Friday, October 07, 2016

she's here

A bit ahead of schedule, but she's here. Longer post later.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"I'm a *real* boy!"

An awesome day yesterday, in which I got to be a functioning, normal human being: barbecuing, hanging with friends, swimming, beering, lounging on floaties in the pool, listening to music, catching up on life, kvetching, commiserating, laughing, relaxing.

Had to make some concessions to the neuralgia, and it's rebounding hard today, but it was worth it (plus we finally got to test out the giant inflatable swan float <grin> ).

(And can I say that it still feels weird to have 90+ degree days in mid-September?)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

a flight for Lucy-fur

One of my closest friends, who has had some really bad luck in the past few years (seriously, fuck the universe sometimes), got hit again: their awesome fourteen-year-old dog Lucy died earlier this week. It's hit the household pretty hard, especially on top of everything else they've had to deal with lately.

The next day, Will and I did a Pilots N Paws rescue flight to bring a pup from a shelter in Fresno to a foster home in Palo Alto...the timing was right, and it seemed an appropriate way to celebrate the sweet fuzzy four-footer that had been such a big part of my friends' lives and those who knew them.

The view leaving KPAO. :^)
Coming out of the clouds on the way to Fresno

There was land under there somewhere.

Sugar, loving the warm concrete and belly scritches
before the flight to her new foster home.

Flying over Moffett Airfield on the way home.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

random stuff and brain dumps

The latest "big news": Will passed his IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) check ride, so he's now an officially certified IFR pilot. Translation for non-piloty people like me: he can now fly in "inclement weather conditions" like clouds, fog, rain, low visibility (like smoke from California wildfires), and so on. The next big step is to get his commercial rating, but that's a little bit away; in the meantime, he'll probably work on his seaplane, retractable gear, and tail dragger endorsements (endorse ALL the things!).

The reason he's not going after his commercial license right away is another bit of news that we've been keeping quiet: budgeting and time and energy and plans are going towards prepping for the new arrival. Carving up space, figuring out logistics, doing the money math, all the brain juggling and second-guessing and anticipation are now getting squeezed, since it's "about that time". Time flew, months went by faster than they felt, and now it's crunch time. Stress, excitement, anxiousness, and a strong need for it to just be done with already.

Speaking of arrivals: we had some unwanted roommates a little while back. We were taking the dog out one morning and saw bits of paper and insulation loose on the garage floor. Checked the cameras and saw we had some guests (watch the lower right):

Traps worked brilliantly, and we ended up "evicting" one large adult and five smaller rats. The last one was rather sad and awkward, though. We were having the weather barrier on the garage door repaired, and the workman had brought his eight- or nine-year-old son to help out (the kid actually worked pretty hard, it was cool to watch them). As we were standing around chatting, a tiny little rat poked his head out from under a cabinet, the started slowly walking out towards the driveway. Will was able to grab a thick glove and just pick the poor thing up; it was so weak and hungry that it was easy to catch. The awkward bit came when the boy asked us very sweetly and curiously what we were going to do with it (no way in hell was I going to tell this kid that it was doomed to die, so I just told him it was a very good question). He was fascinated by it, suggested we could keep it as a pet, even asked his dad if he wanted to keep it (dad said no). We ended up wimping out and just letting it go a ways down the road...let nature decide if the little guy would survive (it would be just my luck for him to not only survive, but to bulk up and come back looking for revenge >.< ). No signs of other family members so far, and the dog hasn't seemed to smell anything lately, so crossing fingers we got them all.

Got my "You joined Facebook nine years ago!" thing a little bit ago. I avoided signing up for Facebook for ages, but finally had to once I started working for them. So crazy how time flies, and it's completely and totally bonkers how that one job decision pretty much shifted my life onto a completely unexpected path. Just like a gazillion years ago when another fortuitous job offer led to living in California and all that followed from there, I never would have thought that taking my manager up on his "Hey, come consult with me over at Facebook" offer would have brought me where I am now. A butterfly flapped its wings, indeed.

In the middle of the cool stuff is some less-cool stuff: I'm still dealing with trigeminal neuralgia. I've gone on about it before, so I won't bother this time...just a short note to say "fuck this noise". Blergh.

