Monday, December 26, 2005

The most inconvenient thing about having a baby... having more than one!

I meant to post this before daughter Berkeley Celeste was born, since it was the main thing I was worrying about, but time drifted by so quickly and the next thing we knew, she was born.

But the big "inconvenience" has to be the dilemma of what to do with your other kids while your current kid is being born. When Jackson was born, our firstborn, Nolan, had to endure all day babysitting until I could make it back from the hospital to pick him up. He actually went through two sitters that day, one whom he didn't even really know that well. And to top it off, he didn't get a nap because he was completely out of his element. Oh the humanity!

This time we had two kids 3 and under to find places for. Thank God Berkeley was born under cover of night so I could put both boys down to bed, giving us just (barely) enough time to call in some nearby and parental (2 hours away) reinforcements while we rushed off to the hospital. She was born before midnight, so I was able to return home before the boys woke at 6 a.m. Then I fed them, dressed them, and sent them off to school. They were none the wiser until I brought them to the hospital to meet their baby sister that afternoon.

So really, it turned out not to be as inconvenient as I thought it would. In fact, it was quite convenient. But the lead-up was all worries nonetheless.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Baby It's Cold Outside!

We've been regularly hitting the mid-30s overnight this past week. And all this, in sunny San Diego. (Sure, it still hits the mid-70s by noonish, but that's beside the point.)


Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Star is Born!

Berkeley Celeste LaiOur beautiful daughter, Berkeley Celeste Lai, was born last night! She is truly a joy and wonder, a blessing indeed.

Here are some vital stats:

dob 11/16/05 @ 11:03 PM
7 lb. 12 oz.
20 in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fire Season Officially Over in California

Except, as it would be, in my home region of San Diego County as well as San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Ah well, at least the rest of the state is considered to be out of the woods now because of some early rains we got last month.


Monday, October 31, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

College Football: Trojans PUSH past Irish, 34-31

apcacunrr_usc_notre_dame_1acfg-lgPHOTO CREDIT: Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart (11) scores the winning touchdown against Notre Dame with three seconds remaining in the game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005. USC defeated Notre Dame, 34-31. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

In a game too incredible for words, and an ending approaching the stuff legends are made of (see the all-time most unbelievable play: "The Play" - Cal v. Stanford), I must defer to revered silence and point my dear reader to the Los Angeles Times story instead.

So now, I bow to Touchdown Jesus and say, "Thank you and fight on!"

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Friday, October 07, 2005

College Football: UC Davis Stuns Stanfurd, 20-17

faletoese-sack-lgPHOTO CREDIT: Who are those guys in gold? And what is he doing to that poor little Stanford guy? (UC Davis, 9/17/05)

I must really not be paying attention to let this gem cross below my radar. Or maybe it's just that my radar doesn't go so low as to pick up anything of note down on the farm. In fact, I'm reporting this a full 3 weeks tardy!

On one September Saturday evening in Stanford Stadium, the unlikely happened. The UC Davis Aggies football team, making the transition from Division II to Division I-AA, took on the Stanford Cardinal in what should have been a laugher for the boys in red. That wouldn't happen. Even with the Cardinal taking a strong lead, 17-0 deep into the second quarter, it wasn't going to happen, because the mighty-mighty Aggies would find a way to storm back with 20 unanswered points to march away in victory. Cue: UC Davis fight song. Oh, wait. Does anyone even know the Davis fight song? Really, should anyone know it? Or, do they even have one? No matter.

Indeed, as one San Francisco area headline says it, "Stanford football: Making history for all the wrong reasons."

Go Bears! Grrrr-rah!

Just so nobody takes offense, the Aggies do indeed have a fight song. You can hear it here, and find out more about their marching band here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Border 50 Fire - San Diego's first big fire of the season

5062448PHOTO CREDIT: Tecate Fire along the US-Mexico border -- the international border is the brown fence on the left (video still from KGTV Channel 10 San Diego)

Just a quick step outside tells the story: The filtered sunlight casts a faint red-brown hue on the skies, clouds, walls, and sidewalks. The hot, dry smell of smoke is ever-present while the tiny white specks of a distant ash-fall are unmistakable.

Now San Diego County has it's own fire to take care of. Early this morning a Santa Ana wind-driven fire broke out near Barrett Junction of State Highway 94 in south east San Diego County, not far from the Mexican border. (Actually, it's more like south central county, but we San Diego Metro-centric folks think central is plenty east to qualify as south east.) Then later this morning news was out that another, much larger fire was coursing northward from Tecate, Mexico, threatening to make a border crossing, which it did.

It's been officially named the Border 50 Fire and is 0% contained, or shall we say, completely uncontained, as of this moment. The fire (according to the CDF website) started at 9:17 a.m. and has currently burned 1,000 acres in Mexico and 500 acres in the US.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

California Wildfires Information: Fire Season / Topanga Fire Update

19723818PHOTO CREDIT: Plumes of smoke rise from brush fires burning near Chatsworth. (Damon Winter / LA Times / September 29, 2005)

Back on June 23, I posted a California Wildfires Information entry mistaking the Morongo Valley fire for the start of the fire season in Southern California. While I did mention that the giant Cedar Fire among other mammoths that broke out in SoCal and my beloved San Diego County took place three days after the birth of my second child, Jackson, on October 25, 2003, I was fearfully thinking that the fire season was coming early this year.

Now with the additions of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slamming ashore in the Gulf Coast, the idea of natural disaster is all too vivid.

