First Visit to The Getty Center (and Something New…)

Yesterday (July 22, 2014), I finally made a trip to The Getty Center in L.A. I can’t believe it took me so many years to finally get there!

Steller: First-Time Visit to the Getty Center

It was a convenient ride down on the bus—which meant no driving/parking hassles and costs—and I basically spent all day there. It wasn’t, however, nearly enough time to even begin to do the place justice so I will definitely have to return.

I also took the opportunity to use a new service/app called Steller to document my visit. It’s pretty nifty, allowing you to combine words, photos and video easily into a sort of storybook format. So far, it seems that it’s only available for iOS devices, though you can view the resulting stories in a web browser on any computer. Click the photo or this link to view my story, including 3 original poems I wrote while there (two Tanka and a Haiku).

It was a great and inspiring day!

Taste of Autumn

I took a road trip up to Tehachapi yesterday since it’s the height of apple season. This morning, I came up with a wonderful treat:

Take a lightly toasted slice of fresh Vollkorn bread (from Kohnen’s Country Bakery), melt on a bit of Kerrygold Dubliner cheese then add slices of Winesap apple fresh from the tree (mine were from Pulford’s Appletree Orchard).


And then suddenly, it’s over…

Where did March go? Wasn't it just last week that I was giddily writing about my month's time off and how much I was going to enjoy it? How much I was going to get done? All my big, big plans?


But now it's April first, and I'm back to work. I am back at Amgen again, though in a different job, in a different department on a different project. This is also only a 3-4 month contract, so that's doable.

I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped (naturally), but did make some important progress on several fronts. My trip to the wargames convention where I had a flea market table netted me just over $2,000 which was kind of a surprise. I've already trumpeted my health and weight successes, and I'm now down to 177 pounds, just in time for my physical on Wednesday. That's 30 pounds less than last year. And the birthday's coming up Sunday.

What was really fun, though, was my trip last week out to the deserts and Central Valley. I left Tuesday morning and drove out to Palm Springs where I enjoyed the historic district, a little outlet mall shopping and a side trip up to Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree. Wednesday, I made my way across the desert the “back way” via Lucerne Valley, Victorville, Boron and Mojave, then over the Tehachapi pass to Bakersfield. This time of year, the scenery through the pass was spectacular—everything green with the poppies and lupin starting to blossom on the oak-dotted hillsides. It was the quintessential central California landscape.

Then I spent the afternoon, overnight and the next day in Bakersfield, one of my favorite places. I really started getting serious about gathering research and information for my novel (which is set there) and generally had a wonderful time. Barbecue dinner at Famous Dave's, evening stroll along the Kern River, a signature Black & White sundae for dessert at Dewar's. Very relaxing, very fun and very informative.

So now it's back to the daily grind. I will continue to ramp up my efforts on other fronts to prep for big changes. I even signed up for a book writing class through the Santa Clarita website which starts on April 10th.

Here are a couple photos from the trip: a shot from my motel in Palm Springs, and the evening sky above Dewar's famous ice cream shop in Bakersfield:

Stay tuned…


Score! Tour ticket for Annenberg’s “Sunnylands”

It was a good thing I was paying attention and looking through Sunset magazine last night…

Beginning March 1st, Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s Sunnylands retreat in Rancho Mirage will be opened for public tours. It’s a masterpiece of Mid-century Modern architecture in a beautiful setting of parks and gardens–even its own 9-hole golf course. It is now both a retreat center for world-class events as well as a museum of art and visitor center for the Annenberg Foundation.

Tickets went on sale this morning at 9:00 AM, and I was ready with credit card in hand. I scored a ticket for 10:15 AM, Saturday  March 10th. The entire batch of available tour tickets for the first half of March sold out within 20 minutes…

I’m really excited and it should make a great day trip–I love going out to the desert. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures (on the grounds and in the center only, none in the house itself unfortunately) and do a write-up.

Check out the Sunnylands website here for more info.

Greetings from Flagstaff!

We’re just about to leave lovely Flagstaff, Arizona where we’ve been on a family vacation this week. We took in the ever spectacular yet surprisingly commercialized Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the three local National Monuments, Wupatki, Sunset Crater and Walnut Canyon. It has been a pleasant time and the weather has been gorgeous. Everyone thinks of Arizona as nothing but desert, but they forget the part of the state north of the Mogollon Rim. It has been way cooler here this week than the sweltering East and South of the US–I pity my coworker on vacation in New York City.

