Friday, August 26, 2005

Here We Grow Again

I'm telling you my family members just can't keep their hands off each other, as evidenced by ny newest cousin Zander, born to my cousin Triny Ann and her husband Rick in Indiana.

Zander ... the newest member of my continually growing family. (8/2005)

Born at 4:49 a.m., Zander weighs in at a healthy 7 lbs. 2 ounces and is 20 inches tall. Congratulations Triny Ann, Rick and Zander! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Copywriter Seeks Work

Do you know anyone looking for a copywriter? Because I left my job.

It may seem like a surprise (and in a way it is), but in other respects it’s been in the works for a couple of months. The commute to/from Carlsbad was just not working. Carlsbad is more than 60 miles (and 60 minutes) away from our house. When I took the job in May 2004, the job was in Irvine — a mere 12 miles from our house. Between the time commuting, gas prices, wear and tear on the car, it just didn’t seem worth it any longer.

What did I do after leaving my job? I went to Disneyland! (08/23/05)

It actually goes back to October 2004 when we got a new CEO. He wanted to relocate to North San Diego where he built a software company previously. So he put the gears in motion and we moved in May of this year.

To make it up to me for moving an hour South, our CEO agreed to let me work from home two days a week. As it turned out, it turned out to be more like four days a week in the office due to meetings. And every day I go in, I’m pretty much gone for 11 hours of the day, which wasn’t giving me very much time to spend with Tim.

To top it off, we ended up getting a new director of marketing in May, who I got the impression wanted to build her own team. So in late July I made my intentions known … that I was going to pursue another job. My boss (and the CEO) were supportive. To ease the transition, we planned on my staying until I found a new job, which I estimated would be no later than October.

I didn’t write about it in the blog because people from work read it and I didn’t feel it was appropriate to announce my plans to anyone besides my boss and the CEO. But now that the cat is out of the bag, there's no reason to hold back.

As it turns out, doing a job search while working full time wasn’t exactly easy. So we made the decision to part ways earlier than expected.

For now I’m just taking some time off — I haven’t had more than a week off since I got my first real job in 1992! Then in the next week or two I’m planning on putting all my efforts into the job search. Wish me luck! :)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Visiting Aunt Nicky

On the way back home, we stopped in San Jose to visit my aunt Nicky and her/our friend Margaret (the one whose husband of 60 years passed away last April). It was my first time there since Augie had passed away. I was happy to see that they were doing fine under the circumstances.

Me and my Aunt Nicky and Margaret, seated. (08/22/05)

My Aunt Nicky is my mom’s oldest sister. Because we at one time also lived in San Jose, she was one of the few relatives from my mom’s side that we saw regularly.

Afterward we drove by my old house to take a picture. It looks better now than it did then!

Our old house where my family lived from 1976-1979. (08/22/05)

Dinner with my Padrinos

Sunday night we had dinner with my Padrinos (aka Godparents) — a weekly tradition in Daly City. My padrino made a fantastic fresh fish stew using fresh rock fish that he and his friend of 40 years Carl caught the day prior.

My Godfather adds the freshly caught fish into the stew base. (08/21/05)

It was so good. I’m almost ready to make a rule that I won’t eat any thing that wasn’t alive just 24 hours prior! :)

Liele was fascinated by my Godfather's Big Mouth Billy Bass animated singing fish. (08/21/05)

We had a good time and it was a great chance to catch up. My padrino always has really good wine too.

My padrinos' friends of 40 years Carl and Mercy joined the family for Sunday dinner. (08/21/05)

Later on my madrina, a fellow State Quarter collector, gave me some of the state quarters that I hadn’t seen in circulation yet. She’s got a hook-up at her local bank, who calls her every time a new batch arrives.

Overall it was a great night with great food and drink.

New DigiCam

For a while now we realized that our digital camera sucks. We’ve been having more and more problems with it lately.