Lots of other small things going on: swapped out the tri-color emblem on my car with a monochrome one, looks awesome (now just need to get new rims that match); spent a fair chunk of time playing the new game "Obduction", from the folks that did Myst and Riven (it was fun to play a puzzle/brain game again, I miss those); birthday was low-key and mellow, which is how I like it; cat is still catting, dog is still dogging, snake is snaking, we have rabbits and deer and coyotes and the occasional bobcat visiting; Will is out-playing me in Diablo 3 this season, which is rare (usually I have more patience with the leveling and gear hunt, but this time he's kicking ass and is carrying my toon through leveling); Karen and I saw "Kubo and the Two Strings" and really liked it (and had to laugh at the fact that we were surprised that we liked it so much); found a big four-foot long inflatable swan raft thing for the pool (on sale!); found some amazing art at Disneyland (two originals and a print) that we need to get hung on the walls; a thousand other things that seem important in the moment, then fade into puffs of memory as time flows on.

So basically, life. Small things, big things, scary things, exciting things, annoying things, frustrating things, good things, better things. Change and not-change, go with the flow and fight the tide. Choose your battles, win some, lose some. Cliché, trite saying, homily, quote, paraphrase, wrap up, salutation, save and commit.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Before he died, I took time off from work and life to be with my dad. In that precious month or so that we had together, we shared a lot of laughs, tears, regrets, frustration, stories, love. One thing he said resonated with me, and is something I carry with me to this day:

"Ah, kiddo, life is short and fickle. When you have the time and the health, you don't have the money. When you have the health and the money, you don't have the time. And when you have the time and the money, you don't have the health.

If you ever find yourself in that place where all three line up, run with it. Make the most of it. Because it won't last forever."

He was a wise man, my father.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

and no one is surprised

I've mentioned my friend who has been dealing with a situation similar to what I did a few lifetimes back (long relationship brought to a sudden end, a co-worker who was a bit closer to the other person than had been claimed, the rebuilding of a life and trust and all of the other collateral damage that went with). Well, their ex who "needed some time alone" and "needed to find out who they were on their own" married that "they are just a good friend" co-worker, and the news has come out that the couple are now expecting.

And once again, I am thankful that I went through my situation before the age of in-your-face social media. While I get to go through my life without knowledge of what my ex might be doing or with whom, my friend catches more news and info from social media than they want, need, or would like. Even after scrubbing friend lists, tightening permissions, and cleaning up connections, there are still the tenacious tendrils of social gossip that get passed and shared and whispered, eventually making it back to the person who is simply trying to put it behind them, move on, and move forward. They share a child, which makes it awkward enough; in today's age, they also share friends who share newsfeeds and pictures and posts, and the overlap can make for some rough times.

Serious respect to my friend for how they are handling it all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

ghost saving

The details promised in my earlier post:

A while back, Disney made a limited edition three-box Haunted Mansion subscription available...once a month for three months, you get a box with various items related to the Haunted Mansion. Each item was part of an alternate reality game; you scan the items with a smartphone app, which then give clues to free the spooks and specters that had been trapped by a mysterious fog. Very cool, very well done.

The boxes included some neat memorabilia: ghost and ghoul card sets and spooky things you did with them to help find clues; a tea cup and saucer set with a subtle Haunted Mansion theme; a shadow box that used your phone to project the singing Grim Grinning Ghosts onto their graveyard busts; a little player piano that tink-tink-tinked the songs from the cardboard strips you fed through; a full deck of playing cards with skulls and ghosts and other eerie designs instead of hearts, spades, et cetera; newsletters written by the ghosts, messages revealed by wiping letters with damp towels or freezing the paper, a Ouija-style board that let you use a heavy bat token to talk with the trapped ghosts, lots of other fun interactive things. Will, Noelle, and I did the boxes together, boggling at the work it must have taken to make it all happen.

Disney also included an additional "in park" bit...with the app and bluetooth, you followed clues and interacted with things at the park. Esmeralda, the gypsy fortune teller, though marked "Out of Order", would talk to the right person (aka, someone with the app) and give them a special reading. She gave you special cards that led you to the trapped ghosts, three in total. One was at the Palm Reader, where you knocked, she knocked back, the curtains moved, and if you followed the pattern of her knocks correctly, she was released and you got to hear her thanks through the app. Another was trapped in a compass by the river; once you got the compass aligned, he too gave his thanks. The third was trapped in a nickelodeon music player in Frontierland...when you walked up, it activated and started playing a cacophony of drums, piano, cymbals, and so on. You raised your hands in front of the player to "get the ghost's attention", then had to wave your arms like you were conducting an orchestra; if you stopped, the music stopped. After a bit, the music changed to the familiar "Grim Grinning Ghosts" refrain, and presto, the ghost is now free.

The icing on the cake was that you got to go to the Haunted Mansion, show a cast member the proper screen on the app, and tell them that you were "a friend of Victor" (one of the ghosts). They hustled you to the front of the line, announced you to the next attendant, and you got to immediately head in. Once there, you were handed off to another cast member who led you right to special cars on the ride...these cars had audio of the happy, free ghosts thanking you for your help. Too fun.

