Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So Far, So Good...

Everyone's been asking me how the "no smoking" thing is going. Well, I figured I'd go ahead and put it all out there: It's going great.

At 10:53am on January 16, 2012, I put out my last cigarette. To be completely honest, I didn't know if I was gonna' make it. Lord knows I've tried in the past,and I crashed and burned time after time. This time, though, I think I'm in it for the long haul.

I sure as Hell haven't done it on my own, though. The people who ask me how it's going are genuinely supportive of my goal to be a non-smoker, and I'm pretty proud of the fact that I can say I haven't had a cigarette in 43 days. But, we seriously need to give credit where credit is due.

Let's hear it for better living through modern chemistry:

These are the ones doing the heavy lifting: Wellbutrin and "The Patch"...
I started on the Wellbutrin a full two weeks before starting on the patch. Wellbutrin is an anti-depressant. Take cigarettes away from a smoker, and he gets depressed. Possibly even violent (or so I hear). So, the Wellbutrin gets prescribed to counter the sure-to-be-impending depression of not smoking. The idea is to let it build up in the system which, so says the brochure, will decrease the cravings.

Well, it didn't. I was taking 150mg a day, and I was smoking like a chimney. Granted, I was happy all the time, but the cravings never really subsided. I got them to double the dosage. If that didn't work, I'd go with Chantix.

I was completely convinced that it wasn't working. Then, one day; I think it was January 13 (a Friday, no less) I went out in the morning for a smoke. The next thing I knew, it was 3:20pm. I hadn't eaten lunch, and I hadn't even thought about having a cigarette.

Maybe they were doin' the trick.

A few days later, I added the patch into the mix. As hokey as I always thought the patch was, I have to admit, they work. When I've been on the 21mg patch for six weeks, I'll step it down to 14mg for two weeks, then to 7mg for two weeks. There are no lower dosage patches. Once I get done with the 7mg patches, I'm done.

Completely.

So, there it is. The e-mails and phone calls and private messages are all so very much appreciated, but I wanted to get all this information out there...











Monday, February 20, 2012

Just Around The Corner..

I hadn't been out shooting in a while so, yesterday, I decided to throw the gear in the truck and go out shooting. I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a route, and I didn't have a destination. I figured I'd find out where I was going when I got there.

When I go out shooting around San Diego, I usually head west to the beach, or maybe to Old Town. There's always something good to shoot at either of those destinations. Every once in a great while, I'll head east into the mountains or the desert. Yesterday, though, I decided to head north on I-15. Normally, when I drive I-15 north, it's because I'm making a rare drive to Vegas. This time, though, I decided to go no further than the San Diego County line. In all honesty, I actually never got near it. I made it as far north as Escondido.

My first stop was at Lake Poway in, you guessed it, Poway. I'd never been there, and it seemed like the perfect place to start a trip like this one. To be frank, I don't know that I even knew that Lake Poway existed. it surely does, though, so up I went. Being a Saturday, the fields were filled with softball teams and soccer teams, but parking was plentiful. I parked the truck, grabbed my camera, and headed out.

After walking up a small hill, I saw the lake in front of me. It's not exactly what I expected to see. A portion of the lake seemed to be cordoned off by one of those oil booms you see laid out around some of the larger Navy ships down in San Diego Bay, but this seemed to only serve the purpose of keeping fishing boats out of a particular portion of the lake. And, while there were plenty of small rowboats on the lake, far more people were fishing from the banks:


Lake Poway...

Fishermen along the banks, lines in the water...

This guy's got it figured out...
A guy can only take so many pictures of so many people catching so many fish, so I decided to walk along one of the many trails surrounding the lake. As I'll often do, I just start takin' pictures of weird stuff.


Just diggin' the depth of field...

An infrared-ish view of the lake...

More depth of field yumminess...

After the lake, I decided to head further north into Escondido. Escondido is one of those towns where you wouldn't expect to find too many photo ops and, if you stay in the main part of the city, you might be right. However, if you venture out a bit further, you can find a lot.

About ten minutes north of the center of Escondido is the Belle Marie Winery. You can barely see it from the freeway but, if you take the time to find your way over to it, you'll be rewarded with a visit to a small, boutique winery. They make less than 5,000 cases of wine a year here. Now, while that sounds like a Helluva' lotta' wine to me, I guess, in the grand scheme of winedom, it's not much at all.

The coolest part of the winery is Chateau Dragoo, the castle on the winery grounds. I dunno', what would you call it?




One of the things you really notice here is the sweet smell inside the "barrel room". Again, they don't make huge quantities of wine here by industry standards, but there's still a lot of wine in these barrels:

Inside the barrel room...

This stuff has just GOTTA' be tasty...
Now, once you get past the barrel rooms, where all that wine is fermenting, you get to go inside for a taste. I didn't care to imbibe, but took more than a cursory look at their wine menu. It was extensive, and I'm sure this isn't the last time I'll be here. Hey, I need to pick up a bottle or three of Merlot.

A private tasting room at Belle Marie...
From the winery (did I mention the bitchin' wine list?), I decided to head south a bit, to Kit Carson Park in Escondido.

Kit Carson Park, for the most part, is pretty much like most other parks you'll find in the San Diego area. There are softball fields and frisbee gold courses, playgrounds and hiking trails. But there's a difference here. Kit Carson Park has something that no other park in San Diego County, or for that matter, anywhere, has.

