Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sick

Day after Christmas and I'm sick. This is lame.
I just want to be in bed.

It would be nice if Bobby were home with me, but no - he's working on the jobsite in Big Bear.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

As has become the norm, Bobby and I came over to his parents' house on Christmas Eve and hung out for the day, had dinner with his extended family, and then stayed up watching movies while his siblings wrapped presents until 4am.

In the morning we held back, patiently waiting until we could pick Emma up at 10. When she arrived, she told us about the larger of the presents she'd received in the morning with her mom: a laptop and an iPod. She'd brought the laptop, it was one of those green One Laptop per Child ones they are distributing in impoverished nations. It's pretty cool actually.

Then the festivities began, and everyone started opening gifts. Emma added on to her booty with a load of toys and clothes, a Ninetendo DS, and another mp3 player. Bobby's big present was an XBox 360 complete with 2 extra controllers and Halo 3. He was pretty excited about it, and he and Brian almost immediately unpacked it and worked to set it up to play. Unfortunately, my big gift was still in the mail on the way here.



We stayed over for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, Bobby's mom had to work the night of Christmas Eve and of Christmas Day, so we were trying not to distrub her when she could get some sleep. No one really wanted to cook anything, so we drove around at lunch time looking for anywhere that was open. All we could find was a very crowded Jack-in-the-Box. But we made it through the day, and enjoyed each other's company into the evening...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Baby Chase gets Baptized

Bobby wasn't going to be able to go, but I said I would.

His nephew Chase was being baptized today, so I woke up a little early, made myself presentable, and drove out to his parents' house to meet up with everyone. The baptism was scheduled for 11:30, so I gave myself plenty of time, and arrived there shortly before 11am.

When we finally made it out of the house it was 11:20, so we arrived at the church later than we should have, but then there was a hitch - the baptism ceremony was actually at 11am, not 11:30. Thankfully, Bobby's family has a strong relationship with the church and the preist, and he was willing to do a private ceremony for them right after the normal baptism ceremony.



Chase's sister Caelyn also participated. When the preist asked the child's name and the parents answered, Caelyn answered as well with a drawn out "Chaaaase."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Failure to Appear

Though I went to bed late on Friday, Bobby and I again had a lot on our plate yesterday and had to be up early. My company's Christmas Party was that night, he had to work at the jobsite in Valencia, and its an Emma weekend.

I woke up around 7:45 yesterday and was not feeling well. I really hadn't had much to drink at the party, so it seemed really strange - I had no headache and did not feel dehydrated, but I was definitely nauseous.

Bobby was able to solicit his brother's help at the jobsite, and I agreed to watch the kids so they could do so. I had to return the chairs from the party, so after Josh and I spent a little time picking up the cups and bottles around the backyard, I used Brian's Jeep in the morning to take those back and headed out to Norco.

I spent most of the morning hanging out with the kids and Brian's wife. His sister's and Emma built a gingerbread house (I'd never done that before), and I was able to pawn off some leftover cookies from last night. As it grew later, I was still not feeling well. I'd been sick four times already, and was still feeling queasy. Emma was also not feeling well.

Emma sometimes feigns not feeling well when she is sad or misses her dad. He'd been working all day, and as it got later we realized that he wasn't going to be able to come out there to see her before we went to this party. I couldn't tell for sure exactly how bad she felt yet. Her aunt Erica was going to watch her that evening - they had planned to take her to a party with a bunch of other kids - but Emma claimed she wasn't feeling well enough to go. I hadn't been able to entice her to eat anything since breakfast. Her feeling sick coupled with my still feeling off, made me decide to just skip the party so we could stay home for the night.

I called Bobby and told him my plan, then I called my boss to tell him I just wouldn't be able to make it. Since Bobby and Brian were now not going to come there first, we packed all the kids in the Jeep and I started back towards our house. With Caelyn and Chase in their carseats in the back, Emma sat up front with me. We stopped to pick up some Sprite to calm our tummies.

It appears that wasn't enough though. Halfway home, Emma, who had been slumped over towards the center, sat up an vomited onto the center section. The cupholders (and the cups in them), the drive shaft, the e-brake,... all of it covered. At that moment I was really glad I had decided to skip the party. Once she was done, she looked up at me and asked, "Do you think Brian will be mad?"
"No honey, we'll clean it up." I could tell she was already feeling better, but she felt bad about the car. I tried to tell her we could make it so you'd never know it happened. We wound up busting into "This one time..." stories about being sick, and who took care of us, and that it never really mattered in the long run.

I called Bobby and warned him so he could get out whatever was necessary to clean up. When we arrived Bobby dutifully cleaned up after his daughter while I got Emma to wash up and started her clothes in the wash. Brian was, as I expected, understanding.

We decided that the best thing to do for the evening was watch a movie together, so we set up the air mattress in the room we'd moved the plasma into for the party. I'd rented Bridge to Terabithia on Netflix, and though Emma had already seen it, she wanted to watch it anyway. She fell asleep for a bit on the couch while we were setting up, even though it was only 8:30pm or so. But she woke back up and said she still wanted to watch the movie. Poor girl was sick once more during the film, but when it was over she was sound asleep.

First thing this morning, Emma was hungry. I took that as a sign she was feeling much better...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Casino Holiday Party 2007

Well, we did it. The party was a success and is now over.


The patio heaters were a huge hit. We bought 2 at Costco on Monday night because we wanted to keep the party on the back patio if possible, but it's been a little chilly lately (OK, chilly for California). With their help we were able to keep the back patio warm enough. I was still running around at around 9pm getting ready and getting something for Bobby and I to eat, but few people show up that early anyway.

Bobby and his friends played a few songs for us, and then Steve took over and did an awesome job as our DJ. As for the Casino part: we sold a stack of chips for $5, and at the end of the night, the person with the most chips got to take the money home (we hosts were exempt). The craps table and blackjack were the big hits. I rolled at the craps table for what seemed like 30 minutes or so, and the house had to restock with chips 3 times during my run. Too bad I haven't had such luck in Vegas... yet anyway.

The party finally started winding down after 2am, and the last of our guests just went home. I'm exhausted, and tomorrow is going to be another long day...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Crazy Week

One thing Bobby and I seem to excel at is piling way more onto our plate than we can handle. This week we've been in at a dead run for what seems like non-stop. Aside from our normal working too much, we've purchased and assembled patio heaters for our party (don't be fooled - each one took about an hour to assemble), put up all our ourdoor Christmas lights (twice, because I blew the fuse the first time around by stringing too many strings together), and finished a majority of our Christmas shopping. Bobby has also taken the rest of his finals and practiced with his psuedoband. Last night after dropping Emma off we were up until around midnight still setting up.

Today I spent the morning searching for some chairs to rent last minute, and I left work early to finish shopping for supplies, food, and some drinks. And to get home and finish setting up. I'm amazed at how much still needs to be done. Thankfully some friends are showing up I can pass the torch to so I can get ready. And eat.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Skipping the Show

In June of last year, Bobby and I had a disappointing episode with a comedian we were both big fans of - Dane Cook. We had signed up for what was supposed to be a free show, but turned out to be a waste of good time, sitting in the heat for nothing. After the non-event I was very angry, and I have to admit the situation damaged my appreciation for his comedy as well. I didn't want to watch if someone had his stand up on, I stopped listening to his CDs. I was done.

A few days later I received another email from Dane (or the person that sends his emails) saying that he was very sorry that his team had handled the situation so badly - that he had known nothing as it was a surprise from him. He wanted to make up for the mishap and would email about a show in the area in the future that would be free to any that had been mislead as we had.

After a time, I had given up on the idea of reparations, and I haven't watched his stand up or listened to his CD since. Finally in October of this year - yes 16 months later, I received the email about the free show. I wasn't sure I even wanted to go, but Bobby said he would like to, so I sent our RSVP.

The show was for the Honda Center tonight. But Bobby has his final project due in the morning and some bids for work he needs to do, and I still have so much Christmas shopping, and cleaning up for the party, and just household chores that have been piling up because I've been working so much. We decided not to go.

But the tickets were supposedly good seats valued at $100 and it seemed a shame to let them go to waste. Bobby's friend Jon called, and I told Bobby to see if Jon wanted the tickets - he did. I'm still waiting to hear how the show was. But I'm not sorry I missed it...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Spa Day

"So you just... sit there?"
"Yup"

Bobby's sister-in-law is an esthetician at a day spa that I worked at a few years ago. She had some free passes that were expiring at the end of the year and invited us for a spa day. Bobby had never been to a spa before and I was trying to explain what one would do at a spa. He wasn't sure he was going to go, and I was trying to convince him. He was having a hard time grasping the idea of doing nothing.

