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!"