Thursday, December 29, 2005

Winter Breaks

It's been a trying holiday season.

We lost two of our ferrets to a freak accident involving the biggest spider I've ever seen outside of a zoo.

I couldn't catch a flush in Tahoe without someone drawing to a full house from two pair. I made second best hand more times than I could count. Played the odds appropriately, but the calling stations kept catching their inside straight draws and back door flushes.

When we arrived in Tahoe, there was hardly any snow on the ground. The only thing falling from the sky was rain. Kirkwood still had some snow, even if it was a man made thin pack. I started slowly, regaining my balance. On our second day out, I was practicing my turns, when I realized that though I had been picking up the inside ski when I turn I hadn't been pushing off with the outside ski. After making this realization, I was suddenly able to go down the black diamonds much faster as I was sure that I would be able to slow myself down if the texture of the snow stayed the same. Coming off of a run from the Reut, I moved left to avoid someone sitting in the middle of the run. I hit a patch of Ice, lost my balance and keeled over, with the back of my right ski catching the ground and pulling my boot out with a quick jerk. I knew immediately that something had happened to my right foot, but I hoped it was just a sprain as I wasn't in screaming pain (thank you adrenaline). However, the x-rays confirmed it was a break, just in time for me to watch the first flakes of snow start falling outside. Talk about crummy timing.

Finally, we were on our way out of Tahoe. I had my broken ankle on the dashboard and I was calling Kelle to see how the pets were doing. Then right after Lexi starts a left turn after our light turned green, we're hit in the side by an Audi, whose drivers must have been looking at the wrong light as they had started forward as well. Nobody in either car accrued any new injuries thankfully. However our driver side door won't open anymore so our car will be in the shop for a while.

Despite everything that happened, we still had a lot of fun. We went out to the Edgewood restaurant, which is right along the lake. I had Elk chops in a dried cherry gravy which was delicious and Lexi had a steak in a port reduction that was also very good. Even on the day I broke my ankle, I still made it to our massage appointments and dinner reservations at the Summit, which continues to impress me with it's displays of culinary skill. What little of the season I got to ski, I enjoyed completely. My only regret is that I will not be able to ski again until spring. And last but not least, the elevator is no longer an over the top frill, but a
necessary tool. So Silver linings do abound.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Andrew gets a cast for xmas

On the first day of christmas I broke my ankle skiing, and got a bottle of vicodin.
On the second day of christmas my doctor gave to me, two titanium pins in a speedy half hour surgery.

Not more than half a day after I learned how to make my turns a lot tighter and faster, I hit a patch of ice at the bottom of the Reut at Kirkwood and brake my ankle. I like to think of it as my little christmas present to myself. I'll be off my leg and out of work for about 6-8 weeks. Normally such a break would be a lot of fun, but I can't stand being sedentary for too long. Until I'm all healed up and back to work, I would appreciate any visits from any kind souls here in SF looking to watch movies, play games or just hang out.

Snow Bunnies

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Friday, December 23, 2005

I'm Dreaming of a...

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Goodbye Yoda and Lando

Last night, we were showing Kelle and Amelia around as they had kindly offered to take care of the cat and the ferrets while we are away in Tahoe. When we got to the garage, there was this giant brown spider, about an inch and a half from leg to leg. When we looked in on the ferrets, we found Yoda and Lando dead. We weren't sure what had happened because none of the ferrets had seemed sick the night before. We decided to move Gkar and Clyde up to the livingroom in their cage just in case there was something in the room that made Yoda and Lando sick. When we moved the cage we found another huge spider. I guess the spider had snuck into the garage and gone to the closet for a warm dark place to hide. Then Yoda and Lando, who have always been very curious, went to check out the spider and got bitten. The fact that we found them far away from their sleeping areas in strange positions, seems to support this. I'm going to try to find a vet to check out Clyde and Gkar just to make sure they aren't sick, but they seem as active as ever, so I'm not too worried about them.



Yoda was always a sweet, shy schnookum. She and Bonnie were always the smartest. They would play hide the treat with each other, each one stealing the other's favorite chew toy and hiding it in a new corner. Even though she was our smallest schnook, she was an agile climber and could get into most anything. She will be missed.


Lando was a big, bouncy schnook. He and Gkar would do laps around the table, pouncing each other or any other schnook, toy, foot, blanket, etc. that was in their way. He was so sad, when he thought his brother Gkar had gone missing, but as soon as they were reunited after Gkar was found under our neighbors porch, they were right back to horseplaying. He will be missed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy Holidays

This has been the busiest holiday season ever for us. I knew that moving to the city would make us more active, but I didn't expect our social calendars to fill up so fast. There's been something to do nearly every weekend and even Tuesday and Thursday nights are starting to fill up. Here are some highlights.

Mike Patton Movie Night - Agi got to stalk her man. Then Jesse was kind enough to take us all to her house on treasure island which has a great view of downtown San Francisco.

Kanye West - After a much needed fashion intervention by Amelia (I'm all Rocaweared out now), we hopped in the limo. Lexi and I had never rode in a limo before. The ride was almost as good as the concert. Kanye was incredible. He interrupted the intro to Golddigger to demand that everyone in the VIP booths turn off their TVs. "I'm not gonna have you up there going, oh it's Kanye live, but what's the score for the game." There was hardly a song I didn't know the words to and dancing up in the stands with everybody was a blast.

Holiday Party Extravaganza Weekend - Lexi and I booked it down the peninsula for her friend's party. They have a great house. Craftsman style with a sunken livingroom. They served these great Ahi Teriyaki hors devours. Then we headed back to the city where we went to Christophe and Tessas party and discussed the future of media distribution until the wee hours of the night.

Moving Mattpaul - Matty P is finally in the city. He's got a great place with a view of the bay bridge. The livingroom at his new place is a minefield of musical instruments, as it should be. After moving him in, everyone who helped move him in came to sunday night dinner, our best turnout ever, around 20 people. I made two lasagnas and both disappeared quickly.

