Monday, October 30, 2023

Monsters Bash

I imagine I'm one of three people reading this who spent the weekend setting up and running a haunted house on an aircraft carrier. Anyone else? Show of hands?

Saturday night, the USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum, where my daughter Laura is COO, hosted an annual Halloween dinner-dance called "Monsters Bash," which includes a tour of the Hornet's historic and reputedly haunted sickbay. In past years, the frights have included dangling spiders and volunteers jumping up and yelling "Boo!" The Hornet wanted to improve their haunted house game this year; Laura said, "I know a guy." Me.

On Halloween night, my front yard becomes a G-rated phantasmagoria of swirling spectres, projected faces, Pepper's ghosts, and any other ideas I could lift from Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. It's fun, but there's only so much I can do with the available space and lighting. Would I like to be turned loose on an aircraft carrier? Oh yes, please and thank you!

In past Bashes, the Hornet's haunted sickbay displayed a random assortment of store-bought props. My main contributions were helping develop a storyline to pull it together, setting up some commercial projections that the Hornet had bought, and adding some sound and lighting effects. The story: unexplained power surges aboard the ship have drawn spirits into our world. Lots of flickering lights and mournful moans. I also got to do some improvisational acting as a surgeon whose operation isn't going so well.

Prepping for the Monsters Bash on the Hornet's hangar deck. How many dinner-dances have you been to that are decorated with fighter jets, a boilerplate Mercury space capsule, and Apollo 14's mobile quarantine unit? Photo courtesy of Russell from the USS Hornet.

Reverse angle on the hangar deck, looking toward the dance floor and bandstand. Amazing how some lighting and decor can transform a gray steel military-industrial space. Our haunted sickbay was one deck directly below. This photo also nicked from Russell/USS Hornet.

Laura, her sister Robin, and I spent the afternoon setting up (following earlier visits to plan and dry-run), then manned sickbay from about 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. More than 600 happy, dancing, costumed people came to the Bash and we figure between 100 and 200 of them toured sickbay. Some came more than once, which we took as a good review. 

Most people seemed to have a terrific time: lots of screams and laughs. I was surprised by how terrified some people were of what seemed to me a very tame and low-key haunted house. One of our big set pieces was a room of bunks filled with blankets stuffed to look like bodies--not very sophisticated! Still, a few folks only got a couple of turns past the start before they "Noped" right back out the front door. 

I confess to a couple of jumps myself. First, when we were setting up in the afternoon, and I was alone in the dark twisting corridors of sickbay, I felt some claustrophobic shivers. All by itself, being below deck in low light is inherently spooky. Second, when I was playing a surgeon, I turned around just as a flash of light illuminated a plastic head on a meat hook behind me. It had been there ALL DAY, but in that hundredth of a second it gave me a real start. I got myself!

My operating room was one of the first things visitors saw when then entered sickbay. I had fun bantering with folks. Tying into our electrical surge story, I asked them if they were the electricians I'd sent for. "Because this operation is frankly not going very well. Sure, I graduated last in my class, but I still have an M.D. after my name, and I refuse to operate under these conditions! This started as a simple root canal, and NOW look at him! Honestly, it's not my best work." That's the meat hook head that scared me on the left.

Because we finished up so late, Laura, Robin and I spent the night aboard the Hornet in Laura's stateroom, which back in the day would have belonged to a senior officer. Very fun! In the morning I took a little walk around the ship before it opened to the public, then we had breakfast and went home.

Just in time to get ready for Halloween..... 

The skyline of San Francisco around midnight, seen from the fantail of the USS Hornet. Downtown is to the left, with the Bay Bridge spanning off to the right.

Early morning, before any visitors came, I had the flight deck all to myself, with San Francisco beckoning across the Bay. A lovely end to a fun weekend.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Intellectual Life #19

A Peek into the Intimate Intellectual Life of a Long-Married Couple, Part 19:

(I am in the garage using a handsaw to cut through a board when the wood unexpectedly gives way and the saw cuts parallel slices across my wrist, a couple of them deep and bloody.)

