June 26, 2008

Dealing with the Newbies

Some of you may have missed the nationwide memo, but gas is expensive.

Which means more people are trying alternative forms of transit. I LOVE that (in theory). Better for the environment, better for health, better for the roads. However...there's a downside.

Caltrain uses two styles of trains: Plastic and Metal. The Plastic bullet trains make about four stops between San Francisco and San Jose, thereby making the trip in 45 minutes. They only fit 16 bikes per train. Then there are huge metal double-decker trains, I call them Warehouse Trains. These make most local stops, it takes them an hour and a half to go the same distance. A warehouse train comfortably fits 40 bikes, but can manage 50 in a pinch. Three weeks ago, gas prices hit 4.65/gallon here. Right around then, instead of Warehouse Trains, we got mostly Plastic Trains. After one time waiting 40 minutes for the next train, I stopped being nice and made sure to be in the front of the line.

I've chatted with a few conductors about the situation. Apparently, 14 of the Warehouse Train's have cracked axles. They have to find a place that can handle welding them back together. Of course, the company that made the trains has gone out of business. It could take the whole summer before they get the missing trains back on line.

Let's make it a math formula (cause I LOVE math): More bikers + Less space = Total chaos.

At this point, I know most of the bike regulars. We nod, chat a bit if the bike is late. Lately, our eyes have been meeting through a sea of new bikers. We shrug and wait for them to figure out how to manage the steps up into the train. Wait while they discuss where they are getting off. Wait while they slowly and carefully fasten their bike in.

Last night, I stood next to my bike, not bothering to fasten it in while three guys did a newbie bike dance in front of me. "Oh, Belmont, well, I'm going to Milbrae, could I put mine behind yours?" Dude, there are yellow plastic tabs you get from the conductor. Put them on your bike and it will tell people where you're going. No one has time for all this chit chat. In four minutes, we would be at my stop. A guy came down from the second level seats. He unfastened the bike ahead of me to the right, then obviously needed to still get his bike which was next in the pile. I kindly held the seat of the first bike so he could have both hands free. One hand on my bike, one on the other. He got his bike and then just moved ahead toward the exit, leaving me helpless. The newbies had finished assembling their bike pile. I asked one of them to fasten the extra bike in for me. He was happy to do so. The guy who'd stranded me looked back and obviously felt bad. Again, I get it. I get the learning curve, I went through it myself. It's just way too much demand on the system right now.

I guess this is what growth pains look like, right? For any organization. If you grow too quickly, you move past the capability of the old-timers to assimilate the newbies properly. Of course, I'd have nothing to whine about if I just sucked it up and biked 8 miles each way, instead of using the train to save me 6 miles . . .

June 23, 2008

Two weeks of fun and games

Dad's here for the next two weeks. He accuses his children of forcing him to go on death marches every time he visits. (Hey, he saw the bus route on the map and suggested we walk instead of just waiting for one. It's not my fault we walked all the way from the Ferry Building to the Caltrain station--and really, is 3 miles a true 'death march'?)

In a thoughtful effort to give him something to complain about, we met at the Palo Alto station tonight. See, Dad is very independent and capable. He knows every public transport method of getting from the airport to our house. He caught an express train from San Jose knowing it would stop in Palo Alto and not Menlo Park (the station 1 block from our house). So, I took the train one stop beyond Menlo in order to meet him. (Jrex was in a meeting with his advisor and a collaborator, so wasn't available to pick us up.)

Now, had I any intelligence in my head at all, I'd have suggested we find a nice comfy bench and wait for the next local train to take us 3 minutes up the track. I've biked the route many times and it only takes 8 minutes, so I figured it would be a 20 minute walk. When we finally dragged his heavy suitcase up the steps to the apartment, a mere 45 minutes had passed.

. . . oops.

And of course, then we had to take Muttolah out for her evening restitutional.

Dad wants to complain about being 73 and being tortured by his children. Oh, the pain! Oh, my aching feet! Why do you do this to me? What have I ever done to deserve this? Don't believe the hype: on Saturday, he was up in Seattle with my brother and went for a 10 mile sea kayaking adventure. He's in great shape.

Let's see what other fun I can arrange for him.

