Sunday, September 25, 2005

Vacation in Quebec — Day 1

The day started very early. 4:00 a.m. in fact. That gave us an hour to get ready before we had to leave for the OC airport. Somehow we conned Everett into taking us to the airport, which was very nice given the ungodly hour.

Tim riding the tram at the Cincinnati airport. (09/24/05)

We made our way through the security check in plenty of time to catch our 6:45 a.m. flight to lovely Cincinnati where we had a 1.5-hour layover. Actually, it’s my very first time in the Buckeye state (although you could hardly call it an actual visit to the state).

I was surprised to see the plane that was going to take us to Montreal. Unlike the 183-person-capacity 757 that took us from California to Cincinnati, the plane that took us to Montreal was a 50-seater CRJ50. It made for a slightly choppier ride than I would have liked, but it was nice.

After landing and making our way through customs, we picked up our car (a white Jeep SUV) and headed to downtown Montreal. Just driving into it, I got a glimpse as to what a great-looking city this is. Lots of old buildings, many of them made from stone.

Driving up the Rue de Guy looking for our hotel. (09/24/05)

Our hotel, although somewhat shady looking from the outside, is actually quite nice on the inside. Plus we have a great view overlooking Crescent Street, a lively street filled with restaurants, bars and clubs.

The view from our hotel, overlooking the bars and restaurants on Crescent Street. (09/24/05)

We had about an hour-and-a-half to unpack and rest before we had to head back to the airport to pick up Doris and Jenn. What we didn’t know was that the second leg of their flight, leaving out of Chicago, was delayed by an hour-and-a-half.

Considering we only had an hour-and-a-half to kill, and we didn’t know Montreal in the slightest, we just decided to get a bite to eat at a somewhat upscale restaurant at the airport (as upscale as an airport restaurant can be, anyway).

Ordering food at the Altitude resto bar. I'm not exactly sure how a resto bar is different from a regular restaurant, but I didn't ask questions. (09/24/05).

When they finally arrived, they were starving, not having eaten anything in hours. So we made our way to Crescent Street where we found a nice little Portuguese tapas bar where we got a bottle of vinho verde and sampled some great appetizers (including a fabulous anchovy salad — Doris is the only other person I currently know that likes anchovies).

By then it was 12:30 a.m. and the street was still packed with people. But we were exhausted and headed back to our hotel for some much-needed sleep.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tim's Birthday Dinner

Tonight we celebrated an early birthday for Tim. The actual date is Sunday when we'll be on vacation in Montreal. We didn't do anything too big this year. We just invited a few local friends to a smallish dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant nearby.

James, Tim and Everett at the Vietnamese restaurant. (09/23/05)

Plus, since we have a flight at 6:45 a.m. (and have to be at the airport one hour early), I knew we weren't going to be up for our typical late night thing.

Tim got some fun gifts, including the Elektra DVD and an iTunes gift card (from Jon and Amy), the Corpse Bride soundtrack and a voice recorder (from Everett), and the latest Terry Brooks book, a $38 Starbucks gift card and a pre-order for the City of Villains game (from Joe).

The birthday boy poses with Jon and Amy. (09/23/05)

Tom and Christine, who weren't able to attend, also sent him a really cool game for PlayStation 2 called Katamari. Doris and Jenn also sent him something really cool, but it's backordered and won't arrive until after Canada. More on that after Tim receives it.

Blowing out his birthday candles. (09/23/05)

I gave him a pewter Jack Skellington jewelry box with a really cool stained glass lid. Inside, I rolled up a Canadian $100 bill to spend on anything he wants in Canada. But the best thing about that Canadian $100 bill was that it only cost me 80 bucks! :)

An American Icon

Friday, September 30, 2005 marks the 50th anniversary of the day the world lost an American icon: The late great James Dean.

