Friday, December 26, 2008

Boy in da Snow

@ has been talking about snow for weeks, ever since I told him we'd be coming up to LD's for the holiday. We drove up in the rain Christmas Eve-- he sat with a blue bucket next to him and explained how he'd use it to collect snow. Although it rained all night, temperatures didn't dive low enough to produce snow.

I considered attempting to come up with words to a new song -- I'm Dreaming of a Muddy Christmas -- but the initial disappointment of missing snow was quickly replaced with the desire to rip into presents. Like most kids promised the arrival of Santa overnight, he woke up with the energy of a guy on his fifth can of Red Bull.

After breakfast and opening presents, the rain turned to sleet. Shortly thereafter, on cue, it turned to snow. Both @ and Lucas thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dog vs. Bubble Wrap

video

I shall defeat you, evil bubble wrap. I am the hound. You will feel my wrath.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dangers of Partying in the Forest

Stuffed deer heads on walls are bad enough,
but it's worse when they are wearing dark glasses and
have streamers in their antlers
because then you know
they were enjoying themselves
at a party
when they were shot. -- Ellen DeGeneres

Fifteen Days of Chrismuka

Continuing the current trend of large-scale mergers and acquisitions, it was announced today at a press conference that Christmas and Hanukkah will merge. An industry source said that the deal had been in the works for about 1300 years.

While details were not available at press time, it is believed that the overhead cost of having twelve days of Christmas and eight days of Hanukkah was becoming prohibitive for both sides. By combining forces, we''re told, the world will be able to enjoy consistently high-quality service during the Fifteen Days of Chrismukah, as the new holiday is being called.

Massive layoffs are expected, with lords a-leaping and maids a-milking being the hardest hit. As part of the conditions of the agreement, the letters on the dreydl, currently in Hebrew, will be replaced by Latin, thus becoming unintelligible to a wider audience.

Also, instead of translating to "A great miracle happened there," the message on the dreydl will be the more generic "Miraculous stuff happens." In exchange, it is believed that Jews will be allowed to use Santa Claus and his vast merchandising resources for buying and delivering their gifts.

One of the sticking points holding up the agreement for at least three hundred years was the question of whether Jewish children could leave milk and cookies for Santa even after having eaten meat for dinner. A breakthrough came last year, when Oreos were finally declared to be Kosher. All sides appeared happy about this.

A spokesman for Christmas, Inc., declined to say whether a takeover of Kwanzaa might not be in the works as well. He merely pointed out that, were it not for the independent existence of Kwanzaa, the merger between Christmas and Chanukah might indeed be seen as an unfair cornering of the holiday market. Fortunately for all concerned, he said, Kwanzaa will help to maintain the competitive balance. He then closed the press conference by leading all present in a rousing rendition of "Oy Vey, All Ye Faithful."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dual-Flush the Day Away...

Some office mornings just don't start well. Going directly from parking lot to conference room can be a little frazzling. But having a disembodied, and very cranky, voice yell at a room full of people across two states via speakerphone?

Well, it's not pretty. At one point I considered offering to step out of the room to call Barack Obama on my cell phone to ask him to shift his presidential inauguration by a day to better align with this person's preferred schedule. However, I've been advised that "not everyone really understands when you're kidding."

When the day starts sour, you know it's going to take a bit of doing to undo the film brought on by that variety of "professionalism."


It took a field trip to another building for a lunch meeting, but I found it. Strangely, the best part of my day was an instructional sign above a new-fangled water-saving toilet. A sign over a toilet. And yes, I
reallllllly wish I'd had a camera with me. And yes, I'm seriously considering driving back to said building for the sole purpose of photographing this sign.

It was that good.


Or my morning was that bad.


I'm paraphrasing, but the sign basically said this...


This is a water-saving toilet.
To eliminate liquid waste, press the green button.
To eliminate solid waste, press the silver button.

The automatic sensor will select how much water
to use based on how much time is spent in the stall.



And I learned that those automatic sensor thingies are called "flushometers." And this particular product is the
Sloan Valve Products ECOS Exposed Battery Operated Electronic Dual Flush Water Closet Flushometer

W
hy do I know that? Because Google is my friend and I just had to find the dang thing on the Web.

I wish network switch product pages were this fun to read:
  • If the user is present for less than one minute and leaves the sensing zone or chooses the small override button, a reduced flush initiates (1.1 gpf/4.2 Lpf) eliminating liquid and paper waste, saving 1/2 gallon of water.
  • If the user is present for greater than one minute and leaves the zone or chooses the large override button, the full flush initiates (1.6 gpf/6.0 Lpf) eliminating solid waste and paper.
  • Reduces water volume by up to 30% when a reduced flush occurs.
  • "Leaves the zone." Love that.
  • User friendly three (3) second Flush Delay.
  • Courtesy Flush™ Override Button.
  • Trademarking the term "Courtesy Flush"? Brilliance!
    • Flush Accuracy Controlled by CID™ Technology.
    And thank goodness for accurate flushes and more trademarked technology to ensure them.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    For the Love of God?

