Category Archives: SoCal Living

Catalina Island

So, this year for our kind-of anniversary trip (4 years already), we went to Catalina Island for Easter weekend.
It was crazy… There was almost no one else there.
First we took a ferry-boat over (Jason got seasick)
Jason and Ferry Boat
When we got to Avalon, which is the the main city in Catalina Island, it was virtually deserted. All the buildings are little, and there are only compact cars and golf carts. I felt like we were in Oz or Munchkinland.
Little Avalon img_6206.JPG
We walked around there all morning, ate lunch on the pier. It was a gorgeous day. There were even trees floating in the sky:
Trees in the Clouds
Then we took a bus ride to the other, even more deserted part of the island. The “Safari Bus” was a bumpy, crazy drive with gorgeous views of the inland parts of the island. We first stopped at Airport-in-the-Sky and watched some planes take off. Then we read about the Preservation of the Island’s plants and native animals, like the Santa Catalina Red Fox, Catalina Red Squirrel, deer, and buffalo. Oh, yeah, wait- native buffalo? Not really…. A few wild bison were brought to the island for a filming of a 1925 movie, “Zane Grey’s The Vanishing American”. They adapted well to the island’s climate, flourished, and multiplied. Now wild bison roam the island in herds- and when we left the Airport en route to Two Harbors, we got to see a herd along the road.
Safari Busimg_6259.JPGWindy Road
img_6285.JPG Airport-in-the-Sky Airport
Buffalo Wild Bison Jason kissing buffalo
On the bus ride over, we were the only two people on this huge school bus- it was really creepy! Check out this video:
Jason alone on bus
Then, we arrived in Two Harbors, a very tiny town on the West end of the island. The town has a population of 100 people. You cannot own private property there. You must work for the Catalina Island Conservancy (who owns the town) to live there. Our Bed and Breakfast was called “Banning House Lodge” The Banning brothers originally owned the island until they sold it to Wrigley- the chewing gum tycoon, who then put 88% of the island into a nature conservancy (to avoid property taxes). Below are pictures of the view from our hotel (we even saw a solitary buffalo roaming from our window!):
Jas and hotel Cat Harbor View Banning House Crazy Jason BUFFALO OUTSIDE HOTEL WINDOW Room #5 for us Me at hotel

Then Friday evening, we went on a Hummer “High Adventure” tour of the coast of the island. Our driver was the same guy that drove us across the island (in the empty huge bus)
Both of us by Hummer Jason on Hummer Me- hummer ride View from Hummer
That night, we went to dinner at the only restaurant on the side of the island (so, yeah, the prices were very high- I guess you can charge anything if there is no other place to eat!) The next morning, we got up bright and early to do a “Super Tour” which was Kayaking down the coast to Blue Caverns and back, with a stop in the middle to snorkel in a kelp forest. We got to see many fish, well only one type of fish actually- the bright orange Girabaldi- the official state fish of California. The water was freezing (58 degrees) and even my 7mm-thick wetsuit didn’t keep me warm enough.
Amanda snorkeling Pulling out kayak Me in Wetsuit
Then, we rested all day. It was beautiful and sunny outside. We went for a little hike:
Hiking Jason hiking

On the next day, Easter Sunday, we couldn’t go to church because there was no church in the small town of Two Harbors. We took the same rickety, scary bus back to the populated side of the island- Avalon. We had lunch there at Catalina Cantina and Jason ate a BUFFALO burger (made out of real buffalo meat). It tasted almost the same as a real burger. And I ate a fish:
Me eating a fish Jason at Cantina

We had a wonderful time- celebrating our 4th Anniversary together out in a secluded island. Although it was only 3 days, it felt like a lot longer.


Fire Update

Here’s some more pictures of the fire, this time visible on Saddleback Ridge of the Santa Ana mountains.


And here’s a satellite image of Southern California. For a sense of scale, the fires stretch from North of L.A. down to San Diego.


The fires in our area aren’t as bad anymore. However, all schools in the area have been closed for tomorrow. I’m not sure of the reason, but it seems like a good idea. Dan Stark said it best, when he explained, “It’s like a snow day… but with fire!”

