Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Music clips are up

Check them out. The guitar is pretty quiet in the recording, but we sounded much more balanced in real life. At, least, I think we did, but maybe it's just because I was sitting right next to him.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Chamber Music Recital

Last night my duet partner and I played on the student chamber music showcase recital. It was a really long program, with lots of groups playing, so we were glad to be third on the program. We played well and the audience seemed to enjoy it. The recital hall was full, so the applause sounded really loud. It was exciting to play in front of a big audience in an evening recital, with the hall lights dimmed and the stage lights bright. I really liked the pieces we've been working on all year, so I was eager to share them with my friends. Several of the Fellows came to hear our performance. When I get the CD of the recital, I'll try to post the files here so you can hear it.

New Car

We decided to go ahead and buy a car out here, just because trading in our old one to a dealer was a much easier way of getting rid of it than trying to sell it ourselves. We got a Toyota Highlander. It has a third row seat, but isn't any longer than my Passat wagon was, so I should still be able to fit it in the garage and unload groceries with the garage door closed. It's an SUV built on a Camry frame, so it's not as big as a regular SUV, but is a bit higher than a regular car. Audrey can climb in by herself. We got a bluish-gray one (they call it Bluestone Metallic) with a light tan interior. There's plenty of room for stuff in the back when the 3rd row is folded down, and room for 7 people with it up, as long as the people aren't really tall.

We don't have pictures of our car yet, but you can see it on the Toyota website. Maybe when Scott wakes up, he can help me grab a picture off the web.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Wrapping Up

The other day in the car I asked Mary, "What do you think? Should we have another year-long adventure when Audrey's old enough to remember it?"
"Oh, yes!" she said. "It has to be someplace with a Chinatown, though."
"How about China?"

Our moving preparations are coming along. We have a box. Not a packed box. Just a box. Scott got a shipment of T-shirts for the Knight kids, and I told him we should probably not throw the box away.

In some ways, it would be easier to start another adventure right after this one. If we have to start over from scratch, I'd rather do it in a new place than start over in an old place. But we are looking forward to getting back to Florida. We have no idea what the future will bring, but if it's more adventure, bring it on!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

The whole gang met a a park for a cookout. There was lots of food, Ultimate Frisbee, a guitar sing-along, and fun relay races. Scott and I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie to bring. It was a big hit. The weather was sunny and warm, but not too hot, just right. We all had a great time.

Happy Anniversary

Scott and I spent a night at the Mill Rose Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast in Half Moon Bay, to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We had a nice time. We did not take photos.

De Young Museum

The Knights went to the De Young Museum in San Francisco and had a private tour with a museum curator. They saw shiny things and some other neat stuff.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Knights meet the Governator

Today Scott and the gang went on a bus trip to Sacramento, where they met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. They also had a meeting with the CEO of McClatchy newspaper group. The last time the Knights got a private meeting with a California governor, it was when Ronald Reagan was in office.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Knight Softball

Today was the annual softball game between the Knights and the Stanford Daily staff. At least, it was supposed to be between the two groups. There were so many Knights and so few Daily staffers that we just picked teams and had both on each team. Scott and I both played better than we expected to. Scott hit a triple one time, and I got on base two out of three times at bat, once with the bases loaded! Everybody had a good time, especially the international Fellows who had never played softball before. The whole group took an unplanned lunch break in the middle of the sixth inning. Surprisingly, almost everyone came back to finish the game.

The kids had a great time. There was a stage set up for some kind of performance, so they played on the stage. There was also a small tent building, like a banquet tent, only smaller, so they had fun playing in there. The a capella singers came by to take some publicity photos, so they sang for the kids inside the tent.

The tent was the best place to be. It was sunny, but the breeze made it a chilly day. We had to wrap beach towels around ourselves to keep warm.

