Journal 2004

Here are the previous journal entries from my home page

Read the previous archive.

Journal as of 26 December 2004...

I'm excited, and a little bit proud. Allow me to brag just a tad. On December 21, 2004 my first patent was granted. Yea! The original application went in almost five years ago and this month it was finally granted. You can view this work of art, cough, yourself. Go to and search on 6,834,308. Sweeeet.

We managed to get our act together for another SLO reunion. Unfortunately Diane and The O couldn't make it, but Tom did! There was a bit of a flood in the South so Dona stayed home to handle the clean up contractors. You can see photos of the trip.

Thanksgiving this year was in Atascadero with Bob and Katie hosting. This is the first holiday season in their new house, and it is great. The pictures led us to believe it was smallish, but when we got there it fit everyone. 101 is behind a little rise so you can't see it and you can't even hear it. Chad was up for a few days. He's taking ASW training in San Diego. It is a big switch from civilian life, but I think the change has done him well. He looked fit, happy, and alive. We played a lot of rounds of the card game Hand and Foot. It's a simple game and can be played with as many people as you want, one deck per person. 

She went on to The Oaks in Ojai for a few days. I came home to take off for another trip to Paris. This time I switched to a Citadines hotel in the Bastille district. The room was the same as last time, but the surrounding area was so much more fun. I walked all over the place. Still, Paris by myself is not the ideal vacation. I managed to see the Pompidou. I was surprised to see how much video has been integrated into the artwork. One installation was, I think, a 32 hour video of the artist's hands making a handwritten copy of a famous play. Other places had flashing lights or some TV screens that complemented some other art work that was being displayed. I enjoyed it all.

Jennifer M-J was also going to be in Paris that week so we made plans for dinner on my last night. Unfortunately her passport had expired so that didn't happen. Luckily I had made contact with Angela Vona, the woman I met on my last return trip. She recommended lunch at Au Pied de  Cochon. I had a wonderful duck brochette and a super dessert. The food highlight was the couple next to us who each had half a pigs hoof. The hock was split right down the middle of the bone and then roasted a dark brown. Looked pretty good. It was great to see Angela again. We renewed our conversation about all manner of things and life. We laughed to the point of disturbing a couple behind us. Oh well. Angela is one of those people who reads widely and can chat about any topic at all. It's rare to find someone like this and I really enjoyed our time together. I hope I get to see her again.

The first weekend in December was busy. I managed to see Cindy Stokes art display at a holiday show in Palo Alto. Cindy's black and white prints resonate well with me. She has an eye for photographs of changing textures or patterns. Often the viewer is left to guess at the actual scale of the object in the photo. For those who know my tastes in photography, you know this is right up my alley. Cindy is a great person and I could easily sit for an hour surrounded by her art.

A week later Denise M. was having a party. Hers are always entertaining. This was a red-blue white elephant party. All the exchanged gifts needed a political theme. I brought an escape package: Canadian Whiskey, Canadian Maple Syrup, stocking cap, and Map Quest directions from Denise's house to Vancouver, BC. I was surprised to find only six turns were needed. Four to get onto the freeway. One to say, "Go North 875 miles". One to say, "Turn left at Vancouver, BC." Hah! I was unlucky enough to draw numero uno. I opened a gift with a card from "Bill" to "Monica". The gift was an extra small thong. I was able to milk it for many laughs and that got the exchange off to a raucous start. By the end no one stole the thong from me. Eventually I got Monique to trade me for her gummy bears. But when she left the party she took both the thong and the gummi bears! Awh, I don't care for gummi bears anyway.

Dan and Lauren were in town for a geophysical conference. We picked them up early Saturday and spent our time at the Winchester Mystery House. I have not been there in at least 15 years. The tour guides were nice, but they had a set patter that seemed to bore them. No kidding. The house, though, stands on its own. Cute little twists and turns, I got a feeling for what it was like to live back in those days. As an interesting side note, Vance was researching his family history and found that his grandfather is listed in the 1900 census as "living across the road from the Winchester House." 

It's long driving SF to SJ and back. It gave us lots of time to catch up with Lauren and Dan. Lauren and I had a chance to duke it out a bit over freedom of the press, health care, and immigration laws. She's smart and isn't afraid to say what she thinks. I'm not one to sit on the sidelines. We had some good arguments. No hard feelings, just good discourse. I wish there were more people around to spar with over these issues. A thoughtful discussion is great. We capped off their visit with a night of Beach Blanket Babylon. Once again a super show.

