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

30 Days in the Hole

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:29 pm, October 30th, 2017

2017 is not shaping up as a great year for hitting the three-journal-entries-a-month goal, either because not a lot is happening or because I’m lazier than normal; it’s probably both. Anyhow, here’s a recap of the past month:

  • October started with a visit from Ma & Pa. They had just returned from one of those cruises where someone comes aboard with a horrible virus and turns the boat into a vomitorium, and they weren’t yet fully recovered, so activities were kept to a minimum. Dad had wanted to see the Spaceship Endeavour since it is awesome, and afterwards we took my mom to Casa Sanchez to celebrate her birthday since you can’t go wrong with a kickass mariachi show.
  • In home news, I put up a mealworm feeder to see what birds it might attract, and it turns out that the answer is “crows”. While they may not be exotic, crows have tons of personality, and they have clearly decided that the new feeder is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the avian world. We now have anywhere from 3-12 crows in the yard each morning, and we’re slowly training them to be less scared of us, although for such smart birds they’re either poor learners or else we’re bad teachers.
  • Finally, last week I made the month’s only work trip to San Antonio, returning for the first time since the hurricane. Luckily Mother Nature decided not to send any natural disasters my way this time, and insomnia was the only battle I had to fight – the fact that the client greeted me in the morning with “what happened?” is probably a sign that I need to start considering sleeping aids.

I’ll do my best to get a couple of additional entries up in the coming days – at a minimum Halloween is tomorrow, so there will be stories to share from this year’s incarnation of Scare the Children.

June 2017

Posted from Culver City, California at 6:27 pm, June 30th, 2017

June has been a slow month, but here’s a quick recap:

  • After the first round of updates to bring the journal into the mobile age I’ve done a significant amount of additional re-work to make the site fully mobile-friendly. If you’re reading this journal entry on a phone, you’re welcome, and if you’re reading it in a browser and don’t notice any difference, well, if it ain’t broke…
  • June had only one work trip to San Antonio, where temperatures have now jumped up to the “crispy” level. On a positive note, HEB has moved the e-commerce group to new offices, so instead of working in a dark and scary basement we’re now on the seventh floor of a building with plenty of windows from which to watch Southern Texas roast in the heat.
  • The Cavs got stomped by the Warriors in the NBA Finals, but that still meant that a Cleveland team was playing for a championship – after years of growing up with Indians teams that inspired the movie Major League, and a Browns team that annually found creative ways to avoid playing in the Super Bowl, having a Cavs team playing in the NBA Championship every year is more than any Cleveland-native ever could have dreamed of.
  • In homeownership news, proving that ten minutes on Youtube can turn anyone into Bob Vila, I hooked up some new landscape lighting without the slightest bit of electrocution.
  • Finally, in local wildlife news, the attic has miraculously remained rat-free for several months now, while our newest backyard visitors include a family of crows whose favorite pastime is gathering outside of the window and loudly complaining whenever I forget to leave some mealworms out for them.

May Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:26 pm, May 30th, 2017

Another month, another recap of that month…

  • In house news, after floors and walls were ripped apart, our home improvements for 2017 are now (probably) complete. The month started with installation of new windows and doors, an event that provided the opportunity to spend a day working in a house with massive holes in all of the walls were doors and windows once lived. The end result of all of that chaos is well worth it – the house is quiet, the drafts have stopped, you no longer get sunburned sitting near the glass, and the dog in the yard behind us is now almost hard to hear. The month ended with new bedroom carpets, because once you’ve shelled out the money for windows, carpet seems cheap by comparison.
  • In Audrey news, we made an excursion across the LA basin to Chino Hills a week ago to pick up a cabinet she wanted, and on the way home somehow ended up barefoot while touring the grounds of an amazing Hindu Temple that we had seen from the highway – LA is capable of an infinite number of surprises. Later in the month her new band – either called “Soulful Rick” or “Funk Shui”, depending on which band member you ask – was playing its first show at the Venice Art Walk, but since I was going to miss the show due to work travel I got to sit in on rehearsal; I feel strongly that the insightful tips I offered (“play good”, “dress cool”) are what made their show so successful.
  • In family news, my dad’s side of the family all decided to get together and bring the Holliday craziness to San Antonio for a few days, and I managed to align my work schedule so that I could hang out with two parents, two aunts, and a pair of uncles for three nights. While I spent my days working in a dark basement within the depths of the HEB headquarters they went out and explored San Antonio, but we then got together each evening to watch my mom yell, bang on tables, and otherwise lose her mind during the Cavs vs Celtics playoff series.
  • Finally, in rodent news, there hasn’t been a rat in the attic for four weeks, although it is my understanding that 2-3 years must pass without any sign of rodents for an area to be officially declared rat-free.
Window Replacement in Progress
Something is missing. The eight hours it took to rip out all of our windows and doors and replace them with non-antiques was not my most productive work-from-home day.