    "Hey, I believe in Jesus Christ and if you don't,
    that's okay because you're going to fry
    like a Jimmy Dean pure pork sausage."
    --Pastor Ken Hutcherson, Antioch Bible Church
    commenting on a protest sign posted near a nativity scene at the Washington State capitol

    Wow, that's just the kind of guy you want at the pulpit.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Just Another Day at the Office

    Imagine if you will... It's Thursday afternoon in Cubeville.
    • 3:17: Tra la la la. Sitting at your desk. La la la. Getting ready to leave at 3:45 for physical therapy. La la la.
    • 3:18: A senior VP sends an e-mail to 5,000 people to announce this really great Web project -- you guessed it, the same one you'd been asked to hold until you received her approval.
    • 3:19: Cubedwellers in earshot here a very perky, "Well, I guess that's approval!" Initiate IM search for Web developers. Uh, guys...
    • 3:27: Compose e-mail, "Dear Boss and Boss's Boss, Imagine my surprise..."
    • 3:35: Site is live -- warts and all.
    • 3:45: Warts removed.
    • 4:05: Praising existence of carpool lane on 101, consider personal budget for lavish gifts to Web developers.
    • 4:35: Arrive at physical therapy prepared to get pummeled by 6'2" guy who has to release sciatic nerve tension by thumbs into calf and elbow into hamstrings and glutes.
    Tra la la. La. LA LA LA!

    Saturday, November 8, 2008

    From Coop to Couch

    I hereby declare my couch once again to be a couch.

    I will sit on it. I will read. I will watch movies. I will use those fabulously soft blankets I bought for cozying up rather than serving as a helicopter deck.

    My couch has, at various times during this week, been:
    • a helicopter
    • a really big rescue helicopter
    • a barge
    • a fireboat
    • a scuba dive boat
    And, even more randomly today: a chicken coop.

    @'s imagination is amazing and amusing at the same time. The detail he puts into his creations -- that he will at length explain -- is always very carefully considered. These pillows are the seats, but those pillows are the parachutes. The smaller animals are afraid, so they stay away from the doors and windows in the middle of the cabin.

    We were rescuing animals yesterday. The burping cat (aka a stuffed Garfield for which he does not know the actual name but saw on television at some point) had fallen overboard and the dogs were lowering the rescuer to save him. The gray dog was to do first aid while the brown one piloted the helicopter to a hospital.

    Today my entire tv room was a chicken coop and I, of course, Mama Chicken. Lucas tired of the pecking early on, but the gambit went on from about 8a to 2p when x came to pick @ up. Mac and cheese for lunch became chicken feed. Corn for lunch -- well, chickens already eat corn, dontcha know? Thankfully, with only minor encouragement to do so, he abandoned his first idea of spreading it on the carpet and pecking to eat it.

    But now, blankets reclaimed, cushions replaced, and the legion of stuffed buddies returned to @'s room, the couch is mine.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    @'s Presidential Vote

    My son has turned on me.

    Last week, @'s teacher interviewed the kids about their presidential choices and put the quotes up on the bulletin board. It's a jarring sight at 7:30a to see an adorable photo of your own child next to the quote:
    "I'm voting for John McCain because I like his hair. I love John McCain."
    Where have I gone wrong?!

    Saturday, September 27, 2008

    A Philanthropist Falls Away

    "What could be better than to hold your hand out to people who are less fortunate than you are? That's simply the way I look at it." --Paul Newman, 1925-2008

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    A River Runs...

    "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."
    - Norman MacLean

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Not My Mommy

    Cute Overload, Indeed

    There's definitely something to be said for cute. Even an overload of cute. My friend Cristal like has this friend, you know. And her name is like Meg, you know. And she's really cool (Cristal too of course). Any like she -- Meg, not Cristal -- started this blog posting pix of cute little critters.

    And Cuteoverload.com, well, exploded -- in a good way. How good?

    The #1 selling calendar on Amazon.com
    Multiple Webby awards
    An appearance today on Martha Stewart



    Cristal and Meg just happen to be three of the leading ladies who provide the fab three-part harmony in the Bootcuts, one fabu rad band o' fun folks. And then check Cristal and Meg singing.

    All I can say is, RIGHT ON MEG!

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    Flamin' Amazin'

    Oddly enough, or not, one of our annual traditions has become going to a local car show out in the woods where LD lives. It's an interesting deal with an odd crowd.

    LD usually enters a car in the show, but this year opted out -- something about energy, spiderwebs, 104 degree heat, etc.

    So, this year we were spectators. My faves are usually the 32-34 Ford Fordor or Tudor hot rod restorations and I'll admit I have a thing for flame paint jobs. One of the cars this year has the most bad-a** flames I've seen to date.

