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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Saxy's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
12:38 pm
So, it's been months since I've made a non-private post in LJ.

Currently going on:
1. Job Search: I'm looking in earnest, with most action coming from my network of coworkers and friends. I've had several promising interviews and I even had to tell one company to take me out of the running before they flew me to Korea to meet the CEO. This was for a technical marketing position for a Korean semiconductor equipment manufacturer. I'm still hoping for a position in solar or nano or green tech, and I think it would be fun to work for a start up. I've been looking at individual contributor positions, but I may have to buck up and try for management positions, too.

2. Birds: We lost Picasso back in late August, when her wing feathers grew out and she was able to fly much better than we guessed. We are still searching for her, but we don't have much hope. But on the good news side, we just picked up two female baby Pionus parrots two weeks ago - Ariel (another Maximillian's Pionus) and Miranda (a Blue Headed Pionus). They are very cute and play well together most of the time. Miranda is pretty shy but cuddly, and Ariel is adventuresome and a bit unruly.

3. House Refinance: When interest rates hit a major low last month, we started the refinance process with Shawne's credit union. As Shawne's parents are part owners, the process turned out to be much more complicated than we thought, and we've had to extend the lock once already, and the paperwork has been screwed up several times. And the very low value of the appraisal was a shock, as well. But if all goes well, we'll have a 30 year fixed @ 4.5% with minimal money invested.

4. Athletics: When I left Intel, I lost access to the fitness center, so I joined Shawne's gym (24 Hour Fitness). That has worked out really well! Now, Shawne and I work out together there about twice a week, in addition to the Tri Club spin on Thurs and swimming on Sat or Sun, and the occasional hike or long bike ride on the weekend. Now that I'm working out more regularly, I've got my weight back up to 154 from 150, and I feel much better. The spin class at the gym is nothing like the Tri Club spin - way too much standing for me (sometimes more than 75% of the hour class!), but it's still a great workout that pushes me to the limit.

5. Wine: A few years back, Shawne and I bought two grape vines (Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier) from a winery down in Paso Robles, and planted them in our back yard. This year, there were enough grapes left after our attempts to keep the grapes safe from the birds that we are making our own wine. It's about 80% Cab and 20% Viognier. We have just over a gallon currently about a month into secondary fermentation, and other than being a little high in acid, it should be pretty good. La Casita Azul 2009 should be ready to drink in about a year if all goes well.

6. Belize: Oh yeah. Last I posted, we were on our way to Belize. We had a great time with Shawne's parents and 6 other passengers on a catamaran sailing around the reefs off the southern coast of Belize. I ended up SCUBA diving five times, as Shawne's dad needed a buddy, and it was amazing. We had a couple of great wall dives on walls that dropped 200 and 1700 feet, and one through a jumbled slope with many arches and caves. The snorkeling was just as fantastic as the diving, with visibility generally 60 - 80 feet.

With all the uncertainty around job and refinance and our missing Picasso, I'm holding my own reasonably well. The worst part of the job hunt is that nobody ever calls or e-mails to let you know you didn't get the job, even if you've had multiple rounds of interviews - you just get dropped. Often, even if one tries to contact the employer, there is no response. Woof! But even with the many rejections by default, I still feel pretty good about my capabilities and my chances of getting a good job.

Overall, I still think life is good, and it will get even better soon with our new birds and a new job and fun fitness routine and even lower mortgage payments.

Current Mood: hopeful
Thursday, June 18th, 2009
4:47 pm
Happy Anniversary - Off to Belize
Shawne and I had a small celebration of our 2nd wedding anniversary Tuesday night - a nice dinner at Tamarine in Palo Alto, where we sat next to a nice couple who where celebrating their 52nd anniversary (and they ate about twice as much as we did - wow.)

We leave early tomorrow morning for Belize, for a week of sailing on a 50 foot catamaran around the cays on the inner edge of the barrier reef near Placencia. We hope to spend most of the time swimming and snorkeling, and then relaxing to the nice meals provided by the captain & crew. Shawne's parents are joining us, as Shawne really wants to share the sailing experience with them, especially since her father is so into scuba diving, and these waters should be great for that.

Not much to pack - just snorkel gear and beach wear and sun screen and passports, and stuff to get us through the air travel. We're both hoping for a relaxing week after the recent flurry of job search stuff for me (three sets of mini interviews with companies this week and much networking) and work for Shawne (trying to lay the groundwork for big improvements on the content management system for her SLAC publications juggled in with a much higher than average number of press releases).

The new married life has been going really well, and after two years, it's a great mixture of a comfortable and comforting harmony plus still discovering new and interesting facets of each other. We're sometimes a bit frustrated that there are so many more things we want to do than time permits (hiking, swing dancing, ballroom dancing, biking, mountain biking, swimming, cultural events, visiting with friends, making our gardens perfect, keeping our bird happy, and so on), but I think we do a great job of getting at least a little bit of everything that we have on our list.

Getting married at around 40, we each brought our own pretty full and rather different lives into the mix. We do share many common elements, but we've also each taken steps into the other's world and found new enjoyment there, and we've also ventured into new things that neither of us had tried before. Yay!

So, it's off to Belize, which will probably be mostly relaxing but also somewhat of an adventure. We don't board the boat until Saturday evening, so we have all day Saturday during which we hope to explore the nearby jungle and possibly an ancient Mayan ruin if time permits.

Current Mood: Happy!
Sunday, June 14th, 2009
4:09 pm
Not Working
This last week was a bit of a bust in terms of job searching. I haven't heard back from WD about the RIE technologiest position, I passed up an opportunity at Intevac because it didn't seem technical enough (more of setting up Copy Exactly! methodology, which isn't the most exciting thing in the world), and I didn't get a chance to speak with my double uber boss about a possible job that keeps me hired locally but also isn't the most exciting job.

But Hitachi GST, Solyndra, and SanDisk are coming to meet with us cast-offs next week and there are many interesting opportunities with those companies. And I did manage to do a lot of research into the state of the art in silicon based photovoltaics and semiconductor, photovoltaic, and optical process equipment. And I got in a lot of quality time with Picasso, who is becoming much more acrobatic if not much better a communicator. And I'm cleaning up all my internet accounts in order, changing e-mail addresses, finishing up financial

In exercise, I am reasonably sure I'll compete in the Tri for Real Olympic distance triathlon out in Rancho Seco on July 12, with an overnight visit with my brother & wife in Sacramento the day before. My swimming is okay, my biking is reasonably fast, and I just want to be able to run well enough for a respectable finish without trashing my knee.

I ran on the treadmill in the fitness center on Monday and Tuesday, doing 1 mile @ 9:00 pace on Monday and 2.5 miles @ 7:30 pace on Tuesday. My left knee did feel a little stiff afterwards during stretching, but a little massaging and it felt fine, although my hamstrings were sore the next day. If I can get up to five miles before the race, I figure I'll be in good shapre for race day. Having an actual event for which to train gives me a bit more focus.

Of course I forgot about that focus and did a four hour, 67 mile ride yesterday, which is much longer than needed for training for Olympic distance, and it did pretty much wipe me out for the rest of the day, but it was fun. I had a relaxing 2750 yd swim this morning which felt great but also reminded me that I was still tired from the ride.

This coming week, I'll work on GST, Solyndra, and SanDisk job possibilities, get in a fair amount of running, and get ready for Belize. We leave on Friday morning, meeting Shawne's parents in the Dallas / Fort Worth airport and continue on to Placencia. We'll all be on the Tradewinds catamaran for a week, swimming, snorkeling, and sailing. It should be great fun.

Shawne's taking a Photoshop workshop this weekend. (And then she'll give me all the secrets later.) I've got some housecleaning to do before she gets home, so that's all for now.

Current Mood: somewhat unproductive
Monday, June 8th, 2009
4:01 pm
I am Alive
I have been trying out Facebook (Thomas Saxy Workman) and Twitter (TheRealSaxy - locked) for updates, and although both have their charms and good uses, neither is really much of a replacement for the type of updates I like to make in LJ.

I became a week behind in this journal and meant to catch up, and then two weeks went by and I meant to write a recap of each week, and then the weight of it all got too much and I stopped posting. So, now to get back in, all the previous unposted weeks will have to be a mystery to those reading this journal. Too bad for them, but for me a weight is lifted and I can write guilt-free updates.

All I'm saying today is that my work responsibilities ended on May 30th, but I can keep my office and stay on the payroll as long as I want up to August 26, and I can collect a 10 month severance at the end of it. And there's 6 months COBRA payments and 4 months of outplacement service on top of that. And since we can survive on Shawne's income alone, we shouldn't have much of a problem if it takes me a reasonable amount of time to get a new job.

But even with the continued employment and severance and low expenses, after a week of no work responsibilities, I'm already feeling a bit out of sorts even with the extensive amount of research I'm doing into the goings-on in the hard drive, solar, and optical communications industries as well as networking and informational and job interviews I've been doing. (Okay - I did go on a 10 mile hike last Thursday, but it was with ex-coworkers and we were networking and talking job opportunities and strategies...)

