Monthly Archives: October 2007

Another Quake

Another Quake

I experienced my second earthquake this evening. And of course, John wasn’t around. I called his cell a couple hours after it happened, and he hadn’t even heard about it. Then again, he and his bud were in the movie theater where the volume was cranked up.

And this one was a pretty sizable one too: 5.6 on the scale. It happened around San Jose, which is maybe 25 minutes south of here. Nothing in the house fell or broke, but the dogs, or Remy rather, was definitely freaked out. And I think I read the best description of the experience online. A lady in the area said it felt like the house was on a boat. And that’s exactly right. I was on the couch, and as I looked at the foyer light, I could see the walls shaking, and the couch had its own vibration. Very weird.

The first one I experienced months ago at work in Fremont. It also occurred around 8pm. But the epicenter was in Lafayette or some town I had never heard of. I thought it was the AC system kicking on. Nope. Earthquake too. But only a 4 on the Richter scale.

It’s sort of weird thinking about natural disasters, and where we are when they strike. Would suck not to have my Bubbey with me. I’d probably drop off into the crevice. Ugh, I know. I’m morbid that way. Sorry.

So tomorrow’s Halloween. My office is throwing a Halloween party at lunch. There’s also a costume contest as well as a pumpkin carving contest. I’m still trying to get over the fact that they are sanctioning such frivolous activities. No, I’m not going to dress up. Come on, you should know better than to even wonder. I’m an old geezer. I don’t have that kind of creativity or zest. They’re lucky I’m taking cheese and crackers for the potluck. Hey, all this fun crap is new. Plus, don’t I get bonus points for taking a horseradish cheddar? That’s right. Ain’t just any old pedestrian cheese. Ha, ha. Should be a good time.

Shoes Galore!

Shoes Galore!

I’m starting to develop a shopping habit. I suppose it’s part of my quest for a new look to complement the new job… not really, but instinctively, I’ve started moving towards a different style. Yes, it started with the Birkie clogs. Then, I started acquiring waffle shirts and cargo pants to wear with my puffy vest. I know, am I disgusting you yet?

Two weeks ago, I found myself browsing on Sierra Trading Post, a sort of REI for cheapies. It was late at night, and my web surfing– research, shopping, bill tracking– just fueled my insomnia.

I must have sat in front of the computer for hours. And without the warmth of my bed and blankets, my feet were ice cold. As I surfed through the gear at STP, I decided a pair of cozy sheepskin boots were just the ticket. Click, click, click and I got myself a pair for 20% off. Seconds later, I was eyeing a pair of dirt cheap rock climbing shoes (I swear I have ADD!). Nevermind that I haven’t even started my class (slated now for November 14)… Regardless, I wanted them.

So, I got the boots and the shoes. The boots are crazy ass warm, but having had zippo experience with sheepskin goods, I made the mistake of getting my usual size instead of going a size smaller. Serves me right: they are too fucking big. But I’m too lazy to hassle with returning and exchanging and blah, blah. So now I’m clomping around like a freaking Clydesdale. To make matters worse, I have no clue how to wear them. And just my luck, a quick search online reveals that these suckers are a very controversial fashion item. Who knew? I guess I’ve been living under a rock. Just like my experience with Sex and the City. I only came to love it two years after it went off air. Always behind the times.

So the boots are rather complicated. The short skirt look is cute but given the controversy, I think I’d get egged for pairing cold weather footwear with warm weather bottoms. People can’t stand the hypocrisy (although I did read that sheepskin warms in the winter and cools in the summer…). Then there’s the tuck-in look which I can’t seem to swing, because my jeans are flared rather than skinny. Finally, there’s the cuffing option. See? I really am the wrong person to be owning these!

I just need to remind myself that I am over 30, and that in itself is license to be frumpy. Ha. I wore the boots to work today, with the jeans pulled over. My feet were extremely happy, and I didn’t even need to turn on the mini heater in my cube. But Jesus, I sure was clunking up and down the halls. I’m a freak.

As for the rock climbing shoes, people say they are supposed to be tight. But these jokers are cutting off my circulation! I’m going to try breaking them in by wearing them around the house with thick socks. I know, what a pain in the ass. Seriously, footwear is a bitch. It really doesn’t matter the cost or brand or material: every goddamn purchase is a shot in the dark. Even when I try them on at the store and walk around for 10 minutes– there’s no guarantee. Ugh. I want to throw all my shoes out. All except for my beloved Birks. I hate shoes. I’m cutting myself off… starting now. The affair is over.