It's interesting that while we were getting all that rain earlier this year, with landslides and floods throughout the southland, nobody even once mentioned that rain, in a basically arid and desert region, could prove itself so harmful later in the year. With all the new and dense vegetation (read: weeds) that sprouted up everywhere, giving us a soft blanket of green on our normally dusty, sagey hillsides and canyons, there was not even a whisper of what it would mean for the fire season -- namely, that all this new growth would eventually dry up in the summer heat and become massive stands of fuel for the flames when Autumn's Santa Ana winds would come blowing across the desert and into our beautiful, sunny Southern California.

The Topanga Fire (pictured above) is still a raging, uncontrolled mess.

Once again, here are some important fire-related websites for us Californians:

- California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CDF) has a page detailing current major incidents going on in the state at CDF Major Incidents.

- National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

- USDA Forest Service's Active Fire Map; a really good place to get a visual idea for major fire incidents nationwide.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Crossroads Christian Fellowship

Just wanted to point you toward a website I created for a pastor friend of mine, Rod Robison, and the church he planted last Easter - Crossroads Christian Fellowship in Santee, CA.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Relic from our Half Dome Adventure

Photo_091405_001I was clearing out a couple very old items from the pantry today and came across this container of powdered Gatorade fruit punch. Knowing precisely how long I'd had it (too long!) without even looking at the label, I tossed it straight into the trash when a bell went off in my head.

D'oh! You can't throw that away! At least not without its due ceremony to remember its contribution and place in your life story.

So I reached into the trash can, removed the now more than 4-year-old container of Gatorade, and took this picture, all the while singing its praises and thanking it for simply "being there" in our time of agonizing triumph. After all, this was where the "4 servings of Gatorade powder" came from on our Half Dome Hike back on June 5, 2001. (You can read all about it in my previous blog entry, "Hiking Half Dome - Yosemite National Park".)

To think that we moved from our condo to our current home and took this old container along with us and never thought to trash it any earlier than today is almost comical (almost, only because if you know me, you propbably wouldn't be all that surprised). Actually, I'm sure I had thought of discarding it before, but subconciously felt too strong a connection to it to do so. So today the deed is done, but its deeds are not forgotten.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Mission: best breakfast in San Diego

48Yesterday we had one of those rare opportunities to go out together without the kids! So we took quick advantage of the situation - both boys in preschool on the same morning, Mary with a light(er) morning work schedule - and headed for our favorite breakfast spot in San Diego: The Mission in North Park.

Mary had her usual - Mission Rosemary ("Crispy rosemary potatoes, scrambled eggs, sautéed tomatoes, and grilled rosemary bread."). And I had the 2+2+2=$5 special ("2 Blackberry Pancakes + 2 Scrambled Eggs + 2 Strips of Bacon"), an unlisted menu option that's just enough for the growing boy inside!

They also have two other locations; one in Mission Beach and another in the East Village, Downtown, not too far from the ballpark.

So next time you're in town, invite us (or just me, or whatever) to join you for breakfast. Who knows, we might even pay!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Rainbow Revolution

Photo_091205_001All stand. And welcome me to the Rainbow Revolution!

All right, what the heck is he talking about? And what's with that silly photo of a flip-flop?

Goaded along by brother Jobo and sis'n'law Joanna, I have been conviced that my cheapo plastic Old Navy five-buck-a-pair sandals just don't cut it in today's more-chic/less-shabby world. So tonight I plopped down some heavy plastic and sprung for premium leather Rainbow Sandals (#301, blackforest brown) at PacSun in Parkway Plaza near my house. They come fully equipped with a lifetime guarantee (MFR: "Our Warrantee is for the Lifetime of the sole. As long as you haven't worn into the next layer of the sole from either the top or bottom") and people have been known to be wearing the same pair over 20 years! Not sure what I really think of that, but sounds better than my current not-so-stylish and not-that-comfy 6-monthers.

I've yet to actually wear them though. Kinda scared to set my feet free in these suddenly upscale environs. I'll try them on the carpet first. Then slowly ease into walking through the tiled kitchen. Then maybe, just maybe I'll take them into the garage in the next month or so. I'll update you all once I've ventured to take them beyond the perimeter of our property.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Trouble with Reading

I was thinking the other day, why am I such a bad reader? Why is it so hard for me to do some real, solid reading, as opposed to my typical 3-6 pages a day?

I've determined that it's a fiction v. nonfiction thing.

Air travel, for instance, seems like the perfect time and place for solid reading beyond the 6 page barrier. Still, I never seem to even crack open that novel or even really see it until I've returned home and replaced it on the bookshelf. Pathetic. Yet on that very same flight I managed to completely consume a number of magazine articles, lengthy ones, mind you, and even read through the first 15 pages of the latest political expose madness in the airport bookstore while waiting for my flight. And that novel just rests tucked away in my carryon bag.

Fiction - stories from another world, not necessarily otherworldly in the alien sense, but certainly not from the here-and-now which we know and love and live in. It's the unreal, however real it may seem.

Nonfiction - stories from this world, that directly affect/infect this world and its populants. It's real for the most part, save tabloid journalism and books by would-be/washed-up celebrities trying to make a cheap buck at someone else's expense, however unreal it may seem.

So what's the difference? Why can't I concentrate on fiction but can eat up the nonfiction without breaking sweat? It seems I've just answered my own question -- "without breaking a sweat" is the key.

Fiction necessarily requires the full participation of the reader. I've got to put my whole self into the story if I'm to breach the first barrier, the fact that it is fiction, the unreal passing itself off as real. No one ever wrote a bit of fiction with the intention that the reader would disbelieve the whole thing, the entire premise. Fiction is intentionally real and unreal at the same time.

