Going on a Digital Vacation

3 03 2009

As we enter our final week prior to our big family trip to Hawaii, I’ve been scurrying around trying to get things in place. Flight info, travel, hotel, the usual things right? Well, as a Dad, a geek and a budding amateur photographer, I’m also struggling with the questions of what gear do I take? This isn’t going to be a camping trip where electronics aren’t allowed. But, I still want to take the fewest things possible. Here, I present my vacation suggestions.

First, take your laptop. I recently upgraded my MacBook Pro to have 500 GB of drive space. That sounds like a lot, and normally it should be enough space. But, since I’m going to basically be on a mission of gathering digital artifacts, I’m going to need all the space I can get. I’m also bringing along an external drive with 250 GB of space. This drive is a normal laptop drive housed in a nice enclosure. In all, ~650GB of space should be enough. I like to be prepared. But, what is all this space for? Well…

Second, take a digital camera. I’m taking two. Recently, I upgraded my DSLR to the Canon Rebel XSi. I’ve got a few good lenses now, and I plan to set aside some time during this trip to just take some photographs. Hopefully the kids won’t mind. I’m also taking my new Canon SD880. The photos that come out of it are terrific for the size of the camera, and I’ll have it in my pocket, ready at a moment’s notice. Perfect for those times when you just don’t want to lug around an SLR and three different lenses. But these cameras only take a few GB of pictures, you say? Sure, but I use the DSLR in RAW mode, so I’m using 12 MB per picture (it’s a 12 megapixel camera). Ok, fine, but that still seems like overkill on the space…

Until you consider the digital camcorder. While my SD880 does have a movie mode, I also plan on packing my Sanyo HD1000. This high definition camcorder is capable of recording in 1080i resolution. I have a 4 GB card for it to help my be more mindful of my recording. I may yet still find an affordable 16 GB card for it. But, if you add up a few hours (over two weeks) of video, well, you can easily eat up the 250 GB drive alone.

Now, if you’ve read down to this point and started thinking “This dude is a total geek, and is crazy for trying to do all that to his family on vacation”, well, you’re right. I don’t plan on record every single second of my trip. However, there will be days where I will be focused on the pictures, and others where I will focus on the activity in front of me. But, it sure doesn’t hurt to bring along these little items just in case because they are just so small these days.

So, check back here, our vacation site, or on our photo page to see how our vacation is going!


I Need to Unplug

29 01 2009


I’d consider myself fairly patched into the grid. You can search for me on Google, and get something fairly accurate. I do nearly everything online: search for restaurants, get maps of the world, watch TV shows. In fact, when we first moved into our house three years ago, the cable guy said he could connect our TV that night. We told him it was more important to connect the Internet. We didn’t get cable TV for another three days, and later cancelled it anyway.

There are many a days where I feel like a character from the Matrix: weaving my way in and out of weird places on the Internet, looking for the answer to the ultimate question. Of course, regular life isn’t as exciting as a multi-million dollar cult movie, but I still can’t help but feel the similarities. I’m sure I’m not alone. Most of my waking day is near a computer of some form or fashion. Thus is the world we have made for ourselves.

I find it difficult to remember a time when computers were still a hobby for most people, or when most technologies were based on analog foundations. Can you remember how it was in a time before cell phones? Life is more convenient in many cases now, but I still can’t help but wonder if this is the right direction for society to move towards.

I still love what I do, being in on the edge of technology and being there for the next big thing. But, working in a field that changes on almost a daily basis takes a toll. Add in other life interests and children, and there is not a whole lot of downtime factored in there. As such, it is easy for someone like me to become overloaded.

Many days, I find that my brain just can’t do everything it needs to do in order to grok the latest information of the day and deal with family issues and still try to work on things that I find personally enjoyable. I’ve had a backlog of personal todos for quite a while, but I find that I haven’t been able to make a significant dent in any of them.

This may sound like a problem whose solution is the GTD system. While I like the idea, I never really seem to modify the system to work for me. I think I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe I’m just too tired of looking for the next system that will work for me. Always looking for the next big thing is part of my job and career and life, and not doing that is tough.


