Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Home for the Holidays

After 4 trips to 5 national parks during the year of 2014, we stayed at home for the whole holiday season.

Playing a 1000 piece picture puzzle was a main activity for us, except Justin who went skiing with a friend's family, during the 4 day Christmas weekend at home.

The main trick for playing a puzzle is to start at the border of the picture. The second trick is to put the key features of the picture back before working on the rest of the uni-colored pieces.

Nicholas started the puzzle first on Christmas Eve, and by noon Christmas day Nicholas and his mom completed the border, the mountain and the buildings. By then their eyes tired, their bodies ached, they stopped playing. We were tired being inside the house all the time, and we decided to take a break to go to Texas Motor Speed Way to watch the Christmas Lights "Gift of Lights" and breathe some fresh air. The light show was so-so, but the break was fully enjoyed.

Once we got home from the "Gift of lights" around 8:30 pm, I started working on the lower right corner of the puzzle by myself - two blooming plants with a shaded slope in the background. It took me a while to find the first right piece of puzzle. Once totally in the "puzzle" mindset, I could find additional pieces faster. Not good at visualizing the overall shape of a fitting piece, I used feature identification approach to locate the right piece - try pieces with right color and a certain geometric feature to find the one. I nearly finished the section by the the time for bed.

Friday morning, I went right back to the puzzle after jogging with Lily in the community and breakfast. I quickly finished the lower right corner. 

The remainder of the puzzle was much harder, white clouds and blue sky with little color variation. I asked Lily to join me and set a goal of finishing the puzzle by Sunday night. It took a lot of patience and good tactics to patch the piece together - again when a few pieces fall into places, the pace of matching pieces quickened. We almost completed the two patches of clouds by lunch time.

We had another outing of the weekend - dine out for lunch, walk around a lake and then watching mid afternoon movies: The lunch was at Shogun Hibachi and Sushi, Nicholas and I walked around Towne Lake in light drizzle while Lily stayed in the car reading a novel since we had only one umbrella in the car. Nicholas watched Hobbit, Lily and I watched Interstellar at Cinemark. Interstellar is an interesting movie, much better than the critically claimed Gravity; Lily and I wondered about relativity and its implications one more time!

We worked more on the puzzle the next day, and pieced the middle lower cloud together and some portion of the blue sky. We did not go out but played table tennis at home in the evening, and Lily and I waited for Justin to come home until midnight while piecing puzzles. Time really flew when one was immersed in playing puzzle.

On Sunday we had a late breakfast  and the whole family walked to Russell Creek park together for the first time in a long while! I watched week 17 NFL games the whole afternoon and night while continue working on the puzzle, Lily did laundry most of the time, came to help on the puzzle from time to time, so did Nichloas. We did not complete the puzzle by Sunday night as planned. Nicholas and I finished the puzzle late Monday afternoon before dinner!

Staying home for holidays is relaxing, having a themed group activity for the whole family adds joy and fun to the holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2014


I had quite a few one-day business trips to Houston earlier this year before the crude oil price crashed.  To save time on the road, and minimize downtime in office, I flew instead of driving. During these and other times in the sky, the old fashion, out of date MP4 becomes my favorite gadget.

My MP4 has 4Gb storage, it has radio, video, photo and music functions. It has very long battery life for playing musics - I would guess that it can play 8 hours straight.

Typically once boarding, I would listen to local news station until the plane took off. Then I would switch to a large collection of musics downloaded from my sons' devices. In 15 minutes or so I would fall asleep under the plane's white noise and the music. I would then wake up to the music almost always right before the plane landed - refreshed and ready to go!

In addition to its tranquilizing effect, the MP4 also provides a window for me to my boys' world through their choice of music, exposes me to songs/musics I would otherwise not hear. Their choice of music was quite broad, from classical, contemporary classical, Jazz, Latin, Pop, R & B to Rock. I know a few names in classical music, Beethoven, Chopin, Dvorak  ....which are all accounted for in their collection. I know little about pop music - which in fact forms a majority of their collection. I like many of them! The boys have good tastes.The music collection is a few years old now, I need an update in musics from the boys if they will help.

Looking around on a plane, I am definitely not the oldest any time, but my MP4 is definitely the most out of dated gadget every time.  It can play long time, it can save battery on my iPhone, it works perfectly fine! No need to switch any time soon.