Jim's Journal 2005

jim schrempp

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Quarterly Update, September 2005...

Recently a regular reader asked, "why should I check your web site regularly if you never update it?" Good point. I do appreciate everyone who comes by here, and thanks for the emails.

Despite some crushing work schedules, we've managed to play around a lot this summer. The regular gang made the pilgrimage to Laguna Beach again for the POM. It seems odd to others that we keep going back each year, but I enjoy getting away. Now that we have Eiler's Inn dialed-in, Laguna is an even nicer place to stay. This year we were stunned to find blue bio-luminescence in the surf. Each time a wave crashed the pipeline would glow lightly with an electric blue. The algae was in the sand as well - dragging my fingers through the wetness left a faint glow for a fraction of a second. I remember long, long, long ago that a beach glowed green. There were big blocks of glowing foam tumbling in the wind. That was really something. I've often wondered if I'd see it again, and this year in Laguna Beach we found something just as fantastic.

We all also made it to Kauai for Kyle's first birthday luau. Jim Lyons joined us in a four bedroom condo that ended up being a huge single family house in Poipu Beach, on Pee road. We were on a rise so the breeze gave us relief from the heat. Our view was back towards the interior of the island. Charlie hosted one evening's cocktails at his new place on the rocks of the shore. It's a fantastic beach house where you could step off the grass and into the water. Lei's were meticulously threaded, only to turn brown that night in the cold! The next day brought the luau itself. We gorged ourselves on green banana fish, smoked local pork, lomi lomi, and a number of other dishes, only to find that these were just the appetizers! Oh man. We then porked out on all the other food. I particularly liked the pork butt wrapped in tea leaves and steamed. Charlie took us on a kayak trip up a river near Princeville. It was a nice paddle up stream, but a long return trip. We were beat by the time we got back to the cars. Another day we drove to Wiamea Canyon to see the beautiful vistas and to peak over the ridge into the Napali coast. Angela and I got to the Alerton botanic park as well. The guided tour took three hours and was just fascinating.

We managed to visit Bob and Carolyn in Twain Harte a couple of times. It is always fun to sit on their deck in the cool morning air. Reading and relaxing. This time Bob brought out the Movie Max again. Great invention. I have been happy to return the favor and room them in Saratoga once.

This summer we've seen all the Filoli jazz concerts. Various friends have come along for the ride and we always have a good time. Sandra is volunteering there this year so we've been able to say hello. Tickets are scarce and mostly sold as a season. Each week we sit at a different table and chat up whoever is with us. We see many of the same people at the next performance. Some nod hello and others seem to forget that they've ever seen us before. Perhaps we aren't the brilliant tablemates that we think we are?

In late June we visited Mike and ... in Gig Harbor. Their house is fantastic - as always - and we had a chance to help build the wire cage protecting the black berries. They took us to a great restaurant that served a grilled bread salad. The bread itself was delicious. Then add some smoky flavor, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Wow. We also managed a trip to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. I love the look of blown glass - I have a hard time not buying it all - and this museum was fantastic. We sat for about an hour in their workshop theater. I'm fascinated by the process of blowing glass and forming it. I could have stayed all afternoon.

We also got around to visit a few others... Pat and Richard had us over for one of her fantastic dinners. They are looking at a move to Portland - that will be sad for us. Jen and Alain had us over to de-stem and prep the masses of strawberries they picked. Boxes and boxes and boxes. All turned into jam. We also walked down to the spring fair in Willow Glen. We got there late and found a large crowd with too many places to buy alcohol and too few places to buy food. Loud music made the crowd antsy. I got the feeling that it wouldn't take much to turn ugly. We ate at a Greek deli that was overwhelmed with business. The tables were piled high with used dishes and it took them forever to get us a few simple sandwiches. At least the food was good!

We managed another movie night in Saratoga. This time the votes went to Young Frankenstein. It has been years since I watched it, but I found that the humor is as fresh as ever. This movie is a true work of art. I've found that after the feature I now enjoy spending almost as much time watching the extra material on the DVD. The Making Of... can be as fascinating as the feature. I find that filmmaking requires the same attention to detail that software engineering requires. Every variable must be controlled, every outcome forced to conform. 