I want to be more proactive in tackling things from here on out. But, still, I feel that I (not to mention my family) is in dire need of a true vacation. So, we’re going to head out to the Islands of Hawaii in the next couple of months. We’re going to do our share in helping the american economy as much as we can (it’s just one excuse we joke about). And while this trip was a spur of the moment decision, as the days approach, I find myself more and more excited. I feel like a kid on Christmas day; a feeling I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to have for many years. It feels good. But still, I wonder if these feelings arise because we’re going to travel to a whole new part of the world for us, or is it due to the simple fact that we’re going to Hawaii. The reason I wonder is because I really think I’m more excited to go just to be away from everything for two whole weeks. Instead of just taking a week off here or there, and taking care of things at home, really pack up, get out and don’t think about the grid for a while. That is something I haven’t done in a long time, and frankly, it’s probably going to feel like trying to break a bad habit cold turkey. In the long run, it will be better for my to unplug from the grid for a while and try to soak in some tropical nature. I can’t wait. And, neither can my family. Aloha!

The Polar Express

18 12 2008

Nearly two weeks ago, my wife and I took the kids on a trip to the North Pole. Amazingly enough, there was a train that goes right near Santa’s village. The Polar Express was a fun ride for the kids, and they had a chance, ever so quickly, to see Santa Claus.20081208-IMG_2613

The trip to Williams, AZ was fairly quick from Phoenix. I guess that’s just me getting old. After three hours of driving, we arrived at our hotel only to be greeted with cold air and a long checkin line. Santa set up accommodations for us in his hotel, the Grand Canyon Inn. The checkin line went very quickly, as this seemed to be the normal daily routine.

After settling into the hotel, the kids, excited to see Santa again, put on their pajamas. The rule is, on The Polar Express, you can only see Santa in your pajamas. After dinner, we ran out in the chilly air to our seat on the Polar Express. The silly Dad, me, picked the wrong car to get on, so we had to run back up to the head of the train to the correct car. After a few minutes, the friendly helper elves gave us friendly instructions on being safe on the Polar Express.


And then we were off to the North Pole.

On the train, we were provided refreshing hot cocoa and a chocolate chip cookie. And, then we read the Polar Express story. And, it happened so quickly, that after a short while, we eventually made it to the North Pole. And Santa was there waiting for us. The girls we excited to see Santa. As the train turned around, Santa had disappeared. Then, the conductor told us that Santa was on the Train with us! Great!

Santa made his way to our car, seeing every girl and boy on the train and making sure they received their christmas present.

On the way home, we sang christmas carols, something I haven’t done in years. I only wish the cold air hadn’t had an effect on my throat.

I think next year, we’ll make reservations on the Polar Express again. Seeing the joy and excitement in the kids is what makes being a parent so fun. The girls, in their excitement do get a little wild, but the world melts away when you’re on the Polar Express. After all, Santa knows when you’ve been bad or good.

Remebering Christmas

30 11 2008

Tulsa, OK McFarlin Building (Skaggs Drug Center)

Tonight, I pulled the big fake Christmas tree out of the closet, and helped my two girls set up this year’s Christmas Tree. The smell of fake tree, the glow of the mini lights, the glass ornaments always leads me on a trip down memory lane. More over, I think of how Christmas for my daughters is different, and will always be different, than the Christmases I remember.

In particular, I thought back to the times (I can’t be so sure about how many) when we would all go to with my mom to her store, and help set up the Christmas displays. When my brothers and I were small, each under 10, and living in our original childhood home in the southern part of Tucson, just east of I-19, my mom was working hard at what as then Skaggs Drug Store. This store was nearly a 30 minute drive one way for my mom, and she would always come home late. Nearly always after our bed time. Even being so young, we knew our mom had to work. Besides, we would call her after school every day complaining that one of us was breaking some house rule … but that’s another story.

From what I remember, these Christmas parties were part work, and part Christmas party. There was food and drink provided. I think some times it was even a potluck. But, as far as each employee knowing everyone else in the store, this was definitely the case. I mean, my mom knew everyone, and we had several good family friends working with her at the store. Me and my brothers at least knew the names of the other kids in the store. In all, it was a fun time, even if there was some work involved.

