Sunday, April 29, 2007

Alexandria Virginia

This is a picture we've been wanting to take for a long time. This little sign along the George Washington Parkway marks the entrance to Alexandria Virginia. We took Grandma and Poppa out to Mt. Vernon, which is at the end of the GW Pkwy, and maneuvered our way over to the little park area where this sign is posted.

Standing in front of it is granddaughter and grandmother, Alexandria and Virginia.

Monday, April 23, 2007

To Buy or Not To Buy...

At the Farragut North escalators where I emerge from Metro's tunnels every morning, there's a street vendor who sells for the seasons - umbrellas when it's raining, flowers on Valentine's Day, beanie caps and gloves in the winter and baseball caps on a Spring day like today. When I came up to the street level today, he was there again and I paused to look - among the regular Nationals and DC caps on display, there was a newcomerL "VT," Virginia Tech.

So I have mixed feelings about this... People are wearing Virginia Tech gear. It's a way to show support for what happened over there and the rebuilding that follows. And it's generally OK. You gotta figure that all these people didn't have Virginia Tech gear until recently - there was a story in the paper recently about the school's bookstore doing brisk business. You gotta figure there's someplace else that will sell it, right? Wal-Mart? Target? But the street vendor? C'mon. Really? But, hey, he provides it and people buy it. I guess that's the American Way, right? Supply and Demand. Seller and Buyer. Basic economics.

So why does it bother me?

On another note...
Happy Birthday today to Pop! And Happy Anniversary to him and Mom.
And a Happy Birthday to all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. who are part of Birthday Week.

Today ends Birthday Week in my family. The eight days between April 15-23, there are a lot of birthdays in my family. There are like 4 or 5 on the 19th alone. But there's always been a gap - between me on the 15th and Tia Annie on the 17th. No birthdays on April 16. Until this year... Welcome cousin Devon, son of of cousin Daniel Lopez. Born April 16 and officially closes the gap. Tia Annie passed away several years ago - but I thought of her and smiled when I heard the news. She had always teased me about the gap and how she started Birthday Week, not me. It was silly. But it was our thing.

Happy Birthday, Bec...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breaking News

It's been a long time since I've been in a newsroom during breaking news. In recent years, I've been part of the team - and there's a certain amount of excitement that goes with that, even when the news is tragic.

But today, as the news unfolded, I was lost in my own world, buried in two different stories - one that I was writing for later in the week (a draft was due by the end of the day) and one that I was reporting, switching gears when my calls were returned. I knew there was breaking news. I knew it was a big deal. I knew there had been a shooting at Virginia Tech. I read about the skyrocketing death toll - but then the phone would ring and I'd start interviewing someone for my other story.

Even after work, on the Metro, I couldn't get a good strong signal on my phone and just gave up trying to surf the Web. I got lost in the music on my iPod for the rest of the train ride out of the city. It wasn't until the ten-minute drive from the train station to home that it really hit me.

A radio announcer was talking about what had happened. He was talking about the families, how they never would have suspected, how their lives are forever changed, how - in a moment... well, you know. And then he reminded of what we all know - never take tomorrow for granted. Tell those you love that you love them. Today. And take an extra moment for that "see you tonight, have a great day' moment in the morning. When I walked into the house, I went up to each of them - Stacy, Alex, Zack and even Nick. A hug and an "I Love You" for each of them... just in case they didn't know.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's Not Just Tax Day!!!

Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday Dear Sammmmmmmyyyyyyyy
Happy Birthday to Me

Ya know... when a lot of people get to be this age (I'm 39 today, thank you very much) they tend to want to forget about birthdays. But not me. I love the phone calls and the emails and the presents and the birthday cake and blowing out the candles and all that jazz. Hey, if Zippo the clown wants to come and make balloon animals for me, I'd be up for it. At heart, I guess that means I'm still just a kid. In fact, I still sit by the phone and wait for my Mommy to call me at 12:01 p.m. - the time of my birth!

Silly, huh?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

21st Century Racism

Ya know, as I have played with what this blog should focus on, I have tried to stay away from topics related to work and politics. For one, I try to stay impartial when it comes to the topics that I cover at work - and chiming in them in a personal blog would taint me, I think. (Plus, I'd have to tell my boss about my personal blog and really don't think I want to extend that formal invitation. If people stumble upon it, then that's fine, but the invitation... nah.) Second, There are already so many people spewing their two cents on the political state of this country and world that I just don't want to be another.

But here's a topic that I feel the need to say something about: Racism in the 21st Century.

As a Latino growing up in California, I never really experienced much racism. Oh sure, there were always small snide remarks but it seems that Californians were equal opportunity racists - we all got under each other's skin: Black folks, Latinos, Asians, Indians, and, of course, Whites. But living in the East Coast has shown me what a Black-and-White mentality that still exists in some parts of the country - and with news of illegal immigration being spewed about by those who want to hide the horrible political, global and economic state of the USA under the Bush Administration, it's been enlightening to see how racism toward us Brown folks is alive and well.

