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Dad Visits Our New Home

Dad came for a visit last week. (And it’s getting hard to come up with entry titles that are just variations on “A Visit From Dad”.) He flew in on Thursday and left on Wednesday. By this time we’ve gone to see most of the things in the Bay Area I know about, so it was a visit mostly of re-runs and hanging out, although he did have a couple of new things he wanted to see.

This is the first time he’s seen our new house, which we’ve now been in (hard as it is for us to believe) for 11 months. Mom saw it on her visit a year ago, but that was before we’d even closed (we were doing a walk-through with the seller the day she arrived), so it almost feels like it doesn’t count, since it was completely empty. Dad had to wait a little longer, but he got the full experience, since it’s well lived-in by now.

The day he arrived we walked down to the nearby Safeway which has a Starbucks in it, as he has been in the habit of walking out in the morning on his visits to get coffee, and his previous place, the 7-11 near our old home, is rather farther from the new place. I think he walked there every morning but two during his stay.

One place he wanted to visit was the campus of University of California – Santa Cruz, because it’s on a list he saw of the 10 most beautiful college campuses in the world (I think he saw this one). Although I’ve been to Santa Cruz many times, this was my first trip to UCSC.

I gotta say, it’s a very unfriendly campus for visitors. Apparently you are supposed to buy a parking pass to park most places on campus, which isn’t a bad thing, but they don’t tell you this. I saw no signs driving in to this effect, the booth where you buy the passes is not marked at all, and none of the parking lots we drove by or through have any indication that this is so. We only figured this out because most of the cars in one lot had things hanging from their rear mirrors, and we asked some people and they confirmed this. It’s like it’s a big trap to issue tickets to the unwary. Bastards.

We didn’t buy a pass but rather just drove around to see the place. Is it stunningly beautiful? It’s not bad; the buildings set in the redwood forest are pretty. The regions in the nearby fields look a little more generic. The architecture didn’t seem especially noteworthy. (Then again, Stanford is also on the list, and its campus has never impressed me either.) The campus is very spread out and I bet students spend a lot of time on buses or bikes to get from place to place.

We also visited the arboretum, which is quite impressive, large and varied. It’s the place I’d suggest visiting if you go to the campus for the scenery.

Saturday we drove to Livermore wine country, having lunch at Garre (nice restaurant, but their wines are not our thing), and then dropped by a couple of wineries for tastings. In the evening we went to a new restaurant that I discovered through a cow-orker, Bistro Vida, which we all enjoyed.

We came home from dinner to find that the power had gone out. We lit some candles and Debbi and I walked around the neighborhood a bit; it was a failure that covered several blocks, and it didn’t come back on until after 11, by which time we’d gone to bed. Our neighbor Juan said the power goes out from time to time – I think it only went out twice in the 10 years I was in my townhouse, so hopefully it won’t go out much more often than that! Apparently it was because of a equipment problems rather than due to the heat we were having on Saturday.

Sunday morning we went to the Moss Beach Distillery for their Sunday champagne brunch, and were pretty disappointed compared to earlier visits. They weren’t playing the classical music that Dad remarked on at his last visit, and worse, they had taken both french toast and pancakes off their brunch menu! Since I don’t eat seafood or egg dishes, that left hardly anything on the menu I would eat. Fortunately they were willing to make pancakes (for Dad) and french toast (for me) as a special order, but they were pretty ordinary compared to the more elaborate forms they used to have. I don’t know what they’re thinking, how can it be brunch without at least pancakes? I guess they’re trying to go more upscale? But they’re likely to lose me as a patron if this is the way it’s going to be. Pity.

Sunday evening we drove to the east bay to have dinner with my cousins, both of whom live out here, but neither of whom I’ve seen much of. Cousin L and her husband have a very nice house, and cousin K came from the city to meet with us. We had a good few hours visiting with them, and perhaps when their parents come out to visit next we’ll have a chance to meet them, too.

Monday we had a pretty quiet day, mostly driving around the south bay. Tuesday was a little more ambitious: We dropped Blackjack off at the vet about his eye, then went for breakfast, and finally up to San Francisco. We went to SF MOMA, which sure enough is an art museum. (I’m not really into art museums.) Then off to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream sundaes, and finally to Golden Gate Park. Strybing Arboretum – formerly one of my favorite place to wander around in the park – is now charging non-residents for admission. If nothing else that will eliminate any motivation I might have for donating to them.