Nonfiction, on the other hand, starts and ends in what we know, the here and now (or in the case of history, the here and then). There is no barrier to breach and no participation needed. There is no suspension of disbelief, just the invitation to disagree should an opinion be given, and I guess that in itself is one entre to reader participation, but it's not required.

I love the fact that I'm a writer. I hate the fact that I write so little. It's high time that I breach the barrier to make the unreal real.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

US State Demonyms: Ans, Anders, Ians, Ers, and Ites, OH MY!

No, not US State Demons! I'm talking about "demo" as in deomgraphics and "nyms" as in names - names of people. For example: the name for people from California is "Californians" (not Sunshine Staters or Hippies or whatever else you've got in mind for us, please!).

We really don't talk about state demonyms enough. Some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, why would we ever need to? But what do you do when you need to make a gross generalization about a mass of people in another state? When I lived in Wisconsin, people were always talking about how much they hated them "Flatlanders!" The what?! The who?! Unbeknownst to me, Wisconsinites (d'oh, what's an "ite"? this is getting interesting...) consider their state mountainous, or at least a little hilly. And they have an ingrown disaffection for those south of the border, known more properly as Illinoisans or Illinoisians (no one seems to agree on this one, go figure), and love to ridicule their neighbor's flat(ter) geography. Soon after, I learned that those on the other side of the great lake are called Michiganders. "Ganders? You've got to be kidding me!" But it's true.

It got me thinking... if I were in conversation and needed to refer to a stateload of people, what would I have said? "Yeah, those Michigan-- an-- er-- um, those Michigan people are so...."

While Alabamans seems obvious, there are some who go for Alabamians - I'm sorry but that's just too close to Albanians for my taste. Similarly, there is disagreement in Colorado, even among their own state and federal officials - the governor favors Coloradans while the congresswoman from the 4th district leans toward Coloradoans.

And just where did Floridians buy that extra vowel, "i"? Shouldn't it be Floridans?

A person from Utah is a Utahn, rhymes with Yukon. And while many Utahns are Mormons, and many Mormons are Utahns, not all Utahns are necessarily Mormons and vice versa, so let's get that straight.

As I've already mentioned Michiganders, something to keep in mind is that theirs is but a variant of the -er ending with the likes of New Yorkers, Maylanders, and Mainers.

Now Mainers serves as our entre into completely alternate demonyms that truly are nicknames as they don't actually use the state's name as their roots. Some Mainers prefer to be called Down Easters, referring to their far eastern longitudes and not to Easter/Spring chicken down feathers. Indiana Hoosiers are a classic, but what of Massachusetts? They're called Bay Staters? Really? I guess any variant on Massachusetts as a root just end up sounding silly, so the state legislature went so far as to write it into law. Wow.

But my all time favorite must go to our friends in New Mexico. You can't really argue with the cheerful ring of "New Mexicans."

US State Demonyms: Just the List

Alabama = Alabamans, Alabamians
Alaska = Alaskans
Arizona = Arizonans
Arkansas = Arkansans
California = Californians
Colorado = Coloradans, Coloradoans
Connecticut = Connecticuters, Nutmeggers
Delaware = Delawareans
Florida = Floridians
Georgia = Georgians
Hawaii = Hawaiian
Idaho = Idahoans
Illinois = Illinoisans, Illinoisians
Indiana = Hoosiers
Iowa = Iowans
Kansas = Kansans
Kentucky = Kentuckians
Louisiana = Louisianans, Louisianians
Maine = Mainers, Down Easters
Maryland = Marylanders
Massachusetts = Bay Staters
Michigan = Michiganders, Michiganians
Minnesota = Minnesotans
Mississippi = Mississippians
Missouri = Missourians
Montana = Montanans
Nebraska = Nebraskans
Nevada = Nevadans
New Hampshire = New Hampshirites
New Jersey = New Jerseyites, New Jerseyans
New Mexico = New Mexicans
New York = New Yorkers
North Carolina = North Carolinians
North Dakota = North Dakotans
Ohio = Ohioans
Oklahoma = Oklahomans, Oklahomians, Sooners
Oregon = Oregonians
Pennsylvania = Pennsylvanians
Rhode Island = Rhode Islanders
South Carolina = South Carolinians
South Dakota = South Dakotans
Tennessee = Tennesseeans
Texas = Texans
Utah = Utahns
Vermont = Vermonters
Virginia = VirginiansWashington = Washingtonians
West Virginia = West Virginians
Wisconsin = Wisconsinites
Wyoming = Wyomingites

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

5 Holes for 5 Trees

Let us learn to see the ((sub)urban) forest for the trees...

Thanks to People for Trees and San Diego Gas & Electric - and, of course, our tax dollars hard at work - this week we are the proud recipients of 5 free shade trees for our home landscape. We have judiciously chosen, according to the free shade trees program's guidelines, planting locations around the main house and cafe for maximum possitive reinforcement. The idea of the program is that one of years, the trees will become large enough to give shade to our home and thereby lessen our reliance on air conditioning and the electricity drain that comes with it.