I suggested he come, bring the laptop, and if he got bored, he and his brother could leave us girls at the spa and we'd meet them at their parents' house afterwords. That sounded reasonable to him, so we got ready to go.

We'd had a late start on the day, so we didn't make it out to the spa until around 2pm. Brian and Jess were further behind us, so we went down to the massage building to see if they had anything open. They did, so we each had a 20 minute massage while we waited for the others.

The massage was nice, and brought me back to when I was working there. The winter months can be slow, so I had many a free massages. I haven't been able to schedule them more often than twice a year or so lately, so this was welcome.

Bobby came out in a daze. He'd been working so much lately between the business and school that he barely had time to sleep enough, let alone relax. He and his massage therapist had clearly bonded - they went in strangers and came out buddies. I think even if he didn't enjoy the rest of the day he would have been happy.

Brian and Jess were there when we came out, and we hurried to change and get in one of the hot pools. It was rather cool out, and running around in a bathing suit wasn't ideal, but a hot spa is lovely on a cold day. We sat in the spa and chatted for a bit, and then headed to the Grotto.

In the Grotto they paint your body with this sea kelp clay, and then you sit in a warmed room while the clay is supposed to hydrate your skin. Even if you don't believe in the benefits of the treatment, it's kinda fun being coated in green mud. Kinda makes you feel like a kid playing in the mud.

In the next room there are showers to clean off the kelp. Each shower has three heads, so the water hits you from different angles. These showers are the ones that inspired my Gma to have multiple shower heads in her shower when she remodeled the house we now live in. The next room is a "relaxation room" where they have apples and hot tea. I never cared much for that particular room, but I love the tea.

Next up we went to the locker rooms and we sat in our respective steam rooms and/or hot tubs for a bit before making our way out front. It was a brief stay, but everyone had a good time - even if we didn't really "do" anything at all.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Party Supplies

We're having a holiday party this Friday, and Bobby and his friend wanted to do a casino-holiday party.

First they looked into having a company come out with the tables and the dealers and everything, but the first quote they got was $1,300, and I was not down for that. We were looking into other options, and Bobby was looking around on CraigsList for supplies. Bobby found a craps table for $300 and was thinking about buying it. That didn't sound like a good idea to me (where would I store it?), but Bobby was insistant that we have craps at our casino party.

Today I decided to see what I could find on CraigsList myself. I searched for "craps table" and the first listing was for not just a craps table, but a craps table, two blackjack tables, a roulette wheel, a bingo ball holder, 8 decks of cards, and 2000 chips. All for $190. The first line of the post read "Must sell by Dec. 7th."

I became very excited. I sent the poster an email, and she called me back right away - yes it was still available. I knew Bobby would have to bring the truck out to pick it up, so I asked if we could come by this evening to look at it.

Then I set out trying to get ahold of Bobby. He didn't answer. He has a smartphone, so instead of leaving a voicemail I sent him an email, knowing he'd check that first. He was in the middle of final presentations for class, so I didn't hear back from him for about 2 hours. He was as excited as I was about my find, but it would be a few hours before he could get out there.

When he got there and checked out the stuff, Bobby called to give me the story. The craps table was good, but the blackjack tables were just peices of plywood with the felt on top. All were to be set on top of an existing table rather than being tables themselves. The roulette wheel was plastic, as were the chips. I said I would rather buy this set than the $300 craps table, if only because this craps table would be easily stored, and the blackjack stuff we could just toss later.

Not the most amazing find, but sufficient for our needs.

Finally

In case you didn't know, I work for a buyside advisor to private equity funds. We basically search for private companies for funds to buy. The tell us what they like, we go find it and find out if these companies are interested in talking. If the fund buys the company, we get a fee, and I get a peice of that fee.

Last year we signed up a deal under Letter Of Intent. That meant that the fund intended to buy the company, and at that point the lawyers and accountants work to verify all the financial information. The deal was set to close in November.

But there was a complication it was pushed off. Again and again and again. Today it closed. over a year later than the original close date. Now I get to decide what to do with the bonus.

Busy Week

This week has been one of the busiest weeks I've ever had at work. We've been making the switch from an old Novell server to a new MS Small Business Server. Not only did we move over all the files, but we set up Exchange Server and 16 new desktops - and we are changing from Office 2000 to Office 2007. That's a lot of change to happen at once.

There have been some kinks along the way, and our email was down Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And for some reason our phones were down on Monday. When stuff stops working, I'm the first person in the office that everyone calls. I was working late and pretty stressed out most of the week. Yesterday was the first day that went relatively smoothly, so now I'm catching up on my normal work.

Hopefully I can relax this weekend...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmas Decorating

Bobby, Emma, and I bought our first Christmas tree together last night. And lights, and ornaments, and garland, and everything. We went down to Home Depot together and debated the Douglas Fir / Noble Fir choices - Bobby prefers the smell of the Douglas Fir, but I thought the Nobles would last longer. I figured 6-7 feet, Bobby wanted 8-9 feet. I finally convinced him that an 8-9 foot tree wouldn't really fit where we decided our tree would go, and Emma liked the color of the Nobles better, so we bought a 6-7 foot Noble.

We went inside to see what kind of decorations Home Depot had, but aside from the bubbler lights, I wasn't really impressed. We decided to go to Target instead. Inside Target we debated all the kinds of lights and ornaments. Should we get stockings? Santa would be coming to Bobby's parents', not our house, so did it matter? Emma picked one out for herself, but we didn't bother this time around. We loaded up the cart with lights for the tree, and lights for the front of the house, and lights for the back patio. Target didn't have bubbler lights though, and I wanted some, so we stopped at Home Depot one more time to pick those up.

Bubbler lights always make me think of my dad. He loves those things. We've always had them on the tree, even when some of them went out and we couldn't find replacement bulbs. They were his special lights. I had to have some to remind me of home.

I had to call my dad to ask if we needed to trim the bottom of the trunk before putting the tree in the (new) stand. This was my first time. Kinda silly that at 28 I still have to call my parents and ask how to do simple stuff.

Emma and I put on the lights, but as with most kids, she lost interest after a few ornaments, so I finished up. Then this morning, Bobby and I put up a few strings over some of the doorways in the house. Unfortunately we didn't have time to put up the outside lights, so that will have to wait until after his finals.

Bobby left a little while ago to take Emma home; now I'm off to work...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Babysitting

My dad called me the other night to ask if I could watch my nephew this morning. My sister had a funeral to go to, and my dad had some work to do on the brewery. My nephew is very high energy, so watching him can be somewhat draining. He's also deaf, and though he can hear some with the help of his cochlear implant, our communication is definitely affected, which also makes watching him a bit draining. But we were spending the morning at Bobby's parents' house where there are kids' toys, and Malachy adores Bobby's sister. I knew that with the help that we could handle him for the morning.

Bobby and I picked Emma up this morning and went to his parents' house. Malachy had just been dropped off, and he spent the morning following Emma around. He discovered the cabinet with all the DVDs and promptly pulled out the Incredibles and wanted to put it on. He sat down in the middle of the living room floor, looked at Emma, and patted the floor next to him. She sat down, and he flipped around to laying on the floor, chin in hands, glanced over at Emma and gave a big smile. He was clearly a bit smitten.

The morning was good, and a little before it was time to leave, Brian brought Caelyn and Chase over. Caelyn just stared at him in wonderment. Malachy sat in the little doll stroller, and Caelyn pushed him around; they stared out the sliding glass door at Emma, and then Caelyn walked up to where Malachy was sitting in the stroller, grabbed his head, and planted a kiss on him. Not a little kiss either - she just held there until I started worrying that she was going to bite him (she does that sometimes). The whole situation was like one of those images you see on those black & white cards with the kids in grown up clothes.

They chased each other around the couch for a bit, and as Malachy and Caelyn both tend to do, they got a little wild. It was approaching the time we had to leave and I was starting to worry that I would have trouble pulling Malachy away. But I grabbed on to him, made him look at me, and signed "You & me, go see grandpa."

His eyes got big, he smiled with excitement, and signed back, "Grandpa?" I nodded.

He was off the couch and zipping up his sweater and getting his backpack before I had time to gather my things. He was not about to be the one holding us back from seeing grandpa. When we all piled into the car and he realized Emma was coming too, he gave another big smile. Quite the ladies' man today.

When we got to the house, Emma wanted to play Lego Star Wars, and Malachy grabbed one of the controllers. They are wireless and we left his turned off, but he sat there playing with the buttons and playing right alongside her. When my dad met us at our house, he tapped Malachy on the shoulder, and Malachy dropped his controller and ran into my dad's arms. He didn't care if he stayed with us or if they left, as long as he got to stay with grandpa...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love Christmas too (I don't celebrate it for religious reasons - just the traditional family ones - and I really believe it has become over-commercialized), but only because of what it has in common with Thanksgiving - food and family. Thanksgiving dinner is one of the few times when we spend all day preparing a meal - a meal with loads of variety and tastiness. And when everyone makes a point to get together with their family. So to me, Thanksgiving is the best part of Christmas.

