Monthly Archives: February 2007

MacWorld 2007

img_2734.jpgOne of the (many) odd things Harriet and I do just about every year is attend MacWorld. Yes, the San Fancisco based, love fest of i-addicts and their i-addiction suppliers (all with that bitten-apple logo). I’m not a Mac user, but I am addicted to my iPod and I find Apple products to be particularly well designed, so I attend this event partly for Harriet and partly for the illicit thrill of being a Windows user in ‘enemy’ territory.

indexhero20070109-2.jpgOf course, this year the big news was the iPhone. And let me say, right off the bat, Harriet and I were very impressed. We both want one, although I’m more willing to try out the initial release than she is. We sat through a demonstration and were just amazed at how lovely and well designed it is. The user interface looked very easy, and I mean Tivo easy – the kind of easy where Harriet is confident she can use it. And it’s gorgeous. The large, color video screen allows them to do some beautiful screens, icons, and animated displays. I won’t do a review here since there are plenty of other sites that review the iPhone (CNet, ZDNet, and Engadget to name a few) and give opinions on its merits.
img_2753.jpgThe only real hesitation I have right now is that we couldn’t actually touch the thing. There were a couple being used by the demonstrators, and there were two on the exhibition floor, but they were behind Plexiglas cylinders. There was always a crowd around them, as shown in the first picture. In this one, I’m just another member of the craning neck crowd.

img_2736.jpgOf course, there were other things of interest at MacWorld. This guy is Russel Brown, a very well liked demonstrator of the Photoshop program. Harriet had a chance to sit in on one of his demonstrations which she tries to do every year. I’m assuming the wig was a new feature in his presentations.

I also checked out the new AppleTV, and was somewhat underwhelmed. It basically turns an HDTV display into a very large video iPod, which is cool but not a killer app in my book. You can check out the features list at the Apple website.

There were other things that would appeal to Mac users. There’s some new flavor of System X – Civet, or Aardvark, or some such nonsense (and by the way, System X always makes me think of some X-Men super villian). iLife has added even more i-Organs, and loads of people were disappointed by various unfulfilled i-Rumors. But despite all of the Mac-Smack, this li’l ol’ Windows user is enough of a gadget geek to have found a lot of things that kept my interest.

And overall, I’m always impressed with how cool most things look at MacWorld. It’s clear that the Apple products appeal to designers, and good design is a big part of the Mac culture.

Damn them.

Malaysian Invasion

img_2638.jpgDuring the break between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we had a surprise visit from the Ho family. We met Mr. and Mrs. Ho at their restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia where we had some great Dim Sum. Harriet had struck up a conversation with Mr. Ho and found out that their son was attending Purdue University in Indiana. He and his wife were coming to the U.S. to visit their son, as soon as they could straighten out Visa issues. They planned on flying through LA and we gave them our phone number to call if they got the chance.

Well, just before Christmas their son, Shyan, called to tell us they were all in LA being tourists, and that now there were 5 of them! We arranged for them all to come up and stay with us for a few days after Christmas. In the picture, above, are Mr. and Mrs. Ho, their son Shyan, Xian’s girlfriend Eva, and the Ho’s second son. There’s one more son who didn’t make the trip. The picture was taken in front of the Santa Barbara Courthouse.

img_2657.jpgIt was a bit crowded, but we were able to fit everyone and had a great cultural experience as we showed them around Santa Barbara. Mrs. Ho prepared a couple of meals, and Harriet had a chance to see how some Chinese/Malasian meals were really made. In this picture, you can see Mr.s Ho working with our pathetically small wok. I think she was disappointed with Harriet’s kitchen tools, although if you know Harriet’s kitchen, that’s an amusing thought. It was truly a unique cultural experience, and a lesson in relative culinary expectations. Bottom line, we now know we need a bigger wok.