California Is On Fire

Some of you may have been more aware of this than Amanda and I were, since we don’t often watch/read the news. We knew there were fires burning in So Cal, but we didn’t realize any were so close. We woke up yesterday (Monday) morning to huge gusts of wind, and a strange mustard color in the sky. We had to pick up Amanda’s car from the shop that morning, and as we were driving further north we started to see ash falling from the sky. The sky was filled with semi-dissipated smoke, which caused the grey-yellow, hazy appearance.

I work in Irvine, twenty minutes north of where we live, and as I drove in that direction the grey sky became blacker. The road I was traveling on was blocked off immediately after where our office building is, and I could see black smoke, occasionally lit by a bright yellow flame, billowing from the ground ahead of me.


Those pictures were taken from in front of our office. I took some videos of the smoke, fire trucks, and helicopters, but they won’t seem to upload. Let me know if you’d like to see them.

It was a totally surreal experience. Ash was falling everywhere you go (kind of looks like the very light snowfall you get on a sunny but cold day). Everything was lit with an eerie yellow hue from the clouds. The air was thick with the smell of a bonfire. Irvine looked like Mordor. The air was very dry, and our fluff magnet Teddie kept shocking us every time we touched him. It was extremely windy, but the winds were warm; the Santa Ana winds come straight from off the desert.

In case you don’t know what’s going on, here’s some articles about the fires.

No quick end seen to Southern California wildfires

Fire affects TV shows, celebrities

That second article is interesting because the Marine air base where they were filming “24” is right next to us, directly up the road in those pictures towards the fire. No wonder they had to cancel shooting.

Things have improved a lot today. It’s still hazy out, but not overcast with doom. Ash is still falling as much as yesterday though. We’re supposed to go to a friend’s company picnic down in San Diego on Saturday, but I just received word that it may be canceled, because so many of the people involved have been evacuated or are concerned for the safety of their homes. Please pray for those who have been injured, and those forced to leave their homes.

Surfing in the Rain

A couple of Saturdays ago, I went surfing with Gabe and Mike in San Clemente. The cool part was that it was raining. It was sprinkling off and on, and we decided that we would go during one of the “off” periods. Once we were out there, the drizzle started again. It was awesome to hear the rain splashing into the sea with a gentle hiss. After it let up, there was the most magnificent rainbow I have ever seen, extending from a pier into the sky over the ocean.

Shortly thereafter, it started to really rain. A storm rolled in from the sea, and was pouring right into our eyes, so much so that we could hardly see the waves coming towards us. I couldn’t help but laugh at how thrilling it was to be out there. It was also interesting showering in the rain, and trying to drive through huge rushing currents of water flowing down and across the parking lot.

Whale Watching in Santa Barbara

Blue Whale Spout

We went on a whale-watching trip in Santa Barbara when the Macs were in town. I know, that was over a month ago, but I just finished compiling the video now. It’s about seven minutes long, and has a lot of good shots of blue whales, the largest animals to ever roam the earth. Unless you count boulders as animals. Which most people don’t. Here’s the video: Whale Watching in Santa Barbara

I’m not sure if this video will work. If not, I suppose I’ll try out that YouTube business you kids are always talking about.

Further Vacation Thoughts

I just wanted to elaborate a bit on Amanda’s story-book summary of our vacation. For one, it was awesome to be able to practice our Spanish so much. There’s probably just as much opportunity to speak it here in SoCal, but I get the feeling people would get offended if you started speaking broken Spanish around here. Like you’re mocking them or something. Maybe I’m just paranoid.

Also, the first time we went to the resort’s humongous pool, we were greeted by a giant inflatable swan. For some reason, every time we saw it, it would be looking in my direction. It was rather haunting, actually. But it did allow plenty of opportunities for the use of the phrase “Stop looking at me, swan.” By the following day, the swan had been dismembered. All that was left was a head and neck piece, and what we believed to be the center ring, floating traumatically about the pool.

Finally, I think you should go back and look at those pictures she posted again. Because if you’re reading this, it means you’re not still in awe over the shear awesomeness of us getting to hold a lion cub.

Aww How cute is that Lion??

Wow I Need to Post More Often

Yeah, not a big post today. Just wanted to let y’all know that I hate DRM. And that’s bad, because I hardly hate anything.

In better news, Gamasutra’s front page article yesterday was a press release for a bunch of mobile games from Sony. Or should I say, JAVAGROUND??? Yeah, many of the games on there were developed by us. Way cool.

In even better news, it suddenly got way hot, I’m sweating out of my fingertips, and going insane with joy about it. I love the heat.