Saturday, July 23, 2011

Curiosity

My great aunt is working on project now that she's retired.  The project?  Creating a family genealogy.  That side of the family migrated over from Norway, Sweden, Scandinavia, and it would be fascinating to have a record of that.  However, when asked about her project, she states that she wishes she had started it 30 years ago, when her mother was still alive and her mother's mother was still alive, when the older generations were around, and when those with the stories were still here to tell them.

My mother's great-grandmother had 10 kids.  Ten kids!  And one of them died the same day the family buried another kid.  And my grandmother and her sisters never asked about that.  They never asked about moving to America or raising a family of daughters.  They were never taught to ask.

And maybe it's natural not to ask.  Maybe you don't start to wonder about it until it's too late to ask.  After hearing about this, my brothers and I asked our grandparents about their lives, about how my grandmother was 16 when she got married, how my grandfather was drafted in 1952 and stationed in Germany, how my grandmother worked two jobs to earn enough money for a round-trip ticket to join him in Heidelberg for six months.

Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents have had entire lives: stories, experiences, successes, failures, thoughts, ideas.  And they can share them.  All we need to do is ask.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lord of the Flies

There has been a war.  Battles have been fought.  Ground has been won and lost.  There are winners and there are losers.  And those who survive.

The first wave hit a week ago.  I had just returned from my weekly business trip and noticed that there was a fly in my apartment.  A single fly.  My bananas had been getting more and more ripe, so I just assumed they were the cause of the lone fly.  Yet, the offending fruit were just starting to show brown spots.  I've seen much more ripe bananas sitting on other, fly-less counters.  The bananas were peeled, sliced, and frozen (excellent for throwing in a smoothie), and I assumed that would be the end of the fly.

It wasn't.

The next day, there were three flies in the apartment.  After a moment's investigation, I assumed it was the garbage.  Time to take it out again, I thought and promptly did.

That didn't take care of it either.

The weekend came, and my new house-guests had multiplied.  A half dozen were sneaking around my kitchen.  Fly strips were hung, staking out bunkers in the bathroom and kitchen.  Thinking a bottle of bleach would do the trick, I spent a few hours scrubbing, dusting, wiping, and sweeping.  A clean apartment should harbor no flies, right?

Wrong.

The flies didn't go away.  They only got worse.  By the end of the weekend, it seemed like there were a dozen little buggers around, and my kitchen was in danger of being conquered.  Monday yielded such web searches as "How to catch flies with vinegar" and "Honey traps."  After a stop by the grocery store to replenish my arsenal, I returned home ready to do battle.  Following these instructions, I set out to make traps.

That was when I found the cause of the infestation.

When I opened the cabinet under the sink, several flies came out.  Since I had just emptied the trash, I was surprised to see the enemy there.  I pulled out the can and then remembered what was behind it.  Hidden under a package of paper towels sat a 10-lb bag of potatoes.  Potatoes that had been purchased not-too-recently and had begun to liquefy.  Ewwww.

I literally threw the bag out my front door.  It landed on my front patio and began to move.  Hundreds of flies were began to move around the bag.  I ran back into the apartment for shoes and a garbage bag.  After managing to get the potatoes out to the dumpster, I returned to complete my traps.

A combination of scientific instinct and pure desire to get rid of the invaders led me to try three different traps: pure apple cider vinegar, apple cider vinegar and sugar, and a honey trap.

Apple cider vinegar trap with a paper funnel

Apple cider and vinegar trap in a soda bottle

Honey trap

The final battles were fought in bouts throughout the apartment.  The previously ignored fly strips were surrounded by the enemy, and several dozen went AWOL.  The window proved to be a good ally.  Flies would flock to the window and get stopped by the screen.  Slamming the window shut locked them there.  Nudging the window open an inch allowed access to the screen latches.  A few deft moves, and the POWs could flee the premises.  Can't kill them all.

Bathroom

Kitchen


Now, one week after the initial breach, I am claiming victory!  It was a team effort.  The apple cider vinegar and sugar trap was wildly successful.  The pure apple cider vinegar trap held its own, but the honey trap was a dud.  That adage about catching more flies with honey than vinegar is wrong!  The fly paper strips did their duty, and my apartment is very nearly pest free.  The stragglers will be thwarted by the last weapon in my arsenal: the fly swatter.

In the future, I will be better about eating my vegetables.   

Friday, July 8, 2011

To Go

The San Jose International Airport is quickly becoming my favorite Friday evening hangout spot.  Perhaps not by choice, but I have ended up there on three Friday evenings (two in the past three weeks!).  Tonight concludes my fourth work trip here (the first being the first week of May), and I am slated to return in 12 days (in a company where I get sent overseas with 24 hours notice, 12 days is nearly longterm!).

Up in the Air (2009.  George Clooney) is quickly becoming one of my favorite movies.  Maybe I still have those little travel annoyances, but I'm becoming quite accustomed to the routine of travel.  Over the course of the last few months, I have developed a few tricks and habits:

  • Keep an almost entirely separate set of toiletries.  Only once in a while do I need to replenish/restock.  The only things that get specially packed in my kit are tweezers and fingernail clippers.
  • Do laundry often.  In my job, I'm sometimes only given a day's notice of a trip.
  • Carry-on.  Always carry-on.  The last thing you want to do after a 14-hour flight is wait for luggage.  Or return to the airport for luggage that has been lost.
  • Check in online the day before.  Southwest doesn't give you assigned seating, but they do assign you a number (A1-60, B1-60, etc).  The numbers are assigned in the order of checkin.  Flights become available to check in about 24 hours before boarding time.  When flying Alaska, you will get assigned a seat.  Checking in the night before sometimes allows you to change your seats (also you get extra miles for checking in online).  I was assigned the last available seat (26B, a middle seat in the back of the plane), but when I checked in online, the unreserved Business Plus seats were available.  Hello, 7A (window, second row in coach)!
  • Sit as near to the front of the plane as possible.  When flying Southwest, I look for the first window or aisle seat with sufficient overhead luggage room.  Sitting near the front means getting off the plane faster, which means less time in the airport and less time in the plane.
  • Sign up for mileage and other frequent user plans.  I'm still not obsessed with accumulating miles, but I can see the advantages, which include upgrades and sometimes free flights/nights at hotels/etc. I may even get a credit card with mileage benefits.
  • Have your favorite off-site parking lot.  Mine is Park 'N Fly.  The shuttles are quick, the attendants are friendly, and the lots aren't sketchy.  Also, there are two lots: self park and valet.  I use the self-park for personal travel, but I prefer the valet lot for business (but I don't want to shell out the extra $3/day for my own vices).
This list is ever growing.  Stay tuned for more updates from the flight deck.
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