    The flames trail from the front with little bursts on the sides.

    And then there's the trunk...

    (The trunk pic is worth double clicking to see larger, trust me.)

    Keep in mind, this is all free-hand work. I can't draw freehand with a pencil and a giant eraser. Whoever did this work, did it on a car -- no eraser.

    @'s fave is a delivery sedan he calls the "bug car" because he likes the headlight covers.





    And for the flame traditionalists among you... for runner-up in the fabu flames category we have this colorful rod.

    @'s Corporate Ladder

    A true, bona fide, verbatim quote from @:

    "Hey Mommy look -- I can put my corporate ladder wherever I want."

    And the accompanying visual:














    True story. 'Nuf said.

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    Cutbacks

    Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.

    We apologize for any inconvenience.

    Momentary Flashback

    I found myself in a familiar position yesterday, surrounded by familiar sights and sounds. And calm, but not at all thrilled about it. I spent most of the day sitting in a chair next to a hospital bed while the alarm for the oxygen saturation monitor squawked at me every few minutes.

    @ had his tonsils and adenoids removed yesterday. The surgery went well, but recovery turned out a bit trickier.

    We started our morning with an early breakfast-free start and a drive up to Stanford. He had a great anesthesiologist who sang Thomas the Tank Engine songs to him while he drowsed out on the way to snoozeville.

    The docs had initial concerns about his history of lung damage and recent croup, but everything turned out to be fine and his airways were clear. Original estimates were an hour for the surgery, with an hour or two for recovery, putting us home around 12:30 or so.

    If there's one thing you learn when you have a kid in the NICU, it's that all estimates are best ignored.

    @ initially had breathing trouble while coming out of anesthesia, which isn't terribly uncommon for kids with his history. But after a couple of hours his oxygen saturation rate will was still inconsistent and hovering lower than normal. We could get him into a good zone with with "humidified blow-by" (humidified oxygen + air delivered by nebulizer) but he just wasn't maintaining on "room air" (no supplemental stuff).

    The doctors advised that we stay the night so that we could continue to monitor his sats and have supplemental oxygen on hand.

    There were no beds available, so we hung out in recovery watching other kids come and go. Recovery a noisy, chaotic place. Waking from anesthesia is rarely fun, even when you're breathing just fine. When another little boy was crying uncontrollably, @'s first response was to say he was sad that the boy didn't have a stuffed animal buddy to help him calm down.

    We saw a lot of kids who spend far more time with the medical community than we do these days. You know that when the entire post-op staff knows a kid by name and condition you're seeing a kid who has seen far too much of the inside of a hospital in his or life thus far.

    During the day, @'s sat range crept up the scale closer to 100 without such low drops. Around 5p, still in the recovery room, we decided that @ was stable enough to come home. Yay!

    He zonked out in the car on the way home and had a quiet night -- even eating bread. He accepted his middle of the night medicine without complaint and happily woke up this morning at 7:30 to ask to watch his favorite show: Tougher in Alaska.

    Now I just gotta keep the little guy drinking his gatorade and chomping otter pops (he doesn't like ice cream -- go figure) and all will be well.

    Sunday, July 6, 2008

    Election Year Math



    I can't help it. It just makes me laugh. Out loud and everything.

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    Bad Day for BBQs

    The CAL FIRE stats are pretty amazing. That's all I know. I called LD to find out where the nearest one is to where he lives since a map shows one much closer than I'd prefer it to be (probably within 10 miles). Luckily, he's a big proponent of defensible space, ponds, irrigation ditches, and oh yeah, his own fire truck...

    Saturday, June 28, 2008

    My Left Foot

    Once upon a time, long ago, my left foot and I had a great relationship. We walked on the beach, played soccer on the fields, swam in the ocean, hiked in the mountains... until "the incident." Like many that change relationships, this incident changed the foundation of my relationship with my left foot.

    One day we went a little too far afield and met the edge of a sidewalk with all of the force you'd expect a soccer player to deliver in pursuit of a round spotted object. There was the realization of "Hmm... Gee, that hurt" followed by a bit of tenderfooting around for the next week. Ah, but it was the end of the season and tournament weekend had arrived. No visible injury, probably just bruised...

    A month or so later my first visit to the podiatrist began with him staring at an x-ray while delivering a question along the lines of "See these two pieces of bone? How did they get so far apart?" He really didn't like my answer of, "Well, I thought it was just bruised, so I played a tournament and..."

    I believe I heard, "I hate f.ing soccer players" uttered in a muffled sort of mutter.

    Thus began what has become a long-lasting frequent-flyerish relationship with the podiatrist's office. Basically, my soccer career lasted exactly one week too long. That first injury alone begat three surgeries -- one to remove the bone that refused to fuse after three months in a walking cast, one eight months later to address the 5% change of nerve damage that resulted from the first surgery. (You'd think I'd play the lottery...)