We had Emma on Thanksgiving Day this year, so we picked her up at 10am at her great-grandparents' house - she'd been there since we dropped her off on Sunday - and headed out to Bobby's parents' house. I brought some Pumpkin Muffins and Cream Cheese to go with them, and my crock pot to try a recipe for Peach Cobler.

The guys were all on the couch watching football, which still seems strange to me. The guys in my family don't watch football. Not my dad or my brothers or my grandpas or my uncles. None of them. Holidays never revolved around a sport. In fact, nothing did. If everyone was over, you didn't just watch the TV, you socialized. If the TV was on at all, it was background, and often turned down very low.

Emma was somewhat mopey. I think it was partly because she doesn't like any of the food involved in a Thanksgiving Day feast - she doesn't even like mashed potatoes. She was talking about how she missed her mom. She hadn't seen her all week, and she didn't want to go back to her great grandparents' house when it was time to go, she wanted to go to her house. I offered to let her call her mom and wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, and when she did she also asked if she could either stay overnight with us or come home to her mom. Her mom said no to both.

She remained mopey for a bit, but then her auntie Katie taught her how to play a card game called Garbage and she perked up. When it was time to go she seemed better but still a little low. I wish there were something I could do, but there often isn't.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Setting Up

I didn't get to go to sleep when I got home today.

Bobby hired an employee... a real employee. This meant we had to set up Payroll. I'd purposely set up my appointment with the Intuit person for Wednesday afternoon - I figured that would be the easiest day in the world to take a half day. I had no idea that I'd be running on 2.5 hours of sleep.

The Payroll Setup was fairly simple except one thing - I had none of the information I needed. No W-4s for my employees (we converting buddies that have been doing work for us as subcontractors to employees), no SS info, I didn't even have addresses. In fact, Bobby hadn't even told me what he was paying them. I was starting to get really frustrated.

The girl walking me through it was trying to get me to hurry up - I only had an hour appointment, and we were wasting all this time looking stuff up. Finally I said that there was no way I was getting payroll done that day, and set up another appointment for Monday.

Long Night

So remember how I wanted to go home? I didn't, for awhile.

My work finally made the jump and purchased a new server and 16 new desktops. I've been working on getting competing bids and setting this up for over 6 months, and it's finally happened. Last night we started switching the office over.

I worked until 4am. At around 3am, all I could think was that I was going to have to field questions from co-workers starting around 7am (all their computers had gone from not using a password to having a password I'd created for them, and that was just the beginning). I was half tempted to just pass out on the couch in the president's office, but I'd already not showered that morning, and my contacts were really bothering me. I left a note indicating the time, that I was going home to sleep, and would do so until one of them called me with a question. I was not concerned with coming in on time.

When I got home, Bobby was still up. He'd been up since 4am the previous morning, spent the day installing, and was now working on plans. Aside from passing out in his chair for 30 minutes, he didn't sleep at all last night. He wanted to get some plans in to the City of Big Bear Lake as soon as they opened, so he left at 5:30am to drive up there.

I got a phone call at 2 minutes to 7am. I was dreaming about copying files over from one computer to another. I gave my co-worker some info to pass around, and said I was going to sleep a little longer before I got up. Unfortunately, once I'm up - I'm up. I finally gave up and started getting ready for work.

I walked around, had a little chat with everyone whose system I'd changed to see if they were having any issues or had any questions. Now I'm heading home.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fall Recess?

When we dropped Emma off Sunday, we did so at her great-grandparents' house in Garden Grove. Emma spends a good amount of time with her great-grandparents - during school vacations she sees them more than she sees her dad. She'll stay with them for half of her Winter Break / Christmas Vacation, and for at least a few weeks over the summer.

When we dropped her off she mentioned something about staying with them all this week.
"You don't have school?" She and Bobby both looked at me like I was missing a screw or something.
"No. It's Fall Break."

OK, when I went to school (college too, so not all that long ago), we had Thursday and Friday off for Thanksgiving - not an entire week! Turns out Bobby doesn't have class all this week either. I can see the point - even at work this is a low productivity week. Everyone has pretty much checked out for the holiday, so why bother.

I'm jealous. I want a Fall Break. Just a week at the end of November just because. In fact, next month we have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, work the next three days, and then have New Years Eve and New Years Day off. Why not just throw in the extra three days? My experience the last few years are that those turn into half days where nothing really gets done anyway. Just call it a wash. I could understand if we were a consumer services firm or in another industry where a meaningful amount gets done, but we're not.

Holiday Food

I don't want to be working right now.
It's chilly in here, and I'm feeling unmotivated.

I really want to be home in my warm cozy house. And I want it to be raining outside. I want to bake some Pumpkin Muffins and Banana Bread. I just got a recipe for Peach Cobbler you make in a crock pot, and I have a recipe for some Cranberry Orange Stuffing I want to try out. I want to be home cooking today. But I need people to help me eat it so I'll have to wait for the end of the week.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love Christmas too, but to me Thanksgiving is like Christmas without the headache of required shopping. When I think of Thanksgiving I think about being with family and eating wonderful foods that we don't take the time to make the rest of the year. Turkeys that cook for a day, stuffing, mashed potatoes, soup. All those body warming foods. Sitting around eating and chatting, fires in the fireplace, movies playing on the TV.

My Gma always made Pecan Rolls for the holidays. They seem pretty simple - just a soft sweet bread with cinnamony, brown-sugary pecans baked onto the top. They were always the best right out of the oven when they are warm and soft and sticky. Earlier this year, a few months before she died, she made copies of her recipe for everyone and gave me the original. I decided I would try to make them for when my family gets together this Friday. I read through the recipe the other day and it looks a little incomplete. Now I wish I'd taken the time to have her show me before it was too late. I'll give it a shot though.

She used to make fantastic Apple Crisp too. I'm going to see if anyone has her recipe. It was so good over vanilla ice cream... Mmmm.

The holidays and this cool weather make me want a warm, spicy beverege to warm me up. It's too bad coffee gives me such a headache. That leaves me tea, hot cocoa, and cider. But that's ok - I'll try one of these:

Hot Angel: Steamed milk (foam or not) with Frangelica (a hazelnut liquor).
Hot Apple Pie: Sparkling Cider, 1 1/4 oz heated Tuaca, topped with whip cream.
Gl├╝hwein - German Mulled Wine: Pour 4 quarts dry red wine into a large pot and begin heating over low heat. As it begins to warm, add 1 cup sugar and 6 cinnamon sticks, 12 whole cloves, 1/8 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp mace. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 pint brandy. Heat thoroughly, but do not allow to boil! Add 2 sliced oranges and 1 sliced lemon. Steep for about 1 hour over low heat. You may add more sugar during this time if desired, stirring well so it disolves. Serve hot and garnish with orange slices. A stick cinnamon could also be used.

Other Hot Alcoholic Bevereges if you are interested:

Hot Toddy: 1 1/4 oz Bourbon, 1 oz. honey, fill with hot water and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Hot Buttered Rum: Add 1 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. butter and cloves to a coffee mug. Pour 1 oz. dark rum and stir well. Fill with boiling water. Stir again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reading

I was listening to NPR on the way home and they were discussing some studies about reading. I guess I knew that fewer and fewer people read, but I don't think I ever thought about just how few.

Some notes from the NPR story Reading Study Shows Remarkable Decline in U.S. that I found interesting:
  • A poll released last month by The Associated Press and Ipsos, a market-research firm, found that the typical American read only four books last year, and one in four adults read no books at all.
  • A National Endowment for the Arts report found that only 57 percent of Americans had read a book in 2002 a four percentage-point drop in a decade.
  • Among avid readers surveyed by the AP, the typical woman read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography.
  • Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain.
I can't imagine reading that little. We don't have TV (we have televisions, but no cable or satellite - only bunny ears). If we are going to sit and watch something - we watch a movie. I get my news online or on the radio, and I don't miss sitcoms or other TV shows at all. I would rather read a short story by Edgar Allen Poe than watch a TV show any day. Even in years that I don't read a lot of books, I'm always reading magazines or newspapers. Sometimes just Wikipedia.

I love to read. When I was young my mom signed me up for a children's book club. Each month or so they would send me an age-appropriate book and I would read it immediately, often finishing in just a day or two. They weren't very big or intimidating books, but I consumed them.

