Category Archives: Christmas

DMV server installation job and Nor Cal trip

I recently finished a temporary, contract job as a field technician for Form 10 installing computer hardware in California DMVs. Each day, two technicians would arrive at a DMV at 2:30 PM. We’d install new a new uninterruptible power supply and rack server, remove the old UPS and server, remove the old camera workstation, install and configure a new one, install new fingerprint readers at every window, and remove the old fingerprint readers. We’d leave whenever we were finished (usually between 7 and 10 PM), and then one of us would come the next morning to watch from 7:30 AM until 10:00 AM. And then we’d drive to the next DMV. As the team lead, I also had a bit of paperwork.

It was nice experience installation the rack servers. The hardest part was the physical act of getting it racked. It was also interesting seeing the DMV from the other side. DMVs have a reputation for being slow and boring, but in reality they’re staffed by normal people who are for the most part trying to help customers. And some of those customers are pretty bad.

The real difficulty of the job was the hours. Every other day I didn’t work until 2:30, which sounds good. However, when you consider that I’m in a different hotel each night, waking up, eating breakfast, working out, checking out by 11, and then driving to the next DMV by 2:30, there wasn’t much time for anything. There were tiny pockets of time. Maybe I could work out quickly enough, check out early, drive to the next DMV as soon as possible, and get there by 12:30 or 1. That gave me maybe two hours, but those free hours were in an unfamiliar place without any physical space for me to use. It was tough, especially being in Northern California or the Central Valley for a few weeks without being home.

Surprisingly I ran into three emergencies. First, one of the security staff members at one of the DMVs was taken away on a gurney. I don’t know what happened to her, but she was able to walk to the gurney herself. At another DMV, I heard a bit of a commotion between the staff and found out that an ambulance came for a woman who fell in the parking lot. It was raining hard that day, and I heard she fell unconscious. I don’t know if she slipped in the rain, hit her head, and was knocked unconscious or if she suddenly lost consciousness, causing her to fall. What I do know is that I saw security coning off a part of the walkway the had a puddle of blood. Apparently she broke her nose. Lastly, my partner and I witnessed a woman pulling away from a man, yelling things like, “get away from me” and “don’t touch me!” I got security, and my partner brought her inside while the man followed. It seemed to be a domestic dispute. Maybe she was overreacting and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe he was doing something wrong. I don’t know. But I do know that at the end of the day, she was okay, and that’s what matters. The police came and talked to both me and my partner, and they reviewed the security footage right next to me as I installed the server. It was an interesting day.

There was some chance for fun as well. I had some down time one day and decided to visit the local university, Stanislaus State.

I had never even heard of it, but I enjoy universities, and this one was certainly beautiful.

I also saw some cool wildlife. Yes, this photo is terrible. But there are wild turkey in the center!

And here’s a terrible photograph a baby deer! It’s right under the bush in the center at the top.

While in Sacramento, I had the chance to visit the Capitol Building.

I had to take a photograph with the bear! Former-governor Schwarzenegger bought this and left it in the Capitol Building.

I met an interesting woman with whom I went out twice while in Sacramento too. She teaches fifth graders, including many who have hearing impairments. She uses ASL in the classroom. I found it particularly interesting to realize she has to watch for children signing during tests as a way of cheating. She also plays roller derby in Sacramento, which is pretty sweet!

Chuck Sommerville, creator of Chip’s Challenge, lives near Sacramento. I asked him if he’d like to join a fan for lunch, and he agreed. It was awesome. Chip’s Challenge is one of my favorite games; I have an autographed copy of the original Lynx version. The lunch was a pretty amazing experience. He’s a bit of a personal hero of mine and has done a lot of cool things. He always has fascinating projects and shares progress on Facebook. Over lunch he told me a lot about the development of Chip’s Challenge, Chip’s Challenge 2, and Chuck’s Challenge 3D. I also heard about some more of my Lynx favorites like Klax, Todd’s Adventures in Slime World, Gates of Zendocon, and California Games (Chuck designed the skateboarding game). He also told me about John Romero (designer of Doom) and how they were both huge fans of each other’s work.

Chuck now works with LEDs. One installation of which he was particularly proud was the “Sensing YOU” installation in San Jose, which I had a chance to check out. It interacts with the phone game, Ingress, and responds to the motion of pedestrians passing under it. He actually got me playing Ingress now too. It’s a location-based game made by Niantic, the same developer who later made Pokemon Go. Ingress and Pokemon Go use the same underlying data.

