June 29, 2009

Cool Movies

Jrex's evaluation of a movie short that we caught on PBS:
We saw a great short film on PBS the other day-it's only 20
minutes long. It's called "Room 10" starring Robin Wright Penn and Kris
Kristoferson and actually co-directed by Jennifer Aniston. The soliloquy
by Kristoferson is one of the best descriptions of what makes a marriage
for the long haul – beautiful, real without mushy hollywood sentiment.

You can watch it for free on Hulu:

Last night we watched Bella, which is out on DVD. It's a beautiful, impressionistic movie that will linger in your mind for the next few days. An exploration of how one day can change your life. The director/writer's inspiration sprang from his grandmother's phrase, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans". It's got one of the best male Latino characters I've ever seen. Flawed, yet gentle, he seems like someone you'd treasure as a friend.

June 25, 2009

Your prayers are appreciated at this particular juncture

When we got back from vacation, Jrex had this email:

> *Subject: **RE: Presubmission inquiry*
> Dear Dr. ________,
> Your manuscript has been sent out for review. The status of "being
> processed" means that there is no decision on the manuscript (ie
> "reject," "revise," or "accept")--typically what this means for
> authors at this stage is "No news = good news." If your manuscript had
> been rejected without review, you would have already received a
> decision by now. Generally (barring some unusual circumstances), if a
> manuscript status is still "being processed" after three weeks with
> us, you can assume that it has been sent out for review. I do,
> however, always recommend contacting our offices to confirm that status.
> Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions or concerns.
> Kind Regards,

Right now, the paper is in the hands of other scientists, who, in their 'free' time read it and send it back with any comments, questions, further experiments or whatever. If it's sent to someone who doesn't like Jrex's advisor, they could give him stupid hoops just for the 'fun' of it. It's rare the paper would be accepted without further work, but it would be GREAT if that's what happens.

Much depends on many things. But...if his paper gets published, that opens the door to start applying for his own grant money and for jobs.

June 24, 2009

Biker Buddies

In riding CalTrain each morning, I've developed chatting relationships with three people. Each are bikers. We've bonded over late trains, waking up early (or late) and how much better the vacation schedule is in Europe. This morning, two of the three were at the station waiting with me. European Architect was very early (for him). He said he's shifted from five days to working four longer days due to the recession. The grin on his face when he said, "Ah, Fridays off!" told me how he really felt.

Bright Smile is in her mid-forties. I've learned over many of our rides together that she's a mother with two young children. This morning I happily whined to Bright Smile about how sore my finger tips were from climbing last night. We chatted on the train about climbing, vacations, our gondola fiasco in Whistler. As we got off, she introduced me to another biker who also climbs at Planet Granite in Sunnyvale.

Starting the day off with friendly people, riding in the crisp morning air, watching newly molted goslings wobble through the marsh, hearing birds calling their greetings: I love my ride.

June 22, 2009


Jrex just dropped his parents at the airport. They were with us for a week. On Friday night I finally found words for why their visits are so hard for me: I get evicted from my own life.

I reach a point where the only part of the house that feels like 'mine' is my half of the bed. The refrigerator is full of ingredients that I've never seen before in my life (though the results all taste great--I can't find the milk for sifting through seaweed, mushrooms and piles of meat). My MIL is petite, so the shelves get reorganized based on what she needs and can reach. The bathroom sink has my FILs dentures and hygiene products. My water-rinsing glass is used by him. The toilet seat is always up. The TV is on from 6 AM to 10 PM. He smokes on our balcony; courteous enough to shut the sliding glass door, he doesn't realize the smoke drifts into our bathroom and bedroom. By the end of the week, the cigarette reek has begun to seep into everything.

Muttola has become so nervous around him that I had to move her food and water in the bedroom with us (he plays rough with her) so she will eat. In her fear, wherever I go, she has to be as close to me as possible.

When Jrex and his parents speak in Korean, part of me is glad because I don't want him to lose what Korean he still has, but another part of me is obviously excluded. I did try to learn Korean, but the classroom Korean has a totally different accent than what he learned from his parents, so we can't communicate in Korean.

