Ric Bretschneider

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Archive for December 2005

Letter

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The Year End Christmas Letter

 

Well, it’s the end of the year and time to reflect on how we spent 525,600 minutes.  That chunk of time reference comes the song Seasons of Love from the musical RENT.  This is fitting because we spent a fair amount of this year in cultural events, not the least of which was musical theatre.  But more on that in a minute.

 

Just to bring you up to speed, this year finds Deb and Me in our 21st year of a happy marriage, Justin cruising through his Junior year in High School, and all of us still on Tioga Way in San Jose, California. 

 

Local family has mostly moved away.  Mom and Dad live about 5 blocks from us, and as they get up there in years we find ourselves helping out over there more and more.  Dad had some surgery a while back and has had a very rocky time coming back from it.  He’s not as mobile as he was.  Mom still tries to stay active with her PEO and their Grange, but driving is not her forté. Deb’s grandma too is local, living in a retirement center nearby, and Deb spends time with her as well running errands to the bank, the doctor, and shopping. All this keeps us busy, as we keep trying new things as well.

 

January was a lot of work and planning.  Things were busy for me at Microsoft, we’re currently working on the next version of Office, arguably the most popular software product in the world. This found me rounding out my 12th year working on PowerPoint, the presentation software. This release has been very challenging for reasons I won’t bore you with (interested parties can read plenty about this on Microsoft’s web sites by now.)  But I had been disappointed to miss out on a business trip to New York in December and January found me realizing that I could have a much more enjoyable time if I took my whole family there for a week and didn’t mess around with any business at all! (It’s funny how you never think of these things on your own…) I’ve always wanted to go to NYC, had had several aborted attempts to go, but just never got around to it.  Debbie started planning our trip in earnest in January, I focused on getting us into the David Letterman show and figuring out what Broadway shows we wanted to hit. 

 

Also around this time I decided I wasn’t happy with my weight. I started reading up on nutrition, thinking about my personal eating habits, and worked out a plan to lose weight over the year – mostly though eliminating junk foods and soft drinks, and eating more fruits and vegetables. That’s about all it took, I dropped about 40 pounds over the year with just a modest increase in activity. 

 

February was another interesting month of activity.  Debbie started it off by taking a trip to Oregon make a surprise appearance at her sister Carolyn’s birthday party in Bend.  Justin followed that up with a Boy Scout snow camping trip, during which a tremendous snow fall collapsed several snow tents and caves – no serious damage was done although one of the rental tents was wrecked and the troop had to buy a replacement. You can see lots of pictures on our troop web site: http://www.bsa318.com. Of course the kids had a blast.

 

March found us heavily preparing for our New York trip.  I was making an effort at work to get a bit ahead before taking ten days off.  We’d scheduled the trip around Justin’s regular vacation but school picks up before those as well with testings and finals.  Debbie was frantically learning everything she could about the city, making reservations and generally getting us in line for a great time.

 

April was the big event.  We arrived in NYC, got settled in our hotel right on Times Square, and then my friend Brian met us and we did a loop around Manhattan getting used to using the subway and busses, learning how the street numbering thing worked, and getting a feel for where things were.  This really made the trip for us, we’ve never been more easily acclimated to a completely strange environment so quickly!  Transit is what makes Manhattan such a pleasure – we could really feel for those who were missing it during the recent strike.  When it’s working, you have such access to everything you need.  Never regretted being without a car.  There are pictures from the trip elsewhere on the Tioga blog, so I won’t go into great detail. We met up with scouting friends who coincidentally had scheduled their vacation for that week as well.  We saw just about everything we set out to see; from Wall Street to Central Park, from Soho to MoMA.  Theatre was a big deal for us, I’d bought tickets for SPAMALOT months before it opened, we were front row center and actually got spit on by Tim Curry! Spontaneous shows were interesting.  We got in to see Avenue Q and Harvey Fierstein in Fiddler on the Roof (Justin’s choice!)  Front row as well at Late Night with David Letterman, although we were only visible on camera for a quick second. Our departure came far too soon, but we know we’ll be back again. Wish we had gone years ago.

 

April and May we started thinking about getting our kitchen remodeled.  Actually we’ve been thinking about it for years, but this time we actually started talking with remodelers.  This didn’t go far, but did get us started.  May was rounded out by more work and school and the annual trip to the local BayCon Science Fiction convention.  In years past Debbie has done a lot more costuming for the convention, taking Best of Show one year as a novice, but with our NYC trip there simply wasn’t time to prepare this year so we spent most of our time in conferences and watching other folks.  Justin is old enough now to head off to his own events, and spends a lot of time in the gaming room (where does he get that from?)

 

June was full of June things, the end of school, father’s day, enjoying the summer.  We redid most of the back patio by buying new furniture and installing a huge gazebo covering.  Very nice. We also had the gardener redo many of the planter areas, plant a new tree, and pour new concrete sidewalks and strip out by the curb. We can now walk completely around the house without leaving pavement – another triumph of man against nature.  I started this light personal blog in June, a place to share thoughts and jokes with friends.

 

July found us making a loop through Oregon, again visiting the Sinniger’s in Bend for the 4th, then looping over to Deb’s Mom’s in Myrtle Creek on the way home.  It’s quite a trip, much of it lovely.  We do a lot of books on tape, which makes the conversations when we break for lunch quite interesting.  When was the last time you read a book at the same exact time as your best friends?  Deb decided to take some classes as well, trying to decide if she really wanted to round out some degree requirements. Some classes at night, a couple online.  Boy, that stuff sure looks easier when you’re just looking at the curriculum. Still we expect her regular high marks when they arrive in a few weeks.