I expect to hear back from WD this week or next about the etch position for which I interviewed and which I think I have a decent chance of getting. And an ex-boss mentioned that he might be able to get me hired into a solar startup that he will start working for in a couple of weeks. But when you go to a one company job fair where more than 1500 people show up for 44 positions, you have to know that the job market is a mess at the moment.

Some of my coworkers are panicking and others are taking a few months off to travel the world and others have been doing nothing but surfing and rock climbing for the last 7 months. Compared to this, I hope to be actively seeking work, but at a measured pace and with the goal of being as selective as I can and getting a job that I will enjoy doing.

I oscillate between feeling like I can do great work in any process involving thin films materials science and feeling as though every position I see requires specialized knowledge that, as a relative outsider to the adjacent industries, I don't quite have. Still, through networking, perserverance, patience, and perhaps acquiring a better way of selling my capabilities, I hope to land a great job.

P.S. Last night I had a dream in which I found myself in a new job without training as: 1) a rental car problem resolution agent at a major airport, 2) a roller coaster (with no tracks in sharp, spiky tunnels) driver, and 3) an assembly line worker assembling random components I'd never seen before into an unknown product.
Friday, April 17th, 2009
6:27 pm
Week 16 Review - I'm Getting Ready for Stuff
Feeling good about readiness for Tierra Bella, Great Pig!, Another job possibility

Sat: Warren's Ride: Woodside Loop from CBS + Kings Mountain + Canada: 67 miles @ 16.3 mph (4:06)
Sun: Swim @ CCC: 3200 yards moderate (65 minutes)
Wed: Infit Center: Circuit + Abs
Thurs: Dave's Thursday Night Ride: Long Fast Route: 25 miles @ 19.8 mph (76 min)

Tierra Bella is tomorrow, so this past week I thought I would take it easy. But I met up with Dan on the Saturday ride and he convinced me (and that didn't take much) to ride with him up Kings Mountain. That started off poorly when we were getting back on our bikes after crossing thru a gate. He stopped unexpectedly while I was clipping in, and I fell over and knocked him over too, and this was right in front of about 50 Webcor riders who had to get past us to start up the hill while we got ourselves back up. I think I embarrassed Dan so much that he felt compelled to pass every one of those Webcor guys before they reached the top of Kings. And I kept on his tail the whole way, so it was a very tough climb, and we did pass almost the whole squad.

And Thursday was the first Dave's ride of the year. I was ready to take it easy, but it's too much of a challenge not to push the pace, so I rode the second half with abandon to stay with the lead group.

Culture and Social:
Sat: Holy Saturday Pig Fest
D&J put on a tasty pig party with a roast that the most conservative guess put at 12 pounds.

Movies seen recently:
- Frida - Wow! This movie does a great job of showing her art and life.

I thought I was done with the DUV demo work, but it now turns out that there is yet another checklist that must be turned in, and that has some tasks that the leaders forgot to mention to us, and that I can't do without assistance from persons unknown because I don't have access to the required databases. So, I am choosing not to be frustrated, but I could easily deserve to if I wanted. No work on my ADT, but we did get started on the last two other ashers, down in the bump area.

On the outplacement front, two seminars this week: Working with Recruiters & Breaking into Biotech. The latter was a joke (just like the Green Energy one last week) - with very little information of value, and that came in the first five minutes, and I can summarize it as: Biotech in general pays significantly less than semiconductors, there is much more regulation and scrutiny, and specifications and documentation are a heavy burden of just about everyone. Thrilling!

And, I was contacted by a recruiter from Lab 126 (which makes the Kindle for Amazon) about a possible process engineer job. The details are sketchy, but it seems like it requires being the interface between validated designs and full scale manufacturing. It might be more "setting up systems" than materials science type engineering, but it might be interesting. It sounds similar to the position at Apple that I never heard back from after my phone interview.

It was all about finishing up the taxes for me over the weekend, while Shawne tackled the giant sages in the backyard. For the taxes, I just needed to add in the effects of Shawne's old company stock being liquidated after the company was bought (many different stock option grants and employee stock purchases to track down), and my publicly traded partnership stock that I bought not realizing how complicated the accounting is, and then Shawne's income and expenses from her dance teaching. Several new things for me to learn about the tax code this year. It's pretty interesting, but I'm glad I don't do it for a living.

Goldy is still missing! At least the weather has been warm / hot, so he should be okay staying out all night. I hope he's enjoying himself under someone's tasty bush that attracts many worms and other bugs that he likes to eat.

Shawne went to a talk from a local non-profit bird shelter. We are thinking about becoming foster parents for pionus parrots until an adoptive home can be found for them. With the longer days, Picasso is becoming more vocal and a bit more agitated in the morning. She seems to want something, but it's not food or water or treats or toys or being in any particular location or on my shoulder or with Shawne. If this is just bird childhood stuff, I'm not sure that I'm ready for her bird adolescence.

Current Mood: Something will happen soon?
Friday, April 10th, 2009
5:57 pm
Week 15 Review - Where's Goldy?
Dragon still on the loose, progress at work, and I'm tired

Sat: Warren's Ride: Woodside Loop from CBS + OLH (22:15) + OLH West + Canada: 74 miles @ 15.8 mph (4:41)
Sun: Pool closed unexpectedly!
Mon: Infit Center: Circuit + Abs
Wed: Infit Center: Circuit + Abs + 20 min Elliptical
Thurs: Spin: Spinervals Have Mercy (last 93 minutes): 29 miles @ 19.8 mph (88 min + squats)
Fri: Infit Center: Circuit + Abs + 5 min Elliptical

Culture and Social:
Sat: House Warming for a Shawne SLAC friend
A nice woman who just moved down to the Cambrian area into a pretty big house with a giant yard with a workshop (and rampant bamboo). I got to talk to a few interesting SLAC people and there was great food, and on the way back, we did a drive by past the house of one of Shawne's ex-boyfriends. Fun!

Movies seen recently:
- Chasing Amy: Even better than I remembered!
- Mighty Aphrodite: How can a movie with a Greek chorus not be great?

I finally completed DSL1 on all my DUV tools, so I'm essentially done with those, and I can focus on my ADT asher. On that scene, I finally got full management review and buy-off on my revised checklist, but I'm not sure when the technicians can begin work because only one shift is capable of doing the work and they are all off next week taking the career development workshop. So, it looks like it will be mid May before I'm done with all my shutdown responsibilities.

On the outplacement front, I took two seminars: Rock 'em Sock 'em Cover Letters & Exploring Renewable Energy Career Paths. The cover letters one was actually useful, as it was a recruiter describing how he scanned cover letters and resumes in about 15 seconds each, and how to get his attention in a good way and not irritate him with unneeded content. The renewable energy one was a joke - no good information at all.

LinkedIn - I must increase my presence and connections here.

Not much work done this week. We are too busy with exercise and being tired.

Goldy is still lost - no sign of him in any of the nearest neighbor yards. How far can he have gone?? Has someone else adopted him?

Picasso is eating a bit of the new, smaller food, but she clearly doesn't like it as much as her old food, probably because it is so small. Shawne will order the next larger size, and we'll give her the mix of both and hope that she eats at least some of the small stuff.

Current Mood: Why am I tired?
Friday, April 3rd, 2009
5:48 pm
Week 14 Update - Goldy on the Loose
Missing dragon, career continuation workshop, and a long ride

Sat: Warren's Ride: Extended Uvas Loop + Willow Springs hill repeats - 80 miles @ 16.6 mph (4:48)
Thurs: Spin: Spinervals Mental Toughness: 27 miles @ 19.7 mph (82 min)

Work and social activities kept me from exercise this week, but at least I managed to get in some good cycling and spinning on the days when I did have time.

I set out on Warren's ride expecting to do about 60 miles, which was the planned long ride, but decided to extend it to 75 miles in preparation for Tierra Bella on 18-Apr. I didn't shoot out to the front as I often do on the Uvas rides as we climb the hill before Bailey, and in not joining the paceline against the strong headwind, I had to do my own work to try to stay within range of the main group. But I did manage to catch most people on the hill at Llagas and pull away during the hill repeats on Willow Springs. (I went past the place I was married seven times!) After reaching Machado School, I kept a brisk but controlled pace for the rest of the ride, and kept my cadence relatively high (80 - 85) in a gear that didn't require too much effort. On the way back against a moderate headwind (why is it always a headwind in both directions on this ride?), I surprised myself by having more energy than I expected. I added a side trip back to Willow Heights to make sure that I had at least 75 miles, but ended up overshooting and riding 80 and ended feeling pretty good and not too stiff in the shoulders or lower back. I was pretty exhausted for the rest of the day, but it felt good, and I think I'm reasonably ready for Tierra Bella.

