Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Tucson Imperative: Eating at a Taqueria

Today we had a very brief period of un-scheduled time in our afternoon.  So we took the opportunity to stop at the Taqueria that has become a regular stop for us when we are in town.

The options for what to get here extend beyond what the name may imply.

We decided to get a couple Sonoran Hot Dogs to enjoy while we decided what to get to take home and eat with Barbie's mom.  These are bacon wrapped hot dogs served in a large bun with pinto beans, mayonnaise, mustard, jalapeño salsa, grilled onions and shredded cheese.  They also come with chile gueritos that is also wrapped in bacon.

Barbie and her mom both got orders of tacos.  I honestly think that these tacos are what franchise restaurants like Baja Fresh and Taco Bell aspire to create, but obviously come up pretty short from that goal.

I opted to get a torta which is a Mexican sandwich that is distinctive not only for the meat in it, more so for the bread that is used.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cultural Indicators of the Southwestern United States

When I lived in the southwest, I would see things like piñata's, catholic statues and candles in stores all the time.  However, I have realized that the phrase "absence makes the heart grow fonder" really is true.  Even though I don't think I ever bought one of these items, when I saw them today in a store with Barbie they made me smile.

We came to this store looking for some Mexican candy, so when we saw these it was a sign that we were definitely in the right place.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Family Event At The Krazee Chef

The main family event for us this Christmas took place tonight on Christmas Eve.  Not only was there a family gathering (big by my standards, small by Barbie's standards), but it was also a chance to see a new restaurant that one of Barbie's cousins and uncles is opening.  The restaurant is called The Krazee Chef and it is schedule to open at the end of the first week of January.

There was a ton of food served, most of which was family recipes, but lots of people also brought items like a pot-luck.  By the end of the night we were both stuffed and we left with enough take home bags of food to keep us fed for at least a week.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Flying Over New Mexico and Arizona

While flying to Tucson for the holidays, I noticed White Sands, New Mexico on the horizon.  It's a natural land mark that I grew up frequently seeing, but I hadn't set eyes on it in over a decade.  Although this is the first time i can recall seeing it from this perspective, I decided it was worth taking a picture of.  In the image below you can see it just below the horizon.

As we continued to travel west, I noticed the southern Rio Grande Valley.  I immediately began recalling the distinctive taste of New Mexico green chile.  Yum!

As we continued west we passed over the Florida Mountains and I took over 100 pictures like the one below.

As we crossed into Arizona, the landscape was covered with patterns like the one below as we passed over Dos Cabezas Peaks.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Whoa, That Was Neat

For the last year or so, I have had a small issue with my Element.  The driver's seat has been rocking under heavy acceleration and breaking.  I honestly can't recall how long ago it started because the motion has ever so slowly been progressing.  For the last few weeks the rocking has gotten to the point where the headrest moves nearly a full inch.

I found a Honda Service Bulletin that outlined exactly what parts were to blame for this rocking motion, and what parts should be used to replace them.  So, last week I stopped into see a couple of local Honda dealerships to see how much it would cost for their service departments to perform the work described in the service bulletin.

I was surprised and disappointed to get estimates of $400 to $500 in order to swap out $3 worth of bushings, washers and nuts.

So, I got my hands on an Element service manual to see how to perform the work myself and just bought the parts.  After only 30 minutes of working on the task, I had the entire driver's seat removed so that I could get access to the parts to replace.  This was a sight I never thought I would see in a car I owned:

Once I had the seat out and on a bench in the garage, the rest of the work was pretty easy.  Mostly it was removing plastic parts that covered the bottom or the frame where the rails were that allows the seat to be adjusted.  In the video below, the seat is upside down, and it is focused on the outboard link that was originally held in place by thee faulty bushings.

After only 3 hours of work, I not only had successfully fixed the problem that had been plaguing my car, I saved myself a few hundred dollars, and I found myself enjoying a tremendous sense of pride in doing something that I had never done before.  Awesome!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ahh, Clean Air

It's only been a little over 2 years since I last changed the air filters in the E, but as I was planning on doing some maintenance on it I thought I should change them again.

OMG, was I right!  The picture below shows the new filters on the left and the old filters on the right.  I can hardly believe that all that dirt was captured from only 2 years of use.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

International Airport at Dulles

I have flown in and out of IAD hundreds of times.  Over the last decade I have patiently observed the conversion from mobile lounge transportation to subterranean rail transportation.

The last 2 years have been quite eventful for passengers at Dulles, as many of the long term components of the decade long renovation project have been completed.  While Barbie and I have enjoyed these new components, our return flight from Seattle was the first time we got to enjoy these things without a crowd of other passengers.

This is one of the Aerotrain cars that run on the new rail system that connects all of the mid-field terminals to the main terminal.

This is the rail depot in the main terminal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Mom's Class

Today Barbie and I joined my Mom for her last class before the Thanksgiving break.  I attended this class with her last year and it was so much fun for me.  This year, Barbie joined me for this experience and we both really enjoyed the experience.  I know that I am partial, but I absolutely love seeing my Mom teach.  There is something so wonderful about seeing her educate a room full of students.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Visiting With Bianca

While in Seattle, we had an opportunity to spend a little time with our niece Bianca who is in the Navy and currently stationed at Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, WA.  Bremerton is about an hour away from Seattle so it was relatively easy for us to meet up with her.