The Coulter's were in town at the same time and staying with me in Saratoga. Always good to see them. Now that they're in Twain Harte I miss just being able to stop by and say hello. One night we headed out to La Hacienda restaurant between Los Gatos and Saratoga. My advice - don't go. The menu has several interesting choices. It wasn't hard to find something I wanted. Entrees cost about $25. First, Ray's wine glass had a goober stuck on the side of it. Then I noticed that one of our plates had a bit of dried food stuck to the edge. Then Carolyn pulls a chunk of metal out of the marinated peppers. My steak was medium-well instead of medium-rare. And everyone who tasted my chocolate dessert agreed that it was so ordinary as to be almost bad. The bar looked like a nice place to hang, but I've since been told that they water down the drinks. Oh well. There are plenty of other nice places to eat. No need to keep this poor place in business.

We walked down to the Blue Rock Shoot one night and stumbled into Van Ash, a local folk group. Some of their songs grated on me a bit, but the woman on keyboards did some wonderful songs. She banged out one high energy jazz piece that had me buying the CD; unfortunately the version on the CD is quiet and mellow, the energy isn't there. The woman in my life was taken with this group. She bought two other CDs herself. She's been listening to this same woman keyboardist/singer doing a song she wrote about a sad Christmas day. Great song.

Next weekend was agin busy. Starting with the Scottish Revels in the Scottish Rite hall on Lake Merced. We met her investment club for a fantastic Cambodian lunch and then drove around until we stumbled onto the hall. Revels is three hours of Scottish singing, dancing, and storytelling. In a large hall it manages to make this a very engaging event. At one point most of the hall was down on the stage dancing to Scottish lilts. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

That night we were down to SJ for the Ravizza family Christmas party. This year Stephanie hired a sitter for the kids and admonished us all, "no joke gifts in the exchange." It worked! I missed having the kids around, but the exchange worked better without that damn macramé plant hanger. Gifts were stolen back and forth several times. Dave's folks are doing well, and so is Charlie. His house on Kauai is "almost" done. Maybe we'll get to see it in August.

Sue and David had us over for a holiday gathering too. Cindy and Don were there so I could tell her again how much I liked her art. Cece's husband told quite a story about jacking up a milling machine and running it slowly up his driveway, only to have it hit a little bump pivot on the jack and fall over onto the grass. This is a 2000 pound milling machine. At first they tried to steady it on the jack only to realize the folly in this. Then they all jumped back and watched gravity have its way. He said it left one hell of a hole in the grass. Luckily they had a crane there to pick it back up. A few things were broken, but not too badly. Luckily no one was hurt.

Then yesterday was Christmas! Friday we went up to Pacifica for dinner with my folks, Mike, and .... Life in the northwest is doing them well. Both have slimmed down and they look great. We chatted about work and things to fix around the house and things to fix on our bodies. Then Saturday everyone else came down to Saratoga. We had a crowd of 20 for a mid afternoon meal of ham (Los Gatos Meats) and all the other dishes people brought. The kids are getting big now. Lauren is a Junior. Alex and Kathleen are walking talking humanoids too. We ate, then we ate, then we ate again. I started off this year with a blind tasting of Merlots from Trader Joe's. I think the big winner was, again, Columbia Crest. Clos du Bois got several top votes too. We also did a blind cola tasting. The winners were Classic Coke and Safeway Select Cola. I found that I like Safeway Select the best. Margaret was over for a while. She attacked the cola test with a knowing air, writing down the actual brand of each unmarked can. I can't wait to tell her that every single id she made was wrong. It's harder than it seems. Chris brought out the bingo set and we all kicked in a buck "to make it interesting." Gene is playing music now; he jams several days a week in some local bars. I need to get down to Riverside to see him in action.

That's all, folks.

Journal as of 12 November 2004...

I'm starting to sound like a broken record here... work is keeping me busy. I can always tell when there's too much to do, this page suffers mightily.

The Engelhorn Family Gathering was held this year in Hood River. This is a beautiful little city in the Columbia River Gorge on the border between the states of Washington and Oregon. We flew into Portland and spent the better part of the day driving East. I'll be honest and tell you that our first two hours were spent at the outlet mall on the edge of Portland. For some reason it met a need I didn't know I had. I bought 10 shirts at various stores. This was my first trip to the area and it offers fantastic scenery. The gorge itself is deep and wide. Waterfalls abound and we stopped to see several. Being in the gorge it's hard to gain the perspective needed, but at one stop we viewed a diorama of the area. This makes it clear that the entire landscape has been uplifted thousands of feet and the massive river has cut a deep cleft into it. This relief view made me wonder why there weren't even more waterfalls along the cliffs. What a great back country hiking area.