We had a wonderful meal at a local Chinese restaurant where the Hos had a chance to negotiate with the owner over some real Chinese dishes, in Chinese. I’ve never had fish with toasted soy bean, before, and it was quite good.

img_2651.jpgSince Shyan is an engineering student and Eva is a programmer, we stopped off at my workplace to give them a tour. I don’t know that I’m a typical representative of the Software Engineering profession, after all that cut out of Darth Vader in a multi-color boa quoting our ISO-9001 quality statement is at the entrance to my cubicle. But, I probably helped break some stereotypes for Shyan’s folks.

img_2664.jpgThey stayed with us for three nights and then took the airbus to the LA airport for their various flights home (Indiana and Malaysia-which are each interesting contrasts with Santa Barbara). We took this picture just before they left, with their whole family and our two dogs (Mrs. Ho was particularly fond of the dogs and would just sit and pat their heads-which they, of course, loved).

It was a great experience for us and I think everyone had a fine time.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Geneva

img_2842.jpgMy long suffering family is aware of – if not appreciative of – my failings as a timely birthday observer. This translates to the fact that I tend to forget people’s birthdays, and am lucky to send a belated something. In this case, I am only now getting to posting about my niece’s birthday from December.

Geneva just turned 16, and this first picture is from our recent visit. Geneva is one of my most talented nieces, being a wonderful artist and really good writer – as well as being smart, beautiful, and funny. Recently (at least from my perspective) she’s discovered journalism, and I had the privilege of reading some of her articles in the school paper. Look out Washington Post.

dcp_0328.JPGThis picture is from the Solstice parade of 2004, and she had just joined in behind the main parade along with her Aunt Harriet. Her sister Eloise and I were there, also. You can see the confetti is still in her hair. Everyone had a great time, and I think her enthusiasm was best expressed by all the ideas she had about the entries she’d like to create. I think coming to Santa Barbara before the parade would be just the ticket for turning some of those ideas into reality.

dcp_0061.JPGGoing further back in time (and she was a very cute kid), my favorite activity with my nieces are the surrey rides along the beach. I’m usually pretty worn out afterwards, because I think they enjoy it the most when they are the smallest. As they get older (and could be more help powering the darn thing) we don’t get out there are much. Aw well, as they get older there are other activities, and the memories are all good.

dcp_0074.JPGOkay, I’m sure this picture will just embarrass her, but I had to include it. Just look at the joy and abandon on that face. It’s one of my favorite pictures of Geneva, and its a part of what I love about having my nieces and nephews coming to visit.

Nowadays, Geneva runs track and field, so she can now add athletics to her list of accomplishments. Oh, and she’s part of the school debate team. I was looking forward to seeing a meet when we visited, but it got canceled, so I’m still looking forward to seeing her first competition.

dcp_0338.JPGAnd finally, a picture with her uncle and our (now deceased) dog, Gilda. Gilda was one of the dogs that showed her that not all dogs are scary.

Happy 16th Birthday, Geneva!

Thanksgiving 2006

img_2551.jpgI’m just now getting around to posting images from our Thanksgiving dinner. Every year Harriet and I host a dinner for those “who are without a family, who can’t be with their family, or who would rather not be with their family” on Thanksgiving. It’s been called the Orphan Thanksgiving, the Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving and the Chosen Family Thanksgiving, but I think my favorite name for the night is Thanksgiving Dinner at Alan and Harriet’s House. It’s something of a potluck, where we provide the bird and a few main dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes, but we ask that others bring whatever side dish most reminds them of Thanksgiving. Some folks go for their family traditions, others use it as an excuse to try new recipes.