For one, it doesn’t focus very well. You probably don’t notice it all that much in the blog photos, since I upload them at a pretty low resolution for faster page loading. But if you saw the high-res photos, you’d see what we mean.

The new camera ... not much bigger than my cell phone. Photo taken with our old camera. (08/05)

So we’ve been planning on buying a new camera sometime before our upcoming vacation in Canada at the end of September. We researched a bunch of different models and settled on the Canon SD400, a 5-megapixel camera known for its compact size and incredible picture quality.

Our first picture taken with our new camera ... doesn't Liele look like a Christmas ornament? (08/21/05)

Since we were right by Best Buy during the soccer match, we swung by and picked it up before heading back to San Francisco. The difference between the picture quality of our new camera and the old one is really amazing.

Soccer Morning

While we were in the Bay Area, we planned on visiting my friend Laura and her daughters. Although they live in Santa Rosa, it turns out that Laura’s daughters Cindy and Mindy had a soccer tournament in the East Bay. Since we’d prefer driving to the East Bay than to Santa Rosa, it worked out for everyone.

James, Laura, Mindy and Cindy — before we noticed the guy with the sickening bandage. (08/21/05)

We started the visit with breakfast at Mimi’s CafĂ©, which was fun until I realized that a man in my direct view had a huge bandage on his head, which really grossed me out. Fortunately Laura offered to trade seats with me before I threw up. (Note to bandage wearers: Please don’t go out in public while wearing huge bandages on your head. Thank you.)

Tim and Laura play "Name That Ringer." Despite the sunny appearance, it was freezing outside. (08/21/05)

Afterwards we headed to the soccer field where we watched the girls win their third consecutive game, putting their team in the finalist position. Well, we watched as much as we could. Most of the time we were talking with Laura about the drama going on in her life (and there’s a lot of it).

2nd place champions Mindy and Cindy. (08/21/05)

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay to see the championship game, but it’s probably just as well, since the girls ended up losing it. Oh well, second place isn’t bad! :)

American Idols Live

Saturday night I went to see the American Idols LIVE show at HP Pavilion in San Jose. Accompanying me was my friend and fellow American Idol nut Loren, whom I’ve known since 6th grade. Although Tim was invited along as well, he opted to spend the evening with Michele and Lisa instead.

My golden ticket to American Idols Live! (08/05)

After having dinner at a nearby and inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant, we walked over to HP Pavilion, which was packed with thousands of other American Idol fans. It was like being with family. :)

Some of the many crazy fans in the audience. (08/20/05)

The only thing that brought us down, however, was the simple sign we saw posted on the door stating that Bo Bice will not be performing due to illness. At first I thought it was just one of those things where he had a cold and wasn’t able to sing, but after some Web research later, I learned that he had emergency surgery due to an intestinal blockage. Ouch. Maybe he should have had that bran muffin for breakfast after all.

No Bo for us. (08/20/05)

The show’s #10 runner up, Jessica Sierra, opened the show with the Bus Boys’ “Boys are Back in Town,” the Miracles’ “Shop Around and Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart.” She was pretty good, but seeing her again reminded me of why she didn’t make it to the Top 5.

The dreadlocked Anwar Robinson came out next, singing Dionne Warwick’s “A House is Not a Home” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”

Next up … one of the Idols that I was especially looking forward to: Constantine Maroulis. Constantine opened his set with The Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle,” and then segued into “My Funny Valentine.” He closed his set with the one song I was hoping he would sing: Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Like the time he sang it on the show, it was fantastic.

The amazing Constantine had everyone on their feet with excitement. (08/20/05)

Nikko Smith came out next, singing Sisqo’s “Incomplete,” Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover” and Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You.” Scotty “The Body” Savol followed, opening with Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” which I liked on the show and during the concert. But then he went into some other forgettable song, followed by Hall and Oates’ “She’s Gone.”