The classic James Dean portrait. Photo by Roy Schatt. (c.1954)

While I haven't really been into James Dean all that much recently, I was really into him during my teens and early 20s. I had James Dean posters. I read almost everything I could about him. I watched all his films (which isn't hard to do, since he only made three). My favorite was Giant.

Why did I like him so much? I think it was because he embodied everything I wished I was. He was cool. He was confident. He was hot. In fact it was around that time that I started using my given name of "James" rather than my childhood name of "Jim" or "Jimmy." In fact, that's still in effect with anyone that has met me during college or thereafter (only my relatives still call me "Jimmy," which I don't mind at all).

The classic photo from Giant. (c.1955)

In my Junior year in high school, when I was applying for colleges, my mom and dad took me on a cross-state road trip to all. the major state universities in Southern California. It was on that trip that I persuaded them to depart from Interstate 5 and take old 41 and 46 two-lane highways so I could drive the same route that James Dean drove on the day of that fateful day in 1955.

We even stopped to take a picture on site where his Porsche Spyder collided with another car in the remote town of Cholame, California. I've driven through there one or two times since, and every time, it's hard for me to believe that this is where his life ended.

James Dean: February 8, 1931 - September 30, 1955. (c.1954)

For years, I always said I wanted to go to the spot on September 30. It won't happen this year, however, since I'll be in Canada. But at the very least I can pay a small tribute in the James & Tim Blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Heading Home

Yesterday I headed back home via Southwest. Since it was a daytime flight, I made sure to secure a window seat on the right side of the plane. It's the best spot to secure great views of San Francisco and other landmarks. Plus, when you fly into John Wayne airport, you can usually see our house as it approaches Orange County.

The view of San Francisco from the plane. You can see downtown, Alcatraz island and the Golden Gate bridge near the top. (09/19/05) [Click the image for a higher resolution photo]

This time, however, I was flying into Bob Hope Airport in Burbank since I got such a great fare, it made the extra hour drive worth it. It actually was fun, since I hadn't flown out of/into Burbank airport in at least seven years.

Santa Cruz from 30,000 feet. (09/19/05) [Click the image for a higher resolution photo]

I like it because it's so much more convenient than LAX. It doesn't even have jetways — you have to walk down the stairs. Every time I de-plane there, I always pretend that I'm the President.

I always like to pretend I'm the President every time I step off a plane at the Burbank Airport, which does not use jetways. (09/19/05)

It's actually a pretty cool airport with a lot of history. In its 75-year history, it's been used many times by many aviation pioneers, including Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.

Dinner with My Cousins

Sunday night I met up with my cousins to have dinner and watch the Emmys. Here's a few pictures from the evening.

Shel and Lisa's friend Lyne barbecues pork tenderloin while cousin Ralphie and his dog Dozer look on. (09/18/05)

Ralphie and Dozer pose in the newly-remodeled backyard. (09/18/05)

Lisa, Ralphie, Liele, Michele and Lynne about to delve into homemade spinach soup. (09/18/05)

Liele admiring the strange little metallic box I held up to my face that made a bright flash. (09/18/05)

Five Days in San Ramon

Visiting my family was fun, as always. And since my stepmom Malena cooks everything from scratch and only uses very healthy ingredients, it's a nice chance to detox from all the junk food I had the past two days (see the Bob's Big Boy Adventure post).

Walking Anna to school. (09/19/05)

The weekend wasn't necessarily exciting, but it was very pleasant. I didn't do a lot except spend time with family. I got to take Anna to school on Friday and Monday. I also took her to the movie theater, which she loves. Out of the choices I gave her, she selected Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We both enjoyed it.

The mischievous John Paul, who's always getting into anything and everything he can. (09/17/05)

On Saturday, my brother came down from Sacramento to make a surprise appearance. It was a nice surprise, since I hadn't seen him in person since Christmas. He brought along his roommate Perry and his dog Chuck. We even took Chuck to the nearby dog park (for about five minutes until Chuck wanted out).

