Friday, December 31, 2010

1955 on Kickstarter

I just become an official backer of "1955: The War of Espionage" board game on Kickstarter. Can't wait for it to be produced. They only need $132 in the next 5 days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Busy Weekend

* Bengt tested for his orange belt and passed!
* Jaya finished up her performances in the Star Theater production of Annie.
* Tried to stay dry.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More Books

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Why I Like Board Games

Here are some good reasons why I love board games and play them with my family.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Potpourri

Knocked out a few more books:
* Kingmakers: The Inventions of the Modern Middle East by Shareen Blair Brysac and Karl Meyer - a very rich inspection of the history of middle east beginning at the end of the 19th century through the middle of the Iraq War. Very well done, but a bit British-centric (it helps to know English titles and government).
* The Vietnam War: A History of US Involvement by John Dunn - read this basic narrative in preparation for more detailed books on the Vietnam War.
* The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle - a somewhat interesting book on how talent can be cultivated using different methods of practice; it could have been condensed into 5 pages.
* One Square Mile of Hell: The Battle for Tarawa by John Wukovits - a ground level view of the harrowing battle of Tarawa, one of the Marine Corps' finest moments.

November in Herndon

I just finished a month-long stint in Herndon, VA for a work assignment. Its good to be back.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shaara WWII Trilogy

Just finished Jeff Shaara's final episode of his WWII trilogy, "No Less Than Victory." It was one of his best. I always enjoyed his chapters dealing with the grunts and the thread of the two 106th Infantry Division soldiers in this novel was thrilling.
I can't wait for the Pacific War episode.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cuyamaca Camping

Last weekend we did a short camping trip up at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We had a great time with friends, old and new. One of the highlights was the nearby creek and waterfall, complete with swimming holes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Karate Yellow Belt

Bengt started taking karate at the local USSD dojo. The sensei is a great guy and is providing some much needed discipline for all the kids. Bengt just passed his yellow belt test and was very excited.

Friday, October 08, 2010

UCLA On The Road

Last night I attended a UCLA On The Road event at the Estancia Hotel in La Jolla. It was a panel discussion centering around Coach John Wooden. The panel included gymnastics coach Valerie Kondos, Field, basketball player Kieth Erickson and track and field legend Rafer Johnson. The speakers had great stories of their lives with Coach Wooden. Very nice event and the facilities and food provided by Estancia were top notch.

Custer's Last Stand

It is said that more books have been written about the Battle of Little Bighorn than that of the Battle of Gettysburg. I decided to try one of the more recent entries.
James Donovan's "A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn: The Last Great Battle" is a superb, in-depth narrative of the Battle of Little Bighorn and the events leading up to it. Donovan's style is almost movie-like in describing the 7th Cavalry's fight against the Sioux. My only complaint is the lack of detailed maps, but almost every book has this issue.

Mike Wright Collection

Mike Wright has written a series of books around the "What They Didn't Teach You About..." concept. They contain snippets and stories that revolve around a greater narrative. They are solid, if unspectacular, books; great for book reports.

  • What They Didn't Teach You About the 60's

  • What They Didn't Teach You About the Wild West

  • What They Didn't Teach You About World War II

  • What They Didn't Teach You About the Civil War

  • What They Didn't Teach You About the American Revolution

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Okinawa Books

Continuing my look into the Pacific War, I picked up a few books on Okinawa, one of history's most interesting battles.

"The Ultimate Battle: Okinawa 1945: The Last Epic Struggle of World War II" by Bill Sloan - A gripping narrative told at the level of individual soldiers and units. Some of the names will be familiar to views of the HBO series "The Pacific." Suffers from lack of maps.

"The Battle of Okinawa" by Hiromichi Yahara - The battle as told by the senior most Japanese officer to survive the battle. Very insightful as to the Japanese mindset and their method of warfare.

"The Pacific War Companion: From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima" edited by Daniel Marston - Not the picture and map book that the title suggests, but a wonderful collection of scholarly essays covering major aspects of the Pacific War. My favorites include the chapters on atomic bomb v. invasion decision (which makes the case for using the bombs) and the ANZAC involvement (which is often overlooked in Pacific War books).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

LA Week

I had a business training course in LA this past week, so the family tagged along to do some tourist things:
* Natural History Museum
* Science Museum
* Wax Museum
* Universal Studios - with the mandatory visit to Its Sugar
* Melrose Avenue - highlight was the Kidrobot store
* Mann Chinese Theater
* Hollywood Stars
* Manhattan Beach Brewing Company - much more upscale than we remember, and they don't brew their own beer any more
* Santa Monica - spent the day on the pier at Pacific Park, the Carousel (and its wonderful soda fountain) and the Heal the Bay Aquarium

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pacific War Books

Last year I made a couple trips to Pearl Harbor for business. On one occasion I had the great fortune to visit the COMPAFLT's (ADM Willard at the time) office. I found out this is the same office that Admiral Nimitz used during World War II. That piqued my interest in the Pacific War and I started reading up on it.

