Monday, November 28, 2011

Sam's Growth

I knew it was only a matter of time.  This week was a milestone of sorts.  First of, Sam rode his road bike with me yesterday from Duarte to Santa Fe Dam and back for 21 miles -- the longest he's ridden ever.  He's a natural just like his mother on the bike, effortlessly pedaling along, talking endlessly it seemed.  He hasn't ridden since school started and I had to raise the seat on his Specialized a full 2 inches so he stretched his legs fully.  It will be a while before he builds up his aerobic capacity to ride hard but it's all up to him and only a matter of time if he chooses to do so.  The other thing that's tough to swallow is this growth spurt that he's had this fall.  I've been hesitant to measure him to see if he's passed my 5'6" height but tonight, looking at the closet mirror in his room, it's obvious that he now just a tad taller.  He's only 13 but well on his way to probably 6 ft or more (not a stretch given that his maternal grandfather was 6'4"). Just not sure where time went but the little boy in the photo above (April 2002, Oahu) above now seemed like a very distant memory.  Even more distant is the toddler who started riding his tricycle as soon as he could walk (below).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keep Calm And Kill Zombies!

For this target practice as in real life, only hits in the zombie head count.

Four Strings (Are Easier To Play Than Six)

We got the bass off Craigslist a couple months back.  JJ wanted to learn bass so he started lessons at Alta Loma Music every Friday evening recently.  Somewhere in between, I started playing around as well and not only do I find playing bass really fun but also found it a bit easier since I don't have to deal with the harmonics like guitar playing.  Now, I pay attention to bass lines on songs and then try to figure out how to play it.  I've been playing guitar since I was 13 but playing electric bass is as much fun as I can remember in a long while.  Played without a pick, it's all about getting in the right groove with the rhythm of a song and slapping it just right.  I can now fully appreciate what funk is really all about.  So far, I've learned The Cure's "Fascination Street", Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" and Muse's "Uprising".  As JJ progresses with his playing, I can see a scheduling conflict using the only bass and bass amp we have in the house but for now, I'm happy to slap along when he's not using it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Silver And Black

No it's not an Oakland Raiders Silver and Black but my new pairs of Converse All-Stars in silver and black leather.  Just about every time I go to the Converse store in Las Vegas, I end up with a pair (or two or three).  I've heard of women who can never have enough pairs of black shoes.  I understand completely, ladies.  I feel the same way about my Converse All-Stars.  My addiction.  My new Chuck Taylors.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thanksgiving Lesson

My day started at 6am yesterday. I wanted to get some riding in before we headed to Vegas to spend Thanksgiving at my cousin Henry's house. We traveled with my parents, aunt, uncle and other cousin and ended up getting rooms at the Silverton Casino Hotel. My back hurt from driving 3 hours in my dad's nice but unfamiliar Ford Flex. A minor confusion with the reservations and it took a while to get things sorted out by my uncle. Given the crazy Thanksgiving weekend and all, I was patient and sat on the extremely comfortable couch in the hotel lobby. Kids milled about and 20 minutes, later, still no room. Next thing I heard was "Sir, you're not allowed to sleep in the casino." This kid rent-a-cop stood over me and waking up disoriented and all, I didn't even bother arguing the merits or justification of that rule or policy. The clock told me I had been out for 20 minutes, which means this is the longest I ever had to wait for a friggin room key. If they don't want hotel guests to fall asleep in their lobby, either get them their room keys sooner or provide uncomfortable couches or maybe some lighting that doesn't fool everyone into thinking it's night time. I did not realize until today that the whole incident was a lesson in being grateful for what I have. Now I know what it's like to be without a place to sleep. On this Thanksgiving day, I am thankful I have a home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

IE Sunrise, Nov. 22, 2011

"Sunrise Over The Inland Empire, Day Creek Boulevard and Wilson Avenue November 22, 2011" - I was lucky enough to have my camera this morning when I was driving down the hill to work this morning.  It rained most of last weekend but today was clear and clean.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Miss Idiocracy

I wish Sarah Palin was running in 2012.  From what I remember in 2008, the country was headed into a real life re-enactment of the movie "Idiocracy".  Besides, Saturday Night Live could use the bump in the ratings with Tina Fey sketches of the fool from Alaska.  Even when in the shadows of the Republican presidential goat rope, Palin is in the nation's consciousness.  Walking down Hollywood Blvd, I did not expect this DIY sign on the sidewalk.

Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail

I've been riding on the trail since April of this year.  I've taken it from I-15 all the way to Claremont.  I've taken my kids riding through sections of the trail during the summer.  Even the bike-friendly cities of Pasadena or Claremont do not have a Class 1 Bike Path, i.e., one that is completely separate from traffic.  So this puts Rancho Cucamonga above most foothill communities in the bike-friendliness scale.  Today, I found out that there is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that is an advocate for the Pacific Electric Trail, an 8-mile bike path through my adopted city of Rancho Cucamonga.  As I rode the trail crossing at Etiwanda Avenue this morning, there was a table set up with some folks handing out flyers informing trail users of what the city has to offer.  I chatted with the volunteers a bit about the new section that crosses Foothill Blvd and how I think it's a great asset to the city.  If I will ever introduce my kids to civic consciousness of some kind, this might be a great way to get them involved in the community.  I'm looking forward to attending the first meeting of Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail on December 13 at the Lions Center East and see where I can help out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Deacon's Bench

I never really knew what a deacon's bench was but I knew I like it the first time I saw it.  I went into the antique dealer in San Dimas mid afternoon and saw this bench on my way out.  It had a seat pad and pillows and a couple gift baskets sitting on top so it wasn't obvious.  I knew I wanted it but I spent a good 10 minutes trying to visualize where it would go in the house.  For one, I'm a sucker for Windsor chairs so it was an easy decision.  I'm guessing this is early to mid 20th century but I don't really care because now, I have something nice to greet me as I get up the flight of stairs after a long day at work.  (I do wonder how long it would take the kids to figure out it's a good place to dump their school packs or jackets.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thoughts On Sleep

I can sleep anywhere
I can sleep on the couch
I can sleep in a plane
I can nap at work
I can sleep while watching TV
I worry about falling asleep while driving
I can sleep in a hotel room
I sleep when I'm tired
I'm always tired
I can sleep at a party
I sleep after sex
I have sex after I get some sleep
I can sleep after a cup of coffee
I sleep better when it's not too dark or too quiet or too cold
I sleep less now than when I was younger
I worry about not getting enough sleep
I am sleep deprived
I can sleep anytime
I can sleep when I'm dead
I used to think that if I sleep less, I can get more done in this lifetime
I haven't gotten a full night's sleep since

Monday, November 14, 2011

Found Drawing

I can't remember when I did this drawing of a potted hydrangea plant but I attempted to put in some watercolor highlights and all I can remember is that it was a struggle.  I can draw ok but watercolor always kicks my butt down to the ground.  I think there is a technique to it and maybe I just need to take some basic classes to conquer my fears of the medium.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Publication

Cruising the magazine rack at the grocery store Friday night looking for candy with the kids, I instead found this new rag "Paved".  This is an interesting mixture of bike racing, personalities, photography, history and product reviews (including an 11 pound $14,000 bike).  I will want a subscription as soon as I figure out what other magazine to cancel.


Being off the bike for a while, I had forgotten how it is out there riding, wearing team colors and fancy bike and every Fred wants to challenge me for a race.  I don't get it.  I'm happily riding along at 17 mph most days and it never fails, I get a fixie rat trying to start a race with me.  Most times, I'm really not interested.  Once, going up Duncan Canyon in Fontana, this fixie rat was on my wheel, without me knowing.  Of course, he passed me at the top catching me by surprise.  Then as we descended, I thought about abusing him but held back.  Then something wonderful happened.  The rat dropped his phone and its batteries came out and all.  He had to go back and pick it up and I just smiled as I rode by.  I'm a big cycling advocate and will embrace and encourage just about anyone to get on a bike and enjoy themselves.  Commute, run errands, play, get in shape -- in a bike.  But something about this fixie culture is just not cool.  Its almost as if they just got bored doing tricks on their skateboard and now they want to get radical on a bike too.  I'm pretty friendly too when riding.  I'll ride at anyone's pace just to talk to them while riding but fixie rats aren't too friendly.  I suppose if they see some bike racer wearing team colors, they feel they're not the baddest guy on the road.  But in my mind, there's plenty of room for all.  I share the road.  Including cars.  A month ago, same thing happened.  I was catching up to a couple fixie rats down Etiwanda Ave and then all of a sudden they both decided to accelerate from 10 mph to around 20 mph.  I was just going my steady 17 mph and one of them kept on looking back as they pull away.  I could still hammer at 28 mph if I wanted but as before, decided against it.  Then something similar happened.  Fixie rats, if anything, don't wear helmets.  They're too cool for wear them and instead wear baseball caps or beanies.  The guy who kept looking back at me dropped his hat and by the time he noticed it, they were about 200 meters down the hill.  As before, I just smiled as I passed both as they pedaled back to pick up a baseball cap.  I've been riding long enough to know that there is a time for going fast (Saturday morning between Day Creek Blvd and Mills Ave), there is a time for going hard (hillclimbs) and there is a time for enjoying life (any other time).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Art For Schmucks