Victory

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:48 pm, May 1st, 2017

At 1:48 AM last night, after months of regular visits, the master escape artist and king of all rats was finally caught. I was awoken around 2:30 AM by sounds from above, sleepily got out of bed, got the ladder out of the garage, climbed up to the attic, and finally came eye-to-eye with my nemesis. I brought the cage down to the kitchen, fed him some birdseed as a goodwill offering towards a respected adversary, and then proceeded to spend twenty minutes telling a rodent that he’d been a worthy opponent for these many months.

Since deciding to rid the attic of visitors I’ve emptied three cans of fill foam sealing gaps in the eaves, I’ve gotten a million scratches fashioning vent covers out of chicken wire, I’ve crawled through fiberglass insulation into claustrophobic corners of the attic looking for unseen gaps, and I’ve spent enough time running around on our roof that the neighbors have stopped bothering to ask what the hell I’m doing. Yesterday I made yet another trip to Home Depot to purchase foam, filling the last area I could think might possibly have a crack in it with an entire bottle of the caustic stuff, and coincidentally or not it was the final shot fired in our epic battle. I’ve obviously learned that my opponent is both cunning and numerous, so even though my tormenter of several months has been vanquished, the Ratcam will remain active in the attic for a few more weeks in case his followers come looking for their leader.

After driving him to the Ballona Wetlands Rat Sanctuary at 3AM last night, it was with a measure of sadness that I watched him scurry off into the gloomy darkness, bidding farewell to my cunning and relentless adversary. I truly hope that he’ll yet live a long life, happily tormenting the owners of the large homes on the bluff above the wetlands as he makes his nightly rounds.

The captured enemy
At long last, his reign of terror has ended.
Protection from fiberglass
After an ill-fated trip into the attic that saw me emerge covered in itchy fiberglass, I purchased special protection to allow for a safer return to the enemy’s stronghold.

An Inauspicious Beginning

Posted from San Antonio, Texas at 4:09 pm, March 27th, 2017

The 2017 journal is off to a rough beginning – February already fell short on the three-entries-a-month goal, and March is getting a late start. Here’s a recap of the past month that hopefully explains why writing about myself hasn’t been a higher priority:

  • March has had three weeks of travel, including two trips to San Antonio and a trip to the Bay Area. The first portion of the Bay Area trip was spent working in a hotel in Sacramento, where I got to visit with younger Holliday, admire his house, and eat a lot of grilled mahi. After leaving him I made a quick stop to ensure that Ma & Pa had working wi-fi and virus-free laptops before heading into San Francisco for a three-day conference; the parents put up with me for another night after the conference ended, but I can be a handful so the intermission was likely a good respite for them.
  • The conference featured all things Google Cloud. I went in skeptical, and shockingly emerged a complete convert – Google is going to own the corporate internet in another five years, and when Skynet becomes operational it will probably do so from a Google data center somewhere. In the midst of learning that I need to come up with a plan to capture part of the tsunami of work that is going to be available as companies transition their IT infrastructure, one of my co-workers managed to find the best ramen I’ve ever eaten, so the trip was a success on many levels.
  • On the drive home from San Francisco it seemed silly not to see if the record rains had caused a Monet to happen on the grasslands, so a detour was made to the Carrizo Plain. Soda Lake has been dry on all of my past visits, but this time I got to see placid waters shimmering in the light of the full moon before Suby III and I spent our inaugural night under the stars together. The next morning when the sun arrived it was clear that the wildflowers were just beginning to bloom, and while they were pretty a return visit might be necessary.
  • Finally, in rodent news, I’ve spent two weekends roaming around on the roof looking for rat entry points. Two weeks ago I taped my phone to a pole, and by maneuvering it into an inaccessible space behind the gutters I was able to see (via video) a previously undiscovered gap. I then spent the next hour crawling through fiberglass insulation in a sweltering attic to an area so claustrophobic that there wasn’t even enough room to lift my head. I jammed a rag into the gap in the rafters, crawled slowly out, spent an inordinately long time ridding myself of fiberglass, and then sat down to savor my victory. That night at 8:30 the rat showed up again on camera and did his own victory dance to ensure that my shame was infinite. The following weekend’s efforts involved a trip to Home Depot, an attempt to remove the gutters without causing permanent damage, a massive quantity of sealant foam, and a valiant effort to re-attach the gutters in more-or-less the condition that I found them; time will tell if that endeavor has finally brought the War of the Roof Rats to an end.
Wildflowers at the Carrizo Plain National Monument
The yellow flowers were just getting started, so a return trip may be required.
Wildflowers at the Carrizo Plain National Monument
In addition to the acres of yellow flowers, there were 23 blue ones.