The Zookeeper

The Zookeeper

I returned from San Diego last Thursday. Had a good time with my buddy Nathalie, despite the fires. Yes, it was pretty surreal being a tourist amidst the natural disasters. Oddly, downtown operated almost as normal, save for a few shops that had shut down. The smoke, as you can see from the pictures, was uncomfortably close and after two days walking outdoors, I definitely felt the effects.

Surprisingly, the zoo was still open on Wednesday, so Nathalie and I braved the poor air quality. We had a nice visit and in fact, we wandered about the zoo all day. Honestly, I have mild ADD, and I probably could have left after a few hours, but since Nat is a vet, she had to see EVERY exhibit. We were there from 10am to 4pm!

But the zoo was very impressive. Now that I work for the Open Space peeps, I pay particular attention to signs, navigation, and overall information communication. It’s really kind of fascinating. The zoo was extremely navigable: there were easy paths for weaker folks and handicap access and then there were more challenging paths for others. And it was cool reading some of the displays… seeing what bits of information the zoo considered critical and then getting a sense for how they wanted to promote education, awareness, and action.

My favorite exhibit? The hippos. I know, hippos aren’t exactly known for their sunny disposition, but they are so cute! Their swimming pond jutted right up against the viewing glass, so luckily, we saw two of them up close. They really are massive beasts. 1500 lbs or something insane like that.

We also saw a 2-day old baby giant anteater– an odd looking critter but interesting all the same. Man, the zoo people. Crack me up. They totally reminded me of my coworkers. So into it. For example, when we got ready to board the zoo bus, the driver urged everyone to stop by and see the baby anteater first before getting on the bus and heading out of that area. Nat and I had already seen it, but no one heeded her advice. What did she do? As soon as everyone got on the bus, she got on the loudspeaker: “Normally the bus isn’t supposed to deviate off its route or schedule, but the baby anteater really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I’m going to drive you by the exhibit.” Yeah. Hard core. But I was happy to see her enthusiasm. All zoo employees should get psyched about that stuff.

I guess I was a bit of a zoo wannabe that day. I wore my big floppy hat. I didn’t see what the big deal was, but Nat and her friend clearly didn’t approve. They asked, “What’s the deal with the hat?” As if I were trying to be funny or something. Ah well. Didn’t bug me. I freckle like crazy, and if I were in Shanghai, I’d be carrying an umbrella. So sue me! 😉

But I got a good chuckle with it later that day: a couple came up to me asking for directions to the panda exhibit. Uh sorry, I don’t work here. I guess John’s right: it really is a ranger hat. Now he calls me the Zookeeper.

Now to really fit in with my new coworkers, I gotta get myself a scat book. Yup, our natural resources manager really does own one. No games, I tell you.

To the Vet Again

To the Vet Again

Remy was back at the vet’s office this past weekend… poor pooch. She’s been licking her wee wee for several months now. I know, I shouldn’t be such a damn neglectful parent. Honestly, I expected the irritation to heal on its own. But when I checked the sensitive region on Friday, I saw the area was all black and nasty and she had three lesions. Bubbey was his usual queasy-ass self—he couldn’t even look.

So long story short, the vet squeezed us in on Saturday morning. Reading through my books, I suspected Rem had vaginitis, but the doctor said it was a para-vaginal infection. He said the condition is common in overweight dogs, which Remy is not. But basically bacteria get in there and proliferate when there’s a lot of moisture. Anatomically, Remy’s built such that the area just doesn’t air out well, so when she urinates or licks, it doesn’t dry. Her dense fur especially around the rump doesn’t help either. So the first line of treatment is easy: oral antibiotics plus topical cream. If that doesn’t work, a vaginal “facelift” is in order. Ugh. It sounds too much like FGM (female genital mutilation). I’ll pat her area dry by hand every day if that’s what I have to do. Surgery sounds far too extreme.

Luckily, when I checked her today, the skin had already cleared up considerably. I’m doubly glad, because I’m on my way to San Diego to meet up with Nathalie for a few days. And with John in charge, the maintenance has to be as low as possible. I already told him he has to get over his willies and just go in there to slop on the cream. John refused to demo while I was home, so I’ll just have to trust that he’ll do it. I left him a bunch of q-tips. Silly wuss.