Sunday Dinners - We're trying to keep the Sunday dinner tradition we had with Keith alive in the city. We typically get around 6-8 people and occasionally more. Our new kitchen has motivated us to cook a lot more often. I've discovered that I cook like a mother of 2 from the flyover. I've been very caserrole-centric. But the enchiladas and lasagnas have turned out well. And Lexi's roast this last weekend was delicious, though we do need a new temperature probe. We haven't actually eaten out as much as we expected. With such a great supermarket nearby and a huge kitchen to play in, we end up staying at home more often. It's good for the pocketbook anyhow.

Hiking - I have spent most Wednesdays and Fridays out hiking. I've hit Buena Vista Park, Mt. Davidson, Twin Peaks, and the northern edge of Golden Gate. I'm starting to fill up my iMac hard drive with pics. I've been taking about 1.2 gigs of pictures each trip. Good thing I invested in a ton of DVDs. I haven't even started to run out of places to go. It's been great exercise and as long as it's not raining, I'm going again tomorrow. Probably to the shopping district to pick up some last minute gifts. And to catch some candid, slice of life holiday shots.

Portluck - We went down the peninsula again for portluck (a port wine potluck). It was a great chance to see all the techers in the area that we don't regularly see. There was an incredible 25 year old port. It had mellowed to the point that the caramel and chocolate flavors were not overpowered by the tannins and sharp fruits.

The Nut House - Jeanette was in town so we all went down to hang out with Sam and the Palo Alto crowd at the nut house. It was nice to catch up with everyone. It seems the grad student life tends to lend people an air of stoicism. The rigid meritocracy of academia seems a lot like the military when you watch people run themselves ragged under the yoke of their privileged professors all in the hopes of replacing them someday and putting a whole new batch of grad students through the same trials.

Emperor Norton - The legendary, visionary nutcase who predicted the bay bridge long before it's time has a musical now. It was hilarious. There was everything you want from a play on the mission, including , slapstick, slapping, and singing dogs. We all had a blast watching the play, after stopping for some Emperor Norton beer at the San Francisco Brewing Company. My favorite line from the play is when Emperor Norton Reprises his opening speech at the end, "People come to San Francisco to become a new person, or atleast a different version of the old person they are. Not many people succeed, but We did."

I think that covers almost all of it. I realize that I'm a binge blogger now as this is almost a month's backlog of posts. But it's a good sign when you're too busy living life to blog it right away.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Pics from Mount Davidson Hike



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Pics from Mattpaul's Move In



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matttpaulmovein2's photosMore of matttpaulmovein2's photos







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Pics from Golden Gate Hike



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Monday, December 12, 2005

CM takes over the dining room

CM is getting comfy and shedding all over the dining rooms chairs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Baugher-Casteel Thanksgiving 2005

Thanksgiving was wonderful this year. Both of our families made it out to our house. Lexi and I planned a dinner that was almost entirely Good Eats recipes. I love how our new kitchen is the center of the great room. The whole time we were cooking, everyone could hang out with us and around us. We could take turns making dishes and playing board games together with everyone. We even watched Full Metal Jacket while we baked the pumpkin cheesecakes. There was supposed to be just one cheesecake, but we apparently have tiny pie tins. Amy made a great cinnamon graham cracker crust for them. Mandy cooked a delicious granny smith dutch aplle pie from scratch. Lexi made the potatoes and stuffed mushrooms. And I made the yams, cranderry sauce, and bird. The meal had to come in waves, so the bird and the desserts had their turn the next day.

We all went to Cirque du Soleil's Corteo show together. It was so much fun to see it with all of our parents and siblings. Like most of their shows, it can't be conveyed in words. Needless to say their was plenty of unbelievable acrobats and jugglers.

We all went to Golden Gate park several times. We saw the Japanese Tea Garden with Lexi's Parents. And then we went to the botanical gardens with everyone but mom and dad, who weren't quite up to it. I took a bunch of great macro shots with my new camera, which is my new favorite toy. I had forgotten how much fun an SLR is. I'll post some of the pics I took soon.

SF reservoir

On our way down from twin peaks, Agi and I came across this reservoir with this fence that was practically crumbling. It was such a bizarre San Francisco landmark, nestled among the trees and briar of Twin Peaks and surrounded by a barbed wire fence full of gaping holes. It was like being on the front line of the battle between natural beauty and urban blight.

Twin Peaks Hike


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Where to Begin

I haven't blogged since Europe.

New School Year
It's been a strange year. I only teach Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays and then I take care of my administrative responsibilities on my own schedule. I managed to carve out a meeting schedule that keeps me from having to come in on Wednesdays or Fridays at the cost of working lunches and long days for the rest of the week. I feel a little more distant from my department as my schedule is full of so many other things. My Animated Art class is more fun than last year. There are fewer total students but more students that are talented and interested in the field. It gives me the chance to do the kind of teaching I that I was after when I joined the profession. I get interesting questions from students who are willing to put effort into answering them. Most of my time in my other classes seems to go towards trying to motivate students who are capable but unwilling to put in the effort. More motivation than education.

New Digs
It must have seemed very sudden to everyone we know, but we have been thinking about it for a while. Ever since we moved to Manhattan, we knew that we were big city people. Europe further convinced me of this as my favorite times were spent in London and Paris. We started looking around mid September. We met our real estate agents on Wednesday, saw 6 houses and put in a bid on our favorite on Sunday, and accepted the counter offer on Monday. It all happened so fast and I was so excited about it I couldn't sleep on Monday night. A month of paper signing followed as we signed our name so many times my hand's still cramping. The house is magnificent. I couldn't have imagined a better use of space. There is so much light in the house that it is slowly changing me into a morning person. It's in Noe Valley with a great view of the city and the bay. I had forgotten how nice it is to have a view. I haven't had one since my family moved out of our place in Highland Park. Watching the sun rise every morning turning the bay golden orange is inspiring to say the least. We moved in on October 27th and we've been buying furniture ever since. The funniest moment in the move was when two different sets of movers each commented that we need a better TV. It cracked me up. What would I do with a better TV except end up spending more time in the darkest room in my house watching TV. I think not. Now that I'm in the city, I want to enjoy my time up here. I could've stayed in the peninsula and watched TV. In fact, I did watch too much TV in the peninsula, though less than at other points in my life. It probably helped contribute to the fact that we made more friends in my neighborhood in San Francisco in the past month than we did living in the Peninsula for 4 years.

