Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Quiz of the Day

What title song from the famous album by the Eagles best exemplifies Kay & Myron's stay with us in Palo Alto? Okay, so the album cover gives it away. 4 months to the day that Kay & Myron arrived in our "Hotel California" they have their tickets home for tomorrow morning.

I remember when they first arrived we were embarrassed to ask them to stay for 2 full months. We had a load of stuff to settle into a temporary place in California and, of course, the baby was due at the end of the month. Now lyrics from the Eagles' famous song rings true. No, it is not "mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice" that I am referring to for all of you who believe the "fruits and nuts" myth about California. I'm talking about the famous line, "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leeeeaaavvveee!" Let's hope for their sake tomorrow they will actually board their United flight (San Jose-Denver-Baltimore) just before 8:00 AM in the morning.

Last night we were feverishly taking pictures of the family and "PapaKay" as Jake has affectionately morphed them into were soaking up as much time with the kids as they could. Don't worry guys - were visiting in just 2.5 months!

As usual none of us were too keen to have our photos snapped. With everybody being sick, sore, tired, jet-lagged and generally unexercised for the past 3 months we all felt pretty unsexy for our pictures. But we were good troopers and realised that we had to mark the occasion.

And for tonight? The real sadness begins at 8:00 PST when the Suster/Kandra family will watch our last episode of American Idol together. I guess we'll let the kids stay up a bit late to market this momentous occasion. Okay, so you can laugh at me - but admit it. You like AI too. I know it has become a national cult when I heard Tania and her sister, Katrina, debating the various contestants and my sister, Jenny, sent me a long email outlining her favourites.

And speaking of staying up late - baby Andy has finally turned the corner (provided I didn't just jinx myself). He has been getting 5 hours sleep from time to time. Let's hope the pattern continues.

We are looking forward to April where there is so much to look forward to. We hope to travel to Sacramento for Passover at the Ratners. We hope to host a few Pesach dinners at our place, too. And we await the arrival of some of the family at the end of the month to celebrate Jacob's big 3rd birthday!

So a couple o' final photos from the visit. PapaKay will be missed.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Palo Alto ... The Beverly Hills of Northern California

So a friend of ours recently quoted this line about Palo Alto. Probably not very accurate in my opinion. Berverly Hills has always struck me as a bit glam and pretentious with everybody "dressed to the nines" (http://ask.yahoo.com/20031022.html). But Palo Alto is very sweatpants, baggy shirt, unkempt hair and baby spit-up on your shoulder. In fact, nothing alike except the housing prices.

I was speaking with a friend of mine who read the blog site a few times and asked why I had never posted a picture of where we were living so I just went outside for a couple of pictures. I know that they are a bit dark but I thought to do this at nearly 7:00 PM and I can't be bothered to wait until I remember during the day time. But I guess you can get the point from these shots.

And if you have any questions about my assessment of Palo Alto all you need to do is look at this picture of the dueling Volvo station wagons parked out in front of our house. Okay, I admit it, one of them is ours. But as Tania will tell you, "at least I'm not driving a minivan like 80% of the rest of Palo Alto." So our version of rebellion, breaking out, being "different" is driving a Volvo wagon. But with 2 kids what choice do you have? But I am not complaing about Palo Alto - we love it! It is upmarket, friendly, safe and great weather.

So what do I get for writing the family blog? Andy just rolled over for the first time ever and I missed it! And he did it 3 times. Actually, it's Jacob's fault for making me get him some milk. And just to be different than his brother - Andy rolled from his tummy to his back while Jacob did the reverse.

