Father’s Day SoCal Style


It’s my first Father’s Day in the Southland. Another beautiful day!

I opened cards, called my dad and then got to my gifts, an EcoSphere and a Hubsan X4 H107C micro quadcopter. Sweet. Just when I though I’d run out of toys I needed.

Next, Helaine took me out to lunch outside at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach. It’s atop the palisades with a panoramic view of Laguna and the Pacific.

Fish tacos. First time. Very tasty.

Stef couldn’t join us, but it’s totally OK. Today was the final taping day for her show. Lorenzo Lamas, a celebrity guest on the show (and my body double) was her substitute father figure.

Today could not have gone better!

Father’s Day Gifts

Don’t feel sorry for my dad. He is 100% sharp and 100% active. He teaches computing to his fellow seniors at the condo. I suspect he is currently having the best time of his life. Can you say that?

logitech_keys.jpgIt’s Father’s Day. It’s good to have an excuse to be nicer to my dad! We like to buy a Father’s Day gift for him, but quite honestly it’s tough to do. What do you buy an 82 year old man? By now he has acquired nearly everything he wants!

We know some of the gifts we got him in the past were received graciously, but still missed the mark.

Oh–I should mention deciding on my dad’s gift is my responsibility. Considering Helaine is responsible for the other 99.9% of purchases we make it seems fair. But, like I said, he’s tough to buy for.

Along with being 82 and quivering from “essential tremors,” my dad has just one working eye. The ‘good one’ is no prize either with cataracts and other age related problems.

-PAUSE- Don’t feel sorry for my dad. He is 100% sharp and 100% active. He teaches computing to his fellow seniors at the condo. He is MSNBC’s most loyal viewer (often playing the TV loud enough to make sure his neighbors also hear the show). I suspect he is currently having the best time of his life. Can you say that?

While visiting us last month he mentioned in passing that it’s sometimes difficult to use his computer’s keyboard in anything but strong light. That’s what led to his gift–a “Logitech Illuminated Ultrathin Keyboard with Backlighting

Bright, Laser-Etched, Backlit Keys that Let You Type Easily–Even in the Dark

Bright, laser-etched, backlit keys provide precise illumination that can be adjusted to suit your needs. And only the characters are illuminated, so you get just the right amount of light.

When we spoke to him early this afternoon he sounded genuinely pleased. He characterized it as a “thoughtful gift.” It’s something for my dad’s inner geek.

It is better to give than to receive.

More Mountaineering

I felt great! Not just a little good, I felt really great. My head was clear and sharp. It was as if a film of dullness had been lifted from me.

“I don’t think this is getting easier,” were Helaine’s words as we approached the halfway point in our march upward. I was huffing and puffing too much to respond.

The trail is wide enough that a car could fit… if it was allowed up there. You’re walking through a forest, so there’s little direct sunlight that hits the trail itself. That makes summer walks a little easier to handle.

Nearly all of the trail we walk is on an incline. It has to be. In the 1.6 miles to the top, you’re gaining nearly 700 feet.

“They’ve tilted the Earth, haven’t they,” I asked? “It’s steeper than it was last week.”

Today, for the first time this season, I made the trip in one fell swoop. There was no stopping for a sip of water on a convenient boulder at the midway point. My hair was matted and sweaty under my New York Times hat (a Father’s Day gift) as we got to the stone castle at the summit, but we got there.

It’s a good thing this is Sleeping Giant Mountain and not Sleeping Giant Canyon. Who’d do it if the uphill part was last!

We got home, I took a shower and got ready for work. And then, a wonderful thing happened. I felt great! Not just a little good, I felt really great. My head was clear and sharp. It was as if a film of dullness had been lifted from me. I think the mountain hike is responsible.

Is it possible our walking has brought me a runner’s high?

From Wikipedia: Another widely publicized effect of endorphin production is the so-called “runner’s high”, which is said to occur when strenuous exercise takes a person over a threshold that activates endorphin production. Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. This also corresponds with the time that muscles use up their stored glycogen. Workouts that are most likely to produce endorphins include running, swimming, cross-country skiing, long distance rowing, bicycling, weight lifting, aerobics, or playing a sport such as Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, rugby, or American football.