Just when I thought I had enough of Scott Savol, he ended up doing an amazing duet of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with Jessica Sierra. Anyone that knows me knows that “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is like one of my favorite songs. Ever. And their duet lived up to my high expectations.

Nadia Turner finished off the first half singing Ashley Cleveland’s “Power of Love” and Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” She closed the set with “Try a Little Tenderness,” which was off the hook!

Bad-ass Nadia rocked the house. (08/20/05)

After a 20-minute intermission, Anwar came back out and sang Stevie Wonders’ “Superstition” with my other favorite contestant Vonzell. Vonzell is just one of those performers that makes me smile. She continued on with Alicia Keys’ “Karma,” Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” (which was amazing) and the Emotions’ “The Best of My Love.”

The diva-licious Vonzell did her thang. (08/20/05)

And then there was little Anthony Federov, who sang a few mostly forgettable songs, like Paul Young’s “Every Time You Go,” and Marc Anthony’s “I’ve Got You.” I do have to give Anthony props for singing a song in Spanish, which he did well.

At this point, Bo Bice was supposed to come out. Instead they played a pre-recorded clip of him singing “Vehicle,” which is probably the one song he did the best during the entire season. Afterward, Constantine, Nikko, Scott, Anwar and Anthony sang “Sweet Home Alabama” in homage to Bo.

Finally Carrie came out singing Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon,” which was really fun. She kept the momentum by singing a rousing version of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” Then in what was probably her finest performance of the evening, she sang Heart’s “Alone” — the same song she sang on 80s night when she squeezed her way to the frontrunner position.

This year's American Idol, Carrie Underwood. (08/20/05)

She closed her set with her single, “Inside Your Heaven.” Towards the end of the set, the other performers came out singing backup, bringing the song to a grand finale.

Then they did that thing where they pretended it was the end of the show and gave the audience a chance to demand an encore, which we did. At first, Carrie emerged and sang “Bless the Broken Road,” which is probably one of the most pleasant ballads I know.

Nikko, Anwar, Scott, Carrie, Vonzell, Anthony, Nadia, Constantine and Jessica close the show. (08/20/05)

The rest of the gang came out after Carrie’s song and sang an inspiring version of “Lean on Me.” They closed the show with John Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. in the USA,” which had everyone on their feet. Despite the whole situation with Bo, I had a really good time.

P.S. If you're interested in reading Loren's version of our American Idols Live experience, click here.

Weekend with Lisa, Michele and Liele

We spent the weekend in Daly City with my cousins Michele & Lisa, and their six-month old daughter Liele (the one who was born on my birthday earlier this year). It was our first time meeting Liele in person.

Shel and Liele, wearing her "I Love My Uncle" bib. (08/21/05)

Just like her pictures promised, Liele was absolutely adorable. And she’s also a very good baby. I think the whole weekend I only heard her cry two or three times, and each time was really short.

Lisa and Liele enjoy a ride in the Saab — the first time we've ever had a baby seat inside. (8/20/05)

Saturday morning we went out to eat at a little mom and pop Mexican restaurant in South San Francisco called La Perla, where they had the best corn tortillas I’ve ever had. Normally I’m a flour guy. But if every corn tortilla was like the ones we ate at La Perla, I would definitely convert.

Michele got the menudo, while I got the pozole. And Tim got a dish that I’ve had at home many times, but never seen on a menu: chilaquiles. It’s a dish made with tortillas torn up into little bits, and then fried with cheese, chopped onion and enchilada sauce. I tried a bite, and they were pretty good. Not as good as when my dad makes them, but pretty good.

James smiles for the camera before starting on his big bowl of pozole. (08/20/05)

Afterward we went to our favorite panaderia (or Mexican bakery to white folks), which was only a block or two away. Tim loves going in and picking out all the pan dulce. I pretty much let him do all the picking so long as he gets me at least one oreja — my favorite kind (to anglos, it’s sometimes called a palm leaf).