These are fond memories of a time long ago. In fact, every time I visit a local store with a big Christmas display, I think of the people who took the time when the store closed one day, and put up all the ornaments and helped to decorate the trees. I doubt there was a big family gathering when it came to putting up the displays in stores nowadays. In fact, I’m guessing, the family has been taken out of the retail work environment. From what I remember, I think the modern retail store worker is missing out on some good ol’ fashioned family fun, with some family memories thrown in for good measure.

2009 Mora Family Calendar

30 11 2008

Every year, since Eliana was born, I’ve gone through the task of gathering the best pictures we’ve taken in the past year and add them to a calendar for the next year. It’s been somewhat of a time capsule since there have been times in our busy lives where I look at the pictures on the calendar and say out loud

“Golly gee willikers, that was a year ago?”

Every year, I print out three copies, one for us, and one for each set of grandparents. This year, I’m going to do something a tad different, and make a PDF available for your viewing pleasure to see what we’re enjoying every day of the year.

I welcome your feedback you have on the preview PDF.

Fun and Tears

13 09 2008

Today was the first soccer game of the season. It was a pleasant 90 degrees at game time here in the desert. Over the next few weeks, this should decrease to even more pleasant temperatures.

Anticipation, excitement and nerves filled the air. The fields were packed with on-going soccer matches as far as the eye could see. As we hauled our supplies to the fields, we found the coach and the rest of the team. Eventually, we found out we were on the wrong field, so off we went to find the correct one.

Once the games started, it was fun and tears. Some players were pretty excited. Others wanted the ball more often. Some just had performance anxiety.  I felt a little upset that Eliana didn’t want to play, but then I reminded myself why we wanted her to join the team in the first place: to play and have fun.  And, that’s all I told her all day. Have fun, kick the ball and score a goal. We’ll have a great snack and lunch after you score.

I’m sure the layers of protection didn’t help as it was rather hot under all that padding on their legs. When we finally arrived at the car, she basically took all the soccer gear off until all she was left with was her shorts and shirt. 

As I was walking with Eliana back to the car after the game, she said:

Do you remember when you played soccer when you were a kid?

I had to give her an honest answer:

Dad didn’t have chance to play when he was a kid.

I’m glad she has this opportunity to play, exercise, be social and have fun.

Make sure to check out today’s fun pictures!

A Beautiful Family

18 06 2008

Recently, we’ve again been caretakers of two korean girls because their parents are hard working individuals that need our help. I love the extra company, and our girls love having friends over for the night. In all, it’s an interesting, but fun situation. Yesterday, however, we decided to pick everyone up at the gym pool. Letting the kids play in the pool is an easy way to let them all get tired for bedtime (a sneaky trick, I know, but they enjoy this one).

So, it was my, my wife, my two girls, and our two guests playing at the pool at dusk. Usually when we’re done, we all grab towels and make for the indoors as the indoor pool area is humid, and keeps everyone warm. Since there was a total of 6 of us this time, instead of the normal four, we all looked like one big family. As we were walking back to the locker room, I heard someone say

“Wow, what a beautiful family.”

I’m sure the comment was based on all six of us walking together, and that means that the comment was aimed at the family she thought she saw: A husband and wife, leading their four kids, two of them obviously no theirs by birth, to clean up after a fun day at the pool. Normally, I think our family is above average, but I guess with two extra girls (who aren’t ours) we’ve moved up a few notches (whatever that means).

We were moving too fast to say thanks, but it did get me thinking. I mean, I am perfectly fine with having only two kids right now. At times, it seems even that is more than we can handle. However, I have always thought that at some point in my life, I (rather, we) would adopt an unfortunate child or pair of siblings. My argument is that since our lives are blessed with so much, from a financial and well-being standpoint, that we could afford to spread the wealth and give someone a chance in life who otherwise would have none. But it’s not all about financial stability; it’s about having a warm heart, and the patience to help other children through life’s hurdles.

This comment reminded me of that thought as I wondered how things would be if we adopted a couple of kids who were past the baby stage (I’m totally done with that).  I still can’t answer that as it all depends on personalities, and a number of other factors. But still, the thought remains.

As our girls play with our guests this morning, I still wonder if we could really deal with a larger family. I know they all get along now basically because they don’t see each other all the time. But I still wonder…