My 30th high school reunion was last week. Am I really that old? I didn't think so. I knew a number of the people there. Ron, Roy, Jill, Maria, Becky, Kevin, Cindi, Cathy and Tracy, just to name a few. Absent were many of my old gang: Jeff, Scott, Brett, Randy, Tom just to name a few. Thanks to Sheryl Erickson for putting this all together.

Ken and JD had us over to their place the next day for a house warming. They have a great townhouse in Milpitas. Brian gets kudos for doing the grueling 24-hour comic challenge. The surprise of the day was that Uncle Dave went to his 50th reunion the same night I was at mine. As we talked over the parties it became clear that we had many of the same observations. Interesting that the 50th is much like the 30th.

Lastly, the flooring has arrived and been "acclimatized". Next week the bamboo goes in over that old white washed parquet. I took Edi's advice and painted the outside wall green gray. What a difference that makes. I'll hardly recognize the place when this is done.


Quarterly Update, End of May 2005...

Well, at long last the sickness is gone. I keep another journal of just stuff, so I know that I started getting sick on May 5. Back then it was just a headache, a little cough, and that kind of disconnected mental feeling that says, "you are not right." Five days later that blossomed into a fever of 101.7. I laid around the house fully dressed, wrapped in blankets, and wearing a stocking cap. I'd lie still while hours went by. If I sat up I would get shivering, shaking chills. It peaked that feverish night with a few coughing fits, then I was on the mend. I haven't been coughing much lately and feeling better every day. Yesterday I commented to Alan that I just had this lingering feeling of pressure in the upper center of my chest. Last night, 15 days after the first feeling of ill, I coughed up a hair ball and thought, "I haven't done that for a while." Well, I woke up this morning with all the congestion gone. I think that cough last night was the final big one. Just like that, poof, my chest is back to normal. Whew.

She was off to the U.K. for a family visit so I took off for a weekend in Twain Harte. Bob and Carolyn already had tickets to a winery dinner Saturday night. They had just left and I was flopped on their couch ready for a night of food and a movie, when the door burst open and a petite woman in a skirt stomps in, points to me and says, "get up, you're going to dinner!" Huh? Turns out that Pam's husband was sick so they took me along to play the gigolo - it is a role I can handle. The dinner was a Mardi Gras party featuring several innovative dishes. I ate them all, but the Voodoo risotto got mixed reviews at our table.

Next weekend we were in San Juan Bautista to visit Cara and Irvin. They are restoring a house circa 1850. They have done a wonderful job on it. SJB is a fun little town that is only a short drive from San Jose. Again we stayed at the inn and had a fabulous room. Cara and Irvin took us out to breakfast the next morning and we toured the area. Fantastic people in a great setting.

Reynold was in town this month and free a night for dinner. I met him and two co-workers in San Jose. It was a good excuse to go back to 7 (seven). I didn't have the steak, although I was tempted. We relived a lot of the good old days. Reynold's companions had stories of their own. We drank and laughed. Good to see him again.

April brought the Alternative Press Exposition to SF again. I went to support cousin Brian in his efforts. This year he had flyers. I lingered in the aisle handing them out. Whenever someone would stop by I'd whisper, "issue 2 is just out and we're lucky enough to have the artist with us today." The conspiratorial approach got more than a few people to stop by and talk with him. I am proud to say that Brian watched me a bit and said, "man, you're really good at this!" All those HP trade shows taught me something. Last year I went as a hopeful observer of a freaky show and found that the attendees were for the most part normal. That was disappointing.

This year I got into it a little more myself and I think I'm getting hooked. The show is all about people outside of the mainstream press (I didn't know that comic book publishing is really considered mainstream press...) trying to get out some message that is burning inside them. Their work can be crude or very sophisticated, but they all have some story to tell. I spent twenty bucks on twenty different mags. Sometimes I spent the money just to see the amazed looks on their faces when "someone" bought their stuff. But more and more I found myself getting hooked on some of the personal stories each artist had and wanting to know more about them. These magazines or comics or sketch books are views into their hearts.

