There's no getting around it, 2007 was a difficult year. After a valiant 17 month struggle against the unrelenting ravages of Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) my mother Elaine Goren, the youngest and last surviving of four Popkin sisters, went peacefully to her final rest on August 20, 2007. She leaves behind my dad Seymour (Sy) Goren, her husband of 57 years and three children; Jennifer, Stacey and Me. My thanks go out for the fervent prayers, kind thoughts and encouraging words shared by you - our family, friends and colleagues near and far. Elaine was a gravitational center to our corner of the Popkin and Goren universe. She was the cosmic glue holding together a family of disparate souls; her death leaves an unfillable void in our lives that we are only beginning to comprehend fully.
Elaine was a glamorous fun and spunky woman, the two short video clips here are just a taste of how we'll remember her. During Elaine's final weeks and months many friends and relatives came to visit, not to say goodbye, but to lend love and support. Mom and Dads next door neighbors Ray and Roseann Diaz have been like family, and the healing powers of their little dog Rexie were especially appreciated by all.
Kelly and I spent a week in Florida for the funeral and an abbreviated Shiva with my Dad. The chapel service at Beth Israel in Boynton was officiated by Rabbi Bernard Shoter. Harriet Goren (Dad's sister) lent her beautiful Hebrew singing voice for our gathering of family and friends. Her final resting place is at Eternal Light Memorial Gardens. My father requests that any donations in Elaine's memory be made either to American Cancer Society or Hospice of Palm Beach County. A web site I am building at www.elainegoren.net will celebrate her life and feature a photo and video tribute narrated by my sister Jennifer reprising her eulogy.
As you may remember from last years holiday letter, Elaine's GBM went undetected until stroke-like symptoms suddenly manifested, that's how it often goes with cancers of the brain. But other types of cancer can be discovered and cured if you get the diagnostic screening test performed early and regularly. If you are 50 and over, get a colonoscopy. I just had mine the first week of August and Kelly is scheduled to get hers at the end of December. During my procedure I had two polypectomies, no cancer - one was only 2mm in the sigmoid, the other however was 10mm and located in the cecum. Polypectomy and cauterization leaves the bowel wall a bit thin as the wound heals over the course of a couple of weeks. Bowel perforation is the only real complication "danger" in the days following the procedure, a remote (2 in a thousand) possibility - but real enough - and it can be exacerbated by air travel, so take it easy after your test. Colon cancer is very curable/preventable, but quite deadly if you don't catch it early. In the TV biz we've seen several high profile victims recently including Joel Siegel and Hal Fishman, so please get tested. Doctors are empathic folk; they tend to give their best advice and care to their most compliant and informed patients. It's hard to maintain an aggressively positive attitude when you are sick, but it beats becoming a victim of treatment fatigue. Do your homework, stay involved, become an expert and don't give up on yourself.
To kick-off Q-1 Riptopia held an annual all hands meeting for investors, board members and staffers. We did some team building touring of Napa Valley vineyards, and shortly thereafter went the way of most under-capitalized dot-com start-ups. Leaving me high and dry after the re-organizing, Riptopia closed the West coast office and tossed most of the employees overboard to keep afloat long enough for the remains to be purchased.
Beyond unemployment I've worked mostly freelance this year - the usual technical writing, some sales and marketing, consumer electronics retail campaigning and consulting, and most recently editing high definition video using Avid Xpress Pro HD. I've upgraded my home system with half a terabyte of Firewire 800 Raid storage and Adobe CS3 Production Premium. Since acquiring the Workprinter XP 8mm Telecine I've restored to DVD five of my Dads’ home movies from the 50's and 60's as well as some more recent videos. I'm about ready now to hang a shingle out offering to perform this kind of work as a service for others and have placed a preliminary rate card on Guru.com, I still need to come up with pricing for sound tracks - coming soon is a business web site at 8mm2dvd.us . Are you a member of LinkedIn for social/business networking? Let's connect.
I try to bicycle around 20 miles every Sunday so long as it is not raining or too cold at Golden Gate Park. Sometimes I bring my camera, there is a visual treat around every turn, be it the Bison herd, Mount Sutro, THE Bridge, Windmills, the beach - you get the idea.
In February Scarlett, the big black tribble in the "Bug on the Ceiling" photo passed away. She was a mostly outdoor kitty who we always joked was part raccoon as an explanation for her nocturnal adventures. Scarlett was an amazing jumper, preferring to come and go via the top door window and a breathtaking porch to fence leap. Upon return she'd reverse the jump and do a little catrobatics, hanging by her claws from the top door window so all you'd see was her little cat head dangling five feet up waiting patiently for the window to be opened.