Mom H. arrived Thursday night. She enjoyed a campus tour (guided by Scott) on Friday, with lunch and a tour at the Cantor Art Museum. After I left to pick up the kids from school, she and Scott saw the crazy Stanford band performing. The band played some songs around, on and in one of the fountains, so Scott and Mom stopped to listen. Then they went over to Hoover Tower, and soon the band came running up to perform on, around, and in the fountain by the Tower. One trombone player even escorted them up in the elevator to the top of the Tower. Mom is enjoying her visit so far.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Horseback Riding

Today I took Mary and her friend Sydney horseback riding at Webb Ranch. We started out with a short lesson on how to control a horse, and a little practice in the covered lesson ring. Then the instructor and a helper took us out on a one-hour trail ride. We rode past crop fields, where we saw a heron. The trail went up a little hill, and we had to stand up in our stirrups. I don't know the name of that move, but Mary probably remembers it, so I'll have to ask her tomorrow. We got to ride across a little wooden bridge. After the ride, the instructors let the girls feed the horses. They had a great time.

UPDATE: I remembered the standing-up thing is called "two point", I guess because the third point, your rear end, is not touching the saddle. And doesn't Mary look like such a little tiny kid on that horse? It was a pretty small horse, too.

A Little Explanation

Yesterday's post refers to the time, once a century, when the time is 02:03:04 05/06/07. It happened just after 2 in the morning. You could say it also happened just after 2 this afternoon, but if you go by the 24-hour clock, it was 14:03 etc. Not as exciting as Halley's comet, but, hey, it helped me remember the date all day today.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Did you sleep through it?

2:03:04 5/6/07

Film Noir Night

Good food, a house full of friends, and a classic murder movie made for a fun evening. The film was Double Indemnity from 1944.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sequoia Audubon Trail Hike

Today we met some of the other Fellows for a hike on the Sequoia Audubon Trail, near Pescadero Beach. The highlights were: playing in a driftwood fort other beach visitors had built

climbing a big tree

enjoying the beautiful scenery

and avoiding stinging nettles and poison oak. We saw a huge stick nest that some marsh rat built, and a B-52 flying overhead. Kevin and Carolyn brought bread and cheese and cookies to feast on at the top of the hill before the return trip. The chocolate fairy that follows Andrea and Liz on all their hikes left treats along the trail for the kids. It was a beautiful sunny day, and a little cool, which was nice because we didn't get too hot on the hike. We didn't get to spend much time playing on the beach at the end of the hike, because it was getting late by then, but it was a fun day anyway.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

We've had a couple of calm weeks here, but it's about to get very busy. The Fellowship has a zillion things planned for May, everything from a family softball game to a bus trip to Sacramento to meet the Governator. I told Scott it's their way of making everyone look forward to getting back to their jobs, so they can finally get a chance to breathe.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Does Music Make You Smarter?

I went to an interesting lecture in the Psychology Department at Stanford today. Glenn Schellenberg from the University of Toronto gave a talk called "Does Music Make You Smarter?" He's been running experiments on this ever since The Mozart Effect study came out.

The first part of his talk was on whether listening to music makes you smarter, a la The Mozart Effect. His hypothesis was that anything that puts you in a positive frame of mind will make you perform a task better. He cited studies showing that college undergraduates who were given a bag of candy or five dollars before a task performed better than students who weren't given treats (The Chocolate Effect?).

In his first experiment to test this hypothesis, he played a Schubert piano piece, which was Track 2 of the CD the original Mozart Effect experimenters used. The subjects scored better on the spatial IQ test, indicating a Schubert Effect. Then he tested a slow, dirge-like piece by Albinoni commonly heard at funerals. The subjects didn't improve their scores, so there was no Albinoni Effect. Maybe only fast, happy music increases spatial IQ. He used four different variations of the same Mozart piano piece: fast-major key, slow-major key, fast-minor key, and slow-minor key. Subjects who heard the fast-major version increased their scores the most, and slow-minor showed no increase.

What if music's not your thing? Schellenberg played a recording of a Stephen King story to test subjects, Mozart to others, and tested them. The same groups switched stimuli at another session. They also reported whether they preferred listening to the music or the story. The ones who liked the story better got a bigger IQ jump after listening to the story, and the ones who liked music got a bigger jump after listening to the music.