Tim loves picking out pan dulce if it's not obvious from his expression. (08/20/05)

We also got to play with my cousin Ralphie’s new puppy Dozer (short for Bulldozer). Not more than six months old, this dog is the cutest thing ever. But being a half Australian Shepherd and half St. Bernard, Dozer will truly be a bulldozer in no time.

Dozer sticks his tongue out for the camera. (08/21/05)

It was a fun trip and a great chance to catch up with everybody. BTW, in case anyone is wondering why I didn’t see my dad and siblings this trip, it’s because they were in Mexico for the month of August.

Ralphie and Shel hold up their babies for a picture before heading back home to OC. (08/22/05)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Congratulations to M & M & M

My family just keeps on growing! Yesterday my cousin Marc, and his wife Michelle, gave birth to their first child, Matthew Alexander. Baby Matthew was born 8/17/05 at 10:30 a.m. He weighs in at a healthy 7 lbs. and 7 ounces.

The newest addition to my family: Matthew Alexander. (08/18/05)

Mommy Michelle, who gave birth by c-section, is fine and recuperating in the hospital with little Matthew. Congratulations Marc, Michelle and Matthew!

Touring the Newest Mormon Temple

Yesterday I took at tour of the new Mormon temple in Newport Beach. It's the 6th temple in California, and the 122nd worldwide.

About a month before they dedicate a new temple, they open it up for public tours. After the dedication on August 28th, it will no longer be open to the public. In fact, it won't even be open to all Mormons ... only to Mormons who have been recommended by their local bishop.

The temple, taken just as I was about to go in. (08/17/05)

A lot of people might wonder why I would want to tour the Mormon temple. After all, I'm not exactly religous. In fact, the last time I've been to a mass was probably at my Dad and Malena's wedding a year-and-a-half ago!

First of all, I've always been curious about other religous practices and ceremonies. Anybody who knows me always hears me say how I've always wanted to go to a Jewish wedding, an Indian wedding, a Greek Orthodox wedding, etc. I just don't know enough Jewish, Indian or Greek Orthodox single people. I almost had a chance at going to a Muslim wedding when my Pakistani friend and co-worker Samiya was getting serious with a guy, but she ended up breaking it off.

I guess I qualified! (08/17/05)

Second of all, anytime I have an opportunity to go inside a building where I'm normally not allowed, I'm all over it! It's kind of like the time my old friend Marty worked at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip and gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of the foundation room, lounge, prayer rooms, Captain's room, etc. That was really cool. And I'm still working on getting inside Disneyland's Club 33 (member anyone?).

The Mormon temple tour was actually very interesting. And very crowded. I couldn't believe the hundreds of people that were there. It started with an 11-minute movie about why temples are built. Then we walked to the temple where we had to put these paper booties on our feet. The booties have no religious significance they said. It's simply a way to keep the carpets clean.

Taken from the rear, after the tour. (08/17/05)

The first thing I noticed were all the pictures of Jesus on the walls (and how he often appeared to have blonde hair and light skin, which I found interesting considering he was middle eastern). They led us through the baptistry, which is kind of like a jacuzzi built atop 12 oxen statues, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Next was the waiting room, which had the most amazing mosaic tile floors.

The ordinance room was unique. On three of the walls were murals representing Newport Beach. I didn't completely understand the purpose of this room, but supposedly it's where they hear God's plan. We walked by some sealing rooms, which is where they have weddings. Finally we went into the celestial room, which was nice, except for the chandelier, which was a little too "Liberace" for my tastes.

Some of the things I learned throughout the tour sounded a little bit crazy ... like the baptizing of the dead, how they only wear white inside temples, and how supposedly there was a tribe of Israelites that migrated to North America before the Indians lived here. Then again, growing up Catholic, I guess we have beliefs and traditions that people of other faiths might consider odd too.

