jumped in a plane and flew down to San Diego to visit various friends and get away from the Portland grey. First on my list of people to visit was Christine, who had invited me down south to attend a ball. Since I had an extra day to hang out, we went exploring around Balboa Park. Being a nerd, I of course went for the automotive museum. They had an impressive collection of weird vehicles, including a Tucker (img_0133) (with the cyclops headlight that followed the steering wheel), a Delorean (img_0134), and a 1947 car that had been modified to run for long periods of time (img_0135). Specifically, there was a trailer with extra supplies. In addition to a 250-gallon gas tank, there were reservoirs of coolant and oil that were continually recirculated into and out of the engine. The bottom of the car had retractable rollers that could be used to keep the car moving while changing tires. The back seat of the car had been outfitted with a clothes washer, an iron, a small oven, and even a drinking fountain! The front seat had an enormous control panel with a wireless telephone. End result: the owner made an ~8,900 mile trip without having to turn the engine off or stop!

After that, I was museum'd out. We went to Fry's, had dinner at a curry house with my cousin Lauri, and returned to Balboa Park to give me a crash course in the polka, the waltz and the schottische. Alas, I forgot to bring dancing shoes that evening, making the dancing experience clumsy and annoying, so we ended up trying to translate various SCD figures into something that could be polka'd ... underneath an arch in Balboa Park, attracting the attention of various vagabond-ish characters claiming to be dance teachers.

Saturday, we went to a Renaissance Fair in Escondido. Having never gone to such an event before, I thought it was rather intriguing to watch the mock battles, wander around to the various tents, see the belly-dancing stage, and nose around in the various shops. I finally found a sporran chain of a proper length (apparently there are no skinny Scottish people in Portland?!), which made me happy. Apparently the food vendors will serve large chunks of turkey, which means that one can sit on a bench gnawing on a huge drumstick (without the need for bothersome things like utensils) watching amateur actors bumbling their way through Shakespeare. Hmm...

A Viennese Ball

Occurred April 21, 2007 (Permalink)

		Me, Kilt
Me, Kilt

		Christine
Christine

The SDYAS Viennese Ball was held at the Balboa Park Club. Billed as the largest ballroom in Southern California, the building itself was once the New Mexico building of the 1915 Pan-Pacific fair. Now, it's a big room with space for a lot of tables and a lot of dancing. The ball kicked off at 19:30 with an impressively long and elaborate Grand March that went on for a good fifteen minutes and outlasted several repetitions of the Radetzky March. Following that were a series of waltzes and polkas. It was fairly clear that the orchestra was bent on going fast, and I think I managed to get into about a third of the dances. I tried out the Bohemian National Polka for the first time since 2005 or thereabouts, and discovered that I remembered enough of it not to be too much of an uncoordinated doof. As for the polka, let's just say that it's ... fast. Having spent three years learning Scottish Country Dance (and around seven unlearning most ballroom), it was a tad weird getting used to three-beat measures instead of SCD's two or four. Despite having rather a lot of dances on the program, they got through them all so quickly that it was over just as I was starting to get back into the flow of dancing! Oh well, there's always the one in Vancouver next month. Christine and I finished the evening with a trip to Extraordinary Desserts since it was darn close. Yay! :)

Old Town and the Beach

Occurred April 22, 2007 (Permalink)

Sunday, I bade farewell to Christine and met up with Libby and Jeff for brunch at a German restaurant out in La Mesa. Libby had friends from Illinois staying in Coronado, so for the first time in my life I went out to Coronado island. Libby had to go to a choral rehearsal, which left Jeff and I to wander around for a few hours. First we tried to find the rocks on Coronado beach that spell out "CORONADO" from the air (missed them by a few hundred feet, alas!) then went to Mission Bay Park to fly a kite. Upon failing to encounter the kite in the car, we started messing with a hydraulic rocket, as found in a recent issue of Strong Bad Email. Worked just about as well for us as it did for him.

