Saturday, April 30, 2005

Camping at El Capitan: Day Two

By the next morning, we had come to two pivotal realizations.

1. Two out of the four camping chairs we brought were not only broken, but really uncomfortable.

2. Our propane-powered stove was barely working. We still managed to cook our eggs and boil hot water for coffee/tea/cocoa, but the stove was clearly on its last leg.

A fresh look at El Capitan State Beach that afternoon. (04/30/05)

So we revised our plans for the day to include a mid-morning shopping break. So back we went to the shopping plaza where we found Bed Bath and Beyond the day prior. I had remembered that there was an Osh Hardware in the same facility, so that's where we went to get two more chairs and a new propane stove. While we were at it, we also picked up a folding camping table that they had.

The other issue we were having was Amy's hair. She forgot to bring her hair dryer, and therefore decided to skip her morning shower (otherwise it would take too long to dry). So rather than having to deal with janky hair for the next two days, we decided to get her a wash and blowdry at the salon next to the hardware store.

Here's a shot of Amy roughing it during our camping trip. (04/30/05)

After a pitstop at Starbucks, we decided to do a little sightseeing since we were in town. First stop was the Santa Barbara Mission, which was founded in 1786. The church that stands there was built in 1820, then destroyed by earthquake 100 years later, and then restored in 1927 and 1953.

The world famous Santa Barbara Mission. (04/30/05)

While there we saw them doing some sort of excavation. At first I just assumed they were excavating for pieces of broken pottery, arrowheads, etc. Then Everett pointed out that it looks like a graveyard. SCARY!

Excavating who knows what on the grounds of the mission. (04/30/05)

Afterward we stopped by a martial arts temple that a friend of Amy's runs, just to say hello. Afterward, we headed back to camp where we took a hike, played card games and took a nap.

Watch where you walk with all the poison oak in the way. (04/30/05)

Amy made us an awesome Dinner consisting of a dish she calls Mock Tacos (we have since renamed the dish "Macos"). What you do is brown 1 lb. of ground turkey (you can use ground beef, but we used ground turkey), add taco seasoning, then serve it in bowls over a layer of crushed Fritos chips. Then you top it off with beans, salsa, guacamole dip, lettuce and chopped tomatoes, and then mix it all together into one big bowl of tasty goodness. It was deeeeelicious!

There were some really cool old train tracks (still functioning) that ran adjacent to the campsite. (04/30/05)

The night ended much like the one before did ... campfire, smores, campfire games, etc. It was a great way to close our second day camping.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Camping at El Capitan: Day One

We seriously can't believe it's been two years since our last camping trip. But the camping hiatus finally came to an end with our adventures at El Capitan State Beach, approximately 15 miles North of Santa Barbara (and an approximately 4-hour drive from our home). We had always wanted to camp there, but could never get a reservation since it's so popular. But this time around, it was early enough in the season to jack a spot.

Welcome to El Capitan State Beach, just 15 miles north of Santa Barbara. (04/30/05)

Joining us this trip would be our friends Everett and Amy (whose husband Jon couldn't attend due to a training class on Saturday). Normally we get a larger group together, but since most everyone had previous plans, we decided to make the best of it with the fab four.

We got to El Capitan around 1:00 pm. After scoping out all the available spots for the best one, we settled on a nice corner area that was close (and yet not too close) to the bathrooms, just a few steps away from a bluff overlooking the beach.

Two-tents: The bedroom (left) and the changing room (right). (04/29/05)

While we were unpacking, we realized we forgot to put our "kitchen" box into the cars. We had no knives, no serving spoons, no spatula, no corkscrew, no paper plates, no tablecloth, etc. So while Everett and Tim set up camp, Amy and I went on a shopping expedition.

Tim looks away from the sunset just long enough to smile for a picture. (04/29/05)

We figured it wouldn't be too hard to find a Target, Kmart or Walmart where we can get everything we need. We didn't find any of those, but we did find a Bed, Bath and Beyond with a Rite Aid and a grocery store next door. Between the three stores, we managed to get most everything we needed.

