Sunday, July 9, 2017

a vacation in CA

Summer vacation started with a small pop this year.  The night before our flight out to California I sprained my ankle playing softball.  I didn't think it was too bad, so I kept playing-- except that I moved from my standard outfield position to first base.  As an aside, first base is really great.  I hardly had to move the rest of the game!  And we won.

Later that night my ankle hurt bad.  I wondered if I needed an airport wheelchair.  While at the airport I eyeballed that old people greedily.  But I hobbled along.  And my ankle still bothers me 2 weeks later.

I didn't take as many pictures as I should have.  Missing from this post are images from our visit to Andy and Melanie in Napa (we had Oprah-recommended english muffins that did not disappoint.  Thanks, Oprah!), our beach trip, and several days hanging out at my sister's house.  

The biggest adventure of the vacation was visiting Big Trees state park near Bear Valley.  The trees did not disappoint.  As per usual, humanity did.  The largest tree was cut down shortly after the first Euro-Americans found the grove.  The stump remains in the ground, and some very big pieces lay beside it. 
 Before we all go 'what were you thinking???!!!???' towards those guys, I'll note that several trees in the area have fallen due to natural causes.  In fact, the signs say that much of the Sierras were covered with Giant Sequias several thousand years ago.  Those trees are long since gone.  Still, did they have to cut down the absolute biggest one???

Still, they might say to us in the after-life, 'did you have to climate change the whole planet????!!!???'  So maybe we're even.

On a perhaps related note:  we drove by the now-closed Sunol Golf course.  I was jolted by the sight of dead weeds standing in place of lush grass.  I guess googlers and facebookers don't play golf?
We camped (glamped?) overnight in Grandpa's RV.  The next day, Jill and I hiked down to the Stanislaus River to see how fast the water was flowing (very fast, and very cold!) and to see if we could find a gold nugget and retire (I'll be at work tomorrow.).
 That was an 8 mile walk with ~1000` of vert.  Ankle was pretty solid.
While at Grandpa and Grandma's house, we all played a golf-based game on their practice green,rough, sand-pit.  It was on the hottest side of the house, so evening games were common.  Some days reached 105.  But we also nearly froze to death at Half Moon Bay.  Janny and I played at the edge of the waves for about 30 minutes, and then she shivered for about 2 hours.
 Grandpa has a very cool koi pond (shown below).  Bernie has an unbelievable koi pond (not shown).  We will not be getting a koi pond (there are koi in the U of I's arboretum).
Grandpa and Grandma recently bought e-bikes that Jill and I tested out.  Very fun.  I was pleasantly surprised that they rode pretty much like normal bikes with the motor off.  Picking them up to carry them over a drainage ditch made it very clear to me that they had a motor.  Very heavy!  Note Grandma's sling in the photo below:  she was injured after crashing during a ride.  Heal soon, mom!  Also, Clara won Ticket To Ride.  Janny 'helped' her, so she was happy too.
We spent several days in Fremont, and this is one of the few pictures we took.  That's big cousin Anna, who is working this summer as a life guard!  Fremont is fancy now.  I saw a Whole Foods and a See's Candies store.  Some less fancy places remain, like Big 5 Sporting Goods.
I also partook in some silicon valley technologies for the first time:
1.  I texted [on my mom's phone]
2.  I talked to Alexa (Amazon Echo).  She played a Brett Dennen song for me.

The texting was to get details for what turned out to be a pretty sizable CBNC youth group gathering (plus their kids).  Jenn and Brian, Brian and Tracy, Eve (Anthony was ill, so couldn't come.  We did get to briefly chat later in the week), Phil, Tina, and I were all in the same place at the same time.  I don't know how this happened, and it is unlikely to happen again any time soon, but it was great.  Also at the party I met a fellow MSJ alum, who is a good friend of my best friend's brother.  Brentwood:  what a place!

Thanks to Mom, Dad, Bernie and Lisa for hosting us.  We look forward to our next visit.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

post-spring break

I'm so grateful for the start of spring.  Flowers are growing in our yard and some of the smaller trees and bushes are sprouting some leaves.  I moved the figs trees from our garage to the driveway.  Evenings aren't dark until after 7p.

Winter doesn't necessarily make me sad ( I really enjoy playing in the snow and battling the elements on my bike rides to and from work).  This year the experience was more discombobulation.  I couldn't assemble a coherent story for the various pieces of this life.  Each piece was acceptable or good enough on its own, but I didn't see any bigness to it.  As a grown up with barely sufficient maturity, I continue about life despite the dizziness.  Someday, it will likely make sense again.

Parenting anecdote: this morning (Saturday), Janny came into our room at 7:15 to play and request pancakes.  Both Jill and I wanted to continue sleeping.  Every single day this past school week, I had to talk to, shake her (in the legal sense), and carry her out of bed at 7:30 to get ready for school.  She turned 6 a couple of weeks ago!

