Saturday, July 29, 2006

#1 at the Box Office for HOW LONG?

Last night I organized a work outing to dinner and "Dead Man's Chest". I had been looking forward to it for the past three weeks, and I was super-stoked.

I haven't been this disappointed since Serenity.

Amazing that they were only able to capture about 5% of the brilliance and fantasy from "Black Pearl", one of my favorites. So dark and violent! That's precisely NOT why the first one was so great - the original flick drew on all the intriguing pirate stereotypes and added extremely witty dialogue, brilliantly-portrayed characters, fantastic action sequences, and great music. The new flick boasted the same characters (and a bigger role for Jack Davenport!), but was filled with misery, ignorant portrayals of native South Americans, grossness, and completely distracting extras with various sea creatures stuck to or in place of their heads.

Jerry Bruckheimer, take heed for #3 or you'll end up with the sullied reputation of Star Wars!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dark and silent (except for the traffic and lawn-mowers)

I do like living in California. Especially when the temperature is below the triple-digits.

But I've discovered two things about summer in this area that are rather devastating:

1) During the day, no katydids.

2) At night, no fireflies.

How does anybody LIVE out here?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I am a recovering couch potato...

... or at least I plan to be. Someday.

In an attempt to adopt a healthier lifestyle, I went to Tahoe last weekend with Carmalyn. Since it's California, it was packed, but we had a good time. We also got an unintentional free Mellencamp concert by staying in a hostel next to Harvey's. Unbeknownst to me (and also to John Cougar),
Dan Quayle was also there.

Saturday we took a kayak tour through Emerald Bay, then went biking along the river, and had dinner with Carmalyn's beau, who was up at a regatta (=sailboat race, for the lubbers who are reading this). Sunday we went biking again around the estates of the early white residents before heading home again. Perhaps miraculously, I wasn't sore from this sudden spurt of activity, but boy was I tired!

Being summer in NorCal, the weather was clear, and being in the Sierras provided a good break from the heat in the Valley (today's temp in Sacramento: 112 F, according to my window thermometer). But, being summer in NorCal, it was sunny! I had to wear my sunglasses and a really ugly hat to keep the light to a tolerable level (see photo).

Tahoe is the third deepest lake in N. America, and is wide enough to be seen from space. These two characteristics were evident in the fact that the water was really blue and really COLD!! We attempted swimming once, but couldn't get in past our blue, numb feet.

Below are pictures of Emerald Bay, Carmalyn wading, and the Sierras:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fun-Filled Fourth

For the July 4th holiday I did several different things (other than finally sweep and mop the entire house).

Saturday a few folks from the CaFCP and I went to Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico for a tour. After 2.5 hours of driving, we missed the brewery tour, but got what we really came for (other than dinner & beer): a tour of the fuel cell power unit and associated water treatment facility! The owner is a big environmentalist, and it was nice seeing the things he was able to do to self-electrify and clean the brewing wastewater at the same time. I hadn't hung out with Adam and Chris for a long time, so it was good to spend some quality time together, and it was much more pleasant than being at work.

Sunday was cleaning and sleeping day. But Monday I took myself on a roadtrip to the Jelly Belly factory, then through Napa into Mendocino to see the "famous" California geyser and petrified forest. Had lunch at the worst restaurant in Wine Country and was sick the rest of the day, so after the forest I decided to cut my trip short. Took the 128 home, which was quite possibly the only road in California that wasn't packed that weekend, and practiced my driving skills on the twisties. I'm getting pretty good at engine braking!

Tuesday evening the neighbors had me over and lit firecrackers in the street. Luckily the cops didn't rough us up too much.

That's the most excitement I've had outside of work in a long time - I need another weekend to recover!

Four Generations!

The week of June 20 I found myself in Michigan for a business meeting, so I took the opportunity to hop over to Ohio for a June 24 family reunion. It was the 90th birthday of my mother's mother's twin brother's wife (== great aunt) Nita, the last remaining member of her generation. Most of my mother's siblings were able to make it, with a good portion of their families, and Paige and I were there (Paige rescued me from O'Hare when my flight was cancelled, bless her). It was good seeing everyone again, but it was too short a visit!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Japan Trip May 20 - June 3

It's been a month since I got back, but I finally got caught up enough to tell you about my trip to Japan.

I went to train at The Mother Company (disclaimer: that's not really what "TMC" stands for) for two weeks at two different locations. Luckily I didn't go alone - I had Bradley from the SoCal office for company and as a preventative to getting lost. It was amazing! The things the company is doing are unbelievable, but I'm not allowed to talk about that. So here is a little bit about Japan...

