Day 717

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I had no desire to go into the gym today, but I managed to crawl out of bed at 4:40 a.m.  I was the only one there until Glenn showed up at 5:20.  We played two games, then Tiger showed up.  I was exhausted after a few more games to 7, then hit the weight room, showered, went to Safeway, then came home and started in all all I need to get done.  After several days of R&R, I'm ready to get back to it.  Lots to take care of in the new year. 

I cleaned house and took care of chores until 4:15.  I picked up Alice at 11th Street and we went to Star Pizza for dinner, eating a thin crust Broadway, salad, and sharing a bottled Coke. 

At 8 we headed over to Richard and Lisa's and watched an old James Bond movie on the big projector. 

Lots of fun, considering the film was the primary source for the Austin Powers parody.  The only problem for me was I felt asleep halfway through the movie at around 10:30.  Staying up until midnight is becoming a much more difficult challenge these days. 

At midnight we raised our champagne glasses and celebrated the new year.  Fun!

Day 716

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

With my flight back to Oakland taking off at 6 a.m., I was up even early for me, 3:35, and out the door by 4.  I gassed up, hit 405 South for 30 minutes, then dropped off the rental car and hit the security lines by 5.  Once I passed security and got a hot tea and banana, I was good to go.  The flight was full but the person who had the center seat in my row was a noshow, so it was a comfortable, leisurely flight home.  The seat situation on flights is ridiculous.  I'm a pretty small person and even I'm unable to move around much on those flights.  It's a joke the way airlines have squeezed every last inch out of the seats on flights.  I wonder if anyone's actually done papers on the topic, the lack of leg room and elbow room on flights.  It's horrible.

I arrived at Oakland by 8 and took the BART shuttle to Coliseum Station, then 12th Street.  I ended up working at Wendel until 5, then came home, finished a sandwich I'd eaten earlier in the day, then crashed hard without even unpacking.  I was wiped out.  Went to bed at 10 and didn't wake up until the alarm went off at 4:25. 

Day 715

Monday, December 29, 2014

I woke up at 8:30 and drove Nicole home to her house in Monroe.  We stayed at her place for an extra hour to 90 minutes, talking about family stuff, life, and details from our past that have shaped who we are and why we do what we do.  I love hanging out with Nicole.  It's hard to believe she'll turn 30 in April.  From Monroe, I headed back to Kenmore and took Tristan out to lunch at my favorite fast food place Taco Time for some uncle/nephew bonding.  It's been a memorable year in the Hough family.  Later in the afternoon, Tristan and Mathew picked up pizza while Gwen and I hung out in the living room.  We had an easy, enjoyable dinner of pizza and salad, then played a few more games of Pandemic with six Infection cards.  We came close one game, but ended up losing both.  With Tristan's 75% discount at Cole Haan, I bought 3 pairs of shoes online and Austin bought one pair.  Love Cole Haan.  Went to bed around 10:45 but need to wake up at 3:30 for a 6 a.m. flight back to Oakland.

Day 714

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I woke up at Neal's at 10:15 a.m.  I can't remember waking up so late, but then again, it's a rare thing to stay up until 5 a.m. playing board games and bridge.  Neal and Karin made eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes for breakfast (yum!) while we prepared ourselves for the big game today at 1:25.  I hung out for another hour or so, then took a shower, packed up and headed back to Gwen's before 1.

Ready for the Game!
It was tons of fun watching the final Seahawks game of the season at Gwen and Greg's.  The stakes were huge, at least they felt big.  With a win, the Hawks clinched homefield advantage.  With a loss and a Cardinal victory, they would be a wildcard playoff team, allowing them no rest the following week.  I was not surprised at how the first half unfolded.  St. Louis's defense is tough!  Down 0-6 at the half, I wasn't worried at all.  The Seahawks have been a strong second-half team all year, especially throughout the past several games when they were either behind or tied at the start of the third quarter.  True to form, they scored 20 unanswered points in the second half, causing turnovers, making plays, and keeping the pressure on the St. Louis offense.  It was exciting to cheer for a team that consistently does that, figures out ways to win and wears their opponents down.  It was a great game and put everyone in a fabulous mood for dinner with Dad.

