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


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
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


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.


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
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.