Archive for the ‘Family’ Category.

Conal’s Tech Talks

My beloved Conal recently gave talks at Google, Apple, and Intel in the Bay Area. I tagged along for the Google gig, ’cause, you know, who wouldn’t want to visit Googleland if they got the chance? Plus, I loved getting to see Conal do his thing. I had never been able to before, so it was a real treat for me. The venue for tech talks at Google was a really cool, high-tech arrangement of screens, cameras, and projection equipment in this spiffy mezzanine area. The talk was broadcast to other Google locations, as well.

Google gives its engineers 20% of their time to pursue their own projects. The Engineering Education (EngEdu) division brings in people from all over to speak about a huge range of topics. These “tech talks” are recorded and posted online. Google staff handles all the production details, editing and posting. Very cool. You can watch Conal’s talk here.

I enjoyed getting a peek at Google HQ. The campus surrounds a park-like main commons with a sand-filled volleyball court watched over by a FULL SIZE tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. There are grassy areas for hanging out and various patios outside the several cafes and restaurants surrounding the park. All the food is free for employees and guests. There is food and drink everywhere for whoever wants it. Lots of healthy and trendy stuff as well as standards. The Google primary colors are prominently in evidence, and the architecture is open and modern in feel, with white beams and glass, and is techie without feeling cold.

I had fun people-watching. My overall impression was of smart, bright, young (the crowd definitely tended toward youth) folks getting a chance to shake things up with their ideas and skill. I was fascinated by the feel of the place, which was, oh, kind of like a self-satisfied buzz of excited energy. These folks work at the center of the internet-verse, and they pretty much know they rock everybody’s world. At least, that is the underlying story I was making up about it.

When Conal spoke at Apple and Intel the next two days, I chose to goof off on my own since those were all-day engagements and I thought it likely I’d get rather bored. I had a great time exploring Palo Alto and visiting the Stanford shopping attractions.

Here is a photo of Conal speaking at Apple:

Conal speaking at Apple HQ

Conal at the podium was totally in his element. He seemed to be inspired and engaged and loving the interaction, welcoming challenges and questions, answering with grace and a depth of knowledge that confirmed my absolute awe of his amazing brain and heart. Ah, my sweetheart. ::melt::

My Beautiful Launderette

Here is me. I am smiling, you can see. Why am I smiling? I am smiling because I so much enjoy our new washer and dryer. Aren’t we all lovely?

New Laundry Machines

Cookie Weather

Conal made it home from his extra night in Texas yesterday. He was rested and happy after a good sleep in a hotel room paid for by the airline, on the first really comfortable bed he’d been in for two weeks. We had a pleasant, leisurely drive home from the Sacramento airport, chatting happily the whole way, stopping at the video store, post office, and the grocery store when we got to San Andreas. The day was sunny and warm, and we enjoyed each others’ company and the mild weather. Conal was delighted to be home. The thermometer on our south-facing front porch read in the low 90’s in the afternoon. We had a lovely evening, though jet-lag hit Conal like a load of bricks at about 6:30PM, poor guy. I fed him salad and spaghetti squash with homemade sauce. We cuddled up and watched an episode of “House,” one of our favorite TV shows. Conal made it through the first episode, but faded toward the end of the second. It wasn’t quite 9PM when we crawled into bed.

During the night, perhaps around 2AM, we were awakened by the sound of dripping. It rained! And rained. And kept on raining for hours. It was the first real rain here for several months. Snuggling together, we relished the occaisional misting that settled on us from the open window over our bed. We rejoiced in the rich earthy smell and the coolness of the air.

Continue reading ‘Cookie Weather’ »

Missed Connection

After Tasha’s wedding in Seattle, Conal flew directly off to Germany for a conference on functional programming. He was scheduled to come in to the Sacramento Airport tonight at 11:20 pm, where I was to pick him up.

In addition to the hour and a half drive home from the airport, Conal’s journey from the German town of Freiburg will have included a two-hour train ride from Freiberg to Fankfurt, the long plane ride from Frankfurt to Chicago, a second flight to Dallas, then a final flight to Sacramento.

Ay carumba. With airline travel being as dicey as it is these days, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that his flight leaving Chicago was delayed due to mechanical difficulties, which will most likely cause him to miss his Dallas connection by an hour.