Along the way we also watched some episodes of classic Doctor Who that I’d bought on DVD (used, to avoid the ridiculous prices the BBC charges for them): “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, “Pyramids of Mars” and “Logopolis”. “Talons” was better than I’d remembered, while the other two were not as good (though still enjoyable). In particular “Pyramids” seemed to suffer from the limited (though very good) cast.

Wednesday it was a morning drive to drop Dad off at the airport, followed by meeting Debbi at her workplace for coffee, and then an afternoon of chores around the house. As always, it was a nice visit with Dad – and the cats enjoyed his company, too!

Blackjack’s Eye

Blackjack can’t catch a break with his illness, despite having responded to treatment quite well. This past week we noticed that one of his pupils was more dilated than the other, something Debbi says she’s noticed before. The next day we realized that it wasn’t that one eye was more dilated, but that the other eye was less dilated, and that his inner eyelid – the one that closes sideways from the side of his eye near his nose – was partly closed.

While he didn’t seem disturbed by it all – I did some informal tests and he can see out of both eyes – we contacted his vet who’s been treating him for his lymphoma, and she said this is an indication that something may be impinging on his optic nerve, that it may be related to his lymphoma, and that there may not be much we can do. But to keep an eye on him in case he develops symptoms that indicates it might be something else.

Other than some watering from his eye, he’s been behaving pretty normally, so we’re just keeping an eye on him for now.

It’s pretty frustrating, since he’s otherwise been showing signs of getting stronger and more stable lately, and an indication that things might be getting worse is pretty upsetting. But at least he’s still happy and comfortable. He’s been cleverly finding new places to sleep in the unusual heat we’ve had this weekend (he’s the only one of our cats who bothers to find cool places to sleep – Newton and Roulette seek out the heat).

Right now he’s lying on the couch next to me while we watch an old episode of Doctor Who. I think his watering eye bothers him from time to time and he shakes his head to clear it out. But otherwise he still seems pretty happy. Hopefully this will just be a cosmetic incident for some time to come.

He’s a sweet cat, and he really doesn’t deserve all this at such a young age.

A Week Under the Weather

So last Saturday Debbi and I started our weekend by going to Half Moon Bay (breakfast at the Main Street Grill!) and walking along the coast. When we got back, I went out and mowed the lawn for the first time this year. It took about an hour, because I bagged the grass rather the mulching it, since it had grown quite long in some places. I really should have mowed 2 weeks ago, but it’s rained the last 2 weekends.

By the time I finished and showered, I had the beginnings of congestion and a sore throat, harbinging four days of illness.

Sunday we tried to get a few things done, but we discovered (really, re-discovered) that many places are closed on Easter Sunday, so we didn’t make much headway. We did go across the street to visit our neighbors for their Easter party. By the time we finished, I was running out of energy, so we called it a day.

Monday morning I couldn’t see myself sitting at my desk all day, so I called in sick. Time was I would try to power through a cold, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that it’s best to lie low early to knock the illness out of me. My cow-orkers appreciate me not coming in to make them ill, too.

Fortunately this was not as bad a cold as the one Debbi had for the better part of two weeks (which was so nasty that I kind of wondered if she caught two different colds), and I felt much better on Tuesday. Unfortunately I felt worse on Wednesday, mainly very congested and with a nasty cough. I didn’t realize until the afternoon that I really did feel worse, so I had taken my car in for maintenance and gone in to work. Oh well.

But I felt much better on Thursday, and have gotten better since then. So I seem to have finally shaken it.

On a happier note (well, for me, anyway), we had a series of showers and thunderstorms in the area this past week, which I enjoyed immensely. After a bone-dry winter, we’ve gotten a fair bit of rain over the last month, which we really needed, and I loved since it breaks up the otherwise eternal mild weather around here. I think the south bay is still below average for the year, but hopefully these storms have helped build up the snow packs in the mountains (melting snow is where most of our drinking water comes from).

After a long week, we now have a long list of chores to do at home and errands to run around town, partly in preparation for my Dad coming to visit soon. Fortuitously, we won’t have to go out in the rain to do them.