Arrivals and Departures
Now that we live in San Francisco, I have a 40 minute commute to and from work. I didn't think it would matter much, but it combined with other things going on at work have me looking for other options for next year. Now that Taja is handling the mentor program and doing a good job of it, I feel like I don't have to worry about keeping that going. Chuck is making connections with new Steering Committee members and I think he'll do a great job of running the meetings next year. And the straw that broke the camel's back was when an administrator asked me to see if Lexi could get some funding from Google for an event the district wanted to hold. This was the first time this administrator talked to me all year. It made me realize that they haven't recognized the hard work I've put into the various programs I work with and they see me only as a lever with which to pry favors from my wife's company. It's no wonder that educational bureaucracies become so stagnate that the profession is failing. I've tried for 5 years to learn all I could from my mentors in the field and most of them refused to take the time to train me or include me in administrative discussions so I could learn how the process works. I'm determined to find something else to do next year. I'm applying to Stanford's Education Administration and Policy Analysis Program and I'm planning to minor in Learning Sciences and Technology Design. This should give me the background to work on the school data software that I have been thinking about since I started this job. If I'm not accepted to Stanford, there were some interesting job opportunities in San Francisco, including a non-profit that works with data for public programs. Whatever I end up doing, it will be somewhere closer or atleast more interesting.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Neil Gaiman!

I got to meet Neil Gaiman on Friday! Tom had said he would probably be sick of signing things cause that's what he's been doing all week, but I was going to bring a copy of Sandman anyway, and then I woke up late and forgot, in that way where you leave the house and think "I know I've forgot something, what is it?" and you realize it's your train ticket and go back and find the ticket, and leave the house again and it's only when you've gotten on the train that you realize that you also forgot the book. Which I guess is better than remembering that you forgot the book, and going back for it, and getting on the train without a ticket and getting kicked off the train for forgetting said ticket, and being late because you have to bike all the way there.

Anyway, even though I didn't get anything signed, I thought it was cool that he hung out and had lunch with us. Not that I managed to say anything intelligent. ("Hey, our English-to-Arabic machine translator whooped the competition in the recent NIST benchmarks. You know, in case you wanted to translate your stuff into Arabic. Isn't this sushi yummy?") We commiserated about the hardships of blogging on the road and generally had a good time. Sadly, it seems that Blogger has eaten some of his posts lately. :(

He spent a lot of time telling us about his new book. I kept hearing the title as Nancy Boys, and I thought that was a pretty funny thing to call a book. Which was maybe the point, on account of it was supposed to be a funny book and all. I figured I'd pick it up on Amazon, but didn't find anything with that title. Later that weekend I went to the bookstore and saw it displayed prominently on the bestseller shelf: Anansi Boys. I picked up a copy and it was a good read.

On Friday night I saw Serenity. I'm not going to say anything about it because Andrew hasn't seen it yet. I'll go see it again this weekend.

Monday, September 26, 2005

American Idiot

This weekend's soundtrack is brought to you by Green Day.
Sit around and watch the tube but, nothing's on
Change the channels for an hour or two
Twiddle my thumbs just for a bit
I'm sick of all the same old shit
"Longview"

Last week was a long week at work, so by the time I got home on Friday I was ready to collapse on the couch as usual. But Andrew thought we ought to go out and Do Something. We ended up in Berkeley with Agi and Bryan for an evening of drunken Monopoly. I lost, as usual, but drank at least four different kinds of wine.
I don't need your authority
Down with the moral majority
Cause I want to be the minority
"Minority"

On Saturday I went to Webzine, which is an excuse to hang out with bloggers, independent publishers, and assorted other folks dressed in black with various body piercings and a distaste for mainstream media. It was super fun. There was a panel on the "adult industry" which I went to because, hey, free porn, which turned out to be an actual serious discussion of a bizarre accounting regulation designed to put porn redistributors out of business by making them keep lots of paperwork on all the actors. It was surreal but pretty neat. (Andrew, Bryan, and Agi spent the day at the Love Parade, where presumably they got to see more naked people and fewer texts of bills before the senate).

After Webzine, I figured my ankle was in good enough shape to make it back to SBC Park to meet Andrew. I'd been taking it easy this week - I even drove to work twice instead of biking - and the swelling had gone down to the point where it looked like a normal ankle. Anyway, it turns out to be about a three mile walk, but it was a beautiful clear afternoon, so I took it slow and all was well.
Don't wanna be an American idiot
Don't want a nation under the new mania
And can you hear the sound of hysteria
The subliminal mindfuck America
"American Idiot"

I met Andrew at SBC Park for the Green Day concert. I'd never seen them in concert before, so this was a fantastic experience. The stadium was sold out, and I think all 47,000 people knew the words to the songs. When the band came out I thought I saw this look on Billie Joe's face like he was maybe a little taken aback by the intensity and size of the home crowd... there were at least four generations of fans there. Cool moms with their mohawked 7-year olds, punks my age, grandfathers smoking pot with teenagers. I always like watching the sunset at SBC Park but it's even better set to rock music. The last time I went to a stadium-type concert was maybe five years ago, when I saw The Offspring in LA, and the first thing that jumped out at me is the evidence of advances in cell phone technology in the intervening five years. So five years ago at a concert you'd hold up a lighter during the slow songs - but now you hold up your cell phone because it has a bright color LCD that's more visible. The sight of tens of thousands of cell phone lights held up to Boulevard of Broken Dreams is quite a sight to behold.

After the concert we went to go find Agi and Bryan again (who had an adventure involving a trip to San Mateo and back), and scored some tasty fudge before heading back home.

Take away the sensation inside,
Bittersweet migraine in my head ...
"Give Me Novocaine"

Sunday morning was tough. But we'd made an appointment to go look at some houses, so we got up and went. We've been sort of looking for a house for a long time, in the sense of flipping through real estate magazines and thinking that nothing really looked like what we wanted. It was a recent decision to narrow things down from "Northern California, or maybe Manhattan, or that nice village in France" to "urban San Francisco, maybe Noe Valley". But we'd been referred to an agent last week, who offered to show us around some places in Noe Valley. We saw five houses on Sunday. One, which Andrew affectionally refers to as 'Giles's house', made us feel like we'd have to be fifty years old and sipping sherry in the library to live there. Two others were a little too close to the busy parts of Haight Ashbury, although they looked really nice. The fourth had lots of potential but had been decorated as a complete 1975 period piece, down to the mirrors and leather bar. But the fifth place was perfect. Huge, new construction, great views, some parking, really nice flow to the interior, even a backyard. Absolutely not even in the same league as the other ones.