But the main purpose of our coming to Arizona was to support our Arizona brethren in their fight against the arrogance and stupidity of the Federal Government and pointy-headed liberal politicians everywhere, especially our native California and most particularly the idiotic mayor of Los Angeles. Just Tuesday, the Feds sued AZ over their upcoming law about illegal immigration. If the do-nothing congress and utterly contemptible administration would simply enforce their own immigration laws–you know, and actually DO what they are constitutionally mandated to do i.e. Provide for the common defense–then none of this would be necessary.

But enough of that. The best part of Arizona is the extraordinary natural beauty you find here. Couple that with amazing sites of Native American history and the history of the old west and I’d take vacationing here any day. I have quite a few photos to eventually post, but here’s a sample from the Grand Canyon just to get started:

Last Moments in Vegas, then home again…

Well, the final day has arrived. The problem with the Monday of this convention is that I always miss out on something cool because I want to get home early and avoid as much traffic as I can. Holiday traffic back to L.A. can be a nightmare.

So basically all I did in the morning was eat my last $3.99 breakfast special, play my last $5.00 in quarters in the video poker machines (but this time, I actually WON $8.50—which I cashed out and brought home) then drop by to wander around the con for a couple of hours to bid my farewells. I did actually attend the first half of Monica Rial’s panel this morning and asked her a bunch of questions. She’d said that one of her favorite roles to play was Haruka in RahXephon and I enjoyed hearing that. She also commented that sometimes it’s lots of fun to play the smaller roles because she can really get wild with them. She talked quite a bit about Ayu-chan from Best Student Council which is one of my favorites.

I left about 11:15 or so, but that was after having a nice farewell discussion with Rich, the convention chairman. He’s a great guy and I vowed that I would come out and be a volunteer next year if I’m still around—he said he’d put me in Guest Relations, which would be loads of fun. Luckily, I also ran into Todd Haberkorn just before I walked out of the building, and thanked him for mentioning me by name in his panel last night.

All in all, a great load of fun and I got to deepen friendships, make new connections and basically relax and enjoy myself.

Even though I left fairly early, there were still the usual pockets of traffic on the way home: Nevada state line to halfway to Baker and then again several miles before the Yermo inspection station. NOTHING frustrates me more than being stuck in dead-stopped, bumper-to-bumper traffic on a two lane highway out in the middle of the desert. There’s NOTHING THERE—why the heck is everyone stopping? Geez…

I still made it home by 5:30 or so after treating myself to another burger AND a chocolate shake at Mega Tom’s in Barstow. Max was still alive and just fine and missed me. Tomorrow morning, I’ll pick up Victoria from the vet—hope she’s put on some weight.

Anime Vegas, Continued

Today was a little more relaxed and less hectic. Seems like there weren’t as many people crammed into the con either.

First thing I attended was the Bandai panel presented by none other than the President of Bandai USA. They have some interesting things coming out, but nothing that struck me particularly as a “gotta have it” at this point. Lucky Star really does look pretty funny though and The Girl Who Leapt Through TIme looks pretty cool. The biggest thing I wanted to find out was their schedule and plans for Hayate The Combat Butler, which sadly they don’t have much on yet. They basically showed the un-subbed episode opening, but that was at least exciting; their release plans are “Coming Soon” and “Sometime next year” at the moment. My pointed question to them was “Are they committed to bringing it out quickly AND completing the whole series of 52 episodes” and they affirmed they were. (I also made sure to get a public dig in against Viz since they seem to think it’s not important to complete what they’ve started.)

The highlights for me were having time to have some pretty nice conversations with Jerry Jewell, Justin Cook and Todd Haberkorn (not all at the same time). They’re all such great people and I really appreciate them remembering me and taking time to chat—yet another indication of the great work that Funimation does. High quality product, innovative distribution and very, very nice people who actually care about the fans. I hope everyone reading this who is an anime fan goes out and buys everything they can from them!

I also made the decision to sign up for another Bang Zoom Voice Acting seminar, this time with Tony Oliver on September 20. It was a bit more of a chunk of money than I have at the moment and will need to find someplace, but I have this feeling it’s important right now. It’ll be fun and a good experience.

So the con is winding down. I did end up buying another show—the complete set of .hack//SIGN for a pretty decent price. I really wanted .hack//Roots which I saw yesterday, but that’ll have to wait for a Right Stuf sale and preferably a complete series box set.

Tomorrow will be just a quick swing by in the morning, one last spin around the sales hall and another chance to thank and say goodbye to the great VAs one more time. As usual, I’m torn between wanting to stay to the bitter end of the con (they actually do have some cool stuff planned) or getting on the road before I’m stuck in bumper-to-bumper, post-Labor Day Weekend traffic all the way back to L.A. Usually my abhorrence of driving in traffic wins out…