Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Law School Starts

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

The reason we moved to Davis and have utterly shifted our lives is now upon us; law school has started. The Intro Week is now complete and it is time to start our actual studies.

I’ve met many of my fellow colleagues at King Hall. I am the oldest (err, most mature) in the class. I have the largest family with me. While statistics have not been published on the class beyond some brief measures, it appears that perhaps only ten other people are married. Notwithstanding a few oddballs like myself, it is a traditional post-graduate experience.

In talking with my fellow students, there is a range of reasons to be coming to law school. Driven, mature personalities; lost souls; seekers of fame, power and fortune; individuals on an intellectual challenge; some who simply see law school as the only way to legitimize an undergraduate eduction in political science, English or or other “soft” study. (My own reasons are published in detail here.) An interesting group; young, mature, attractive, enthusiastic. Certainly not overly cynical, greedy, brittle, egotistical or narcissistic; as lawyers and law students are commonly portrayed.

Personally, the challenge for me will be the separation of family and studies. I’ve filled my locker at King Hall with all of my books and notes, a stash of Diet Coke and power bars, workout clothes and other necessities. It will be where I study. When I come home, it will be to tell a few brief tales of the events to the day but, largely, to enjoy the trials and tribulations of my small family.

Above is a photo of Daniel, Veronica and Gabi running across an open field to get to Rainbow City, a vast playground in North Davis. We’ve been going to it in the evenings, after eating pizza in a downtown student restaurant.

Appearing somewhat like a wooden Angkor Wat, Rainbow City is a vast playground will slides, swings, jumps and falls. Perfect for four little boys and girls to get lost, meet people and play.

Here all four kids take turns sliding on a long, tall concrete slide (part of a skateboard park) near Rainbow City. The cardboard improves their speed on the rough surface.

With good luck (and planning), I’ll have sufficient time concentrating and studying at King Hall to continue to enjoy my family here in our new city. Three years is not so long; it feels like Aaron was born yesterday and he is nearly four now.

It will be an interesting journey.

Vacation Time

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011


Vacation time. That’s what this feels like.

Actually, I’m working twenty hours a week, teaching GMAT and GRE Prep for Kaplan Graduate Testing. And we’re still unpacking boxes – just this morning, I emptied a dozen boxes in the office.

But it feel like vacation. The fact is my adult life has been full of serious responsibility — companies, employees, creditors and investors. I’ve had to worry in some way, shape or form every day since founding my first firm in Taiwan in 1989. No one depends on me in quite that way right now.

Today, there is a clear plan — prepare for law school, which starts in 19 days. The family is safe and comfortable in its new surroundings. We’ve been exploring the territory (Sacramento, Truckee and Lake Tahoe this past weekend). And no one needs anything from me (save two dozen students who require ministrations four nights a week).

In my adult life, I’ve had only one paid holiday. RUI Apple Computer Moscow gave me two weeks paid leave in the summer of 1993. I flew to Bali free first class as frequent flyer number 56 on Czech Airlines. I read The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Paul Kennedy (purchased in Singapore) on the beach. I rented a motorcycle and purchased a painting –virtually the sole physical momento of my nine odd years abroad from 1986 to 1995. It was all good fun, but I don’t think my life has been lessened for not having more such holidays.

More updates later.

First Ride on the Davis Greenbelt

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

I’m not naturally a bike-oriented person, but I’m utterly floored by the bike lanes that run through Davis’ Greenbelt. They are a completely separate reality from the normal car-centric California city. You ride on the lanes and are surrounded by trees, birds and pass through numerous parks, playgrounds and schools — all without ever even seeing a car. Watch a little of our first ride below.

 

 

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.

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.

Camilla’s Kindergarten Graduation

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

 

Daniel is Biking!

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

It’s one of those rites of passage: learning to ride a two-wheeled bike without training wheels. I think the arrival of bikes for Mom and Dad added just enough incentive for Daniel to get started himself.

Here he is on the first day of riding (Sunday):

Here he is on the second day of riding (Monday). Notice everyone playing Follow the Leader, with Daniel as the leader:

New Bikes

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

As part of moving the Steussy Ranch, we’ve bought new bikes. This is Gabi’s.

This one is mine.

Daniel Birthday Rocket Launch

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011