So we decided to put in a bid on it. Because how often do you find the perfect house?
Starry nights city lights,
Coming down over me,
Skyscrapers and stargazers,
In my head

Are we we are, are we we are,
The waiting, unknown
"Are We the Waiting"

Today I was checking my cell phone as often as I could, hoping for some news on the bid. I had a whole morning of interviewing to do, so I'd get to check my phone once an hour or so in between candidates. Andrew was able to finalize the negotiations in the morning and by the afternoon we'd gotten all the contracts signed.

Now I just have to learn everything I need to know about disclosures and inspections in the next ten days. And figure out what I'm going to do with all that new space. I guess I'm one lucky American Idiot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New softball season

The new softball season started this week. We play in a coed corporate league in Sunnyvale - most of the opponents are dot-commers like ourselves. The coed league is pretty casual, with a heavy emphasis on having a good time and occasionally drinking beer. This time our team is pretty good - some folks are super fast, and some folks can hit the ball really well, and mostly we catch things and don't drop them. Me, I can usually figure out where to hit grounders to sneak a base hit past the infield, and I do OK at first base.

So it was a good omen that we won our game tonight. Except that I forgot how to slide. Sort of. I mean, I remember how to slide, but I started to slide when I heard "down", and then tried to stand up a moment later when I heard "no, stand up", and the end result was that I tripped sideways over third base in what I'm sure was a hilarous display of lack of coordination, and landed the wrong way on my ankle. My ankle felt OK after a few minutes so I played the rest of the game (taking it easy). But by the time I got back home my ankle had swollen up and driving the car wasn't much fun. I sure won't be biking in to work tomorrow. I'll have to find some time to squeeze in a visit to the doctor between meetings tomorrow to make sure I haven't done something really bad to it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

704

Ahh... it's good to be back in California. This was sort of a tough week at work, so it was great to unwind this weekend. On Friday we went to see the Giants play the Dodgers, and ate hot dogs and beer while watching the Giants barely pull out victory in the bottom of the 9th. (Barry Bonds hit his first home run of the season - number 704 - and we were so close to catching a foul ball.) On Saturday we ate a gigantic salad at the Cheesecake Factory (free refills on Cokes! yay!), went to the gym, and spent most of the night at the poker room. Today I read the Sunday Times and played with the ferrets. It's good to be home.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Proshai Bonnushka

Farewell little Bonnie

Bonnie was euthanized this weekend as her liver was failing and she had stopped eating and drinking on her own. We will miss Bonnie. Though she was a difficult ferret at times, always biting everyone, she was also very bright. She was the first one to figure out that she could get the last bit of soda out of a bottle by spinning the bottle so it spilled on to the floor. She was also a master lock picker, having broken out of the first 3 cages we owned. She always seemed to long for life in the wild. It was like she had this instinctual understanding that she was meant to go around killing smaller animals rather than beg for treats. She was a ferret's ferret. She always got along well with the other grown up ferrets (baby ferrets were another matter) and would constantly groom them all the time. We would like to thank Billy and Mandy for taking her to the vet and doing all that they could to help Bonnie, including making the difficult decision to put her down so that she didn't suffer. We knew that Bonnie was not well as she had been losing fur for a while, but she was still eating and drinking and grooming the other ferrets right up to the time we dropped her off in Sunland. Her conditioned worsened quickly though and making sure she didn't suffer was the right thing to do. Bye Bonnie. We'll miss you.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Europe

We're in Europe for the summer and are keeping a travel diary http://basteel-europe.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 04, 2005

G'Kar

The neighbors found G'Kar underneath their deck this morning - he's home safely now. He's had a two week adventure in the outdoors, but seems in pretty good shape.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Clyde

It took us a while to get him to sit still - but I think he's fixated on the rubber nubby on the camera phone.

Londo

Londo is wrestling with a copy of Poker Player magazine.

Yoda

Yoda sits still on demand. She does somersaults too, but that's harder to capture with a still camera.

Bonnie

Bonnie wants to bite you.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Picture Share!

Wine Tasting

OK, I forget exactly where this is, but there's a winery on silverado trail where they let you go up to the watchtower with your wine. This is the view from the top. (Andrew says the winery's name is Luna.)

Craig's Tie

Craig's tie is in his shirt pocket.

Friday, May 20, 2005

mmm... blueberries

Andrew's sitting in front of the winery that has the yummy chocolate-covered blueberries to go with the port. The port was OK, but the blueberries were excellent. It's not obvious from the photo, but it's only noon and Andrew is already badly sunburned.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Three Bottles of Wine on the Wall

A weekend of wine tasting begins with three bottles of our own at the campsite on Friday night.

Pouring One For the Homies?

No, I don't know who Andrew's homies are.

Clyde's Mohawk

Clyde has just had a bath, so his hair is all spiky.

A Picture Share!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

STAR Testing

It's strange. I always loved test days when I was in school. To me they were a day where I could zoom through a bunch of easy questions to an easy high score and then get a chance to take a nap at my desk or read a book. My students, however, find them much more trying. Some get fed up quickly and hurry through the test just to look eagerly around the room for someone to try to talk to. No one brings a book they're reading on their own, because most of them don't read outside of their assigned school reading (and some don't even do that).

I wonder if this is an effect of not having been read to as a child. I've always loved reading ever since I can remember. Some of my first memories are of my mother reading the baby-bee-bee bird to my brother and I. Soon after that we were reading to her out of our word bird books and berenstein bears books. To this day, I think that is part of the reason that I feel very at ease and comforted when I'm reading a book. I could even read War and Peace on the 2 hour bus ride to my first summer job and feel completely calm in a bumping crowd of bitter morning commuters.