I was soon in need of more books, and I remember that my school had a reading program. Each time you read a book you would go tell your teacher what the book was about and she would put a star up for you on the reading board. I was always one of the children with the most stars. Over the summer, I often read more books than most of my classmates.

My family would go camping when I was younger and sit around the campfire reading Michael Crichton and Isaac Asimov stories aloud to one another. I find that I still love to read aloud and hear others read aloud - probably the reason I love radio programs like This American Life. Right now I'm reading Alan Greenspan's book aloud when Bobby and I are in the car.

I read less books as I get older, but I wouldn't say I read less. Magazines, newspapers, Internet articles... the list goes on and on. Fortune Magazine has become my lunchtime reading material.

I love fiction and am often drawn to series, especially sci-fi and fantasy. I'm quite picky about the books I like, but when I find authors I like I often read a number of their books. I find that I like stories with a lot of dialog and action, but I don't like books with a lot of description of scenery (I'm not a fan of Hemingway or Steinbeck, and though I loved the movies, I could not read through the Lord of the Rings series).

When I was little it was the Babysitters Club and the Beverly Cleary novels, then when I was a little older I got into some Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn (which I was surprised to find on Bobby's bookshelf when we started dating), and during high school and college it was Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witch series. I also loved The Three Musketeers and The Counte of Monte Cristo, The Mists of Avalon, The Awakening, Brave New World, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Chocolat, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Jennifer Roberson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Grisham and Walter Mosely novels. I read the Harry Potter books as I see the movies and I recently discovered Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series and read the first three books in about a week and a half. And that's just the fiction.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Budding Make-Up Aritst

As usual on our "Emma weekends," Bobby and I picked Emma up and went over to his parents' house for the day. We usually don't do anything in particular, just sit around chatting and playing with the kids.

In the afternoon Brian needed to take a nap because he was going to be working late, so his mom and I were watching the kids. Erica and Katie had already left for a party. At one point it became suspicously quiet, and I realized the two year-old was nowhere in sight.

"Where's Caelyn?"

We started calling her name and looking in the usual places she knows she's not supposed to be - the office, the bathroom, etc. I walked into the hallway and Caelyn came tearing around the bed with a huge smile on her face. I burst out laughing.

Caelyn had gotten into her auntie's makeup bag, and had carefully applied some eyeshadow to her right eye with her fingers.

We all started laughing and said that's what her auntie gets for leaving her makeup within reach of a two year-old.

A little later, we had Chase blocked off in the living room so he could roam around and not get into much trouble. I went out to the car to get something, and I thought about telling Bobby to keep an eye on Chase while I went out (he was very intent on whatever he was doing on the laptop), but Chase was totally pre-occupied with the cardboard box he was chewing on. (Emma had taken a box and turned it into a little house - drawn and cut out windows, etc.) I figured he couldn't get in much trouble in the minute it would take me.

When I came back in and checked on him, I realized in chewing on the box, Chase had moistened the marker Emma had drawn on it with (hours earlier). Now his fingers and mouth were covered in black marker. We did our best to clean it off, but it still looked like he had a bruise on his chin, and his fingernails looked like he'd been in some paint.

I don't know how Jessica takes care of the two of them all by herself. When she called to say she was on her way back from mass, I told her about what the kids had been into. She just asked if Caelyn at least put the makeup on in the right place, and I had to admit that she had. "Well, at least she knows what she's doing. I'm so proud."

Good Night

It has been a long week. Bobby has been working long hours every day - out the door before I get up and often home late with still more work to do on plans at home. I'm not sure what he's running on. As for me, we are finally installing our new server at work, which takes a few days to do. It seems like we've barely seen each other all week.

Last night we both got home at a decent hour and went out for dinner. Dinner was lovely - we split a Fajita Supremas and a Mexican Caesar Salad w/ Grilled Steak and some marguaritas at El Torito. (We both like a lot of variety in our meals so we often split our entrees, or an appetizer and one entree.) But when we came home, we were both full and tired.

We both just crawled into bed, fully clothed. I got up after a little while to put on some music, but then we just laid there resting. It was only 9:30pm, but we probably would have just gone to bed but Bobby's cousin Harmonie was possibly going to stop by - she'd gone to a play that was supposed to be out around 10 or 10:30pm, so if she stopped by it would be around then.

We just laid there - not sleeping, but not talking or anything. It was kind of meditative. We were both so tired... the week had really caught up with us, and now our bellies were full. At around 10:30pm she still hadn't called so we just stopped trying to awake, and the next thing I knew it was 7:45am.

Friday, November 16, 2007

One More Thought

I promise this is my last post regarding oil/environment. I just found it intriguing, and related to my post last night. I came across this post via an eNewsletter I receive each weekday. I've reposted it here because these posts are usually only available without subscription for 24 hours or so.

From the Private Equity HUB:
After writing yesterday about Al Gore joining Kleiner Perkins, I got a variety of emails from readers who either (A) Don’t believe in global warming or (B) Believe the planet is warming, but that man is not to blame. As reader Gabe wrote: “There is no scientific consensus that global warming is caused by man-made emissions… It’s just a liberal media hoax.”

Ok Gabe, let’s assume you’re right about the lack of consensus (which is accurate given the most literal definition). What that means is that some scientists believe global marking is man-made, and some do not. The question, therefore, is whether we should change our behavior based on the first possibility, or remain status quo based on the second possibility? To me, it’s an obvious choice, given the possible consequences of each decision (again, assuming that each is considered equally likely): Change our behavior.

Scenario #1: Global warming is not man-made, but we behave as if it is.Some skeptics assume that changing our behavior means economic ruin, but there is no evidence to support such a theory. I’m pretty sure past generations heard the same thing about cutting down on factory pollution, and it seems the economy survived. If you think Kyoto is a nightmare-in-waiting, fine. Smart people can come up with something else.

Moreover, the replacement here is a new industry (cleantech) that will provide plenty of jobs and cheaper sources of energy (in the long run). Pretty sure low energy prices are an economic driver. Oh, and there’s that whole energy independence issue that could make us think twice about the next costly overseas military adventure. Again: Some short-term pain and long-term gain.

Scenario #2: Global warming is man-made, but we behave as if it isn’t.The results here could include depleted food supplies, increased weather instability, tidal flooding and other such nasties. Lots of possibilities, and few of them very pleasant (besides sunning myself by the Charles River in December).

So of the skeptics I ask the following: Weigh the possibility of me being wrong, and you being wrong. And remove your arrogance of opinion. Then tell me which course we should take.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A World Without Oil

On my way home tonight I was listening to a rather interesting bit on The Story on public radio. You can listen to it here. The theme was the rising price of oil, and how it would impact our daily living were the price of fuel to raise another 50% or so. This actually isn't that unreasonable. Below is a chart of the price of oil/barrel for the last 50 years ending in August of this year. I just checked, and oil is now riht around $100/barrel - a significant increase in just the last few months.


Two different groups recently played a version of a war game that would tackle just that question. If gas were $5 or $7 per gallon. An excellent point brought up in the story is the fact that China and India - the two most populous nations in the world - are continually increasing their demand as they become more and more industrialized. That is in addition to the continued increase in US demand. If demand for oil continued to rise the way it has been, but production were not able to rise at a similar rate, how would that affect our daily life?


I don't know about all of you, but Bobby and I already spend around $450/month on gasoline, I don't want to think about if that doubled. And that's just our gas. What about how that would affect the price of food and all our daily needs - all these staples of life that are trucked in from all over.


Here's the synopsis of one of the segments of The Story (from the American Public Media Website):
In the spring, Ken Ecklund ran a similar simulation - this one designed to see how regular people might react.

For just over a month, Ken, a group of colleagues and 1,800 players simulated 32 weeks in an oil shock.

As prices escalated from $4 to $5 to $7 a gallon, people reported on what was happening in different communities. High diesel prices slowed the trucking industry, resulting in a shortage of food and medicines. So many people took to riding bikes there was a rise in bike theft.


Eventually, the furthest suburbs became lifeless and lawless - and then, as demand for oil went down, gas prices dropped, and people returned to their cars.

Ken talks with Dick about what he and other players learned from the game, and how experiencing a virtual "world without oil" has changed the way Ken and the other players live.

See how the game played out.


Not only was the game itself interesting, but in the end the participants in the game actually changed their energy use in real life. I would be interested to know if those people continued to use less energy after a period of time. I started wondering if we shouldn't have people participate in similar games on an ongoing basis to see if we could entice people to live in a more energy efficient manner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We Are Siamese If You Please...

Bobby brought a friend home with him this evening. Josh was going to stay the night and work with him the next day. Josh saw our cat Lucas snuggled into the blankets on my bed and started singing the "We are Siamese" song from Lady and the Tramp.