We only had a few minutes after the game to get ready for dinner at Daniel's Bar and Grill in Bellevue.  It was nice seeing Dad and Sue so close after Christmas.  Usually, they're on a cruise during the holidays.  We had our own private room overlooking downtown Bellevue.  It was beautiful.

I sat next to Dad and Gwen and across from Nicole.  I was at the quiet side of the table, while Mathew, Tristan and Greg were conversing with Mugs, Sue and Mary on the other side.  Their conversation was a lot more intense, interesting and engaging than the simple, quiet pleasantries going on at my end.  I so wanted to be part of the "therapy" action over there, in which Mugs's partner Mary was asking for little jewels of information about everyone without sharing any of her own.  Yeah, I really wanted to throw a few questions her way, just to see where she was with her own stuff, but instead, I behaved myself and didn't take the bait, didn't get up and go over to the other side of the table and get into a personal conversation (boundaries be damned), though I sure wanted to.  Maybe I'm maturing and no longer need to stir the pot, but I so wanted to stir things up with Mary, who I'd never met before, whom no one had met before,  yet was interacting with Gwen's family as if she'd known them all for years.  I love talking about "stuff" and "issues" and all the head noise that everyone has, whether they're aware of it or not.  I know all about the head noise in my head and the head noise in my family's head, but I really wanted to know about Mary's head noise, I guess because she came across as having none, but delighted in hearing the head noise around her, like a passionate, fully-invested therapist who can't stop working, probing, asking questions, searching for blood.  Maybe next time I'll make sure I'm at her and Mugs's end of the table. 

Mathew and Tristan have amazing energy.  They're so charismatic.  It's fun to watch the two of them in action.

I enjoyed hanging with Dad, Gwen and Nicole, keeping it together in my own little quiet corner of the table and thinking my own crazy thoughts while the personality jewels were being shared.  Good thing Jill wasn't there, because that would have been explosive. She and I are a lot alike.  When there's a shark in the room, they have a way of tapping into our need to be bigger sharks with an seemingly limitless capacity for gamesmanship and mental fencing.  It's that sick, ruthless, competitive part of me that didn't get to participate at the dinner table tonight, which in a way is a good thing, but still...I so wanted to talk shop with the pro. 

Anyway, this is why I get up each morning and play racquetball.  If I didn't, I'd be as big as Dad!  I love of good food has only increased with age and isn't slowing down anytime soon.  Good thing I love chasing balls around a court.

Gwen's in a good place these days.   It's wonderful to see.

I had lots of alone time with Nicole this visit.  She is amazing. 

Dinner ended around 9:30, and back at Gwen's it was board games (Smart Ass, Scattergories, and Pandemic) until 1:30 a.m.  Great day!

Day 713

Saturday, December 27, 2014

With Neil Bason staying at my place for the holidays, it worked out that he drove me to the airport bright and early at 5 a.m.  I found a better price for my rental car before I boarded my plane, through EZ Rent-a-Car, which ended up being a breeze when I arrived at the Seattle Rental Car facility (an awesome facility, btw!).  I was given a grandpa car, i.e., a white Impala that felt like a very long boat on the road.  It was fine and had all kinds of buttons and automatic switches inside, so I enjoyed it. Traffic was light on the way to Gwen's.  I arrived at her house around 10:30, hung out for an hour or so with her and Mathew, catching up, hearing all about their low-key, enjoyable Christmas, before Nicole arrived around 11:45.  Nicole and I went out to lunch at Purple in Woodinville, the same place we went last year for lunch.  I'd written a positive comment for them and they sent me a $35 gift card, which was nice!  I like Purple.  The atmosphere is perfect for an engaging conversation.  Nicole and I talked for two hours over three kinds of cheese and cracker strips, sparkling water, fig and goat cheese pizza and purple chopped salad.  All so delicious.  Nicole told me about her great new job, her waitressing exploits and how tired she was of the food industry.  She's doing very well and simply thriving.  I love it!  We headed back to Gwen's, where I hung out with Gwen, Greg and Mathew for an hour before heading out to Neal and Karin's for the evening.  This was the only night I was able to hang out with my B'ham gang and Susan & Jay, Kathryn & Tom, and Ron & Jeni all showed up, along with Maddie, Julian, Ryan and Kara.  Gwen & Greg, Mathew and Nicole arrived later, so the place was hopping with lots of great food, conversation, and some great stories.  Jay and I got to bond over Fabio Biondi, a virtuoso Italian baroque violinist who has the ability to channel Vivaldi, interpreting his music in the most original and creative manner.  We played a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, in which Susan & Jay's kids Maddie and Julian stole the show, especially Julian!  I love how the next generation of gang participants fit in so well with our warped sensibilities and crazy wicked humor.  When Gwen's family and Susan's family, things suddenly got very serioues when the hardcore gamers (me, Neal & Karin, Ron & Jeni) played a couple games of Pandemic until 2:30.  What a great game.  I don't remember if we beat the game or not, but we sure had fun doing it. 
After Ron & Jeni left, Ryan and Kara were ready to play bridge, so we shuffled the cards and played until 5.  Sick!  Neal & Ryan beat me and Kara in the rubber rubber.  So much fun but man I was dead tired.  I slept in the family room where there was a cot waiting for me.  Great night!