Hood River itself is a tiny place. Our hotel was right on the water. We walked the town twice on our first day. Nice restaurants in old buildings, some with excellent views. This is where sail boarding was invented and we spent some time watching them skitter across the water. The rest of the family caught up with us and the reunion was a success (read about it here). We took a day for a side trip to Mt. Saint Helens. The explosion took place 25 years ago but the devastation is still to be seen everywhere. I wish I had made the trip long ago. We went in the East entrance and the views were spectacular. I'll save the rest for a future web page with photos.

We've been to Filoli for a few more jazz concerts. One offered Taylor Eigsti. We've seen him before and he is a virtuoso on the piano. For such a young guy he can really bang the ivories.

Brad turned 50 and Labor Day was the party. He's the first of our cohort to make the magic number. Fran held a party in her Concord backyard. Most of the family made it there and we drank beers and talked about old times. As kids the eight of us used to spend weeks during the summer at the Kolm beach house in Aptos. There's 10 years between us and as a group of old and young kids we just went nuts down there. We found places to run and places to hide. The beach was near by and we go down every day to "check the action." And still the adventures continue... This time La Von flew back to Portland with the kids while Craig loaded a hot tub on a truck. With a six pack of Jolt he was planning to drive straight through. 

Bob and Carolyn are well set in Twain Harte these days. We managed a trip up there the next weekend. They've moved all their stuff from San Jose up there. I was half expecting to find two houses stuffed into the skin of one. Instead they've managed to integrate the best of both places. TH has always been a very comfortable retreat, now it just has a few more toys and chairs. On Saturday night we ate at the annual "it's over" dinner to celebrate the fact that the tourist season is over. This fete is put on by all the local service clubs. Dining is on folding tables and chairs. When the evening was over everyone pitched in and packed the equipment away. Living there full time Bob and Carolyn have met a more of the other live-ins and it seems like a very active social life.

Sue and David tied the knot. She first met Sue at Entelos and they've remained close. The four of us have had many adventures, several chronicled here and a few others kept secret. The wedding was at the Yellow House in Redwood City. A nice old Victorian that combines an art gallery and a restaurant. The ceremony was swift. Sue and David read their own vows - David's were quite a hoot. At a wedding you never get time to really talk with the bride and groom, but this time we did. We're friends with a whole group of Sue's crowd and it was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

Work managed to send me to Paris for a quick meeting. That's a long haul for one meeting, but if the business comes through it will be worth it. 12 hours cramped into a plane seat with a few hours layover in Dallas. I made it there without trouble and the meeting went well. (As I write this I'm thinking about the trip I'm making next week to do it again.) I stayed at Citadines apartment hotel in Les Halles. The hotel was a reasonable price, includes a small kitchenette, and was conveniently located. I recommend it. The time adjustment robbed me of my free time, so I only had half a day to roam around. I went to Le Louvre. This time I headed to the top floor of the Richeleu to sit among the Rubens. I took time to look at them all. I was in no rush and at times I just sat on the benches and rested. What a nice way to spend a day. 

My seat mate on the way back was named Angela. She was on her way to Peru to hike to Machu Pichu. Angela was born in NY and has lived in Paris for 20 years. She's a retired English language teacher. One day she said to herself, "if I don't go to Peru now I never will." She bought tickets and that was that. We chatted about all kinds of things and the 12 hour flight went very quickly. 

Sean's been in some kind of a motorcycle accident. He banged up his shoulder and hand; he's got a long recovery ahead. Meanwhile we all gathered at St. James Gate in Belmont for his birthday. Greg and Evie showed up, Jen, Jen, John, and Meg too. We go to SJG from time to time. They used to have great food, but the last two times both the fish and the Sheppard's pie were sub par. Too bad.

Lastly, for this long supplement, we had another great Halloween party. Everyone was invited, so if you didn't get an invite, it was a BIG oversight on our part. Again we had most people in costume. There were a lot of returning friends and some who made it for the first time. My rat shaped meatloaf might have been a little too realistic looking.

Journal as of 1 August 2004...

I sure like summer. Not only does the good weather get even better, but activities abound. It makes it harder to keep you faithful readers up to date, but there is more to talk about.