On Thursday's spin, I tried to stay in control and not push too hard at the beginning so that I could maintain the pace throughout the tough Mental Toughness workout, which is mostly tempo riding. I started in the 21 - 22 mph range and ended up in the 20 - 21 mph range, so I feel as though I achieved my goal and got in a great workout.

Culture and Social:
Sat: Dinner & Movie with Clayton & Sarita
Sun: Claytonian Friends Breakfast
Sun: Caltech Friends Joint 45th Birthday Extravaganza at Harley Goat Farms

Clayton & Sarita came over on Saturday night, and we BBQed some bacon wrapped filet mignons that seemed to be very popular, even though they are too tender for my taste, even bloody rare. Then, it was off to the historic Stanford Theatre for The Apartment, and then back home for port and sherry. I was tired after my long ride, but managed to stay lively past 11 pm.

Sunday was another action packed day. Shawne was a bit too tired to swim (as was I), and wanted to look for the missing dragon, so she skipped swimming and Claytonian Breakfast, and I skipped swimming. But the breakfast went well, even though it was small, with only six people.

We picked up Clayton & Sarita in the early afternoon and had an enjoyable ride up the coast to Pescadero for the Caltech Joint 45th B-Day party, arriving just a few minutes after 3 pm. Most arrived later than us, so we had time to play with some of the very cute baby goats while we waited for the remainder to arrive. It turns out that Diana picked a great time for the event, as there were over 200 baby goats, most of which were only a few weeks old. They were all very cute, but much louder than I expected.

We had a tour of the goat field, complete with goat and guard Llama interactions (and those llamas had the weirdest teeth I've ever seen), played with all the baby goats, trying to make sure that they didn't chew our shoe laces, and then a tour of the cheese making facilities, and finally, we watched the goats getting milked at the 16 goat milking station.

Then, it was a great dinner of artichoke soup, beet salad, and squash ravioli, accompanied by some of Peter's great wines and Diana's liqueurs, and full of fun conversation, as always.

The drive home was a bit rough, especially for Clayton and Shawne, who can get a little carsick, as I had to drive relatively fast on very twisty mountain roads to keep up with Peter, who was showing us the "short" way back home on Pescadero Rd & Hwy 84. (It ended up taking 90 minutes, which was the same as the travel time on Hwy 17 & Hwy 1.)

Movies seen recently:
- The Apartment - As a Billy Wilder film, I expected it to be funnier than it turned out to be, and with a serious suicide attempt, it was pretty harsh. But it did show how trying to be nice can get one in more trouble than one ever expected. It was somewhat hard to watch, but in the end, I think it was well worth watching.

I made reasonable progress on my demo work, almost completing everything I needed for my DUV DSL1, and getting my advanced asher 2D checklist through review by the technicians and then by management. Of course, I needed to intervene several times to keep Tracy's work on the other asher demo work on track, but it wasn't quite so irritating as it has been in the past.

In addition, I took a two-day "Career Continuation Workshop" with our outplacement service on Wed & Thurs. It covered the basics of job hunting - everything from making a plan, resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, networking, dealing with various personality types, etc. There was much (in my opinion) worthless mumbo jumbo, but I did pick up a few useful tips and ideas. And now I realize how much I need to get organized in my mind to be able to interview well.

With the very busy weekend schedule, we weren't in the house much at all, but while searching for Goldy, we did manage to pull a bunch of weeds in the back yard.

Picasso has been pretty good lately - not too much attack biting. She seems to be gaining a better understanding of our commands and routines and actions, but we still are having trouble interpreting her requests. Shawne bought her the food recommended by our vet, but the pellet size is tiny compared to Picasso's normal food, so I don't know how much she will like eating it. I hope she learns to like it because we bought five pounds, which is probably a six month supply even if she loves it.

Since the weather has been nicer, we have been taking her outside in her travel cage when we eat lunch or garden in the back yard, and she seems to enjoy being outside and seeing and hearing other birds.

It was a beautiful day on Saturday, and we thought Goldy would really enjoy being outside in the back yard. Unfortunately, he loved it so much that we believe that he found a new hole in the fence and went off exploring the neighborhood. We spent hours on Saturday afternoon searching our yard and the neighbor's, but couldn't find him. And the fence in the neighbor's yard had several Goldy sized holes to two other yards that also weren't Goldy proof. So, he could be practically anywhere in the block, and he loves to hide in shrubberies, so he will not be easy to find. Shawne sent out flyers to the neighbors, but no one has found him yet.

There are several weeds and local plants that he likes to eat, and I've seen him eat various bugs while he's been outside, and the weather has been warm lately, and he has a big mouth and can bite hard, so I think he should be fine as long as he manages to avoid any cats, dogs, or birds big enough to want to eat him. Still, I'm pretty depressed about his disappearance, and I miss having him around.

Current Mood: Searching
Friday, March 27th, 2009
4:23 pm
Week 13 Update - Vernal Equinox Hike
Vernal Equinox hike, finding a way to get things done at work, and trying to understand bird talk

Sat: Vernal Equinox Hike: Grants Ranch Washburn Trail - 6 miles, ~1600 ft elevation gain
Sun: Swim @ CCC: 2600 yds Moderately (55 min)
Thurs: Spin: Spinervals Muscle Breakdown: 23 miles @ 19.5 mph (71 min)
Fri: Infit: Circuit + abs + 20 min Elliptical

Shawne and I set out for a Vernal Equinox hike a little later than planned, knowing that it would likely be a "rain hike" and I was half-heartedly hoping that it would rain to remind me of our rainy hikes from earlier times. We had hiked this same trail two years ago, but had to turn around before we reached the top due to impending darkness. The Washburn trail is great if you like steep climbs and interesting, lichen covered rock outcroppings and wide, ever-changing vistas as you climb. The oak trees are not as numerous as in other areas of the park, but they are beautiful when you encounter them. At the top, the wind was frosty cold, but we found a little shelter on the Deer Valley side and ate lunch with an eagle-eye view of all of the Pala Seca and the Cañada de Pala trail from the Line Shack to Los Huecos. By the time we were about halfway back, the rain started slowly and then reached a steady, mild downpour. Our non-waterproof jackets slowly soaked through, but it was still fun. The rain didn't seem to mind the hawks and crows at all. Overall, it was a great hike, and it also filled in the one section of the Washburn trail that I've never traversed on bike or foot before. Yay!

Our swim on Sunday was a mixture of harsh, frosty wind, rain, and scattered sunshine. I felt good enough to do speed work on the last 300 yds of my 1.2 mile interval. Shawne's observation of my stroke is that it is really evened out when I remember to put my weight onto my left hand entry. So, I continue to try to focus on that above all other elements as I swim, especially when I'm getting tired, as I think that is the time when form is most strongly imprinted.

Spin was tough but fun, with the exhausting drills in Muscle Breakdown including my favorite five minutes of alternating four seconds 100% acceleration with four seconds rest.

The demands of work and my physics class kept me from the fitness center for most of the week, and I actually had some quad cramps going up & down the stairs on Tuesday after having stayed up until 3 am Monday night with work and homework. Woof!

Culture and Social:
Sat: Dinner with Peter
Peter came to town for dinner at Picasso and catching up on all the things going on these days. We had a great meal with a great Rioja that I wish I remembered the name of. And beforehand, we finished up the last two (giant) cans of Labatt Blue from our Blue party a few months ago. What will we do with all the space in the fridge now?

Movies seen recently:
- The Other Boleyn Girl (BBC Version) - Historically inaccurate and rather frustrating to watch, with no character likable except perhaps for Stafford. It does show that it sucks to be a wife who can't produce a son for the king, or being a misstress to can but with a sister with greater ambition.

- Coffy - This ain't no Dennis Coffey, although he could have been session guitarist on some of the tracks. We stumbled upon this blaxploitation flick and realized it starred Pam Grier from The L Word and were mesmerized enough to see it through to the end. It did a good job of setting the stage for our next movie...

- Sin City - Comic book (oops! I mean graphic novel) violence and torture are still violence and torture. I'll say that the three stories are compelling, and the heroes are selfless in their pursuit of what they think is right and the villians are evil enough that I don't feel sorry for them in the least, but it's still tough to watch. Still, Marv is a pretty amazing character.

I now have 8 of 22 ashers successfully through the demo process, and I have four UV exposure tools almost done. Tracy continues to make errors and forgets steps and makes suggestions that I would think would be obviously bad things to do, and yet I'm still able to quickly correct and move forward. The latest thing I uncovered was that he had been modifying the facilities connection list from what's in the database, which was not supposed to be done. And I found that both the database and his corrections were wrong. As usual, I highlighted this to the database owner and we quickly made up a policy to handle this scenario. But the fallout was that we had to spend a day and a half rechecking all our facilities connections and updating our records, and a tech and I spent an hour trying to track down process vacuum lines that didn't exist.

My plasma physics class continues to be interesting and to reawaken my physics and math knowledge, as did a talk on the semiconductor physics of transistors this week. I had forgotten how much fun it is to integrate and differentiate in closed form instead of using numerical recipes.