But what if you're a 10 or 11 year old kid in England? Another researcher had 8000 schoolkids in Britain listen to three different radio broadcasts before taking an IQ test. One group listened to Mozart, one listened to a popular group, and the third listened to the researcher giving a science lecture. The pop group got a big jump in IQ, and the Mozart and lecture groups didn't increase their scores. So, to 10 and 11 year olds, Mozart is just as boring as a science lecture by an academic researcher.

What if you're a 5 year old in Japan? (You can see, Schellenberg really put the Mozart Effect through its paces.) He had kids in Japan draw pictures before and after a music activity. There were four music activities tested: listening to Mozart, listening to the Albinoni dirge, listening to familiar children's songs, and singing familiar children's songs. Their drawings were compared (by people who didn't know what the experiment was about) and rated on creativity and technical proficiency. Schellenberg also recorded how long the kids drew. Their "scores" went up a little for Mozart, down for Albinoni, and up much more for familiar songs.

So, does listening to music make you smarter? Yes and no, according to Schellenberg. Listening to music you like can help you perform better on an IQ test, just as anything that puts you in a positive frame of mind can help you perform better on many kinds of tasks.

Now, the big question: does taking music lessons make you smarter? And is music special, or do other kinds of lessons make you smarter? Schellenberg advertised for participants in free arts lessons for 6 year olds. The groups took either piano lessons, voice class using the Kodaly method, drama classes, or no lessons. The two music groups both improved their IQ scores by about the same amount, across all the sections of the IQ test, except social skills. The drama group improved in social skills, but not in the "intellectual" IQ subtests. The "no lessons" group showed only the normal development after a year of school.

It was not possible to do a longer-term study, because kids drop out of lessons for various reasons, so you'd have to start with an enormous number of kids to run a study of several years. Schellenberg used questionnaires and statistical analysis to try to find out whether more years of lessons would make you more smarter. He interviewed families with children ages 6 to 12 about music lessons, parental education and family income, and gave the kids IQ tests and looked at their school grades. He found that the kids who took lessons for more years had higher IQs. I asked him whether the music lessons caused the IQs to go up, or if the kids with high IQs tended to stick with lessons for more years. He said you can't really prove which one causes the other, but that he's making a claim, because that's what you do in science, and his claim is that music makes you smarter. He also questioned incoming college students about their music experiences and tested their IQs and found that the smartness you get from music lasts for a long time.

So, there it is: listening to music makes you feel good, if it's music you like, and it can make you temporarily smarter. Music lessons make you permantly smarter. He listed the popular reasons why music might make you smarter, but disagreed with them. I couldn't tell what he thought the reason might be.


We've been to Yosemite, San Diego, Monterey Bay, we've seen the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge, but now we're really true California residents - we felt an earthquake. Last night the sound of rattling woke me up at 2:45. It sounded like a freight train going by, only louder. And remember, we live right next to the train tracks, so I know what a freight train sounds like. There was another sound in the distance, like highway confusion, maybe horns or sirens. It's hard to tell when you're half asleep. In the morning I asked Scott if he heard the quake, and he had, so I knew I wasn't just dreaming. The kids slept through it. Mary said it must have been the kind that sounds like your dog scratching. I guess they must have talked about earthquakes at school.