On Sunday we drove to SF to have lunch with Jrex's cousin, who owns a restaurant there. My FIL's brother has been living with Cousin for the past two years. Cousin's Wife is a really cool woman, insecure about her English skills, but very smart and able to communicate just fine. She and I sat near each other and started swapping war stories. Uncle just sits around the house all day long. He never goes for a walk. Has no friends. No activities. He always watches TV in the living room. Their house has an open floor plan, so he watches as she prepares him three meals a day. Every. Day. He won't turn off the TV for meals, or when his grandaughter tries to study. He never plays with his grandaughter. Won't watch her so Cousin and his Wife can go out. Oh yeah, he also has cancer, so she has to take him to the hospital twice a week for treatments. Drive her daughter to school. Drive her father to hospital. Make food. No time. No energy.

THEN Mom K sat down on the other side of Cousin's Wife and she listened to Cousin's Wife's woes. I said, "Mom, didn't you live with Dad's family after you got married?" My MIL, who never complains, said, "THREE MONTHS. I live with them. They all same. All talk talk talk no listen. The night after our honeymoon, brother #2 talked until 4 in morning. I fall asleep, wake up, he still talks. Like tape recorder. Number Two is worst. Number Three (she points at Uncle), is next. Number Four (points at Dad) is next. No listen. Only what they want.

"Jrex, he's like my father. Careful. He listens, no talking. Gentle. Like my father. Even his body: his hands are long like my father, not like Uncle and Daddy."

Honestly, I think they moved to the United States just so Mom K would have a reason to get out of that house!

Whew. I guess compared to both of those women, I have very little to complain about, huh?

June 16, 2009

Canadian Tidbits

Still haven't touched the photos.

Why? Well, we got in Saturday night at 11 pm. The next morning we scooted up to SF to pick up the mutt. That night, we met a friend for dinner. Then yesterday, after work, we had dinner with my women's group. In celebration of the birthday of the group's founder, we had a dinner with all our spouses (and our mutt!). I'd thought we were having an outdoor barbque, or I'd never have asked if we could bring the dog. Instead, it was a sit-down dinner for 11 people. Oops . . .

Now I'm back at work where it's blissfully slow (lots I could do, little I HAVE to do).

Sooooo...a few anecdotes from our trip.

Our last morning in the Vancouver B&B, we were joined by one other guest. Turns out she's a well-known Canadian poet. We ended up talking for 3 1/2 hours! By the end, it was Jrex and she chatting away while I scooted downstairs to pack up all our stuff and load it in the car. I'd scheduled us for kayaking and was nervous we'd be late. (We were, but they let us shift our reservation, so it worked out fine.) The Poet was really great at drawing Jrex out. Made me realize what things might have been like had Mom lived. The Poet felt very similar to my Mom (though she had a lighter sense of humor): acreative, intelligent, compassionate writer who is aging gracefully and filled with life.

Then, in Whistler, my introverted husband did it again! He bonded with our B&B owner about wine. The two of them would talk and talk and our breakfasts turned into brunches. It was really fun. We found out that the Canadian government has a stranglehold monopoly on wine distribution. No other importer. No other source. Therefore, an $8 bottle US, can cost $35 in a Canadian wine store. We'd fallen in love with Vancouver and were playfully trying to figure out how we could move there. That wine news put a big crimp in our happy fantasy . . .

We did three gorgeous hikes. The first took us up high enough to see a glacier (we hiked through an afternoon thunderstorm!). The second took us up to a lake that was still coated with thin ice. While we sat on the shore, we heard crackles and cracks of breaking ice. The last day, we wandered along a fairly level trail through a temperate rain forest to a view from a lower lake.

Despite running up and down stairs during the conference, I was woefully out of shape. By the third day, I had to rest. We took the gondola up Whistler mountain only to find out at the top that all the hiking trails were closed due to snow. Jrex was bummed, but I was (not-so) secretly relieved. Having nothing else to do, we took the Peak2Peak gondola across to Blackcomb. This is a new option that goes across a deep valley between the two mountains. It was a bit freaky to pass the last gondola tower on one mountain and look ahead to a huge span before the next tower.

