Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Trouble of Managing Our Media

One of our big problems lately has been managing our media. Between our four personal computers (not including our two work laptops), we had thousands of digital photos of holidays, vacations and other events sequestered into different silos.

Farewell jewel cases! (06/05)

And then there was our music. Since we made the album-to-CD conversion in the late '80s, we amassed more than a thousand CDs. For a while they were alphabetized, but over time became a big mish-mash of CDs in the wrong places — and wrong cases. Several months ago we started to rip a bunch of them into MP3 format, but we never finished, leaving the project stuck in limbo.

This is about two-thirds of our total CDs, believe it or not. (06/05)

Then there were our downloads. With Tim's use of his iPod and iTunes, and me using my Archos Jukebox and MusicMatch, we were using two formats. And we were both buying music downloads separately, which surely would have created the situation where both of us might be paying for the same songs or albums.

Well for the last two months, we've been tackling this issue.

For one, we bought a 200GB hard drive that we established as our primary shared media database. It now stores all our music and all our photos. Along with that, we also needed to create a back-up drive in case the primary ever crashed. The solution: A 250GB backup drive that we update weekly.

The other major part of this project has been our CDs. We've ripped several hundred onto our shared music drive, but didn't do a very good job of keeping track of which ones we ripped and which ones we haven't.

We finally came to the hard realization that it was time to say goodbye to jewel cases. So we bought eight Case Logic CD cases that hold 132 CDs a piece (or 264 CDs if you don't store booklets). We broke them up into categories (bands & artists, soundtracks, various artist compilations, Christmas, etc.) and then alphebetized them and then began filling the cases.

The jewel cases alone filled about nine trash bags. (06/05)

As for which ones we've ripped and which ones we haven't, the solution was a sharpie marker. If Tim or I have ripped a CD to the shared music drive, we mark the CD with a star, which saves us from ripping a CD more than once.

In the meantime, I've converted to iTunes and we now both run it off the shared drive, giving us full access to the entire James and Tim music library.

Our new CD filing system: neat and organized. (06/05)

We invested a lot of time and expense into this project, but now finding the music you're looking for is SO much easier.

The photo project is still underway. My job is to standardize the folder naming convention. We're also going to use Picasa, which is Google's free photo finding software that allows you to do searches by keywords. So if we want to see pictures from our cruise to Alaska last year, we can just type in Alaska 2004 and all the photos will pop up. I'm looking forward to the day when that project is done.

My Bad

Well slap my buns and call me "Sally!" Would you believe that less than two hours after blogging about how Simon doesn't lay on his new bed, I looked out the window and saw him laying on it?

Our old dog still has a few new tricks in him after all. (07/30/05)

I guess I owe Tim (and Simon) more credit. Sorry guys! :)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

THAT was Money Well Spent

When we were at Tim's family's house earlier this month, we did what we normally do: flip through the dozens of catalogs they receive. In one of them, Tim saw an outdoor dog bed that he thought Simon would like. This outdoor bed was elevated a few inches off the ground, supposedly so dogs wouldn't have to sit directly on the ground.

Simon takes a nap right next to the new outdoor bed we just bought him. (07/30/05)

It wasn't enough that Simon already has three beds in the house (two more than anyone else has, I might add). No, Simon needed a fourth bed for outdoors. So I went along with the plan (believe me, it's easier than trying to talk Tim out of buying something). :)

"Man, this ground sure is hard! If only I had an outdoor bed. Sigh." (07/30/05)

Well, it finally arrived the other day, and so far I haven't seen Simon lay on it once! :) Tim says he saw Simon laying on it the other day, but I haven't witnessed it with my own eyes yet. I'm beginning to wonder if I ever will.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Day With King Tut

Today we drove up to L.A. to see the "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Held at LACMA West, in what used to be the historic May Company building, the exhibit featured more than 50 major artifacts excavated from King Tut's tomb in 1922, along with 70+ additional artifacts from the 18th Dynasty (1555 B.C. to 1305 B.C.).

People line up to enter to see the more than 130 artifacts from the 27-month tour of the U.S. (07/23/05)

Among the highlights of the exhibit were King Tut's royal diadem — the gold crown discovered encircling the head of the king's mummified body that he likely wore while living — and one of the gold and inlaid canopic coffinettes that contained his mummified internal organs.

Considering that the last time the artifacts King Tut's toured the U.S. was more than 25 years ago, we thought we should see it while we had a chance. Joining us with Jon and Amy, Everett and Joe, who were able to take advantage of discounted tickets since Tim and I are members of the museum.