James and Everett make an "Amy Sandwich" on El Capitan State Beach. (04/29/05)

We then started to cook dinner: Chicken fajitas, cole-slaw (pre-prepared) and a nice bottle of Riesling. Afterward we hiked down to the beach to take pictures and watch the sun set. Then it was back to the campsite to light a campfire, make s'mores and talk half the night.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

James' Last Day at Newport Gateway

This weekend James' company makes the move from Irvine to Carlsbad. And since I'm taking Friday off for the camping trip (more on that on my Sunday update), today was my last day working in the beautiful Newport Gateway Center. It was the first campus-style business environment where I've worked, complete with onsite restaurant, deli-style sandwich shop, florist, salon, copy center, ATM (from my own bank, no less), shoe-shine stand, gym, Nordstrom's piano player during lunch hours and after work, covered parking lot, etc. (Sigh)

Farewell Newport Gateway Center. (04/10/05)

In case you're curious, our office is in the tower on the right, on the 6th floor out of 13 (they actually call the 13th floor the "14th Floor" .... oooh, that would make me feel less superstitious).

I'm actualy making a bigger deal out of it as it is. I seldom ate at the overpriced sit-down restaurant (although to be fair, it was great food). I never used the salon. I've never actually seen anyone running the shoe-shine stand. And let's not even kid ourselves that I used the gym.

I will miss the sandwich shop and the ATM, both of which were very convenient.

I guess what I'll miss most is the commute — half-hour in the morning, and 45 minutes going home. The commute to Carlsbad will be an hour each way for me now, albeit I'll only be doing it three days a week instead of five.

The new office building in Carlsbad. (4/2/05)

The new building in Carlsbad, although nice, is simply an unassuming two-story office building, with nothing but offices onsite. How quickly you get spoiled by an on-site sandwich shop and ATM. But the good news for me (and bad news for my credit card) is that it's right near the Carlsbad Premium Outlets! :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Shocking News

Hell just froze over. Pigs are flying left and right. And Tim just bought an iPod.

Yes Tim ... whose middle name is Windows ... hater of anything manufactured by Apple ... has finally succumbed to the dark powers of the evil Steve Jobs and bought an iPod.

Not just any iPod, mind you. He got the top-of-the-line 60GB Photo iPod with the color display (it is still Tim, after all). :-)

The seventh sign of the Apocolypse: Tim and his iPod. (04/26/05)

This is more shocking than the Red Sox winning the World Series. More surprising than frontrunner Mario Vazquez dropping out of American Idol. More startling than Marissa Tomei winning Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinnie.

Needless to say, we'll be expecting your Get Well cards any day now. I'll keep you posted of any other strange behavior.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Tim and James Update for April

Sorry for not having updated the blog in over a week. It seems I haven’t had much time at all lately. And the scary part is, I don’t know where the time has gone! :-)

The best picture I could get of Simon and Flossie together. (04/25/05)

A few brief hits:

  • Simon’s girlfriend Flossie has been staying with us a few days (the black dog in the picture above). Flossie belongs to our pals Jon and Amy who are on vacation right now in Santa Fe. We often dog-sit for each other, since our dogs get along really well (for the most part). Once in a while Simon will forget that he’s fixed and try to mount her. But she puts a stop to that right away by laying down. Who would have ever thought lying down would make the male dog stop?! Oh well.

  • We finally booked our flights and hotel for our vacation to Montréal and Québec City this September. We’re going with our friends Doris & Jenn from Santa Cruz and are looking forward to it very much. I’ve wanted to do a trip to French Canada for about 10 years now, and now we have finally made the arrangements.

  • The hallway renovation is progressing quite nicely. We are now done with all the walls, doors, door trim and cabinet doors. The only stuff we have left to do is install the can lights, paint the ceiling and have the crown moulding and baseboards installed. Most of that we probably won’t do ourselves, except possibly painting the ceiling. We tried doing baseboards once, and we majorly sucked at it.

  • James got some sort of throat/nose bug and has been sick the last two days. Stayed home from work on Monday. No fun at all, although it’s been a great chance to get caught up on the hours and hours of backlogged TV shows on the TiVo.

  • Tim has been busy busy busy with his new Project Management Leadership class he’s taking in addition to working full time. He’s a trooper, what can I say?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Grandma Helen Update III

We’ve got some good news on Tim’s Grandma Helen — the one who had a stroke in March. In mid April, she was able to eat and swallow well enough to have her overnight feeding tube removed. She was also oxygenating sufficiently enough to be taken off the oxygen. Her headaches she was having have also gone away.

Grandma Helen with Tim during our trip for her 80th birthday in 2000. (01/00)

A week later she was transferred to another rehab center where her daughter (Tim’s aunt) works. We also learned she has been able to walk 150 feet with a walker, and even managed to do some stair climbing. Her appetite is good and has been reportedly eating everything but the plates and silverware.