Over on Blackcomb, it looked like there was a little less snow. I saw a ranger and asked if we could hike anything. He looked at my long nylon pants, trekking poles, Asolo mountain boots and told me we could sneak around the gondola and head up the mountain towards a certain hut. Basically, they didn't want tourists in flip-flops braving what snow was left and trying to flounder through it. I passed the news on to Jrex, and then spread out in the lodge while he made the trek up (in shorts and hiking boots).

Jrex'd been gone over an hour and I was starting to get a little worried when the ranger came into the lodge and asked us all to make our way to the gondola. There was electrical activity and they needed to clear the mountain. Obviously, that really freaked me out! I told him my husband had gone up toward the hut, he reassured me that they'd go find him. Then as we all left the building, another ranger announced we needed to go back inside, they'd shut down the gondola. Fortunately, Jrex walked up just then. He'd been rained on twice, but decided after the hail that he should turn back.

After waiting an hour to see if they could restart the lifts, they announced we'd be trucked down the mountain. They put out a call for any trucks in the area to come ferry us down the mountain. First out were the old people, which was as it should be. However, after that, I watched group after group pushing ahead and getting loaded in. I wanted us to join the push and get out of there, but my sweet, courteous husband was waiting for permission. It wouldn't have been a big deal, but the pattern for how we both were handling the situation was SO reflective of how we both do life. My pushing (steamrolling) drives him crazy, his waiting for things means I'm usually 'stuck' waiting with him. We got really pissy with each other. I had my journal with me, so I could just vent and fume (which was definitely better than taking it out on Jrex).

Soon after my journal venting, the rangers came to invite us to join the line. We got a ride soon after that. Our driver was a ski instructor. She'd been up at the glacier on Blackcomb setting up for classes next week when they saw lightning. She picked up her skis so they could ski down. As she held them, they became so charged she had to throw them away from her. Freaked them all out and they got out of there FAST.

Turns out the way down is the road that gets used for bear tours, and sure enough, in one of the lower meadows, we saw a big black bear (not a grizzly). Bonus!

June 15, 2009

Home at last

We're safely home. Picked up the mutt from the kennel. She's clingy, but seems fine otherwise.

Neither of us wanted a computer on vacation, so we didn't have the laptops. In Vancouver, the B&B had a computer hooked up for guest use, but not the one in Whistler. Thus the abrupt loss of news. I'm hoping to do a longer update later today.

Oh yeah, the in-laws arrive tomorrow night! We found out Friday night, before leaving Saturday, that it would work out for them to head our way for a week and then down to LA for another week with Jrex's sister.

Thank God I 'worked from home' the Thursday and Friday after the show and cleaned the whole apartment. It allows me to look forward to their arrival. We actually haven't seen them since our Yosemite trip last summer!

June 8, 2009

Watch those left turns . . .

Day 3. I can't even remember yesterday anymore! I can barely remember this morning. Oh, yeah! It's coming back . . .

After a delightful breakfast served by our B&B owner, we strolled over to catch the SkyTrain over to Chinatown. Our targets were the Scholar's Garden and Hon's Won Ton house. We opted for the paid tour of the Garden. It's built in the style of a scholar's garden during the Ming dynasty (we also opted for the tour).

Side note: on the tour of the museum of First Nation artifacts yesterday, and today, on the tour of a Chinese scholar's garden, in one of the oldest Chinatowns in the Americas, the tours were led by old white women. Hmm . . .

Anyway, the guy who paid to have the garden built imported stone from a lake in China where the acidic water in the lake eats away at the limestone of the rock and creates wild formations. The men who built the 'mountain' in the heart of the garden took six months. They moved all the stone using Ming era mechanisms (can you say bamboo pulleys and bamboo hardhats?). Yesterday we visited a Japanese garden on the UBC campus which was nice, but felt a bit park-like, yet somehow fairly artificial. The Chinese garden, with it's bonsai trees (can't remember the Chinese word for it), imported rock, moon windows, lattice walls and crafted bridges, somehow felt more meditative and more evocative.