Raja, our orange and white kitty gave us a scare this year after suffering a compression injury during a bit of rough-play with Kelly's son Greg which temporarily paralyzed his tail, I'm happy to report Raja is mostly recovered now. Raja and Lily love to play hide and pounce with each other. Lily is especially skilled at setting up cat ambushes and has several stealth mode tricks including using Kelly's pink robe as a cloak of invisibility. Raja dearly loves Lily, as you can readily observe in his YouTube video debut. Not to be outdone, Lily has filmed yet another "Thirsty Cat" video, she really delivers C.O.D. - "Cute On Demand".
Do you have a pack rat in your neighborhood? There is a house on our block that seems to be literally bursting at the seams. Take a peek at this guy’s garage and the mudroom through the windows.
Kelly's daughter Sabrina is now engaged to be married to longtime boyfriend Andrew. Andy has a great new IT job, so they've left the nest, rented a lovely view apartment and started up their own three cat fur family.
In May we had a visit from Gary and Nancy Goren. I'm looking forward to planting some small heirloom chilies from seed my uncle Gary collected in Mexico. Nancy has been successfully growing these peppers in Tempe Arizona - Kelly and I found them to be very flavorful with just enough kick to be interesting. Gary and Nancy also sent us some home ground Honey Mesquite flour they make from the Honey Mesquite bean pods. Kelly has been adding it to various baked goods for a uniquely southwest taste. Apparently this ancient staple food is a natural balancer of blood sugar, and its absence from the diet of modern day Native Americans of the desert southwest is a major contributor to their high rate of diabetes.
Sister Stacey is working in Iowa this year and will be participating in the Democratic Caucuses. She met Hillary Clinton at a rally before our Mom passed away and scored her an autographed T-shirt. This was quite the prize for our Mom who was a big Hillary fan. Sister Jennifer has a new job and now manages the Miele Manhattan Gallery.
Our neighbors from hell are into a third year of renovations - progressing to the biggest and noisiest of their projects, a two story rear addition being put together by an agonizingly slow mini-crew of the owners uncle and a hired hand. The redneck brother of the owner has a big old pickup truck with a damaged muffler and for weeks delighted in waking up all of Ney street at two in the morning as he hauled construction debris to no doubt unlawful dumpsites. Imagine our glee at the sight of an 8 cop posse cuffing and stuffing this moron the morning after he smashed his girlfriends' car window during one of his many drunken rages. He's at long last banned from the ranch . . . YAY!
As usual the garden was very productive. I grew some yellow salad tomatoes which had an almost citrusy flavor, big beefy reds, and reprised last years yummy Paste Romas. The Rocoto Peruvian Chiles (up to 250,000 on the scoville scale) are now like small understory trees, six feet tall despite my aggressive pruning and sporting three inch diameter trunks. I've had to dig up and adopt out several of these beasts to make room for the remainder. Apparently it is quite normal for these peppers to live for five or more years - who knew? I also had success with some dwarf golden bell peppers and pizza peppers which survived from last year. I removed our depleted Fern Strawberries and switched over to a new variety called Albion, wow - if you can find these - buy 'em, yummy and productive. I got ours at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.
The Beauty Plum was so heavy with fruit this year I considered propping up the branches; we also had our first Howard's Miracle and Elephant Heart plums. No flowers or fruit yet from the Raja Puri Banana plants; they grow kinda slow here in San Francisco but made it through another winter. I had something of a purple theme happening this year, going with the more colorful varieties available for Artichokes, Hungarian Breadseed Poppies, Celery and Romano beans. The Violetta Artichokes had NASTY spines, but were the most succulent we've ever tasted. Our tiny Izu Persimmon tree lost a branch under the weight of its bounty, I'll be more attentive thinning the fruit next season.
Ever wonder where those itty bitty ears of corn come from that you get in stir fry dishes at Thai restaurants? Me too! And after a bit of internet surfing I found a source for the seeds, the stalks are about half the size of regular corn - but the real trick is you have to remove the tassels from the top of each plant as they emerge and pick the baby ears (four or five per plant) before they have a chance to get pollinated and develop the "niblets" that we normally think of as the eating part of corn. Fun experiment for one season but too time consuming to plant every year. Once again we enjoyed abundant bok choy, broccoli, snow peas and giant sunflowers, I planted brussels sprouts, which were yummy, but the bugs got more than we did.
I've begun replacing sections of the wild blackberry with Fall Gold raspberry and our new Chilean guava which Kelly "won" at a CRFG raffle seems happy. I'm excited to report that the rare Turkmenistan pomegranate cuttings I obtained from the national germoplasm repository (Gissarskii Rozovyi) rooted quickly, are thriving and ready to plant out once they achieve deepest dormancy in January. This is the pomegranate variety we judged to have the most edible arils and sweetest juice at the Wolfskill tasting two years ago. I'll also be adding several varieties to our fig and grape collection. We've ordered a Stella cherry for January delivery from Bay Laurel Nursery as this year's new "store bought" fruit tree. Still nothing from our kiwi vines - very disappointing.