We made our second trip this year to Las Vegas. Greg and Nancy managed this one - it was their tenth year anniversary (wow). They were married in Vegas and this time the whole family came together, including Stephen and Emily. We stayed at the Excalibur. It's definitely a kid-friendly place. The food court has McD and pizza, there's a carnival midway, and we did the jousting dinner theater. I approached the joust with an open mind and had a good time. The food was not bad and the performance was fun. I'm often surprised by how good a job Las Vegas can do with rather absurd themes - I mean Paris, LV? Come on. Dad did some upfront investigation of the buffet and found a good selection of gluten-free foods. He also arranged for a gluten-free chocolate cake that was delightful. I spent more time again on the "penny" poker machine. I use quotes since the machine allows me to play 50 hands at a time and I can play 5 pennies per throw. I believe that makes this "penny" machine a "two dollars fifty" machine. I play 25 hands at a penny and my $20 can last three hours. Sounds like a looser, but when we took the kids to the arcade I spent $20 in about 30 minutes!

Margaret graduated from Saratoga high school this year. Dean threw her a fun little party. I re-met a few of her friends and was introduced to a few more. As typical for that age, some of them paraded by to wave hello and then they all sat by themselves in the living room while the adults held a second party outdoors. Linda engaged me in a story of nano-technology that eventually (thanks to Elaine) led me to The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. I don't read much science fiction anymore. I blew my way through that stack in my late teens and these days I'm more interested in life fiction and fact. However, this one was an interesting read right up until the ending.

Margaret was to leave with 5 friends on a cross country road trip. Ostensibly on their way to the Aerosmith concert back East, but making a big loop through the south to visit relatives and see the country. Some parents were worried, but everyone leaves the nest sometime. I was asked, by the parents, not the kids, for advice to pass on. Mine: In a knife fight remember to keep your backs together and the knives pointed out. I'm not sure that seemed a humorous to the parents as it did to me.  As I write this she has recently returned. They had many adventures from stuck windows, to fake ids, to religious relatives, to puking friends, to that final "let's get home and end this" push that often comes when you spend time with a group of young adults. If you see her, ask her about the trip; she tells some good stories.

This late in the summer we've seen three Filoli concerts already. We took my folks to the first. It was on father's day and made for a nice celebration. Alain and Jennifer joined us for another performance. Then last week we took Nancy and Carol. This show was a salute to Cole Porter. I liked it because they did more than just standards - there were lots of songs I didn't recognize. At the end Carol said, "it was nice to be at a concert where I knew the words to all the songs!" In telling Kathleen about it over lunch one day I quoted one of the cuter obscure lines I remembered. Something like "our love was too hot not to cool off". She puzzled that a bit and five minutes later she gave me the right line and some context around it. I guess she knows the words too.

Pageant of the Masters was seen in July as well. Bob and Carolyn have sold their house and have moved to Twain Harte. PoM came near the end of their preparation to move and Carolyn stayed home to keep packing. Bob made it, so did Paul, and this was Ray's first year. We decided to get away from the rudeness we have found at By The Sea Inn and this year we stayed at the delightful Eiler's B&B on the PCH just south of town. It turned out to be a fantastic little place to stay. The rooms surround a central courtyard with little tile mosaic tables and a moss covered fountain. Sitting in the quiet courtyard it is easy to forget that HW1 is blasting by just a few yards away. The PoM was fantastic. As the producers strive for freshness, this year they added more interaction between the still life and the stage actors. Nicely done. We were also lucky enough to run into Eileen and her family on our way out the door. We didn't realize that she's full time in Laguna Beach. Next year we'll call her  before we travel and make some plans.

In amongst all this I made a quick trip to New York to visit a customer. We had the run of a suite at the Gansevoort hotel. I ate some great food and gazed out on excellent views. We had a Filoli concert the Sunday I traveled, so it was the red eye for me. (Jet Blue has some nice planes.) I try to sleep on those flights so I only nodded to the guy in the seat next to me. After deplaning we found our selves standing in the taxi line next to each other and so we split a cab to Manhattan. On the way there we chatted and it turns our he works for a company in the same business park as I do! What a coincidence. Ethan's company is right next to the sandwich shop that I frequent. Weird.

Yesterday we were invited to Annette's for a neighborhood bbq. She bought the house on the corner and invited family, friends, and neighbors for a how-ya-doin. It turned out to be a great time. Lots of people we didn't know and interesting people from all over the area. Thanks Annette!

Journal as of 5/16/2004...