The strange thing about this earthquake was when I was looking for news about it online. I googled "earthquake April 18, 2007" and almost every hit was for the Great San Francisco Earthquake of April 18, 1906. Pretty weird, having our first earthquake on the anniversary of The Big One!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mary's poem

Check out Mary's poem over at Mary's World!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Stanford Community Day

Today was Community Day at Stanford. The university put on a big expo to show off the different departments and activities. We only went for the morning, so we didn't do too many activities, but we were there long enough to hear a band, win a raffle prize, fence with foam swords, row a kayak, putt a golf ball, make sock puppets, paint part of a mural, get a balloon, eat lunch, pop the balloon, and visit one booth at the science section. The Stanford Society of Women Engineers had two activities at their booth: make a puff mobile (car made from paper, straws, LifeSavers, and tape that you try to blow across a table) and build with marshmallows. Mary made a two-story house with an attic. Audrey made hors d'ouvres.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chamber Music

Today Jeff (the guitar player) and I had our first coaching with Dawn Harms. She's a violinist with the San Francisco Symphony who teaches at Stanford. Jeff and I have been working on a couple of duos since the fall, but haven't been able to get a faculty coach until now. We played the first section of "In the Dragon's Garden" by David Kechley. The piece was inspired by the composer's visit to a Japanese garden and starts out with a dreamy, rippling effect. It was really helpful to have another pair of ears to guide us through the piece. Dawn had a lot of great suggestions to bring out the drama in the piece. We'll work on the next section at our next meeting. We hope to perform the whole thing at the June chamber music recital.

Dawn runs a week-long chamber music camp called Music at Kirkwood during the summer. That's something I'd like to do someday - spend a week in the mountains playing chamber music. Of course, it takes a few days to get used to the altitude, so the wind players always have a hard time breathing at first. It would still be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Happy Easter

It was fun having Mom and Dad here for Easter. I played for the Easter service at church, so I went early to rehearse and the rest of the gang followed. The music director had picked out some strange hymns in minor keys, but the service ended with "Jesus Christ is Risen Today", with the trumpet player and me on the descant. Finally, it sounded like Easter! After church, Scott went home to put the ham in the oven, and the kids had an egg hunt. Mary and Audrey looked so pretty in their dresses, hats, gloves, and purses. It was hard to get them both in one photo, though, because Audrey didn't want to stand still.

We had two of the international families from the Fellowship over for Easter dinner and another egg hunt. The kids had never hunted for Easter eggs before, and they really enjoyed finding eggs and seeing what kind of candy was inside. The stuffed cabbage was a bit dry, but still tasted good. The kids tore up the apartment while the grown-ups sat around and talked about life in our different countries. It was fun to share our holiday with our friends.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Dinner and a Show

The fellowship took us all to dinner and a play in San Francisco. Scott and I spent the day visiting Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf with Mom and Dad and the kids. Then we dropped them off at the train station, changed clothes in the car, and joined our friends for dinner at historic John's Grill, home of the Maltese Falcon (at least, it was -- the Falcon was stolen recently).

The play was "After the War" by Philip Kan Gotanda. We saw it at the beautiful American Conservatory Theater. Here's their description of the play:

Fillmore Street. San Francisco. 1946. A place to call home?

When more than 100,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II, San Francisco's bustling Japantown suddenly became an urban ghost town. African Americans from the neighboring Fillmore District, rural whites from the Midwest, and other societal outcasts began to fill the vacant neighborhood. But what happened when the Japanese Americans came back?
In this world premiere commissioned and developed by A.C.T., Philip Kan Gotanda (The Wash, A.C.T.'s Yohen) portrays an unexpected grouping of characters as they struggle to revive a community shattered by the effects of the war. Radiantly hopeful, heart-wrenchingly honest, and deeply infused with the jazz rhythms of the neighborhood, After the War is a powerful valentine to San Francisco—and to the everyday people who built this city with their lives, loves, and stories.

We really enjoyed the play. It was very funny in places, and quite emotional in others. I really hoped the characters would be able to find happiness. The rotating set was cool, too. It was a treat to dress up and have a grown-up evening.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Fuzzy Wuzzy Icky

Springtime is caterpillar season at Stanford. Gazillions of them are dangling from oak trees and light posts, and crawling all over the ground. On Monday, when we showed Mom and Dad around campus, Mary was itchy all over just from thinking about caterpillars. Tuesday when I came out of class, I flicked a few caterpillars off the baby seat on the back of my bike. Then, when I started to unlock the bike and get on, I found dozens of them on the bike lock, handlebars, gear shift, bike frame, and tires. Next time I'll be careful not to park under a tree!