    Seven years later, the partner bone to the first decided it couldn't handle the stress of taking on the world alone and decided to break and refuse to reassemble itself. This is exactly why I know that titanium is paramagnetic and one of the few metals to successfully fuse with bone.

    Some knowledge is better found in books. Or the blogs of other people.

    And now, well, I'm couched and crutched again nearly ten years after the first injury. Same recalcitrant foot, but this time we've moved a little higher and damaged the Achilles tendon. No marathons for me says doctor guy.

    Thursday involved repairs of torn tendon and modification of an oddly shaped calcaneus (bone), resulting in a nifty cooler with a pump that attaches to a series of tubes that surround my ankle (wherever it is in that fabulous mass of gauze, bracing, and such). Oh and the inability to bear weight for a month, leading to the ego-reducing use of a knee-scooter for some degree of mobility about the world at large. Good thing I like to laugh at myself.

    The good news is that it doesn't hurt nearly as much as I anticipated -- or I'm finally taking the meds as directed instead of trying to tough things out. Running commentary from X would suggest I'm really not good at giving in to needing meds. More good news -- the doc says it went well, X and I have a friendship that means he was the one to take me to & fro the surgery and has been really great in helping, my mom has come to visit and hang out with her gimpy kid, and Luke has all sorts of attention because I can't help but sit still.

    All because of my left foot.

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Hang a Right at the Firetruck

    My guess is that I'm not the only parent on the planet who is a bit squirrelly about having a son learn to drive. My guess is that fear typically sets in around age 13 or so. Not me and my overachieving and amusing kid. His feet can't come close to reaching the pedals, but he can steer a tractor. Not just a little lawn tractor, but a full-size Kubota farm tractor. And that's a good thing when mama's car is parked between Point A and Point B of "Adventures in Tractor Driving 101" as taught by Grampa LD.

    video

    Strangely, I'm pretty sure LD would have sooner eaten granite gravel before putting me or my brother behind the wheel of any such vehicle when we were only barely at the midpoint between four and five years old. My how adding the "grand" prefix to parent changes things.

    Note how, except to redirect a certain kid's gaze forward, LD's hand doesn't even get near the steering wheel. And how Luke wisely stays four legs and two steps ahead of the oncoming heavy machinery.

    Friday, April 25, 2008

    Industrial Sundae

    Once upon a time there was a worker named @. He was very good at working hard and had lots of buddies who liked to help him. One day, @ decided he was a little bit hungry, so he decided to build some dessert.

    First, @ used an excavator to dig a big bowl in the ground. Then he drove his tractor to the warehouse and used the scoop to get some chocolate chip cookies. He carefully brought them back to the jobsite and put them in the bowl.

    Blue Doggie drove his backhoe to the ice cream factory and got a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, brought it back, and put it on the cookies. Then he went back for a big scoop of chocolate ice cream. Then he went back again for a big scoop of strawberry ice cream.

    Engineer Doggie drove the tanker truck to the chocolate sauce station and filled it up the whole tank with chocolate sauce. He drove back to the jobsite and used the hose to put the chocolate sauce on top of the ice cream.

    Kermit got his cement mixer and went to the dairy for some fresh milk and turned on the mixer. By the time he got to the jobsite, he had a full truck of whipped cream. @ and Blue Doggie used the chute on the truck to put the whipped cream on top of the chocolate sauce.

    Then Luke drove the cherry picker to the farm and found the best cherry in the entire orchard. When Luke got back to the giant bowl, @ used the boom lift to put the cherry on the very tippy top of the sundae.

    Then @ called all of his friends and his mama, daddy, Gramma Karen, Uncle Dave, Grampa Doug, and Grampa Don and told them all to bring their biggest spoons so they could help him eat his sundae. After they finished eating, they were so full that they all went and took a big nap on blankets on the grass under a big tree.

    The End.

    Monday, March 3, 2008

    Dangers of Cheese

    Mock my cheese allergy all you want. his would never happen at Chuck E. Tofu.
    Two moms allegedly brawl at Chuck E. Cheese in Massachusetts
    By Associated Press

    NATICK, Mass. - A child's birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant was cut short after a fight broke out between two mothers.

    Natick police said the mom of the 9-year-old birthday boy apparently became enraged because the other woman's son was "hogging" an arcade game.

    Sgt. Paul Thompson said Catherine Aliaga, 38, and Tarsha Williams, 33, both of Boston, would be summoned into court to answer charges of simple assault and battery stemming from the scuffle.

    Thompson told the MetroWest Daily News that police received a number of 911 calls about the fight Saturday night.

    He said what started as a birthday celebration turned into a "birthday melee."

    Saturday, March 1, 2008

    Visual Perspective

    I grew up with an appreciation for the outdoors -- tall tall trees without phone lines running through them, rivers with hoppable rocks, big warm solar-heated granite boulders, dirt paths with deer tracks, clean air. We'll never be mistaken for the Cleavers, but my family camped, backpacked a few times, took a horse-pack trip, and spent a lot of time at my grandparents' cabin near Donner Pass.