The annual San Carlos fun run (if running can be called fun) just passed by Elm Street. I managed to get the laptop off my thighs and stagger to the sidewalk just in time to see the police motorcycle escort go by with runners #1 and #2 close behind. The first 100 or so to run by didn't seem to be enjoying themselves. Maybe on the inside they were "in the zone" and having a super time - although "in the zone" is pretty close to "zoned out". The next 100 included families, runners, trotters, and then some fast walkers. These people genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. This is part of the weekend of Hometown Days. 

Yesterday I made a trek to see Gayle in San Ramon. As I started out the Hometown Days parade stopped me at every turn. I had no idea it was so big. I was unprepared, nor did I have the time, to take photos and I think I missed a good opportunity. But time was against me as I needed to get out of Dodge and on the road. The run up and over the GG bridge was fantastic. I was sans top and the wind over the top of my head was fantastic. Gayle is timeless. We had lunch at the Dip Sea cafe and took in the MALT (Marin Agricultural Land Trust) benefit art show in Nicasio. All the paintings, and there were lots, were of ranches and open space areas in Marin. The small gallery was crowded with people and the art was selling well. I was impressed at the quality of the works. Many different styles, some left me dry, but in general a nice showing.

Back in April we again went to this year's Rivers of Chocolate benefit. Again we stuffed ourselves with fine chocolates and delicate wines while enjoying views of the valley from the deck at Paul Masson. After just 20 minutes I knew I was in trouble. We had three hours to go and I was already starting to shake from the sugar and caffeine. The live auction tent was stuffed this year which made it very difficult to hear the raffle or participate in the bidding. Rob and Julie came along too and the four of us stood outside the tent having decaf coffee and an occasional dip into the chocolate reserves. There was a great centerpiece of chocolate sculpture on a table surrounded with truffles. I went back in to get a photo of it at then end, only to discover that it was just a plastic fake. Imagine going to the SF Flower show and finding out that the center piece was plastic flowers! 

Next weekend was a triple header. Friday night we took in the annual San Carlos Chicken's Ball. Local civic groups put on a gay 90's vaudeville review of melodramas, variety skits, and general zaniness. A few voices stood out as tremendous, most were just barely on the pleasant side. The costumes, however, were outstanding. For an amateur review, I was astounded at how imaginative and well executed they were. And a great variety - every scene was costumed anew. It's been running for 40 years, benefiting the local schools. I can only guess that it started when one PTA member challenged another to do a benefit show. "What's the matter? You Chicken?"

Then it was off to the Coulter-Gunn garage sale. They had stuff from the ages on display.. Old video camera, brand new CDRom drive, broaches, and beach balls. I sat with them under the awning of an open garage door sipping iced tea and chatting to the occasional drive by. It wasn't much of a crowd on Saturday, but the most fun came from talking with Bob and Carolyn. Dean stopped by for a while - she's always on a hunt for bargains - and I snuck away to bring back kahlua pig from the Island Cafe in Los Gatos. 

Sunday we took a tour of the Scharffen-Berger chocolate factory in Berkeley with Sue and friends. Sue bought the tour as part of a gift package at last year's Rivers of Chocolate and 15 of her closest friends got to go along. We had a lively 45 minute discussion about the process of making fine chocolates with the guide and then a quick 10 minute walk through the factory. I was very surprised by how small the place is. One roaster, one winnower, two mélanger, one temperer, and that's it. We finished with an Ethiopian dinner in Oakland and came home to try and sleep off another chocolate buzz.

The next week was San Francisco with the California Historic Preservation Society meeting. She was attending and I was a hanger on. She was part of a little "three minute success story" around saving the Hacienda Garden apartments in San Carlos. This is a regular affair where groups from around the state give a quick recap of some project they have done. I was in charge of running the power point presentation to stay on time. It came off very well. We also took a four hour tour of the Presidio with the official historian. He was marvelously informative and we got to go into several of the old buildings. They are all being renovated and leased so that the Presidio national park can be self sufficient by 2012. We went into the old homes that held the WWI pilots who used Chrissy Field. We also toured an executive officer's home undergoing seismic retrofit. 6,000 square feet, two stories, brick. It is already rented out for $9,000 a month. The occupants will live in the shadow of the Golden Gate bridge.