Mom and Dad's visit

Mom and Dad are visiting us this week. Check out Mom's blog for write-ups about Stanford, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Exploratorium.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Visit Mom's Blog

Mom started a blog to tell about her adventures visiting us here. Check it out.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Everybody's Doin' It!

Now even Mary's paper dolls have their own blog!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Spouting Horn

After leaving Waimea Canyon, we drove to see the Spouting Horn. When a wave comes in, water is forced through a small hole in the rocks, creating a water spout. Mary has a cool video on her blog.

Last time Scott was here, he and Mom H. just walked right out on the rocks to the Spouting Horn. Now there's a fenced off overlook. I guess too many tourists were falling into holes. To get there, we first had to walk through a gauntlet of souvenier carts. On the way back we bought Mary and Audrey necklaces. They're pretty well-made for dollar necklaces.

Waimea Canyon

Mark Twain called it "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific", and yesterday we drove all the way around the island to see it for ourselves. It was about a two hour drive from Princeville, where we're staying, clockwise around the island to Waimea Canyon. It would be shorter if we could go counter-clockwise, but there are no roads through there, because it's all rugged cliffs (so it actually wouldn't be shorter).

Scott and Mom H. went to see the canyon when she visited him in Hawaii when he was in the army. They drove all the way up to the lookout and it was so foggy they could hardly see past the guardrail. We lucked out this time and had pretty good visibility. There are only a few days a year when it's really clear, and that's when they take the tourism photos. We were able to see all the way across the canyon, and it was just a little cloudy. It really was spectacular. Birds flying on the other side of the canyon looked like little white dots. It looked a lot like the Grand Canyon, only with lush green vegetation.

Audrey was more interested in our picnic lunch than in looking at the canyon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Luau Night

Last night we went to the Smith Family Garden Luau. No, we didn't just show up to some family's backyard barbecue. The Smith Family is a big tourism company, running tours and luaus for over 50 years. We arrived at their garden paradise along the Wailua River, where we started our kayak adventure the other day. They greeted us with shell leis and had us pose for a picture (available for purchase later) with two hula dancers in costume. A whole tour bus full of people in Hawaiian shirts pulled up about the same time we arrived. After checking in, we wandered through the gardens. There were also narrated tram tours, but we thought the kids would rather walk. Besides, we already knew what most of those exotic tropical plants were, since they grow in South Florida (more landscaping ideas).

After some time in the garden, everyone assembled for the imu ceremony. The host described what was happening while two young guys in sarongs dug the roasted pig out of the pit. They peeled back the banana leaves and tossed the hot lava rocks back into the pit with their bare hands. The host said normally at home they use tongs, but the guys noticed some pretty girls in the crowd and wanted to impress them.

The meal was served buffet style. The shredded pork was delicious, and so was the mahi mahi, and just about everything else. None of us cared for the poi, which is taro root paste. It's purplish gray goop without much flavor. It's not too bad if you eat it with the salty pork, but it's not something I'd want to eat a lot of. Our kayak tour guide said at his nephew's birthday party last weekend, the family served 300 pounds of poi, and only had 5 pounds left over after the party. So apparently Hawaiians eat a lot of this stuff.

During dinner there was a trio playing and singing Hawaiian music. After a while, they brought up one of the cousins to demonstrate some hula moves. She asked for volunteers to try a dance with her, and you just knew Mary was going to end up on that stage, didn't you? After she was done, Mary showed us all the hand motions and told us what they all meant. She was still running through the story when Scott took her to the bathroom on the way to the after-dinner show, so all the men waiting in line for the urinals got to hear the story of how the fish came to Hawaii.

The show was in an outdoor amphitheater. The audience area was covered, which was good, because it rained a bit during the show. They put on a big production, with a live band, real stage lights and special effects of a volcano erupting. They performed dances from Hawaii (ancient and modern dances), Tahiti, New Zealand, China, Japan, Philippines, and Samoa. In the New Zealand dance, the women twirles poi balls on the ends of strings. Mary got to try that at her Girl Scouts Thinking Day a couple weeks ago. The Girl Scouts didn't twirl flaming poi balls, though, like these dancers did.