    I carry a memory of a particular meadow -- we were on a backpack trip and took a day hike. I think we followed a creek that lead to a huge expanse of tall grass. I often conjure it in my mind when I need to escape. It's quite possible that the real meadow was far perfect than the memory photoshopping I've done. Part of that photo editing has included "installing" a huge flat granite rock where I can perch.

    So every time I see someone flick a cigarette butt to the curb, I growl. What would happen if I offered to collect a week's worth of their butts and toss them on the living room rug? Guessing very few people would take me up on my offer.

    Or when I think about the massive number of water bottles we use because they're oh-so-convenient. Why do we suddenly trust Dasani's tap more than our own? I'm not completely innocent (the buggers can be tricky to avoid), but I have a water filter in the fridge at home and use a Naglene bottle at work to fill with Building 8's finest tap vs. the ubiquitous Aquafina.

    I traded my SUV for a hybrid, I recycle like crazy, use cloth grocery bags, and keep looking for more ways to retain a nice shade of green (minus the queasy feeling). I'm looking forward to mowing my long-overgrown lawn so I can put the clippings in my new compost bin! (My inner geek and I are quite happy together, thanks for asking.)

    Sometimes it's hard to get perspective on what that Aquafina bottle means. A Seattle photographer named Chris Jordan has some amazing work. To me, it's pretty stunning. Statistics are easy. Look, a number! But what does that number really look like when you actually show those things you're counting out. And does your one little water bottle really make a difference? Simple math -- your one bottle is added to the equation, never subtracted.
    Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait
    "This series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on.My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming."
    Check it out. No really. Then I dare you to look at another consumption statistic in the same way again. I dare ya!

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    Health & Welfare

    It's official. I'm tired of coughing. Or Marge is. As is probably anyone who has been within 50 yards of me since, say, two weeks ago? I'm long since past contagious, but I don't sound it. Marge sounds like hell.

    I almost felt bad for the guy in the seat next to me on the flight home from Seattle. Almost. Until he unearthed a massive onion-filled tuna salad sandwich from a greasy paper bag and proceeded to eat it. And then silently but stinkily belch for the next two hours. He also felt he needed to share his newspaper at full width rather than doing a polite airplane origami. I complimented him on his sharing skills (after all, I have a four-year-old), but asked him to figure out the concept of personal space before his paper ended up in little wads seven rows up and three rows back. Actually, my phrasing was much nicer.

    Gosh, I really miss those monthly flights to JFK. Wait, no I don't. Someone should do a study on how many people eat burritos the night before a nonstop cross-country flight. Honestly. The burrito consumption per capita must be off the charts.

    I'm stalling. What's really on my brain? LD started radiation treatments today. Ever the engineer, he is impressed with the efficiency of their process. Coming from him, this is a high compliment. Very. One down, 39 treatments to go. Daily, with weekends off for good behavior. As the crow flies, it's not a long way, but it's mountain roads and a steep grade every day after day after day. Probably not so odd for those of us who have our daily commutes, but for someone who relishes the fact that he lives in a tiny town with wooden sidewalks and no stoplights?

    Meanwhile I'm whimpering about my cough and the fact that my Achilles tendon won't behave. What six weeks ago appeared to the infamous surfing podiatrist to be an inflamed bursa is more likely tendinitis of the Achilles, which often precedes a rupture if not resolved. Nothing I want to experience. I've had enough drama for one foot. Hence, back into treatment to avoid further fun and games. And more time off the softball field. Yes, I know I'm horrid at it, but I miss being horrid at it.

    Thursday, February 21, 2008

    Marge in Seattle

    I've been introducing myself as Marge on conference calls this week. I sound like a 67-year-old smoker with a two-pack-day habit. I got tired of people saying, "who is this?!" So I now have a sister. (No, I haven't actually always wanted one.)

    Unfortunately Marge doesn't have the same respect for health as I do. My abs are rock solid, not from exercise, but very active coughing.

    But here I am in sunny Seattle working with some of my favorite co-workers. Had I known that my lungs would have felt better as checked luggage, I wouldn't have boarded a plane. I thought the fever had been the worst of it, but I keep hearing estimates that the cough lasts six weeks, maybe just four. WHAT?!

    The Seattle office is adjacent to Seattle Center and Space Needle, walking distance to the Music Experience (going next time!), strolling distance to the Seattle Art Museum sculpture garden (so cool!), and within a few blocks of all sorts of good restaurants and such.

    They claim it's always rainy up here. Clear skies since I arrived. I head home tomorrow, where the weather has been icky all week. Last night's lunar eclipse was amazing in a pure dark sky above the trees off my mom's back porch. I drive my horrid little rental car (resembling an orange popsicle, but much slower) here each afternoon after my day in the big city.