Kit Carson Park has Queen Califia's Magical Circle, a sculpture garden created by Niki De St. Phalle. The land was donated by the City of Escondido, and the garden was opened in October 2003, about a year after St. Phalle's death at the age of 71. Nowhere have I been able to find just how long it took to construct, but the garden is made up of what has to be millions of stones, including turquoise, agate, hematite, tiger eye and quartz:

None of these stones is much bigger than a quarter...
Now, the photo above doesn't really convey the Herculian effort that must have gone into creating this garden. Here's a somewhat wider shot of the wall. Each of these snakes, which encompass approximately 400 feet of circumference along the wall, is made up of individually placed stones similar in size to the ones you see in the photo above:

Two of the several snakes atop the garden wall...
The main attraction, if there could be one over another, would be the actual sculptures contained within the walls of the garden. They defy description. And, while you can find St. Phalle's works elsewhere in the United States, these sculptures represent the only "garden" anywhere in the country. Her works can also be found all over the world.

Dig it:







I finally decided that it was time to point the truck south and start making my way home. I'd done a good deal of shooting, and certainly a good deal of editing ahead of me. But, more than that, I'd been shooting at three places I'd never been before.

The decision to drive north, as opposed to steering into my western comfort zone, paid off...









This is a cool QR code for my website which will now be added to my blog...







Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Race...

Once in the infield, the excitement was palpable. This isn't a race series that most people pay attention to, but it certainly has its fans and followers. As the drivers come from all different areas of racing, it really is a series which can appeal to almost any race fan.

The Rolex 24 begins at 3:30pm on Saturday. From that point forward, for the next full day, the race is on. It doesn't matter how many laps are turned, at 3:30pm on Sunday the checkered flag drops. This year it would be the 50th time that's happened.

Walking through the infield can be a lot of fun. The sights, sounds and sometimes even the smells are distinctly "racing".

Where else could you see a four year old decked out like this?

"The Painter"

This guy paints a car, then his suit, and then himself. Awesome...

As much fun as walking through the infield can be, the reason we show up is for the race. Being that this was the 50th Anniversary, they had "parade laps" featuring many of the cars which have won this event in the past:






Once the green flag dropped, though, it was on. Not only are these cars fast, but they're loud. I've been to plenty of races in my day, and have a hard time recalling cars that were louder than these.

Now, as I'll often do, I'll spare you the text. Enjoy the photos:

















We finally decided to leave around 9:00pm or so. We had a little bit of a drive back to St. Augustine and, truth be told, after shooting over 5,000 frames between us, it was unlikely we were going to get any pictures that didn't look like dozens we'd already shot. We had a nice, leisurely drive back, dropped Gloria off at her brother's, and headed back to Greg's house.

It was, just like last year, a great time.

I can't wait for 2013...

See ya' next year!

Daytona...

Of course, the primary reason for this trip was to go to Daytona International Speedway for the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24. My brother Greg and I came here last year for this race, and I wrote about it here. It was such a good time that I guess it shouldn't surprise either of us that we've decided to make this an annual thing.



Only Greg and I went last year, but this year we'd also be going with my brother's girlfriend Renie, and our sort-of-cousin Gloria. I say "sort-of-cousin" because, while not a blood relative, "cousin" is, I think, the most apt description. We've known each other since we were little kids, but I hadn't seen Gloria since, probably, 1973. Accordingly, when it looked like she might not make the drive over from Sarasota, I decided to guilt-trip her into showing up.

It worked.

Gloria at Daytona International...

Greg, Renie and I piled into the Challenger at about 7:45am, and drove over to Gloria's brother's (who I don't remember at all), who also lives in St. Augustine. Somehow, both Renie and Gloria were able to sit somewhat comfortably in the back seat, so we turned south and hit the highway.

The drive wasn't bad but, unfortunately, when we got to the gate we learned that the infield parking was sold out. Like, it sold out three weeks ago. So, we ended up parking outside the track. We were able to take a shuttle into the infield, though, and we were close to a tunnel, so it wasn't really bad at all.

One of the things we did last year was buy the garage pass. It's cool to watch the mechanics rip these cars apart and put them back together again. Aside from the souvenir shop to pick up credential holders, the garage area would be our first stop once inside the infield.

The garage area as seen from the viewing deck...

A rack of tires, with the tire's position on the car noted on each one...

Every car must pass inspection before being allowed to race...

The garage area...
The Rolex 24 attracts drivers from all disciplines: NASCAR, Indy Car, Formula 1, etc. But it also attracts celebrities, as well. One of those is actor Patrick Dempsey. He was here last year, as well. If I remember correctly, he actually did okay. He's got his own team now so, these days, I think he's actually putting more of a focus on racing than on acting.

Team owner/driver/actor Patrick Dempsey in the garage area...
After walking around the infield grounds for a while, we decided that it would probably be a good idea to have lunch before the start of the race. We took the shuttle back outside the track, and made our way to the car.

And food.

And beverages.


Greg, Gloria and me at Daytona. I don't recall Gloria being so tall...

Gloria and Greg mix up some yummy lunchtime cocktails...


Greg sets up the lunch counter. Yeay, Greg...

After lunch, it was time to head back into the infield for the race. We packed things up, headed through the tunnel, and were on our way...

Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...