And just yesterday, a final gift from Madame Leota arrived: a lenticular portrait that morphed between your face (using a picture you took when initializing the app) and a spectral creepy ghost/skeleton. A total surprise, and an awesome one (though if I'd known, I would have taken a much better picture when I first used the app four months ago :^D ).

When I first grabbed up the Ghost Post boxes, I assumed they were just standard "loot crates" with a Haunted Mansion theme. I had no idea they were going to be a full interactive experience, and it was a very cool surprise. There were only 999 boxes available, so were were lucky to grab ours, and we are very glad we did.

you take the good, you take the bad

Been a weird mix of yays and boos these past few months, which is partly why I haven't written anything in a while.

Still dealing with the trigeminal neuralgia; I'm having to face the uncomfortable fact that this is going to be a longer-term battle than hoped. Lots of stupid random shit has hit in a short time, things that wouldn't be a big deal on their own, but when piled into a short timeframe become extremely tiring. A friend going through detox. The SUV windshield getting hit by a rock on the way back from that friend's house and requiring a $3000 replacement. Finding out the windshield warranty sold as a "no-worry warranty" actually only covered the glass and not labor (sigh). A toilet leak (minor, but annoying). Needing glasses again because of the shingles and the corneal lesions it caused (blergh). Friends in pain and that helpless feeling that goes with. High water bills (in spite of having cut back by almost 50% over last year) because of "emergency drought pricing" and the water district using a "district-wide average" to determine allocation, rather than how some other water districts do it using per-location or per-neighborhood data. Flat tires (on trailers and cars and planes, including Will having a full-on tire blowout when landing at Columbia (the city, not the country)). Packages being mishandled. Weird drama from a flight instructor (their drama, not ours) that threw schedules into a tizzy. Early morning cat horking. Mid-day dog annoyances. Gophers and moles doing what gophers and moles do. Lots of "perfect storm" kerfuffles while getting my car clear-wrapped. Basically the whole "death by a thousand papercuts" thing...lots of low to middling issues hat hit in a compressed time, leading to brain frying and tiredness and a general "oh for fuck's sake, what now??" feeling.

And then there is the good. We found a giant five-foot long inflatable swan for the pool (heh). Cool Disney art found, acquired, and actually hung on the walls. My car is now wrapped and happy, and I found an awesome monochrome badge to replace the standard tri-color one on the hood. We managed to snag a couple of the Disney "Ghost Post" subscription boxes and had a lot of fun doing the alternate reality game that was part of it (including saving ghosts at the park...more on that in another post). Ducati North America asked Will if they could display his Superleggera at World Superbike at Laguna Seca (he did, it was cool). Got to drive a friend's military HumVee (and seriously contemplated picking one up at auction...luckily we don't have the room to store another vehicle). Will flew us out to Castle Air Force base for the "Open Cockpit Day" at the air museum there, and it was awesome...lots of history, cool stories, plus we got to walk through the interior of a decommissioned Air Force One. A drive up to Sonoma in the McLaren for our friends' "Live On, Drive On" car show (and I even won stuff at the raffle!). A successful test of a robotic vacuum (Neato brand) has led to a more consistently clean house (plus yay, robot vacuum!). Movies shared, laughs had, quiet times, exciting times, good times with good friends.

Speaking of good times: Disneyland! Whoo!! Took a long, long overdue trip to Disneyland with Will and Noelle. Will flew us down (huzzah for SevenCharlieSierra, our favorite Cessna 182) and much fun was had by all. Rides, food, walking (so much walking), relaxing mornings in the E-Ticket Lounge, dinner at Club 33 (that was an amazing time, made even better by the company), and the aforementioned "ghost freeing" (more details about that in another blog post).

So yeah. In spite of the grumblings and frustrations and the stupiddumbannoyingpainful neuralgia, life is still good. It would be nice to have the individuals highs and lows spread out a little bit, just for sanity's sake, but overall, I really can't complain. Well, I can (and do), but I also appreciate the pluses in the middle of the minuses...and am fortunate that the good outweighs the bad.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

shiny, clean, and protected

Because the universe is a right cruel bastard/bitch, two months after taking delivery of my car last year, I was swept up in the ever-so-entertaining world of shingles and its "uncommon complication" postherpetic neuralgia. On my trigeminal nerve, no less, with optic nerve and corneal involvement. So in addition to the pain (holy shit, the pain, great googly moogly), I was also gifted with no vision out of my right eye for months (which in turn caused the left eye to squint and water), then extremely limited use of the eye for another month after that. Plus medications that played merry havoc with my balance, memory, digestion, speech, and (oh, cruel irony) visual acuity.