    Despite Marge, it has been a good trip. This trip has been a comfortable excursion, almost with its own routines and comfort zones -- something about familiar people and things to do, even in an unfamiliar place. It's not my home, but aspects of it feel like a homecoming.

    @ and I will come back in the summer just for play. Hopefully we'll leave Marge at home.

    Sunday, February 17, 2008

    Ready, Set, TWEET

    I haven't set foot on a track with the intent to run around it since sometime in college. Soccer fields? That's a different story. I've run around, through, across, up, and down hundreds of those gopher rut-infested grassy havens. But @ wants to run. Suddenly the track is no longer that overly prescriptive circle of monotony it once was.

    Despite coming off the heels of a cold that kept me in bed all day Thursday, x and I took @ to the track on Friday after school. He wanted to race on Saturday, so I wanted to introduce him to the bounce of the all-weather surface, the concept of lanes, and the basic idea of running in circles.

    Teach a four-year-old to stretch before running. It's a blast. You don't just touch your toes, you make your fingers into spiders and crawl from your knees to your toes. Deet deet deet deet. (The sound of spider toes reaching little boy toes...) We went twice around the track. He wanted to go more. I woke up at 2a with a 102 degree fever...

    Saturday came. He opted out of the first race he could have run. There were more people there this week. It was overwhelming. And that was fine. But then he saw another kid run. "Hey, I'm bigger than him. I can run faster than him." So when it came time to decide whether he wanted to run the 60m, he was in. No, not just "in." IN!

    We went to the infield to stretch and practice starting. I had thought they'd use a whistle instead of the starter pistol, so we practiced "Ready, set, TWEET." This was great fun. He wanted to modify it every time. "Ready, set, QUACK!" And when he counted down for x, for some reason it became "Ready, set, CHICKEN BUTT!!!" x nearly tripped over his own feet laughing out of his practice start.

    I was pretty sure we couldn't get the actual meet officials to change their routine from a whistle or bang to "CHICKEN BUTT!"

    He decided he wanted x at the start and me at the finish. They lined up the heats -- open and masters, high school boys, high school girls, school age. When his turn came, he put his hands on the line and got into a starting crouch in lane 1. They used the starter pistol and off he went, sharing his lane with the same little guy he watched run the 100. The two battled it out, both watching sideways as their daddies ran alongside on the infield. When he finally looked forward he saw me waiting at the finish line and completed the race actually looking forward and grinning like a Chesire Cat.

    The other little guy edged him out, but it didn't matter. (Except to the other little guy who had never finished in front of another kid and was so excited to be able to say, "I beated him!!! Hey, I beated him!" Who I am I to correct the grammar of some other kid? Let alone a three year old?)

    @, did you have fun? "Yeah! I ran a race!"

    Damn right he did.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Trouncing the Odds

    Four years ago, @ had been home from the hospital for less than a month. He was 4.5 months old and maybe weighed 7 pounds. He was attached to an oxygen tank and sat monitor 24x7. (It beeped. We jumped. ) We gave him breathing treatments 3x a day. He saw at least three doctors a week. He took more meds than the average octogenarian. We had to track his feeding, meds, and diapers on a spreadsheet to ensure he got enough calories each day, that the input & output matched, etc. When he threw up, we had to estimate how many calories came back at us. The kid could puke for distance.

    That was then.

    On Sunday @ and I took a two-mile hike in the hills. He walked the entire way. He found deer tracks and we saw deer. He met a horse. We talked to the chickens in the 4H coop at the park. Later, I worked in the yard and he practiced running. After the hike. Keep in mind, he's not yet three feet tall. Those little legs took a lot of steps.

    We had gone to a track meet to see a friend's daughter run on Saturday. At first, the concept was odd.

    "Mama, why are they running?" To see how fast they can go.
    "Mama, why do they want to go fast?" Err... It's a challenge.
    "Mama, why does that guy have a gun?" It's not a real gun, but when it goes off, they start running.
    "Mama, who is the guy with the flags?"
    "Mama, what does the red flag mean?"
    "Mama, what does the white flag mean?"
    "Mama, where did the starter guy go?"

    If there's a question to be asked, you can bet @ will ask it.

    "Mama, can I do that too?"

    It was an open meet with all age groups, including kids his age. He clapped at the finish of every race. He clapped when the slowest runners crossed the finish line. He insisted we buy running shoes on the way home. He's been talking about practicing on a track since Saturday. His Sunday practice included setting up a starting line and having me count down his starts. He set up cones as hurdles.

    When he was born, he didn't cry. He couldn't. He was 14 weeks early. He weighed less than 2 pounds. He was on a ventilator for 2.5 months. He needed surfactant therapy. He was on the vent longer than anyone wanted him to be. His lungs were smaller than my thumbs. The x-rays were always white with fluid. The doctors weren't sure he'd survive. If he did, they predicted he'd be pretty fragile, definitely asthmatic, likely developmentally challenged, maybe vision-impaired, etc.