I'm sure everyone out there has heard of the firing of Don Imus, the radio DJ who referred to the members of the women's basketball team at Rutgers as "Nappy-headed Ho's." It's dominated the news coverage - and with good reason. Who in their right mind says something like that about innocent college students whose only reason for being in the spotlight is because they're playing for a national championship? It's not like they wrongly accused some college Lacrosse players of a heinous crime (that's a different story, of course.)

But how many have heard about the controversy surrounding an upcoming PBS documentary called "The War?" It is a 14-hour (yes, FOURTEEN HOURS) piece that looks at those who served this country in World War II. It was six years in the making - SIX YEARS - and the director interviewed HUNDREDS of veterans about their experiences. He even broke out separate stories to highlight the unique African-American and Japanese-American experiences.

Wanna know how many Latinos he talked to? NONE. NOT ONE. ZERO. In the United States of America. In the 21st Century.

Latinos rallied from coast to coast. No, not newly-arrived immigrants who are literally trying to keep a low profile in cities like Herndon, Virginia or Hazelton, Pennsylvania. These Latinos are people like me - second- and third-generation Latino-Americans who take pride in the members of their families who fought to keep this country free. In my own publication, there was little interest in this story - until PBS backpedaled and agreed to a pathetic and lame way of trying to shut us up, with add-on clips about the Latino experience during commercial breaks and on the DVD (which I will NOT be buying.) Give me a break. When my publication was finally interested, it appeared in a TV column - after news of the most recent departure on American Idol... (I've purposely not linked here - separation of blog and work, ya know...)

I'd like to think we're a more civilized nation now. But apparently I'm wrong. Since arriving here almost two years ago, I have never in my life been more exposed to racism (check the reader comments in the link).

* I recently attended a formal event in DC and was shaking hands with some people, introducing myself. I shook hands with an older Caucasian man (who, without stereotyping, resembled Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard). I told him my name and he got a funny look on his face and said, "How do you spell your name?" I knew he was waiting to see if that was a "z" in my last name... So I replied: S-A-M.

* Shortly after we arrived in DC, we attended a work holiday party. A colleague that I had not yet met said hello and, in the small talk, asked me where I finally settled. I replied that we were living up in Rockville, MD. Her response: "Oh, Montgomery County. It's a lovely place up there. So nice... well, you know, it was... until all the Latino people started moving in."

* I really saw no reason to pay someone to clean my yard for me - after all, I have my own mower, edger and blower and a healthy-and-strong 22-year-old brother-in-law who can get out there and help. One day, we were out there, cleaning the yard and bagging all the clippings when one of my new neighbors wandered over to say hello and shoot the breeze. He commented about me doing my own yard and, with a bit of a chuckle, said, "Ya know... Don't be offended if someone drives by and stops to ask how much you charge."

After that, I hired a white guy to cut the lawn.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

My Tile Floor

OK. I admit it's a pretty simple floor - basic cuts and some creative technique around the toilet. But I did it. Yes, this is a bathroom floor - our guest powder room, if you will. It was this hideous blue before (more pics to come later) but we pretty much gutted it. I tore out the sink, toilet, wall fixtures, and far too many anchor screws. I taught myself how to do drywall repair - a first for me - on this job. And we patched a lot of holes. I replaced a couple of valves for the faucet and toilet. There was a lot of sanding - the drywall patchwork area and the paint off the doorjambs. I painted the other day - the walls are some earthy beige color, very soft and "airy and open" because it's so small in there.

Today, I did all the measurements and cuts for the tile. I had bought a tile saw back when I put down tile in the dining room at the house in Morgan Hill. Before I could use it again, I had to run down to Home Depot for a new blade - ka-ching. $40. After that, I was a tile-cutting maniac. It took all day but this is what it will look like. Tomorrow, I'll mix the mortar and secure the tile to the subfloor backerboard and then grout it. If you ask me, and I'm pretty sure you didn't, I think it turned out pretty damn good considering I'm still a rookie.

Still to do: Install medicine cabinet (waiting in the garage), buy and install a light fixture, install toilet (tile grout has to settle for a few days.), buy and install sink, towel bars, shelves and TP holder.

Spring vacation was supposed to be about working on the house and spending time with the kids. We've hung out - the family. (We even went bowling the other day.) I'm glad I'm getting something accomplished this week. So far, so good. I hope to be finished with the bathroom by Saturday.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Wearing The Dad Hat

We spent the evening in DC on Monday, first to see the Cherry Blossoms that everyone is ooh-aahing about. (They're the same as the trees that line my neighborhood in the burbs, only without the thousands of other people in your space.) Later, we hooked up with cousin Bobby and Jade, who were in town for Jade's class trip. They were headed to NYC early the next morning so we ducked into their hotel over by the Pentagon and had a late dinner with them. By the time we headed out, it was 1030 pm and we still had a hefty Metro ride home. There was a hotel shuttle that was just getting ready to leave to go to the Metro at Pentagon City. By now, Zack was dragging and Alex was slowing down. We hopped on a yellow line train into DC. We'd have to change trains once at Chinatown and then we'd settle in for a 30 minute ride home. Zack sat on the floor at my feet, leaning into my legs as we waited on the platform at Chinatown. Finally, the train came and we settled in. He managed to put his head on my lap and scrunch into the other seat to resemble something like lying down. He stayed this way until the stop before ours. I had to start waking him to get off the train and walk to the car. By the time we got home, I just threw him over my shoulder and carried him into the house and upstairs unto bed. The kid is 8 and hefty already and my back is already feeling it...

