Thursday, December 24, 2009

Scenes From A Bounteous Christmas Tree

This afternoon of Christmas Eve, as ever more presents appeared under the boughs, Michael took to counting his gifts. Again.

As he began to fret about how many (or few, in his estimation) presents he would get to unwrap tomorrow, Kelly pointed out that Jesus only received three gifts.

Michael shot back,

"Yeah, but he got gold."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Baghdad Bob Has Found More Work

Thankfully, nobody was killed when an American Airlines jet skidded off the runway while landing in Jamaica in a rainstorm. The airline has an interesting way of assessing the condition of its aircraft, though:

Tim Smith, an American Airlines spokesman, denied reports that the Boeing 737 broke into pieces but did say that there was damage to the fuselage, some cracks and the landing gear on one side of the plane collapsed.


"Some cracks"? Yeah, those are some cracks, all right.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Now Boarding, Flight 53 From Dock 10 ...

The California Emergency Management Agency has released maps detailing the effect on the California coastline of tsunamis generated by most conceivable earthquakes off the western shore of North America. Some communities could suffer substantial damage. Much of San Francisco's Marina district could be under water, as would be most of low-lying Alameda and the eastern approach to the Bay Bridge, several marinas in San Diego, and parts of Marina Del Rey. UCSB's lagoon could be swamped, and we could lose one of our favorite eateries, the Beachside Cafe on Goleta Beach, which would be well within the projected tsunami zone.

Faring particularly poorly are some airports, which often lie on low ground near water. San Francisco International could lose some taxiways, which would impact its capacity (considering a single low cloud will cause 45 minute delays on a daily basis, any limit on the airport's ability to handle traffic would inevitably have an immediate and significant effect). Santa Barbara's airport, situated alongside a slough, would be wiped out. Oakland's airport would not be able to pick up San Francisco's excess traffic, because it, too, would be under water.

These maps are only estimates of one worst-case scenario. In this state, it is only a matter of time until someone latches onto these projections to justify some obnoxious building code or restriction on land use. (The San Francisco Chronicle article describing the maps makes no notice of the fact that the maps describe a possible outcome of all tsunami events at once.) Still, the information is potentially sobering. Especially if you left your car in long term parking at the Oakland Airport.

Saturday Sports Highlights

After missing a week due to illness, Michael was back with his "Ohio State" teammates on the basketball court. They are an energetic bunch with several very good players, so they annihilated their opponent. More importantly, they showed signs of beginning to understand their coaches' instructions about how to play their positions on defense. One of the stated goals of the league for this age group is to get the kids to begin to understand how to play the game properly. To their credit, the coaches would immediately send to the bench any player to wandered around the court instead of playing his assigned defensive position. Everybody got plenty of playing time and opportunities to contribute.

Michael did not score, but he played his position well, had some steals, and made some good passes. As usual, it seems, he is not the star, but a good teammate.

Eying the bucket (he passed the ball a moment later):

Working hard in traffic:

Protecting the ball while looking to pass:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Recent events, which included me accompanying Kelly to the hospital for 45 hours, opened my eyes to certain truths about health care. Questions of coverage and access can wait for another day (and, perhaps, another blog). What struck me was the usefulness of a patient advocate.

In the typical hospital setting, a patient will be seen by doctors on a periodic basis throughout the day and night, with more frequent visits from nurses and nursing assistants. The cast of characters can become astonishingly large in a very short amount of time. In the time we spent at the Children's Hospital of Oakland, we were seen by at least six nurses, three lab personnel, four volunteers, three interns/residents and four doctors. As the patient, Kelly did whatever she was told, but much of what she was told had to do with treatments to come or outcomes to be assessed. I found myself to be the central repository of information received from these many sources. Many times in our relatively short stay I guided both the doctors and the nurses in the course of treatment, advising one or the other group of what someone else had said, or done, or neglected to do. I stopped one nurse from administering a medication that had made Kelly sick when the intern had told us half an hour earlier that they would no longer give it to her. I made sure treatments happened on time, results of tests were tracked down and nursing assistance was procured when needed. Kelly's recovery would have occurred had I not been there, but I am convinced that she would have spent another 12 hours in the hospital if I had not prodded the hospital staff to do all the things they said they intended to do.