So over the weekend we dug our 5 holes for 5 trees and are in the process of sticking'em in the ground so they can grow to their full glory in our backyard. Here are some snapshots of the trees we received:

tree1crapemultiLagerstroemia indica - Crape Myrtle, multitrunk, pink
This multitrunk specimen was clearly a busy little tree in the nursery. It arrived in a 15 gallon landscape tub like all the others, but this on had branches and leaves starting from the base and flaring out 4-5 feet in all directions; delicate pink flowers all over it. The crape myrtle is a deciduous flowering tree with striking smooth bark in its more mature stages. It's planted widely as a street tree throughout El Cajon in both its multi and single trunk forms. We'll have to prune the extremely low horizontal branches upon planting since we want it to be a shade tree, not a shade bush, near our outdoor kitchen's seating area.

tree2crapesingleLagerstroemia indica - Crape Myrtle, single trunk, lavender
This lavender specimen is on a single trunk with its first branches at about the 5 foot mark. It should serve as a nice screen between our bedroom window and out neighbor's patio.

tree3prunusPrunus cerasifera - Purple Leaf Plum
This spring flowering and summer leafing deciduous tree has distinctly dark purple leaves. Since there's nothing like these purple leaves on any other tree, it's very noticeable when driving around town; though this tree is often pruned incorrectly or not at all, making them sometimes look wiry and odd. Hopefully we won't make those same mistakes. This tree will anchor the southeast corner of the cafe, at one end of our eventual lawn.

tree4peppermintAgonis flexuosa - Weeping Peppermint
"He must have a truly romantic nature, for he weeps when there is nothing at all to weep about." Or so wrote Oscar Wilde. Truly there is nothing to weep about for this tree either, for we shall love it most tenderly and speak to every so often. We felt our landscape needed another tree of weeping habit. When we moved here, we inherited a huge California Pepper (Schinus molle) directly behind the cafe, up near our citrus orchard. We weren't sure what to think of it at first, except that we did appreciate its lacelike weeping quality. Granted, sometimes it weeps a bit too low for our tastes and we have to shorten its 'do, but we wanted another weeper, something a little closer to our main outdoor living spaces. So we've chosen to plop him between the patio basketball hoop and one of the cafe windows to provide much needed afternoon shade to the west facing cafe.

All right, take a breath, I'm almost done...

tree5brachychitonBrachychiton acerifolius - Australian Flame
Our favorite tree of all, if you've been to our home, no doubt you've seen the year-old (time in the ground) Australian Flame in our front turnaround. In just a year, it has more than doubled in height. This little one's spot is between the other west facing cafe window and the kids' playground. It should fit right in because of its towering upright habit and large shiny evergreen leaves. Plus, the one in the frontyard got practically no water from us and is really a maintenance-free tree since it just kind of self-prunes the leaves and branches it doesn't need, and always goes up, up, up!

So come on over and meet these new additions to the landscape in person.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Road Trip!

but first we have to get there!

It was 4th of July weekend - Friday. Maybe this was our first mistake, but we really didn't have much choice since it's how vacation schedules panned out for us. So the big drive had to be now.

The plan was to send both boys (a 3-year-old and a 20-monther) to preschool for the morning while my wife and I had a nice breakfast out - just the two of us - and then packed up the car. We'd pick the boys up at noon and start our northward travels straight away. The boys would fall fast asleep from school-exhaustion as always.

Foolishness! Somehow they both suspected something was vastly different about today. Maybe it was that we were on the 805 north, which we're never on at this time of day. Or maybe it was the fact that it wasn't just dad driving them around as is customary, but mom was in the for the ride as well. Whatever it was, neither would sleep nor show any signs of breaking any time soon.

Not to worry, seems that all the holiday traffic was heading southbound into San Diego anyway. A quick listen to the traffic report on KNX 1070 AM told us to steer clear of I-5 and stick with I-405. Still, all was well, and we didn't have any traffic until the usual slowing after LAX (where we also lost our carpool lane). Traffic dragged for the typical miles past LAX, through Culver City, the Westside, Westwood, and the Sepulveda Pass, but nothing unusual, nothing to seriously fret about. The drive through the San Fernando Valley was a breeze. This was about to be the best SF road trip ever!

D'oh! I jinxed it!

As we approached the 405-5 merge just south of the Newhall Pass and the Santa Clarita Valley, our lovely 4-5 lanes of traffic turned into a virtual parking lot. Jackson, who hadn't slept since waking up at 6 this morning was a very unhappy traveler traffic_3lanesnow that it was 7 1/2 hours later. Sometimes he's working on his second nap by now, but not today. Today he was screaming. So much so that we thought something was terribly wrong with him. Had he fallen and hit his head at school and we weren't told? Was there something else that we missed? I called his preschool on my cell phone to ask if something had happened to him today, and I could barely carry on a conversation with the poor kid crying in the car seat behind me. They said nothing happened except that he had a great day. No matter. We had to stop the car and console him. And if he would prove inconsolable, there was a possible total road trip abandonment in the works as a last resort.

So there I was in the freeway median with the 20 feet from northbound 405 on my right and another 20 feet from northbound 5 on my left; the heat, scorching.

PVS1965 installedJackson did stop crying, but only as long I held him. Any gesture toward the car and car seat illicited yet another screaming response. It was time for prayer and setting up the DVD player!

Twenty minutes into "Toy Story," Jackson fell asleep. Nolan, who couldn't believe his eyes, must have been thinking, when did we get a DVD player in the car? Where has this been all my life? (The quick answer is simple: we got it just for this trip, just for time such as this.)

After eventually emerging from this traffic crawl, and having crossed the Newhall Pass into the Santa Clarita Valley, we started to zip past familiar sights once again - Magic Mountain, those sometimes-brown/sometimes-green round rolling hills in front of you just as I-5 sweeps left, and the Grapevine. Thankfully, the rest of the trip up the lonely I-5 was uneventful as always and we eventually rolled into Santa Clara County (where we were staying at my brother's house) about 9:30 p.m. - basically, nine and a half hours after our departure from El Cajon.

We ended up having a great trip - visited lots of family, road some full-scale and small-scale trains, watched the down-home Alamaeda Independence Day Parade, went to the beach, strolled around Berkeley (see below), and hung out at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park, and Yerba Buena Gardens/South of Market area science centers. Out of total exhaustion, we decided to cut our 9-day trip short by a day so we could take a weekend to recover before the work week started back up.

