Sunday, December 21, 2008

My First E-Solstice Letter!

Promoting reduced paper waste, reduced fuel emissions, and the laying off of American postal workers since 2008.

Hi, loved ones. Winter Solstice is a time of change, the promise of renewal – the original, organic resurrection story that we can witness ourselves every spring. Good times!

This is a year-end summary so you don't have to read all my blog postings for the last year (especially those I meant to make but never got around to). So forgive me if some of the photos are a repeat.

I hope you have all had a good 2008. Mine has been quite busy. I began the year quietly at my home in Sacramento, CA. However, work soon picked up and as usual I was whisked away to destinations both mundane and exotic, mild and severe. But, as usual, I can't tell you about those!

In other work-related news, in March my manager retired and returned to Japan, and my predecessor/mentor became my new supervisor. I am very happy with the new order.

I had discovered that a fellow Hanszenite, Sunil, was living in Oakland. In March I took the train down and visited him for lunch. It was good catching up.

After that I had a few hours to explore San Fran (penniless and on foot, quite an adventure). Some friendly tourists bought me a ticket to the top of Coit Tower, where I was able to see most of San Francisco and the bay. On the grueling hike down to the Embarcadero, I had a rare sighting (and hearing) of the famous Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

That evening, I was also able to visit my sister and her fiancé, who had moved to a beachfront apartment in nearby Alameda (no, he's not closer to the camera, he just really is that much taller than we are).

In April Mom and Dad came out for an amazing trip with Carmalyn and me. It started with a sail in San Francisco Bay – it was beautiful seeing the Bay from a different angle but omigod it was so cold! We sailed under the Golden Gate and also the current and future Oakland-Bay bridges, and around Alcatraz Island.

However, that was just the beginning. After that, we went to Redwoods State and National Parks for some hiking. It was absolutely unbelievable. After a while our necks started to get sore from all the looking up, and I almost broke my ankle several times by not looking where I was going.

In May I discovered a town in the Sierras named Volcano, and decided I had to know what was the deal. When I visited, I discovered it is host to a cave named Black Chasm. So I took a tour – it turned out to be quite nice.

After that, I shamelessly threw a birthday party for myself. I canvassed the entire Fuel Cell Partnership with the invitation, and was lucky that everyone who came was someone I really liked. It made me very happy to be surrounded by friends.

Later that week, I was invited to go river rafting with my friend Jackie. This is a traditional Sacramento pastime, and I was glad to finally be participating. It was amazing to me that even though the air temperature was over 105 F, the water was so cold that when I jumped in, I couldn’t breathe. It was a good time.

During this month, Carmalyn got married on a cliff in Point Reyes National Seashore. So far, I like the guy. I think he'll do.

May was also a sad time because I was preparing to leave Sacramento. As I hinted in last year’s newsletter, I was being relocated to the Los Angeles area. I was looking forward to new opportunities in LA, but I was also sad to leave my friends and co-workers. Here I am with my colleagues Jared and Kaori at my farewell dinner.

The Big Move occurred at the end of June, which was mercifully not as hot as it typically is in Sacramento. My mother came out to help me and the cats make the transition more smoothly. However, things don’t always go smoothly. We’d planned to take scenic Hwy 101 down the coast, but a forest fire at Big Sur forced us to take a sizable detour on a somewhat-less-scenic route. We did, however, still have enough time to drop by San Simeon to take a tour of the famous Hearst Castle.

When we arrived in LA, we made sure to hit the beaches. Then we did what any engineer and science teacher would do: the La Brea Tar Pits!

After that was more moving – we were able to get into my new condo in San Pedro but were too exhausted to go out to see the Independence Day fireworks - instead we watched them from my bedroom window!

In July my dad was being granted a prestigious award in Chicago, so the whole family met up for the ceremony and celebration. The University hosted a cruise in his honor! I was glad that I could be there to see it.

At the beginning of August I flew back up to Oakland (couldn’t take the train anymore) for Carmalyn’s wedding reception, and met her friends and new in-laws.

At the end of August I went to England to visit my sister Paige. Mom and Dad came along, too. London, Brighton, Bath, Salisbury – we went from old, to older, to oldest, to unimaginably old! I was so amazed in Westminster Abbey, where they were burying kings and queens in the twelfth century, but then we went to Bath to see the ruins of the enormous temple the occupying Romans built around a hot spring before the Common Era. But nothing could beat Stonehenge, which was thousands of years old when the Romans first saw it! Sprinkled in with that were walks on the Brighton beach, a Shakespeare play at the Globe, tours of Royal palaces and noble castles, and a hilltop view of the English countryside. It was a great, great trip, made even better in the last days, when Paige and I were able to tour London with another Hanszenite and her husband, Sara and Dan.

