Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yes, I felt it

I've checked one more item off my list of natural-disaster experiences.

After nearly 2 1/2 years living in SoCal, I finally felt my first earthquake yesterday.

Even though the 5.4 magnitude temblor was centered more than 110 miles to the north in the L.A. suburb of Chino Hills, the jolt was still pretty strong when it reached us.

I was sitting at my desk on the third floor of the office around 11:45 a.m., when I felt the slightest vibration coming up from the floor through my feet.

That normally means one of my more stout co-workers is approaching, so I didn't give it a second thought. Then the vibration got stronger, so much so that I figured one of the mail clerks was about to roll by with a heavy load. But I wasn't hearing the noise that office carts make.

I turned my head away from my computer to look down the walkway next to my desk, and that's when it hit. A wave of motion rolled through the five-story building. Then it happened again. And then it was over.

My office building, which was built in the early 1970s, sits on a special roller system that allows the entire structure to rock rather than shake during a quake.

Many of my co-workers who have lived in the San Diego area for 10 years or more said the quake might have been the largest one they've ever felt here.

Apparently, that's no reason for comfort.

Rex says that in 1994 when the Northridge earthquake hit in the L.A. area, it felt like 10 professional wrestlers had grabbed his bed here in San Diego and were shaking it as hard as they could.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday hike

I've lost about 15 pounds dieting over the last two months and I'm determined to keep them off - at least until September when I visit Louisiana and gorge on fried seafood.
I also want to explore more of San Diego County on foot. That's why I'm starting to do a weekly weekend hike.

My first happened this morning when I headed to the top of Cowles Mountain, the highest point in San Diego on the east side of the city. Click on the map for a larger version.
This was the view from the peak looking west toward downtown and the Pacific Ocean. A thick marine layer hid much of the distant scenery.
I made the climb with Tom, an old friend from New Orleans who moved out here years ago. The route was pretty easy to cover, and it took about 30 minutes each way.

SD Pride '08

Last weekend was the city's Pride festival, and I'm just getting around to posting something on it. Sorry for the delay.

As expected, much of the festival's parade focused on the recent state Supreme Court decision extending marriage rights to same-sex couples and the upcoming proposition election that would reverse that ruling by amending the California constitution.
There were several groups of couples that walked in the parade holding up signs indicating how long they've been together.
Our friend Peter Tatchell, head of the U.K.'s Outrage!, was one of the grand marshals.
There were the normal floats . . .
And this well-rehearsed swim club.
Rex tried some of the vino in the wine tent before we headed over to the main stage . . .
Where this HUGE crowd was waiting for festival headliner and D-list comedian diva Kathy Griffin.
This was the best shot my little digital could manage from our spot way in the back.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Behold . . .

Even Nero can't help being stricken by the splendor and genius of my new 3G iPhone. Like the rest of us, he could hardly keep his paws off it.

Following several aborted attempts to purchase the world's most-wanted gadget, I put together a simple strategy. I arrived at the Apple Store in Fashion Valley Mall around 8:15 a.m. Friday, early enough to wait out the crowd for at least a couple of hours before having to be at work.

My heart soared as I approached a line of only six people stretching from the store's locked front doors. I took my position, and within 15 minutes at least 15 more people were lined up behind me.

I was inside by 9:30 a.m. and walking out as the newest member of The Cult half an hour later.

I did have a bit of a scare yesterday. Out of the blue the phone started displaying a startling "No SIM" error message in the upper left corner of the screen where normally the AT&T network-strength bars appear. Nothing on the phone would work. I tried turning it on and off several times and the problem persisted.

Then Rex took over. After he turned off and on a few settings like WiFi and airplane mode, the error message disappeared and the phone returned to normal mode. Our buddy Stan, who works as an Apple Store lead genius, said the card probably got jiggled out of place and that it probably wasn't anything to worry about.

Several forum posters at reported the same problem. Some got their phones working again by doing a hard reset, while another was given a replacement SIM card when he took his malfunctioning unit to an AT&T store.

Hopefully, the problem won't surface again for me so that Nero's worship of the glorious device can continue uninterrupted.

Boda Número Dos

We took a break from this weekend's San Diego Pride Festival to attended our second wedding of this still-young same-sex marriage season here in California.
Bob (center right) and John (center left) took their vows in front of a small group of friends and family on the deck of a La Jolla hotel overlooking the ocean. Joining them in the wedding party were best maids of honor Katie (far left) and Stephanie (far right).
Back in La Jolla, John's mom led the wedding party with a shower of rose petals. She came all the way from New Mexico to watch her son get hitched.
Kathy officiated the ceremony. She got some help putting on her corsage from her man Dave.
Bob and John have been together for four years.
Here's hoping for many more years of togetherness. For more wedding photos check out Rex's blog post here.
Meanwhile, my friends David and Greg are finishing plans for their Hawaiian-themed marriage ceremony being held 500 miles to the north in Oakland next weekend. David is a fellow journalist and the incoming president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He and Greg have been together for 21 years.