This is part of the reason I feel that more attention needs to be paid to early childhood education. Once they enter High School with a 4th grade reading level, the best you can do is get them to an 8th grade reading level in 4 years. There is a vicious cycle in place in homes with parents that do not read to their children:

1.Parent's who don't read don't have higher degrees or high paying jobs.
2.Without high paying jobs they have to work longer hours
3.Their children are on their own more. Parents can't read to them, help them with their homework, or encourage positive academic activities as they didn't participate in them when they were in school.
4.Their children fall behind, dropout, or only graduate high school.
5.Their children have childrens (go to 1)

More money for preschool and after school elementary programs help to provide surrogate parent figures who can instill a love of reading and learning. Many parents of my most frustrating students, ones who have a quick wit which betrays their academic potential but have little interest in school, can only pay lip service to the idea of academic achievement. "I tell them all the time. Study, study, study but he never listen." "I tell him to do his homework but he say its all done." They lack the academic skills it takes to understand what is being asked of their children so they can't follow up on them very well. After school programs are the best solution for this. Even after school jobs are a good start. It's the unstructured free time after school that is giving these students an alternative to academic achievement. They hang out with other recent grads or dropouts who have little or no interest in improving their own condition and they start to set their standards by that measure. I hate seeing a whole generation of minority youth being lost to nothing more than TV, Video Games and Weed.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Everything's Downhill From Here

This past weekend, I broke another skiing barrier. I tackled a black diamond much steeper than the ones I've already skied. It was mostly a psychological barrier, I still have trouble dealing with heights and looking down a steep, icy hill brings a lot of those same issues to bear.

We also picked up season passes for next year at Kirkwood. It is definitely my favorite mountain and I still haven't skied all of it yet. They always seem to have better snow than anywhere else and they're close to our favorite poker room.

Back at school, I'm no longer feeling like I'm falling behind all the time. With the other academy taken care of, I've started taking care of other things. I've gotten all the tests created for the Electrastar event next week. I'm moving on volunteer recruitment for the career fair again and I've already gotten a number of new volunteers.

We've been setting things up for our trip to Zurich. Lexi's already ordered her passport and I've just gotten my birth certificate so I can get mine soon. We're looking forward to going, but I'm worried about how my Mom will be able to join us for a while. She has always wanted to see Europe and I really hope she gets the chance this time.

Just how my mom will be able to join us in Europe is only the latest in a series of issues that have been brought on by our new found wealth. Since we hit it big, we've been trying a lot of new expensive things that are really fun. The only trouble is that we want to share these new experiences with our friends and family, but they aren't in our same situation. It either ends up with us going it alone or a weirdness that happens when we try to help spot them so they can join us. We don't want to show off. We just want to be able to do the new kinds of things we're starting to enjoy with the friends and family we love.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Some Days It's Faster to Bike

Last Thursday I rode into work on my bike with some friends. I usually take the train most of the way then bike the last two miles, but we did the whole fifteen-ish miles. (Actually, my friends are nuts, and started in San Francisco - another twenty miles away.) It's a lot easier to maintain a fast pace in a group than alone, so we averaged about 16 mph over the one hour ride. My friend also knew of a much better route through Palo Alto which definitely shaved off some distance (hint: turn off Middlefield and take the Embarcadero bike overpass over the 101 and continue on the other side of the freeway, where there is no traffic). This was pretty cool because I remember a time not too long ago that I couldn't do 16 mph on a bike at all, much less for a whole hour.

One advantage of riding on the bay side of the 101 is that you get to watch the freeway traffic creep forward. Yesterday, as I was stuck in that freeway traffic in the rain, I saw some hardy bicyclists cruise past on the path in the distance, undoubtedly making better time than me. But at least I was dry and toasty warm.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Totally Geeking Out

I am blogging from my new palm p hone as we wait for a table at Lucky Chances. I can't believe how many people are here on Easter Sunday. I'm a heathen but what's their excuse.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Little Closure Before Spring Break

It's been a while since I've written. Things have been pretty crazy. Let's take stock:

1. Perkins Orders
I was very worried about the Perkins orders. The deadline just came last week and there were many people waited until the last minute to handle their orders. All my cajoling earned me the nickname the Perkins Nazi. But in the end, the money got spent and people made the deadline and we didn't have much left over. I just wish that the accounting system could accurately and quickly represent what's been spent.

2. Academy Crisis
The other Academy that I've been working to try to rebuild for next year finally got a new champion to carry on the cause. The administration had someone in mind who was not in the Academy, which I was concerned about, but now that I met her on Friday I feel much better about everything. I feel a lot better knowing that there is someone there who knows the school and will take the lead in fixing it. It was like a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders.

3. My Friend
She will still have a job when she comes back next year. That's a relief.

4. Tickets to Zurich
Finally bought. We're leaving June 16th and returning August 21st. We found out Eurorail passes are expensive. Still they're worth it.

Amy visited us this week during her spring break. We all had a blast. We saw Evita up in the city, which was cool. I think I prefer Sondheim to Andrew Lloyd Weber. Weber puts a little too much pathos and a little less sarcasm than I prefer. Still the performances by Che and Evita were both excellent and we went for sushi at blowfish afterwards.

We also saw the San Francisco Jazz collective play at Mountain View. They were incredible. There was a trumpet, two saxophones, a piano, a drummer, a xylophone, a base and a trombone. They played a few Coltrane songs and an original piece by each member. The drummer was incredible. I tried to keep up with the beats he was playing, but he switched between them with such frequency and with a pattern that verged on a most beautiful chaos. It was great. I haven't been to a concert that good since the Tribute to Django Rheinhardt that Lexi and I went to in New York last summer. And that concert only trumped this one because of the kick ass Jazz violinist who could keep up with the guitarists.

The weather was unfortunate as it rained for most of the week, but it cleared up on Friday and we threw a party for Amy. We played a bunch of apples to apples and some dance dance revolution (Lexi and I sprung for a pair of dance pads). Somehow the rhythm my hands possess when it comes to drumming does not translate well into foot rhythm for dancing. I am getting better and it is good exercise.