We got together today for breakfast and did a lot of catching up at a great restaurant that my Mom recommended.  The restaurant was called The Black Bear Diner, and the food was exactly what we were looking for.  Portions were generous, flavor was full and the service was very personable.  We all enjoyed our meals, especially Bianca.

After a long breakfast, we went to the mall for a place to walk around away from the rain.  We had a lot of laughs and eventually found a nice place to sit down for some more visiting.

When we attended Bianca's graduation from Naval Boot Camp, we also spent some time with her walking through a mall in Chicago because it was the only place we could think of to spend time for a few hours that gave us lots of things to see without having to travel to many places.  On that trip we saw the movie Taken with her.

This trip happened to take place just after Taken 2 had just been release, and since we were already in a mall with her, it felt serendipitous that this movie on a screen in the mall we were in.  Since it was a weekday and in the early afternoon we were the only people in the theatre.  Barbie really enjoyed this, and decided to take a few pictures of us in the theatre.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Flying Into Seattle

Of all the cities I have flown into, Seattle presents the best views.  Tonight we arrived around 11pm, and even at night the approach pattern that we came in on presented us with some of the best views of the city possible.  These pictures were taken with my cell phone 15-30 minutes before we landed.

This is the city of Seattle coming into view as we fly over the Space Needle.

The bright rectangle is Qwest field.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No Doubt About It…Fall Is Here

This what how I was greeted this morning when I opened my car door to head out to vote.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


It's only been a matter of hours since Sandy let our area, so we weren't sure how many trick-or-treaters this year.  But, regardless of how many people came by it felt good to carve some pumpkins and set out a few decorations.

This one was carved by Barbie, and we were both surprised at the fact that it took less than an hour to complete.

This one was carved by me.  I don't think it was as good as Barbie's, but it was by far the best one I have ever done.

By the end of the night we had more than 40 kids come by our house to get candy.  This was so many (and we were so generous) that for the first time for both o us, we ran out of candy!

Despite the storm that just came through, Halloween and trick-or-treating once again was a community bonding experience that brought adults as well as kids out tonight.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Is Outta Here

Hurricane Sandy has finally left us, and we have minimal damage from her.  Aside from a brief 4 hour power outage last night, some broken tree branches, and some creatively re-arranged patio furniture, we were unscathed from the storm.

I was able to capture atmospheric data every 15 minutes throughout the duration of the storm, and the data I collected is plotted below.  Check it out!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Makes Our Willow Tree Dance

This is a short video of the willow tree in out back yard dancing as Hurricane Sandy begins to arrive in our part of the mid-Atlantic states.

Sandy - 24 Hours In

We have been getting a lot of calls and texts over the last few hours from friends and family that are checking on us after seeing reports of Hurricane Sandy's impending arrival in the mid-Atlantic.

We are doing just fine so far, and as is typically the case, we haven't experienced much of what the media has been focusing on.  However, the atmospheric changes are starting to be evident as you can see in the graphs below that I collected form our weather equipment. 

Barometric Pressure is dropping quite steadily and rapidly:


Temperatures are slowly dropping, but I don't anticipate getting below freezing before Sandy is past us:


Wind speed has been accelerating recently, but hasn't been too bad so far:

(I've never felt so proud of being a data nerd before.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Another Doggie DIY Project

It's no secret that we spoil our dogs.  However, today we took our adoration to a new level with some custom built doggie steps.

For several years we have been going through sets of doggie steps for Maddie.  We move them between the couches in the living room and study as well as our bed.  The store bought steps have been plastic, fiberglass and wood but none of them have lasted more than a year.

So, after a quick trip to Lowes we were in our back yard with power tools cutting some stringers, treads and braces.

I was very surprised that both dogs were quite comfortable and relaxed with me while I was using the power tools and making noise.

After the frame was finished, we headed inside for better light to work on covering the wood with carpet.

By the end of our 3 hour long project, we had a set of stairs that were deep enough for both dogs to navigate easily, and strong enough to be moved from room to room without structural comprimise.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Best Damn Band In The Land - Video Game Edition

This year's college football season has been mostly disappointing for us, with a few instances of joy peppered in.  Yesterday during the Nebraska vs Ohio State came one of those good surprises.  Take a look at the video below that was filed by a fan at the game on their cell phone.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Smallest "Cone of Shame" Ever!

Poor Mosby got a cut on his elbow, and following a quick visit to the vet he came home wearing a cone to prevent him from licking his wound.  Thankfully he should only need to wear it for a couple days.

He is quite a little problem solver though.  It took him less than 5 minutes after coming home to figure out how to pick up his favorite ball to play with despite his cone.  He also figured out how to let the ball sit in his cone with his head up so that he don't need to hold it when he wants to move with it.  Scary smart…and a little funny too.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ridin' Shotgun

We took the dogs to the vet today for some regular check-ups.  Barbie drove, so this is the view I had for the entire drive (both ways).