My Apple grafting has begun to pay off as we enjoyed some Mutsu and Pink Pearls from the Yellow Delicious tree. I went hog-wild with the grafting this year and now have eight or nine varieties on that one little tree.
Kelly sold the old Saab to a friend and bought a new car, a Toyota Yaris - it gets great mileage. In fact only hybrids are greener; actually it gets better gas mileage even than some hybrids. I'll continue to nurse my '99 Saturn along until those promised hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are available.
For Thanksgiving Kelly's family rented out the community center above Stimpson Beach in Sausalito, they do this every other year. The fifty or so of us kept warm by the roaring fireplace and had quite the feast before a lovely pre-dessert walk around the tide pools. We noticed quite a few oil-soaked feathers scattered on the beach more than a week after the big spill.
At the end of September Kelly and I flew to North Carolina for the wedding of Claire Doyle and Barry Ragin. Claire is Kelly's best friend going all the way back to high school, and around fifteen years ago they became cousins by marriage. It was Claire by the way who eventually reunited Kelly and I after our 27 year break-up. It was a pretty cosmic weekend considering I had just recently learned that one of my best friends from junior high school days, whom I had not heard from in around 30 years, was now living a stones throw from Claire in North Carolina, weird - eh?
In the '80s and 90's I was a well-known technology analyst writing extensively on video and computer graphics topics. Feature articles I composed appeared in Broadcast Engineering, True Imaging, Cadence, MicroCAD News, Computer Pictures and Advanced Imaging. While working out of my computer animation home studio in Val Verde I wrote a monthly column about using computers in production and post-production for TV Technology Magazine. During my tenure at TV Technology I was also working at a PBS affiliated television station owned and operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
On several occasions, Pelham, the chief engineer of KLCS would bring me a copy of the latest column on computer graphics from my national cross-town rival Claire Doyle who wrote for Television Broadcast Magazine. He used to say, in his best Yenta the matchmaker voice tinged with southern catfish farmer drawl, "She sounds just like you, you should figure out a way to meet her, it's a perfect match". I had to agree there was something familiar about Claire's style, I enjoyed her columns, and she often made vague references to places and events harkening back to my east coast roots.
As the west coast news correspondent for TV Technology I traveled to trade shows and user sites to report on new developments and practical applications. As a technology analyst, I reviewed and tested new hardware and software provided to me on loan by major manufacturers. For the first few years my computer software reviews focused exclusively on PC compatibles. This eventually came to irk Silicon Graphics, a major supplier of high end super-computer hardware and Hollywood class animation applications. They demanded an explanation from my editors, why was I so PC biased? The answer was obvious to me, I had no access to SGI mini-super-computers. I jokingly suggested that if they wanted me to review animation software capable of running on SGI hardware, they should send me a loaner and I'd be all too happy to solicit software for review purposes.
Imagine my shock and surprise a few weeks later when a leased truck pulls up to my home in the boonies and unloads around $60,000 worth of state of the art workstation. Soon I was the darling of the high tech public relations executives vying for column inches. My SGI was delivered unassembled, no worries, I've crammed more than my share of RAM onto PC motherboards, spraying fabric softener on synthetic carpeting in the face of southern California's dry Santa Ana winds, donning wrist straps and wearing 100% cotton to chase away the evil spirits of static discharge. I always conducted the "Clara" test before actually handling chips or SIMM's. Whistling loudly, I'd summon Clara, the computer graphics kitty, from her window ledge dreams, to a usually forbidden land of cables, the computer room. Slowly, I extended my arm down to cat nose level with forefinger pointed in an almost accusatorial manner. The irresistible force of feline curiosity never failed to draw Clara's pink sniffer ever closer to the wondrous tip of my right forefinger. If nothing happened, I deemed it safe to install RAM. But occasionally, as the gap asymptotes, Clara's eyes narrow, close, and . . . contact! The nasty tickle of a crackling micro-spark accompanied by the insulted meow of my purring guinea pig would have been warning enough not to attempt memory installation. Clara always got her cold ears massaged as a reward for selfless service either way.
Once each year computer graphics mavens make hajj to whatever city is hosting the SIGGRAPH convention, the center of the CGI universe. In 1993, Anaheim California was the venue, across the street from Disneyland and the Heidi motel. Prior to the public opening of the main exhibition hall, I joined a press tour getting a sneak preview of the fun stuff. At the center of SGI's huge exhibit hall space that year was Discover Park, the gates of which were designed to remind you of the entrance to Jurassic Park, the blockbuster featuring computer animated dinosaurs. There was an abundance of interactive and Virtual Reality stuff to play with at SIGGRAPH in general and at Discover Park in particular.