My brother Robert, his roommate Perry (in the hat) and Robert's dog Chuck. Behind them, in the distance, is Mt. Diablo, with its 3,849-foot summit. (09/17/05)

That night Malena made one of my favorite dishes: Pozole. It's kind of like a stew, with a red chile broth, chunks of pork and hominy corn, upon which you add lemon juice, chopped cabbage, chopped onion and oregano. It's goo-oo-ood!

She also made fresh candied almonds, which were fantastic!

My brothers, big and little. John Paul thinks a toothbrush is a toy. (09/17/05)

We also made a trip to San Jose where we visited my Aunt Nicky and her friend Margaret. Since my dad was there with me, he took me to the cemetary where my grandma and grandpa are buried (I knew the cemetary was in San Jose, but never knew where it was). I hadn't been there in probably 15 years or more. It was nice to pay my respects.

My Dad, my Aunt Nicky, Margaret (with her dog Cuddles in her basket) and Anna in San Jose. (09/18/05)

Also in the same cemetary are my Uncle Sebas (Aunt Nicky's husband who died nearly 30 years ago), family friend Augie (Margaret's husband) and two of my cousins Greg and Richie (Aunt Nicky's sons). The day before we also went to the cemetary where my mom is buried and took her some flowers.

But the most fun I had was playing with my little sister and brother, Anna (age 6) and John Paul (age 1.5). They both get visibly bigger every time I see them. John Paul cracks me up. He's definitely hitting his mischievous stage!

John Paul in one of those seemingly rare moments when he's asleep. (09/19/05)

James' Burbank Adventure

Since I'm not working at the moment, I thought it would be a good chance to visit my family in the Bay Area for a few days. Especially when I heard that Southwest was offering a special — $49 fares each way to/from any airport in California that Southwest serves. Well ... any airport except Orange County.

Bob's Big Boy — a SoCal tradition since 1949. (09/14/2005)
Bob's Big Boy — a SoCal tradition since 1949. (09/14/2005)

That leaves me with the option of flying out of Ontario, LAX or the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Since our friends Tom and Christine live in Burbank, I chose that one, since they can not only drop me off and pick me up, but also watch the car while I was gone, thus avoiding parking fees.

Three big boys ... although one pretends not to be by hiding behind. (09/14/2005)
Three big boys ... although one pretends not to be by hiding behind. (09/14/2005)

So the night before my flight, I drove up and met them for dinner at Bob's Big Boy, which is kind of a landmark restaurant. Best of all, it's only a couple of blocks away from their apartment.

James before digging into his original double deck hamburger. (09/14/2005)
James before digging into his original double deck hamburger. (09/14/2005)

Built in 1949, this is the oldest remaining Bob's Big Boy in America. It was designed by respected architect Wayne McAllister, incorporating the 1940s transitional design of streamline modern style, while anticipating the freeform '50s coffee shop architecture. In 1993, the restaurant received the designation as a "State Point of Historical Interest" by the state of California.

Christine enjoys her turkey sandwich. (09/14/2005).
Christine enjoys her turkey sandwich. (09/14/2005).

Bob's is also one of the only places that still has "Car Hop" service, which is available on Saturday and Sunday nights. Tom wanted me to add that it was also where David Lynch had lunch every day while writing the screenplay Blue Velvet.

Tom practically makes love to his fried chicken. (09/14/2005)
Tom practically makes love to his fried chicken. (09/14/2005)

After enjoying our healthy Bob's Big Boy meals, we got an equally healthy and nutritious dessert: donuts at Krispy Kreme. If you're going to eat greasy food, why stop at just dinner?

Nothing like a late-night run to Krispy Kreme. (09/14/2005)
Nothing like a late-night run to Krispy Kreme. (09/14/2005)

The next morning I treated Tom to breakfast at McDonald's ... apparently a tradition that all the people who take him to the airport must abide by. It was actually a really nice McDonald's, complete with a patio with cypress trees and wrought iron accents.