On of the nurses brought her baby into the rehab center one day, and Grandma Helen responded very well by waving her left hand (the affected one). In the words of Tim’s dad, “She is a tough ole gal!”

Keep up the good work Grandma Helen, and thanks to all of you who have been keeping her in your thoughts and prayers. It’s working.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Baby Brother JP Turns 1

I can’t believe a year has gone by since my baby brother John Paul was born and claimed my title as baby of the family. For the two people on the planet who don’t already know, we have the same Dad, but a different Mom. Although only one year old, he is quite the character, and we have fun every time we visit.

Tim has a laugh with JP — shown here at age 8 months. (12/04)

We’re going up to see JP and big sis Anna sometime next month, where I’ll give him his birthday present. I thought of sending it for his actual birthday, but then decided I wanted to be there when he opens his gifts. Besides, he doesn’t know when his birthday is. All he knows is that there’s cake (like big brother like little brother, I guess). Happy birthday JP!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Aunt Eva's 75th

Today would have been my Aunt Eva’s 75th birthday. Even though she passed away more than three-and-a-half years ago, I still keep her birthday in my PDA.

In memory of Aunt Eva, 4/16/30 to 9/23/01. (c. 1950s)

She was one of my mom’s six brothers and sisters. Although I saw other aunts and uncles more often, Aunt Eva was very special to me. Because she lived in Chicago and used a wheelchair, she wasn’t able to travel to California very often. But we had our own way of keeping in touch, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service.

Growing up I would often write letters to my aunts in Chicago. With Aunt Eva, you could always count on getting another letter back. It was always such a treat to open the mailbox and see a letter from her.

Each letter was unique in its own way. Sometimes they would start with the typical salutations (i.e. “Jim, thank you for your Christmas card and photo”). Other times they would just start mid-thought, like you had walked into the room in the midst of a conversation (i.e. “Paper this size gives me more freedom”).

At my cousin Anita's wedding with her husband, Uncle Chuck. (4/10/83)

I loved how the letters were often annotated, with follow-up thoughts written in the margins or between lines, often with a different pen color. Sometimes they would be written in handwriting, other times printed. In some cases she switched between the two. In a couple of them, she stopped writing one day, and then resumed the letter the next — and wrote about that too!

Whether it was about her husband, her kids, her grandkids, whatever was happening that day, she wrote about it and sent it. As is. (Unlike myself, who writes, rewrites, edits until I’m happy with it before I let anyone read anything).

Aunt Eva in her childhood. (c. 1930s)

I also called my aunt periodically, and boy was she a talker! :) I remember one time my cousin Chrissy was going to San Francisco and had asked for some sightseeing tips. When I returned her call, Chrissy was still at work, and my aunt answered instead. I think I heard every story about every one of her grandkids.

Then Chrissy came home. “Saved by the bell,” I thought! Boy was I wrong. Let’s just say that being a talker runs in the family! :)

She was a great aunt, and I miss her. Happy 75th Birthday Aunt Eva!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Magna Sofa

The latest addition to the household is the new sofa — nearly four months in the making. We decided we needed a new one shortly after moving into our house almost four years ago. But with other priorities higher on the list, we didn’t really have the resources to really start looking until earlier this year.

The new giant sofa ... with room for five! (04/12/05)

Then came the arduous task of actually determining what we wanted. We knew we wanted something bigger. Our last sofa could fit two people comfortably. But if we wanted to sit three people, one person would invariably end up sitting on the gap between the two main sofa cushions. Needless to say it wasn’t very suitable for entertaining.

Actually finding the sofa was easy. In fact we picked the style during our very first trip to Ethan Allen. Determining what fabric we wanted it to be upholstered with was where it got tricky. We went back and forth on it and finally settled on a dark green pattern with hints of red, brown and orange. The picture doesn’t do it justice at all.

We finally placed the order about six weeks ago, and today it finally arrived. And the thing is monstrous. It can easily fit five! You guys will have to come see it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Weekend in Wine Country

We spent this weekend touring California’s other wine country: The Temecula Valley. At first glance, you wouldn’t think anywhere in Southern California would be a likely location for wineries. But Temecula — an Indian word meaning “land where the sun shines through the mist — enjoys a unique microclimate. The combination of ocean breezes and desert makes it the perfect place to grow grapes, as evidenced by the nearly two dozen wineries that have sprouted up in the last 30 years.

