Archive for June, 2011


Thursday, June 30th, 2011

We’re moving, folks. Don’t expect many updates. Everything is in boxes here.

Disneyland, June 2011

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

I’m doing an exhaustive post on our trip to Disneyland. This is less to entertain or inform any of our readers on the web, and more to chronicle the trip for our own purposes. When we go back, we’ll have a complete record of what we did before and how much everyone liked it.

Wednesday morning, up at 5:30am. Kids start waking up at 6am. Breakfast, clothes, showers for adults, straighten the house, pack the minivan and off to Disneyland. Wheels up at 7:15am.

Arrival at the parking lot in Anaheim at 8:40am. I’m as cynical about Disneyland as I am about much of the world. “It’s a business. They want to make money. Simple as that.” Indeed, the entry fee for our family of six seems immense. And I don’t get out of the mode until I’m actually at the gate.

Disneyland is a marvel; the attention to every detail is awesome. There is no place quite like it. I love it.

Running through Main Street, which always reminds me of a highly fictional New Castle, Indiana from my childhood.

Autopia (10am) – Our first ride. Why is it in Tomorrowland? Given the gas burning engines (without catalytic converters and very smelly), it has more the feel of a time gone by when cars burned leaded gas. Looking online later, it appears that the ride was first imagined right when the Interstate system was first being built, and Autopia was meant to feel like driving on the Interstate of the “future”. Dan-dan and Camilla are with me, as the small ones and Mom walk around.

Daniel takes the wheel of the car, while I run the gas pedal. He’s constantly struggling with the steering wheel, smashing into the center rail that controls the car. “What are you doing, Daniel?! Keep the car straight.” I lean over to run the wheel myself and find that the little car is difficult to manage.

A memory comes unbidden of my own father. It must have been forty years ago. There was a very similar ride at King’s Island in Ohio which we would make an annual pilgrimage to. After I was 9 years old, when sister Helen was old enough for her own driver’s license, she would be the chaperone for any trips to the park. I don’t have any active memories of Dad taking me to the park, but just now an untouched memory comes of Dad yelling at me while I drove a car exactly like this one at what must have been King’s Island. “What’re you doing there, Eddie-boy?! Keep the car on the road!” And forty years earlier, he had taken the wheel from me with success that equals mine here and now – these little cars are hard to drive.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (11am) – This ride was a 45 minute wait. The ride itself is long and interesting, with lots to look at. Further, this is a ride that all of us can go on at once. As I’ll mention several times, the attention to detail is astounding. Everywhere one looks out the portholes, there is something new, interesting and perfectly natural to be in that place at that time.

Storybook Land Canal Boats (Noon) – This was a favorite of mine last time. Again, it’s a slow ride through canals overlooking miniature storybook villages. One can see Gepato’s Workshop, where Pinocchio was created; Cinderella’s castle, Aladdin’s palace, Alice in Wonderland’s village and a host of other well-imagined 1:50 replicas.

I also particularly like this photo of Gabi.

Gadget’s Go Coaster (1pm) – Toon Town is utterly cool. The cartoonish landscapes and buildings where absolutely nothing is straight or completely functional is a wonder just to talk through.

Gadget’s Go Coaster is a ride there that I had never been on. A particularly long wait for a short, 51 second ride. It’s certainly well imagined, and not particularly fast or exhilarating. However, Dan-dan was terrified of it and decided not to go on any further roller coasters.

Disneyland Railroad (2pm) – A bit tired during the midday, we decide to take a ride around Disneyland on the old-time railroad. We leave the stroller at the Toon Town lot and climb aboard. Along the way, we’re entertained with scenes of dinosaurs and other animals. We circle the park looking at each of the main divisions.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant (2:45pm) – Back to Fantasyland. All three kids wanted to ride on the Flying Dumbos. Why? Isn’t this ride a staple of all carnivals everywhere in the world?

Maybe, but none are quite as nice. We’d been in a similar ride at Seaworld which was creaky, unkempt and otherwise poorly cared for. The ride in Disneyland was nothing of the sort. Daniel, Camilla, Aaron and Gabi all flew together while I tended a sleeping Veronica.

Later, Daniel reported that this was his favorite ride of the entire day. And what more can you ask for in a successful ride? Long live Dumbo! (Historical note: on an early visit by Harry Truman, he was offered a ride in Dumbo. Truman refused, saying that he could not go on a ride of elephants given their association with the Republican party. His loss.)


Casey Jr. Circus Train (3:20pm) – Taking in the same scenery as the Canal Boat ride, but this time on a train. Again, it’s a short, fun ride. Dad, Aaron, Camilla and Daniel are all onboard.

Space Mountain (4pm) – After his experience with the Toon Town roller coaster, Daniel decided to forego any further roller coaster rides. Camilla and Dad used a Fastpass to quickly board Space Mountain, my favorite roller coaster of all time. Whoever thought of running a roller coaster in pitch black was either a genius or extremely foolhardy.

The photo on the side is the one that Disney sells at the end of the ride. Not good enough to purchase, but good enough to display here.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (4:15pm) – Coming out of Space Mountain, we see a ride we’ve never seen before – inspired by the Toy Story series of movies. No line. Why not?