One particular pair of young girls really tickled me. They were very young. They didn't have a table or booth. Instead, one of them wore a homemade cardboard tray over her neck like an old fashioned cigarette girl. It was festooned with cutouts of their comic book character - a mean octopus from outer space with fangs. I bought one of their books for a buck. They were the alternative-alternative press. They were delightful. I've put up a list of links to some of the more interesting folks that I met. I wish them all luck in pursuit of their dream.

We got in two garden tours this quarter. The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) sponsored a weekend of visits to individual gardens. Most were small plots in neighborhood backyards. The last one we visited was behind a 10,000 square foot Italianate Villa in Los Altos. The garden was just fantastic. Anyone who saw this place could no longer think that a native garden is a boring brown one. I used to pack my own garden with anything from OSH that would bloom prettily. Her involvement with the volunteers that weed Edgewood park has awakened in me a desire to see more California natives planted. Gardening With A Wild Heart is a super book about why your garden, in the main, should reflect the native flora. It's good for the animals, it's good for the soil, it's good for the insects, and it's easier to maintain. All around a good idea. I've been shown natives that are stunningly beautiful. I won't plant fennel or Scotch broom again.

Our second trip was the Gamble Garden's tour. This is a walk around five open houses in the Palo Alto area. These were no small houses. Each was big and each had a big garden. This was more of the "house beautiful" variety. Formally worked gardens surrounding a designer house. We saw walled gardens, pool gardens, English gardens, and one very posh place done in Tudor style. Most used non-natives, but a few had splendorous sprays of natives.

Bob invited Paul up from Palm Springs for a weekend in TH, so I took Friday afternoon off and headed up there too. I got to spend a long drive up with Paul and we had ample time to cover a long litany of problems in the world today. Of course, we have solutions to them all, if only the rest of civilization would listen! The Coulters are excellent hosts. We managed to spend a dinner with the Ravizza's - somehow I see them more in TH than in San Jose. The kids are growing up fast. We spent one night playing Kerplunk with the kids and one night playing poker with the adults. The highlight was Carolyn's invention of nine-card stud.

We managed to sneak in another Rivers of Chocolate day. It benefits Advocates For Youth, which seems like a worthy cause. This year we spent a little more time listening to the band and a little less time stuffing our faces with chocolate goodies.

Then, right in the middle of the aforementioned sickness, we took off for the California Preservation Foundation conference in Riverside. She contributes to the foundation so the conference is free to us, and it makes a great excuse to get away. This year we stayed in the Mission Inn, which is a wonder itself. A mish mash of styles it reminds me of the Winchester Mystery house. I'll get a few pictures out here soon (right!). Judy was down for the conference so we had a few meals with her and her friend Pam. Pam is an architectural historian transplanted from the East. She's a hoot. We also managed to visit Peggy and Gene for dinner and ice cream. I don't get to see them that much and it was fun to have some dedicated time to solve the world's problems.

Now that I'm firing on all cylinders again it's off to have more adventures.


Quarterly Update, March 2005...

 So far 2005 has gone off with a bang! Good things are happening all over.

We spent the New Year's weekend in Twain Harte with Bob and Carolyn. Much has been said here of the trip before. It was a nice way to start the year.

The night before we left Diane had us over for her annual white elephant exchange. Diane is a gourmet cook and this year the specialities were all over the kitchen. I particularly liked that we had our choice of four different soups. All were excellent. Diane had new rules that let the stealing go on longer than normal. Someone brought a bottle of Seagram's 7 and She brought a little portable CD player. Well let me tell you, those were hot gifts. It started with someone stealing the CD player. Then that person took the Seagram's, then that person took the wine selection, then that person took the CD player back. It spiraled out of control. As luck would have it, my gift got picked dead last. Our host opened it to find one of my special Democratic Escape Kits: Canadian Club, Canadian maple syrup, Mapquest directions from the party to Canada, and a toque. Well let me tell you, it was a hit! The host loved it. One of the guests was from Canada and it just so happened that he once lived on the street Mapquest picked for the destination - that raised a few eyebrows. There were meant to be two extra gifts; one for most traded and one for most creative. I would have won for most creative (thank you very much) but there was a triple tie for most traded and the group decided to honor them all, including Her for the CD player. It would have been astounding if the two of us had taken home the two bonus gifts. Maybe next year?