I bought Tom breakfast at his newly remodeled McDonald's. (09/15/2005)
I bought Tom breakfast at his newly remodeled McDonald's. (09/15/2005)

So let's give three cheers to Bob's Big Boy, Krispy Kreme and McDonald's!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Tim's City of Heroes Obsession

If you're wondering why Tim seldom does any of the blog writing, it all comes down to one thing: His obsession with City of Heroes these past few months. In case you never heard of it, City of Heroes is what they call a MMORPG, which stands for a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. It's essentially a computer game that enables thousands of players to play in an evolving virtual world at the same time over the Internet.

Tim in some serious City of Heroes mode. (09/10/05)

There's a bunch of MMORPGs out there, but City of Heroes is the one Tim has latched onto. The premise of the game involves a place called Paragon City, which had become the worldwide capital of super heroes. The city had little or no crime and the residents lived in peace. But all that came to a halt when aliens invaded the earth and began their war of mass extermination. In the aftermath of the war, Paragon City lay in ruins, with most of the city's heroes dead or missing.

Subsequently crime and corruption grew rampant. Amidst this sudden influx of lawlessness, Paragon City made a call to the world's surviving and newly found heroes: “Come to Paragon City's aid!” And that's where the game players come in.

The coolest part is creating your own super hero. You select everything. The name. The powers. The weapons. The attire. The facial traits. Everything! The possibilities are endless.

That being said, I thought it was long overdue that we introduce to the world Tim's two alter egos: Red Flamer and Blackie Kat.

Red Flamer is the first character Tim created. He's what they call a Blaster, someone skilled at doing as much damage as possible while keeping a safe distance from enemies. Although Blasters are strong and powerful, they are also very susceptible to damage from villains. The challenge for a Blaster is to deliver attacks while still keeping an eye out for other villains in the area.

As you would expect, Red Flamer's powers involve fire (in contrast, other Blasters can use ice, energy, arrows or sonic blasts). One of Red Flamer's major powers is the Inferno, which allows him to blow up in a giant flame and take the villains out with him. In addition, Red Flamer has the power to fly, making him great for attacks from the sky.

One other distinction to note is that Red Flamer's powers are mutant, which means that his powers are encoded into his genes, and not learned or obtained through anyother means.

Red Flamer has wild, bright-red hair and a red goatee. He wears a bright red tank top with an emblem that resembles the eagle in the Polish flag. He completes his outfit with knee-high boots, red tights with black flames and a matching cape.

At the time of this writing, Red Flamer is a Level 34 super hero (the more you play, the higher the level). That means he has a cape (a level 20 exclusive) and an aura (a level 30 exclusive), which can be seen in the glowing flames emanating from his hands.

Tim's other character — Blackie Kat — is what they call a Defender. While Defenders can take some damage, and deal it out as well, their real strengths lie in augmenting other heroes and hindering villains. While Blasters are often solo characters, Defenders thrive in teams.

Blackie Kat, whose powers stem from a magic source, falls under the category of Dark Defender. Dark Defenders pull their powers from the netherworld (in contrast to other Defenders who use psychic powers or radiation). Blackie Kat uses her powers to immobilize enemies, slow their movement rate, or disorient them. She also has the capacity to heal and even revive people from the dead. In addition, Blackie Kat has a power called the super jump, which allows her to leap over buildings as high as 30 stories.

She has two costumes, which Tim refers to as her traveling clothes and her fighting clothes. As you would expect, all her outfits are black. And sexy! They definitely show off her best features, shall we say. On her left shoulder, she has a kitten known only as "Kitty." In addition, she has a pet called a Dark Servant, that she can recall from the netherworld to paralyze enemies.

At the time of this writing, Blackie Kat is a Level 40 super hero, which gives her a cape and an aura (it can be seen in the form of the pink sparkles that surround her).