We’re treated to a slow-motion trip through a shooting gallery, with handheld laser pistols to aim at lighting targets. Aaron and I take one car, Daniel and Camilla take another. Bang, bang, zap!

Aaron later declares that this was the best ride of the day, and Camilla and Daniel both agree it was great fun. Since Aaron is too short to be allowed on most of the “serious” rides, this one really stands out for him.

Mickey’s Soundsational Parade (4:25pm) – Immediately after the Buzz Lightyear adventure, we exit to find that the afternoon parade had already started. Neither Gabi nor I had ever seen a Disney parade before. It was sumptuous!

The very first float that we see carries all of the Disney princesses. Camilla is entranced! Peter Pan, Snow White and all of the Disney characters (save Mickey and Donald Duck, who we missed) are there. The parade goes on for fifteen minutes.

Mark Twain Riverboat (4:45pm) – Given the limited space that Disneyland has to work with, I’ve always been amazed that they support two full-sized ships on a circular lake. The total area taken by these rides must be a third of the entire park. Tom Sawyer Island, which we’ve never been to, is completely surrounded by the lake.

Two years ago, we took the sailing ship. This time, we took the Mark Twain Riverboat cruise. A very satisfying half hour trip which all six of us can participate in.

Haunted Mansion (6pm) – Daniel loved this ride from our previous visit. Camilla decided to come with us, so it was Dad and the two eldest while Mom and the two youngest went to see Winnie the Pooh.

The Haunted Mansion is the place where I began to appreciate how much attention to detail had gone into making each of the rides in the park. About two-thirds of the way through the trip, the Tomb Buggy (a mobile chair we ride on) stopped. An announcer told us over a speaker that the ride had been upset by ghosts and would restart in a minute. We were stuck looking a single part of the Haunted Mansion ride for about three or four total minutes – a section that would normally slide by in ten seconds or less.

And we were thoroughly entertained. It was a series of five animated ghost heads singing a very good Halloween-ish song. I was awestruck – talk about over-engineering a ride! I’ve included a Youtube video of the song below.

Grim Grinning Ghosts



The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (6pm – no photos) – Gabi, Veronica and Aaron went to this area of the park while we were in the Haunted House. They reported it to be fun.

Pirates of the Caribbean (6:30) – No line again – everyone in the park seemed to have headed out to dinner. Daniel, Camilla and I all got on quickly, within five minutes. The extensive ride goes for more than fifteen minutes through the dark around animatronic pirates.

By this time, I was busy looking into all of the cracks and corners to see what small touches had been done. They were everywhere – animated mice and cats, maps, piles of gold – every square inch of the exhibit told a story. I have no doubt that had our voyage been stopped for two or three minutes, we could have visually explored our surroundings and not finished by the time we restarted.

Jungle Cruise (7pm) – Going for a ride in the African Queen! I can’t believe I never heard of this ride before. Looking later online, I found that it was one of the original rides when the park opened. It has since been eclipsed by the Indiana Jones ride next door (which was temporarily closed when we got there).

The waiting line in the boathouse was a trip in itself. The desks, chairs, maps, books and papers leant an air of authenticity. I could have stayed in the boathouse alone for hours.

Star Tours (7:30pm) – In order to get into this final ride, I had to secure Fastpasses at the very beginning of the day. I had not been on the original version of the ride (now it had been updated to be 3D), but it was certainly fun. Daniel and Camilla came with me, though neither of them liked the ride very much.

We left a little after 8pm and returned to Temecula by 9:30pm. We still haven’t seen the fireworks.

29680 Nightcrest Circle is available again!

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Our previous buyer canceled only two weeks before escrow was due to close. This leaves the door open to other lucky buyers.

Some data points:

  • House is pre-approved for sale with the bank
  • All inspections have already been completed
  • Current owners (us, the Steussy Ranch) are still planning on moving out in mid-July
  • Price has been dropped from $235k to $225k
  • Photos of the house are available here
  • The original post when we put the house on sale, from April 1, 2011, is here

Moving to Davis

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

As alluded earlier in the blog, the Steussy Ranch is moving to Davis, California. UC Davis has offered me a seat in their 2014 class, along with a generous scholarship. UC Davis is far and away the first choice for my law school based on a series of factors: 1) US News ranking #23, 2) California location, 3) very family friendly small town. While there were a few large cities on my selection list, I was very pleased when UC Davis accepted me and gave me the option of a small town in California to spend the next three years.

And what a town!

Have you wondered why the sudden interest in bicycles at the Steussy Ranch? Was it a sudden need for outdoor exercise? Enthusiasm for the kids’ biking? No, it’s directly related to our move to Davis.

Davis is completely surrounded and embedded with independent biking streets located in Green Zones. In the map above, every yellow line is a bike lane inside a green zone, completely protected from any car traffic. (Full PDF map available here.) You can circle the entire city without ever seeing a car. Except for the very center of town, the whole city is accessible from these lanes. Speaking as a father of four young children, I can imagine nothing better.