Brian: Karen? I need help with a wound.

Karen: I'll get the Band-Aids. (Takes a look.) I'll get the bandages and tape.

Karen (while cleaning and dressing the wound with skill and compassion): This could be a peek into the intellectual life of a long-married couple!

Brian: I don't think so.

Karen: Why not?

Brian: It's not very funny.

Karen: It's not very intellectual, either. 

Brian: Right.

Karen: Kind of stupid, actually.

Brian: I get it.

(Hours later, we're walking the dog around the block when we see a teenage boy on a skateboard barely avoid deadly collisions with cross-traffic.)

Brian: Idiot! He almost got killed!

Karen: At least he didn't try to cut off his own hand.

(I try to think of something to say to that.)

Brian: I have nothing to say to that.

Karen: Boys. It's a miracle that any of you make it to adulthood.

Brian: With both hands.

Karen: NOW it's a peek into the intimate intellectual life of a long-married couple!

This has been a peek into the intimate intellectual life of a long-married couple.

(P.S.: I am O.K.)

Thursday, October 19, 2023

MyShake Awake

MyShake is an app designed to warn users an earthquake's coming. It can't predict the future; rather, it relies on the fact that shock waves through the ground move much slower than the speed of light--similar to how the sound of thunder trails the flash of lightning--so that if a temblor happens a fair distance away, a cell phone signal can outrun the quake and give you a few seconds to drop and cover. 

It seems a prudent app to have here in California earthquake country. It seemed less prudent last night when a system test meant to go off at 10:19 a.m. this morning went off at 3:19 a.m. instead. By 3:25 a.m., I had fired off the following email to the MyShake people:

"I understand the need to test your system. Two notes:

"1. What good is a test without some way for us to tell you that we received it? 

"2. You don’t test a system designed to jolt users out of bed full of adrenaline IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!

"Unintended Consequence: I will be deleting the app in the morning."

In the light of day, I probably won't delete the app. If/when I ever really need it, it could save my life, and that's worth a few false alarms. But last night, I was steamed.

My best guess is that somebody screwed up and set the alert time for the wrong time zone. 3:19 a.m. PDT is 10:19 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time (aka Greenwich Mean Time), which a lot of software defaults to. I would still appreciate an explanation and apology. MyShake owes me an hour of sleep.

Monday, October 9, 2023

AAEC and an Old, New Friend

Alcatraz glimpsed through some cypress (?) trees. There may be more photogenic cities in the world, but none that I live within an hour's drive of.

Busy weekend. Friday I went into San Francisco for a couple of reasons, mainly a public reception at the Cartoon Art Museum kicking off the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists' 2023 conference. I gave a talk about A Fire Story at the AAEC's 2018 conference in Sacramento, and couldn't have been received more warmly then. Turns out that many of them remembered that talk, and me, and we renewed our acquaintances as if no time had passed. 

At the Sacramento conference, I'd found myself talking with a group when I suddenly realized everyone but me had won a Pulitzer Prize. As they said on Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the others..." Well, that happened again on Friday, as I had good conversations with Pulitzer Prize winners Ann Telnaes, Matt Davies, Matt Wuerker, and especially Jack Ohman, who's working on a (secret?) project very near my heart that I know he and I will be talking about. Also had nice talks with Pulitzer finalist and Herblock Award winner Jen Sorensen, AAEC parliamentarian (!) Scott Burns and his sister, my friend Jonathan Lemon ("Rabbits Against Magic" and the new "Alley Oop") and comics greats Trina Robbins and Steve Leialoha. Met some nice cartoonists from Canada and New Zealand. And of course caught up with our hosts from CAM, Andrew Farago and Summerlea Kashar, many thanks to them!

Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Ohman, late of the Sacramento Bee and just signed as a cartoonist and columnist by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Celebrated comic book creators Steve Leialoha and the delightful Trina Robbins, plus the thumb of the New Zealand cartoonist who couldn't figure out how to not block my camera lens.

