Monday, November 24, 2008

Making the House a Home

At the time we bought the new house, it came with a non-functional old refrigerator. It was housed next to a slim cabinet that was further subdivided into a messy broom closet. It was one of the few real weak spots of the house: there was no pantry in the kitchen, or enough cabinets to serve that purpose. One of our priorities upon moving in was to somehow clear some space in the cabinets to make a pantry.

While we were having some other work done before we moved in, we decided to rip out the cabinet by the old refrigerator. We had discovered, in the course of shopping for a new fridge, that the old refrigerator was a size that is no longer available (42" wide, as opposed to the now-standard 36"). As a result, in a 72" wide space, the fridge took up 42", leaving only 30" for the cabinet. Knowing that we would buy a 36" wide new appliance, we could fit in a standard 36" wide cabinet as well.

We selected and ordered the cabinet from Lowes weeks ago, but the installer was only able to come out this past Saturday to put it in. After a similar number of weeks of putting off prepping the space, I put two coats of paint up Friday night, and the cabinet went in as scheduled on Saturday. Having never had a real pantry before, we are delighted. The house is starting to feel like ours now.


With paint:


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Daily Grind

My commute these days is a bit of an improvement over LA freeways:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Night Launch

Last week, the space shuttle Endeavor made what is likely the last night launch for the shuttle program. An acquaintance from one of my online car clubs who lives in central Florida made the trek to the NASA causeway about 7 miles from the launch site to view the launch. He managed to get this spectacular 166-second exposure photograph of the launch itself:

I'm afraid it's looking more likely that I will never see a shuttle liftoff, much to my regret.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November in Moraga

After a few rainy days, a last heatwave is on its way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Cy Young Award Comes to the Giants

In the middle of a miserable sports year for the area, San Francisco received the happy news today that Giants pitcher Tim Lincicum won the National League Cy Young Award today, the first Giant to win the award in over 40 years. Lincicum won 18 games for a mediocre Giants team, setting a San Francisco Giants record for strikeouts in a season, while pitching the third most innings in the league with the second lowest earned run average.

Lincicum is a physical anomaly. He stands under 6 feet tall and weighs less than 180 pounds, the antithesis of the big horse physique that most teams look for in a pitcher. However, with a home-built wind up that makes the most of his slight stature through the miracles of flexibility and torque, he can gas it up into the high 90s with a delivery that hides the ball well from hitters. Thanks to his unusually well-developed tactical and physical abilities, he also throws a changeup that is nearly unhittable.

Even in the midst of a poor season, Lincicum starts became must-see events. We were fortunate enough to see one of his starts on a Friday night in late August this year. As expected, he pitched well, overpowering the San Diego Padres. The buzz in the stadium when he is on his game, which is most of the time when he has the ball in his hand, is a genuine thrill. At the tender age of 24, he is already a regional treasure and is expected to be the centerpiece of the Giants for many years to come.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Flying Blind

I can think of only a few things more terrifying than being in control of an airplane and suddenly losing one's sight. The chances of that situation being resolved happily would seem to be very slim. The knowledge that you were far above the ground with no way to land safely, knowing that you were only minutes from near-certain calamity.

Or so it would seem.

The pilot of a small airplane in England recently suffered a stroke while flying, suddenly and severely impairing his eyesight. The RAF managed to talk him down by sending up an airplane to fly next to him, guiding him all the way to the landing without further incident.

I would be scared to drive down my street into my driveway with a blindfold on and a guide talking me through it. I can't imagine how frightening and difficult landing an airplane would be under those conditions. The minute and constant reactions necessary to keep the craft on target would be nearly impossible to pull off.

Well done, chaps.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

First Term Grades

Moving is never easy; uprooting kids and forcing them to make new friends and find their way in new schools can be the most wrenching part of the process. We have been blessed. Kelly and Michael have been nothing but supportive and excited about our move from just after we told them it was coming more than a year ago. Even so, we harbored normal concerns about the schools they would be going to. Both had done well where they were. How would what they had done translate to new schools that are, by all measurable means and reputation, very high quality if not downright ruthlessly competitive?

So far, so good. Both kids have made a lot of friends, have had fun with soccer, and are doing great in the classroom. Kelly brought home her first quarter report card yesterday: an A in every class (A+ in PE, she would want me to point out), with nice remarks from several of the teachers about her contributions to the class. She agonizes over every lost point (or half point), so earning the perfect grades pleased her to no end.

Lest this come across as churlish for bragging about my kids, the interesting part of this process is not so much the grades (of which we are all proud) but how hard Kelly has had to work to get them. She routinely puts in two to three hours of homework every night, usually covering almost all of her classes. She has had special projects in just about every class already. The substantive work does not seem to be that hard, but the amount of work is considerable. We figure it is our job at this point in her schooling to teach her how to study and budget her time, which is probably her biggest weakness. She is learning, though, and having her effort rewarded with great grades should help reinforce what we're trying to do.

The classwork does not get easier. The school has even warned sixth grade parents that the workload will increase over the course of the year, presumably as the kids develop the skills to cope with it. The local high school is the best in the state and, by all accounts, extremely competitive. Our goal for the kids is not necessarily that they always get the top grades, but that they learn how to put in the effort necessary to get the best grade they are able to attain based on their innate abilities. I find that it is the effort and efficiency skills that are the most useful out in the real world; learning them now in ways I never did can only help them down the road.

It looks like the education the kids received in the Glendale public school has not left them playing catch up. Learning how to study is going to be the ongoing effort this year, but it is off to a solid start.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And You Thought Your SatNav Was Complicated

In another life, this would have been my office. It's the cockpit of the new Airbus A380 jetliner, an enormous two-deck commercial aircraft that has recently begun passenger service.

For an aircraft designed so recently, the seats look surprisingly drab and uncomfortable. Perhaps we don't want the pilots to be too comfortable, although these airplanes can fly themselves from takeoff to touchdown with only a minimal amount of human interaction.

Note, too, that there are no control yokes in front of the pilots. Instead, it looks like Airbus took advantage of a CompUSA blowout sale to pick up a couple of Logitech flight joysticks. That's good to know; if there is ever a problem with the pilots, I know I can count on the fifteen-year-old gamer in row 33 to fly us to safety.