Whew - after reliving the trip just now, I'm tired all over again...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Berkeley: views from a stroller

800px-Sather-GateSo it's ten years following graduation and we're once again walking the wonderfully, elegantly grimy (read: earthy) streets of Berkeley. More particularly, the Telegraph Avenue section on the southside of the University of California campus. Go Bears!

Not all that much has changed since 1995; at least not too drastically. Sure, our Unit 2 dorms now have these rather bulky additions that remind me of the condominiums in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood - not really low-rise, not really high-rise, lots of funky color. Most of the same stores are still around. And more importantly, most of the same cafes are still pumping out the best coffee this side of the world. Feel free to check out my Berkeley Walking Tour on the House of Lai website.

What has changed is the fact that we were now walking these sentimental sidewalks pushing our two boys along in strollers. The whole time going to Cal, I always wondered about those people who'd walk around Berkeley's southside with babies and strollers, thinking, "What's up with that? A baby? In Berkeley?"

Now we were those people. It really gave us a sense for how we've moved from one life-stage to another and another and still another! I guess you'd call it perspective.

Sadly for us, both Nolan and Jackson would appreciate none of the city's quirks and would instead fidget, complain, and simply want to release themselves from their strollers while we tried to shop for cool t-shirts and outfits for both them and their new baby sister who'll be added to the clan in November. We ended up having to ditch Berkeley in favor of romping around Jack London Square in Oakland (messing around in a fountain and visiting the Barnes & Noble).

(Epilogue: We managed a return trip to Berkeley the next morning to actually complete our shopping spree at both the Cal Student Store on campus and Bancroft Clothing, a local favorite.)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Lai Genome Project

karyotype_46Drum roll please...

We're having a GIRL!!!

This morning we went in for Mary's 20 week ultrasound and found out in no uncertain terms that our third child will indeed be a girl! We are incredibly excited, especially in light of the Lai family history of having children of only one gender or the other, but never both - and we were well on our way to having all boys (though we love them both beyond imagination!).

This brings me to my family gender theory (the Lai Genome Project)...

My eldest sister, Elsie, has three lovely girls. My next eldest sister, Marj, has three equally lovely boys. And while my brother Paul has managed one boy and one girl thus far, he has Tsao family genetics on his side. As far as the Lai genome is concerned, it's strictly one gender per family. Until now.

It appears that the key variable in the equation is the gender of the individual Lai family member contributing to the chromosomal makeup of the child. The two Lai females (my sisters) have either three girls or three boys. I, a Lai male, will now have two boys and one girl. My father, obviously a Lai male, has managed both boys and girls.

This leads to two deductions in my family gender theory: 1) Lai sperm, whether X or Y, show no signs of power struggles - neither one dominates nor is a better swimmer/impregnator than the other; and 2) Lai eggs cooperatively choose early on in their life cycle which chromosome (be it X or Y) they will accept into their domain.

Now the final proof for the Lai Genome Project lies in newlywed brother Joey...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Apples & Oranges: a comparison

apples          oranges
Who says you can't compare the two?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

California Wildfires Information

18144780PHOTO CREDIT: A plane pulls out of a ridge after dropping fire retardant on a blaze that destroyed numerous homes in Morongo Valley. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times / June 23, 2005)

The birth of our second child, Jackson, reminded us all too clearly about the climate and terrain of Southern California - this is wildfire country! Three days after J's birth, the wildfires of 2003 sparked numerous blazes throughout the region, including right here in San Diego. There was no part of the county that wasn't clouded by smoke; the look and smell of it was everywhere.

So here are some important websites for us Californians as summer is now upon us and we enter the fire season:

- California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CDF) has a page detailing current major incidents going on in the state at CDF Major Incidents.

- National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

- USDA Forest Service's Active Fire Map; a really good place to get a visual idea for major fire incidents nationwide.

Let's pray for a safe season for minimal harm human life.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dad's Day Friday - Streetside San Diego (local NBC)

dgo-streetsidewithk-120x90-30366-05272005-669So an email went out from Kimberly King, the NBC 7/39 host of "Streetside San Diego" that tapes right outside Horton Plaza in downtown, to our dad's group inviting us to come down to be part of the live audience for Friday's show in celebration of Father's Day weekend. One of the dads and his 7 month old (Sean & Sierra) made it down and deftly schmoozed their way into a live camera shot and mini-interview, while Nolan, Jackson, and I tried to beat the heat of the blazing sun on the nearby plaza steps.

In the end, both Nolan and Jackson primarily hung out in a dry kiddie pool the show used to demonstrate fly fishing. Jackson did make a very brief and very distant appearance when they did a House of Blues food bit (Jackson could just be seen being hoisted onto my shoulders).

From what I could gather, live 'streetside' TV a la the Today Show is a lot less spectacular when you're actually there. Lots of milling around, waiting for something to happen, watching producers and production assistants doing the same. Then a cameraman points his equipment someone's way and all of a sudden there's excitement - out of thin air! Amazing.

The saving grace for me and and boys making the trip out there, we thought, would be the "Concert on the Plaza." Cool. We can sit and listen to a band (Saucy Monky)header-smlogo-planes play and just chill out. Of course the sun was blazing and it was way too hot for chilling; what happened to June gloom? Turns out, the band never actually played a full song. Mostly they played for 20-30 seconds at a time whenever they went to or came back from commercial. Concert in the plaza?! What's up with that? (Addendum: I got a note from Annmarie, one of Saucy Monky's pair of singer/songwriter/guitarist/frontwomen, mentioning that they actually did play an hour-long show from noon till 1pm... too bad the boys and I missed out; they sounded good.)