Here’s a video of the installation that I took! I was with Matt and Katie, who I stayed with one weekend. They were very gracious to let me stay in their home and are truly terrific people. I had a wonderful time with them!

I’d never put up Christmas lights and enjoyed the opportunity to help them.

They looked great!

Matt has an arcade cabinet at home that his brother gave him as a gift. Here’s Matt and Katie playing Bomberman together. This photo makes me really happy honestly! They’re wonderful together, and I might have a soft spot for arcade cabinets too.

Visiting them was really fun. I got to see my friend Marc a couple nights that weekend as well. It’s practically unbelievable to me that I originally met these great friends through World of Warcraft!

That’s my trip! I got to add rack server installations to my resume, see all sorts of the more rural parts of California in which I had never stopped, visit Sacramento, and even meet Chuck Sommerville. It was a pretty good gig!

Christmas Creations

Christmas is a time for giving, and this year I gave a few homemade gifts. I thought I’d share some here!

Christmas card to gemThis is a Christmas card I gave. Yes, there was writing too, but I’m not sharing any. Christmas card for Anela

Here’s another one. I was pretty happy with it.

Christmas card for EdwardOne last card. These took hours each on average. I suppose I’m slow. Bunny for gem

This chubby little bunny was made for gem. I had to learn how to hand sew to make this. It was slow at first but got faster as I learned different stitches.

Bunny for gemThe side angle lets you see his little tail. gem with her bunny

She liked him! I’m really happy with how the bunny turned out. I think he’s pretty adorable, and he’s quite cuddly too.

gem with her bunnyThis is a cute photo. I like the bow tie. It’s attached with a safety pin rather than being sewed on so that it can be moved to become a ribbon on the ear instead! Belly dancer alpaca for Anela

Anela likes alpacas – particularly stuffed alpacas in costumes.

Belly dancer alpaca for AnelaI made this alpaca and then decided to put it in a belly dance costume. Anela with her belly dancer alpaca

Anela recognized it right away, which definitely made me happy!

belly dancer alpaca

It was based off one of the belly dance costumes that she’s worn. Plus I added a bell because… well… I like bells.

Evyerthing I made was well-received, and I had a ton of fun making them. It was strange when I finally finished; I didn’t know what to do with my free time. I spent countless nights in December working until 6 in the morning. Most of my free time the entire month was spent working. I decided to watch Parks and Recreation while working and got through three and a half seasons. I might be slow, and I might not be the most skilled, but I’m diligent!

Ending 2015 with the Ska Luau VI and a NYE party

Following tradition, I ended 2015 by attending the Ska Luau on the 30th and going to a New Year’s Eve party at the Carters’ on the 31st. It was a lot of fun!

Ska  Luau VI

gem and I were looking good at the Ska Luau. I need to work on evening my tan.

Ska  Luau VI

The two of us were rocking our Suburban Legends shirts! The Luau featured the Magnolia Polynesian Dance Troupe, Karate in the Garage, Hooray for Our Side, Suburban Legends, and Starpool. What a sweet line up!

Ska  Luau VI

We ran into our friend Bryan who’s the trumpet player for Skapeche Mode and Failed to Victory. All the bands performed amazing sets. I’d never heard Karate in the Garage, so that was a treat. I’d only seen Hooray for Our Side once, and they gave a great performance. Suburban Legends and Starpool are two of my favorite bands, and they somehow always exceed expectations. I didn’t take many photos of Suburban Legends. There choreography is so awesome that still photos wouldn’t do them justice. However, I have some videos of them playing and dancing in the playlist at the top of this post.

Ska  Luau VI

Starpool came out in a bang of confetti!

Ska  Luau VI

Throw my hands up and shout! I love when they perform this. You can see T-bone Willy Wonka and an Oompa Loompa on stage too. My ears were ringing all day the next day.

New Year's Eve Party

I brought a lot of food to the New Year’s Eve party – brownies, lemon bars, and biscuit pizzas.

New Year's Eve PartyI told Henley that I had a gift for him in the car, and he was pretty excited. He was so adorable asking if it was time to open it yet. He needed some help getting it unwrapped! New Year's Eve Party

He seemed pretty happy with his new Buzz Lightyear! As it turns out, he had really wanted one too. While I was undoing the ties to get Buzz out of the package, Henley repeatedly gave me hugs. He’s so cute.