I'm looking forward to a lazy spring break with lots of time at the gym, at the poker table, and on my bike and a trip skiing to finish it all off.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Good Timing

Lexi and I went to Tahoe again this weekend. We managed to miss the snow and traffic going in and out of Tahoe. It was the inaugural weekend for our new skis. The extra powder made it a little tough for me as I had never been skiing in it before. I had a tough first 3 days. My boots were pinching. I took a bad fall at Heavenly, luckily my new helmet kept me from hitting my face and the powder kept me from breaking anything. It was a most spectacular looking fall. I had slowly made my way down what had turned out to be a very mogully black run. When I got near enough to the bottom, I took off straight down the rest of the hill, to build speed for the flat area coming up. The flat area turned out be very bumpy. I couldn't start a turn because I was bouncing all over the place. I then made the classic mistake of trying to pizza cut to slow down. Both edges caught suddenly and I slammed flat down on my face into a pile of powder. No rolls, no tumbles, just smack into a dead stop. I was covered in snow. This was part of the reason I've decided I don't like Heavenly. They insist on putting bumps everywhere on their mountain. It's nearly impossible to find a flat, fast, groomed, blue or black run. Nearly every blue is at least bumpy. They also don't believe in grooming. They let the powder pile up into these annoying obstacles that make skiing more of a chore than a pleasure. Lexi assures me that I will grow to enjoy the challenge of moguls, but I'm definitely not there yet.

On our last night in Tahoe, we scheduled an hour massage at the Spa at Harrah's. It was a little pricey, but they do let you chill out in their jacuzzi for an hour before or after your treatment. We split a bottle of champagne right before our treatments. After the champagne, an hour in the jacuzzi and an hour massage, we felt like a million bucks. It's probably why we played so well that night (read below).

The last day of skiing was great. We went to Kirkwood where they actually groom their slopes. I tore up the blues and blacks on my new skis and my boots were feeling much better. I was kind of down after the second day of falling on my face at heavenly so I really needed that last day at Kirkwood to pick me up. Lexi thinks that the boots and skis weren't feeling right earlier in the weekend because I was skiing unfamiliar terrain. It seems that way and I certainly hope that's what was wrong with them.

We had a great weekend at the tables. We cleared $390 in profit. Our last night was great. I got caught pushing a few early hands too aggressively (An AK that didn't hit anything and KK that got beat by someone catching an A) Then the cards started hitting for Lexi and I like mad. We have this technique we use on limit tables. We enter a table separately so no one knows we're married. Then, when the first of us to act raises, the other re-raises with anything but the worst hand. The idea is to build the pot and also push out the speculative hands that could bust our big hands if they hit. It also establishes the two of us as the primary aggressors, which helps us push people out later. This time when Lexi raised on her pair of Aces, I reraised with a J4 of hearts. We got another person to reraise after and I reraised him, capping the first round betting. Then the flop came 4-4-8. I got a few rounds of raises out of him and he was sick to see that I had raised J-4 of hearts. After that and a few other good hands where my rags hit miracles, I was up 150 and Lexi was up 100. It was a great night, but it sent me off tilt on my internet poker the next night where I lost 300+. The lesson I learned is that I can control my play when I'm down, but I need to learn to control my play when I'm up. I don't get discouraged into playing bad hands by bad cards, but this last run of good luck had me playing too loose for the next day and it cost me. Still, atleast it's the internet poker losses. It's only 60 we've invested and we're still at around 450 in the account.

I really needed this break. I don't think there's another place we could enjoy ourselves as much as we do when we're skiing and playing poker at Tahoe.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

New Skis and Chocolate Fondue

I spent the first bit of last week feeling a little under the weather. But it wasn't until Thursday that the cold kicked in full force. So I had the somewhat surreal experience of being in the middle of a no-limit hold 'em tournament, with a pretty large stack of chips in front of me, when my nose started bleeding and the pressure in my sinuses mounted to the point that all I could think was "please let me bust out soon so I can go sleep on the couch". Of course, once you think that, the game's over.. I finished somewhere in the middle of the pack.

But it turns out that maybe it wasn't a cold after all. A few days later, when Andrew was at his conference and I was cleaning the house so I could cook (long story, but once I get to cleaning it's gotta be the whole house or nothing, and the kitchen has to have some clean surface before I can cook), I unearthed another possible explanation. See, the ferrets have a little cage they sleep in when we have guests over and don't want them (the ferrets) underfoot. And in that cage is a bowl of the ferrets' favorite food: kitten kibble. The ferrets love the kitten kibble because it has a really high fat content. The cat also likes the kitten kibble, probably for the same reason. But if the cat gets into the kitten kibble, he'll eat too much of it in one sitting and will get sick, so we normally keep the ferrets' cage door closed even if the ferrets aren't in it. Anyway, a few days ago, the cage door happened to be open, and the cat had apparently snuck into the cage (bear in mind that this requires significant motivation on the part of the cat, because of the relative sizes of said cat and cage) and eaten the whole bowl of kibble. He had then crawled a little ways away before puking in a hidden corner. So by the time I found it, the mess was pretty foul, and there was mold growing on it.. so maybe the little mold spores had something to do with my "cold".

Anyway, by Monday I was feeling tons better, and the house was pretty darn clean. It is, like, absolutely mold-free. Too bad I had to spend Monday night by myself because of Andrew's conference... anyway, I picked up some champagne and chocolate in anticipation of celebrating Valentine's Day a little bit late. But when Andrew got home on Tuesday, he had come down with a cold too. So our plans were foiled yet again. We finally had time tonight, though, so I made chocolate fondue. (The ratio is 4 oz chocolate (a mix of different kinds of chips) to 1/2 cup milk, melted slowly; then you dip marshmallows or strawberries or kit-kats in it and enjoy.)

Hopefully Andrew will be fully recovered by Friday, because we're going skiing again. This will be the inagural run of our new skis. Ski shopping is way more work than I remember it being. (I mean, I haven't ever been the actual purchaser of skis - there were so many sets in my parents' house I just assumed there was a ski fairy.) First we went to the REI near our house, because they were having a winter clearance sale. We found skis for Andrew no problem (Omni 4.5s), but they had no skis short enough for me, except for little kid skis. Then we went on a whirlwind tour of other bay area REIs and ski shops, but it seemed as if there were no skis shorter than 167 to be found. (Seriously, do only people taller than 5'7" ski?) Finally, we stopped at the ski shop in San Mateo, which had a huge selection. Not only did they have the model/size I thought I was looking for (k2 burnin' luv in 153) but had something way cooler - Atomic M11's in a 152, seriously on sale. These promise to be amazingly fast and versatile skis, and I am sooo psyched up to try them out.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Black Diamond Weeks

These last few weeks have been black diamonds on and off the slopes.