All of that combined meant my poor car sat for six months, sad and forlorn, the red light of the trickle charger blink-blink-blinking away. For another three months after that, I wasn't able to drive for any distance or useful period of time, so minimal miles were added to the poor thing's already neglected odometer.

I'm still fighting the neuralgia, still fighting the pain, but it's finally settling into a routine. I'm much more familiar with the triggers, the twitches, the nausea, the fallout, the rebound, and the exhaustion that come with living with nerve damage and chronic/constant pain. That means I can start driving more (huzzah!), and to celebrate and because he's awesome, Will arranged to have my car fully clear-wrapped by our friends at SS Customs (they've done multiple cars of ours, including the camo wrap on the McLaren for the GG2H rally a few years back).

We picked up my car today and grabbed a few pics on the way home, before it got too many bug guts splattered on it. I love the look of a freshly detailed car, especially one that now has a protective vinyl wrap keeping it safer from chips, dings, bugs, washing, and all the other things that would turn its paint into scratchy swirls, annoying divots, and faded patches.

Here's hoping the universe keeps its grubby little paws off the Bad Luck Stick for a while, so I can put some well-deserved miles on this puppy...

Saturday, May 07, 2016

and now we know at least part of the answer

Whenever people ask us how we met, Will and I say "at work". When they ask *when* we met, we kind of shrug and say "not really sure, sometime late 2007/2008ish, maybe?"

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, we now know that eight years ago on this day, May 7th, we had at least learned each other's full names:

Collage details, clockwise from the top right:

"Disneyland is full" - We went to Disneyland on our honeymoon for their Leap Day "24 Hours of Disneyland" and were greeted with this sign while stuck in traffic for four hours to go about three miles (no joke).

Vegas 2014 - That's us peeking out from the background with Ken Jordan of The Crystal Method in the front center. We did a "be part of the band" thing and had dinner with Ken and Scott (aka "The Crystal Method"), their manager, Ken's parents and brother, and some family friends. After dinner, we hung out with everyone as Ken and Scott played, with much partying, dancing, drinking, and fun being had. (Ken's brother Frank is between us in the photo...Frank is the one who painted the portrait of our dinner with everyone that night).

Memories of our time at the "Pure McLaren Driving Experience" - We flew to London for a few days, then headed to Woking for a tour of the McLaren factory, dinner in the country with Frank Stephenson (designer of the McLaren MP4-12C (and the 2002 Mini!)), an awesome time screaming around Goodwood racetrack in McLarens, and an equally awesome driving them through the English countryside and city streets (that's when I realized the McLarens were just as viable street cars as they are track cars).

Stacy and Will in the car - That's our friend Stacy ("the other Stacy" or "No-E Stacy") going for a ride in the McLaren. I giggle at Facebook choosing a picture of another Stac(e)y for this collage.

"Will Lawton is married to Stacey Lawton" - The inset pic is from our trip to the World IPv6 conference in Paris; we are at the top of the Eiffel Tower, pointing at the "United States is this direction" placard. When we changed our relationship status on Facebook, that's the picture the algorithm that it makes it look like we are pointing at the announcement of our marriage. :^)

Monday, February 29, 2016

first anniversary

Crazy how time flies. Four years ago today, Will and I were all dressed up, standing in front of big picture windows looking out onto the Pacific, with his childhood pastor and ten of our closest friends around us...then a fun lunch with everyone before heading off to Disneyland for their "24 Hours of Disney" event (which really meant being stuck in horrific traffic, taking four hours to move less than a mile, the park closing because of the sheer numbers, and other assorted craziness).

As many people have said about that day: "It was very 'you guys'." :^)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

flying under a full moon

I have always said that I love the world from above at night. I will take night flights whenever possible, window seat, to see the lights and patterns from the air. Monday night, I got to do that from a more personal perspective...a local flying group does a monthly Full Moon Flyout, and I called dibs on the backseat in the Cessna Skylane 182 that Will had reserved for the night. Will as pilot, Matt S. in the right seat, and me kicking back in the was an awesome night.

The evening started out with some glitches, though. I had taken my car in for its annual service earlier in the day, and we were going to pick it up in the afternoon then head to the airport. Got a call with the news that my rear tire had a nail in the inside sidewall; the the technicians did some bubble testing on it to see if it leaked, and it didn't, which was good news. Wisely, Will pointed out that it was better to remove it there and find out it leaked than to find out the hard way at midnight when we got back, so we waited for a bit while they removed the nail and tested the tire. I lucked out, it was only a short stub of a nail that didn't penetrate far into the rubber, but now we were running about 30 minutes late and ran smack into Bay Area traffic (the highways near the Google/Facebook/Microsoft campuses are *not* fun during commute hours).