The grand finale was the Samoan fire sword dance. I couldn't believe some of the stuff this guy did. He didn't just twirl flaming swords. He put them on his face, laid on them, stood on them, you name it. He started with one sword lit on one end, and when he wanted to light the other end, he didn't light it from a torch. He just grabbed a piece of fire from the lit end and put it on the other end. Mary liked his performance the best. Audrey didn't see any of the show. She went to sleep right before the show started, and nothing woke her up, not the erupting volcano or the firecrackers for the Chinese lion, or being carried out to the car.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hula girls

The grocery store sold these hula girl kits cheaper than the souvenier shops. We put some Hawaiian music on the radio and the girls performed a hula show for us.

Tropical landscaping

This morning on the way to the grocery store I took some pictures of landscaping ideas for the backyard.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kayak tour

Today was the big kayak adventure. We took a 5 hour kayak and hiking guided tour to see a remote waterfall. First we paddled two miles up the Wailua River. It was smooth and easy most of the way (except for the fact that it's a lot more paddling than we're used to!). In fact, the river is so slow that paddling upstream is easier than paddling downstream, because of the breeze coming off the ocean. When we got close to the head of the hiking trail, we had to get out and pull our kayaks through shallow water. The current was stronger there, and the rocky river bottom was pretty slippery. The guide told us to leave the kids in the kayaks because it would have been to hard for them to walk there. Then, we parked the kayaks, waded across the river and started our hike.

The trail followed the river through the jungle. It was beautiful scenery, but we didn't get to appreciate it fully, because we had to watch our feet carefully. The ground was muddy and very slippery, and parts of the trail came very close to the edge of the bluff. The guide carried Audrey most of the way, but Mary managed the hike with just a little help. She did great, and the couple on the trip with us said how impressed they were with her. She sang most of the way there, until near the end when she was tired and muddy and hungry. She was crying by the time we got to the waterfall, but lunch and a rest perked her up, and she sang the whole way back to the kayaks.

The trail led us to the base of a high waterfall, with pools for swimming and wading. We ate lunch there, played in the water a bit and enjoyed the view. When it was time to head back, I carried Audrey in the backpack. It was a lot slower hiking back because the trail was a lot muddier from all the tourists, and I had to be extra careful with Audrey on my back. I wiped out once, but she didn't even wake up.

When we got to the waterfall, there were only a couple other people there, but by the time we left, it was getting pretty crowded, and when we got back to where we started huge groups were setting out, ten or more kayaks in a group, with two or three people per kayak. We were glad we got up early to go on the morning tour.

Mary reminded me that our tour guide said three words you never want to hear your tour guide say: "Check for leeches."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

After our visit to the Queen's Bath, we drove to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse. The area is also a National Wildlife Sanctuary, and a great place to spot birds. We didn't stay long, because Audrey was ready for a nap, and tourists aren't allowed up to the top of the lighthouse. We admired the beautiful views, then hopped back in the car to go home.

The Queen's Bath

This morning we went to the Queen's Bath. We drove through the neighborhood where we're staying, and pointed out all the houses and landscaping that look just like South Florida. When we parked and hiked down the path through the jungle, we were in another world. The path started out as rock stairs built into the side of the hill, but quickly turned into a narrow dirt path, with boulders and tree roots to use as steps. We came around a bend and discovered a rushing waterfall. I tried to get a picture of Scott and Mary, but Audrey was eager to rush along the path without me, so I had to catch up. She's an intrepid explorer. She'll climb any rock and wade through any shallow water, dragging me along with her.

The pictures in the guidebook showed the Queen's Bath as a calm, quiet pool in the rocks, with people swimming in it. Not today! Those pictures must have been taken in summer, because in the winter the surf is much rougher on the North Shore of Kauai, where we're staying. Scott and Mary found one calm little spot, but the Queen's Bath was full of crashing, churning, foaming waves. It was spectacular.

