Friday, December 29, 2006

Blue (eyed) Dog

My pug Nero likes taking rides in the back of my car.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Don't fault me

We spent part of Christmas at Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve about 10 miles east of Palm Springs.

The oasis is home to the biggest and oldest freakin' palm trees that I've ever seen! (Some sprouted more than 250 years ago). And it sits on top of the Mission Creek branch of the San Andreas Fault -- yes, the one that causes all of those earthquakes.

The grove owes its existence to the fault, which provides a route for water from an aquifer to seep to the surface. (See photo below. Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

The line is more obvious just north of the grove where it forms a shallow, marshy gully distinguished by the taller, yellowish grass in the photo below.
The hill rising behind the gully marks the eastern edge of the Pacific tectonic plate. I took the picture from the western edge of the North American plate just 30 yards away. It's this clash of plates that's the cause of SoCal's mountain ranges and frequent tremors.

Two earthquakes - one measuring 4.0 - hit the area over the Christmas weekend but we didn't notice any shaking.

We finished the day with a Christmas dinner with friends in Palm Springs.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas eve in the mountains

We took the cable tram to the Mount San Jacinto State Park which sits 8,500 feet above Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

About an inch of snow covered most of the mountain range's jagged granite ridge.

Click on any picture to make it larger.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Grin and BEAR it

We found this shop along the two-block stretch of downtown Palm Springs that serves as the epicenter of the town's gay life.

For those who aren't students of gay male subcultures, bears are a subset of men - often with stocky builds and less-than-perfectly manicured looks - who defy traditional gay male stereotypes. The ungay gay guys.

But what was once a movement of naturally masculine men countering the worst clichés of gay life now has become a cliché of its own.

If bear socks don't convince you, then how about these . . .

It's too bad that gay guys who, for example, go fishing, wear muddy boots, watch football, gather for keggers and smoke cigars saw their nifty attempt at self-affirmation eventually co-opted by marketers, the bar crowd and Mr. Bear This 'n That pageants. But, then again, that's America, in a nutshell.

Christmas in the desert

We're spending the long holiday weekend in Palm Springs, my first trip to the gay and retirement mecca located in a valley about 2 1/2 hours northeast of San Diego.

The main road through the city (above) is lined with miles of restaurants, coffee shops, specialty stores, old motels and kitsch shops.

Click on any picture to make it larger.

This is our view from our motel room. The high temperature this weekend will hover in the low 70s (F) while the lows will dip to the upper 40s.

Palm Spring's main strip reminds me of the retro main streets of Florida beach towns. Most of the buildings date from the 1940s and 1950s but some, such as the theater above, are older.

There's a walk of fame honoring some of the town's most famous residents and visitors.

Hundreds of these power-generating windmills fill a vast portion of the valley north of town along Interstate 10.

We were a bit surprised to encounter this group of protesters in front of a library at the central downtown intersection. Seems as though the war trumps putting Christ back into Christmas here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Let it sneaux . . . let it sneaux . . . let it sneaux!

The storm that whipped through the Northwest Thursday and Friday brought rain to San Diego and the first snow of the season to the range of mountains less than an hour by car east of the city.

The white stuff is still a novelty to this Cajun, so we headed out early Sunday morning before any of it had a chance to melt.

We were treated to a day in a winter wonderland along S-1, the Sunrise Highway, which tops 6,000 feet at the summit of Mount Laguna.

The roads were icy and a bit scary in some spots but we saw a good number of snow plows doing their thing.

This guy, below, greeted us in downtown Julian.

Winter wonderland

At 4,220 feet above sea level, the old gold mine town of Julian, Calif., is one of the highest communities in San Diego County. Snow falls there several times each winter, sometimes as deep as three feet.

We spent the afternoon roaming Julian's touristy main street just hours after the season's first snowfall. With temperatures rising above freezing, much of the white stuff there had already melted.

We scored brunch at the Julian American Legion Hall, shown above.

It was all you-can-eat eggs, sausage, biscuits, potato and wheat pancakes, and sausage gravy for $6.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

LSU gets screwed out of roses

Well, not exactly.

This packet, specially made for LSU's 2003 national championship victory in the Sugar Bowl, seems oddly off point this year.

Instead, there's plenty of vinegar over No. 4 ranked LSU's pairing with No. 11 Notre Dame in the Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl, the Tiger's third appearance in the New Orleans football classic since 2002.

While the BCS barely managed to pair up what seem to be the two best teams in the country at the end of this season, the system utterly failed to produce compelling matchups in its other four games.

Notre Dame gets into the elite bowl mix not because of its ranking or its performance or its finish (the Irish got clobbered by USC after managing to survive one of the softest second-half schedules in the country). The Irish are in because the school's name still sells, which is a bit of a mystery considering the team hasn't won a bowl game of any kind since 1995!

Beyond the race for the top two BCS spots, perhaps the biggest competition at the end of the season was avoiding a BCS bowl date with the overrated and undeserving Irish. LSU lost that one big time.

The Tigers deserve better. They survived a grueling schedule with road games against four top-10 teams. They competed in what proved, once again, to be the toughest conference in the country. They finished the season with huge road victories against Arkansas and Tennessee.

LSU should be playing a team of comparable caliber in a bowl.

Instead, USC finishes the season with a loss to unranked UCLA, barely wins three other games against unranked teams, and gets rewarded with a Rose Bowl slot that otherwise belonged to LSU. The weekend turmoil left more than 43,000 Tiger fans, who had pre-bought Rose Bowl tickets, sulking over what might have been.

And what about Wisconsin and Auburn? I'd much rather see those teams in a BCS game instead of Boise State or Wake Forest, or even Louisville for that matter.

All of this leaves me wondering when perennial college football brats Notre Dame and USC are going to take their turns at getting screwed?

GEAUX Tigers! GEAUX Gators! And GEAUX Big Blue!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Like I needed another reason to hate USC . . .

It was really quite simple.

All USC had to do was beat unranked cross-city rival UCLA and the ONEPETE Trojans would have been headed to their much-coveted national championship game. Meanwhile, the LSU Tigers would have been on their way to SoCal for a first-ever appearance at the legendary Rose Bowl on New Year's Day and a chance to play for the runner-up position.

Calling a Rose Bowl matchup with Michigan one of the biggest game in LSU's long and illustrious football history is no overstatement. It would have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to face off against one of the greatest football programs in the country in one of football's most acclaimed venues.

It's a stage that outshines even the Sugar Bowl in the Superdome, where LSU won the 2003 national championship by beating Oklahoma. The game would have paid a fortune in exposure, respectability and cold cash.

Tiger fans were so hungry for the Rose Bowl matchup that they pre-bought more than 43,000 tickets as of Friday, or enough to fill more than half of the stadium's 91,000 seats.

Then there's the personal element for me. I'm seven months into being a Southern Californian and wanted nothing more than to see my beloved Tigers play just a couple of hours up the interstate.

The stage was set Saturday for all of this to happen. All USC had to do was win.

But no. Those overrated Trojans couldn't manage to pull it off. Instead, they delivered yet another letdown to dynasty-starved Coach Pete Carrol.

Now we all wait while the humans and computers decide on Sunday whether LSU remains Rose Bowl bound or heads instead to the Sugar or Orange bowls.

Regardless of the outcome, USC's lastest debacle just adds fuel to a fire that has been building among Tiger fans ever since attempts by Carrol and the Trojan Nation to eliminate from the history books LSU's BCS national championship in 2003 and replace it with their Associated Press national championship of that same year.

This rivalry just keeps getting hotter.