Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell


Posted from Sosua, Dominican Republic at 7:10 pm, March 8th, 2009

Yesterday’s flight out of San Juan was delayed for an hour due to mechanical problems – the gate agent announced the delay, then a short time later said that we were good to fly. He corrected himself five minutes later saying “the ground folks said we were OK, but the pilot wants to change planes.” This pronouncement was followed ten minutes later by (essentially) “well, they’ve decided to go ahead and use this plane.” It was a confident group of passengers that boarded that twin-propeller aircraft.

Having now been here for a little more than twenty-four hours, the Dominican Republic seems to be a place that is full of magic that must be sought out. The area I’m staying in is home to a number of big resort hotels and the associated throng of middle-aged folks that frequent them, and, while pretty, it feels very commercial. Lonely Planet says that there is more of the same in the neighboring towns, but I’m convinced that there must be some amazing and isolated spots available to those who know how to find them. That said, despite the in-your-face souvenir vendors and crowds there’s a huge allure to hanging out on the beach and eating fish dinners on cliffs over the water while watching the sun set, so I’m very tempted to simply tranform into resort/beach bum Ryan and relax here for the next six days.

Exploring today revealed that there are two main beaches in the immediate area – one seems to be more popular with the locals, and is a chaotic, bustling hub of activity with cabana bars and restaurants tucked back under the trees at the beach’s edge. The second borders a large resort and is quieter but more sterile. Prior to departing I joked with many of my co-workers that I’d be bringing my banana thong along – many of the visitors to the resort beach apparently said the same thing, although not in jest; it’s disturbing on a number of levels to see an old man on the beach and know without any doubt how well endowed he is. The flip side of the equation is that the ladies’ swimwear is similarly revealing, but while this is in general a good thing, nature has dictated that less is not always more for every female body size and age, and I had at least a dozen cringe-worthy moments while strolling along the water.

Liquids, Gels and Aerosols are Forbidden Beyond the Security Checkpoint

Posted from San Juan Airport, Puerto Rico at 11:20 am, March 7th, 2009

The great whale trip of 2009 is underway. After enjoying wet suit night on Wednesday (the wet suit fits, but is apparently inappropriate for lounging in the living room) I got everything packed up and headed off to the airport for a redeye flight last night. In a battle that most people have probably waged I gave up territory early and had to surrender the armrest and some of my footspace to the guy in the middle seat. I tried to stand my ground when he fell asleep and started drifting left, but man-touch issues prevailed and I ended up crunched up against the window. Sleep was not one of the evening’s highlights.

The layover in Puerto Rico is four hours, which is just long enough to make visiting Old San Juan a temptation. However, given that there is only one flight a day to Puerto Plata and my mastery of Spanish is less than masterful the sightseeing has been deferred for a future trip. Instead, the plan turned into a “find-the-breakfast” exercise, which led to Cinnabon. I walked up to the counter, pointed at a pastry behind the window, and politely asked if I could have one.

“No, they aren’t ready yet” was the reply.

Undeterred, I asked what was ready.

“Only what you see behind the window” she replied, pointing at the pastry I had previously chosen.

Since I’m the one who is sleep deprived I will assume that a person of average intelligence would have been able to crack this code. Because I am not such a person I pointed at the pastry next to my original choice, crossed my fingers, and was rewarded with a sticky, gooey mess that tasted like butter and sadness. Now approximately two hours remain until my flight boards for the next leg of this journey, leaving ample time for watching other travelers stroll past. Sadly, a large percentage of these travelers seem to be sunburned elderly people who have made the very, very unfortunate decision to attire themselves in ways that reveal well-aged body parts that no one should have to see, and especially not early in the morning while operating on only an hour or two of sleep.

You have to dance in the Dance Area

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:30 pm, February 22nd, 2009

As an incentive for employees to work an unhealthy number of hours, 120 VC (the company through whom I contract with DIRECTV) offers a yearly trip to individuals who average at least 45 billable hours per week. Last year’s trip led Aaron and I to the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara, while this year’s offering took us to the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Las Vegas. For those unfamiliar with Vegas, the Strip is the center of all activity; Green Valley is not on the Strip. As a result, on Friday night Aaron and I hopped into a shuttle, arrived on the Strip, and spent the next several hours punishing our livers and increasing casino profit margins before hailing a cab to return to quieter settings. The next day we awoke with the typical day-after Vegas lurgy and after spending some time at the arcade headed off to the hotel spa for detoxification, all the while vowing that Saturday night would be more laid back; this vow was one that would be broken.

The company had provided me with a bit of spending money for the weekend, so we decided to break convention and see a show. Since Cirque du Soleil has about 300 shows currently in Vegas we figured that was a good option, and randomly picked Zumanity, not realizing that it was Cirque du Soleil’s freaky sex-themed show. While I was fully in favor of the myriad of boobs and acrobatics, the six foot six dominatrix host(ess) and gay gladiators were less of a draw for me. Aaron summed it up well: “That was crazy. I liked it. I’m glad we went. But I’d probably never go again.”

With the show ending around 9:00, the evening took a new direction. Hanging out in the bar at New York, New York casino we were watching highlights on Sportscenter, talking to random people, and occasionally stepping away to lose a few dollars in the slot machines when the magic of Vegas intervened. While we were downing Coronas an obviously drunk pair of brothers from the actual state of New York came dancing by, and Aaron made the comment that “you guys are just sort of making your own little dance area, huh?” “Dance area” is Vegas code for mayhem, and thus was born the New York, New York dance floor. In the midst of a busy casino walkway next to the bar Aaron and his new friends started levying a dance tax on all who passed through – “This is the dance area, you have to dance in the dance area!” While this would have been beyond obnoxious anywhere else, in Vegas these moments are the stuff of legend, and girls, guys, waitresses, security guards, young people, old people, and everyone in between spent a bit of time dancing through the next four hours. One old Asian lady who clearly spoke no English looked panic-stricken when Aaron danced up to her, partially blocking her way, but after two seconds a smile broke across her face, she high-fived, and shimmied her way along. There were moves made that caused women to swoon and would have caused Fred Astaire to cringe, people who returned hour after hour to see what was going on, many drinks consumed, and more laughter than on almost any Vegas trip I’ve ever had the pleasure of partaking in.