Fantasy Baseball 2012

2011 was a pretty frustrating fantasy baseball season for me: I drafted what I thought was a terrific team, and then got slammed by injuries and slumps (such as Albert Pujols’ ineffective-then-injured first half, Rafael Furcal having nothing left, and Chad Billingsley turning into a pumpkin) and struggled to cover for the pieces, ultimately finishing 8th out of 16 teams. On the bright side, finishing 8th gave me the first overall pick for 2012, so I decided to come back for my 20th year of fantasy baseball.

My keeper roster was tough to figure out, since Albert Pujols and Cliff Lee seemed clearly better than anyone else I had to keep, but they also used 3/4 of my keeper years. I considered not keeping Pujols and drafting him with the first pick, but I had trouble figuring out how to turn James Shields (or Ryan Zimmerman) + 5 more years into something equivalent to the guy I was planning to take, Roy Halladay. So ultimately I traded Lucas Duda and Jamile Weeks for a 3rd and a 7th round pick, and kept Pujols. I tried mightily to acquire enough years to keep Shields, but couldn’t do it, alas.

I went into the draft with two solid starters – Lee and Jordan Zimmermann – and with Halladay I figured I’d start working on hitters. A good strategy, since the pitching pool felt quite deep this year. But the hitting pool seemed so shallow that this year really tested my maxim that you can always draft hitting.

Here’s the team I drafted:

Pos Player Team Round/
Pick
Age Comments
C Miguel Montero ARI 2/17 28 I took him in the 4th round last year, and he had a breakout season. I sure hope he can do it again.
1B Albert Pujols LAA Kept 32 Let’s see whether moving to the American League perks up his bat this year.
1B Ryan Howard PHI 14/209 32 Taking a gamble that he’ll play this year and hit a bit.
1B James Loney LAN 16/241 27
2B Neil Walker PIT Kept 26 Another guy I’m hoping will repeat his 2011.
3B Ian Stewart CHN 12/177 26 Whether he’s really my third baseman remains to be seen. I have other options as backups.
SS Jimmy Rollins PHI 4/64 33
OF Nick Markakis BAL 3/43 28 Another year, another weak outfield.
OF Josh Willingham MIN 7/97 33
OF Alfonso Soriano CHN 8/113 36 Drafted purely for his power.
C Tyler Flowers CHA 24/373 26 Marginal backup catcher, maybe Pierzynski will get hurt and he’ll break out.
C Gorman Erickson LAN 25/400 24 Might get called up if the Dodgers can’t stand their current options.
1B/3B Mat Gamel MIL 10/145 26 At least, I hope he plays enough – and plays well – to qualify at 1B this year.
2B/OF Howie Kendrick LAA 4/49 28
3B/OF Martin Prado ATL 7/107 28
SS Clint Barmes PIT 23/361 33 Another guy I just hope plays and hits some dingers.
SS Jonathan Villar HOU 22/348 21
SS/OF Grant Green OAK 25/393 24
OF Peter Bourjos LAA 18/273 25
OF Brett Jackson CHN Kept 23
OF Domingo Santana HOU 21/335 19
OF Michael Choice OAK 24/383 22
SP Roy Halladay PHI 1/1 34 I don’t think there was anyone else available who was clearly a better choice for the first overall pick this year.
SP Cliff Lee PHI Kept 32 I was surprised he fell to me with the 8th pick. Taking him was a no-brainer, as Halladay and Sabathia had already been picked.
SP Jordan Zimmermann WAS Kept 25
SP Matt Garza CHN 3/33 28
SP John Danks CHA 6/81 26
SP Ryan Dempster CHN 9/129 24 How did I end up drafting so many Cubs?
SP Brett Cecil TOR 19/289 25
SP Josh Tomlin CLE 20/305 27 There wasn’t much left in starting pitchers at this point.
SP Julio Teheran ATL Kept 21
SP Wily Peralta MIL 21/321 23
RP Addison Reed CHA 13/193 23
RP Grant Balfour OAK 15/225 34
RP Sergio Romo SFN 17/257 29

I’m definitely gambling on a few players coming through rather than washing out (Mat Gamel, for instance), and as often happens I hate my outfield. But it could be much worse, and I do have quality starting pitching. It’s not a world-beating team, but it has potential.