I had a phone interview with an Apple hiring manager on Tuesday, but haven't heard anything back from him, yet. I did talk to a coworker who told me that there are two hiring managers at Apple (including the one I talked to) who are interviewing several other Intel people for similar jobs. Also, we had an intro from the guy in charge of the outplacement service that Intel is setting us up with, and they have many good seminars and classes and one-on-one counseling sessions to get us in shape for finding good jobs.

What time do we have to work on the house? (Not that there's much that needs doing...) Things are staying in a reasonable state of orderliness and cleanliness. It might be nice to mow the lawn and put up the new shade and clean out the garage a bit more, but there's no rush.

Picasso continues to have bouts of "bad" behavior. She has bitten Shawne a few more times - not seriously, but still painfully. But she also seems to be trying to communicate more. She'll be on my shoulder and start making insistent noises, but they seem to be the same to me whether she wants food, water, Shawne, or an allowable place to poo. I think she gets as frustrated as I do as I cycle through all the things I think she might want. But at least she is definitely trying to say something, so I hope this continues to develop and she comes up with unique ways of showing interest in each thing.

Goldy seems to be settled into a pretty good groove. He's eating his crickets and worms, if not his carrots. He's still bothered when Picasso is too close, but I think it's decreasing a bit. Hopefully, he can get at least a little bit of outside time this weekend.

Current Mood: warming up
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
10:48 am
Phone Interview
Well, it turns out that the recruiter from Apple that contacted me through LinkedIn gave my resume to the hiring manager for the position, and I just got off the phone with him.

We talked for about 45 minutes about my experiences mainly in developing process flows and working together with suppliers to optimize processes and equipment. Based on the job description, I thought he would be asking very specific questions about my knowledge of the module that they are developing (about which I know very little), but he was most interested in my general experience and methodology. That is what I would do as a hiring manager, but I'm surprised to see it in someone else, especially when there are so many out of work engineers out there who I imagine would be a better fit.

Things seemed to go pretty well, which I wasn't really expecting. I was mainly looking at this interview as a chance to get in some practice before the real deal. I think there is a possibility that this could lead to a real in-person interview. If that's the case, I guess I'll have to get a suit, as moths have been enjoying mine much more than I have lately. I've been putting off getting one since buying suits isn't something I enjoy, but I know I need to do it eventually.

I'm trying not to think about the possibility of getting an offer and possibly having the dilemma of being asked to start before I can collect my (generous) severance from my current employer or even the ethical question of whether or not I would be comfortable working for a company with fruit in its name. So, I'll just try to use this as an opportunity to tune up my skills for jobs for which my experience will be a better fit.

Current Mood: curious
Friday, March 20th, 2009
4:20 pm
Week 12 Update - Work Getting Better
Concentrating on endurance, work finally gets some traction, and garden is doing well

Sat: Warren's Ride: From CBS: Up Page Mill, down Kings Mountain, Roberts: 64 miles @ 15.2 mph (4:15)
Sun: Swim @ CCC: 2100 yds Moderately (40 min)
Tues: Infit: Circuit + abs + 25 min Elliptical (176 spm)
Wed: Infit: Exercise bike: Hill Repeats Level 18 (60 min)
Thurs: Spin: Spinervals Aero Base Builder 2: 30.5 miles @ 18.9 mph (97 min)
Fri: Infit: Circuit + abs + 20 min Elliptical

In my long rides, I've had a good progression over the last 3 weeks, doing Old La Honda, then Kings Mountain, and then Page Mill with total distances of 49, 56, 64 miles, all at a measured pace that is above my comfort level but rarely pushing into anaerobic. I finish with a reasonable amount of energy left, but my upper (and sometimes lower) back is pretty sore by the time I have about 5 miles left to ride, and my energy reserves are low enough that I feel it on the short uphill sections in those last miles. But even with that, I think I'll be in good shape for Tierra Bella.

We arrived at the pool late on Sunday, so I had an abbreviated swim. I actually felt pretty good with a fair amount of extra energy, even with the long ride the previous day. But I'm still not pushing the speed and am concentrating more on good form.

Sticking to my plan to work on aerobic capacity and endurance, all my workouts this week were done at moderate intensity, hopefully working on my fat-burning metabolism. That's why I chose the Aero Base Builder workout for Spin. The only downside to the workout was that I kept to the recommended gears and had to push my muscles hard at a slightly lower cadence to keep in the recommended heart rate range, which meant that at the end of the workout my cardiovascular system wasn't pushed but my legs sure were.

Culture and Social:
Sat: Impromptu BBQ with Shawne's old work friends

Four of Shawne's old work friends came by with lots of wine, and Shawne prepared lots of tasty foods that I then grilled. Two of the people I hadn't met before, and another only once before, but with as much wine as there was, conversation flowed smoothly as well, and it was a fun evening, if not as rowdy as the twenty-something crowd party across the street.

Movies seen recently:
- Girl with a Pearl Earring - The look of the movie is very painterly, but the incessant, ominous, Harry Potter music is a big minus. And Van Ruijven's referring to breasts as "bubbies" is comical and nauseating at the same time.

Using the dregs of what's left in the stockroom, I managed to put together a Frankenstein's monster of an adapter to hook oil free air or utility nitrogen to the water lines to blow out all the residual water. When management found out how much we were spending on fittings to cap and loop facilities lines, they cancelled all new orders and we've been scrounging from various people's stashes. We use plastic or rubber whenever we can to cut costs. I found a way to juggle fittings that become available as I demo tools so that I'm now self sufficient. But I was surprised how happy I was to find an extra stainless steel half-inch male Swage union on the floor in the subfab the other day - I immediately put it to use looping the water lines at a pump rack that was missing one.

My plasma physics class has been good at jogging my memory on the subjects of thermodynamics and gas kinematics which I haven't used since my first year in grad school. Now I happily recall finding calculatable reversible paths between initial and final conditions so that I can calculate changes to state variables from irreversible processes. But I'm not ready to call Entropy my friend yet.

Good news on the demo front is that all my facilities disconnects were done on time and I should have my first tool through the entire safety audit process by mid next week (only 3 weeks behind schedule).

The weather was fine this weekend, but we spent Saturday afternoon preparing for our BBQ and Sunday we swam, took care of much shopping, and then collapsed for the rest of the afternoon, barely managing to clean up after the party, do laundry, do a full bird zone clean up, and make a tasty dinner.

From the three little California poppies we planted in the front yard last year, of which two died almost immediately, we now have 5 robust plants that are already in flower. And all the other native plants that Shawne pruned harshly (as suggested in the literature) are coming back strong and healthy. And the Snow in Summer and thyme in the parking strip are growing well and have almost merged to form complete coverage, which should do a reasonable job of keeping the weeds at bay.

Spring is here. Maybe we will start planting our vegetable garden soon. I know we'll plant zucchini and tomatoes. The jalapeños and bell peppers were a bust two years in a row, so we'll have to come up with something else to try.

Picasso continues to have bouts of "bad" behavior. She actually bit Shawne on the hand because she wasn't getting enough attention at the moment. I think it may be because for the last several weeks, I've had to go to work early for passdown, and that leaves Picasso with only an hour or so with me in the morning and then eight hours of alone time before Shawne gets home. Maybe if Shawne could take her to work one day a week, bird would be happier.

In the good news (I think) category, Picasso's primary wing feathers are starting to grow to the point that they will soon be longer than her clipped feathers. She has taken to making more short flights (usually out of impatience) these days, and even manages to land on her feet instead of her bird butt sometimes.

Goldy had some time in the backyard on Sat and Sun. It was partly cloudy and on the cool side, so he wasn't very active. He was mostly under or on top of the rosemary plant, but he did enjoy eating a bit of cheese weed. He finally started eating crickets this week! He loves them as much as ever - cruncha-cruncha.

Current Mood: Progress?
Thursday, March 19th, 2009
1:02 pm
Happy Thoughts
- Picasso woke up happy and inquisitive and socially well oriented.
- Goldy happily ate worms and (for the first time this year that I have seen) crickets for breakfast.
- I finished washing all the dishes.
- I got to morning pass-down on time.
- All my line cuts (4 OFA & 2 PV) were done successfully and ahead of schedule this morning.
- I finally completed my Pre-DSL1 Audit Checklist for Ashers.
- I could ignore my engineering tech talking to himself across the aisle.
- Spin is on for tonight at Dan's house with Anna.
- Salsa lesson & ballroom & swing dancing at Pavilion tomorrow night with Shawne
- I was contacted thru LinkedIn by a recruiter at Apple about a job for which I'm probably not qualified, but at least I'm getting noticed by someone.
- Oh yeah, and my standard Happy Thought: bunnies and rainbows!