For a few weeks after that, I settled into my new office in Torrance. But the quietude was short-lived, as always. In November, Carmalyn came down to visit for snorkeling, visiting the Long Beach Aquarium, and seeing the Getty Center. Then, just a few weeks later, my friend from Sacramento, Brian, visited and we took a tour of the city, at one point chasing down the best view of the Hollywood sign and finding it at the Griffith Park observatory.

This was followed the next day by a business trip to Detroit. After that, I took the short hop to Canton, Ohio to see my aunts and uncle and some cousins. For me, it was an early Thanksgiving get-together. I also took a tour of some of Canton’s tourist attractions and saw a 1928 Buster Keaton silent movie in an 82-year-old theater with original organ.

So as I said, it’s been pretty busy. But good. There have been many new challenges and also new opportunities. It’s been tiring, but hopefully the new year will give me renewed energy, as spring does to the natural world.

Ginger, Dusty and I say "Here’s to a wonderful new season and a great 2009!"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How did those get there?

On a night when I was actually not on a business trip, the smog cleared a little and I could see mountains from my porch! I didn't know they were there. How strange.

The view of the refinery, of course - day or night - is always superb...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The new job and condo are going pretty well, but given the amount of time I'm going to be travelling the next few weeks and the cost of utilities, I'm being too cheap to install internet/cable until September and my e-mail/blog updating has suffered as a result. O, you anonymous friend of mine who may read this, there's so much I've wanted to tell you!

The condo is nice. I'll have to post photos soon. I call it "the oasis" since it is so lush and quiet. Sunday I finally made use of the pool (I'm trying to be on a health kick) and walked to do my errands at the nearby shopping centers on Western (still getting used to the hills!). I've done laundry in my washer/dryer and washed dishes in my dishwasher, which I think is the height of sophistication since for the last 3 years I've been doing the dishes by hand. The cats enjoy their evening porch time. The movers still haven't found my table legs or artwork, so I despair of ever seeing them again. It's quiet. Too quiet. I can't search for roommates until my traveling slows in September, and I've been lonely. My loneliness has been both eased and agitated by my experiences at work (you'll see why).

Work is work. I miss my old neighbor Jay-Rock, and am struggling in my relationship with my new neighbor Daddy Mac. As you my closest friends know, I have a problem developing infatuations with extraordinarily good-looking and ridiculously out-of-my-league young men, even those necessarily interdit due to the fact that I work with them in some capacity. At the State Penn it was Crazy Jim, in Sacramento it was the Allegetarian. Here it is no different. I call him TasteeBoy (on my blog, of course - in real life I call him by his name). I met him on a business trip earlier in the year, so when I arrived in LA I claimed our slight acquaintance as an excuse why he had to be the one to help me meet the others in the office (clever, no? Serves the dual purpose of letting me meet people while having an excuse to spend time with him). He performed admirably, inviting me to an after-work outing where I met quite a few co-workers, made sure I wasn't ignored, and at the end of the evening even claimed to have enjoyed my company. I spent a large part of the evening thinking "dammit, Andrea, say something clever and funny and interesting", but nothing came. I was an absolute dud. But I did have a good time. Now in the office, I'm trying desperately to be cool, accessible but not clingy. I'm old enough and can read people well enough not to entertain fantasies. But I think we all know my success rate with not making a spectacular ass out of myself in front of guys like TasteeBoy.

The weekend before last I met my family in Chicago. My father had won a teaching award, and his ceremony and celebration were scheduled for this conference. My sisters were both coming, and since I had spent the week before in nearby Detroit anyway, my attendance was declared mandatory. It was a singular experience. Don't get me wrong, I'm really glad I went. The dean introduced him with a 20-minute speech, and he gave another speech and answered questions about the future of pharmacological education. The moderator handed him a trophy that wasn't attached to the base, and it fell and the glass broke. People I hadn't seen since I was a child, and most I hadn't seen at all, were forming a line to tell us how much they loved our dad. That evening, UK chartered a cruise from Navy Pier in order to throw a party in his honor. One of the professors told a story about how, in 1987, another faculty member had accidentally driven Dad's BRAND new Volvo into a lake. The guests were crying on themselves they were laughing so hard, but at my table we girls sat silently aghast. That story had been taboo in our family for 20 years! Seeing it told in such excruciating detail (half of it I'd never even heard) was really strange, but Dad didn't seem to mind. After we saw how relaxed he was, we let it go too. Also, I'm getting old. I must have taken a bad step or something and developed a wicked pain in my hip. I was hobbling all over Chicago and requiring my family to take cabs for the rest of the weekend! Mom and Paige used it as an excuse to berate me on my excercise habits. Mom and Carmalyn insisted I check in for spinal cortisone shots and physical therapy when I got back home. Mom asked me to put ice on my back as soon as she saw me open my eyes in the morning and every five minutes after that until 20 minutes after I'd fallen asleep (yeah, you read it right). I was absolutely miserable, as much from the pestering as from the pain. But luckily it subsided when I got back, and I haven't had a problem with it since (crosses fingers).