The other (much bigger) annoyance came as Will was doing his pre-flight checks...the plane had been overfueled by 13 gallons. Not usually a problem, but with the three of us, it meant we needed to burn off some fuel before we could safely take off (fuel is heavy, 6 lbs/gallon, so the weight adds up fast in a small plane). This led to Will doing laps in the KPAO pattern (take off, make the right turn back parallel to the airport, another right turn, land, turn off the runway, taxi down to the start of the runway, get clearance to take off, repeat) for almost an hour before enough fuel was burned off. The hazards of general aviation (GA) could have been worse; when Will flew himself and a friend down to San Diego earlier this month for a work conference, he ended up with a flat tire and a five hour delay before being able to head home.

Once the three of us were in the air, it was beautiful. It was an amazingly clear night, and the full moon on the water was spectacular. I got a few pictures, but they just didn't quite capture it. We were heading north to Charles M. Schultz airport (STS) in Santa Rosa, so we got to see pretty much the entire Bay Area under the full moon. We had dinner at the Sky Lounge with the rest of the flyout group, then headed back to KPAO (Palo Alto airport) with stop-and-go landings at Oakland and San Jose airports (holy crap, do those airports look different from a small plane than the normal passenger jets I see them from).

An awesome night, with awesome company and awesome views...looking forward to the next one.

Silicon Valley at night.

You can see the Bay Bridge lights in the center here.

Another shot of the Bay Bridge. I liked how the grid lined up in this one.

Looking back at the Golden Gate Bridge, with the moon reflecting on the water.

Flying over (Oracle) Coliseum
(photo courtesy of Matt S.)

Downtown San Jose
(photo courtesy of Matt S.)

Landing at SJC (San Jose International)
(photo courtesy of Matt S.)

Monday, February 08, 2016

a (mostly) quiet house

Will is off on a business trip, so I've got the house to myself for a while (well, along with the cat and the dog). Life has settled into somewhat of a routine, complicated (and enforced) by the ongoing neuralgia troubles (the face and scalp nerve damage from the shingles last year). It's been ten months now since it all started, and while I'm better than I was six months ago, it's plateaued...the pain and all that goes with it have hit a holding pattern. I'm completely off the Gabapentin (nerve pain medication), though it's still working its way out of my system; once my body chemistry is back to normal/baseline, I'll be able to better figure out what the next steps should be.

I've been enjoying having some time alone, and I'm also looking forward to Will coming home. Going to be interesting when he does, actually...Will flew himself and a friend down to Southern California; when he left, there were flight restrictions because of the Super Bowl (which was in the Bay Area), so he had to be mindful of times and no-fly zones. When he comes back, there are some serious restrictions over the Bay Area and Southern California as the president comes in, so it's going to be a few days of scouring FAA notices and figuring out flight times and allowable altitudes and the like (well, for Will, that is...I just sit tight and wait until he pings me with their arrival time). It's been fascinating seeing the behind-the-scenes workings of general complicated, so cool.

Because of the pain, it's been a bit of a challenge to get out and about, but I'm very lucky to have awesome friends who are supremely patient with my current limitations. We headed to Oakland with Matt to see round four of the Supercross series, which was really interesting to see live...we did the pre-heat track walk, so crazy to see the jumps and ruts and inclines they negotiate. Hung out with Karen, somehow passing hours talking and driving and just existing for a while, which was a much-needed recharge. Got to hang out with Eric when he stayed overnight before Will flew them down to San Diego for the conference; always awesome to share references and laughs with someone on the same wavelength. Some good friends are having their first baby, very excited for them. New patch and season for Diablo III, so been playing with Will and friends (the changes have made being a witch doctor fun). Lots of new and surprisingly good telly being saved on the DVR (Lucifer, Legends of Tomorrow, Flash, Elementary, and more), the Deadpool movie comes out this week (cue my hipster "I had Deadpool comics before the movie was a thing"), taxes are pretty much done (just the CPA visit in a few weeks to review everything), things keep cranking along.

So anyway, that's life right now. Some days being human and interactive and going out and about and having fun, some days spent useless because of pain (usually following the "oatnaboat" days), some productive days, some lazy days. Basically, life.

(Speaking of life, it's time to feed the dog...his internal clock is astonishingly accurate. It's eerie.)