The dance-a-thon ended around 2:00 AM, and by 3:30 I returned to the Green Valley. Aaron made it back around 6:00 AM, and the very overpriced room service was a blessing when we finally awoke the next day. I had planned on setting off back to LA around 4:00, but after a streak of bad luck the gods of Vegas decided to keep me around a bit longer by giving me two of the three highest “Hot Hot” jackpots during a two hour stretch (“highest” is relative on these slots – I won a grand total of $50), and when finally I rolled back into Culver City around midnight it was a tired but happy man that curled up into bed.

We are Witnesses

Posted from 25,000 feet above Monterey, California at 4:10 pm, January 25th, 2009

Aaron’s Christmas present this year was two tickets to the Cavs vs. Warriors game in Oakland. Result: awesome. Lebron James proved strong enough to break the decades-long Holliday brother jinx on all Cleveland sports teams by hitting the game winning shot as time expired. Aaron and I were present eleven rows behind the Cavs bench wearing huge, curly brown Anderson Varejao wigs, and even the Warriors fans sitting around us seem stoked to have us there. In addition to some awesome basketball the night’s highlights included the courtside arrival of George Lucas (kid behind us: “Dad, who works for him?”, father: “Everyone.”) and some unbelievable intermission entertainment. The halftime entertainment saw the world’s most flexible man, who showed up in a tiny box and then fit his body through a tennis racket and a toilet seat. A timeout brought four short guys and a trampoline, leading to some of the most impressive dunks (think double back flips) that I’ve ever seen. There were cheerleaders (Cheerleaders are pretty…), drummers, t-shirt launches, pizza giveaways, and all manner of craziness.

The weekend’s other highlight was Aaron’s new best friend, Hanford. The puppy arrived on Wednesday and has since taken over Aaron’s life, getting him up through the night, finding all manners of rocks to eat, and generally behaving as you would expect a puppy to behave. The little guy is a bull mastiff, which apparently means that “little guy” will only apply for about a month, and also means that his back hips work on some sort of a pivot, giving him a distinctly tank-like walk. There was much bouncing, biting, chewing, and general mayhem throughout the three days that Hanford made my acquaintance.

Aaron & Hanford

Aaron & Hanford.

Me & Aaron

Me & Aaron, lookin’ pimp with some delicious chicken tacos.

Lebron James

Lebron, tossin’ some chalk.


Posted from 32,000 feet above San Luis Obispo, California at 9:30 pm, January 22nd, 2009

Soley because they might be fun to read in a year, here are some predictions for 2009:

  • The stock market will be close to 10,000 at the end of the year. I’m probably jinxing it by writing that, and instead it will be closer to 6,000, but this point in history seems a lot like the mid-to-late 1990s when there were tons of promising technologies on the verge of becoming useful and creating work.
  • On that note, by the end of 2009 everyone will know what the smart grid is. With Obama focusing so heavily on energy it seems inevitable that there will be a push to upgrade the electrical grid, electrical companies will be looking for ways to save money through efficiency, and homeowners will want to save money by using smart meters to gauge when electricity is cheapest.
  • There will be at least two new national parks or monuments created. This prediction is based on nothing other than the fact that it’s been a long time so there must be something in the pipeline.
  • I will schedule another big expedition-style trip. Due to changing IAATO regulations the Cheesemans Antarctica trip in 2010-11 will be their last, although I suspect that instead of returning to Antarctica some other opportunity may arise.
  • Chrysler is going to go out of business or be purchased; GM and Ford will keep chugging along. Another major bank will fail or be purchased.
  • Obama’s approval rating will drop from its current 80% levels but still remain over 60%.
  • I will run a marathon or some similar endurance race; this one is probably wishful thinking but I am definitely getting tired of being out of shape, so who knows…
  • The “buzz” in energy will be all about bio fuels and concentrated solar. Wind and corn-ethanol will still be the most heavily used alternative energies, but concentrated solar will be seen as the most economical and reliable while fuels made using algaes and other biological sources will be seen as the future replacements for petroleum.
  • The Beatles and Garth Brooks will finally get released on iTunes. Kid Rock will not.
  • The Boeing 787 will not face any further delays – two years is late enough. The 747-8 will move into production on schedule.
  • The Indians will not make the World Series. The Browns will not make the Super Bowl but will win at least seven games. The Cavs… will not be jinxed by me.
  • Tesla Motors will still be in business, although the Model S will be delayed until the end of 2011.
  • I will still be working at DIRECTV. As much as I want to move back to the Bay Area there are a huge number of good things about my current job, and they’re being even more flexible now about letting me work remotely on occasion, making it easier to come home for three day weekends.
  • Yahoo will be purchased or merge with someone like AOL.
  • Lance Armstrong will finish in the top ten in the Tour de France but won’t be on the podium. I like the guy, but three years away from cycling is just too tough to come back from.
  • I will manage to make at least two journal entries a month, doubling my pitiful performance of 2008.

That’s what I’ve got. The comments link is there for anyone who wants to add their own or mock me for making such geeky predictions (“bio fuels?”).