Regardless, we couldn't be faulted for not trying! Yet another adventure in fatherhood...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Boys of Summer - Scioscia v. Robinson

Round One goes to Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson for not only calling out Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim set-up man for pine tar on his glove but coming from behind to win the game as well.

angel.0615.mb.6(PHOTO CREDIT: Managers Frank Robinson and Mike Scioscia are restrained by umpires Tim Tschida and Dale Scott after Brendan Donnelly’s ejection Tuesday. Photo by Matt A. Brown, Orange County Register)

How sweet it is when baseball in all its glory once again shows us how, in the words of the late former baseball commissioner Bartlett Giamatti, "it's designed to break your heart." It's a game full of life's lessons, victories, heartbreaks, and frustrations. Last night's interleague game played in Anaheim was one full of mind games, tactics, payback, and inside information.

How in the world could Robinson know that Brendan Donnelly was sporting a pine tar-loaded glove? (Pine tar being an illegal substance that is used for altering a baseball so it does all manner of screwy things on its way toward the batter.) All suspicions point to National Jose Guillen, who played for the Angels last summer and was suspended by manager Scioscia toward the end of the season for a little tiff they had when he was replaced for a pinch runner. All suscipicions point to payback.

And what incredible payback it was! When Donnelly was tossed from the game (and now faces a suspension from Major League Baseball), the Angels were ahead 3-1 in the seventh inning. Once the inning was over without further incident, Scioscia decided the turn his own hand and called for the umpires to examine the Nationals' pitcher, who ended up having to shorten the leather ties on his glove with scissors, no biggie. Then in the top of the eighth, against the reliever who came in to relieve the tossed Donnelly, Guillen came up to bat with one man on base and proceeded to smack it over the left field wall to tie the game. In a victory trot around the bases, showered with boos from the Angel faithful, Guillen paid payback for payback and got the rare chance to "stick it to the man," the man, in this case, being former manager Scioscia.

The Nationals went on to score twice more in the eighth and once more in the ninth to seal a 6-3 comeback victory over the Angels.

Baseball, it's too much game!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

FATHERHOOD: Oh the things you'll eat!

Photo_052505_001The other day a friend and her twin 18-month-old boy and girl are over at the house to hang out and play with Jackson, my 18mo. We're all just kind of stomping around the back patio and I'm feeding Jackson some bits of Monterey Jack cheese when my son lovingly stumbles toward me, crashes into me with a big hug, then proceeds to lower his head into my hand and spit out the wad of cheese he had been holding in his mouth for the past five minutes. Not wanting to reveal my more savage nature and just toss it out in the yard - as I would have had I been alone with the boy - I instictively and all too swiftly pop it into my own mouth. Note to self: Pre-chewed cheese is not the delicacy it might at first seem; next time, just toss it.

Now as I survey the short three years I've been a father, I realize I've put quite a number of obscenely distasteful half-eaten foodstuffs into my mouth - something I never could have imagined in my kidless years.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Earthquake Forecasts?!

You can't be serious, can you?! Now the US Geological Survey has a real-time earthquake forecast map for California. Check it out and see when you might have to start gluing stuff down to the shelves. Click here for the latest quakecast.

Monday, May 16, 2005

House of Lai Progress Report

I am slowly but surely updating the House of Lai website. If you didn't already know, it's our family website (it's the first link in the "links" column to the right).

Most of the current updating is happening in the Dan's Ultimate Travel Guide section - more specifically, in the Berkeley and San Diego sections.

The website is at

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Housekeeping Hints

LST-533-broomNo, not from me, silly. I need housekeeping hints from you!

All right, here's the deal: I'm a stay at home dad with two boys - Nolan is 3 years old and goes to preschool in the morning and Jackson is 1 1/2 years old and stays with me all day. Gathering your collective experiences, what are some methods you've used to keep the house in order without feeling like you're just cleaning all day long and nothing seems to look any better than before you started? I've tried doing the housework while the boys napped, but I found that I was being far too ineffective since I was too scared of waking them with all the noise that accompanies certain cleaning tasks. Quite a conundrum.

So click on the comments link below and hint away!

(unless you have a Blogger account, make sure you click "Other" or just "Anonymous" when leaving your comment)

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Disneyland & California Adventure weekend

ParksCategoryFeatureWe just got back from a little family trip to Disneyland & California Adventure - we all had a great time! I was most worried about how they would do sleeping in a hotel.

The last time we did a hotel stay was for "Day Out With Thomas" (the tank engine) in Perris, California, last November. During that stay, Nolan woke up Jackson almost immediately upon us putting them down and we had to resort to driving around on the I-215 freeway until they both fell asleep. Note to self: next time we come to the Orange Empire Railway Museum, do a day trip!

Back on topic - Disneyland. We showed up on Friday morning, got hopper passes for entry to both parks and headed off for Fantasyland. Our first ride, Pinnochio, was mostly boring for 3-year-old thrill-seeker Nolan and mostly frightening for 18-month-old Jackson. We decided these dark and scary Disneyland kiddie rides were just not going to work for our family. Next we tackled the carousel, which Nolan loved (sitting all by himself) and Jackson coped with and eventually enjoyed while seated on my lap; mom took video from a non-moving bench in front of us.

From there we went to Toontown and rode the Roger Rabbit spinning-out-of-control-car ride. Then Nolan and I rode a roller coaster while J and mom got a little something to eat. We took the Disneyland railroad to the next stop, Tomorrowland, ditched the long lines for burgers and did a little walking tour of the park for the Country Bear burger stop instead. By now it was early afternoon and, we thought, time for the boys to nap. So it was off to California Adventure for a nice stroll along the pier.

