Fifty

I turned fifty years old on Wednesday. It hardly seems possible!

I’ve treated my birthdays as very low-key in recent years, and this was mostly not an exception. Wednesday Debbi came into the bedroom before I got up with a pair of giant balloons for the number “50”. Later on I thought they spelled “SO”, as in “I am SO old!” She also put “Happy Birthday” signs around the house, and bought me boxes of See’s Candies.

I took Wednesday off from running, but I did go to work. I’d planned to put aside some of my current projects and instead work on some stuff I wanted to work on for a day. Instead I put them aside to work on putting out a fire. Best laid plans! But hey, I did get the problem solved. And I left early to pick up comics, where the owner of the store told me Debbi had stopped in and given him her credit card number to pay for my haul for the day. So I picked up a few extra things, which I think was her intention. She also cooked dinner. A pretty great birthday!

Friday night we went to Sundance the Steakhouse for dinner, which is one of my favorite restaurants and one we’ve gone to often for our birthdays. The complementary dessert for my birthday is great too.

Saturday we did some chores, but we also had some cleaners over to do a serious cleaning of the house, especially the bathrooms and kitchens. We haven’t had cleaners in since we moved into this house, and it took the two of them about 4 hours to get through everything. But man, it sure looks better, especially the master shower, but also just much less dust on everything. Jackson followed them around while they were here, which was pretty funny; even the vacuum doesn’t faze him much.

Finally, today we threw a small party with friends and their kids. It’s been a while since I had a birthday party – maybe since 2012? I had a good time, although I think a couple of the kids were a bit bored at times. But I carried my friend Itai’s younger daughter around upside-down a bunch of times, so I think she had a good time. And cake from The Prolific Oven and ice cream from Rick’s is always yummy!


It’s no surprise, I guess, that 50 doesn’t feel much different from 49. I’m not sure whether it feels much different from 40, either. I’ve been pretty lucky that my hair isn’t graying very fast – mostly just at the temples – and my body is in pretty good shape considering I’m someone who’s not in great shape. A few aches and pains, but nothing chronic. I’m still able to run 14 miles a week.

In some ways I don’t feel that much different from when I was 25, but in other ways I do. Little (and big) life experiences and lessons add up over time. It’s a perspective I don’t think I could have had when I was 25. Maybe other people do, but it’s the sort of thing I wish I should share to those who don’t, if I knew how.

It is weird to think that I’m pretty firmly past the halfway point in my life – hardly anyone in my family during my lifetime has lived to 100 (only one person that I know of). That’s a little bit of an illusion since not all of my childhood feels like I really lived it, so maybe I’ll make it to 90, and I have a pretty good chance to get to 80. 30 years is a long time.

But it’s still weird to write something like that.

Anyway. I don’t make many New Year’s resolutions, but this year I decided I would talk less about my age and longevity at work. It’s a little too much like bragging, and I already know that I work with lots of younger people who are as good or better than I am at our jobs. And maybe it feels a little too fatalistic. Hopefully that will be an easier resolution to keep now that this birthday has passed.

But, as they say, age is just a number. And a birthday is just a day. And every year has a whole bunch of them

Another Year Older

Yesterday I had about as low-key a birthday as I can recall having. Last year we took the day off and drove up to Cal Academy, but this year I didn’t even take the day off. Well, I did take it off from going to the gym, and went this morning instead.

In the morning I opened presents (yes, I still get presents!), which was a nice set of stuff. One thing Dad gave me was a DVD set of the Doctor Who Black Guardian trilogy (which includes one of my five favorite stories, “Mawdryn Undead” – man I wish they could release Paddy Kingsland’s music from that separately, as it’s amazing). But when I opened it I noticed it included two copies one one of the three DVDs in the box, and none of “Mawdryn Undead”! Some sort of assembling problem where the DVDs are made, I guess. Fortunately, Amazon has a straightforward exchange system, and they sent me a new copy of the set which arrived today – and I didn’t even have to return the old one!

I had something of a blah day at work, unfortunately, as I was juggling a bunch of different projects, and that sort of juggling isn’t exactly what I prefer to be doing. Maybe I should have taken the day off after all.

Along the way I got a call from Dad, and about 50 happy birthday wishes on Facebook. I wonder how many I got last year?