Got back from London on Wednesday afternoon. The Suster household went to pot in my absence or as Tania says it, "the curse of the Waverley house struck again." Kay had to be rushed back to the hospital last Sunday night with a haematoma and didn't return home until Thursday. So the Kandras had to cancel their flight home, which was scheduled for Thursday. I would say that maybe they just wanted to ride out the rest of the Winter in Palo Alto - but I'm sure that wouldn't be very funny - would it? Well, I can get away with it because I heard her comment recently that if she isn't careful she will be here to see Andy take his first steps. Kay is "home" now and resting. It certainly hasn't been a very pleasant 2006 for Kay. Nor has it been for Tania, I'm afraid to say. Tania's swelling of the joints hasn't gotten any better and the pain relief from the steriods wore off and she had the worst day I have seen on Thursday. So you can see what we mean about the curse.

Tania started a new drug recently called Prednisone. It didn't work well the first 2 days but after jacking up the dosage x4 relief seems to have kicked in. We managed to get a normal day out today walking around University Avenue, having lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and taking a stroll at the Stanford Mall. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come. Unfortunately due to the Kay/Tania issues we ended up having to cancel our trip to Solvang this weekend. We were supposed to be there to attend our friend Kristin's wedding. Hopefully we can work up our energy over the next couple of weeks so that we can travel to Sacramento to see the family for Passover.

Finally, thought I'd get some pictures up of the kids and a couple of shots of Tania (post Prednisone relief!). Remember you can scroll through photos below by pushing the double arrows to the right or by pushing "play" if you want it to run on its own - there are 26 pictures.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Paddington, London ...

Back again at the Paddington Hilton sans family and it is just past midnight. The trip is becoming pretty routine for me after 4 trips in the past 3 months (3 of them in the last 6 weeks). Dropped off at SFO on a Sunday at 5:00 PM, Ambien at 6:15, flight at 7:30, asleep by 10:30 and arrive next day at 2:00 PM local time. Heathrow Express by 2:30 (I don't check bags), Hilton at 2:45 and meetings starting at 4:30 PM and last until 10:00 PM. Bed by 1:00 AM and wake up fresh to start work in London by 8:00 on Tuesday morning. Well ... you get used to it.

Thought I'd blog since I'm not tired yet. Must have slept too much on the plane. All seems to be going well at home. Tania visited the rheumatoligist today. No diagnosis but they gave her cortizone shots to help with the pain. Awaiting test results for fifth's disease, which should arrive any day now. Fingers crossed that is the diagnosis so that we have some idea why she has been feeling so bad.

But she claims to be feeling at least 5% better. Maybe that is because she is finally getting some sleep. We had a night nanny come in on Friday and Saturday nights so Tania got 2 night's rest. Was well worth every penny. Any expectant or future mothers take note! And if you live in NorCal we have just the lady for you! Tania also put Andy on a strict feeding / sleeping schedule as presribed by Gina Ford (aka "the Baby Nazi") in her best selling UK book (on Amazon at http://snipurl.com/ContentedBaby) and website http://www.contentedbaby.com/. We had originally sworn never to succumb to her methods but after hearing that so many of our friends did well on Gina Ford we thought we'd give it a go. Day 2 and already noticing a difference. Too early to call it but Andy slept 5 hours for the first time ever last night. Coincidence? But we are only planning to stick with it for a few months until Andy is old enough for us to fall back on our old favourite methods of Tracy Hogg (Amazon at http://snipurl.com/BabyWhisperer/ or website http://www.babywhisperer.com/. It has really proved to be the perfect baby method for Tania and me and for our lifestyle / values.

And more of a sign that life is returning to normality, we had a foursome date night on Saturday evening with Tania's parents. We visited one of Palo Alto's local gastronomique (said with my best French accent, which isn't very good) restaurants called Bisto Elan (http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/09.28.00/dining-0039.html), which if you're ever in the area is fantastique. I started with the very politically incorrent foie gras - I think the waitress gave me the evil eye as she told me it was planned to be outlawed by 2009. Fuck it - it was on the menu so give it to me!!! Kay had lobster, Myron an artichoke (sort of) salad and Tania had the very adventurous green salad. See Bass, Gnocchi on Fava Beans and Scallops for main course and we EACH had desserts, which were the highlight of the meal. Split a bottle of wine (both ladies drank!) and some port for dessert. No wonder I didn't sleep very well that evening. But we all felt human for an evening. Then I got home and decided to try and get all my new speakers and receiver wired to the tv to have surround sound. Just a 5 minute project, right? Tania wasn't impressed. Oh well, I guess boys will be boys. Sorry, honey!