Old Town was near where Libby's rehearsal was (it's the big church that can be seen on I-8 just west of I-805), so we stopped there. I caught sight of one of the new San Diego Trolley cars and ventured inside one for a look. These cars will become the new TriMet Type 4 cars in late 2008; aside from the futuristic look (meh), the cars feature the same bike capacity as the older type 2/3 cars (boo) though they have considerably more seating capacity considering that they're only seven feet longer. Old Town looked more or less the same, though the old cadre of restaurants were forced out in 2005. After that, it was time to get Libby, so we went back to their place and watched Black Adder.

Anza Borrego Desert and the Salton Sea

Occurred April 23, 2007 (Permalink)

		Anza-Borrego Desert
Anza-Borrego Desert

I set aside Monday for a mini-road trip with Jason. Since I had come from the grey gloom of Portland only to encounter much of the same in San Diego, we decided that going east into the desert would be a relief for both of us. With that, we headed out towards the Anza Borrego desert, with optional side trip to the Salton Sea and a not-so-optional side trip to Julian for pies.

We left La Jolla around 9:45 and went north on 15 through Poway to CA-67, east on CA-78, north on CA-79 and east on S-22 to the visitors' center of Anza Borrego state park (img_0144). It was "abnormally hot" (82F) so we didn't try for any strenuous hiking or anything like that, instead sticking to the paths and taking pictures of odd plants (img_3316-9). The ground was a mix of brown, red and yellow colors, which was quite a contrast to the deep reds and yellows of the Oregon high desert. I also noticed that there were quite a few plants that might be described as 'exoskeletal' -- there would be a hard braided cylindrical sheath representing branches, and soft squishy stuff inside. In nearly all cases there would be the usual spines to keep animals away.


		North on CA-86 Parallel to the Salton Sea
North on CA-86 Parallel to the Salton Sea

Due to a navigational error, we went south on CA-86 towards El Centro instead of north to Salton City. This was a fortuitous thing, for we were able to secure a map of the area, pass a palm tree farm (img_0153), take pictures of the wonderfully sinking roads (img_0156) and buy a 1L bottle of Sprite on our way back to the right place.

The Salton Sea is a huge inland body of water in Imperial County that was created in 1905 by a massive overflow of an irrigation canal draining the Colorado River. This flood created a freshwater lake that has been getting saltier in the 102 years since then. The only inlet is agricultural runoff that's full of pesticides, and there's no way to drain it to the ocean. As a result, the Salton Sea is several times saltier than the Pacific, full of pollutants, and is now pretty much an animal death trap. Upon arriving, we discovered, in addition to the smell of saltwater, a faint stench of dead fish. (img_0157-81, 3324-50)


		Dead Stuff Piled Up
Dead Stuff Piled Up

And dead fish there were! On the small isthmus where we parked there were dozens of desiccated fish. Birds flew overhead in the heat but declined to stop. And there weren't many signs of civilization within miles. There was a solitary trailer ... and big piles of dead sea animal shells and dead fish. Yuck. From far away the sea looked blue and appetizing; up close, it was red and brown. A nasty, smelly place lingering with the scent of death.


		Salton City
Salton City

From there, we went into Salton City. Like its watery namesake, the city is nearly dead. Back in the 1950s some enterprising suckers^Wfolks from San Diego thought they could plan out a city of seaside tract houses and summer resorts for rich San Diegans. What they didn't realize is that the sea gets saltier every year, and there's no way to save the area. One day it will revert back to Colorado Desert, and the sea will be gone. Thus, they abandoned the city after paving the roads, running telephone poles, and installing utility service. The one indicator that you're getting close to Salton City that you see while driving up CA-86 is a suspicious thicket of telephone poles off the main highway. We drove up and down some of these inner roads, photographed the metropolitan graveyard, and left. (img_0182-92, img_3351-69)

At this point it was about time to head back to San Diego. We headed up into the hills on S-22, stopping at the eastern entrance to Anza Borrego park for a few more pictures (img0194-end). We stopped in Julian for pies, Encinitas for sushi, and then went back to La Jolla.

Panoramas of the Desert Now Posted

Occurred April 28, 2007 (Permalink)

I have figured out how to generate panoramas with hugin and autopano-sift. A good thing too, since autostitch no longer runs, and the huge pictures that my camera takes were overflowing its paltry 32-bit memory addressing capabilities. See (163-172.jpg, 197-205.jpg and 214-216.jpg) in the gallery.

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