The crowd is a fairly eclectic mix of folks, many of whom only know each other from this annual dinner. This year we had 16 people attending. I can’t seem to find a photo with the whole crowd at once, so this first photo was taken fairly late in the evening after several people had left. Around the table, starting at the lower left, are Krista (our fabulous neighbor), myself, Steve (our other fabulous neighbor and Krista’s husband), Marla (Harriet’s wonderful sister), Perri (Harriet’s Sister’s tenant-but really an amazing fellow) , Harriet, Steve (our fabulous neighbor’s fascinating friend), Tara (groovy friend and fantastic house/dog sitter, who took care of our place while we were in Malaysia), and Dave (our fabulous neighbor Steve’s delightful brother). Hmm, maybe isn’t as cool as I thought.

img_2540.jpgI’ll be filling in the full cast of characters with other photos taken earlier in the night, starting with this one of Diane and Wayne. Diane’s a friend I’ve known longer than Harriet; we met in Helpline when we were both doing suicide hot-line work (we were the volunteer counselors, not the callers). Nowadays she’s a technical writer for a medical devices company. Wayne is an old gaming buddy who is now a math professor in San Diego. Can you believe that Wayne, Diane, and I were gaming geeks? Okay, maybe that’s not such a stretch.

img_2542.jpgMoving on to the ‘not so geeky’ people in attendance, I really like this shot of Grace, who apparently fell asleep by the time the group photo was snapped. She was on East Coast time, having just moved out there this last summer. Grace is another long term friend (I’m trying to avoid the word old since it has too much weight for many of us) that I first met at my bank (she was my teller) but whom I got to know during my years as a volunteer at the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. She was a volunteer and then a staff member and is now working as a school psychologist. It was wonderful having her out to visit for the holiday and we missed her partner John who was at the dinner last year but didn’t make it to this one.

img_2537.jpgThese two are Cecile and Royce, Laura’s mom and her husband. Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of our friend Laura who was also at the dinner. My bet is she’s now so skinny that the camera couldn’t capture an image. Either that or she intimidated the camera with her kick boxing moves. We’ve known Laura for a couple of years now, and she works for a local medical devices company in some sort of regulatory capacity, although her job has been going through so much flux in the last few months I don’t know if she could tell you what she does. It was delightful having her mother and Royce at the dinner, and they brought sweet potatoes made southern style, complete with the marshmallows.

img_2546.jpgDave is one of those photogenic folks, and a true techno-gadgeteer. He’d probably be happy to know that I had to use a red-eye removal tool on this photo to get it ready for publication. He’s Steve’s brother and currently a manager of a William Sonoma store in LA, but he managed a Stabuck’s for years, and knows a lot about coffee culture.

I don’t have a good shot of Steve and Krista, our neighbors. I can’t say enough good things about the two of them, and both Harriet and I are thankful they live next door. Both of them are graphic artists. Krista works at a financial services company as the in-house graphic designer, and Steve works at UCSB doing graphic design. If you’ve ever logged onto one of the UCSB department web sites and thought “Wow, that’s beautiful” then it was probably Steve’s fault.

img_2544.jpgI like this shot of Steve and Tara. This is the other Steve; not our neighbor Steve, but Steve’s friend. Got it? Currently retired, Steve is enjoying a life filled with wind-surfing and rock-gardens. We’ve known him a few years now and he’s really a delightful guy to talk with and definitely fits into the eclectic category.

Tara is amazing. I can’t do her justice in a short paragraph, and although she’s most easily identified as our house/dog sitter (the dogs love her), she’s probably the person we know who most closely fits the term scholar. She’s the sort of world traveler who will arrive at a town and decide to stay and work a few months, learn the language, the culture, and as much about the people as she can. We’ve known her for years and is an amazing soul.

img_2596.jpgAlthough this photo is from a couple of days later, it’s a great shot of Perri, Marla, and Jori (and our dogs Katie and Buster). Marla is Harriet’s sister, and Jori is Marla’s son, our nephew. They all live in San Francisco, where Marla works on and off as an instructor and developer of educational materials/programs. Jori is an incredibly cool 10 year old who is showing promise as a comic book aficionado.

Although I’ve known Perri for many years as a tenant and friend of Marla’s, this is the first chance I’ve had to spend any significant time with him. They spent four days here and I would have loved for them to have spent more. He was a great cooking pal for Harriet and just fun to be around.

And that’s the summary of this years Thanksgiving. Thanks to everyone involved from both Harriet and I. We are thankful you are all in our lives.