But it didn't stop there. He kept humming the tune, and Bobby started singing the rest of the song. They started talking about how they both loved that movie, and Josh went into "He's a Tramp" from the jail scene. It was rather amusing to hear these men laugh and reminisce about the Disney films they love.



Bobby grew up with sisters, and in a house where everyone loved Disney films. And he has an 8-year-old daughter. He doesn't just know the chorus like most of us - he actually knows all the words. My favorite is when he does the the chef in The Little Mermaid cooking up the little crab. He does the accent and everything.



It actually makes me think about people that read stories to children. It's so much more fun when the reader is having fun with the story - using different voices and reading with enthusiasm. It makes the story more engaging, the funny parts are always more comedic, and the sad scenes more melancholy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jessica & Nathan Visit for Dinner

Jessica and Nathan were in town for Grandma Korky's 75th birthday party, so we had them over for dinner tonight.

The boys had been working all day - Bobby had recruited Dad and his buddy Murray to help install some underground pipe up in Big Bear. They'd finished up early so they then headed out to the job site in Woodland Hills to finish up some work there. It had been a productive day for them, but when they made it back it was clear they'd all worked very hard.

Mom and I came home with groceries right about the time the boys finished unloading the truck. My uncle Kevin and his family were already at the house to meet Jessica's baby Alora while they were in town.

We came in the house and the production began. At least that's what it felt like. It was already nearing 8 o'clock, and Mom and I were starting to get hungry. My kitchen is on the tiny side - it's actually more of a hallway with a stove and some cupboards. It's a little cramped with just two cooks, so with Mom, Nathan, and me, I was sure we'd be stepping on each other's toes. But we didn't! We were a bit like a well oiled machine - gracefully staying out of one another's way, using the minimum of space needed.

I started making my Red Pepper Cream Pasta (this time with Shitake Mushrooms - yum!), Mom started seasoning the New York Steaks with a combination of Olive Oil, White Truffle Oil (just a tad), Worcestershire Sauce, and Montreal Steak Seasoning. Nathan started on an appetizer of Seared Ahi Tuna with Cucumber, Avocado, and a special sauce he cooked up - though Ponzu Sauce would be good too. When the pasta sauce was simmering, I prepped the Asparagus, generously drizzling it with Olive Oil and Kosher Salt. Then I put Dad to work manning the grill.

Kevin wasn't originally going to stay for dinner, but he was intrigued by how good everything smelled. We finally convinced him to stay and have some with us. He had mentioned that he'd never cared for asparagus and hadn't eaten it since his childhood. We convinced him that when cooked right it can be very good - I don't like boiled asparagus either. He tried some, and while he couldn't decide if he liked it, he didn't dislike it. His son Stephan had some of the steak and loved it - said he couldn't stop eating it. And this from a boy that doesn't like steak. We cooks were pretty pleased with ourselves.

When dinner was over, I could see Bobby's, Dad's, and Murray's eyes start drooping. Between the business and school, Bobby had been working very long days for weeks now. In the last week he was coming home after I was in bed or just in time for bed, and waking up before me. He eventually said goodnight to everyone - that he would love to stay up and chat but he needed to take a shower and get to bed. A few minutes later I walked into the bedroom to get something, and found him still fully clothed and passed out on top of the bed. If he hadn't been dirty from working all day, I probably would have just tucked him in. Instead I started the shower for him and woke him back up.

I wish that I had some pictures from the evening - of the people, of the food - but I was just too hungry to bother, and by the time I'd thought of it, the food was gone and the people were starting to leave. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Korky!

Yesterday we celebrated my grandmother's 75th birthday. We invited family from all over - my grandmother's siblings, all their kids, all their kids' kids, and all their kids' kids' kids. People came from all over the country, and while we still had a number of people that just couldn't make it, we still had 120 people RSVP. I'm certain even more than that showed up.

My parents have a fairly spacious house in Norco and every room was filled - living room, family room, den, dining room, the front courtyard, and the side yard. We even had people spilling into the back yard as well.

We haven't had a large family party for a long time. It had been so long, and the family is so large that we had used nametags. You not only wrote down your name, but also your relationship to the birthday girl - just to refresh everyone's memory.

It was a good thing too, because I tell you I haven't seen some of those people in a decade or so. Some of the great-grandchildren or great-grandneices I haven't seen since they were babies or still in the womb. Now they are 5, 10, or even 15 years old.

It was a good party, and well planned. Aside from the horrendous traffic on the way there, everything went really smoothly. A bunch of grandma's friends from her assisted living home came out in a limo, the food showed up shortly afterwords, there were toasts and some people told stories of funny or precious memories they had with grandma. Everyone wandered around catching up with family they hadn't seen in years. We even had people there that were actually of no relation, but my family tends to acquire others along the way.

At one point we tried to put us all in one room and take a group picture. Obviously someone has to take the picture, and with that many cameras, it would be impossible to get us to hold still that long. So we settled for hearding everyone into the back room and just snapping away while everyone talked and switched spots.

My dad's family knows how to have a good time, and though I went home around 11pm, the party went on without me until 4am. In fact, it went so well that I heard rumblings of having family parties more often...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Across the Universe

Bobby and I finally went to see Across the Universe tonight. His whole family had seen it (some of them a couple times) and we'd been told that we had to see it. But each time we thought about seeing it, something went wrong - it wasn't showing at any time that worked for us, or we had another obligation.

For those that don't know which movie I'm talking about, here is the synopsis from RottenTomatoes.com:
The Beatles' songs may have provided the soundtrack for the lives of those coming of age in the 1960s, but their extensive catalogue acts as the literal soundtrack in this romantic musical from visionary director Julie Taymor. Newcomer Jim Sturgess stars as Jude, a young man working on the docks in Liverpool. Eager to escape, he travels to Princeton where he meets Max (Joe Anderson). But it’s his meeting with Max’s younger sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) that changes him. They quickly fall in love, but their relationship is tested by the chaos of the late 1960s and Max’s unwilling tour in Vietnam. Throughout the film, characters burst into classics from the Beatles: frat boys sing "With a Little Help from My Friends," while Uncle Sam bursts from a recruitment poster with strains of "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)." U2’s Bono makes a cameo as a counterculture leader and croons "I Am the Walrus," and actor-comedian Eddie Izzard provides a trippy rendition of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite."

First off, the movie was not what I was expecting. I was thinking of something along the lines of Moulin Rouge - a story that was very cohesive, but enhanced by modern songs woven into the story line. A modern day musical.

I did not feel like Across the Universe did this - I felt like instead of watching a movie I was watching a string of music videos. The songs seemed to be reinterpreted to fit into a storyline, but in many cases I felt the integration was choppy. This is understandably more difficult, since the catalog of songs to choose from is significantly smaller when you limit yourself to a single artist or band.

Were this a music video, I would say they had done a good job, but for a movie I felt it lacking. There were a number of scenes, or particular song performaces that I enjoyed, and some of the imagery was very good, but again, it was a long string of music videos, not a movie.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bizarre...

When I came home from visiting Gpa, I decided to test out my camera. I expected to be disappointed. I put in the battery... and I saw an LED flash. At first I wasn't sure. I pressed the power button but nothing happened. I pressed the power button again, this time holding it down a little longer, and... it powered up!

I was so excited. I can hardly describe my joy. I know many people would have been excited to purchase a new, improved camera - I'd started to do some research into what camera to buy for a replacement - but I'd really just wanted my old camera back. Now I had it.

The screen said memory full - I didn't have the memory card in it. My camera can hold a few images on it's own. I usually clear the pictures off fairly regularly, and sometimes I'll take like eight pictures, and then it will tell me the memory is full. That's usually when I remember I need to put the memory card back.

I didn't expect there to be any pictures left on the camera, only on the memory card - especially since I'd had to reset the date - why would it hold pictures in the memory and not the date. I scrolled through the pictures, and this is what I found:



Even though I know I didn't take these pictures, I know exactly whose hands they are. That is my younger sister holding my dying Gma's hand. I can tell because I know the coloration of my Gma's skin as she was dying - it had an unusually yellow/orange tint. Jessica was sleeping when Gma died, and we left her body alone afterwords, so I know it was before. I'd never seen these pics on my camera before, though I can imagine my sister and her husband snapping a few pics with my camera.

It seems incredibly bizarre to me that these pictures would just appear on my camera, five months after the fact. That my camera's near death experience would bring back these pics. I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

Gpa

After work today I did some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and Target, headed home, grabbed some food, and went to visit my Gpa. He's living in the nursing home around the corner from me. and we'd been working out a plan to attach some bookends to his bedside table.

