A Mirror into Ken's Past -- 2002

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To start the year off, SCA Twelfth Night was pretty spectacular ... I had put forward award recommendations for some of the members of my acting troupe. The King and Queen decided to act on all of them, and then some. All six of the folk I had recommended were called forward, and given the award I had put them forward for (The Order of the Rose Leaf -- mid-level Arts award), and then the whole troupe was called forward to be made "Pillars of the West". That really messed us up. When all of that was done, the troupe was dismissed but told to stick around, and I was called back up and named a Baron of the Court of the West. At the time I'm writing this, I'm still rather jazzed by it all. The Pillars recognition for the acting troupe is particularly special, because to date there have only ever been sixteen of these (we were the fifteenth), and at the most only one can be done in a reign. The Baronial title granted to me is special because among other things it's one of the few medieval titles used in the SCA in a fashion similar to what was done in the middle ages that the group is trying to re-create (and it sounds cool <grin>). Of course, now I need to save up some $$$ to have a coronet made, but since I doubt I'll ever have another coronet in the SCA (I'm not too likely to ever be a royal peer), I only need to have one made.

The Players were still rather crispy when it was over, but the awards really helped a bit with the feeling of being "crispy critters". The whole year had been pretty much "hit the ground running" for some of the folk, and Juan, Rose and Aldith (Carolyn, my wife) in particular were absolutely wiped out.

Work-wise, well, things are slowly normalizing for me, but Carolyn's job has, if anything, gotten better. She was given a review and a huge raise, and a retention bonus if she stays on with the company through the current project -- something that she isn't aware of ever having been done for someone at her level in the company before.

Housing Fun
A friend of Don and BJ's (Valerie) got hold of us because she has a townhouse in Moraga that she wanted to rent to us. This got weird, and I'll try to just sum-up:

We went and saw the place, it's less rooms than the house we're in now, but it's fairly large (we're using three bedrooms in the current place, and the new one has two, but both of them are large rooms), and the 14' ceilings are pretty cool. It's in a complex, and there's no garage, no real yard to speak of, but oh well. And of course, since it's on the "other side of the hill", there's no view of the San Francisco Bay (which we've had since we moved to the house in El Cerrito 11 years ago).

So, we talked, her rental price, including a bit to cover the fact that we'll have our cats, is what our rent at the current house was when we moved in two years ago -- she's not out to make money, but to have the townhouse taken care of until she's ready to retire into it (she stated that if the rent goes up, it will be if her fees go up).

She only had one application and one form for a credit check -- we filled out the credit check with my info. She loved it. She likes us. She apparently has been having a lot of problems finding good renters. Now the fun part -- this was in February -- we have a lease until the end of June, and the current landlady won't let us out of it. So we just figured we'd write off Valerie's place and move on. She wouldn't let go, and tried all kinds of things. She wanted us to pay $500 a month to hold the place. That's over a month's rent!! Gack.

Finally, after a suggestion from my manager at work, the idea of paying part of that $500 toward the deposit came up, and she liked it. So ... for four months we're paying $500 a month to hold the place, and $300 a month of that is going toward the deposit. Whew. What this means is that we don't have to find a place to live at the end of June (well, before that, but still ...), and it's a nice place.

Coming back to this after a few months of really leaving it alone, on my 45th birthday.

The week before the trip to Las Vegas (mentioned below) I saw a local dentist in El Cerrito who did two crowns in my mouth. Problem 1: I had to have temporary steel crowns put in, which weren't set right -- I had to go back that day; and during the trip to Vegas, one of them broke and I had to pull it off because a spur was digging into my cheek. Problem 2: The guy didn't think my teeth needed to be cleaned (I hadn't seen a dentist in years at this point due to a combination of my commute and then just "not getting around to it" -- of course my teeth needed to be cleaned!) and the only work he wanted to do was on those crowns. The reason I went in was a cavity in one of my front teeth. Sheesh. I didn't like the guy's work all that much, and refused to go back. As it turns out, CJ's insurance only covered some of it, anyway, so I had to pay nearly $800 for the work that was done. (My company isn't covering dental or vision insurance right now ...)