So that brings me to today. Now it is 12:30 AM and I have to give a PowerPoint presentation to investors in London tomorrow. I guess I should get to bed. See ya.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hunters Visit with Quiche

Sunday noon ...

Felt human today. Yesterday we had a huge sigh of relief as Bubbie diagnosed Tania yesterday (we think / hope). Seems she probably has the "fifth" virus, which is common in preschool kids and less common in parents. Or when parents get the virus it tends to behave like the flu. But occasionally it has the characteristics of swollen ankles, knees, elbows and wrists - exactly what Tania has. And it also turns out that fifth was going around Jacob's school. So if Tania's joints aren't doing any better yet, at least her psyche is doing better as she has an answer. Her doctor couldn't diagnose it - they tested her for the kitchen sink and all came back negative. So off to the pharmacist for heated bandages (see picture slideshow below for evidence) to make all feel better(ish).

Then we had a date dinner last night with a new couple that I met through work. Went back to a restaurant in Palo Alto that we LOVE called Tamerine. It is nouveau Vietaneme restaurant and has a very urban hip ambience. Was great for Tania to get a few cocktails in - much needed. And, would you believe it, the husband of the other couple had the same symptoms as Tania two years ago and was relieved to finally find out what it was!

Woke up early this morning with both kids so Tania got a chance to sleep in (8:00 AM - nirvana for a new mother). Robin (Tania's friend) called and I got a chance to speak with her, which was great since we hadn't spoke in ages. Poor Robin is having number 2 in April - too late to turn back!!!

Then I got a call from buddy (college roommate) Stefan. He had walked over to Peets coffee - a 15 minute walk from our houses, which are right next to each other. He took his daughter Maya and dog Colonel and arrived sans wallet! So Mr. Suster had to drive the ole' car over there to rescue my buddy out. So I brought home Jacob his first hot chocolate. No doubt I'll regret that when we try to get Jacob down for a nap.

Then we were visited by Aunt Eileen, Sophia and Olivia who helped to look after Jacob (see pictures). Great to see them after so many weeks. With all the chaos around the house lately we hadn't gotten the chance. Got a chance to swap American Idol favourite stories and general gossip pre Oscars, which start in a few hours. Jacob not yet out of his PJs and almost 1:00 - par for the course on the weekends.

Off to see Munich before the Oscars start. More appealing to me than Broback Mountain. Not that there's anything wrong with it. Just doesn't appeal to me.

Bye! (Don't forget to click the buttons to see the whole slideshow or scroll through pictures.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Playing Around with Pictures

Okay, so I have been using Blogger.com for the blog site for the past 2 months and the most frustruating thing is how it handles pictures. You would think that as a Google company it would be leading edge but I am learning that there are better sites for doing this. Anyway, I am playing around with a couple of new ways to link in pictures. Let's see if this is useful. Press the two orange right-facing triangles on the right to scroll forward in pictures and the one on the left to scroll back. Or ... if you want to sit back and let the computer drive press "play" and it will go on its own.

Okay, now I've tested it. It's awesome! So much better because I can create slideshows rather than static pictures. Very cool. Anybody looking for a cutting edge photosharing site check out http://www.bubbleshare.com - some very cool features. All my pictures will now be added as slide shows!!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Smiling ...