Other than that, Rems is well. She and Martin are shedding like crazy now that winter is coming on. Two weekends ago, the dogs woke us up in the middle of the night after they heard all this clamoring in the yard. All of us went out on the deck and a staredown ensued between Martin and a pair of adult raccoons. Big fearless critters. They didn’t even flinch. I got worried and ordered everyone back inside. I think the dogs were a bit scared too, because they didn’t bark or growl. They were quiet yet alert and cautious.

The following day on my ranger ride-along, I learned that raccoons are extremely intelligent. Not only that, they have opposable thumbs and are ultra dexterous. Wtf? Apparently, backpackers and campers are always complaining to the rangers about raccoons getting into their stashed/secured/hidden foods. Somehow the coons always manage to lift, twist, push, and seize the goodies. Animals. They really are amazing.

In other news, the job continues to kick. Boss is out on a four-week vacation, and I’m so fricking conditioned, I keep expecting him to call me from Thailand.

I’m enjoying my current projects though. I finally settled on an email list service and now I’m tweaking some templates for an e-newsletter. We’re also planning to launch an online store before the holidays. I had a minor issue last week with the vendor… The VP of Ops, an old scraggly grinch, copped an attitude. Not sure if it was because I was new or if the project had just lagged for far too long, but that was fun to handle. Thankfully, my boss had my back and with some strategic comments from our web consultant, the client-contractor dialog was put back into the proper place. My web consultant rocks btw. I think we may even become friends outside of work. How cool is that?

Speaking of friends, it’s amazing how much a low-stress job boosts quality of life. I’ve made a new buddy at work. Tina is also from San Mateo and she started on the same day as I. We totally click and it’s great, because now she’s my carpool buddy. And we’re taking the place up by storm. Ok, not really but we’re signing up for all kinds of activities together—rollerblading, the upcoming GreenFestivals, and rockclimbing. John is thrilled, because now he can finally have some peace for his own “self care” activities.

His primary me time activity? TV. And he just got an Onkyo sound system this weekend, so it’s 24-7 HD football, HBO, and Nat Geo. Surprisingly, John’s really getting into the nature shows, and I have a feeling I have a budding naturalist in the house. He’s always telling me about pythons and gators and their brute force of xyz psi. Then on Sunday, he dragged me hiking in Purisima Creek. From the get go, I tried to manage expectations: 1.5 hours and that’s it. Well guess what? We were on the fucking trail for 3+ hours. Up and down, up and down. He took me on a brutal hike, and today I am the sorest I’ve been in a long time, and that’s counting riding and skating. “The Ridge Trail Cruzathon was no fluke,” he kept saying. Sigh. Someone please help me.

Well I’m psyched about my short little trip to San Diego. I certainly have a knack for entering danger zones. First, John and I were in Thailand during the tsunami. Then we were in L.A. during the landslides. Then we flew into Miami days after Hurricane Rita. Now I’m flying into San Diego after a quarter million people evacuated their homes in northern SD County due to fires. I don’t know why I keep pressing my luck.

Running Out of Disk Space

Running Out of Disk Space

Sheesh, who knew my work with Big Blue would ever pick up again? Seriously, in the last year since I’ve been back, I’ve done maybe 2-3 hours of recording every 2-3 months. Nothing major. But now? Hell, the client LOVES my voice, or so my project manager proclaims. This past week alone, I’ve logged in nearly 10 hours of recording. I’m recording so much my FTP site is maxed out and my voice is sore. But the best news is, with the latest currency conversion, I’m making super schweet dough. Hehe, more massages for me!

So that explains my recent silence. That plus activities with work. Last week, as part of my new employee orientation, I went on an all-day ranger ride-along. Yup, Tina (my coworker and new buddy) and I rode all day in a big truck with Jen, a female ranger. We got our butts up at 5:30 in the morning, but we had a grand time. Hit a bunch of preserves that day, and Jen even took us off-roading. I totally underestimated the power of a Ford 4×4. She got that thing up a massive incline. I swore it was like 60 degrees, though my engineering buddies don’t believe it. They insist 45 is max. Whatever, the slope was crazy steep. We fishtailed and everything!