At the end of January we gorged ourselves once again at the Kiwanis Club's San Carlos Crab Fest. As always, we were greeted with piles and piles and piles of fresh cold crab. The club bought the crab in Half Moon Bay that morning and it was kept on ice in Styrofoam containers. This year's Dungeness was fabulous. Sweet, clean, and crisp. Needless to say, we waddled home from that party.

Superbowl weekend was spent in Palm Springs at Chez Paul. A tarty little haunt we frequent on our sojourns to the southland. Bob and Carolyn were there too. We ate some nice food at Blue Coyote [thx Paul, good to know that someone reads this stuff, ed.] - where the gold margaritas will kill you (and almost did). One day we took a trip to an Indian canyon and hiked down among the 100 year old palm trees. They say that in the summer you can survive outside in these places. One special treat was Carolyn's Poached Egg in Ham Cups. She got the recipe from the Queer Eye site and it is fantastic. Ham is pressed into muffin tins, then filled with a sauteed mushroom and tarragon mix. On top an egg is cracked. Cook at 400 degrees for a while and voila, out comes the most interesting breakfast presentation I've seen in a long time. We managed one breakfast out at the Marilyn Monroe place in PS. There we found one-quart Glad bags, half filled with water, hanging in their open air seating area. Huh? The Maitre d' tells us that these bags keep flies away. He says they think the bags are wasp nests and high tail it to somewhere else. While I admit that there were no flies in the area, I wonder about this as the cure. The Superbowl was nice. The local lunch brunch bunch came over and we cheered and jeered, even though no one cares about who wins. (We did like some of the more clever ads.)

Rob and Julie invited us over for dinner and a twins viewing. They are soooo cute. Just 10 months old, they already have two different personalities. And two different sizes! Chris is huge. He's clearly 30% bigger than his sister. Chris likes to cast an eye on all that happens with an intensity that belies his young age. He is a watcher. Casey, on the other hand, is a rocker chick. She's all smiles and giggles and grabs. At one point we put them into these seats that hang from the ceiling. Chris bounced in his and looked around happily. Casey bounced hers back and then rammed it into Chris' as fast as she could, "wheeeeing" all the way. We also put them on the floor and watched them roll around a bit. Great fun, these kids.

I've wanted to do a poker party for quite a while. We used to have so much fun playing with friends. She hasn't been sure about the whole idea. So I took the liberty of suggesting it to Barbara a month or so ago. One night She asked Barb over for a drink and Barb says, "why don't we play poker?" Super idea! Who else to get? She doesn't think our other friends will go for it, so with a dour look She called around. It turns out that EVERYONE wants to play poker. Wendy, Nancy, Judy, and Sandra all joined us. I brought out my new classy poker chips and printed off a few cheat sheets I found on the web. We started a bit slow, just playing five card draw. Everyone was having fun, but claiming, "oh, I haven't played for years. I don't remember much." Let me tell you, what liars! After a bit Sandra is slinging the cards like a pro. "Seven card stud, high spade in the hole splits the pot. Six - no help. Second hart for the lady. Oh, a pair of threes." They knew how to play. At one point Barbara asked, "how about playing midnight baseball?" Oh yes. Next time we play for pennies!

Wondercon was in February this year. I spend a day in Brian's booth giving him some relief to see the show. Atomic Bear Press has volume 2 at the printers now. It wasn't back in time for this show, but it will certainly be available at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) in April. That's the show I really like. As Brian says, "Wondercon is about finding that one comic you need to fill out your collection. APE is about new alternative press releases." I'm not a comic book guy, but I do like the grittiness of alternative press. APE is the show for me.

