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Tonight we saw an Oingo Boingo tribute band featuring two actual band members

Tonight Magic Mountain had a free concert: an Oingo Boingo tribute band which featured two actual original members of the band: Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez and Sam Phipps. The band was actually really good, even if the sound mix wasn't great.

It was nice to hear (and sing along with) some of my favorite songs again live. There was a modest-sized but very enthusiastic crowd. And it was fun to be with Dave Cobb, who's an old Boingo fan... he sang along too!

The lead singer of the band actually sings for a Boingo tribute band on a regular basis, and he's pretty darn good. (He even has the flaming red hair.)

When I was a teenager, I had a big crush on Oingo Boingo's sax player, Sam Phipps, who went by the name "Sluggo." For a long time.

Anyways, between him and the comic-strip character from "Nancy and Sluggo," I was inspired to create my first online screen name: Sluggo, Jr.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Video: @cpratt gets doused with shaving cream on Independence Day, Mexico City, Sept 2009

I'd forgotten about one last video left from Mexico that I hadn't published yet.

Revelers had brought cans of shaving cream to The Zocalo for the big Independence Day celebration, and Chris got the brunt of it...

No, actually, he got all of it. (Dan, Temo and I escaped unscathed!)

The square was absolutely packed, and at times we could barely move!

The video ends with a few shots of the huge display of fireworks and lasers we saw.

(YouTube, 1min 30sec, work-safe)

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Dear friends: I'm offering a $500 "reverse referral" reward if you can help me get work!

Dear friends and family:

As you know, I'm looking for work. I'm trying to be a little creative in my job hunt, so I am offering friends and family a "reverse referral" reward. If you can get me in the door at your company, and I accept a position there, I will personally pay you $500.

Here's what I'm looking for:

·         Full-time or contract work. (Not part-time.)

·         Something in the San Diego area (Business travel and telecommute are also OK.)

·         My specialty is advanced support and engineering of Microsoft Windows-based desktop for business. Suitable job descriptions will typically include the words "Desktop Engineer" or "Desktop Support III" (not I or II; I'm an experienced engineer, and I'm not looking for anything entry-level.) I am a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) but not yet a full MCSE. I have some experience managing staff and doing IT project management. Positions are a better match if they say "desktop" or "client." I'm not a strong match if the company is looking for heavy network or server engineering, and I also am not a developer.

How you can help me:

·         You can deliver my resume to your manager, a hiring manager, or your HR department.

·         You can direct me to a website where I can view open positions for your company.

·         You can give me a personal reference if I apply or get an interview.

I'll admit this is an experiment. It may fall flat on its face, but I thought I'd try.

Oh yeah. It has to be a company that YOU work for. (Not "I heard company X is hiring...")

Here's a link to my resume and LinkedIn profile for your reference:



E-mail me if you have any questions or want to help me with some leads!


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Final days in Mexico: Chapultepec, roller coasters and pyramids!

I'm finally catching-up on writing about my last few days in Mexico.

On Day 7, we went to Chapultepec Park. It's huge! (Slightly larger than San Diego's Balboa Park, according to Wikipedia.) Our mission was to enter "La Feria" amusement park to ride the famous "Montaña Rusa" wooden roller coaster, which was built in 1964.

La Feria is also home to a few other coasters, a walk-through haunted house, a freefall ride, bumper cars and other amusements. There was hardly anyone in the park, so we walked right onto everything.

First stop: we rode "Cascabel," a steel shuttle loop just like the old "Tidal Wave" coaster at Great America in Santa Clara, California. Way fun! We also took a ride on "Ratón Loco," which literally translates to "Crazy Mouse." It was definitely the "spinniest" spinny coaster I've been on, ever. WOAH, it was out of control!

Throughout the day, we kept looking at Montaña Rusa; we never saw it running. We figured it might just be opening late, so we kept moving. The freefall ride was rather tame, but afforded a nice view of the city. The haunted house was kick-ass. (Chris remembered it from when he visited Mexico as a kid, though they've most certainly updated some of the scenes and effects since then.)