Day 712

Friday, December 26, 2014

I left San Francisco mid-morning and got ready for my trip to Seattle tomorrow before heading over to Richard and Lisa's for a post-Christmas get-together with Neil Bason and Rossana.  Alice joined us later in the day.  We hung out for a few hours, had dinner, then saw a movie at the Grand Lake Theater:

After the movie, I came home with Neil, who was staying at my place, and finished packing before going to bed.

Day 711

Thursday, December 25, 2014

It was a very relaxing, enjoyable Christmas here at Alice's.  We woke up at 7:30, went shopping at Sunset Super for vegetables and crab, then came home and had breakfast and opened gifts.  I read for a few hours before getting ready for Alice's family.  I made crab cakes and guacamole and dip, while Alice made pork bellies, vegetables, sticky rice, and soup.

Alice's sister Karen brought over prime rib, mashed potatoes, green vegetables and Alice's parents brought over dessert.  We ate so much food it was obscene, but I guess that's the point of Christmas feasts.  When all was said and done, I completely succumbed to my food coma by 8.  Everyone left before 9 and Alice and I were too tired to clean anything, so we went to bed, saving the mess for tomorrow.  

Warm and cozy at Alice's on Christmas!

Day 710

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Up at 4:45 for 2 hours of racquetball.  I then went to Safeway for some crab cake items, two duraflame logs, smoothie fixings for tomorrow morning, and guacamole ingredients for tomorrow's food fest.  I'm not even going to try and watch what I eat over the holidays.  I'm just going to pig out like there was no tomorrow.

Worked from 9-12 today and it was super quiet.  I was the only one there, manning the phones and updating my Christmas address list.  It's been a few years since I sent out Christmas cards.  I wish I were disciplined enough to do one every year, but that feat is simply beyond me.  I don't know how so many people do it.  Even when I'm creating something simple, it still ends up taking hours and hours to complete.  Ugh! is simply amazing.  Every packaged arrived on time.  Again.  In great condition.  The computer rules, and I still love my Kindle.

Alice and I took care of all that we needed to get done by 8 p.m., then we watched this through YouTube:

It had its moments but was essentially a bawdy comedy with a whole lotta butt jokes and sexual innuendos lampooning homophobes and Kim Jong Un.  Hardly the kind of movie to draw international attention, but Alice and I sure enjoyed parts of it.

Looking forward to a full day of rest and yuletide relaxation tonight and tomorrow!

Day 709

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Today was simply insane.  Up at 5, started one load of laundry, prepared Christmas cards, wrote down my last-minute Christmas list of things to buy (including wrapping paper), worked from 10-1:30, stopped into Barnes & Noble for last-minute gift purchases, took the side streets to Wendel (because the main streets were so ridiculous) and worked from 2:30-6, then came home, tackled two loads of laundry, continued updating my Christmas list, made a few calls, wrapped presents, and when all was said and done, I crashed at 11:16 p.m.  