Does this mean I’m out-of-shape enough that walking brings to me what running brings to others? Whatever it is, I want more. We’ll probably be back on the mountain Saturday.

A New Obsession

I always thought this was done with video or movie cameras. Not so. The best looking time lapse photography is taken with still cameras, like “Clicky” my Canon Digital Rebel.

I have spent the last day or so obsessing. It all started with a link, that led to a link, that led to Ross Ching’s website and Eclectic 2. Ross Ching is the master&#178 of time lapse photography. Eclectic 2 is his latest masterpiece.

Simply put, time lapse photography speeds up action. A full day of traffic or clouds or anything can be boiled down to a few seconds. The true fluidity of nature, usually masked by our normal time frame, becomes instantly obvious.

clicky.jpgI always thought this was done with video or movie cameras. Not so. The best looking time lapse photography is taken with still cameras, like “Clicky” my Canon Digital Rebel&#185.

An electronic switch controls the shutter, allowing it to open at set intervals and for a set amount of time. Officially, it’s an ‘intervalometer.’ I’ve already ordered one on EBay. It’s coming from China.

Ross also uses a telescope’s planetary mount to slowly pan and tilt the camera. Normally, these are used to track the motion of the Earth, so long duration photos of the sky can be taken without the stars smudging or forming trails. It has to be capable of very slow, very dependable, but steady, motion, like turning 180&#176 over a few hours.

Sounds like a good Father’s Day gift.

After hundreds of still photos are taken, a video editing program is used to piece them together producing the finished moving image. Because a digital still camera usually has better optics and a better sensor than a ‘regular’ video camera, the finished product can be spectacular. But, because it’s a time lapse, this is all very time consuming with a few minutes of video taking hours and hours.

There are some pretty cool video on the web, but none cooler than those from Ross – a college student. If you haven’t clicked to look yet, you really should.

Right now I’m chomping at the bit to join in. I have my own ideas on some shots that might be very interesting.

&#185 – I don’t know which is stranger, that I’ve named my camera, or that friends have actually referred to my camera by its name without prompting! We’re all very troubled.

&#178 – Since I wrote this, I have stumbled upon 599 Productions in Burbank. Wow, these are amazing too. Where Ross concentrates on rural settings, “599” shoots lots of nighttime city videos, which I find particularly attractive.

Enjoying My Folks

I called my folks on the way home from work tonight. My Bluetooth earpiece was already implanted and their phone was already ringing as I walked through the newsroom.

My dad answered. That’s pretty unusual. By 11:35 PM he’s is normally asleep.

His hearing is bad. His eyesight, in the single eye that still works, is pretty bad too. It takes more than a phone call to wake him.

As it turns out, he and my mom had just finished watching “Blood Diamond.&#185” I smiled because it was a Netflix selection, our gift for Father’s Day.

My folks have just returned to their Boynton Beach condo after a short trip to Disneyworld/Epcot Center.

This time of year, Central Florida is a steam bath. That made the trip more difficult and quite strenuous. They still had a great time.

I spent 10 minutes on the phone with my dad and then another 5 or 10 with my mom. We were laughing and joking and having a really good time.

My mom told me about the attractions they had seen and the roller coasters they rode. As it turns out, the roller coaster rides weren’t a conscious decision. They just didn’t know what they were getting into when they stood in line!

My parents don’t act their age. That’s what stuck out from this phone call. They are younger and more full of life than you’d expect if you knew their ages and nothing else.

A few years ago, I asked my dad if being 80 was what he imagined it would be. He said he’d never thought about it… until he was 79. I don’t think he minds.

Much like a small child, when you hit your 80s you’re allowed to claim the age you’re “almost,” as opposed to the age you still are.

You don’t turn old one day. It creeps up on you. It’s gradual and natural and is handled best by not fighting it. Easier said than done.

There’s no disputing the Foxes of Boynton Beach are having the best time of their lives. Imagine that. They’re still peaking!

If there’s anything I want to inherit from my parents, it’s their ability to appreciate life. Even at 56 years old I haven’t matured enough to relax and enjoy myself the way they do. Maybe I never will.

Having my mom’s wrinkle free skin wouldn’t be too bad either.

Blogger’s note: A year and a half ago I sat my parents down, one at-a-time, to tell the story of how they met. The video that followed is among my proudest achievements. If you haven’t seen it, take a few moments to watch it now.