Today was my first earthquake in California (2nd ever). We were in a meeting in Gardena and I heard/felt what seemed like loud stomping in the hall. Just when I was wondering who the jerk was, the building started swaying, very slowly and gently, back and forth. We stopped the meeting and stared at each other: is this an earthquake? After about 10 seconds we consensed that it was, but continued to stare. So I asked "shouldn't we get under the tables or something?". People laughed. Another few seconds passed, and the quaking stopped. Finally, someone (ironically not the manager) insisted that we evacuate in case of aftershocks. So I led the way out the door and into the assembly area in the parting lot. Everyone immediately got out their cell phones to call their wives, parents, kids, etc., but all the networks were already full. I sat silently on the curb - I didn't have anyone to call. Cliff looked at Dom and said "What do you think, was that about a 6.0?" A minute later, a guy who had finally gotten a hold of his wife, and whose wife had gotten on the internet, announced "It was a 5.8". Those Geological Survey guys really move fast! As we began wondering what to do, the security guard came by and declared "All Clear" so we could re-enter the building. By this time it was lunch hour and the manager had declared the meeting over, so we got in the car to drive back to Torrance. As we were leaving the parking lot, I got simultaneous phone calls from Jay-Rock and Big Dog with the same message: How did you like your first earthquake in SoCal? Someone was thinking of me after all!

Finally, I have to thank Britton for turning me onto: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
This is the latest installment from the incomparable Joss Whedon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ay, ay, ay ay...

... canta y no llores.

Ah, ah, sing and don't cry. Good advice.

So I moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Got packed up on June 25 and left my apartment for good. Drove to Alameda to stay with Carmalyn and Ethan (and a very unhappy Monster). June 26th we planned to take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) down to Hearst Castle. In Big Sur we were told the highway was closed due to wildfires, and were forced to take a detour probably 100 miles back up the coast and down the far-less scenic 120, then we cut back to the ocean. The cats seemed to do well in the car, and aside from Ginger's one expedition, they mostly stayed in their carriers.

Even down in San Simeon, you could see and smell the smoke on the beach. Like a huge cosmic barbecue was going on at the neighbor's place. By that time it was too late to go to Hearst Castle, so we made plans to go the next day. We had time to enjoy the sunset on the beach, where the pebbles were an amazing array of bright green, yellow, red, and black.

The tour of Hearst Castle was really interesting. It was a nice break from driving. The mansion looked like it was sitting on a cloud, because in all directions all you could see was smoke/fog. The pools were pretty nice.

June 27th we drove past Pismo Beach, through Malibu, and into LA and Santa Monica. Traffic blew a little bit. It was the weekend, but escrow hadn't yet closed on the house. So aside from some paperwork and the final walk-through, we had the weekend free. We slept and went to the beach a lot. I flew a kite my parents brought back from China that was made up of 10 little kites on a string (can you see them in the picture?).

Monday and Tuesday I worked in my new office in Torrance. Gawd was I tired. For everyone else it was just business as usual, so I had trouble getting the others in the office outside my group to stop and introduce themselves. I'm still working on it.

Wednesday I was on ice for escrow to close, so I took one of my relocation days, and Mom and I went to the La Brea Tar Pits. It was fascinating seeing the random asphalt puddles (like the one in the parking lot) bubbling up from the ground, especially so close to Downtown, but it was a little disappointing to hear that all the pits except one had already been mined of all their artifacts. They found bones of mammoths and mastodons, American camels, saber-tooth cats, wolves, and these enormous creepy sloths that were over 6 feet tall! We had a good time on the grounds and in the museum. Then the call came: I was ready to get my keys!

Thursday was move-in day at my new home in San Pedro, although I wished it could have been later because the place needed a thorough cleaning that it couldn't get before the furniture came. The movers broke a few things and lost my table legs and a piece of artwork I made myself and was really excited about hanging over the fireplace. They wanted to know how much it was worth but how do you put a price on a something like that? Here is a picture of me with the keys to my house!