Day 708

Monday, December 22, 2014

Up at 4, racquetball, Varinsky from 9-2, Wendel from 4-6, then creating my to-do list for the next two days.  Man, it looks outrageous.  Even if I cut the thing in half, there's way too much going on. This is not how holidays are supposed to be lived.  On top of all that, my computer became infected with a virus Norton couldn't remove, so I had to contact tech support, who ran their programs.  It was fine and all was well afterward, but it took 90 minutes to resolve and I was up until 11:30.  These days, 11:30 feels like 2 a.m.

Day 707

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No writing today.  Too many things to do in preparation for Christmas, and also I needed a day to rest and relax...and watch some awesome Seahawk football.  The Hawks took care of business, destroying the Cardinals both offensively and defensively.  It was a very impressive win, their fifth in-a-row, setting up one more game for home field advantage through the playoffs and a possible third appearance in the Super Bowl.  What a team!

Read about 50 pages today, and wrote a few notes, but other than that, it was a quiet, relaxing day and night at Alice's.  

Day 706

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Spent the day at Alice's, doing a few chores, writing for perhaps an hour or so, and reading for three hours.  I also took care of a lot of Christmas shopping from the comfort of Alice's living room, thanks to Amazon Prime.  Man, I love Amazon.  It's so fantastic and easy.  I'll have packages arriving at my place Tuesday and Wednesday.  I'm good to go.

Went to bed early tonight, around 9:45.  That's early for a Saturday, but I was so tired.  

Day 705

Friday, December 19, 2014

Up at 4:00, racquetball from 5-6:30, then wrote until 10:30.  I attended our holiday luncheon at Lake Chalet, which was beautiful and the food was very good.  It's such a nice spot.  There were seven of us and it was wonderful to relax with the Varinsky gang for a few hours.  After lunch, I spent an hour or so taking care of some business before heading out to Alice's for the weekend.  I can't believe Christmas is next week.  I have my Christmas card written but haven't printed them.  I'll have to do that Monday.  

Day 704

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Up at 6:30 and wrote a few thousand words of Dogs in the Fog.  I'm getting the voice down.  He's a verbal dog who rambles a bit and is completely devoted to his owner Tim.  The dog's name is Lucky early in life and Tos after being rescued.  One of the great things about being a dog is Tos's total access to everyone in Hollywood.  Even evil human beings who hate kids will tolerate a dog in their presence if the dog is well-behaved.  This story is really getting fun.  I love all the crazy stuff happening at the Farm.  What a nuthouse.

I worked form noon till 4, then came home and did some online shopping.  I love love love Amazon Prime.

In bed by 9:15.

Day 703

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Up at 4:50, racquetball from 5:15-6:30, home at 7:15, breakfast, V from 9-2, then home and read for three hours. Talked to Chris in the evening for an hour, then Alice, then bed.  No writing today.

Watched two documentaries over dinner:


Day 702

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Up at 6:30, a quick 1000 words before work, then V from 9-3, then home to read, write, will talk to Chris tomorrow night.

Day 701

Monday, December 15, 2014

Up at 4, racquetball from 5-7, V from 9-2, W from 3-6, then home, dinner, reading, bed.  No writing today. 

Day 700

Sunday, December 14, 2014

At Alice's in the morning, writing a couple thousand words of Dog/Fog and reading a few pages of the books I'm plowing through.  I want to finish a draft of Dog/Fog by the 800th day.  I should be able to do it, even with all the work I'm taking on at Varinsky and Wendel.  I'm able to write 1000 words of first draft material in about 20 minutes now.  The fingers just fly.  I like writing on my ipad and sending what I've written to email where I combine it with my Word docs in Drop Box.

This afternoon, Alice and I headed to Oakland for Glenn and Amy's potluck in the evening.  It was great seeing all my racquetball buddies hanging out together for a few hours.  These are such great guys who have incredible insights about the world.  Race issues dominated most of my discussions, along with analysis of the Bill Cosby fallout and various stories of racism that have occurred just recently here in California.  A hot topic for sure.  

