Technology, Food, Traveling...

I came, I saw, I leave you these tidbits behind

Mar 2, 2009

Atomic Tourist

In 1981 I was born in Oak Ridge, TN. In 1943 Oak Ridge became home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The ORNL was home to the X-10 Graphite Reactor, the world's first production nuclear reactor, to demonstrate the production of plutonium. This reactor was part of the Manhattan Project, which was a top secret program to develop the world's first atomic weapon. Oak Ridge was deemed the "secret city" and within two years ballooned to over 75,000 workers involved in the project. The X-10 reactor was a plutonium production pilot that was later expanded to a much larger scale production facility at Hanford. In the 50's and 60's the X-10 graphite reactor was switched to peacetime research and was used to produce the world's first medical radioisotopes for treating cancer.

In 1997 my family moved from Oak Ridge, TN to Seattle, WA. In 1943 the US government created a 586 square mile nuclear production complex on the Columbia river called Hanford. The site is located near the Tri-Cites in Eastern WA approx 220 miles from Seattle. Hanford is home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan. During the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five massive plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

As you can see, by some weird fate my life has been around the history of this nation's nuclear technology development. This combined with my interest in anything history and technology leads to me being an "Atomic Tourist". Someone that studies atomic history and visits historical atomic sites in the US.

Here is a short list of historical atomic sites I hope to visit in the future.

Hanford B-Reactor - Tri-Cites, WA
Titan Missle Silo - Tucson AZ
Trinity Site - Socorro, New Mexico
Tinian Airfield - Tinian Island, Mariana Islands
Hiroshima - Japan

Feb 28, 2009

Must Own One Day List

Every since I was 16 and really got into cars there have been a couple that have always grabbed my attention. These are the ones I've always admired for looks, technology, performance, etc. One day I hope to own an example of each one.

Honda S2000 - This isn't a ricer, by any stretch of the imagination. First brand new on the lot, this car was double the cost of a Civic which put it out of reach of most ricers. Second it was built as a purpose sports car, rear wheel drive, very high revving inline 4 cyclinder motor. One neat feature of the S2000 was the red push button engine start. The S2000 is a front engine car, but one unique thing was the motor was very far back compared to most cars, it was almost completely behind the front axle. This gave the car a much better front/rear weight basis. The advantage was the car was a monster on the track, amazing handling, especially for a convertible. The downside was it had some quirks, the biggest one being if you broke loose the rear end it was near impossible to recover. There have been countless S2000's totalled from inexperienced drivers loosing the rear end while driving on the street and track. Check YouTube for some interesting videos. The S2000 along with the NSX are the only two Honda production cars in history to be hand built, and in their own dedicated factory in Japan.

Acura NSX - This car came out in 1991 and was design by Honda to prove they could build a "supercar" class vehicle, but have the reliability Honda cars were known for. Think of it as a Ferrari that could easily go 100,000 plus miles and not skip a beat. The car is mid engine V6, rear wheel drive, 6-speed in later models, and with removable targa roof panels. The dash, seats, everything was very unique to the NSX and was way ahead of anything of it's time. The engine features exotic metals construction and fully forged internals. A replacement motor alone is approx $20k. While somewhat underpowered, the chassis handling and performance was nothing short of stellar. The entire body was made from alum panels compared to most cars made from heavier steal. The frame is also an alum alloy. The NSX and S2000 are the only two Honda production cars in history to be hand built, and in their own dedicated factory in Japan.

BMW M3 - The M stands for BMW Motorsports, and the 3 is for based on the 3-Series platform. BMW M cars represent the best BMW has to offer in performance on the street. These cars feature upgraded suspensions, brakes, seats, engines, body, transmissions, etc over their standard 3-series brothers. Start with the e30, then e36, e46, and the most recent e90. My all time crush was on a e36. However a very close second is the smaller, and first flavor, the e30. Then came along the e46 in 2001, and things kept getting better. This time period is my favorite in BMW body styles across all their lines. With the e90 now on the market, the e46 price has been falling dramtically. A good example can be found for $25-35k.