That should do it for this month, but we have at least three more weddings scheduled in August.

And who knows how many more will pop up between now and November, when voters will decide on a state constitutional amendment that would take away the right of marriage that was granted to gay and lesbian couples by the state Supreme Court in May.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunset Cliffs

Our friend Peter is visiting from London, and he spent his first afternoon in town floating in the ocean off Ocean Beach. I picked him up after work.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Best year ever

It's official. There's never been a better time to be a Tiger fan.

Coming five months after the LSU Tigers replaced the Florida Gators as the college football national champions, Tiger Stadium has toppled Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainsville as the country's toughest college football venue, according to EA Sports.

And a few weeks earlier, LSU finished in 8th place in the competition for the Director's Cup, which is presented each year to the college with the most successful overall athletic program. The placement was the highest ever for LSU, which had 13 teams earn top 20 end-of-season rankings.

Here's how the LSU squads fared:
#1 - Football
#1 - Women's Outdoor Track
#2 - Women's Indoor Track
#2 - Men's Outdoor Track
#4 - Women's Basketball
#4 - Men's Indoor Track
#5 - Gymnastics
#6 - Baseball
#15 - Softball
#17 - Men's Swimming and Diving
#18 - Women's Golf
#18 - Men's Tennis
#19 - Women's Swimming and Diving

Only 49 days to go until the Tigers take the field to defend the football championship.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Our first gay wedding

We spent Independence Day appropriately celebrating our newly established equality under the California Constitution by attending the nuptials of our friends Rick and Jaime at their home in San Diego's Mission Hills neighborhood.About 50 people - including Jaime's sister and her partner from Puerto Rico - gathered for the event.

If the gay rights movement wanted poster boys for the effort, Rick and Jaime would be an ideal choice. They work hard. They've nurtured a wide circle of loving friends. And they've been devoted to each other for 21 years. There is something undeniably reassuring about their relationship.
The ceremony was a mix of modern and traditional. Rick (speaking above in the left photo) recalled a recent kayak trip that served as a metaphor for their life together - Rick leading the way with Jaime keeping things on course from the rear. Giant photos of the outing served as props for the story.

Jaime noted the broader historic context of the otherwise personal event. And he spoke of an enduring love that, for two decades, transcended all of the cultural obstacles that now seem imminently destined for the trash heap of history. There wasn't a dry eye in the room by the time he finished.
The ceremony ended with an exchange of traditional vows - promises to live out their days together until they turn to weed fertilizer - and matching rings that were delivered by Sophie, their Welsh Corgi.
Champagne and hor d'ourves were followed by a delicious dinner, all prepared by Rick. Which left me wondering, how does one manage to grow up in Utah and become an accomplished cook? Clearly, some mysteries of the universe aren't meant to be understood.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Nation's biggest homophobe finally dies

People in towns and cities across the country will gather today to mark the long-overdue demise of former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms with parties, cookouts and joyous fireworks displays.

Helms, a long-time friend and protector of the tobacco industry, made a career out of bigotry, homophobia and jingoism. It was hard to tell if he truly hated and feared everyone who was different from him, or if those sentiments were simply the cynical tools of manipulation he used to gain political power and fame.
He also was a master of the "gay face."

Least we forget, we have the voters of North Carolina to thank for keeping Helms in office for 36 long years.

Helms became reviled by gays and lesbians in the 1980s for fighting against practically every federal AIDS funding effort while tens of thousands of people across the country were suffering and dying from the disease.

In 1987 he famously sponsored a measure banning foreigners with HIV from visiting or immigrating to the United States.
I took this photo in 1993 at the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.

Here are a few quotes that help to capture his shameful legacy:

"We've got to have some common sense about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaging in unnatural acts." - speaking against the Ryan White Care act

"I shall never forget the stream of school kids marching uptown to place flowers on the Courthouse Square monument on Confederate Memorial Day."

"I'm so old-fashioned I believe in horse whipping." - arguing against AIDS funding

"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing."

“It's their deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct that is responsible for the disease.” - on his theories about the cause of AIDS

"The negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights."

"I hate to use the word 'gay' in connection with the word 'sodomy.' There's nothing gay about these people."

"Whatever they do, they do at home. Don't go out on the street and flout it." - on gays and lesbians

"Do you realize that if they would stop doing what they are doing there would not be one additional case of AIDS in the United States of America." - blaming gays for AIDS

Thankfully, techno rapper MC Hawkings no longer has to wonder with the rest of us, "Why won't Jesse Helms just hurry up and die?"

Coupled with the death of Jerry Falwell just over a year ago, we could be looking at the end of the greatest generation of homophobes that our nation has known. Pat Robertson's decent to hell would complete the trifecta.