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    « June 2008 | Main | August 2008 »

    July 19, 2008

    Eco-friendly cross-town parties: Edison meets JPL

    There’s a reason end-of-school-year parties are held in the summer. In the fall, there’s Halloween and we all know how creepy this day can be. A couple of years ago, someone almost lost a hand at Gabriel's party at the Museum of Natural History, but that’s another story.

    Still, it was quite a surprise to see how much Jack had grown. I remember him as a small 4th grader in 1998-1999.

    Jack was still his sisters' baby brother not so long ago...

    Next to his giraffe poise, I would have felt embarassingly short.

    But let's turn the tables on the kids, shall we?

    How about "homework from beyond" ? How scary is it to go to a party and find correctedhomework from over 10 years ago?

    Thank you Tina, the effect this produced on Kevin was priceless.

    Whether Tina's little darlings like Kevin who gave me gray hair when I tutored him for AP Physics have since now graduated from college or are still going through it, they all had something to be verklempf about and talk amongst themselves.

    Tina loved the French national anthem: bloody, yet melancholy; extremely violent but musically transcendent; in other words, it's whatachamacallit beautiful. So were the many flowers she received!

    She wasn't around on the account that there was something in her birthday cake on July 7, 2008, that didn't agree with her as Little Bonaparte would have said in Some Like It Hot, our favorite family movie. The autopsy is still pending but Tina's ashes arrived on Friday at home.

    Although the Edison croud was glad to have an end-of-school-year party, the day wasn't all about teachers!

    My JPL vanpool friends stopped by on the way home -- how cool is that? The whole van! One had split to pick up some flowers and there were too many distractions that delayed his departure.

    (is it me or is there something weird about this picture?)

    Earlier in the day, we scored a lot of green karma organizing a birthday party at JPL: how about 0% transportation overhead? Ok, JPL isn't the most party-friendly environment but when I'm around rocket scientists, I feel truly at home, whether it is with managers, my first boss and acclaimed gurus, Deep Space One colleagues, formal methods nerds, State Analysis amigos or just being there with my son.

    Of course, everybody missed Tina: she had wit and flair for cracking jokes; a party fire cracker!

    July 11, 2008

    SAMOHI's Chemistry Bombshell

    Whether you believe that "it takes a village to raise children" sounds corny or not, fact remains that I'm personally very grateful for SAMOHI's excellent AP-Chemistry teacher, Mrs. Martha Diaz-Chacon, who turns out to have played indirectly an important role in helping me spend 2 great weeks with Tina before she died.

    Back at the end of the first semester, she had compelled her students to prepare for the finals by studying in pairs or groups. Gabriel teamed with Alex. This spark triggered a chain reaction of practice / study sessions where Gabriel and Alex forged great bonds of friendship. That bond was strong enough for Alex to offer driving Gabriel to the airport on June 30th. Less than 1/2 hour later, Tina said:

    "I miss Gabriel already"

    I felt really good about being there. Had I followed my fatherly impulses and driven him to the airport, Tina would have been all alone at home and in her heart. Instead, I spent the evening with Tina at home; an "odd couple" of sorts. I managed to spend the following week at home with her. She had improved so much from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus thanks to Dr. Bergsneider's treatment at UCLA that it felt as if I had spent a lot more time than just a week. Gabriel, Tina and I had managed to have breakfast outside for the first time in years.

    Yesterday, Gabriel spent the night at Alex'. He was jet-lagged for sure and I'm glad he didn't wake me up. Organizing a birthday/memorial get-together party the way Tina-la-vecina would have wanted it is a challenge. My Tinazinha was a tough, demanding cookie. I'm glad that Gabriel had a tough, demanding AP-Chem teacher at SAMOHI this year.

    Thank you Mrs. Chacon.

    July 09, 2008

    An anarchic birthday

    Around 3am this morning, I woke up with a weird sense of anachronism about Tina's 56th birthday.
    Unfortunately, Tina-la-vecina as she was known in the Santa Monica Unified School District checked in Hotel California on Monday and isn't available to solve this riddle.

    What do you mean?

    Well, here's what happened.

    She was born in the Bronx near the Yankee stadium on July 9, 1952. She would have been 56 today. Sometimes people ask me if my wife is French. It pleases me to reply that my wife was born in New York.
    Tina's parents migrated to Rio de Janeiro when she was an English-speaking 5-year-old cutie pie. Who could imagine she'd score some of the highest scores in highly-competitive exams in Portuguese?