A few weeks ago my wife's company sent us to Las Vegas for a long weekend (four days), which was fun. They put us up in The Venetian (one of the five star hotels in town), and we met up with Don and BJ there. We had a great time, although sensory overload hit pretty hard. Thursday we flew in, got met at the airport by Don and BJ (who had rented a car). From there things kinda went fast -- without going into all the details here is a short summary: World Savings (Carolyn's company) set up dinner on "The Brooklyn Bridge" at the New York, New York hotel. Friday morning there was a nice breakfast, and after that we spent the day with Don and BJ seeing Las Vegas. We did the Star Trek experience and visited various of the hotels/casinos. In the evening we went to the Luxor (where they were staying) and watched the Blue Man Group (fantastic show). Did a bit more site-seeing after and went back to the hotel, where World had asked for a really nice chocolate desert dish to be left in the rooms and that was waiting for us -- a chocolate gondola with raspberry mouse, berries, chocolate sauces ... wow. Saturday morning met up with Don and BJ for breakfast and more hanging out, visiting Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, the Guggenheim: Hermitage painting exhibit, and various other site-seeing bits (in the afternoon sensory overload hit me and while Carolyn, Don and BJ went to Red Rock -- a local park outside of town, I stayed in the room and was a vegetable, read, that kind of thing). World did a late dinner at Postrio (Wulfgang Puck's restaurant in the Venetian) and then rushed us off to the Bellagio to see Cirque du Soleil's "O" (amazing, absolutely amazing!). Sunday was a "relax, then go to the airport" day. When we got home we crashed hard, but it was a great trip. I think I can wait for several years before going back to Vegas, but it was fun.

In addition to everything else, Donna (my former girlfriend, and the person responsible for my moving to the Bay Area) got married to Andrew Tye. It was a very nice wedding, everyone had fun, Donna looked great. I still marvel at how well we get along considering our stormy past, but I certainly am not complaining (heck, she and Andrew and Toni all camped next to us at a recent event in mid-May and had a great time). I am very happy to see she's so happy, she really deserves it, and Andrew's a great guy. Being the silly person she is, she's added his last name to hers as a hyphenated name: Green-Tye ...

Later in April a bunch of us (18! -- Laurie handled getting the tickets and organizing things, thank goodness) went to see the Flying Karamozov Brothers perform in Berkeley, which was a riot ... they did the show "L'Universe" (pronounced "Looney-verse") and did a lot of physics schtick, attempting to describe/define the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal, and The General Unified Theory, and more. It was quite funny, and the work they did combining juggling techniques with technology was astounding. I've loved the FKB since Kylson found a show of theirs on Showtime back in 1984, and taped it. One of these days I'll get over the last hurdle I have when attempting to juggle ... (yeah, right).

My birthday came and went ... nothing happened, but I never expect much -- maybe I'll plan a big party for my 50th birthday. My sister-in-law gave me a gift certificate to Amazon that I immediately spent (got a couple of musicals on DVD). Carolyn bought me a really nice goblet a few weeks ago (before a friend's wedding) that is Italian majolica (I am sure I misspelled that) and hand-made. A couple days later CJ's mom and step-father were in town and we went out to dinner -- it's always good to see them anyway.

May 1, out of the blue, I got an email from Greg Gadberry, my old high-school and college buddy. Wow. What a blast from the past. Greg's got two sons, is happily married, living in Maine of all places. We've sent a few emails back and forth, and it's been fun catching up a bit. Sounds like he's very happy, which is nice to know about an old friend. I quoted some of that in an earlier installment when I was talking about Greg there. I'm happy for him, and wish I could afford to pop across country and visit. Maybe someday ...

I'm not mister health-nut, but this year seems to be the year Carolyn and I are putting more effort into our health. Actually starting last summer she started using Weight-Watcher, and getting some good results. I have owned for some time (back when I was working for the Department of Energy) a "Nordic Track" exerciser -- it's based on cross-country skiing. When I was working there I started on it before heading out to work in the morning. Then I got the job at Borland which meant a 1 1/2 to 2 hour drive each morning, and I didn't have time in the morning, and didn't want to deal with it in the evening. Once I started working for dBASE, Inc., I started but only used the thing periodically. Last year before the Golden Stag Players went to Austin, I had gotten up to 18 minutes a day on it (4 or 5 days a week most weeks). Then while in Austin I pulled something in my back. Gave me a good excuse not to use it. In February I decided I was going to break that 18 minute "barrier" (the most I'd ever done), and last week did so (writing this in May ...). It's been pretty exciting, although by the time I hit 20 minutes I am sweating like a pig, but oh well. I've lost weight, gained muscle, and am feeling better in general. I'm doing some small warmup exercises (scrunches and leg lifts) which are helping my lower back (problems from my last car accident three years ago), and in general am a lot more healthy. Can't complain, although I'm pretty fried in the evenings.