We stayed at the Argonaut hotel in the Cannery at Fisherman's wharf. An excellent place to stay. It's built within the confines of the old fruit warehouse that fed the actual cannery next door. Our room looked out on the cable car turnaround. Not only that, but we could get up and walk around long before the glut of tourists arrive. I love being in the city at 8am when no one else is around. Over the course of the days we toured the Museum Mechanic which holds old penny arcade machines, now operated with quarters. I remember running these at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with my grandparents so long ago. These are the same ones that were housed by the Cliff House a few years back. They also have Big Lil on display from the Funhouse at Sunset Beach. We also got out on Hyde Street Pier State Park. Among many sights is the Balcutha, an old sailing ship. She's open for you to walk into every part of the ship. The park system presents the history in a most interesting way. You should go. 

I also snuck out a day to attend Wondercon. I went to help cousin Brian of Atomic Bear press again. I sat with him in his booth most of the day, but managed to walk around the show. I have no interest in the big commercial comic book party. However, I am coming to appreciate the little guys. I stopped by several tables and chatted with many artists. If they held my interest I bought one of their books. While Brian chatted with one of his fans I actually read one of the alternative comics I was holding - and I was hooked. They offer little insights into the psychology of the author/artists and I found it very interesting. I went back to a couple of booths and bought a second helping of their products. I found Janes World to be one interesting mag. Also a little goth girl sells a couple of angry mags that were interesting. One guy sold me a book of doodles he did in the week leading up to his grandmother's death. 

We did another movie night, this time with Sordid Lives. I really enjoy having people over to the house. We ate KFC, potato salad, and Dale brought apple pie. We knew it was his because his name was on the bottom of the pan.

As the last of the fun run goes by the windows, I also pass on thanks to Barbara who gave me her copy of a monograph of Saratoga history. Written by RV Garrod in 1962 it offers a wealth of memories about my town. One day I might put it all on-line here.


Journal as of 4/10/2004...

Easter Sunday. A nice time to reflect on the previous six or so weeks.

Fat Tuesday was celebrated on a nice Saturday with Denise. Her traditional party is filled with folks in masks and boas. We all bring little dishes to share and there's enough beer to keep everyone afloat. This year I brought some cut up sausages with a dipping sauce of my own concoction. It was just mayo and that new Chipotle pepper Tabasco sauce that I love. It was a surprise hit. We re-met a lot of old HP buddies and shared laughs. The low point of the evening came when Mi Lei asked me if I was Orly Larson. Argh.

That same day was the Alternative Press Exposition in SF. Cousin Brian had a booth and I came along to provide him some bathroom breaks. The APE show was filled with people doing their own thing in print. Mostly comic books. All with stories, some more obvious than others. I walked the floor and chatted with a lot of people. I bought a book from anyone who had a good story. The Knot Witch and Poorly Drawn Animals are two I remember fondly. At a buck or two each, I could be magnanimous and it is great to see the look on the artist's face when someone pulls out their wallet to buy something. Every dollar I spend is a vote and I wanted to vote for some of these folks.

We did a Citizen Kane screening on the home InFocusX1 that went well. I had never seen the whole movie before and it is quite spectacular. We watched it a second time with the narrative by Ebert. While he gets a bit repetitive, and it's clear they didn't edit his comments, he gave some great perspective on why the film was so avant-garde for the time. It was a little like MST2000.

Sunday in Berkeley was a wild time. We started at a Buddhist temple (Mongholratanaram 1911 Russell Street) that serves a brunch for a few token dollars. Eating is outside and the food is Asian steam table and quite a good value. Neighborhood locals streamed in and we ate soup noodle (sans tripe, thank you) with an eclectic mix of hippies, punkers, young families, and college students. Then off to Tilden park for a romp through their native plant garden. It was too early for many blooms. Yet, the park offers wonderful insight about the vast number and variety of plants that are native to California. Leaving the park we met spectacular views of SF from the hills above U.C. and wound our way down to a back yard sculpture garden in Berkeley. (Own Stuff Gallery Garden 3017 Wheeler Street) filled with art works made from clay, Sky vodka bottles, bowling balls and other found things. I like the tree filled with tea cups. Then the interior of the house is covered on every wall with art. Excellent for a Sunday afternoon. Our last stop was Urban Ore on Ashby just before the freeway. Unlike other salvage yards, this one has more than just old toilets and sinks. It is a well organized pile of human living. We saw a lot of Berkeley this day.

Happy birthday Dave Ravizza!