Current Mood: pretty happy, actually
Friday, March 13th, 2009
5:29 pm
Week 11 Update - No Poo I
Biking longer, working smarter, eating more expensively, and getting pooed on less frequently

Sat: Warren's Ride: Roberts Loop + Kings Mountain from CBS: 56 miles @ 15.8 mph (3:33)
Sun: Swim @ CCC: 3100 yds Moderately (60 min)
Tues: Infit: Extended circuit with extra leg work + Abs (1 hour)
Thurs: Spin: My own garage: 23.0 miles @ 19.1 mph (72 min)
Fri: Infit: Normal Circuit (20 min)

I'm in the process of getting my bike mileage up in preparation for the Tierra Bella Century on 18-Apr. I kept a moderately fast pace to Roberts and decided to go up Kings Mountain at a pace where I was far from anaerobic and always had my breathing well under control. And I allowed myself to use my granny gear since the idea is to climb with reduced exertion so I can handle longer rides. I'm still not too happy with fast descents, so I took it even easier going down. On the slog back from Roberts (I always go Mtn Home - Portola, Alpine, Arastradero, Foothill), I tried to keep my cadence above 80 rpm except on climbs, where I tried to keep it over 70 rpm. It feels wasteful that I'm not really applying much power on each stroke, but people say that is the way to save one's energy for long rides. By the end of the ride, my legs were fine, but my upper back wasn't too happy after 3.5 hours in the saddle.

Shawne and I showed up at Dan's for spin on Thursday and found nobody home. If I had checked my e-mail, I would have found that Dan was taking advantage of Daylight Saving Time to start riding instead of spinning, but he now starts at 5:15 pm instead of 6 pm. So, Shawne and I went back to our own garage and I tried my best Troy Jacobson impression and we did my version of one of his workouts. I'm not sure what we'll do next week, as Dan's pace on the road might be too fast for me. Dave's Thursday Night Ride doesn't begin until mid April.

Culture and Social:
Sun: Brunch with Tigger & Gail
Sun: Birthday Dinner with the Caltech gang at Kaygetsu

Brunch with Tigger and Gail was fun and enlightening. I learned much about Sunnyvale's plans for automating the tracking of garbage cans and updates on their new recycling facilities. Now, I really want a guided tour of the dump.

The Caltech gang celebrated another birthday (a little early). This time with dinner at Kaygetsu. We couldn't get reservations for the keiseki dinner on Saturday, but they did make us two of the keiseki dishes on Sunday night, and they were beautiful and delightful. We tried some interesting sakes and the service was great and we had a rollicking good time. And it was the most I've ever spent on a meal in my life.

Movies seen recently:
- The Golden Compass - Nicole Kidman made an appropriately scary Mrs Coulter, but like the book, the movie starts out with great potential but ends up a disappointment.

We are back to the work of demolishing tools now that the safety stand down is over. But confusion is still everywhere as we try to get specifics on how to disconnect the vacuum pumps and what chemicals in the chilled water line need to be called out in our chemical use disclosure forms.

We tried to get safety sign-off on Demo Safety Level 1 (DSL1) status for our first asher, but failed with nine non-compliances, many of which were caused by inconsistencies in the instructions for proper end state. But I also found a discrepancy in the circuit breaker numbering that facilities made when they first installed the tools ten years ago, and that took several man-hours to resolve. I was expecting - actually hoping - to fail, so I'm pleased to have brought to Safety's attention several deficiencies in their procedures and definitions.

I'm no longer whining - now, I'm just letting the issues become exposed in the course of doing business, making my recommendation on how things should be changed, and seeing what happens.

Travel to Belize is now set - Shawne's parents and we have our air travel and hotel (for one night) booked. We'll arrive in Placencia late afternoon Friday and then board the boat late afternoon on Saturday. We'll try to see if we can squeeze in a trip to some of the local Mayan ruins on Saturday, but if the timing won't work, we are in a nice hotel on a nice beach on the ocean side of the peninsula.

The weather was finally nice enough that we spent time on Sunday weeding and pruning in the back yard. We took Picasso out in her travel cage and she seemed to enjoy being outside and watching us playing with plants. Goldy decided to test the perimeter. I got about two thirds of the weeding done, and Shawne pruned everything except the monster sages along the north fence. One more afternoon and everything will look pretty good.

Picasso has been showing signs of uncooperative behavior - throwing things on the floor and complaining loudly. It's too early by a year for puberty, so I'm not sure what's up. She does have periods of seeming happiness and curiosity and playfulness, so I'm not too worried. Perhaps she's just learning more about what she likes and dislikes and how to communicate that to us. Her toilet training is making moderate improvements with our reward good behavior and being disappointed at bad behavior system.

Goldy is still not eating his crickets, but we did get a big shipment of worms in, so now he won't go hungry. By now, I think he's sad that he ended his hibernation so early, as the weather continues to be unhappily cold for him. But that doesn't stop him from desperately wanting to be outside, so I try to get him out there as much as I can.

Current Mood: Improving?
Friday, March 6th, 2009
5:54 pm
Week 10 Update - Fitness & Demo Checklists
Good workouts, frustrating multiple checklist rewrites at work, and a little fun with healthy pets

Sat: Warren's Ride: Old La Honda Roberts loop from CBS: 49 miles @ 16.2 mph (OLH in 24:43)
Sun: Swim @ CCC: 2550 yds Moderately Slow (50 min)
Wed: Infit: Mini Circuit + 20 min Elliptical (Resistance 12, 196 spm)
Thurs: Spin: Spinervals Time Trialapolusa: 29.0 miles @ 19.3 mph (90 min)

I was back on track this weekend, with both a long ride and a swim, which made seven straight days of working out. But I felt pretty much wiped out throughout the entire swim, so I knew that I needed to take a day or two off for some serious recovery.

Warren's ride had a good turnout, but I found the early pace of the main group to be a little slow but the breakaway group (of two) to be too fast, so I did most of the ride alone. I felt sluggish throughout, and tried to hold back to a moderate pace so I wouldn't be too tired for an attempt at riding moderately up Old La Honda. Dan's fast group passed me as I took off my jacket at the base of Old La Honda. I caught up with the stragglers of that group but never saw the main body again. I took it relatively easy up OLH and just met my goal of 23 - 25 minutes in a time of 24:43, which was somewhat slower than I expected for the effort that I put it. I had plenty of energy for the rest of the ride and finished very strong.

My swim the next day was a struggle from beginning to end. I just slogged along, trying to work on form, especially putting weight on my left arm as it entered the water and to have good hip rotation on the left side. I didn't have an ounce of extra energy. I am a bit underweight and I have been eating a little less than usual, and I did have a couple of drinks the night before, so perhaps I'll feel better when I get my glycogen stores back up to a decent level.

After taking a couple of days to rest, I had a quick but intense workout in the fitness center on Tuesday - only about 30 minutes, and that felt good.

Dan's Thursday Spin was a tough time trial workout with 20, 15, 10, and 5 minute efforts where one is supposed to increase power (speed) on each interval. The first 20 minutes was easy @ 20.7 mph, but on the next two, I couldn't get above 19.7 mph, but I did manage 20.3 mph on the last interval. This highlights my problem of always going out too fast. Starting out is so easy that it's hard not to get into an unmaintainable pace, but it's hard to get a feel for what will be maintainable. I guess for now, I'll assume that my 40 km time trial pace is ~20 mph and not the 21.3 that I've done in the past.

Shawne and I are now signed up for the Tierra Bella Century, with Shawne doing the 100 km and me the 100 miles. It should be fun if the weather isn't too bad this year. I have five weekends before the ride to get comfortable riding increasing distances. I probably will work my way up to ~80 miles and that should be good enough to prepare me.

Culture and Social:
Sat: Birthday Dinner with the Caltech gang at Cascal

Since most of the techers couldn't make my party, we had a Caltech celebration at Cascal. And we have a plan to celebrate our mutual 45th birthday at Harley farms at the end of the month. It will be even better than our mutual 40th B-Day party!

Movies seen recently:
- Vanity Fair - nice scenery and costumes and stuff, but the story wasn't so inspiring. Nobody was likable.
- Reefer Madness - Now I know that smoking dope isn't as swell as people say it is.

I'm getting tired of editing and re-editing our demo checklists. I finally received approval to resume shutdown operations on two of my three toolsets by Friday, even with some unresolved issues dealing with shutting down pumps that I imagine will cause us to change everything around again next week.

And even with the amazing attention to safety, my engineering tech made a mistake on the resumption of demo activities on one asher by not checking to make sure that all pre-requisite steps were performed before he asked for the water to be shut off, and the shut-off went ahead with the pumps still running, which is a bad, but not dangerous thing - pumps alarm and then perform a non-optimal self shut down. Woof!

We spent much of our free time working on our plans to cruise for a week in the Caribbean with Shawne's parents. We've now agreed on the location (Belize) and the time (starting June 20th). Now we need to figure out air travel and whether or not we'll spend any extra time there before or after the cruise. This is the same type of catamaran cruise we took for our honeymoon - a 45 foot boat that has 10 passengers and two crew.

We didn't have the energy to get out into the garden after swimming, so there is still much backyard pruning to accomplish.