February was a Month

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:04 pm, February 28th, 2017

Someday when everyone is like “what were you doing in February 2017?” I’ll have this journal entry to refer back to, and everyone else will have forgotten what they were up to, and thus I will win the game.

  • February saw yet another work trip to San Antonio, because I fly around and do work and stuff.
  • After six years of drought this winter has been one of the rainiest in California history, but instead of ending the water crisis the rain nearly broke the nation’s tallest dam. Apparently the universe really doesn’t want Californians to be able to take guilt-free showers.
  • Showing again that Audrey is a far, far better person than I am, she hosted the CA-37 indivisible group at our house and then represented them the following weekend at a town hall hosted by Karen Bass, our House Representative. I’ve been excited to see people passionate about making the world better, and getting more involved in the process is enlightening, but I’m still searching for my own way to help. We live in broken times, and it would be way better if it was clearer how to fix them.
  • In non-political news, Audrey rocked Brennan’s Pub with her band Knightingale a few weeks ago, and took me down to San Diego to hang out with her aunt, uncle and sister this past weekend. Her aunt is an amazing chef, the former mayor of Solana Beach, lives in an incredible house with expansive ocean views, and is the proud owner of two Maine Coon cats, each the size of a small car; hopefully I didn’t do anything to prevent being invited back, because it was a great trip.
  • Finally, in home news, I hired a company to vacuum out all of the old, decrepit, rat-poop-filled insulation in our attic, seal everything, and then lay down new, better insulation. The job came with a “no rodents will get in your attic for a year” guarantee, but no one told the rat who appeared on camera one week later. I’m still going to win the war against them, but the vermin have dominated the battlefield thus far.

Starting out Behind

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:24 pm, February 7th, 2017

It’s not a good start for the 2017 journal when it’s seven days into February and I’m just now writing the third entry for January. DOH! Anyhow, here’s a recap of how the year has gone thus far:

  • The new year has already seen two trips to Texas, marking a solid start towards earning god-like airline and hotel treatment for another twelve months. Luckily during winter months San Antonio has fairly pleasant weather, unlike the summer when spontaneous combustion is a real danger, so I’ve returned from both trips tired but uncharred.
  • The election of the orange President has turned Audrey political, and she hosted an “Un-auguration” party on the day of the new guy’s swearing-in, joined me at a climate change event hosted by our Congressional Representative, Karen Bass, and is now the founder of the indivisible group for our Congressional district. After years in which I was in charge of keeping track of what was going on in Washington, the tables have most definitely turned.
  • In homeowner news, I am disturbingly excited about our new hardwood floors, as well as work we had done to replace a boarded-up closet window with a proper wall. Owning a house is a humbling exercise in trying to reconcile how, as a kid, I belittled my mother’s joy over new carpets and my dad’s fascination with gutters, but now I sadly share that same enthusiasm for garage doors and window treatments (our new garage door rules).
  • Last of all, after six years of drought it’s finally raining regularly in California! The state’s reservoirs are mostly filled beyond their historic averages, our house’s four rain barrels are overflowing, and unlike the 2002 Alaska trip, frequent hot showers appear to be something that I can count on for the coming year.

December Recap

Posted from Merced, California at 8:32 pm, December 27th, 2016

December was one of those months that both flew by and at the same time seemed to go on forever. Here’s the recap:

  • A trip to San Antonio at the beginning of the month got things started, followed by a trip to Spokane the following week for the Commerce Architects Christmas party. The party coincided with a polar vortex hitting the northern states, which for non-meteorologists means SO COLD NO WARMTH CAN’T FEEL FINGERS. We celebrated on the top floor of a 17 story office building with temperatures outside hovering right around zero; at one point I looked out and wondered where smoke was coming from, but apparently when it’s super cold water just magically condenses out of the air into smoke. I very much appreciated living in LA when I returned home.
  • Life in LA continues more-or-less as usual, although Audrey and I did share much excitement over a new garage door and opener; being a homeowner makes you get excited about really, really dull things.
  • Christmas was again spent with Ma & Pa in the Bay Area, meaning I got to take the new car on his first road trip; among many other reasons why this car rules, adaptive cruise control is all sorts of awesome when you’re spending many hours on the Interstate. Christmas went according to plan, with Ma pulling off another amazing turkey dinner, Aaron stalking me with a semi-automatic Nerf gun, and the Skipper all kinds of happy when I showed him how to watch nature documentaries in HD on his new Amazon Fire TV.
  • Following Christmas the annual man-trip began, but for the first night I stayed with Aaron in Sacramento and we went to see Rogue One, since both of our significant others would be unable to tell the difference between a Stormtrooper and a storm cloud. It’s not a high bar to clear to be the best Star Wars movie since the Empire Strikes Back, but this movie cleared that bar with tons of room to spare; it not only looked and felt exactly like it belonged with the original movies, but the story filled in some plot points that made Star Wars an even better movie – to cite the biggest example, George Lucas needs to send the writers a huge “thank you” for freeing him from hordes of nerds who have mocked the original movie for having a moon-sized based that could be blown up with a single missile. Now? Totally plausible.