My Gpa has been in the nursing home for about 5 years now - I remember it happened right around my birthday in 2002 - as the Angels were in the World Series. The year before I'd transferred to Cal State Long Beach and moved in with my grandparents. They lived closer to the school, they had the space, and it made it so I didn't have to pay rent. Gpa had been losing his eyesight for years and had recently begun loosing the use of his right side. We didn't know what was causing it until he had to go to the hospital.

I'd been taking a bath in the front bathroom and heard a commotion in the living room. When I came out, wrapped in just my towel, the living room was filled with firefighters and paramedics. Gpa had been complaining that he felt a great pressure on his chest and felt like he couldn't breathe - then he'd passed out. Gma called 911.

They took some x-rays and discovered that his C1 and C2 vertebrae (those are the two closest to his skull) had been slowly breaking and pinching off his spinal cord. He wound up having a very special surgery to stabilize his spine, and has since been confined to his bed.

In the time since, he has amazingly been regaining his strength when we were sure he would not. For a long time he could not sit up without becoming dizzy and lightheaded and eventually fainting. Now he can sit up for periods of time, and has become quite accustomed to his surroundings.

His family comes by or calls him on his cell phone fairly regularly. (He has a Firefly and a hands free kit that has become his lifeline to his loved ones). He cannot see, so he remembers everything by touch and orientation. He wanted to make a modification to his bedside table and asked me to bring by some velcro.

I'd gone to the new Target in Tustin on my way home from work. It's probably the largest Target I'd ever been to - and I told him all about it. I mentioned that even though it was already after 7:30pm, I'd really come to him right after getting home. I mentioned a couple times that I had gone shopping and only stopped at home long enough to put away the perishables and grab some food to bring with me.

Later in the conversation he asked me why it took me so long to get home from work. In fact, he asked twice during our conversation... after I'd already told him.

This is not like my Gpa. He remembers everything. This is a man that can do square roots of just about any number in his head - to decimal places. A man that will take a 20-somthing letter word, and make other words out of the letters in that word, and remember all 200-something letter words he's already made with it. He does not forget things.

He seems healthy, but I wonder if this is a sign of things to come...

Goodbye Old Friend?

In the summer of 2005 I purchased my favorite toy - my first digital camera. I was going on a trip through Europe that September and I wanted to be able to document my trip so I could always look back on all the places I'd been.

I wasn't picky; I only wanted three things from a camera - a large LCD screen, a compact frame, and a rechargable internal battery. Other than that I didn't look into digital v. optical zooms, or serviceablity, or anything. A co-worker of mine had a Casio Exilim and couldn't stop singing it's praises. It had been a tough little camera, had a giant screen (2.7"), and a slim, compact design. So I took his recommendation and purchased a Casio Exilim EX-Z57.

I has been a great camera. It made the rounds with me through Europe, then Vegas; it documented many parties, family gatherings, trips to Disneyland and the beach, and was there to welcome new additions to the family. It has been such a great camera that my mom often ditches her own and borrows it when she wants to take pictures. I occasionally go through lulls when I don't take very many pictures, but I always come back.

Yesterday Bobby, Emma, and I went to Disneyland for a few hours. I'd packed us some snacks and drinks so we wouldn't be tempted to eat there - we've been disappointed by the food there too many times. Just before getting on Star Tours, I closed my Gatorade and put it in my backpack. When I grabbed my bag getting off the ride, I felt wetness.

The cap of my Gatorade had been cocked to the side and so had not closed all the way - the entire contents of my bag was soaked... including my trusty camera.

I immediately dried it off as best I could and pressed the power button, but alas, it would not turn on. I opened it up and took the battery out - it was wet. I was instantly sad - I felt this was truely the end.

My camera had recenlty had a problem and would not start - the screen would read "Lens Error" and shut off immediately. I took the camera in to a repair shop and was told that they would try but made no promises - Casio's are notoriously difficult to repair and the company offers little support. A recent trip to the beach meant sand had likely weaseled it's way into the lens. But they had been able to clean out the sand, and I my friend was back.

Now I fear that it is really done for. I am going to let it dry out for awhile before I just purchase a replacement, but I don't have high hopes. I am sad, I will miss my friend.

Normally I would have taken my experience with this camera and just purchased another Exilim. But I'm afraid that may be a bad choice.

My co-worker that had originally recommended his camera to me had since lost his Exilim and purchased another. He not only had problems with this camera, but with Casio. When he tried to have his camera fixed under the warranty he was met with nothing but road blocks. Casio finally agreed to send him a new camera, which they did not - they sent a refurbished one that also had problems. By the end of the ordeal he'd been through a few Exilims, and had taken Casio to small claims court.

I don't want all that. I just want another trusty little camera with a compact frame, internal rechargable battery, and a large LCD screen. The camera repairman said to avoid Casio and he prefers Canon and Olympus. I'll have to look around.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dinner Party

Tonight my parents, aunt Lisa, and her boyfriend Nigel came over for a little dinner party. Mom made her delicious tri-tip and brought over some wine she and Dad brought back from Italy. I made some mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, butter and white wine, and some red pepper cream pasta (sans mushrooms). We had grilled asparagus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and freshly steamed spinach. It was a lovely meal, and after dinner we had some fun with Jon's Halloween wig.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

Friday I was having a bit of a rough day and so Bobby and I had a mellow evening just watching a movie. I'd spent a little time watching previews on the Netflix website and thought I would give this movie a try.

Here is the synopsis from RottenTomatoes.com:
Set in 1916 in Ireland, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY is the story of Damien (Cillain Murphy), a young Irishman about to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. When his friend is brutally murdered for standing up to a band of British soldiers, Damien abandons his medical career and joins his brother Teddy (Padraic Delany) in the fight for freedom. Small guerrilla groups of Irish farmers begin to wage bloody attacks, forcing the government to negotiate a ceasefire. The Anglo-Irish Peace Treaty is offered, but it puts Teddy and Damien at odds. Teddy believes they should accept the treaty and try to work within the system to avoid further bloodshed, while Damien thinks they should continue to fight until they are completely free of British rule. Whereas the two brothers used to fight side by side, they now find themselves divided, and forced to choose between their familial bond and their ardent beliefs.

This movie was long and stressful. The acting and the direction were both good, but I think you would have to be in the mood for a long, depressing movie. Many scenes were very difficult to watch, and the end was very sad. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a bad movie, but I don't think I'll be recommending it to anyone, nor will I choose to watch it again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

One thing AT&T seems to be good at

Cancellations.

When we purchased Bobby's new phone we signed up for AT&T's DSL service. It was cheaper than what we were currently paying for Time Warner's cable internet, and it was going to give us a $75 rebate on his phone.

We received the box in the mail shortly after, but didn't get around to switching out the equipment until about 2 weeks ago. Since then, we;ve noticed the service is unstable, inconsistent, and poor. This DSL was supposed to be relatively on par with our cable internet, but it was clearly inferior.

Luckily I had yet to cancel my account with Time Warner, making it easy to simply cancel AT&T. Not only was the girl I cancelled with the most competant person I've dealt with in the company, but it was a very easy process with no hoops. She asked the reason I was cancelling, but never tried to talk me out of it.

Seems like AT&T would do much better if there services and the rest of their customer service were that high of quality.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Daylight Savings Time

Until last year, Daylight Savings always changed the weekend near my birthday. I used to say that the extra hour of sleep in the morning was my birthday present from the government. It's actually the other way around, as Daylight Savings Time is during the summer, and in the fall it changes back to normal time.

The alarm clock in my bedroom has some nifty features - it automatically resets the alarm for the next weekday the moment I turn it off, it displays the date as well as the time - you can program 2 different alarms and say which days of the week you want it to go off, and it automatically changes with Daylight Savings.

That last bit is great... except that Congress moved the end of Daylight Savings one week. So this morning, when I woke up, my alarm clock read 8:45am. I'd been up late the last two nights, and woke at 10am yesterday, so I was impressed that I hadn't slept in too late again. Bobby and I got up, and true to form, were quickly in front of our respective computers checking emails and reading news bits. I looked up and it was about 10:30am. Wow, I didn't realize I'd been sitting here so long!

Then I walked into the bedroom to get dressed, and the alarm clock read just after 9:30am. Then I remembered last year when Gma thought she'd gone insane for the same reason.

Congress extending DST was really annoying - and still is. Last year the computers at work all reacted differently depending on which had run automatic updates. Some changed the times of appointments in Outlook, some sent emails that appeared to arrive an hour in the future... Now my bedroom alarm clock is not the only smart clock - my car also reset the time early this morning. So now I have to reset clocks twice, or remember to convert the time all week.

I'll be glad when/if they change it back - I want my birthday present back.