Greystone Technology, known for its air combat flight simulation software teamed up with effects animator Angel Studios (of Lawnmower Man fame) to produce a fly-the-Pterodactyl arcade. This high tech horsy ride harnessed (pun fully intended) the then massive computing power of a several hundred thousand dollar 12 CPU/ 3 Reality Engine Onyx class machine. I assumed this meant flights of fancy would cost more than a quarter at the local shopping mall arcade! These days a Playstation 3 would compute rings around such fifteen year old state of the art processing. To control the virtual flying reptile you sat in a pivoting saddle, leaning forward to dive, leaning back to pull up. Steering was with reins that pulleyed back and forth through a mouse or rollerball type encoder. The high resolution wraparound display and stereo sounds were fun to experience, and if you managed not to crash, the adventure glided through a canyon full of waterfalls and castles in pursuit of a dragon. We were told this was a very popular arcade experience in Japan. I thought the horsy ride feel would not "fly" in the U.S., we prefer to sit in a cockpit bucket seat while blasting bad guys out of the sky. I didn't get a chance to play with the Kaiser-Optics helmet display version of the game, they were busy super-gluing it back together during the journalists tour time, and once the hall was open to the general public the lines were longer than for Star Tours at Disneyland on July fourth.
For me though, the wackiest part of the ride was discovering the secret identity of the journalist ahead of me. Everyone was kibitzing with an excited and smugly privileged tone, we were the "In Crowd" on junket sharing cool experiences and collecting trinkets. I noticed the name tag of the gal in front of me to be Claire Doyle, my mysterious kindred spirit computer graphics writer, in the flesh, and when she turned around I introduced myself and told her I'd been reading her columns for years and admired her writing. Claire thanked me and said she had also noticed my work and enjoyed it, then politely returned to another conversation. Well, I finally met her, but no instant karma or chemistry I sighed and thought to myself, back to the Jewish Singles Bowling League I guess. A few seconds later she turns around and asks me with a total poker face, "By the way, you didn't by any chance attend Southampton College did you?" Caught completely off guard by this most bizarre and intimate lightening bolt of an inquiry from a gal I thought I had only just met and gotten the brush-off from, I could only exclaim loudly, "What??? Well yes, yes I did. But how on earth could you have known that or think to ask it of me, who are you, some sort of ghost from my past?" "Well kinda, yeah." she says, "You probably don't remember me, I was Kelly Kramer's best friend." Kelly Kramer, the sudden sound of those words uttered eighteen years after my offending the gods by busting up with her rang in my ears and tunnel vision set in like I had just been hit with a knockout punch. Not a day had gone by in all that time without my thoughts turning to her at least once in longing and regret. It's a small virtual world, eh?
So could that be it? Was I getting some kind of familiar channeling of my long lost college sweetheart Kelly's energy and personality through Claire's writings all these years? I only half heard Claire explain that Kelly had married a fellow she met shortly after our breakup in college, had moved here to California years ago like me, was the mother of two cool kids, had just been divorced and was now married to Claire's cousin, making Kelly and Claire former best friends, now cousins themselves.
I remembered that back in college, my girlfriend Kelly, an art major who loved astronomy, would humorously explain away the hopelessness of our star-crossed relationship in mathematical terms. Our lives were like skew lines that ran briefly near, crossing, never parallel, never to cross again. I argued that the universe was a bit more complicated than that, and Claire had now proven me right with our chance (?) encounter, thank goodness for worm-holes and super-strings.
Claire and I made small talk and loose commitments to stay in touch during the conference, bumping into each other in the press room, at the computer graphics theater, and at Digital Domain's first annual party which was rocked all night by Dweezil Zappa's band and Cyberpunker Billy Idol in separate sets at Prince's Glam Slam club hidden amongst the shadows fringing downtown Los Angeles. The next night we went to Industrial Light & Magic's Ren & Stimpy style cool and rad irony party amongst the mostly far left, and far too trendy. They had rented out the Nixon birthplace and library in Yorba Linda. Dumb beer and smart drinks (laced with AMINO acids) lubricated the ranting and chanting of magicians, vulgar street poets, & various visionaries (burnouts?) including Timothy Leary exhorting us to feed our retinas the new non-chemical trips offered by computer generated virtual reality. Sitting and chatting with the former high priest of LSD we learned that computers were his new drug.
Claire offered to put me in touch with Kelly. I was briefly tempted but I thought, she's got a happy family, a real life, the last thing they need is for some old boyfriend from the past intruding, and so vowed to remain at a respectful distance. Maybe next holiday newsletter I'll tell you the rest of the story, how Claire tricked Kelly and I into chatting on-line nine years later.