Feb 16, 2009

Welcome Bella

I would like to introduce Bella to everyone, she is our 4 month French Bulldog puppy. So how did we come to settling on a Frenchie (BTW, I hate that name)? When Julie and I first started talking about dogs, her first pick was a Pug. I was instantly against that idea. Pugs breath funny, sound funny, eyes popping out of their head, etc. My first pick was a English Bulldog, only because "Meaty" on Rob & Big looked so cool and fun to play with. Well then we went to the internet and started doing some research, where we found out about French Bulldogs. They are a mix of english bulldog, pug, and boston terrior. Pretty neat combo, doesn't breath very loud, doesn't drool, and when full grown not a large dog. We continued to read more and find out the dog is non-athletic, stubborn, and likes to lounge around the house. We immediately said, this dog is perfect for us!

Now the search began, and we quickly learned two things; 1. they are very expensive, and 2. they are very rare. Both things are related, French Bulldogs don't naturally mate or give birth. They have to be artificially inseminated, and then give birth via c-section. Typical litters are only 4 pups or less.

After a long search, and the day before leaving for home on our Maui vacation, we found a breeder in Salem, OR. She had one 4 month old puppy from a recent litter that was Brindle (black with fawn highlights). After exchanging some pics and talking on the phone, we decided to meet her and the rest was history.

She has been an absolutely joy, and a absolute headache. But that's puppies, and it only gets better with time. True to her colors, she is stubborn, just like her mom and dad.

Feb 14, 2009

Maui Feb 2009

Two trips to Maui in six months, it's a tough life I know. Julie and I were just there in Sept 2008 for two weeks. That trip was more impromptu due to me having some extra vacation time I needed to use, and Julie being unemployed.

This trip was planned for a year, and is the annual Poppoff family vacation. This year Julie had planned well before meeting me to go with her BFF Mel. However Mel was not staying the entire time. I asked Julie if she wouldn't mind me crashing the vacation for the last half and of course, no complaints.

The weather, good and bad. The good was the temp and humidity were drastically different then Sept. On our last trip we both spent the entire time melting. If we were instead it was in front of a fan. I basically looked like I just got out the ocean, 24x7. Not the most pleasant trip but who cares, you are in Maui right? This time around in Feb, huge difference! Weather was about 10 degrees cooler, but more importantly the humidity felt like half what it was in Sept. For the most part of the trip it was partly sunny, parly cloud and high 70's. There were some days on clouds and rain, but nothing sticks around for too long, it's an island.

Ocean still feels great as always. This time we went down to Kihei with Mel and Julie's mom. She knew about this beach that was near where a friend stayed once. Turned out to be an awesome spot. Sand was very nice, water warm, and the sun was beaming. Then in the afternoon the wind kicked up hard and blew us out of there.

A Maui trip would not be complete without many good food stories. We of course dined at all our favorites; Moana Cafe, Hula Grill, Roy's, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Aloha Mixed Plate, Maui Taco's, etc. This trip we did try two new places that turned out to be amazing! First we all went to a place at Kapalua Bay called Merriman's. The setting of the restaurant alone is breath taking. All the walls in place open up to a indoor/outdoor type seating. You are right on the bay and very nice beach, sunset views from the table are nothing short of spectacular! The next new find, was a place in downtown Lahaina on Front St. called Mai Tai Lounge. We just had lunch there one day to give it a try and was thoroughly amazed. One interesting thing we saw on the menu was wonton nachos with cheese and pineapple mango salsa. WOW! This was a huge surprise, crispy wonton chips instead of traditional tortilla chips and the salsa was very good. The seating is right on the water front, almost hanging over the water. Great view of the ocean and Lanai from the table.

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Ok, so I have one small video game vice. It's a game called Half-Life Counter-Strike Source. I've been playing this game for years, through the many versions. I've owned a PS2, Xbox360, but none ever get played however I always seem to come back to CS.

Until now I've been used to enjoying my gaming through my Logitech Z-2300 THX computer speakers, complete with 8" subwoofer. Well now that I have a roommate (the lovely Julie), she doesn't really care for the noise the game makes. And I honestly can't blame her, it's constant gun shots and grenades exploding. The bass from the subwoofer alone can be heard outside the house.

So I went in search of a set of gaming headphones. I had a old set of Sennheiser gaming headphones from many years ago that I dug out of the garage. The problem with them is two fold, one they hurt after 30 minutes because they have a small cup that sits on the ear, instead of large cup that goes over the ear, and two they use the computer's sound card. The issue here is when I want to use headphones, I have to crawl under the desk, plug them in. Then when I want to use the speakers I have to crawl under the desk again and switch the cables.

Enter the Plantronics GameCom 777 headphones. I did some research online and these were well reviewed. Then one day while waiting for Julie to finish shopping at the Gap I wondered over to Best Buy. Low and behold they have a set on the wall which was too much to resist.

