Our trip to Mordor

September 7, 2009 10:41 am

We wanted to do something to get out of the house this weekend. I found out about a program at Point Reyes National Seashore where twice a month they take a small group down to the lighthouse at night, give a little tour, and illuminate the lighthouse.

It sounded like fun. Then I found out that they were doing a sand sculpture contest the next day! We thought it'd be a fun way to spend the weekend. However, it being Labor Day weekend we couldn't find any way to spend the night anywhere near Point Reyes. Every campground was full, every motel, hotel, and inn. So we had to drop the full-weekend activity thing. But we did still get to go on Saturday and see the lighthouse.

Wpdms_usgs_photo_point_reyes_national_seashoreWe packed up and headed out around 1. We drove out to San Anselmo and stopped at a Subway to get some sandwiches. We bought a bag of ice and some sodas and put it all in the cooler and continued on our way to the seashore. Once we made it to the National Seashore we still had to drive out to the lighthouse which is on a tip of land which is actually on the Pacific tectonic plate.

So we reached the park which has no entrance fee (yay!) and continued driving out towards the lighthouse.

On the way we stopped at one of the beaches; Jess even played in the icy water; which turned out to be dangerous due to the monsters:

DSCN4331Once we finished playing at the beach (that is, once we got hungry) we finished our drive to the parking lot near the lighthouse. After our tasty, tasty dinner of Subway we still had some time, so we adventured out to the sea lion lookout point. By this time the fog was really starting to roll in and we were reminded of the Lord of the Rings when Sam and Frodo are wandering around in the fog.

There are supposed to be sea lions down below us. We couldn't see any, but we could hear some barking.

Finally it was time to head out to the lighthouse for the program. We saw some wildlife along the way, such as this deer:
DSCN4344I also was able to get some pretty neat pictures:
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It was weird standing under the trees. The fog was so dense that it was condensing on the trees fast enough that it was actually raining beneath the branches.

We met up with the guide and walked down to the lighthouse (308 steps!). Here you can see the actual lighthouse and in the next picture is the currently used, automatic light which is operated by the US Coast Guard.
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After some tour information it was finally dark so I got a fun picture of the automated light on our way into the lighthouse.

Inside you can see the inner workings of all the original gearwork that made the beams rotate. This is apparently a big deal, most historic lighthouses don't have the original gearwork. Even more impressive is that the gearwork still works too. They can't actually turn the structure at the moment though. Apparently there is a structural weakness in the roof and the rotating of the 6000 pound light structure could cause the roof to collapse. So they're working on getting funding to replace the roof (which requires removing the entire light structure piece by piece first).

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Then the guide removed the curtain from the light and we got to see it all lit up. Apparently they keep the light on all the time to keep the building dry and warm (to help protect the equipment), so they have a curtain up to keep it from blinding tourists and confusing people trying to view the actual light, I guess.
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Then we got to walk back up the stairs of Mordor. It was dark and cold and our legs were tired. It was so foggy you couldn't see more than a small section at a time.

Then we got to get in the car and drive all the way back. It was foggy for about half of the drive through the park, so it was slow moving. We stopped for some deer that were crossing the road and several rabbits ran across in front of us. But we made it home. It was a lot of fun.


10:22 am

We eat at Panda Express occasionally. It's just on the opposite corner from our apartment complex, so we like to walk down there every now and again. Well, we were down there a couple of weeks ago and there was a sign that, if you buy a 3-entrée meal, you can get a coupon to Boomers! for a free ride on the go-karts or a free game of mini-golf, and you get some tokens to use in the arcade. Since Jess likes to get cream-cheese rangoons with her meal she ends up almost always getting a 3-entrée meal. So we got a coupon and kept it. Then we went back to Panda a week later or something and did it again.

On Friday we finally went to Boomers! to use our coupons. We stopped at In'n'Out for dinner on the way. The only reason this step gets mentioned is that I have to include the picture of the end of a potato I wound up with in my tray of fries:
09-04-09_1849Exciting I know.

Anyway, so we went to Boomers! and decided to play a round of miniature golf. It was fun. Here I am teeing off:
09-04-09_1915Jess is lining up her shot:
09-04-09_1916It was one of those nights that it started getting cold really fast, so I put my hood up. Jess promptly made fun of me, despite the fact that her ears were freezing:
09-04-09_1923At the end of the course was a fun pagoda structure!
09-04-09_1955Jess beat me on the front 9, 23 to 28. But she ended up with a handful of 6's on the back nine and I ended up winning 53 to 59.

After miniature golf we went inside to get warm. We perused the arcade games and I found my long-time arcade favorite "Police 911". It's a shooter game where it detects your body movement allowing you to crouch and hide behind things (which is how you reload). I enjoy it. So here I am crouching behind a barrier to reload:
09-04-09_2005It was fun. And it was nice that it cost us $0 (aside from the Panda Express which we would have eaten anyway).

Government Bureacracy, FAIL

August 26, 2009 4:21 pm

I had to fill out 50+ pages of personal information so that some unnamed government agency can investigate my life. Oh, if you're even reading this then there's probably a good possibility that you'll be getting a personal visit from an agent from said agency within the next 6 months or so. So if some agent comes knocking on your door asking questions about me, try not to be too annoyed.

Anyway, back to my crankiness of the moment. I was filling in the information about my spouse and I had to provide place of birth. Well, that seemed pretty straight-forward, so I filled it in like so:
Place of Birth FormAfter submitting everything I got an email with "things to fix". One is that I need to come up with contact information for the supervisors I had during my summer internships at Aetna like 5+ years ago. Yah, that was fun. After, like, forever, I managed to find a generic HR phone number. After forcing my way through to an operator (No! I'm neither a current employee nor retiree!), I was told I can send a fax to the Payroll Department (and I have a phone number!).

Sorry, got sidetracked there. The thing I need to fix which is pertinent to this post is:
InstructionsIn case you can't read it, that says "Was your Spouse born in Puerto Rico? If so, please delete PR from the State and enter Puerto Rico in the Country field."

So, despite the form having an option for "Puerto Rico" as a state, and saying not to put a country unless born outside the United States. I'm supposed to ignore that and instead list Puerto Rico as a country.

Well, I tried that. Now the System is yelling at me because if she wasn't born in the "United States" then I must provide a Document Type and Document ID Number that proves she is a US Citizen. NewsFlash! Puerto Rico is part of the United States, that's why it's in the friggin' drop-down box! GAH!

Ok, Fine. At least Jess' birth certificate has some kind of ID Number on it. Oh wait! It has 5. An "Area Number", a "Register Number", a "Certificate Number", in big huge bold font a "Birth Number", and some unidentified 6-digit number stamped on the back in red ink. Well, they're getting the "Certificate Number" so they better be happy with that, though I'll bet that in 3 months I get a call asking about why they can't find Jess' proof of citizenship.

We're not done with the idiocy yet though. In another section I'm supposed to: "List three people who know you well... whose combined association with you covers at least the last 7 years." Ok, I can do that. APPARENTLY NOT! I was told that in order to fix that I need to "List 2 verifiers that have known you at least 7 years to present, with up to date information." Completely conflicting information. Oh, and it can't be anyone related to me in anyway, and I can't have listed them anywhere else in this form already (my roommates, professors, landlords, etc). There is NOBODY that fulfills this requirement. Friends from high school won't count because we haven't been close friends in the past 6 years. No one from college will count since that tops out at 6 years, and I've already listed anyone of note as roommates. GAH!

If they're so good at their jobs of investigating backgrounds, why am I doing all the work!