By the time we'd seen the entire park, Montaña Rusa still wasn't running, and I began to worry. We'd seen mechanics near the tracks, and the loading platform was absolutely empty. We wandered into the queue to see what would happen; an employee stopped us and said "we don't run the ride unless we have at least 20 riders in the train." WOAH! It seemed as if there weren't even 20 people in the entire park! But this was an important ride for me, so we decided to wait and see if any more riders showed-up.


So we got creative.

I walked-out to the midway and approached absolutely anyone that walked-by, even if they didn't look like the roller-coaster-riding type. In god-awful Spanish I tried to explain that we needed at least 20 riders, and would they be willing to help us out? (Dan commented that the scenario felt very "Amazing Race-like...") Within a few minutes, we'd managed to scrounge-up 12 riders. (I can't take all the credit... some of them seemed interested in riding anyhow.) But we still needed more. I kept at it... and I even bought a ride ticket for an otherwise-not-so-sure bystander! Within about 10 minutes we managed to reach 20 riders... so we filled the train and got our ride! Woot!

By the way... over the summer I rode 13 roller coasters, giving me a total of 228 in my lifetime repertoire, yay!

So after a few other afternoon side-trips we began to head home. We shuffled into the subway so we could get back to the apartment. It was very hot and humid in the train. I think each of us found a stray empty seat, so we sat.

And sat...

And sat.

After perhaps 20 minutes, we decided to get out of the subway and take a taxi home. Once we were in a taxi, we learned why the subway hadn't moved: there had been a shooting in another station.

If you've been following my travel journal, you already know about the shooting. Here's a more recent news story about the incident:


There's also a wrenching video of the episode, caught on security camera:

(If we'd arrived just 20 minutes earlier, we would've been on a train that entered into the same station where the shooting took place.)

Apparently this guy acted alone, responding to a policewoman who caught him making graffiti.

We headed home to relax, change, shower, then get ready for a concert: we were to see jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz perform live with Murcof, a talented (and woofy) electronica artist from Tijuana. It was quite the pairing, and we really enjoyed the show:

For our last full day in Mexico, we ventured out to Teotihuacan, about 25 miles from Mexico City. What a treat! Tlaloc (the Aztec god of rain) must've been in a generous mood that day, because we had absolutely gorgeous weather for the trip. There we saw a number of archeological sites, including the mighty Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. They were gigantic... bigger than I expected! And yep, we climbed them:

So, that was my trip. The return flight home was super easy and comfortable; we hit no traffic between LAX and San Diego, and I have many memories and photos (and stories!) that will last a lifetime.

I'd like to send a special shout-out to my travel buddies for the Mexico leg of my "world tour:" Chris, Dan and Temo... I really enjoyed the adventures with them!

I'll probably add one more wrap-up post here, just to catch-up on some loose-ends and share some tips I learned from my summer travels... (sometimes you learn the hard way!)

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Mexico: "Inez is holding a clay pot that she seems very proud of..."


Visiting the Museum of Anthropology, I couldn't help but think of that scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. ("Yes, there are thousands of ways to prepare corn..."

There were some neat artifacts, displays and exhibits.

There was an interesting video exhibit as well. Apparently they'd asked young children to draw pictures of Mexico. Then the drawings were computer-animated and incorporated into a montage. Here's a clip:

During the week we also visited Museo de Dolores Olmedo, Casa Luis Barragan and Trotsky's home.

There have been very few foreign tourists throughout our visit.

I had two years of Spanish in high school, and that helped quite a bit.

Traffic inside the city can suck. People honk A LOT. There are traffic cops all over. Buses have dedicated lanes on the larger streets.

Particularly interesting was the "Metrobus," which is like a cross between a subway and a bus. It's above-ground, with dedicated lanes, and an elevated loading platform; you enter through turnstiles, similar to a subway. This facilitates quick passenger loading, making for an efficient and (comparably) inexpensive method of transport. Neat! Here's what it looks like:


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¡Dia de la Independencia!