Manini-holo Dry Cave

Today's adventure was to the Manini-holo dry cave. It was dug by the chief fisherman of the Menehune (sort of like Hawaiian leprechauns) in search of the supernatural beast who was stealing their fish. We walked into the cave and looked around a little bit, then went to the beach across the street. There's a stream that runs down the mountain behind the cave and across a low spot in the road and down the beach. The stream water was cold, much colder than the surf. Sometimes a big wave would roll all the way up the beach to the stream. The kids had a great time playing here, because they could actually go in the water. They didn't go very far, although there were other people swimming, and one guy attempting to surf. Mary and Audrey mostly played wave tag. Audrey got knocked down a couple times, but she seemed to enjoy it. She also liked climbing up the sandy bluff and sliding down. All the other tourists got a kick out of how sandy she was. The sand was so soft and deep, I loved jumping on it to see how far down my footprints would go.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lava Rocks

Aloha from the Garden Island of Kauai! We took the evening flight from San Francisco last night, stayed at the Honolulu Airport Hotel, then hopped over to Kauai this morning. We're staying on the North Shore, in the Princeville development. It has a mix of houses, condos and golf courses, and looks like any snowbird neighborhood in Coral Springs or West Boca. But the rest of the island is pure Hawaii. It was too early to check into our resort when we arrived, so we drove down the road to Anini Beach. It used to be called Wanini Beach, but the W fell off the sign years ago, and the locals decided it was easier to change the name than to fix the sign. There's also a church near Princeville called The Church of the Acific.

We didn't drive all the way to the beach park. We just pulled off the road at a turn-out and explored the beach right there. The offshore reef keeps the water near the shore calm. The kids loved climbing on the lava rocks and digging in the sand. Audrey also loved taking baths in all the little pools in the rocks. She needed a bath because she kept walking right under the sand Mary was dripping on the ground.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Monterey weekend, part 4

Sunday morning after breakfast in the dining hall, we checked out and drove to Carmel. We decided to take the scenic route, called the 17 Mile Drive. The road winds along the coast through the exclusive community of Pebble Beach (where the famous US Open golf tournament has been held). In fact, Pebble Beach is so exclusive, it costs $9 just to drive through it! But the scenery was worth $9. It was a gorgeous warm, sunny day in an area known for its fog. The rocky coast is so different from what we're used to in Florida.

Once we arrived in Carmel, we spent some time in a toy store and then walked around enjoying the quaint historic downtown while looking for a restaurant for lunch. Carmel is a dog-friendly city. Businesses we passed had boxes of dog treats or dog-bone-shaped water bowls sitting outside their front doors. We ran into another Fellow in town while we were shopping for hats for the girls. After lunch, it was time to head home. Scott's final project in his design class was due the next day, and Audrey was ready to nap in the car, so we took the non-scenic route back to Palo Alto, ending our beautiful Monterey weekend. It was one of the highlights of the year for me.

Monterey weekend, part 3

After the lecture at the aquarium, we went tide pooling with another marine biology expert. He met us at the Hopkins Marine Station, which is run by Stanford and is just a short walk from the aquarium. He gave a short talk, then let us loose to explore. We saw lots of seals swimming along, and one big one sunning itself. Beach glass was more abundant than at any other beach I've been to. We poked sea anemones and picked up abalone shells. When we tried to pick up a starfish, it suckered tight to the rocks. Bill Gilly was on hand to answer questions about our treasures.