Day 699

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day 698

Friday, December 12, 2014

Glenn, Tiger, Dorian and I played racquetball at Mariner Square this morning as guests of Aaron Kennedy.  The club opens an hour later at 5:30.  We played until 7, then had breakfast together at Rolling Dunes.  We had about 8 guys total.  It was great seeing everyone.  It had been a while since we'd had breakfast.  Went to work at Varinsky from 9:30-12:30, then Wendel from 1-6.  Came home and tidied up a bit, had dinner, then watched a DVD, which was okay:

The special effects are spectacular, but the story is so familiar.  That's the problem with getting older.  All the new movies are merely variations of movies I've seen dozens of times.  It's hard to come up with anything new.  I can see why films are for younger viewers.  They haven't seen the hero story drilled into their heads over and over, and they don't really see how mythical it actually is.  There isn't a likable character in this film, which is always a big problem.  But it was watchable because the effects were so good.

Day 697

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Big storm today, lots of rain and wind.  Woke up at 5:30.  Wrote in the morning before work, then wrapped up the focus group prep on Sunday from 9-1:30 before coming home for the day.  Taking care of loose ends with finances, piles of books, etc., then onto a few hours of writing this afternoon and this evening.

Day 696

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Up at 4, racquetball until 6:30, then Varinsky from 9-2.  I came home and continuing writing for a few hours, finishing around 9:30.  A quiet, uneventful day.

Day 695

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another busy day today.  I woke up at 5:30 a.m., did some writing, worked from 9-2 at Varinsky, then came home and napped for an hour before writing some more, emailing one query, eating dinner, and writing this review:

Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's BoyfriendEvil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A year or so after finishing Evil Genes, I've come to believe this may be one of the most important and helpful nonfiction books I've ever read. I say this because it has clarified my understanding of human behavior that defies explanation or any sense of empathy or humanity. We have an estimated 12 million sociopaths running around in American society, and the system, in a bizarre, dehumanized sort of way, favors their unlimited capacity for money, attention, power, success and adulation. Perhaps the most important take-away from this fascinating, important book is this: sociopaths are charming! They have a way of winning us over! But watch how these chaos creators and machiavells manipulate and control the boundaries of common sense, transforming their "noble causes" and "beliefs" into greedy, self-serving nonsense. No one dares call out these so-called leaders (politicians, CEOs, etc.) as the personality types their actions and behavior suggest, and yet, if everyone took the time to read Evil Genes and other books like this one, we might actually have a fighting chance against human beings who are wired so differently from the rest of us. These sociopaths cannot change their capacity for chaos and destruction. They will always have followers. They will never stop fighting for and fueling their own narcissistic impulses. We owe it to ourselves to be more aware of their charming, luring, destructive behavior. This book helps pinpoint such deceptive, frightening behavior. Thank you, Barbara Oakley, for bringing the tendencies of these personality types to light.

View all my reviews

Talked to Chris tonight from 8-9:30.  Now off to bed.  

Day 694

Monday, December 8, 2014

Up at 4:30 for racquetball, played until 6:40, then came home and went for coffee with Alice, who stayed the night in Oakland.  I walked her to the carpool line under the 580 overpass, then got ready for work.  Went to Varinsky from 9-2, then home for an hour, then Wendel until 6.  We had our building-wide earthquake meeting at my place tonight, wrapping up our assignments and clarifying food and water storage arrangements.  We're on this in the event of a major earthquake, which is great!  Had Star pizza for the troops and Christmas music in the background.  After the meeting, I cleaned up, then went to bed.

Day 693

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I spent the day at Alice's writing and helping Austin with his final English paper on the right to a free press. With so many hot topics in the news (Eric Snowden, Wikileaks, James Risen, etc.) is was easy supporting every topic sentence with vivid examples of the issues between free speech, free press and national security.

After dinner, we drove back to the East Bay to Austin's dorm at St. Mary's, but ended up on highway 24 for 30 minutes due to protesters running onto the freeway.  I'm all for protesting the grand jury reaction to Eric Garner, but smashing windows and running onto freeways is self-defeating and ridiculous.  All it does it shift anger away from the cause and onto the idiots who think running onto a freeway or throwing a rock through the window of a small business is a good idea.  I have zero respect for anyone who would do that.