&#185 – My parent’s thumbnail review. Very good. Too violent. Leonardo DiCaprio was very good. “You should see it Geoffrey.”

On Father’s Day

This was a great Father’s Day. Our little family is in an excellent place. We actually enjoy being with each other!

Oh, sure, laugh. If you’ve never had a teenage daughter, you just can’t understand. Maybe… just maybe, those trying days as the father of a teen are behind me. She is, after all, now 20.

Stef was on Long Island for a party last night, but came home bright and early this morning. I woke up and headed downstairs for cards and gifts.

This will sound like a lie. It is not. The cards were the best part – especially this year’s card from Steffie. It’s not that it was sentimental or sappy. It just reflected the nature of our relationship. That touched me deeply.

I wonder if she’s reached the age where she’ll understand sentiment trumps anything you can buy in a store?

“Father’s Day Man” had gotten the word early on and came through with a new lens for “Clicky.” It’s a Sigma 10-20mm. If you’re a non-camera type it’s the opposite of a telephoto – a wide lens.

Wide lenses have a very large field of view. They really good for capturing large things in small areas, like buildings in Manhattan or broad landscapes. I shot a few test pictures and was pleased. This lens will get a lot of use.

Steffie added to the camera theme with a Gorillapod. It is a tripod, a little under 10″ tall. The legs are a series of flexible joints that bend and rotate 360

Post Father’s Day Wrap

In the tumult that followed Stefanie’s trip to the hospital (fine now – thanks) and my big poker tournament, I forgot to mention Father’s Day.

What a cool holiday. Who would have thought, just having a child gets you a day?

Buying a gift for my dad is our most difficult Father’s Day quandary. He’s had 80 years to accumulate everything he needs and most of what he wants.

High tech is always a good idea. If it plugs into his laptop or desktop computer, he’s up for it. This year though, we came up blank.

My mom told us how much he enjoys “24,” but had only come to the show in this last season. Why not get him the boxed DVD set?

We looked at some local stores, but decided to buy on EBay. If you look carefully at some of the better EBay deals, you see an admonition. The TV show you’re buying is in English. It’s just what you’d get in the store. Oh, there’s some Chinese writing on the packaging.

We ordered.

Sure enough, there was Chinese writing sprinkled along with what looked like the standard “24” package. Why not-the package came from China!

Yesterday, when my dad began to watch, he saw Chinese subtitles, but a click of the switch turned them off.

He’s going to enjoy this gift, which makes us feel really good.

Buying for me is much easier. Helaine and Stef got me three pairs of cuff links (all very cool) and a new pair of LL Bean slippers.

They also got me a ‘fun’ gift – a battery powered, radio controlled airplane. I had seen it on HSN and mentioned something to Helaine. I only said it looked interesting… but she connected the dots.

Yesterday afternoon Helaine and I set out for large field alongside a local elementary school (we were actually over the septic system). The sky was sunny. The breeze was nearly non-existent. The plane’s battery was charged.

Helaine went to launch the plane first. As she held the plane, I flipped the switch on the remote. The twin engines started whirring, scaring the living daylights out of her.

She reached back and threw the plane with a slightly upward angle. The plane headed toward the ground as if it were magnetic.

We tried again and again and again. A few times the plane flew a little before heading groundward. When it did fly, it was uncontrollable. Most of the time it didn’t fly at all. On one particularly vicious crash, a part of the Styrofoam nose came off.

Helaine was very disappointed. It wasn’t that she really cared about flying a model plane. She just wanted to make me happy. I was disappointed too.

Today the plane went back in its box and headed home to HSN.

Helaine offered to get me another plane, something she saw listed on EBay. I said no.

My idea is to go and hang out with some people who fly more sophisticated model planes with the thought that I’ll go once and get it out of my system… or not.

Father’s Day With My Father

This is the last full day of my parent’s visit – time for another trip into New York City.

Usually, on Sunday trips, we drive. Steffie asked if we could take the train and I said yes. I’m not entirely sure it was a good idea, though a street fair on 6th Avenue and the Yankees game probably slowed things down.

We left around 10:00 AM and headed to New Haven’s Union Station. Our train was local through Connecticut, but from Stamford it went non-stop to 125 Street in Harlem and then Grand Central Terminal.