The reception area had a custom statue of Jesus, made from clay. (08/17/05)

The Mormon tour guides were the friendliest bunch of people. One of our two escorts was JoLane, this matronly, 50-something choir director from one of the local Mormon stakes. She kind of latched onto me, probably because I was alone (Tim was supposed to come, but wasn't feeling up for it yesterday). She probably liked that I asked a lot of questions. She was very nice, bless her little heart.

Afterwards they had a reception area where you can get bottled water and cookies (no coffee). Overall it was a very interesting experience. I would do it again if I have another chance.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my mom's birthday. Although it's been more than four years since she passed away, Tim and I still like to commemorate her birthday by doing something she always loved: going out to dinner. She always enjoyed going to new restaurants ... especially if she had a coupon! Mostly I think she loved it because it gave her a break from cooking. :)

We celebrated my mom's birthday at the Summit House in Fullerton. (8/16/05)

So every year on August 16, we pick a swanky restaurant and have a nice dinner.This year we picked the Summit House in nearby Fullerton.

The Summit House is known for really good food and spectacular views of Orange County and the San Bernadino mountains. Designed as an English Country Manor, the decor features carved high beam ceilings, quaint fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows. It was my first time there, and Tim's first time in nearly 15 years.

Happy birthday Mom! (08/16/05)

We had a great time, and it was a very nice way of celebrating my Mom.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tom & Christine's 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago this month, our friends Tom and Christine tied the knot. So to help them celebrate, we threw a small BBQ and pool party in honor of making it to this milestone.

Laura, Christine, Jon, Amy, Tom and James help celebrate Tom & Christine's 10-year anniversary. (08/13/05)

We had lots of great food (and I do mean lots -- we were stuffed!), and lots of great drinks (mojitos again). We topped the night with two intensive rounds of '90s trivial pursuit (fitting, since Tom and Christine were married in the '90s) and a Victorian Lace cake.

Tim brings out the mini wedding cake. (08/13/05)

Happy 10th Anniversary Tom and Christine!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Day at Sea World

Since we were down in San Diego, we thought we'd spend the day at Sea World, which we haven't been to in at least five years. There was lots of new stuff that wasn't there the last time we came, like Cirque de la Mer, R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse 4-D, Shipwreck Rapids (on which we got SOAKED), and Journey to Atlantis, a sort of water flume and roller coaster in one. In addition, we also paid the extra five bucks to ride the Bayside Skyride and the Skytower, which we didn't do last time.

Rather than write a lengthy description of everything we did, I thought I'd just post some of the pictures we took:

Here we are at Sea World ... our first time there in at least five years. (08/07/05)

One of the killer whales from the Shamu Experience shows us a few tricks. (08/07/05)

The dolphins did some pretty spectacular tricks in the dolphin show. (08/07/05)

Unlike the last time we were here, one of the polar bears was actually visible. (08/07/05)

The new Journey to Atlantis water ride/roller coaster. We rode it twice. (08/07/05)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Celebrating and Remembering Friends

About a year ago, our friend Tase lost her battle with cancer. She was 35 years old. Tase was part of the "Club Pavo" gang, which is a bunch of crazy friends that get together for big parties several times a year. So when the anniversary came, the Club Pavo gang thought it would be fitting to celebrate her memory doing something Tase loved to do: Throw a party!

From left to right, Tim, Christine's cousin, wife and daughter (I forgot their names already), Victor, Gary, Ann's forehead and Viki. (08/06/05)

The party was held at our friends Christine and Cassidy's house (the same ones we went to Alaska with last year). Actually it was supposed to be at Rachel & Peter's house, but had to be moved after their four-year-old broke his femur on the monkey bars (he'll be fine, but is in a body cast for the next 4-6 weeks, which is no fun for a four-year-old).

Viki, Victor and Christine mug for the camera. (08/06/05)

The theme of the party was two-fold. To remember our friend Tase, whom we all miss very much, but also to appreciate our friends that are still with us. It was a fun party and we had a very nice time. We also had a chance to see Christine's mom Jean, who also accompanied us on that cruise to Alaska last year. It was nice seeing her again.