The good news is it was $99 well spent. These headphones sound awesome, bass is amazing, and the Dolby technology does give an impression of surround sound. Most importantly they are very comfortable for long periods of time, and they included a small USB sound card. This is very handy because when I want to use them I can plug them into the USB hub on my monitor.

No more crawling under the desk, and Julie is happy. Win, Win!

Associated web links:

Plantronics GameCom 777

I told myself I wasn't going to blog about this, because everyone and their mom will say something on their blog today. But then why not, I will keep it short and sweet.

I look back 2 years ago and I told myself, "I would never vote for anyone other then a republican". Then a year ago when the presidential race started warming up and I put a lot more thought into it. First thing I realized is I'm not voting solely based on democratic or republican party. I'm going to vote for the person that I think is the best candidate, one that I think will hopefully make the right decisions to move this country forward.

I support Obama not because he's black, not because he's a democrat, but because I like what he stands for. I like his energy, bold ideas, and strong speaking. I like that he's young, and hopefully not consumed by the "old guard" of Washington DC. Most of all, whether you support what he's going to do, at least he's doing something and sticking to it. In today's world we don't need someone in the office that will be tied up in political red tape and do only what is necessary to float through their term.

I read an article that summed up the current president and the previous two. Clinton was like your uncle, Bush was like your buddy, and Obama is like a prince.

Jan 12, 2009

Las Vegas, Jan 2009

First trip of the new year, and it's been just over a year since my last stop in sin city. Last year I visited in between Christmas and New Years. However it's quite a different scene now with the economy in it's current shape. I feared this weekend would be too busy once I found out that it was the single largest convention weekend of the year in Vegas. Two of largest conventions; Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and the Adult Entertainment Expo (AVN) were both in town.

However as it turned out, attendance for both was at an all time low and it just didn't feel that busy in town.

Enough about the bad economy, did we have fun or what? The answer is YES! Friday night after arriving at the Hotel, The Hilton Grand Vacation Club on the strip, Julie and I decided we were hungry. For what you ask, well nothing other then Cheeseburger in Paradise! Yup, this is no knockoff, the former Alladin, now Planet Hollywood has a real authentic Cheeseburger in Paradise and it does not let down. The pineapple there was the best I've had outside Maui, obviously flown in from Maui. After a bite, we proceeded to Fat Tuesday's for a yard daiquiri of fruit punch and Bacardi 151. Then we spent the rest of the night walking around a couple casino's and I proceeded to lose $100 at the roulette table, unfortunately a trend that didn't get much better over the weekend.

Saturday we started the day with lunch at Maggiano's Little Italy at the Fashion Mall. Following lunch the girls headed back to the hotel for their day at the spa. Dan and I relaxed in the room for a bit then went for a walk down the strip to the Sahara. It was funny because before leaving I was talking crap about the Sahara saying it was old and run down. Well after spending 5 mins at the roulette table I was up $50 and promptly cashed out and left with the spoils. Turns out that old and run down casino was the only one that gave me love that weekend on the roulette table. Ceasar's and Planet Hollywood both took all I put on the table.

Saturday night really was the best part of the weekend. We all got dressed up in our nicest attire and headed to the Palazzo for our dinner reservation at Table 10. This recommendation came via Amber and Matt who both have been there on different occasions. It's a Emerils restaurant and certainly lived up to the namesake. I highly recommend the Maine Sea Scallops for starters, then for entree the Scallop Encrusted Halibut, Berkridge Farm Kurobuta Pork Loin, Lobster Pot Pie, and Pan Roasted Mahi Mahi were all very delicious. The service was spot on, and we even enjoyed a bottle of Winderlea Pinot Noir from Patricia Green Cellars in Oregon. Absolutely everything was perfect, not one let down. I highly recommend you dine here on your next visit to Vegas.

Gambling however was more lucky for the ladies, both my mom and Julie won money at the slots. My mom won $271 playing penny slots at Caesar's Palace, and Julie put $1 in a slot at the airport on the way home, one spin later and she had $15. We promptly cashed out and used that money to buy a extraordinarily over priced lunch at the airport.

All and all a great weekend. I like to visit Vegas at least once a year and this trip will satisfy the need for a while. Julie and I talked about going back for our birthdays this year. However she is going in May with her friends for a Dave Matthews Band concert so we are considering another birthday destination.

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