In the evening we went to Sundance the Steakhouse for dinner, which was yummy as always. I was good and didn’t indulge in too much food during the day so I was able to enjoy all of my dinner. Though I was still too full at the end to get dessert!

Not perhaps the most memorable birthday, but I didn’t feel like making a big fuss this year. Maybe next year.

Birthday Week

My birthday was this past Wednesday, and Debbi and I took the day off to go do something fun.

We had breakfast at the Depot Cafe in San Carlos. It was quite there for a change (we usually go on a weekend), so I got to look at all their train photos and memorabilia. Afterwards I talked to my Dad before we headed up to San Francisco.

Our destination was the California Academy of Sciences, which I felt we hadn’t been to in long enough that a mid-week visit would make for a nice birthday trip.

As usual we got tickets for the planetarium as soon as we arrived, and then headed for the tropical rainforest, which is probably my favorite part of the museum. Since it was a Wednesday there were a bunch of school trips visiting too, and we spotted a couple of them trying to get butterflies to land on them (and a couple did!). None landed on me, but I did get some good pictures of butterflies (and slightly less good ones of birds):

Brown Butterfly Orange Butterfly
(click for larger image)

The elevator out of the rainforest drops you in the aquarium. I’ve always thought the aquarium is merely okay, but it does have a few nice sights:

Tropical reef

Jellyfish

The planetarium’s show this time is on earthquakes, with some pretty nifty CGI simulating the 1906 San Francisco quake, and good aerial views of fault lines and recent earthquakes. They had an exhibit on earthquakes and continental drift augmenting the show (or maybe the show was augmenting the exhibit), including a small shake room to demonstrate what the 1906 and 1989 quakes felt like. (The 1906 quake was long, about 90 seconds.) Someday I imagine we’ll get to feel one of these for real. I can wait, though.

We spent a while looking at the museum’s Foucault pendulum, which I remember from the old museum:

Focault pendulum

I wish I’d gone to the old museum once more before they tore it down (it was replaced because it was not really earthquake-safe, as I recall); it was a pretty neat old building, and my memories of it are pretty fuzzy.

The new building has a living roof, which we always visit. They had a telescope with a solar filter on it which we looked through, and saw a couple of sunspots (they look like dirt on the lens, really). Then I remembered the panoramic photo feature on my iPhone and took one of the roof:

Rooftop panorama
(click to enbiggen)

That’s about a 180° view, by the way.

Since the Academy was pretty quiet on this mid-week midwinter day, we ate at the cafeteria, which was surprisingly good! They really need more seating there, though.

We also saw a short film called Dinosaurs Alive!, with CGI recreations of dinosaurs, plus some paleontological stuff. Having been a dinosaur fan since I was a little boy, I feel almost like I’ve spent my life watching the progress of animation of dinosaurs, and one thing that’s always the case is that in every film there’s never enough of it! But it was an okay film. Evolution is awesome.

All told we were there for about five hours, and we decided to become members for the year, so we’ll be going back a couple of times this year.

We had a quiet evening of pizza and comic books to wrap up my actual birthday.

Unfortunately Debbi – who had been fighting something off for much of the week – cratered that night and stayed home for the next two days. Thursday in particular she felt awful. By Friday evening she was feeling better and we went to one of my favorite restaurants, Amber India, for dinner.

Other than running some errands yesterday, we’ve had a pretty low-key weekend. We’re having our bizarre midwinter summer right now (highs in the 60s), doubly odd since it got quite cold shortly after Christmas and stayed that way for a couple of weeks. It’s been nice, but I am looking to the rain coming back sometime soon.

Birthday Trip

I had a nice birthday today. I’d debated going up to San Francisco to Cal Academy, but I didn’t really feel like getting up early to get there before the holiday crowds rolled in.

So instead we got up at our usual time, and Debbi made scones. Somehow I forgot to open my presents in the morning – Debbi thought I was just waiting until this evening, but no, I just forgot. Blackjack and Newton were happily lying in the sun in the family room. A nice lazy morning.

Late in the morning we drove down to Santa Cruz for the day. We had lunch and did some shopping downtown. Then we stopped at the surfing museum (Flash required, lamely enough) – it’s fun enough, but we were mainly there for the views of the ocean:

Then we went to Natural Bridges State Beach. It’s one of several stopovers for monarch butterflies migrating through California, and I’d hoped we’d seen a bunch of them. We were disappointed to only see a few; perhaps February is better for swarms. We did have a nice walk around the park and a visit to the beach to see the natural bridge for which the park is named:

Did you know Santa Cruz has a natural history museum? I didn’t. But we didn’t visit it this time; maybe next time.

