Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Save the Figs, Save the World 2016: Quadropus Bird Deterrent

For those of you who know Ken, you know how much he loves the fig tree in our backyard and covets every single fig that makes it through to harvest time. Since we moved here in 2010, he has tenaciously defended the tree from interloping birds who seek to rob him of the precious figs. It all started off so simply with common, static deterrents but graduated into what can only be described as an obsession. The motto around here is: when in doubt, add technology. So friends, for your viewing pleasure, I give you "The Quadropus." And yes, this means fig harvest is officially on.







To read about previous fig defending efforts and a little more history on our fig tree, check out this 2013 post.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Potty Training with Trains!

This started out as a something I just wrote for myself so I wouldn't ever [let Calvin] forget. Potty training our son was so different and took longer than the experience with our daughter. Figuring out what motivated each of them was key but it's so easy to get spooked and convince yourself that potty training a boy will be so difficult. It was all about incentive, attitude and, crazy but true, it was spelled out clear as day: potty TRAIN.

Here's my piece on Parentmap.com detailing the ordeal. 

Thomas the Train and his knowing smile
Pro tip: "If I’ve learned anything about potty training, it's that both the kid and the parents must be on board with the process." 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rally to protest turning Loyal Heights Elementary into an almost double-sized 'Mega School' with a tiny playground

This was the scene today at Loyal Heights Elementary School: A rally organized by concerned parents and citizens about the 'Mega-school' Loyal Heights Redesign that is still being pushed through despite lower enrollment projections. As a result, the Seattle Public Schools is planning to open boundaries to include parts of North Beach, Crown Hill and Whittier. This will mean the school will almost double the size of the existing one and require a significant portion of the playground to be built upon.
This isn't how quality education is planned for. This is cost consolidation at the expense of the kids.
I know it sounds ungrateful: a north Seattle school is getting a fancy remodel and they don't want it because it's TOO big... But the planning process has largely ignored the comments from a very vocal community, one that would like to accommodate for the future but also keep a neighborhood school atmosphere while (most importantly) providing for the physical and kinetic needs of kids to move/play and thus learn better.
The basic ask is that Seattle Public Schools reconsider this design and save more of the playground space.










Sunday, June 05, 2016

File under "Amazing Dental Facts"-- Baby Teeth Contain Dental Stem Cells

Sidney lost baby tooth #2 this week. When she lost her first one a few months ago, I learned of the existence of dental stem cells. 

Surprise! Did you know that baby teeth have stem cells in them that may potentially be useful some day for life-saving treatments or regenerative therapy? Growing up in/around a dental office all my life, I never knew about this and am delighted by it. So I couldn't resist looking into it further.
Here's my latest ParentMap article about it and the fascinating possibility for future healthcare.

https://www.parentmap.com/article/baby-teeth-dental-stem-cells

Sidney right after pulling out tooth #2

Friday, May 20, 2016

Remembering Morley Safer

Photo by CBS/60 MINUTES
Hearing of Morley Safer's passing today, brought back a flood of memories from my time at 60 MINUTES. As an intern at CBS London/60 Minutes in late 1994, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the production team that worked with Morley Safer. I helped his editor and producer (Nick Harding & John Tiffin--both RIP) assemble an updated piece on Strabane Ireland, one of the most ravaged Irish towns during the Northern Ireland conflict between British loyalists (Protestants) and Irish Nationalists (Catholics). For me as a completely green and clueless broadcasting student, it was like just having learned to walk and then ambling onto an Olympic Track with world-class athletes--completely out of my league. But they kept me around anyway and for that I was and am truly grateful.

While I only met Morley Safer in person twice and fielded a few phone calls from him, I could tell from the story we were working on and its tone that he brought a humanity to his reporting and a quest to explain the unexplainable--in this case, the senseless violence and killing that went on in that tiny Irish town. Revisiting people he'd interviewed in 1974 also served to bring a form of closure to a horrible time in Strabane and to serve as a record for younger generations to understand the toll it took on the citizens there. I noticed this from his interviews that I catalogued word for word. He never stopped being curious and clearly loved what he did. 