Friday we moved out of the stinky hotel and brought the cats to their new home. They seemed to take to it pretty quickly.

We spent the day unpacking boxes and shopping for groceries. That night, we were too tired to brave the traffic and crowds for fireworks displays, but were rewarded with the show from the porch and bedroom, which encompassed the shows from about 10 towns along the horizon and closer. I couldn't really capture it on film, but I tried!

Now I'm settling into normal life in the LA Basin. So far I'm liking it, but it's mostly work-home-work-home. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Congratulations, Carmalyn...

...on your wedding!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

They Said it Best...

“We must have zero-emission vehicles. Nothing else will prevent the world from exploding.”

- Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan-Renault, to The Economist

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy *You-Know-What* to Me

Is this my skin or a cage for my soul?

-Stephen Colbert

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wind it Up!

It's official: I'm moving to Southern California at the end of June!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Back-Post: 2008 Part 3

The end of March and beginning of May, Mom and Dad came in from Kentucky, and they and Carmalyn and I went sailing in the bay, then hiking in the Redwoods. It was cold but it was fun. Check it out!

Bay Sailing


Back-Post: 2008 Part 2

February I travelled for work - and thus can't tell you anything about it except that it was an adventure! I was very cold celebrating Crane Day.

In March I went to Oakland and had lunch with Sunil from Hanszen. After a year, I finally responded to his comment from my last Crane Day blog post. I know, I know, so bad of me!

After that, I had an afternoon and no cash, so I worked my way into the City, up Coit Tower, back down, and back to Oakland. Amazingly enough, I pulled it off. I hung out with Carmalyn and her fiance at their new place on the beach in Alameda (no, he's not standing closer to the camera than us, he's just that tall!).

Back-Post: 2008 Part 1

Hey, I'm making progress!

In January I visited Carmalyn again. We flew kites for a while then attempted for the second time to see the camera obscura at Cliff House, and once again it was closed! I think I may never see it. The day wasn't ruined, however - we hung out on the beach for a while.

Also in January I went to an SAE and my colleagues told me that I was amost famous on the Japanese nightly news! That's where I work, too, in case you were wondering.

Back-Post: 2007 Part 7

Winter break I spent in Florida with my family, as usual, plus my sister's boyfriend and his dad. It was nice, but not long enough. We went sailing, kayacking, snorkeling, beach relaxing, etc. Once I even saw a manatee and calf swim right up to the dock for some chillin! I'm trying to be high-tech, so I hope this embedded Picasa show works!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Back-Post: 2007 Part 6

In October I did oh-so-much travelling. By this point, work was really starting to get to me. You guys know how much I love my job, but after all that work and the hospital visit, etc., I was in serious need of some good times. Luckily, October was full of them.

Not uncommonly, these occured around business trips. I was lucky that in October my company sent me to a couple places I knew people. In October we supported Speed Festival in San Diego and I was able to take one night to have dinner with my college friend Elisabeth. I never remember to take photos when we go out! We went to a hippie Veggie restaurant and had a wonderful time. For some reason, when I'm around Elisabeth we can't stop laughing.

Next up was Fuel Cell Seminar in San Antonio. After my plane landed I drove to Austin, where Teresa got together some area folks. It was nice, and I met Britton's son Peter for the first time (see the picture - look at all those babies!). A few days later, I met another college friend Keedy for dinner, and had another wonderful time.

For Thanksgiving I went to my college friend Danny's house for the third year in a row. What a great tradition. I always have so much fun there, and aside from seeing Danny and his parents again, I also get to meet his friends and relatives from the area. But like with Elisabeth, I can never remember to get a photograph!

The rest of the weekend I visited Carmalyn. On the train on the way back I had a spectacular view of the sunset over the Bay. This was taken with my new phone - I got it to replace the RAZR that I thought I'd lost but found as soon as I got the new one.

Back-Post: 2007 Part 5

In August I flew out to Chicago for the wedding reception of my friend Saima. After a year, she had finally imported her husband from Pakistan! I enjoyed meeting him. What a looker! Since Yolanda is now also hooked up to a hunk from South Asia, they are trying to find me a husband next. I say, if you must, please find one that can cook vegetarian. And can clean.


Labor Day I went to the California State Fair with my co-worker Brian, his girlfriend, and her parents. It was a typical state fair, with plenty of fried everything. In this picture, I am eating last year's winner for "Best New Fried Thing", fried Coca-Cola! The fried Coke fell a little flat (get it?), but boy did we have a great time.