Cute picture, huh?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Much Needed Vacation

Work was tough this past week - you know how it can be when you're going to be out for the next week. Originally, we had taken this week off to head out to California for a family visit. The kids and Stacy are off - and I was due for a vacation. But instead, we're gonna stick around the house - or at least Washington.

But since work was so busy, there was little time to blog... So here's a recap of a week's events and a sneak peek at the week ahead.

Three words: Cherry Blossom Festival. Tis the season in Washington and tourism has kicked off with a bang. Stacy's been wanting to get out there. I'm still not quite sure what the CB's are going to do to my allergies. But I should pop a Claritin and head on out there with her.

Ceci and Oltac are parents again. Tigin was a whopper of a kid, came out practically holding his own bottle. Haha. Sorry, kid... We took a ride out to NOVA on Saturday to see the baby. It was nice but quick visit. It's nice to have some resemblance of family out here on the east. We worked with Cecilia back in San Jose and then reconnected with them out here (following a brief stint of theirs back in Seattle.)

I started a podcast at work. I know I rarely talk about work on this blog but I thought it would be kind of cool to share the latest thing I'm up to. Being the harsh critic that I am, I think it's kind of too interviewish. We're calling it a beta because we're looking for the groove still. We gotta talk it up. We gotta have a good time with it. Maybe we should take callers...? Nahhh.

Stacy had a birthday. I wont tell you how old she is, other than to say that we share an age for two weeks. I'll jump ahead again on the 15th. She asked for a bike; so I got her a bike. We kinda discovered that our neighborhood... yeah, it's kinda hilly. She and Alex went for a ride yesterday and she came back talking about all the little inclines. I guess my truck really doesn't notice them... Then they cleaned up and headed off to the mall. And lucky for us, they didn't want us tagging along. So me and Zack and Nick stayed home. While she was out, the florist delivered a spring bouquet to the house. Very nice... We ended the night with dinner. TGI Fridays is kind of our place because that's where they have the bomb Jack Daniels steaks. The JD sauce is jammin'

A quick shout to my pal Joanna and her hubby Fritz, who are spending some time in Europe. Joanna sits on the NAHJ board with me. She works for the New York Times community newspapers and was recently sharing with other board members how she will be doing more "multimedia journalism," basically more of the videos and podcasts and blogs and all of the type of stuff that newspapers are trying right now. Now, she's blogging the trip - and it's great reading. She talks to you like you know all the players and you're immediately drawn into the vacation like you were there...

Georgetown beat North Carolina and landed a spot Final Four. But then they lost last night to Ohio State. So much for M Street lighting up in celebration tomorrow night.

April Fools Day is always such a big adventure. We raised the bar last year when me and the kids went to Nick's Safeway store where he worked at the time - and moved his car. Yup, I took the spare key and moved it to the other side of the parking lot and then we parked a couple of rows over and cracked up as a look of panic took over when he realized that his car was missing. Hilarious. This year, we all tried to outdo each other... I woke up to the Stacy and Nick - of all people - trying to toilet paper me to the bed, wrapping it under and over --- until I rolled over and broke it. Let's see: Stacy started when she put packing tape in front of Nick's door right at eye level and saran wrap at the bottom. When he opened the door in the morning, his face hit the tape and he tripped over the Saran Warp. The kids put Pam (you're know, the stuff you spray in the pan instead of using oil) on the doorknobs. There was peanut butter in Stacy's sandals. Stacy taped over the bathroom faucet so when I turned on the water to brush my teeth, the water shot all over my shirt (that was actually kind of funny.) The kids messed with our coffee by squeezing lemon juice into the carafe (ruined the whole pot), putting salt into the sugar bowl and - get this... they left only enough milk in the fridge for coffee and Nick poured Vodka in it. I tested the sugar and realized it was salt but Stacy didn't. But I didn't check the milk. WOW!!! Good morning!! Finally, we left Nick paranoid when we went to his work and took a picture in front of his car. We were just gonna send it to his phone when we heard "Hey! What did you guys do to my car?" We jumped back in my truck to leave. He was convinced we did something - and we wanted him to think so. It was driving him crazy trying to find when we did. That was the plan.

I'll be around this week but I got stuff to do around the house and really want to take 1-2 day trips with the kids. Don't know where we're heading yet - but no matter where, it should be fun. We've talked about Jamestown - where the 400th Anniversary is underway. Maybe colonial Williamsburg. Maybe up to Hershey, PA again or even a day in Philadelphia. I'm even thinking of a train ride up to NYC. It's a great trip, just the train itself.

To the family and friends in California, we'll see in June. This week's vacation is for the immediate family in Maryland...