We talked about people we knew, people from Connecticut, who claimed to never have been to New York City. That stuns me, though I know it’s true. There’s so much to do in the city that you can’t do anywhere else.

Actually, as a kid I always thought I’d grow up and move to New York. Even as an adult there were times when I thought my career would take me there. At this point it probably won’t happen.

Living in New York is convenient and cumbersome at the same time. Getting anything home – like grocery shopping, is an incredible hassle. Then there’s the noise and the crowds. On the other hand, if you live in the city, you can get anything delivered to you at any hour of the day or night.

New York is the only city in the world with twenty four hour room service!

And, you can walk to where you’re going. Walking is the major advantage city life has over anything else. It’s funny how we think of the suburbs or country as healthier living, but New Yorkers certainly walk more than my neighbors do. They surely walk more than I do.

And, of course, whatever you want to do – it’s there! Movies, museums, restaurants, culture, crap – it’s there.

We got off the train at Grand Central and headed to the Museum of Modern Art. I’ll have to hand it to Stef. She kept her word. I know she had no desire, but she went with the rest of us into the museum.

MOMA is unlike most museums in that there are no classics – everything is new, meaning 20th or 21st century.

We headed to the fourth floor and started scouting around. Some of the work is spectacular. Some of the work is ridiculous. Some of the work seems to be saying, “Can you tell I’m trying to fool you?”

The man on the left is staring at a painting that lists the world’s 1,000 longest rivers, in order. Is it art? Actually, I liked it!

Yes, there are single colored canvasses – just a solid blue canvas, for instance. Is that art? MOMA thinks so. I’m not so sure.

Then there are the works of Picasso, Gauguin, Klee, Lichtenstein and Jackson Pollock (he of the paint splatters seemingly sprayed at random on a canvas). Andy Warhol‘s soup cans are there too.

It’s all a little overwhelming. Standing next to some of these paintings is like standing next to Mick Jagger or Britney Spears because they’re cultural icons, etched into our common experience.

We couldn’t stay too long. Six months ago, before we knew my parents were coming, we had gotten tickets to see “Wicked” on Broadway. Steffie, Helaine and I had to head to the Gershwin Theater for the 3:00 PM performance.

“Wicked” is the prequel to “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s the story of how Glinda became the Good Witch and Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West. It’s a cute story with a great cast. As is so often the case on Broadway, the first act was better than the second, though the show ended very strongly.

For months Steffie has had “Popular,” a song from “Wicked,” on her Ipod. And for months, I had been playing it and singing along. Obsessed? Me? Sure.

If, for some reason, the conductor had suffered a wrist injury, I was ready to step in and lead the orchestra for this one song. I knew every word, every note, every bit of accompaniment in the arrangement.

It took everything I could muster to refrain from leading the orchestra from my seat.

The original cast is long gone. The current stars – unknowns to me – were very good and the staging was spectacular. We didn’t expect it, but in the cast were Ben Vereen (The Wizard of Oz) and Rue McClanahan (Madame Morrible).

It has become common for Broadway shows to have names you recognize from TV to help at the box. If these two were meant to sell tickets, they’re awfully well hidden. Of course “Wicked” doesn’t seem to need help selling tickets at the moment.

My parents met us at the theater at 6:10 and we proceeded to dinner. The five of us feasted at the Stage Delicatessen on 7th Avenue.

We were stuffed as we walked south, through Times Square, and back to Grand Central. I must have taken 10 shots of the Chrysler Building as it glistened in the golden light of the late day’s sun. It stood out so tastefully against the pure blue sky.

Our train left at 8:07 and took nearly two hours to reach New Haven, making this an awfully long day – but a great Father’s Day.

It’s Become an Obsession, I’m Afraid

This is what I didn’t want to happen. I have become so engrossed with my conflict with Adventure Balloons that I haven’t posted here as much as usual.

Recapping – Helaine had bought a balloon flight as a Father’s Day gift. Though we tried to fly, the balloon company wouldn’t go because of weather. They will not refund our money.

There’s a lot more, and you can read about it here

This ‘conversation’ has now been looked at over 13,000 times! Nearly 300 comments have been posted – some really bright, some really dumb… and not all those who agree with me are in the smart column.

