Halloween 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Trick or treat! Trick or treat!

Believe it or not, these were our "work" outfits. We helped out at the Magic Castle Saturday night as volunteers. We got to see all the marvelous costumes, and helped collect ballots for the Costume Contest.

We also helped people find their way around, answered general questions, and got the dancing started for the deejay!

I can guarantee you I won't be wearing those high heels for Trick-or-Treating on Wednesday with my nieces and nephews!

Robin will be reduced to celebrating with a festive necktie, as he will be teaching in Chicago. Sigh!

Or is that "Boo!" ??

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Babysitting & Fires

Last week VJ's sister went to San Francisco on a business trip, and all we got was Ghirardelli chocolate.

AND we got stuck with her three youngest kids!

Lucky we adore them, and we rose to the occasion. VJ sez,

I wish I'd had an aunt like me. These kids got to go swimming, attend a street festival and enjoy the carnival. They visited the newly-remodeled Getty Villa museum, ate Mongolian Barbecue, and watched videos galore! ("Surf's Up," "Happily Never After," "On the Reef," "Shaun of the Dead," "The Peaceful Warrior," "Transformers," "Next" -- we never got to "Silver Surfer," sigh!)

The 2 youngest kids went Faery Hunting in Franklin Canyon and saw an improv show in NoHo while the oldest was chauffeured to his soccer game. They all saw "Twelfth Night" in Topanga Canyon. (We like to ensure they get lotsa culture.)

(Before you go thinking I'm some kind of saint, be aware that nobody probably brushed their teeth for four days either, and at least one jar of candy and one super-sized box of microwave popcorn vanished. I'm a rabid culture vulture, not a sensible mommy type!)

Following are pics (click any image to enlarge).

Everybody at the Getty Villa:

The first faery appears at the Faery Hunt:

Emily With the Faery Queen:

The Monster Ride at the street fair:

Barrelling down the Super Slide!:

All in all, it was a great time.

Except for the last part....

The last part was not fun.

On their last day, Sunday, we attended the street fair and then Robin left about noon to catch a plane to Texas to teach the following week. Thus it fell to me to get the munchkins home to mom.

On his way to the airport, Robin phoned to let me know he was hearing reports of fires all over the place. I texted my sister about it. She and her husband were on their way home on the 5 freeway, about 6 hours away. (They had finally gone sightseeing in San Francisco only that morning.)

My sister listened to the news and then began calling around to her Santa Clarita neighbors. As it happened, her 18 year-old daughter (Heather) had stayed home to watch the animals and enjoy some introvert time alone. Fortunately, the neighbors had been alerted, so everyone was watching out for her.

They had been evacuating homes nearby, but not her neighborhood quite yet.

So my sister texted me with updates while I smiled angelically at darling little children and pretended everything was lovely. I fed them lunch, we went swimming. I took the two littlest ones back up to the street fair (but it wasn't wonderful because a rogue wind was blowing fiercely and threatened to knock tents down).

Ryan noticed the smoke in the sky, and overheard at least two people remarking on the fires. I felt anxious that he might figure it out, but luckily his 11-year-old brain isn't that adept yet. I distracted him so he wouldn't think about it long enough to add up.

We strolled to the video store to return what we'd watched, and we picked up a couple new ones.

Then we went home and settled in for movie viewing. I was texting with my husband and sister the whole time. It was stressful!

After the first film, I cooked up some microwave lasagna for dinner. And then we settled in for "Transformers." Sheesh, that movie is loooonnngggggg! Which turned out to be great news, because the youngest one fell asleep and Ryan was too sleepy to wonder why mom hadn't come to get him yet. Just to be safe, I called Nancy and we invented a ruse about all the "traffic on the freeway" that was making her late. She talked to him a bit and suggested he go to bed, reassuring him that she would come for him soon enough.

So I put the kids to bed.

It turns out my sister had a helluva time getting home. All the roads around her home were closed, and the security people wouldn't let her through, despite her having a daughter waiting at home! Luckily, my resourceful sister knows a secret road in, and she managed to sneak home that way.

Apparently some tents in their back yard and her new gazebo had blown away. They began packing up their motorhome in order to evacuate, and her husband took an ATV out to investigate the area. Some neighbors had evacuated, but not all.

I invited them to come and crash here. So after the young ones went to sleep, I bustled around cleaning up the kid mess. Did dishes, picked up toys, rearranged furniture that been moved. I made up the couch for sleeping, and inflated one of our air beds and made it up. It looked very inviting, if I do say so!

At 2AM I got another text message from my sister, so I called her for their status. She said they were probably going to spend the night packing up. They had just suffered a power outtage five minutes previously, and they were working on the source of that problem.

I was exhausted, so I told her I was going to leave the front door unlocked. Everything was ready for guests, so if they showed up, great -- and if not, that was okay too. And then I toddled off to bed -- exhausted!

The following morning there was no sign of anybody. So I sent off some more text messages. Apparently they had worked all night long. The unenviable task of letting Ryan know why he was still hanging out at my house fell to me. (There was no need to let the 6-year-old know, and I had already let the 14-year-old know the situation the night before.) I got my sister on the phone, and pushed the young guy outside to have a comfy chat with mom, which helped a lot I think.

We had run out of bread, so we went off to the grocery store for supplies. I grabbed some sandwich makings and pork chops I found on sale. When we came home, I pitched the pork chops in the crockpot for dinner. Then I got a text message from my sister saying they were on their way! Yay!

So about 11AM there was a joyous reunion (and lots of Ghirardelli chocolate)!

It turns out the fire had come within about 50 feet of my sister's house. It burned down a fence between her and a neighbor, and took out a barn in her neighbor's back yard! Too close for comfort!

I fed everybody lunch with the sandwich fixings, and then bundled up the crockpot of chops to send home with them. Then they headed off, and I collapsed with exhaustion. It was HARD being Command Central for all that time! (And I'm not accustomed to deceiving children.)

Everything seems to be fine now -- I still get the occasional text message from my sister about fire flare-ups and road closings. I still have the beds made up and ready for occupancy should they be needed.

But for now, it seems the worst of it is over.


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Robin's Satellite

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here is a link to information about the satellite Robin worked on years ago with an international team in Bristol, England:

Envisat Satellite Info

His simplified explanation:
The forward scan detects temperatures at the Earth's surface and buffers them. Later, the rear scan covers the same area but at a different angle and the values are compared to reduce the effect of the intervening atmosphere in each case.

Here is one of the images it captured of the recent Southern California wildfires.

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