July Happened

Posted from United Airlines Flight 6009 at 4:55 pm, July 27th, 2016

For those wondering what’s new since last time:

  • Earlier this month Audrey & I spent a weekend in San Francisco to celebrate her friend’s wedding. The night before the wedding we went to an incredibly fancy dim sum place and were joined by Aaron, who had been at Lake Tahoe earlier and nonchalantly enjoyed the posh surroundings while wearing a swimsuit and flip-flops. The following day we attended the first combination wedding / improv comedy show that I’ve ever been to, an event which included musical numbers, vows that made everyone cry, and comedy skits; rarely is San Francisco boring. On our last day the Skipper met us for a trip to see the bugs & fishes at the California Academy of Sciences, after which we blew his mind by showing him how Uber works (in fairness, I used Uber for the first time on the same trip, and it is magical).
  • After many years of incredibly solid management, Commerce Architects made the first truly questionable decision that I’ve seen them make when they offered me the opportunity to join them as a junior partner. My career continues to mirror that of Forrest Gump, as I have been successful primarily by blankly staring at someone and then saying “OK”; also, like Forrest, I’ve been lucky with occasional investments in fruit companies.
  • The rats in the attic are still winning. I’m confident we’re going to eventually prevail and will then get to enjoy a rat-free attic, but like many epic conflicts throughout history, I have vastly underestimated my opponent and my resolve has been tested to the point where I’m fairly certain that the enemy is mostly just continuing the fight in order to mock me.
  • While I am battling rats and spending my hours building grocery store websites, Audrey is spending some of her time with the Threshold Choir and will be helping ease the pain of dying people by singing to them; clearly any good karma I experience in this life is merely bits that were directed at her but instead hit the bald guy by her side.

Status Update

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:59 pm, June 25th, 2016

Sadly there isn’t much excitement to report for the journal, but here’s a recap of recent events:

  • For the first time since 1964 a Cleveland sports team won a championship, ending the Cleveland sports curse. After The Shot, The Drive, The Fumble, the blown save in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, and other disasters that everyone who has ever rooted for a Cleveland team revisits regularly in their nightmares, a last-second, heart-breaking, soul-devouring loss to the Warriors was a foregone conclusion; instead the Cavs miraculously staged the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history. Three days later 1.3 million people showed up for the victory parade. For the first time in my lifetime, it was a good time to be a Cleveland fan, although the Borowitz Report checked in with God and found that he still hates Cleveland fans.
  • Audrey’s friend Jocelyn celebrated her birthday with a party at our house where everyone was asked to show off a talent. Surrounded by artists and professional musicians I was rather intimidated, but after digging through some belongings I brought out an old story I’d written and did a dramatic reading from “The Ship Lost at Sea“. The tale may have been written thirty-five years ago during my days in Mrs. Donovan’s first grade class, but it totally holds up.
  • Other minor adventures included an LA Master Chorale concert where we sat behind the singers and were able to watch the conductor make faces at his performers, a new controller that puts our sprinklers on the internet (since everything is better when you can control it with your phone), and a fancy dinner on the Queen Mary last month with a college friend for which I spent ninety minutes in traffic only to realize that I had shown up on the wrong date.
  • Finally, our ongoing rat drama sadly continues; I have now spent more time crawling around in our roof and on ladders under the eaves than I ever expected when I became a homeowner. The latest potential entry point was found hidden way back in one corner of the house, so far under the eaves that I had to contort in order to get the flashlight on it, but after spending an hour hunched over fashioning mesh it was completely plugged. I climbed down from the roof, reveling in my victory, and five hours later was notified by the motion camera in the attic that the little bastards were still up there partying, something they have continued to do every night since. At this point I can no longer answer the question “are you smarter than a rodent” in the affirmative.

The Ship Lost at Sea

The Ship Lost at Sea, a masterpiece of first grade literature.