    He's four, but the 24-month pants still fall down. He still has trouble eating. And technically his lungs are still healing from the damage the vent did just to keep him alive.

    And you'd never know it. He's not asthmatic. He only uses an inhaler when he has a cold. He doesn't wheeze. He hikes. He runs. He runs. And then, he runs.

    He wants to run. He wants to race. He's amazing. And he's my kid.

    Sunday, February 3, 2008

    Slam Books

    I was recently up at my dad's house and decided to bring home some things I'd stored up there. It was an interesting excursion into the past. I had shoeboxes upon shoeboxes of letters from summer-camp friends. Another box from my first boyfriend, who lived across town and went to a different school. (Never mushy teen melodrama, just two sarcastic smart-ass teenagers writing their views of the day back and forth.)

    I also found "slam books" from the pre-teen era. Each page has a question and each person has a line and answers the questions. In the end, you have a microview of preteen life, trends, and the occasional nasty sniping comment about some other kid.

    The current equivalent of the slam book now arrives via e-mail as spiffy little chain-letter question sets you're supposed to answer, then send to ten friends, while cc'ing the person who originally sent the list to you. For some reason, I'm still entertained and fascinated by this concept of sharing random facts


    1. What time do you get up? 5:30a during the week, however long my son lets me snooze on weekends
    2. If you could eat lunch with one person, who would it be? Living = @. Passed = @'s twin.
    3. Gold or silver? Silver
    4. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Little Miss Sunshine
    5. What is/are your favorite TV show? Grey's Anatomy
    6. What did you have for breakfast? Black cherry soy yogurt with dried cherries, whole grain cereal bar
    7. Who would you hate to be stuck in a room with? A misogynistic racist
    8. What inspires you? Being challenged, nature, fresh air
    9. What is your middle name? Austin
    10. Favorite ice cream? New York Super Fudge Chunk
    11. Butter, plain or salted popcorn? Kettle
    12. Favorite color? Purple
    13. What kind of car do you drive? Hybrid!
    14. Favorite sandwich? Peanut butter on whole grain bread, NO JELLY!
    15. What characteristic do you despise? Dishonesty -- to self or others
    16. Favorite flower? Lisianthus
    17. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Australia and NZ
    18. What color is your bathroom? One is green, one is gray
    19. Where would you retire to? Rural area, likely mountains
    20. Favorite day of the week? Saturday
    21. What did you do for your last birthday? Went to Maui with my mom & her hubby. It was her birthday too.
    22. Where were you born? Apparently, very nearly in the front of a car... But made it to Stanford in time.
    23. Favorite sport to watch? Soccer, Olympics
    24. Coke or Pepsi? Caffeine-free Coke
    25. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Morning person who tends to stay up too late
    26. Do you have any pets? One big silly dog
    27. What is your favorite season? Physically: summer. Philosophically: each has different meaning. (Excuse me while I go eat some granola and hug a tree.)
    28. Tea or coffee and what kind? Decaf black tea with apricot
    29. What color pants are you wearing right now? Cozy gray

    Friday, February 1, 2008

    Yah Cat, Yah!!!



    I took today off of work after a particularly challenging few weeks of cat herding for a major product launch. I've worked on launches for several years now, some bigger than this one. But this one? It kicked my butt. Even as I carefully left the catbox at work each night, little furballs would find the way to follow me home. Strange little IM messages. Random e-mails entitled "Oh Crap..." (imagine this with a British accent). Ringing mobile phones. But I kept most of it at bay, which has not always been my habit.

    Stepping into a Cliche

    I went to the courthouse today to file more paperwork related to my divorce. I stood in line with several other people, handed over the papers, got them stamped (ca-chunk, ca-chunk) by the clerk, and ta-da... yet another step in the process is now complete. It's a rather clinical.

    Then... I went shoe shopping.

    I had to laugh at myself. Multiple times. Oh look, here I am indulging in an oh-so-cliche form of retail therapy. How weird does this feel? Oh so very weird! Oh so very funny.

    Then I thought, where would a guy in the same situation go?

    A Corvette dealership?

    P.S. Yes, I bought more than one pair. :-)
    P.P.S. Do a Google image search on "midlife crisis" -- amazing how many Corvette pix pop up! Or maybe not amazing at all.

    Wednesday, January 30, 2008

    Want Fries with That?

    Drivers report seeing belly dancer shimmying across I-880

    01/30/2008 11:39:11 AM PST

    Nothing beats a shimmy and shake to stop traffic.

    When commuters spotted a woman in a belly dancing getup getting her groove on with a road sign, they called 911. It's more than you might expect to see along the side of Interstate 880 in San Leandro on a Monday afternoon.

    The first call described a woman belly dancing along the right side of the road at 3:07 p.m. A minute later, drivers reported that she was using a light pole as a dancing prop and then a highway sign for a pole dance.

