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December 29, 2005

Home for the Holidays

I've been in Antarctica for the past three winters, which means I haven't been home for the holidays in four years. I was looking forward to it, but at the same time it made me a bit anxious. How long should I go home for? Should I come back to Boulder for New Years? Would I have to much down time at home? Would I find Christmas with only three other people painfully dull?

It turned out to be great. Indeed. And I did not get bored. Instead, I got sick, and just relaxed.

I arrived home on Wednesday morning and went Wednesday evening with my brother, Aaron, to get our annual photo with Santa taken, which we obviously hadn't done together for the past three years. (He still had his photo taken with a mall Santa without me, and I had my photo taken in McMurdo with Santa at the Christmas Eve party. I had to skip the Santa photo three years ago, when I was on Erebus. Santa couldn't make it in through the skank.) The picture even turned out decent, with Aaron sporting a somewhat authentic smile and me with my mouth in an open "yay" smile, looking very excited to be sitting next to Santa. Even Santa looked like he was really smiling. He would do this he-he-he laugh that was almost a cackle, probably to get it to look like he was really smiling for each of a day's worth of pictures. Whatever it takes.

I was quite tired Wednesday night, and Thursday it became clear why. I was sick. I couldn't have timed it better. How often, in your adult life, do you get to have your mother dote on you when you're sick? She brought me hot water with lemon and chatted with me and massaged my head and covered me with blankets all day while I lied on the couch. It was great.

Friday, I got to see where my dad works and picked up a friend from the airport. We ended up making a day of it, Christmas shopping and meeting up with our parents for dinner. I tried not to hack up a lung on the table. I think I did all right.

Saturday was a day of old friends. Sorry for the play-by-play, but really every day was great. I unfortunately don't have any pictures--not quite sure how that happened--but two good friends from growing up came over with some of their loved ones to hang out with my family for the day: Childhood friend Anna (we were in 1st through 6th grade together, then junior high and high school) and her boy Myles, and junior high buddy Jessica (we went through the whole inseparable thing for a couple years, spent more time writing nonsensical notes to each other in class than sensical ones pertaining to the subject matter), her hubby Andy, and her girl Aspen. We ate and drank and hung out and were merry. It was very nice to be able to spend time at the holidays with people that I have such history with, and to feel a part of their lives again.

Then, of course, was Christmas day. I had to call my brother to yell at him to come over so that I--I mean, we--could open presents. Turns out I had already given him one: He was sick. He spent most of the day like this:


[Sick brother.]

All in all, a relaxing day. My main gift was a duvet cover and a set of flannel sheets, so as of Christmas morning pretty much all I wanted to do was go back to Boulder so I could try them out. But I went sailing instead.

Matt Currie and Randy Tonkin are two good friends from college. Even though Randy didn't go to our college anymore at that time. Anyway. We climbed in Utah together my first spring break at Whitman, and that sealed the deal. Since then, we've climbed in Red Rocks, NV, drank beers on the Seattle waterfront, snow camped on Rainier, and probably done some other things, too. This time, Randy picked me up at my folks' and we met Currie at his sailboat in Tacoma and sailed to Randy's beach on Vashon Island. And we listened to pirate music my mom gave me on the way. (When there's scurvy on a pirate ship, here's a hint, eat a lime EAT A LIME eat a lime EAT A LIME!) Matt and Randy battled over the steering.


[Randy and Currie fight for control.]

They're like an old married couple. They already know this.

We paddled ashore onto Vashon and Randy retrieved Peter Brandt, another friend from college who I hadn't seen in years. But no time passes, really, which was already obvious as the four of us sat down at Vashon's Mexican restaurant for dinner. Same old banter. We squoze into Randy's cabin after dinner to watch "Meet the Fockers," which was appropriate for our mentality. I think I'd like to live on Vashon. In fact, although there are many places I've fallen in love with, I think Randy's beach is the first one that has actually struck me as a place I'd like to live. A place I could consider my own. Just you wait and see.

Randy and Peter slept in Randy's cabin and Matt and I slept in Matt's boat, because there wasn't enough room in Randy's cabin for all four of us, even if one of us slept in his bathtub, which is where we dropped our coats when we came in. In the morning, we didn't waste to much time getting up and out back to Tacoma on Currie's boat because I had places to be. My parents had made a reservation for the fam and some friends at Teatro Zinzanni, which they had fallen in love with three years ago. I won't even go into it. But you should. If you're in the Seattle area, check it out for yourself. If you're up for a night of indulgence.


[The gang.]

The following day, after our night of decadence, my family attended the memorial service of a friend of the family who died after a year+-long fight with cancer the week before Christmas. This may seem like a strange thing to bring into the blog, but it so happens that our families for a number of years got together on Christmas Eve to dine and exchange presents, and also Randy Giovenelle's memorial service and the reception at their house which followed was a lovely view into Randy's life. Randy was always quite, steady, and modest, and it was wonderful to hear commentaries from friends who knew him well and have his work at their house explained by people who understood and appreciated it. I knew Randy was a car guy, but I didn't realize what a craftsman he was. Interesting that I now know Randy much better than I ever did.

Cherish your loved ones.

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December 11, 2005

California Coast

After the AGU meeting, I was scheduled to work on some installs in southern California. And what better way to get to Riverside from San Francisco than to drive down the coast?


[The view from our first hotel room, in Carmel By the Sea.]


[Balcony guest.]

My friend Chris, the UNAVCO Regional Engineer for the Southern California region, gave me a ride. We spent the weekend making our way leisurely down the coast and soaking up the sun.

On Saturday, we stopped off at Big Sur and hiked in a short ways to a beach. On the way, we caught the Monarch butterflies. Not literally. We just watched them, and took pictures.

It may look like just a boring, somewhat sickly tree, but most of the orange and brown leaf-looking things are butterflies. The orange ones are butterflies with their wings open, and the brown ones are butterflies with their wings closed.

At the beach, we relaxed and watched surfers and horseback riders and families fishing in the stream feeding into the ocean.

And then, we walked back and continued on down the road.

We started Sunday with a stroll on the beach in Cambria, where we stayed. We were much less skeptical than we look in this picture. It may have been cloudy, but we were pretty sure that life was all right.

After our walk, we headed the rest of the way home. After a relaxing weekend, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about going in to the office on Monday to head out in the field to work, but it ended up going just fine. Tune in for more on SoCal installs.

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December 10, 2005

California in December

I went to the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco for the first time in four years, and I was STOKED. Besides getting to hang out with some good friends from college and from grad school, catching up with friends in the geoscience world, hearing the latest on topics such as climate change, earthquake science, volcano geodesy, and the Sumatra earthquake, and eating great food at lovely restaurants, I got to see sea lions. They're fat.


[Taking a walk with Guy.]


[Guy. Sometimes it's hard to take him seriously.]


[View of the city from Guy's place.]


[And at night.]


[Guy with a piece of the cake that he won. It's a funny story.]

Nicole and I took an afternoon off of the meeting to cruise around town.


[Tourist heaven. A polish sausage, a five-dollar postcard (the ticket to the trolley), and a flower from the hot dog vender. Because he loooooooooved me.]


[The Big Daddy of the sea lions.]


[See? Fat.]


[Chuck and Ginny. Not fat, but trying to get there. Gooooooood food.]

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