Late Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:46 pm, May 1st, 2016

It’s May 1st, so I’m a day late on the three-entries-a-month goal. Let’s pretend that doesn’t bug me and move on with a recap of April…

  • Our rat relocation program is (unfortunately) continuing. We had a company out to give us an estimate on rat-proofing the house, but after they came to the conclusion that 3-4 hours of work would cost us $1700 we decided that the occasional rat in the attic might not be such a bad thing after all. I’m now on a mission to plug every hole in the exterior of the house, and after tearing up a wooden structure on the side of the house and blocking up a hole behind it we actually had a rat-free week. Alas, the cute little bastards apparently found a side entrance to their rat disco club, and they’ve been posing in front of the attic rat cam every night so far this week.
  • Work continues on the HEB.com project. While I would obviously rather be spending my days roaming the earth instead of sitting in front of computer screens, the fact that I have a forty foot commute, that there is a neighborhood sushi restaurant that delivers, and that four squirrels are slowly learning that if they stand in the backyard looking cute that someone will come out and give them treats, makes for about the best work environment you could hope for.
  • As Audrey reminds me, on my lone April trip to Texas I got a free first class upgrade, apparently as repayment by the karma gods for a previous flight where I was in the splatter zone when the passenger in the seat next to me threw up on himself. First class is great and I appreciate the upgrade, but if the karma gods are listening – I don’t mind flying coach if it means I never have to smell like vomit.
  • Finally, on April 8 SpaceX landed a rocket on a boat, because we live in the most awesome time ever.

Spaceship landing on a freaking boat. Mom, turn off the volume, they use some naughty words.

It Is What It Is

Posted from San Antonio, Texas at 11:08 pm, March 28th, 2016

Aside from wildflower trips to Death Valley the excitement has been limited over the past month, but here’s a recap of the non-happenings:

  • There are obviously lots of critters roaming our neighborhood, and so long as they stay outside all is well. However, a while back we started hearing what I can only assume was a 70s-themed rat disco party in our attic, so we put a Dropcam and a live trap up there, thus beginning what Audrey has dubbed the “Rat Relocation Program”. We’re still searching for whatever opening they’re using to get in, but over a period of almost two months the program has had five applicants, each of whom was captured, photographed, given a drink of water, and then transported to the Ballona Wetlands Rat Sanctuary. I’m hopeful that the program is either nearing its quota or that we’ll finally find the entry to the rat dance club and shutter its door.
  • After almost nine months the work Commerce Architects has done on the HEB.com website was finally ready to launch, and so about two weeks ago I found myself in San Antonio at 11PM in a room with 20-30 other people. In an unfortunate twist they decided to screen Interstellar while waiting for me to run critical upgrade scripts, so I performed my tasks while tense dramatic music blared throughout the room. Luckily things went fairly smoothly, and after a fourteen hour day I headed back to the hotel room at about 6:30 the following morning with bloodshot eyes but without having caused the site’s servers to burst into flame and burn down the data center.
  • On the same San Antonio trip I was tapped to provide onsite support through the weekend, but after slow days on Friday and Saturday they decided no one needed to be in the office on Sunday so I took off on a twenty mile bike ride along the San Antonio Mission Trail. The trail, the river corridor it follows, and the Missions are ridiculously great assets for San Antonio, although I underestimated the sun and had to duck into the first shop I could find to buy a hat. I then spent the rest of the day playing uber-tourist as I visited three of the Missions wearing a “San Antonio Missions” hat, but my head remained pinkish rather than going full-blown lobster red, so if looking like a dork is the price to pay for not dying of skin cancer then it may have been a reasonable trade-off. On a side note, based on regularly biking 16-17 miles on my stationary bike at home I assumed this trail would be a piece of cake, but I forgot to account for the fact that the San Antonio B Cycle rentals are built more like tanks than bikes, contain enough steel to survive an atomic blast, and (apparently) don’t always have working shifters; there was definitely no need for a workout in the hotel gym at the end of this day.

There isn’t a lot of excitement on the horizon, but hopefully a few journal-worthy adventures will come up in the near future. Aaron’s leg is back in one piece and he’s attempting to snowboard again, Ma & Pa are making the best of their retirement and traveling all over, and Audrey is either singing or playing bass with about three hundred different groups these days, so all seems to be well with the world.

Rat Relocation Project applicant #5

Rat Relocation Program applicant #5. The peanut butter is in the trap as bait, but after they run all over looking for an escape we end up sending peanut butter-coated rodents out into their new homes.

My House is not a Snack

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:21 pm, January 31st, 2015

Shockingly, Audrey and I have been homeowners for almost exactly three years now. Mostly because it’s interesting to me to go over the changes we’ve made to the house, here’s a list of the biggies, past, present and future:

  1. Shortly before moving in we had the asbestos in the ducts ripped out, on account of not wanting to get the cancer from our new home. While we planned on getting a new furnace and ducts installed shortly thereafter, we underestimated how long it would take and spent a couple of weeks in a house without heat braving record-low temperatures.
  2. The next big adventure was obviously getting a new furnace, ducts, and air conditioning installed. Today we have a magical touchscreen thermostat from the future that keeps our house very pleasant.
  3. Our backyard previously contained a star pine that was growing at an alarmingly non-vertical angle, and a giant ficus whose roots were almost certainly engaged in an underground battle with the foundations of the house. Luckily a man with a chainsaw from Forest Green Tree Service quickly disassembled the Leaning Star Pine of Neosho, and a team of men with ropes and shovels descended to resolve our other issues.
  4. Plumbing is fun for every homeowner, and our house hasn’t been an exception. A new hot water heater, snaking of pipes, and other adventures have made us friendly with the local plumber. He also ran a gas line to our garage so that our laundromat no longer needed to be in a closet inside the house that smelled a bit mildewy. Now we have an extra closet and a dryer that plays happy music when it finishes drying.
  5. The most recent escapade involved fixing termite damage and tenting the house to ensure that any remaining bugs would move their buffet to the neighbors’ houses.
  6. Future excitement involves a roofer coming to charge gobs of money to replace the office and patio roofs. In addition, Eduardo the gutter man will be visiting to ensure that the rain stops draining directly into our foundations and providing drinking water delivery for termites that might wish to re-colonize our house. Longer term, in an effort to make it less drafty and simultaneously dampen the sounds of the neighbor’s dog’s constant barking, the ancient windows on the house will be going to the giant home improvement store in the sky.

Homeownership clearly has its challenges – every time the contractors told us the price for the above items the involuntary response was inevitably “DOH!” – but unlike when we were renting, the expenditures kind of feel like putting money in the bank, with the added bonus that we get to live in a house without leaks or creepy bugs.

Termite tenting

Sometimes when your house is getting eaten by bugs the only thing to do is to let it go camping for a few days.

Squirrels

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:18 pm, May 27th, 2014

In addition to the birds we’ve got at least three squirrels that have made themselves at home in the backyard. One is recognizable for his acrobatics – if I ever get a video of him doing handsprings, twirls and rolls across the lawn I’m pretty sure it will be a Youtube sensation – while the other two are notable mainly for their spirited wrestling matches on the roof of Audrey’s office.

For Christmas my mom gave me a seed wreath that I’ve only just gotten around to hanging, and while the birds have ignored it completely, the little grey guys are the happiest they’ve ever been. I initially had it in a spot that they couldn’t quite get to (their attempts rivaled Wile E. Coyote for daring and creativity), but after it became clear that the birds weren’t interested I moved it to be slightly more accessible to the furry fellows, and now squirrels hanging vertically from their hind legs is a regular site in our backyard.

Grey squirrel

I made a deal with the squirrels that they could eat as much as they wanted from the wreath made of nuts, but only if they did Batman impersonations; they complied.

Grey squirrel

After eating insanely large quantities, the ability to move is apparently temporarily lost and the squirrel’s only option is the post-meal catatonic belly flop.

Who, What, When, Where

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:30 pm, June 27th, 2013

Here’s all that’s new since the last status update:

  • Proving that at age thirty-seven I am truly a grown up, I called a plumber and got a new water heater installed after the old one died. No nineteen year old is even thinking of hot water heaters, much less bugging the installer with stupid questions about efficiency and reliability as he’s installing it.
  • Audrey and I actually went out and saw TWO movies in one month, which may be a record. Reviews: Star Trek was excellent entertainment, and I even got to make a starfleet insignia and wear it so that Audrey could brag about how cool I was. Man of Steel was average. I wanted it to be great, and you could see how much potential there was in what they were going for with the whole “what is my place in the world” thing, but I never really felt like I cared that much about any of the characters, and as a result it didn’t really matter who was super-punching who at any given moment. Hopefully this series is like Batman, where a lackluster first film is merely setup for an amazing second film.
  • In another stunning example of grownup behavior Audrey and I joined some friends for a fancy dinner at the Getty Museum (side note: the Getty will be near the top of the eventual “great things in LA” list). Despite being a high-end restaurant, there was only one fork to deal with so the meal was completed without any truly embarrassing mistakes.
  • Our friend Greg, who was an early buyer of the Tesla Model-S, invited us to join him at Tesla’s recent announcement about battery swapping. The event was set up like a party, with lights, drinks, many hundreds of well-heeled attendees, and techo music blaring (comment from JB: “I keep telling Elon to let up on the techno but he loves that shit”). The main event was an Apple-style demonstration of a Tesla driving up on stage, the battery pack being automatically replaced from underneath, and the car driving off fully-charged ninety seconds later. I’ve posted about why I’m so impressed with Tesla’s engineering and strategy before, but it will be interesting to see what the next reason people come up with to disparage them will be now that the “no one wants to wait thirty minutes to charge the car during a roadtrip” issue has been addressed.
  • Finally, following the monthly pilgrimage to Boise, we met some friends for a birthday celebration at Mar Vista Lanes. The music and disco lights came on at ten, and while I may have scored the most points, the clear winner of the evening was Brett and his magical (and intoxicating) bowling dancing. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a man in a Green Lantern shirt perform a two minute routine to disco that culminates in a gutter ball. Hopefully a video will someday show up online.