Last week started out with a few blue slopes. There is a huge meeting at the district coming up to renegotiate how all the Academy programs in the district are charged. I see it as a huge opportunity because he wants to wipe the slate clean in terms of salary (which is a cost that increases every year) in exchange for giving us a little less in operating budget 15-20 thousand a year. As our state grant has no cost of living increase built in, this gives us the chance to build it in at the district level as long as all the academies can agree on a similar level of staffing. Problem is I get to play the grown up with the other Academy leaders who either are clueless about the budget process and need their hand held or just want to complain about a one time rollover of funds that the district botched. If I can rein them in and keep the discussion aggressive without being confrontational, we will come out ahead and I'll even be able to promote a healthier staff to operating budget ratio in the other Academies.

Then came the black diamonds. My good friend who was running one of the Academy programs at another school had a manic breakdown. I've been working with her for a long time. She's not just a great teacher and mentor coordinator, but she is also a good friend. When I caught up with her after her breakdown I was really worried. She reminded me of a friend I had back in college who had a similar breakdown. All the same signs were there: the seemingly bottomless supply of energy, overcoming extreme odds and taking on too much, and finally facing a problem that is beyond her control and breaking down. I was even more worried after she called me from a strangers cell phone rather late one night. When I tried to call her back, her cell was full and she wasn't picking up at her apartment. No one at work knew where she was or how she was doing. I finally looked her parents up on the internet and found out she was back in the hospital, which was some relief. Atleast she was somewhere safe even though it was a step backwards in her recovery. All the while I was worrying about my friend, I also had to worry about her program, which was drifting without her at the helm. I got in touch with her replacement, helped them get enough teachers to go to the conference so that they didn't violate their state mandate, and set up a meeting with their administration to try to get things back on track. That meeting's tomorrow, to be followed by the big guns meeting next week with their principal and the assistant superintendent. Hopefully we can pull their staff back together in time to save the program and the state funding. I'll probably need to spend a lot of time helping them through new student and staff recruitment. Hopefully I can get some structures in place to help them remain stable for a few years as they build up their team and their new leader.

Finally the real black diamonds. Lexi, Bryan, Gen and I went skiing this weekend at Kirkwood. I got some loose boots the first day and held back, but the second day I traded them in for the best fitting boots I've ever had and tackled 3 different black diamonds (I tried a 4th but I scraped down it real slow because it was a bit steeper than I was ready for so it doesn't count) I'm feeling a lot more confident about my skiing and I'm having even more fun than before all thanks to Lexi's patient tutelage. I spent the rest of the time on the last day of skiing practicing my turning form. I've been relying too much on those extreme kick stop style turns. I focused a lot of time and energy this weekend on developing better slight turns, to help me regulate my speed more gradually and to help me learn to handle faster speeds. All my luck went to my skiing though as I ended up a total of $16 down after two nights of poker. Not a huge loss and I'm getting better at not letting bad cards lure me into bad calls when I have a string of bad luck in a night. However I am tightening up a little too much as I should be playing more hands than I am in middle position. I'm going to back to practicing those starting hands on-line so I'm ready for ski week's tahoe trip. I also learned another good lesson at Google poker night. Don't over slow pay your bullets. I had two aces in the hole and just called. I hit a third ace and checked it. The turn put a 3,5,7 on the table. I raise twice the pot and the other guy goes all in. He had a big blind special of 4,6 giving him the straight. I caught another five on the river for aces full, but I felt really bad about breaking him on that hand. (OK not that bad, I won). Overall, Lexi and I have been faring better at Google poker night. We started out breaking even, but this last time we were up a total of $60 at the end of the tournament coming in 6th (me) and 4th (Lexi).

Friday, January 28, 2005

More Skiing, More Poker and More Students

Google Ski Trip was last Thursday and I came up to join Lexi that weekend at Squaw Valley for some skiing. I got some more blues in and even tried out a small ski jump. I managed to catch a little air and still land in control. I'll try to get a little more air next time.

We got out to Harveys for some poker on Saturday night. I got the worst cards of my life. Worse than I could even excuse playing at as loose a table as we found. I folded away $20 over 3 hours. Lexi did get the cards though and used them well. She netted $243 profit at the table. I'm still proud I had the will power to keep from loosening my play too much for that table. With 6-9 offsuit and the like making up most of your hands, Q-6 offsuit starts to look good, but I knew I shouldn't play it and I didn't. It would have just made my losses even greater.

This week was recruitment for the Academy. I feel good about the new candidates this year. I hope that we are able to keep more of the students that we want. It's been getting better year to year and I hope the trend continues. If we can keep a good team running this academy, it could really make the transition to a college prep program.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

The way I remembered it, this hill kicked my butt last time. That was nine months (and eight percent body fat) ago. I had decided to bike the scenic route home from work - through Mountain View, to Foothill Expressway, to Alameda de las Pulgas, through San Carlos. The hill in the middle was a surprise, and it felt like it stretched on for miles. It took me two hours to get home that night, even though it's maybe fifteen miles, and it completely wore me out.

Today, after hooking up my new odometer (thanks, Andrew) and replacing yet another flat (thanks, bike shop dude), I figured it was time to take on some hills and put the new gadget to some use. We decided to take that route to Palo Alto, on the theory that at least Palo Alto has good food and a bookstore.

Going up San Carlos Ave., the route starts out flat and gradually builds up to a hill. We kept up a 15 mph clip up until turning on to Alameda, where the hill asserted its presence. I downshifted until I was comfortable spinning and slowly made progress upwards. We crested the top of a hill at the mile 3 point, and I was feeling pretty good - hadn't even broken a sweat, and the new gadget said we had kept up a 7mph pace up the hill. By mile 3.5, there was another leg of the hill, and my legs were starting to feel it. Fortunately, I was distracted by the view of the smog rolling in over the bay, and made it to the top at mile 4. If the faded "Welcome to Atherton" sign is right, that's a 500 foot climb. The rest of the way was mostly downhill; we hit 30mph in a few places, and just coasted in others. We covered the total of ten miles in a little over fifty minutes - about 12 mph. (Lucas has a record of hill grades for other rides in the area.)