Of course not letting Tim have all the fun, I too decided to create my own characters: G-Pride and Mad Mamacita.

Like his friend Red Flamer, G-Pride is a Blaster, but rather than throwing fire, G-Pride is a master archer who targets his enemies with good old fashioned arrows. G-Pride's skills come from a natural origin, which means his powers involve no mysterious forces or secret discoveries; He simply used his remarkable talents to train himself to the very pinnacle of human potential.

With his bright-colored tight pants, blue muscle T, and violet chest harness and wrist cuffs, G-Pride has a look that is as unforgettable as his powerful gaze. Although only a Level 1 (he hasn't actually faced any combat yet), G-Pride has a bright future ahead.

When not fighting oppression and intolerance, G-Pride enjoys entertaining, working out and never misses an episode of America's Next Top Model.

Mad Mamacita is what they call a Scrapper — the one who wades into the melee and mixes it up, delivering more damage per second than any other character type. Although Scrappers can deliver a lot of damage in a short period of time, they can be easily overwhelmed by large groups of villains.

Mad Mamacita's skill is in martial arts and super reflexes, making her one tough mama jama. Like G-Pride, her skills stem from natural ability. With her bad-ass brown and white leather motorcycle suit and designer sunglasses, Mad Mamacita brings it on with a vengeance (or at least she will when she actually experiences her first real combat). :)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No Kelly Clarkson Tonight

I wish the post I was writing tonight turned out a little bit differently. But Kelly Clarkson postponed her Irvine concert, originally scheduled for tonight. Unfortunately, she rescheduled it for next week when I'm up in Northern California visiting my family (the airline tickets had already been purchased and everything).

Kelly canceled her show tonight. (2005)

Since I'm not exactly in the position to shell out $75 to change my flight to accommodate Kelly's rescheduled show, I ended up getting a refund from Ticketmaster. Everyone knows how much I love Kelly Clarkson, and not being able to go to her show is a sad, sad thing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Visit to Chino Hills

We didn't really have anything planned for Labor Day itself, so we took a drive to Chino Hills, where Tim used to live before we met. He hadn't been out that way in six or seven years and was curious to see how the area had changed. Needless to say, since it's one of those outlying cities, it has changed quite a bit.

We drove by Tim's old house — the first house he bought. At the time it was only $163,000. Nowadays homes in that neighborhood sell in the high $400,000 to low $500,000 range.

Tim's old house in Chino Hills. (09/05/05)

We also went to Bravo Burger, Tim's favorite fast food drive-thru during his Chino Hills years. We stopped to get one of his favorite menu side items: fried zucchini.

For old time's sake, we got Tim's favorite zucchini fries at his then-favorite drive-thru. (09/05/05)

Orange International Street Fair 2005

Sunday we did something I haven't done in a couple of years. We went to the annual International Street Fair that they hold in the Plaza in old town Orange. It's kind of a big deal. Something like 100,000 people visit the fair throughout the three-day weekend. It's one of those traditions that have been going on for decades.

BTW, I forgot to bring our camera. So you'll have to settle for these low-res images taken with my camera phone. :)

James about to dig into a bratwurst with saurkraut. (09/04/05)

We used to go the street fair every year, but have taken a break for the last couple of years. Because we really weren't doing anything, we figured why not? If you don't buy beer, you can actually go and eat pretty inexpensively. All the money raised goes to local organizations trying to raise funds. They also had a booth dedicated to taking donations for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The street fair is broken up into several zones: Irish Street, Dutch Street, All-American Street ... you get the picture. In each section you'll usually find food vendors and bands serving food and playing music that matches the country the street is named after. For example, on Mexico street, they were serving tacos, tamales and elotes (grilled corn with mayonnaise and lime). And they had a mariachi band playing (in previous years, I've only seen nortena bands playing).