June 20, 2008

It's HOT

All Together Now
Work picked up again this week, but it's been great. We've had a whole week to brainstorm and work on theme and image solutions for an upcoming show. We have 4 really solid concepts and I'm excited for Tuesday's presentation.

In my job at Science Devices International, my design director constantly made remarks about how I wasn't acting like a senior designer. She wanted me to go off into my cube and come out with The Solution. I've realized that my style is much more collaborative. This week has been perfect. I've had three other people involved who each came up with great concepts. Once I started putting the pieces together, I got other ideas to further what they'd begun. In the end, it's to the entire department's credit, not mine. I like it better that way; plus, the client gets much better options.

On-line hook-up attempts
When we moved here and decided to share a car, it really limited my ability to climb. If I have the car, that means I also have to walk the dog, so I can't head to the gym after work. If I don't have the car, then I have to ride 1-2 miles from the train station to the gym. For over a year, I was ok with not climbing. I waited and hoped that Jrex might decide he'd like nothing better than climbing with me (thus far, nope). Going to Yosemite changed all that. As I watched groups of women with wiry arms pulling gear out of their cars, when I looked up at the most amazing cliffs I've ever seen, while I played around on the rocks every where we hiked, I realized how profoundly I miss it. I discovered that if I don't climb outside while living in California, I will regret it the rest of my life. I try to live without those kinds of regrets, so, I posted an ad on Craigslist so I can meet up with some strangers. Crazy!

I said I was out of shape for climbing, but when I was in shape was doing 5.10's. I've only had three responses, one woman and two men. I did specify that I was married and in my 30's (lest anyone get funny notions). They all sound like great potential partners. The woman is also out of shape and was climbing at a similar level when she was in shape so she's my first choice. She had to cancel on me tonight, but that's fine--it was 106 degrees when I rode my bike to the train--I'd rather just stay home tonight. We've got another time scheduled for next week.

When all the on-line community stuff started happening, before I was a part of it, I thought anyone with an on-line life was a loner. Like they couldn't handle the real world. What I've discovered instead is that it's made my circle much wider than ever before. Since 10th grade, I've been comfortable going up to strangers to start a conversation. This is just a different format.

June 12, 2008

A little link love from a bored designer

It's a very slow day at work. Which is great (until I do my time sheet...)

A couple interesting articles that I've read today:

A perspective from Egypt on the nomination of Obama for nominee from a New York Times columnist.

A website by a couple that is achieving "Equally Shared Parenting". The New York Times has a great cover story about this. It mentions that in most households, despite working equal hours, women still do three times as much housework and at least twice as much childcare as most men. (The author defines childcare as the non-fun stuff: feeding, cleaning, correcting). Some couples are working hard to meet in the middle. For both partners to work part-time, to share in both the mundane and the quality time as parents and partners.

As I read the article, I realized that's what my sister and brother-in-law are doing. She goes into work in the afternoon, he works in the morning and they only do one day of childcare a week. I'm really proud of the choices they are making and the parents that they are. It's also strange to reflect that it's unlikely that, after 20 years of training for Jrex, any form of ESP would be possible if we do have children. I don't really mind, I like the idea of working from home or running my own firm without really having to worry if things are slow. Having a sugar daddy works for me, but after reading the article, it seems sad he might not get as much time with any potential kids.

June 10, 2008

It wasn't my fault...

You take an only child, the result of years of trying, the first grandchild for the Korean grandparents and EVERYONE adores her and wants her attention. I never even read her a book! Everyone else sat on the couch and read book after book for her.

Me? I let her show me how much she could do 'by myself!': toothbrushing, face washing, toilet using and pajama buttoning. When we sat outside, rather than grab her, I looked for colored rocks among the patio stones. Within minutes she'd snuggled into my lap to help me. At the park, I sat and listened to the musicians with her tucked in my lap. I pointed out the djembe and the tamborine. When she didn't want to get up and dance, I danced and clapped while sitting there.

At the beach when everyone relaxed on the blanket, I ran down to the water and filled her sand bucket with wet sand. I took photos. I collected twigs and feathers for castle decoration. I carved her name in the sand. Got her to help me bury Jrex's napping feet--his toes kept popping out! Bad Jrex. When we left the beach, everyone offered her a hand and she came over and grabbed mine.