We suggested he open gem’s gift while I got Buzz out of the box. gem gave him a jacket that looks like a polar bear, complete with bear ears of course. He’s wearing it in that photo, although he didn’t want the hood.

New Year's Eve Party

Dev’s dog, Happy, is totally a lap dog.

New Year's Eve Party

Here’s me and Dev! He’s one of my oldet friends. We met in 8th grade.

New Year's Eve Party

I guess Mike likes my brownies! Actually, he was wondering why Dev scooped them out of the pan with a spoon.

New Year's Eve Party

gem made cheesecake ice cream as gifts and left them in a freezer. I realized that Gracie and Jon forgot to take one, so we began discussing the ice cream. Somehow we realized we could heat up my homemade brownies and serve them with gem’s homemade cheesecake ice cream.

New Year's Eve Party

Super success! A picture doesn’t really do it justice, but trust me that it was delicious.

And that was my New Year’s Eve! Thanks to Alex, Darnell, Henley, gem, Devin, Lorena, Gracie, Jon, Mike, Dev, and a couple people who I didn’t really know (sorry, I forgot names after a day already) for a fantastic end to 2015!

My Merry Christmas

Christmas 2015

My Christmas was certainly merry, and I hope everyone else’s was too. This is my little Christmas tree. I hadn’t put the homemade ornaments on it yet, but I forgot to get a photo with them and the gifts. Whoops.

Christmas 2015

This is at my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve. We do our main celebrating and gift exchange on Christmas Eve, while Christmas day is more relaxed. This photo was just my generation of the family. That’s my cousin Haley on the left, my cousin Mitch under his gifts, and my brother on the right.

Christmas 2015Here’s another of Mitchell. He’s pretty awesome. Christmas 2015

Now I’m standing with my grandma, my aunt, and my mom. My grandpa is on the right.

Christmas 2015Here’s one of me and Pete. He’s trying to hold up a photo on his phone he took of my grandma’s butt.

What happened to grandma’s shoe? Weird. Christmas 2015

Here’s a couple gifts from gem! She gave me a Bluetooth speaker, a set of bear sheets (I can’t wait to get into bed tonight), and a ukulele! Amazing! I brought my ukulele with me today when I went to my parents’ for Christmas day to practice. I’m trying to play Martian Girl by the Aquabats. Yes, gifts from me are missing from this post. I’ll talk about them some other time!

Christmas musical and party

alpaca

This weekend I met an alpaca. I’ll get back to that.

the loaned manger

The Compass Kids of Compass Bible Church performed The Loaned Manger this weekend, and gem’s nephew, Micah, was one of those kids. We saw the first performance, and it was a lot of fun. Some of the kids were super talented! We even got to sing some Christmas songs before and after the show.

Here’s one of the songs.

camel

There was a petting zoo outside, so after the musical, we got to hang out with some animals. This camel was pretty cool, but he really wanted my coffee.

tortoise and the hare

gem met the tortoise and the hare! I guess the hare won the race, because the tortoise didn’t really move.

alpaca

I might be blurry, and he might be derpy, but I still like this photo.

alpaca

Here’s gem with the alpaca too!

twelve days of christmas

This weekend was also my friend Demian’s annual Christmas party! I had a blast, and I ate a ton. Rice Krispy Treats are good, but have you ever had Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries treats? Wow. Also – pickleback shots! They’re a shot of whiskey chased with a shot of pickle juice. Pretty delicious actually.

The party was also a good time to sing The Twelve Days of Christmas. Pete made these signs about twenty years ago, one for each day of the song. Singing was a family tradition. Everyone sings the song until it comes to a day and then the person with the sign sings his or her part. For example, we’d all sing “on the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me,” and then I’d sing alone, “ten lords a-leaping.” Unfortunately, less people are coming to our family Christmases, so we don’t get to do it. It went over really well at the party though!

twelve days of christmas

gem even accompanied the singing on her ukulele. It was so cool! It was a great party, and it was also cool to catch up with friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while.