 We almost had a new adventure for spring break, but fate intervened to give us a different adventure.  We made plans to stay at a bed and breakfast along the Katy Trail in MIssouri.  We would do some short out and back rides with the kids on our tandems.  I did some measurements and some preliminary packings, determining that our trusty Protege could in fact transport 2 tandems.  I removed the forks, racks, and wheels so that only the frames would be on the car's trunk rack.

As I wrote, fate intervened so we didn't get to that adventure.  But we did visit a lake in Kentucky and took a nice hike.  On Thursday night we want to eat pizza in Cadiz.  We found pizza at 8pm in the Casey's general store (the 7/11 or Circle K of the rural midwest) and drank slushies (cherry/coke mix for Jill and Chad, cherry for Clara, and blue raspberry for Janny).  Delicious if not highbrow.  And we got to spend some good time with family.  The girls love playing with their cousins.

Clara has 2 nearly fully sprouted front teeth.  She is growing out her bangs.  She is getting so much better at reading lately -- we are so excited to see this happening.  She is slowly getting through one of the Key Finders books and reading other smaller books with ease.

I have a business trip in May to Warren, MI.  My last trip for work was probably 6 years ago ( DOE conference in a Pittsburgh exurb.  The highlight of that trip was meeting a brahman that worked in coal gas extraction (i.e., removing methane from coal deposits, initially to reduce chance of mine explosion, then (and possibly now?) a profitable business.).

I started a new group on facebook called Urbana underground.  So far, claiming the cool name is all I have done for the group.  We have 4 members.  Maybe if we had a purpose or goal, it would be attractive?

Finally, I bought another cheap, 15ish year old mountain bike.  My intention was to swap wheels with my other psuedo-mtb and sell this one.  But it's fun, so I might keep it.  Now that 26" wheeled bikes are obsolete, I'm in!  When the trend reverses (and mark my words, it will), I'll be swimming in cash.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Christmas in the new south

Happy new year everybody!

We're back in IL after spending a pleasant Christmas break with Jill's family in Nashville.  Uncle Matt's family has yet to find a new house after selling theirs just a few weeks ago, so we all stayed together at Grandpa and Grandma's house. 
(Before we left, our good friend Fereshteh stopped by for a visit.)

We all took a house hunting trip together, but didn't find 'the one'.   Interestingly to me, this adventure demonstrated a strong use case for cell phones.  The realtor gave us the address of the next house only after visiting the previous house.  Without a very detailed map (the search area was HUGE), finding the next house would have been very difficult.  However, it didn't matter because:
1.  I didn't drive (we rode with Jill's parents and the kids were with Uncle Matt)
2.  Since we were on mostly rural roads, following the realtor posed no difficulties.
But, hey, that was a real-life use case for a cell phone (besides compulsively checking social media)!  And yet, I'm still not planning to get one soon.

 Once in a great while, I feel the itch to visit an actual city.  So we braved the traffic and terrors of downtown Nashville for a day.  I did a quick search for interesting things to see and had the Belmont mansion (on the campus of Belmont U) and the Downtown Presbyterian church.  Clara didn't want to see anything, and Janny wanted to walk along the river and throw rocks into it.  So we started with the river and skipped Belmont (too far to walk from downtown).

We parked near the football stadium and walked over the  pedestrian bridge to town.  Clara was still cool on the idea of the trip until we stopped at a cafe for muffins (chocolate for Janny and blueberry for Clara).  Then Clara was happy.  Phew!  Maybe cities aren't so bad after all.

The church had an 'out to lunch' sign, so we walked around a bit more, eventually coming upon the really nice (and free!) Tennessee museum.  Clara and I played checkers (I crushed her) in the play area.  There are some really excellent paintings along with artifacts from the frontier settlers.

The Presbyterian church office worker was back at his desk and led us to the sanctuary.  The current building is the 3rd version (the first two had burned down) and was constructed around 1850 or so.  After the Union soldiers conquered Nashville, they used it as a hospital during the Civil War.  A few older photos from outside show an isolated building, whereas now it is dwarfed by the neighboring skyscrapers.
I think Enoch and Ricky won Christmas present opening because they got pocket knives.  So far only one of them has needed a band-aid.

I recently implemented 'no dessert Tuesday', which really means no dessert for anyone in the family after dinner on Tuesdays.  I am very frustrated by the kids' eating habits.  They are irritatingly picky and generally eat as little at lunch and dinner as possible so as to eat much dessert.  I'm happy to report that the kids enjoy the idea, sort of.  My theory is that living under constraints (even an arbitrary one like this) resonates with our spirits.  It feels right and is right.