Thursday, January 31, 2008

Heater vents

Today a man from the utility company came to do an energy efficiency check on our house. He put in 10 CFL's, replaced the showerheads, and checked for links in the heating ducts. Something about the whole process stirred a childhood memory that I want to share here.

When we lived in the white house in Michigan, there was a heating vent in the living room under an end table. When the heat came on, I (and my siblings) liked to crawl under the table and just soak up the hot air from the heater. We also liked to put coats over the vent to get them nice and toasty warm before we went outside. Mom allowed this, but only on a small scale. every so often, she'd come in and tell us that we had to move away from the vent because if we kept it covered, the hot air would never reach the thermostat and the furnace would stay on indefinitely. As a child, I could never figure out why this was a bad thing. I liked sitting by the heater when it was on, and sitting by the heater made it stay on, so why should I move and let it turn off?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas Letter

I wanted to post our Christmas Letter here, but since I assume that nearly everyone who reads this blog regularly got one in the mail, I thought I'd wait until I was sure they'd all arrived before posting it. Anyway, here it is.

Dear Family and Friends,

I almost didn’t bother writing a Christmas letter this year because the two really big pieces of news are things that you’ve all been fully aware of for six months or more. But as I got to thinking about it, I realized that it’s nice to have something to send out along with a generic Christmas card, and it’s a good habit to get into. Then, when I started looking back on what has happened this year, I found that there’s more than enough to fill a letter, so here goes:
  • Our most exciting news is that our family is about to get bigger! Our first baby is due to arrive around January 10th. The doctor says it’ll be a little girl, and we’ve pretty much decided to call her Elizabeth Anne Ahlstrom. People have been very generous, and it looks like we’ve got most of the things we’ll need. I’m really excited about FINALLY getting to be a mom at last, and I hope I’ll turn out to be a good one. Peter says, “I am also excited and I’m sure that Karen will be a great mom.”
  • Our second biggest piece of news is that we bought a mobile home this summer, and we’re now living in Torrance. It means that Peter’s commute is much longer than it was when we were living within a few blocks of his office, but it also means that we have room for the new baby, we have a bit of yard (though not a very big bit), and we know that there will be a place to park our cars every time we come home. You can see pictures of the mobile home in the November posts in my blog:
  • With the new home comes a new ward, and we’re very happy to be in this one. The demographics of our LA ward made it rather disorganized, and it’s nice to be back in a ward where all of the organizations are at least functioning. The ward members are very friendly, and we made several friends almost immediately. We were a bit worried when they announced that they’d be reorganizing the stake a few months ago, but luckily all our friends moved with us to the new ward, so that was OK. Peter has been called as a Ward Membership Clerk (Peter says, “But they still need to give me a key to the office.”), but I don’t have a calling yet -- I assume they want to let me relax till the baby is born.
  • At work, Peter got promoted to Editor. I’ll let him tell you what that means. Peter says, “That means I am in charge of my own books instead of just marking mistakes in other people’s books. It’s lots of fun.” For those of you who’ve forgotten, Peter works for TOKYOPOP, a company that mostly prints Japanese comics in English. If you look in the Manga section of your local bookstore (Peter says, “Usually next to the Science Fiction”), you’ll find a lot of their books, many of which have Peter’s name in the credits. He also spends a lot of time moderating their online forums.
  • I’ve been doing several things as part-time work. I tutor low income children (paid for by the NCLB act -- its one good point as far as I can tell). I’ve been doing contract work for TOKYOPOP, making the direct translations sound more like something English speakers would actually say. I’ve also been teaching some dentists I know how to use their computer systems (since I used to work for Dentrix, the company that makes their practice management software).
  • It’s nice living closer to Grandma and Grandpa Stay. I was able to spend quite a bit of time down there when Grandma was so sick, and now I go down about once a week to visit and make sure their bills get paid, and their electronic gadgets keep working. I’ve really enjoyed being able to really get to know them since I moved out here a few years ago.
  • In June, just after we moved into the new house, we took a trip to Ohio. We got all of Peter’s stuff from his parents (Peter says, “Actually there is still some stuff left.”), and a LOT of my stuff as well. I now have a game closet fully stocked with all my old dolls and toys. It was great fun to see all the tiny clothes Mom had made for Strawberry Shortcake and friends.
  • Another fun thing we’ve been doing this year is reading the books written by Peter’s friend Brandon Sanderson, and sending him comments on them. He often sends us rough drafts of stories, and it’s fun to see the progression from concept to reality. Peter says, “Unlike some people’s friends who write books, his are actually published. You can find them in the bookstore. They are called: Elantris, Mistborn, and Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians.”
  • Finally, my other literary pursuit is my poetry blog, which I’ve been writing for more than six months now. I don’t manage to post every day, but I do generally have several posts each week. Along with a poem, I post my thoughts on poetry in general, philosophy, and what’s going on in my life. You can find it at

Well, that’s about all we have to say at the moment. We love you all, and miss having you around. If you ever visit LA (even for a long layover at the airport) we’d love to see you!

Karen and Peter Ahlstrom (and the baby)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's 2008

Here's an email Peter wrote about our New Year's eve, which was just about the right amount of activity for us
Happy Happy Happy Everyone!!

We got back from our New Year's Get-Together a few minutes ago. We went to a local couple (Susanna and Rob)'s house, with both their mothers and one father. (Their kids went to bed before we got there a bit before 9.) We played Rummikub, and then got the idea to get the Chaos Toy, so I drove home and got it (3 blocks or so). The rest of the evening was spent putting it together. It wasn't quite done at midnight, but we finished it off shortly thereafter (after watching the New York ball drop replay on TV) and fired it up. For something thrown together, it worked pretty well! Not all the balls fell off every time, and it had a trampoline, two catches, two drops, a vortex, a pendulum split, a couple bells, and a bell drop. Maybe in a few days we will have some pictures to share (we forgot to bring our camera, but Susanna took some pictures).


I wanted to go out this year, though not to any big party, because I think that if you simply sit at home with no real plan on New Year's Eve, you might as well just go to bed. I remember clearly just when I decided this. It was the night of Dec 31, 1998 to Jan 1, 1999. I believe that my family had all been in Utah for Christmas, but had to drive home before New Year. I had just moved into the Allred apartments -- after the long process of getting out of the second half of my contract for the last apartment because of problems with roommates, and bad living conditions in general -- but I hadn't met any of my roommates except my cousin Holly since they were all elsewhere on winter break. I don't remember where Doug was that day, but I ended up spending New Year's Eve all alone in the new apartment. I watched the six hour Pride and Prejudice, pausing it at midnight to watch the ball drop. Somewhere in Provo, they were setting off fireworks, so I went out on the porch to watch them, and shared my ramen noodles with a stray cat. It was extremely depressing in a start-of-While-You-Were-Sleeping sort of way, and I decided that it was important to me not to spend any more New Years alone.