Roland Reiss, Personal Politics: Sculpture from the 1970s and 1980s opened at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in September in the main gallery.  The show consisted of several of his sculptures -- more like dioramas, no different than what my kids did as elementary school projects.  Each of his pieces is intended to tell a visual disclosure that is not 100% clear at first but with a little bit of work, I eventually get it.  Which brings me to one of my long-standing complaints about surrealist art and that is, it requires too much work to appreciate.  Reiss' art is far from surrealism but in my mind, it requires just as much work to interpret and that kind of art is not necessarily for mass consumption.  Luckily for me, I was not too tired when I visited PMCA so it wasn't too bad at all.  Walking from piece to piece, I can't help but think of the movie "Dinner For Schmucks" where Steve Carrell's character builds dioramas from taxidermied mice.  Art should be easy to view and Roland Reiss' certainly isn't.  Maybe that is why, although unquestionably brilliant, he is not a household name.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Art Absorption

For as long as I can remember, I've been dragging both kids to museums all over -- either at home or when on vacation.  As soon as they can walk, we were off to LACMA or Exposition Park or Traveltown.  Although they have had an unusually biased number of visits to art museums.  I do not know if they will ever show any kind of affinity toward visual arts but they had been to most LA art establishments and even went on a quick tour of SFMOMA last year during a summer trip to the Bay Area.  I do not hold back in exposing them to modern art in particular, be it feminist (Judy Chicago) or graffiti (MOCA's Art In the Streets) or even what conservatives would consider vulgar (Hirst or Warhol).  I've always argued that it's a form of inoculation that I'd rather supervise than them finding out on their own.  The other thing is the younger one, JJ always complains about going to an art museum but almost every single instance, enjoys the exhibits and has a good time.  Given the fact that they don't teach any art in middle school, I will most likely continue to do this for a while.  In the picture above, both kids were clowning around the LACMA entrance in 2005.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Size (Actually Weight) Matters

I finally found over the weekend a copy of Dennis Hopper Photographs 1961-1967 at the Urban Outfitters in Rancho Cucamonga discounted at $30 (normally $70).  What's striking about this book, besides the photographic works of one of LA's own is it weight.  At 9.8 lbs, it's easily the heaviest book (art books or otherwise) I have in my library.  Which brings me to my little exercise.  Out of the hundreds of art books I have, I picked out several that looked like heavyweights (literally) and listed the ones that are equal to or greater than 6 lbs.  Here the empirical data:

1) Dennis Hopper Photographs 1961-1967 (9.8 lbs)
2) Picasso (8.2lbs)
3) Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990-2005 (8.2 lbs)
4) Cream 3 (7.2 lbs)
5) Chuck Close - Work (6.8 lbs)
6) Anthony Quinn's Eye (6.0 lbs)

I don't think there's any positive correlation between the weight of these books to the impact to the art world of the artist(s) represented in their respective pages. I don't think there's any positive correlation to anything other than where they sit on my bookshelf, i.e. at the bottom.  Otherwise, these 6 books alone, weighing in a combined 46 lbs could sag any non-reinforced shelving.  I don't think I will ever appreciate any artbook in electronic format viewed through these readers.  I'm old school when it comes to printed media.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Walking Dead