Picasso is back to her old, sweet self with the exception of continuing slight bad breath since her sickness a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps she is even a bit more vocal than in the past, and Shawne thinks that she sometimes hears Picasso trying out sounds that resemble Picasso. We shall see.

Goldy is more and more active and we took him outside for a short time on Saturday and he really enjoyed it. He still doesn't seem to be interested in eating crickets, but we did manage to get him 25 wax worms from the pet store and he absolutely loves those. If the worm shortage doesn't end soon, we'll have to order the expensive to ship worms on line. Woof!

Current Mood: Is this pointless?
Friday, February 27th, 2009
6:10 pm
Week 09 Update - Party & Picasso Recovers & Work Frustrations
Sea Monster birthday party, Picasso recovers, and back into exercising as health improves

Mon: Infit: Circuit + Abs + 20 min Elliptical (the weird one - Hill Repeats)
Tues: Infit: Circuit + 15 min Elliptical (Resistance 14, 170 spm)
Wed: Infit: Circuit + Abs + 30 min Elliptical (Resistance 12, 185 spm)
Thurs: Spin: CTS Climbing (again!): 24.0 miles @ 19.5 mph (74 min)
Fri: Infit: Leg strength work (25 min) + abs

With all the party action on the weekend (party on Sat, sleeping late & cleaning up on Sun), the weekend was exercise free, but I did make up for it by getting in a workout on every weekday. My intercostal sprain pain is much reduced but still noticeable on overhead lifts and hamstring curls, but not too bad. Somehow, my weight dropped two pounds, so I'm now four pounds under my target weight. (Eat more & exercise?)

At spin on Thursday, we repeated the Climbing workout that I did last week. I was only 0.2 mph faster than last week, even though I was feeling a bit sick last week. At least this week there were eight of us participating.

I'm hoping to do Warren's ride tomorrow, which will include my first climbing of Old La Honda this year. I don't want to push myself too hard, so I'm setting my target at 23 - 25 minutes.

Culture and Social:
Sat: My Sea Monster B-Day Party

The party went well, and I already posted about it earlier this week. There was enough food left over to supply our dinners for several days afterwards, but nothing will end up going to waste. (Oops! I still have to bury the remains of the tilapia in our vegetable garden...)

Movies seen recently:
- The Darjeeling Limited - disappointing! (Even though I loved Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, etc.)
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - much better than I expected
- Casino Royal (New One) - That's a very different James Bond you got there - just slightly more harsh than I'd like but still good.
- Network - more true today than ever before

I'm getting more and more disappointed with the organization of our shutdown and demo activities. Scope of work and procedures are changing in an extremely unpredictable and uncontrolled fashion and meetings to try to schedule demo activities are a free-for-all with no clear way to prioritize tasks or even verify that tasks have been completed. With my group leader's wish for us to be at the forefront of demo activities, my group is hit the hardest by changes.

We had a safety stand-down today which stopped all demo activities. There had been four safety incidents over the last week due to incorrectly designed checklists. So, we spent the day reviewing our checklists and setting up a set of two additional safety checklists for each demo activity. Of course, all this is based on demo procedures that are likely to be changed in the next week or two, and we'll then have to go through this review all over again. Of course, there is no change control or even approval process for making changes "official", so people are following whatever procedure they heard from anyone else as being the new way of doing things.

In my book, this entire organization is now officially running around with its head cut off. I'm now officially sick of hearing myself complain. This is so unlike me. I got a copy of the latest version of a water disconnect checklist and had to strain not to write a nastygram to the creator telling him how utterly terrible it was. Woof!

Not much happened at home other than party, party clean-up, tending to Picasso, and consuming party left-overs

We are looking into vacation plans for this year, thinking about getting back onto a catamaran in the Caribbean. Our choices are Antigua, St Marten, and Belize, and we're comparing itineraries and airfares and trying to figure out which would be most fun.

As of Thursday morning, Picasso is back to her old healthy self - just as active and vocal as she was before she got sick. And she was very excited to get her cargo net back after we borrowed it for the Sea Monster party. Yay! Since the purge of all items from her cage, we have been slowly re-introducing things we think are safe, but her local environment is still pretty unexciting compared to earlier times. I hope to get her some new, safe toys soon so she can better entertain herself while we are away.

I had Goldy out in the backyard for the first time this year on Saturday for a few hours, and then again on Sunday, even though it was raining. He really wanted to get out of his cage and he was quite active. I think he was surprised to find the vegetable garden barren, since when he was last there it was overflowing with tomatoes and zucchini. Still no worms for him, as there is apparently a big shortage still going on. I hope he's been eating his crickets.

Current Mood: Grrr!
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
5:41 pm
Sea Monster Party
I think the party went pretty well. We had planned to be cooking and decorating all day Saturday in preparation for a 6:30 pm start time, but poor sick Picasso needed much attention and I needed to clean everything she comes into contact with, so we had significantly less time than we planned.

But with a friend's help in making the fresh Vietnamese spring rolls and people arriving a little more fashionably late than normal, we pretty much had everything ready by the time people started to arrive in earnest. I changed my decorating plan to be a minimalist representation of undersea adventure, and I think it turned out pretty well.

For the benefit of my sister, I will list the foods we served. (My dad left her house this morning after a week of preparing foods for my brother-in-law's 50th birthday party, and she will no doubt be in food-description withdrawal by now.) We had all sorts of Japanese treats like dried fish snacks and cuttlefish chips and sashimi and seaweed salad and dark chocolate covered edamame, and spring rolls and rice and beer & ginger snow crab legs and marinated tiger prawns and a BBQed four pound whole salmon (only 8 minutes per side!) and delicious Sea Monster cake (yellow cake with mocha frosting, of course) and our signature drink, the Sea Monster.

As usual, for the first half of the party, Shawne and I were mostly involved with food prep and we had some great help, so we weren't too much out of the party scene. But after I finished grilling the salmon, pork chops (for people not eating fish), and tiger prawns and Shawne finished the dry fried string beans and steamed the crab legs, we joined fully into the party and had a great time. There were 14 people comprising a mixture of Caltech, Claytonian, and Shawne dance friends. Last year's parties with about 20 people pushed our little house past its comfortable limit, but 14 worked out well.

After everyone ate their fill, we moved on to the main event, which was the destruction of our long-frozen Chinese farm-raised tilapia (that we imagined was chock full of toxic waste). Five of us took turns whacking it with a selection of hammers, then I put it in the blender with some Bacardi 151 and blended it to as smooth a consistency as possible, then put it in a beautiful dish, doused it with more Bacardi 151, lit a match, turned down the lights, and we all watched the show.

After that, Sea Monster cake and the traditional birthday Magic Shake and then gifts, which led to much teasing of people who couldn't figure out how to open the Yot,which has been causing trouble for Claytonians for at least ten years. And then the finger puppet show and fun conversation until 1 am.

Here's what a pounded, blended, flaming, toxic Chinese tilapia looks like:

You can find all my pictures from the Sea Monster party here.

I must say that Shawne is the best! She helped me turn the theme into a workable party and came up with great food ideas, recipes, and even our Signature Drink and spent many hours researching and shopping and cooking. Super love to her!

Now, we can start dreaming up a theme for our summer party!

Current Mood: Pleased
Friday, February 20th, 2009
4:57 pm
Week 08 Update - Opera, Sick Bird, Party Prep
A fun Valentine's Day date, now it's Bird's turn to be sick, and birthday party prep is in full swing

Sun: Swim @ CCC: 2600 yds (Moderate) (50 min)
Tues: Infit: 30 min Elliptical (fast: 201 spm)
Thurs: Spin: CTS Climbing: 24.0 miles @ 19.3 mph (75 min)

I managed to cough my way to a sprained left intercostal last weekend, which made most upper body exercise too painful to perform. Swimming on Sunday was hampered a bit by soreness on my left side and difficulty taking a breath and trying not to cough, but I still managed a decent swim.

I did manage an aerobics only fitness center workout on the one semi-working elliptical trainer (of the three of the type I prefer to use) and managed to hold my highest cadence for a 30 minute workout ever (201 strides per minute) at my normal resistance level. I'm hoping that at least one trainer gets completely fixed so I can switch to interval training on it and work on intervals at various inclines.

Shawne had to miss spin this week due to bird sitting our sick bird, but I went and found only Dan in the garage, as everyone else had either ridden earlier in the day or flaked out. Dan was doing a taper for his 300 km ride on Saturday, so I was the only one spinning to the DVD. It felt pretty weird. I pushed myself hard in the low cadence grind climbs and felt like I got in a great workout.