Late May, and we're working on the basic preparations for moving ... boxes have arrived from Papermart (an online service that sells boxes for moving and other purposes -- the advantage is the 200 boxes I ordered are all the same size, they're sturdy, and they stack well -- you can't force too much into them so you won't break your back dealing with them ...); since the new place won't have a garage, the wooden sets used by the acting troupe are being stored at Don and BJ's garage and the older cloth flats have been broken down and will be hauled away later; we're starting to look at "purging" -- getting rid of stuff we don't REALLY need, etc. I guess next week we'll start packing (sigh). Have I mentioned lately that I hate moving?

Okay, early June is technically not summer, but oh well ... we're working slowly but surely on the move-related stuff (having set a moving date of June 25th with a moving company and everything, and are making all the usual preparations, change of address stuff, etc.). Purging some of our SCA stuff to give to "Ducal Prize" - an annual event to raise money for the local Kingdom to purchase land. Purging other stuff to go to the dump, Goodwill, etc. Oy. Oh well, it's a good thing to do sometimes.

Our move went pretty smoothly, the movers we used this time were very efficient, although they dropped one of my bookshelf units, destroying it (only cost me $33, and they reimbursed me, taking it out of the total we paid them). It's going to take some getting used to, living in Moraga ...

I've been fairly surprised with the exercising I've been doing. My main goal was to get my respiratory system back up to snuff -- I was gasping for air after chasing the cats around the house (I was playing with 'em, really!), and that's not good. That's gotten better, and of course the leg muscles and so on, there's been a decent amount of fat-reduction, and my arm muscles are more "buff" than I think they've ever been, even when I was fencing in College. Cool. <G> Now if the exercising would reverse the white hairs in my beard and the hair loss ... oops, getting into the realm of fantasy there.

Well, fall is now upon us. Or nearly so. I'm writing a few days before the solstice (September 22). Late summer and early fall are very warm on this side of the Oakland Hills. It's been a bit frustrating, especially since the air conditioning doesn't work well in the place we're at.

I had started talking this summer with a jeweler up in the Seattle area named Bill Dawson about making a coronet, and suddenly Carolyn told me she'd pay for it and call it my Christmas present. Wow. So, I ordered some stones, and have sent them off to Bill, and when he returns from something he's doing for a friend, hopefully he'll send me a message with an estimate for the cost, so we can send him a check.

I managed to reach my "goal" with the Nordic Track (exercising) of 1/2 hour a day, when I exercise. When it gets above 77 or more by around 2:30, exercise is right out -- I'm completely covered in sweat after a 1/2 hour workout when the temperature is less than that, I'd probably pass out if I exercised at 80 degrees for that long. But, the goal has been reached, and all I want to do now is maintain that, putting in three or more days a week if possible at 1/2 hour, plus other exercises (scrunches and leg-lifts) for my lower back.

Carolyn got stuck on a play she was writing, so we called on members of the Golden Stag Players (just some of the ones with the best writing ability), and had two writing sessions. We finished the script, and have gone into rehearsals ... it's another SCA Morality Play, but this one's about fighters. Pretty intense stuff ...

We have two more camping events we plan on attending this fall/winter, and other than that we're concentrating on the play, and going to 12th Night. We can relax a bit after 12th Night in January.

Already a busy month and it's only half-done. The first weekend was the last major SCA camping event of the year for us (there are others happening, but we're not attending 'em). The second was more interesting. Carolyn's Brother's 40th Birthday party was held that weekend. His wife (Rebecca) worked for several months on making it special, and the family (the "Eaton" side of the family) rented a house at Stinson Beach for the weekend. This meant that Bill and Rebecca and their two children (Stephanie and Patrick), Gail (Carolyn and Bill's sister), their mom and step-father (Mom and Tom) and Carolyn and I (seven adults and two children) were all there. It was a bit crazy, but it was fun. There was a big party for Bill (Rebecca contacted a bunch of his friends through email) at a Chevy's nearby (well, actually it was a bit of a drive) on Saturday. Stephanie and Patrick are adorable kids, well behaved (well, as good as you can expect, considering she's 4 3/4 yrs old, and he's 2 ...), very sweet. While I had a good time playing with them, I am glad I could hand them back to Bill and 'Becca when the weekend was over. This is nothing against them, as I said, they're good kids, but I'm not father-material. It was a lot of fun, and I tried to be a "good uncle" ...

Being right on the beach was amazing. Going out the back door of the house was right onto beach front. The kids loved playing in the sand, heck, the adults did, too. I got a bunch of reading in when folk were playing out there, and actually read everything I brought with me except the book on XML (computer stuff) ... The sea-lions were out in full-force, as it were, you could see their heads popping up out of the water, and they were not far out from the beach. I guess the fishing was good in the area, because there were lots of pelicans flying over and diving into the water. We had beautiful weather (not too hot, not too cold), some gorgeous sunsets. We spent Friday through Monday morning there, and enjoyed all of it. Carolyn maxed out a bit, and got a bit wiped by the time it was over, but she admits that some of that is not having much down-time from work (which is pretty stress-full). It was a rather expensive thing. I think it cost $1700 or more for the rental of the house for the weekend, which is rather steep, but then those houses are right on the beach and probably would cost 1.5 million dollars to buy ...

