Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Patience Will Pay Off, Literally

After soaking what they could out of Apple acolytes, AT&T and Apple will soon join the rest of the cell phone industry in offering a rebate on the iPhone, cutting the price by $200. Ironically, that is the one thing I thought would never change as the iPhone continued in its development.

Even better, the next version will have finally have true GPS capability. If they manage to stuff a better internet protocol in there, they'll have me.

"Previously, on .5 ..."

The recently-concluded writers' strike had widespread and profound effects throughout Hollywood. The cost unseen to the rest of the world was the hit local businesses ancillary to the entertainment industry took. Everything from electricians and carpenters to caterers and florists suffered a significant downturn in business. Without commenting on the relative merits of bargaining positions, those who suffer from any strike are not limited the principals to the dispute. One of the weapons of a strike is its effect on innocent, worthy parties who may have a stake in the outcome but no voice.

Like, for instance, me.

One of the more visible casualties of the strike was the cancellation of the hit show "24." We have seen every season of this show, which we typically watch around Christmas when the entire season is available on DVD and we can devote many hours to watching multiple episodes at time. Because the show films later in the year than most others, the production had barely begun before the strike shut it down. The producers elected to suspend production for the season, and have only begun filming again this past week.

To provide the show's fans with a little taste of what they have been missing (as well as to keep the brand alive and experiment with a new means of distribution), key members of the production team have been filming a "Rookie" companion series to be broadcast solely on the internet. It is a bite-sized version of the main show. Instead of 24 one-hour episodes tracking superhero Jack Bauer through a day, "Rookie" follows a trainee through six five-minute episodes.

Jack Bauer has a difficult enough job uncovering a secret terrorist plots, sacrifice himself for loved ones, escaping from ultra-secure captivity, saving presidencies, rooting out inevitable moles in CTU and saving the world from certain destruction in 24 hours. I'd like to see him try that in half an hour. Slacker.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Home Sweet Home

We have finally been home long enough to upload photos we have been taking all month to our home computer. Here are some shots of our rental home in Moraga.

The front, set well back from the already quiet cul-de-sac:

Looking from the entrance to the garage, past the breakfast nook through the kitchen to the family room, in all of its original 1969 splendor:

The back yard, with patio, grass and "orchard":

Exploring the hillside down to the creek just beyond the back fence (but still on the property):

We are all very happy with the house. It is not large, but easily adequate for our living needs (although most of our storage needs will have to be dealt with some other way). In the meantime, we are getting some serious inquiries on our Glendale house (a contractor comes tomorrow), so we may be nearing the end of this weird odyssey.

A Month's Respite

Ever since Kelly started in school, with its year round schedule that gave us all of April for vacation, our Aprils have typically involved some amount of travel and a break with the usual routine. This year was no exception, and the break in routine was as out of the ordinary as our "routine" has been atypical.

For two of the four weeks of the month, Cheryl and the kids lived with me in our new little house in Moraga. For a few of those nights, we had something resembling a normal evening -- I had the pleasure of coming home from work to the embrace of my family and a freshly-cooked meal. Several other evenings were spent shopping or visiting with Cheryl's sister's family, and their days were spent visiting parks, shopping, exploring the neighborhood and playing videogames. It was not an ideal vacation for the kids, as they did not have their books and toys, but they survived the time well, with few lasting scars inflicted upon each other.

To make all of the travel arrangements work, I did a lot of driving. At the beginning of the month, I flew down to watch the kids over the weekend while Cheryl was at a retreat in Oxnard, then picked her up on the way to San Francisco in an absolutely stuffed station wagon.

The next Monday morning, we drove out to the house, where I dropped them for the day while I went to work. At the end of the week, we drove back to Glendale to pick up one of Kelly's best friends, who came with us to our timeshare outside San Diego for a weekend getaway to celebrate Kelly's birthday.

After dropping all of them in Glendale, I drove back up to the Bay Area, all on a Sunday afternoon (500 miles in all). The following weekend, we all met in Chicago to drive to Green Bay for a family wedding, where Kelly and her cousins helped pass out programs for Cheryl's cousin who had been the flower girl at our wedding when she was ten years old. How the years go by.

Cheryl and the kids flew back to the Bay Area with me to spend the week in Moraga again. At the end of the week, we drove back to Glendale, where they will now stay until school is over at the end of June. I will also turn in the station wagon to the home base, so what little furniture I have now is what I will have until July.

We return now to the Friday-Monday flight routine, although the end is now clearly, tantalizingly, frustratingly in sight.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

The fine city of Chicago suffered through an astonishingly violent weekend, with 32 people shot and six killed.

In other seemingly unrelated news, I was in Chicago this weekend.

What is the logical conclusion? Clearly, it must be "don't make me angry."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

TVs On Cardboard Boxes, and Other Bachelor Tales

Even though I have been living far from home during the week for the past seven months, I am just now concluding only the first week of true bachelordom. Being on my own in our rental home, I find I fall into much different habits than I exhibited while staying at my sister-in-law's house.

There, I did not eat leftovers out of the container they were stored in, while sitting on the couch watching sitcom after sitcom, followed by ninety minutes of Guitar Hero III, topped off with a late night showing of "Grosse Point Blank."

I'm going to have to shape up in July. Until then, it's a John Cusack film festival any time I want.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

(Virtually) Wave As You (Virtually) Pass By

With the personal delivery of three boxes of kitchen and laundry supplies and three suitcases, Cheryl and the kids began the slow process of moving into our Moraga rental last week. We will respond to the clamor for photographs of our new digs as soon as we can. The lack of an Internet connection at the house (for now) will slow the process down substantially, unfortunately.

However, thanks to the gimmicks of modern technology (I hesitate to say "miracles," since not all technological leaps forward are particularly useful beyond confirmation that the feat can be accomplished), you can wander around our neighborhood and even see our front yard. Bizarrely, the wizards at Google have seen fit to expand their Street View service to the Lamorinda communities (Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga). Google's minions have thoroughly canvassed the entire area, including our street. Although it is set back a bit from the street, you can see "our" house here:

View Larger Map

Feel free to wander around the neighborhood. That's exactly what we're doing these days. See you there!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hitch Up the Wagons, Ma

At long last, we're moving!

Well, sort of. Not the way we originally envisioned it, but close enough.

We signed a lease on a little four bedroom house in Moraga last week. With the housing market as volatile as it is (volatile in the way that that an airplane that has had its wings sheared off at 20,000 feet is volatile), renting seemed like a decent way to wait out the correction we're going through while still being able to get started in our new area. It also takes some of the pressure off selling our house right away. From the beginning, we knew that if we got to April and still hadn't sold our house, we would have to start getting creative. We have some serious nibbles on our house now, which is great, but even if we got an offer tomorrow, the escrow process would take us well into May. We have children to register for school and were looking for a way to reduce our stress over the selling/buying combo. Renting will allow us to get going in the Bay Area, put aside the proceeds for the sale of our house, whenever that happens, and find something at our own pace sometime in the fall rather than being forced to buy something we weren't quite happy with just so that we could register for school.

Fortunately, a house popped up for rent in the neighborhood we had targeted. This is a rare occurrence, so we jumped on it. We had a bizzare experience finalizing the deal, but it's done now, and I'll start living there more or less full time this coming week. Cheryl and the kids will be driving up with me tomorrow to spend the week, and they will be back for the last week of April as well. Then they will all move up for real after June.

This is a half-step toward making a full move, but an important one. It has relieved a lot of tension that was beginning to build about how we were going to finally get our house sold fast enough to get us out of SoCal and find someplace to live that we liked at the same time.