Temecula Valley wine vineyards. (04/09/05)

Tim and I hooked up with Everett, his friends Shane and Rob, and Tim’s friends Mona and Christy for a tour of seven of the area’s best wineries (Callaway, Churon, Miramonte, Ponte, Leonesse, Wilson Creek and South Coast for those of you who know the area). And of course, every place where we tasted wine gave us a souvenir wine glass (we got like 25 of them between all of us).

Christy, Mona and Tim sample the 2002 Red Rhapsody at Miramonte. (04/09/05)

That night we stayed at the Pechanga Indian resort and casino about 15 minutes away, which was gorgeous. I hadn’t expected it to be as nice as it was. In fact, we’re going back next month (we bought tickets to see the legendary Tom Jones). I lost about $60 gambling (damn Indians). :-)

The aftermath. (04/10/05)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Remembering Pope John Paul II

Is anyone else as fascinated as I am about all the ceremony and history of a papal funeral and the subsequent conclave to elect the next pope? The last time this happened I was 9 years old and didn’t pay one ounce of attention. But today, I’m riveted.

Then again, I’m the crazy person that stayed up until 3am to watch Princess Diana’s funeral live, as it occurred. And the one who wrote to Queen Noor upon the passing of her husband, the late King Hussein of Jordan. And let’s not forget our botched attempt to go see Ronald Reagan’s casket in the middle of the night last year.

Pope John Paul II, on the day we crossed paths. (09/87)

Like him or not, Pope John Paul is an iconic figure from my early adulthood. I certainly have no recollection of any pope prior to him. I even went to see his motorcade when he toured San Francisco in September 1987.

I had just started college at San Francisco State a month earlier. I remember staking my spot on the motorcade route a couple of hours early, and watching all the security procedures going on.

A few hours later, the street was packed. Then, we began to hear the motorcade coming in the distance. By this point, the hundreds of cops were in position and lined along both sides of the street.

The motorcade started off with motorcycle policemen. There must have been 25 of them at least.

Then came the squad cars, all blinking their strobe lights. There were probably 30 of those.

Then there were a few dozen other vehicles, which must have been carrying the dignitaries, both local and visiting. There were white cars, black sedans and pick-up trucks carrying dozens of cameramen and photographers.

The Pope's driver had a heavy foot that day. (09/87)

Next thing I knew, there was the Pope … whizzing by in his Popemobile. In fact, were it not for the fact that he was wearing white, I might not have even noticed him in the midst of all that activity. It didn’t help matters that the driver was probably driving at least 25 miles per hour. It literally lasted less than five seconds. Ah, well.

Although it was a long day, at least it was memorable. And I can always say I saw the Pope with my own eyes.

The fastest Pope on four wheels. (09/87)

Adieu Pope John Paul II!

Strange Supermarket Find

While stopping by our local Ralph’s Supermarket to pick up drinks for the guys helping with our hallway project, I came across the strangest find: American Idol Coke Bottles.

Could this Season 1 American Idol coke bottle be expired? (04/06/05)

Now, mind you, I don’t think American Idol Coke Bottles in and of themselves are strange. After all, Coca-Cola is a major American Idol sponsor, as evidenced those cups that are always in front of Randy, Paula and Simon (even though evidently there is no Coke in them, as revealed by the time Ryan Seacrest dumped what clearly was water on Simon).

What was strange about this was that it featured participants from Season 1 dating back to 2002! For an American Idol devotee like myself, who has never missed one performance or results show (not including the early audition episodes), the folks are clearly recognizable. RJ Helton. Tamyra Gray. Nikki McKibben. Justin Guarini. And miss original American Idol Kelly Clarkson.

But would other American Idol viewers who aren’t nearlyas psychotic as I am even remember them? I immediately called my friend Tom, who also thought it was strange. He also warned me to stay away from any snacks featuring Jar Jar Binks or scenes from the first Harry Potter movie! :)

Actually I’m thinking there probably is a logical reason for doing something that dates all the way back to season 1. I’m thinking that they’re probably coming out with bottles for every season for the next few weeks, ending with the current season (#4).

Either way, the bottles became a must-have item for me.