Toyota-shi (Toyota City)
Let's not mince words, folks - Toyota-shi, home of TMC headquarters, is not a beautiful city. Everything in central Honshu, although being spotless with absolutely no litter or street grime, seemed dingy or run-down - this was not helped by the fact that Toyota-shi is an industrial town and many of the headquarters buildings were corrugated steel. Unfortunately Bradley and I were staying in a hotel close to TMC but far from downtown, so didn't get to appreciate it fully.

This is the view from the hotel. As I mentioned, not much to look at.
We did get to go downtown once, and it was cute. There are two train stations and a big mall there - even a Japanese KFC!

This is the hotel room. Disclaimer: there is nothing in this room that is not in the photograph (except the bathroom). This is the entire thing. I had to cuddle with my suitcase in bed at night because there was no room on the floor for it. I found out after I came back that Hattori-san was trying to teach me about Japanese business culture instead of putting me in the nicer, Toyota-approved hotel downtown. Okay, okay, I learned my lesson!

We had one precious day for sightseeing, and we spent it in Kyoto. Definitely the place to go if you only have one day and are looking for the authentic Japan experience! Here's a factoid for you: Kyoto (Kyo city) was formerly the capital of Japan, and the cultural center. That is why Tokyo is so named - it means "East Kyo".

Here is a picture of Bradley and me at the Golden Temple with our Toyota-shi host Bono-san and his wife, Yuko. They were absolute champs - they had to escort us practically everywhere because we didn't speak more than 15 words of Japanese and couldn't read more than 2 or 3.

Here is a photo of the temple itself. I never quite figured out why they bothered to cover a building entirely with gold leaf. It's not really a temple per se, but the Shogun's summer home. I guess when you're the Shogun, you can do whatever you want.

Here is a picnicking couple on the banks of the river. I took this photo on our way to a restaurant where every single dish was made from fu, which is wheat protein that can be prepared with many different flavors and textures (even like meat) - it's an ancient Kyoto form of cooking that came from the Buddhists. I certainly didn't have to worry about eating meatless there! They even had tofu made from fu. Some of it was really good, and some of it not so much. As for the rest of the trip (in case you were wondering how my vegetarianism held up), I survived mostly on pizza and salad bar, as well as junk food. To my relief I didn't starve, as many people predicted. I told you Bono-san looked out for me! And in Higashifuji I got the same level of consideration from Kato-san and Fujimoto-san. Actually, everyone over there was really nice to us (probably nicer than usual, because I'm female).

Here is a photo of Kyomizu-dera overlooking new Kyoto. Kyomizu-dera is another of the many Buddhist temples built in Kyoto over the last twelve hundred years. To paraphrase Mal from Firefly: "I understand the how, I'm just fuzzy as to why." In my understanding, Buddhism is a rather ascetic and humble religion - did they really believe in a god that would be impressed by all that? Maybe like the Catholic clergy, they wanted to practice self-denial in an impressive setting.

A real live geisha sighting! Maybe not of authentic geisha, we weren't sure. It's possible they were apprentices. Or posers.

The second week of our training. Here is the omnipresent soda/tea/coffee machine, even in the middle of nowhere! At least it seemed like nowhere on Sunday afternoon when Bradley and I were trying to find something to eat and having no luck.

They don't call it "East of Fuji" for nothing. Here was our evening view of Mt. Fuji from the hotel parking lot. During the daytime it was more like a faint ghost, and usually not visible at all. Of course, it wouldn't be Japan without the enormous power lines everywhere.

So there you have it, folks. I can't wait to go back, but I don't know when that will be. Some people in the company go as much as four times a year, but my department is averaging the exact opposite: one visit every four years. Next time hopefully I'll have the opportunity to take some vacation there before returning.

Finally took the plunge...

...and got myself a blog. Now I'm officially part of my generation (and you thought the year you were born had something to do with it).

Disclaimer: Sorry, there will be no husband/baby photos here. Just me.
You can judge for yourself if that's worth visiting every now and then.

For those of you with whom I've lost touch over the past few years, here's a short update:

May 2005: Got job as fuel cell vehicle engineer with Toyota at the California Fuel Cell Partnership (, moved to Sacramento, CA. Still here and loving it.

September 2004: Got job as "energy analyst" (==consultant) for DOE with Energetics, moved to Ellicott City, MD - didn't like it very much, and my boss didn't like me very much. Survived 9 months before quitting.

May 2004: Graduated Penn State with MS in mechanical engineering at the Electrochemical Engine Center (fuel cells and batteries - I studied fuel cells). Unfortunately I had some serious health problems and just managed to get by, so these two years were not very fun.

May 2002: Graduated Rice University with BS in mechanical engineering, moved to State College Pennsylvania to start graduate study. Good way to spend four years.