As I mentioned before, we're in town for a REALLY big holiday: Mexico's Independence Day.

After Chris' birthday dinner on Tuesday night, we made our way to The Zocalo for the festivities. The night turned-out to be pretty spectacular.

There were LOTS of people making their way to The Zocalo, and they had metal detectors at every entrance. At 10:50 (just ten minutes before the "Grito,") we were in line to get through security. The line was moving, but not real fast. We decided to enter at another corner, when suddenly the lines started moving very quickly. Turns-out we'd JUST missed the President ringing the bell and the big "¡Viva México!" shout from the crowd. D'oh! Fortunately we were just in time for the impressive fireworks display. It was REALLY cool to be on the crowded square with all the natives, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the colorful sky. The vibe and the spirit were just incredible.

Later we learned that we also missed a Fantasmic-style light and effects show on the square. Lucky for us, they repeated the performance multiple times over the next three nights. Chris and I caught a show and MAN, was it cool. Besides pyrotechnics, a short film and a booming sound-system, there were special effects projected onto the National Gallery. This was no small feat; the National Gallery is huge, stretching almost the entire length of the square. At times, the building appeared to turn into pyramids, then appeared to become overgrown with jungle leaves and flowers. Later they projected skulls and bones, which (with suitable accompanying music) began to animate and come alive. The most impressive effect, for me, was when they made it appear as if the bricks of the building were actually moving, rearranging themselves into contortions and new configurations. WAY cool. 

Here's a YouTube video I found from the local TV station, showing highlights of the evening. (3 minutes, work-safe. If you're pressed for time, just watch from about 0:40 to 2:45.)

Here are some pics I took:

Way fun!

On Wednesday, most shops, museums (and a lot of restaurants) were closed, so we decided to have a day of rest. We caught-up on email, napped, picked Temo's brain about Mexico, and just hung-out.

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Day 4 in Mexico City: Chris' birthday

(Still catching up from a few days ago...)

Tuesday night we had a very special dinner to celebrate Chris' 40th birthday.

Chris made arrangements to eat at Pujol, a wonderful restaurant in the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City. The food and the service were top notch... not to mention the company: Temo, Dan and Chris.

The evening started-off with a unique appetizer, with the chef's compliments; I don't remember the exact name of it, but I'll call it a glass taco. Basically it was a clear, hollow tube (probably plastic), filled with the fillings you might find in a taco: meat, cheese, guacamole, etc.; you inhaled the whole thing through the tube. Neat idea! This was immediately followed by a shot glass, containing something they called a "liquid quesadilla:" a multi-layered drink (liqueur?) that tasted, well, just like its namesake.

For my starter, I chose a black bean soup, and it was absolutely amazing... perhaps the best I've ever tasted. The presentation was dramatic and fun... at first they placed the bowl in front of me, with only a few sprinkled bits of cheese. Then another waiter immediately proceeded to pour piping-hot soup into the bowl. Awesome.

We ordered a bottle of white and a bottle of red wine for the table. I ordered some dishes a la carte, while the boys chose to go with the chef's tasting menu. Several dishes later, they presented a little birthday cake for Chris:

(Photo by Marmot)

It was quite the memorable occasion, and I'm thankful to Chris & Dan for inviting me.

¡Felicidades a ti, Cristobal!

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Dear friends: indeed there was a shooting in the subway here in Mexico City. We are all safe.

As luck would have it, we were sitting in a subway train, at another station, when it happened. All trains were halted. We got out of the subway and took a taxi home. Here's the news story.


It's raining, and traffic is a mess, though I don't know how much worse it is compared to a normal Friday night commute.


Despite this incident, I still maintain that this town is safe... rather, it's no more or less safe than San Diego, New York, Berlin, or any other big town.


In other news, I rode the famous "Montaña Rusa" wooden roller coaster at Chapultapec Park today, whee!


We'll be home Sunday night. It'll be good to sleep in my own bed again, yay!

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