Carolyn is spending another two weeks in Texas at the end of October, which is rather annoying (for both of us), but oh well. They would love for her to move down there, but neither of us want to.

Well, time's moving on. Carolyn gets to go BACK to Texas a couple more times before the year ends. Figures. This time it's only a week each time, but neither of us are pleased by it. Oh well, it's a job.

Gail, CJ's sister, had to have a hysterectomy (this is after gall bladder problems earlier this year, and so on). She's recovered at the time of writing this, but she was still in recovery at Thanksgiving.

I've been updating my Firesign Theatre albums, getting the commercial CDs from several places. This stuff still works, even though some of it is from nearly 30 years ago. George Carlin is quoted as saying "The Firesign Theatre is like having American culture explode in front of you and land all over the wall." Their stuff is certainly a way to keep up with what's happening. They have some more current albums out, as well as their classic stuff, since they got back together a few years ago. (If interested, check out http://www.firesigntheatre.com, or http://www.laugh.com -- you can get albums from the latter site as well as Amazon and Rhino Records ... They also have a few videos, including a couple of new DVDs I will have to check out.)

Work's been a bit crazed, as we've been in "crunch mode" for awhile, trying to get our latest product out the door, with two more to follow shortly, but they're based on the core product ...

The play the Golden Stag Players are working on for 12th Night (January) is shaping up well, but it's a bit rough in places. A lot of that is just that people are in the transition from reading from scripts to trying to work without -- memorization is one of my least favorite things to deal with, so the actors have a TON of sympathy from me on that.

Toward the end of November, lots going on. CJ came back from one of those trips to Texas for work on the 22nd, then on the 23rd we went with Don and BJ, Jack (Gillespie) and Valerie (Fraser) to dinner at one of our favorite places "Magic Garlic" in Walnut Creek, then went and saw the final performance of "Bullshot Crummond", a very silly play. Lots of fun.

In addition, Carolyn decided to host the family Thanksgiving dinner at our place, which ought to prove interesting, as we are in a relatively small townhouse, and fitting ourselves, her mom and step-father, sister (Gail), and Tom's son Sanford and his wife Hilary in will be a bit tight. Oh well ... it ought to be fun anyway. (Later: it was fun, everything went smoothly, no problems worth mentioning, everyone was pleasant ...)

The first sunday of December we're seeing The Bobs with Don and BJ and Don's brother and mother, who will be in town. (Don's brother lives in Sweden with his wife and kids.)

On the exercise front, I'm managing to get in at least 3 days a week on the Nordic Track still, so that's good. I haven't completely lost it on that, although there are sometimes days that I just get too involved in work or something and forget.

Christmas time is always stressful, but this year's a bit harder. My paycheck for the middle of December is going to be late (it did come in, but a few days late) -- finance issues with the company I work for; the play I'm working on for the SCA may not end up happening due to some life issues for a family, three members of which are in the play ...; and I'm stressing out big time. I hate that.

The job situation's been hard for some time (I've been on reduced pay for the last year, which is frustrating, because it was supposed to be temporary, and by reduced pay we're talking a substantial amount -- a reduction of nearly 20% of my income), as the current CEO is not managing to find investors. If something doesn't get resolved soon, I may have to find a new job, which is not something I relish. I love the actual job (most days), and of course full-time telecommuting doesn't suck (no driving anywhere, being able to work the hours I feel like working, etc.). And on top of it all, and not to sound like an ego-maniac, but the company is small enough that if I leave, it may kill the company -- I'm the major front-end to the user-base. If I go, a lot of customers may perceive that the company is dying (which it might be) and leave. But if CJ and I are ever going to have the finances to do things like buy a house, I need better pay ... and I need a *steady* paycheck.

The issues about the acting troupe have been resolved, but it's hard on the family in question. Some attempts are being made to help them out, but none of us are feeling all that flush this year. I'm still a bit bummed (mostly about my job ...), but at least the show appears like it will happen. On the "help them out" front, we're loaning them some of our moving boxes ...

As noted above, the paycheck did arrive a few days later than scheduled. It's December 20th now, and I'm trying to recover from a minor head cold, and hopefully we're going to go see the second installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie -- The Two Towers. The first was so good that we're actually going out of our way to see it in the theatre.