Last Friday (13-Feb), Shawne taught Night Club Two Step at Pavilion and I went along to take the beginner class and get in some ballroom dances with Shawne after the lesson. Robin scheduled some demonstration dances into the following dance party. Robin & Sammie did Tango, Shawne and the King did an amazing NC2S, The stodgy Allen did a foxtrot with his wife, Allen & Robin did a very fun East Coast Swing, and then the surprise was that Robin called Val and me out to demonstrate Val's newly learned skill at leading the WCS with me following (as a bit of comedy, I guess). Val only knows four patterns, and I'm used to following WCS on occasion when Shawne is learning a new lead move, and I remembered to start on my right foot, so it probably looked pretty good, and everyone had a great laugh. Besides that, I did manage to get in some good NC2S both leading and following, and a rumba and salsa.

I do miss dancing more often, but the opportunities seem to be shrinking, as Shawne can't stay up late and local dance venues are running into trouble. The latest casualty is Starlite, which just moved from its old palatial digs with three separate dance floors to sharing the floor space at a Gold's Gym. I hear that Miguel moved his WCS lesson / dance from Monday to Wednesday nights, and Richard is moving his Monday night WCS from Starlite to another studio since the new Starlite location is so bad. If things don't improve, Pavilion might be the only reasonable choice, and how scary is that?

Culture and Social:
Sat: Dinner & Opera with Shawne (Happy Valentine's Day)

We managed to get a great discount on Valentine's Day tickets for Opera San Jose's performance of Cosi fan Tutte, and we continued our tradition of eating dinner at the bar at Il Fornaio. With the great service we get from Kevin at the bar, I'm not sure I'd ever again want to eat at a regular table there. We had a great dinner of seafood ravioli and a chicken & artichoke heart risotto, got the entertainment of watching all the action behind the bar, and didn't even have to make reservations.

Our seats were pretty great (dead center Row T) for a last minute impulse. The performers and costumes and music were great, and the cheeky maid Despina stole the show with a fantastic performance. But the storyline even though comical was a bit troublesome for Shawne and me since we chose to give it serious consideration. What's the big deal if you tell a girl that her boyfriend is off to war (and it's likely that he either won't return alive or will cheat on her) and then foist on her a man pledging eternal love to her and goad her into giving him a try for fun (since everyone else would do it) and have him threaten to kill himself if she doesn't love him back, and then she gives in if she is a teenage girl? But still, we had a great time and are looking forward to seeing Carmen in May.

Well, on Monday we finally received the official instructions for demolishing our tools, but with the instructions for demolishing the Process Chilled Water (PCW) lines delayed until Friday (and then turning out to be stupid in my personal opinion). I would describe the action so far as managed chaos. My group leader wants us all to bound to the front of the line and push the system to get things moving, but I counsel holding back and letting other groups test and fix the system first. I lost in this discussion, so we press on full speed ahead with poorly defined procedures. I'm finding that I like to complain these days. It's not quite like me.

I attended my first online plasma physics class on Tuesday. It's a little basic for me, but I think a full review will be helpful, even if I have to sit through a few weeks of very basic material before we get to the stuff that interests me. We have weekly reading and homework assignments that will be graded, but we'll only pass or fail the class.

All focus at home is currently on getting ready for my Sea Monster birthday party. During the short break in the rain on Saturday, we trimmed the front hedge and did more weeding and added some mulch in the front garden, with Picasso in her travel cage near me intently watching all the outdoor action.

On the rainy Monday holiday, Shawne tried out her dry fried string beans and red curry chicken recipes, and later in the week, she made peanut sauce for the fresh Vietnamese spring rolls she plans to make for the party. We cleaned up the office and did what advanced food shopping we could do.

We also did some serious drink recipe development for my signature drink for the party - The Sea Monster. We knew that we wanted to incorporate the flavors of citrus, basil, and mint in a drink that looked blue and murky. After many different formulations, we came up with something that we both really like. I hope that it's a hit at the party.

I made up a great soundtrack for the party, finding a treasure trove of fun submarine and sea monster music on iTunes. It's only 20 songs (about 80 minutes) but I really like it. Too bad that nobody will be likely to hear it, as with more than ten people in the front rooms the conversation will most likely drown out any background music. But I still had fun creating it and I know that Shawne and I will listen to it on car trips and such.

Also, we are really liking our new bed and sheets and cheetah duvet cover. Sleeping is now a luxury compared to our previous too soft mattress on the floor. And going from King to Queen sized bed has really opened up some well appreciated space in the bedroom. Yay!

The bad news from the pet shop is that they don't have any of Goldy's favorite worm - only crickets. And he doesn't yet seem to be up to catching crickets and he doesn't want to eat carrots. She bought crickets and I'm trying to get him to eat the slow ones from my hand. But his energy level is ramping up fast even in the cold weather, so I think he'll start his regular diet soon.

Picasso was going along fine until Wednesday, when I found her listless and then she vomited up green beans and almonds. On Thursday morning, she looked worse, so Shawne took her to the vet and Picasso got an x-ray and other tests done - no parasites or alimentary blockage, but she did have some inflammation and yeast. So, she's on anti-yeast meds (which she hates) and we took away all plastic and paper and will wash everything else thoroughly. The vet's best guess is that she ate paper or plastic and it's causing her digestive problems. Friday morning she was a little better, but had terrible rotten vegetable breath. The vet says that this confirms her digestive problem diagnosis. We're hoping that she will feel better within a few days.

It's sad to see her hobble around and I'm surprised to miss her inquisitive call if I leave her alone for any amount of time. Poor Picasso. If we really do have to keep her away from paper and ribbon and almost all plastics and all metal except stainless steel and not let her eat anything with salt or bread, I think she'll be sad. We'll have to work to find pleasing alternatives.

Current Mood: worried about bird
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
5:40 pm
My recovery from the flu was going along reasonably well with the only remaining issue being a terrible cough. That is until Saturday morning when I somehow strained an intercostal muscle on my left side, probably from a long bout of coughing. Since then, it is extremely painful to cough, sneeze, raise my left arm, or even take a deep breath. After a few days, the pain level has finally stopped increasing but I'm not sure this is going to start healing until after I stop coughing and sneezing.

With the way I feel, an upper body workout is out of the question, so I guess I'll go and try to ellipticize for a workout. Woof!

Current Mood: ribicus hurticus
Friday, February 13th, 2009
5:47 pm
Week 07 Update - Me Recovery & Fab Shutdown
Still sick but working anyway - shutting down the fab

Sun: Swim @ CCC: 2100 yds (Moderate) (40 min)
Tues: Infit Circuit + 20 min Elliptical (slow: 170 spm) (60 min)
Thurs: Spin: CTS Race Simulation: 24.0 miles @ 19.5 mph (74 min)

My flu was reduced to mainly being tired and much coughing by Sunday morning, so I decided that I was okay to swim. I took it easy, and my legs were especially tired during my kickboard laps. But it felt good to get my muscles moving again after almost a week of inactivity.

I also tired quickly on my Tuesday workout (but I could still do 18 pull ups!), and so I tried to keep a reasonably slow cadence on the elliptical trainer - 170 strides per minute, which is apparently an awkward in-between area for me, as I bounced back and forth between 160 and 180 for most of the workout.

By Thursday spin, I was feeling reasonably back to normal, and I found myself only slightly below my normal performance level for that particular workout (Race Simulation). So, I hope I'm back on track to start increasing my performance level and endurance. However, with all the predictions of rain and hail for the long weekend, I'm not sure that I'll get out and bike, even though the Saturday club ride is scheduled to be the Uvas loop, which I really enjoy.

Culture and Social:
Sat: Gail's B-Day Party
Sat: Classical Guitar Concert
Sun: Claytonian Friends Breakfast

One of Shawne's friends had her birthday party at I Fly up in Union City. It's a vertical wind tunnel that let's you simulate free-fall skydiving by hovering in a jet of air blowing up at ~120 mph. I wasn't quite feeling up to it since I was still feeling a bit sick, but twelve other people in the party, Shawne included, tried it out with two 1-minute sessions per person after a 10 minute classroom session with an instructor.

After donning knee pads, a jumpsuit, ear plugs, safety goggles, and a helmet, you lean into the column of air and the instructor stabilizes you as you extend your arms like you're under arrest and then he gives you hand signals as to how much to bend your legs or how to reposition your hands. If you have good form, you maintain a position a few feet off the net flooring, but most likely you will slowly sink until the instructor pulls you effortlessly back up a few feet. If you're doing well, he will then grab on to your side and you'll both soar up 15 feet in the air and maybe do some rotating around and then you'll drop down and your minute is up and the next person is in the chamber. Sometimes between people, the instructor would do tricks and stunts up and down and all around the chamber.

Shawne did pretty well the first time and floated around nicely in control, but the second time, the instructor was fine tuning her so much that she kept sinking. She said it didn't feel anything like free-fall or being weightless. She said it felt like swimming slowly in a pool where the water is coming up from the bottom, but the water is more like air. It was fun to watch everyone give this thing a try, and everyone seemed to have a good time trying it, but I'm not feeling like I missed out on any great experience.