Tim, Jon, Amy, Everett and Joe eagerly await our turn to enter the Tutankhamun exhibit. (07/23/05)

I really enjoyed the exhibit, although I might have enjoyed it more on a day when it wasn't so crowded. It really made it hard to maneuver in there. I wasn't able to take any pictures inside the exhibit due to the fact that they practically strip search you before you enter.

Many of the items were incredible. I was truly amazed at the variety of materials and the level of skills the ancient Egyptians had considering the quality of tools that were available at the time. Some of the items were truly fascinating. If you want to see the exhibit, you better plan on going to L.A., Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago or Philadelphia, because those are the only stops on the 27-month tour.

As you would expect, I couldn't take pictures inside, but they can't stop me from taking pictures of some of the souvenirs I bought. (07/23/05)

Afterward, we drove by my old apartment building, located a couple of blocks from LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits. It was purely a nostalgia visit for me (I lived there from 1994 until 1999). I love that building. I had many good times there.

Afterward, we drove a few blocks to my old pad at the Cornell Apartments on Cochran and 6th, where I lived from 1994 until 1999. (07/23/05)

Afterward we went to dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant in LA: El Conquistador on Sunset and Edgecliff. Although the food is really good, it's the Margaritas that are their real claim to fame. In fact Amy wasn't even half-way through with one before she got totally lit!

Smiling with Joe and Everett at my favorite Mexican restaurant in LA: El Conquistador — known for its killer margaritas. (07/23/05)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Celebrating Disneyland's 50th Birthday

Someone recently commented that every time she turns around, I'm at Disneyland. Well brace yourself for one more time, because I was there again today. This time to celebrate the historic 50th anniversary of the park's opening day on July 17, 1955.

The line inside California Adventure, walking to Disneyland. (07/17/2005)
The line inside California Adventure, walking to Disneyland. (07/17/2005)

It's significant since this is Walt's original park, the one that set the tone for everything else. Since I wasn't born yet on the original opening day, obviously, I really wanted to attend on the golden anniversary. In fact it was one of the reasons we renewed our annual passes last October after originally deciding to take a break for a year. So in a way, I kind of felt like I had already paid my $300, so I was determined to go.

After three-hours, I got into the park just before 8am. (07/17/2005)
After three-hours, I got into the park just before 8am. (07/17/2005)

Tim, however, wasn't so keen on the idea. He really dislikes going there on days when it's too crowded. Nor did he want to wake up at 4am to get there early enough to make sure we got in. But our friends Keith and Everet were planning to be there that day, so I planned to hook up with them there.

Castmember greeting on Disneyland's 50th Birthday. (07/17/2005)
Castmember greeting on Disneyland's 50th Birthday. (07/17/2005)

By the time I got ready, drove over there and parked, it was 5am on the dot. Already thousands of people were already there (many of which had been there since midnight the night before). By 5:45, I made it through the gates ... to neighboring Disney's California Adventure that is. That's where they lined up the first 10,000 people or so until Disneyland itself opened.

Cast members lined Main Street to greet us. (07/17/2005)
Cast members lined Main Street to greet us. (07/17/2005)

Two hours later, they escorted us into Disneyland itself. Walking into the park was thrilling, especially since there were so many cast members welcoming everyone in. The first thing I did was ride the newly re-opened Space Mountain, which said it only had a 5-minute wait. The last time I tried the wait was 3 hours. Space Mountain is freshly renovated ... and just as exciting as ever.

Waiting on Disneyland's 50th Birthday. (07/17/2005)
Waiting on Disneyland's 50th Birthday. (07/17/2005)

By 9:00 I heard from our friends Everett and Keith who were struggling to find the end of the line. They heard it was at least a four-hour wait to get into the park. Needless to say, they decided not to wait around.

Daytime fireworks on Disneyland's 50th Birthday. (07/17/2005)
Daytime fireworks on Disneyland's 50th Birthday. (07/17/2005)

By then, I was already staking out my spot for the opening ceremony at 10, which was really fun. It featured: Art Linkletter, the TV host of the opening day ceremonies (today was also his 93rd birthday); Robert Iger, President and CEO-elect of the Walt Disney Corporation; Michael Eisner, outgoing CEO; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Walt Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller (who repeated her father's famous words at the 1955 opening: "To all who come to this happy place, Welcome!").

Iger, Schwarzenegger, Mickey, Disney, Art Linkletter, Eisner & Minnie. (07/17/2005)
Iger, Schwarzenegger, Mickey, Disney, Art Linkletter, Eisner & Minnie. (07/17/2005)

The ceremony ended with a release of 50 white doves, followed by fireworks (once the doves had a chance to clear the area). Afterward I watched Mickey climb the Matterhorn, grabbed a bite to eat (including a free birthday cupcake) and walked around the park a little more until I got tired of dodging the crowds.