What has surprised me about this is the power of posting on the Internet. I will readily admit I have shepherded this thread. A few days ago, when it looked like it might go off topic, as long Internet conversations sometimes do, I pulled it back on center. The fact that the owner of the business involved has also posted has kept this an active discussion.

I still feel that I’ll get my money back. Even if I don’t, I think I’ve accomplished something. The policy that so upset me is now out in the open where others can read about it and judge it. I think enough people will find their policy too unbending and sooner or later the balloonists will have to reconsider.

Hot Air Dispute

One of the things I was really looking forward to on our vacation was a trip in a hot air balloon. For Father’s Day, Helaine had bought trips for both my dad and me. It sounded very cool.

Unfortunately, our first trip on Wednesday morning was canceled because of high winds. Being a weatherman, I went and checked the official numbers. They looked pretty light to me, but we had a few more days.

On Friday we were scheduled to go again… and again, nothing. I checked the winds and found them to be a bit stronger than Wednesday, but still balloonable (a new word I should copyright).

Our vacation ended before we could fly, but of course, this is not the end of it.

The company Helaine bought the flights from, Balloon Adventures, has decided not to refund our money. Even airlines, by far the worst of the worst as far as customer care is concerned, refund ‘non-refundable’ tickets when they can’t get you to your destination.

I have had an email conversation with Buffy from Balloon Adventures and it’s obvious we don’t see eye-to-eye on this. So, I have disputed the credit card charge, and reported my troubles to the Nevada Attorney General, the consumer reporter on Channel 13 in Las Vegas and the BBB (even I admit the BBB is next to worthless but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do).

Tomorrow I start writing to the Las Vegas discussion forums and probably epinions.com.

My guess is I’ll get my money back in the end. The question is, why for $300 would Balloon Adventures risk the bad publicity they’ll surely get from this and the time and money it will take to respond?

There is often a good reason small businesses stay small.

Father’s Day

What a beautiful day. This was a day for shooting picture postcards or travelogues. The sky was a pure blue without a hint of gray. The clouds were scattered and puffy. The air was warm and crisp at the same time.

Oh – it’s Father’s Day.

I’m not sure why we’re being feted, but we are. After all, in the hierarchy of parents, I think moms have it tougher. However, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Steffie had handmade a card for me. Even at age 17, when she’s part child – part adult, this effort on her part warms every part of me. It is a collage – an abstract from magazines. It is a style in which she has shown great talent. I envy her skills as an artist.

Helaine bought me a few gifts: a book on poker (Doyle Brunson’s “Super System,” considered the classic in its field), cuff links made from small pieces of a computer motherboard, and a trip in a balloon over Las Vegas.

A good daughter-in-law, she got my dad that too. He’ll be joining me as we fly in wicker!

I love to fly. Once, a long time ago, I even took lessons… though I quit before I soloed.

I have flown in nearly anything you can think of from an ultralight with two chainsaw engines for power, to a Piper Cub J-3 with fabric covered wings, to a C-5A big enough to hold a Greyhound bus. I’ve had a few minutes stick time in an F/A18 with the Blue Angels and in a military full motion simulator. I’ve also flown through 2 hurricanes in a C-130 Hurricane Hunter (not as scary as you might think). There have also been flights in a few helicopters, one blimp and some time in Houston walking through a Space Shuttle trainer.

My first balloon flight was in the 80’s during my PM Magazine/Buffalo days. The pilot was Einer Wheel (a name you don’t easily forget) and the balloon was festooned with ads for a local Western New York bank. Later, with the SciFi Channel crew, I flew in the Canadian Flag balloon during a mass ascension at the Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

I’m looking forward to this balloon trip because it’s over Las Vegas (though probably not over the Strip), which will provide an immense panorama, and because it will be with my dad. This is the kind of thing he’d never do on his own and something he’ll really enjoy a lot.

This being Father’s Day, I went a little nuts and went off my diet. Helaine and Steffie took me to The Rusty Scupper for brunch. With today’s weather, and its location right on New Haven Harbor, it was the perfect spot.

Father’s Day ends at midnight. I’ll be dieting again tomorrow, trying to gain a cushion for our Vegas vacation. I was king for a day. It’s good to be king.