Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

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1/29/2006

An afternoon with the Jumbo Shrimp Circus Academy

Filed under: — stan @ 6:21 pm

Today’s adventure was one that Cathy found. An afternoon with the Jumbo Shrimp Circus Academy. This was a three-hour session for the whole family, to teach basic circus skills.

At the start, they had us to a few group exercises for basic human interaction skills. Then we started out. The first was balancing a peacock feather. It’s not all that hard to do, but it does require a bit of focus. The people who got good at it were encouraged to try balancing it on their nose, or to try tossing and catching it while keeping it balanced.

Next was the spinning plate. They passed out plates and sticks for everyone, and we all had a go at it. The trick was to get it started. Once it was spinning, it was easy. But the people who mastered getting it spinning then had to try to balance the stick on their finger, palm, or nose, which wasn’t so easy. The room was filled with the sound of falling plates hitting the floor.

After a short snack break, we tried some new things. There was a tightwire, juggling balls, the diabolo and devil sticks. Cathy and Lucinda both did the tightwire, and I tried to learn basic juggling. Sadly, it’s not the sort of thing one can pick up in five minutes, or even a half-hour. I made some progress, but I’ll have to practice more. Lucinda did some more plate-spinning, and Cathy tried her hand at the diabolo and devil sticks.

The last part of the class involved some balancing and building a basic human pyramid. Cathy and Lucinda did some of the two-person balancing, and I got picked for the base of the first pyramid.

At the end, they opened up all the activities for anyone who wanted to try something again. I had to try the tightwire, since my father had made a tightwire when I was a kid. He strung it up between two trees and we used to practice walking on it. But the last time I walked on it was 1971, when I was 11 years old. So I was a bit rusty. The wire this time was a bit more wobbly than I remember, but that may be because I’m a bit bigger and heavier. Still, it was interesting to try it again.

This was a fun afternoon activity and Lucinda liked it a lot. We had been planning on having a circus theme for her birthday party this year, so this fit in well. We also bought some clown noses, plates, and juggling balls while we were there, so now we have activities for her party. So overall, it was a fun afternoon.

Also, we have this year’s obligatory ‘cute couple’ picture. Cathy and I were wearing sort-of-matching shirts today, so we had to get a picture.

12/5/2005

More artwork

Filed under: — stan @ 10:50 pm

Lucinda went to a new art class today. They had her do a drawing just to assess her art skills. And this is the result. We think she’s really quite good, although we’re perhaps a bit biased. In any event, here’s some more waves to Grandma and Grandpa and Grandpa.

12/3/2005

Over the river and through the woods…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:53 pm
flying grocery bag
surfliner train at night

Today we rode the Amtrak Surfliner down to San Diego to visit Grandpa Schwarz.

The trip down was pretty uneventful. We rode the Metro Gold Line to Union Station and then got the Surfliner southbound. Lucinda played with her Game Boy and also did some games in Highlights. The train stopped a few times on the way down. At one of the stops I saw a campaign sign for an upcoming election. There are few things more forlorn-looking than a campaign sign for a Democrat in Orange County.

When we got to San Diego, Grandpa picked us up at the station and we went to lunch at the dining room at his place. The dining room where he lives is actually quite good. The place is run by Hyatt, so the dining room is equivalent to a hotel restaurant. We had a nice lunch, and then we went down to his apartment.

Lucinda played piano with Grandpa for quite a while. She played with the animal puppets he has. We also marveled at the miraculous flying grocery bag we saw out of his window. Our grocery bags are usually flightless, but this was was swooping up and down outside the tower for a long time.

When it was time to go home, we went to dinner before going to the train. Then we got on and rode the train home. It was a nice day. It was long, but it was nice.

11/28/2005

It’s time for mistletoe and holly…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:44 pm

Cathy and Lucinda went and picked out a tree today. I put it up after dinner. Then we all decorated it. Christmas is an odd holiday for us. We enjoy it a lot, even though we’re not the least bit religious. It’s just a fun time to eat and get and give presents. And after it’s over, the days start getting longer again.

This is our 20th Christmas together, which is also just a bit odd. Both Cathy and I are shocked to realize that we’re old enough to to say, “this is our 20th Christmas”.

So I had to go up into the attic to get down all our decorations. Every year I’m astounded at how many boxes of stuff we have. There were at least ten of them, so I had to schlep up and down the ladder many times, even with Lucinda helping.

We have an odd collection of stuff to put on our tree. But this year we got a new decoration. It’s the dog-turd ornament. We found it at a Wiskers, which is a little pet gift shop in Long Beach. They had a holiday display there with a tree decorated with these little snow-crusted turds. So we had to have one. I also got the “Monthly Doos” dog poop calendar (”amazingly gross” raves Stupid.com) for my office.

