December 28, 2008

Following a whirlwind adventure circumnavigating the globe in 2007, it's safe to say we remained more grounded in 2008. Though we did manage to squeeze in several trips to see family and friends, a 210 mile hike on the PCT and a five week backpacking trip with Paul and Brooke to Eastern Europe. Beyond that, we spent the year living in Los Angeles and sharing life with our close friends here. And of course, Kari became pregnant in 2008 and is now 34 weeks along...

A year in review, via pictures and statistics:

The following statistics are purely for my own archives. If you knew how many other statistics I have for 2008, you might stop reading this blog.

  • Walk/Bike Miles: 1571 or 4.6 miles per day
  • Driving Miles: 4518 or 94 miles per week
  • Films: 57 or 1.09 per week
  • Reading: 23 books or 1.9 per month

December 19, 2008

-San Gabriel Mountains, just north of Pasadena
-Photos taken from the Sam Merrill and Castle Canyon Trails
-December 18, 2008

[A three day winter storm swept through Los Angeles on Monday through Wednesday, dumping rain under 2500 feet and snow above 2500 feet. So early yesterday morning, a friend and I hit the trail and began our ascent to Mount Lowe (5603 ft elevation). The snow started gradually until we neared the top, where it was three to four feet deep. Most of the time we had clear views of Los Angeles below and sometimes caught glimpses of the Pacific Ocean, all while hiking through snow. It was simply fantastical.]

J, P and wasn't the same without you.

December 17, 2008

The clock reads 7:12am, which means I've been awake for fifty-seven minutes. Though I have already had breakfast, showered, dressed and begun working, I still find myself half laying on the couch, hardly able to stay awake. The engine of my mind has barely turned over, like an old car on a cold morning, but I'm determined to keep trying for there is plenty more to get done before lunch. It's day three of my waking up early experiment, which was actually born out of necessity, so it should probably be called My Conscience Decision To Become A Morning Person.

I have never been an early riser, primarily because I didn't need to be. My job affords me the ability to work from home, and even with long writing sessions added to my daily dose of work, I seldom need to set an alarm clock. And it certainly helps that I don't have any kids and that we have covered every conceivable entrance of light into our bedroom with heavy, dark curtains. So I usually get up when I get up, often between 9 and 9:30am, depending on the previous nights' activities.

But with Christmas coming, grad school application deadlines looming and the pending arrival of our little girl, a change was needed. So I set out to find ways to add time to my day, in whatever ways I could. I contemplated giving up certain luxuries, like going to the gym, and even thought about switching to a polyphasic sleep schedule, which would have given me twenty-one hours of awake time every day. In the end, though, I simply decided to wake up earlier.

I realize that waking up at 6:15am every day is the standard way of life for many, many adults. I know this because each morning, as I unsteadily walk from the bedroom to the kitchen in pursuit of yoghurt, I can hear the freeway abuzz with commuters who have waken much earlier than me. So I understand I was in the minority before and only now am joining the ranks of most working adults and every last parent on earth. Even still, the past three mornings have not been easy.

The clock now reads 8:47am and I'm nearly just as groggy as I was ninety minutes ago. But in that time I've written this post and nearly finished my current book, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And all this before I used to get up. I guess it's a start...

October 29, 2008

Regrettably, the gig is up. After one sublime year of living in Los Angeles without a car, we're roaming the freeways once again in our diminutive sized 95' Civic hatchback. While it was a necessary purchase, it wasn't an easy one, especially in light of the post car buying expenses that follow, namely, registration, insurance, parking permits and a never ending engagement to gas.

For me, living car free meant a better environment, less bills and a way to identify and connect with my city more organically. But perhaps more importantly, it was an act of rebellion against conventional life in LA, a city where almost no one gets by without a vehicle.

Suffice it to say, owning a car is a tremendous burden on me. But it's not all gloom. I will confess there is one area of car owning that I find especially pleasing. The miles per gallon game, of course.