    In the summer of 1991, 6-months pregnant with Gabriel, she realized that Zefa, aka Josephina, wouldn't be able to live by herself in Laranjeiras street in the appartment her parents penny-pinched themselves very dearly to buy. Zefa's irresistible attraction for the "loja americana" (American market) used to drive her dad bananas: "For christ's sake Josephina!" was all he could conjure up to say before she'd storm out of the appartment declaring matter-of-factly: "mommy here is going to the cinema, bye-bye!" So, Tina thought of an irresistible ploy to drag Zefa out of Brasil one last time: "Please come help me take care of my baby".

    Tina had scheduled a c-section for Gabriel'd birth on Halloween 1991. Zefa arrived the next day.
    Gabriel, her "neto", burst out whaling when he learned of Zefa's death on April 28 this year. Our house had felt empty for about a year since she had been in convalescent care. We missed teasing Zefa about which cities of the world were the most beautiful to which she'd invariably declare: "Paris and Rio are the most beautiful cities in the world". Zefa was calm but she had a knack to drive us bananas at which point she'd bail out saying: "I'm going to my room, bye-bye". Zefa was a living encyclopledia of early Hollywood royalty. Tina used to drag Zefa out of her room to watch an old movie only to tease her mom about who so-and-so's extra-marital affairs on that particular movie had been with. Zefa responded matter-of-factly to such questions. These interactions inspired Tina to twist what sometimes started as an argument into something that transpired as a really funny story in her blogs.

    Ok, but what did happen?

    To put it bluntly, she checked in Hotel California 2 days before her birthday. Pick a date and Tina could tell you who famous actor, rock-and-roller was born on that date. Encyclopedic memory runs in her family for sure. With all of my attention-deficit disorder, it took me several years to adjust to Tina's pace of on-cue-memory recall. I'm still a junior compared to her and her sudden departure left me puzzled. What's so special about 2 days before her birthday? Then I remembered Nehemiah Persoff's 'Little Bonaparte' character in 'Some Like it Hot' asking: "So What's a few months between friends?" in a announcing prematurely the birthday of the lead of Chicago chapter of his "Friends of the Opera" organization. "The boys and I baked you a little cake for your birthday!" Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta.... Tina, Gabriel and I loved to watch this movie; it would be so anarchically Tina for her to say that there was something in her premature birthday cake that didn't agree with her.

    I fell in love with Tina's mind when I was taking a course on AI & Natural Language Processing with Igal Arens. At that time, she taught me a very different view on language learning, one that she learned from Stephen Krashen at USC, her beloved mentor in linguistics. She was adamant about his views on language education and was unyielding in her blogs with whoever dared to profess blashmey w.r.t. Krashen's views. It took me over two decades to fully recognize that what attracted me to Tina was the anarchic character of her personality: an unyielding dedication to the ideas she believe where fundamentally worth fighting tooth and nail for. I am really glad and honored to have been a part of her life helping her do that fighting. It's the realization that I spent half of my life in France and half of my life with Tina, first living in sin then under the blessing of the State of California as husband and wife; give or take a few months. But then, what's a few days or months among friends, eh? Tina and I formed an odd couple: half of her life in her beloved Brazil; half of my life with my beloved Tina.

    If you have known Tina and have fond memories to share about her, please consider writing a comment or asking to join her blog as a guest author. She touched on many lives; far more than I am aware of and I'm sure that many who've known her would appreciate reading about it as much as I would.

    Ciao meu gostozinha Tinazinha.

    July 07, 2008

    links for 2008-07-07

    July 06, 2008

    I'm Voting Republican - The Video ;P)

    links for 2008-07-06

    July 04, 2008

    links for 2008-07-04

    July 03, 2008

    When You Like Music, You Sign Up for State.ie

    State.ie is an on-line magazine whose line-up is great, music bloggers from Ireland. I cannot praise State.ie enough for all the work their team does.

    I had been too relaxed to post here, blame it on the garden, a couple of songbirds I have been watching and can't guess their name. There nest was destroyed by the guys doing some work here. These birds are pretty obstinate.They have been making four nests simultaneously. The male, I guess, has an orange chest and head. They are small songbirds.

    Need I say the music in State.ie is of the non-classical kind?

    Here is State.ie for you. Click on the link to be taken there:

    State is a quality monthly music magazine with emphasis on in-depth coverage of music and popular culture, as well as strong visual impact. State will feature informative, penetrative articles on Irish and international music, complemented by arresting and largely original imagery and a fresh and bold overall design.


    links for 2008-07-03

    July 02, 2008

    links for 2008-07-02