We had dinner at FJL, and are wrapping it up watching the premiere of Alcatraz, which is okay. I rather wonder what any of the last inmates of the prison back in 1963 – if any are still alive – think of the premise, that they all disappeared and are coming back in the present day. The show greatly exaggerates the conditions on the Rock, from what I understand, too.

A pretty nice birthday, really. Way too short, though!

Birthday Weekend

My birthday is tomorrow, and Debbi and I have the day off to enjoy a long weekend together. It’s not a “significant” birthday, so I don’t feel much older. 🙂 But it’s nice to have some extra time off.

I threw my usual birthday party last night, and it was nice to not have to worry about how many people would fit into our house, like it was in the townhouse. A lot of people couldn’t make it, but we still had about a dozen people show up over the course of the evening. I made a huge amount of Mai Tais, which were fully consumed by the end of the night, and bought a couple of cakes from the Prolific Oven which about half of which got eaten.

Our neighbor Juan came by. He teaches salsa dancing, and later in the evening we put on some of his music and he got both Debbi and my friend/cow-orker Kelly dancing. (I resisted grabbing the camera and taking pictures.) I also saw Trish and her boyfriend Jared for the first time in quite a while. Susan and Subrata came by with Ajay; I think Ajay got a little bored with the big-peoples’ party until I pulled out one of my Hot Wheels cars (yes, I have Hot Wheels cars) which kept him entertained for the next hour or so.

(At one point Susan suggested she and Ajay go explore the house. She asked him who had to go with him when he goes upstairs. He was being a little shy and hesitated, so she said, “You can only go upstairs with a g–?” He didn’t respond, so I said “Gorilla!” That sort of humor goes over pretty well with a 3-year-old and his parents.)

I often feel like my parties are kind of underwhelming, but everyone seems to have a good time, so I’m probably overthinking things. I always have a good time, anyway, and I’m glad people came.

We watched both football playoff games yesterday. While the Patriots’ victory over the Broncos was a laffer (all the pundits have made the expected jokes, but the long and short of it is that Tim Tebow is no Tom Brady), the 49ers victory over the Saints was memorable and exciting, and gave the home crowd some great memories. (And then today the hated Giants stunned the 15-1 Packers giving the Niners home field advantage in the NFC championship game next week. I expect “low scoring” will be the term for that game.)

(I’m a little disappointed that it won’t be a Patriots/Packers Super Bowl, as the “no defense bowl” might have seen over 100 total points scored.)

Today we went to the Moss Beach Distillery for brunch. We had an epic food coma afterwards and collapsed on the couch for a few hours before running some errands, but mostly we had a quiet day at home. Which the cats appreciated, of course.

The Answer

Today marks another orbit around the sun for me, and this year I’ve turned the age of The Answer – a frivolous connection, but one I was happy to play up when talking about it.

I threw my annual birthday party last night. I’ve been doing less well as the years roll on at planning my party in advance, I think because I get back into the swing of work after New Year’s, then get distracted by things like my book discussion group, and then worry about inviting too many people, or too few, or something. Anyway, this year I didn’t send the invitation until last Wednesday night. On the other hand, a late invite does tend to polarize the responses – people are either available or not, and probably not going to have something else come up. Anyway, maybe I’ll do a little better next year.

We got a pretty good turnout this year, spread out over more than 8 hours: My cow-orker Joar and his wife arrived earlier with their infant daughter E. E was very well behaved, and was fascinated by the cats once she saw them. (The cats, of course, took one look at her and said, “Oh hell no.”) And our friends Lisa and Michel came by with their daughter I, who is now three, and who loves when she visits to spend the whole time playing with me. So I had to tell her every so often that I was going to go talk to other people for a while. She was very well behaved about it, too. She was full of energy, so I did play with her for a while.

We broke out the cake (from the Prolific Oven) and ice cream (from Rick’s) before the folks with young kids left. An eclectic group of folks from in and out of work showed up, which was nice since for a little while I wasn’t sure many would show up. But the usual fun time was had by all, and I’m grateful to everyone who came.