Thanksgiving weekend

TommyThis might not have been a Thanksgiving spent in Hawaii, but it was still nice and fairly packed full of action. I spent most of Wednesday evening attempting to create pumpkin pie blondies. While I’ll still eat them, I’d say they didn’t work out. Oh well! Thanksgiving morning I woke up at 4 to get an early start and to drive Anela to LAX. On the way home, I stopped by my dad’s to say hello and then headed home for a nap. In the afternoon, I went to my aunt’s in Redondo Beach for Thanksgiving. That’s her dog, Tommy, at the top. Tommy

He was pretty freakin’ adorable. I spent the evening with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. It’s been great getting to know my cousins as young adults. Usually my mom, stepdad, and sometimes brother come too, but this year they didn’t come. I found out that Mom and Pete were painting the house this weekend instead. Oh well. We had a delicious meal, watching Jurassic World and Shark Tank, and played Bananagrams, Rummikub, and Triominos. My cousin Haley left fairly late in the evening to do Black Friday shopping. I didn’t even realize that stores were open at midnight. It seemed crazy to me. More on this very soon…

Ferris WheelI left a little after 11 for Irvine. After getting home, I met with gem. For Black Friday from midnight to 8 AM, Spectrum was going to have free carousel and Ferris wheel rides. Now that I knew stores were open at midnight, it made much more sense. Carousel

We started with the carousel ride, which was right next to a live DJ. Fun!

Ferris WheelNext up was the Ferris wheel. It was freezing, but it was fun! There was free ice skating as well, but we decided it was too cold for that. We went to Macy’s to look for a bathroom, and next thing I knew, we were shopping. I had to send a Snapchat to Haley. Just a few hours earlier, I thought Black Friday shopping at night was silly, yet here I was, 3 in the morning, sucked into stores. I didn’t buy anything though. Selah Laughing

After a short night of sleep, I went with gem to her parents’ for a large Thanksgiving meal. Here’s gem’s niece, Selah, laughing. She’s beautiful! I’d seen photos of her, but this was my first time meeting her. How lucky I was!

Selah Eats Ice CreamSelah liked gem’s homemade ice cream. Was that the Earl Grey or the apple pie? No idea. Selah Eats Ice Cream

She got a little on her face! 🙂

Selah SelfieShe likes playing with phones and seemed to like the camera. We took this selfie! I was careful to ensure she didn’t call 911. She did that recently at their house. Selah

Here’s Selah playing with gem’s ukulele. She hit it like a drum, but when she held it up to smash it down, gem took it away. She’s so adorable!

Musical FamilyI played two games of chess with gem’s nephew, Caleb. He kicked my butt. gem and her brothers had a family jam session too! I thought that was really cool. South Coast Plaza

After that? Black Friday shopping again somehow. There’s nothing I really want in particular, and nothing jumped out at me, but it was still fun.

Vegan ChiliOn Saturday, I visited my mom, Pete, and James. I had offered to help paint the house, but they actually had finished. We played Scrabble and ate chili. Yum! Mrs. Cronk We also came across some old school photos. Can you find me? This is from kindergarten. Mrs. Thorness And this one is from first grade. Later Saturday night I read some of Aeneid, finished Iphigenia at Aulis, and watched Big Hero 6. Exciting evening! Original Pancake House

Sunday morning I awoke early to pick up Anela from LAX. I actually drove over 350 miles this weekend, which is impressive considering I didn’t actually go out of town. On the way home, we stopped at Original Pancake House for breakfast! We had blueberry pancakes and Swedish pancakes. Tasty tasty.

Pumpkin pie blondies (with dark chocolate)

In the evening, I finished the weekend by eating leftovers and watching Frozen with gem. We also had these treats! I baked pumpkin pie blondies recently. They tasted decent though they were too strong and too soft and mushy. I considered them failures. gem thought to cover them in dark chocolate. It was a nice improvement; they were much tastier!

Christmas time!

Christmas Tree

Christmas time is always great! I hadn’t really talked about it yet at all, so I’ll mention everything briefly in this post! Even though I was taking my family’s presents to my aunt’s house, I kept them under my tree. I like having a lot of wrapped gifts under the tree.

Ready for the Aquabats!

I went to two Christmas shows. The first was the Aquabats holiday show, which I talked about previously. They played with Emily’s Army and Kepi Ghouli; it was a great show.