Back from London. I arrived at SFO and in the arrivals lounge was greeting by Jacob running to give me a big hug. Is there anything better than being the parent of a 3 year old? And it was great to see him running again after he got his cast off earlier in the week. It was also great to arrive in the sunshine after being in bitter cold London/Paris where we even had a touch of snow. Just to stay on the Jacob theme - he has finally replaced the love of his life (Edie) from London with a new infatuation (Lilly) at the JCC in Palo Alto. All week long he was pronouncing, "I want to play with Lilly," or "I played cake with Lilly" or "Can Lilly come over?" The cutest was when Tania went to pick him up on Thursday and the group in the JCC was singing Shabbat songs (note: they celebrate on Thursday since there is no class on Friday) and Jacob shouted at the top of his lungs, "I want to sit next to Lilly." Ah, young love.

And we are starting to really see light at the end of the tunnel in all of the Suster/Kandra sagas as evidenced by Kay now up, walking around much and generally looking like she feels much better - see! But we seem to be taking two steps forward and one step back, as Tania is now having health issues. Her joints have all swollen up and become painful making it difficult to even walk or hold Andy. After a week of pain she went into the doctor for blood tests, which was a bit scary but the worst of possibilities all came back negative. No big improvement on Tania's condition but at least she got the okay to take pain relievers from doc. (who as an aside is a female with the amusing name of Dr. Shih - pronounced "she" :-)

And how are the Suster / Kandra families passing their evenings away as we go through convalescence? (Yes, I had to look up how to spell this) We are undertaking that time honored tradition of 32 million other Americans every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings - filling our evenings with Simon Cowell, Paul "is she drunk?" Abdul and Randy "Dog Pound" Jackson. Jacob has even become a fan of American Idol this year and is dancing around during the songs. In case you missed it - the really annoying girl from NY got kicked off last night (2 months too late) along with baldy, blondie and the crooner. We collectively don't like Gideon (75/1 at the bookmakers) because his smile is too weird or Ace (4/1) because he is in love with himself. We like the girl whose mom is a music teacher, the young girl who was in the Lion King when she was 10, the big heavy girl and the Southern guy with the shaved head who needs braces {correction: Myron, the Amercian Idol aficianado, has challenged my description and we had to resort to the Internet. I can confirm that he has been proven correct that Elliot Yamin actually does have hair! http://www.idolonfox.com/contestants/He also corrected my spelling of Gedeon!} Tania & I also like the guy who sings Bon Jovi - I guess that is a generational thing.

And clearly the whole family can feel better about even the worst of Andy nights because he has learned the subtle art of charm. Young Andrew is now smiling on a regular basis, which I have decided must be an inate survival instinct of humans. Were he not smiling soon I think I would have been on the verge of selling him on eBay the other night for screaming the entire night when I had an early morning meeting. I guess Tania eating broccoli and then breast feeding might have made her an accomplice. But then I see him the next morning with a big wide grin on his face and it is hard to do anything but just love him. He is growing well and got his first set of shots at the doctor last week along with the "all clear." And his neck is developing well, which makes him more human-like and he can be balanced to sit up on the swing that Bubbie bought us.

And just to have one Mark technology comment to follow up on my last post, I attended a Web 2.0 conference this week at Microsoft's Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View. I am now 100% sure that it is a web 2.0 bubble (or I am now old and cynical). The presentations in the morning were by a bunch of geeky, 20 something programmers whose sole pitch to the audience of investors and journalists was how cool their technology was (it wasn't) with ZERO thought about how they would make money. It is clear the exit strategy is to be bought by Google or Yahoo! and make millions. 99% of them won't. And the one answer any of them had about making money was "advertising revenues". Anybody notice Google's stock slipping over the past few weeks? Might improve again but I would say that its decline is due to the realisation that the advertising market is not unlimited and one has to have other sources of revenue to continue growth. And the realilty is that 95% of Internet ad revenues are derived by the top 10 companies. We were so bored and turned off that we left at lunch time. We sneaked downstairs and ate in the Microsoft cafeteria. I can confirm that it is very cool. To quote Stuart, "better than Whole Foods." And it was. And if anybody knows Stuart you can find out his latest news including the announcement of the sex of his future baby and other happenings at http://www.s29lan.com/blog/.

Couple o' more pickies. Over and out.

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