I lot touch with Jackie when I left HP and, surprise, she invited us over for fondue. As youngsters we used to have raucous good parties with Jackie, Karl, Kinch, Mike and others. The dinner parties were legendary. (Too bad blogging wasn't popular back then... or maybe it's good that these aren't recorded. Do you really want to know that someone ate a piece of steak that was dropped into a fish tank? Ooops, secret's out now.) Jackie did a fantastic job with two soup fondues, two cheese fondues, and a chocolate fondue for dessert. I brought a dipping sauce that was not more than a whole bottle of Chipotle Tasbasco sauce in a bowl with a little water. I knew Jackie would love it so I also brought her a bottle. Sure enough she asked me what was in it and I pulled out the bottle. That had us talking about weird food and I mentioned microwave pork rinds. Well, Jackie digs into her cabinet and pulls out a sample she had bought. Years back she saw them on a trip and couldn't believe it so she bought one. God, we are so alike in that. I left her  place stuffed and hyped up on the caffeine. Nanette was there, and we met a few new C&B members. It would be good to spend some time just with Jackie catching up. This has reenergized me to start doing some more dinner parties myself.

Lastly for this journal entry, we partied like it was 2004 in Las Vegas for my birthday. Kim and Pete called from Winnipeg to say they were doing their annual winter get away. It just so happened to be my bd too. I kept that quiet and made some reservations at the Flamingo. Paul from PS joined us. At the last minute I found out that it was final four weekend and Vance, Michelle, and Bob were at the Mirage. We ate food stuffs and played the penny machines until we'd spanked them for almost $1.10. I kept looking around to see if we'd be asked to leave the casino, but I guess the security was lax that day. Maybe they knew it was my birthday. Clever little "penny" machines. With the push of one button you can bet $2.50. I enjoyed myself - it's a lot cheaper than video games and you have an outside chance of winning some small amount. And they bring you drinks! We managed to see the late Second City comedy show. We were joined by two bachelor and bachelorette parties that had combined forces. The women were drunk, plastered really, and the guys were all over them. Oh, I'm sure the betrothed were holding back - right. Before our exit we managed a drive through Red Rock state park. I love the place. The clear air and the chaotic nature of the landscape erases any sense of distance. It is scaleless. It is a very contemplative, almost sacred place. I'd like to go back and spend a day hiking around it.


Journal as of 2/16/2004...

The new year is going well. Jennifer and Alain are back from their sojourn in Paris. It was a push to get their temporary room ready, but it was worth it. Now the Elm house has a nice guest room for anyone that needs a place to crash. It's good to see them again. They are good friends of hers and she's happy when they're all together. Alain is a technophile and I enjoy talking about the latest toys with him.

We managed, at last, to make one of Denise's cooking club parties. What a spread! In addition to us, and the Jobart's, Sean came and a bunch of other people I didn't know. It was a great time. We met David of Art Primadonna, who lives a few standard deviations away from the norm. A fun guy. Denise's current roommates were there, and a few ex's too. Denise made a mushroom sauté rolled into a filo dough log. There were steamed dumplings, and crepes. Too many dishes to remember them all, yet all memorable. I brought my crock pot mole - it was a hit. We sat and drank and laughed for hours. This is an excellent crowd. I hope to go again and again.

Brad and Claudia were in town and I made the trek to Concord for lunch. I owed Aunt Fran the return of the little silver cups she loaned me for The Roadshow. Concord always seems so far away, but spending time with Fran makes the drive melt away. B & C are doing pretty well. Fran brought out a box of old family pictures and we pawed over them. She gave some away and I'm going to scan them into this site one day... She also shared her photos of Mykonos. I remember my sailing trip around Greece with great fondness and  all this makes me want to go again.

Marty came by too. It was a chance to show off the latest Elm street changes, but also just a good time to catch up with her. I miss her wit. Truth be told, we mostly sat in the local sports bar complaining about our current federal government slipping into a Stalinist state by locking people up without any access to council.  America was founded on the principle that the government cannot just throw someone in jail without giving them a chance to prove their innocence. Yes, this means we all live with more personal risk, but that is exactly the price of being a free society. Seems like the current Bush administration is regressing. If we're not careful we will end up with less personal freedom than citizens in the old Soviet Union had. Scary.

On the consumerism front, we managed to get tickets to this year's Lion's Club crab feed. Bob and Carolyn came up. When we got there we found a table with Diane and Bob and Eve. Their parents were there, and Diane's sister. We had a grand time. The crab was cold, fresh, and plentiful. I ate way too much (seems like a common lament) but at least it was protein. I love the crack of the shell and the slurping of the legs. I remember the old days when Mike and I used to host a Superbowl crab and asparagus feed each year. Crab used to sell for $1.99 a pound, cracked and cleaned. Those were the days.