Gogo13

After I posted some photos of the show on Instagram, user gogo13band liked some of my photos. The user’s description says they’re the “literal brother band” of the Aquabats. I looked into them, and it turns out that the lead singer of the Aquabats’ brother is the lead singer of a ska band called GOGO13. They played with the Vandals and Knock-Out at “The Vandals 18th Annual Christmas Formal.” It was a great show too! The Vandals played music from their album Oi to the World!

The Beet Goes On

Alex and Darnell were in Brea at her parents’ house, so I came to visit too. Devin and Lorena gave me a bottle Beet that they infused themselves! It came with recipes for two mixed drinks. That photo is of a drink called The Beet Goes On, which was great!

Bread and lemon curd

Alex and Darnell gave me cranberry orange bread and homemade lemon curd. Wow, it was all so delicious! I put blueberries in the lemon curd a couple times, but it was so flavorful and tasty that I definitely ate a lot without anything extra!

snuggie

gem gave me a Snuggie and The Geek’s Guide to Dating. While I haven’t read much of the book yet, it’s pretty interesting and funny too. gem knew I wanted a Snuggie and called a bunch of stores trying to find one. She could only find one store that had any in stock, and when she got there, she could only find a single Snuggie. She told me I could exchange it because of the print, but I definitely wanted to keep it. It’s very comfy 🙂

Mitch

I spent Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house and Christmas day at my parents’. Here’s my cousin, Mitch, collecting all the gifts to him in one place so he could open them quickly.

I got all my cousins board games. I gave Apples to Apples, The Logo Board Game, and Munchkin Legends. On the subject of board games, I also bought Edward Arkham Horror. My brother got a video game from me instead – Super Mario 3D Land. I gave gem a Tokidoki x Sanrio clutch.

Cirque du Soleil's Totem

I also took gem to see Cirque du Soleil’s Totem. I talked about that yesterday, but it was excellent!

New jacket

Edward gave me a new leather jacket! I was very surprised, and it’s pretty great. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a leather jacket.

SB16

On the subject of unexpected gifts, my brother got me a Harman/Kardon soundbar and subwoofer. I was pretty amazed. It’s connected to my TV, and I’m listening to it right now. When it put it on top of the TV stand in front of the TV, it blocked the IR receiver on the TV. I moved it to the shelf underneath, which looks a little odd but works. It’s a great sound system! Notice the bow on the present? My mom added that.

Sumo

Duncan moved the bow to Sumo. He’s quite festive with it.

Dogs

We tried to turn the box into a dog house, but Angel and Sumo really didn’t want to hang out in it. We’ve put their beds in it, hoping that would entice them to enter. Well, they’re not really going for it.

Anyways, that was my Christmas time! Yay!

Christmas

Christmas, originally uploaded by theuser.

 
The holidays were pretty exciting this year! The biggest thing, in my opinion, was that I bought a tree for the first time. It was great! We put up lights and decorations, including custom-made decorations made by gem. (I’ll put up photos of the decorations later.)
We went on a gondola ride with my parents in Long Beach as well as a boat tour of Balboa. They were both really fun! I saw both Edward and Antonio before Christmas. We bought Edward a steak dinner with sides. Each part of the meal was wrapped individually and in our fridge. It was fun! He gave me a Nerf gun, but inside the box was also an annual pass to Disneyland! Pretty cool. Antonio came over the next day. We traded gifts, but he didn’t want to open them until Christmas Day. He received Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D Land, and he gave me a Logitech G930 wireless 7.1 gaming headset. It’s super awesome!
Christmas Eve I went to my aunt’s house. I hung out, playde Pass the Pigs, and talked to my brother while waiting for the rest of the family to get home from church. We had delicious ham, watched Christmas Vacation, and exchanged gifts. I gave some games to my cousins and a Farts Around the World book to Pete. He loved it. I gave Hyperion and American Gods to James. Both were excellent books. Hyperion was recommended by Taylor, my manager at Barnes & Noble, to both John, a Head Cashier, and Gabe, the Newsstand Lead. All three of them recommended it to me. I thought it would be nice to pass it down to another B&N employee, especially because it was one of the best books I’d ever read.
On Christmas Day I went to my mom’s house. This time it was beef instead of ham, and it was also delicious. I spent a lot of time chatting with my brother, which was really great. It was nice to catch up with him. We also did our holiday singing of the Twelve Days of Christmas, complete with signs you hold up when it’s your turn created by Pete.
It was a fun Christmas!