But the ride-along itself was awesome. And the weather was gorgeous. We climbed to the top deck of an observation tower (one of our properties is a former Air Force base) and looked out on the sprawling city of San Jose and all the mountains surrounding. We even lucked out and caught two golden eagles on top of the mountain. I’ll try to get some pictures from Tina’s cam.

So since our agency owns 55,000+ acres, all newbies actually have to attend two ranger ride-alongs. Tomorrow is my second one. And we’ll spend all day hitting the preserves on the northern part of the peninsula. We’ve gotten a good bit of rain the last week, so I just hope we stay warm and dry.

In other news, I rode an ex-Western show horse last week at lesson. Hobbs was fuckin’ kickass gorgeous. A huge, handsome chestnut horse. But my god, he was a total bitch to ride. Stubborn as hell, and boy did he make me kick. I kicked so much I thought my legs were going to fall off. Every time he finally got up to speed, the instructor had me slow him to a walk again and then he’d take for frickin’ ever to get back up to a jog. The entire lesson was like hot/cold/hot/cold. And shit, once he got running, he gave me a goddamn beatdown. My boots fell out of the stirrups, and I was flailing around out of control. It took all the energy in the world for me to clamp my legs around his big barrel of a body so I wouldn’t fall right out of the damn saddle. The whole time I kept hearing my father exclaiming, “Christopher Reeves, Christopher Reeves.” Shit. And I thought I was ready for group lessons. Hobbs put me in my place. Looks like I have another four or so more lessons (the instructor diplomatically explained that it’s just a matter of getting in my “saddle time”) before I can join the group. Bummer. I want so badly to ride like a cowgirl!! Full speed ahead with my lasso! Ah well, there’s always next year for New Year’s resolutions.



Just a quickie: the other day I got a comment from Megan inquiring about importing pets to Shanghai. I stopped updating Starpups a long, long time ago (July 2006), but I would advise anyone seeking more information about pet relocation to visit Second Chance Animal Aid, a charity based in Shanghai. Additionally, this article on pet quarantine may be helpful, but again, since the regs change so frequently, call around for the latest and greatest. Good luck!

Foiled Again

Foiled Again

I am so done with the activity groups. I know, I shared my disappointment before, but that was a year ago. Surely, things should have changed since then, right? Nope. I was so stoked about this upcoming rock climbing class offered through San Mateo Parks and Rec. Class was slated to start Monday. Yesterday, I got my check returned in the mail: class is canceled. Fuck. Now I’ll have to fork over double the price to take it directly through the gym. Sucks. But yes, not the end of the world.

Second recent disappointment? I was so excited about the Wednesday skate night at Stanford. Checked it out with a friend last week. The description says ALL levels, but shit, when we showed up, the peeps had racing skates on. To make matters worse, as we waited, a few guys went for a few laps around the parking lot. Holy shit. Blazing fast. I just wanted to do an informal, fun skate night. I wasn’t looking to eat the dust of Apollo Ono and company. Fucking A. My bud and I just went off on our own and skated. Screw that.

Near the end of the night, we got into a minor collision. I fell on top of her after both of us found ourselves face to face with a dude on a bike. We didn’t know who was going where, and then both of us lost our balance and fell right in front of him. What did he do? He swerved around, looked back at our mound, muttered something, and rode off. Inconsiderate, elitist bastard! Seriously, would a short little, “Are you okay?” have killed him? What a total dick.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

I am happy to report that my turbulent relationship with OS X has finally ended. You see, about one year ago, the home network/systems administrator (Bubs) coerced me into switching to Mac. Better hardware (I would still agree on that one), more user friendly interface, no viruses, no hangups, blah, blah, blah. I was reluctant and skeptical, but what choice did I have? Windows would no longer be a supported platform on our home network, and unfortunately, my beloved Vaio was rattling like a mofo.

So fine. Did the switch. The first MacBook Pro had a bad CD drive. I went through hell with the Burlingame Apple store to get a replacement laptop. Then I faced a horrible reality check when I realized I could not translate many of the advanced keyboard shortcuts to OS X. I know, everyone says you just replace the Ctrl key with the squiggle. Duh. I’m not talking basic shortcuts here. Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, rudimentary shit. I’m talking alt-F-C-A, automatic column width level shit. I searched books far and wide. Finally, I found some crazy list, but it still just isn’t the same. And keyboard shortcuts were really the least of my concerns. I couldn’t get into my office VPN. Yes, I tried the connect to server function. My programs froze (I swear they did, but Macophiles are so much in denial, I should have videotaped it as proof), my entourage hung, before Picasa came out with the Mac Uploader, I couldn’t upload images to my blog. iPhoto is the crappiest excuse for a photo program, especially compared to Picasa. What the hell is that bullshit events category? Ugh. I don’t even want to get into it. Anyway, after a year of battling with my computer, I finally blasted OS X to smithereens. Yup. Forget Parallels. I’m back to XP Pro and boy am I happy. It’s fuckin’ awesome. And my efficiency level is back up to top speed.