The Island

So instead of going out, we stayed in and had a little dinner theatre. We have a pretty nice setup - projector, high quality surround sound. Usually when we watch a movie we move our long folding tables out of the way, and move the couch to the middle of the room so we have a little in-home theatre. But this time we left one of the tables in the middle of the room, and sat in our office chairs, ate a nice meal, and watched The Island.

Here's a synopsis of the plot I pulled from RottenTomatoes.com:
Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) is a resident of a seemingly utopian but contained facility in the mid-21st century. Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to the "The Island"—reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet—until he makes a terrible discovery that everything about his existence is a lie…and that he is actually more valuable dead than alive. Together with a beautiful fellow resident named Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson), Lincoln makes a daring escape to the outside world he's never known. Now, with the forces of the institute that once housed them relentlessly hunting them down, Lincoln and Jordan engage in a desperate race for their lives.

OK, I'll try to reference that so as not to give anything away.

I was very disappointed by this film. It had a strong premise, and to be honest, if you are looking for a movie with great over-the-top unbelievable action sequences and the strength of plot isn't that important - then this is a great film. Like Michael Bay's other films - Armageddon, The Rock, Bad Boys II (I can't comment on Transformers, haven't seen it yet) - The Island has a lot of big, explosive action sequences. Much of which is just flat out impossible - these kids would be dead for sure. But the plot is full of holes.

Some of it was just silly little stuff - like that no one checked Johansson's character for weapons when the elite private security guys (including former Navy SEALS and other badasses) finally capture her. Or early on when they put one of the other utopian residents down, they do so in an unnecessarily painful way. If you are going to kill someone through an IV - make them overdose on Morphine or something, there is no reason they need to go through all that. In the context of the scene it makes absolutely no sense. Vets treat our animals more humanely than that.

I wish I could elaborate on all the holes without giving the premise of the movie away, but lets just say there is a bit of a conspiracy, and there is no possible way you could pull an operation like that off without being exposed just based on the number of employees necessary to maintain it. We are talking janitors, doctors, lunch ladies... thousands. And not in some third world country, but in the middle of Arizona or something.

The sad thing is that it started out strong, and had real potential. But as the story line tried to evolve, it really just unraveled.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

To Go or Not To Go

I'm still so tired. We were up until nearly 5am last night (ok, this morning). The plan is to go hang out with Bobby's sister-in-law at the sports bar she works at. They are doing a Halloween party thing.

But the more I think about it, the more I find myself thinking of reasons I shouldn't go. Besides, Jessica should be working - parties like this are a great opportunity to make a lot of tips - not hanging out with us. Do we want to drive all the way out so we can hang out at a bar when we are already this tired? Or should we go out another night when we can actually hang out.

I think we will stay home.
I'm getting old, aren't I?

A Halloween Fiesta

Bobby took a statistics class this summer and about halfway through I discovered that his study partner just happened to be an old high school friend of mine that I hadn't seen in years. She came over for dinner and to study one afternoon and it was great to catch up.

Last night she had a Halloween party, and Bobby and I decided to go - along with his brother and some other friends. Since we all went to the same high school (at one point at least) it was likely going to be a bit of a reunion. Sure enough, we were all able to catch up with old friends and have some fun in the meantime.

I'd ordered two costumes having only seen them online - Rainbow Brite and a Pirate Wench.

I was really excited about the Rainbow Brite costume - I loved the show as a kid, and like the Care Bears, She-Ra, My Little Pony, and Fraggle Rock, it still holds a special place in my heart.

The costume looked a little short on the screen, but I'm a short girl, so I figured it would be a little longer on me. I could also buy some matching shorts to wear underneath.

When the costumes arrived on Thursday, I became more and more excited - I even got a light up wand.

Mais, when I got home and tried it on, it was really, really short - in fact, it didn't entirely cover my rear. I held out hope, though, and went in search of shorts to wear underneath.
So after work yesterday, I raced around looking for something to wear underneath. I was becoming really attached to the idea of being Rainbow Brite. The closest thing I could find were some boy short-style underwear, but I got home and put it on... it was clear that my rear was still going to show.
But that's not all. The top is also made for someone with a significantly smaller bust than mine. I finally had to accept that I couldn't be Rainbow Brite outside my own home - at least not this year. Maybe next year I can find (or make) a better fitting Rainbow Brite costume. At least now I have the leg and arm warmers, the belt, and the wand. Still worth the purchase. Besides, I should be able to find red shoes by then. :)
But all was not lost - I still had the Pirate Wench costume, which not only was a more appropriate length, was also roomy enough in the bust. I had some fishnets, and with my new brown boots it looked quite good.
The party was fun. It was nice to catch up with old friends, and I've always preferred small house parties to big social scenes. Poor Andy seems to find himself injured occasionally when he hangs out with us - a stick in his eye in February, and this time he was bit by a Vampire.
Janet was a Vampire, complete with the gothic looking dress, the dark, blood stained lips. She had been walking around "biting" people (OK, so she was really just drawing bite marks on them, but it was clever and made her costume more interactive) and sipping her blood red wine. But later in the evening she got a little too into her character and bit Andy's neck for real.
His neck was quite red and sore, but there was no lasting harm done, and it will make a good story to tell in the future. "Remember that Halloween party we went to when I was bit by a Vampire..."
By the end of the evening, we were dancing to Bob Marley - all of us singing every word...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me



I had a good day today. Some coworkers took me out for lunch, I heard from old friends and family I don't hear from often. After work I drove out to Bobby's parents' house and we had dinner and ice cream cake. I stopped and chatted with my parents and my brother, and then visited a high school friend. I came home to more friends. A good day.

Still Burnin'

I keep checking the Google Maps I've found that are tracking the progress of the fires. A couple of news sources (The LA Times, the OC Register, San Diego's KPBS) have created these maps and are updating them a couple times a day.


View Larger Map

I can see where the nearby fire has spread and see that some friends are still quite safe, as is my work. As usual on Thursdays, I am driving out to Norco today via the 261-241 toll roads. I admit I'm a little surprised to see that they are still open, but a coworker of mine uses them every workday and he says they are still safe.

Another coworker was telling me today that you can see some of the flames from his apartment, but that the fire still has a considerable way to go before it would reach him.

Thankfully the winds have calmed down the last couple of days, and I can see from the maps that the firefighters are gradually bringing some of the fires into the "contained" category. I'm guessing the sky won't clear up for a couple of weeks, but things are slowly coming under control.

There is a rather interesting article in Wikipedia on the California Wildfires of October 2007. It discusses the suspected causes, the estimated damage, and the evacuations, and compares the current fires to other notable California wildfires.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Clam Chowder

I love soup. Made this tonight with Tuna Melts. Very tasty.

In a large pot over medium heat:

2 tbsp. Butter
Salt and Pepper
5 sprigs Thyme
1 medium White Onion - chopped
an equal amount of chopped Celery - use the tips so you get the leaves too
3 drops of Hot Sauce - like Tapatio - or a tiny bit of Cayenne Pepper

Cook until the veggies start to soften - about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle and stir in 2 spoonfuls of Flour - about 2 tbsp - and cook a minute or two longer.
Add 1 pint of Heavy Whipping Cream and 1-14 oz. can of Chicken Stock. Bring to a bubble and add in 2 cans of clams (6 or 6.5 oz., with juice - do not drain) and about 1 cup of chopped Potato. I usually use one small red potato, but I ran out the other day and only had baby sweet potatoes and yams, so I went with a half cup of each - very good.

Bring back to a bubble, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

So Cal Fires

These fires are insane. I really wish I had my camera with me this morning. As soon as I started my drive to work, I looked up at the sky and was able to look directly at the sun. It was bright red and there were clouds in front of it all lit a bright orange. The sky was relatively clear near my house, so the whole scene was rather picturesque.

I have friends near fires in San Diego, Santiago Canyon, Temecula, Lake Arrowhead... just hoping everyone stays safe.

This is a map of the fire closest to us:

I work just off Jamboree just south of the 405 near the airport, so I'm a decent distance from the Santiago Fire, but I tell you driving to work this morning it looked like I was driving straight for it. The sky was blue off to the sides of this massive cloud of smoke. The area around the airport is just a big cloud - it is grey and smoky and you can feel it in your lungs.

This picture and others were submitted by readers of the LA Times. Click here to view the rest.

Mmmm... Pasta

Just something I threw together real fast last night:

In a pan over medium heat:

Some Olive Oil - not sure how much, maybe 1 1/2 tbsp.
Salt and Pepper
2 or 3 cloves Crushed Garlic
1/2 medium White Onion, chopped into small peices
Couple sprigs each of Marjoram and Oregano

Heat and stir until the onions are translucent, then add in 1 can (I think it was 12 oz.) of Diced Tomatoes (drain first!). When it starts to bubble lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook until your pasta is ready - I used bow tie.