After a stop at the Cheesecake Factory (where we ate dinner plus a whole piece of cheesecake) and the bookstore (where we sat and read poker books for a few hours), we headed home via Middlefield. It was dark already, and a little chilly. Sadly, I've now lived in California long enough that "chilly" was probably hovering around 50F. My headlight really needs new batteries, so I was navigating partly on instinct through the darkness of Menlo Park. The fading light was just enough to catch the reflection of the stripe on the road (where it existed) or the litter off the side of the road (elsewhere), but not enough to pick out the dead squirrels in the road. I set a pace at a sprint as we left Palo Alto, and started counting in my head to keep myself on pace. (The new gadget had lost its connection to the sensors when I parked the bike roughly, so I didn't get good readings from it on the way home.) The cold air was invigorating, and I quickly found a comfortable cadence, listening to the hum of my new tire on the pavement, breathing evenly in and out, in and out.

We made excellent time, through cooperative streetlights, until the boundary of Redwood City. Redwood City is designed to be an exercise in memory for bicyclists. The only way to go through Redwood City directly is El Camino, which has stoplights every hundred feet, lots of traffic, and no bike lane. So we stayed on Middlefield, which has stoplights every hundred feet, not much traffic, and no bike lane. Middlefield goes through the barrio of Redwood City, so in contrast to the empty road through gated communities we had just left, there was now snatches of Latin music coming from bars with their doors open, the smell of lard-and-tortilla concoctions wafting from restaurants, and little punk kids yelling at us. Then, Middlefield turns in to the center of Redwood City, whose map looks like the city founders turned a perfectly good grid of streets to a 45 degree angle, added some dead ends and traffic calming measures, and made some streets that turn back on themselves. But, the secret to escaping Redwood City is this: from Middlefield, turn right on Main, turn left on Brentwood(?), then ignore that this street dead-ends into city hall, go through the county court's courtyard and pick up Brentwood at the other side, then slight right onto Allerton, which eventually lets out at Whipple.

By the time we got home, another forty minutes had elapsed (most spent in Redwood City waiting at stoplights). This is about seven miles, so we averaged about 10 mph. I think this makes sense now, because our speed on the hills was better than I'd predicted, and the stoplights on the flat route really cut down on the average speed. We got back home and I was already hungry again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Defeating the Post Vacation Malaise and Malady

So I'm still not completely over my cold from last week. There's a nagging cough that I just can't shake. But my energy is back up and I had my first good day at work since I came down with the cold last week. I got so much done today:

-Lessons prepped for the rest of the week
-Agendas created for the steering committee and Career Technical Education committee meetings next week.
-Met with Bev Parks and planned our strategy for our meeting with the superintendent over the academy budgets.
-Taught my heavy load of classes (Tues and Thurs have more class time than the rest of the week)

As my threshold for what I'll put up with at work continues to drop, it was refreshing to have a day that went as well as today. This vacation had a real impact on my work ethic. I found that I have enough hobbies to keep me busy and happy without work. If I can keep finding enough interesting problems like the budget meeting with the superintendent, maybe I will last in the district until I go back to school (which is currently leading the pack of ideas for what to do next). Though reading some of the bios for the Profs at Stanford, I came across a too many pedagogical theorists and too few administrative policy analysts.

Lexi and I have been playing some on-line tournaments lately. We've been doing pretty well too. Our very tight preflop play has been paying off big time as well as our new aggressive pursuit of drawing hands with a variety of outs. Overall, tournaments seem to pay off more reliably for us, but not offer the same return as regular play. It's a volatility versus rate of return trade off. Thursday we will try to make the Google Poker night for the first time. I'm eager to meet the player that has apparently impressed David Sklansky (One of my favorite poker geek writers).

Friday, January 07, 2005

Low Week, Low Pairs and a Bad Beat

I am so glad this week is over. Tuesday was a tripple whammy. We lost Zack in the morning. I had biked to school under partly cloudy skies. Then right when school ended the skies opened up just in time for me to bike to my blood donation appointment. The combination of grief, rain and blood loss gave me a bad cough that I am still fighting.

On the up-side Lexi and I have broken $600 in our partypoker account. It started with $60 earlier this summer and hovered there for a while. The big boost to the account came yesterday when we hit the sweetest 2-4 table. There were two lunatics with $350 each. Lexi hit a pair of twos and limped in. She caught a third 2 on the flop and the two lunies maxed out the betting. Then on the turn another 2 falls. They keep betting the max. When the dust settled we were up a hundred. They kept playing the same way too. At the end of the night we were up $250. It's been lots of fun practicing our poker together.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Zack

Zack liked to play outdoors, and didn't even mind the leash that much. Sometimes he had so much energy that it freaked out the cat. He loved to meet new people and was always very friendly. He had just adapted to the new baby ferrets and was enjoying playing with them. We brought in a tub of dirt over the weekend and let the ferrets all play in it. The babies and Zack loved the dirt, and dug in it so much that all their fur turned dark (even Zack, who was normally mostly white-gray). Zack also became so excited about the dirt that he leapt up onto the counter and overturned a poinsettia plant, creating further havoc. We gave them all baths afterwards - they hate baths - and dried them off in big poofy towels. Zack seemed so happy.

We'll miss him.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Zack's Passing

Lexi found Zack, our Silver Ferret, dead this morning. I was just about to get on my bike, when Lexi called me and told me she found him. It was a real shock as he was only 4 years old. He had been losing some weight, but still seemed active and was still eating right up until he passed some time last night. We buried him out in the back yard, wrapped in one of the towels he loved to curl up in.

Zack was a puppy trapped in a ferrets body. Whenever he was happy, he would hop all the way around the dining room. In fact he hopped way more than he walked. He was the only one of our first 4 ferrets that would chase the little ferret toys around the room. It was a hard morning at work. I'm still feeling depressed. When I get home tonight, I'm going to give our other 5 ferrets so many treats.