Our hotel room at the Marriott in the Gaslamp ... not bad for a free room, eh? (08/06/05)

We stayed that night at the Marriott Hotel in the heart of San Diego's Gaslamp district. It was a very nice room, but the best thing about it was that it was free! We were trying to get a decent hotel on Priceline, but every bid we made was rejected. So finally Tim called Marriott and cashed in some of his Marriott points that he accrued on all his business travel. Gotta love that.

The view from our hotel room ... overlooking Petco Park where the Padres play and the Coronado bridge. (08/06/05)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Remembering an Icon

It was exactly 50 years ago tonight that we lost one of the brightest stars ever to shine in Hollywood: the legendary Carmen Miranda.

When asked what she needed to be happy, Carmen Miranda replied: "A good bowl of soup and the freedom to sing." (c.1940s)

Carmen’s career began in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (although she was actually born in Portugal), where she had become the country’s most successful entertainer. At the height of her popularity in Brazil, someone asked Carmen what she needed to be happy. She replied: “A good bowl of soup and the freedom to sing.”

She made her American debut in 1939 after legendary Broadway impresario Lee Schubert saw her show in Rio de Janeiro. He immediately booked her for his Broadway review: The Streets of Paris. Carmen was an overnight sensation.

Carmen Miranda helped audiences escape the dark days of World War II ... in vibrant Technicolor. (c.1940s)

That show marked the beginning of an 18-month string of successive Broadway reviews and nightclub acts. Her acceptance in Brazil, however, wasn’t as receptive. When she returned to perform in 1939, Brazilian audiences were as cold as ice. They said she had been Americanized. She was no longer their Carmen Miranda.

Carmen was crushed. It would be 14 years before she would ever return to her homeland.

The vivacious Carmen Miranda became the highest paid woman in the U.S. (c.1940s)

Back in the U.S.A., Carmen landed a new contract with 20th Century Fox. She was starting a new life in a new country, and she took the town by storm. Six months after leaving Brazil, her hands and feet were enshrined in cement at Mann’s Chinese Theater. Soon she would become the highest paid woman in the U.S.

After a few years, the novelty eventually began to wear off. But she had so much success doing what she had been doing — singing and dancing in supporting roles — that 20th Century Fox wouldn’t allow her to do anything else.

Carmen Miranda created one of the most enduring images in the history of Hollywood. (c.1940s)

She eventually bought out her contract, dyed her hair blonde, and took a lead role opposite Groucho Marx in the 1947 film Copacabana.

The film was a flop. Carmen was unable to escape the caricature she had created.

Carmen Miranda, shown here with the late great Don Ameche. (c.1940s)

She went back to the nightclub circuit. By then she was almost a novelty act. After working two shows a night for months on end, Carmen had problems sleeping. So she began to take a sleeping pill. Within a few years, she was taking up to 10 sleeping pills.

After a nervous breakdown, Carmen entered into a deep depression. She went back to Brazil to recuperate and go through shock treatments, which were common at the time. A few months later, she began to show signs of life again.

Carmen Miranda was the biggest star ever to come out of Brazil ... even though she was actually Portuguese. (c.1940s)

She returned to Hollywood in 1955 and threw herself back into the turmoil of appearances and TV guest spots.

Three months later, appearing on the Jimmy Durante Show, she collapsed suddenly while dancing and had trouble breathing. But being the trooper she was, she picked herself up and finished the show, dancing gracefully out the door. It would be the last recorded image of Carmen.

Later that night she died. Cause of death was a heart attack. She was 46 years old.

The last recorded image of Carmen Miranda, as she exits the Jimmy Durante Show. (08/04/55)

Fortunately today the legend of Carmen Miranda still lives on. And for me at least, her star still shines brightly.