I will have to say, kudos for the Bootcamp drivers for Windows. So thankful to have all the drivers accessible in one place. Also, InputRemapper kicks ass. I can adjust fan speeds, tweak the keyboard backlight, reposition my Ctrl and alt keys… And like I said, the MBP has solid hardware, so my ops are running super fast. Schweet!

Keeping Up with Noorie James

Keeping Up with Noorie James

Whew that was a busy weekend! On Friday night, John and I headed into the city for dinner and a 10pm show at Cobb’s Comedy Club. Yes, the late show really was a far stretch for us, but we figured that would give us plenty of time to drive up 101 and then grab a nice, relaxed dinner. We hit John’s usual downtown fave Houstons. The bastards told us the wait would be 25-35 minutes. Ended up being 90 minutes AND the hostess seated the wrong party before us. By the time we sat down, we were beyond pissy, and we were all about making up for lost time. Fortunately, the place redeemed itself somewhat. We were seated at 8:30, food came out at 8:40, and then we were done by 9. Yup, we ate dinner at Houston’s like we were going through the drive-in at In-N-Out. Bubbey style. Whatever man, that’s the way it ought to be. In and out.

The comedy show that evening was Joe Rogan doing stand up. Yeah, the dude from Fear Factor. And apparently now he’s the announcer for ultimate fighting or whatever. The guy was decent but my god, did he ramble at the end. There was this weird Q&A session after his run that lasted for fucking ever. I don’t really give a shit about his thoughts on Mencia and Scientology and blah, blah. Who the hell cares? I just want the funny bits. This wasn’t a frickin’ “get to know you” session. Irritating. And he was on something because the dude was wired. Then again, the people behind us in line were smoking up too. Stunk up my air and burned my nose hairs. Nights like that really get me thinking: I’m not made for the city. Get me back to my boring, manicured, sheltered suburbs.

On Saturday, we got our asses up at the crack of dawn to participate in the Bay Area Ridge Trail Cruzathon, co-sponsored by my peeps. Originally, I had planned for us to walk the 8-mile hike at a leisurely pace. Unfortunately, there was this elderly couple (with their walking poles) who booked ass the entire fucking time. And well naturally, John and I felt threatened or something. Our competitive bug kicked into high gear, and we refused to eat the dust of senior citizens. I’m telling you, grandma was tiny too! She was like a lil’ Nancy Reagan crossed with Noorie James (nickname for my maternal grandmother). But Jesus Christ, she was a fighter. Tough as nails. And we were huffing and puffing trying to keep pace. She was so hardcore. Her old man stopped off to take a piss, and she didn’t even wait for him. Later, he commented on the beauty of these moss-colored rocks, and she didn’t even turn her head. She was on such an intense mission, I thought for sure she had to get to the port-a-pot or something. And I’m a fast walker even! Well anyway, we came in second and third, not that it was a race or anything. And John actually insists that he was first, but out of politeness he didn’t want to overtake Nancy (even though he could have) on the homestretch. Whatever. All I know is, we could have done another four miles after lunch, but we packed up and schlepped our tired asses home. All in all, we did eight miles in less than three hours. Doesn’t sound impressive but there was a lot of uphill action. We must have burned like 1500 calories, or so Bub says. I’m just happy we finished top three. Not too shabby for out-of-shape geezers like us.

Obviously, Sunday was a bust. We were both too sore for anything. Unfortunately, my masseuse was booked through Thursday. Sigh. Oh well.

Save for the Sunday day of rest, I think we’re ready to kick things up a notch. I just registered for a rock climbing class (4 weeks) at an indoor climbing gym. That starts next Monday. Tuesdays are riding, and Wednesday I’m going to check out the inline skate night at Stanford. Absolutely cannot wait.

Sure is awesome getting out of work by 5:30 everyday. I’m digging life right about now.