And speaking of a return to the past, this year's Superbowl get away was to 409 Coates in Aptos. The three bedroom house sits on the cliff overlooking Seacliff beach. And I do mean "on the cliff". Standing at the edge of the back yard, three more steps and you would be out in space for a 100 foot drop. From the deck we had a 180 degree view of the ocean. South of Monterey to the left and Santa Cruz to the right. The house was built in the 1930's and has all the charm that goes with many surviving houses of that age. They have mission style furniture and windows. The kitchen was smallish, but we made do. Ray's breakfast of grits and an egg omelet was very tasty. Paul's dinner involved some rolled up spinach log that was scrumptious, followed by a chocolate cake that failed to set up in the cold oven - still delicious. I made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and the Prince-Godfrey clan joined us for the day. We took a nice long walk on the beach to Rio del Mar, and reacquainted ourselves with the cement boat. Bob and Carolyn made spaghetti dinner according to his dad's favorite recipe - excellent. The dessert was a tiramisu that Carolyn had whipped up at home. It was a weekend of soupy desserts as this one didn't set up either. Once again, the texture was not the issue as we slurped up what became tiramisu soup. We ate every last morsel.

Lastly, a few more old friends were seen around town. Reynold was back for a quick breakfast at The Original Pancake House. We laughed over old times and talked about challenges in our jobs. He's a really fun guy.  Also saw Rob and Julie for his birthday dinner at Krung Thai. Great food. Nice to see Nancy Propp and Mark Slater too. The news of the night for us was that R & J are pregnant! And not to be slackers, they've decided to have twins!! TTwwoo ooff eevveerryytthhiinngg. I'm looking forward to playing with these two rascals. One boy, one girl. This is going to be fun - at least for the rest of us. 

...and I'm now back at APlus internet hosting.


Journal as of 1/12/2004

The holiday season was an active one this year. I wanted to do a roast pig for Christmas day. Los Gatos Meats is the vendor of choice. Unfortunately the economics just weren't there. A suckling pig is 15 pounds for $150, uncooked. With the waste that comes in bones and head and all it isn't big enough. The next step up is a full size pig. Those are 45 pounds for $180, uncooked. That didn't sound too bad, but 45 pounds of pig was just way too much pig. Maybe we'll do it in the spring. However, the salesman mentioned ... a ... TURDUCKEN!

A turkey is split open down the backbone and de-boned. The same is done to a duck and a chicken. The open turkey is layered with stuffing, and the duck is laid in it. More stuffing and then the chicken. More stuffing and the turkey body is closed up like the end of a triple bypass operation.   It sounded very interesting so we got one for the company Christmas party. 

Cooked in the over for 12 hours. it is roasty - toasty brown. and looks delectable. Unfortunately that was the end of the fun. The whole package was under more pressure than I expected. I cut the damn thing open and it exploded like a hand grenade had gone off. I had visions of a napoleon like service with each plate getting a slice of each layer. That was not to be. Slicing the turducken thin caused it to fall apart. Cutting it thicker yielded big chunks that wouldn't stick together either. In the end I let the whole thing fall into a mess-o-food pile on the cutting board. As folks padded by they pointed at some part of the pile that appealed to them and I spooned it onto their plate. It tasted ok, but it didn't live up to the hype.

Meanwhile, Christmas Day was at the Saratoga digs again. This year we had a full house - almost. Mike and ... were here. Peggy and Gene. All the cousins, aunts, uncles. The Coulters came by and Ray was here. A great crowd. Bob and Katie had a last minute change in plans and drove to Washington. However their car was equipped with a GPS and short wave radio. They were rigged up to show their location on a web site, updated every five minutes. Using the 'net we were able to watch them make potty stops and speed on their way.

We were off to Palm Springs for our annual binge and purge. First the binge at Chez Paul - clearly the best place to stay in PS. Alan and Dale were in town so we managed to have two dinners and a movie with them. It was so good to laze around and laugh with Paul. He's looking great and seems to love the PS life. Two days of that and we were ready to enter the purge at The Palms spa. Several of our friends were there. We thoroughly enjoyed renewing old friendships and making some new ones. New Year's Eve was even more fun than usual. Two of the staff dropped out at the last minute and the spa tapped me to be a dealer. That worked out great. (And to be truthful, two couples that take the casino night and auction too seriously were gone this year. Good riddance I say.) We just had a lovely time.

Now it's back to work. Things are hopping and at least I am tanned, rested, and ready!