Christmas day (we can't get more time off from work, neither CJ or I) has been sort of bouncing around. It was going to be at CJ's sister's place, then her mom decided to host it (which is where it was up until last year), then her mom got sick, so it's going to be at Gail's place (her sister). Sheesh. Oh well. The important thing is that we have a place to get together for Christmas.

Alan Katz from work, who is a pretty good photographer, and someone who understands image software pretty well, has had fun with photos of the company members, and sent each of us a framed print. Wow. I was expecting something smaller ... I have to figure out where to put it.

December 23 (Monday) -- things have been weirder and weirder. Carolyn's mother had come down with a flu, but was taken to the hospital on Saturday because she was having problems breathing. They thought it might be a blood clot. They gave her an antiobiotic and things started to get better by Sunday. We've known she had emphysema as she smoked for many years (she just quit a couple years ago). We were planning on doing a smaller Christmas at Gail's, assuming Marge would be recovering, and then maybe going up to Sacramento on Saturday (the 28th) and doing another small Christmas gathering there (depending on Marge's health).

December 30 (Monday) -- Okay ... Christmas turned out to be okay, and Marge's health is getting better. To sum up the last week: Tuesday we went to see her in Sacramento in the hospital, spent some time there, she was doing okay, but was on oxygen. The let her go home later that day, with oxygen tanks. Wednesday was Christmas, and we opened a few presents at home and then went to Gail's and did Christmas with just her. We had a pleasant day, watched a few movies, had a nice small dinner. Carolyn and Gail called Marge and Tom and talked, and they felt better. Except for traffic it was a very nice day. Every couple of days since they've talked. As of Sunday (Dec. 29) Marge is off the oxygen for now. Whew.

On other fronts, SCA-specific, the play has run into various logistical issues but we're still going to manage.

It being nearly the end of the year (tomorrow being New Year's Eve and all), I just thought I'd sum up that this has been a WEIRD year. We've had friends hit by job issues, health issues, family hit with health issues, and a lot more. CJ and I are doing okay, but it's been hard on some of those around us. All I can hope is that next year gets better, it can't keep going like this ... not forever, although there are things that could go wrong, I am hoping and trying to stay positive ...

Here's a short list of the things that went weird as I remember them:

In the middle of all this, poor Carolyn has been sort of a "dumping ground" for people's emotions (she's the person people seem to call to talk through their problems with), and has been in the middle of a lot of stuff that's made her a bit crazy, not to mention having to spend a week each month in San Antonio for her job ... she doesn't feel like she's had any down-time really. It's been hard on her, but she's still managing somehow to stay mostly sane. I dunno how.

I don't want it to sound like everything's bad. I mean, on the positive side, CJ's managed to save some money. She is doing very well with her company, and while a lot of folk in the Oakland office are getting lay-off notices (which they knew were coming), she's not, and instead has a guaranteed job when the time comes for her current job to go away. Some of our friends are doing very well (Don and BJ, Donna and Andrew, etc.), family as a whole are doing well (except for Marge's health), and so on. We're holding our heads above water and are focusing on reducing our credit card debts to zero as soon as we can (over the next year if we do it right, we should be close ...).

The only reason I felt a need to catalog all of the above was to help me keep things in perspective ...

On the dental health front, I decided to see a local dentist in Moraga (recommended by the lady we're renting from) and have a cavity in my front tooth filled. Unfortunately the little dental fiasco from earlier this year used all but something like 16 dollars of my insurance, so I had to pay a bit. Oh well. At least that's fixed, and he's a nice and competant dentist.

A Few Photos
(These are thumbnails, click on them to see larger versions with text explaining them)

The Vegas Trip photos (the first 8) were taken on a really cheap throw-away camera, which is largely why the quality isn't very good ...

The Shrine of Elvis

The Shrine of Elvis

Dinner on the
Brooklyn Bridge

Don and BJ
Looking at Excalibur

Spock's Missile Casing

Ken and Lance Burton

Ken at Canal
inside the Ventian

Carolyn at Canal
inside the Venetian

Rebo and Zootie


The Stinson Beach Trip (most or all of these photos are by Rebecca Eaton)

Marge and Ken

Marge, Carolyn
and Gail

Exterior of
house we rented


Bill and Patrick


Tom making
his famous

Carolyn and Gail

Ken reading
Sunday funnies
to Stephanie

NICE Sunset

Bill covering
Patrick with sand


Ken and Stephanie,
Bill and Patrick

Marge and
the "kids"

Marge, Patrick,
and Bill

Patrick and Bill

The family

Photos provided by friends of themselves ...:

Karl and
Adrian Dube

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