Today was my actual birthday, and I threw the party yesterday so that I could pretty much sit on my ass all day. Other than the Patriots utterly collapsing against the Jets (reminiscent of their “barely showed up to play” Super Bowl performance against the Giants a few years ago), it turned out to be a pretty good plan. Debbi took me out for brunch, we took a little walk to Starbucks, and otherwise just stayed home. I cooked dinner, did some reading, petted the cats, and hung out with Debbi.

I also did a Scars of Mirrodin draft on Magic Online, and my birthday gift to myself was that I won the draft, after never advancing past the second match in previous tries! It wasn’t even particularly close, as I had a decent bit of luck but also felt like I was generally playing better than my opponents, playing patiently much of the time and pressing my advantage when I had the chance. I only lost one game of the seven I played. Definitely a nice outcome – maybe I’m generally getting better.

Seems like the weekend has just flown by. Unlike some folks, I don’t have tomorrow off from work. Still, despite my worry about lining things up for my birthday each year, I always do enjoy celebrating it. It’s been a good time.

Birthday Party

The birthday party last night went off without a hitch. In fact, it might have been the best one I’ve thrown. I’m not quite sure why, but everyone who came stayed until the end, and everyone was talking with everyone else, which seems like a sure sign of a good party. A little oddly, everyone suddenly decided to leave around 10:30 (the party started at 7:00) – it’s only odd because literally everyone left at the same time (save for a couple of folks who left slightly earlier).

Shortly before the party Debbi and I debated who would be the first to show up. I put my proverbial money on Josh, who’s usually pretty punctual, but I should have put my money on Chris, who only lives a block away and who arrived just a little after 7! I think Josh was fourth.

I always tell people they don’t need to bring gifts to my party, but Chris brought one anyway – sort of. He gave me five packs of arguably the worst Magic expansion ever made, Homelands. He said he’ll have won if any of the cards ever show up in my decks at his Monday night Magic sessions. There were actually a couple of not-too-sucky cards in the packs (Abbey Gargoyles could be useful in our metagame), but yeah, it was a pretty weak set of cards. I told him I might be more likely to put the note he included with the packs in one of my decks!

I don’t throw many parties – pretty much just my birthday party once a year – and I always worry that we’ll try to cram too many people into our relatively-little house. There are always a few people I’d like to invite but I’m wary of going overboard (there are also always a few people I don’t think of until the day of the party, so my apologies if I left you out!). In fact, we managed to fill all our chairs and still have a few people standing or sitting on the floor, but we weren’t quite packed together, which was good. Getting through the living room without stepping on someone was a feat, though. I believe we had 13 people show up, plus me and Debbi.

As usual I picked up cakes from the Prolific Oven, and ice cream from Rick’s, and it all went over well. Rick’s is one of the best-kept-secrets in the south bay, it often seems, and I’m always happy to introduce new people to their yummy treats.

The cats retreated upstairs when the first people showed up, as usual, but three of them came downstairs to check people out. Newton in particular examined everyone’s shoes, getting a good sniff since they were all laid out in front of the hall closet. Jefferson needed a little encouragement to come down, but eventually sat and watched from the stairs. Blackjack is becoming our social cat, as he made the rounds several times.

My friend Cliff showed up about 10 minutes after the party ended – he’d had another commitment not too far from us, but it didn’t wrap up until after we did. But he hung out for a bit and we caught up on his holiday adventures and vice versa.

All-in-all, a very fun party.

Today we had a quiet day mostly at home, although I did go out to get my hair cut. Debbi kind of wanted to go out and do something, mainly because although she feels okay she’s dealing with an annoying cough and she’s just plain tired of being sick. After our very busy weekend last weekend, I was happy to have a day at home, and she didn’t push very hard since it’s my birthday weekend. We watched football, did some reading, and I came upstairs to pay bills and build some new Magic decks this evening. 🙂

This has been a pretty low key birthday, but I actually feel really good about it. It’s been a fun weekend all around, except maybe for the complex fire alarm we had to deal with yesterday (but it turned out to be nothing). I hope next year’s is just as good!

Forty-One

Age 41 doesn’t feel very different from the day before age 41, other than that my birthday falls on a weekend this year. None of the angst that accompanied turning forty (not that I was crying in my beer, you understand). The most awkward thing about 41 is coming up with a witty title for the Evite invitation for my party tonight; I expect next year will be easier.