Nick and I in the editing suite
The first time I met him we went to lunch with the core team who worked on his stories at the London Bureau. He was suffering from jet lag and I was suffering from shyness or lack of life experience (I was 20), but I couldn't muster many interesting questions. As a result, John Tiffin kept pouring wine into my glass to help me calm down but by the time we returned to the office, I was pretty tipsy and slurring my words. I'm sure I made a *great* impression. 

The second time I saw him was a much sadder occasion. He flew over to give the eulogy at the funeral for Nick, our editor. Nick had been living with cancer from before I'd come on the scene. Revisiting Strabane and taking on the new American intern were his last projects as it turned out. I recall Morley gave a very moving speech at the funeral and even did a short on-air tribute to Nick when the Strabane piece finally ran.

****** 

My understanding is that Morley's health was in decline and he had just announced his retirement a few days ago so CBS honored him with an hour long tribute, which he watched at his home. Morley embodied a work ethic, curiosity and approach that is seldom seen in this age of broadcast journalism. I am grateful to have briefly crossed paths with him and to have worked with his team who also embodied those traits. 60 MINUTES has certainly evolved and cycled in new faces and talent over the years but today it has lost one of it's defining pillars of influence. RIP Morley.

Friday, April 22, 2016

That one time I saw Prince

Escaping the 80's without having at least one memory aurally imprinted with a Prince song (or songs) seems nearly impossible. I remember when a babysitter was with us one evening and she had just bought the 1999 album. She hid the record sleeve with the lyrics because she said they were too racy. I snuck into the living room when she was making dinner and scanned it but didn't come up with much. I think I was 8 years old. A few years later, someone bought me Purple Rain and it became one of my favorite cassette tapes to listen to. I did wonder what Wendy and Lisa were doing in "Computer Blue" though. 


Wendy?

Yes Lisa
Is the water warm enough?
Yes Lisa
Shall we begin?
Yes Lisa


Seriously, what business does a 10-year-old have listening to that? Anyway...but the rest of the album was great. So flash forward to 1995 and as a 21-year-old away at college in London, I got to see his Royal Purpleness at Wembley and somehow managed to sit close to the stage.



Unfortunately this was during the "Slave period" where he'd write the word on his face because he didn't like the terms of his contract with Warner Bros. As a result, he was disinclined to play "hits" during concerts and while I enjoyed Prince music, I wasn't intimately familiar with the deep cuts. Thus, I wanted to hear at least some hits but the only songs I recognized that night were "Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "7," and "Pussy Control." Unfortunately, his musicianship (which I should have been paying more attention to) went mostly ignored. Ah, to be 21...

Looking at my journal from that time period, my review was pretty brutal:

"The show itself was second rate. Though we were only 11 rows from stage center, Prince failed to ignite the crowd. Probably this is due to all the new songs. But we all know how lame English crowds are." [Note: The steady reserve of concert-going Brits was not a mark of distinction in this case.]

I had even less nice things to say about the backup dancer who would later become his wife (for a few years at least).

"The almost naked wench on stage with him disgusted all of London when she whipped her ass cheeks all over the place. Yuk! She grew tiresome."



But it's still Motherf***ing Prince. And he is funky.
"I had a great time [though] getting into the fervor of it all. At the end, he showered us in gold confetti and that was beautiful."

Not every performance can be a winner and not every era in an entertainer/artist's long career will be inspiring but in the long view, Prince's contribution to the fabric of our culture and its musical development was epic. So I'll remember the awe and surprise of gold confetti raining down on us during the finale, a symbol of the ostentatiousness, surprise and boldness of our musical host.

He was so many things: talented, driven, gifted and luckily he shared it with the world. RIP to the prolifically funky virtuoso.