Finally, we were on our way again, dropped Austin off, then headed back to Oakland for the night.

Day 692

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I woke up at 6, then had breakfast with Dorian, with ended up also being breakfast with Ron, Xavier and his son.  We talked about race issues and the Eric Garner choking death until noon.  Xavier said some parts of the system, like profiling, aren't broken, they're false.  D, Ron and X have all been profiled before.  D has had a police gun pointed to his head twice in his life.  All I could do was listen, having never been profiled or assaulted.  I appreciated the conversations this morning.  X said it best; the Garner death was indefensible, and if the police acted in accordance to the law, which he believes they did not, then then the laws need to change.  That means getting the Attorney General involved.  Something will happen, hopefully.  If Mohamed Bouazizi was responsible for Arab Spring, then Eric Garner may have triggered American Autumn.

Attended an SCBWI mixer this afternoon, which was so-so.  I didn't have much energy left to talk because I'd talked and listened so much in the morning, so I left early and headed over to Alice's in the city.  Today went so quickly.

Day 691

Friday, December 5, 2014

Up at 4:40, racquetball until 6:45, worked at both Varinsky and Wendel today.  A busy week.

I had three conversations about race today.  The first was with Dorian for about 45 minutes before work, the second was with Cheryl at Varinsky, and the third was with Lillian, Jonathan and Murry at Wendel.  It's fascinating to me how engaging these conversations are when there's an acknowledgement of how the system is rigged in favor of white people in America, especially white males.  The denial is palpable.  These conversations came about after I saw the choking death video of Eric Garner.  It's a crazy time in America right now as we confront our internalized, systematized, institutionalized fear of the black man that has been perpetuated here for hundreds of years.  Everyone knows there's a problem and at least people, even white people, are talking about race.

Here's a good example of the denial I'm talking about.  This guy can't admit there's any bias in this country. He refuses to see it.  There are millions upon millions of white males just like him.  This is why a conversation about race devolves into a defensive, angry, intense shouting match, especially when a white male refuses to acknowledge the blatant, obvious, undeniable bias that exists in America.  I'm not really sure what the answer is, because it takes months, if not years, for the white male race blinders to come off.  It's very frustrating to have an honest conversation about race when someone refuses to accept reality of race in America by assuming his own reality of fairness and equality.  What this gentleman might want to do is continue to have more conversations with people of color about the fairness and lack of bias in the country, especially with police officers, and then we'll see how much longer he can maintain his false argument that all is fair and just and equal in the streets of NYC.  He's assuming all police officers walk up to anyone and say, "Good afternoon, how can I help you?"  instead of, "What's your business here?" or "Did you just do something wrong?"

All this conversation as kept my Hollywood Hound draft on hold these past few days, but it's all good.  This stuff is crucial.

Day 690

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Up at 7, worked from 9-2 at Varinsky, then 2:30-6:30 at Wendel.  Busy day.  At Varinsky, I went through old files of famous cases Howard's worked on.  It was like looking through an historic file drawer.  Howard has some amazing stories and is a pioneer in his field.  He's considered writing a memoir before, but nothing ever became of it.  The timing may be right for him in the coming months while he recovers from his various surgeries.  He has some amazing stories to tell.

I watched the Eric Garner video today.  I echo the sentiments of John Stewart, who was left speechless on his show the other night.  There's a lot of race material on the internet these days, more than I've since in years.  The Garner video may end up being some kind of tipping point, at least for the time being, while the country comes to terms with its brutal history, profound denial, and unsustainable illusion that that everyone is treated the same.  This video is so sad.  All the man wanted was to be left alone.  This would never happen to me, not in this lifetime.  Very upsetting stuff.

Watched about 15 minutes of Peter Pan Live.  Boring.  I moved on to washing dishes after the first commercial.

Day 689

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Racquetball in the morning, followed by work from 9-2, then came home and watched a video before going to bed.

It was beautifully shot, but surprisingly slow and dull.  The big takeaway seemed to be that books are good and Nazis are bad.  Hmm.

Day 688

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Another full day of work today.  No writing.  

Day 687

Monday, December 1, 2014

Racquetball, Varinsky, Wendel, a full day of work today.