Closer view of Iger, Schwarzenegger, Mickey, Disney, Linkletter & Eisner. (07/17/2005)
Closer view of Iger, Schwarzenegger, Mickey, Disney, Linkletter & Eisner. (07/17/2005)

I tried getting to the commemorative 50th anniversary merchandise area, but the line was so long, it would have taken easily two hours or more. And I didn't need a t-shirt that bad. By that point it was noon, and I had already been there for seven hours, so I decided to go back home and sleep.

Some of the free souvenirs I got on this historic day. (07/17/2005)
Some of the free souvenirs I got on this historic day. (07/17/2005)

Amazingly, when I left, there wasn't a single person in line. Inside Disneyland, it was packed! But just outside the gates, it was a ghost town. Strange how it works that way.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The James & Tim Moving Company

Today we helped our friends Ryan and Laura move from their apartment in Hollywood into their new condo in Glendale (both of which were on the second floor). It was exhausting! It didn't help that moving day fell on one of the hottest days of the summer. But it was also fun — at least we kept ourselves entertained.

Tim, Laura, James, Ryan and Tom smile after loading the third and final truckload. (07/16/05)

Ryan and Laura have lived in the same Hollywood apartment building for at least 11 years, as far as we can tell. But this is the first home they've owned, which is really cool. So we were happy to be part of their transition from renters to homeowners.

Ryan and Laura's new building in Glendale. (07/16/05)

Their new home is really cute. It has lots of character. And a really nice veranda that's perfect for barbecuing. I could definitely see us up there sometime barbecuing and sipping mojitos! :) Or maybe we'll get pizza from the same place where they ordered it today ... it was the best vegetable pizza any of us has ever had!

Of course every time I think of Glendale, I remember actor/comedian Taylor Negron's famous line about growing up in Glendale. "Glendale is so boring, that it made Burbank seem like Berlin in the 30s!" The section of Glendale where Ryan and Laura live, however, is really cute. It's what I imagine LA being like in the 1950s.

Tim looks out from their veranda while Ryan and Tom take a breather from the bin they're carrying. (07/16/05)

BTW, for any of you other local friends reading this that are considering moving in the near future, don't get any bright ideas. This may be the last time we help anyone move — we're too old for it! Next time we'll just make a contribution towards a movers fund and just help you decorate instead! :)

Congratulations Laura and Ryan on your new crib!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Happiest Dinner and Fireworks on Earth

Tonight after work Tim and I headed to Disneyland for dinner and to see the new fireworks show (which Tim hadn't seen yet).

My favorite meal anywhere in the Disneyland Resort: The Newport Nicoise salad. (07/15/05)

First stop: Disney's California Adventure for my favorite meal anywhere at the Disneyland Resort: The Newport Nicoise salad at the Pacific Wharf Bakery. It's a fantastic combination of tuna, new potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and kalamata olives over a bed of lettuce served in a freshly-baked sourdough bread bowl.

That's my favorite, anyway. Tim always gets the clam chowder in the bread bowl. (Incidentally, did you know that the word chowder comes from the French word chaudron, which means "cauldron"? I learned that in a fascinating book I'm reading ... more on that another day).

Fireworks soar above Sleeping Beauty's Castle. (07/15/05)

Afterward, we headed across the way to Disneyland park to watch the new fireworks show: "Remember ... Dreams Come True." This new fireworks display is a spectacular celebration honoring 50 golden years and is simply fantastic. The picture simply does not do it justice.

Afterward, we tried to ride Space Mountain, which just re-opened after being renovated for the last three years. Emphasis on the word "tried." When we saw that the wait was 190 minutes (yes, you read that correctly ... 190 minutes, which for the math-challenged out there is over three hours), we decided to try again another day.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Congratulations Dianne and Fernando ... and Diego!

I just wanted to give a shout-out to my cousin Dianne and husband Fernando on the birth of their son Diego Alejandro yesterday. They are now officially first-time parents!

This is the cousin that is currenly living and working in London ... a fact that made me a little uneasy after those terrible transit bombings six days prior. But I'm happy to report that Mommy, Daddy and baby are all happy, healthy and safe.