Bouillabaisse at the Getty

A very fancy plate of bouillabaisse at the very fancy restaurant at the Getty, with my super fruity cocktail in the background.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Only the coolest movie-goers wear homemade Star Trek insignias to see the show.

April 2013, Part II

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:17 pm, April 30th, 2013

Continuing from Part I of the April 2013 recap…

Audrey’s favorite band in the whole wide world is Rush, and they were finally voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. With the induction ceremony being held at the Nokia Theatre in downtown LA it was a matter of seconds from the time tickets went on sale until she had four in hand.

I don’t know a lot about Rush, but I have learned that they have extraordinarily passionate fans. The crowd milling about before the Nokia Theatre doors opened was evidence of this fact as at least half of those present were wearing Rush shirts, Rush jackets, Rush purses, Rush flags, etc, despite the fact that seven other groups or individuals were being inducted (Heart, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Donna Summer, Albert King, Lou Adler, Quincy Jones). The point was driven home further when the ceremony started, and the chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame began reading the names of each inductee. There was applause and cheering for each individual until he said “And from Toronto”. What followed was two minutes of pandemonium as people screamed, cheered, chanted, clapped, and otherwise lost their damn minds, during which the guy at the podium could do nothing but stand and wait. As Dave Grohl of Nirvana later stated in an interview:

They didn’t even say the name and the place went fucking crazy… It was pretty awesome tonight to see Jann say, “And from Toronto,” and the fans just went, “FUCK YEAHHH.” Everyone at the tables were just like, Jesus! It was amazing. That’s what it’s all about.

John Mayer had similar thoughts:

As Mayer stepped into his Escalade, he was still blown away by Rush’s fans, who cheered the band for several minutes when Hall of Fame Chairman Jann S. Wenner’s mentioned a “band from Toronto.” “Man, I want Rush fans to come to my shows now, that is some fandom,” Mayer told Rolling Stone. “If you’re a Rush fan, you should get in any show free.”

Other highlights of the evening included being in the same room with Oprah, Jack Nicholson and Tom Petty, some pretty good music, and a hugely amusing speech from Cheech and Chong. The ceremony will be broadcast on HBO in late May, although hopefully they’ll trim most of Flavor Flav, whose rambling, incoherent induction speech seemed like it would never end, was frequently interrupted by other members of Public Enemy trying to get him to stop, and which Rolling Stone described as a “filibuster”.

The remainder of April was supposed to be uneventful, but Tuesday night Audrey came into the living room shaking, and said that she had gone out to the hot tub, reached into the control box, and barely escaped disaster when she found thousands of bees inside. This seemed clearly to be a job for the Bee Warrior, so I donned appropriate attire and went out to investigate. Citronella candles were ineffective against the swarm, so the next morning we called Bee Capture, which turned out to be a tiny lady in a truck who showed up in the evening. She donned her bee gear (which was lame compared to my own – no Mexican wrestling mask, nor a college letterman jacket) and proceeded to scoop 40,000 bees out of the hot tub controls and into a “bee box” that she had brought along to act as their new mobile home. The next day several hundred bees had returned, so the bee warrior re-emerged to spray them with vinegar, but with the bees still undeterred we called Ruth again and she came back to scoop away the stragglers.

Audrey and I at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Audrey wore a Rush shirt to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony because Rush was being inducted. I wore a Captain America shirt because Captain America is awesome.

Ryan Holliday, Bee Warrior

One member of the household was stung during the bee invasion; it was not Ryan Holliday, Bee Warrior.

‘Sup

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:01 pm, February 28th, 2013

There hasn’t been a generic status update in a while, and I’ve got less than three hours to meet my three-entry-a-month goal, so that’s as good of an excuse as any to write one:

  • The job at Bodybuilding.com is in its nineteenth month and is scheduled to run through the end of the year. Shockingly, after spending more than half of my days between July 2002 and August 2005 on one adventure after another, I’ve now been working more-or-less solidly for almost eight years.
  • In yet another sign that I’m becoming a grown-up (at age 37), last Friday we hired tree trimmers to take care of a ficus that was attempting to eat the back office, as well as a star pine that made the Leaning Tower of Pisa look straight. With significantly less vegetation now blocking the western edge of our yard Audrey and I stood outside on Friday night with the sound of sea lions barking a mile away in the marina clearly audible. Our house is awesome.
  • Younger Holliday is working again, this time selling houses in the Bay Area for Shea Homes. With the real-estate market heating up I may not be the only Holliday boy who owns the roof over his head much longer.
  • Audrey’s favorite band of all-time is getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so she scored tickets for us to go to the Nokia Theatre on April 16 to see Rush at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. There are some downsides to living in LA, but there aren’t a lot of cities that regularly host events that you can re-watch a few months later as an HBO special.
  • Speaking of the girl, our adventures have been mostly culinary lately. We accidentally hit a food truck extravaganza on Abbott Kinney a few weeks ago and enjoyed massive lobsta rolls for dinner. On Valentine’s Day lobsta was again on the menu as the girl cooked steak and lobster tails. The following night I took her to a fancy dinner at a restaurant that had lights made out of underpants ’cause I’m all about ambiance. The weekend prior to Valentine’s Day saw us making a pilgrimage to the ridiculously delicious Sadle Peak Lodge, which is now by far number one on my list for French toast – the homemade-bread-and-bananas-foster delight that was served to me at Saddle Peak puts them so far ahead of anyone else that the competition can probably be declared permanently over.
  • And that is all. Things have been slow, but with luck there will be baby bird videos to share soon.

Dante's View, Death Valley

Dante’s View in Death Valley. Sponsored by Nike. Just do it.

Status Update

Posted from Boise, Idaho at 10:17 pm, September 18th, 2012

It’s been a while since there’s been a boring old “here’s what’s going on” post…

  • Audrey and I headed off to the Hollywood Bowl last Wednesday to see the very talented Mr. Dave Matthews and his band. After spending an hour trying to drive (literally) two miles through sanity-testing traffic on Highland we finally arrived at the show, and despite missing the first couple of songs a good time was had by all.
  • Work for Bodybuilding.com is now in its fourteenth month, and things look like they may continue on into 2013. I’m enormously grateful to have avoided financial difficulties during the Great Recession, but it would be a huge lie to say I didn’t selfishly reminisce about the freedom from a daily job that was last experienced in December 2006.
  • The latest addition to the new house is a ridiculously awesome backyard fountain, which was procured from Luigi’s House of Fountains since the birds looked like they might be getting parched. Watching the neighborhood birds splashing around never ceases to be entertaining, and it’s a pretty huge thrill to occasionally look outside and see one of the local hawks perched on the edge getting a drink. Other unusual visitors have included a zebra finch, a native of Australia who obviously heard about our fountain and flew 7500 miles to see it.
  • In less personal news, a spaceship is coming to Los Angeles; expect this engineering nerd to make a field trip to welcome it.

Zebra Finch

Zebra finch, native to Australia, getting a drink from our backyard fountain in Culver City, California. A very similar scenario was chronicled in the movie Crocodile Dundee 3.

Status Update

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:00 pm, May 16th, 2012

The latest happenings:

  • A blue jay unfortunately brought an end to our baby bird odyssey. After the jay’s first visit only three of the five birds remained, all of them scattered in the backyard after jumping out of the nest to escape. Having gotten rather attached to our little friends, we decided to put them back in the nest, and then went on blue jay patrol for several days. During that time there was more shuttling of baby birds back into the nest, until finally the jay showed up and the birds were big enough to fly away.
  • In a move that proves I am finally a grown up, Audrey and I now get HBO and our movies no longer make a beeping noise when someone says a naughty word.
  • Holliday IT Services, Inc is now a licensed California corporation. I am hoping that my meteoric rise to the role of company president will one day be chronicled by Hollywood in a film written by Aaron Sorkin.
  • The house continues to come together. So far we’ve become proud owners of an area rug, a new couch, and some end tables. It is a truly disturbing experience to walk into Best Buy and be excited about looking at appliances.

Baby phoebe returning to the nest

It’s worth two in the bush.

The Birds

Posted from Culver City, California at 11:54 am, April 24th, 2012

The new house has proven to be a bit of an animal kingdom:

  • The two bird feeders are bringing in flocks of finches, sparrows, and doves, as well a variety of less-frequent visitors. It can be loud.
  • Proving the bird feeders support multiple levels of the food chain, a young sharp-shinned hawk has made the backyard his play area, and hangs out to terrorize the smaller birds on occasion. His attention isn’t only directed at birds: while I was doing some yard work he also took a shot at my head, apparently to ensure that I didn’t feel excluded.
  • There’s a crow who visits occasionally and has shown an irrational fear of salami.
  • The mammal situation consists of some wrestling baby squirrels, some very un-subtle neighborhood cats, and a family of tree-climbing rats that have made the area under the feeders their late night dining area.

It’s unclear what the future holds for the wildlife oasis that is our backyard, although some sort of water supply and potentially an owl house may be needed additions.

Our new roommates get lunch after the parent black phoebe checks out Audrey’s birdcam. Taken from the eave above our porch.