After the flying, we rushed to Downtown San Jose for a quick but delicious meal and beers at the Tied House and then walked quickly to the Petit Trianon for Shawne's X-mas gift to me - reserved seats for a Polish classical guitarist. We were in the third row center instead of our usual cheap seats in the twelfth row or so, and it felt like we were practically sitting in the guitarist's lap. He had an exquisite tone and style, but he breathed and moved like a man with great inner turmoil, which was also reflected in the pieces that he selected. Since he didn't speak any English (or was extremely shy), we never learned much about all that. But the president of the SBGS did mention that the guitarist was very exciting about getting to the beach at Santa Cruz.

Sunday morning was the latest Claytonian friends breakfast - in celebration of Jules Verne's 181st birthday. Eleven people showed up and had the usual Hobee's breakfast and chatter. Yay!

All production material is out of the fab and shutdown procedures are underway even as we continue to redefine the scope of the shutdown on a daily basis. We had our rah-rah safety training meeting that stretched five minutes of useful information into an hour of reminders of how to be safe and cautious and even emotionally accountable for the safety of everyone in the fab. Woof!

In spite of all the safety department's caution against rushing, management is rushing us to create schedules and start work when we don't yet know the full scope or even some of the revised procedures for some key items such as cutting water lines. I'm somewhat secretly dragging my feet in hopes that these issues will be resolved before I'm pressured into getting my technicians started. I've already revised checklists twice, and I know more changes are to come.

But on the good side, I did get selected for the plasma physics class I signed up for, and that will start next week, so I'll have some stimulating activities to keep me busy after I get my shutdown activities organized and let the techs start following my careful plans. I'm also taking some refresher classes on some of our data systems just in case I find another job internally.

Shawne trimmed more of our fuchsias out front during the week and now we need to do some more mulching in the front to keep the weeds at bay and make everything look great. The jacaranda tree has now lost all its leaves and I can see that it needs professional trimming so that it will grow into a nice, healthy shaped tree.

Shawne also took on the job of trying to get our closets better organized, especially the shoes. Now that we have a bed again, Shawne moved some of her clothes from closet to underbed storage, and now there is more room for organized shoes - even mine. Yay! Things keep getting better.

This coming week, I hope to focus on getting things ready for my Sea Monster birthday party. We might even have a whole day to figure out decorations and music.

Oh yeah, I'm not sure what section this goes under, but I've just started up a Facebook account since Shawne and all her friends are on it, and I just heard from a high school friend who joined and my brother tells me that he keeps getting notes on his Facebook account from my old friends asking about me. I still like the LJ format more for keeping a journal, but the Facebook thing looks good for other social stuff.

Goldy is awake and out and about! But the weather has turned from warm to cold suddenly, and even with a 150 Watt bulb, he looks miserable and he doesn't even want to eat worms.

Picasso has been spoiled by having me stay home sick last week, so she was sad when I had to leave early to get in for my new 8:30 am passdown meetings this week. Last week, she started climbing up her rope net and perching on one of the upper shelves of the bookshelf late each afternoon, and then didn't want to be moved from there back into her cage for bedtime. It seemed as though she was wanted to sleep there on the shelf, which wouldn't be good for many reasons. Shawne tried blocking the one shelf Picasso liked, but the next day Picasso just moved up one shelf. In the end, we had to block off the entire bookshelf with a sheet to keep her off it, and now she seems a bit sad and disoriented about the change.

Current Mood: not out of the woods yet
Friday, February 6th, 2009
1:31 pm
Week 06 Update - Staying Home Sick
Sick all week, Goldy awakes, Work certifies production just in time to shut it down

Sat: Warren's Ride: Robert's Loop from CBS: 41 miles @ 19.1 mph (2:08)
Sun: Swim @ CCC: 2700 yds (Moderately fast) (50 min)

I rode the first Warren's Saturday Ride of the year after a couple of months without road riding. Most of the old group was there, along with several new people. I was expecting a cold ride, but the weather warmed up beautifully and I was able to take off my jacket and full fingered gloves after only a few miles. After most of the good riders turned off at Edith to conquer Page Mill Road, I pushed the pace of the remainder to a point where I was just beyond my comfort level. I was happy to find that I didn't fade too much at the end, and so I'm pleased with my first ride.

After Sunday, I was too sick to do any other exercise. When Shawne had the flu, it didn't seem so bad, but when I got it, it laid me flat for days - chills, fever, body aches, coughing fits, and exhaustion. Woof!

I was definitely too sick to spin on Thursday, but Shawne went and they did Spinervals Muscle Breakdown, which is one of my new favorites.

Culture and Social:
Mon: TriClub Membership Meeting - I mixed sports and social at our annual membership meeting (trying to recruit new triathletes). The new training programs look to be pretty good this year - maybe I'll even go to some of the open water swims.

By Sunday night, I was sure that I was catching the flu, but I still felt good enough to go to work on Monday. We had a celebration lunch for achieving certification for our chipset parts, but most people at the luncheon were joking that it was really a joint certification and shut down party and not to open the fortune cookies because it was most likely that they contained pink slips.

As I expected, the scope of our factory shutdown is a moving target. Thankfully, I hadn't started editing the demo checklists because I was waiting for a more official statement of scope. But, I stayed home sick Tues - Fri, so I don't know how things have progressed in my absence. I expect to be busy for a month or two setting things up, then the workload should taper off relatively quickly and I'll probably focus on job-getting skills, networking, and I might even take a class in plasma physics and fluid dynamics for plasma etch processes.

We received our new sheets, blankets, pillow cases, and shams in the mail, and they match our cheetah duvet cover very nicely. So, the bedroom transformation is coming along nicely.

On Saturday, we took a trip to Ikea to buy a replacement for a lamp whose switch broke and couldn't be fixed. This was my second ever trip to Ikea. It is a whole world unto itself. It tries so hard to suck you into buying a Schlorbo here and a Dorbig there, but it was quite easy for us to resist all but those most essential items, such as fish and starfish ice cube trays and sea creature finger puppets and stuffed animals for my birthday party along with the lamp, light bulbs, and a doormat for the back porch. Mostly, I'm glad that they don't have some kind of cute Ikea theme song playing as you negotiate your forced, winding journey from start to finish - it would give me serious It's a Small World flashbacks . It was bad enough that evoked the Ewok's victory song in my mind, substituting Ikea part names for all those Yub nubs and g'noop dock fling oh ah's.

Goldy is awake and out and about! The warm weather of the previous week has tempted him out of his shoe box winter home, and although he isn't interested in eating yet, he is looking out at the back yard like he might want to take a trip outside soon. We'll have to get him some worms and crickets this weekend so we have food ready for when he gets hungry. So, this year he chilled out from 1-Nov to 4-Feb: just over 3 months without eating or drinking - just hanging out in a shoe box watching the activities in the south half of the kitchen.

Picasso also had extra energy this week, which made resting while I was sick rather difficult. She gets very unhappy if she knows that I'm home and I'm not in the same room with her. But I did find that if I put her and her playstand on the coffee table while I napped on the couch, she was mostly content to preen and eat and play with a ribbon for a fair amount of time before she started making her plaintive call for attention. I think she now understands that when I'm under blankets and have my eyes closed that she's on her own for entertainment. One good thing is that now that we've moved her cage farther from the wall, she spends much more time playing on her cargo net between the cage and the bookcase and she is so cute climbing around upside down through all the ropes.

Shawne is making some good progress with the harness training, as Picasso now routinely allows her to put the neck loop over her head without too much biting of the strap or trying to get her foot on it. So, I think we can move on to trying to get a wing or two in the wing straps soon. Also, after some amount of initial disinterest on the bird's part, we have now successfully made the switch from salted to unsalted nuts for a breakfast bonus food. Just like most people, she likes Brazil nuts least of all, but almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and peanuts are all good to her.

Current Mood: double bad
Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
11:44 am
Sick with Animals
Shawne has been sick on and off since New Year's Day, when she had to miss the exciting trip to see the elephant seals. Until Monday, I had been safely unaffected. But know I'm home for a 2nd day with the flu and feeling pretty awful.

Picasso hasn't been too understanding, though. She wants attention and to play all the time. I can tell that she's very disappointed with me. And she's not going for some of my usual, sure fire distractions, such as having her quietly eating nuts on the dish towel ring while I take care of other tasks in the kitchen. No, she wants to be on my arm or shoulder all the time. Woof!

And perhaps because of the psychic force of the extra demands for attention from Picasso, Goldy woke up yesterday and is now moving around in his dragon abode. So, I have his heat lamp back on and some shredded carrots for him. He's been looking at Picasso with a very distrusting eye even as she is totally oblivious of him.

In the moments between trying to rest and taking care of animals, I've been trying to get our tax stuff together. Between having RSUs vest, wash sales in one of my brokerage accounts, some of Shawne's old company stock undergoing some strange activities when the company was bought out, I have a fair amount of research to do on current tax codes. Woof!

But on the good news side, last night I finally got the theme decided upon and invitations sent out for my coming birthday party, thanks to great assistance from Shawne. This year: Sea Monster!

Current Mood: blech
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