Man, am I hooked.  For the past year, both kids have been exhaustively seeking out every zombie movie out there.  JJ even got a reference book on the history of zombies from the black and white George A. Romero classic "Night of the Living Dead" to the funny "Shaun of the Dead".  But this weekend, we got the first season DVD of the AMC series "Walking Dead" and even I watched intently every episode in the first season as well as both Season 2 episodes aired tonight.  Walking Dead is different than most zombie material out there because there is somewhat of a story between the main characters, not unlike most drama out there -- except there's the backdrop of "walkers" that can emerge from anywhere at anytime. Walkers, obviously in reference to the fact that these zombies' body involuntarily move in response to human scent.  There are crawlers too and in tonight's AMC episode, one was referenced as a swimmer -- a zombie trapped in an water well.  What's really memorable about tonight's episode is that as the humans were trying to pull the zombie out of the well with a rope attacked to its upper torso, its lower body just cut in half from the fact that the tissue and bone structure cannot support its hanging weight.  I don't know if Walking Dead will ever bring to zombies what X-Files did to aliens but these first 2 seasons had been very well written and acted -- so far.  Several episodes had been adhering to the formula plot of a few of the lead actors/actresses go off into zombieland to retrieve something (guns, food, medicine, a redneck cuffed to a pipe) and in the process, the rest of the story develops -- usually something typical of a drama, the human side.  If you can get over the fact that zombies are fictional, at best, then Walking Dead is the most unusual of all dramas that television had ever produced.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Project Room Gallery at PMCA

My favorite of all the San Gabriel Valley arts institutions is the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) and today is the first Friday of the month -- meaning I take a slightly longer lunch and visit.  It feels like I've been to this museum a lot when it rains and today is no exception.  The drizzle prevented me from going to the third floor -- where I look at the views of the city I used to call home.  Being in Pasadena, it's no surprise the museum has an installation by JPL visual strategist (more on that title in a bit), Dan Goods in the Project Room Gallery.  This gallery, just across the bookstore, typically greets any visitor to PMCA before they enter the main gallery and from September through January 8, 2012, one can experience what the Juno spacecraft might run into when it reaches the atmosphere of Jupiter.  There is no explanation anywhere in the literature provided that justifies the sensory immersion one experiences inside this simulated Jupiter environment.  However, they provided a steady drone soundtrack within the installation which is part swamp, part computer-generated tones which is interesting but probably contains more sounds than what is actually on the planet.  Which brings me to the title of the person who created this art installation, JPL's visual strategist.  Looking up Mr. Good's bio, he does have an Art Center degree -- yes, that other Pasadena institution up the hill by Linda Vista and I do wonder how he interacts with all those left-brain types at JPL.  I've never seen any successful collaboration between artists and scientists at the working level but I think it would be an extremely cool job to be the visual strategist for a high-visibility lab.  I would probably appreciate the installation more if I was on some mind-altering drug but as an appetizer to the main gallery, which showed the works of Roland Reiss, the Juno  clouds and sounds sufficed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TJ Dinners

I feel really lucky my kids eat a fairly wide variety of food and as a result, dinners from Trader Joe's is typical.  I was just thinking that yesterday when 86% of what I served them was from TJs.  The 14% not from TJ is the steamed rice that went along with the Madras lentil (#1) and palak paneer (#2).  In addition, we've taken a liking to the Pasadena salad (#3), a combination of diced chicken breast, crispy noodles and diced almonds over a bed of lettuce.  But what surprised me the most was the mediterranean flatbread (#4) which the kids seem to prefer over pita bread to dip into the hummus (#5) to supplement the meal.  The entire dinner costs less than $20 and it relatively healthy and balanced eating.  Ok, a slice of pumpkin pie (#6) tipped it to around $26 but well worth it.  (Convenience definitely factors into the equation since the TJs off Haven Ave is on my way home from work.)

The Avila Adobe House

There are two places I've gone over the past couple years around this time of year in Los Angeles.  The first one is at the Autry Museum and the other one is a visit to Olvera Street.  The vendors in this LA landmark is the place to get Dia De Los Muertos stuff -- from postcards to calaveras.  This year, I took a detour to visit the oldest house in LA, the Avila Adobe house, built in 1818 by the city's first mayor, Don Francisco Avila.  The most noticeable feature is how much cooler it is inside the house given the outside temperatures hovering in the mid 70s.  The museum is free and can be explored in less than 30 minutes -- giving me plenty of time to go inside just about every store to browse.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2/8/07 Snapshot

On some days like today, I just miss talking to my best friend.