Where Have I Been?

Dear MySpace Friends,

Sorry it has been so long since I’ve written. I’ve been really busy. Please send money.



Yeah, I admit I’m feeling a bit like a college kid who’s been remiss in writing home for awhile. I got off to a pretty good start on the blogging front, with intentions of writing a few times a month. While I knew there would be a bit more extended a delay between my most recent blog, written shortly before a two and a half week European trip, and the next one after that, I really wasn’t expecting, or intending, it to be almost two and a half months.

So I guess I’m feeling a little guilty right about now, not really even knowing where to start in catching up, and half tempted to just write one of those short obligatory notes to just let you know I’m thinking about you, but still don’t really have much to say. I won’t, though, because that would be boring, and a waste of your time (and mine). Instead, I think I’ll just try and give you a real quick synopsis of where I’ve been, and what I’ve been up to, these last few months. Sorry if this is redundant for any of you who’ve been communicating with me privately.

I guess the obvious place to start is in Europe since my last blog left off just before leaving to go over there. I’ve been procrastinating writing about that for the simple reason that I took a whole boatload of photos, and I was hoping to get some of those uploaded, in some organized fashion, on the web in order to illustrate any recounting of my trip with relevant photos. Unfortunately, the sorting through the photos to try and figure out what each one is has been going slowly.

To put it in perspective, I took upwards of 2,500 photos on my trip. When traveling with a large tour group, things tend to be a bit rushed, to the point where, if you don’t take a photo immediately, odds are you won’t have time to take it. I call this “shoot now or forever hold your peace mode.” That was coupled with my general philosophy on what to shoot that is best expressed as, “if it looks interesting, take the photo and figure out what it is later.” So, for example, we’d be traveling in a moving bus, probably going about 80 to 100 kilometers an hour, down a highway between Avignon and Lyon in France, and I’d see an interesting looking castle on the side of the road. It was physically challenging to even get the shot at that speed since you might not even seen the thing until you’re almost past it, but every once in awhile, I’d succeed in getting some decent shots. At that point, though, I had no idea what castle it was, or possibly even what town it was near.

So I come back and I’ve got upwards of 2,500 shots all named something like PICT2134.JPG. The only real identification I had was that I’d sorted the photos into directories based on which day of the trip they were taken (or actually which memory cartridge from that day they were on). Sometimes I had enough to pinpoint a city, but sometimes a single memory cartridge might span multiple cities, or be one from that “photos from a moving bus” series. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a challenge identifying a random castle along the road between two destinations that may be hundreds of miles apart simply from a photo. However, the internet is actually quite good for doing this type of research between search engines, mapping facilities, databases of architectural structures, tourist-oriented sites, and other people’s on-line photo collections. Some photos have been extremely challenging, and time consuming, to identify, but I have actually succeeded in identifying a fairly high percentage of the ones I’ve sorted thus far, which is a bit under half of the overall photos from the trip. (You can see a few photos from the trip on my Pics page.)

For now, I’m going to have to owe you guys a photo essay and more detailed account of my trip (or probably a few installments of that). At this point, I have no clue when that will be coming. In the interim, let’s just say it was a very enjoyable trip, even if the big tour group orientation, and the way the tour company dealt with those challenges, made for some frustrating moments due to the lack of flexibility compared to traveling on your own or with a much smaller group.

I will also say that I very much enjoyed both France and Spain, though I think my greater sweet spot is reserved for Spain. Before I left I mentioned having tried to learn some French and relying on my high school Spanish skills. Well, the high school Spanish skills served me well. My more recent attempt to learn French helped somewhat, but nowhere near enough. I’m glad I tried learning, as I think it got me a bit of good will here and there, but the bottom line was people could rarely understand me when I tried to talk French, and I generally couldn’t understand much of what they said, either. Where it did help a bit more was for reading signs and such.

We got back from Europe in early September, and the first few weeks were largely about catching up, for example trying to get back in the swing of things on the work front. . Around the middle of September, a coyote attacked our family cat, Kacey. Miraculously, a good samaritan saw the incident, somehow got her free, and took her to a veterinary urgent care facility. At that point, we only knew Kacey hadn’t returned from outside that evening or by the next afternoon. Our children went out looking for her that next afternoon and ran into the good samaritan, who then provided the information on where the cat had been taken. We then made contact with that facility, and were advised Kacey was expected to be relatively fine, and we’d have to pay lots of money to pick her up, or sign her over to be abandoned and possibly adopted by someone else or destroyed. We paid the lots of money, and picked her up, and were told we’d have to quarantine her to our home for six months. Kacey got home and seemed just fine, so all seemed reasonably well. Not so fast, though!

A week or so later we got a call from the veterinarian at the county health department, telling us whoever released the cat to us had made an error. Actually, the cat would have to either be destroyed or be quarantined by the county or a veterinary facility for the six months, and the county would charge us $3,800 for the six-month quarantine. Now, to put that figure into perspective, we have a son in college at Cal State Fullerton. His tuition for an entire year is less than the six-month quarantine for a cat by the county shelter! Gulp.

At that point, I did a huge amount of research, trying to come up with a reasonable cost alternative that wouldn’t involve letting the county kill our cat. The quarantine was to protect against rabies, and my research showed that there had not been any cases of coyote rabies detected in this part of California in decades, so the actual odds of her having contracted rabies from the coyote bite were absolutely miniscule. However, she hadn’t had a rabies shot since she was a kitten (blame our ignorance in not realizing that boosters were needed every few years), and the way the law here is written gives the county vet total jurisdiction in this. He can’t even be overruled by the state health department vet. I came up with what I thought should be a reasonable alternative, with a cage in our garage and limiting access to the garage to only our family who would need to care for the cat, but the county vet wouldn’t hear of it. A number of friends and others who heard about our situation from those friends tried to help, and ultimately we did hook up with a local private veterinary facility who could at least save us some money over the county costs. It still ended up being a huge amount of money, though, and we aren’t allowed to even see Kacey until St. Patrick’s Day 2007, when the quarantine will end.

Besides the cost of the initial urgent care for the cat and the quarantine, all the efforts to try and understand the situation and research possibilities set me back at least a week with my work. By the time we got to a final resolution, we were already a week and a half into October, and I was running way behind on my main work project, which is very time-sensitive.

Speaking of which, that project is a 4-song Christmas EP, which I am intending to call That Time of Year, and which I expect to release through digital download services like iTunes sometime later this month, assuming, that is, I can get everything finished in time. I am definitely getting down to the home stretch at the moment, both in terms of the project itself and the deadlines imposed by the lead times involved and the holiday season. The rest of this week and next week will end up being critical for getting the project completed and out the door.

I’ll be telling you more about this project in the future. For now, though, you can hear one of the four original songs on the project on my profile page here on MySpace. It is called “Molly’s Bar and Grill”, and I wrote it with a lyricist named Vic Michener from up in Ontario, Canada. This particular one is the recording I’ve been working on ever since I got back from Europe, or at least in between the cracks of dealing with cat crises. If I’m pretty scarce over the next week or two, it will be because I am racing against time to remaster (and possibly remix) the other three songs, figure out what I’m going to do on artwork and get it done, finalize licensing for the co-written songs, and just deal with the general admin stuff that goes into getting an EP released through the digital download services.

So, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. Now about that money…