  • "Return To Midway by Robert Ballard" - A fasciniting description of Ballard's search for the Yorktown. Has a decent history of the battle as well.

  • "Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot" by Barrett Tillman - The Battle of the Phillipines Sea is often overlooked but was a key battle in destroying Japanese carrier capabilities. This book is good narrative of the battle but does have quite a bit of Naval jargon that might need interpretation.

  • "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour" by James D. Hornfischer - A thrilling account of Taffy 3's fight for its life during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

  • "Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941 - 1945" by Evan Thomas - An interesting account of four naval commanders during their careers through WWII culminating in the pivital Leyte Gulf battle.

  • "U.S. Submarines in World War II: A Illustrated History" by Larry Kimmett and Margaret Regis - A highly detailed account of submarines actions in the Pacific during WWII.

  • "How They Won the War in the Pacific: Nimitz and His Admirals" by Edwin P. Hoyt - This book covers Nimitz and his genius in handling his Admirals, his boss (Ernest King) and the Army (in the form of Gen. Douglas MacArthur).

Hawaii 2010

July meant another much-anticipating family get together in Kauai.

We spent the first day in the Poipu area. Ate at Brenneke's deli on the beach. Saw a turtle very close in and a monk seal sleeping on the sand bar. There was yellow tape around the seal but you could get within 10 feet. Checked out Spouting Horn and the nearby crafts market where we picked up some souvenirs. On the way back, we took a side trip to Kipu Falls. You have to trek about a mile through sugar cane and jungle to get to these hidden falls. My parent said they never used to see anyone there but nowadays you always find people enjoying them. The primary attraction at Kipu is jumping off them, either directly over the falls or from a rope swing. Kevin dove in right away and Gabe followed shortly thereafter. It took me awhile to make the plunge (literally) but it was worth the 30+ foot jump.

Took the requisite trip to Lydgate Park for snorkeling. We also discovered the second playground a little farther south from the main one.
Hiked the Kalalau Trail to the first beach. The sea cave there was completely full of sand this time so the kids were disappointed. Snorkeled at Kee Beach and were able to get close to some turtles that were feeding on the outer edge of the reef. I had to hold Bengt's hand to get him out over the reef which was under less than a foot of water in some places. We went back a couple days later and the turtles were still there but the tide was out and the reef was exposed so we couldn't get out past it.

Had an awesome time on Captain Andy's snorkel cruise to the Na Pali coast. The snorkeling was ok but the water was too deep to get close to the creatures. The food and Sneaky Tikis were top notch. We sat most of the time in the cockpit and chatted with the crew. Along the way we saw pods of both bottlenose and spinner dolphins. The spinners were jumping and spinning as if they were former Sea World performers.

Bengt, Gabe and Jyoti took paddleboarding lessons on the Hanalei River. The kids picked up on it very quickly. Bengt even took Alex on his board and paddled around. The girls did a movie tour during this time. Had a great early dinner at Scotty's Beach BBQ and went to Weimea for sunset family photos.

Did the luau at Smith's again. Good food and a good show. Also made some stops at Ono Char but got smart and learned how to call in our orders on the way there.
We got in a few geocaches and discovered some neat places along the hunt. One of which was the swinging bridge in Hanapepe, something I had no knowledge of. Another neat spot was Kalihiwai Bay.

When we got back, we took a trip to Universal Studios.

One of the highlights was the It's Sugar candy store.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


In early June, we took a road trip up to Yosemite. Even though I grew up in California, I had never been there and therefore was very excited to finally see the park.
The drive up was uneventful. We made a side trip to the Forestiere Gardens, but it was not open when we got there.
We stayed at the Yosemite Bug, a hostel-style spot about 20 miles outside the park. It turned out to be a bit noisy due to the younger crowd but the location was nice since it was close to the town of Mariposa. They did have a nice swimming hole with a little waterfall.

Our first afternoon was spent in Mariposa. After eating, we visited the Mariposa Museum and History Center. This museum was one of the best town historical venues I have been to. The exhibits, which explained the area's rich gold rush period, were very well done and had a story that led you through them. We also visited the old courthouse.