Dianne, before the birth, obviously. Why can't our hospitals have views like this? (07/05)

She'll probably want to kill me for posting this picture of her — taken before the birth, if you can't tell. Then again, that's just the risk you take when you send pictures to a blogger! :)

Daddy Fernando with Baby Diego ... just one day old! (07/14/05)

Diego weighs in at 7 lbs. and 8 ounces. Congratulations on the latest addition to our big family!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

10,000 Miles

My car Birgitta hit another milestone today ... the dreaded fifth digit. Yep, today I drove her beyond her 10,000th mile. It's a moment I've simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded.

Mile 9,996: The last photo of Birgitta's odometer before crossing into the five-digit zone. (07/13/05)

I've looked forward to it because it's a rite of passage, and I wanted to be there when it happened (unlike when my 1981 Honda Civic surpassed the 100,000 mile mark and started all over again ... which occured on a day when I had loaned it to a friend). But I've also dreaded it because I don't want to see my baby grow up.


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Two Days in the Desert

This weekend we went to visit Tim’s family in that highly classified location in the American Southwest (we could tell you where, but we’d have to kill you afterward). :) This was our intended destination for Father’s Day weekend, but we had to postpone until this week due to Tim getting sick that other weekend.

The gorgeous desert view from Tim's parents' backyard. (07/10/05)

Rather than leave on Friday night, as we typically do, we decided to leave at the crack of dawn Saturday. It turned out to be a good idea; it saved us at least an hour and a half, since we weren’t fighting the typical Friday night desert rush.

We didn’t do a lot there other than eat, socialize, watch National Geographic TV shows (and fall asleep while doing so). We also played some cards, including my favorite new game: 9 Holes of Golf. I won the first game, easily beating Tim and Grandma Jean (notorious cheaters, the both of ‘em). But Tim’s Grandma cold dissed me the second round when she cleaned up in game two.

Tim puts on our license plate courtesy of Tim's dad's torx screwdriver. (07/10/05)

Before we left this morning, we finally were able to put the license plates on the Saab after having them for like two months. It was all thanks to Tim’s Dad, who actually owned the type of screwdriver required to put it on (it looks kind of like a six-pointed star). It actually has a name, I learned: a Torx screwdriver. I guess you really do learn something every day!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Third of July

We didn’t do a whole lot for Fourth of July weekend. We’ve been traveling a lot lately and will be traveling again next weekend, so we decided to stick around the house. Another reason is that we didn’t want to leave Simon alone, since Fourth of July weekend really freaks him out (as I guess it does with most dogs).

Jon, Everett, Amy, Joe and Tim chow down on the long holiday weekend. (07/03/05)

But we did have Jon, Amy and Everett over on the 3rd for a pool party and barbecue. Since I had just purchased a new barbecue recipe book, I took it upon myself to be the chef. That’s why I was up past midnight on Saturday night preparing my marinades, sauces and rubs (no way was I going to use any of the pre-fab stuff).

The goal was to grill everything, including dessert! But since I couldn’t possibly fit all that stuff on the grill at the same time, I broke it up into three courses.

The first course — the vegetable course — included:
  • Grilled Asparagus
  • Corn on the Cob with Hand-Prepared Basil-Parmesan Butter
  • Grilled Artichokes with Oregano and Salt
  • Grill Roasted New Potatoes with Home-Grown Rosemary

Course #1: A variety of grilled vegetables ... and every bit of it was yummy. (07/03/05)

The second course — the meat course — included:
  • Flank Steak with Crushed Garlic and Tennessee Barbecue Sauce
  • Lightly Cured Pork Loin with Orange-Mustard Glaze

The third course — the dessert course — included:
  • Pineapple Skewers with Brown Butter and Orange Juice Glaze
  • Grilled Peaches with Blackberry Sauce

The grilled pineapple skewers with brown butter and orange juice glaze were fantastic. (07/03/05)

Needless to say, since I was the chef, everything was fabulous. The good thing was since I did most of the preparation the day before, I was able to spend most of the afternoon in the pool with our friends, rather than being stuck in the kitchen.

I also taught Amy how to make true Mexican guacamole. She brought all the ingredients and I gave her a lesson on the preparation. The only thing that wasn’t autentica was that I didn’t have an actual molcajete to mash the avocados with, so I had to resort to using my hands and a fork. But it tasted great, which is all that counts.

Starting the day out with fresh-made Mexican-style guacamole and a pitcher of Mojitos. (07/03/05)

While I was responsible for food, Tim and Joe were responsible for beverages. The drink of the day was the Mojito, a summery blend of light rum, sugar and mint leaves. We went through several pitchers throughout the day. Tim and Joe were also on cleanup duty, which was a real chore with all the hand-prepared marinades and sauces.

In the end, it was the perfect summer day.