Then Wendy clued us in to CircoZero in San Francisco. We first had a fantastic Thai dinner on Divisadero at 26th. Good thing we didn't stuff ourselves. The CircoZero show started with the audience standing outside in the misting rain listening to a rant against Bush and his administration's screwed up policies and lies. (Ok, I can go for that.) But the rant was delivered by a guy in a beautiful white wedding dress with a bone in his nose and a jug of vinegar in one hand. Every so often he'd hit the refrain, "you lied, you lied, you lied", take a swig of the vinegar and throw up on himself. Ah, you gotta love performance art. After this we got to go inside and watch a very remarkable dance performance. A sweet mix of political protest and Cirque du Soliel maneuvers. Just wonderful. I can't believe that they only charged us $10 admission. We left a healthy donation on the way out. It can't be cheap to clean that wedding dress every night.

As if that wasn't enough theater for one weekend, on President's day Carson invited 75 of his closest friends to a big dinner at Yeung Le's Fusion in Campbell. If you haven't eaten there, then you need to. The food is a fantastic mix of Asian cuisines. And her coconut cake? Ahhhhh. We got to sit with Joan and George, Jennifer, Kelly, and we saw a lot of other old HP friends. Jessie is looking great and working on a new secret thing. The high point of the night was Carson's monolog. I thought he might have brought us all together just to have a captive audience. I thought that right up until he proposed to Edie. Yikes! 18 years of living together (3 good ones they both say) and they decide to tie the knot. Edie's response, "Are you serious?" Apparently so. On the way home She had the bright idea to pick them up a bottle of Champaign. We stopped by some dirt bag liquor store near San Thomas Expressway. It was so bad that as we walked in, on our left was a dark section of the store filled with piles of clothes. Ye Gods. We also found a bent up display of shopworn greeting cards. These had at one time been in the sun long enough to partially bleach their tops and splay the forward edge out. We also bought them a lottery ticket and sped to their house. We beat them home. Left the supplies at their door, and took off. A night well done.

Now we have both been to the Cambridge Auction House in Santa Clara. They are great fun on a Saturday if you have time to kill. All sorts of stuff, most going for very good prices. On our first visit She bought a dresser and a couple of "shelves" of stuff. The shelves went for $30 and offered Her these little milk glass bowls. They also came with what turned out to be enough other stuff to fill three boxes. Wow. Now this stuff is all junk. Really. But when it was washed up, some of it turned out to be pretty nice. One lot contained about 30 crystal wine glasses in three patterns. Another had a bunch of art ceramic pieces, but they were all broken or repaired. Some very badly. For myself I wanted a nightstand for the guest room and won one for $30. I bid on what I saw without reading the catalog. A second after accepting my bid the auctioneer goes on, "How about 35? Certainly a nice piano bench and coffee table like these are worth more than $30?" Huh? "Piano Bench?" "and Coffee Table?" Oh well. The piano bench will do fine in the guest room. The coffee table I donated to James at work.

I was more careful on my most recent auction quest. I found a shelf of stuff that is in very good condition and I think will sell well on eBay. I've been meaning to sell some of my collected stuff there and it feels good to start with some new purchases. It took me a while to set up all the accounts and such, but now my first item is listed. It was fun setting up the first item. We'll see how it all goes.

We got theater in twice this week. On Tuesday we saw Enchanted April at the SJ Rep. An excellent show. Funny, alive, and nicely acted. Then last night we teamed up with Rob and Julie again, sans kids, to see Jerry Seinfeld at the DeAnza performing arts center. That was also a good show with many a belly laugh.

While She was at Filoli today I took the time to install a new chandelier over my dining table. This one sports five brightly colored blown art glass orbs. They really spark up the place. I also painted a bit more of the brick red. I've gotten advice to extend the color to an adjacent 6-inch strip of wall and to never end on an outside corner. Today I took that advice. So far, I can't say it makes that much difference. Sorry, gals.

Tonight we are off to the Rotary Club casino night. We'll see if I can win any more there than I did in San Carlos...