Before we get very far into California Adventure (CA), Nolan fell asleep in the stroller. Jackson, on the other hand, was happy to be awake (as he would for a couple more hours). Jackson jumbled around the park, taking in the sights and sounds along Paradise Pier and enjoying some free time with dad in the Bug's Life kids' area while mom rested a bit. Then we all got the craving for an ice cream sundae, so we headed for the ice cream parlor in the train near the front of CA. That's where we found a great gift shop with all the Mr. Potato Head accessories you could want; we stocked up!

Nolan woke up in time for some ice cream and a romp through the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, a cool obstacle course with rope ladders, rock walls, and slides. Pretty soon, however, Jackson was starting to get a little worn out. So we revisited the Bug's Life area, saw a little song and dance show, rode Heimlich's Chew Chew train ride, a hot air leaf-balloon ride, and Nolan and I rode the bumper cars. Nolan and I also got to ride Soarin' Over California, which he was pretty scared about at first - holding tightly to my hand - then really liked after realizing he'd be safe. Jackson took a very brief nap in mom's arms while we rode the ride.

We didn't get back to the hotel room until after 10PM with both boys still awake! Thankfully Nolan took to his bed really well and Jackson was able to be consoled to sleep by mom in the main bed. All in all, a great trip!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chavez Ravine Deal

As if anyone needed an additional reason to severely dislike the Los Angeles Dodgers, let me take a moment to remind my gentle readers of the Dodgers and the Chavez Ravine Deal back in the late 1950s.

PHOTO CREDIT: Unknown photographer (United States), Eviction of the Arechiga family from Chavez Ravine so the Dodgers could build their stadium, May 8, 1959, photograph, 4 x 5 in., Regional History Center, Department of Special Collections

It's a story of broken promises, wicked land deals, slimy business proceedings, highly questionable political wrangling, mayoral lies, forceable evictions, eminent domain, and baseball. Now remember, I love baseball and I love my San Diego Padres - which should explain my distaste for that team 130 miles up Interstate 5.

But alas, this story, often forgotten, must be told and retold and is really quite well told by cartoonist Carlos Saldana in a wonderful Flash-animated cartoon you can watch on your computer by clicking this link: The Chavez Ravine Story. The short of the story, however, is that basically the City of Los Angeles kicked out a huge group of Chicano Americans living self-sufficiently in the Chavez Ravine area -- three whole neighborhoods' worth! -- bulldozed their homes, and promised to rehouse them by building high rise public housing projects in their place. The city then proceeded to give the land (and more) to the Dodgers so they could own it and build themselves a field of dreams, Dodger Stadium. It is a tale of woe, indeed.

Go Padres! Beat L.A.!
(I'm talking about the L.A. Dodgers, not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, ha!)
((why can't we beat you guys this season?))

Sunday, April 17, 2005

OPERA REVIEW: San Diego Opera performs Samuel Barber's "Vanessa"

It's Saturday night, the final dischordant curtain falls, Mary and I turn to each other, we signal with a quick head-bob toward the aisle, and head straight for the exits as a soft trickle of applause follows us the Civic Theatre doors. It is the San Diego Opera and their performance of Samuel Barber's 1958 American opera, "Vanessa."

PHOTO CREDIT: John Gibbins, San Diego Union-Tribune / Get those two off that stage, quick! Soprano Carol Vaness (as Vanessa) and tenor John McVeigh (as Anatol) sing to their hearts' content, and our gentle ears' malcontent.

Nothing against American opera, and nothing against modern opera for that matter, but this was quite honestly a stinker. The uncomfortably weird (for lack of a better adjective) score seemed pulled out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The lead actress playing the opera's namesake, world renown Carol Vaness, was shrill and piercing, especially in her warbly upper register. John McVeigh as Anatol was both small in stature and vocal prowess, seeming to become enveloped whenever singing alongside either Vaness or Margaret Lattimore, who actually played a brilliant Erika. The problem with this opera was threefold.

1) The Story - pretty lame, even to opera standards. Act 2's cliffhanger ending gave us hope for an interesting finale. We've got a secretly pregnant Erika running into the snowy northern woods because she can no longer stand that the father of the child is marrying her aunt. The engagement party goes running after her in a mad panic, Vanessa with them. There's a shriek, then the curtain falls. I'm ready for the intermission to end in hopes that the story can redeem our 2 hour 45 minute evening. Instead of redemption, we've got Vanessa, her mom, and a doctor friend of the family sitting around in Erika's upstairs bedroom waiting to hear back from the search party. Nice way to completely stop the momentum.

2) The Music - awful. Barber didn't give his singers a decent aria all night. Maybe it was Vaness' shrieking or McVeigh's littleness. Or maybe it was just the fact that the second a character seemed to start up something good, another character would break in and once again kill the momentum.

3) The Performance - While Lattimore did a fine job as did Richard Stillwell as the doctor, they couldn't overcome the lead's vocal antics, the lame story, and awful music. The sets were wonderfully designed by San Diego Opera's own Michael Yeargan.

Ah well. I always try to keep an open mind with the modern operas, especially those in English, and always make a point of seeing the more experimental operas each season, but this one just couldn't hack it and quickly finds itself at the bottom of our opera list.

Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra," which we saw last month (March 26) remains our favorite of the 2005 season and hails at the top of our all time favorite operas list.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

House painting is done!