Other than preparing for the party, today will be a pretty normal day. I actually have a couple of chores to work on outside today, because I want to get them done (or at least make some headway) before the rains set in tomorrow (we’re expected to get 8 inches of rain in the next week). Debbi baked scones (from Iveta) for me this morning, and I talked to my Dad for 45 minutes. But, well, for the most part birthdays aren’t very different from other days, at least, not at my age.

And that’s fine.

Birthday Weekend

I can’t complain about my birthday weekend: It’s been packed full of fun stuff.

Friday night Debbi took me out to dinner. We went to Sundance the Steakhouse, a local place that we’d never been to before, but which we discovered through the discount cards we get through our workplaces. (We’ve actually discovered several good places through them.) It was very yummy! They have an elegant decor with wood panelling and display cases of what I assume are memorabilia from Stanford, which is just down the street. We each ordered a steak dinner, with an appetizer of potato skins. Good stuff! We’ll definitely go back.

At home we watched 3 more episodes of Battlestar Galactica, and we’re now nearly caught up.

And that wrapped up my birthday proper.

Saturday we ran a variety of errands in order to host my birthday party in the evening. As always I didn’t send out the invitations until quite late – Wednesday evening. With my birthday falling so soon after Christmas it’s always hard to get myself to put it together early. I also have a hard time figuring out whom to invite. I worry about having so many people over that we won’t have space to cram them all into our house, but on the other hand I also consider inviting some people I know casually, enjoy hanging out with, but wonder if they’d feel peculiar that I invited them to my birthday party. Debbi encouraged me to invite more rather than fewer people, so that’s what I did. And then of course, there’s always some obvious person that I forget until a day or two later.

Anyway, despite my worries and despite the short notice, we had plenty of people show up. Which is itself rather flattering: I have lots of friends! Some folks I hadn’t seen in a while showed up, too, such as Lucy, Trish, and Mark & Yvette.

People were mesmerized by a frustrating puzzle that Debbi’s father sent her for Christmas: I think we managed to identify all the OCD people in the room with it. And our friends Lisa and Michael brought their daughter Isabella, who is now walking, and who loves cats. I guess she was able to pet Blackjack at one point, which left her completely delighted. She’s become quite the little flirt. Subrata and Susan brought over Ajay, who’s not yet crawling, but who seemed pretty happy to see all the people. He’s going to be quite the little charmer himself.

After consuming the USDA-mandated quantities of cake and ice cream, everyone staggered off home. But we had a great time. Even the cats had fun!

Today we headed off to Half Moon Bay for brunch and an hour walk along the seashore: It’s been quite warm here recently, so it was perfect weather for it. Then we came home and sat around watching football and putting the house back together.

I couldn’t really have asked for a much better weekend. How was yours?

Forty

My Mom sent me an e-mail this morning that began, “I know what I was doing 40 years ago. I also know what you were doing, probably crying. Well, we both made it this far.”

I have mixed feelings about reaching the big four-oh. On the one hand I lead a comfortable life, I enjoy my job, I have a great girlfriend, great friends, and more to do with my time than I have time. And I still have all my fingers.

On the other hand, the older I get the more I feel like certain things are slipping away from me. It’s unlikely I’ll have a significant writing career at this point (and there’s a whole post I could do about my writing skills, aspirations, and failures), and I regret that my drawing skills have lain fallow over the last 15 years.

Of course, there are also things that I feel like I “should” have done, such as travelled more widely, but I don’t really regret not having done because they’re not things I’m really into.

Age 40 is something of a landmark age: If you haven’t had kids yet and want to, you’re probably thinking seriously about getting moving on it. On the other hand, if you had kids in your early 20s, then they’re starting to head off to college around this time. 40 is an upper bound for even most world-class athletes to compete at the highest level, so what about the rest of us? Not to mention that in past centuries, many people were lucky even to make it this far. Those factors, combined with it being a round number which our monkey-brains like to treat as something special, make this birthday a little melancholy for me.

But I really shouldn’t be gloomy about it, because really things are pretty good. Turning 30 seems like it was a long time ago now, so I have lots of time ahead of me, too. And maybe I’ll get to some of that stuff over the next decade.

Plus, I managed to keep my birthday under wraps and it looks like I’ll escape being suddenly embarrassed by all my cow-orkers today, the way we embarrassed my friend James on his last birthday. Thank goodness!

Sure I wouldn’t mind being 30 again. But this ain’t bad.