For lunch, we ate at a restaurant on Cannery Row. That evening, after dinner, the grownups were treated to a talk by a John Steinbeck expert, who, it turned out, is married to Bill Gilly the squidologist. I stayed in our room to put Audrey to sleep, but Scott filled me in later. Steinbeck went to Stanford, but he just took whatever classes he wanted and didn't pursue a degree, so he was kind of like a Knight Fellow. He very much wrote about place, and since we were visiting the place he wrote about a lot, she quoted passages about Salinas, where he grew up, and Monterey, where Cannery Row took place, and Tortilla Flats. Steinbeck was commissioned by one of the San Francisco papers to document the Depression food problems. The farmers wanted to keep their prices inflated, so they threw their surplus food in the river. Poor people would pull it out of the river, so the farmers would pour kerosene on it and post guards to keep people from taking the food. Steinbeck's research led to his writing The Grapes of Wrath.

Monterey weekend, part 2

On Saturday, the Knights had a special presentation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with an aquarium expert. He showed us cool high-definition pictures and footage taken with their deep sea camera. There was one clip of a squid that saw its reflection in the camera lens and came over to investigate. Once the squid realized it couldn't eat the camera or mate with it, it swam away. The footage looked too real to be real. At first, we thought he was showing us computer graphics, because how could anybody get such amazing footage of deep see creatures, and from so many angles? He could really zoom in to show us the tentacles of tiny gooseberry jellyfish. The kids (and grownups) all asked a lot of questions, and one of the Knight directors kept calling Mary "Mary the Marine Biologist" because she knew so much about angler fish. Watching all those Animal Planet shows is a good thing, I guess. After the presentation, there was time to explore the aquarium, and we came back after lunch to see more. The jellyfish exhibit was beautiful, and the kids really liked standing under a crashing wave (inside a huge window, of course).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Monterey weekend, part 1

The Knight Fellows had a group trip to the Monterey Peninsula last weekend. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was awesome, and we had a great time! We stayed at Asilomar, a former YWCA conference center that is now run by the California State Parks system. It's in a wooded area along the beach. Monterey is a couple hours' drive south of here. We hopped on the road right after picking Mary up from school and had an easy trip. Along the way, we passed through Gilroy, home of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and Salinas, home of John Steinbeck. More about Steinbeck later.

The Fellowship was housed in two buildings at Asilomar. The families all stayed in Woodside, which had hotel-type rooms around a central living room with a fireplace, and a big deck. We saw deer from the deck in the mornings. They didn't seem to mind us at all. After we checked in, we headed down the boardwalk to explore the beach. Most of the families ended up at the beach that afternoon. Everyone had a great time digging in the sand and getting their feet (and sometimes more than their feet!) wet. We didn't make it down to the other end of the beach to climb on the rocks because the kids were having so much fun where we first landed. I was amazed at how wide the beach was. I'm used to that little strip of sand between A1A and the ocean in Ft. Lauderdale.

I'll post more later about the Aquarium, tide pooling, Steinbeck, the 17 Mile Drive, and Carmel.

The photos aren't loading, so I'll add them later.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Boar 4705. We went up to San Francisco this weekend for the Chinese New Year parade. The streets of Chinatown were closed to traffic and booths were set up all over. Some areas of Chinatown were so packed we could hardly move through the crowd. The girls picked out lion puppets at one of the souvenier booths. There wasn't a whole lot of boar merchandise out on the street. It was mostly the same stuff they sell in the stores: watches, wallets, and other junk. The line for the free goodie bag at McDonald's was blocks long. There was another really long line that I never did figure out what it was for. We played in the park across the street from our hotel for a while, and took a break in the hotel room before picking up some take-out and eating it in the bleachers while waiting for the parade.

It was a good parade, but loooooooong - over two hours. Audrey watched the first dragon then slept until the firecrackers accompanying the final dragon woke her up. I can't even count how many lions and dragons we saw. There were a lot of groups of schoolchildren dressed as pigs (year of the boar, you know). The parade started out like all our parades in Plantation, with city officials in convertibles, only these big city folk don't throw candy. Even the mayor, who is in the middle of a scandal for having an affair with his campaign manager's wife, was in the parade. I didn't know if we were supposed to boo, cheer, or heckle. The highlight for us was the float with Yul from Survivor. We cheered loud for him, and Mary yelled, "We saw you win!"