The second day was our first in the park and we drove in along Highway 140 into the park. The first views of the valley were stunning. Since we were there early in the summer, the falls were still at full strength. We drove over to the large parking lot near the village and started to explore. Our first hikes included the nature hike around the village and Yosemite Falls.

The next day we tackled Bridalveil Fall, Happy Isles, Vernal Fall, Mirror Lake and the Ahwahnee Hotel. The weather was perfect, not too hot but not too cold. The falls were all overflowing with water due to a heavy snowfall this year.

On our last full day we went to the south side of the park. Along the drive we stopped by the Talking Bear in Oakhurst but the audio was not working very well and we couldn't make out the bear's speech. We also stopped at the Sugar Pine Railroad and had a very nice little Jenny ride. We then parked at Wawona and took a shuttle bus to Mariposa Grove of Sequoias. Back at Wawona, we walked through the pioneer village that had many of the older park structures that have been moved.

Being in Gold Country, we took a short gold panning lesson at the Sugar Pine Railroad and the kids got a bad case of gold fever. Bengt bought a little gold pan and we started panning at a little park along the Merced river. After the kids lost interest, a real prospector showed up and proceeded to work the exact same place we had just left. I watched him and little bit later he showed us some gold in his pan. Not enough to make you rich, but enough to keep you interested.

On our way back home, we stopped by the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. It was a great place to find out about rocks, gems and especially gold. The kids loved the mine dug into the hill behind the building. Lastly, we stopped at Fort Tejon and a wonderful talk with the park denizens in period costume.


Another batch of books read:

  • "A Nation Rising: Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes and Forgotten Fighters From America's Hidden History" by Kenneth C. Davis - An interesting set of narratives about little known, but important, episodes of America's history in the first half of the 19th century.

  • "The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea" by John P. Craven - Mr. Craven has done some amazing things (assuming the book is true). However, I don't agree with this position on "outing" people and possibly classified information.

  • "A Small Place In Italy" by Eric Newby - the original "A Year in Provence"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weekend Activities

* Awesome PIPE event at San Mateo. Perfect weather, great food and good friends. Picked up 4 geocaches on the trail from the camp to Trestles beach.
* Slipped away from camping to see Jaya in here Alice in Wonderland performance. She was great!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Backcounty Drive

The family took a nice road trip to the back country. We started heading east on the 78, through Escondido and its numerous lights and through the San Pasqual Valley into Ramona. We took a quick stop at the Santa Ysabel Open Preserve West to stretch our legs. This somewhat new trail is something we will surely want to come back to. Back on the road, we turned north at Santa Ysabel and took the 79 past Lake Henshaw.
The meadows here were spectacular with flowers and green grass. A right on S2 and S22 took us down the curvy road into Borrego Springs.
We stopped in at the Anza Borrego Park headquarters and checked out the nature center. It was very educational for us. We then headed up a bit to do the Palm Canyon hike. However, the rangers at the site informed us that dogs are not permitted on park land. With nowhere to hike, we drove around a bit to see if we could some wildflowers from the road.
Along Borrego Springs Rd., a landowner has installed life size sculptures of pre-historic creatures. The statues are made of steel and very impressive. We caw sloths, camels, turtles, smilodons, pigs and even velociraptors. Thanks to the Galleta Meadows people for displaying these. We tried heading up a dirt road, but thought the better of it and heading out of Borrego Springs.
We headed south to catch the 78 into Julian. I love going to Julian and it very nice weather there and not crowded at all. The dog got a walk through the old cemetery and the kids got ice cream at the soda fountain on the main corner. On the way out of Julian, we stopped at the Inaja Memorial Park and did a dusk hike on the nature trail there. Wonderful views!
We then headed home the way we came.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekend Activites

* Hiked a canyon in Cardiff leading from Lake Drive to I-5.
* Hiked the west approach to the waterfall in Los Penasquitos Canyon. Sophie almost got bit by a rattlesnake after she went into some bushes; she was one a very short leash after that scare. It was a beautiful day, sunny but with a nice cool breeze most of the way. It is nearly 6 miles round trip and the kids were griping towards the end, but it was worth it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Not Only in the South

Are mobile home parks the target of tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons and other natural disasters. It seems France has them as well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

East Coast Snow

I was in Herndon, VA last week on business and was caught up in "Snowmageddon" or whatever they are calling the snowiest winter of all. These pictures were taken at our hotel.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekend Activities

* Dart tournament at Joey's BBQ - knocked out in second round
* Finally got a chance to walk the dog; took her along 101 to enjoy the beautiful weather
* Finished in the money at a charity poker tourney - the last 5 of us chopped the prize money

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

India Trip

Here are some pictures from our trip to India.