Gray Skies… Ike Update 0912:1148

September 12th, 2008 by Gerry

The world is turning gray. The wind is picking up. The neighbor’s flag has been taken down. People are watching the clouds with anxious eyes.

Calm Before the Storm… Ike Update 0912:0848

September 12th, 2008 by Gerry

The view from our kitchen window.

The tv and net are crackling with Ike news and warnings, with local networks running wall-to-wall news coverage. With about 11 hours to go before Hurricane Ike makes its expected landfall over Galveston about 45 miles south of here, the atmosphere in our neighborhood is calm and expectant.

Yesterday, we worked with our neighbors to clear the common courtyard of potential missiles, and we made a final run to Spec’s (the local liquor and gourmet food superstore) to pick up fun snacks and drinks to supplement our more serious supplies from the previous day’s grocery trip. Since we’re well away from the mandatory evacuation zones closer to the coast, most of our neighbors are riding out the storm at home, with varying reactions along the continuum of fluttery nervousness to light-hearted laughter layered over a sober realization that something very serious is coming our way.

I was up at dawn this morning to check the latest reports. The sky is hazy but the sun is bright and clear. A brisk breeze is snapping the flag at our neighbors’ door. The dog folks are strolling past on their morning walks. Lawns guys are buzzing across the way, mowing and edging even as the rest of the city is hunkering down or fleeing.

The storm is coming.

Preparing for the Storm (and Other News)

September 11th, 2008 by Gerry

Time has flown since my last entry here, but with Hurricane Ike bearing down on the Houston area (see the ominous projected path for the Category 2 — or is it 3 or 4? — storm above), it seemed like as good a time as any for an update!

People from the coast are streaming through the city after mandatory evacuations were called on Galveston Island and the areas around NASA and elsewhere along the shore (including my old place in Clear Lake), and the stores are being mobbed (in an orderly way) by people stocking up on storm supplies.

We filled up the pantry with canned food and water yesterday, and I already double-checked our useful gear — lanterns, crank radio, camping water filter and the like — for the last hurricane near-miss a few weeks back. DSLR and video camera batteries are charging up now, so we can document it all, too. Now we just have to decide whether to stay home to ride out the storm or enjoy the hurricane party up at Karina’s sister’s place (not really a party, more like an informal gathering to huddle in fright as the high winds and lashing rains shake the world’s foundations).

Ike’s unfortunate timing also puts the kabosh on our plan to have a weekend barbecue for our two birthdays (Karina’s this Saturday and mine a couple of weeks back), so that would be another reason to head up north so we can still celebrate in the midst of the storm. We’ll make that call early tomorrow morning.

In other news from the past month or two… let’s see now, so much has happened…

Karina started a couple of new roles to go along with her full-time gig reviewing for the USMLE. She’s now volunteering at the San Jose Community Clinic, not too far from the house (that’s her on the left in her new scrubs) and she started her fall semester as an adjunct professor at Lone Star College in Cy-Fair (that’s her leaving campus after a late night at the biology lab with students).

The company I work for was bought up by an entertainment company based out of L.A., so now I can bandy around names like Steven Spielberg and Robert Downey Jr. when I talk about projects we’re working on. Karina just wants to be sure that we go to the Hollywood premiere if we can!

Sorting Memories…

August 6th, 2008 by Gerry

Things are finally settling down here in Houston, as we readjust to routines of work, study and normal life. An unscheduled episode of gout is hobbling me a bit, but otherwise we’re really back now as the wedding recedes into the distance — a happy and dream-like blur.

Samuel, our wedding photographer, has sent us the previews from the day, and we’re awed and thrilled by his work. We’ve only just begun the process of sorting through the photos, but I thought I’d throw in a few teasers now…

We’re Back, Sort Of…

July 16th, 2008 by Gerry

Karina hides behind a column at Chich\'en Itzá

We’re back home in Houston, after our ten days in Mexico. We’re both feeling a bit disoriented (and a bit pooped!) as we try to adapt back to normal life, so we’re still hiding out a little. But we’ll be back here soon with photos and stories from the trip. (Hint: It all went great!)

Still Celebrating…

July 11th, 2008 by Gerry

Karina and Gerry enjoy dinner on the beach, the day after the wedding.

We’re still traveling, enjoying our last few days in Mexico. See you here again soon, when we return to the States with more photos and stories…

Registry

July 1st, 2008 by Gerry

Lots of people have been asking, so we’ve posted a gift registry page.

Go to Karina and Gerry's Gift Registry

Not much longer now — hope to see you soon in Mexico!

Chich’en Itzá and Other Last-Minute Info

June 29th, 2008 by Gerry

If you’re coming to Mexico next week and are planning to stay in the area after the wedding, come join us on a group trip to Chich’en Itzá on July 6! More information and a sign-up form can be found in Field Trip: Chich’en Itzá.

El Castillo, Chich'en Itzá

We’ve also added some additional tidbits about travel arrangements in Travel Info, covering airport transfers, mobile phones and other useful stuff.

Update: We’ve added yet more information on registering with the US Embassy while traveling abroad and carbon offset programs for sustainable travel.