As of 10:35 a.m., our house painting is completely finished! Our odd blue and blue-gray house has seen a radical transformation and now really feels like home (after having lived here for 14 months). The formerly stark white garage door as well as the front yard walls and iron railings have also been painted to match the house and roof for a crisp, clean look. We are gradually putting the front landscaping together and have already finished the rose garden alongside the main driveway, the patio area in front of the kitchen windows, and one of the larger planting areas in front of that. All our trees and roses have sprung back to life for a healthy run at the spring, summer and fall. And our Austrailian Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerfolius), standing prominently inside the driveway turnaround, just keeps getting taller every week - a serious grower that was needed practically no water since planting last year.

So, family and friends, drop by and visit us sometime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

3.9 earthquake rumbled us awake this morning

A 3.9 earthquake rumbled through east San Diego County this morning at 4:06 a.m. It was centered less than six miles from our house and, as you can imagine, shook us awake and sent us springing for the internet to see just how close it was. This was an interesting quake for us, being Southern Californians through and through, because we actually heard it before we felt it. It almost seemed like a 50-foot boulder was rolling down Vista Grande Road and past our house. It was loud and the shaking was stiff and rumbling; unlike how quakes felt when I lived in Huntington Beach where it the earth sloshes around as if floating on the water (HB sits atop a large water table). Where we live in El Cajon (actually, unincorporated county land), it's all decomposed granite, and the earthquake really hammered home that soil composition reality. A couple minutes later there was a smaller aftershock that we hardly felt, but definitely could hear. This is the first time I've ever heard a quake but not felt it.

There appears to be no damage or injuries to report on this temblor.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

We're having our house repainted

We've crossed into 75% complete territory on our house repainting. We've gone from a gray-blue/blue motif to a more earthy beige/tan. Check out the photos page of Lai.motif to a catch a preview before you come by and visit us this summer. The house is being painted by Ed Shelton Painting; Ed goes to our church, Foothills Christian Church.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Today... I started a blog

and I didn't have anything to say, but thought I'd say it in past tense just for fun. As you can see, there's a post or two predating this date; I just plopped them in there since this little post was all too uninteresting to hold anyone's eyes for more than a second or two. Anyway, let's hope this gets at least a little interesting for us all.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Nolan’s First Day at Sevick School (Valentine’s Day 2005)

I thought I knew, but I really didn’t, how hard it would be to watch my son go off to preschool. A silly thing, it seems, after all I’ve done it twice before at his two previous schools – the first, Kingdom Kids, which eventually had to close when it lost use of it’s space, and the second, El Cajon Wesleyan Preschool, which he loved so much and gave him, his mom, and me such joy.

Eleven days ago Nolan turned three. Soon after, we would say goodbye to his classmates and teachers at El Cajon Wesleyan before starting today at Sevick School through the public school district. We would miss El Cajon Wesleyan for so many reasons – the teachers who we knew truly loved Nolan so much, seeing him in his first school pictures, getting to see him as a sheep in the Christmas program, and the Christ-centered nurturing he received each day.

Though the hard part wasn’t so much that he would be leaving a Christian environment, because we know that God goes with him wherever he goes. Plus, at Sevick he was going to get increased one-to-one attention to help him increase his communication skills. Part of it for me was knowing that he’d now be in school for five hours a day, five days a week – up from the four hours a day, only twice a week. I’m going to miss my little man. He’s growing up.

This morning we pulled into the school parking lot, got out of the car, and I gave him his Spider-Man lunchbox. Inside, a peanut butter sandwich, lemonade, a bag of mini Fudge Stripes, applesauce and a plastic Cal Kids spoon. With one-year-old brother Jackson in my arms, Nolan walked alongside us with lunchbox in tote. One of his teachers greeted us at the gate. We walked in and I asked Nolan to leave his lunchbox under his teacher’s nametag, which he gladly did. But when we went in the physical education room where the kids were running off some energy before the official start of class, Nolan wanted nothing but to hug me and hold me. But he didn’t cry in this new place. His teacher, Breta, tried to make him feel comfortable. Still, Nolan knew he was here to be dropped off and that in a little while his brother and dad would leave for a bit. We stayed in the PE room a while longer, but he never let go of me. Then Cathy, his speech therapist, suggested we let him get acquainted with her in the classroom setting by doing some speech therapy activities.

Once in the classroom, Cathy handed him a PECS card with her picture on it. (PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System, a picture card system that helps kids communicate through the visual and physical aid of pictures). He instantly took the card and started to look for an envelope or box in which to place it – just like he had been doing the past four months with his speech therapist Deb at All 4 Kids. Sitting down and doing some more familiar speech therapy activities seemed to comfort him in comparison to the bit of chaos in the PE room. During the next couple minutes, he sat, listened, and played. He also said “fish” (his newest word as of last night), “go,” and couple other words.

His four classmates then came into the room and it was circle time. Nolan sat down with very little coaxing, ready for whatever was going to happen next. Breta offered him a gummy fruit, which he quickly took and put into his mouth. But just as quickly he realized he really didn’t like this particular blue one he was given, so he stood up from his seat, took the offending candy into his fingers, and proceeded to look for a trashcan. After I pointed one out, he walked over and threw the candy away. Then in a single motion, he wiped his mouth on his sleeve and his hands on the front of his clean yellow shirt – now yellow and blue and just a little green.

“Okay, Nolan, bye-bye, I’ll be back soon!” I said, kneeling down to give him a kiss. Nolan obliged as he always does – three times!

As Jackson and I waved goodbye, Nolan’s sweet voice filled the room, “buh-bye, buh-bye….”

There was my little boy, my little man, waving goodbye.

“I’ll be back soon to pick you up!” And I left.

As soon as I started the car, I wanted to be back already. But he’s a big boy now. He’s growing up.