I have no idea how I fit all that between the hours of 6 and 8:30 p.m. Sorry if I forgot to mention someone, you were wonderful, too.

But my main reason for going at all was Mike Peterson. Mike is a comics fan and journalist who lives in New England. He's written the online column "Comic Strip of the Day" for years, except for a very brief stretch when I took it on while he recovered from surgery, and on Saturday he accepted an Ink Bottle Award from the AAEC on behalf of The Daily Cartoonist website, where he's one of two main writers. We've been very good friends for 20 years, ever since he was one of the first people to encourage me to continue my "Mom's Cancer" webcomic . . .  

. . . and until Friday, we'd never met in person.

Funny how that happens.

Finally, after 20 years, it's Mike Peterson and me!

First thing Mike said to me after we broke from our warm embrace: "You're taller than I expected." We could have talked all night but of course we didn't get that chance, since one or the other of us was frequently pulled into other conversations. Mike knew more cartoonists than I did, and they seemed to like him better, too. I hope we do get to have that all-night in-person talk soon.

Before the AAEC event, I met up with my daughter Laura, whose USS Hornet - Sea, Air and Space Museum set up a booth and jet cockpit on San Francisco's Marina Green for Fleet Week. The green was only a half-hour walk from CAM, so I hoofed it there and back to say "Hi" to her. That explains why I'm red-faced and sweaty in the photos; it was an unusually hot and clear day for the City and I got some sun!

Walking over a hill overlooking the decommissioned Fort Mason toward the Marina Green, which is the patch of grass at center left. The Golden Gate Bridge is in the background. Beautiful day.

Walking from the Marina Green toward CAM along the Bay. Ghirardelli Square is well marked; the white ship-shaped building is the Maritime Museum. Lots of folks took to the narrow strip of beach at center left to swim and sun. CAM is in the brick building to the left of the CVS.

Hornet CEO Mark Epperson, COO Laura Fies, and Director of Events and Outreach Russell Moore, with their cockpit in the background. I didn't take this photo but I stole it fair and squre.

The rest of the weekend was family stuff. All good but I won't bore you with that. Nothing as exciting as meeting a 20-year friend for the first time. Did not disappoint!

Friday, October 6, 2023

The Intellectual Life #18

Photo is not from this occasion, but it is of us.

A Peek into the Intimate Intellectual Life of a Long-Married Couple, Part 18:

Karen: You have a brown spot on your shirt.

Brian: Could be chocolate.

Karen: Could be.

Brian: Could be blood.

Karen: Maybe.

Brian (dabbing it with my finger): It's moist.

(I lick my finger. Karen is repulsed and horrified.)

Karen: I would never ever do that.

Brian: Soy sauce!

Karen: You're such a BOY!

Brian: Hey, it worked.

This has been a peek into the intimate intellectual life of a long-married couple.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Farm to Table, Part 2

Second Harvest. We planted four tomatoes this year--Roma, Sungold, Sweet 100, and Little Napoli varieties--as well as three basil plants. We did a big harvest to make a batch of tomato sauce in late August. Although we of course grazed on tomatoes throughout the summer, we did our second big harvest this morning. There are still a lot of green tomatoes on the vines but we'll have to see if they ripen. The sunny days grow short. It's a race to the first frost.

We really liked how the August batch turned out, so we did the same on this one. We stewed the tomatoes with onion and garlic in a big pot for a few hours, then added basil and hit it with an immersion blender. As I said last time, we don't bother removing the skins or seeds; they add body and flavor, and besides that would be insane with hundreds of cherry tomatoes. 


We don't always add ground beef but this time we did. Appropriate seasoning, then let it percolate all day long. 

It's good. "Farm to Table" is very gratifying and satisfying. Now we just need to find freezer space for enough sauce to probably tide us over until next summer.

Everybody in the pool!

A few hours and an immersion blending later...

Delicious on the plate.