Topped with grated Pecorino Cheese - but you could use Parmesan or Romano. A little lighter than normal spaghetti sauce.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Impromptu Party

Andy has been staying with us lately and it has been a really good time. Tonight his buddies Sandra and Malin came by and we had a little impromptu party complete with poker and shots. I broke out some unique alcohols I'd been saving for when we had company over - Grappa that I had purchased in Italy, Limoncello Mom just brought back for me. We played a little mock poker, that somehow involved Sandra's shoe, my home phone, and some other miscellaneous items. When Bobby got back from his class the boys played us a little Beatles on the guitar. Overall a good time.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Wind and Fire

I hate the wind. I've always hated the wind. It may be the only kind of weather I hate.
I love sunshine, I love the rain, I even like the snow, but I can't enjoy the wind.
The wind doesn't gently warm your skin, you can't splash in wind puddles, you can't throw windballs at people or build windmen. It just messes up my hair, throws debris in my face, tosses my car around, and causes the traffic to suck that much more. I suddenly require lotion and extra chapstick and am constantly thirsty.

Yesterday the wind was intense. We were at Bobby's parents' and at time it sounded like the wind would just pick up the entire house. Driving home through the canyon, if you closed your eyes it would sound like hail - but it was dust. When we got home, Lucas, who had been cooped up inside all day, was anxious to go outside. I let him out, and he immediately wanted back in. In the back yard the table with the umbrella had been picked up and thrown across the yard into our chiminea, which was now done for.

Today it is not just windy - it is hot. There are something like 12 wildfires raging throughout Southern California right now flanking us on what seems like all sides- one of which is not too far from my work. I hear the one in San Diego is possibly their worst on record, besting the wildfires in 2003.

View Larger Map

I remember those fires. Walking out of my house in Anaheim it looked like it had snowed lightly on my car, you could see the ash in the air and the sky was a gloomy grey. And it smelled - not like burning wood, but like burnt wood. I remember the sky looking like that for at least a week.

This time the sky is a gloomy grey and again hot, but you can't see the ash in the air because the wind is blowing it all so hard. The dry heat from the fires that the winds are blowing around has permeated my building - not long ago I was complaining about the freezing temperatures in my office... now I am baking. The air is not just dry, but I feel like I'm sitting next to a campfire with the smoke in my face. It makes me tired and my head hurt.

I feel bad for those trying to put the fires out. With this wind efforts must seem futile. I worry that the traffic home will be that much worse now that some of the toll roads are blocked off. I hope this all clears up soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Malachy!



Tuesday is my first nephew's fourth birthday, so we got together this afternoon to celebrate.

When we arrived, Malachy was busy investigating the inside of a police car. When he escaped he had big hugs for everyone. He's a happy, energetic kid, and he was clearly having a good time. There were squirt guns and water balloons, and water bottles that became the weapon of choice for some. We had hot dogs and hamburgers, and it seemed like everyone had a good time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

AT&T Update

So we received the Tilt that was promised us. Bobby's pretty sure it is not new but rather a refurbished phone that was returned by someone else. The data cable was not to be found in the box. Luckily Bobby forgot to return the data cable that came with the 8525 and was able to use that.

Again - AT&T sucks.

Rice Pilaf

This is my standard recipe for Rice Pilaf. I make it all the time.

In one of those large flat pans with a lid over medium high heat, throw in:

2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tbsp. of Butter
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
a few shakes of an Italian Seasoning Mix

Melt down and add in 1/2 cup each White Rice (I usually use Jasmine, but you could use any white rice) and Orzo pasta. Brown the rice/pasta mixture stirring frequently. When it starts turning brown (you don't want it too dark, just think of the pilaf you like), add in a splash of White Wine - just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

When the wine is cooked off, add in about 2 cups of Chicken Broth. Stir it around, cover, and reduce heat to low. When it looks like the moisture is all cooked in check to see if it is too hard - and if so add in some water or more chicken broth. When the pilaf is soft enough - serve.

Sometimes I like to add some onions or shallots and mushrooms. If I do I'll cook them a bit before adding in the rice and pasta and will use a little more butter as the veggies seem to soak some of it up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Morning Tea

Like I said, I don't drink coffee, but I love having something warm to drink in the morning. I love lots of different kinds of teas, but mornings call for black tea. I usually go for Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or Irish Breakfast, and if I'm feeling spicy I'll go for Chai black or Orange Roobios (or another Orange Spice).

In my 16 oz. travel mug:

1 tea bag (if you are patient and let it steep properly, you shouldn't ever need 2 tea bags unless you are making more than this)
Fill 2/3 of the way with hot water and let it steep for a few minutes (if using a spicy tea, make sure to take the bag out after a few minutes - otherwise you'll want to water it down later)
1 packet of Splenda
Fill the rest of the way with milk

It's tasty, give it a try.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AT&T Customer Service Sucks

About a month ago we got Bobby a new smartphone - the AT&T 8525. In the time since, it has ceased being able open Word and PDF documents and has crashed multiple times - as much as once per day. We decided that this was likely a faulty device and went in on Saturday to exchange it since we were within our 30 exchange/return policy.

They guy at the AT&T store said that they didn't have any other 8525 in stock, but that they now have the AT&T Tilt. We'd never heard of it, but apparently it was the next generation of the 8525 - now including GPS - and had been out for a whopping four days. They didn't have one available that day, but were expecting deliveries all week. He had one that we could play around with and suggested we call back the next day to see if they had received any.

We called back every day, and on Wednesday they had one in stock. So at the end of the day we went back down to the store. It was becoming dangerously close to the end of our 30 day exchange period, and we wanted to make sure we had a good phone.

When we explained the situation to the salesperson, we were informed that the Tilt was only available for new customers - and not available for exchange. Something about how they are only receiving a few units.

But I've signed a new contract - doesn't this qualify me? No - it's only for new customers.
"So what you are saying, is that current AT&T subscribers that are looking to enter a new contract cannot get this phone. It's only available if you are actually signing up a new number."
Yes.

The rep called around to other stores in the area to see if they had a Tilt available for exchange. I tried to explain to him that I wanted him to find a Tilt period. He should not be indicating that it was "for exchange" because if they did not find us a Tilt - I was cancelling outright.

To be fair, I was irritated with AT&T before I walked into the store for a number of reasons:



  • When my grandmother had died, I went through the process of changing all the house bills into my name. My grandfather is in a nursing home, and I am now officially paying rent, so it didn't make sense to keep anything in his name. I had no trouble switching any of the bills except for the phone bill - with AT&T. The first time I called, it went fine. But then the bills kept coming to my grandfather. I called back and was told that even though I had a confirmation number - they were in the middle of switching from "the old" AT&T to "the new" AT&T. Since I was with "the old" AT&T, anything I did with them was for naught.

  • So then I needed to make the switch with "the new" AT&T. Even though I had all the required information - account number, last bill, his social security number, date of birth, drivers license, mother's maiden name - they wouldn't make the switch without actually speaking to him. As if they would even know it was him. Because their customer service hours are essentially during my work hours, I would have to take time out of work to go down to the nursing home and make a call so that he could talk to them.

  • We have AT&T DSL at my work. I'd called a few months back to see what my options were to upgrade the line - we were looking at installing a MS Exchange Server and needed a faster connection. I had talked with the rep at length regarding the different options and pricing. When I called Tuesday to make the desired upgrade, I was informed that my current bandwidth was the fastest available in my area. Then why did the rep bother giving me pricing for all those plans if I can't even sign up for it. I would have researched other broadband options for my Cap Ex proposal.

So at this point I'm becoming a little irate with AT&T Customer Service policy. I can see the reasoning behind reserving a new phone for new contracts - it assures a conitnued income stream - but not only for new customers. This tells me that AT&T does not value their current customers.


I tried my best to be assertive without making the reps feel like I was attacking them. I know Bobby thought I was being aggressive. I explained that I did not want to be involved with a company with such poor customer service and was ready to cancel not only this contract, but the other two wireless accounts, home phone, and DSL that I have with them. We had just signed up for the DSL and had not yet cancelled our cable internet. I could easily switch the phone to Vonage, and Sprint had called recently offering to pay our cancellation fees with AT&T for the wireless accounts.


Now the manager finally becomes involved. He tries to smooth things over. He offers to have AT&T send us a Tilt in the mail - then have us bring in and return the 8525.


I should not have to go through all this to purchase a phone. I should not have to fight with a company to subscribe to their service or purchase their product. We may still leave AT&T and just eBay the phone. We'll see if they improve at all.