The coolest thing about the fair was the stunt bikers. Watch these crazy guys! If you turn up the sound you might hear me screaming like a little girl!

Back-Posting: 2007 Part 4

In September I was on a business trip (big surprise) when chest pains woke me at 2AM. I waited a few minutes for them to go away, but they settled nicely right around my heart. Finally, I sucked it up and called 911.

The EMTs came in an ambulance and rolled a stretcher through the lobby and all the way up to my room. They put pads on my chest and listened to my heart, and finally decided to strap me down, roll me back through the lobby, and take me to the ER. It was my first ambulance ride ever (and hopefully my last). Meanwhile, the pain got worse and worse.

The emergency room wasn't too crowded, and they found me a bed right away. The EKG was negative (between that and the heart monitor in the hotel, I now had about 20 patches on, all of which left a nice hickey when I removed them the next day). The doctor said I wasn't the right age or weight group to be considered a heart attack risk. Was I taking meth, she asked? No. Heroine? No. Meth? No!

By this time I was almost crying. The pain continued to worsen. They gave me a pregnancy test. They gave me a shot in the "hip" for the pain, which took over an hour to start working. I finished my book and had nothing else to distract me. I waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally they wheeled me out for a chest x-ray. As we were leaving my room, the technician came after me saying "you dropped your bra". And plopped on my lap the largest undergarment I had ever seen. This whole time I had been lying in bed with someone else's GG underwear! And someone actually thought that it was mine!

The chest x-ray was negative too. Their final diagnosis was that I had a chest wall contusion (bruise). Maybe I had been kicked in the chest recently? No, I said. Well, then, maybe I had been and hadn't noticed, she offered.

The trip back to the hotel had far less pomp than that to the hospital: I had to take a cab. The driver was about 150 years old. I got in the car with a prescription for Vicodin in my hand, then I blinked and it was gone. So I asked the driver to take me back to the hospital. Fifteen minutes later, I asked where we were going - "The pharmacy, of course". THEN we turned around to go back to the hospital, where I had to ask the doctor for another prescription. Probably didn't do a lot for her suspicion that I was on meth.

I was walking out of the Walgreens when I saw the sun rise. It had been quite a night.

It wasn't until I returned to Sacramento that my internist diagnosed me with pleurisy, an inflamation of the lining of the chest wall not from a kick to the chest, but allergies and asthma. Makes a lot more sense, doesn't it?

Back-Posting: 2007 Part 3

Most of the summer was taken by business trips, which meant I got to travel a lot to interesting locations, so it wasn't all bad. But I can't talk about them. I can say that I watched the Perseid meteor shower during a trip in August and it was AMAZING - I was able to go home at a reasonable hour after seeing 20 falling stars. Cool, huh?

Outside of work, in July I went to the Berkeley Kite Festival with Carmalyn. We did a little flying of our own, but mostly watched the kite performances (especially the synchronized quad-lines - see the video) and Japanese kite-fighting. I think I sunburned all the way to my internal organs, but it was a lot of fun. Check these photos!

Kite Fest Front Gates

Japanese Kite Fighting (Ro-kaku)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Back-posting: 2007 Part 2

Not long after I got back from my birthday excursion, a mother and son humpack whales got lost migrating north and ended up in the Port of Sacramento, less than a mile from where I work, and at least 80 miles from the ocean! After a week, specialists were able to herd them back downriver but lost them in San Pablo Bay. Everyone assumes they made it back to the ocean safely.

I visited several times and was able to get some video. If you search YouTube for "Sacramento port whales", you may find better ones. (Hey! I just found out you can load videos directly onto BlogSpot instead of YT!)

You know, May was just a busy month in general. After the whales returned home, I went to Ohio for my cousin Vince's wedding, then the same weekend I went bicycling in Golden Gate Park with Berkeley Ben (well, he went, biking, I just made a fool of myself).

Back-posting: 2007 Part 1

Hey, everyone;

I should give some updates on what happened in 2007. I think I stopped somewhere in May...

For my birthday Carmalyn and I went hiking in Pinnacles National Monument (it was hot!), then bicycling and kayaking in Monterey (it was cold!), then toured the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose (read what's so creepy about the house). What fun!



Winchester House

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Picasa Gallery

Hey, everyone - I have been very bad about keeping my blog updated. No excuse.

However, I've been able to put some pictures up. So feel free to visit my Picasa gallery in the meantime and beyond.