He is in the air now. I checked rather exhaustively online to see if there were any other options to get anywhere near here or the Bay Area, with no luck. I’m afraid my beloved will be spending a night in Dallas. The next chance he’ll have to get to Sacramento looks like a 9:30 am flight which arrives at 11:05 am tomorrow morning.

Sigh. I miss my sweetie.

The Wood Tossing Game

Conal’s late father, Bob, told me that he delighted in keeping every penny he could out of PG&E’s hands by using wood for heating purposes. One of my favorite memories of Bob is spending an afternoon with him running the wood splitter, a fascinating machine that splits logs with a wedge, slowly but with incredible force. There is a lot of wood available here at Murray Creek, what with trees and branches falling regularly, and Bob spent a good deal of time and energy gathering, cutting, splitting, stacking, and moving wood from one pile to another. A lot of work goes into cheating PG&E!

I’m learning. Wood around here is mostly in the form of oak and pine. Pine lights easy and burns hot. Oak is the denser of the two, is harder to light, and burns longer. You get a fire roaring with kindling and pine, then add long-burning oak for lasting toastiness.

Also, wood isn’t ready to just lob into the stove the minute it’s fallen. “Green” wood (that which is still living or recently felled) doesn’t burn well since it still has a high water content. We recently cut down a tree that was too close to the house and I was amazed to see the amount of water bubbling up out out of the stump. Logs have to be “seasoned” in order to have time to dry out and be suitable for fuel. Bob said that it takes a year for wood to be properly seasoned. He had a system of piles that sorted kindling and small pieces from big logs, pine from oak, and seasoned from green. Wood was collected, cut, split, sorted, and then rotated through the various stacks until it finally ended up in a box in one of the houses, ready to go into the wood stove.

It should be pointed out that the body heat generated by all this industry is also an excellent way to warm up on a chilly day.

Continue reading ‘The Wood Tossing Game’ »

Tasha really did get married

Well, it happened. My baby got married. Here she is with her new husband, Luke.

Luke & Tasha Shea

Tasha Stories

TashaMy daughter Tasha is going to be married in a little over a week. How the heck she ever got old enough (22) for that to happen is a complete mystery to me. Seems like five minutes ago she was a ridiculously cute little angel-eyed toddler.

The priest who will be performing her marriage ceremony wanted some fun stories to (gently) roast her with. Tasha asked me what I could come up with, so I spent some time strolling on memory lane today. I had a lovely time remembering life with my beloved girl.

Tasha the Snow Daredevil
Tasha enjoyed cross country skiing. Mostly, she liked the sliding-down-the-hill-real-fast parts. When faced with a scary, steep hill, her grandma taught her to yell, “Gravity is my frieeeeeeeend!” as she slid on down the hill. From then on, she was all about the hills. One day when she was maybe seven years old, we went up to one of the ski areas which featured a groomed network of trails. We were having a grand time barreling along down a fairly narrow trail, whizzing around the bumps and curves, snowplowing to keep from attaining terminal velocity. Unexpectedly, we came upon two middle-aged women, unhurt but terribly tangled together in a heap in the middle of the trail, struggling to regain their footing. I, in the lead, managed to barely sneak by the wreckage of skis and arms and legs and pulled to a stop just beyond them. I turned around in time to see the women look up and see Tasha coming down the trail, crouched and speeding at them like a little puffy pink meteorite. Realizing their doom, they cringed in preparation for impact. They (and I) were sure the kid would be unable to stop or avoid them and they could not disentangle themselves in time to get out of the way. It looked like certain disaster. Tasha never batted an eyelash. With a look of steely determination on her sweet face, she maneuvered neatly around them without even slowing down. After she had zoomed past, the ladies and I were stunned for a moment, looking at each other with our chins hanging slack, and then we all broke up in hoots of laughter. It was awesome.

Tasha’s World of Imagination & Magic
From the kitchen of my first little apartment with toddler-sized Tasha, I could look out through the living room to the large sliding glass doors that led out to the back yard. The yard was a grassy area adjacent to the golf course, its rear border lined with big old cedar trees along a fence. I’d keep the door open so I could hear Tasha back there, but from the kitchen all I could see was a small, Tasha-shaped blur go zooming by the sliders in one direction, then after a bit go zooming by the other way. She told me that one of the big trees was a dragon, and she’d have sword battles with it.