Jrex had the camera most of the time . . . (he used to get SO impatient when his father took pictures. Love the irony.) I love watching him get absorbed in finding the best angle for a shot.

We then set off to try to find the Won Ton house. On the way, we took a random turn and seemed to step out of Chinatown. As we walked down a small street, I looked to the left into a broad sunlit alley. There was a cluster of white people sitting and squatting on the ground. One woman lay on her back in the middle of the clump. What are they doing? Is she ok? And then I saw that the man on her left held a needle and the other people on her right were swaying back and forth as if mesmerized as he shot her up. We turned left on Hastings street and saw a long line of junkies across the street with grocery carts mounded full of cans and bottles. They stood in front of the bottle reclamation store. On both sides of the street, gaunt white folk hovered. Not begging, just swaying as they waited for whatever came next.

Whew. Another left and we ducked back into the tourist mall of Chinatown. Just one block made all the difference in the world. Before coming here, I'd heard over and over how clean and safe it was in Vancouver. Most of the places we've seen have seemed that way. Some have seemed a bit quirky, a bit edgy, but not ever dangerous. Hastings street? I felt like we'd stepped into one of those horror movies where the living dead can taste it when someone with actual blood steps into town.

June 7, 2009

Randomness from the great North

Jrex fell asleep while I was changing, so I'm not sure how long I'll have for this entry.

We're in Vancouver! Last night we crashed at a skanky Days Inn in "Saigon". The neighborhood came complete with massage parlours and lots of neon lights. However, we're now ensconced in our cozy B&B over on West 10th St. We can walk over to Commercial Drive which is our kind of quirky strip. It really made us wistful for Baltimore as the parade of Characters wandered by our sidewalk table. At brunch this morning, we sat next to a table full of mixed race couples with lots of kids running around in all hues. We've heard accents and languages from all over the world.

Today we went to the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus. The building itself is very modern, yet was created with the totem poles and fragile wood structures in mind. I love juxtapositions of modern and old, and it's one of the better examples I've seen.

The biggest revelation of this trip has been that Jrex has a better eye than I do!!! I'm so mad (and enjoying it). Last night we didn't know what to do with ourselves after an early dinner at the 'no reservation' Indian restaurant Vij's. We wandered over to a beach on the northwest side of the city. After perching on a bench, I proceeded to take a bunch of photos. Then I handed the camera to Jrex. He protested, but I insisted he should get revenge for all the closeup shots I'd just taken of his chin stubble. Did he ever! I'll have to post them after we get home, but he took some very cool shots of my new glasses, of my earrings and a great shot of a kid bouncing by us on the bike path. As we looked through the photos, he kept saying that he'd think, "What will happen if I do this?" Trust a scientist to experiment... Anyway, his crafted photos have shown me how lazy I've become when I take pictures. I'm too used to being able to take them into Photoshop and crop and polish to my heart's content.

Jrex and I have never had a shared artistic endeavor. He's great at music, I enjoy but that's it. I do the art, he enjoyes. We're having a lot of fun discovering his inner photographer. It's making me step up my game and it's really amazing.

Hope you're all doing well.

Shamed in Vancouver.

June 1, 2009

Photo Ops and sleepy eyes

This is a man you'd only know if you were a true geek. I only got to know him from working on this client's shows. He's the grandfather/Santa Claus of developers.

For the show this year, the client decided to save money by not doing a traditional video screen. The question was, what would replace it? This guy, let's call him Father Code, has created really cool tshirts for the last 14 years of the show. I thought we should ask him if he'd want to create the banner. Longer story than I have the brains to tell, we did it.

It's 70 feet wide and 16 feet tall. And that's him signing his artwork.
Below are some random show photos. All graphics designed by moi.

I'm on my fifth round of caffeine, plus my very first Red Bull and none of it is touching how much I want to sleep!