Yet another twelve months sneak by with not nearly enough time for my valued family, friends and colleagues near and far.
We had a really good year in the garden, I found two disease resistant Tomato varieties which thrived and inundated us with fruit. Last year I lost everything to powdery mildew and blight. Another success yielded multiple pounds of Tomatillos from just eight seeds. The Peruvian Hot Peppers are still thriving in mid-December from seeds scooped out of a back fence neighbor's garden bounty gift. We enjoyed Fern Strawberries, Beauty Plums and so much Bok Choi that Kelly thought she was under the ingredient spotlight of Iron Chef any evening I unveiled the day's harvest. My Raja Puri Banana plants made it through their first winter and are now 6-8 feet tall, if they survive through this winter we may see flowers and fruit soon. Snow Peas as well as multiple varieties of Lettuce and Broccoli grow year-round here. This summer, or what passes for summer in San Francisco, we had yummy Romano Beans, Artichoke, giant Sunzilla Sunflowers and endless Zucchini.
It's been Paul Bunyan season in the yard, getting rid of ancient plantings. I chopped down an old 20 foot tall weedy Pyrocanthus tree and planted a Jujube. I also removed a sprawling Mock Orange which will be replaced next month with a Pomegranate. Next to the house I took out a three story tall ornamental that was encroaching on our next door neighbor's space and preventing the painters from constructing a proper scaffold. I'm currently struggling to dig out a 10 year old mat of Pampas Grass to make room for our Loquat seedlings.
This year's grafting activity included welding some Howard's Miracle Plum onto our Elephant Heart tree and I added Hidden Rose to our already heavily grafted Yellow Delicious Apple.
For several years now I've been intrigued by research papers, photos and PowerPoint slides that I found on the World Wide Web describing the wrapping of young fruit in bags on the tree by Japanese orchardists. The bags keep insects, birds and disease off the fruit, but it is a very labor intensive method practiced for the most part only in Japan. I found a professor in Hawaii (the internet is amazing) who was willing to introduce me to the English speaking export executive of a company in Japan that manufactures the bags. Mr. Hatano eventually agreed to allow me to import a case of the bags, the results were astounding. Even bagging more than halfway through the season, 75 percent of the apples I failed to bag were damaged or destroyed by pests and 100 percent of the apples I did bag were perfect. I have more of these bags than I will ever need and have posted a message on the CRFG Bulletin Board offering to sell my excess. There is an instruction sheet on my web site which I translated using Google tools from the original Japanese along with a few of my own comments.
My favorite cat Lily went viral briefly on YouTube when I uploaded a clip of her drinking water from the bathroom faucet.
We had a freak hail storm in San Francisco the evening of March 10th which made it look like snow had accumulated!
It came out of nowhere, Wednesday the 8th of March my Dad noticed that Mom was talking funny, she'd substitute an inappropriate word into a sentence, and this evolved into more and more of the word stream having malapropisms and random substitutions until only he could figure out what she was trying to communicate. At first the doctors thought it was a mini-stroke but after a few days of hospitalization the CAT and MRI scans turned up the real culprit, a high grade Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is a very aggressive form of brain cancer. We all gathered in Florida to lend our support and prayers, Sister Jennifer headed for Florida first on the 11th, Stacey a few days later, and finally Kelly and I. Surgery was performed by Dr. Dutcher at JFK Medical Center, removing the growth from her left temporal lobe on the 17th, and thanks to her otherwise excellent overall health Dr. Abdolvahabi helped Mom make a rapid recovery from the physical ordeal of the operation like a woman 20 years her junior.
Soon thereafter Mom entered several weeks of radiation treatment plus Chemotherapy with Temador beginning the second week of April. We three kids continue to take turns visiting every few weeks. Unable to tolerate the second round of Chemo, Mom opted out of further Temodar. Weeks later, her regularly scheduled diagnostic imaging regimen detected a small re-growth of the Cancer. A new technology called CyberKnife was employed to battle the recurrence. At the time of this writing, after a month or so of recovery, Mom is rapidly regaining her energy and sense of humor. My Dad has had his own medical problems yet through all this has managed to be her primary home care giver, a real mentch. Please join me in praising my Mom for her courage in this battle and wishing her a long, loving, cancer-free life.
In June we had an open house party in celebration of Kelly's 50th birthday. Good friends, family, food, drink and music filled the day as we took turns being garden docents and greeters.
This year my youngest sister Jennifer decided to run her first Marathon at age 38. She hooked up with Team in Training to learn how to pace and run, and raised over $5,000 for charity, mostly while herself unemployed. Oh yeah, and she flew out here to San Francisco from New York to do the Nike Women's Marathon run. Check out her video on YouTube.
After the race, we witnessed employees of San Francisco Soup Company dumping scores of fresh loaves of sourdough bread into the trash bins at the close of the Nike Women's Marathon. The loaves were intended for use as "soup bowls" and were still packed fresh in their original boxes at the time they were dumped as garbage. When we gathered around and exhorted the employees to stop the dumping and consider calling a food bank or homeless shelter to donate the food they moved to a different dumpster. In the right hand column you'll see a photo of just some of the wasted food, I sent the photo to Mayor Newsom and a few TV stations.
Around eleven years ago while snowed-in after a New York blizzard, my parents had the idea to project a few of our old family films while videotaping the screen and voicing-over a running commentary. This resulted in a fun birthday tape for me but the picture and sound quality was not so great. My father has 30 cans of standard 8mm film, some of it over 50 years old and showing signs of deterioration and yellowing, yet the hundreds of splices are rock solid - nice editing Dad! In order to clean, preserve and share this heritage I've purchased a small Telecine (Video WorkPrinter XP) and some software that will enable me to do high quality digital transfers as well as some color correction and restoration. Each reel of film promises to be a two to four week spare time project. I'll be mastering our treasures on digital videotape and sharing DVDs of select reels and clips with the family over the course of the next year or two. In example, I've included two images of the same 50 year old film frame featuring my Mom holding me at age 4 weeks. The top image is from the 11 year old videotape, the second is after the film was physically cleaned and then digitized using my Telecine and saved with some color correction and sharpening.
Kelly's house is looking fancy these days with a new paint job and windows, check out the before and after pics. Yes, that is my Macbeth Color Checker Chart in the front window.
I spent the first part of the year mostly unemployed while freelance technical writing for the B&H Photo web site authoring the best HDTV product descriptions on the internet.
In July I joined Riptopia as their Western Regional Sales Account Manager. Riptopia's service converts your music CDs into digital files for use on an iPod or media server. While we have an active web based direct business, I mostly handle our dealer channel calling on Tweeter, Bang & Olufsen and hundreds of Custom High-end Home Theater Installers. The corporate pitch goes something like this as we tackle the post holiday empty iPod syndrome. Yes, there is nothing better than tearing off the wrapping paper to find a brand new iPod - but what if it came pre-loaded with your favorite music? Now, that's an iPod holiday to remember. My company Riptopia takes entire CD collections and loads them onto iPods and servers for music lovers across the country. All they have to do is press play to start enjoying their music instantly! GQ Magazine calls us "the greatest thing since paying someone to do your laundry," we've made OK! Magazine's must-have gift list this year and the Robb Report just featured us in their November issue. Might you be interested in giving a pre-loaded iPod to your favorite music fan? I've embedded a $30 off coupon in the right hand column for you to use on our website www.riptopia.com. Of course, you can always feel free to give me a ring and I'd be happy to answer any questions!