The best bratwurst is not on Germany Street, believe it or not, but rather Switzerland Street. (09/04/05)

I of course got my favorite Bratwurst and saurkraut from Switzerland Street (the bratwursts are much bigger than the ones you find in Germany Street believe it or not). Meanwhile, Tim got fish and chips from English Street. And we shared California Hand Rolls from Japanese Street and some really good desserts from Greek Street and Norway Street.

Tim opted for fish and chips on English Street. (09/04/05)

In the center of the circle they have all sorts of crafts vendors selling their wares. It was a fun way to spend a hot Sunday afternoon.

Labor Day Weekend BBQ

Labor Day weekend has officially come and gone. And as the last official holiday weekend of the summer, we decided to kick it off with a BBQ on Saturday with a couple of friends. It was a nice low-cost way to spend the weekend (a consideration, since I haven't found a new job yet).

Amy and Jon load their plates with barbecued chicken sandwiches and grilled corn. (09/03/05)

We kept the menu pretty simple this time around. Grilled chicken sandwiches. Grilled corn. A delicious pasta salad that Everett made, and some additional prepared salads that Jon & Amy brought. The deviled eggs that I wrote about previously. And of course Tim and Joe made a couple of batches of mojitos.

Everett, Joe and James enjoy some Labor Day Weekend BBQ eatin'! (09/03/05)

After we stuffed ourselves, we played a competitive round of Mexican train dominoes as we finished off our meal with fresh Krispy Kreme donuts. Yum yum!

Joe, Tim and Jon help themselves to some Krispy Kreme donuts as we play Mexican train dominoes. (09/03/05)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

James' Famous Deviled Eggs

A couple of years ago, I decided that one of my personal missions would be to help keep the tradition of deviled eggs alive. For as long as I can remember, I've loved deviled eggs. The only trouble is, I seldom see people make them anymore. Tim's mom makes them on Easter, but I can't think of a single other person I personally know that makes them on any regular basis.

In fact the only time I ever see deviled eggs anymore are the mass-produced ones you see at the grocery store. Gone, it seems, is the fine art of making deviled eggs. So this weekend, I made up a new batch for our Labor Day BBQ. Below, I give you my tricks of the trade.

The first secret is having perfectly-centered yolks. The solution is to stand your egg carton on its side the night before. Works much better than eggs that have been sitting upright.

The night before, stand your egg carton on its side to ensure centered yolks. (09/03/05)

The secret to perfectly yellow yolks is the way the eggs are boiled. Over-boiling will give yolks that grayish green color. I place the eggs in a large saucepan, fill with water so that there's about an inch of water above the eggs, and then bring to a boil. At the boiling point, I remove the eggs from the heat and let them stand in the hot water for 15 minutes. Then I remove from the hot water and place under cold running water to halt the cooking process.

To get perfectly yellow yolks, place eggs in pan, fill with water, bring to boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand 15 minutes. (09/03/05)

Next I shell the eggs (it works best when still warm) and slice in half. The whites go in my Tupperware-brand Deviled Egg Serving Dish, while the yolks go into the mixing bowl. Then, for an extra creamy filling, I squeeze the yolks through a mesh strainer.

I always squeeze the cooked yolks through a mesh strainer, which provides for a smoother, creamier filling. (09/03/05)

Then I prepare the filling. Everybody has a different recipe for this, but typically I add a half-cup of mayonnaise, a couple of tablespoons of white wine vinegar, chopped parsley, chopped scallions, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and salt to taste. Sometimes I get a little creative, like adding chopped artichoke hearts, olives, etc. but mostly I stick to the recipe listed here.

To fill the egg whites, I use a cake decorating kit to make them look oh so tasty. Then I garnish with some of the chopped parsley that I saved from the earlier step and a sprinkle of paprika. I then take some of my left over parsley leaves and insert them in between the deviled eggs. And voila! You get James' deviled eggs.

Next, I prepare the filling, dispense with a cake decorating kit, and garnish with parsley and paprika. Delicious! (09/03/05)