Popcorn and Projects

June 27th, 2008 by Gerry

Late into the night, the projects go on. Popcorn is a good friend.

Panic? Who’s Panicking? :-)

June 24th, 2008 by Gerry

The weekend was mostly a blur of wedding preparations, as the remaining days until our departure for Mexico dwindle to (gulp) a mere eight.

We began Saturday with a detour into the long-ago, at the remembrance for my former colleague, Tom Buchholz. Seeing some of the old crew from my now-distant NASA engineering days at Lockheed was a pleasant dip into a previous life, even if the occasion was marked with sadness. Many of us were enthusiastic, fresh-faced college grads back when we worked together, and the stories brought notes of a simple and happy nostalgia.

The old Lockheed crew and Tom Buchholz\'s sister, at his remembrance.

The remainder of the weekend was mostly about the wedding, with marathons of shopping and preparation dominating the days and nights. The good news — we have our final haircuts, I now have a mostly complete wardrobe for the big day, Karina has an awesome new hat for the beach, and after much effort, Karina has shoes for her wedding gown. Plus, we’ve now had an opportunity to gape at a full-size Star Wars action figure made from Lego (okay, that may have been a bit of a meander from our laser-like focus on wedding prep…).

By the way, exactly who is that Lego guy above? Do you know? Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no, Karina is not wearing pink high heels to the wedding!

Wandering the Yucatán

June 20th, 2008 by Gerry

We’re only now starting to look at activities in the area around Azul Beach, beyond the wedding and its related events. I’ve added an initial blurb about these other options on the Travel page.

For those of you inclined toward independent travel, the Moon Handbooks guide to the Yucatán (right) is a handy reference which we’re relying on heavily over here.

I’ll be adding more detailed information in the next few days. Stay tuned!

A Sunday Ride, Happiness, More Wedding Plans…

June 18th, 2008 by Gerry

Like the previous weekend, Sunday was marked with another late afternoon bike ride (after Karina’s study stretch at the Kaplan Center). This time, the direction was south toward Hermann Park. Particularly memorable — the synchronized, impromptu cheers of Go! Go! Go! from the passengers of the park’s mini train as Karina huffed her way up the Miller Outdoor Theater’s steep and grassy hill. Her exertions were crowned with a burst of applause upon reaching the crest. The rest of the ride was quieter as we wandered the grounds and sat for a time watching ducks at the lake shore.

With a certain thematic alignment in these last weeks before the wedding, Karina and I went tonight to hear Matthieu Ricard speak at M.D. Anderson. An expansion of his TED Talk, he discussed the tantalizing possibility that happiness can be attained through a conscious process and mind training. He also touched upon some of the empirical data collected in numerous neurobiological studies (like this one) which weren’t yet available at the time of his 2004 TED appearance. A fascinating discussion — one that was enough to inspire us into a bout of lately-neglected meditation after we got home.

In wedding news, the last straggling invitations finally went out and we finalized a large number of (seemingly endless and, for me, somewhat bewildering) details. Karina has also continued her quest for shoes and myriad other items related to the ceremony and reception, and she’s scheduled for a dress fitting early tomorrow. Much remains to be done (programs, playlists, wardrobe details, etc. etc. ad infinitum), but there’s definitely been some progress!

Happy Fathers’ Day!

June 15th, 2008 by Karina

Cheers to our Papa(s)!

Bikes, a concert and, oh yeah, a wedding!

June 14th, 2008 by Gerry

While Karina was away at her conference in Kansas City, the post office dropped off a long-awaited package at our door — Karina’s beloved and much-missed mountain bike (a sexy all-black Jamis hardtail), shipped all the way from the Philippines by her mama.

By the time Karina came home the following week, the neighborhood bike shop had already (secretly) finished putting the pieces back together. I made excuses to stop by the shop, where we began ogling the new KHS rides. That’s when they rolled out Karina’s Jamis… and her eyes just about popped out with surprise!

Semi-dressed-up as she was for a day of studying at the Kaplan Center — and despite the 90-plus-degree Houston weather — she climbed aboard that bike immediately and rode it all the way home!

By the following weekend, we were riding the neighborhood up toward the new Discovery Green downtown and west toward the Montrose, finally landing at Niko Niko’s for gyros, souvlaki and tabouli. What started out as a quick jaunt to the park and the grocery turned into an all-afternoon bicycle excursion.

Karina and her Jamis at Discovery Green

In other news, we had an evening of 80s-90s retro fun when we finally were able to go to the long-delayed Cure concert. It was sensory overload — in a good way — and we spent a good portion of the four-hour concert on our feet dancing, though Karina may still be sore that they didn’t play her favorite, Friday, I’m in Love.

Aside from the interludes above and the daily routines of work and studying, we spent most of our free moments prepping for our fast-approaching event in Mexico. The first of the invitation replies are trickling in. Karina has been madly hitting the malls picking up the necessary odds and ends, while I’ve been doing my part by procrastinating as much as possible and uttering such classically counterproductive ignorant-groom phrases as, “Don’t worry, honey, even if we don’t do a single thing more between now and the wedding, everything will still work out fine…!”