So it’s just a big dog-shit holiday festival here. And our tree is officially ready for the holidays.

11/21/2005

Enter the Matrix

Filed under: — stan @ 6:24 pm

Last spring, Cathy had some trouble with her car. We ended up spending close to $2000 on fixing it. Our hope was that this would buy us another two years before having to replace it.

Sadly, this was not to be. After 129,000 miles, it was time.

So we bought Cathy a new car today. It’s a Toyota Matrix XR.

The amazing thing was, this wasn’t a horrible experience.

We started out looking at used cars. Cathy wanted something with a higher crash safety rating than her old Honda Civic. She liked the look of the Matrix, but being short, she needed to sit in it to be sure she could drive it.

Cathy contacted AAA and they referred her to Longo Toyota in El Monte. We went down there and had a look.

In the end, we found a used Matrix that had all the features Cathy wanted, but a new one with the same features was only $1,500 more. So we bought that.

Now this was a very weird, but still pleasant experience. Apparently, Longo fired all their car salesmen and replaced them with human beings. Everyone we dealt with there was pleasant, helpful, and knowledgeable. We thought we’d stepped into some weird Bizarro World where car buying doesn’t involve high pressure sales tactics, bodily-function deprivation, and being locked in a room with “The Closer”. It was all right.

And on a completely unrelated note, this weekend my car rolled over 100,000 miles. With the miles I drive, I probably won’t be able to keep it for more than another 15-20 years.

11/12/2005

It’s a big galaxy. I wouldn’t want to have to dress it.

Filed under: — stan @ 8:02 pm


Today we went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles to see “Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars“. This was an exhibit of costumes and props from all six movies. Most of the exhibits were costumes, but there were some other things, including Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader’s light sabers from the original movie, and an X-wing fighter parked in the courtyard.

There was an entire side of one gallery devoted to Natalie Portman’s costumes. I suppose we’ll have to rent those movies some day to see why she needed so many outfits.

We also saw the complete Darth Vader outfit used in Episode III, as well as a couple of wookie suits. Also, they had various other alien beings on display. I’m not enough of a geek to be able to name them.

It was great fun seeing this stuff up close. In particular, seeing Darth Vader’s light saber ranked right up there with the time I saw Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. And after seeing this, Lucinda says we have to rent the movies so she can see them.

11/11/2005

Lucinda’s latest art

Filed under: — stan @ 8:23 pm

Just another sample of Lucinda’s artwork. (Waves to Grandma and Grandpa…)

10/31/2005

Candy and telescopes

Filed under: — stan @ 9:33 pm

So it’s Halloween night. Lucinda and Mommy and Aunt Maggi got dressed up in their costumes and went out with some of the neighborhood kids. They had a good haul. Aunt Maggi even had to come back th the house to get some bigger bags so they could carry all the candy.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I did my usual thing. I set up my telescope in the driveway and handed out candy. This year was good, since Mars is well-placed in the evening right now. I’ve been doing the ‘have some candy and look through the telescope’ thing since 1998, and it’s taken on a life of its own. A lot of the kids and their parents remember me and make a point to stop by our house so they can look.

It was a fun evening for all of us.

10/29/2005

On my mother’s grave…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

Today we took Lucinda down to Orange County so she could spend the night at her Aunt Maggi’s house. On the way, we stopped off in Huntington Beach so we could visit my mother’s grave. When I was a kid, my mother used to talk about how she was looking forward to the day when I was grown and would have grandchildren for her to dote on. Sadly, she never got the chance. She died in 1994, five years before Lucinda was born.

I’ve told Lucinda about her, and since we were going to be passing near the cemetery, we stopped off so that she could meet her other grandma. She said that she felt sad that she never met her grandma. I told her about how excited and happy her grandma would have been if she’d had a chance to meet Lucinda.

10/28/2005

Halloween Carnival

Filed under: — stan @ 10:58 pm

Lucinda’s school had a Halloween Carnival on Friday evening. Each class had a booth with carnival-type games for the kids to play. Of course, the whole thing was to raise money for the school.

Lucinda and Mommy dressed up in their costumes. Mom is small enough to get her costumes in the children’s section, so they went shopping for them together.

When we got to the school, it was pandemonium. Just the way it’s supposed to be at these things. We found one of the other kids from her class and his family, and we all went around and watched the kids play the games.

We had to do a shift at Lucinda’s class’ booth. When we did this, she decided that she wanted to do it. So we showed her how, and she ran the game for all the other kids. She was really quite good at it. And we didn’t have to do it. So everyone was happy.

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