 

August was a Scouting month.  Justin is almost to the pinnacle of Boy Scouts: The Eagle.  This level is capped by a public service project that the candidate has to plan, document, get approved, manage the actual work, and write a final report for the council.  Justin’s project was to paint a map of the US on a local gradeschool playground.  Again, there are photos of this elsewhere on this blog site.  We’re very proud of him, he’s done a great job.  Debbie was a trooper here as well, running him around to stores, interviews, and the work site.  I bought hamburgers for the workers.  We wrapped up the month seeing the musical Wicked when the touring company came to San Francisco for a few months.  Debbie and I had seen the pre-broadway production with the original cast but this was Justin’s first time, and as with most theatre, he loved it. 

 

September Debbie and I celebrated my birthday with a quick trip to Las Vegas. Big experiment in picture blogging, and of course those are still on this site.  We had a blast.  Also that month Justin and I went to see the touring company of RENT when they came to San Jose.  He’s been a fan of the soundtrack which I play quite often, but was excited about putting the songs into context.  Earlier this month of December Justin and I took Debbie to the movie version which, even with its differences from the stage production, we all enjoyed.  Justin got into his Junior year at Branham high school easily, enjoying most of his classes.  I attended the yearly PowerPoint Live conference that I’ve been invited to for three years running now. Again, for anyone nerdy enough to want to learn more, there’s much available on the web.

 

October found Debbie heading off with her cousins to Oklahoma, to visit relatives and graveyards – one of Debbie’s hobbies is genealogy. This left Justin and me alone in the house for the better part of a week, during which we spent 16 hours of one day watching the three extended Lord of the Rings movies back-to-back, and then we watched all four Alien movies, the two Predator movies, and finished our marathon with Alien vs. Predator.  We’d done earlier marathons so we’re not novices when it comes to sticking our butts on the couch and staring at the TV.

 

We started November off with another geekfest: Justin and I drove down to Anaheim for GenCon SoCal, one of the biggest board and card game conventions in America. This was a terrific time that Debbie was more than happy to miss. Big bonding road trip.  The month ended with the now well-documented kitchen remodel, phase one: Cabinets and appliances.  This is to be followed shortly with new flooring and a final repainting of walls and ceiling.  Expect everything to wrap mid-January.

 

So this finds us in December, near the end of the year.  We got to see another Pre-Broadway musical opening earlier this month: Anne Rice’s Lestat. Again, already blogged.  Right now I’m sitting in Jeanie and Tom’s kitchen in Myrtle Creek, OR.  The presents are all unwrapped and the Turducken is about an hour away from being served.  The house is quiet, as houses get when kids grow up, and when families get too large to all come together at once, but it’s a quiet blessing.  It’s been quite a year.

 

Here’s hoping you’re blessings are exactly to your liking this year.

 

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Written by ricbret

December 25, 2005 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Home and Family

Christmas

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The Annual Christmas letter will be posted here on… well on Christmas of course…

Written by ricbret

December 21, 2005 at 11:56 am

Posted in Home and Family

Lestat

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Big Fun Yesterday.
 
San Francisco is becoming the place for muscials to do their pre-Broadway opening night runs – tuning the show, adding and deleting songs, all the things that need to be done before a live audience to get things right.  We first took advantage of this when Wicked made it’s run there May of 2004 – getting to hear songs that never made it to broadway and see Robert Morse in his only run as the Wizard of Oz (got replaced by Joel Gray for the NY run). 
 
Anyway, I pounced on tickets for Lestat,  the musical adaptation of Anne Rice’s vampire stories, and the San Jose Bretschneiders were halfway back in orchestra center last night.  This was only the third actual presentation of the show and there were some rough points.  They’ve got a bit of work to do before they leave SF.  Still we had a great time.  If you want to learn more: click here.
 
Anyway, we got to SF really early and spent some time walking around Union Square in the holiday decorations.  Macys had a snow machine going and Debbie went in and bought some really funky sneakers.  Dinner at Max’s on Geary and then off to the show.  
 
The music for Lestat is done by Elton John, who’s already earned his chops on successes like Lion King and Aida, but for the first time in collaboration wht Bernie Taupin.  While I think the music could have been a bit more biting (lame pun unintended but unexcised) we did enjoy the evening.

Written by ricbret

December 21, 2005 at 11:37 am

Posted in Entertainment

Kitchen2.5

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Last set of photos for a while.  Phase one is almost complete (some minor adjustments still due.  Is it really possible to get a dishwasher mounted crooked in all three dimensions? Oh yes, but it takes a very special talent.)  Blue on the dishwasher is protective wrap, now removed.  Added the "Before" picture to this set so you can appreciate the magnitude of change here.
 
Things went just slightly longer than we expected as we discovered the limitations of our old electric circit box.  We’re now planning the replacement of same (to the tune of $2.5k.)  All-in-all it went much better than expected, though we’re happy to get food prep out of the living room!
 
Phase two and three are new slate floor and painting, and new refrigerator.  Probably not happening before Christmas.
 
 

Written by ricbret

December 12, 2005 at 8:51 am

Posted in Home and Family

Squirrel

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This morning I was at my computer having my breakfast coffee.  I was joined by a squirrel with toast.  Quite a feast for the little guy, he’s still chowing down.  Thought you’d enjoy a picture.
 

Written by ricbret

December 12, 2005 at 8:45 am

Posted in Home and Family