Note the path behind Daniel here with two kids rollerblading. It’s an example of one of the bike lanes. Wherever the bike lane crosses a standard vehicular street, there is a bridge or tunnel allowing bikes to travel without danger. And these paths all lead to the most wonderful parks, as below.

The parks are green and expansive. And they contain …

…swings, rock climbing walls, swimming pools and the local elementary school. Simply, vastly wonderful.

Abutting the law school and accessible by bike lane is the UC Davis Arboretum. Home to plants from around the world, ducks, college students and little boys and girls.

We’re all anxious to start exploring on our own once we move there. In early July …

…we move. Until then, time to get our biking gear ready!

Safari Park Visit

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Friday was the day that the new owners of our Nightcrest house scheduled their building inspection, window repairs and the like. In order to be out of their way, we went to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for the day. Aunt Helen has been generous giving us passes to the park most of the years we’ve been here in Temecula, and we’ve used them a lot.

Yes, the animals are important, but we have to look at the maps!

We should go there!

Off we go!

You would think that after six years, we would have seen everything. Not so. There is an entire section devoted to native California plant life on a ridge overlooking the park that we’d never been to.

California is not naturally a lush region. Water all needs to be carefully managed, either from the Sierra snowpacks or imported from rivers originating in the Rockies. Native plants are much more like the cartoon cacti seen above.

Off we go!

Oh, and we’ll check out the animals, too. While we’re here.


Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

In a café after midnight in Suzhou, China, I watch World Cup Soccer with three Chinese graduate students from Singapore. They are all MBA interns in Beijing, traveling on holiday. It’s summer 2010 and I’m in town to address an international translation conference. Our little group finds we have many mutual interests and we remain talking long into the night after the game is over.

In my twenty-five years as an international entrepreneur, I’ve started and run four businesses in five countries. The interns want to hear all the stories. I tell them about being head of sales for Apple in Russia in 1992, building the business from the ground up. I flew to every significant city in the country, from Magadan to Kaliningrad, building channels and creating retailers and support mechanisms. I tell the interns how I later started the only independent high tech distributor in the Russian Far East in Vladivostok with Apple as my founding client.

After Vladivostok, I formed a publishing company in Los Angeles with the software industry connections I’d made through Apple. With millions of books printed, fifty-two published titles and a list of strong reviews, it was a success. Five years in, however, the publishing company lost its distributor and failed in a devastating multimillion dollar bankruptcy. I converted my business assets into a high tech localization agency serving Nokia and the California videogame industry, the company I currently run. And today I am in China giving a lecture to a conference hall full of recognized experts in translation, presenting my first five minutes in Chinese. It will be the top rated session at the conference.

The interns love it. It’s the kind of adventure story all young MBA’s want to hear. Travel, success, failure, then pull yourself up by the bootstraps to try again. They are so very eager to start on their own careers and make their own stories. I smile, shake their hands, wish them the best and leave to move on to my next step.

I’m going to become a lawyer.

Why the change? While I have enjoyed participating in the rough and tumble world of business, life has changed for me. Today, I am a husband and father to four small children. Continuing my adventures in business no longer puts me alone at risk, and I must do my utmost to support my charges. While I am well aware that many law school graduates struggle after matriculating, my post-law school prospects will be enhanced by my preparation in patent law and my established connections with a number of potential clients.

Fresh from university in the 1980’s, after completing more than twenty honors courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry, I had no interest in the law. It was only when I started running businesses that I began routinely to interact with lawyers, understand what they are there for and what they can do. My interaction with the law has been with corporate attorneys, several intellectual property lawyers and, perhaps most painful and necessary, a series of bankruptcy attorneys. With few exceptions, they have been civil, straightforward, well-spoken and intelligent. As a client, I’ve learned to recognize the good ones and the bad ones. The good ones have become my conversation partners, my confidants and my friends. They help, protect and advise me.

I will be joining them and will do so wholeheartedly with a proactive plan for success as an attorney. Immediately after applying to law schools, I will start studying for the patent bar. I will take the patent exam before May to complete my certification with the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Summer 2011, making myself available for duty as a Patent Agent before and during law school.

Academically, I will target Intellectual Property. Not only does it interest me the most, but it has the most applicability to the companies that I have worked with over the past twenty years, including Apple, Nokia and Electronic Arts.

UC Davis is, without qualification, my first choice for law school. It lies close to the Bay Area, which will ensure that I maintain my business connections in the region. Further, its idyllic location makes the prospect of raising and educating my young family a joy.

During law school, I hope to be able to share my experience from the wider world. While I will be at school to read, learn and understand the law, I carry with me more than twenty-five years of experience creating businesses from scratch and doing so on three continents under a myriad of languages. It would be a waste not to share this experience with my cohort.

This decision has engendered some very close talks with my wife. This is our mutually chosen path for the future. And there are other benefits beyond joining the profession. All of my children will see their father studying at home during their formative years; I will be leading them by example down the road I wish them to take. They will be my legacy.

It will be a grand adventure. And I hope, someday twenty years from now, to be up late in some far away café with another group of young students, and entertain and encourage them with my stories of entering and practicing the law.