By the last night, she wanted "Auntie OTRgirl" next to her at all times. (Yes, my white niece calls me the Korean name, my Asian niece the white name.). At dinner the last night, after she ate, she wanted to sit on my lap so we could draw together. When dessert came, she wanted to stay.

None of that mattered too much. I'm sure it frustrated "Halmoni and Harabagi", but not too bad. What tipped it all over the edge was once we arrived in Yosemite. We called Jrex's sister to let her know we'd arrived safely. Lawyer Sister asked Asian Niece if she wanted to say hello to Halmoni? No. Uncle Jrex? No. "I want Auntie OTRgirl!" We chatted in the heavy panting and indecipherable chatter of a three year old on the phone for two minutes; then she said, "See ya!" and hung up.

Mom K got very quiet for the rest of the night.


June 7, 2008

More fun than I expected.

"I love it! This so fun!!"

My mother-in-law turns to me, her face glistening with water, shirt and pants drenched and clinging to her. We're climbing stone stairs next to a waterfall in Yosemite. The 'mist trail' is turning out to be more of a 'rain-storm'. Each time the wind blows, we're soaked with another wave of freezing cold water. We're climbing steep walls of the river carved canyon on man-made stairs of boulders and rocks, all drenched with water.

Mom K keeps laughing. She's using one of the trekking poles we brought for her and Dad; she's mostly steady on her feet. She's 69, barely five feet tall and has the slightly bowed legs from being carried on other's backs until she was 8 (a maid carried her to school each day). I walk up behind her with my hands out, 'spotting' her in case she slips on the wet rocks. She only needs me once.

We finally get beyond the heavy spray and stake out a place in a patch of sun. I've been glancing back trying to spot Jrex and his Dad, but haven't seen them for a long time. While we wait for them, we try to dry off. She's still giggling, I'm laughing both with and at her. Her carefully blow-dried hair drips and curls around her sun visor as she wipes the water from her glasses. Neither of us have a dry item of clothing left, so we're just smearing big droplets into smaller ones. After a couple of minutes, she's ready to go on. I'm concerned about Jrex, worried something might have happened to Dad on the wet stones, so I insist we wait for them, "In case." She nods, "Of course. In case."

After ten minutes or so, Jrex strolls up with his Dad panting beside him. Dad sits down. His face is pasty beneath his sun-bronzed skin. He's been a heavy smoker all his life, and it's finally catching up with him. After drinks of water and photos of the waterfall, we trudge up more steps. At the next break (20 steps later), Dad K wants to turn around and go back down. We can almost see the top, but he's done. Mom K, contrary to any cultural norm that I'm aware of, wants to keep going up. We start to divide up the food so Mom and I can eat something at the top. Jrex insists on going back down with Dad, "in case". As we're digging through the backpack and discussing what I can fit in my pockets and small camera bag, Dad K interjects with disgust, "OK. I go up."

Fifteen minutes later, we make it. After eating, photographing, napping, taking a potty break (great thing about Yosemite--public toilets everywhere! No digging holes or going in the woods), and smoking a couple cigarettes for the road, we head back down. On the way down, when we reach the wet steps, Mom K starts hopping down them like a rabbit. I laughed and told her she was crazy and she agreed!

All told, a three-mile hike took us 'only' five hours...

As soon as I get the photos off of Jrex's computer, I'll post a select few. I went a little crazy with pictures. Dad and I didn't do competitive pics (though if I took one in a certain spot, he was quick to do the same). He didn't like how I off-centered people and took candid photos and he certainly didn't understand why I kept taking close-ups of rocks or tree bark. Actually, Jrex is the master of the super-macro mode and took some really beautiful bark pictures. He's got a great eye, he'd just rather BE where he is than document it.

We're back 'home' though it doesn't feel like home. Not just cause the in-laws are still here, but Jrex and I are realizing more and more that we just aren't desert rats. The dry, brown, or artificial green of California isn't our scene. It just didn't feel like we were coming back to our place. Even the apartment just feels like a collection of our stuff, but not really our home. We have two more years here, which we'll enjoy, but it's not where we want to settle (despite all of Mom K's hints that it would be a good place for us).

Still to come: I bonded a little too well with Jrex's niece.