Tasha Goes to School
As the daughter of a single working mom, Tasha was in child care from the time she was three months old. It was not a cushy life, but she learned to be confident and social, making friends way more easily than I ever did. Tasha’s first elementary school hosted an open house for all the new students and their parents prior the official start of the school year. The teachers and classrooms were open for visiting, and there was punch and cookies and a general uproar. I was amazed at the number of children who looked awfully stressed and unhappy, resolutely velcro’d to mom or dad’s shinbone. Tasha, on the other hand, ditched me about three seconds after we walked in the door, skipping happily about to poke her head in all the rooms, saying hello to her teacher-to-be, hearing a story read aloud in the library, etc. I kept her in sight, enjoying her excitement and happiness. Near the end of the evening, she came rushing up to me, shouted, “Mom! I’m going on a bus ride, ‘kay? Bye!” and zoomed away. Outside, she waved to me enthusiastically from the bus window, completely fearless and having a blast. The driver just went around the block, but she loved it.

Tasha Works her Mom Over
Tasha studied Japanese for several years and made two trips to Japan in high school. While on one of the trips she called home and said she had something pretty intense to tell me. She went on for a bit about how it was a big deal, this thing she had to tell me, that I might freak out, was I sitting down, etc.; pretty much getting me, mother of a daughter on the other side of the planet, into a lather. She knew full well that I would imagine she had met some Japanese boy and was planning to stay there permanently, or that she was pregnant or something similarly catastrophic. Her evil plan was that the real news–that she had dyed her hair black with red streaks–was a giant relief compared to whatever my panicked brain would manufacture. I guess that she must have forgotten that her mom had dyed her own hair platinum blonde in high school, so it would take a lot more than some hair dye to incite a maternal freak out! Actually, it looked kind of interesting on her…

Tasha Loves her Family
Tasha loves being with her funny, fun family. The big family Thanksgiving at Tom & Susan’s is one of her favorite holiday gatherings. She and I have traditionally been assigned pie detail. Pies, pies, pies: every year we get up early on Thanksgiving morning and make three, four, or even five pies: Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pecan, Banana Cream, Chocolate Cream, Vanilla Cream, Pumpkin Chiffon… Tasha in her apron and me in mine, often with Grandma BB assisting (or supervising, as needed), giggling and working very, very hard to meet our afternoon deadline with enough time to shower and dress for dinner. Tasha’s personal specialties are a Spicy Apple that she adapted herself and Banana Cream. Although she hates making crusts, Tasha will one day soon inherit the mantle of “Pie Queen,” and great rejoicing will fill the land.

TickleMe Tasha
Tasha was (is) unbelievably ticklish. When she was small, I would tickle and poke and make her giggle till she could hardly breathe and tears were starting to well up in her eyes. She’d get completely frantic, struggling to escape my fingers and begging me to stop, sounding like she was about to die. Eventually, I would relent, and Tasha would relax, gasping for air, keeping a wary eye on me. Then she would begin to revive. Slowly, she’d start to smile and get a look of mischief about the eyes and say in a low, mischevious voice, “Do it again.”

Jeanne Hardy, A Blogger Ahead of Her Time

What would my awesome Aunt Jeanne have done in the era of blogs? Medicine Wheel Blog? The Spotted Chicken Report online? That would have been so cool! Her humorous short stories, interviews, and wonderful drawings would have made for a terrific blog. Perhaps she’s at it up in heaven…

Here’s a bit of her humor I found online on an old, apparently outdated Methow Valley News page. It’s dang hot here today, and I like being reminded that it will get cold again and perhaps lead to… duh duh duh DUM! Cabin fever–aaaaaaaugh!

Are you suffering from cabin fever?

In 1984, the late MVNews columnist Jeanne Hardy described a few signs and symptoms concerning cabin fever for a supplement to the paper entitled the Country Side Magazine. They are appropriate today as they were back then.

1. You absentmindedly nibble your favorite houseplant.
2. The soles of your feet are fuzzy and slightly numb and you can no longer separate your toes.
3. You burst into tears at the sight of a snowflake.
4. Your alarm clock goes off one morning and you flatten it with your table lamp.
5. You’ve eaten 14 oranges in the last 10 hours.
6. You realize you’re talking to yourself in a language you don’t understand.
7. There’s a knock at your door and you scream.
8. You realize you’ve been staring into the refrigerator for three days.
9. The phone rings. You pick it up and say, “Goodbye?”
10. A neighbor discovers you holding, and singing to, a bag of potting soil.

Heh. I sure loved her stuff. Anyone find anymore of Jeanne’s writing on the net?