    It wasn't until she ran across the interstate that things got nasty, CHP officer Oscar Johnson said. The woman in a black halter top and black pants began screaming obscenities at drivers who nearly hit her as she dangerously shimmied across the highway, he said.

    By the time officers arrived at the scene, the woman had ducked into the brush near a homeless encampment and run away, Johnson said.

    For the record, at 3:07p on Monday afternoon I was at work in San Jose, in a meeting. My casual business attire was not so casual as to include a halter top. Besides, I can't dance on flat ground, let alone pole dance with a light pole or a highway sign.

    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    Metallica, Yes. Donut Holes, No.

    Now, in the standard lexicon of things we've made up that don't really make sense, "donut holes" is a good one. They're not holes, they're the anti-holes, really. But @, well, he knows his stuff.

    X bought @ some of those dangerously, delightfully evil mini Hostess donuts the other day. (Getting @ to eat is an ongoing challenge, so if he professes interest in something, it's all good.) @ wanted donuts for breakfast, so I put two in a bowl for him. (Wrong bowl. Apparently, you can't eat donuts out of a Scooby Doo bowl. A Thomas the Tank Engine bowl, yes. Scooby? It's just wrong. Who knew?!)

    When he was finished he brought the bowl to me. "Mama, I don't like donut holes." I looked. He had carefully eaten around the circumference of the donut, leaving the center section around the actual hole intact. He did the same thing three days in a row. Systematically. Obviously, this kid does not like donut holes.

    Ah, but I do! Yum.

    I picked up @ after school the other day, buckled him into his seat, got in the car, started it. A very polite voice came from the back seat. "Mama, I would like to listen to Metallica please."

    Metallica. Please. Gotta love it.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    Caution: Chicken Crossing

    Because he's four and one curious little guy... the most-asked question in my son's universe is "why?" He and I often twirl into circular logic when the questions get silly or I bring out the heavy poultry artillery -- chickens.

    Why did you change the lightbulbs?

    Because these are fluorescent and last longer but use less power.

    Why do they use less power?

    Because it's a different technology.

    Why is it different?

    Because the chicken crossed the road.

    Why did the chicken cross the road?

    To get to the other side.

    Why are you laughing?


    Wednesday, January 9, 2008

    My Lucky Lunch

    So... I go to the cafeteria today and wait in line to get a nice healthy stir fry of tofu and vegetables. Then, I hike all the way:
    through the maze of the parking lot
    across the street (over the light-rail tracks)
    back to my building
    up the stairs
    to my desk

    There, I open my lunch, take a bite, and then...

    ARE THOSE LEGS?

    Dammit, those ARE legs.

    Freakin' cricket in my lunch.

    I know crickets are supposed to be lucky, but are they still lucky if they're in a stir fry?

    How lucky can the cricket be if it ended up in a wok?
    And is lucky to eat a cricket?
    Or unlucky to eat an unlucky cricket?
    Or neither, because once it's been fried, it's just a fried bug?

    How did my lunch turn into a philosophical dilemma?

    I didn't eat the cricket.
    Sparky gave me some carrots.
    Janet gave me some soup.

    I considered putting the cricket in interoffice mail to the cafeteria manager, but left him voice mail instead to ask if they charged extra for crickets. He called back to assure me it was an organic cricket because all of the produce is organic. I feel MUCH better with that factoid!

    Saturday, January 5, 2008

    Running at 50% Power

    Mother Nature and PG&E have conspired to remind me to slow down. OK, well, not just me. Everyone in the general vicinity. I'm not that amazingly arrogant that I think this whole storm is for my personal benefit.

    All of a sudden, someone remembered that "hey, we haven't yet really kicked any meteorological butt this season." And so the butt-kicking is underway, my neighborhood is in brown-out mode, and the puddles are nearing rhino-drowning depth. Still, silly me, I'm contemplating the ultimate Clash question: Should I stay or should I go? Out into the wild world of weather and errands, that is.

    Cabin fever has hit. It doesn't take long with me. I've been known to rake leaves in the rain. Or hike. Or just stand on the porch to listen to and smell the rain.

    I'm not such a grand fan of wind. The wind is playing with trees and such at full power, a local reminder that there's only so much peeps can do to control things. It's cleaning out the dead branches and leaves from a lot of trees and, unfortunately, toppling others. And that toppling reminds me of several topplings from past years that force me to point my wary eye the 30+ foot trees near my house. (I won't tell you which eye is the wary one -- top secret.) trees over 20 feet It's washing the rocks, streets, and walls. And at my house, flooding the garage, uprooting plants, and annoying the dog.

    The wind and rain are not fans of UPS delivery services. I felt like yelling across the yard "Just come back next spring. Really, it's fine!" as the guy was coming up the driveway in a sideways downpour. My driveway barely more than a car length, yet the boxes were spongy with rainwater just from the trip from truck.