I imagine a significant distinction between conventional hospitals and children's hospitals (or wards) is that unlike ordinary patients, most child patients come with a built-in, full-time advocate -- a parent or guardian. They keep the hospital staff on its toes in a way that an adult patient, confined to a bed and often addled on medication, cannot. Our little adventure showed how crucial an alert patient advocate can be to ensuring that the care the hospital intends to provide is actually doled out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday Sports Update

The grippe has come to our household, knocking Michael out of school nearly all week, and taking Cheryl down today. Because he is still recovering, Michael missed out on week two of this season's sport: basketball. He and his fellow Buckeyes had their first practice and game last week:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Something Novel: A Project Completed

A few weeks ago (nanoseconds in the slow-moving calendar that governs home improvement projects), I completed the rough carpentry needed to frame a step in our living room that has been awaiting construction since before we moved in more than a year ago. While the raw lumber molded into the pleasing shape of a step was nice, the project begged to be finished. The carpet remnants were ready, just waiting for me to work up the courage to do the hardest part: the finish carpentry that everyone can see. Years of building plastic model kits as a kid taught me, repeatedly, the heartbreak of marring an otherwise brilliant project with one misplaced brushstroke in the last step that everyone can see. The chances of ruining my solid carpentry work with poorly installed carpet were, I figured, uncomfortably high.

In contemplating the final product, I decided to use the wood floor planks left over from the kitchen and breakfast room that leads to the doorway where the step is located, and only carpet the rise of the step. This required some sort of transition from floor planks to the edge, which I solved with a lightly beveled oak strip located at our friendly neighborhood Orchard Supply Hardware. I still had the issue of the double 45 degree angles, ensuring that several planks would require custom cutting on my indispensable miter saw. The first row of planks also had to be trimmed longitudinally by about half an inch to allow room for the beveled edging.

Amazingly, it all came together very nicely, using up every last piece of the leftover flooring, as if it had been specially ordered for the job. The vertical carpet went in well:

The floorboards fit nicely, leaving room for the border:

With the beveled edge, the project is complete:

Almost complete, that is. Far too much time spent on the miter saw yielded complex but satisfying baseboards to wrap the whole thing up:

Some putty and a little extra paint will tidy up those seams. I should get to that in, say, March.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Video: Kelly's Cooking

The latest school project that Kelly despised came from her video production class. So far this year, that class has kept her busy producing the morning news announcements for the school which are broadcast over the campus TV network. She typically edits the stories, runs the teleprompter, and appears as an anchor. They have some decent audio and video equipment, and use a green screen for much of their work, just like the real broadcasters do.

Until last week, the class did not have a homework load. Just before the Thanksgiving vacation week, however, the students were given the task of producing a short video, to be shown on the morning news to inspire other students to produce their own creative videos for a schoolwide contest. Griping, as usual, about receiving another long-term project, Kelly conceived an idea for a cooking show based on a dessert dish Cheryl made recently. With constant just a little prodding from us, she put together a basic speaking and shooting script. Kelly filmed on last Monday, edited on the computer on Tuesday and Wednesday (including adding all graphics), and turned the project in on Thursday. Cutting aggressively, she wound up with these two minutes and four seconds:

She became an instant celebrity. Friends and strangers (even eighth graders!) approached her about the video. Her teachers asked for the recipe; her friends' teachers asked for the recipe. She was compelled to type up the recipe for the teachers' bulletin this week.

As it turns out, this is one project that Kelly enjoyed.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Holiday Goodies

Halloween candy has a shelf life. That is equal to the time from October 31 to the moment the first batch of Christmas fudge is done.

As of today, the leftover Halloween candy is headed to storage. Yum.