While there are many ways to save gas and increase your mpg, I have found that one in particular has worked more than any other: Driving slow. And by slow, I mean ridiculously slow, like when you took road trips in the early 80's when the 55 on the speedometer was still in bold red lettering.

I cannot tell you how exhilarating it is to see a cop and not feel afraid. And I have found that driving 55 actually does save you at the pump, certainly helping chip away the annual cost of insurance. On our last tank, the Honda rolled 338 miles on 8.3 gallons of gas for a whopping 40.7 miles per gallon.

The downside is that driving 55mph in the freeway city is like cheering against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Just two nights ago, on a late night trip to Hollywood, I found myself the cause of a one middle finger, two high-beam light flicks and several beeping horns. So while I no longer pump the brakes at the sight of a dreaded cop, I now fear my fellow drivers with nearly as much apprehension. I understand them only because I used to be like them. It seems I have achieved some kind of role reversal.

So the gig is up and it's mostly awful. But if you happen to pass me on the 134 or the 110, which you no doubt will, you might just see a tall guy in a small car wearing a slight smile of pleasure, realizing his 55 mph might just be the new rebellion he was looking for.

October 15, 2008

-Dodger Stadium, near China Town, on top of the hill at Chavez Ravine.
-NLCS Game 3 against the Phillies, October 12, 2008.

September 13, 2008

6 Countries, 8 cities, 1 island and 2 National Parks is what our trip to Eastern Europe came down to. We managed to stay on the ground again (though not as many hours as last time), using buses and trains to transport ourselves from one city to another. For the most part, cities blended together quite nicely, each country adding subtle gestures and rich history, distinguishing themselves from their ever-so-close neighbors.

Vienna certainly carried the torch for the most beautiful and accessible city we spent time in, while Prague was the most disappointing. Sarajevo surprised us and the aqua clear waters of Croatia never got old. The unexpected visits to the countryside villages of Telc and Eger became some of our favorite places.

In the end though, as it usually goes, the most treasured aspect of our trip was the weeks we spent with travel companions Paul and Brooke. Late night frisbee golf in city parks. Playing cards into the am. Exploring unfamiliar cities, side by side. Endless conversations over margherita pizzas and gyros. Nights spent in tiny cubicles, bunks stacked on top of one another. These are the memories burned into the mind, as much as any historical building or national landmark.

Eastern Europe Journey:

Final Pictures:

September 12, 2008

We spent time in Split, Trogir and Brac Island - which were all beautiful in their own regard. But the highlight of Croatia were her National Parks and most of these pictures come from one of the several we went to, Plitvice Lakes.

The rest of the pictures from Croatia are here.

September 6, 2008

And finally, after 2500 sneezes and days on end of itchy eyes...just asking for a little sympathy.

A few more pics of Sarejevo here.

September 1, 2008

Fifteen more photos of Hungary here. We went to Slovakia for two nights as well, but didn't take many photos worth posting (you can see them here if you're interested).

August 21, 2008

Czeck Republic "word" of the week: Murdalize

Mur-da-lize: One of the better words in the English language that isn't really a word. Stems partly from murder, as in lighthearted annihilation. If you're prone to exaggeration or to overwhelming desires or to unrealistic goals, this is the word for you. For example, if you were really really hungry, you might say, "Dude, I could totally murdalize that pork roast." Created by Brooke, used by all.

Some pictures from the Republic...

The rest of the Czeck pictures can be found here (only 32 more).

August 10, 2008

Ten months after returning from our last trip, we're off again. Only this time it's for five weeks and we're heading to the developed world of Eastern Europe. We fly into Prague tomorrow and out of Split, Croatia on September 11. The plan is to spend most of our 33 days walking around some of the great European cities: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Sarajevo. Our final week is reserved for a beach in Croatia, but of course, all this is subject to change as we haven't planned anything beyond a hostel in Prague.

Though the unequivocal best part about this trip is that we're sharing much of it with best friends Paul and Brooke. And after needing to con and manipulate random strangers into being our friends on last years world tour, you can imagine our relief this year.

Adios Los Angeles, Ahoj Prague.