More Home Improvement

Well, we’ve gotten the home improvement bug again. And for those who know me best, you know that really means that Tim has gotten the home improvement bug again. = )

This time the project is the hallway, which you would think would be an easy process. After all, it’s only a matter of peeling wallpaper, slapping on a new coat of paint and replacing a light fixture. But like any project in our home, it ends up taking twice as long as you would expect.

The first problem: wallpaper glue. The wallpaper itself came off with relative ease. The glue, however was another problem. We tried DIF wallpaper remover. We tried the organic wallpaper remover enzyme stuff. We tried Xycol solvent. We tried turpentine. Nothing scarcely penetrated that 40-year-old wallpaper glue.

But you’ll never guess what actually did work: Tim’s exfoliating gloves! Just put the gloves on, get them a little wet with the wallpaper remover, and after some steady, forceful rubbing, it starts to make a difference.

Door casing after removing 40 years worth of paint. (04/06/05)

The next step was stripping the 40 years worth of paint off the door casings. You would think some basic paint stripper would do the trick. Try like four applications of paint stripper. We actually had anticipated being done with the painting by now, but we haven’t even started.

And then there’s the light fixture. You’d think we can simply replace the fixture. But now the plan is to install recessed can lighting.

But I’ve got to give some mad respect to our roommate Joe, our friend Everett and most of all, Tim, for kicking butt today on their day off (I still had to work). Stay tuned for the conclusion of Hallway Improvement 2005.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Kayaking in La Jolla

To celebrate our success in raising our series A venture capital funding, my company put together a kayaking trip in La Jolla. I had never actually been in a kayak before. Canoes, yes. Inflatable boats, yes. But never a kayak.

At first I thought of those professional kayaks — the really narrow kind with the little hole on top, which kind of worried me. I was relieved to find out it was more of a wider “sit on top” kayak that was meant for two people.

A beautiful day at the beach in La Jolla (4/2/05)

The water was 60 degrees, which we learned about first hand after trying to get on the dang thing. We only rolled it twice in the process. After learning the finer points of balance, we were good for a while. Steering is a little trickier than you would expect however. It all has to do with how far out you row your oar. There’s also another way to steer by using your oar as a rudder, but I could never figure out which side to put it on.

We saw some spectacular sea cliffs, sea lions on rocks, and the 7 caves of La Jolla (we didn’t actually go in the caves, however). And just when we thought we were getting the hang of it … wham … a wave came through and knocked us over again! Climbing back on is one thing when you’re at the shore, but out in the open sea?! Forget it. Luckily our tour guide was there to help us keep things in balance.

Out of the 14 people total, only three ended up in the water completely. Of course being that I ended up in the water three times didn’t exactly boost my ego. Fortunately I had a dry change of clothes on hand for the nice lunch we had afterward.

FYI, in case you’re wondering, I haven’t developed my pictures yet (I knew better than to bring the digital camera on the kayak, so I bought a waterproof disposable camera). So until I get those developed, you’ll just have to make do with one of the pictures that I took when I was back on dry land.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Karaoke Calls

Our good friend Tom turned 36 today, and after pizza, beer and cake at their house, we headed off to Dimples, the “first karaoke club in America.” Dimples is located in beautiful downtown Burbank, adjacent to Warner Brothers and NBC Studios. It’s named after the Shirley Temple film.

Tom turns 36 — talk about a "Ring of Fire"! (4/1/05)

The place was packed, and it took a LONG time for them to call your name after you signed up. But we did manage to squeeze one group performance in: Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” which sounds like an easy song to sing … until you get up there. There were about 7 of us altogether.

(Tim sat this one out. He refuses to do Karaoke ever since my company Christmas party in 1998 when after he sang “I Got You Babe” with my friend Joan, my boss Catherine commented that the next year she was going to pay him $20 not to sing.)

Having a blast at Dimples. (4/1/05)

Despite our bad singing, the bar management gave Tom the star birthday treatment, with a round of champagne for the table, a free DVD of our performance, and color photos of a very unique toast where his wife Christine — in front of everyone in the bar — took a drink from a strategically-located shot glass. ‘Nuff said.

Carlsbad Bound

Well it’s official. The software company I’m working for is officially moving from Irvine, in Orange County, to Carlsbad, in San Diego County. Which means my commute is now doubling from half an hour to an hour. I’ve known about move for a while now, but now that we finalized the lease paperwork, it’s a done deal.

The new office building in Carlsbad. (4/2/05)

The good news is that I have approval from the CEO to work from our home office two days a week. So I’ll only have to drive into the office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.